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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story

Meeting notes from Tuesday (of course), December 7

“Collaborative workshops and writers’ peer groups hadn’t been invented when I was young. They’re a wonderful invention. They put the writer into a community of people all working at the same art, the kind of group musicians and painters and dancers have always had.” 
― Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew

Five writers presented their work at Tuesdays meeting. Here are some of the comments they received.

John Schneller

Precious Daughter

Most found the chapter engaging. Amit appreciated the change in tension when storylines jump from Nia to Kotel. Kashmira thought the dialogue should be given prior to the hawk catching the breeze and exiting. Larry noticed that I like to have minds ‘bounce’ a little too often. Thanks for reading.

Bob Kralapp

“Don’t Take It Personally”

Mike wanted to know if there was anything Kenny and the narrator respected about the coach that would make them feel his betrayal in betting on the game. Or if he was just another authority figure. Amber felt that the story read a lot more streamlined than before. She and several others agreed there should be something more at the end that would bring it around and make it feel more finished.

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays With Story

November 16, 2021

A mistake for authors is defining their author platform as a list of people to market their next book on social media.

If you view your author platform as nothing more than transactional relationships, it will fail. If you view it primarily as sharing your heart and caring for a group of people, it will have far more value and possibly be responsive when you have a book. 

Dan Balow, Steve Laube Literary Agency

Here’s who presented Tuesday evening

Kashmira Sheth (chapters 1-2 rewrite, Nina Soni, Best Hostess) – Kashmira submitted two chapters of Nina Soni, Best Hostess. Most of the comments were positive. There were some questions about how to make the flow of a story better. This was a revised submission and overall the revision worked well. Everyone preferred the title Nina Soni, Best Hostess over Nina Soni, Perfect Hostess. 

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
November 2nd 2021

The first word . . .

Be polite. The editor you email today may be the CEO of  your publisher next year.

Here’s who presented this week

Larry Sommers (MemoirDebriefing) . . . My introductory chapter to a projected memoir, titled “Debriefing,” was generally well-received as a tentative start of something as yet indefinite. John felt the material between the initial aerial reconnaissance scenes and the final paragraph, looping back to the concept of debriefing, could be omitted. Jack felt the passage from Yeats’ “The Second Coming” may have been misplaced. Jack and Jerry suggested that the idea of having been born in a golden age could be expanded. Thanks everybody. Onward and upward.

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
10/23/21

The Halloween Edition

The first word . . .

“Most people think of Stephen King as a horror author, but his best work usually comes with a side order of nostalgic Americana.” ―Stewart Stafford

Tuesday evening Fully on Zoom Once Again. . .

Five TWS writers—Larry, Jerry, Amber, John, and Jaime—filled our screens this week for a fairly short but meaty meeting filled with great ideas on how to improve the novels and pitching assets that were presented. Here is some of what was said:

Larry Sommers (synopsis and blurb, The Maelstrom) … John suggested starting the blurb with the last paragraph, making the first graf less generic and more pointed, and he had some better language for the second graf, describing Daniel’s relation to Anders and Maria in more visceral and causal terms. There was agreement that the synopsis was much improved from last time, touching all essential plot points. However, it still needs work to tie the disconnected plot statements more closely to an overall theme agents and editors would look for, as noted by Jaime. Thanks, all, for your good ideas.

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
10/12/21

The first word . . .

“If you write about the things and the people you know best, you discover your roots. Even if they are new roots, fresh roots… they are better than… no roots.” —Isaac Bashevis Singer

Tuesday evening critiques . . .

Seven TWS writers flocked in a hybrid of in-person and Zoom critiques. Here is some of what was said:

— John Schneller (chapter 22, Precious Daughter) . . . Two needs were pointed out. Jaime pointed out that does not deal with regret at delaying the call for the village. It was something he (and the author) never thought about. (author’s note: he will have a lot more to regret in the next book). Jerry wanted more stumbling through the dark hold of the ship. Author will stumble through these revisions. Thanks!

Jaime Nelson Noven (chapter, New York, After All) . . . This week, we took a critical look at the opening line, removed some extraneous details that seemed to be related to things that they weren’t related to, and Jack provided some ideas on how to make the magazine ads section more powerful by leveraging the names of the advertisers. Thanks, all!

Jack Freiburger (poem, “Evening Ski”) . . . Not much as far as comments, but generally positive reactions.  Pretty simple semi-imagist poem.

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
September, 20, 2021

The first word . . .

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday evening in person and on Zoom . . .

Presenters:

Amit Trivedi  

1. Jerry felt that it was incomplete. It need closure.
2. Bob and kashmira liked the Passage of time (dusk-night-morning)
3. Jack had quite a few suggestions
4. Mike and Larry thought the portrayal of the old men was realistic.

Thanks!

Kashmira Sheth (chapters 2-3, Nina Soni, Best Hostess) – Kashmira read from chapter two of Nina Soni, Best Hostess. Overall, the comments were positive. Larry liked how these chapters were progressing. Jack suggested tweaking a word to fit Nina’s word-loving personality and Jaimie and Larry had ideas on how to improve some parts of the story. Jerry wondered if Nina’s father going to be a list-maker like her and Amber wanted to know if the story will cover the entire six weeks of her grandmother and cousin’s visit. John pointed out that bouncy goes more with bunnies than flowers. Thank you.

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Writer’s Mail

TWS

September 7th 2021

First word

For me, where genre ends and literature begins doesn’t matter. What matters is whether a given novel hits me with high impact. If it does, it probably is fulfilling the purpose of fiction. It has drawn me into a story world, held me captive, taken me on a journey with characters like none I’ve ever met, revealed truths I’ve somehow always known and insights that rock my brain. It’s filled me with awe, which is to say it’s made me see the familiar in a wholly new way and made the unfamiliar a foundational part of me. It both entertains and matters. It both captures our age and becomes timelessly great. It does all that with the sturdy tools of story and the flair of narrative art.”
― Donald Maass, Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling

Here’s who presented Tuesday evening

Jaime Nelson Noven (part 2, New York, After All) – Jaime (New York, After All chapter) This week, we talked about New York as a character, conveying Charlie’s affection for the baby in a way that’s less detached than the rest of the narrative, leaning in to the imagined future history of New York, and the logistics of having a baby without warning (Is the baby early? Did Charlie miss the signals?). Great recommendations surrounding incorporating the river into the Ohio-Kentucky civil war and using bus ads to add to the metaphor. Thanks, everyone!

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesday with Story

August 17, 2021

First word…

Most humor depends on specificity. It’s funnier to say that a cheese steak tastes better when you’re leaning up against a Pontiac than when you are leaning up against a car.

– Calvin Trillin

Here’s who presented Tuesday evening…

Kashmira Sheth – (Chapter 1, Nina Soni, Best Hostess and chapter 10, rewrite, Nina Soni, Snow Spy)…I submitted the first chapter of Nina Soni, Best Hostess. The main concern was keeping things simple for new readers, using active voice, and maybe playing around with a different starting point. All were excellent suggestions. I also resubmitted a revised chapter of  Nina Soni, Snow Spy. There were no major concerns there. Thank you all.

John Schneller (Chapters 16-17, Precious Daughter)…Jerry wanted to clear up some disparity on fishing, both the numbers, and what ones does with a grub once it in your hands. Larry wanted clarity on how long the boys would help cooking. Amit pointed out too much falling in the dance, while Kashmira pointed out that it slows down when the dance routine was described twice. Jamie noticed Kotel was a bystander in the opening. These things can be fixed! Thanks to all for the keen powers of observation.

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays With Story

August 3, 2021

The first word:

When I sit down in order to write, sometimes it’s there; sometimes it’s not. But that doesn’t bother me anymore. I tell my students there is such a thing as “writers block,” and they should respect it. You shouldn’t write through it. It’s blocked because it ought to be blocked, because you haven’t got it right now.

– Toni Morrison

Here’s who presented Tuesday evening:

Jaime Nelson Noven (Part 1, New York, After All)… Jamie presented a chapter from a novel in progress (a book within a book). It seemed most everyone liked the voice of the narrator and the humor. We looked at some troublesome scene transitions and the narrator’s casual reaction to a coworker going missing. Definitely will have to change the supermarket simile. Thanks, all!

Bob Kralapp (short story, “Don’t Take It Personally”)… The story was well received. Jack felt that having the basketball coach bet two grand on the upcoming game was excessive and that two hundred was more in line with the situation. Jamie was confused about having the story end where it did without resolving whether Coach was betting for or against his team. Most readers felt the story was incomplete and needed a second act to bring it around.

Amber Boudreau (chapters 24-26, The Dragoneer 2)… Amber read from chapter 24 of her sequel to The Dragoneer. Jerry had a question about the characters sitting around digesting. Jamie needed a little more information in one part concerning a character’s luck. John thought the description of Moira’s drowning was well done. As far as  chapter 26 goes, it may need some retooling or could be left as is to let the audience take from it what they will. In this chapter, Moira has a conversation with her father who’s dead but only because the Librarian is there as well and that may need to be made clearer.

John Schneller (chapter 4, Precious Daughter)… Kotel’s more light-hearted days will be a contrast to Nia’s troubles. The two stories will need to be interspersed earlier. Jack noticed the hints that Kotel was ascending into a new realm as he ascended the mountain. Hints of the change need to be delayed for a scene to coincide with his entry into the hidden village. The skunk scene was overworked. Jamie pointed out that Kotel’s half-truths will not be obvious to a new reader who has not read the first book. Thanks for all the helpful comments.

Jerry Peterson (chapters 22-24, Night Flight)… Jerry used the wrong church to integrate. The Baptists would not have permitted a black person in their church at this time (1927, the heart of the Jim Crow era). The Methodists might, several said. Jack found the shovel cake incident disconcerting. Rachel and Abraham Isaac work hard at doing everything properly, so they wouldn’t make shovel cake in the fireplace. That’s primitive. Rooster would, though. He can teach Rachel how this is done. Kashmira suggested Rachel has to have things to do that continually puts Rooster off from asking her to marry him.

Here’s who’s up on August 17

Amit Trivedi (chapter12, River Drops – working title)

Paul Wagner (Night of the Red Eyed Mad Man)

Kashmira Sheth (untitled)

Larry Sommers (short story, An Episode)

Jerry Peterson (chapter 25, Night Flight)

And riding back-up, John Schneller (chapter 5, Precious Daughter).

Our editor

Bob Kralapp returns to edit the August issues for Writer’s Mail. You have something you’d like him to include in our next issue? Email it to Bob.

Fifth Tuesday

It’s coming, the end of the month, August 31. Jack will host the group at his farm.

We do have a writing challenge. Here it is: Create a 30-second radio or television commercial for your new invention. Yes, we need a script.

Ron Popeil was a master of this. He invented or acquired and starred in his own commercials for the first Karaoke machine called Mr. Microphone, the Popeil Pocket Fisherman, the Veg-o-Matic, the Buttoneer, the Smokeless Ashtray, Popeil’s Electric Food Dehydrator, the Inside-the-Egg Scrambler, GLH-9 (Great Looking Hair Formula #9) Hair in a Can Spray, Rhinestone stud setter (later called the Bedazzler), and the Cap Snaffler. Look up his commercials on You Tube for inspiration.

A book for writers

New York Times reviewer Pat O’Connor said of comma queen Mary Norris’s memoir that it was a great read. “Hilarious…This book charmed my socks off.”

So why should we read it?

Norris has spent more than three decades in The New Yorker’s copy department where her job was to make sure every column and story maintained the magazine’s high standards for punctuation, spelling, grammar, structure, and the craft of writing.

Says the blurb, “In Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, she brings her vast experience with grammar and usage, her good cheer and irreverence, and her finely sharpened pencils to help the rest of us in a boisterous language book as full of life as it is of practical advice.”

So check it out.

Confessions came out in 2016. NPR, Amazon, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal all named it a Best Book of the Year.

There’s more. Three years later. Norris brought out It’s Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen.

Says the blurb for this book, “Greek to Me is a charming account of Norris’s lifelong love affair with words and her solo adventures in the land of olive trees and ouzo. Along the way, Norris explains how the alphabet originated in Greece, makes the case for Athena as a feminist icon, goes searching for the fabled Baths of Aphrodite, and reveals the surprising ways Greek helped form English. Filled with Norris’s memorable encounters with Greek words, Greek gods, Greek wine―and more than a few Greek men―Greek to Me is the Comma Queen’s fresh take on Greece and the exotic yet strangely familiar language that so deeply influences our own.”

The last word:

Stories are for those late hours of the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember but the story. – Tim O’Brien, from The Things They Carried

Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays With Story Newsletter

July 6. 2021

The First Word

“. . . the correct intention, which is to provide the reader with an experience that is superior to the experiences the reader encounters in daily life.” From Stein on Writing

Here’s who presented Tuesday evening

Kashmira Sheth (chapter 9, Nina Soni, Snow Spy) – Kashmira submitted chapter 9 of Nina Soni, Snow Spy. Most of the comments were positive. One thing that several people pointed out that the ending was ho-hum. There were some suggestions to change the chapter ending to make it more exciting. 

Larry Sommers (three poems) – My three poems were met with genial puzzlement. The most puzzling was “I came to a corner that did not bend,” based on the central metaphor of a long-obsolete cash transfer mechanism in old department stores. Jack suggested a lot of words could be cut in all three poems. Jerry disputed the final assertion from ” In the land of my boyhood” that I never became one of the giants (adults). I thought it was a matter of viewpoint. Maybe objectively I joined the adult world but inwardly remained a kid. Thanks for all your comments and suggestions.

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