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Posts Tagged ‘Fifth Tuesday’

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.

(more…)

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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

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Tuesdays with Story

June 15, 2021

The first word…

“Character is the very life of fiction. Setting exists so that the character has someplace to stand. Plot exists so that the character can discover what he is really like, forcing the character to choice and action. And theme exists only to make the character stand up and be somebody.”

-John Gardner

Tuesday evening at Larry Sommers’s place…

Ten writers attended, six by way of Zoom link. Five writers presented work.

Mike Austin

Dumpster Fire (Work in progress)

“Dumpster Fire,” the first part of a short story work in progress, met with somewhat mixed but mostly favorable reviews. Jerry needed more of a reason to care about either character, while Amber thought that there’s room for redemption with one or both of them. And sowing that seed of doubt about who actually started the dumpster fire is a distraction, unless that’s part of the story. Which it ain’t. Also, the opening sentence has to go somewhere else. Or just go. I did lapse into first person narrative at least once. Whoops. I also need to use the “find” tool to avoid the repetition with some words. Thanks for all of the tips and encouragement!

Larry Sommers

One More Outlaw, an Izzy Mahler short story

Jerry and others pointed out many missed opportunities for plot excitement foregone in my quest to be faithful to true life experience. Jamie suggested Donny Bill might attempt to inveigle Izzy into a life of crime. Jack thought I could maintain the integrity of my “affective” approach (i.e., vignette style) but add meaning by explaining more of the social and economic context. Thanks, everybody. Points to ponder.

Amber Boudreau

The Dragoneer 2, Chapters 18-20

Amber read from the beginning of chapter 18 of her sequel to The Dragoneer. Jamie and others enjoyed the sequence with the goblins. Larry had a suggestion about the former occupants of their armor being ‘wearers’ instead of ‘owners’. Mike enjoyed the mentorship aspect of the later chapters while John suggested there might be a few places to reduce the amount of dialogue.

John Schneller

Precious Daughter, Chapter 14

Jerry found better wording for clarity in the opening of the chapter. Jamie asked if DinShaw is a redeemable character. He will eventually show his love as a father, but not for a while. Work is needed to show him as an honorable soldier, stressed and failing by present circumstances. Thanks for the suggestions.

Jerry Peterson

Escape to the Conch Republic, Chapter 9

The chapter stirred a world of conversation on how to improve it, ranging from Paf probing Thompson for a better explanation for how he chose to get involved in treasure hunting, to Paf accepting Thompson’s offer of a half share in the venture, to Thompson paying Gunn $500 for an introduction to the man who really has the treasure map—$500 for a treasure map is just too cheap, Jack and Larry said—to better lines about Shelby being drunk.

Fifth Tuesday

Yes, June 29. Larry and Jo Sommers will host us at their home in Madison. PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU ARE COMING. Larry and Jo will provide plates, cups, plastic utensils, and napkins. Pulled pork sandwiches will be served. Drinks will include iced tea, red and white wine, and two kinds of beer. Please bring a salad, dessert, or other dish to pass. Feel free to bring your own preferred beverage.

Per the usual, we do have a writing challenge. The prompt: Cemetery rules! Keep your mini-masterpiece to 500 or fewer words and email it to Jerry Peterson, with a copy to Larry, by Monday evening, June 28. Two stories are already in.

On the schedule for July 6…

Amit Trivedi (???)

Jaime Nelson Noven (Outsleep, chapter 14, part 2)

Paul Wagner (???)

Amber Boudreau (Dragoneer 2, chapter 21-23)

Mike Austin (short story, “Dumpster Fire”, part 2)

John Schneller (Precious Daughter, chapter 15)

Our July 6 meeting will be at Jack’s house in Fitchburg. Those who can’t make it can join via Zoom link, as usual.

Our editors…

Bob Kralapp edited this issue of Writer’s Mail. Next month—July—John Schneller takes on the assignment.

From Jerry…

Words in our state

That thing where we get a drink of water, in southern and eastern Wisconsin we call it a bubbler, not a drinking fountain. The State Historical Society teed off on this bit of language trivia with the t-shirt here that it sells. The back of the shirt reads ‘Fountains are where you throw coins.’

If you want to order an ‘It’s a Bubbler’ t-shirt, here’s the link: https://shop.wisconsinhistory.org/bubbler-tshirt

The last word…

“Be daring, take on anything. Don’t labor over little cameo works in which every word is to be perfect. Technique holds a reader from sentence to sentence, but only content will stay in his mind.” – Joyce Carol Oates

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Tuesdays with Story
June 7, 2020

The first word . . .

“I feel devoutly thankful to have been born fond of writing.”

― Winston Churchill

Zoom-zoom . . .

Zoom isn’t without its problems. Delayed voice transmissions and audio breakups forced John to leave Tuesday evening’s meeting early. Here are summaries of the critiques those who were on the schedule received:

— John Schneller (chapter 20, Broken rewrite)

While I have tried to embrace the RUE (Resist the Urge to Explain) concept, my minimalist approach left most readers guessing Broken’s distrust, the thief and murderer qualities of the shepherds, the subversive technique to convince the ewe to accept a lamb not her own, and why did he reach into the pouch and bring out nothing (visible). Looks like I has some esplainin to do! (me no edit John’s righting) Thanks for the input.  John (more…)

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Tuesdays with Story
March 6, 2020

The first word . . .

Skip a day or more between writing sessions and your mind will drift away from the deep moments of your story. You’ll have to slog back to the place abandoned if you had written every day.  (a note that has been on my wall for so long I forgot who it came from)

 

They met at Barnes & Noble . . .which they won’t do again for a while because of Covid-19.

 A full table of authors commented on style, word choices, and moments in history. Much aid and opinion offered to the well being of all projects.

— Meg Williams (???) . . . A LOT of old noir crime feel going on with the first chapter and I need to get away from that

– A lot of character action logistics need a LOT of work.

– Instead of killing characters, I need to kill all of the adverbs used in the narrative portions

– A surprise plot twist involving human trafficking instead of a typical drug bust.

– Conclusion: First Chapter needs to be rewritten and resubmitted for critique. There’s definitely some bad writing habits that I really need to break. So I’m going to take a page out of Taylor Swift’s book and Shake It Off and Write On 🙂 (more…)

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Tuesdays with Story

February 4, 2020 meeting.

The first word…

Ernest Hemmingway wrote: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” But that seems a little too dramatic to me, like the guitar player saying he “played until my fingers bled.” Really? More realistically from Hemmingway is, “The first draft of anything is shit.” Years later, Anne Lamott followed up on this idea with an entire chapter of her book on writing, “Bird by Bird,” entitled, “Shitty First Drafts,” which explained that it’s okay to have a first draft that might be a little rough. I’m not sure where I’m going with that, except to say that it’s good to know that even Hemmingway had to start somewhere. (more…)

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Tuesdays with Story
November 14, 2019

The first word . . .

“If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially on some piece of writing or paperwork, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work, the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle under the desk lamp. The light from a lamp gives the cat great satisfaction. The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impeded your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough.”

― Muriel Spark (1918-2006), Scottish novelist, short story writer, poet and essayist

Tuesday evening at B&N Westside . . .

A small group gathered, six of our regular writers plus a guest, Huckleberry Rahr, a math prof at UW/Whitewater and write of YA novels looking for help in getting published. She joined the group and is on the schedule for November 19 (more…)

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Tuesdays with Story
October 19, 2019

The first word . . .

“I was a lot dumber when I was writing the novel. I would come home every day from my office and say, ‘Well, I still really like the story, I just wish it was better written.’ At that point, I didn’t realize I was writing a first draft. And the first draft was the hardest part. From there, it was comparatively easy. It was like I had some Play-Doh to work with and could just keep working with it – doing a million drafts and things changing radically and characters appearing and disappearing and solving mysteries: Why is this thing here? Should I just take that away? And then realizing, no, that is there, in fact, because that is the key to this. I love that sort of detective work.”

― Miranda July (1974-), film director, screenwriter, actress, novelist, short story writer

Tuesday evening at the bookstore . . .

A small group of writers—six in all—huddled around a table on the bargain books floor, where they proceeded to critique the works of their colleagues. Here is some of what was said:

— Jack Freiburger (chapter 62, A Walk upon the Water) . . .

— Kashmira Sheth and Amit Trivedi (chapters 24-25, untitled novel) . . .

— Cindi Dyke (children’s picture book, Kerpout) . . .  This poem is the first in a series of picture books for young children. Jerry wondered why Kerpout has hooves instead of paws,  but he is a mythical woodland creature (Kerpout, not Jerry) and I see him with hooves. Jerry also didn’t think chocolate ice cream for breakfast would make you sick. I’m willing to test that out for accuracy. Kashmira thought a bit of adult vocabulary in a child’s picture book is fine, but it needs to be limited. Several thought the metrical structure needs attention in a couple of stanzas. (more…)

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays With Story

October 1, 2019

ONLY ONE SUBMISSION WAS RECEIVED FOLLOWING THE MEETING (THANK YOU LARRY)

Larry:

Chapters 27-28, Freedoms Purchase:  Jack noted a few details relative to Lake’s estimation of John Crittenden and Henry Clay; the likelihood of oranges in an Illinois summer in 1850s; and the possibility that the Chicago Options Market would be available to Anders in the newspaper [Answer to Jack: The Chicago Board of Trade was established in 1864 but did not start a formal options market until 1973.]. John noted that things seem pretty sweet for our immigrants in these chapters, not much conflict—which is okay as long as it doesn’t go on too long. I promised that I will add a quart and a half of conflict to Chapter 29. Bob noted that there actually is conflict in these chapters, but it’s domestic conflict between Anders and Maria, not too overt. Thanks to all for their comments and I will soldier on. (more…)

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Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
July 23, 2019

The first word . . .

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits (of a writer) is persistence.”

― Octavia Butler (1947-2006), sci-fi author

At B&N Westside . . .

Cody Benjamin, our writer friend from New Mexico, stopped in to show off his first thriller, Shaitan. It came out in May. He’s now writing his second.

Summer travels knocked our attendance down to six who critiqued the works of five of their colleagues. Here is some of what was said:

Jack Freiburger (chapters 51-52, A Walk upon the Water) . . . not many comments Tuesday night.  Seems the anchor adventure was fine, some concern about the footballs game details, but few comments in general at the meeting.  Have not had time to check postings yet.

Jessica Smith (chapters 1-2, rewrite, Holding the Balance) . . . Overall, there was improvement in the two rewritten chapters. The story is good, but I need to show the reader the action, rather than tell the reader. I need to have the characters think in the first person more and do less explaining of their backgrounds. Other suggestions include: (more…)

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