writing

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Writing for Revelation

Published July 10, 2012 by Ms. Nine

When my daughter talks to me, which isn’t very often, our conversations are one-sided.  She does most of the talking, which is usually a rant, and I do the listening. She’s toxic, and it’s better when I don’t take the bait.  When she leaves or hangs up the phone,  I fill my journal with what I wanted to tell her.  I thought I’d share with you a recurring theme.

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      “Why did you adopt me?”

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” I replied.

She scrunched up her face.  The answer, after all, implied that if I had hindsight, my decision would have been different.  Well, what did she want to hear?  Because I loved her?  Because she needed a family?  Because it was the right thing to do?  All this she already knew.  The truth is, even when I try to remember the reason, I really don’t have a better answer.

     Honey, you’re thirty-seven, an adult.  So your life sucked for the first eight years, then you got a new family.  It’s been twenty-nine years and you’ve yet to call me Mom.  Your therapist said you couldn’t say it because the word dredged up feelings of horror, pain, and dread.  Maybe if I had pushed the issue, made you talk the talk, eventually you’d see me as your “real” Mom.  Just so you know, being the “adopted one” never made you any less of a sister or daughter.

      We accepted you for yourself, the crooked sapling that we loved regardless.  Could anything have straightened out that sapling so its trunk wouldn’t grow up gnarly?  Does it matter?     

     Is that why you stuck the needle in your arm?  You blame your heroin addiction on being adopted?  Well, Honey, that’s what addicts do – they blame.  All the therapy in the world won’t change that.  True, you could have been someone else’s daughter.   But you’re mine, and nothing will change that, either. 

     So, why did I adopt you?  I can’t promise you’ll like this answer any better.  It’s a divine poker game and God’s dealing.  When He gives you a chance to love, even if the stakes are high, you don’t fold. 

    And if God ever gives me the chance to tell you this, I will.

 

Writing this has helped.  It’s her birthday and I’ve no way to contact her.

Thanks for stopping by.

The Last of the Summer Shorts

Published July 6, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Writing shorts has been a learning experience.  I recommend it highly.  As a writer, I’ve learned to wipe away words that don’t perform, clean up clutter, and bend the rules.

Here’s to Friday of summer shorts week–

Do You Hear What I Hear? 

Lily, a curtain maker, listened to streamed music and sang along to Brighter than the Sun.

“Melodious voice, Lil,” she heard.  The DJ?

A joke, surely.  “Thanks,” she replied to her humming serger.

“You don’t need to audition for Idol.”  Who was that announcer talking to? Not her.

Weird how the words fit.

Next, Lily sang along with We Found Love as she created the curtain toppers for Mrs. Bobbitt.  (Mrs. Boob-it for reasons unmentionable).

“Your voice has a timber, an unusual quality,” words again, emerging from the satellite radio.   (The speaker must be interviewing Adele…) “a ring, a pleasant sound.” (Streaming music – that’s what I’m paying for.  Skip the commentaries, thank-you-very-much)

“Yeah, right.  Whatever. Play music,” she muttered.

Energetic, yet lyrical.”

“Enough.  The music now!”She asserted.

“It’s streaming in. Listen.”

Too much talk!  She punched the serger’s foot as if she was Danica Sue Patrick racing in the Daytona.  She braked for the intro to A Thousand Years, then sang.

To millions listening, the voice was not Christina Perri’s, but Lily’s.

Thanks for stopping by.

Love Shorts

Published July 5, 2012 by Ms. Nine

 

English: Exmoor : Dry Stream & River Barle

English: Exmoor : Dry Stream & River Barle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Yesterday, the brutality of the summer heat ticked me off and sent me over to the dark side.   But, not today. Today, I’m staying away from the heat.  I’m thinking about the sweet side of summer – convertibles, watermelon, and time off. And who doesn’t love a swimming hole?

The First Time

Behind the Baptist Church in Whynot, Jesse waded in the river of his baptism.  His skin chill bumped from the cool water and tingled at the promise of summer delights – like sweet Lula Mae, home from her first year in college, whose head bobbed ahead of him.

“Come all the way in, Jesse.  The water feels so good,” she coaxed.

He removed his tee shirt and flung it on the shore where it caught on a branch and waved like a white flag.   He plunged in before he could say, “I’m coming.”  His dive splashed her, and she giggled.

When his head resurfaced, her cheeks apple blushed.  He dove again, this time he held her ankles and dragged her, flailing and laughing, to the lee side.  There he would experience a baptism of another sort.

Lula Mae christened him under the birch trees.  With this single act, she enlightened him to the beauty and godliness of his body.   In the grass where he lay, he heard his soul sing

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Fragmented Shorts

Published July 4, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Flash fiction and sentence fragments.

Only for a Minute

Driving home from work.  Picking up kids from day care.  Watching the temperature soar to 106 degrees.  Forty minutes from home.  The intense urge to urinate.  Can’t think.   A gas station ahead.  Stopping.

Only for a minute.  Urgent business.  Locking the doors.  Leaving the kids inside.  Only for a minute.  Molten pavement.  Racing to the bathroom.   Occupied.  Waiting only for a minute.  Hot urine.  Liberation.  Relief.  Washing hands.  Thinking clearly.

Grabbing two popsicles.  Waiting in line.  Only for a minute.  Running back to the car.

Not sleeping.  Not nodding off.  One semi-conscious.  One dead.

Be safe.  Stay cool.  Thanks for stopping by.

What Does This Say?

Published June 8, 2012 by Ms. Nine

You’re not new to writing.  You’ve been writing most of your life.  Everybody writes, even if it’s only a to-do list.  My granddaughter is only four and she writes her name followed by all the letters she’s learned so far.  She hands me her completed page and asks, “Grandma, what does this say?” What does this say?  Indeed, when the writer wants the reader to find meaning in her written word, a loop is formed.  The reader and the writer are one and the same.

Finding meaning is a scary prospect.   What does your writing mean to you?  Is writing a requirement for your day job?  What do you need to write?  A report?  A progress note? An invoice?  A manifest?  If you don’t want to ask the reader what does this say, then your writing becomes an artifact, a crumb in the continuum of man’s time on Earth.

When I was a full time teacher of 152 children, I wrote curriculum content, lesson plans, grants, progress notes, emails, and countless other written works necessary for the job.  In my spare time, I started writing a novel.   For the first time, I wanted to know what does this say.   Then the idea struck me.   I’m happiest when I write for myself.  In March, I left my teaching position to write full time.

For me, the transition from full time teacher to full time writer is a strange and astonishing journey.  What’s most astonishing is the freedom to write and to create my own schedule for doing it.     

Do you have a writing schedule? What does it say?

On a good day, here’s mine:

5:30AM – 10:00AM

     Turn on computer, check email, write blog, read other blogs for inspiration.  Think about what does it say.

10:00AM – Noon

     Take a coffee break.  Do household chores.  Write more.  What will this say?

Noon –lunch break.

12:30PM – 3:00PM

     Think and write more.  What does this say?

3:00PM – 5:00PM

     Write more. Read what I’ve written while preparing dinner and finishing household chores. Try to answer the question what does this say.

After 5:00PM

     Stop writing.  Stop asking what does this say.  Spend time with family. 

At bedtime

     Ask what does this mean.

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Thanks for stopping by! 

Foreshadowing, the Ties That Bind

Published June 5, 2012 by Ms. Nine

     Foreshadowing is necessary to add suspense, connect scenes, and convey information that helps the reader understand what comes next.  If you don’t use it, your reader will disconnect.   

     So, what is foreshadowing?  Think of foreshadowing as signposts in your narrative that lead the reader to a destination in your story.   The signs can be expressed in the setting, in a set-up scene, in dialogue, or in symbolic objects (and lots of other ways!)

In this post I’m going to have a little fun with foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing in the setting:

     Marcy woke up to Here Comes the Sun playing on her ipod alarm clock.  The bright tempo and lyrics bounced her out of bed.   Indeed, the sun streaming through her bedroom windows reflected the song’s sentiment and convinced her that today, she too would shine.  Last night she had worked on her portfolio long after Jay Leno said goodnight.     Now it pulsed on her laptop, a dazzling multimedia presentation.    This morning, she didn’t break the eggs, her coffee perked to perfection, and her toast didn’t burn.  Today will be different, she told herself as she pranced into the shower.   A few minutes later, she donned her only power suit, a coral skirt and blazer trimmed in navy blue.  Grabbing the flash drive and gathering her scattered papers into a folder, she headed out the door.    Carpe Diem!

{—this might be Marcy’s best day.}

Foreshadowing in the set-up scene:

     Marcy gripped the steering wheel of her Honda Civic as she rolled down Main Street at the tail end of the noon rush.   Why would anyone schedule an important meeting at one o’clock?  People are either sleepy from eating lunch or tired and hungry from skipping it. Well, that’s corporate thinking for youEither way, I’ll show them my prospectus and they’ll be eating out of my hand.  She squeaked by three traffic lights just before they turned red.  Bolstered by this good karma, Marcy was certain her interview would result in that promotion – Senior Merchandiser for Kmart’s Kitchen and Bath Department.    She turned right onto Crawford Street with five minutes to spare.    Those five minutes would be eaten up by red police lights flashing in her rear view mirror and the burping, sick horn of a police warning signal.

{—Marcy is going to be late.}

 

Foreshadowing in dialogue:

     Marcy rolled down her window as the officer approached.  “Is there a problem, officer?” she asked in a friendly way.

     “License and registration, please,” the officer replied, all business like.

     “Sure.” She fumbled through her purse, and then handed the items to the officer.

     “Marcy McDonald?  The break light on your passenger side is out.  I’m issuing a citation; you’ll have five days to fix it.  You’ll go to traffic court with proof of the repair and pay the fine.  Understand?”

     Marcy nodded.  

     “One more thing,” the officer continued, “are you planning on parking in this area?”

     “Yes.  I have a meeting in that building,” she said, pointing to a high rise across the street.

     “Then use the off-street parking.  There’s been a rash of break-ins at the municipal parking lot during the afternoon hours.”

     Great! I’m already late.  Finding an off-street space is next to impossible!  I’ll take my chances, carry mace, and lock my doors.

     “Thank-you, officer,” she said, flashing her friendliest smile.

{—Marcy is going to be very late}

 

     In my writing, foreshadowing is often constructed during rewrites.   How does foreshadowing work with you?  Do you write phrases about the future? Do you write changes in setting that guide the reader to a future event?  Do you write scenic elements that suggest emotions, emotions that are tacked on to what comes next? 

Share some examples of your foreshadowing by posting a comment.

Thanks for reading!

 

The Stein and Ms. Nine

Published May 24, 2012 by Ms. Nine

The writer married technology a long time ago.  Think about it.  They’ve always walked hand in hand – the invention of movable type, the ball point pen, the electric typewriter, and the ultimate machine – the word processor.  I thought it would be fun to consider writers of the 20th century like Hemmingway, Faulkner, or Fitzgerald using the technology of now.  Would they have accomplished more?  What would they say about it?  What would John Steinbeck think of word processors, the internet, or blogging?  To satisfy my curiosity, I invited Mr. Steinbeck into my imagination for an interview. 

Here’s a transcript of our conversation…

Ms. Nine:  Welcome, Mr. Steinbeck.  Thanks for spending e-face time on my blog today.

Mr. Steinbeck:  Please, call me ‘the Stein’; it’s my tag.

Ms. Nine: (the Stein??  I could NEVER!)… >cough< …I’ve invited you here so writers could benefit from your perspective on being a writer in the 21st century. 

Mr. Steinbeck: Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.

Ms. Nine: Uh..okay, if you say so… This is my first posthumous interview and I’m a little nervous… So here’s my first question.  How do you feel about using a word processor?

Mr. Steinbeck:  I hate computers.  They know so much more than I do.  Using a computer forces a writer to think harder, faster, stronger. 

Ms. Nine:  Would these modern tools have helped you write?

Mr. Steinbeck:  After I won the big P for The Grapes of Wrath, it was tough getting back on track.   I mean, I still had more writing to do.  Maybe if I had a word processor I would have won that Nobel Prize a lot sooner.  Who’s to say?

Ms. Nine:  Would you have finished The Acts of King Author and His Nobel Knights?

Mr. Steinbeck:  You had to mention that thorn in my side.  I’m not making excuses, but in my day writers had to set priorities.    Yeah, maybe a word processor would have helped.  But back then writers believed in the perfectibility of man.  We didn’t write frivolously.  We wrote – I wrote – to bring awareness of the economic and social injustice of the time.  I was making a statement!

Ms. Nine:  This brings me to my next topic – J. Edgar Hoover and the League of American Writers.  Do you think using social media and the internet would have made a difference?   

Mr. Steinbeck:  If I could have tweeted about what happened to Charlie Chaplin and the Smothers brothers, the resulting public outcry might have stopped that Communist brouhaha.   I am clever with words.  But remember, if I could’ve had access to social media, so too would McCarthy and Hoover.  The ability of social media to shape collective consciousness is astounding.   It flows in all directions. 

Ms. Nine: One last question – would you have used a website to promote your work?

Mr. Steinbeck:  At this point, I have grown beyond my work, walked up the stairs of my own concepts, and emerged ahead of my accomplishments, all achieved without a website.  Ironically, now that I’m dead, I have at least a dozen.

 

Well, there you have it – a 20th century perspective on writing in the 21st century.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect Protagonists

Published May 22, 2012 by Ms. Nine

You’ve created the perfect protagonist.   He’s attractive, has a strong moral code, no physical limitations, and is highly successful.   He’s hard at work saving the world, rescuing the girl, and doing the right thing all the time.  But he’s exhausted.   So are his readers.  But he’s so perfect he won’t even tell you how tired he is.  Give your protagonist a break!  Perfect protagonists aren’t perfect. 

Let’s say the protagonists has to do something, something he’s expected to do.  But this time, this one time, the protagonist just can’t perform.  Is the world going to end?  Is someone going to die?  Then try letting another character take up the slack.

Like this.

     “Hey Yogi,  look over there.”  Marvin pointed to the six deer grazing under the mulberry tree.  “Go get ’em!” 

     The shade under the back porch and Marvin’s chair rocking had lulled Yogi into a state of semiconsciousness.   The black lab perked up his head.  His sloppy eyes fixed on Marvin’s.  He panted, but didn’t  follow Marvin’s finger.  Instead, he rested his head back on his paws.

     Marvin sighed,  “Come on, Yogi.  I can’t cotton to these deer going after my corn.  You know I can’t afford a fence – you’re all I got.”  He wanted to yank Yogi up by his collar, give him a nudge, a kick even.  But Marvin was a practical man.   Yogi  had worked the fields all day chasing away the deer and countless rabbits.  After doing his job for seventeen years, that old dog’s gotta be tired.

     “Alright, Yogi.  I can see you ain’t moving off this porch.”  Marvin stood up from his chair and put down his beer.  “I don’t blame you, not one bit.  So I’ll do it this time.”

     Yogi picked up his head again and wagged his tail a little as Marvin ran, arms wide, making loud turkey calls.   The deer scattered off,  just as if Yogi had chased them himself.  

See?  It’s okay to let another character take charge.  The perfect protagonist needs a break!

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