Terrytown's Library

Terrytown's Library
Raised in Terrytown, Louisiana

Friday, December 31, 2010

Just Write and Make Yourself Known

Tomorrow is a new year, a new beginning. My question for us all is what are we going to do with this new year. How will we start over or continue to make progress? I'm going to create a business plan for myself as a fiction writer. I'm going to seek out opportunities to publish my fiction and to let people know that my stories are worth buying and reading. My business plan will tell me how.

I'm learning there's truth in the sentences, writing generates more writing and each sentences you write generates a prompt for the next sentence. Sometimes the writing is a word.
New York
I was waiting for someone to mug me. I'd seen it on movies, girls stepped off the bus at the Port Authority and into conman's schemes. I felt I had one thing over them. In a way I could claim New York as mine. I had relatives here that I visi
ted often. Still, I was a girl just off a Port Authority bus looking for a new life.

Other times it's a simple sentence. I think dialogue is a great story prompt. It might even work with personal essays, which is something I'm interested in writing along with the fiction stories I love to write. The writing magazines I read are always talking about expanding your writing genres.
"I'm just goi
ng to the store" "I'm just going to the store." She didn't look at her father, instead out of the window at the dark street. Another girl disappeared from the store every kid went to after getting off the bus. She moved her head to see her dad out of the corner of her eye. She wanted him to stop her, to tell her something, some word of caution, but he said nothing. Out of work for almost two years didn't give him any motivation to be her dad. Her mom was working like crazy to support them. Her dad having a job could remind her mom that she needed to spend time with them or it could also keep her dad out of the house. She went outside in jeans she cut into shorts and laid on the grass. It was still damp from this evenings slight rain shower. Her dad used to tell her to be careful while her mom told her that she was a smart girl, too smart to get into any trouble. No one was saying anything to her now.

She closed her eyes so she didn't see her dad standing by the window, peeking at her through the plaid, threadbare curtains.

This scene came from the sentences I wrote on my page Writing Community; "I'm just going to the store." It shows that even the simplest sentences can produce a scene filled with conflict.

The writing community is one of my facebook pages. I wanted to create a place where we can write pieces of stories, respond to writing prompts and talk about writing. Check out my facebook pages.

It's a new year and it's time to stop talking and
take my writing beyond just writing and put my story here, in the hands of many readers and to inspire writers who are wondering what they can do to be writers and to market and promote themselves and their writing.

And always be thinking of the next story. That was yesterday, what will you write today is a quote from My So Called Life. And I think is an excellent piece of advice.

"I'm just going to the store."
"The play was really good."

What can you do with these sentences or with the word New York?

Happy writing.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Dinner

We had duck instead of turkey. My sister wanted a different kind of bird and this was her first year to celebrate in her new house with her husband and her eight month child. She made a whiskey sauce for the duck that could have that everyone raved about. She also cooked baked macaroni, dressing or stuffing, fried chicken, yams with a marshmallow topping, and a German chocolate cake. Everything was delicious. There were three kinds of gravy. Nothing was compromised. The only thing missing was eggnog. Since we only eat it once a year, I forgot that my sister didn't drink eggnog.

We had those leftovers for a week. Delicious leftovers. We're at the end of 2010. I'm feeling good about myself as a fiction writer. I've recently heard about Indie Author and have been reading a little about it. It's the same as Indie film Makers and Indie Musicians. You are responsible for everything, for publication, promotion, finance, etc. I simply want to write fiction stories. I have two more days to plan my writing career. What do I want to happen in 2011 and what do I want to continue to happen beyond 2011. I've previously said, this is my year, but I didn't know what that meant, not until now. It means looking at writing fiction as a business and not just art. All businesses must earn money in order to stay alive. I need to figure out how I'm going to do this. And I can't ever give up on myself ever again.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What happened to you yesterday?

I actually was called in to work, the manager asked me on Sunday to come in in the place of a co-worker on Tuesday. Work wasn't bad. It's another place to find characters and stories while you're earning or a living or trying to. You meet different types of people and gaining experiences you probably wouldn't have. It's like viewing a diary entry they probably wouldn't write. They are completely themselves when they come in my store with or without their children. I still remember the vendor who came in and told me about getting fired from her last job. I'd love to write a story based on what she told me.

She kept checking the parking lot, looking for her replacement. Her watch said she had a few minutes to be on the clock. Finally, she thought when a white car pulled in the parking lot with the price snow painted on the windshield. She would have laughed out loud if she wasn't so frustrated.

This probably isn't the opening, but it might go somewhere in a story I could write. You find stories everywhere. I try to find them in my own life.

Most of the doors of the hotel rooms were closed. The two people we were working for that day, two overweight white men, gave us each card keys just in case the doors were locked. We had to clean out the rooms so that the three units could be torn down.

What happened to you yesterday? Two days were added to my schedule. I can write that story and call it Yesterday.

Happy writing.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Not too much has been happening. I'm getting over a cold with a little dayquill and nightquill. And I'm writing another story, a coming of age stories. I have a lot of those to write. Flannery O'Connor did say, if you survived childhood you have enough material to last for a lifetime. I'd also like to include if you're surviving your adult years you have even more material to write about. If you're living, then you're surviving.

Along with my childhood I want to write stories based on the here and now. Where I live now, what I do for fun, for work, for security, etc. I came up with an exercise and I hope you enjoy it.

set a story in Chicago as a visitor

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Story Premises and First Sentences

I grew up in Terrytown, Louisiana and would love to write stories set in my childhood. A collection that also has to do with country music. I want to write stories about things I'm passionate about. I'm learning simply because you love to do something doesn't mean it's going to be easy to get it done. This means that I have to make a commitment and stick to it.

I'm going to try something. Instead of starting with a sentence, or a word, I'm going to start with a story premise and a character and go from there. I still think first sentences are a great way to come up with story ideas. And so are images.

Terrytown looked different after Hurricane Katrina, not like mine anymore. Unrecognizable. "I'm packed," I said as I looked around our duplex, not a decoration in sight. It was almost true that no one would be here to enjoy it. He found me, not that God had to look far. No one was going to tease me here.

If you can't think of a story premise, write openings and use those sentences to come up with a story premise. Actually, the story premise is there in the sentences.

Story premises:
  • learning to live in a different place after Hurricane Katrina.
  • Christmas was going to be different this year
  • Feeling like living better is impossible, better to hide
  • Spending her time away from school trying to forget about being teased
You might come up with different premises for these sentences. As for the picture.

I read the college applications, unsure of what I wanted and wondering if that even mattered.

"Country's taking over the fair this weekend," my friend said.

"Boys," I said, "do not like me."

What's your story premise or first sentence?

Happy Writing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Connecting Both Blogs

You'll see a blog address. That's the complete stories, the other side of this blog, which is about writing for story ideas.

I love writing prompts and writing exercises, but only those that lead you to possible stories. I don't like those that tell you to write a story with only short words or only this or don't do this. I prefer:
  • Write a story that takes place in a restaurant
  • Write a story about the kid that's always teased
  • They told us about the bomb...
  • Gravity...
Any one of these can lead to a possible short story or a longer piece. John Dufresne has a writing exercise that I've always wanted to try. He calls it Badlands. You take a song you're passionate about and write a story based on the lyrics. You make it yours. I want to write a story based on The Fray's song, 'You Found Me' and 3 Doors Down's song, 'Ticket to Heaven'

Get ready for lots of writing prompts, some I've made up and others I've found and will credit to the author.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Visiting Priests: Writing prompt

Last week's bulletin said we were getting another visiting priest. Before Father Jerry left, he spoke about people emailing him their desire to leave the church if he left. He reminded them that we worshiped God and not the priest or the pastor.

"Why would they take away our priest without giving us another priests," I whispered. Mom said they weren't thinking. It didn't make any sense. I read the brief bio of this Sunday's visiting priest, a Father Mitchel from a church in Downtown Atlanta.

The choir sang in the procession of the Eucharistic Ministers, the deacon, and this week's visiting priest.

I closed my eyes and Father Paul was nodding his head to the choir. It was 'This Little Light Of Mine,' and they sang like they were on stage. A few people stood and I could imagine lighters in their hands as they got happy, though Father Paul was always telling us that we should be moved by the readings and by God and nothing else.

I wiped a tear as Father Mitchel listened to Pearl read the second reading. (I was certain I missed the first reading.) The website told me that my former church had a different priest. I guessed he retired to look after his father. It was too easy to develop attachments.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Writing, Not Talking

I'm not going to talk about my next writing project, I'm simply going to write my next story. I recently bought a magazine containing an article that urges you to get rid of time wasters, turn off the TV and set daily and weekly goals and simply write. That's what I need to do. I watch too many reruns and I write without an end in mind. Post Thanksgiving, I'm going to write in a different way. I'm not going to talk about it, I'm just going to write whenever I can.

I like to set a goal of scenes rather than words or maybe pages. One writer suggested writing at least five pages. The Writer issue that contains the article said, "If you write just one page a day, in a year you'll have a completed book. Can you imagine how much shorter the time will be between beginning a book and completing a book if you wrote at least five pages a day or more.

Making a list of stand-alone memories will show you that you actually do have a lot to write about. I've expanded on this writing exercise. Use words to inspire stand-alone memories.

kids talking about the churches they attended

Baptist service with my aunt and a cute boy in one of the pews

You may want to put a limit on the number of memories you come up with so that you can choose one and actually write a fiction story based on that memory. Maybe even combine two memories. This is your writing exercise. Come up with a list of stand-alone memories and choose a memory or two and write that short story.

Happy Writing!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Source Material

Anything can become source material for your short stories. I was late to church, standing outside service, waiting for the ushers to let us in when I saw a photo of our pope. This sentence came into my head; "I bet he was cute when he was younger." Why would anyone say this? And what was the reaction. What was this person thinking when she or he said that. What were they going through?

Working one day, a vendor came in the store I'm employed in and told me how she walked out on her job at a restaurant. I'm not sure how, but, I want to tell her story. Like John Dufresne said, I want to know about this person's life without asking him or her. I want to know about the vendor whom I'll probably never see again. I want to know about her daughter who was with her and working while we talked. What does she think about her mother.

I had another idea from church, the Catholic scandals. What if someone decided to leave the church because of hearing what her priest may or may not have done without understanding that you are there for God and no one else.

Anywhere you are, you can find source material. I want to write a story about a couple with two adopted children moving from the city (New York) to a suburbs in New York. How did they cope with the changes? This idea is straight from the final episode of Friends. I'm curious to know how they are coping with change, but I want to create original stories based on these characters rather than write fanfiction.

Music is another inspiration for me. I love country and rock. Dufresne has an exercise where you take the lyrics of a favorite song and use it to inspire a story by making that story yours. Change the characters, the setting, etc. and make it yours.

What is your source material? That's this weeks exercise. Happy writing. I believe everything that interests you is source material for your fiction.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The First Step To Being Published

I'm sitting in a Barnes and Noble when I realize that there are small steps that I can take to get my fiction published and to have them published continually. The first step is what Narrative Magazine calls Reader Narratives. My narrative will be published and archived. It's a beginning to being known in the writing and publishing industry. This is something I've read about in magazines. Articles suggests writing letters to the editor to get published. It's a start and your name will be known. I'm a stubborn person and I've always believed that I was a fiction writer. I don't have the brain of a nonfiction writer. But, today, nonfiction has to have some elements of fiction in order for it to readable and publishable. I'm still telling a story, I'm just telling a story about something that happened to me. I'm not embellishing details like I would for a fiction piece. I'm telling you this is the way it happened.

A nonfiction piece needs characters and scenes and plots. What happened that makes you want to write about it and how did you fix it? This is the same rule for fiction. What happened to your character and how did or does your character fix it? After reading another narrative I came up with a short list of things I'd like to write about and I wrote my narrative piece. I'm going to read it and see how I can improve it, make it publishable. Sun Magazine is another literary publication that does this, except they have chosen topics. Their latest is Rites of Passage, whose deadline is December 1. Basically you have to think of every publishing opportunity you can imagine and take advantage of it and don't be afraid to ask others what else can you do to become published. You can self publish along with going through the traditional channels. Think of being published as your own personal story. What does it take to become published? What have you been doing and what can you do? And try everything and then research for more publishing avenues.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Stop Complaining and Just Write

You think you're doing all that you can to become published and get your fiction into the hands and hearts of readers and hopefully get paid when you read an article or two that tells you that you can and should be doing more. One of my faults is complaining about not having any time during the day, even on one of my many off days. When you live with other people, especially with family, you don't get a day off to write. But, you still need to produce final, polished drafts of stories no matter what anyone else is doing.

One of the articles I read talked about what you'd do if you really wanted a career writing fiction. You'd make the sacrifice. You'd wake up early and give up your favorite TV shows. You'd use the time you choose to write as serious writing time, meaning that you don't do research or anything else. You simply draft your stories. I also need to be quiet and just write and submit and join a few writing communities. To me, writing communities are groups of people who gather to read and write and to hear published authors speak. We're all trying to be published so we all need to stand out someway. I vow to stop talking and just write, to figure out how to have a career as a published fiction writer and to make the sacrifices I need to do to write more polished stories that are ready to be submitted. What is your writing vow?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Nacirema Society Requests The Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One Hundred Years

This was a play not to be missed. You really felt like you were staring into the lives of rich black people and you were getting to know all of them the way you would get to know yourself or a friend. It's the way writing ought to be. I strive to make my writing just as good.

My favorite character was Gracie Dunbar, the writer. She had this passion, this romantic notion of moving to New York to be a writer, even if that meant being poor. And she was looking forward to that life. She made me believe that she would be the fiction writer that she wanted to be.

I liked that Pearl Cleage was able to give it a good, happy ending, one that was very satisfying and didn't leave anything unanswered.

Gracie gave me hope. If you live in Georgia or near Georgia, today is the last day to see The Nacirema Society Requests The Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One Hundred Years. Go see the play and let Gracie Dunbar give you hope.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Finding Inspiration

Every time I need inspiration, I go to a bookstore or a cafe. Sometimes simply riding MARTA is enough to provide inspiration for a story or two. Of course working retail provides more than enough for a few stories.

There's something about either leaving the house or the room that you normally write in that helps you to find stories you wouldn't have thought if you stayed stagnant. It's about being in a different enviornment now matter how familiar it is to you. This works whether it's something new or you feel stuck in a writing project.

Sometimes you have to step away from writing. This will allow you to see your writing from a different angle. It will also give you ideas you wouldn't have without the small break.

Today's prompt, write a story that was inspired by being in a different place from where you normally write.

Happy writing

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Trick or Treat

"Trick or treat."

"Luigi," I said as I stared at the foam costume he wore like a suit. Several kids walked passed or came in with their moms dressed as Princess Tiana, Belle, or a wore a simple black cap with red lining like they all got together and said this is what vampires will look like this Halloween.

"Sorry, no candy."

He continued to watch me, as if I'd say, gotcha and drop a few Kit Kats in his bag. Why hadn't our store thought to do this, I wondered as I watched him leave. His costume was pretty cool and realistic.

It was still light outside as kids went from store to store saying trick or treat. I thought of telling Luigi that we might have candy next year, but he was already saying trick or treat to the next sales associate or manager.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Kossiwa Logan Writes A Short Story

I really enjoyed reading Ron Carlson Writes A Story. He took us through the process of writing a short story. That's what I'm going to do here. I've told you my process of writing and now I'm going to show you.

First I have an idea, which begins with a thought, an image, a memory, a word or phrase that I turn into a sentence.

There wasn't much to do today. As slow as it was, the manager let the girl at customer service go for the night. He told her to call her ride to come get her. I was in the process of putting more things in my cart to return to their proper shelves when Mr. Barkley told Tracy there wasn't enough work. I glanced at them, but the store manager was walking away and she was already dialing on her cell phone. I hated standing in the customer service box trying to think of something to do in between customers. Since they didn't need me up here for no, I finished filling my cart with items customers either returned or changed their mind about. I started in Infant Care.

I've always wanted to write my version of John Updike's A&P story. I'm hoping this is it. I've also always wanted to write a story based on working in retail.

It's been raining all day as if a storm was blowing through Georgia. I had to drive through it to work this evening for a four-hour shift. We closed at 9:30 and we're out five to fifteen minutes later depending on the ease or difficulty in setting the alarm. My co-workers, and me when I wasn't at customer service reshopped and Straightened the selves as fast as we could so we could be out the store and on our way home or to wherever as fast as possible. My four hour shift was actually a three-hour shift.

The beauty of a first draft is that you're just getting the story done. You're not figuring anything out. You're not trying to write anything, you're simply writing. You don't have to have a subject, but it is helpful.

I sorted out the items for the Infant Care section while standing near the Tommee Tippee bottles. I hated doubling back because I missed an item.

"Ma'am, do you work here?"

That question grated on my nerves. I'm wearing the same purple and khaki that every other employee wore. But, it was better to ask than to make an assumption. I glanced at her and smiled. She looked ready to have the baby any second.

My idea, as I said earlier, was to write a story based on working retail jobs. I enjoy talking to people. I enjoy the work when I'm staying busy. I might rewrite this to include a vendor I spoke to. She was so memorable to me.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More Than One Way to Publish What You've Written

I think it's important to be on as many website as possible, to really get your name and your writing into the hands of future readers anyway you can. That's what I'm trying to do, not just write, but figure out how I can gain readers. One of the things I've done is join as many writing communities as I can. I'm a little more active on Author Nation. I think you also have to read other people's work and let them know that you're reading them. These things are probably obvious.

I'm learning a lot in my hiatus from writing. I never thought I'd take a hiatus from my writing, but I'm beginning to think it's important to every now and then stop writing and look at your progress or your lack of progress. What else can you be doing? Are you reaching the milestones in your plan as a writer. This is what I need to do. Right now, besides writing more, my goal is to gain more readers. It's what my sister is always talking to me about. I'm not writing stories just for me anymore. I'm writing stories to communicate with other people. But if I'm the only one whose reading them, then who am I talking to.

Writing is all about taking risks but trying to be published is the hugest risk there is. One of my ideas is to come up with business cards that have my websites on them and to pass them out to who I think my target audience is, which I have yet to name.

I'm apart of Author Nation, Facebook and now the Writer's Digest Community. I've just joined Barnes and Nobles Pubit. I'm hoping that my short story will catch on there. I have yet to use Facebook as a forum for my writing, but I will soon. I just feel that I need more stories written and I mean well written to being using Facebook.

I plan on learning what my resources are and using all of them. You have to realize there are always more than one way to be published.

Today's writing prompt: trying to get to the park before it rains

My next entry will be a short story that I will start working on soon. It feels great to be writing again

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Hero Wants...

By the end of the month I've written one story and have submitted that story. I finished a draft of a second story based on my childhood. And it feels great. But, I think I can push myself even further in October. November is National Novel Writing month and I'm looking forward to actually writing 50,000 plus words. Right now I'm working on a collection of stories based on my childhood, but I also would like to write a collection of stories based on my life in Atlanta and now in Decatur, GA.

Ray Bradbury said discover what your hero wants. Then you just follow him. Which sounds easy. Your hero, or protagonist is the word I like better, wants a better job. What is your protagonist going to do to get a better job. What is standing in her or his way of a better job? The answer is the obstacle. This might be something you learn as you write the story and in the second draft, you might change what the protagonist wants or how the protagonist goes after what she wants. You follow the protagonist going after what she or he wants now and write what she or he will do to get what she or he wants.

I believe the story will flow easier when the character wants something. You might know what the protagonist will do to get what she wants, that happens in the writing process as well as learning the obstacles she or he will have to face. I find when I start with something vague, I end up with a vague first draft. For this month I'm going to start with what my hero wants because I think I'll produce more first drafts of stories and possibly get more short stories out there. I might even start work on my novel. Of course I'll work on a different novel for National Novel Writing Month.

Check out my short story blog. It's a little slower than this blog, but I'm going to pick it up. Today's prompt. I'll give you a few.

A mother wants to leave the Catholic Church because of all of the scandal but doesn't know where to go and actually she wants to stay.

A woman wants a better job so she can start taking care of herself and move out of her sister's house

What if I have a setting in mind, or have an idea in mind. I want to write my version of John Updike's A&P because I work in retail and have since I moved to Atlanta in 2008. I have to find a want for my hero that matches her or his surroundings or the story idea I've thought of.

I remember a while ago my sister suggested that I write a story about or based on the life I want to live. I haven't done that yet, but I wouldn't have written about a protagonist living with her sister, her niece and her sister's boyfriend while working eight hours a week in retail. I think now I realize that she was thinking I'd be able to see what I can do to get exactly what it is that I want; a better job that will support myself and my writing career. I want to go to conferences, enter writing contests, write short story collections and novels and possibly get my Masters of Fine Arts. I haven't given up. This exercise is great for all writers who aren't living the life they expected to live.

I believe writing helps you to look at your life and your beliefs and maybe make some changes.

She doesn't want to be out of a job. What is in her way? Is it the economy or is it her own self? Has she gotten too used to the life she's living now?

Happy writing

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Writing Between Short Stories

For some reason it takes me a while to get into a short story after I've completed a short story and submitted it to a literary magazine. There wasn't a big gap this time. I think it was because I simply wrote without any expectations of working on a short story. And now I have two to work on. I'm always writing in my journals, which I bought myself as a birthday present.

Journals to me are places to experiment with your writing. I don't mean that you try to write a short story in the form of a grocery list, but that you try out your story and meet your protagonist and find out what she's trying to accomplish. What is she struggling with. You don't have to make a commitment to these characters and their stories when you write in your journal. It's also your chance to see exactly how you write and what is the best way for you to write. I'm learning that I like to write by simply writing, though I spend too much time trying to get that perfect sentence, which is why I suffer from writer's block sometimes. I should just write sentences, even if they are summaries that don't put you in the moment. At this stage of writing, you just need a sentence to put you in the story, to give you a draft to work on and pull the next draft out of. Journals are for practicing, for seeing if this is a story you might want to pursue.

I did come up with this grocery list:
Eggs (my ex boyfriend liked them scrambled, but my husband likes them...)
Bacon (the ex Kevin was a flighty vegetarian)
Milk (I can finally have real milk in the house)
Steak (I'm sure my husband likes steak)
No steak

I probably won't use it, but I was having fun one day. I need to get working on those two stories, another one based on my childhood and one based on my family, which I would like to submit it to Glimmer Train for their family themed contest.

Happy writing and today pull out your journal and write without any expectations. One thing I've found is that if you write dialogue, it will always lead you somewhere because someone has to speak and someone has to respond. Of course the dialogue has to reveal something, it has to go somewhere.

Thursday, September 23, 2010



This is the blog where I write short stories or scenes. I've posted two fiction pieces, both set in the retail store that I work in. I'd like to write my version of John Updike's A&P story. If you're not familiar with it, you need to go to your local library, bookstore or internet page and read it now. It's a great story, particular if you're working in retail. I think I'll start working on my version.

Check out this blog. I will post more fiction pieces and maybe some poems of mine.
The day before my birthday, I submitted a story and on my birthday I had a write-a-thon in which I was able to begin writing another story. Hopefully today I'll be able to finish the first draft and begin working on the second draft. A great book to read to get you writing is Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. I also love her book Wild Mind. Both encourage to write that first draft and not think about what you're writing. You just need to get something down on paper so that you can have something to rewrite, some piece of writing to work with and get to that final draft where you edit and then send it out to somewhere. The best part is that both of these stories are based on my personal experiences. They are based on my childhood. I also started writing a short story based on working at Stride Rite and a short story based on my library job in New York. Naturally, I can't wait to submit this story. I'm considering writing a novel, but I feel more like a short story. I'm also thinking of branching out into creative non fiction like personal essays and maybe articles, but personal essays are being written like fiction and you're going to change the names.

Natalie Goldberg promotes writing practice, which is writing to help loosen your imagination and writing hand for the true writing that you want to do. It makes sense. We warm up before any sport we play, before we exercise, before we play the piano. So, why not before we write. Start with a good writing warm up session and then head into that piece of writing you want to take all the way to being published.

I can't remember if I mentioned this already, but Robert Olen Butlers' book, From Where You Dream is also a great book to read to get you writing.

This writing prompt is to do some warm up writing. Sink into that writing that's not going to go anywhere and then get into that story that you want to see published.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Start With Something Small

I think you should start with something small and work your way forward. I was thinking of that this morning. That something small doesn't have to be a first sentence, even though in previous blogs I've said start with a first sentence. It can be a TV and then move forward. Visualize a TV and what's happening around the TV. It can be anything.

She came home and found the TV on and him fast asleep.

She knew she shouldn't go in the electronics store and get a closer look at the TV she wanted to buy.

Elvis, she knew, wanted a TV in his car just like his namesake.

I used to get first sentences from the word car. Or else I'd use my surroundings. The most important thing is to make sure you use something that has meaning for you.

I'd come home from work and my uncle's mother would be watching the news. I sat down with her, anticipating the weather segment so that I could see Sam Champion. This was before he became a part of Good Morning America.

What is the smallest thing that you can imagine? Begin with that. What am I going to do with any of these lines. I don't know, but they each show potential. Maybe the girlfriend of Elvis is tired of his silly dreams. Maybe the woman in the last sentence is using Sam Champion as a crutch to keep her from guys she could actually date. You must have a problem for the character to struggle to solve and first sentences provide you with that struggle. Now that I know what that truly means, a character struggling to solve a problem or get something she or he wants, I want to revivie old stories.

Owen watched her a moment before going in the store with his daughter's birthday wish list. She didn't have many things on the list, but they all required him going back to the toy store where he first met the manager.

The next writing assignment is to begin with something small and move forward from the item. A pond, your favorite dress, a word, an image, whatever it is you can think of. How about this, your reflection against a dark surface, like a window at night. And don't be afraid to push yourself.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Have My Own Voice, My Own Stories

Pearl Cleage said, "I have my own voice, my own stories," in reference to her stories not being serious like Toni Morrison or Alice Walker. I need to recognize and accept my own stories and my voice. And it's not going to be a Pearl Cleage type voice or story no matter how much I want it to be. It's going to be a coming of age story about a girl experiencing death by attending so many funerals of great aunts and great uncles and grandparents. It's going to be a girl who falls in love with the New Kids On The Block because they are the safest guys she knows to love. Or she tries to see The Guys Next Door with her friend but somehow fails. My voice and my stories are my own and no one else's and I don't know why I can't accept them.

In 2010, my voice would be a woman telling her story of working retail. What experiences does she meet? Does she do anything to correct her struggles. My sister told me once that not making a choice or not deciding something is making a choice. You're still doing something when you're not being active or you decide to do nothing. This could be something that my character is doing. What is she doing to get a better job or to put her college degree to use? According to her sister, nothing but pretending or not doing enough. What could she be doing to change her situation or rather what more could she do to better her situation? You find out in the course of writing her story.

My favorite quote is something that Raymond Carver said. "There are significant moments in everyone's day that can make literature. That's what you ought to write about." It doesn't have to be the day before. It can be days or years before. I think by using this quote, you'll always be able to write everyday. Just chose that moment and begin writing. Don't forget to ask, what if.

This is your assignment if you choose to accept it. Choose a significant moment in your day and write about it. I will do this for next blog and probably continue to write fictional what ifs about my day to day life here. A fiction version of my journal. Have a great day and happy writing.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


John Updike's story, 'A&P' shows me that stories are in everything we do and every place that we gather or simply are for whatever reason. In this particular story, a teenage boy hates his job at A&P. He's disgusted when he's manager ridicules three young girls who are wearing bathing suits, despite the pool or beach being miles away. He reminds the manager that these girls are paying customers to. He's fascinated with them. I work in retail and I've gotten some customers that I can turn into characters. Sometimes they tell me about their moments, which I think is what inspires short stories. It's not whole stories like going to Memphis TN with Circle K or Athens GA. It's seeing a little boy flip on the cobbled street known as Beale. It's seeing a woman sit next to a drunk guy at night. I still get the feeling she didn't know him, but I could be wrong. I get customers that will jokingly hit on you and it's gets a little annoying, as well as old.

I take a moment from a memory, a dream or my imagination and I write the first sentence. The idea is working customer service. The moment is looking for something to keep me busy when a customer comes in and says, "Help us make another baby." I've never had a customer ask me that. It made me wonder about him.

Two black girls walked in the store. They looked young. Neither was pregnant. They reminded me of going to Sears with my friend in junior high and looking at appliances we might have in our apartment. That could be a look back fiction story. It could be part of a novel. Who knows what I can do with it. Right now I'm more interested in writing short fiction. I haven't seen her since Hurricane Katrina. I had this idea of dedicating fiction stories to lost friends and them seeing it and remembering me. The stories would be based on a shared memory. Of course it's hard to know what people remember or don't remember. We all have different things that we hold on to either purposely or unconsciously.

I like that Updike's story took place in the store. Could I write my version of A&P. I want to write a short story set on Black Friday. I'm trying to write a combination of working Black Friday and the character comparing it to waiting in line for Red Cross money for Hurricane Katrina evacuees. It's the moments that you're writing. You have an idea for a bar story. What's the moment in the bar story that you want to write about? Being hit on by the bartender, the song they played that reminds you of a past moment. What's the moment of your idea? And then you start with a story.

They were lined up outside the store, bundled in sweaters and blankets as they sat in lawn chairs or on the curb or simply stood. The store had an hour before it opened. It was still only Thursday.

I think I'm going to try to write this story. And then I'm going to send it out.

It feels so good to be working on a draft and even better when I send out that draft. And then I begin another story.

The kitchen smelled of Indian spices, very different from the kitchen of our childhood.

Call the story kitchens? I've been in a few.

Write a moment from an idea or memory and use it to inspire a fiction story. Happy writing.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I started off writing poetry and then transitioned into short fiction when I was in high school. A friend had to tell me that I was writing short stories and novels. Since then, I go back and forth, as if I can't do both. I have so many files of short fiction, just as I have so many files of poetry; some of them bulging. I write my poems the same way that I write my short fiction; one line at a time. Sometimes I start with a word or subject or something that's part of my environment. Other times I'll simply start with a line and see where it leads.

I like to have fun with my writing, see what I can do with lines and sentences and words. When I was in college, dilapidated became my favorite word because I saw it in just about every online poem that I encountered, particular one where I used to submit my poetry every day.

I think short stories and poetry have a lot in common. You only have so much space to say what you want to say. And you're trying to be personal, no matter what perspective you use; first, second, or third. You're creating characters that you can get to know, characters that you hope you're reader will take to. One thing I've learned that writing and submitting are risks. You're risking being vulnerable on the page, and then to your reader. This is a mirror of your soul. It's a risk I'm now willing to take.

After writing two drafts of a story by hand, I'm typing it up on my computer. This time I know that I have to edit the story, the characters. Does this sentence or word make sense? Is this really something that a person would say or do based on the situation they are in. I can't just blindly rewrite and rewrite. I have to edit and edit as I rewrite. I have to actually read and reread what I've written.

I have to write and submit, write and submit and I have to do this over and over because I actually want a career writing fiction stories and poetry. I want a career taking risks.

I know you're inside.
I hear your quiet scratchings.
You're walking through
Arteries and veins.
And your whispering
My diary pages, but
No one can hear them.
At least not yet.

As for your next poem or short story or even short memoir or personal essay. Write about or based on something new that happened to you. I feel like I'm getting back my confidence. In order to write, you have to risk and in order to be published, you have to submit.

Enjoy and happy writing

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Niece

My niece is four months old and I think of writing down her history for her. I'll call it letters to Amira. I consider my fiction stories for adults and maybe for young adults but all of a sudden I want to write stories for my niece. Stories that we'll read to her and stories that she'll read later. She's four months of preciousness.

At first I thought of writing personal essays for her, but I'm more fiction. A fiction story based on things she does now and one about things she'll do later. But I think I still want to write a collection called Letters to Amira. And I definitely want to write stories about being an aunt because this is a new experience for me. I have two nieces thanks to my older brother, but this is the first time I get to watch my niece grow. I'm here day to day to see her experiences. She used to ghost fight or rather punch at the air. She doesn't do that anymore. When she's hungry, she scratches you.

I'm getting back into my poetry. That's great.

I've written the first draft of a fiction story to become part of the collection I'm working on. I'm also going to start work on my novel, now that I know exactly what it's about. I can't wait to tackle that. And I can't wait to finish my collection of stories.

It's so great to use your writing to honor a loved one or even or to celebrate an event, experience, or loved one.

I have lots of writing projects to tackle.

Happy writing and today begin a story you'd dedicate to a loved one.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I realized, thanks to a conversation with my sister, that I wasn't writing stories about my life experiences. I needed to change that. Ironically, I want to write stories based on my life experiences. I'll start with a memory and try to do something with it. It can be public or private.
  • September 11, 2001 I was on my way to school
  • December 2001 I was surprised that people seemed to be using the the tragedy to sell their products
I still have to write my Hurricane Katrina stories, especially after seeing so many published stories inspired by this tragedy. I do believe that it's okay to write a story based on an experience that isn't yours. You still have to somehow make it yours, make the character almost you.

I'm fascinated by the immigration issues. I'd create a character similar to me and give her a situation to deal with. And, I would do whatever research was needed to make the story believable.

To use my own experience to inspire a fiction story is something that everyone has told me. I'm doing that with this next story I've started writing. A story about driving to a funeral after mom picks me up. It's the memory I have of that experience and I'm sure family members remember it differently.

I move on to a first sentence so that I can gather some use-able material to write a first draft.

I turned the TV on to catch the last of a reunion of Parenthood and instead saw a billow coming out of the twin towers as if they had exploded.

Happy writing and don't forget to make the story yours and make the character you.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Characters Have To Want Something

In order for your story to work, characters have to want something badly and you have to make it nearly impossible for that character to get it or to achieve her or his goal. You can start with the goal your character is trying to achieve or you can start with the first sentence method. Another good way is to start with a character.

I like to call this writing exercise, whose story do I want to write.
  • She likes to swim, but something has kept her out of the water or
  • She likes to swim and you can figure out this swimmer's story as you write it
My favorite writing exercise comes from Raymond Carver and it's a form of starting with the first sentence, I simply like the way Raymond put it in a publication called Fires. Natalie Goldberg talks about this in her Wild Mind book, a great book for aspiring fiction writers and non fiction writers to read. It's got great essays on writing and try this exercises.

Raymond Carver said in Fires that once he had the first sentence of a short story, he made the rest of the story as he made a poem, one line and then the next line, and the next. Now find a sentence that comes from you. It can be a simple line: "I fell in love with my life one Tuesday in August." Don't think further ahead than the next line. Don't think back. Just build that story. Let the structure of the story unfold, one sentence after another.

That's what I try to do, but sometimes the story needs something in order for you to see the end in sight, a goal for the character to achieve or not achieve. I call the first writing my initial piece or fragmented draft. It's what I write to meet my characters and to step my foot in their world. I only know the sentences I've written. I may or may not have an idea of the subject I'm writing about but I know that I can reread and write it over and over until I find something that makes the story work, something that allows me to move forward towards that final draft that I can finally submit to literary magazines or enter literary contests. Here are a few more problems for your character to solve.
  • Trying to get out of a particular situation
  • Wishing her friend could see that she's dating a jerk
  • Feeling like it's time to move
  • Wanting to change for your niece or nephew
And of course first sentences, which can be as simple as "I fell in love with my life one Tuesday in August."
  • The pool was closed again.
  • What she loved about summer was more than the freedom of not having to go to school everyday, it was visiting her dad.
  • She stared at the noisy children, wishing she'd taken the time to come up with a plan to settle these children down.
There are so many questions these first sentences provoke that "you can spend an entire story answering." A quote taken from Judy Budnitz from the book, You Must Be This Tall To Ride. It's a great book of short stories and writing advice. After each story, the writer talks about the story you just read and then offers a writing exercise.

Find a sentence that comes from you, or a sentence you feel connected to (something you heard or read somewhere and make it yours) and write the next sentence.

Next blog: music and fiction; art and fiction; etc. and writing. Using other art forms and your interests to write fiction stories.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Short Fiction


This is a link to my second blog. It's going to feature my fiction: scenes and sometimes whole stories. It'll be a companion to my blog about writing short fiction. Enjoy reading both blogs.

There Are Significant Moments in Everyone's Day...

Raymond Carver said, "There are significant moments in everyone's day that can make literature. That's what you ought to write." My question is always how. Begin with a first sentence or a title summing up that significant moment you want to base a story on.

The three year old was smiling just then, right after scowling just to ugly her beautiful face and make her look scary to her almost five month old niece.

This is a story I've been meaning to write but didn't know how. That first sentence made the moment come alive and the story felt real and reachable, like something I could write. There are the publicly known events that I want to base stories on.

She didn't want to watch him pack his bags again, didn't want to kiss him good-bye again, and then stare at the ring-less finger on her left hand.

This sentence asks the question, what about those left behind while their loved ones fight in a war, any war. Here's another one.

"Well, we went through Katrina and Rita; now God's testing us with this oil spill."

I love first sentences because I believe there are ideas in first sentences that can be explored in stories. Or, Judy Budnitz said, "A single sentence can set off a cascade of questions that you can spend an entire story answering." It's true. Read the questions that these first sentence provoke and then write a story to answer them.

Therapeutic shopping, she thought as she picked up a random blouse to go with the jeans she held, is expensive, but probably no more than a shrink.

The dog kept barking, like a tornado warning through her neighborhood, but that wasn't what was keeping her awake.

My boyfriend cheated on me again.

Sometimes I like to begin with a prompt like a word or phrase. Other times the prompt is, whose story do I want to write and what do I want to base a fiction story on. I try to keep going for as long as I can and then I rewrite and begin writing the first draft because the initial writing is a type of outline or what I call an outline. It gives me an idea or a glimpse of the story that I'm trying to write. And then, I keep going.

My boyfriend cheated on me again. He will ask for forgiveness like he always does. It's permission to cheat again, not a question of how do we try again to make what we're doing work. I called it a relationship but you wouldn't be treated like this in any kind of relationship you were in. You would ask me, "Is it now time to leave him." But, if you hadn't had left me, I wouldn't be stuck in sucky relationships like this. And, I do know it wasn't your fault, but in a way, it was. You kept going after bigger and better and I was right there with you, knowing that bigger and better meant more crimes. And all of a sudden I'm old. I'm not aged, just old in emotional experience, in love.

Take a significant moment in your day (either personal, public, or imagined) and write a story or scene based on it.

Happy writing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Imagine a character, a woman or man shopping at a baby store, and ask her or him questions.
  • Are you shopping for yourself or your wife?
  • Is it for your sibling or sibling's wife or girlfriend?
  • The wife or girlfriend you can't get along with you?
  • Are you jealous that you can't get pregnant or your wife or girlfriend can't get pregnant?
  • Do you want to be where you are?
Each question can be made into a short story.

It was a long day and she still needed to make it to the baby store before it closed tonight.

She looked at the baby register and tried to smile.

When writing a short story, you're answering a question, and, when writing a novel, you're answering several questions. You begin by exploring the possible answers.

Are there any questions you want answers to, those questions that don't seem to have answers? Questions about your personal life, about a public event you witnessed, some philosophical question you have.
  • Why did I survive?
  • Is he going to kill again before he gets caught?
  • Who is the couple living next door to me?
  • Will I finally heal?
Any question you ask can be answered in a short story. It's okay if you find your story answering an entirely different question than the one you used to inspire your story.

You can also use a TV show to inspire your fiction but make the story yours rather than write fan fiction. I've always wondered about Chandler's and Monica's life in the suburbs with newly adopted infant twins, who they watched being born. I'd create my own characters and ask:
  • Are you trying to get back to the city?
  • How are your friendships different?
  • What is it like being parents?
or cooking shows.
  • Why are you watching cooking shows?
  • Do you want to learn how to cook?
What are you curious about? The question doesn't have to be answerable.
  • Why is he killing his pregnant girlfriend or wife?
  • When am I going to get away?
I love writing stories but I hate feeling like I don't have anything to write about. My assignment is going to be to ask myself a question and answer it in a short story. This technique also works for writing memoirs and personal essays.
  • Why am I still working in retail with a college degree?
  • When and how can I get a better job?
  • What is more important, ending my single woman status or getting a better job?
I use a short story, personal essay or memoir to answer the questions I've come up with. I think that each story can answer one question just like each novel can answer several questions. Before you write a story ask yourself what you'd like to know. Any question, unless proven wrong, can be answered in a short story. If you've always had an idea for a story or a first draft or scene or some other fragment that you couldn't turn into a short story, you can ask a question.
  • Why did his French ex-girlfriend stop putting letters in his mailbox?
  • Why is she longing for a boy who doesn't seem to notice her?
  • Why is she becoming a hoarder?
  • Will he find his hanged son?
  • What happens to her and around her in her high school?
  • What is a model? (I'm addicted to America's Next Top Model)
Ask a question and use a story (fiction, memoir or personal essay) to answer the question.
  • What are the things I've seen my niece do so far?
  • What happened at my retail job when I wasn't there?
Writing Assignment: Ask a question and use a story to answer the question.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I Begin With A First Sentence Part 2

It's important to get beyond the first sentence and the first scene, especially since I'd like to have a career as a fiction writer. When I get to the end of the first scene, I need to ask what happens next or what should happen next so I can get the first draft written and begin writing the second draft.

I recently read an article about writing outside of your genre. For me that would be essays and novels since I do write poetry. I've tried to write non fiction, though I never got beyond the first draft of an essay. I do understand that writing in different genres will help me get the writing career that I want. I asked myself if all experiences can be told as fiction or if some don't have plots and have to be told as nonfiction.

I read a few sentences of essays in a book called Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers. What I liked about what I read was that the essays sounded like stories with characters. I like narratives, stories. I'm not a big fan of essays. I have to be drawn in for some reason and each of the essays I read drew me in. Essays don't always do that, but I am intrigued, especially with my niece turning four months this Thursday. I watch her change and grow and try to talk and turn over on her back from her stomach. I feel like I should be recording these moments, along with our moments for her to read. And perhaps you can only do that with nonfiction. And, in 2010, I feel like I'm the only one who hasn't written her Hurricane Katrina story. So, what am I so afraid of. I ask myself this every time I can't get passed the first scene or the first draft. What am I afraid of?

After the first scene I have to remember that I'm simply writing the first sentence of the second draft and I have to remind myself to keep going because I can always rewrite. In fact, I should rewrite. Continuing is what I'll do.

My assignment is to write a first sentence and keep going.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I Begin With A First Sentence

"Can I have your number." I stared at the numbers my fingers were poised over, ready to start typing. A coworker told me customers spouted out their phone numbers easier when you didn't look directly at them.

"Only if I can have yours." The man smiled a leering smile and then laughed a little. I looked up at him, a white man with dark brown hair graying at the temples. A shopping cart was slightly behind him and a boy of about two or three was in the cart, his legs dangling beneath the handle bar. H leaned forward and said, "I do have my kid with me." He raised his left hand and showed me his wedding band. He laughed again.

I felt my mouth open wide as I wondered how I was supposed to deal with these men without losing customers, not that that was my problem if these men decided to find another store that sold infant and toddler products.

:Uh," I said, "it's if you ever need to return the tub and you lose your receipt.

"Nah, let's skip that," he said, waving his hand dismissively. I quickly typed in a bogus number using one of Atlanta's area codes and then quoted the total.

"He's cute," I said, as I waited for the receipts to finish printing. I was grabbing the square booklet of coupons when he said, "yeah, but what about my son."

He grabbed the bags I set on the counter and said, after putting them in the cart behind his son, "Maybe I'll come back. My wife always thinks our son needs more than he really does." He was grinning and shaking his head as he walked away.

I looked around for a supervisor to ask how to handle the situation if it should happen again, though that was the first time it happened in this particular retail store. The parents were usually preoccupied with finding things that their infant or toddler needed.

Right now this is just a scene based on a combination of customers I've had to deal with in the store I cashier in, but maybe I can expand the scene into a short story by focusing on the goals the characters are trying to accomplish. I have to separate the character from me, the author, separate the actually events and dialogue from the imagined actions, events and dialogue. I have to ask, what can happen, what are these characters trying to accomplish. And maybe the story should be told in third person rather than first person. Maybe even second person, like a poem, like the main character is addressing a particular customer or set of customers.

You come in my store with gross jokes that I try to ignore, glad that there aren't many of you.

That sounds accusing. I do believe that you can't be afraid of trying different ways of writing fiction stories.

Happy Writing

Monday, July 5, 2010

Writing A first Draft

What is needed to write a first draft. Since I've been struggling a little to write any kind of fiction, I'm going to look at each stage of writing a first draft as critically as possible.

I believe in reading the fiction you want to write. But, you need to be studying while you're reading. Pay attention to how the story began and why the writer chose to begin the story this way. Does it work and why does it or doesn't it work for you. Why did the author come up with the title she or he chose. Pay attention to each part of the story; the scenes and characters. But while you're reading, don't forget to write.

What will your inspiration for writing your fiction story be? You should have more than one way to get into a story.
I want to write a story about...is a good method to use because you have the premise of your fiction story. For instance, I want to write a story based on my relationship with a mother. And though short stories are my passion, I would love to write it as a novel. And perhaps each scene and or chapter should use the I want to write a method except substitute story for scene or chapter since each scene is a mini story. I think it will help you keep the story flowing.

Another method that I like to use is simply writing first sentences, especially when you're unsure of the story you want to write or of how to begin. You want a first sentence that makes you want to continue so you can answer the suggested question and find out what the sentence means.

My grandmother said...is a first sentence I thought of but I can only guess what it means until I begin to write the first draft.

I like any method that really gets you writing. Another method comes from a Raymond Carver quote, which is, "There are significant moments in everyone's day that can make literature. That's what you ought to write about." His stories are about simple things such as having dinner at a friend's house that the wife doesn't want to be a part of, but the story is full, making you want to read more of his stories. I love it when a good story can be told simply and interesting at the same time. What did you do or witness or dream about, etc. the previous day that can make literature? I had a great time at Stone Mountain for the Fourth of July and my aunt's birthday. I'm probably going to use the what if method. What if this happened instead or what if this was said instead of what actually was said? What if is a great way to start writing fiction stories.

And the next step finally is to write fiction. My other favorite method is to use writing prompts. Here are a few.
  • Choose a holiday, but don't write a stereotypical holiday story
  • Finish the statement My grandmother said...
  • I want to write a story about...
Good writing

At the moment I'm trying or struggling to write my personal essays for MFA programs and I don't know why I'm having a difficult time.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Regular Writing Routine

It's the first of the month, the time I always give myself to evaluate what I've done so far and how far I've come and what more I can do. I'm starting to realize the importance of having a routine writing schedule. You can easily evaluate yourself on a daily basis by quickly seeing what you've done. You're not always trying to write on the fly. You're taking it as seriously as you would a job. You go to work at a certain time, for a certain amount of time, not on a whim or when you want to.

I read an article about a woman who wanted to be comedian. She actually was already funny, but what she did in order to earn a living at doing what she loved was to treat it like a job instead of a dream. She's already dreamed it and now she needed to make it work. If writing is job and not simply a dream, what are the things that I need to do in order to get paid in both exposure, experience and money.

1)We all go to work at a certain time for a certain amount of time. I can't go to work and claim retail block so I shouldn't claim writer's block. I should work through it as best I can. I think for me my writing time will be to get up when I wake up and I wake up early, no matter what time I go to bed. I did it when I lived in Connecticut, so I should be able to do it here in Decatur. 2) At work, there's always something to do; ring up a customer's purchases, straighten up shelves, return items to their proper sections and shelves; it should be the same for writing. I should always have something to work on, always have a project going; whether it's from the beginning, somewhere in the middle, I'm just ending it or I'm starting all over; I always need to be working on a fiction story. 3) The other thing the woman in the article did was to invest in learning her craft, which for her including getting an education. I need to research this and find my best way to learn my craft. What will my education be?

I've been looking into Masters of Fine Arts programs, but I do know that there are other ways. I've taken fiction writing classes and workshops; but I would like to take it further, really immerse myself in my writing. And this means working hard by studying hard for that GRE, getting stories written, as well as the essay and searching for people who are willing to write positive recommendation letters for me. I've asked former teachers already and have only gotten one response and she said no. I've even tried classes. I don't really have another method, but I need to find one so that I can make it happen. First I need to figure out what is important when it comes to applying to an MFA program.

I like the programs that don't require GRE scores, but I also like funding and some schools will provide funding for everyone they accept and that's what I need, although a few people told me don't worry about that. I've had instructors tell me to only go to schools that provide full funding. You are there to be completely immersed in writing so you shouldn't really have to worry about paying for it. Once I figure out what's truly important, I can begin applying by September. I've actually already started applying to one school. I just need the proper documents.

Go forth. Don't just recognize your dream, apply yourself and make it happen.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I used my weekend write-a-thon to finish the second draft of Hoarder and I began brainstorming ideas for this novel that I want to write, which will probably be called Night Crawlers, set in college. I'm still working on my short story collection, which so far has two stories that I need to work with.

I did a lot of reading. I'm really enjoying Ann Cummings Red Ant house collections of stories. I've read Where I Work, Crazy Yellow, and Headhunter. Paule Marshall has a great story called Brooklyn in We Are the Stories We Tell.

Bobbie Ann Mason's story to read is Shiloh. The story makes you want to search for more of her stories to read.

I loved Ryan Harty's short story collection, Bring Me Your Saddest Arizona. The most memorable stories are the one where the characters went to a rock concert, the one where the protagonist traveled to clean out his deceased sister's condo. Every story was good, making you hope that he has another short story collection and that he's still writing short stories.

I recently read Ha Jin's latest collection of short stories A Good Fall.

I love stories that are visual, that allow you to see the characters and feel what's going in their story as they struggle to solve their problems.

J California Cooper has written great short story collections that should be on your reading list; A Piece of Mine, The Future Has A Past; Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime; to name a few of her short stories.

The hardest short story collection to get through is Say You're One Of Them.
Uwem Akpan tackles some hard subjects in these stories. It reminds me of the Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns byKhaled Hosseini
because he deals with hard subjects as well.

These authors are able to put us into their stories. I can't finish this entry without mentioning my favorite collection of short stories called I Hate To See That Evening Sun God Down by William Gay. Read narrativemagazine.com. It's free to subscribe and it's a great online magazine.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Weekend Write-A-Thon

I watched The War of Art on Bravo this past Wednesday. One of the artist said that the inspiration for his junk-put-together art would come up with his reality-related exercises. "I have twenty-four hours and twelve cereal boxes." And he'd create art out of those twelve cereal boxes. It's something I can do with my writing. I was trying to imagine what I'd do with the electronic junk from decades ago. Maybe a fifties housewife based on the sculpture of the woman who was sent home. I thought it was pretty good, but I guess since she didn't sculpt it, didn't it wreck it and build it up, it wasn't art. She said, "I'm a painter," and I do wish she would have tried harder. It's fun to try different genres. I've been trying nonfiction; personal essays and memoirs. But, I'm doing better at fiction, sort of. All I can do is keep trying if I want to continue

This weekend is Father's day and I think I'm going to do a weekend write-a-thon in my dad's memory. He wanted to be a writer. I told my mom once that I'm writing for all of my family members who were passionate about writing.

I'm reading a collection of stories by Ann Cummins called Red Ant House. I liked Crazy Yellow, Head Hunter and Where I Work, which I read in an anthology. Where I Work is a story I'd like to write based on my job as a cashier. I'm probably having a hard time writing a full draft because the character doesn't want anything. There's nothing for her to fight for just yet.

Crazy Yellow is told in third person about a nine-year-old boy whose mother has gone back to the hospital for more tests. He's aunt is supposed to be with him but said that she said she had to leave. Instead of calling his aunt, like his mom requested, he proved that he isn't yet old enough to stay by himself. He gets into the paint that he's not supposed to and he gets it on his parents nice clothes, cashmere coats, etc. and he talks to a stranger who could possibly be homeless, even thought he told him that he rented the apartment below him, the apartment where a couple camped out in, build a fire.

Headhunter is told in third person and it's about a woman driving home to visit her elderly dad. She goes through the memories she has of her dad and briefly talks about her mom and then her step mom. She gets in trouble along the way. And the story picks up. It's unexpected is all I'm going to say because it's a really good read.

Where I Work is told in first person. The protagonist or main character lives with her brother and works in a factory sewing pockets. I like the first line, I love first lines. "It's piecework that brings in the money." First sentences bring about questions. What's piecework and how does it bring in the money and why is she doing this and what's going on? You want all of these questions answered and you want to see how she handles the problem she's struggling with.

These are great stories that inspire me to write my own stories. A writing magazine suggests that you read and write a lot of stories in order to learn to write stories. And of course read a few writing short stories writing reference books but don't get so bogged down in all of that advice that you forget your own voice or don't write.

Always write.

"Write, write, write, till your fingers break. Write a story at one go. Write on all sorts of subjects, funny and tearful, good and bad."
Use what you can to inspire your stories this weekend. Write a bunch of first drafts for a possible collection.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Free Write: A Fictional Expression


Clara went in the back of the house to see if her grandmother was still back there, still asleep. The music from the cars on the street vibrated the house like a tsunami was occurring. She often wondered if they could have one in America and wipe out California, where she had yet to visit and Louisiana, the only place she's known as home.

"Grandma," Clara whispered, unsure if her whisper had even been uttered. Clara went in the room and stood by the open window. The music from passing cars was even louder here. She turned when she heard a muffled, strained voice. Her grandmother was staring at her.

"Alright," Clara nodded and moved towards the bed, slow, as if a stranger with a knife lay under the covers with her grandmother's narrow eyes.

"I like having you in my room, just to feel your presence. But, it would be nice if you would talk to me," Irene said.

"About what?" Clara was aware that the other grandchildren refused to come in the room. The most spiritual of her cousins said this was the death room, like entering a strange tomb. She couldn't understand their attitudes, but, Irene was the one that Clara had always gravitated towards.

"Your life." Irene turned her head to the door. "Speak to me like you're writing me a letter about the things that happen outside." Irene looked at her grandmother, the blanket pulled nearly to her nose.

"Okay," Clara said. She sat next to her grandmother's bed. She looked at the door, feeling her grandmother's eyes on her and then looked at the open window. She strained to identify the songs that were coming through the window before they faded when the light turned green.

I'm not sure where this free write came from. I original started with she, but she soon became Clara. Other than that, the only idea I had in mind was free writing or spontaneous writing.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Simply Write

This morning I finished my first draft in a while for a story I've tentatively titled Hoarder, the first story in my short story collection. At work I came up with an idea for a possible novel. And, I'm excited about that. It was in writing and finishing this draft that I realized that I need to start writing in order to discover the story and what problem the character's struggling to solve or ignore.

I began with the word hoarder, inspired by the televisions how that comes on A&E and I thought of the reasons a person might become a hoarder.

It's a triumph to finish a first draft but I have to celebrate by getting back to writing. I either write the next draft or I start another story. Where do I start? I want this to be the next story in my collection. I want it to have a similar theme to Hoarder without it being the same story. Or the same character. I begin writing, perhaps from a word again or from a memory. I'm thinking of what my sister said yesterday, which was that boys today are more muscular than what boys had a right to be. She said it on the phone and I thought of the boys in my high school who went to Gold's Gym to work out. And one of them was my friend's cousin's boyfriend. Here's the beginning of a scene that I came up with based on that memory based on my sister's comment.

"He's at Gold's gym." Kristy continued to change channels. It was odd seeing her alone on the couch holding the remote control. Usually Bob sat next to her flipping through the sports channel. He looked like a saints player, or a wrestler, like it would be revealed that he should have graduated years and years ago.
"He said he's not big enough." Kristy shrugged and turned channels.
We continued to watch Kristy in hopes of a better explanation. But she didn't give us any.

Robert Olen Butler has an exercise in his book, From Where You Dream. Choose an event that evoked an emotion in you. Write it as if it was a scene in a fiction story.
"Can you help me make a baby," a man said. He was standing besides three blond boys who looked like their blond mother. He was darker, olive skin with black hair and dark brown eyes, black without the light penetrating them.
"Right here," the man said. He made a three sided box with his arms and body and pointed to the ground in front of me. I stared at the baby registry area to see if my co-worker who sat at the long, wave shaped desk heard anything he said. His mother, who was just as dark, stood behind a shopping cart containing a dark-haired girl who looked like the grandmother and father. His wife stood behind him on the phone.
I watched him and his family walk away and simply shook my head, and then went to tell my co-worker who sat at the desk. I wasn't sure what I wanted to accomplish, but I also didn't know how to react to what just happened.
I was pushing shopping carts towards the front and pushing them together when I saw him through the glass. He stood at the counter waiting for service.d.
"Do you have your reward card," I asked
"I think I left it in the car," he said. Behind him his three sons were choosing one Webkinz each for the new baby.
"Okay." I pressed a button getting me to the screen where I was able to look up their reward card. "Can I have your number?"
"Can I have yours," he said and then made growling, sexy noise. I looked at his daughter who was in the cart and the grandmother who stood behind the cart ready to push it. The grandmother didn't say anything.
"801-555-love, you can figure it out from there."
I let out a frustrated sigh and he gave me his correct phone and then, when I explained I was looking up his reward card, he gave the correct number. I pulled up his card and hit button to attach it to his purchases. The boys brought up the Webkinz they chose and put it on the counter.
"Remember that's for the new baby," the wife said.
"Are you going to teach the baby how to play with the Webkinz." I said that because I imagined the kids playing with their stuffed animals.
I was finishing the sales transaction when the grandmother said, "Have you seen a daughter who looked more like her father." By this time the mother took their three boys to the car or van. I looked at the husband and agreed with his mother. They left the store.

I may or may not be able to use it, but I think there are some story ideas in there, making work a great source for material, whatever your job is.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I've been reading a lot of short fiction, mainly individual stories from various sources. One source is narrativemagazine.com. I love the stories I've read in the magazine. The stories here are visual, putting the reader in the story, each tidal wave and calming moment the character feels and witnesses.

The collections I've read that I've been allowed to fall in love with the characters are Laura Van Den Berg's What The World Will Look Like when All The Water Leaves Us and Holly Goddard Jones' Girl Trouble. The author takes you into each of these characters lives, seeing their troubles and how they deal with them.

When you read a collection of short stories, particularly an anthology written by various fiction writers, you get swept into different lives, perhaps of people you'll never meet or ever get to know, but you recognize the characters enough to feel their experiences and even wish them happy endings.

I love those stories that take us into the moment of character's lives and it's the way that I try to write.

The Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American short fiction, an anthology edited by Joyce Carol Oates is a great read. I read some of these stories in a fiction writing class I took at Georgia State University and I loved reading the stories. I read stories that I would have stopped reading if I hadn't had to write about them. It has opened up my mind.

Reading not only opens your mind to new authors and new experiences, but it allows you to see the subjects you can write about and the stories about these subjects you can tell. Reading takes you further into your imagination and your experiences.

Suggested readings besides narrative magazine .com Glimmer Train is a literary magazine that you can find at any bookstore, just about. The best new anthologies...Best New American Short Stories, New Stories From The South, O Henry Prize Stories and the one I mentioned earlier that Joyce Carol Oates edited.

Fodder and other Source Material

It feels good to be writing a draft, especially after a long bout of writer's block. I completed one draft on the eighth and I can't wait to write the second draft and I'm on the first draft of another story, all in the attempts to write a short story collection. I also want to write a novel based on my recent experiences. I'm working on title chapters. I'm excited about writing fiction again and that's a great place to be, the ability to see what could be there and put it on page and work it until it's this world that readers want to enter and learn how these characters solve their problems.

My step-niece was here providing lots of fodder for future stories. I do believe that the hardest part of using your life experiences is imagining it into fiction. You tend to stick with what really happened rather what could have happened, which is what I'm doing with this latest story that I'm writing. It's the first draft and I do believe that when you're writing the first draft you have to write the story, writing whatever comes to you and then rewrite. Hopefully I'll be able to re-see this story in my second draft.

The great thing about being in that place where writing fiction is all you want to do is that you're open to meeting characters and situations. And you remember things you missed when you weren't paying attention. I wonder why the waitress who served us at an Italian restaurant had to give her tables to another waiter. What was the personal crisis?

My favorite books on the subject of writing stories based on personal experiences are: Robin Hemly's Turning Life Into Ficton and, John Dufresne's The Lie That Tells A Truth and
Rick DeMarinis' The Art and Craft of the Short Story.

Everything begins with that first sentence and you wanting to answer the questions the first sentence suggests to you.

The car wash was empty when we pulled into a stall. I began digging around her car for quarters and immediately thought of the woman that was kidnapped from a car wash not to long ago, maybe last week or last month. Exams kept me from remembering things that weren't covered in class. Was she a college student.

"Dawn," my friend said, and I looked at her as if wanting her to remember what we were doing and where we were.

I think writing first drafts is about trusting yourself and your instincts. Writing a first draft is all about discovering the story, learning what your characters are struggling to accomplish. The further into your story you write, the more you narrow it down to a specific experience for your narrative to reveal or share or tell.

Writing Prompt: Fictionalize one of your college experiences or high school experiences if you didn't go to college.

"Where are you," my friend asked.
I was thought of as the morbid friend so I chose to continue looking for quarters rather than answer her question. D.J. Jubilee was on the radio singing 'My hot girl and your hot girl sitting by the bayou.

This scene reminds me of going out of Louisiana with the club I was a part of. There was a dance they had and we were waiting for them to play New Orleans bounce songs until one of us realized that we weren't home anymore. We probably weren't in the south either, but I can't remember. This and the scene or possible story ideas that I might want to explore and see what I can do with them.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How Do I Create A Character

The neighborhood she lived in was surrounded by woods with a bar in the next town that her husband frequented.

Walter Mosley suggests to simply start writing if you're the intuitive type and I agree with him. This is a first sentence taken from the three years I lived in West Haven Connecticut. I love Walter Mosley's advice. Just start writing and continue writing so you'll pull the story and character out of the first sentence.

She learned from listening to NPR that kids who lived in New York were anxious to spend the summer in a non-urban setting. She went online to find out how to sign up to invite a child to the country.

It was so quiet as she stood near her house and stared at the space between each house.

I do believe that story ideas come from simple things like first sentences, situations, words and usually they come when you're not staring at a blank page in your journal.