Write Despite

The write-20-minutes-a-day-for-365-days-come-hell-or-high-water challenge

Archive for the month “August, 2013”

Mistakes We Make

The always informative Women’s Fiction Writers blog recently posted a piece in which author Carolyn Turgeon shared her own novel-writing mistakes. If you haven’t seen it, we highly recommend that you take a look. Turgeon describes some of the attitudes (rational or not) and practices that trip us all up….sometimes repeatedly. Ahem.

Read, learn, and take heart in the fact that you’re not alone!

–Karen & Cathy

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Author Angela Belcher Epps: Telling Your Truth

Author Angela Belcher Epps explores what happens when a mother walks out on her children in her compelling novella, Salt in the Sugar Bowl. (Main Street Rag, $10) Epps, an English teacher at an alternative high school, explores the complexities of life— including love, family relationships, loss and abandonment in her work. See her website and her blog to learn more about her writing adventures http://www.thewritingclinic.com/

Please welcome Angela to Write Despite.

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1) What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I took workshops with Zelda Lockhart who said I have to be willing to work as hard for my writing job as I do for my supervised job. This was a milestone in my writing life because a part of me was always waiting for some break to happen to give me more time. So I started to push myself harder to have a complete writing career while juggling the job and life I had.

2) Please tell me your favorite three authors.

J. California Cooper, Amy Bloom, and (at this moment) Junot Diaz. But Raymond Carver always comes to mind whenever I’m asked.

3) Briefly describe your journey to publication.

I have written since I was in third grade and wrote for school papers and such. Then I majored in creative writing in undergrad, but I cared nothing about publishing. I only wanted to write. I finally started submitting stories to small literary journals when I attended NYU’s graduate creative writing program and became a more disciplined writer. E. L. Doctorow was my thesis advisor, and he told me he laughed out loud when he read one of my stories, so I gained confidence and submitted to NYU’s literary journal. That was my first real publication. Since then, I generally take a long time writing and revising until a piece feels complete. Salt in the Sugar Bowl, my new novella, features many fictional characters that I have been in relationship with for a long while. An editor heard me read an excerpt about one of these characters at an open mic and invited me to submit my novella; they accepted it. Also from time to time I am inspired to write a nonfiction article, and it usually comes from a deep place that is rather emotional. I usually have successes with such pieces.

4)  Advice for those on the road to publication?

Don’t be self-conscious. That was always my personal demon because it caused me to rethink and censor myself. Write for yourself, and forget about the people who could be looking over your shoulders and chastising you for telling your truth. Get lost in your own voice, and forget about being safe. Your readers aren’t your family, so grow all the way up and be yourself. Then be diligent about rereading and revising your work. Be ruthless in self-editing. Be honest.

5) Do you write every day?

I don’t work on my projects every day, but writing grounds me, so I journal or write something every day—even if it’s a log of what I did, an elaborate “To Do” list, or goals I plan to meet. Tonight I was talking to my husband in a restaurant, and I’d had a glass of wine and was feeling pretty self-righteous and gloating about my sense of integrity. I said that public figures that fall from grace should have to “figure it out or get the fuck out.” I fell in love with the line as it slid through my lips, and I wrote it down when he went to the toilet. Trust me; some character will be expressing that sentiment very soon. Writing is always going on in my head.

6) What are you writing now?

I’m writing a sequel to my Salt in the Sugar Bowl novella because whenever someone has read it, they ALWAYS say, “I need to know what happened to …….” And that is extremely motivating. It is tentatively called Out for a Ride. I don’t know exactly where it’s going, and sometimes that’s a good thing.

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Welcome Journalist Jane E. Dee

Please welcome Connecticut-based journalist Jane E. Dee to Write Despite. Non-fiction, done well, has a special power all its own, which Jane’s writing attests to. Read her latest essay, a touching account of her beloved father’s decline.

More from Jane:

In college I considered myself a “creative writer.” Being a reporter didn’t appeal to me. Then I began writing for a community newspaper in Hartford. My editor at the time was covering local politics. I thought “Good for him,” because I had no interest in writing about politics. Then he sent me to a mayoral nominating convention. I covered politics and local communities for the rest of my career, which was at the Hartford Courant. I’m still with the Courant, where I’ve held a number of positions. And I still consider myself a creative writer, although I approach writing with a journalist’s curiosity, focus and succinctness. Or at least I try.

1. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

It doesn’t matter how well you write. What matters is what’s inside of you.

2. Please tell us your favorite three authors.

I just finished Meghan O’Rourke’s “The Long Goodbye” and it moved me as a reader, and taught me things as a writer. Ann Patchett and John Updike.

3. Briefly describe your journey to publication.

After writing for a about a year for the community newspaper, Courant editors noticed my work and I began working for them.

4. Advice for those now on the road to publication?

Write and submit. Rewrite and submit. Be professional and responsible in your dealings with editors. It’s a lot like applying for a job.

5.  Do you write every day?

No, but I do make time to write. Deadlines are a great motivator.

6. What are you writing now?

I’m writing a magazine article about a soldier who fought in World War 1.

Zombie Summer

A writer can’t create in a vacuum, as they say. So all of us are avid readers first, writers second.

I suppose. At least I hope.

Otherwise, it would be sort of like someone who’s barely picked up a bat suddenly deciding to be a pitcher for the Yankees, right?

So this summer, thanks to the book club I’ve been in for years—without which I’d never experience the wide range of awesome and sometimes questionable selections that I do—I’ve read Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I liked them both. And yes, I realize that’s not much of a summer reading list, but summer’s still in full swing and I’m a slow reader, okay?

Then we read World War Z.

Hole-lee crap.

Let me just say that ever since I had kids, I can’t do books or movies about the apocalypse, torture, prison, or even anything really depressing. I just can’t. It’s too much for my little psyche to bear and it keeps this rabid insomniac up even longer into the night.

And so… this summer. Zombies. And chaos and destruction and people getting their faces eaten off. And children…children!…being attacked and killed and shot and starved and left for dead and…

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Oh, the humanity. That’s my cutesie zombie picture, BTW, because I didn’t want to show this one that I found from the actual movie (or so I hear–like I would ever see that one):

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Sorry. It’s just wrong, isn’t it?

I’m not saying it’s not a good book. It’s very well written, very clever. The descriptions are over-the-top visual and it’s all too realistically rendered.

The thing is, I tend to read at night, when the kiddos are finally in bed and the hubby is on his laptop and I finally have a little time to myself. Now imagine me reading this grisly doomsday tale right at bedtime. No, no, no, I’d told myself from the first page in. This would be a daylight-only selection.

But then I got sucked in, and I kept thinking I’d surely read the worst already and had to be time for the living to kick the undead’s ass at last. And I was behind on my reading. So finally I settled in one night and actually read it.

In bed.

At night.

I was running from zombies all night long.

I finally got up and wrote. Yes, wrote! If you can’t sleep, I figure, you might as well make sure no one else can either. By that, I mean I woke up Spock with my stirrings and so disturbed the doggie by my bed that he had to follow me downstairs and begin snoring under my desk. For 20 minutes, I tried to chase away the demons screaming through my brain and replace them with the much more pedestrian imaginings of my own characters and scenes and dialogue.

Which immediately made me start to nod off.

What are you reading this summer? Anything horrifying? Gratifying? Inspiring? Would love any and all recommendations (romantic comedy, anyone?).

—Cathy

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