I read, in Book Baby, a useful article about using lyrics in books. My readers might find it helpful: http://blog.bookbaby.com/2018/11/lyrics-in-books-your-questions-answered/?utm_campaign=BB1847&utm_source=BBeNews&utm_medium=Email#
I just came back from the Kauai Writers Conference re-energized and ready to write. I’ve spent the week reviewing my notes and critiques, and have a lot of work to do.
One highlight was Master Classes. I took one with Jeff Arch, the script writer for Sleepless in Seattle, among other stories. He has a wealth of information to share and conveyed it in a free-wheeling series of anecdotes. I came away with a renewed sense of story and the importance of eliminating anything extraneous. We also spent time on “log lines,” which are very difficult to hone down to their essence.
The other class, with Jeff Kleinman, engaged all participants in discussion and critique. He divided our submissions (query letter, synopsis, first 10 p. of our books) into four days, each of which was devoted to a different category: premise, character, voice, and momentum. He has an unerring eye and his master class, devoted to making work publishable, was amazing. He demonstrated how he reviews initial queries. He gets approx. 7,200/year and can sell maybe 4-5-6 books in that same year. There’s no room for the smallest of errors or anything less than captivating, a salutary lesson.
Of importance is the ability to listen to critique with an unemotional ear in order to gain the most from what we were given. Both class leaders were very generous with their time and expertise, but none of us had a novel that was “ready” for submission. As part of the process, we were encouraged to persist, one of the most important attributes for a writer. So, here we are: back home and writing.
Next post will cover the main conference, which ran from Friday through Sunday.
Image credit: https://www.aiga.org/how-to-give-receive-design-critique, captured 18 Nov. 2018.
Travel restrictions might not sound like something that connects to writing, but our growing inability to move about our planet has a direct bearing on how we view the world and how much freedom we have to explore in words the world we observe.
A few years ago, the State of California began to list states that were “off limits” for work-related travel that would be reimbursed. As an employee of Cal State East Bay, this list applied to us. As the last few years have passed, the number of restricted states has grown for reasons primarily related to behaviors and beliefs with which our state does not agree. As of August 20, 2018, the list was as follows:
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
If you are a historian or a mathematician, for example, and your disciplinary association holds its annual meeting/conference in Kentucky or Texas, the state won’t support you financially or in terms of “release” time to attend that conference.
While I’m all in favor of polite disagreement, I worry that this limitation encourages us connect with only those who share our beliefs and values. There has been concern about this in the online environment, but it also applies to face-to-face connections. If we are discouraged from inter-relating with people in states that carry policies we oppose, how will we—or they—have any hope of understanding each others’ points of view, even if we continue to disagree?
For a long time, globally, places have been “off limits.” As a child, I remember being taken to Ephesus and, even at a young age, feeling a sense of amazement and awe, and a desire to visit again when I was older. Today, I have reservations about traveling there for safety reasons, and many parts of the world are on a growing list of “some day, but not now” destinations.
As a writer, travel is an important element of expanding our view of the world and our beliefs about issues, regardless of our writing genre or our subject matter. For a historical fiction writer, the need for travel is more specific. We can read extensively about a period and a setting, but nothing is better than going there for oneself. For a travel writer, I can only imagine what this limitation must mean.
The Galway Review just published a couple of my poems. Always a thrill. To read them, see https://thegalwayreview.com/2018/10/28/aline-soules-two-poems/
I have the privilege of teaching an adult creative writing class through Scholar OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute). A good many of the participants are writing memoirs or fiction based on memoir and I often hear comments such as “That’s the way I remember it.” While I honor their intent to be true to what they remember, I also know that, in the words of the amazing poet, Stephen Dunn:
(From “Memory,” in Riffs & Reciprocities: prose pairs. New York: W. W. Norton, 1998)
What is the memory we struggle to share in memoir, in fiction, be it based on memoir or on history? What part is true and what part imagined? What part is what we think is true? The answer is complex. Our early lives come to us both when we live them and, because our memories don’t appear to go back to infancy, when others (parents, older siblings) tell us what they remember. As we grow older, we have our own memories, but how much do we mis-remember? Perhaps, the “truest” part of memory is the emotion those memories evoke, however accurate or inaccurate. Similarly, when we write fiction based on memory or on history, how “real” or “true” are the “facts”?
This leads to the issue of “fictive truth.” The distance of fiction can often lead to emotions and insights we don’t experience when we are given a story that purports to be “the truth” or “fact” or “memoir” or “history.” As Stephen King wrote:
“Kids, fiction is the truth inside the lie, and the truth of this fiction is simple enough: the magic exists.”
Quote taken from Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/256247-kids-fiction-is-the-truth-inside-the-lie-and-the
I have often thought that psychology is best served through fiction because we can live vicariously through the lens of that distance, knowing the story isn’t “true” or “real,” thereby enabling us to embrace it fully in ways we can’t embrace our own challenges directly. Perhaps this is one reason why I continue to write, so that I can explore my own challenges through that distancing lens. The joy of writing fiction is often in the way that fiction surprises me as a writer. My hope is that if it surprises me, leads me to an unexpected emotional experience or an insight that gives me an “aha” moment, so, too, it will surprise my reader and give my reader a similar experience or insight.
That’s the pleasure of writing and the satisfaction of the age-old three-way contract among the writer, the book, and the reader.
We began writing poems Oct. 1 and will write one a day through Oct. 30. Our line-up is: Jen Stewart Fueston, Karen Greenbaum-Maya, Chad W. Lutz, Rebecca Macijeski, Shea Montgomery, Francesca Moroney, Ally Schwam, and Aline Soules. That’s 8 poems you can read every day at this link: https://www.tupelopress.org/the-3030-project/
So far, so good–for me, at least. I’m writing, although I forgot to send my poem yesterday, and will keep right on going. It’s writing practice with structure. And how much some of us (me?) need structure.
Our goal is to write, of course, but we also want to help Tupelo Press, which has been so good to us all. It’s founder, Jeffrey Levine, is tireless in his efforts to promote poetry. Actually, I expect he gets pretty tired some days because it’s a ton of work, but he never gives up and his press supports the work of women, minorities, and those whom society considers “other” in some way. He helps their voices to be heard. To support these writers and the press, please donate. Even $1 will help. Here’s the donation link to my fundraising page: https://tupelopress.networkforgood.com/projects/58290-aline-soules-s-fundraiser Thanks. Your reward? Click the 3030 project link above and enjoy our creations.