Monday, July 31, 2006
Monday (today): work on 1st person version of story. Hopefully finish first draft.
Tuesday: Proof and finalize submission for pedagogy elective.
Wednesday: edit story. Think about: themes--are they brought up early and effectively? Scene--Is every scene fulfilling its purpose? Sentences--is there good rhythm? are long/short sentences used for a reason? Word choice: be careful of repitions.
Thursday: Proof and finalize reading critiques.
Friday: Proof story. Write cover letters. Mail packets!!!
MFAers--do you know if we're supposed to have our stuff to our advisor by the 6th, or is it OK to mail it on the 6th? That would give me a much-needed extra day. :)
Friday, July 28, 2006
Just My Two Cents
I say it when I'm not confident in whatever will precede or follow.
I say it to mask the fact that whatever I said is important to me.
I say it to mask the fact that whatever I said should be important to you.
I say it to blunt criticism you need to hear.
I say it when I don't want to seem pushy, even though that's exactly what I want to be.
I say it too often.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Monday, July 24, 2006
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Who took my carefree days? When I slept until 11, loafed in my pajama for another few hours, ate dry cereal because I ran out of milk, and then when out to get a few beers with some friends. When I didn't worry at all. When I really believed and lived the stuff in those self-help books that said no matter what your circumstances, you have the choice to be happy or not, choose happy. When I felt like life was as vast as the ocean that I went to visit at least once a week. When I didn't worry about what I'd be when I grew up because that day was so far in the future I couldn't even see it with binoculars.
Who took them? I guess that would be me. The me that worries too much and sleeps too little. The me that never runs out of milk. The me that doesn't see so much choice in her emotions any longer. The me that hasn't been swimming all summer and feels much too much too grown up.
Friday, July 21, 2006
- Make the dialogue more distinct to the characters
- Get the themes straight from the beginning
- Make Harold and Susan's relationship progress a little slower so as to be more realistic.
But the best part of having the story workshopped was learning that, for the first time ever, I've created a short story that actually ends! Whoo-hoo!
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Brian is in class on Monday and Wednesdays, so I can do work at night without feeling the pull of his presence, which is stronger than the pull of my computer on most days. Tonight I got an early jump on the evening when I got home a little before 5 when a doctor's appointment ran short. So after having a very nice walk with Chloe (sadly, the only exercise I'm getting lately), I wrote and wrote and wrote. Here's a list of the things I accomplished. I will refer to this list the next time I feel bad about not getting enough done.
- I did the writing exercise that I posted below
- I revised my first craft annotation thanks to some feedback from some very generous fellow MFAers.
- I started my second craft annotation
- I wrote a draft of my second "pretend class" presentation.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm working on creating a syllabus for an as-yet pretend class that I hope to someday teach. I would love to hear comments on what people think of this progression of topics. The class will be college-level fiction, and will include some at-home reading, a short lecture, an exercise on the topic, and then a workshop. Did I miss any important topics? Are there ones I should skip?
Week 1— Introductions, Spotlight on: Beginnings
Week 2—Spotlight on:
Week 3—Spotlight on: Getting to know your characters
Week 4—Spotlight on: Point of view
Week 5—Spotlight on: Dialogue
Week 6—Spotlight on: Plot
Week 7—Spotlight on: Narrative voice
Week 8—Spotlight on: Creating suspense
Week 9—Spotlight on: Metaphors and similes
Week 10—Spotlight on: Endings
Week 11—Spotlight on: Self-editingWeek 12—Spotlight on: Ways to keep yourself motivated/connected to a writerly environment
It was the way he looked at me.
Two wrongs rarely make a right.
And here's my writing:
It was the way he looked at me that made me walk over and sit at his table. He was alone, I was alone, and there were no other seats open in the entire bar. The look--given with his smile, with his eyes--was friendly, but not lascivious. It was the look I'd give a friend. Though I should've known that at night, in a bar, no look is that innocent.
"Come here often?" he joked. "I'm Michael."
"Kate," I said. "You don't mind if I join you?" Michael flagged down the waitress in response. I ordered a Corona, the only beer I liked and one that would help me forget the hot, humid air I had come here to escape.
I got down Michael's basics before my beer arrived: he was a consultant, in town for a meeting, staying at the hotel next door. He was from Tampa, so the current heatwave in Boston was nothing to him.
Halfway through my beer, he was still talking and had yet to ask me a single question. And my story was quite interesting, if I do say so myself. I was in town trying to solve my newest client's case: a Duxbury woman's husband had disappeared. She suspected foul play--on his part. He had cheated before, but had come back begging forgiveness after she kicked him out. She gave him another chance and six months later, poof, gone. She thought he might be staying at a hotel in Boston, so I had been scouting them out for the last few days, asking questions of the clerks, roaming the halls, checking out the bars, the pool, the computer rooms. No sign of him yet, but I had a feeling.
I finished my beer, and reached into my purse for my wallet.
"You're leaving?" Michael asked.
"Yeah, I have a long night ahead of me. Thanks for sharing your table." I slapped down a ten dollar bill and slung my purse over my shoulder.
"We could go to my room for another drink," Michael said.
"That's sweet, but I'm married," I lied.
"I am, too," Michael said, holding up his left hand.
I turned away. I looked back and said, "Two wrongs rarely make a right."
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Monday, July 17, 2006
Saturday, July 15, 2006
So here's my piece. It doesn't end, but whatever.
Oh, and I thought I would post the brainstorming I used to get to my story idea.
Baggage=something that's undesirable to bring to a relationship, though it's also something that everyone brings to a relationship
Baggage=excitement of packing
Baggage=different packing styles
Baggage=mom always asking if I'm going to buy new clothes for trips.
"Do you need new clothes?" This is the first question out of my mom's mouth when I tell her I'm going to Seattle to visit my college roommate.
Though I know to anticipate the question, it still annoys me. My mom loves to shop. She seems to truly believe she "needs" new clothes for every occassion, especially trips. Like she couldn't find a suitable outfit in the two closets worth of clothes that hang in what used to be my and my younger brother's bedroom.
"No, mom," I sigh. "Seattle's about the same temperature. I can wear there what I wear here."
"But still..." No matter how many times we have this conversation, she doesn't seem to care to grasp the fact that I don't like buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff (well, most of the time, anyway). And that even if I did, I'm on a budget, a word she will never understand the meaning of. How she managed to go 60 something years without knowing the state of her and my father's checking account amazes me.
"What suitcase will you bring?" she asks. Why she would care about such a trivial detail, I don't know. I do know I need to get off the phone soon, before I can no longer disguise the annoyance in my voice.
"The red one I got for my wedding."
"That small one? How will you fit all your stuff?"
"I don't like to check any baggage," I say. "It wastes too much time."
"Always in a hurry. I'll never understand you kids."
Friday, July 14, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
It's downpoured off and on all week. The rain seemed to have washed away my energy--for writing and anything else. I just want to crawl up in a ball under my desk and nap next to the warm fumes of my space heater (my office is always freezing in the summer). Or maybe it's just that I'm dreading revising for some reason?
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Here's what I found:
- Descriptions need some fleshing out, especially descriptions of places and characters' looks.
- Dialogue needs major work, particularly in the more "heated" scenes. I can't get conflict to sound real (maybe that's because--or why?--I avoid it so fervently in my real life)
- The ending! Well, the story doesn't completely end yet. The basic is that through what Susan learns from Harold, she decides to give her marriage another shot. She basically learns that she is afraid of really trying because she might fail. I've tried to draw that out through other things, like her being afraid to take over her mom's garden for the same reason. But I'm not sure how to show this epiphany she has about her marriage without being either heavy handed or much too subtle.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Last night, I basically finished the first draft of my short story! I have it all written out in a very basic, get-to-the-story way. Now I need to revise, revise, revise.
Announcing The Improper Bostonian Fiction Contest 2006. Every year, The Improper Bostonian runs a short fiction contest and publishes the winning story in its annual fall Literary Issue. The Improper Bostonian is looking for original works of fiction, no more than 3,000 words--and the story can't have been previously published. The deadline is July 25, 2006, and the author has to live in the Boston area. Writers should submit a cover letter and two copies of their story to:
The Improper Bostonian Magazine
142 Berkeley St., 3rd Fl
Boston, MA 02116
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Another weekend come and gone. I'm trying to gear up for the week ahead--I packed my lunch and am about to pick out tomorrow's outfit. This week writing is going to be a little tough to fit in. I usually only walk my dog, Chloe, 2-3 weekday mornings/week, and Brian does the rest. He has some major back problems that will probably need surgery at some point soon :((((, and his back is acting up. Which sucks on a lot of levels, obviously, but it also means that I'll be losing 2-3 hours of morning time since I'll be on Chloe-duty full time this week. Good thing she's so damn cute.
As a kid, my family travelled only to places within driveable distances from our NY home--Washington D.C., Lake George, even Florida a few times. All five of us smushed into one hotel room--usually with me on the cot since I was the smallest kid and the only girl. I remember the hotels we stayed in much more vividly than the cities we visited. The most important part of any hotel was the pool--was it indoor or out? Did it allow toys? Was there a lifeguard?
Everyday, after swimming for hours until our lips turned blue and our extremities wrinkled, we'd come back to the room and talk about where we would go for dinner, and what mini golf course/ice cream shop/drive in movie we'd go to after that. Every night I would BEG to be allowed to order room service. "It's a rip off!" my dad would shout. But what did I know about how much things cost? $4 for a bagel seemed reasonable to me. And besides, someone brings you food that you can eat in bed in your bathing suit while watching cable TV! Who cares about the price!
He never let me get room service, not even french fries or a soda. And now, every time I travel for business, and even sometimes when I travel with Brian, I'll order a ridculously overpriced sandwhich, and marvel at the fact that I can eat it in bed, even in my bathing suit if I like.
Friday, July 07, 2006
OK, so that's where I'm at. Susan's marriage is in trouble, and I assume that the end of the story will be when somehow her talks with Harold help her figure out what to do. I'm pretty sure they will meet multiple times.
Brainstorming: What could happen?
- He could get Susan to talk about her marriage somehow.
- They could reminisce together about June (S's mom)
- He could give her advice about marriage based on what June had said to him about Susan
- She could ask him what his wife knows
- She could yell at him
- She could tell her dad
- She could talk to her aunt about telling dad
- She could not even think about telling dad until Harold/aunt asks if she will.
- She could start crying
- He could start crying
- What about sis? Does she play into story at all? (It's mentioned in the beginning that she and her sister had gone through the boxes together, but so far Liz hasn't come back up)
- They could have an affair themselves
- He could tell her something she doesn't know, would never have guessed about her mom.
- She could share something that he couldn't have known, from June's life before knowing Harold.
By July 14: Have basic plot/outline of story done. Have 1 class organized/written out. Have rough draft of one critical response, idea for the other.
By July 21: Have draft of story done. Have 2nd class organized/written out. Have rough draft of 2nd critical response done.
By July 28: Do a major-ish rewrite of story. Have 3rd class organized/written out. Review critiques and revise.
By July 31: Read story aloud, revising for sentence length, word flow, etc. Watch for repeating words (always a problem with me!)
By Aug 5: Proof story, critiques, and syllabus! Write letter to professors and mail packets.
OK, I feel slightly better. Now if only I could figure out what the heck was going to happen in the story... (Other Lesley MFAers, please tell me if I've overlooked anything)
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
- How old are you? 55
- What do you do? I teach history at the school where Susan's mom works.
- What would you prefer to be doing? Not much. I love teaching. The students can drive you crazy but they're really rewarding.
- Who do you love? Susan's mom, June. My wife. Paradoxical, I know, but I do love them both. My wife and I have too much of a history for me not to love her. And June was just great. She was interested in the same stuff as me in a way my wife isn't. Reading, history, teaching. And she listened to me in a way my wife hasn't in a long time. Just for the record, June and I never did anything physical. We were just friends who loved each other, if from a distance.
- Wait, you want us to believe that? I don't care if you do or not. It's true. We were both married, neither of us wanted to leave our spouses, and that's really what you have to want in order to start an affair. We came awfully close sometimes--her hand would graze mine when handing me a packet of sugar for coffee and it would be hard not to grab onto it and let things progress from there. But we didn't.
- Never? Never.
To Be Continued (have to get ready for work now!)
Monday, July 03, 2006
- Because the people I met seemed to understand me, my fears as a writer and as a person, and why writing is so important.
- Because we all supported each other and each other's work in a way I haven't seen in a long time.
- Because I wasn't afraid to say what was on my mind, be it about a stupid fight I had with my husband, why I hated a seminar, or why the temperature was just perfect.
- Because I felt included and like I belonged in a group of practical strangers.
- Because people were honest about my work in a nice way.
- Because I felt, for the first time in recent history, like I might, just might, be able to enjoy the process instead of feeling like I need to reach some outside goal.
- Because afterwards, again for the first time in recent history, I was able to spend a day relaxing and not feeling like I should be doing something.
I'm sure there are a thousand others. If you've recently had an experience like mine, post and tell me why it was so great!
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Saturday, July 01, 2006
What is your name? Susan
- How old are you? 29
- What do you do? Hmm... My creator hasn't figured this one out entirely. It needs to be something fairly interesting and substantial--I'm smart--but not something super fulfilling to me. Maybe I do fundraising for a college or another type of nonprofit. The work used to really excite me, but I've become disallusioned. Another cog in the capitalist machine.
- What would you prefer to be doing? Drawing. Or sailing. not that I've done much of either. But they sound nice. Solitary. Interesting.
- Who do you love? On one level, I love my dad and sister, though we're not very close. I love my Aunt Nancy, who was very close to my mom (her sister) and is really helping me get through this. I used to love my husband, but I'm not so sure anymore. I don't have any friends who I truly love. Some I like, and others I really care about, but no one I feel connected to on that deep a level.
- Any regrets? Oh, tons. I'm awfully hard on myself, I know. But I regret things everyday. Small things like not leaving a minute earlier and making the subway that I saw pull away as I got to the top of the escalator. not remembering my umbrella. Never remembering my umbrella. Bigger, I regret getting married so young. I regret my part in us growing apart. I regret doing whatever it is I've done to make me feel so isolated.
- Dogs or cats? Both. Neither. I like both, but have neither. Though I plan to get a cat soon, no matter what happens with my marriage, but especially if I end up living alone.
- You sounded kind of happy when you said those last words... Yeah, though the possible breakup of any marriage is obviously awful to contemplate, I think about living alone a lot. I picture a tiny room, a cat, cereal for dinner while staring out the window onto a city street. It seems nice, romantic even. I'd play lots of classical music followed by the 80s punk I used to love but somehow stopped listening to. I'd paint the walls funky colors, maybe even have clouds on the ceiling.
- What's your biggest fear? Never feeling connected to people again. Forgetting to keep trying to connect. That I didn't know my mother as well as I should have, could have.
- What are you going to do to make sure that doesn't happen? For the former, I just don't know. Maybe reach out to my sister? Definitely to my aunt. For the latter, I know I'll go through some of mom's stuff, try to get to know different sides of her that I didn't know. What was she like at work? With her friends? With my dad when they were alone? I wish I had done this sooner, but it seems like prying when people are alive.
- What is your favorite word? Secret (when it's me holding it)
- What is your least favorite word? Secret (when it's being held from me)
- What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Being alone. That's so sad.
- What turns you off? Crowds of people I don't know. Feeling stupid or unloved.
- What is your favorite curse word? Mother f*cker. It really packs a punch coming from someone as constrained as I am.
- What sound or noise do you love? Traffic. It's soothing, even the beeping, truck-rumblingness of it.
- What sound or noise do you hate? Myself crying
- What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Food critic, sailor
- What profession would you not like to do? Someone who has to give a lot of speeches.
- If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Thank you for coming. We're so happy you could join us.
The residency was more than I could've asked for. I learned more about writing in those ten days than I could've imagined. I had no idea of the depths of my ignorance on the craft of writing. I also met some of the coolest people of my life. People who seemed to get me immediately. I forgot how freeing that feeling can be, of letting down all your walls and letting people in. Better than a bubble bath.
So I have to write everyday now, in order to make my submission goal, and to get the most from my program. (Something I've been trying not so successfully for years.) So I'm hoping to use this blog to keep track of my progress. Maybe I'll even post paragraphs of my short story as it progresses. I would love to get feedback from readers, once someone finds this blog. :)
I'll also be tracking another daily project--A fellow MFAer and I made a bet to see if we could each keep a promise to ourselves to do yoga/meditate daily for 30 days. If either of us slacks, that person buys drinks for the other come January, when we'll next meet up in Boston.