Sunday, January 30, 2011

Gems of Wisdom by Pat Marcantel

Do many of you save gems of wisdom from writers and/or artists? My own personal "gem" on writing is that it is so ingrained in my psyche that I have to do it. It doesn't matter if it's never published or even read by anyone else. I first wrote poems to my mom and dad and to my brother. Then I wrote letters to that same brother when he went off to war. And so the writing never stopped. Here are some gems that I've picked up along the way from writers far more prolific and talented than I will ever be.

"One of the questions a writer is most often asked is, 'Where do you get your ideas?' If a person does not have ideas, he or she better not even think of becoming a writer. But ideas are everywhere. The daily newspaper could keep you writing for years. Ideas are all about us, in the people we meet, the way we live, travel and how we think about things. It's important to remember that we are writing about people. Ideas are important only as they affect people. And we are writing about emotion. A few people reason, but all people feel."

"There are only a certain number of plots (as value patterns are limited) and they are very basic. A plot is nothing but a normal human situation that keeps arising again and again. Shakespeare's work has lived as long as it has because he dealt with normal human emotions such as envy, ambition, rivalry, love, hate, greed, and so on. These are basic drives among and are with us forever."

"Start writing, no matter what about. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on." ~ Louis L'Amour

Will Durant said: "A book is a friend that will do what no friend does--be silent when we wish to think."

And Gustave Flaubert said, "Talent is nothing but long patience."

A. H. Maslow: "...[we assume that] creativeness consists of lightning striking you on the head in one glorious moment. The fact that the people who create are good workers tends to be lost."

Last is Sidney Harris: "Self-discipline without talent can often achieve astounding results, whereas talent without self-discipline inevitably dooms itself to failure."

To wrap all of this up: Write because you want to, have to, care to, or just because. Become a people watcher and listener and a newspaper reader. Do not wait until lightning strikes you on the head to begin writing, turn the faucet on now. Develop patience and self-discipline in your writing and in your life.

Finish what you start. How many neglected, half (more or less) finished works do we have stashed in our poor computers, or languishing in notebooks stacked ever so neatly? Don't you dare lie and say, "Oh, I don't have any writing hanging around like that." I know I can't be the only one who has neglected children.

"Consider the postage stamp. Its usefulness consists of its ability to stick to one thing until it gets there." ~Henry Wheeler Shaw

Artist/Author Pat Marcantel can be found blogging and hanging out on Facebook and Twitter any day of the week. Her poetry and photographs can be found in Swamp Lily Review. She's the author of Oberlin: The First 100 Years. If you'd like a copy, contact Pat.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Choices by Georgia Downer

I submitted a short story for inclusion in a local library publication. Today I was asked to read the story at the yearly awards program. I agreed. I then remembered that all stories submitted are included in a bound collection of that year’s submissions.

Before I committed to the library, I intended to submit the story to several publications, all of which require “unpublished” material.

Do I honor the first submission and have it become published material or withdraw the story from the library contest and submit as “unpublished” to other sources?

Georgia Downer is BWG Treasurer. She writes essays and short fiction and has won prizes for her work. She's currently working on a novel.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Are You Telling The Truth or Writing Fiction? by Stanley L. Klemetson

As I sit at my computer on this cold winter evening in Orem, Utah, with the temperature outside at about 2 ⁰F and frozen snow on the ground, my mind travels back over my journey in this life. I have just finished reading ‘Turning Life into Fiction’ by Robin Hemley and I am preparing to write about my adventures either as fiction or as family history. Mr. Hemley said that “…most autobiographic books stretch the truth from time to time, exaggerating and bending events to fit the story or the characters.” He also says the most outlandish fiction stories often contain a bit of real life experiences.

Each of us has interesting stories that we would like to share with our grandchildren. Do we have a responsibility to record the events of our lives for our descendants in a diary or journal as we think they happened? Or do we leave our family with a few short accurate paragraphs about ourselves and then use everything else as fodder for fiction stories that they might enjoy reading more. But what is the truth we want to tell? Is it accurate? Tell a story of a time you shared with a spouse or a friend and then have that person retell the story. Is it the same story or does point of view impact the details of the story. And what if your version of the story does not speak in glowing terms about the other person?

On January 22nd I am taking a class from Dr. Delma Porter at McNeese on Creative Non-Fiction Writing. For that class I read the book ‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamott. She talks about taking major events or small episodes from our lives and shaping or exaggerating things to capture what life felt like. This leads me to think about another way to present our life’s experiences, or at least use them as a basis for stories.

I have prepared long detailed lists of episodes that come together to form major events. It is tempting to include everything, ‘because it really happened,’ but that does not always make a very interesting story and even I have to ask, ‘is it believable.’ Are all of the people important to the story or would a composite person be better to convey the feeling of the story. I am currently writing stories loosely based upon real events, but with characters, dialogues, and time frames modified to convey the stories, conflicts and resolutions.

Should I write my stories at all or just use the characters, circumstances, and settings that I use to bring life into the stories. Once those elements are in place then I am just the recorder of the truthful stories of those characters. At a workshop I attended last summer with Orson Scott Card we were assigned to interview someone. My partner and I interviewed a women in a book store to gather details about her life that I could use as a starting point of my story. In my life and travels there are many other starting points for stories. Of course these would be pure fiction stories as compared to the stories based upon personal past experiences.

Since it is unlikely that I will ever make a living at writing I still enjoy writing for my family and I also enjoy seeing my name in print. It is a conflict that I will continue to have as I search to find out what is truth and what is fiction.