My Creative Writing Class

My ‘Writing the Short Story’ class began two weeks ago. We had four people for the first class. Second class we had three (very nice people). For the third class, the fourth person has said she will be there. But here’s the thing – they’re all beginners.

Beginners need all kinds of help and instructions. How to write a scene, what felt experience is, how tone affects your story, how to read a story from the writers’ point of view, how to develop your characters, point of view, how to publish once you learn the craft of, etc.

I admit it took me years of writing to learn the craft of writing. And here I have only six weeks to teach my beginners just the basics.

For the first class, they learned how to reach their “wild” mind, i.e. the unconscious mind that writes the first draft. Then we went over the arc of the short story. After that we brainstormed ideas for a story they would write. In addition, I asked for them to let me know what they expected to write. One woman took a course in the novel, but she was determined to learn how to write the short story.

The second class we read their stories out loud. It’s important for some one other than the writer to read the story so the writer can hear how it flows. Which is exactly what we did. According the class, that story was done. I didn’t exactly agree with the class. But I feel my job is to encourage a potential writer so I didn’t comment. But further on in this class, I definitely will.

The following class hasn’t happened yet. But I have planned to discuss what felt experience is. That, plus we’ll read the stories I suggested by giving them an idea I’ve used before that was successful.

For many years I taught this course at Glenbrook High School. Then one student wanted a formula for success. There is NO formula for success, and if there is, please share!

People are very busy these days, and the short story has regained interest. After all, one can read a short story in one sitting.

Do you have an interest in writing? Specifically, do you have an interest in writing the short story? Take a class. Join a writing group. Lastly, start writing!
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Sue Powers has 21 fictions published. She’s been awarded a Fellowship and grant in Prose from the Illinois Art Council, and two of her stories were nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Do You Hear Me?

Can your inner child come out; Listen to Your Characters

Famous playwright Harold Pinter once said when he is writing his plays he doesn’t know who is behind the door until it opens.

Pinter lets his characters tell the story. Well I’m certainly no Pinter, but I can say I have experienced the same. It happens when my first draft is going really well, when it flows effortlessly and my characters are talking to me.  I just need to listen.

Will character X leave her husband? How does X talk, act, think?  If I listen to X, she will tell me.

If I listen, my writing feels unforced and carries with it a certain heat and depth of experience that hopefully resonates. When my writing is forced, it’s uninspired, unauthentic, flat.

Perhaps I’m not always in the right frame of mind when I’m writing. Frankly, I don’t always know until it’s too late. All I know is when my writing is flat, it’s as if X has shut the door and gone into hiding.

And, by God, the silence is deafening.

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You’re Disgusting, Darling, But We Love You

humor; blog; women; creative non-fiction

Do you ever feel fugly?  (f….king + ugly.)

If you do, perhaps it goes like this. You wake up and your lids are puffed out from their sockets  (why? are your eyeballs expanding?); the back of your hair is smashed flat while the front sticks up like Medusa; and alas, despite the rigorous tooth brushing and mouthwash gargling you endured last night, your mouth tastes of the garlic-breath meal you ate last night.

Fugly. How does your husband/wife/partner/children stand you? But somehow they do.

They might show it by being super pleased by your success, or just happy that you aren’t lying on the couch in a fetal position.

When you are in a fetal position, or running low on energy, or just plain broke, they might offer to run an errand for you, loan you their car, give you money, make a joke or find a movie to cheer you up.  (Moonstruck please!)

They may even go so far as to tell you how lovely you are. Ah, what courage! What love!

What a beautiful, little lie meant to cheer you up.

Thank you loved ones! I hope I can return the sentiment soon….

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How Writing is Like Sex

Woman writing in the zone

Some say that writing is like sex. An idea I rather like. And certainly, the euphoric state one can get into when writing makes me believe it.  Anyway, if you don’t think too long or to deep about it (no puns intended), I think one could make the argument that writing is very much like sex. And that argument might go like this:

– You need to be in the mood to get inspired to write.

– While some writers are in the mood to write every day, your mood waxes and wanes.

– When you’re in the writing ‘zone,’ your wild (i.e. subconscious) mind takes over.

– When your wild mind takes over, you keep your hand moving.

– When your hand keeps moving and the writing flows, everything around you drops away.

– When everything around you drops away, you forget about eating, drinking, sleeping.

– When you can’t forget you’re hungry, thirsty or tired, you’re probably faking it…

🙂

Ouch!

Compliments of Guest Blogger, The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer

Slapped into a Nap

I didn’t see it coming. I was just minding my own business getting my paper and pen together, planning the day, and WHAM I was on the couch taking a nap. In retrospect, I should have been better prepared.

It wasn’t that long ago I was assailed by self-doubt. I re-read my current writing project (a mystery called Intimate Murder) and found it wanting. Or rather, the editor on my shoulder said very unkind things about it; he said my writing was pedantic.

Ouch.

Not pithy?

While I slept that night the parts of my brain that conspire against me whipped up a slide show of previous failings, including that time in college when I took a biology test without reading the textbook. At 2:00 a.m. it was presented to me in great detail and deliberation until in desperation I took a sleeping pill.

I remember I shrugged lethargy off when I got up. It’s not as if I hadn’t seen all the slides before many times. I keep them handy in little brain files for those anxious moments when I’m desperate to feel self-assured but need a reminder why I’m not. Like in Star Wars: “This is not the writer you’re looking for. Move along.”

Okay, inertia got the better of me and wrestled my self-esteem into an all-time low of humdrum, which is just barely above apathy.

But I cannot work under these circumstances. It is unprofessional. I demand respect. Where the hell is she? Oh there she is over there with recognition. They’re working on a new slide show with samples of my work and awards I’ve earned. It’s about time. By my age, I’ve pretty much accepted the fact that I’ll never have a bra that fits, but at least I’m sure that I am a writer.

And to the editor on my shoulder, time you moved along.

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Whether being pithy or irreverent, the Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer (aka Pat Childers), is an award-winning writer and occasional blogger.

Questions from The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer

Writer

by Guest Blogger, Pat Childers

Why do you write? I know why I write. I write for money. I write creative nonfiction for money, but I also write fiction to make myself laugh and so far nobody pays me for that. Sometimes I write to find out what I’m thinking and that can be really scary, but it does help me straighten out my medication.

I’m currently writing a science fiction thriller titled “Robot Love.” I thought of calling it “50 Shades of Robot Love,” but that would make it an entirely different book, albeit entertaining. I’m also writing a mystery that takes place in Chicago about a private investigator named Murray Antoinette. Anyway, I’ve had my picture taken for the dust jacket, written the prologue and thanked the people who helped me. It’s just that stuff in the middle (the actual text) that I’m having trouble with.

But what I want to know is: why do you write? What is it that you have to say that is so insightful, thought-provoking, or entertaining it needs to be shared with as many people as possible?  Do you have a story inside you that will cause a reader to pause and re-read a passage because it is so well said it is startling? Is it plot-driven, character-driven, or written in stream of consciousness like Virginia Woolf? I am anxious to know.

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The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer lives in Midwestern flyover country with her dogs. There have been reported sightings of her husband. In between innings of the Cubs game she is working on her web site and can be contacted at pat@pjchilders.com.

Frenchman’s (Crap) Cove

Pirate 1

 

By Contributing Blogger, The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer

 

Many years ago, during my WAA (Writing Avoidance Activities) days, I took three creative writing classes in a row, one I didn’t even register for.  A friend and I decided we would collaborate on an historical romance novel. We figured it should be about 100,000 words, so we could easily knock it out in four months. It would be about a female pirate in the 1800s, sort of between “Frenchman’s Creek” and a bodice ripper.

We then launched a time-intensive search for the perfect names for the lady pirate and the tall, handsome man she would fall in love with. Her name would be Maeve and his would be Claude. The ship would sail out of Charleston, South Carolina. We did extensive research on the ship – it would be wooden with large sails. With these essential details in hand, we began writing.

In re-reading the first page, I discovered that due to missing punctuation or perhaps a dangling participle, the father’s moustache was hugging the rail. Maeve’s startling ultramarine blue-hued speckled eyes were delighting in the wind whipping the sails, and Robert’s leonine sun-drenched yellow mane of hair flapped in the wind. Your teeth are like pearls, he sneeringly said. Gosh, this was harder than we thought. (Apparently, writing a book requires much more than a dictionary and a thesaurus.)

We almost made it to the third page before we gave up.

Not long ago I found a cardboard box in my garage labeled “bad writing.” I’m sure my pirate book was in there along with piles of other poorly written prose. I threw it away without opening it. It takes a lot of really bad writing to get to the good stuff. I should know.

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The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer (aka Pat Childers) is a regular contributing blogger who lives in Midwestern flyover country with her dogs, and the occasional sighting of her husband. In between innings of the Cubs game and contributing to this blog, she works on her web site. She can be contacted at pat@pjchilders.com