Posted in Submitting for Publication, Travel Writing, Writers' Groups

Progress of Writing

Two Steps Backward

Two steps back. I learned this week that submissions to two publications were rejected. That’s disappointing as a writer, but it is the nature, life, and supposed progress of writing.

One Step Forward

One step forward. Publishers of the Saturday Writers’ 2020 anthology, Decades in Writing, informed me that I can pre-order copies of the book for my purposes early at a reduced cost, as contributor. Now that’s progress to me.

Small Successes

Last February I placed second in a monthly writing contest that addressed the decade of 1900-1910. The first chapter of my novel, not yet published, Song of Herself, won as a stand-alone story entitled, “Tuck Tail or Sail.” You will find it on pages 99-104. My writing can be found in their 2011 anthology as well.

Saturday Writers Could be your Success Story

If you are a poetry writer or prose writer of personal narrative or fiction, consider Saturday Writers writing contests for a likely place to get published. Their logo states: Writers Encouraging Writers. It’s true.

Posted in Craft of writing, Revision, Writing exercises

Edit your own Writing

Are you ever in a crunch when you don’t have time for your writing group to critique your work? Working on your own and your client says your work sounds too repetitious? Wish you could see the problems in your own work that you see in other’s? Then this post is a first step for you.

Editing your own writing—to find the problems and develop solutions for them—is work. Often, revision is not considered the fun part of writing, but it can be when we see the results of our hard-won success.

While teaching a writing course this month, I have included an assessment of our sentence structures. This will help us see the multiple ways we start sentences and how we can add variety to our sentences and paragraphs to improve readability.

I decided to apply the assignment for my students to my own work as an illustration. When I did that, I saw my example essay still needed revision. So I went to work to get it ready for submission to publications.

Let me offer the assignment and then two paragraphs from my illustrative essay. One paragraph is varied, so I will not make changes; on the other hand, the second one needs work.

ASSIGNMENT

Analyze each paragraph in your story to see if your sentences start in a variety of ways to create interest for the reader.

  1. Subject-verb structure. EX. He walked away. She ran to town.
  2. Prepositional phrase. EX. For too long, we’ve put up with this. With that said, I left.
  3. Transition word. EX. However, I concede. Subsequently, the lady gave in. 
  4. Gerund or “-ing” word. EX. Hunting for shoes, I found a new dress.
  5. Conjunction phrases. EX. While shopping for shoes, I found a dress. Because life is difficult, we stumble on.
  6. Incomplete sentences. EX. Right on time. Never again. For the cause.

EXAMPLE #1 FROM MY OWN WORK

This paragraph is taken from a story when I was fifteen-years-old, trying to find the right souvenir to take home to my mother from my first trip abroad.

Finally, my eyes land on world globes. One would mean a lot to Mom because we study missions at church. Like her, I enjoy learning geography by studying the world map and learning about other cultures by reading about missionaries in other countries. Mom has rarely been outside of Arkansas—me either until now.

Assessment of sentence variety for purposes of revision (3 of the 6 types of sentence starts)

  • Sentence #1 Transition word or phrase
  • Sentence #2 Subject/verb
  • Sentence #3 Conjunction word or phrase
  • Sentence #4 Subject/verb

EXAMPLE #2 FROM MY OWN WORK

The following paragraph also is taken from the same story.

Some globes stand on the floor; others sit on tabletops. The globes look like they were made from old-world parchment, like expensive antiques. The wooden stand in which one sets would suit our house—and Mother. She will smile when she pulls it out of the box and exclaims, “I love it.”

Analysis (1 of the six ways to start sentences–pretty boring)

  • Sentence #1 Subject/verb
  • Sentence #2 Subject/verb
  • Sentence #3 Subject/verb
  • Sentence #4 Subject/verb

REVISION ON EXAMPLE #2

There are infinite ways to make the revisions, but here is one attempt to add variety to my sentence structures in a single paragraph.

While a few globes stand on the floor; others sit on tabletops. Leaning toward the latter, I like the ones that have an old-fashioned, weathered look. The maple wood frame in which one sits would suit our house. And suit Mother. I can imagine her opening it. After prying open the box, she’ll pull it out and look at me to exclaim, “I love it.”

Assessment of sentence variety (5 of the 6 types of sentence starts–and less boring)

  • Sentence #1 Conjunction
  • Sentence #2 Gerund (-ing word)
  • Sentence #3 Incomplete sentence
  • Sentence #4 Subject/verb
  • Sentence #5 Preposition

 

That’s the fun of revision, to make your writing easier to read for your audience.

 

Posted in Craft of writing, fiction, Travel Writing, Workshops, Writing exercises, Writing Workshops

Flash Fiction

The Story Behind the Story 

The story behind a story, I recently had published The City that Stole His Daughter, offers insight into the kind of an exercise that can stoke the imagination of a writer.

The Exercise 

In Rolf Potts‘ course, Travel Writing as Memoir, in October 2019 sponsored by Santa Fe Workshops, he set before us a “pyschogeography” exercise to prompt the imagination as a flaneur, wandering not so aimlessly through the streets of San Miguel de Allende.

We were to select a color — I picked blue. Wander the street to find the first instance of the color while walking the streets and follow it until it disappeared or ran out of sight. Then pick up the next element of blue and follow it until I walked past it or it fell out of sight. Again and again until a story or fragments came into being.

 The Outcome

This process led me to notice a man on a park bench with his hat tipped to shade the sun with a big fat yellow lab asleep underneath. I imagined he had come to the city to see an adult son or daughter who had left the countryside for a better way of life.

I sauntered to a yellow coffee shop with a lavender blue door and shutters, Lavanda, for lemonade and asked for the owner. The manager, Karla, came to visit me about where they purchased their lavender and leapt to the topic of “specialty” coffee.

I recall her excitement as she told me, “Our coffee is fair trade. It is good for the farmer, the roasters, the coffee shop, and our clients. It is a win-win for everyone. It makes a good economy for our community. When asked by customers if our coffee is organic, I must tell that that ‘Yes, it is farmed without pesticides and with the old ways of tilling the fields and harvesting, but sadly no, our government does not regulate for an organic label’.”

When I combined the image of the old man and my imagined story of him with the enthusiasm of Karla about speciality coffee, I had my story.

The Resulting Story

I have submitted the story to contests and for publication several times, revised it each time a bit, and then won honorable mention by WOW! Women on Writing in early 2020 but it was not published. I submitted it for review and feedback by Flash Fiction Magazine and then received substantial recommendations to make changes. They published my 1000-word flash fiction, The City that Stole His Daughter, this week, August 18, 2020. Thanks to Flash Fiction Magazine.

Posted in Craft of writing, Memoir writing, Travel Writing, Writing Retreats, Writing Workshops

Travel Writing as Memoir with Rolf Potts

I wondered what Potts meant by the title, Travel Writing as Memoir? As a student in his Santa Fe Workshop, held in San Miguel de Allende October 13-18, I learn that he meant the writer could impose herself in the writing, rather than standing at a distance and reporting–the reader wants to hear the voice of the writer. He meant we were free to use literary devices, such as writing with imagery, metaphor, foreshadowing, symbolism, and/or humor, among others.

He introduced us to psychogeography and assigned us the task of following a color of our choice through the city to encounter it in a unique way, randomly yet meaningfully. The concept of drifting or wandering the streets of the city aimlessly with the intent to observe with all our senses what the paths of the village had to offer us was the assignment–paradoxical in nature, but highly productive and insightful.

The workshop took my writing to a new level. I better understand how to find an appealing first sentence. I can see more ways to place myself reflectively in an essay about what I experience. And I know how to mine my travel experiences more thoroughly and insightfully through color tracking as a means of psychogeography.

What classes, workshops, or retreats have helped take your writing to a new level? Please share below, so others will find venues to develop their writing.