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October 7, 2016: We are all saddened by the death of our dear friend and fellow ART member, Lenny Bernstein. His writing was always professional in quality, and his critique was spot on and tactfully presented. We’ll miss you, Lenny!

The North Carolina Silver Arts state competition was held last weekend. My life experience essay, “It’s Not About Letting go,” received the silver medal.

June 8, 2016: It’s been a long dry spell, but I received two blue ribbons in the Four Seasons Silver Arts competition last month. “Integration” won the poetry competition, and “It’s Not About Letting Go,” won the life experience essay contest. Both works will be entered in the State competition this September. Wish me luck.

Since poetry is on my mind at the moment, here’s a quote from Robert Frost, “Poetry is when emotion has found thought ant thought has found words.” Talk to you later.

 March 3, 2016: Sorry to have been away so long. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of winter. The season depresses me, plus I have a bad history of these months. But this is not for discussion here. Perhaps I can find a way to incorporate it into my writings.

One of the things I’ve learned in my efforts at poetry is that I like wordplay. As an example, here is a one line poem by A.R. Ammons:

Coward

Bravery runs in my family.

The humor comes from the double meaning of the word “runs” of course. Ever the editor, I would probably have used “Courage” instead of “Bravery” to duplicate the hard “C” sound of the title. It works as is, of course.

Hope to talk again soon.

July 6, 2015: Bob Brooks will sign copies for his book Justi the Gifted, at the Asheville Barnes & Noble (in the Asheville Mall) this Saturday, July 11, from 4 to 6 PM.  Good for you, Bob!

We also have a new member of the Appalachian Round Table. Frank B. Robinson II. He is a good fit for our group and we have benefitted from having him in our company.  Welcome, Frank! His book Thirty Days Hath September (a good one) is available on Amazon.com.

As I mentioned on my May 21 post, I struck out on a couple of poems entered in the Four Seasons Silver Arts Literary competition. I also had a couple of entries in the Bettie Sellers poetry competition in Young Harris, GA. Again, no joy.  I still have a short story collection being looked at, as well as a novel. Keep your fingers crossed.

I’ve been talking about persistence in submissions the last couple of posts. Here are a couple of other quotes that I like:

“The manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it “to the editor who can appreciate my work,” and it has simply come back, “not at this address.” Just keep looking for the right address.” Barbara Kingsolver

I failed to record the source for the following quote, but it goes along with my topic: “Steve Berry credits the nuns who taught him in Catholic school with instilling the discipline needed craft a novel and to find a publisher. He claims to be the poster child for stick-to-it-iveness. It took him twelve years and eighty-five rejections to finally sell a manuscript to Ballantine Books. His perseverance has paid off — his novels are published in forty-three countries and forty-nine languages.”

 May 21, 2015:  I had a couple of poems entered in the Four Seasons Silver Arts Literary competition this year, but I had no luck. Oh, well. I’ll try again next year. That just goes to illustrate the importance of perseverance.  You don’t win, or get accepted, every time.

 March 18, 2015:  Sorry to have taken so long to get back to you. Winter is not my friend, for a couple of reasons. Also, my wife and I made a ten day trip to Israel, which was awesome, but exhausting.

As promised, I wanted to talk a little about handling rejections when you’ve submitted a story or novel for publication. First, everybody gets rejected. Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants, received 129 rejections before the novel was accepted for publication. Stephen King received 30 rejections for Carrie before it was accepted.

Here’s a quote for you. William Faulkner, one of the legends of American fiction said, “Don’t start counting rejections until you’ve received two hundred.”  (Although, how will you know you’ve reached two hundred if you don’t count?) The message, of course, is “don’t give up.” I have a little saying I repeat to myself often. “You haven’t failed until you give up.” So my advice is to keep on keeping on. More on this subject next time. Talk to you later.

 December 12, 2014:  The Fountainhead Bookstore in Hendersonville just announced the winners of its annual short story competition. My story, Vino Diaboli, received an honorable mention. The store will sponsor a reading of the winning stories on January 17 at 5:00 PM upstairs at the bookstore. Tickets are $5 and may be obtained at the bookstore, whose website is www.fountainheadbookstore.com.

November 28, 2014:   Fellow Round Table member Bob Brooks reminded me of a good method of revision. That is, read the story aloud to yourself or a patient listener. Verbalizing the story will give you a good chance to hear how the story sounds and to catch flaws in rhythm and flow. Good catch, Bob.

A few other items in the macroediting process will help with the overall quality of the story. For example; is there good use of imagery? Does the dialogue sound real and dynamic? Have you culled instances of repetition or redundancy? Have you cut out segments where you repeated yourself  🙂 ?  Have you shown more and told less? Are your transitions smooth? Is your grammar polished? Good. Review it at least one more time, then send it out to seek a new home!

Here’s a couple of quotes on revision:

“All first drafts are s**t.” Ernest Hemingway

Why do writers write? Because it isn’t there.” Thomas Berger

See you next time.

October 3, 2014:  My short story, “Heads Up” received the gold medal (first place) in the 2014 North Carolina Silver Arts Fiction competition in Raleigh this past weekend. So, I’ll give myself a pat on the back.

Here’s a quote for this post: “A book comes and says, ‘Write me.'” Madeleine L’Engle

 

Okay, let’s talk some more about revision. We’ve taken a look at our characters and made sure that each had a job to do, and that each did their job. Next we want to read over our story and make sure it is consistent with continuity of tone, rhythm, and style. That is, does the story flow evenly. Does the reader feel comfortable in the movement of the plot, in the actions and behavior of the characters? It’s hard to explain, but if you read a lot, you will encounter stories (by respected, published authors) which make you feel uncomfortable as you read. Like you are trying to dance a waltz to a samba beat. Other books will wrap you up in them, and you won’t know the real world exists until you finish the story, or reluctantly put it aside for other reasons. That is the bad and good of continuity.  Hope this helps.

 

  August 29, 2014: A couple of quotes as an appetizer:  “Given the choice betwen the word with the right meaning and the word with the right sound, you should choose the word with the right sound.” Unknown

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” Elmore Leonard

In the last two posts, we looked at the protagonist and the antagonist. What about the other characters, the secondary characters? In the macroediting review, we should ask ourselves, “Do these characters contribute to the story. Do they highlight, or point to the main character or the antagonist in a way that allows the hero and the anti-hero to perform his or her function? If you think you have too many secondary characters, can one or more be combined?

What about loyalty, or lack thereof? I believe the hero’s alles should be loyal at the time of the stories crescendo. They didn’t join the hero’s quest for anything other than to help him or her accomplish his or her goal. So they don’t abandon ship. On the other hand, the antagonist’s allies are usually involved for selfish reasons, such as profit or personal gain. So when the going gets dicey, these guys’ loyalties are more likely to fail.

Lastly, mistakes should be punished. Even mistakes made by the good guys. Perhaps a mistake is the reason the hero is in the fix he or she is in. For the protagonist, the mistake shouldn’t be fatal, and neither should the punishment, but the recovery from the mistake should cost something.

 July 16, 2014: Here are two more quotes on the revision process: “Books aren’t written — they are rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept,especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.” Michael Crichton.

“If you can’t make a mistake, you can’t make anything.” Marva Collns

We’ve been looking at macroediting, or “big picture” editing. In my last post, we talked about reviewing the main character; how he/she is presented. Now let’s talk about the antagonist. The antagonist is the protagonist’s counterpart. We mentioned that the protagonist (main character) shouldn’t be perfect. Likewise, the antagonist shouldn’t be totally “imperfect” which might better be rendered as totally evil. He or she should have a plausible motivation, at least to him/her. The antagonist should have at least one or more redeeming qualties. Maybe he (forgive me for not being PC, but I’m just going to talk about “him,” although the antagonist could just as easily be female), has admirable motives, but chooses to pursue them in an unethical or immoral fashion. The antagonist should be the equal of the protagonist. I kind of like the approach of having the antagonist be superior to the antagonist at the beginning of the story. In a confrontation the protagonist would clearly lose (and might in an early skirmish, although he would survive the encounter). As the story progresses, the protagonist should accumulate knowledge, skills, or allies who will eventually help him pevail. But the antagonist should be a worthy opponent. Your review of your story at this level should strive to accomplish this, to present a real (three-dimensional), valid counterpart to the protagonist.

 May 30, 2014: In this post, I plan to talk about revision to maximize characterization. Here’s a quote I like on that subject: “Writing is rewriting. A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with a first draft to the point that one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing.” Richard North Patteron.

We are currently discussion “Macro-Editing,” or “Big Picture Editing.” On May 5, we talked about plot. Now, let’s talk about characters, and let’s start with the main character. The main character shouldn’t be perfect. He/she should have some non-fatal flaw. Something that will allow the reader to make an emotional connection. Earlier this week, the Appalachian Round Table writers agreed that the main character doesn’t even have to be a good guy. He/she can just be the “least bad guy.” But he/she should be able to connect with the reader in some way. Is the main character presented in three dimensions? We should know more about him/her than his/her quest to be victorous in the book’s quest. We should also know something about his/her interests, skills, hopes, fears, etc.

Is the main character’s motivation commensurate with his/her goal. If he/she isn’t “in it to win it,” the reader won’t care about the character. This also usually involves having something at stake that the main character can’t live without, such as his/her own life. A loved one (lover, spouse, child), or some other person or thing that is dear to him/her.

Is the main characer sufficiently prepared at the crescendo (the final confrontation) to win (i.e. is the ending plausible)? The main charater should NOT be prepared to win at the beginning of the book, but as the plot progresses, he/she should accumulate, knowledge, skills and allies to enable him/her to be ascendent at the end.

Okay, that’ll keep us busy in our revision process for a while. Next time, we will talk about the antagonist. See you then!

 May 5, 2014: Happy Cinco de Mayo! Last week, a short story of mine, “Heads Up.” Won the blue ribbon at the 2014 Four Seasons Silver Arts Short Story competition. That qualifies it for entry in the state competition this fall.

My poem, “More,” won a white ribbon (third place). Since only first and second qualify for the state competition, the buck stops here for this poem. I’m still trying to find traction on my poetry. So, what do I do? Perservere!

I talked of my intention to post about the revision process. I often break the revision process down into two major categories: “Macro-Editing” or big-picture editing, and “Micro-Editing” AKA little picture or general revisions editing. I’m going to spend three or so posts on the big picture. First, I’ll review my plot. Do I have a strong hook (opening)? If I can’t make the reader read past the first few pages, the rest of the story won’t matter.

I review the events in the plot one by one. Are the events leading up to (and including) the crescendo plausible? Do the events occur in the proper order? Is the ending plausible and satsifactory? Is the reader prepared for the ending? Have you maximized the tension/conflict in every scene (That doesn’t mean every scene has to be a nail-biter, but even the transition scenes should have as much tension as the author can muster for such an event). Do any coincidences occur in the plot? If so, are the plausible?

“You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to work and revamp or rewrite it God only eshibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God’s adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by.” Mark Twain, in a letter to Orion Clemens in 1878.

 April 23, 2014: I had a short story entered in the Thomas Wolfe Fiction award sposored by The North Carolina Writers’ Network, but no luck. So, I’ll continue to perservere.

Over the next few posts, I’d like to talk a bit about the revision process, which I believe is critical to successful writing. Another way to look at this process is not as revision, but as “re-vision.” We must see our story again, and better. I’ll start with a few quotes, and pick up later with some techniques.

Elizabeth Hardwick said, “It’s one of the things writing students don’t understand. They write a first draft and are quite disappointed, or often should be disappointed. They don’t understand that they may be merely beginning even in the second draft or the third.”

“It is perfectly okayto write garbage — as long as you edit brilliantly.” C.J. Cherryh

“Writing is rewriting. A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with a first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing.” Richard North Patterson

“Half of my life is an act of revision,” John Irvng.

Okay, more on revison later.

 March 3, 2014: I ran across a couple of quotes that I think have merit: “The virtue of the camera is not the power to transform the photographer into an artist, but the impulse it gives him to keep on looking — and looking.” Brooks Atkinson Once Around the Sun. Now, substitute “writing” for “the camera” and “writer” for “photographer.” The message still works.

The second quote is unattributed, since I don’t know who wrote it. “Your memories should never be greater than your dreams.”

  February 17, 2014:  Close, but no cigar. I submitted a short story collection for the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award, sponored by Snake Nation Press. It was short-listed for the award, but did not win.  I’ll classify that as a small victory and soldier on.  Wish me luck!

 February 5, 2014: In case you’re wondering. I HATE WINTER! I’m counting the days until spring arrives.  Okay. I’ve got that off my chest. How about a few comments about writing? Specifically, dialogue.  The use of dialogue in a story can do more than just relay conversations between two or more characters. It can help with character development. For example, A character’s vocabulary will tell the reader much about his or her education (bigger words, more complex sentences), his or her occupation (jargon, industry specific buzzwords), and so forth. The use of slang, idioms, and quirky words and phrases can help to identify where a person is from, and can also serve to distinguish between characters by the use of words or phrases unique to that characer.

Here are some thoughts about dialogue attribution: Don’t be afraid to use “said.” Steve Berry is a good and successful writer, but in his dialogue he tends to use the dialogue tag, “made clear.” “Don’t do that,” he made clear. Which doesn’t make anything clear at all. It just interrupts the flow of my reading, because I always pause and ask myself, “Why did he do that?”

If you wish to use alternatives, “asked,” and “replied,” work okay. You can also use alternatives to indicate volume, “shouted,” or “whispered.” You can also use alternatives to indicate frame of mind, “growled,” or “hissed.” Avoid using alternatives which seem impossible to do simultaneously with speaking: “blubbered,” “guffawed,” or “laughed”. Don’t use, “I see you,” he lauged. Instead, “I see you,” he said, and laughed.

Hope you find this useful. Until next time.

  Januay 13, 2014: Please check out my Ten Rules Page. In addition to the list by John Dufresne, a noted fiction author and teacher (added last month), I’ve included a new list by friend and fellow Appalachian Round Table member, Lenny Bernstein. Good stuff.

 November 22, 2013: I have added a new page to my grouping. It is entitled “Ten Rules Page.” I will post a couple (or more) lists of advice designed to improve a writer’s craft. These won’t be my lists. I’ll rely on those who are more knowledgable than me about this strange art. Hope you enjoy them.

 November 13, 2013: Here are some quotes about writing that I found interesting. Hope you lke them, too.

“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” Mark Twain. In explanation, I think this is appropriate for a writer because it takes a healthy self-image to put one’s work out for public review.

“The more dialogue I write, the better I get to know the characters.”  August Wilson

“In 1983, a boss of mine told me that writing was my worst skill and I should bacome an account manager.” Amy Tan (Six years later, Ms. Tan’s first book, The Joy Luck Club, became a #1 bestseller.

FYI, Netwest will have another reading at the Henderson County Library next Monday evening at 6:00 PM. I’ll be reading a trio of poems at that session. Wish me luck (and come join us if you can).

  October 21, 2013: Have you ever liposuctioned your writing as part of the revision process? I’m talking about getting the fat out. I read my work and look for words or phrases that are unnecessary and only serve to bog down the flow of the story. Every unnecessary word has to come out. For example, do you ever have a character stand up? Why? Just have him or her stand. The “up” is just unnecessary fat unless the act of standing involves a direction other than up. A military unit on battle station may be ordered to “stand down.” Then the down is necessary. A guard at a castle gate may “stand aside” to allow someone to pass. Otherwise just have them stand. Conversely, one should not “sit down.” Just have them sit.

Another of my liposuction actions is to make sure that no one nods his head. Certainly don’t have your character nod his or her head “yes.” To my knowledge, the only body part that nods is the head, so just have him or her nod. And the purpose of the nod is almost always to show assent. Sometimes a sleepy person will “nod off.” In that case, the context will show that the character is sleepy and not giving a positive answer to a question. On the other hand, many body parts shake (one’s booty, for example). So I think it is necessary to have my character shake his or her head to indicate a negative answer.

As you read and revise, think about each word, and ask your self is this necessary?

 Sept. 27,2013: Are you writing, or planning to write, a story involving gunplay?  May I make a suggestion? Never, ever allow shots to “ring out!” You’ve read it in newspapers and other books, I’m sure.”Shots rang out.”  This is wrong. In the first place, shots don’t ring. If the weapon is small caliber, such as a .22 (or 5.65 mm, for you metric guys),the shot will snap or crack, like a firecracker, because there isn’t much gunpowder in the shell. Larger weapons such as the ever-famous 9mm (.35 caliber), will make a bigger or deeper sound, like a bang or a boom. I prefer boom, because it sounds more sinister than bang, but that’s just my opinion. This is a good spot to use your creativity to come up with other words to describe the sound, which brings me to my second objection to the use of the phrase, “shots rang out.” It is the mother of all cliches, and cliches take all the juice out of your writing. If you want to take a fun field trip, go to a local shooting range and get the manager to let you hear the sound of various size weapons being fired. For a fee, you also might be allowed to fire one or two of these. This will also let you get a feel for firing a weapon, and a feel for how a weapon is handled. For example, never point your gun at anybody or anything you aren’t prepared to shoot, except maybe the ground or the sky. We all strive to make our writing “feel real,” and this will help.

And now, another quote from someone who knew more about writing than I do: “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pags of shxt. I try to put the shxt in the wastebasket.” Ernest Hemingway.  I substituted the letter x for a vowel in one of the words (used twice). So sue me.

 Sept. 9, 2013: I think one of the critical aspects of characterization is finding an original way to describe a character. A way that allows the reader to firmy imbed that character in his or her memory. Here are a few examples:

“Their father, Leander, was one of those Masachusetts Yankees who look forever like a boy, although toward the end he looked like a boy who had seen the Gorgon.” John Cheever, from The Wapshot Scandal.

“Kez was oder than me, but she was albino and had glasses and a face like a festered pickle.” Goldie Goldblum, from “The Road to Katherine.”

“We keep talking of books,and when I tell him that Anna Karenina is my favorite, it seems to have the effect, ‘I’m not wearing any underwear,’ has on other men.” Melissa Banks from The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing.

“She is tiny. In the same way that a stick of dynamite is tiny.” Jennifer Donnely from A Northern Light.

I’ll bet each of these phrases gives you a memorable picture of that character. Not necessarily what he or she looks like, but who he or she is.

‘Til next time.

August 23, 2013: As an Ole Miss alumnus, it breaks my heart to find myself quoting Bear Bryant, the legendary Alabama coach. But it’s a good one. “The will to win is not what matters. Everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that matters.” If we scribblers will substitute the words “write well,” for the word “win,” in that quote, I think we will find some wisdom that will serve us. How do we prepare to write well? Read. Write regularly. Study books on craft, such as on character, plot, setting, etc. (the library probably has books you can check out,and you won’t have to spend a lot of money). Not all books on craft have a wealth of knowledge that I find useful, but most books have at least one nugget of information that fills a hole in my writer’s toolbox. Find a support group where you can have other writers read and critique your writing, while you return the service. You might be surprised to discover how much you can learn about your own writing by reading (with a critical eye) someone elses work. Which brings me back to the first two items on the list. Read. Write regularly.

August 6, 2013:  I think I had mentioned earlier how I admired Khaled Hosseini’s work (The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns). I just finished his new book: And the Mountains Echoed, and it compares favorably to his earlier work. I also read the second book by Tom Rob Smith (The Secret Speech), which deals with Post-Stalin Soviet Union. I also recommend it. Hosseini’s and Rob Smith’s books have similar themes in that they deal with the sadistic way the powerful deal with the powerless in these two specific cultures (the Taliban in Hosseini’s work and Communism in Rob Smith’s work).Good stuff. Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a public reading sponsored by NetWest, the western North Carolina chapter of the North Carolina Writers Network. We had a good turnout. This event will be repeated on the third Monday in September at 6:00 at the Kaplan Auditorium in the Hendersonville library. Hope to see you then.  Oh, and another thing. I have a short story entered in the North Carolina Silver Arts Short Story competition. The juding will take place in conjunction with the North Carolina Senior Games competitions in Raleigh on Sept. 28th. Wish me luck.

 June 25,2013: We often hear the term, “Show, don’t tell.” But we don’t get much of an explanation of what that means. Certainly, we have to tell some stuff, like setting description, transitions, and so on (although the words we choose to do this telling often go a long way toward setting the tone of our scene. But that’s a subject for another day). As a writer,I believe the reader wants to inhabit the world we have created and live in it just like our characters do, as if it was real life. IRL (In real life), we don’t wear signs that advertise our emotion or mental state. So, if we write in our story, “John was angry,” we haven’t given the reader a taste of what real life is like in our fictional world. Instead, we have to show John stomping around the room, slamming doors and generally acting the way an angry person would act. We then must rely on the reader to interpret these behaviors we have shown, just as he/she would do IRL.  Ramond Chandler gave this illusration: “A famous writer wracked his brains about how to show that a mddle aged man and his wife no longer loved each other. Finally, he licked it. The man and his wife got on an elevator and he kept his hat on. On he next stop a lady got on and the man immediately removed his hat.”  Voila!

 June 5, 2013: Okay, writers, here’s a question that often comes up for debate. Which is more important, Character or plot? May stories are defined as “character driven,” which means the actions and development are given priority, or at least that’s the definition. These stories are often classified as “literary” fiction. “Plot driven” stories, on the other hand, are considered “commercial” (because they usually sell better), and the focus is on action rather than the inner life of the character. Plot driven stories are often considered weak in character development. One example is Clive Cussler’s series starring Dirk Pitt. In these stories, Pitt is Superman. He does nothing wrong. If he gets injured, he recovers in minutes. So the story that Cussler tells has nothing to do about what happens to Pitt. It has everything to do about what Pitt does to the bad guys. Now, I like the Pitt stories actually, primarily I ike the jovial banter that goes on between Pitt and his sidekick (whose name escapes me now).

In reality, however, I consider both equally important. Trying to focus on plot over character (or vice versa) is like trying to see-saw with a 250 pound person on one end and a 100 pound person on the other. Without plot, characters actions don’t make sense. Wthout characters, all you have is an empty stage. Even stories about animals like Richard Adams’ novels Watership Down and Shardik have characters in the form of anthropomorphised rabbits and bears.

 May 6, 2013:The Henderson County Parks and Recreation Department held their 2013 Four Seasons Silver Arts compettion this past weekend. My short story, “Fender Bender,” won the Blue Ribbon. It will be eligible for entry in the State Silver Arts competitio to be held this September. I had a poem, which didn’t fare well. Maybe next time.

By the way, I’m reading an interesting book. If you liked Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” I think you will like Chuck Palahniuk’s “Survivor.”

May 1, 2013: As I mentioned in an earlier post, my poem entitled, “Eponymosity” was a finalist for the 2013 Sidney Lanier Poetry Award Prize. In a ceremony last Saturday at the Lanier ibrary in Tryon, I learnd the poem received third prize in the humor category. I’ll take it. The Four Seasons Silver Arts competition is this weekend (for Henderson and Polk County artists). I have a short story and poem entered. Wish me luck!

If you like private eye books and/or police procedurals, I have a few writers to recommend to you. Dennis Lehane’s series starring thePI duo of Kenzie and Gennaro is exellent (Gone, Baby, Gone is one example) The writing tends to be a bit humorous as well as dramatic. Robert Crais does e same with his partneship of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. The Scandinavians also do a good job here. Try The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy by Stieg Larssen, or Jo Nesbo’s books Th Snowman or The Leopard.  An older book that I also consider excellent is Peter Hoeg’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow. Read on!

April 24, 2013: Not every day is a victory. I entered a short story in the competition for the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize. The North Carolina Writers Network (NCWN) announced the winners this week. Guess whose name was not on the list?  Ah, well. If at first you don’t succeed, try harder. I’ve still got a few entries in conests, as well as submissions to journals.  And I’ll be sending more.  Sooner or later, folks, sooner or later.

 April 12, 2013: Good news! My poem, “Eponymosity” has been selected as a finalst for the 2013 Sidney Lanier Poetry Award. The finalist authors will read their poems at a ceremony on April 27 at the Lanier Library in Tryon. Following the reading, the winners will be announced, and the awards given. Wish me luck!

March 30,2013: One of the things readers often ask each other when they meet is, “Who are your favorite authors?” I guess my two favorite authors are Cormac McCarthy (for his terse writing, not for his violence), and Heming way, also for his terse writing. Although, sometimes Hemingway is so oblique in his approach to subject, I find him hard to follow. Although I grew up in Mississippi, I don’t care much for Faulkner (it’s a sacrilege, I know), but the man was just way too verbose! I prefer writing that maximizes the amount of room the reader has for interpretation (thus involving the reader in the story as much as possible). I try to write that way, too. Some of my fellow Appalachian Round Table members think I’m a little too succinct in my writing. I suppose the key is in finding the balance. I also enjoy dystopian novels, such as Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake, and The Handmaid’s Tale. I think the YA genre excels at this. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, is another good example of this type of writing. On the other hand, the vampire/shape-shifter thing has grown stale, I think.  I wrote a parody of that subject, entitled “Interview with a Were-Cow,” which was published in Cooweescoowee magazine (Yep, it’s a real magazine.) One thing is sure. I read a lot, and I think my reading enhances the quality of my writing. I hope my readers think so, to.

March 15, 2013: When I was a youngster, in junior high school, I was shipwrecked and stranded on a deserted island with a beautful black stallion. Later the horse and I were rescued and I went on to ride the steed in a great match race, and win. After that I pitched a no-hitter in the World Series.Then I drove a car called the Black Panther in the 24 hours of Le Mans. By the time I was in high school, I was the majority leader of the U.S. Senate. Of course, all of this happened through the magic of books. The first was The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. The second was Rookie Southpaw by Burgess Leonard. The main charater in Leonard’s book was named Clem Gompers, which has to be one of the worst names ever conceived for a hero. The title and author of the auto racing book have regrettably faded from memory, but I still remember the visual images the book inspired. The last book is Advise and Consent by Allen Drury. I am blessed to have been introduced to books early in life. I remember the Little Golden Books and the Mother Goose books that inhabited my house long before the other books I’ve listed here. While I was in high school I wrote seveal compositions which drew praise from my English teacher. By the time I enrolled in college, however, I had become occupied with the more mundane objective of preparing for “the real world.” Over the next thirty years or so, I focused on raising a family and providing security for them and for me. Only the approach of mid-life made me realize that I had allowed my artistic ability to grow dormant. About ten years ago, I decided to write a book. I conceived a plot using the characters from the TV show Star Trek: The Nex Generation, I wrote the book. It was atrocious. I think I broke every rule in the fiction writer’s rulebook. Then I made some new rules and broke them, too. But that artistic spark that had lain hidden, almost extinguished for three decades glowed brighter. Like the painter who must grow from fingerpaints to sketches to watercolors to oils, I realized that I must learn the craft of writing. I must learn to show, not tell. I must learn point of view, narrative, and dialogue. I must learn to escalate conflict. And I will.

March 8, 2013: Some fellow Hendersonville writers and I will be reading at a luncheon meeting of the Duke Power Retired Employees group on Monday, March 11. Unfortunately this is a closed meeting. Hopefully, I will have a public event before too long.  Still working submissions. Wish me luck.

March 6, 2013:  Hello, and welcome to my blog. I’m just getting set up, so I’m not going to post much today. I’m working on a few submissions, plus Uncle Sam will want my tax return beore long, so I don’t have much time. I’m still trying to get a handle on what types of things I’ll share, but my initial thoughts are that I’ll tell you about some aspects of creativity and the craft of writing, as well as a mention of some of the readings I find interesting, and why.  So, keep a “weather eye” out, as the sailors used to say.  See you again, soon!

 

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