Saturday, November 24, 2007

First Prize for "Shamlet"

We got home from visiting friends in Seattle for Thanksgiving and there was yet another slim return envelope. I opened it, expecting the tiny slip of paper and yet another no thank you. I slit open my SASE and pulled out a letter and a check for $150.00.

The letter said:

"I am pleased to inform you that the editors of Crucible have decided to award first prize to your story "Shamlet," which will be printed in the 2007 issue later this fall. By Christmas you should receive your two complimentary copies of the magazine. Your check for $150.00 is enclosed. Congratulations, and thanks for your interest in Crucible."

Terrence L. Grimes
Editor, Crucible

I am still in shock. I have made a copy of the letter and the check for my files. This has been a year of many rejections. And then this, a prize, and money. I look at the check. I look at the letter. I look at the check. I look at the letter...

Crucible is the literary magazine for Barton College in Wilson, NC, and is apparently well-regarded. No website, but I googled, and it shows up as a credit for writers who list it along with other well-known awards etc. The magazine has been around for 40 years.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Blog readability

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tip of the rainhat to Cliff.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

from the Ron Carlson workshop

Notes from Ron Carlson workshop at Wordstock, Saturday November 10, 2007

Ron is interested in process, in “surviving the draft.”

Reading is about decoding the text. Writing is about tolerating ambiguity and the unknown. Start with what you know, the first sentence that surprises is when most writers leave the room. it’s the first twenty minutes after the first time you want to leave the room – this is the key, this is where the real work is done. Stay in the room.

Solve all problems through the physical world – the specifics, the details. Select what matters to you. Stay in the room. Pay attention and get enough sleep. In June of 2009 Ron will have been teaching for forty years and “theme” is the least-used word for him. Write from events, not theme.

Now the mattress story, when he dropped the mattress off the freeway. It was the biggest thing he had ever dropped and it dropped the farthest, so it stuck in his mind and was the starting point for a story. He has written/published about eighty stories and only knew the ending of three of them. Maybe two. Just say it truly. It is not your job to understand your own story. This is very uncomfortable. Need to have a high tolerance for ambiguity.

He is only interested in finding a way to write the next sentence.

Keep from drowning in the draft with INVENTORY. There needs to be a second story behind the first story. Gather everything you can into the story.

Start in the middle, but may not find this until a later draft. Might have to start at the beginning. Into what life has this moment come? Use Events, own experiences and that of others. Sit in every chair.

"I write from my personal experiences, whether I've had them or not.

“No ideas but in things.”

When anyone changes place, touch the atmosphere, make it specific. The outer story is the motor, draws the reader in.

A bath, a walk, or an airplane trip – do not use them, too much an invitation to reflection. Not fresh.

We need an outer story, what happened, to convince the reader. Needs to be simple and convincing. The story has to be about a second issue. The inner story – going for meaning. Makes it hard.

2 – 1 – 3 is the standard format for a story. Start in the middle, then the backstory, then the end. The inner story is who is she, the second section.

Literary fiction is the light and shadow on the person’s heart, how complex the person is.



INVENTORY, The Truth of the Image.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ron Carlson Writes a Story

"What will help you stay in the room? Two things: staying specific, and not stopping." p 26, Ron Carlson Writes a Story.

Direct, personal, pithy, and funny, this is Ron Carlson at his best. This short book is an extended essay on his process, with digressions into process and temptations, and always returning to physical details. I went to his workshop at Wordstock yesterday, and he is the same in person.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Virginia Woolf & Katherine Mansfield

from The Hidden Writer: Diaries and the Creative Life by Alexandra Johnson, pp139-140:

"But even in 1917 the air was haunted by the disturbing beauty of their own discoveries as writers. Independently, each had invented a similar prose style, one that sought to map and mirror consciousness itself. Each was quarrying characters' inner lives - Virginia, the mind recording an ordinary day; Katherine, the anatomy of heartbreak."


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Martha Gies, "Losing the Farm"

Here's an excerpt from "Losing the Farm" by Martha Gies:

"In summer, I spent 16-hour days on the farm, running the asparagus plant, weighing and loading strawberry flats, and coming home only to sleep. In their homes, women and girls taught me to make carne asada and laughed at my clumsy tortillas; in the strawberry fields, they pestered me to put on a broad-brimmed hat, to cover up with a long-sleeved shirt; at dances, they pulled me down into their laps, where we sat in one pastel-colored satiny heap, waiting for the men and boys to make their way across the floor."

You can read the rest of this wonderful essay in the M Review, Marylhurst University's literary magazine.