Thursday, April 30, 2009

An End and a Beginning

Today ends the WD April Poem-a-Day Challenge with a poetry topic which is, appropriately enough, Farewell. It's been fun! Here is a list of the topics (Tuesdays were twofers):

Day 1: Origins
Day 2: Outsider
Day 3: The trouble with (blank) is. . .
Day 4: An animal
Day 5: A landmark
Day 6: Something missing
Day 7: Clean/Dirty
Day 8: A routine
Day 9: Memory

Day 10: Friday
Day 11: An object
Day 12: So we decided to. . .
Day 13: A hobby
Day 14: A love/anti-love poem
Day 15: Poem based on a poem by another author
Day 16: A color
Day 17: All I want is. . .
Day 18: Involving interaction
Day 19: Angry
Day 20: Rebirth
Day 21: Haiku/About Haiku
Day 22: Work
Day 23: Regret
Day 24: Travel
Day 25: An event
Day 26: Miscommunication
Day 27: Longing
Day 28: Sestina/about sestinas
Day 29: Never. . .
Day 30: Farewell

Now, from literally thousands of poems, 50 will be selected for an ebook. I'm glad I don't have the task of plowing through all of them! For those who participated all month, badges will be available for download at some point, and that's what I was after, something to put up with my NaNoWriMo "winner" badge on this blog.

This challenge has been good mental exercise as well as a way to put into words many of my deepest thoughts and feelings. I hope that, like NaNoWriMo, it will be a yearly event!

On another subject, Donna has posted the MAYO challenge of 20,000 words in May. I'm in!
Anybody else?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Magazines for Writers

I had a mail offer of a good subscription rate to Poets and Writers Magazine, so I decided to give it a try. The May/June issue arrived recently. It appears, from a quick thumb-through, that it has some interesting articles and relevant information for those of us who euphemistically call ourselves writers and/or poets. As I get into it, I'll share what I find.

The Writer and Writers' Digest are two other magazines to which I subscribe. Both are good, though I favor the former a bit for its relevancy for me personally. Another magazine, Writers' Journal, is one I pick up on the newsstand from time to time. I currently have a submission into its "Write to Win" contest. The entry fee was $5, so I figured it was worth a shot to try a story on their prompt.

I'm still in the learning process about this thing called writing, so every little bit of information and/or advice from voices of experience helps.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Oklahoma Revisited

Today's prompt for the WD April Poem-A-Day Challenge is "An Event". Many events in my life could have been the topic for this particular poem, but the House Elf loves to be featured, so of course, I chose this one!

I knew how badly she wanted the part of "Ado Annie" in Oklahoma, so I didn't want anything distracting her from auditions. I also knew I'd be having surgery on the day the cast list was posted, so she had to know eventually. So I enlisted her mother's help to tell her after auditions.

Because there was no room available, I stayed in recovery for most of the day, so they let my son and daughter-in-law come back to see me. They had my cell phone and told me I had a message from Katie, but they were puzzled over only a single word. I knew, of course, that she was telling me she'd gotten the part she wanted so much!

The Performance

She wanted,
longed for,
the part.
I opened my eyes
in the recovery room
to the text message

on my phone.
The single word
said it all.
She would be
Ado Annie.
I sat beaming,
watched her frolic
over the stage
in pink gingham
and hair ribbons.
It was her
shining moment
and mine
as well.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A New Story Idea

Travel is a great opportunity for research. Since The Face on Miss Fanny's Wall sprang from the trip to Ft. Smith, I was sure that another story was lurking in Branson, and it was. The Showboat Affair is waiting in the wings to be written. I filled several pages of a small notebook with information that I can use to set the story and develop some scenes. (I'm sure people on the train and later on the showboat wondered just what I was doing as I busily scribbled away!)

It will be a romance--no mystery this time--between two older people (in their 50's) who meet on the showboat and fall in love. However, their older adult children will try, for their own selfish reasons, to break things up. Of course, they won't succeed, but the conflict will get pretty heavy!

What about the western story? Well, hopefully the upcoming trip to points west will produce the information I've been unsuccessful in finding so far.

The WD April Poem-a-Day Challenge is moving on. It is day 22. Today's prompt is a work-related poem. I'm thoroughly enjoying this month-long activity!

Meanwhile, I'm still gnashing my teeth over the one-page synopsis, but an idea came to me yesterday that may be worth trying.

And, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my writing friend Donna in Ohio!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

How to Get Unwordy

If anyone knows, would they tell me, please?

As I blogged earlier, I've been asked to send the complete ms of The Face on Miss Fanny's Wall to the acquisitions editor of a publisher (not the publisher who is bringing out WIPSS). She sent me careful, specific directions for formatting the ms and also asked for a one-page synopsis. How, I ask, can I condense 70K-worth of action into one double-spaced page?

Another writing friend suggested that a synopsis might be single-spaced, which makes sense. So, I made a brave attempt. The first two or three paragraphs are fine. The rest, in my favorite word, STINK! I am still struggling but must get the requested items off soon. I wasn't given a deadline, but I want to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. An acceptance might not be forthcoming, but I would like to feel that I gave the submission my best shot in a timely manner.

As I understand the process, a synopsis is supposed to tell the entire story. How do I tell a story that begins in 1865 and ends over 130 years later in one page? Yes, I'm whining, and yet, I'm also challenged to meet the requirement. The longer synopsis was read, apparently, as well as the three chapters, or else the full ms would not have been requested. They've given me an opportunity---now I need to conform to the parameters of it.

I know what I see as impossible is indeed possible, or someone experienced in editing would not have requested it. Therefore, I have to figure it out!

Of course, if anyone out there has any suggestions---or sympathy---I accept all!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

As if you haven't heard enough. . .

The prompt for Day 14 of the WD April Poem-A-Day Challenge was a Two-for-Tuesday: a love poem or an anti-love poem. Feeling neither particularly romantic---nor particularly unromantic--I considered what I loved at this very moment. Of course, it came to me in a flash!

From the moment you
surrounded me
I felt warm and
I'd wanted you
for so long but
others told me you were
not right for me.
Still I dreamed of you
by night and
thought of you
by day and
said that someday
we would be
It took fifty years but
now we have found
each other and
we'll never part.
Love and longing
sprang up anew
in me as
I plucked you from
the box and
slipped you on my
eager feet.
My moccasins that my mother
said I could not have.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Reviews and News

The May 2009 issue of The Writer is, as usual, filled with good information. Two articles in particular caught my eye as I did my first browse-through-reading today. One is "The Novel's Cure Was in Throwing Most of It Out" by Peter Baird, a trial attorney in Phoenix AZ, whose novel Beyond Peleliu was many years in the writing/revising/submitting stage. His experience led to this sage advice:

"No matter how it hurts, be prepared to rip up your manuscript and start over."

He goes on to advise that critiques should come from people you don't know---and perhaps not very nice people at that!

The next article, "Essentials for a Long-Term Writing Career", by John Jakes, a best-selling author of such blockbusters as North and South and The Kent Family Chronicles, echoes that advice about critiques. Aunt Nell is not the best choice for a number of reasons!

He goes on to advise keeping faith in oneself and not tossing a manuscript out with a rejection slip---or even five or six such slips. Learning one's craft and gaining the confidence to "fix" whatever is keeping a manuscript from acceptance and/or sales is an important facet of professionalism, something to which every author should aspire.

This week, I sent off The Face on Miss Fanny's Wall for the third time--just a synopsis and the first three chapters. This afternoon (!) I received a nice note from the acquisitions editor with two attachments giving me information about the press itself and the "Author's Handbook" and requesting that I send the entire manuscript formatted according to said handbook.

Now, this doesn't mean it's going to be accepted by any means, but it isn't a rejection slip either. I am pleased to have come this far, and if more develops, I'll be elated. If, in the end, I receive a rejection, I'll be disappointed but tenacious. Off it goes to the next publisher on the list! Maybe I'll tweak it a bit first, and maybe I won't, but it won't lie around in my documents file too long.

I'll end with the names of two books recommended by Mr. Baird in his article:
  1. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
  2. Rotten Rejections & Reviews edited by Bill Henderson and Andre Bernard
They're next on my reading list if available at the local library!

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Website and A Poem

Here is a link to Writer Beware, a website that addresses many of the issues facing writers in today's market, including
  • Alerts for Writers
  • Contests and Anthologies
  • Copyright
  • Electronic Publishing (epublishing)
  • Independent Editors
  • Literary Agents
  • POD and Self-publishing
  • Small Presses (coming soon)
  • Vanity Publishers
  • Writers' Services
Basically, they lay out the information on each topic, giving pros and cons, suggesting criteria to look for (such as in contests). They also have a free newsletter for which one can sign up to keep abreast of the many writing scams that are, unfortunately, out there. I check out their site occasionally if I need more information on something, but I never fail to read their newsletter and then move it to a file for future reference.


I'm continuing to enjoy the WD April Poem-A-Day Contest. It's good mental gymnastics if nothing else, and I've read some excellent and thought-provoking poems which have been posted. Poetry is truly the language of the soul. (I'm sure I read that somewhere, but right now I can't credit it.)

Today's topic was "a memory", so here's my offering:

It was always a promise
of something,
though I wasn't sure
just what.
Big Jon and Sparky
on Saturday morning,
and Eddy Arnold at night.
A movie date or
a dance or
a football game.
Time to catch up
on assignments or
laundry or
a letter home
Cleaning house,
planning for
The promise changed
with the years.
Now in retirement
everyday is
Friday and
everyday is
a promise
of more time,
at long last,
for me.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

One Story Going, Another Coming Along

The Face on Miss Fanny's Wall is off, hopefully to find a home, but if not, I'll keep trying. I like the premise of the story, especially since it was inspired by a real place, but it may need more than I've given it to be accepted for publication. If I have to gut it and start over, I will.

Meanwhile, my research for the western novel is stalled. Maybe I am using that as an excuse not to go beyond the first chapter. To my credit, I will say that I am thinking about it. Writing before one thinks, as in speaking before one thinks, can be the wrong thing to do! I keep hoping to hear from some of the emails and phone calls I've made about my grandmother's teaching stint on that ranch, but I have a feeling the information is gone forever.

The idea for a new short story is floating around, courtesy of a high school friend with whom I recently reconnected. She told me about the family home she lived in, the first two-story house in our hometown, which was eventually moved to a quieter location. Apparently it began as a funeral parlor where people were "laid out" upstairs. Folks filled her child's mind with ghost stories, and she's related some strange happenings which occurred and which she witnessed. Being the kind of person she is, she'd never tell me about them if they hadn't really happened.

Her loveliest memories, however, involve waking at night to watch the train go by and wondering where the passengers were headed, and also exploring behind her home all the land running down to the Concho River. Growing up in a circumscribed neighborhood as I did, I quite envy her.

Unfortunately, the house (as were so many wonderful historical structures in town) was demolished some years ago.

I'm not sure exactly what I want to write, but the opening lines came to me on waking this morning.

When you are young, you crave all that is new. At some point you come to understand that old is often better. Houses are like that. The house where I grew up is a perfect example.

At this point, I'm not sure where I'm going with this story, but I'm going somewhere. . .sometime.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Poetry: Day Three of the Challenge

The poetry prompt for Day 3 of the WD April Poem-A-Day Challenge is The trouble with (blank) is. . .

I had to give this a bit of thought, but of course, my thoughts turned to writing, so here is what I came up with.

The trouble with writing is
you can never finish.
No matter how much you write,
there is always more to be written.
Another scene,
another conversation,
another crisis
lurking in the wings
of the writer's mind.
The trouble with a story is
that it never ends.
So if you think you've written
the last chapter
of your Great American Novel,
solved the problems,
killed off the villains,
wedded the heroes, and
tied up the loose ends
of all the characters' lives,
you are mistaken.
After the book has gone to print,
you will lie awake and think of more.
You will dream
of the unwritten scenes
and the unspoken words.
In your mind
the story will go on
It isn't over
because you aren't over,
and as long as you live,
your story will live, too.

On a pleasant personal note, I had a telephone call from someone who had spoken to my son and is also a writer. We've arranged to meet for lunch sometime next week, discuss our projects, share ideas, and perhaps form a crit group locally. I'm excited!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

WD April Poem-A-Day Challenge

Okay, so I'm wordy today, but Writer's Digest magazine is having an April Poem-A-Day Challenge. It's kind of like NaNoWriMo---if you post a poem everyday through April you get a certificate and a badge which, I assume, can be displayed on your website or blog. It's free, so if you're interested, click on Poetry Challenge and follow the directions. A further enticement is that 50 poems will be chosen for an eBook!

Each day has a topic. Today's was "origins", so here's my effort:

Where you come from
doesn't always define
who you are.
But where you're going
is where you came from,
and that makes you who you are.
Genealogists look for where they came from
because they need to know
who they are.
Sometimes they find out where they've been
is not where they want to be,
and where their ancestors went
is not where they want to go.

Research Woes

I'm not having a great deal of success in locating research sources for the western novel. I did hear back from the research director at the Panhandle-Plains Museum in Canyon, Texas, that the records of the JA Ranch (if that's where my grandmother taught) would be open to me, but he added that whether or not there were school records would depend on how much involvement the ranch actually had with the school.

Someone else I spoke with in Clarendon, where she went to school or at least went to take the exam for her certificate, suggested that teachers might have been required to file such certificates on the county level. I put aside the idea of calling the county courthouse yesterday. Not only would today's clerks not have a clue what I was talking about, but they are busy with present-day business as well. My best bet is to visit the courthouse on my May trip and find a sympathetic ear

WHY or WHY didn't I ask more questions of my grandmother the afternoon she mentioned it forty-plus years ago? In my mind, I am sitting on the enclosed back porch/sitting room with her, and she is telling me about her teaching, just in passing. As inquisitive as I was, I can't imagine that I didn't pursue the subject! I used to sit at my grandfather's knee (my mother's father) with a pad and pencil and take down every word he said about the "family tree". Arghhhhhhhhhhhhh!

The online card catalogue of the local library, although it is a very nice one, hasn't yielded any promising books. I have two books due by April 3, so it may just require some on-site browsing. At home, I'd have not only the public library but the West Texas Collection at the university. Things may have to go "on-hold" until I can access those. The state archives in Austin is doing some renovation, and according to the person I spoke with there, many of their holdings are in storage until the changes are completed--sometime next year.

Meanwhile, I sit here gnashing my teeth and beating myself up for not milking the last detail from my grandmother, who would have been glad to divulge all. Living next door, I spent as much time at her house as I did at my own. I've still got the half-sheet of notebook paper on which I jotted down a few family facts from one of our discussions---but that's not enough!!

Of course, who knew that someday I'd want to spin a tale of mischief, murder, and mayhem surrounding a naive young school marm on an isolated Texas ranch? Where the worst predators don't necessarily have four legs or slither on their bellies? Where the hero wears a sweat-stained hat and didn't go beyond the sixth grade? Where the students know more about "real" life than their teacher? Where money and primogeniture are everything?


Just for fun, here's a picture of my grandmother, Clara Crim Moore (1892-1968), about the time she would have been that young school-marm. And, yes, the older I get, the more I look like her!