Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Rain

Today is the 22nd--the last day off before the end of ski week. I spent the week working on revising short stories, painting a set for my daughter's play next week, finding a costume for her. I have to say the set turned out fabulous: a surreal orange and yellow sun, a pink castle with silver glitter, and fields of pink, yellow, and white flowers. Thanks to my husband, it looks pretty professional. It's a fairy tale story.

Well, I'm reading a couple of books about writing right now: Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark and Creative Journal Writing by Stephanie Dowrick. Clark's book is in some ways an updated version of The Elements of Style; however, I'm finding all kinds of useful tidbits around writing that were unexpected when I picked the book up. I wish more newcomers to writing would read books about writing, but I remember when I first started writing--it was all about the act of writing and less about craft. Anyway, Clark looks at things from a journalistic stance, too, and I think that can only help my sense of organization. I found some surprising writing exercises in it. The Creative Journal Writing book is still on the back burner for me. I did like journaling about goals for a particular project--it helped me clarify a direction I'm taking with my collection of stories I seem to be working on now.

I was also thinking a lot this week about writing groups vs. classes vs. one-on-one mentoring. I've been shopping around for a writing group to join, but find many groups blocked to my entry. I think it's just that people get used to each other--hmm, what am I trying to say? I keep encouraging people in my classes to also think about finding someone whose opinion they really trust to help dig deeper into their stories. I have one or two people whose opinions really matter to me; I'd like to find one or two more. One thing I think that happens is a person needs help with just one small issue in a story, and an article or a craft book doesn't really address that. I read the flyer/newsletter from Glimmertrain called Writer's Ask? Is that what it's called. Anyway, I feel like they need to have the articles dig a little deeper on some of their topics--too superficially treated. I think helping students with a particular topic works in a one-on-one question/discussion format rather than in the workshop model. In a workshop class, students bring the writing to the table and are told the strengths of the piece and then some areas that need attention. Or the others ask questions. The writer is silent until the end, but I find that if I am allowed to talk about a story to a group, I'm able to come up with the answer I needed. By that, I don't mean that I justify the events or endings or whatever in a story. If it aint there, it aint there. I mean, say I don't like me ending, but I can talk about my ending, maybe I can figure out why I don't like it. If a group tells me the ending doesn't work for them and then suggests alternate endings, they've gone too far in trying to write it for me. I attended a group last week, and we sat around and ate chili and salad and laughed and talked about our stories and that helped free up my writing more than any prescribed group vs. writer type of setting. Journaling about a story helps, too. Still can't work in a vacuum. I'm not that writer. All right enough rambling. I've got stories to edit and I gotta go see a man about a mule.

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