Archive for the ‘Babble’Category

Brief Update

 

I’m nearing the end of my 2nd year in the Ph.D. program.  This means I’m finishing up what I hope is the last of my course work.  I still need to get my committee sorted out and obtain a reading list for the summer to prepare for comprehensive exams.

I have 6 chapters of THE BOOK to finish on draft 2.  But, I’ll need another big revision on draft 3.  That’s the problem with learning how to write a novel WHILE you are writing the very first one. You screw up a lot.  But, I’m cool with that. I want this sucker to be as close to awesome as I can get it.  In no rush!

I do have my name on an academic journal article that’s making the rounds right now.  Crossing my fingers that it can find a home.  It would be my first break into that arena.

No pics.  Sorry.

Okay, I lied… here’s a gif.

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LOLZ !

06

05 2015

M.F.A. and Creative Writing Degrees

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This has to pop up on the writing boards once a month.

“I’m applying to M.F.A. programs!”

“Should I get a B.A. in Creative Writing?”

“Do writing classes help you become a successful writer?

“Will my college professor be excited to read my 400,000 word space opera that used to be Dr. Who slash fic?”

The truth is, people have some strong opinions about academia and creative writing.  Very strong.  Like, think of the strongest coffee you ever drank now leave it in the coffee pot all day and add a few tablespoons of instant coffee, let it simmer for another few hours then make it into a coffee reduction sauce.  Wait for it to get nice and thick.  Now drink it.  Or put it on your pancakes.

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Anyway, strong opinions.

I have an MFA, so I’ll do my best to answer some of these questions. Just please remember that you’re going to get some responses all over the place, ranging from, “Cool, go for it,” to “Don’t bother. Why do you need an MFA?”

Here’s my experience.

I worked freelance as a writer for years and realized I had no craft, just raw intuition that wasn’t evolving. I got my B.A. in literature/creative writing, then moved right into an M.F.A. (fiction). Here’s the thing, the academic route worked for me. I thrived under those conditions. Others will not. Others will get all of that information without paying for a degree. Others will be amazingly successful without stepping into a college. Ever. Forever-ever. The big question is: which one are you? If you’re certain that the M.F.A. is your way, then read on…..

Most traditional programs are not genre-friendly. If it’s on the top 50 list on Poets&Writers, it’s probably a traditional program that hates genre with the intensity of a thousand suns. It burns us, precious. BURRNNNSSSSSS. What does this mean for you? Well, I chose to step away from genre to learn craft at the literary (raw) level. No bells and whistles, no genre conventions. It worked for me. It was the best gift I ever gave myself as a writer. But that’s my way. We’re back to the, “What is YOUR way?” thing again.

If lit-fic’s not what you’re looking for, then you’ll probably need something like a low-res program. There are some great ones out there that focus on genre and commercial fiction.

Here’s the difference in my mind:
1. Traditional programs will have funding opportunities. (Not ALL, but most). That means you’ll become a GTA, teach comp. and lit courses to freshmen who haven’t read a book in their life and who don’t know where “those thingies around dialogue” go. You’ll teach 2-3 courses a semester. You’ll get your tuition covered. You’ll probably get health insurance too. And you’ll get a monthly stipend. (Mine was $1800/month). It means you’re more strapped for time.  Yes, your writing does suffer, and you might not have much of a social life. But you won’t be 100k in debt by the end of it all. I also had a LOT of internship opportunities (non-paid), but I worked for a lit-mag, did some typesetting, taught at a jail, and so forth. Looks great on the resume.

2. Low-Res programs probably have no funding opportunities. You pay for it out of pocket or you get a loan. You don’t have to teach so you can focus on writing and school work. You come out with a nice, hefty loan that will take you 20 years to pay off, but hey, people do it. AND, from what I’ve seen of low-res programs, many of them focus on the business side of things. They WANT you to get published. They help you meet agents and publishers. The more successful you are, the better the school looks.

One question to ask yourself might be: What do I want to do with my MFA? If you say, “I want to learn about creative writing,” then honestly? You can learn all of that by reading threads on net-forums such as Absolute Write. I’m not exaggerating.  Some online forums rock and you get to know other people who rock and the epic awesomeness makes you cry inside because it’s just THAT GOOD.  There is a downside, though.  Wherever you find the “perfect forum,” you will usually stumble upon its opposite: suck-board, hate-board, critique-make-you-cry-or-pee-your-pants board.  Be careful.  Some writers are dicks and when they fail, they want you to fail, too.

Having said all of the above, I (personally) needed academic structure to grow as fast/much as I did. Reading books and emulating helped, but I needed better one-on-one instruction. Just something to think about.

If you want to teach creative writing, then the best suggestion I can offer is to finish a book BEFORE YOU go into the program, turn that in (piece by piece) to workshop, and get it query-ready over the course of the M.F.A.. Why? Because it doesn’t matter how much teaching experience you have. It doesn’t matter if you have a Ph.D. in “Creative Writing.” What matters the most is that you are PUBLISHED. Not self-published, not vanity published, not published through Donny down the street who makes guerilla book orders. By a publishing house. One that has books in Barnes and Noble. And, it probably can’t be genre, though I’d love to hear a success story from someone who got a full-time (creative writing) teaching position after having published a werewolf series.

If you don’t have a publication before you start applying to teach creative writing, chances are, you’ll be teaching adjunct at a university or community college. Once in a while, you might get a lit course or a creative writing course, but for the most part, you’ll be teaching English Comp..  And probably dying a little bit inside an hour at a time.  Don’t get me wrong, comp. professors are badass, but a creative writing instructor trying to find fulfillment and meaningful andragogy teaching composition is like telling a tiger to go forth and be a vegetarian.  We’re just not built that way;..

There are other jobs out there for M.F.A.-holders. Pals of mine are working at creative firms, magazines, publishing houses. But, they all had internships as editors and typesetters at the traditional universities.

Here’s another big question: Does a degree add value? As in make you more publishable? Or look good on a query? The answer is a big, fat, hairy NO to both.

Having a B.A. in English and an M.F.A. here (fiction) I know that it made me a better writer, but that was my own personal experience. Others will have different experiences. The question is, can you learn the material on your own and through reading fiction/craft books/threads on a cool-ass writing forum and writing your bum off? Or, do you think you’ll do better with the academic structure/rigor?

You may not know the answer right now.  But don’t let one or two bad experiences in the classroom jade you forever.  I see this a lot on writing forums.  “I had a shitty creative writing teacher.  They just didn’t GET ME.  I hate schools and I AM NEVER COMING BACK!”

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The first creative writing class I took was awful. The teacher was drunk half the time and seemed to be a failed writer who was taking his inadequacy out on the students. I dropped the course. If I had taken that one experience and said, “Wow, academics is not for me,” I wouldn’t have gotten all the amazing instruction that came after. I tried the class again with another instructor, loved it, and kept going from there.

I thrived in my program, even won a fellowship and averaged two publications per year (short stories).  But in my heart I’ll always be a genre writer and I can take all of that knowledge and use it for the power of geekdom.  I feel like it’s served me well.

 

28

08 2013

And Ode to Spam

I would like to take this moment to thank all the spammers out there, especially you nice folks whose IP addresses originate in Nigeria.  Here is a shout out to the hard-working men and women selling knock-off handbags and yoga pants.  I never knew how to spell Louis Vuitton until you wonderful people came to my site.

PEOPLE KNOWLEDGE

“Hi to all, the contents present at this web page are genuinely remarkable for people knowledge, well, keep up the good work fellows.”

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FRESH and CHEERFUL! 

“I got so bored at the moment afternoon, but when I watched this YouTube humorous clip at this blog I become fresh and cheerful.”

Does this make you “fresh and cheerful” too?

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DRAWSTRING PANTS

“Now i’m Forty nine, personal Couple of pair of Pants and something number of Talls w/ drawstring. Enjoy them all still really have to rotate runescape gold”

Uhhh….

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FOLDABLE LOWER

“The exact world of warcraft power leveling is nice and nice, nevertheless, if i purchased individuals when it comes to Chridtmas, these flap thingy above the botten getting started with foldable lower, within 1 week right after i bought these individuals.”

Flap thingy….

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MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY

“At this time I am going away to do my breakfast, later than having my breakfast coming over again to read additional news.”

Mmmmm, breakfast.  PeeWee agrees.

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MIND CANDY

“Thanks in support of sharing such a pleasant thought, paragraph is pleasant, thats why i have read it entirely”

Ahh, to be pleasant!

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More next month!

 

 

27

07 2013

A Constant Stream of Abrupt Movements

I met Jonathan in the MFA program at CSU.  From his very first story, I knew he had it.   Raw talent mixed with sublime technique.  Most of us only get one of those and have to work our butts off for the other.

Me?  Raw talent. Intuition.  Voice.

The technique is still a work in progress, but coming along.

A Constant Stream of Abrupt Movements is a story by Jonathan that really stuck with me after I read it.  You can find it [HERE] at Passages North.  In the piece, the narrator reflects on his mother running off when he was a boy.  This spoke to the child in me, a reminder of a time when my own father ran out.  The only difference was that my father always came back home–at least in the beginning.

I was seven or eight and we’d just gotten our television set hooked up to HBO.  New, exciting!  Back then, they ran the same movie over and over again at night.  It went from 6pm until the wee hours of the morning.

“I’m going to the grocery store,” my dad would say on his way out the door.

I remember watching Coal Miner’s Daughter 3 times in a row before he came back home one night.  Being so young, I didn’t understand some of the more adult scenes, but I liked hearing Sissy Spacek sing.  I’d get out my cassette tape recorder and sing, “Mamaaaas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowbooyyyysss,” then play it back. The more twang I used, the better I sounded.

990919 Millennium - Spacek

I watched a lot of movies on HBO, and my dad went to the store a lot.  The thing is, he wouldn’t come back home with any food.  He’d stumble in, slur a goodnight and pass out on the couch.

It’s these small, lonely moments that stick with us.  I can’t hear Loretta Lynn without thinking about those nights.

Perhaps that’s why I write, to capture those memories in a jar like lightning bugs and save them for a scene that needs a little bit of that pit in the bottom of my stomach that wouldn’t stop churning as I watched a woman sitting on her front porch strumming a guitar.  Writers are cannibals.  We scavenge scenes from discarded stories, we pull our inspiration from a conversation overheard at Dennys (or the waiting room at the breast imagining center).  And we know when to flip through the pages of our past and find the string that connects us to our characters.

I think we can surprise ourselves when we realize how much we’ve felt across a lifetime.  What’s buried there now, waiting to be found?

12

07 2013

Tattoo!

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Different “Tattoo,” but hey, I love this picture.  Anyone growing up in the 70’s and 80’s will look upon this picture and feel their hearts grow warm and fuzzy.  I loved the Saturday line-up: Love Boat followed by Fantasy Island.  I remember a creepy ventriloquist episode.  I still have an unnatural fear of dolls and clowns (and ventriloquist dummies).

Anyhoo, back to the other kind of tattoo . . . .

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(Judge JUDY!)

I am researching tattooing methods for the book.  Fascinating stuff!  How did one go about tattooing their skin in medieval times?  In ancient times?  I read a up on the various methods: piercing the skin, puncturing, and cutting.  Paul Roe (tattoo artist) writes:

“Some of the earliest tattooing needles date from the Upper Paleolithic period (10,000 BCE to 38,000 BCE)

Found at several archaeological digs around Europe, the sharpened bone needles pierced the skin easily and the pigment came from dipping the needle into holes in a disc of red ochre mixed with clay.”

It didn’t even occur to me that tattooing and marking the skin went back so far.  Fascinating stuff!  I settled on a cross between the Polynesian method (the comb/rake) and the Japanese method of tebori.

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I hope the fusion doesn’t ring false.  I might have some more tattoo-educated pals look at the passages for me to make sure.  I know I’m writing fantasy here, but I also don’t want to shoot myself in the eye on a stupid detail that makes no sense.

These tattoos are an important part of the story–a means to show a character’s progression through the ranks.

I have three tattoos myself.  The first one I got at age 20.  My friend Christy and I decided to “go for it,” and get ourselves a slammin’ tattoo.  Keep in mind that this was 1991, a time when tattoos weren’t all that mainstream.  But, we felt pretty badass walking into that tattoo shop in Golden, Colorado and inking up.  My pal got a delicate butterfly on her hip.  I got a tattoo of Hobbes (from Calvin and Hobbes) on my chest.

First off, awful place for a tattoo.  I regretted the decision a few years later.  It marred my bosom, ya know?  And I realized that when I would show people, I was asking them to look at my cleavage.  I still have it, but will probably get this one removed someday.  It’s all smudgy now.  You can barely see the colors.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Hobbes, but yeah . . . lesson learned.

The second tattoo I got with another pal, Keri.  We were walking out of Macy’s one day and I said, “I want to get a tattoo,” and she said, “Let’s do it.”  So, we drove along Colorado BLVD in Denver and settled on a place called Phantom Tattoo.  It took us 3 hours to settle on a simple Chinese symbol (Strength) that would go on the back of our necks.  I know, I know.  I hear from so many people now about “those stupid Americans who get Chinese character tattoos.”  But, like Hobbes, Keri and I were a little ahead of our time.  We did it when it was COOL.  I swear.  Everyone else?  PSHAH!

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I love my “strength” tattoo.  I love that I got it with a pal who embodies the word “strength” in my mind.  I love that we share this.

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My third tattoo is a phoenix (tribal in style).  I got this when I quit my 9 to 5 job to go back to school to study writing, to write freelance, to finally take that big leap.  It was a big step for me, a huge deal and undertaking.  The tattoo is on my ankle.  It’s lost some of the coloring and detail, though.

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Yes, my feet and ankles are quite hideous, but the tattoo is not hideous!  I love it.

Someday, I do hope to get more, but I want them to hold significant meaning for me, perhaps as they do for one of my characters in the novel.  When the time is right (and when I find the right image) it will happen.

Until then, there’s more research to be done, more writing to finish, and more milestones to strive toward.

 

09

07 2013

Meanwhile, in Russia . . .

The title isn’t relevant to anything but this picture of Vladimir Putin riding a bear.  I’m sorry.  I feel shame for my actions (sort of).

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I have a friend from Russia and she posts funnies about Putin all the time.  Since I can’t post anymore Paula Deen pictures, I found myself a new internet fantasy buddy.  (Oh, Paula, why?  Why???)

More serious stuff ahead.

You know that song “The Space Between” by the Dave Matthews Band?  That’s what my life is like right now, all this stuff that happens in between the duties, tasks, and big-stuff of the day. That’s when I write, when I edit, when I read, when I give my muse some TLC.  There is waiting, too.  Important waiting.

To pass the waiting time, I started reading Dave Farland’s The Runelords.  I’m really liking it.  It’s a different style/flavor than I’m used to reading in my fantasy, but in a really good way.  I was hooked from the first few pages and have been keeping my kindle close so that I can return to it throughout the day.

Little else to report other than I’ve learned that the best way to reheat Chinese food is to fry it in a pan instead of nuking it.  I now pass this knowledge unto you.  Go forth and fry.

 

03

07 2013

Giddy-Up!

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I have been a writing slacker over the last few days.  I think it all comes down to bad time management.  I need to nip that in the bud ASAP.  Coffee helps, though.  I had some today.  Life is good.

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WOW.  I was looking for “bling gifs” to add for my coffee happiness, and I found this picture of Russell Crowe as a bird.  Thank you, internet.  My day is complete.

Now, onto important book stuff . . .


The ending has changed in the book.  I’ve mentioned that before.  I’m looking forward to writing my way there.  It will give the novel more resolution in a sense.  Sure, it’s meant to be part 1 of a trilogy, but from what I’ve read, one simply cannot sell trilogies outright these days. They need to love the first book.  You can pitch it as a trilogy.  According to Sarah Megibow from the Nelson Agency (took her stellar publishing workshop two years ago), you can suggest “series potential” in the query letter for your first book, but in the end, your literary fate is in the hands of bigger and more important publication folks.

Speaking of the query letter, mine starts off with a nice bang, but then fizzles out.  Trying to work in the important stuff without sounding like a kid (and then . . . and then . . .) is harder than it looks.

Anyway, happy Russell Crowe bird day to you all.  Get your coffee in!

 

25

06 2013

Muscle Memory

Muscular-Squirrel

This is disturbing.  Squirrels are disturbing.  We have them in the backyard and they hop from tree to tree, cuss the cat out, and steal the sunflower seeds I put out for the bluejays.  I know bluejays aren’t the nicest birds, but they’re prettier than the domestic tree-rat, so they win.

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Pretty pretty bluejay.  Come to my back deck.

Anyway, I’m here to write about muscle memory.  I think I’ve found mine when it comes to drafting.  It only took 20 years, but hey, it’s something.  I feel like I can whip out a solid 1st draft now.  As solid as it will ever get.  I’ll never be able to nail it the first time because I still shine the brightest during the revision process, but I’ve come a long way.  It’s like a writer’s nirvana.  The internal editor is off, but you’re still doing a decent job with sentence structure and syntax and grammar (though you’d never tell from my awful blogging), and you can forge ahead with story and fun stuff.

As for the book, it’s coming along!  I know I keep saying that, but this isn’t an overnight process.  This has to be solid before I begin making the query rounds. I dropped a POV that wasn’t doing much but adding in peripheral information.  That should help me cut 12-15k.  I changed some major plot points toward the end.  It’s definitely more epic and will require a battle.  That scares the bejesus out of me, but I’ll do my best.  Characters are more defined.  Story shows a definitive arc.  Happy happy, joy joy!

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Summer work is going well, too.  Content Analysis is fun!

That’s it, folks.  Signing off.

19

06 2013

Bigger and Bigger and Bigger

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I’m kind of screwed.  My 135k (ish) word novel is going to be a lot bigger than I anticipated.  I’m a little over halfway through with heavy revision and I’m at 93k revised.  So, yeah.  You do the math.  I figure I’ll just keep writing and revising then see where things stand.

I don’t know any agent who wants to read a 180k manuscript from a debut novel writer.  So, there could be lots of trimming in the future.  Lots and lots.

In other news . . .

I submitted to Writers of the Future.  It’s my first time, so I’m not holding my breath.  But, at least my work is out there somewhere.  I’m happy about that!

Weirdo habits: I have this thing I do when I’m stuck on a sentence or thought.  I “tickle” my forehead with my fingers.  Not only does it feel good in a creepy way, but it seems to help me move along.  I’m not a chakra metaphysical person here, but maybe there’s something to that.  Or an acupuncture deal?  I should go around like this all the time?

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Anyway, signing off.  Time to watch network television drivel.  At least Grimm is on later tonight.

Peace out!

08

05 2013

Fight Scenes

 

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Why are they so dang hard to write?  And write well?  I’m struggling with one now.  Well, actually, I’m revising the hell out of an old one that I struggled with last year, only I’m adding another person and two more bad guys, and yeah . . . it’s stressful.  I’m doing this right now:

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But, I knock out 2 paragraphs a day.  That’s right, 2 paragraphs.  I’m working on other stuff, but as far as this particular fight scene is concerned?  It needs gentle, slow, love.  Barry White love.

My system is a pretty good one, truth be told, but sometimes I overthink or underthink.

1. I map it out.  Like this . . .

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2. I run scenarios this way until I get an idea of how things begin.

3. I write a very rough description of the action.  T moves forward and bashes this guy.  M moves up and does this.  S does that.  Bad guy does this, this and that.

4. Once that’s done, I get into my POV character’s mind (3rd person limited) and decide what that character will see, recognize, note mentally, and understand.  For example, M might not see what T is doing, but she’ll be able to get an eye full of S’s actions.  What is important to HER?

5. I write a longer version of the action.

6. I flesh out.

7. I flesh out some more–adding more details, some internalization, etc.

Sometimes, it takes 10 passes to get it where I need it to be.  But, it works.

Now, I need to find a way to add in new things to an already-written passage.  It’s not easy, but doable.

03

05 2013