Sunday, December 21, 2014

Writing Short-Writing Long




Darkness unfolds like a cape over the earth turning the sky a deep blue and draining color from every object outside my window. The dark trees are illumined with holiday lights and inflatable Santas and snowmen decorate the front lawns of neighborhood houses. In my writing room I am gearing up for the coming new year.

Today, being the first day of winter, seems like the perfect time to make my writing plans for 2015 and they are many and varied. The novel is taking a back seat to some other writing projects and upcoming online classes as I assess the things I want to do with my writing life in conjunction with the amount of time I have to spend on each work-in-progress.

The classes that line up for January include a six month long memoir course, a course in getting short stories published (because it's time I sent out my little flash fiction darlings to some journals so they can grow up in the world of literature,) and a journaling class with Amber Starfire. This class will facilitate deeper journaling which is something I need to do. I spend too many pages in my large number of spiral notebooks complaining and it's time to go deeper. I think deeper journaling will guide me to some places I need to go in order to write the memoir.

Projects that are now organized in binders and notebooks on my desk, waiting to be finished include two chapbooks of flash fiction that I will enter in the Rose Metal Press chapbook contest in November. A connected series of prose poems for another contest from Rose Metal Press. That one is due in May so I really need to set a daily quota and get going--though I have a general outline of where the poems need to go, a poetry collection and of course the memoir.

I feel nature deprived this time of year and longingly await longer days and more sunshine. I'm hoping to get outdoors over the holiday break from work and rejuvenate myself so I can get busy with writing.

Though some of these projects are up to 50 pages long, the poetry collection closer to 100 pages and the memoir is book length, with the course requiring a total of 60,000 words by the end of the course in June, I have lots to do. I would like to write the memoir as a series of flash memoir pieces complete in themselves yet connected by an overall plot arc. Here's why:

I love to write short. I initially only wrote poetry when I started writing as a little girl and so I have a penchant for short pieces where I can finish a first draft in one sitting, then go back and revise it a few times and feel like I accomplished something. So different with a novel where the first draft alone seems to go on forever, never getting completed. And then comes many revisions before it can even be shown in the light of day.

So in 2015 I am reverting to writing short. To my poems and flash fiction and to flash memoir to compile a book. I have to have a "can-do" attitude and make sure I don't let stress or exhaustion from work keep me away from my writing desk. For it is at my desk, with a pen in my hand and notebook opened to a blank page, that I become totally myself.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Where do You Write?


Where do you set yourself when you begin to write? Do you have several fave spots or one particular corner that beckons your muse?

Natalie Goldberg in "Writing Down the Bones," as well as other writers of inspirational writing books, suggests going to public places like libraries, cafes, diners, the park. They claim the noise and chaos of such places helps to dispel the inner critic so you can get down into that deep place in your soul where poems, stories, and personal reminiscences begin. I've tried it with minimal success.

I have strolled quiet arboretums and grasped a few poems that flitted through the air, inspired by a rippled river, a particular dahlia blossom or the erratic walk of a heron poking in the mud for a midday snack.

I have forced myself to write in the cafe at Barnes and Noble when I had a plot snag to work out. And a few poems emerged there while being nosy and spying on other people enjoying coffee, tea and perhaps a scone. But in bookstores I am too distracted by all those books. I can wander the fiction shelves, check out new memoirs, find how-to books and new age volumes or get lost for hours in the poetry aisle. Other times I am drawn to magazines, both on art and writing, that lure me away from my notebook with their pretty pages and sage advice and instruction.

So while others like chaos and noise, I prefer solitude and silence. It is within the soft cloak of silence that my muse emerges and focus centers me enough to go deeper. While Goldberg advises against making your writing space too perfect and attractive, stating that the time spent in planning, shopping and decorating could be better spent writing, I prefer to make my writing room a calm and welcome place.

Although I share the space with my artist husband and I use the space not only for writing but for art and scrapbooking as well, I did paint the walls a calming sage green, I made sure my writing desk with its wonderful little cubbies was in a good spot. I hung some art dolls on the walls for inspiration and placed my CD player with a flowered box of CDs on a book shelf. Soft meditation music or solo piano offer a nice background to writing as long as they are only instrumentals. That calm music helps me go deep down where my poems live inside my soul. A lit vanilla candle on the desk also seems to taunt my muse into coming out of her hidey hole.

I must add that the perfect writing place seems to be the apartment in Amagansett that my writing group rents twice a year is beyond perfection. It has everything we need and we have no obligations for three and a half days but to write! It is steps away from the beach where we can stroll to get some sunshine, fresh air and a bit of inspiration. And the best part is the collective writing energy that builds when you sit among other writers doing nothing else but writing! It's a gem that doesn't happen nearly often enough.

And that's where I write.

Where do you write?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mixed Genres--Part II

It's cold here in the northeast. The days are so short you barely feel sunlight on your skin. I wake and leave for work in the dark and get home in the dark. I only see daylight if I find a brief few seconds to go for a walk at lunch time or sneak next door for a hazelnut coffee from Subway, which I have become quite enamored of. I wouldn't say I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder but the winter certainly is not a warm and happy season. But there is always light.

I mentioned already that I have plotted a novella-in-flash-stories and will write it as a chapbook for the Rose Metal Press chapbook contest in November. I have a second idea for another flash fiction chapbook as well as a flash nonfiction chapbook. So I will be writing quite a bit in 2015.

Although will take a lot of my creative time, there are still other creative projects brewing. Rose Metal Press just announced a mixed-genre contest with a May 30 deadline and I need, badly need, to take advantage of this opportunity to expressive my creative side.

There is a contest for a 48 page, or longer, collection of any genre of text along with art work. And there is a prose poem contest that also requires a 48 page plus book ms to be submitted. I am taking this genre mixing to one more level for this particular contest.

I plan a linked series of prose poems that will include mixed media collage work. It will be 50 poems with 10 pieces of art. It's a huge endeavor given it's deadline of the end of May. But perhaps the joy of poetry writing and the brightness of working with images and paint will brighten up these short days.

By the time I emerge in the spring with a completed prose poetry and art book the days will be stretching into more sunshine and warmer temps and I can stretch myself out while I muse on the completion of the chapbooks which are due in November.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

And head over to Rose Metal Press and see if these contests appeal to you too.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Mixed Bag of Genres

As most of you readers know I write in a variety of genres and never seem to be able to focus on just one. I write poetry, short stories, novels, memoir and essays. I also dabble in art journaling and mixed media. But the combining of genres into one project is something I've only touched on, having once written a memoir in poetry and short fiction.

A few weeks ago, while taking a short hiatus from my novel, I had an idea for a novella in flash fiction. And now I have learned this is not a new concept.

Rose Metal Press just released a book titled "My Very End of the Universe" which is a collection of novellas-in-flash. It is comprised of winning entries from their annual Chapbook Contest in which the writers had a unifying plot that connected each flash story, despite the fact that individual stories were self contained and complete. What I like best about this collection is that each author has written an essay that describes their process in composing a novella in a series of short-short stories of 1,000 words or less.

I find that when I have an idea about something I want to write, or a particular leaning toward a project, some article, or book, or facebook post comes along that aligns to what I was thinking. I like to see these events as signs that I am on the right track, or write track if you will accept my punny humor.

I can think of several ways to combine genres and I know I will explore each one. The novella in flash fiction. A memoir in poetry and personal essays, a memoir in flash nonfiction, or a memoir in prose poetry. These ideas appeal to my scattered creative mind that never seems to settle on one form of writing for very long. 

While I intend to at least finish a first draft of the novel, I am eager to start on something new. I think a novella in flash will be my first endeavor. I need to start sketching out a plot for each story as I have an overarcing plot in mind already. 

In January when I start my 6 month long memoir course I am going to consider writing it in a series of flash nonfiction pieces and at some point toward its completion I will consider intertwining prose poems as well.

Rose Metal Press has three books that help the writer learn about and refine their skills in three genres. These are:
"The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry"
"The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Flash Nonfiction"
"The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Flash Fiction"

They are all helpful books along the writer's journey and I hope one day they will create a field guide to writing mixed genre books and chapbooks. In the meantime I will feel my way into this new project of combined genre writing and perhaps find ways to include art as well.  

If anyone out there wants to give this a try please share your experiences and ideas here on my blog.

In the meantime-- Keep Writing!