Book Group Problems Solved

We’ve all been in book groups. And there is no perfect one. The novels are chosen in different ways, by vote or by the leader or by a different person each time. Sometimes people don’t have time to finish the novel or find it’s too boring to go on.

My friends and I wanted to read and share our thoughts on literature, but none of us had time for a full novel and we didn’t have the freedom to choose one night all of us would be free every month, so we did something a little different.

We created a short story group. We each took turns choosing the story and would email it or bring copies. We didn’t have a specific day or date, but it would be “next time we get together.” This was lunch or dinner or a walk through the park for the following week, two weeks, or occasionally a month.

This became such a wonderful part of our activities. We’d have lunch and then discuss the story, or we’d walk around the pond in our regular conversations before we moved on to talk about the reading.

It was a pleasurable, no pressure way to get our lit fix. WomenWalking.jpg

The Conspiracy of Theories

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I read friend’s blog about Conspiracy Theories; it inspired me to write this blog. 

I published a story about conspiracy theories in which a few of the characters believe that the microchip is a government tracking device. I believe it appeared in the first issue of Delphinium.

I don’t believe these theories, but I do find some of them interesting. I wonder how they begin. Who is the person that starts them? For example, how did the flat earth conspiracy begin? I was speaking to someone who believes wholeheartedly the world is flat and scientists have been covering for the government for centuries!

We had a rather long discussion of proof wherein he finally said, “Are you only going to believe credentialed sources?”

Uhm. Yes. Sorry. (one of the problems with our country is that people are believing any old damn thing they read on social media or the internet without checking where it comes from. – and another reason why my credentials are published for all to see).

I stumped him with – what is the purpose of hiding the “truth” that the earth is flat? What could be gained by our earth not being round?

I don’t want to tell you his answer.

What does this have to do with writing? EVERYTHING! These conspiracy theories may begin by word of mouth, but someone writes them down and shares them – especially today when everyone and his brother has a website.

This can affect your character – do they believe in any of these? Is your MC an otherwise educated person who is concerned about the identification chips in his dog? Or do they question – maybe not believe – but question the validity of fluoride in our water as a means to mind control?

Or – write a story about one of the theories. There’s a full list on Wiki.

Or – make up your own!

Enjoy – because, you know, because the powers that be want you to laugh at the list.

The Sad Story of Those who Shall Remain Nameless.

Have you heard something like “don’t piss off a writer, they may kill you off in a book.”

the text reads still not famousI guess it’s a threat to make people not want to cross a writer, make them afraid they’ll be named. An odd thing is sometimes people think I put them in a book or poem even though they hadn’t occurred to me at all during the writing. Then there are those who want to be in a story.

I had a friend cancel plans on me at the very last moment. Not a problem, except this was at the long end of his excuses and bs, so I was done. The funny thing – he wasn’t. He sent me an unending barrage of drunken text messages:  it seems, in his liquid bravado, he admitted he’d wanted me to make him famous.

“wat wil u writ but me if u nvr gve me shce”

read one of this texts. A day later:

“I cuold be ur bes t s tory vr!”

A few years after that, someone asked me what chapter they would be.

I don’t take people wholly and insert them into a story. There are just little bits and parts, an essence, a scent, a glance. They are a single speckle of mortar in the building of a house. I guess, one might argue, they are then in a story, poem, book, but they’ll never actually be named.

 

 

 

 

Family Secrets

girl with book that reads we all have secretsAll families have secrets. I think that’s why some of us become fiction writers. Maybe, much to our family’s horror.

Secrets released in fiction is like water under pressure – there’s a spurt which resembles something other than what it really is. So, mostly, our family is safe.

Some secrets come to us second hand – the things people told us, what we know of other families, friends, acquaintances. In all honesty, these are my favorites.

The Gold Tooth is an amalgamation of family secrets. These are separate things from the gold tooth cover.jpgdifferent people whispered to me at times, laughed about at other times, assumptions from other people – all mixed up in a writer’s brain to spurt out under the pressure of a story.

My grandmother told me a story in which a mother, in trying to teach her children biggest is not best, used to offer the children unmarked gifts in various sizes. Whoever choose based on the biggest gift didn’t necessarily received the best gift.

A friend told me she’d inherited teeth from an aunt.

Another friend provided details about an uneven and questionable disbursement of a will and trust.

They all mashed together to create this story of a mother who tried to teach her daughters a lesson, protect one, maybe both, by the terms of a her will.

Feel free to tell your secrets to a fiction writer. They’ll never tell the whole truth.

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What makes good literature?

An extremely good conversation in my literature class about intelligence (Inspired by Ted Chiang’s The Great Silence). We talked about other species that fall under the definition of intelligence, which is “the ability to understand and apply knowledge.” parrot.jpgConsidering Alex the Parrot and Koko the Gorilla, and other species: crows are problem solvers and remember faces. We discussed dogs, cats, and others. Is love, as an abstract idea, understood and applied by animals? And then – is intelligence found in showing love?

This is what good literature should do. Teach, delight, and create wonder.

Read The Great Silence here

When they believe it’s about you….

cover of west endI’ve written so many stories from first person point of view. At first, I was nervous because people did ask – is that real? is that you? and even contacted me and said – I know that’s about you.

So, it does make a person nervous about what they write and publish.

But at some point, you’ve got to let people think what they want to think. None of it will affect you in the long run.

I had an editor refuse a fictional story because, he said, it’s memoir and ultimately we didn’t ask for your personal story.

I thought – it must be good if he thought it was me! But I didn’t bother to correct him. It was a fiction call and I’d submitted fiction. If the editor didn’t realize the “I” didn’t necessarily represent the author, but the character, he is probably not the editor I need to work with nor the journal I want to be published in.

I worried about this with West End – my first big publication. One of the big criticisms girl on train tracks.jpgfrom someone who believed they knew me thought it wasn’t a realistic portrayal of me. I had to tell him because the character was not me! While the same story convinced another person that I’d led a secret life prior to moving to California.

Possibly, one of the convincing elements of the story is the setting. The place, the west side of Cleveland, where I grew up, is real. You can trace the steps of my characters who walked the path passed the baseball field and lost themselves on the train tracks, or those who played in the abandoned buildings. The streets are still there, the houses still stand, except the one which burned to the ground – a vacant lot interrupts the landscape of the neighborhood.

West End was a passion project. It was for the kids who I’d known and those I didn’t who never made it out. But it wasn’t me. Maybe parts of me live there in the pages and parts of me live on those streets.

Ultimately, you can’t allow another person’s possible opinion of you affect your writing.

What’s So Scary?

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“Don’t be afraid of failure.  The reality is that most people successes rise out of the ashes of their previous failures.”

From a new documentary on Netflix titled Creativity. The narrator is talking to the creator of Game of Thrones. The creator is talking about how many times he’s failed.

I started this to say – what are you afraid of?

Then I wanted to ask – what if there was no such thing as fear? What would you do? What could you do?

I want you to think about that. What if fear was not in the human range of emotion or thought?