Fear of …?

istock_000012625357xsmall1There’s a theory that we don’t fear failure, we fear success.

A researcher gave graduating students an impromptu essay prompt: “After finding out Joe/Jane aced their medical exams for graduation, he/she …..”

It’s reported that the vast majority of students set up a scenario in which Joe or Jane went out and partied, got in some sort of trouble, an accident, arrested, or in some cases just gave up and “decided to do something else with their lives.”

The researchers decided this was not an indication of the fear of failure, because they’d set up a scenario in which the person(Joe/Jane) had already succeeded, yet the students then wrecked the plan. Therefore, they surmised it a fear of success.fear

This possible fear of success comes from anxiety, which is rampant in society today. People stay where they are comfortable, where they are familiar, and their habits serve them. Moving on to the next level, success, will bring about different challenges, and the fear of the unknown wins out.

It occurs to me that this happens to writers. People write, and write, and write, but then don’t submit. Is it really the rejection they fear? or is it the success?  Think of all the anxiety that comes with the next level of publishing. You’ll be expected to do well, to do it again. And, what else might change?

What do you think? What do you fear?

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Reader Response

Some authors are unhappy when readers see something in their story, novel, or poem that was not intended.

I subscribe to the theory of reader response. Our work is going to touch different people in different ways; readers are going to get out of it something related to what they bring to it, so if they don’t see what we originally intended, they are not wrong, nor did they read it wrong, they are merely giving the writer an insight.front-cover-small

I, personally, am thrilled when readers see something I hadn’t intended. For my novella, West End, one reader said the melancholy of the main character haunted her. Other readers believed some of the characters might have actually been spirits or ghosts. One of the characters, I left open. His questionable appearances deepened the story and the effects on the main character who is dealing with depression.

However, when another reader felt that the son might have been a ghost – it made me go back and reread my own work!

Once the story, novel, or poem is out there, readers are going to take away or put into it whatever is in their own toolbox and we can not control it. We may not like it – I had one person mistake me for one of my characters – but we do have to accept it. I usually thank the reader for their insights, regardless of what I feel about the response.

All readings are good readings!

If you’re interested in reading West End – it’ll be on sale Saturday and Sunday. And – then let me know what you think!

Infused Writing

365day5Hobbies can reinforce our writing. I like hiking, being out in the natural world absorbing scents and sounds as well as images. I use hiking and nature to recharge my soul and in my writing by way of description.

Everyone needs something to recharge their soul. And adding authenticity to writing is always a benefit.

365day5aSome writers have hobbies, such as fencing, they use in their story. The descriptions of actual movements, aches, pains, body benefits, makes the story feel authentic.

Do you have any hobbies which feeds your creativity?

Word Problems – a poem by Noreen Lace

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Word Problems

 

I hate when men write

soft poetry about their ex’s.

It’s easier to read the hate

than to let your mind wonder

“what went wrong?”

 

It’s easier to hear, I don’t love

you anymore,

than to hear I love you, but…

and the thousand buts

that say you just didn’t add up.

 

I mean she…

back to the poet with the soft poetry

and the lost wife.

He writes it, not to her,

but for himself,

to remind himself

of what he let go,

the additions he didn’t add in

when he was subtracting

all she didn’t have.

 

All the things he didn’t have

all the while he’s telling himself

he was right

to let her go

when he did

because things would have gotten worse

had they not parted before the math was done.

At least this way he can ruminate,

look back fondly and say,

 

we parted as friends,

Meaning,

I departed quietly to search for something more,

 

she just got hurt.

 

*originally published in the Northridge Review 2002.

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This was written long ago, while I was finishing graduate school. I think it’s still so relatable. One person is always ready to go before the other. One person walks away, the other crawls.  (But don’t worry – the one who crawls gets up, becomes stronger, and thrives!)

Much love, readers.

 

 

Friday Feature: The Overlooked, The Forgotten, The Displaced: Unbridled Inspirations – By Dianna Brown

 

Close your eyes for a few seconds and think of the word ‘inspiration.’ inspirationWhat comes to mind? Are there images of magnificent places you’ve been, impressive people you’ve met, or extravagant stories that stimulates your soul, sparks your imagination and almost brings you to tears? These everyday inspirations lead me to be the best version of myself, however, this is not a source of inspiration for my writing.

What if I told you my writing inspiration is in the overlooked, the forgotten and the displaced? I see potential in the bleakness of a shadow. I take interest in peculiar sights. I notice the unnoticed. My desire to write stems from the stories that are cut short. Not just unrequited love stories, but stories attached to the abandoned—whether objects, people or places. I am intrigued by ghost towns, and the remnants of memories left behind.

Sometimes inspiration comes from one word. I have a fascination and love of words. Maybe it’s a name, a word I overhear in conversation, or one that stands out while I’m reading. To me, words hold weight and are springboards for the fine details of characters, setting and, sometimes, plot. I call these words, triggers. One word triggers a plethora of infinite possibilities. Couple this with an innate curiosity about the little things in life and inspiration calls out from every direction.

Inspiration also comes from pain. Writing is a resiliency of spirit. It provides an avenue to unleash hurt by navigating emotions through an alignment of fictitious stories. I also believe the act of writing is an acute desire to heal. This is true for reading as well, as there is nothing more enjoyable than being whisked away in the transfixation of a book.

I wonder sometimes if writing is a window into the subconscious. Much of what I write is not intentionally thought about, but comes out in a stream of consciousness that can surprise me. In dreams, I hear the music of the most haunting melodies and poetic lyrics. In the middle of the night you can find me scribbling what I remember by the light of my phone, blurry-eyed. Unfortunately, in the morning the indecipherable lines can never match the beauty of my dreams. Words that enter my mind are often ones I’ve never heard of before, and after I’ve written my word count goal, I will look up the definition of the word, to find it fits perfectly with the meaning of the sentence. Although it’s likely words stored in my subconscious, that I’ve encountered somewhere along the way, it shocks me nonetheless.

When I wrote the novel ‘Saltwater Joys’ I had inspirations from childhood memories of oral Newfoundland folktales and ghost stories—ones I still love to hear again and again. I explored these memories and extended the stories into what might have been, had the story taken a different turn. It is like a scavenger hunt in my mind. One idea gives me a clue to where I might go with the story or character next. Other inspirations for this literary fiction novel came from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as many classic tales and poems that made me see the unimaginably intricate, and sometimes horrific, connections in life.

inspiration2I like to explore the darker sides of life, which is interesting to me because I am naturally a good humoured optimistic individual. There are an unbounding instances of inspirational dualities in life, the play between light and dark, life and death, vice and virtue, and I realize as a writer I am one of them.

Dianna Brown’s Website

 

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Thanks, Dianna.

noreen

Friday Feature: Just a Bit O’ Dialect by Expert Story Teller David Francis Curran

Just A Bit O’ Dialect

Dialect can make anything from a Sci-fi novel to a western story come alive with unique and realistic voices. But if your English fiction contains text as obtuse as:

Da grill da bik rude

it is unlikely that your work will be published.

To master the mystery of writing good dialect it helps to have a little insight into the difference between the rules of English, and effective communication. Some years ago a communications researcher at the University of Colorado, Dr. Sally Planalp, did a study on transitions. She took articles featuring various types of transitional links between paragraphs, broke them up into individual paragraphs, and then scored each transition on how well students could put the paragraphs back in the proper order using transitions as the key.

Most of us are to used to the idea that there are rules in the English language and students get graded on how well they know them. What Planalp did was grade the rules on how well they helped people understand what was going on. When we write in dialect we are breaking the rules. What we need to know is how to break them in such a way that people will still know what is going on.

There are three basic rules that pretty much sum up how we understand what we do understand in our language.

Semantic rules govern the meaning assigned to words. For example in the obtuse example above I substituted “da” for “the.” Semantic rules are arbitrary. There is no reason, for example, why a cat couldn’t have been named a “Meow.”

Syntactic rules govern the way in which sentences are put together in a language. In English we would say “The girl rode the bike.” Other languages have different syntactic rules. A German, would say, for example, “The girl the bike rode.”

The final rule, is Regulative. These govern the meaning of a communication based on the context. For example, the difference in a mother saying, “Johnny!” when her son gets a good report card, and “Johnny!” when the boy has just emptied the entire laundry detergent box into the washer. There is much more to regulative rules. They are the reason that, even though we somethings mispronounce words, or use the wrong words when speaking, our friends still understand us. If you make the context clear your dialect will always be understandable.

Now that you know the rules you can write effective dialect. To write effective dialect, that is dialect your reader will be able to understand, break either the semantic or syntactic rules but never more than one of these rules at any given time.

To prove this, in my fiction writing classes I give students one long paragraph to translate in which I’ve broken only the semantic rules. I’ve included a shorter example below. (It will probably be more fun to try solving this by reading it out loud with a friend.) See if you can figure it out.

Hum pieity Dun pieity at onta wrull. Hum pieity Dun pieity wrad o grit brawl. Sol ta binks borsis wrend sol ta binks ben, wroudn’t but Hum pieity agrather awren.

Similar things have successfully appeared in popular fiction. In Larry Shue’scomic play The Foreigner the main character is presented as someone who does not speak English. When asked to tell a story, he tells Little Red Riding Hood, substituting made up words for the English equivalent. The audience always gets it, the characters on the set think it sounds familiar and the result is hilarious.

Did you solve the example above yet? As in Shue’s play I used regulative trick to help you. In both the story in Shue’s play and the nursery rhyme I used in my example above,the words sound a bit like the original English words. The sound helps, but when understanding comes it is more than just the sound of the words, it is that the syntax is English and words themselves sound familiar. The sound helps remind you of a context that you should remember from your childhood.

Let’s go back to the obtuse example at the beginning of this article. “Da grill da bik rude” hard to understand is that two rules have been broken, syntactic and semantic. You probably guessed by now that this is an attempt at a German accent, saying, “The girl the bike rode.” Two far simpler ways to hint at the German accent and still get the color of the speakers voice across would be:

(1) To use the german syntax with only words that can be found in an English dictionary, “The frÑulein the bike rode.”

(2) Or to use some German, or made up German words but with English syntax. “Da frÑulein rode da bike.” If you use another languages syntactic rules(1) your writing will be far harder for English readers to understand.

If you must break syntactic rules keep your writing to short sentences. The second version(2) gives a sense of a foreign language but is much easier for an English readers to follow, and is the most often recommended way to include dialect in a story.

We’ve talked about semantic and syntactic rules, but not regulative rules. Regulative rules are the most important of all. Regulative rules govern the meaning of what is written in the context of how you tell the story. Regulative rules are so important that, If you make the context clear enough you can go beyond dialect and even write in a foreign language. If you set up the context so well, that when a character speaks in a foreign tongue we know from the context ( that has been given in English ) the basic gist of what the character must say. Randy Wayne White in his Doc Ford mystery series does this exceptionally well in books like North of Havana. However, again, you want to keep the foreign language sections as short as possible.

One thing you should keep in mind when using dialect is that there is a paradox in the “translation” of foreign languages. Look at these examples of translations of Ihara Saikaku’s book The story of Seijuro in Himeji.

Here is a short section of the translation by Wm. Theodore De Bary:

1. Darkness is the time for Love; Love makes night of day In spring the treasure ships lay, with waves their pillows, on a quiet sea before the bustling harbor of Murotsu. . . .

Here is the exact same work translated by Ivan Morris:

1. Love Is Darkness, But in the Land of Love the Darkest Night Is Bright as Noon. The town of Murotsu is a great bustling harbour and here, in the peaceful springtime waves, rest the ships with their heavy cargos of treasure. . . .

I ask my students, how can two men, translating the exact same text come up with such different translations. The paradox is that in languages with far different grammatical rules, words and metaphors, the writer’s tools, may not be directly “translatable” into English and vice versa. Which means you should concentrate on capturing your story and not worry too much about the language. Dialect should be used only to give your writing flavor, like spice in cooking. If you put too much in and try to capture the foreign language itself you’ll ruin your soup.

To used dialect effectively break either syntactic or semantic rules, but break only one of these rules. Then use dialect sparingly, and your fiction will come alive.

David Francis Curran

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Many Thanks, David!

noreen

Friday Feature: Valerie Cooper and Finding Writing Time

I’m more familiar with Valerie Cooper’s poetry, as we’ve both appeared in Delphinium Literary Magazine. So when she contacted me about writing a piece about finding time, I thought she’d have something important to say. We’re both single parents, except mine are now grown, which gives me more time. Hers is still quite young – and as I once did – she searches for little bits of time to write.

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vcooper1As a single parent, writing can be difficult. I’m required to be creative and write around my daughter’s schedule. I find time in the mornings, for twenty or thirty minutes, before I get her up for pre-school. At work, I take five minutes here and there when I can to make notes or outline an idea or twElise Climbing Rocks in Central Park NYCo. I get another hour, if I’m not too tired, after I read her stories and put her to sleep.

I know my friends who don’t have kids have more time than I. But, also, my friends who don’t have kids aren’t as focused as I am on being successful. Children take a lot of your time, much of your energy, but what you receive in return is far more satisfying than much else life has to offer. My daughter inspires me to work harder, to be successful. Before her, I thought, “I’ll get there some day.” But after she was born and I looked into those big, beautiful eyes, it lit a fire under me!

Many writers complain about not enough writing time. Life is busy and messy. We need to work around it. So sometimes I get up early. Other times, I stay up late. I get creative and grab what might be otherwise wasted moments.

vcooper3I write poetry in the park on warm Saturday afternoons while the children are screaming with joy on the climbing gym. I write lyrics in the parking lot, in the chilled air of my car, waiting for pre-school to end. I outline a story over the humid stove, while my daughter waits impatiently at the dining room table, chomping on carrots.

There is time, it just comes in increments, joyfully swinging around everything else in your life. It’s there. You just have to grasp it.

Valerie Cooper

Delphinium

The Kiss

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Thanks, Valerie. Much Luck!

For everyone else, I suggest one of these!

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