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

What’s New With You?

I’ve been remiss in my posting – which is a social media no-no.  icecreamCan I tell you a secret? I’m really just an introverted writer and I really want to do is:

 

Write!

 

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I had a fantastic time at the Poe Museum reading Eddy. They live streamed it (I didn’t know they were doing that!) and I’ve been invited back, hope to go soon!

 

 

 

 

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In the meantime, I’ll be at AWP.

 

 

 

 

 

But the real news today: my short stories – loving the covers! – are available for .99 cents on smashwords and kindle.

 

So – whenever you need something to do – click the link, read a story, let me know what you think!

Be Joyful!

The Evolution of Writing Style

A prompt in a writing group to think about style inspired me to consider the evolution of my own writing style.

Writing evolves, grows, hopefully gets better, with all we learn and experience in life.  But style is something a little different. Style, sometimes, doesn’t change. Or, I should argue, doesn’t change that much. Maybe, it’s the small changes that only a critical reader might notice.

Last year, when I published Here in the Silence, I felt the stories earned that title. All the protagonists were struggling with finding their own voice. They felt silent or silenced, either from their own lack or from those around them.

This year, with Namas-Cray, my characters are different. Some are still struggling with being heard, (Of Strays and Exes), while some believe they are completely aware of who they are and what they want (A Perfect Day). There’s darkness, but there’s a dark ironic humor that embeds itself in their thoughts and actions: “Of Strays” begins with “When I killed my neighbors dog….” and in “A Perfect Day” a woman’s suicide is interrupted by an armed burglary.

What’s different between these two years of writing is the ironic humor. And, I’ve noticed that’s worked it’s way into most of my writing, including my poetry, “The Fly” features a fly who has “24 rose colored hours” of life, both celebrating and loathing those hours.

I’ve always handled my own life’s struggles with humor. When my daughter was a teenager, she looked at me and said, “Is everything funny to you?” Anyone who has a teenager knows – it’s got to be funny or you’ll lose your freaking mind. Therefore, to answer her question, I gave her a long, slow nod (gritting my teeth).

Does that mean my writing style will make you laugh at the dead dog or at the woman’s suicide attempt?  Absolutely not!  That’s where the irony comes in. It’s subtle and sardonic. The protagonist in “Of Strays,” offers to pay for the dog.  She doesn’t quite get the loss. But the protagonist grows to understand. And, in “A Perfect Day,” suicide is never a humorous topic, but our very serious plans being interrupted by life is something everyone can relate to. Her day is no longer so perfect when an armed robber says, “your money or your life.” And his plan, certainly, is not going as well either. Irony!

One of my students believes that “humor” should never be used in conjunction with a serious topic. In many cases, this is true. But we have to look at the irony surrounding the fiction that is how we learn and grow; introducing a topic with subtly allows the readers a way in to understand the situation, relate, empathize. The same is true of our lives. If you slam someone with truth, they are likely to back off and not engage. We introduce ourselves first, our struggles, along with the irony of moving on in our lives.

Let’s take a look at my life – what has happened in my life that might have made me feel more sardonic.  I teach a report writing class, which I run like a lesson in professionalism. How you present yourself as well as your writing says a lot about the person you are.  And then comes this Presidential campaign. How do I tell my 18-22 year old students to act like a professional when #45 acts like a spoiled child who’s had too much sugar?

Irony much?  This year, I was offered an African American Literature course. How do I stand in front of 36 students of diverse backgrounds as a white woman lecturing them on African American Lit?  Humor. Confront the irony. I asked them on the first day of class, “Does anyone want to know why a white girl is teaching an African American Lit Course?”

(According to the students, btw, I did a great job. Let me say, that I absolutely loved it! We built some iron bridges of communication in that class that I hope the students take out into the world with them. I took the course for a number of reasons, one of them was the above #45. But that’s a whole other story – We’re focusing on irony, life, writing style).

I do believe life affects writing style. Everything we learn, do, experience, and want should affect our writing style. We should grow and evolve as humans and as writers.

I was stuck once on a story. I’d been working with it, not quite able to get it to that sweet spot, when I decided on a vacay to New Orleans. I’m not much of a drinker, so it’s not the absinthe smoothies on Bourbon Street that inspired the trip, so much as the fanfare, the history, and the culture. I might have thought about the story while I was there; I don’t really remember. But, upon my return, the answer materialized. The story became what it needed to be. (It’s under consideration for an award as I write this).

That trip has stayed with me, as well as my other travels, other experiences: the homeless man at Starbucks focusing with intensity on a spiral bound notebook as if he was finishing his own novel – “$1.00 Stories” – the psychic who told me my illusion bubbles had burst “How to Throw a Psychic a Surprise Party” and so on. We must let life affect us, work its way into us, our style must evolve, or we stay stuck in life and in art.

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I’m interested in hearing thoughts on this.  Do agree? Disagree? Has your style changed? How or why?

Random facts stalkers don’t know…

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I grew up in a tough neighborhood. (don’t stereotype me)

I was in a band. (for about 5 minutes)

I was in a few movies. (another 5 minutes)

I wrote my first “novel”at the age of 11. (an angst ridden piece about a girl who is kidnapped because she witnessed a crime)

I was actually kidnapped. (not at 11/that story is waiting for publication)

I always have wanted to own a Munster-like house.

I’ve gotten lost in every major city I’ve ever been (including abroad. Trust me when I say every country/every city has neighborhoods you don’t want to be lost in at dusk)

I keep a lot of random facts as well as insignificant details in my brain. (jokes don’t stick tho)

now the stalkers know – don’t be a stalker….

Writing Wishes and Publication Dreams

I’ve been working on a new story – not only working – OBSESSED!  I don’t think I left the house for most of January and part of February until the first draft was done. I’m currently working through it again and again.  I’ve begun to gather my beta readers, and I’m quite excited.

Weekly, I spend time submitting. This is what a working writer does. Writes and submits. Rejections are no fun, and I get plenty of them. I read one statistic that read, “a writer gets an average of 26 rejections for every acceptance.” Not sure how they came up with that… I feel like it’s three times that much; however, things change!

Malcolm Gladwell, estimates it takes 10,000 hours to master any one thing. I feel like I should have reached those hours long ago; but, maybe, it takes some of us a little longer to get it. (That’s the story of my life!)

So – I have to update you.

My poem, “All At Once”, was a finalist in Medusa’s Laugh NanoText Contest. I didn’t win, but it’s still to be published in their anthology and in an e-book version. This should be available soon!

My poem, “I’ve Never Looked So Beautiful” has just been accepted by Mother’s Always Write. Before you start thinking I’m quite full of myself – the poem is about my lovely daughter! This should be available in the next month.

My story, “How to Throw a Psychic a Surprise Party” has been accepted by The Oleander Review. Sometimes, I write something and I think, this is pretty damn good, and I think this story says a lot about our humanity. I’m so happy that it will be published. It will be available mid-April

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, Writer Advice has just notified me that my story, “Memorial Day Death Watch”, has been chosen as a finalist in their Flash Memoir Contest!

We must have a purpose – I’ve always wanted to reach people, tell them they’re not alone. I think I’m just beginning to do that.

Live an Inspired Life!

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Thank you, Santa

Look at what Santa brought me!

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Okay, well, Santa didn’t actually bring her. I adopted Miss Annabelle from the shelter. She may look a little intense, which might be why the volunteer was hesitant to show her to me, but I could tell she was the sweetest little thing.

She was one of four left after their weekend giveaway. Two others were kittens, not ready to be adopted, and one was a shy little lady turned in by the only family she’d ever known. Annabelle was marked as a stray, possibly feral. FERAL? No way! I was petting her through the cage as she purred. However, that might have been why this beautiful cat remained unadopted.

Then again, maybe she was just waiting for me!

She has acted like a loving part of our family since the day I brought her home. She has not used her claws, she has not done anything remotely “feral.” In fact, she seems to have no interest in the “outside”as she ran when the door was opened.

The shelter said some people bring in their pets and say they found them so they can avoid paying the drop off fee. I thought the reason they lie might be shame. However, the shelter said it’s better for them to bring them in (and lie) than to just put the animals out on the street. True, but they have a better chance of being adopted if the person tells the truth.

I have no idea why someone might have given up Annabelle. But I’m lucky I found her. Or did she find me?