Memory as Writing Fodder

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Someone posted this and a flood of memories came rushing back.

Some years ago. I remember a boy in class erased his grades, his parents signed it, and he returned it with grades changed back to the original. The teacher thought embarrassing people in front of class was part of proper punishment. I felt bad for him. He obviously had problems and it seemed she picked on him all the time. His name was Danny, a small, skinny boy with dark hair. In today’s schools, he’d be heavily labeled and receive the help he needed. However, then, it seemed his parents were at a loss as to what to do and the teacher didn’t help the situation by her repeated calls home and repeated screaming at him in the classroom. (The students in class actually did not make fun of Danny. As I recall, most tried to befriend him.)

Many of the people I grew up with didn’t make it to adulthood, others ended up in prison. Gunshots, bombs, and even threats of poisoned darts surrounded us.

I think I recall Danny’s family moving away. I hope Danny survived and went on to do great things.

*

Memory is rich in writing fodder, all you have to do is mine it, add a few twists, and you have a story people can relate to.

It doesn’t have to be your story. You can finish someone else’s story: Perhaps Danny grew up, got married, had three daughters and is CEO of his own company. He might be one of the original advocates for children with special needs. He’s helped thousands, remembering his own pain and problems in a classroom where the students showed more compassion than the teacher.

Dad Shines

“‘Dad Shining’ is a terrible name for a story.,” said a certain someone.

I replied, “The Chicago Tribune must have liked it. They’re going to publish it.”

I worked on “Dad Shining” for some time, not quite knowing what the ending needed. Then it struck me:

We grow up not really understanding our parents or why they do the things they do. When we become adults, if our maturity doesn’t lend itself to that understanding then it should lead us to empathy.dad-shining-cover

We can’t possibly know our parents challenges in the same way we comprehend our own. Therefore, we must let things go, forgive, and move on. (Whatever that forgiveness means to you. Don’t be tortured by the past)

My father passed four years ago this month. The story “Dad Shining” was published two months before he passed. (For which, I’m happy.)

It’s not a story of my father, nor of me. But it is a story of a child coming to some sort of peace with himself and extending compassion to the father he never quite understood.

 

(A little trivia for you – the cover was taken in Virginia where Poe’s mother is buried)

 

 

Summer Writing Goals

Businessman Writing the Word "Goals"Throughout the year, I set and reset goals. I feel it’s a waste of time and energy to wait until the first of the year of the 6 month point. I set them when I feel the need.

Last June, I set a goal to write six short stories for the month. I completed four, finished the rough draft on the fifth, and started the sixth. Not bad. Two of those stories were accepted within the next thirty days and all of them have been published by this June.

This June, however, I feel I must set other goals. I have multiple projects going and have been too distracted and busy – finals, family, travel – to get anything significant work done on them; therefore, by the end of this week, I’ve decided to set new goals for my summer writing.

I’m not sure yet what those will be. I have a novel that needs rewriting, a novella that needs editing, and some other projects begun. I need to set a schedule – again – and to focus on one project or another.

I don’t find a problem with enough time, to focus on multiple projects, but when other areas of my life have infringed on my writing schedule I do find it difficult to focus on so many.

What are your summer writing goals?

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An Intimate Portrayal of Poe

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It’s been two years since I did the live interview on Dark Times. It was about the Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe.

Since then, I’ve written a book on Poe – Eddy – a fictional account of an actual even in Poe’s life. I read selections from that novella at the Poe Museum in Virginia.

I plan to write more about Poe, but I’m shoulder deep in a ton of others. By which I mean – I have a novel to rewrite, a novella to finish editing, a new novel started, and a ton of other notes and fresh projects on my desk.

Some writers find working on multiple projects impossible. I don’t, but I do find it harder to focus on one writing project when my life is so busy in every other area. When I’m on a regular writing schedule and my life is calm, I don’t have a problem.

 

The Flow of Writing…

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Sometimes, You Have to Laugh

I received a few rejections recently which made me sort of giggle.

One story was called “Friends, Lovers, and Liars” and it’s about all of the above. I originally submitted it to a journal who had a call for “Deception of all types.”

In the response I received, it seemed I’d offended the editor. “This isn’t about Deception. I don’t know how you think it was. It doesn’t fit our call at all….”  And he went on for a few more lines.

giggleThe story, later published in Pilcrow and Dagger, follows a main character who lies to the husband who is cheating on her, she helps a friend get a job by fudging some truths as reference, and discovers her sister can’t keep her stories straight. It’s all about deception. But something in it struck a nerve with the editor and it was rejected.

The next story is “Mirrors” and is about two sisters and their family; however, it does carry a supernatural element.

It was suggested that I make it more terrifying because it wasn’t frightening enough. Fair enough critique if I indeed was attempting to write horror, but I wasn’t.

I do appreciate the more personalized responses, but when we read others’ works we should make certain not to put our own issues or agendas into their work. That is what makes us good readers, good critique partners, and good editors.

stay-present-and-enjoy-the-journey-1068x712.jpgThe story belongs to the author, and while we can offer suggestions for improvement it should be to better the story they want to accomplish – not change it to suit our own preferences.

Rejections need to be appreciated. Sometimes they offer valuable information and tell us we need to do more work, and sometimes they miss the mark and we thank the editors – appreciating the time they took to respond at all! – then sit back and enjoy this crazy writing journal we’ve chosen.

 

When I’m Not Writing

the-incredible-hulk-tv-best-episodesConjure images of the old David Banner/Incredible Hulk, “You won’t like me angry.” That’s the way I feel when I’m not writing. Not that I’m angry – I just feel, “you won’t like me when I’m not writing.”

When I’m not writing, I’m fidgety, distracted, and I don’t sleep well. There’s too much going on my head for me to relax.

Do other writers feel the same?