Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Writing Room Spring Schedule

January...the perfect time to pore over seed catalogs and sow the seeds of creativity. Let your writing burst into bloom this spring:


The Writing Room is sponsored by the Emrys Foundation. Visit www.emrys.org for info.

Seminar: Out of Your Mind…And Onto the Pages

Mindy Friddle and Heather Magruder

This workshop is designed to stimulate creativity and generate ideas for fiction and nonfiction. We’ll use a series of short in-class writing exercises to inspire new work and deepen your writing. Come prepared to write in class, to share your exercises without fear or self-judgment, and above all, have some fun.

Saturday, February 21

2-4 pm

Location: Cleveland Street Branch YMCA

721 Cleveland St

Greenville, SC 29601

Cost: FREE. Space is limited, so please register.

Mindy Friddle is founder and director of the Writing Room. Her novel, The Garden Angel (St.Martin’s Press/Picador), was a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection. Her second novel, Secret Keepers, is forthcoming from St. Martin's Press in May.

Heather Magruder is a freelance writer, teaching artist and workshop facilitator. Her fiction has twice won the Piccolo Spoleto Fiction Open. She has presented writing and arts integration workshops across the country.

Writing Picture Books and Young Adult Novels

(Or… It’s a Cartoon Dog Eat Cartoon Dog World)

Melinda Long

If you always wanted to put that special children’s story your parents told you, or the one you made up for your own kids on paper, then this workshop is for you. Maybe you just enjoy the delightful story-telling qualities of a good picture book or young adult novel. Learn the basic skills and deeper complexities of writing a quality, marketable picture book or young adult novel and how to begin the publishing process. The emphasis of this course will involve picture books with a section of time spent on writing for young adults.

For beginning and intermediate writers

Six weeks, Tuesdays

Starts Tuesday, February 24

6:30 – 9 pm

Cost: $180; $170 Emrys members

Location: Innovate Building Conference Room, 148 River St. Greenville

Melinda Long is author of New York Times Bestsellers, How I Became a Pirate and Pirates Don’t Change Diapers.

Don’t Bother Me. I’m Reading.

Scott Gould

The first—and perhaps most important—step to becoming a decent writer is to become a decent reader. It’s one of the immutable laws of the literary universe: To excel at fiction you have to write a lot of words…and read a lot of words. In this course, we’ll concentrate on the reading part. We’ll read and examine amazing works of fiction, both classic and contemporary. And we’ll examine these works from a craft standpoint, allowing you to learn techniques that will ultimately inform your own fiction. But wait! Don’t order yet… because we’ll also provide weekly writing prompts, helping you generate ideas for future stories. The goal? To provide you with a solid, valuable reading foundation and a catalog of new story ideas.

Eight Weeks, Wednesdays

Starts Wed. Feb 25 [no class March 18]

6:30-9 pm

Location: Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, downtown Greenville

Cost: $240; $230 Emrys member

Scott Gould is Chair of the Creative Writing Department at the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts & Humanities. His poetry, fiction and nonfiction have been published in magazines and anthologies including Kenyon Review, Kansas Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, Black Warrior Review, New Stories From the South, and New Southern Harmonies, among others.

Seminar: Writing Your Novel

Mindy Friddle

How do you go about constructing a novel? Where do you start? How do you avoid getting bogged down in the middle? Some novelists balk at the idea of adhering to a framework, and don’t discover what happens in their novels until they’ve completed a draft. Others find following guidelines and rough outlines frees them up to focus on the flow of ideas. It’s helpful to discover which kind of writer you are. In this seminar, we’ll explore strategies not only for constructing a novel, but ways to navigate the immensity of such a long work. Using in-class writing exercises, samples from master writers, and discussion, you will be inspired and motivated to start—or finish-- your novel.

Note: Students are asked to bring along one favorite novel to the seminar. The novel can be of any kind—literary, contemporary, classic, mainstream, thriller, horror, young adult, romance—the only stipulation: a published novel you have read and count among your favorites.

One-day Seminar: Saturday, Feb. 28, 1-5 pm

Location: Vino 100 , Five Forks Promenade 2531 Woodruff Road Simpsonville, SC

Cost: $100; $95 Emrys members

Quality champagne and wine served throughout for $4-$6 a glass, and cheese platters available for purchase.

Mindy Friddle is founder and director of the Writing Room. Her novel, The Garden Angel (St.Martin’s Press/Picador), was a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection. Her second novel, Secret Keepers, is forthcoming from St. Martin's Press in May.

Fiction in a Flash

Heather Magruder

The “short short” story of 250 to 1,000 words, or “flash fiction,” has a market. More and more contests and literary publications, both print and online, have shifted their focus to include (or focus exclusively upon) flash fiction. Over three sessions, we’ll explore ways to craft a full story in just a few hundred words. We’ll read excellent examples of flash fiction, generate our own writing, and explore ways to pare down the word count while ramping up the energy of our stories. Also covered: how and where to submit your own piece of flash for publication.

Three Weeks, Thursdays

April 16, 23, 30

6:30-8:30 pm

Location: Innovate Building Conference Room, 148 River St. Greenville

Cost: $90, $85 Emrys members

Heather Magruder is a freelance writer, teaching artist and workshop facilitator. Her fiction has twice won the Piccolo Spoleto Fiction Open. Heather is on the South Carolina Arts Commission’s Artist Roster, is listed on Southern Artistry and is currently enrolled in the MFA program at Queens University. She has presented writing and arts integration workshops across the country.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Winter Blooming

Lenten Roses in my back shade garden this week and the exquisitely perfumed winter jasmine.

"The courage of some small and apparently fragile flowers never ceases to amaze me. Here are we humans, red-nosed and blue-cheeked in the frost and the snow, looking dreadfully plan; but there are the little flowers coming up, as brave and gay as can be."--Vita Sackville-West

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Can we talk about writing about talk...?

All the information you need can be given in dialogue.
- Elmore Leonard

I taught a seminar on Writing Dialogue for the Writing Room on Saturday. Preparing and leading a writing seminar on a craft element always turns out to be a big refresher course for me.

Here are a few notes from the seminar:
What is dialogue? Dialogue is conversation between two or more characters.
1. One mark of good written dialogue is that it is doing more than one thing at once:
• Advancing the plot
• Revealing character
• Providing “subtext”

is what's not said but implied. Dialogue is often a mask for unexpressed feelings. Or even for lying. People frequently don't say what they mean. It makes for interesting dialogue if the reader knows that someone isn't saying what she means, or is lying. It creates tension.

2. What is not said is as revealing as what is said, especially regarding emotion. People in crisis are often at their least articulate. Think about it: The rhythm of speech changes according to our emotions. An angry person will be short and sharp. A person in love will be long and languid and dreamy.

3. As Francine Prose mentions in her book, Reading Like a Writer, dialogue in fiction is better than "real" dialogue. Fictional dialogue should be an improved, cleaned up, compressed, economical, and smoothed-out version of the way people talk. And yet, it should sound "natural."

4. Dialect is challenging and easy to overdo. "Dialect should always be achieved by word choice and syntax, and misspellings kept to a minimum. They distract and slow the reader, and worse, they tend to make the character seem stupid rather than regional." --Burroway, WRITING FICTION

Good examples of dialect (where syntax makes dialect clear): "Don't rush me none."
"Run up yonder and tell her."
Bad example: "Doan rush me nun, Ah be gwine." (caricature)
Ron Rash (ONE FOOT IN EDEN), Richard Price (LUSH LIFE) and Annie Proulx ("Brokeback Mountain") are writers who are masters of dialect.

5. A few ways to improve your dialogue writing skills:
Eavesdrop. Start paying close attention to people’s conversations in public places. Write down snippets or intriguing lines in a journal.
Read your dialogue aloud "to make sure it is comfortable to the mouth, the breath, and the ear. If not, then it won't ring true as talk." --Burroway, WRITING FICTION.
Also, have people read your dialogue to you. You’ll be able to hear the rhythm and cadence of the sentences, how easy it is to pronounce the words and syllables, how long each character’s dialogue is.
Keep Practicing. The best way to improve dialogue writing skills is to read it (you’ll learn to spot and pay attention to authors who are good at writing dialogue) and to write more dialogue. The more you practice writing it, the more you’ll come to understand the cadence, rhythm and timing of natural-sounding dialogue.

Oh, and Happy MLK Day everyone.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Good News Monday

It's Monday, the perfect day to post some great news to start the week off. There's a lot of good going on in the world, ya'll:

1. Fiction Readers
Fiction reading is UP UP UP according to the newest report form the National Endowment for the Arts. Here's the NYT article, "Fiction Reading Increases For Adults" with the details: ..."the proportion of overall literary reading increased among virtually all age groups, ethnic and demographic categories since 2002. Increased most dramatically among 18-t0-24-year-olds, who had previously shown the most significant declines." Yay.

2. Vegetarians. I love that the younger generation is SO into caring for the Earth. Young folks are the new stewards of the environment who take their roles to heart. Here's more from ABC News about a new report from the Government: 1 in 200 kids are vegetarians-- the main reason? Concern for animals. Oh, my children, you rock!

3. Spring Bulbs
Those harbingers of spring-- and hope--the narcissus and daffodil bulbs are up...in January. Elizabeth, a character in my first novel, The Garden Angel, thought of them as "green fingers reaching skyward." Here's an emerald hand, beside the stone possum, from my back garden:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The B word

Now HERE'S an adjective--in a headline, to boot-- that I don't think has ever been used to describe me... and without a trace of irony, too.

Maybe it's just the company you keep.

All kidding aside, I'm grateful to have been included
in this article.

Photo credit: Josh Norris, TALK maga

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Eager Reading

I can't WAIT to get my hands on the newest books from two of my favorite authors:

LARK AND TERMITE by Jayne Anne Phillips. Her novel, MACHINE DREAMS, is a treasure; a book I reread for its lyrical beauty. Reading Phillips' fiction always reminds me of the power and sheer pleasure of language. Here's the glowing review of Lark and Termite from Michiko Kakutani in today's NYT...and here's an excerpt.


THE RED CONVERTIBLE by Louise Erdrich, selected and new stories from a prolific writer whose work seems to get better and better.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Taming the Monkey Mind

Happy 2009.

I spent a couple of golden hours on New Year's Day at a meditation class, "A Yogic Approach to Making and Keeping Resolutions for Constructive Change" taught by Dan Salmon and Jan Maslow.

I usually make typical New Year's resolutions and goals based on something I want to change or improve, but in the last couple of years it's occurred to me there's a better way of goal-setting.

First, I've discovered it's always better to work from your strengths, talents, passions, than your weaknesses. (The best managers, teachers, leaders know this.) Focus on the positive and it strengthens and brightens, eclipsing the negative. Spending a lot of time on correcting weaknesses drains energy and wastes time. In Zen-speak, it's not accepting What Is. Besides, what you resist, persists. (Mother Theresa: "I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there.")

Goal setting from a yogic perspective emerges during meditation, from a quiet mind.
I know, I know. Easier said than done--but practicing does help tame the "monkey mind." And I have a very hyper jittery monkey mind. The kind that jumps and pirouettes and hisses and frisks passersby for peanuts with its little leathery hands.

Here are the steps for goal setting, as our teachers explained yesterday:

1. Finding Stillness. Let go of all concerns about goals; be open to the ever-present stillness, calm and joy within.

2. Goals emerging from stillness. Observe--without judging-- what goals/visions emerge from your deepest consciousness.

3. Dealing with obstacles from a place of inner stillness. Without reaction or judgment, see what negative "stories" you are telling yourself (from that incessant narrator in your head, that chattering little monkey) about who you are and what obstacles you think may present themselves on the way to achieving your goals. Replace the negative stories with positive ones.

4. Creative visualization. When you are calm and centered, experience what it feels like to have achieved the goal. What does the success feel like now? Picture it as if it is already a reality. A number of professional athletes often use such visualization techniques to improve their performances. Modern neuroscience supports the power of visualization.

5. Practice. Develop a regular practice of going within, centering, and then, from that place of calmness, use creative visualization to reinforce the progress toward your goals.
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