Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why My Books Aren't on

. . . A free verse poem

In case you haven't heard--
Amazon and Macmillan are squabbling.
The feathers are flying.
The word
Is it has something to do with the price of Kindle books.
The kindlin' is igniting a big flame out [to mix my metaphors]
The full article is HERE from the NYTimes.
[You may have noticed--I'm not going for rhymes]

As of today, Amazon is no longer
selling Macmillan books from their site--
which means if you are a Macmillan author
[Holt, St. Martin's, Picador, FSG] You're the victim in this fight
Your books are no longer
on Amazon
it's that bad.
All because of an Apple

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pandora's Box

Pandora, in Greek mythology, opened the forbidden box, releasing all the evils of mankind.

Pandora's Boxxx-- is a  business across town that provides adult videos and myriad flavored, edible garments and contraptions.

Pandora is the planet in a certain James Cameron blockbuster.

But my Pandora is "the personalized internet radio service that helps you find new music based on your old and current favorites."

 You create your own channels.

You can go indie-- and hear cool stuff you'd never have stumbled on otherwise. You can go classical. You can go ambient, you can go childhood. I did.

America, the Eagles, David Crosby, the Beatles, streamed from one of my channels yesterday, unleashing all kinds of memories.

Pandora said, "Based on what you've told us so far, we're playing these tracks because they feature folk rock qualities, mild rhythmic syncopation, repetitive melodic phrasing, acoustic sonority and major key tonality."

And then Wildfire came on. You know, 'she ran out crying Wildfire! Wildfire!' That one. A pony-- lost in a blizzard...etc. Weep fest! I was 14 again. 

 So my Pandora channel might as well say:
"Based on what you've told us so far, we're playing this track becasue it features adolescent angst, hormonal surges, huge crushes, slam books, clammy hand=holding, crying a LOT, especially about ponies lost in blizzards."What does your channel say?

ADDENDUM: I should explain.
Crying on the shoulder of a flannel-shirted husband, saying, but he was planting by the light of the moon, and there was an early frost and he's waiting to join Wildfire and the beautiful woman from Yellow Mountain, to take him away from his hard times...don't you see? I KNOW it's only a song, but...

And then The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald came on, about the shipwreck, "And all that remains is the faces and the names/Of the wives and the sons and the daughters."

Can't you listen to happy songs? he says to me.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

On Whitman: Do I contradict myself?

I find it impossible to read Walt Whitman's poetry and not come away uplifted from his generous, omniscient, expansive, transcendent voice:

"I pass death with the dying, and birth with the new-washed babe .... and am not contained between my hat and boots"

 A 19th century house-builder-poet whose work I turn to when the 24-hour news cycle goes nuts:

Do I contradict myself? 
Very well, then, I contradict myself; 
(I am large—I contain multitudes.)

The perfect way to detox after a dose of Fox News:

I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d; 
I stand and look at them long and long. 
They do not sweat and whine about their condition; 
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins; 685
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God; 
Not one is dissatisfied—not one is demented with the mania of owning things; 
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago; 
Not one is respectable or industrious over the whole earth.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

WIPS: Bust It Up

It helps to see Works in Progress (WIPS) in a new light.  Printing out a draft, reading it aloud, having someone else read it aloud, even changing the font-- that helps.

It also helps to switch genres-- turn prose into poetry, a prose [treatment] into a script, turn a one-act play into a short get the idea. You see the work in  a new light... a new spot light, a new stop light, a new white hot light.

You can "bust it up" as we say around these parts-- by taking just a portion and "translating" it into a different genre.

Here's an example...from my WIP, a short story I'm working on. The story has a noir feel, it's grounded in realism with a hint of whimsy.   This morning, I kept being snagged by one of the paragraphs. So I busted it up, turned prose to poem, so I could figure out how to change it in the story.

The scene: an all night diner, late at night. Two women, strangers, [one of them agrees to bring a red rose to be recognized]  meet and arrange an illegal, underground deal...

I took the wilted rose from her.
I don’t know why. She seemed anxious
To be rid of it.
A rose dethorned, deleafed. A bud
That would never blossom.
Sometimes they brought fake roses,
Silk, or plastic.
Usually real though,
Like this one
Bought from an apron-wearing guy in a parking lot
Toting a bucket of rosebuds
Sheathed in plastic wrap.
I laid her rose on a white paper napkin.
It reminded me of funerals.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

3 Tips on Starting a Community Writing Program

It's been four years since I spearheaded the Writing Room, a community writing program sponsored by a local nonprofit, the Emrys foundation, here in Greenville, SC. FOUR years! Wow.

Anyone interested in starting a writing program in your community? Ask away-- I've learned a lot about what classes to offer and how to get the word out.

For starters, here are THREE questions to ask yourself if you're thinking about starting a writing program in your community:  

1. Are there writing classes or degreed creative writing programs already in your community?If there is, you need to offer and specialize in something different [less expensive classes, or  children's writing, etc.] Find a niche! If there aren't any writing programs around-- good. You may have an untapped community of writers who are aching for classes, mentors, and instruciton. [That was so in our case.]

2. Consider approaching an established nonprofit [an agency, univeristy or school] in your area to sponsor your program. A nonprofit  has  infrastructure in place [emails, members, accountants, insurance, building]. You can offer to be the program director of your writing program for them and handle all details and events.  What's in it for them? Among other things, a way to increase the number of members/students. You can start your own nonprofit, but that's time consuming. You can go private-- but you'll need to protect yourself with an umbrella insurance policy, accountants, etc.

3. Tap into author events already in place. If there is a reading series nearby, a bookstore that regularly has author signings, or a low-residence MFA program not too far away, you may be able to contact writers coming in or near your town and ask if they'd like to teach a one-day seminar. Offer  to pay lodging as well as an honorarium [we offer $500], with the understanding that if the class doesn't make within a week or more before the class-- a certian amount of pupils you know will cover the costs for the class-- you can cancel or postpone. Another thing-- ask a local bookstore to either sell the author's books on-site, or have a signing in the store after the seminar.

The best part is building a community of writers.  I often sit in the seminars and workshops myself, and learn a lot...we have fantastic writing teachers.

We're kickng off the new Writing Room schedule with a seminar on Sunday, Jan 24 [I've found Sunday afternoons are a good time for seminars]. Marc Fitten, novelist and editor, will lead it.

The Writing Room has a new line-up of classes starting this month. 
Our winter and spring schedule of seminars and workshops include the new--how to write a sex scene-- and the tried and true-- Ashley Warlick's popular "Focusing on Your Book Length Manuscript."
 Winter/Spring 2010 schedule includes:
  • Soup to Nuts: Some Notes on Publishing in the 21st Century
  • Writing Sex Without Being Tacky
  • How to Avoid the Slush Pile
  • 12 Essential Tips for Fiction Writers
  • Works in Progress: Focusing on Your Book-Length Manuscript
  • Write Your Life
  • Writing for Children & Young Adults: Creating Memorable Characters
  • Monthly Workshops: Out of Your Head and Onto the Pages*
For online class registration or information, visit the Writing Room page at
* The Writing Room will continue to offer monthly writing workshops for $5, "Out of Your Head and Onto the Pages," held at
Earth Fare's community room in Greenville.
Seminar: Notes on Publishing in the 21st Century

Marc Fitten, novelist and editor, will present a three-Marc Fittenhour seminar on writing and publishing.This seminar for writers will cover everything you need to know about the rapidly changing marketing and publishing business.
Topics include
: what is a saleable b
ook, and how do you know you have one? What are the deadly mistakes that kill a manuscript in the first five lines, paragraph, and page?

Novel ThoughtsMarc Fitten's debut novel, Valeria's Last Stand, is being published in ten countries and was a German bestseller.
He lives in Atlanta where he is the editor of The Chattahoochee Review, Atlanta's oldest journal.
Date: Sunday, January
Time: 2:00 -5:00 pm
Instructor: Marc Fitten
Location: Innovate Building Conference Room,
148 River St. Greenville

Cost: $45; $40 Emrys members
Register at
Note: Marc will be reading at the Reading Room, Monday January 25, 7 pm, at the Bohemian Cafe & Restaurant.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Writing the Mind

"I'm a stenographer of my mind. I write down what passes through it, not what goes on around me. I'm a poet."  --Allan Ginsberg
Writing down what passes through mind-- I really like that. I recognize the truth of it.

The Best Writing Tips Ever , an article by Amy Hertz in the the Huffington Post sums up Allan Ginsberg's favorite quotes--some of them his own-- illustrating that,  "In both meditation and in writing, Allen tried to help students learn to watch their mind and express their thoughts spontaneously in order to tap the spring of creativity that produced Ginsberg's greatest work."

 A few of Ginsberg's own gems:

"Notice what you notice."

 "Catch yourself thinking. "

"Observe what's vivid."

"Well while I'm here I'll
Do the work--and what's the Work?
To ease the pain of living.
Everything else, drunken

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Winter Confections

One of the good things about January is the winter confections.
<---This is a fountain last night  in front of the historical hotel a few blocks away from where I live. A cake...spun sugar...crystal sculpture?  Jack Frost is quite the artist.

And speaking of  the Frost family,  Robert is quite the poet, especially about winter.

I was stunned at age 12 to learn the quiet soothing beauty of Robert Frost's poem Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening is about contemplating suicide...and deciding to hang in there.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

When the night woods are dark and deep, I peruse seed catalogs, plant some indoor narcissus bulbs [they'll shoot up and bloom and fill the air with perfume], and read. Also take pictures of winter confections.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Creating Compelling Characters

The current issue of the New Yorker has a fascinating profile by Nick Paumgarten on Whole Food's CEO John Mackey. Mackey strikes me as a the ideal model of a compelling [complex!] character: vegan, corporate, spiritual, environmentalist, Ayn Rand fan, libertarian, voracious reader, strident op-ed writer.
Photo by Dan Winters

Character  Equation
(Credible + conflicted) = complex -  cliche = Compelling Character
Credible plus conflicted equals complex minus cliched for a grand total of Compelling Character

From my craft class handout:
Credible characters – main characters, especially—need to be complex. They need to have conflicting desires, both good and bad qualities.  These contradictory traits (also know as human traits!)— these conflicts within character-- are what Aristotle referred to as “consistent inconsistencies.”

To paraphrase Janet Burroway in Writing Fiction: “Whether [characters] are drawn from life or are pure fantasy…we must find them interesting, me must find them believable, and we must care about what happens to them.”

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Southern Social Networking Summit...

...Is where I am today. Break out sessions with flipcharts that look like this:

Social Media SSNS worthy quotes so far:

Gary Vaynerchuk, author of  Crush It:

The consumer internet—our society hasn’t grasped how revolutionary it is. It's only 15 years old... 'it hasn’t even had sex yet, and it dominates.'

Remember the last time AOL sent you a CD in snail mail? 15 years ago.

"We’re all in the business the storytelling business. Getting eyes and ears. Everyone plays the same game, and the biggest shift is happening now. "

"The gatekeepers have lost their keys."

"Social media is built on relationships. You can’t buy relationships. It’s printing press big."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lovely 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Decade...

I celebrated New Year's Day by cooking up a mess of Beans & Greens-- for luck and prosperity. 

Collard greens = cash
Black-eyed peas = coins and change [and stocks...yeah, why not?]

I don't use meat to season-- just olive oil, garlic, onions and hot peppers.

The sweet potatoes--with a pat of butter and a dash of brown sugar--  add a dash of color and sweet. . . the biscuit?  I ran out of corn meal for corn bread.

It was delish.
eXTReMe Tracker