Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hub City This Weekend: It's About Perspective

I'm going to be at the Hub City Writing Conference this weekend in Spartanburg, SC. I'm leading a fiction workshop, and my focus is narrative point of view in fiction. [Info on the conference registration follows, but my class is full. I think all the fiction classes are full! ]

The essential question for point of view: Who is telling the story?

Narrative point of view is about perspective. Through whose perspective or “consciousness” is the story viewed?

Besides the first person, "I"--which everyone seems to start out with-- there's first person plural, "we," and second person, "you." And third person "close," where we have access to the thoughts of one character. Third person omniscient is what I'm most interested in exploring, especially because not enough writers use it. Or don't start using it early is a "mature writer's technique," as Richard Russo mentions in his fabulous essay, "in Defense of Omniscience."

In Praise of the Narrator as Storyteller...with authority. And wit. And inside knowledge.

I love that witty know-it-all narrator in omniscient POV, the storyteller who takes you by the hand with authority, and leads you into the story.[ Or perches with you in the front row to watch the drama, or settles in for court-side seats.] The narrator who judges, predicts, warns, praises, moves back and forth in time.

This kind of narrator:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." -- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Debra Spark's essay, "Stand Back," from Curious Attractions: Essays on Fiction Writing, University of Michigan Press is immensly helpful and a pleasure to read. I'll be quoting from Debra on this subject, too:

“. . .many contemporary narratives are written in first person or in a third person that's a virtual stand-in for the first person. [In that case,] the third-person narrator has access to a single consciousness and rarely uses his or her status as narrator to offer up much that a single consciousness wouldn't provide. Your narrator need not be your protagonist. Or you, for that matter. Distance can, in some cases-for some stories-be a good thing. And even when distance isn't advisable, it can't hurt to consider options for the narrator-character relationship.” –Debra Spark

Hub City Writers Conference and Bookshop Opening
There are still spaces available  in fiction and non-fiction at the 10th annual Hub City Writing Conference July 30-Aug. 1 at Wofford College. This year's event features a keynote address by novelist Elizabeth Berg and Sunday morning panel session with representatives of small presses and literary magazines on the topic of "how to get published."
Published novelists, poets, essayists, and literary critics lead a series of workshops over three days that include intense instruction, challenging exercises, and an opportunity for feedback. To register, please visit

Friday, July 23, 2010

She's my tomato...and a recipe

Just letting it all hang out.

It's 100 today. That's oppressive for everything but tomatoes. This one was begging-- pick me!

If you want tomatoes roasted, just pick them at about 4  or 5 o'clock. Their skins are warm and thin, their flesh is tender and juicy.

The world is experiencing the hottest summer on record. Ever. The world.

So, anyway. Friday's Funkytime on a day like this begins with a bourbon slush.

Here's how to make it:

Gather up this stuff: 
  • 1 (6 ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1 (12 ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate
  • 1 cup  sugar
  • 2 cups strong brewed black tea
  • 2 cups bourbon whiskey
  • Some water-- 6  to 7 seven cups
  • mint sprigs from the garden

Mix it up and put it in the freezer. Overnight is best unless you're desperate. Serve it slushy. Gussy it up with sprigs of mint and lemon or orange wedges. Sit on the porch and sip your adult slushy and remember what December feels like.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shannon's Online Writing Workshops

I'm lucky to know Shannon Cain from grad school. We both earned--and I mean earned--a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing--"MFA"-- from Warren Wilson. That means we workshopped together, laughed, cried and drank and cried...and laughed.

Shannon has an incredible bio. She's an award-winning writer and an editor. And she's a creative entrepreneur-- her latest Big Important Idea is to start an online writing workshop for writers usually with an MFA or equivalent--writers serious about their craft.

The impressive Summer/Fall 2010 Online Post Graduate Workshops in Fiction schedule is HERE.
The next workshop starts August 23, with guest co-leader Robin Black. [Another brilliant woman and incredible writer.]
 How it works:
Workshops are six weeks in length and organized in a bulletin board format.  Each week, three participants post their stories for review and commentary by Shannon and the group. In the final half of the workshop, they will be joined by a guest co-leader. Each participant will have the opportunity to have one story or chapter workshopped by our guest.                           

Cost: $375. Register by emailing Shannon. Register early: groups are limited to 9 participants.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Today there's an interview with me on A Good Blog is Hard to Find

Among the questions, Did I face any challenges when writing SECRET KEEPERS? Besides the usual "What am I doing trying to write a novel? Am I crazy?" thoughts. . .


what is my favorite line from the book?
When I've read SECRET KEEPERS to a group, it's the line that gets the guffaws. Read MORE

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer Daze

It's deep hot summer. The first sunflower in my garden is cheerful and beautiful.  I mostly admire it behind an air-conditioned window.  It's that hot.

 You're beautiful, Sunflower!

Last summer, I read Anna Karenina and loved Anna Karenina not only because it is a page turner, and great literature, and Tolstoy is a genius, but because it's the perfect t summer read because it's set in Russia!  And being in St. Petersburg and Moscow--even vicariously-- is a welcome relief when you're in July, in South Carolina. 

This summer has been the hottest ever, but every summer I say that.

This summer, my refreshing cool addictive read isn't set in the Russian winter, but it's close.

It's Sweden.

So, unless you've been off the grid for a while, you've heard of Steig Larrson and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the other two Girl books. I'm almost through the second one.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

W.S. Merwin--perfect!

The Library of Cogress got it right.
They've named W.S. Merwin the new U.S. poet laureate.
Nice coverage here from the NYT.

A theme of Merwin's work--humanity's separation from nature. He has "an extraordinary interest and devotion to the natural world." He's won the Pulitzer twice.

He lives in Hawaii  where is said to have cultivated more than 700 endangered species of indigenous plants on a former pineapple plantation, "including the hyophorbe indica, a palm tree he helped save from extinction."

Although raised in the Western tradition, he said he feels more affinity with an Eastern one, “being part of the universe and everything living.” With that exhilarating connection comes responsibility, however. “You don’t just exploit it and use it and throw it away any more than you would a member of your family,” he said. “You’re not separate from the frog in the pond or the cockroach in the kitchen.”
 Merwin poem:
For a Coming Extinction,” from “The Lice”:

Gray whale
Now that we are sending you to The End
That great god
Tell him
That we who follow you invented forgiveness
And forgive nothing
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