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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Home again

. . . home again, jiggedy jog. The SeaScape Writers Retreat in Connecticut last weekend was a super experience for me. Three published writers (S.W. Hubbard, Roberta Isleib, and Hallie Ephron) acting as facilitators and eighteen writers whose expertise ranged from novice to published met on the shores of Long Island Sound for some very intensive critiquing and story analyses. Of the six women in my group (it was, after all, an off-shoot of "Sisters" in Crime), I read no duplicate story ideas. Each was amazingly unique.

The weather was perfect which was kind of sad because we didn't spend a lot of time outside. The day started at 9 a.m. and wound down with a glass of wine at 9 p.m. It was a weekend jam-packed full of workshops, critiques, discussions, and re-writes. Sessions on openings, action scenes, character development, plots, building suspense. It was grrrrr-eat!

Another plus was that each of us had opportunities to meet one-on-one with the authors for some personal feedback.

Do I sound like I'm gushing? I guess I am. I had hoped for at least one atta-girl and I got a couple. I came back a very happy camper. Now it's back to the keyboard so I can incorporate some of those insightful comments.

If anyone is interested in next year's event, the website to follow is

Keep on keeping on, folks. I will


Monday, September 14, 2009

fear of flying ditto

Two days from now, I fly to Hartford, CT, where I will pick up a car and motor the fifty-plus miles down to Long Island Sound. The Seascape Writers Retreat doesn't start until Friday, so I'll have a whole day to re-gather the wits I'm sure to leave on the plane. I'm not exactly a white-knuckle flyer (Tums controls the nausea), but it has been seven years since I've flown, and I know things have changed . . . a lot.

I will wear clogs so I don't have to unlace my favorite sneakers. I will pay attention to the instructions and carry only travel-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, make-up, et. al. and put as many of those little suckers into a clear plastic, quart-sized baggie as it will "comfortably hold." I am allowed ONE clear plastic baggie. One. I think my biggest fear is that the wires and plugs needed to keep my electronics charged--telephone and computer, with keyboard and mouse because I absolutely can't type on a laptop--may get me nominated for an "open the bag lady" examination (comma purposely omitted).

I will keep a notebook and pen handy during my hours-long lay-over in Atlanta, looking to thumbnail sketch a few dozen unique characters that I can involve in my next novel. Actually I'm working up an idea for a new mystery that's exciting me to death, and I can't wait to get at it. 'Course after the burst of energy that produces the first 20 or so pages, I'll put it down and continue on with the other two novels I have in process. The new one will be there waiting for me when I'm able to get back to it, probably after the first of the year. But I just HAVE to see those initial "jump-in feet-first" words in double-spaced lines of Times New Roman, 12 point font, an inch in from each side of the page. They reassure me that I have not succumbed to writer's block.

I wish you all good writing.

Keep on keeping on, folks. I will.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fear of Flying

No, I'm not talking about Erica Jong's novel. I mean I am afraid to fly in airplanes. I have been known to drive 1500 miles practically nonstop to avoid flying. Yet, tomorrow I'm boarding a plane and heading to New England. Yes, this aerophobe is planning to fly on 9/11. To Logan airport in Boston, no less. And worst of all, my flight leaves at 6:40 AM. Way too early to drink myself into an oblivious walking coma.

So, how is this related to writing (besides the fact that my trip will culminate in the Seascape Novel Retreat a week from tomorrow)? Well, here is where JK Rowling comes in.

Everyone's heard the story of how she wrote the first Harry Potter as an unemployed single mom toiling away with ink-stained fingers in a coffee shop, rocking her baby's stroller with a foot while conjuring her story about an orphan who discovers on his 11th birthday that he's a wizard.

A little less known is how she got the idea in the first place. Before the coffee shop, even before the baby, JK Rowling was riding the train when the first seeds of the story came to her. It was a four-hour train ride, and she didn't have so much as a pencil on her to write anything down. For me, that would have been the end of the story, but she says it was a godsend. She was forced to plan out all the major plot points of the entire story arc in her head.

Tomorrow I will be stuck on a plane or in an airport for 7 1/2 hours. One of the workshops at the retreat will be on how to write a synopsis, a skill for which I have absolutely no talent. In order to prepare for that much needed class, I plan on using all that time to finish plotting out my current WIP so I'll have the raw material from which to create a masterful and agent-enticing synopsis. And that's where any similarities between me and JK Rowling end.

Besides the obvious differences, I am planning on carrying ample writing periphrenalia with me--as much as I can fit into a carry-on bag. Other women may travel with makeup, lotions, and tissues. I'll have pens, pencils, and paper. And maybe some tissues. I will probably cry, possibly several times, during this process. After all, I was the girl who always outlined my high school essays AFTER I'd written them because I just couldn't seem to manage it the other way around.

So, my plan is that when I finally land in Boston at 1 PM eastern time, I will have a preliminary outline of my novel.

Wish me luck on both accounts!


Wednesday, September 9, 2009


In honor of the date, I'd like to share 9 random thoughts about writing that have come to me recently.

1. All showing and no telling is as bad as all telling and no showing. The best writers have discovered how to find the right amount of each for the story they are telling. I am not one of them.

2. I used to be terrified before my critique groups met because I was afraid of what they were going to say about my work. I am now terrified before my critique groups meet because I'm afraid of what I am going to say about theirs. Am I being too critical? Could something I say destroy someone's writing dream. Yes, it's all about me.

3. That doesn't mean that my crit group doesn't have the power to make me cry. Or rant. Or both. But once I'm over the initial gut reaction, I love them for their honesty. I'd rather hear about the warts from them than not hear about the problems from agents and editors.

4. Mysteries may have a "formula" but that doesn’t make them easy to write.

5. Sometimes ideas do come to me while I'm playing spider solitaire, reading email, surfing the web. And a few of those are even pretty good. Sometimes the work has to percolate a bit before the problems can be ironed out.

6. I can't see the flaws in my own work. This is nothing new. It just amazes me that no matter how much I study, how hard I work to improve my craft, this one thing remains constant, steadfastly refusing to budge. Of course this is why I need to make sure I don't alienate the people in my crit groups! I need them!

7. No matter how much I think I've gotten a character figured out, he or she still has the power to surprise me. When does a character finally gel? After the first draft? The tenth? Or is it just me—can I only write chameleons?

8. I used to consider myself pretty tech savvy. Now, I feel like technology has left me in the dust. As Denis Leary puts it in the Hulu commercials, it all "bliggety blogs, facey-spaces, and tweety pages." I know an internet presence is necessary for a writer. But how much is enough?

9. I really like being part of a community of writers—I could discuss writing for hours and never get bored.

Right now I'm supposed to be packing for a visit to my daughter followed by a writing retreat in CT. I'm ecstatic about both! But I've wasted several hours because I can't decide what writing books I'll want (all the while knowing I probably won't have time to look at any of them!). So, no more procrastinating.

In the meantime, I'd love it if you shared 9 things about writing and the writing life!

Happy 9 Day!