I spent our ‘extra’ day, 29th February indulging in two writing workshops. One was a novel workshop, which will span four months. A group of writers email a number of chapters of their current work in progress for edits and suggestions to each other and then email them back for revisions.
The second workshop, held by The Writer’s Foundation of Strathcona County, was a monthly creative workshop, covering many aspects, styles and types of writing. As we are approaching poetry month in April, we covered different types of poetry. I have to admit poetry is not my forte, so it did stretch my creativity. We covered six styles. I am sharing my attempt of a coupled rhyme (rhyme in pairs AA BB CC). The words we had to incorporate were chosen at random. Clock, rock, storm, born, wall, tall. Five minutes later I achieved this:
The fisherman looked at the clock
Then walked to the big rock
He knew it was time with the storm
For the creature to be born
The waves rose up as a wall
And there the beast stood so tall
Do you have a certain style of poetry that you prefer?
Lavinia by Ursula K Le Guin – my review:
To be immersed again in ancient Italy was a joy for me. I learned Greek & Roman literature in school and was transported back to the world of gods, mythology and mystery.
A wonderfully written narrative, anyone would enjoy.
I have been the advocate of prompts to spark imagination ever since I began writing. In fact my first ‘real’ piece of writing was the result of a three word prompt. Here it is:
Fire, Clock & Certainty.
Fire light flickered on the walls and ceiling as Joan sat with a glass of her favorite red wine. Watching the flames lick the logs and send little sprays of ash and sparks upward, she tried to calm her mind. It was a certainty that Thomas would be angry with her once he knew of her accident. The clock ticked as its hands made their gradual path towards 9 o’clock and the inevitable argument.
Joan had tried to cover up the dented fender with a casually placed cloth but Thomas would immediately know something was wrong as she had parked in his place in the garage. Such a creature of habit, her husband he had rules and very particular likes and dislikes. His routine had to be strictly adhered to or there was hell to pay. She knew he would go over the top with his recriminations and probably ban her from driving for months.
The clock struck nine and she heard the garage door open as Thomas drove up to it. Straining her ears she heard his car drive forward and then shriek to a halt. His place was taken up by her car now he would be mad. A slam of the driver’s door told her he was walking through to the kitchen and she could feel his presence enter the lounge.
She squeezed the trigger slowly as the instructor had told her and Thomas’ face flew apart. No more shouting, no more rules, no more living in fear. Watching Thomas’ foot twitch as the life left him gave her a rare feeling of joy. No more tormentor.
Since those humble beginnings, I have continued to use prompts, whether words or pictures to engage my Muse. At Christmas, I was given a Word of the Day desk calendar and will utilize the words to create a short story or poem. These is the result of the first 10 days of January. As you can see the words are unique and gave me more of a challenge.
Jensen stood in line with the other candidates listening to the bloviate speech of the head of the facility. As he exalted the program’s cathexis in their training, noting one man stood out above the rest. Jensen saw the commander’s eyes glance towards him and he an epiphanic sensation went through him – he would be the one, it was ineluctable after all, and his tests had all proved top marks coupled with his deportment in any given scenario. Jensen knew his was palmary among these excellent candidates in the chrononaut program.
His first glimpse of the other universe as he emerged as the first time traveler was an elaborately set table with a kinara lighting the room with a redolent kolacky set in the middle.
As writers we are always immersed in our own creative world, full of locations, characters, plot lines and scenarios – whether imaginary or real. However, sometimes our brains become stagnant, unresponsive or just plain tired. To leave our current ‘work in progress’ can help us greatly to refresh and regroup. That is where prompts come into their own. With an unrelated word choice or image, comes new insight and fun. They maybe a quick ten minute exercise or, as so many do, take on a life of their own propelling you into a story you had not previously imagined. Three prompts I found lent themselves to the creation of a novella.
The easiest way to use a prompt is to let the initial thought flow and just let it take you wherever feels right. It maybe result in a poem, short story, a character study, a word association or something else. Many will be forgotten and not saved but some ignite that creativity to renew.
When I began writing, I used to spend a lot of time using a site called, Espresso Story, where the stories were 25 words or less. It helped me define a story in a few words until I felt able to increase my word count and descriptions.
Here are a few examples.
The stick flew My dog pounced And collided with him That’s how we met My love and I
Trapped but guilty to move on Loving but alone in a crowd Sleeping but horror in her dreams Smiling but crying within
Free of her kidnapper She fled the horrific basement Running along a darkened road Through torrential rain The driver never saw her
Tantrum: But I want it!!!! You’ll get it alright
Karma: We knew each other from before, Have loved in the present, Now to guarantee our future.
Boat Trip: The boat tips, Water seeps in, No land in sight, Help!
This week I will be attending a special supper with a member of my writing group who resides in Newfoundland. Not only is it exciting to see her, for her visits are few and far between but to really connect with her rather than on social media. A group of us will share stories and gossip (of the writing kind of course!) at a local restaurant and then attend the normal monthly writing meeting. I know, Sharon is really looking forward to the evening especially the meeting as she so misses the camaraderie of the group.
Our meeting will run in its usual format with a review of upcoming events, submissions for the newsletter and our Canada 150 book project and then a writing prompt to inspire the Muse. After this we will share our current writing projects for constructive critique.
After the workshop I attended last week I did try out an exercise suggested by Jennifer. Read the first five pages of your manuscript and then answer the question, does it give the reader 12-15 points to introduce who, why, when and where of your protagonist. Obviously, some genres do not start with such an ‘info dump ‘ but if your reader can get a sense of who the protagonist is that will help engage them and make them turn the page. It was an interesting exercise with my current five manuscripts and I did change one first paragraph.
Have you tried this technique?
Did it help you identify a revision?
My major event will be on Sunday. It has been months of exhaustive organizing by both boards of the Arts & Culture Council and the Diversity Committee and we hope for good weather and large crowds! Heritage Day of Strathcona County may become an annual event (what am I letting myself in for?) if this initial event does well. With numerous vendors, performers, food providers, music and even a special free shuttle and a magician, we have done all we can.
June 8, 2017: The Writing Stick: Sharing Indigenous Stories
“The Writing Stick: Sharing Indigenous Stories” conference takes place June 8 to 10, 2017 at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta. It will foster conversations on editing and publishing Indigenous stories and writers. The conference is intended for Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants from all walks of life including publishers, editors, writers, storytellers, filmmakers, academics.
Welcome to the WGA Annual Conference 2017: Juxtapositions! This is where writers from all across Alberta come together to socialize, network, learn, and celebrate writers and writing. We’ve asked over a dozen authors to share their talents and experiences in fiction, short story, poetry, and journalism through keynote speeches, author interviews, panel discussions and more. And Saturday night we’ll take it up a notch with our Literary Awards Gala. Join us June 10 and 11 at Lister Centre, U of A campus in Edmonton!
Unfortunately my creative writing has taken a backseat this last week while I compiled a schedule, contact sheet and action requirements for the Heritage Day my Board and another organization are holding in June. In all I spent seven hours going through hundreds of emails to find contacts and actions made and needed. Having so many people involved is wonderful for the work share but a logistical nightmare. Now it is done I feel confident that everyone knows the status of what is happening, who is attending and special information.
After all that creating my writers foundation Board’s agenda for tonight’s meeting was a piece of cake!
I will use some of my long weekend to type out the personal experience notes my ghost writing client gave me and insert it into the draft book. I’ll also be putting the finishing touches to the workshop I am presenting at a writers conference on 22nd April – I want to ensure it is informative but also fun.
Hopefully I can also take some time to continue my edit and revision of The Twesome Loop. It is tantalizingly close to the finish prior to going back to beta-readers.
How is your current work in progress coming along?
The Faraday Girls by Monica McInerney- I am on the last few chapters of this wonderful narrative – I will not spoil the ending for anyone wanting to read it – that’s so unfair. So will put up a Goodreads review once I’m finished which will be this long weekend for sure.
The Other Life by Ellen Meister – so excited to read this story. If you could choose a different life, one you actually knew about – would you?
Do you have a recommendation?
Do you want to hook up on Goodreads? Follow the link on the side bar to my account.
Join a writers’ group so you can gain support from the writing community and enjoy camaraderie in your craft.
From personal experience a writers group is invaluable for any writer as long as you receive constructive critique, your style and voice are acknowledged and respected and there is a strong sense of support and encouragement. My group: www.wfscsherwoodpark.com encourages writers any stage, any age of their writing career. We have local and virtual members.
Be observant. The people and activities that surround you will provide you with great inspiration for characters, plots, and themes. (And people watching is so much fun!)
Use writing exercises to improve your skills, strengthen your talent, and explore different genres, styles, and techniques. My favorite ‘inspirational kick’ is finding a word or picture prompt. I create a prompt on our website every Saturday – scroll back and find one that ‘speaks’ to you – top right on the calendar www.wfscsherwoodpark.com