Week 7/ Keep the Pen Moving - Page 3
I especially liked the line 'tiny agents of destruction."
But when the woman put the bag in my hand, smiling, murmuring, "Here you go", as if I had been standing here, waiting for her and this bag, instead of just walking out of the lecture hall into the bright sunlight and hurrying hoardes of busy people, I took it. If my mind hadn't still been occupied with the "why's" and "how's" of "Writing Great Fiction", I never would have accepted the the bag.
Now that I havethe bag, one question begs to be answered. There are soooo many people hustling back and forth, bumping me even. If the bag contains, oh say, a million dollars, I don't want anyone else to see it! A piece of red tissue covers the contents of the bag, protects my millions in cash---or maybe jewelry!---from strangers sight as well as mine.
I hurry back inside the hall. I will use the restroom, go in a stall, remove the tissue. It is difficult to make my way inside while so many are still in the process of leaving. I have to push my way through, protecting my bag from being jostled too severely. It is, I notice, heavy, weighty. It pulls at my arm but the weight is evenly distributed, the heft is not the result of a bulky or unwieldy item, rather a solid, steady, even weight across the bottom of the bag.
As I push open the door and enter one of the small stalls, my eagerness to peek into the unknown depths of the bag fades. Less pleasant things than money and gold might lie in the bags secretive depths.
My first unpleasant, if unlikely, thought is mice! That they don't weigh enough to be the source of the heft doesn't matter anymore than the fact that the item--or items!-- within are still and silent, as a bag full of mice certainly wouldn't be.
Logic wills out after a quick mental debate. But under NO conditions do I now wish to open the bag while locked in a tiny stall. Too many "what ifs".
The bathroom is still busy with after-lecture business. I decide to find a safer, more open, yet more private place to peer into the bag. I exit the building and walk a few blocks to the park, sit on a dilapidated old wooden bench. My excitement at the excellent lecture is nearly forgotten as I contemplate the bag, it's possible contents. I check all around, making sure I am alone, unwatched. I push the bag as far to my right as I can with my foot, making room for anything frightening to jump out and away from me. With exagerated care I reach over and remove the red tissue and look inside my bag.
A free write with some editing. I'm looking for how to make it come more alive, how to make the street, the bathroom, more real. Feel free to offer advice.
I might add more sensory stuff to bring the setting and bag alive. Not enough to keep the reader from using the imagination, but some description of the street bustle, the bathroom with echoing voices against the tile and such. And probably not toooo much on the bag, because you want us all to keep wondering.
Tanya, back to the last thread for a sec. Thanks for the encouragement and advice about writing the query. I'm working on a new one, and I'll post it here as soon as it's done.
charmarty, in the beginning, Tanya said we should write everything out longhand to connect with it better(or something like that) and then type. It's what I do anyway. "trying to hard' was beautiful. I absolutely understood the point of it, and thought calling your dh the 'other' waas a good move, though normally I hate it when someone does that it fit the piece, though, and made it seem like she was hte other half. I have NO advice, just lovely!
heatherdeg, I find supoosedly true pieces like yours to be the hardest to leave feedback on! I thought it was well-written and expressed your feelings, but maybe not the depth of feeling I expected. Does this hurt you? Your 'secret desire'! Ah, it comes through much more strongly there! Your pain and fright, your dh's pain. The fruit tree reference is very powerful.
violafemme, I don't think your piece was sappy at all! Very pretty, made me want to meet your dh, I like the "dances with abandon adn sings with amazement." esp! Just read you 'trying too hard' piece. Forget feedback for a sec. I used to feel exactly like that! You are a writer! You are you, first, of course, but do not wait for permission to be a writer to be bestowed on you. Get some books at the library on writing, I've found most of them to be very encouraging and they've given me the courage to 'think' of myself as a writer.
lavender, ohh, I dated like that too! You use a lot of similies. I'm working on using them and found yours to work so well. I like the rubber band and jigsaw reference, thought they worked. In your 'where the heart lives piece' I noticed the same things, your use of similies! I'm going to use your pieces to help me!
mommadance, I think if you came back to your gardening reference form the beginning of the piece, it would help.
Norhtport, as a mother of twins, that piece really struck me. I like the the reuse of the word 'happy', it made me remember how it was with the two, crying one minute....
Curious (this is post 25 for anyone I've confused!) I did have some trouble, mostly with the longer sentences. I will admit that this is a problem is most likely more mine than yours, as I have it with other authors, famous, well known ones! I didn't notice verb tenses changing, so I guess that wasn't an issue for me. I did understand the purpose of the letter.
mama o THe first piece was fuuny, well-done. I really liked the way you compare your heart to different things in the second piece, the descriptions made it come alive. I'd cut the last paragraph if I were you. I didn't think it fit as well.
zenfulmama, I think it was going great till you ran out of time. (Your poor eye!) I think you just need to go over the last paragraph, find an ending. Whoa! JUst infished the short story! Fuego, dead! Real surprise that the ending was so literal. (not bad, just shock) You might want to include some feeding of the other dog, as a balance?
My goodness, I made it! I'll never wait til hte end of the week, or the middle oif the next, again!
Procrastination, that's what I should write about.
Um, what was in the bag? I honestly don't know. It was a writing assingment in a book I tried, you weren't allowed to have it be a baby! That was my first instinct. Maybe that's why. I think the voices echoing off the tile walls is just the kind of imagery I need!
Thanks everyone. THis is fun, both geting help and tryin got give it. I hope I 'did' feedback right!
random writing thoughts and resourcesMy thoughts 'bout the handwriting vs. typewriting original entries...about this...well, I read and understand Tanya's guidelines regarding our homework/writing excersises. However, if I am to get any writing done whatsoever, sometimes it has to be directly into my electronic journal first and then copy and paste to entry as I can type and nurse my baby cakes at the same time, but can not handwrite in my journal because all he wants to do is grab the pen (now, he is pulling my hair....) I find it to be very cathartic to journal it out, but usually I have to semi guess at the time between the interruptions, etc. and type it in while nursing a baby--other times i can steal away early in the am or late in the pm, naptime, etc. and write into my journal, then type to the 'puter...
i missed our group, and like a jilted lover went searching elsewhere for affections. I found some great writing tips and resources that I would like to share with you. Some of these sites and tips you might have already seen, but maybe this will help/inspire others...
I "found" Literary Mama zine, and was so inspired, particularly by the columnists and poets. They have a writer's group as well and the zine came about as a result of their group. There is some superb writing there and it is presented in a very visually appealing manner as well (it's a pretty site ). There were some good tips about when to find time for writing (for mama's) which I've included below, and there are some great resources out of their page, job links, contests, etc.
Also I joined a practicing writer's group that seems to be mainly a monthly newsletter with contest info., and good links resources.
literarymama zine: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/litera...guid=157156709
practicing writer group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/practi...guid=157156709
… car naps as time for writing
… journal beside bed
… child care exchange
… writing while nursing
… heidi¹s tips on making a day for writing versus days for housework
… rebecca¹s on the 10 minute time period
… sybil¹s on Thursday nights out
… leave computer on
… get up early
… tape recorder
… stroller walk
… dream journal
… making book with child
… responding to e-mail
… work on more than one project at a time
… go back through your journals
… using butcher block paper to map out story
… Keep a dream journal that you write in the minute you wake up or when you can't go back to sleep after responding to a child, when the memories of your dream world are still fresh. After a few months, go back through your dream journal and mark any strong images you find. Pick one, put on the top of a page, and begin to write about it.
… Using PDA
… Using art time to develop characters or plot time lines
… How to negotiate with your family for writing time
… Picking up scrap paper
… Distracting child with paint supplies in tub
I'm grateful for this group. Thank you all...
First, my writing goals: I've been writing since I learned how. That is, I've been making up stories or writing down journal bits. I have notebooks going back to 2nd grade. Some are fanciful stories I never finished and now I wish I knew how they were supposed to end. Others are journal entries from painful times I can't read. Others make me smile and provide me hours of entertainment for myself. Much of it was the product of collaborative efforts with my best childhood friend. She no longer speaks to me, and so I have been without a way to share any of my writing.
I write to process things I'm going through emotionally, and fears/hopes about the future. I write to help myself process things I'm learning, both as a mother and as a college student. It is my primary creative outlet as well. My goals include learning to finish what I begin, and making my descriptions more vivid. I tend to focus on dramatic moments and character exchanges, and as a result the settings and much character development remain in my own mind and stories don't get finished even in outline.
Trying too hard...................
Sometimes I think I'm trying too hard to make it all work. From the outside looking in, I wonder, am I a fool? I can't know the shape of the forest because I am a tree within it. I want my life's work to make the world a better place. In some way, grand or small doesn't matter to me. I wonder if I try too hard to make my marriage work, to get along with people who don't care if they get along with me, to please people who never go an inch out of their way for my benefit. I wonder if I'm trying too hard to be someone they find acceptable, and if they find me lacking, why do I stay? But if I go, will I always wonder if I simply didn't try hard enough? I'm trying too hard to not be a failure, but in so doing will I simply ensure that I'll never succeed? I am skeptical, and in a house full of the status quo. I think I'll never carve a niche for myself. I must mold myself to what they want me to be. But then I think perhaps if I just try harder, they'll accept me. But all I can try to do is be more of myself. According to my cultural anthropology professor, that doesn't work too well. If you try harder to make the world what it was, you won't succeed and what is will mow you down. Conform, flee, or fail. Of course he was talking about indigenous societies in the face of Westernization, but I love analogies. Maybe I try to carry them too far.
I sometimes think I'm trying too hard in school. The tests I take never are as hard as the tests I study for. But I have been the overachiever most of my life. Maybe I tried too hard to get noticed when I was young. But when you're a mouse and a singleton with cute, attention getting identical twin sisters you have to stand out somehow. So I was the smart one.
I think I try to hard to encourage my daughter. She will learn to walk whether I clap or not. She will learn to walk whether I insist on holding her hands and having her do so when she'd as soon crawl. We aren't competing with anyone, so why do I feel like we're in a race?
Where my heart lives....................
My heart lives with my daughter. When I drop her off at day care, my heart stays there while my mind carries my body off to class. My heart lives with my family, and I do not feel my husband is my family. My daughter, my mother, my sisters. I have a matrilineal knot in my heartstrings. Sometimes I wonder how I would feel if I had a son. I think it would be strange, not while he was a baby, but as he grew would he grow away from me? Men are aliens, no man could truly hold my heart. I love my husband, but I will never grok him as I do my sisters or my mother or my grandmother.
My heart lives in my head as well. The woman in the mirror is strange to me, she does not look like I feel. Parts of her don't seem to belong and parts seem to be missing. How do those size 8 pants fit? Are they mislabeled? How do they fit over this wrinkly flabby belly of mine? I'm proud of that belly, how it swelled to carry my daughter, but my hips melt away and I don't feel thinner. My steps are as heavy, either because I carry her with me and she grows even as I shrink, or because I have left her behind and my heart with her. And I wonder if I'm really me, because the me I expect in the mirror isn't a mommy, her heart belongs only to herself and is always in her head. Without my daughter I might have found contentment as a consumer, a cog. Or I might have found purpose serving my country. She drives me, and because of her my heart is a dwelling place for compassion. It mystifies me that the same transformation never came over my husband. Is fatherhood a lesser heart-link? Or did his experiences prior to our marriage damage his heart beyond capacity for compassion, limit it only to his immediate family, to me and our daughter and, a bleeding stump, the connection to his first daughter? He hasn't even compassion for himself.
Indepenence is my secret desire. To not have to rely on the consumer culture. To not have to rely on my husband. But I desire the impossible. No man is an island, and I cannot escape my need for other human beings to accomplish my goals in life. I can't do it alone, I only wish I could.
I have not had the time to turn my computer on or write...much less think! My sister and her two young children have come to stay with us for awhile, so we have seven people packed into this tiny two bedroom house and it is HECTIC.
I desperately miss my tranquility. And I desperately miss writing. My assignments may be late, but I am making my husband watch the girls this weekend while I head to my favorite hole-in-the-wall coffee shop...alone! I will post later!
Where my Heart lives…My heart of hearts, my joyful painful place, the wellsprings of my soul...I do know where you live. I find you often in unexpected moments, and other times I feel you beating, and I wonder if I will stop breathing. I felt the presence of my heart, my love with the feeling of perma-grin that I had on Thanksgiving day, on our way back home from picking out our Christmas tree. Ds was freezing cold because I listened to his daddy’s advice, “oh, no, it’s not cold out there…” but we still had fun. Ds jumped through the mud puddle and got even colder. While I carried baby (25 lbs. of baby), Daddy (dh) carried big boy on his shoulders, back from the “country mile” that we walked to get the tree; and then stood around gazing at each, then walking a cuadrant in order to scope out the Perfect one. We found it and Dh drug it back to the shed to pay for it. Oh joy. My heart is so thankful for my family. That we can celebrate the holidays in a holy manner, that the Divinity within me is acknowledged, and respected…that my “others” the ones who I love so much that I feel them in the same place that my heart lives—all together, that they are respected. I find my heart in the sapphire eyes of my youngest. I find my heart in my man as I watch him tend the fire. I find my heart when my eldest says, “mama, I yuv you so much…” Acknowledging the child’s heart that is still the core, I feel its presence. I cry when it tells me to, and laugh, and feel for others. The “big” adult heart has wrapped my inner one in the flesh of compassion. Sometimes the needy child’s heart, the core, speaks first, and I humor it. But then look at my own children and remind myself, oh so gently: I know where you live, and you are safe, and protected, and respected. You have enough for yourself and everyone you love.
Your post on 11/18 is a gem. First, the pacing, with it's long, sinuous descriptions--"the gracious curves of a pine box and the tension of steel wound strings"--mixed with choppy, declarative breaks--"But anyone didn't snap: I did"--conveys a real sense of movement that works beautifully with the musical theme. The self-deprecation throughout the piece is almost charming (the irony, of course, is that you are a writer and a good one at that). But be careful of indulging in self-pity, which is distancing and sentimental, as in "I could only find the apologetic sounds of regret for not being perfect...." The repetition of your theme "But that was from a life when I was trying to hard to be a viola. Now I am trying to hard to be a writer," is very effective in reminding us why you're telling this story and illustrating in the structure of the piece what you've described in the content: that the narrator (not the writer) is an inexperienced storyteller who is easily carried away. Finally, your explanation of synecdoche in the conservatory where "he became 'a wind' or 'a brass' or 'a string'" is an insightful and humorous observation, making your conclusion "It was nerve wracking to be a string: a tightly wound piece of cat gut" all the more poignant. Gaining or losing one's voice is a common trope in literature, but the play on voice and box (literally, the voice box used to speak or sing, and figuratively, as an instrument that stands in for the person as a whole) is interesting and original. Because the piece is so much about identity, if you choose to expand it, I'd like to hear about how the narrator became a musician to begin with, and to see in more concrete detail the same juxtaposition of humor with self-analysis and critique of the musical establishment you've hinted at here.
feedback for violafemmeUpon reading Boston Mama's feedback for violafemmes' trying too hard (i see the irony in your user name, now--perhaps you should change it to femmescritur). I had to go back and reread it and to give some feedback:
you paint a realistic scene of the professional musician's life...The box metaphor is almost sexual. The contrast between the two arts is very interesting. I disagree about one thing that was said in previous feedback, The self-deprecation throughout the piece is almost charming (the irony, of course, is that you are a writer and a good one at that). But be careful of indulging in self-pity, which is distancing and sentimental, as in "I could only find the apologetic sounds of regret for not being perfect...."
I agree that it is charming...I can totally see a perfectionist, insecure young woman musician, i can see myself or many other of my extremely intelligent, talented, smart, stylish, perfectionist friends of mine being this type of self-pitying character. I identify with the narrator/you. I remember getting in trouble in 2nd grade when a little boy that i had a crush on told the teacher that I was feeling sorry for myself. what a sin.
Question: When we write real sometimes it is sappy, self-pitying and sentimental. so what? when we write real and then consider publishing the journal or memoir or autobiography or even fictionalized short story or something similar to Lamott's Operating Instructions, Then do we take the self-pitying sap out? I think not. (okay, maybe some, but definetly not all--my great grandmother belle said to me often, "oh, are you on your pity pot again?") Why should you not indulge in self-pity in writing? why not grovel in it? I say, If it feels good, write it. It felt good to write that word : grovel
a piece of me, i thought while he nursed to sleep. Like that good pure piece of me that i used to talk to as a kid. sitting on my cool bedroom floor waiting for the door to open and daddy to tell me, "allright, you can come out now."
get it together. breathe. sit up straighter in the bed before you sink down into something deeper, darker. There will be times when i am living. oh, but guilty. not knowing where to go. not wanting, really, to go anywhere.
He is what she was. or maybe she was what he was just waiting to be.
I never had an imaginary friend. Just another self. A better self. And we would talk and she understood just what i was saying. She would tell me that everything would work out, that he would come and open the door.
Does the bathroom have grafitti? Does it smell? Are toilets flushing or sinks dripping? Does it have windows or ugly florescent lights? are coeds apply lipstick or not glancing at the cracked mirror because they are in sweats and tee shirts they fell asleep in studying for finals............inquiring minds want to know.................oh and for goodness sake woman WHAT IS IN THE BAG?