When I was four years old, a preschool friend of mine had a pool-themed birthday party. Parents attended to supervise their shrieking, slippery children and escort them, bundled in too-big towels, home. But before each child-parent pair left, the birthday girl and her mother handed out goody bags containing only one item per child: a lethargic goldfish suspended in lukewarm water.
Why can't there be a "Reading Like a Writer" column about Buffy the Vampire Slayer? A television series starts with words on a page, and the study of storytelling can absolutely include the study of TV.
Why can't "Reading Like a Writer" bring in a guest co-columnist? Erin Kate Ryan writes periodically for The Writers' Block, and she's got opinions—oh, she’s got opinions!—about the show and its narrative strategy.
Together, we're going to look at "Tabula Rasa," the eighth-season episode right after the musical one. It's when they all get magical amnesia.
I love that writer D. Allen has a period after “D”. Punctuation is important, dare I say a form of deep magic, a set of practical and mystical symbols that the writer D. Allen has clearly embraced! I was fortunate to catch D. in between writing, editing, art-making, and guitar-playing-and-song-singing for a conversation about their work. D. is an MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota and is busy conducting the beautiful (and challenging) odyssey into what is known as the “thesis,” or final, culminating manuscript in the MFA program.
Have you always wanted to document your family’s stories for future generations, but have never gotten around to it, or known where to begin? Perhaps you have started, but are stuck or overwhelmed.
If you’re looking for advice, support, and inspiration to write your stories, consider attending Writing Your Family Legacy Conference on Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Minnesota History Center.
At this day-long conference, you’ll hear from the experts and meet those who, like you, are committed to documenting their life experiences, values, and opinions for future generations. You’ll receive advice and inspiration from award-winning authors, including keynote speaker Patricia Hampl. You can also tailor your own legacy writing program, choosing from multiple breakout sessions focused on writing, research, and genealogy.
You’ll leave energized and well equipped to begin or continue your legacy work, just as I did last year.
This past June, I decided the time had come to move to an urban area. It occurred one rainy Saturday evening when all I wanted was to melt into the quiet tapping of keyboards, caffeinated steam, and cramped wooden tables strewn irregularly across the nondescript floor of an independent coffee shop. It was five p.m., and the only place I could get coffee and Internet in the same building within an hour’s drive of my rural New Hampshire town was the McDonald’s 20 minutes away. Needless to say, I didn’t get any writing done that night.
Tis the season for submissions! Labor Day has come and gone, and the hectic pace associated with every Fall has begun for editors and agents.
This can be an exciting time for any author who has representation, as all the preparation done in advance will hopefully lead to their book’s publication. Sometimes months, maybe even years (especially with fiction) of work have lapsed already—during which the manuscript, or perhaps a book proposal and sample chapters, has been lovingly put together for submission by the author and agent.
This process takes time, patience, and a willingness to ensure the idea is the best it can be before approaching traditional publishers. It’s not a job to be taken lightly.
During this period, when it’s time to take our authors’ books to publishers, the queries in our inboxes multiply significantly. This means we’re generally looking for new ideas, specifically books that haven’t reached readers yet. Self-publishing a book is definitely a viable option—we’ll never discount that decision. Unfortunately the ability to go in reverse and seek traditional publishing afterwards for a self-published book can sometimes be challenging.
PATIENT: Doctor, help! I think I broke my ankle!
EMILY DICKINSON: (stares out the window)
EMILY DICKINSON: I could not prove the years had feet.
PATIENT: Should I...take my bandage off? Or...
EMILY DICKINSON: Feet stagger -- feathers float -- hope -- drifts --
PATIENT: Now that you mention it, I am hoping for some Vicodin.
EMILY DICKINSON: The element of blank --
Short poems are ideal for the 21st century, where readers’ attention spans are ever diminishing and many choose to digest their news in 140 characters or fewer. It’s common advice, in both copywriting seminars and creative writing classes, to write like every word costs you something. With short poems, one must imagine he/she is not a Kardashian, but rather someone on a street corner begging for spare change, hoping to get enough coins for the bus. (Or to use a less extreme analogy, those of us still paying off our grad school loans who must live thriftily).
In my upcoming Loft workshop “In Brief: Writing the Short Poem,” we will be reading and experimenting with verse in its smallest increments. Though some writers long to join the ranks of Homer and Whitman and pen epic poems, I have always been drawn to the more modest offerings of poets like Emily Dickinson and former Poet Laureate Kay Ryan. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but not all short poems are light in terms of tone or substance.
I read a lot about dead girls. Missing girls. It’s my area of interest. In my mind, the “Missing Girl” stories I’m looking at have become a genre all their own. When I pick up a new novel with a missing girl at the center of the story, I have an internal checklist that I overlay on the plot—a checklist that has been shaped by years of reading these books, watching these films, even playing these games with missing girls at the center. She’ll be white (very rarely, she’s biracial, with a white parent), she’ll be conventionally pretty, she’ll be middle-class or upper middle-class. She’ll have a secret life that’s revealed after she’s disappeared (secret psychic! [The Vanishers, Heidi Julavits] secretly pregnant! [Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier] secret sex worker! [see any of a dozen Jerry Orbach-fronted episodes of Law & Order]) and there’s likely to be a scene in which her physical shape is referenced by its absence—her mattress holding the shape of her, a chalk outline on the street, even a piece of her clothing that appears to still remember the contours of her body (Night Film, Marisha Pessl).
The great sex scenes are often about something other than sex. They reveal a character’s private feelings, illuminate a power struggle, or suggest something else entirely—a repressed longing or blooming metaphor.
[...] In James Baldwin’s “Another Country,” sex often reveals something hidden, some hidden or repressed shade of a character’s mind. Baldwin isn’t just interested in the physical happenings, except when it’s unusual or rife with tension. He knows that once you get two people alone and assembled with a certain chemistry, we can probably predict what will happen. He’s more interested in the zigzag consciousness.