Mish-Mash of writing & reading thoughts

Critique Group

          Every two weeks, four friends and I meet to discuss, critique, and support each other’s writing efforts. The most important word in that previous sentence is friends. Rarely does a meeting pass without someone expressing with enthusiasm how much our meetings mean to them. Without question, that zeal echoes my sentiments. It is one of the highlights of my life.

          We laugh, tell stories, interrupt each other, applaud the efforts of our small club, and eventually get around to offering ideas and suggestions for writing improvement. An obvious but important element of these meetings is the trust we share. We take our writing seriously and I believe we adhere to a standard that urges us to do our best. Although the suggestions are always given in a respectful manner, we do not hold back in offering ideas that will push us forward. I personally would have it no other way. It is a fine balance between criticism and encouragement, we’ve found that balance.

          I would without hesitation suggest that anyone interested in becoming a better writer, find comrades that are willing to assist and be assisted and are willing to critique and be critiqued. I have watched each of my friends become wonderful writers as we have moved along the long and slow learning curve. I know my writing is better as a result of our group. Trust takes time to build, there is no question about that. but the effort is worth every minute getting to that destination.

          I owe a world of gratitude to Karen, Deb, Devi, and Brad. -THANK YOU!

A Writing Consideration

          I’m in the process of reading The Best American Short Stories – 1996

          Being interested in writing better short stories, I find if I actively read the work of others, I inevitably learn something that will help me. The second story in the book mentioned above is called Firesby Rick Bass. What I quickly found helpful about this story was his ability to show and demonstrate specific details in his writing. That detail is explicitly about color. I think sometimes we are hesitant to repeat words or a theme in a short piece of writing, yet Bass has shown this can be done with great skill. Here is the second paragraph of the story. Note his use of certain colors.

          The snowline has moved up out of the valley by April, up into the woods, and even on up above the woods, disappearing, except for the smallest remote oval patches of it, and white as to the gardens’ fresh berries and green growing grasses; but you can see the rabbits coming a mile away, coming after your berries – hopping through the green and gold sun-filled woods, as white and pure as Persian cats, hopping over brown log, coming down from the centuries-old game trails of black earth.

          The author names specific colors in this sentence 8 times. Did you notice I said this sentence? Because it is only one sentence. There are over 100 words in this one sentence. That is an accomplishment that would impress Faulkner, and one that most of us have been told not to try. There are few of us mortals who can write a coherent and correctly punctuated sentence of so many words. There are other things to notice in this paragraph. Look at the repetition of words coming (3),up (3) the use of commas (11) and (1) semi-colon. Look at the alliteration – green growing grasses, a metaphor – white and pure as Persian cats.

          While you may or may not like this paragraph of one long sentence, I think we can agree that there is a clear demonstration of skill used in writing it.

          Aspiring writers are also told repeatedly they must read a great deal in order to be a good writer. I believe there is merit in those words, still I would add that you have to be an active reader in order to gain the most from this activity. Glossing over a hundred pages might be entertaining, but unless you’re paying attention to how the piece is written, what skills are being used, what means the author uses to make the story interesting, to move the story along, it is just that, an entertaining use of time. I certainly claim no expertise in reading actively or how to incorporate that reading into my writing, but slowly and with effort, I am learning.

          As Francisco Cantu wrote on a book I purchased from him, “Read without borders” I think that applies to what I just said. Read widely, actively, and without borders.

Louie’s Book Bark

I would be remiss if I didn’t urge everyone to read Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman. It is a brilliant, funny, moving, and completely entertaining book. As I’ve said to others, “It may not be the best book I’ve ever read, but it is without question the most entertaining.”

Arizona Summer Beauty

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