Saturday, August 29, 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015


Today I ate lunch alone at a vegetarian restaurant and took my dog to the dog park to run her little heart out. It was seventy degrees this morning, a welcome break after a month of staggering temperatures in nineties and hundreds that felt all the more unbearable due to the humidity. Today was a day off after months in which I had at least one freelance project to deliver on each day (there are no weekends in freelance).

Today was glorious and slow-paced, a thing I crave from time to time. I even took a nap in my husband’s nap chair (he uses the chair to read news, too, but the thing seems magical in its ability to invite sleep). Today, I got a rejection (one I thought would be an easy get) and an acceptance (a longer shot – a dynamite publication for one of my strangest pieces ever. I look forward to posting this new piece of work because I haven’t been writing as much short fiction and got so used to that sense of completion.

With focus on my novel and my work, I haven’t been allowing myself the luxury to write much short work. I know I miss it because I seem to have mentioned my dismay on the phone in an interview with SA Express News about After the Gazebo. So I wrote a very short piece, semi-autobiographical (what isn’t – even at the fantasy level?), and now I feel refreshed. I believe that short fiction writers who dare the novel path should never completely abandon their shorties.

It’s funny, I was planning to speak highly of my novel during that phone interview, but I think there are times when I can’t even pretend to like the thing. I love and believe in the story, am proud of it, but it’s such a monstrous thing—has taking up years of my time and caused me more than a few uneasy days—that I believe there’s some resentment that has built. My hope is that ours is a tumultuous, passionate relationship that will end well. We will part, when it’s time, on amiable terms. 

We’re soon to part; I can feel it.

In the meantime, here’s to short fiction breaks and seventy degree days in South Texas! We need all the breaks we can get.

Today’s prompt: Write a story about a retired couple who drive some distance to a landmark site they’ve been looking forward to visiting for some time. When they get there, they are extremely disappointed by what they find and begin to argue. As they argue, a buried secret emerges. *I’m doing this one myself, as soon as I hit publish on this blog post. Have fun! 

xo Jen

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Complicating conflict and finding routine

Fiction writers need to be good at complicating conflict; we need to find the frailties in our characters and exploit them. We need to make huge messes, in heads or landscapes or due to disagreements. Conversely, we need to keep a good amount of peace in our own lives in order to find the time and space to feed creative chaos.

With routine comes the continuity necessary to raise hell on the page (raising hell being the goal here). But life doesn't always lend itself to routine. Case in point: my life right now. I am a program director at a literary nonprofit, a freelance writer, and a freelance writing teacher and coach. My work schedule is busy and less-than-predictable.

So how to force routine? This has been my project over the last few weeks. After waking up at 5:30AM, then 5AM, then 4:30AM to try to force it; I tried nights. I tried. I failed.

So instead, here's my Midwestern workaround: accepting the chaos and working despite it. If you're making a casserole, for instance, and you don't have a key ingredient it won't matter because you'll find another ingredient. That's what makes it a casserole. Accordingly, I decided to give up trying to find a set time or day to write.

Instead, I tilted my head at the situation and found another way. How about associating place with routine instead? I go to the same coffee shop, the same desk at home, regularly. I go through the same routine, despite time. I have also created my own micro-routines that have very little to do with time of day. So long as every day, I:

1. clear the cache - meaning write with no expectations and no direction for a few minutes in order to clear out all the distracting thoughts.
2. sit down with the same intention at anytime of day (or night).
3. shut down the Internet (close all windows).
4. get coffee or tea - position it close at hand.
5. stick a book on the desk in case I get stuck.
6. open the novel folder. Reread the opening, then pick up where I left off and write a minimum of ten minutes (timed) after which I can either continue on (usually do) or not
7. go do whatever I'm scheduled to do next.

Worst case scenario: I digress and write a short story instead. Okay, that's a lie. Absolute worst case scenario: I don't sit at the damn desk. And if this happens, I will make up for it the next day. On busy days, I remind myself with a To Do type of app that reminds me to check off my writing time for the day.

For a prompt, if you'd like one, I challenge you to spend an entire week (or two - let's face it, this blog is a bimonthly deal now) refining your own routine. In the midst of this anti-routine, I challenge you to rewrite an existing story from an alternate perspective (another character's). You can do this with your own story, or with a story you admire. Something entirely new should arrive on the page, either way, something only a hell-raising writer could create, something full of the good stuff of fiction, allowed by the good stuff of life. 

Do what you do with intention. xo Jen 

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