Extra Q is for Quiescent

quiescent: adjective – 1. marked by inactivity or repose: tranquilly at rest; dormancy 2. causing no trouble or symptoms (as in gallstones).

Today is not a letter day for the A to Z Challenge (tomorrow is T). I added an extra Q because I just finished reading Requiem, Mass.: A Novel by John Dufresne, and on the very last page of the book he wrote, “When I think of that drive, I see the chromium Quark as if from above, see it picking up speed as I shift the engine into quiescent mode, and we drive on deep, deep into our shiny futures.” There is a lot about that book that stood out and will probably stick with me, but right now I’m pretty focused on; why did he choose that word? What part of the shift is quiescent mode? Is the car like a gallstone, or somehow moving while in idle?

Rising in the West

Rising In The West

Emerging to a collective gasp
Surrounded by a held breath
Frisson holds me in awkward stasis
Each saccade assiduous and susurrus
Eldritch shadows creep across the lawn
An augur of a world off its axis

I ponder this celestial whim
A quondam certainty of Eastern rise
The halcyon yesterdays when the tall firs
Blocked the blinding glare

Now a day is but a panoply of daylight
Scattered to disarray
My view a palimpsest shocked
By hypotyposis

Do not importune the sun
To mend its path to comfort
Do not offer opprobrium
To shame a ball of fire to your convenience
But observe quiescent each degree of light
And embrace the elysian mystery

 

Continuing with the NaPoWriMo theme of facing the impossible you may want to look at:

Poetry & Translation: The Art of the Impossible (Liverpool University Press – Poetry and . . .) by Peter Robinson

Impossible Individuality: Romanticism, Revolution, and the Origins of Modern Selfhood, 1787-1802 by Gerald N. Izenberg

Happy Reading and Writing!

 

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D is for Duende and a Double Dose of Dufresne

 

duende: noun – 1. a goblin; demon; spirit 2. charm; magnetism

Bonus word: dejecta: noun – feces; excrement

 

Azalea petals

 

Azalea Petals

                                           It was a shame
to cover up those voluptuous curves in that floral tent of a mumu
such a contrast to the white hood and robe silently hanging in the padlocked closet
Her lime and tan wide-brimmed sun hat veiled her face in shadow,
but she also shuttered her eyes with oversized mirrored sunglasses
as if darkness was not dark enough to hide her thoughts

It was a dirty shame
the way he still stared longingly, lustfully while imagining no one saw
his history of apologies sloughed like the purple azalea petals
scattered on the pavement at the cease of spring
His gape eluded to his ape ancestry, unaware of the taboo;
triggered by olfactory stimuli: the heat, the sweat
He stood erect; up from the dusty ground revealing his genitals,
revealing his weakness

It was a crying shame
that she looked out the window at that moment of passing duende
She observed his every twitch of the dance
Her nose curled at the smell of dejecta while festering secrets burst forth
like erumpent maggots from a rotten apple
She thought of his ancestry, his family grooming him in consolation after
his beat down by the alpha male from whom he did not evolve
Now he only suffered the yearnings of the flesh.

For shame!

 

For today’s poem I took a look at a couple philosophy staples I’ve kept with me since college:Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future by Friedrich Nietzsche and Civilization and Its Discontents (The Standard Edition) (Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud).
For the poetic form, I was inspired by District and Circle: Poems by Seamus Heaney, specifically “Edward Thomas on the Lagans Road,” “A Clip,” and “A Chow.” This book of poems has great examples of using specific descriptive nouns.

Craft Book Review

If you have followed Experience Writing for a while or follow me on twitter, you have probably heard me mention Is Life Like This?: A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months by John Dufresne. I read this book early in my writing journey and I still use the tools he discussed.

Mr. Dufresne has a new book about writing flash fiction called FLASH!: Writing the Very Short Story and for this review, I also read his book The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction.

Flash! cover

Why I picked it up: I enjoy writing flash fiction and was curious about Mr. Dufresne’s take on the subject.

My Expectations: I am a big fan of Mr. Dufresne’s other craft book Is Life Like This?, so I had high expectations that I would learn something and enjoy this book.

Intended Audience: People curious about flash fiction.

What I liked: This book is full of great examples of flash fiction stories, in their entirety, by many different authors. There’s a wonderful variety. The book flows nicely: heavy on the examples at the beginning and ending heavy on the suggested exercises and writing prompts.

What I didn’t like: There isn’t anything I didn’t like about this book. The only problem with reading it is I now have even more stories to write. Because I read Mr. Dufresne’s other writing books, I recognized some of the exercises–he even included a Flash-O-Matic–but it makes sense that many fiction exercises for longer fiction would work well for flash fiction also.

Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 5/5

Why I picked it up: I picked this one up to see what other gems of knowledge Mr. Dufresne had to impart.a lie that tells a truth cover

My Expectations: My expectations were perhaps not quite as high for this one. I wondered if it might repeat  much of what I read in his other books.

Intended Audience: Fiction writers of all levels and interests.

What I liked: This book is packed with exercises. Someone in a chat the other day asked me what books I would recommend with good writing exercises and I replied, “Anything by John Dufresne.” I was not wrong.

What I didn’t like: My issue with this book is the format. It is so packed with quotes (usually two to each page) that I couldn’t get through the text without reading through the chapter’s quotes and then going back to read the chapter. And even then I found the quotes distracting. I’m not into quotes out of context in the first place, so they don’t enhance my reading experience when placed well, but the way these broke up the page distracted me from the substance.

Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ 3/5 I recommend doing the exercises.

Happy Reading and Writing!

See you tomorrow.

Getting Words on the Page – Three Tools to Increase Productivity

How fun is this

The Plot-o-Matic and Dialog warm-up in Morning Pages

It’s almost time for me to print out the rough draft of my novel, to read through the whole thing with fresh eyes, as if I just brought it home from the bookstore. But first, I have a few more goals to accomplish: I WILL finish reading Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (I was born at exactly midnight and I enjoyed many of his other books, so I thought it would be a fun read when I bought it at the airport about five years ago. It seems no matter how much I read, I’m only half-way through.) and I WILL finish the draft of my mid-grade fiction story and make a mock-up of my picture book. I’m pretty close on all of these goals so I’ve given myself (and now you can hold me to it) until the end of the July 4th weekend to finish (these goals) before the big first-draft read.

In the meantime, I thought I would share some writing tools that helped me get all my words to the page:

  1. Morning Pages – as recommended by Julia Cameron author of many inspirational books including the Complete Artists Way where I first discovered morning pages.
  2. The Plot-o-Matic – a rendition of PLOTTOMATIC! introduced by John Dufresne in his intelligent and useful book on writing, Is Life Like This?: A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months.
  3. Dialogue Warm-up – a way that I get my writing going when my plan for the day escapes me. When I run out of things to say, I let my characters start up a conversation and watch where it goes.

Writing every day has not been easy for me, but I’m pretty close now. Throughout my journey to (almost) writing every day, I read everything in my local library on writing and everything recommended to me, plus a lot more. Only a few things really stuck with me and, through some development, still work for me.

Everyone has different amounts of time they can commit to their writing and most have to SQUEEZE it into their hectic lives (and family tithes). Making time for your passion makes you better for all the other people in your life, so that is why I want to emphasize . . .

  1. Morning Pages – Get up twenty minutes early if you have to. It will be totally worth it. Find three lined 8.5 X 11 sheets of paper. I use a thick college ruled notebook (I’m addicted to kukumusu designs, but they’re expensive and my super-favorite is already out of print, so I buy a bunch at a time). Start writing. Do not get dressed. Maybe make a pot of tea or coffee, but then – Start writing. Do not get up and do the things you remind yourself to do while you’re writing. Do not lift pen from paper. Write everything that comes to mind even if it is “I can’t think of anything” then “I’m spacing off”, etc. Keep writing until you fill all three pages. No excuses. No I have to’s.

Staying at the page for all three pages is much more difficult than I ever expected. I’ve worked with morning pages for years and looking back at my filled journals, there was very little written, but paragraphs of things done and things to do, with either woeful disappointments in not accomplishing these lists, or motivational speeches to myself of how I would accomplish these lists. After a while, however, I noticed if I did my morning pages those thoughts wouldn’t nag at me when I took a walk, or when I tried to meditate. I had more room for creative thought. More recently, I’ve started spending only the first page on those should do’s and the other two pages on character development and story ideas. These days most of my writing for the day is retyping my Morning Pages. I took a long time to get here, but if you have a story burning inside you, but can’t find time to write, set that alarm twenty minutes earlier than normal and give Morning Pages a try.

What about those days when even your morning pages won’t get you where you want to go? You feel dry of ideas, you want someone to just hand you a character, a conflict, or your character’s next step. Try the . . .

    1. Plot-o-Matic – I loved reading Dufresne’s book, Is Life Like This?: A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months and I will bring it up more when I work through my rewrite. A plot-o-matic is easy to make. I made a Word document with large print, bold type, centered in 3” X 2” rectangles. I printed the subjects – Dufresne used occupations and I added character descriptions like “Conspiracy Junky” and “Disco Dancer”- on green cardstock, the needs or wants of those subjects on yellow cardstock, and an action the character took on blue cardstock. I cut out the different colored “cards” and turned them upside down so I couldn’t see what my options were and chose one of each. If you take a look at the picture at the top of this post you’ll see I drew “A conspiracy junky wants to rescue kittens, so he listens at the wall as the neighbors argue” Fun right? Why rescue kittens? What conspiracy could the neighbors be part of? Are they the neighbors’ kittens? This tool can be great for story ideas, but you can also customize it to help you decide what your characters will do next. Limit the subject pile to only include your characters and choose wants and actions until you feel inspired. Remember to write at least five minutes for every combination you choose. Exploring what you don’t think will happen can be even more exciting than what you thought you were looking for.

If you don’t want to make a plot-o-matic, there are similar products you can buy:
The Storymatic Classic – 540 Unique Cards
Rememory – Share Memories and Make New Ones
Story Slam – Hundreds of cards with more than 600 unique story concepts, for endless storytelling fun.
The Amazing Story Generator: Creates Thousands of Writing Prompts

And finally, my personal trick that gets my mental juices flowing when I’m not quite sure what to write about . . .

  1. Dialogue warm-up – Discovering dialogue as a way to get my juices flowing was a major step to finishing the draft of my novel. The way it works for me is: I’ll imagine I’m speaking from one of my character’s point of view. Who does she want to talk to today? Who might she run into in the scene I’m thinking about? Who do I picture when I write, “Oh, wow, didn’t expect to see you here.” I let their conversation flow. While I write, I picture their motivations, what they are saying and not saying, who they might talk about. Where are they as they converse? Are they in public? Does another person join them? By the time I have finished writing a short conversation, I often have my next scene in my head, even if I never use the conversation in a finished piece, somehow my characters tell me what I need to know. Try it. Let the conversation flow. It’s fun. Big Tip: Don’t worry about dialog punctuation, or he said she said while you’re getting it out in these dialogue warm-ups. Only pay attention to starting a new paragraph for each new person speaking and adding physical descriptions of vocal or body language nuances that seem important. Be in the moment. You can put in all the other stuff when the conversation is over.

I hope at least one of these tools that work for me helps you find what works for you. The only way to know what works, and doesn’t work, is to physically put pen to paper in ways you haven’t tried yet. The job is only a little bit thinkin’ about it and a whole lot of writing it down.

I would love to hear some of the things you’ve discovered to keep pen to page. Please share your tips in the comments.