WritingNotWriting #Mondayblogs #amwriting #amknitting

The title of my post is a riff on the fleetingly popular #SorryNotSorry. I’m writing but not really writing. I mean, I haven’t been writing but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. As usual.

What I have been doing is … knitting.

This purple and gray wrap will soon be wrapped up and sent to a friend who has cooler temperatures this time of year than I do.

This purple and gray wrap will soon be wrapped up and sent to a friend who has cooler temperatures this time of year than I do.

 

Just finished this cowl in time for a friend's birthday.

Just finished this cowl in time for a friend’s birthday.

 

The beginnings of a shawl for a relative who lives in a cooler clime than I do.

The beginnings of a shawl for a relative who lives in a cooler clime than I do. And off to the lower left … my foot.

When in doubt, I knit. Not only is knitting a meditative practice, it is also quantifiable. It moves linearly (for the most part anyway). There’s a definite beginning, middle, and end to my knitting. I don’t (often) feel that way about writing.

I have also been studying Spanish, for the nth time since I was in high school. I’ve become a bit obsessive, loading countless learning apps onto my iPhone, logging hours on Duolingo and Rosetta Stone, and downloading videos on learning Spanish from The Great Courses.

And, yet, my fluency leaves something to be desired. Yo tengo tres gatos y un marido.

And, yet … with both knitting and studying Spanish I persevere. I make a knitting error? I just rip it out and start over. I stumble over my grammar in Spanish? I can retake the lessons as often as needed. But writing is different. When I hit a wall in my writing, everything stops and it feels near impossible to get going again.

Quality of writing seems so subjective. I can quantify the number of words I write, but I can’t speak to their quality. With knitting and Spanish, I can see a steady progression of quality as a beautiful pattern takes shape or my review lessons become easier.

The subjective appreciation of writing trips me up every time. And I’ve been working at it as long as I’ve knitting and studying Spanish.

Now, this post will continue on to a rant I wrote almost a year ago. I’m sharing it now because it speaks to my frustration with literary and popular criticism. I had just finished listening to The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and needed to get a few things about the novel off my chest. If you haven’t read The Goldfinch and plan to, you might want to stop here since my rant includes some spoilers. If you have read The Goldfinch and loved it, you might want to stop here because I didn’t. The rest of you may proceed as you wish.

***

I’m a pretty sensitive individual.  I internalize everything.  Let’s say I wrote a novel titled The Goldfinch and not only was it published, but it was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.  Sure, I’d be happy for the publicity and the money and probably both would be enough to keep me in a bubble, safe from the knowledge that most buyers of my novel couldn’t finish it, the awareness that some of those who could were not just disappointed but dismayed by it. All the hype, the publicity, the Pulitzer for a novel that is too long and too uneven and too clever.  Near the end of the novel, one character complains about “relentless tedium.” That pretty much describes the pace of The Goldfinch for me. At another point Theo, the narrator, says to a character, “It’s a long story. I’ll try to keep it short.” I laughed out loud at that line. Was Tartt poking fun at her own book? The novel is full of “relentless” litanies and extended dialogues that sound like something out of soap operas. You know the kind. Where the characters keep talking around each other and asking but not answering the same questions over and over until you want to scream, “Oh, just answer the bloody question!”

Only at the end does the reader learn that Theo has been keeping a journal all this time, since his “childhood”; yet, there’s never a mention of him doing so in the earlier parts. I found that so odd given how much this young man moved from one place to another, never once losing a journal apparently but also never mentioning his journals and what might happen if they fell into the wrong hands.

And The Goldfinch itself? I never really felt Theo’s connection with the painting that he claimed to have. Too often it seemed as if he had actually forgotten about it.  He’d have all kinds of adventures with his Ukrainian friend Boris, never once mentioning the painting. Then, suddenly, briefly, he’d describe how he thought about it all the time. And oddly, those descriptions always seemed to occur about the same time I had almost forgotten about the painting myself. Did Tartt have to remind herself that the painting was supposed to be pivotal to the story?

At one point, the reader gets the idea that Theo and Boris might be in love with each other, not an unimportant realization for two teen-aged boys. Yet, the idea goes nowhere. Theo has no problem taking up with women when he returns to NYC and eventually he forgets Boris until they have their odd reunion.

The pace picks up when Boris admits that he stole the painting which has now been stolen from him and he needs Theo to help get it back. But the plot is convoluted and the miracle of it progressing at all is simply because Theo has access to money. I know it’s a given in some genres, like romance novels, where the reader wants to escape into a world where money is not a problem, only love and lust. But this is literary fiction (I think).  Maybe I’m being a “reversed snob” but it’s a pet peeve of mine when a character who heretofore has been nearly destitute comes into a large inheritance and suddenly, money is no longer a problem. He can hop a jet to anywhere, stay in a luxury hotel for days on end, and never worry about the bill.  Boring.

And that’s another thing: Theo seems to suffer illnesses that go on for days, yet he doesn’t die. Somehow he always comes through, but these “relentless” illnesses were part of what pushed me to lose patience with the character. He is unsympathetic, perhaps even a sociopath, incapable of understanding anyone’s feelings but his own.  Often, there didn’t seem to be any there there with Theo.

Now, I actually listened to an audio version of The Goldfinch and I think that’s one reason why I stuck with it. The narrator was quite good and his rendition of Boris was wonderful. And I was listening as a writer, trying to hear how the story ebbed and flowed. I did enjoy many of the other characters, but overall the novel sounded to me as one in a series of drafts, not the first, crude draft but not the final, polished draft either. There was so much that could have been edited out of the novel without doing a whit of harm and, more importantly, doing it much good. Theo’s journal writing would have been a nice thread to have had throughout the novel.

There was a surreal aspect to the novel, which made me cast about for comparisons. Dickens did not come to mind as anything more than Tartt “borrowing” some of Dickens’s characterizations. What I kept thinking about was Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. In both novels, two naïve young men go astray, one is spurred by his desire to be among the better classes, the other by survivor’s guilt and his desire to numb it. Both commit crimes without seeming to have the full sense of their consequences, and both seem naïve to the point of being led about by the “wrong” people. But whereas I was struck by the timeless quality of An American Tragedy, with The Goldfinch I was only struck by how long it took me to suffer through it.  Oh, and that it got an effing Pulitzer.

What’s the Worst That Can Happen When I Don’t Write? #MondayBlogs #amwriting

I don’t like complaining … in public, anyway.  And I don’t like making excuses.  Unfortunately, complaining and excuses seem to go hand-in-hand for me.  The thing about complaining is that there is always someone worse off than me, which should give some perspective.  And the thing about excuses is, nobody cares.  We all have excuses.  We all have reasons why we haven’t done this and why we’ll be late in doing that.

Lately, all I’ve been doing is complaining and making excuses: to my husband, my coworkers, my cats. Because of that, I haven’t been writing for my blog.  I want to, but when I’m being tormented by the demons of Angst, well, I don’t think my writing is very entertaining or fun to do.

You see, I have very little to complain about.  […]

In fact, I just deleted two whole paragraphs where I complain about … something.  This is my desire for privacy kicking in.  My deep-seated belief that some things just should not be shared publicly.  Not that anything awful has happened.  No, no, no.  It’s just the usual issue of balance and I’m not talking about yoga.

So let’s be positive.  Or, rather, let me in this blog post try to retake control of my life.  The thing is, I’m getting too old for this, among other things.  I want to slow down.  Everyone seems to want to speed up.  I want to simplify my life.  Everyone seems to want more and more things, more bells, more whistles, more distraction.  I want to minimize the distractions in my life.  And I write this after having sent out a slough (for me, anyway) of tweets.

Maybe I want others to feel my pain.  Maybe my use of Twitter and Facebook isn’t so much because I want to “connect.”  Maybe I just want to assault people with the same brain-numbing bombardment of tweets, pokes, comments, Likes, and Mentions that I experience after one of my WP posts goes live.  But that’s not true.  For one thing, I don’t receive that many tweets, pokes, comments, Likes, and Mentions after any of my WP posts.  And I can choose when I respond, should I choose to respond.  So what’s the problem?

You see, there really isn’t any problem.  When I write down my angst, it suddenly seems so trivial.

A couple of decades ago when I was a doctoral student, I fell into a depression.  A mental one.  I once literally fell into a depression and sprained my left ankle.  It occurred about the same time.  Anyway, I digress.  I was seeing a counselor at the university, a wonderful woman recommended by another student.  During one session, she asked me what was the worst thing that would happen if I dropped out of the doctoral program.  How would it ruin my life?  I thought about it and realized that my life would not be ruined if I left the program.  I would be fine.  Although the program was a big part of my life, it didn’t contribute to my happiness … like my husband did, or my knitting, or my friends, or my cats, or my writing, or my walks in the neighborhood.  That one question changed my whole perspective.  I had control.  I could decide to stay, or to go.  I didn’t have to let the program rule me.

Eventually I secured a “real” job (that is, one with better wages than that of the lowly student research assistant), finished my coursework, and simply drifted away.  I admit I toyed with returning to the doctoral program on occasion.  But deciding not to return is a decision I’ve never regretted.

So, what is this about?  Just that I do have control.  I have some control over how things run my life, or, perhaps I should say, whether things do run my life.

I think of my counselor and that pivotal moment in her office, and I ask myself, what is the worst that can come of this?  What are my priorities?  If writing a blog post is not in the top five of my priorities for the day or even the week, what bad will come of that?  If I choose a morning yoga practice, reading The Hypothetical Girl by Elizabeth Cohen, grooming my cats (alas, they have fleas even with Revolution), going to the gym with my husband, and (finally) knitting while watching a movie with my husband, all of that ahead of writing a blog post, who is there to fault me?  Do you think I’m spending too much time with my husband?

Yes, there is so much writing I want to do.  I started working on a revision of Clemency a few weeks ago.  And I’m writing book reviews in my head.  But there’s time, isn’t there?  Does everything have to be done now?  Taking control means that I believe I have all the time in the world.  It means that I don’t live as if this day may be my last.  It means that as long as I enjoy what I am doing when I am doing it, then I am having a good day.  And if that means I don’t get to my novel that day, well, you know, I think I’ll live.

And what about you, dear Reader and dear Friend?  Have you found a balance between living your life and writing?  Share any and all secrets 🙂

 

 

Still Here But Not There #Mondayblogs #Nature #Mindfulness

It’s been so long since I’ve been on my blog, I almost forgot my password.  WordPress recently “congratulated” me for having first registered with WP eight years ago.  My, my, how times flies.  Except … I have posts going as far back as November 2007.  Oh, I don’t want to be snippy, but my head is so full of computer code right now, it’s hard not to try and make mincemeat out of WP.

Yes, sadly, my absence (or, at best my filmy, flimsy presence) is due in large part to my workplace.  It’s been a hellacious time with projects being delayed and then coming due all at the same time; with little nonsense fires that takes several people (including moi) to put out because, you know, leadership (or the lack thereof) don’t have a clue; with regular duties that get put off because of the projects and then the thousand mea culpas that I feel obliged to give because it’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”  Okay, that is just the title of a song I like, as sung by Joan Osborne.

I’ve been surfacing here and there in the blogosphere, trying to keep up with friends and failing (as usual) but … I can’t stop trying because there’s just so much good stuff being written and shared.

Unlike this post.

But there is light at the end of my workaday tunnel and I expect to (eventually) be back up and writing and reading and commenting … eventually, as I say.  I may never regain the energy or even the will to be a daily blogger as I once was or even a weekly one.  It’s not that I don’t want to write.  I do. I do. I do.  I just don’t feel compelled to engage with you all on only my platform when visiting you on yours is so much more fun.

More importantly for me right now, I’m trying to get some balance in my daily life by engaging in mindfulness (and I do hope you all aren’t sick of hearing about mindfulness yet).  Spring has come to my corner of the US and I make a daily effort to get out and walk about, even if it’s just around my building.  The sun is warm but the air is cool in the shade and often I pick up my pace and make my way (with determination even) to a large pond uphill from the complex where I work.  Often my efforts are rewarded with sightings of hawks, red-winged blackbirds, egrets, blue herons, squirrels, rabbits, pond sliders, and lazy cats gazing out windows.  Recently, I was fortunate in coming upon a wood stork feeding in a clump of tall grass that bordered the pond.  I approached slowly, quietly, but the nervous large bird took exception to my presence and flew off.  And I was fortunate that for once I thought to use the video function on my iPhone.  Please enjoy and see you all around and about again.

 

 

Inconsistency or I Did What? Again? #MondayBlogs #whereicandothemostgood

My mother once said I was predictably unpredictable.  I would argue that I’m simply consistently inconsistent.  Some of you may have noticed that I’ve “rebooted” my LinkedIn account.  Those who know me well aren’t the least bit surprised.  This seems to my M.O.:  I’ll think long and hard about taking an action, consider all the pros and cons, and after considerable debates with me, myself, and I, make a decision and announce it to the world.  Then, within a short period of time, I will flipflop.  I will discover some reason, some argument that I had somehow overlooked, and come to regret what now seems to be an ill-informed decision.

Well.  So it goes.

I try to simplify my life, but life simply isn’t simple.

And I really can’t complain about that.  As an older yogi friend of mine said, after asking him how he was feeling:  “Well, I’m still vertical and sucking air.”  True dat.  Still, I get annoyed with myself for being what I perceive as inconsistent.  That said, while filling in all my employment and education history (I had deleted my previous account and obviously all the data that went with it), I saw a lot of consistency.

I’ve been working for the same state government for 15 years and have progressively gained more experience in working with, what we in the biz call, “large administrative data sets.”  Your birth certificate data sets, your hospital discharge data sets.  These files of millions of records that were never designed for research, never meant to “communicate” with each other.  But I make them talk, in a manner of speaking.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m no magician or even expert when it comes to this kind of work.  I was (and still am to a degree) part of a team of highly skilled epidemiologists and public health experts.  Working with data like this is like working on a massive jigsaw puzzle that was designed by different people for different reasons.  Not all the pieces are going to fit.  Some may even be missing.  The fun is in finding those pieces that will fit, and the reward is in knowing that the completed puzzle, even with its missing pieces, will be used to understand health behaviors and, ideally, improve health outcomes.

The true benefit of deleting and then resurrecting my LinkedIn account is my realization that this part of my life is still pretty important to me.  Of course, if I could afford to live off my writing, I would.  I’m not a fool.  But since I have to have a day job, I’m glad it’s in a field that seeks to make a positive difference in the world.  A colleague recently said to me, “I just want to be where I can do the most good.”  I know some if not many people think government employees are slackers at best, parasites at worst.

Well, hello there, dear Reader.  My name is Marie and I am a state government employee.  What motivates me in my work is not my salary, not even my benefits (although I truly appreciate having them).  My motivation is in being “where I can do the most good.”  And I know, in this case, I am very, very lucky.

And now for something different.

A tree!

A tree!

Yes, a tree and not a cat!  This photo was taken a few years ago when I was visiting my childhood home.  There’s a wonderful footpath through the woods and past the cornfields near my old house.  The photo doesn’t do justice to the wonderful late afternoon light which made the leaves of this tree glow.  Soon, I’ll be making another trip to this area.  I’ve plan for a couple of posts while I’m gone, but comments will be off since my access to the internet will be intermittent at best.

But you know, dear Reader, I’m always with you in spirit.

I Got Almost … #MondayBlogs #Procrastination

Nothing.  Yes, dear Reader, I got almost nothing for this post today.  I have been fairly productive of late, but not with writing or blogging.  Again, it’s the knitting.

A friend noted that the buttons on the baby sweater I knitted for a baby-to-be might not be appropriate for a baby.


Yes, they are cute cat heads but the ears are rather pointy, not too sharp against my rough old skin, but I don’t want to the buttons to be the cause of baby’s first injury.  So I swap them out for these.


And, to be honest, I think these buttons are better suited.  They are pretty without drawing the eye entirely away from the sweater pattern.

I hope to present the parents-to-be with the sweater and hat tonight.  I’m sure they will be pleased that at least the outfit can be machine washed and dried, and yet it is wool. Merino wool, in fact, which is very soft.

Well, that’s it for now.  I’m thinking (again) of changing my blogging schedule.  If I aim for Fridays, then I can have all week to write and revise my posts instead of doing them half-off as I am now.  We’ll see.

Oh, and what about the classes I’m taking?  Well, the Modern Poetry class is a no-go for me.  It’s too fragmented: too many links to follow, an audio here, a video there.  Each week brings an email (or two) with several embedded links.  In contrast, a class I started a long while ago (on a lark), through the same platform (Coursera) has a very simple syllabus, with all content accessible through my iPad app.  The course is historical fiction and very interesting so far.  I can (and have) happily watched a video lecture while knitting.  I’ll say more about that class in a later post.  I’m still looking forward (with eagerness and dread) to the Fiction Workshop that will be offered free through the International Writing Program.  That will start on Thursday, September 24.  And, no doubt, you’ll hear all about that as well.

Until then a little eye candy for all you cat lovers: my green-eyed boy Junior.  Why buy a fancy cat bed when an old basket and a couple of magazines make him happy?

Taking It to the Limit #MondayBlogs #LaborOfLove

Hello, dearest Reader.  I feel like I’ve fallen far off the grid, and yet it’s only been a week and several hours since my last post.  The real difference is I haven’t visited any of my friends’ blogs.  I’ve been busy, which is quite fitting since today is Labor Day in the US.

IMG_0006

Guernsey style infant sweater and hat. Yes, the buttons are cat faces 🙂

I still have the baby blanket to knit, but at least I’ve completed the sweater and cap.  I have my doubts about this pattern, though, and it’s the second time I’ve knitted it.  I used to knit sweaters a lot, adult sweaters for friends, me, and my husband.  The baby things have only come about in the last 14 years, since my nephews started having children.  Then a good friend gained a granddaughter and coworkers started having babies.  For a long while I was knitting baby blankets, occasionally throwing in a sweater or socks or a dress.  The thing is … I hate sewing the pieces together, especially when the stitch pattern is anything other than stockinette stitch.  I recall only one time in my knitting life when I sewed up the seams of a cardigan so well they were almost invisible.  (And when I say “sew,” I mean taking several inches of the yarn and a large blunt needle and weaving the seams closed.)

Knitting is much like writing for me.  I love the process.  I love seeing the pattern unfold through my fingers as much as I enjoy seeing a story take shape on a page.  I love the feel of soft wool against my skin as much as I love the intimacy I develop with my characters.  But I don’t love having to put the pieces together as much as I don’t love having to revise and rewrite.  The problem is self-doubt.

Whenever I knit for someone else, I’m more critical of my work than when knitting for myself.  I will rip out a finished sleeve and start over if I find a mistake.  Even when I’m convinced I’ve done the best I could, I still find “defects” in my knitting:  a slight gap where I twisted a stitch one way instead of the other; a telltale seam along the back of the hat.  It’s the same when I think of other people reading my writing:  Melissa’s breakdown is too melodramatic; the setting too vague, too Anywhere, USA.  Typos and grammar can be fixed by an editor.  Poor revision cannot (well, not unless I’m willing to spend $$$$$$$$$$).

So it goes.

Shortly, things will be even busier.  I’ve managed to register for two free online courses:  (1) Modern & Contemporary American Poetry offered by the University of Pennsylvania; and (2) How Writers Write Fiction with the University of Iowa, the same folks who offered the poetry course I took a few months ago.  The poetry course will start on Sept 12 and the fiction course on Sept 24.  And I still have my day job.

Am I insane?  Is there a padded cell in my near future?  I keep taking things to the limit.  Cue The Eagles.

 

 

Memories and Music #MondayBlogs #CannedHeat #TheKinks

Dear Reader (and Listener), I’m getting sloppy!  In my haste to extricate myself from the insanity of social media, I’ve neglected to provide proper care and feeding of my blog.  You know, posting without setting the appropriate categories and tags.   Such is the distracted mind.  Next I’ll be forgetting to cross my t’s and dot my i’s.

Adding to my distraction is this song that I had not heard in decades until last week when it aired on a local radio station.  Definitely a good song to calm my usual commute anxiety.

Interestingly (or not), a few weeks ago my husband purchased a greatest hits CD of The Kinks.  One of the cuts:  Victoria, the opening of which we thought sounded a lot like Canned Heat‘s On the Road Again.  Have a listen, and let me know if our aging brains were just conflating old musical memories.

As always, thank you for reading and listening.  I’m still feeling a bit adrift with my writing, hence all the music.  Recently, I had an odd experience with a short story I wrote about 23 years ago.  It’s one that I’m particularly fond of which I suppose is dangerous.  The experience was this:  I found a scanned copy of the story, printed it out and read with an eye to revising and submitting it to some journal.  With that almost pristine read (it having been 20-some years since I last read it), I found myself moved almost to tears by my own writing.  A few weeks go by and I finally get around to typing up the story so I can revise and polish it.  As I typed, my stomach flipped and my heart sunk further with every paragraph.  “What a piece of sh_t” was the steady refrain in my brain.

Now I know we writers can be our own worst critics.  If I had listened to my inner critic, I would not have this blog, I would not be making any claim to being a writer.  But how disappointing to go from feeling really good about a story written so long ago all the way to feeling disgusted by it.  I wonder if it’s more the intention to publish that makes me so critical.  Meaning, if I had only wanted to keep the story for my own personal reading pleasure, a memento of my floundering graduate student days, then I would continue to love it.

This has nothing to do with Canned Heat or The Kinks, but if you’ve read this far, please share your take on this experience.  Have you gone through the same flip-flop with your own writing?  What did you do, if anything?  I won’t give up on this particular story.  But I’d like to be able to stomach the revision process.

Course Review: Flash Essay on the Edge #MondayBlogs

FlashNonFiction_200

I’ve mentioned that Luanne Castle of A Writer’s Site and I recently participated in an online course for flash nonfiction, offered by Apiary Lit.  Well, we’ve survived finished the course and want to share our experience with all you dear Readers.  We put our heads together and created the following list of Pros and Cons.

First, let me share with you Luanne’s lovely shout-out to our instructor for the course:

The course instructor was talented writer and teacher Chelsea Biondolillo. Her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Brevity, Passages North, Rappahannock Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Shenandoah, and others. She has an MFA from the University of Wyoming and is a 2014-15 O’Connor Fellow at Colgate University. You can check out Chelsea here http://roamingcowgirl.com/ or do a search for her pieces in online magazines. Her knowledge of the genre and generosity to share that knowledge with her students was outstanding.

PROs

  • The teacher prep was outstanding. She provided a wealth of readings, which were useful in showing me what flash nonfiction can look and sound like.
  • The course was only four weeks, so I found that to be very manageable. If it had been longer, I would have been too stressed during the summer and at this time in my life.
  • The instructor generally gave useful feedback, seemed qualified in the subject, and was very nice. She seemed to love her subject.
  • The instructor was accessible, responding within the same day if there was a question or concern.
  • Other than a problem I will list under CONs, the website was pretty easy to negotiate.
  • The online classroom had various forums that enabled you to share your work with the other students and have discussions.
  • The writing prompts were generally interesting, but I didn’t feel tied to them, which was good.
  • The course was not graded. I could focus on what I wanted to turn in, not what I thought I had to turn in in order to get an A.
  • The course got me writing without adding stress to my life.
  • I got more writing done in this past month than I would have otherwise.
  • I feel that I know where to go with flash nonfiction now. It would be ideal to get more feedback down the road on attempts at Flash Nonfiction, but at least I feel much more comfortable with the genre from taking this course.
  • Above all, I had fun with the readings and the writing.

CONs

  • Although there were forums available, we had no real discussion of any of the readings. We were not strongly encouraged to interact with each other. We had maybe one discussion prompt during the whole course.
  • The readings and essay examples were available through either some kind of Adobe program that took a bit of time to figure out, or through hyperlinks that weren’t always easy to download.
  • We posted our written assignments privately to the instructor so I had no way of learning from what others had turned in or from reading instructor comments on the work of others. I didn’t care for this method as it diminished what I could learn from the course by a hefty percentage. I suppose this is the difference between the workshop method and a traditional style class.
  • We felt isolated in this class and had little interaction with anyone but each other and the instructor.  In the discussion forum, one other student interacted with us, and another made a couple of independent comments.  Other than that, it was a strangely quiet class.
  • Two platforms were used for the course: an online classroom and a blog,so sometimes I had a little trouble negotiating the course. Sometimes I had to login in two places. This inconvenience turned out to be less of a problem than I first anticipated, but it could be streamlined. The blog material could have been included on the classroom platform.
  • Since I don’t know how many people were in the course, I don’t know the instructor’s workload. My belief is that in a course that is short in length, the instructor should return assignments in short order. The lag time between turning in an assignment/beginning reading for a new lesson and getting the instructor’s feedback on my previous assignment was a little too long for my comfort.
  • The price at $199 was a little steep for four weeks and no discussion/no workshopping.

 My personal riff on the course:

Whether fair or unfair, I kept comparing the structure of this course with one I took on poetry a few months ago.  The poetry course was free, but if I fulfilled certain requirements, I could order a certificate of completion.  Those requirements involved participating in discussion forums as well as providing feedback on other students’ assignments.  I learned a lot from the online discussions and from the feedback I got from other students (many of whom were published poets).  It made for a dynamic learning environment, similar to what one would expect in a writing workshop.

What I missed in the poetry course was having a direct relationship with an instructor/mentor whose purpose was to critique and guide my writing.

So when I heard about this course through Luanne and saw that the instructor would provide individualized feedback, I jumped at the opportunity.  And although $199 was a bit steep for just 4 weeks, Chelsea’s feedback alone was worth every penny.  I also happily “discovered” that creative nonfiction is just as boundary-less as poetry.  There are rules and then there are rules to be broken.  You are limited only by your imagination.

But.

I am still looking for that perfect-for-me online writing course.  My biggest challenges, as always, are Time and Organization.  I complain I have little time but that’s in large part because I’m not very organized.  Hence, my need for structure, for someone/something setting deadlines for me.  I learned that through NaNoWriMo:  if I don’t have a deadline, I don’t write.  I know I would be better at this if I were retired from my day job, but until that happens, when I do have time, I tend to procrastinate. (Although my procrastination takes the form of household chores and errands, which, sadly I have no one to do for me.)

I would consider taking another course with Apiary Lit (and definitely with Chelsea), but I want to try another venue if possible.  If any of my dear Readers have taken an online writing course that you truly found beneficial, please let me know in the comments.

Not Letting Go, Part 1 #MondayBlogs

Several months ago I went on a trip down memory lane, posting images of work I did during my college years. Click here if you want to read/reread that post.  I’ll wait.

Well, here I go again, and this time a little further back in time.  1976.  Spring semester at the community college I was attending.  I had joined a literary guild the year before, and every year we published one or two volumes of a journal.

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The guild was a very, very nice group of students with a faculty adviser.  They welcomed me immediately, were kind and tender with my highly sensitive nature, and were my first introduction to professional criticism.  Mrs. Hazel Swartz, the adviser, adopted each one of us.  We frequently had meetings at her house, and once she took me to dinner to explain to me why “peeping” wasn’t the best word to use when describing the sun coming up over a mountain.

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It was a very small world I lived in.  I quickly learned that my next-door neighbor had had the dubious pleasure of teaching Hazel to drive a stick-shift many decades before.  I remember he said something about fearing for his life as they sped up and down the hills of Queen Anne Road.  Few of the students were from my neck-of-the-woods, so to me they were savvy world travelers, even if they had only come from as far as Long Island.  They seemed so much older, wiser, and sophisticated than me.  I had a crush on one, a poet who seemed to genuinely like my writing.  But, of course, I  thought he was too good for me so I took up with someone else.  That was unfortunate.  My first lover could have been a poet.  Instead I wound up with a narcissistic, emotionally abusive loser.  Ah, the idiocies of youth!

Anyway, for the last almost 40 years, I’ve carried from my home in upstate New York to various apartments in California and finally to my house in Florida two volumes of our journal.  The second one is my favorite.

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With this one, I was starting to feel like a writer.  Recently I sat down and leafed through the contents, cringing at some of my feeble attempts at poetry and fiction writing.  But I paused at one bit of prose.  It’s not fiction because the people and the circumstance were real.  But, in this piece, more than any other, I recognize my voice.

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Those very early years, 1975-1976, I could imagine only being a writer.  I had no imagination for any other kind of employment.  I was naive, ignorant, but I was who I still am.

Top Ten Writing Things Not to Discuss with Anyone Who’s Not a Writer #MondayBlogs

Here’s a funny but all-too-true Top Ten list from John Howell that should resonate with every writer out there, published or not. Enjoy!

Fiction Favorites

This list has as inspiration personal experience in trying to discuss writing with non-writers. Hope you enjoy

a writer

Top Ten Writing Things Not to Discuss with Anyone Who’s Not a Writer

10 If you are a writer, do not discuss how hard it is to write. If you do, at best you get an eye roll. At worst, you be talking to someone who has to disarm bombs for a living and will laugh out loud in your face.

9 If you are a writer, do not discuss your characters as if they are real. If you do, at best you will find people avoiding you. At worst, you will be talking to someone who has an imaginary friend that they believe would be a perfect protagonist for your next book.

8 If you are a writer, do not discuss your latest plot breakthrough. If you do, at best you will…

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