owl in winter

owl in winter

Friday, September 30, 2011

Come, Let's Go on Journey

Come on a journey with me. You, yes you, follow my beckoning fingers. Let's part the tree boughs to reveal the road beyond..close your eyes....come on with me....let's explore.

You as a writer know that writing is all about mental visualization, if such a term exists. You know that scenes and dialogues and plots are created in your head and once it all stirs around in there enough, the happenings find their way to the paper. The tree limbs fall away, and look, the babbling brook, or the peach-tinted sunset, is revealed. It is a thing of beauty, an entrancing story. Don't you think so?

So, as we explore this path, tell me, how do you think about your plot? How do you visualize your characters? Who do you love? Who, not so much? Why?


Well, that's why I asked you to come on this road with me in the first place. I want you, the writer, to dig deeper, go farther, push the envelope, really feel those characters, the ones you love, the ones you don't love so much. Know them. See if you can pick them out at a restaurant, at the grocery store, at a car garage, at your job. Listen, watch, absorb.

Have you ever read a story that had no dimension? I guarantee you, the characters were flat. They had no personality. There was no tension, no story arc introduced to challenge those characters, and therefore, they lay flat on the page, dull, uninspiring, not memorable. Sorta like cold steak, congealed gravy. Hunh.

Think about this the next time you sit down to write. What are these people who live in your head all about anyway? Who are they?

Wander down the road, let them meet you, really meet you. Come back and tell me what you learned.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Autumn Equinox

And so Autumn flung her doors open and cried, "Welcome!"

I am going in. How about you?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Traveling the Road of Inspiration

Inspiration. The act of moving someone intellectually or emotionally. The spirit of influence on someone else's movements.

In speaking about writing, is inspiration important? Is it necessary? Well, in my mind, a writer wouldn't be writing had they not been moved intellectually or emotionally in the first place. There would be no pounding on the keyboard til the wee hours, had there been no acceptance of inspiration on the part of the scribe. So yes, I believe the answer to the question is, yes, definitely. Inspiration nourishes you as a writer, it propels you forward. Let me share with you the wise words of Therese Walsh, co-founder of Writer Unboxed magazine, who so graciously gave me permission to quote her, when she says in a recent post:

"Some inspirations nourish more than the writer; they feed a work-in-progress by becoming a part of the story in some way, helping it to grow from germ-of-an idea to scene, from scene to chapter, from chapter to finished manuscript. They lend a book texture and authenticity." Texture and authencity. Isn't that good? Isn't that what we strive for in our writing? Ideas, growing from a germ to a finished manuscript, layer upon layer upon layer. I find inspiration just by reading that.

But what about this rush of words, the fire in the belly, the coursing through the veins, until the writer is spent and finished? Isn't that inspiration? Well, not really, while it is definitely a by-product of inspiration.

Inspiration tends to come out of the gate just a bit quieter, under the radar, behind the scenes. Think about what Therese says here:

"It's been my experience that down-to-the-bone inspirations sometimes take a while to affect a story. They sit inside of you as possibilities, and when and if the time comes to weave them into the fabric of a tale, they rise to the surface and remind you they exist. This may or may not even be conscious."

Sometimes it's so deep that you have to be reminded about why you're writing that story to begin with. Dig deep. And then dig deeper. Don't be afraid to trudge through the layers of your subconscious until your fingers light on that gem, that germ of an idea, the reason you are inspired to write.

Take some time today and give this some serious thought. What is inspiration to you? Why is it important? How does it help you develope your talent?

All quotes courtesy of Therese Walsh, co-founder and contributing writer to Writer Unboxed.

Photo courtesty of Roxanne Schuster, photographer, Mountain Grove, Missouri.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Weave

Taking a moment to lay the foundation for this post, I digress to my childhood, growing up in southwestern Pennsylvania, and then on to southwestern Minnesota, living as the daughter of an impoverished (meaning without financial means only) pastor, living always in homes not our own, drafty, old, creeky homes, a structure bequeathed to us as our status as the Pastor's Family. We made do, and I can attest to those days as being some of the most interesting and treasured days of my life.

My mother was an excellent seamstress, and I remember all through my childhood and adolescent years, all the way up to the time I got a job and made my own money, how she would take my sister and me to the fabric store in town, and there we would choose what fabric we would wear in her next homemade creation for us.

I remember the papery smell of fabric, I remember how the clerk used to roll it out on the cutting table, all ripples and bounce, and the crisp smack-smack of her scissors as she cut the required yardage. As my mother stood waiting for her goods to be packaged, I would rummage through the Butterick and McCalls books, gazing at this fashion interpretation or that one. I didn't like to sew so much, but I loved the process of the looking, the choosing, the experiencing the dusty, textile smell of the fabric bolts, burying my face in one or two, feeling the rub on my cheeks, inhaling deeply, gazing at the weave, wondering just where this fabric really came from and who made it possible for it to come there to that store, just for us.

There is a weave in writing. Yes, there is a weave in writing.

I write fiction. You may write non-fiction, or you may be a technical writer, or a journalist. I don't think there is that much difference between us. I take my characters, you take your subject if you are not a fiction writer, and you begin working it back and forth, connecting it to this, connecting it to that, back again, and forward. Again, and again, and again. Weaving, sliding between, adjusting the threads, pulling it tight, letting it wander for a minute and then pulling it again.

Think of your mind as a great, giant loom.You are the weaver. The loom, it is sitting there, in the shadows, waiting for your hand to come and work it, to turn the cogs, to adjust the speed, to bring your thoughts, your aspirations, with layers and depth, and precision.

Go now. Pull back that curtain, put your hands on the loom, and just weave.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

An Experiment That Turned Out to be a Success

I'm sort of excited about this.

This afternoon, some kind of hunger for fettucine al fredo came over me. Now, I love pasta, and I love sauce. Al fredo? Not so much. However, and who knows why, but I wanted fettucine al fredo this afternoon.

I had no idea how to prepare it. And thus, the experiment was born.


I chopped half an onion and two cloves of garlic. I threw 1/4 cup of butter into a sauce pan and let it melt, afterwich I threw in the onions and garlic and let it saute until glistening and limp.

In the meantime, I salted a pot of water and brought it to a boil and dropped my fettucine into that.

Once the onions and garlic were ready, I threw in 1/4 cup of flour and let it cook down.

After this, I pour in about a 1/4 c. white wine into the onions and garlic to deglaze the pan. Now, here is a note to remember if you cook with wine. I recommend using a sturdy pinot grigio for cooking. I generally say, cook with a wine you would drink. BUT. A lot of people that I know drink moscato or reislings or chardonnay. Do not cook with any of those. Reason being, they are sweet wines, more inclined for an evening on the porch watching the sun go down, than for sturdy cooking. Certainly do not use a sweet wine for this type of dish. If you don't drink, feel free to use more chicken stock, and that is fine too.

Well, tonight, I dropped the wine in, let it deglaze and then I poured in maybe another 1/4 cup of chicken stock and then a small carton of half and half. All the while, I am seasoning and reseasoning with salt, pepper, red pepper, and just a little thyme. How much of these seasons you use depends on your palate. I say that all the time but it's true.

So, now the sauce is beginning to take shape. By now the pasta should be boiling away nicely at a slightly lower temperature than full bore. It's going to take about ten minutes for the fettucine to cook.

I now pour some olive oil into a separate pan and once it is hot, I drop in boneless chicken breasts which have been seasoned with salt and pepper only. That's it. That's all. Let these chicken breasts brown and crisp up in the olive oil.

Pour, I would say, 1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese into the sauce. Let it melt. Reseason to taste, with cheese or salt, pepper, whatever makes you happy. Drain the pasta, allow just a little bit, maybe 1/4 cup of the boiling water to remain. Here is the reason why. You're going to pour your sauce onto the pasta and mix it together. The pasta will absorb so much moisture that you need a bit more moisture to balance it out. Reseason with salt, pepper, and red pepper, maybe even a touch of nutmeg.

Pull it out onto heated plates and serve with hot bread, a good salad, and yes, if you wish, a good pinot grigio.

Mange, mange! Blessings to you!!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bring Your Passion, Bring Your Soul

I'm doing a call-out to all writers tonight, any writer within the sound of my voice as it were, all writers who need to know, who need to believe in their voice, to all writers who need to connect with the soul of writing.

Here is what I want you to do:

Go into your private place, the place where you write. Never mind what it is; it can be a handwritten tablet on the couch in front of the tv, or your typewriter set up on the dining room table, or whether you have an actual room, complete with a door, and computer keyboard. Point is, just go. Go to that place.

Sit down, get comfortable. No phones now. No tv. Absolutely no internet now. No distractions. Ask your husband/wife to get the kids a snack. Close the door now, if you're lucky enough to have a door. Tune into yourself. Turn on whatever music you need to begin the process. I've been told that Stephen King writes to hard rock, I've also been told that Mozart stimulates the creative side of the brain; no matter, turn on whatever brings you inspiration, whatever wakes your writing side up. If you prefer silence, fine. Just bring yourself into that place where you can write.

Now, write or type the first thing, the first thought that comes to your mind. Write it down, don't worry about it being physically perfect, just get it out of your brain. Let it go now, let it breath, let it take on a life of its own.

Don't think about it, don't analyze it, simply let the process begin within you. You're giving birth now. Isn't that a gas?

Write another sentence, and another and another, and allow yourself to enter into that place where you begin to flow...let go...let go...it's not scary. You can do it.

For a first time experiment, I'd say give it twenty or so minutes, although I will not tell you to watch the clock. Your internal clock will dictate. However, if you quit sooner, or if you sit all day writing, don't worry about it. Point is, get the thoughts out of your brain/heart and onto the page. See where it goes...just follow along. Don't worry about formatting. Don't worry about anything proper. Simply get those words out, drop them out of the bucket in your soul and get them on the page.

Come back and tell me what you wrote and what your experience was.