Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Birthday Sing-Along



Happy birthday to me...

So, did you all bring me a song? I have to say, I rarely find new songs on my own. I know lots of people actively seek out the latest bands/singers/sounds, but I just don't. Never have, not even as a teenager (when we're all supposedly expressing our feelings through other people's lyrics). If I hear a song that I really like to the point of tracking it down on my own, it's usually from a movie soundtrack. Indeed, as I think back, I think the vast majority of songs I've added to our home computer's iTunes are songs from the final credits of various movies.

All of which is to say that, whatever songs I post here? You've probably heard of them before. I'd love to be able to provide horizon-broadening musical novelties, but the odds are low.

Here are some songs I've had stuck in my head this week as I turn 38. There's no hidden meaning, I just like 'em.

Otis Taylor: Ran So Hard The Sun Went Down




Adele: Rolling In The Deep




Staind: Tangled Up In You



And a song I would never have encountered except for The Serious Girl: Kingdom Dance from the movie Tangled. (Embedding disabled, dangitall.)

So. What's got you singing, humming, or tapping your feet?

And, if you know any Boston-area teens who are into writing, please let them know about my winter session workshop at Grub Street starting next January 27th...

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Shameless request for attention


It's my birthday next week! Last year I asked people to share old photos. The year before, I hosted a poetry party. This year, I'm going to be asking for you to BRING ME MUSIC.

No, I don't mean an iTunes gift card, although that would certainly be nice. Instead, I'd like my readers to share a favorite song... links to audio, quoted song lyrics, however you want to do it. It's a lot like poetry (did I mention my poetry party got 42 comments and that fun was had by all?!?) and I think it's going to be awesome.

So, on Wednesday, December 7th, please swing by to share some of your favorite verses, and tell me that I don't look a day over 37.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Write fast.


Write so fast, your inner editor can't catch you.

-- Carrie Kei Heim Binas

Thus ends the second-half-of-November inspirational-quote marathon. If you're still doing NaNoWriMo, WHAT ARE YOU DOING ONLINE?!?!!? GO WRITE!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Every minute you spend writing.



[My] first manuscript will never be published, but writing it was in NO way a waste of time. If you want to be a writer, every minute you spend writing is valuable . . . The world will never see the product, but the process was worth every second.


Daily inspirational quotes will be posted here through the rest of November. KEEP WRITING.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Courage.


Life shrinks or expands according to one's courage.


Daily inspirational quotes will be posted here through the rest of November. KEEP WRITING.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Persistence.


How often -- even before we began -- have we declared a task "impossible"? And how often have we construed a picture of ourselves as being inadequate? . . . A great deal depends upon the thought patterns we choose and on the persistence with which we affirm them.

Daily inspirational quotes will be posted here through the rest of November. KEEP WRITING.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The same age.


Give yourself permission to be a beginner. By being willing to be a bad artist, you have a chance to be an artist, and perhaps, over time, a very good one.

When I make this point in teaching, I am met by instant defensive hostility: "But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano / act / paint / write a decent play?"

Yes . . . the same age you will be if you don't.

So let's start.


Daily inspirational quotes will be posted here through the rest of November. KEEP WRITING.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The energy it takes to pout.


I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues.


Daily inspirational quotes will be posted here through the rest of November. KEEP WRITING.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dare.




It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.

-- Seneca (4 B.C. - 65 A.D.)

Daily inspirational quotes will be posted here through the rest of November. KEEP WRITING.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lose your fear.



To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.


Daily inspirational quotes will be posted here through the rest of November. KEEP WRITING.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Trust your subconscious.


... I discovered that if I trusted my subconscious, or imagination, whatever you want to call it, and if I made the characters as real and honest as I could, then no matter how complex the pattern being woven, my subconscious would find ways to tie it together -- often doing things far more complicated and sophisticated than I could with brute conscious effort. I would have ideas for 'nodes', as I think of them -- story or character details that have lots of potential connections to other such nodes -- and even though I didn't quite understand, I would plunk them in. Two hundred pages later, everything would back-fit, and I'd say, "Ah, that's why I wrote that."

Daily inspirational quotes will be posted here through the rest of November. KEEP WRITING.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The seat of your pants.


The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.


Daily inspirational quotes will be posted here through the rest of November. KEEP WRITING.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Write much?


By writing much, one learns to write well.


Daily inspirational quotes will be posted here through the rest of November. KEEP WRITING.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Figure out what you have to say.


Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer.

Daily inspirational quotes will be posted here through the rest of November. KEEP WRITING.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Take chances.


Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything really good.


Daily inspirational quotes will be posted here through the rest of November. KEEP WRITING.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How to write a novel.


The shortest answer is doing the thing.

Daily inspirational quotes will be posted here through the rest of November. KEEP WRITING.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fail Better.


Ever tried.
Ever failed.
No matter.
Try again.
Fail again.
Fail better.

Daily inspirational quotes will be posted here through the rest of November. KEEP WRITING.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Your Daily Writing Inspiration


It's November 15. If you're doing NaNoWriMo, you may be kicking ass and taking names, or you think you're already so far behind that you can never catch up. BUT YOU CAN. Keep trying. And I'm going to post one inspirational writing quote each day for the rest of the month to help keep you going...

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.

--J.K. Rowling



Monday, November 14, 2011

Teen Writing Workshop, Winter Session


Starting at the end of January 2012, I'll be teaching a class for teens at Grub Street (otherwise known as Boston's Best Literary Gang)! The class will have no more than 12 students, aged 13-18, and there are some scholarship spots available...
This class is for teenaged writers who want to learn about and practice the art of "workshopping" one's writing. During this course, you will have the opportunity to “workshop” your poems and stories in class. We will discuss the strengths in your work as well as opportunities for revision. An inspiring and generative experience for young writers who are eager to develop their voice while helping others do the same. For writers age 13-18 ONLY.

SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITIES: Grub Street is happy to be able to offer a limited number of full scholarships for this course. You are eligible for one of these scholarships if you are in a household that receives benefits from Massachusetts SNAP or Massachusetts TANF, if you are a foster child, and/or if your household’s gross income is within the free limits on the Federal Income Guidelines.

To apply for a scholarship, please send an email of no more than 500 words to chris@grubstreet.org describing why you want to take this class and stating that you meet the requirements above. At the end of the email, list the name and email address or phone number of one teacher or other non-relative adult whom we could contact for a recommendation. Please put "Winter Teen Scholarship" in the Subject line of the email. Deadline is 12:00pm on Friday, January 13th.
Register for my class here. I welcome fiction, narrative non-fiction (such as memoir), and poetry. I also welcome ALL GENRES -- literary, science fiction, mystery, romance, young adult, fantasy, horror, anything.

You bring the writing. I'll help you make it better, and I'll help you to help OTHERS to do the same.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Damn(ed).


Thanks to Maine Character for forwarding me this interview with Chuck Palahniuk! The author is delightful and insightful as always, and I also recommend you follow the links to my previous posts about meeting Chuck and Chuck's keynote speech at the Grub Street 2010 Muse & the Marketplace writing conference.

In other news, I just finished reading Chuck's most recent novel, Damned. And damned if I don't think it's his first book for the young adult market.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Only five more days 'til NaNoWriMo!


National Novel Writing Month. A month of collective insanity and literary exuberance during which time we try to remember:
  • You can't edit a blank page.
  • Don't get it right, get it written.
  • Write so fast, your inner editor can't catch you.
And hey, this year they put off the daylight savings "fall back" until November 6, so NaNoWriMo 2011 is ONE FULL HOUR longer than usual! Use the time wisely, people.

You can find my NaNoWriMo profile here, if you're playing too, and want to be my "writing buddy." You can find my NaNo posts from last year by searching for the NaNoWriMo tag... and here are some of the more substantive ones that I plan to retweet over the course of the next month even if I get no other blogging done:
Ask me any questions, and I shall try to answer in the comments.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Calling All Boston-Area Teens!


My beloved writing center Grub Street is offering two 6-week courses for teenagers, Generating New Writing and Workshopping Your Writing, that will run from 4-6pm on Friday afternoons starting October 14, 2011.

Grub is already home to the renowned Young Adult Writers Program (YAWP), and the new Teen Writing Camp programs are sure to be equally awesome. Generating New Writing is going to be taught by the inimitable and inspiring KL Pereira, and Workshopping Your Writing is going to be taught by, well...

Me.

Teen Writing Camp: Workshopping Your Writing

6 Fridays from 4:00-6:00pm at Grub Street headquarters. Begins October 14th.

This class is for teenaged writers who want to learn about and practice the art of ""workshopping"" one's writing. During this course, you will have the opportunity to “workshop” your poems and stories in class. We will discuss the strengths in your work as well as opportunities for revision. An inspiring and generative experience for young writers who are eager to develop their voice while helping others do the same. For writers age 13-18 ONLY.

Note: This class will not meet on Veteran's Day, 11/11, or the week of Thanksgiving, 11/25. The final class will take place on 12/2.

SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITIES: Grub Street is happy to be able to offer a limited number of full scholarships for this course. You are eligible for one of these scholarships if you are in a household that receives benefits from Massachusetts SNAP or Massachusetts TANF, if you are a foster child, and/or if your household’s gross income is within the free limits on the Federal Income Guidelines.
To apply for a scholarship, please send an email of no more than 500 words to chris@grubstreet.org describing why you want to take this class and stating that you meet the requirements above. At the end of the email, list the name and email address or phone number of one teacher or other non-relative adult whom we could contact for a recommendation. Please put "Fall Teen Scholarship" in the Subject line of the email. Deadline is 12:00pm on Friday, September 30th.

You can register for any of the teen classes HERE. If you register for my course, know that all genres are welcome, as are novelists, short story writers, writers of narrative non-fiction (e.g. memoir), and poets.

I hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How To Set A House On Fire


Because my last post, The Orange by Benjamin Rosenbaum, got more hits in twelve days than any of my other posts have EVER gotten (I'm not hurt, no, not at all)... here's another short story that I love. Award-winning short film adaptation above, original flash fiction below.

How to Set a House on Fire

Before you light the gas , light a cigarette under the old red maple in the front yard, under the hunter’s moon, and take a last look. Before this, walk through the ranch house with a miner’s lamp and pesticide sprayer topped off with high-test racing fuel. Before it was your house it was your father’s house and before it was your father’s house it was his father’s too. Before foreclosure on the family farm, before the new highway. Spray the gaps in the oak floorboards and get into the heating ducts, hit the horsehair plaster and take out electric sockets, then run a heavy gas line out to the barn. There is the combine. That is a backhoe. At one time chickens lived here. Before leaving, make sure the hay bales drip with fuel. This was feed once. On your way toss your house keys into the water well. Before doing anything else, make a wish.

After filling the birdbath next to the old red maple with the remaining octane, call Herm up at the fire station. After he gets on the line tell him to come over and bring a truck or two– with a crew. There’s not much to see now, really. After he asks why, tell him. Tell him how the fire line went from where you stand to the well and then zigzagged to the barn, and after the farm equipment blew to the sky tell him how the furnace did the same. A chain of events, explain, a chain of events. After the windows kicked out there wasn’t much anyone could have done. And after Herm asks if you would do it all over again, tell him you would. But come anyway, Herm. Tell him that.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Orange

The Orange

by Benjamin Rosenbaum

An orange ruled the world.

It was an unexpected thing, the temporary abdication of Heavenly Providence, entrusting the whole matter to a simple orange.

The orange, in a grove in Florida, humbly accepted the honor. The other oranges, the birds, and the men in their tractors wept with joy; the tractors' motors rumbled hymns of praise.

Airplane pilots passing over would circle the grove and tell their passengers, "Below us is the grove where the orange who rules the world grows on a simple branch." And the passengers would be silent with awe.

The governor of Florida declared every day a holiday. On summer afternoons the Dalai Lama would come to the grove and sit with the orange, and talk about life.

When the time came for the orange to be picked, none of the migrant workers would do it: they went on strike. The foremen wept. The other oranges swore they would turn sour. But the orange who ruled the world said, "No, my friends; it is time."

Finally a man from Chicago, with a heart as windy and cold as Lake Michigan in wintertime, was brought in. He put down his briefcase, climbed up on a ladder, and picked the orange. The birds were silent and the clouds had gone away. The orange thanked the man from Chicago.

They say that when the orange went through the national produce processing and distribution system, certain machines turned to gold, truck drivers had epiphanies, aging rural store managers called their estranged lesbian daughters on Wall Street and all was forgiven.

I bought the orange who ruled the world for 39 cents at Safeway three days ago, and for three days he sat in my fruit basket and was my teacher. Today, he told me, "it is time," and I ate him.

Now we are on our own again.


Copyright © 2001 Benjamin Rosenbaum

Originally published in Quarterly West, Spring/Summer 2002.
Reprinted in Harper's, November 2002.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Scenes from a Mumbai taxi

My husband is in Mumbai this week for work. He took these videos with his Blackberry. Consider them your writing prompts for the day...

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Friday, September 2, 2011

No one cares about your beautiful language.

Beautiful letters on a beautiful girl.

Back at the end of June, I took yet another Grub Street class with author Steve Almond. I just today found some of my notes:
  • You can't write scared.
  • Inhibition = self-consciousness = that which ruins any art.
...and...
  • The reader doesn't really want your beautiful language. The reader wants the truth.
Our friend Kurt seems to agree, using even more brutal language himself:
"I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak."
- Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday
Write what's real. The language will follow.

In other news, I'm solo parenting this week. Wish me luck...

I don't normally Tweet from the Bible, but you gotta like this one:

Like I said. Write the truth, and the language will follow.
Even in translation.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vonnegut's Eight Rules


Kurt Vonnegut's eight rules for writing fiction:
  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
- Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.
Of course, there are always exceptions. Vonnegut added: "The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor. She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that."


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

You don't want publication yet.


I recently received the following email from fellow attorney-writer Courtney:
I'm gearing up for the impending NaNoWriMo--I have a novel idea that has been floating around in my brain for approximately 5 years, but with all the nonsense that comes with living life on a daily basis, I haven't done anything other than put a loose outline on paper. I'm hoping this is my year and maybe next year at this time I can be worrying about trying to get it published. I'm actually contemplating taking a few days off of work in November, shutting off the cell phone and internet, and just going into some kind of writing zone--somewhat akin to the old fashioned "all nighter" pulled in college to crank out a paper--but this time probably it will involve a lot more sleep and a glass of organic red wine.

Do you have any advice/tips for me? For example, I'm looking for things I should be doing now to set myself up later for publication. I have purchased a book titled, "Publishing Your Manuscript," which I must confess I have not cracked open yet, but it somehow makes me feel closer to my goal by sitting on my bookshelf.
So, here's my advice, and I hope it doesn't sound too harsh: DO NOT DO ANYTHING to set yourself up for publication. You're not there yet.

You need to write first. And write and write and write and write...

The internet is full of awesome resources to help you get published. Mur Lafferty has an amazing podcast called I Should Be Writing that covers everything from first drafts to revision to submission, with published-author interviews to boot. NaNoWriMo itself has a page called I Wrote A Novel, Now What? I've got a list of blogging agents, editors, and other helpful industry players here: How Do I Get An Agent? and you can also follow my entire list of agents who Twitter (I've found nearly a hundred, there's probably more...)

BUT.

It is SO easy to lose yourself in the scrum of people running towards the prize of publication.

You can end up crafting the perfect query letter, instead of crafting your novel. (Somewhere in the archives of the lovely Natalie Whipple is a blog post where she talks about the frustration of having written a query letter that got lots of agent attention, only her book wasn't actually fulfilling the promise of the query letter, and so of course there was no chance of publication yet. CONGRATS ON YOUR BOOK DEAL, NATALIE!!! You totally earned it.)

You can find yourself worrying about whether you're going to get stuck in a career of writing in a certain genre, instead of actually finding your voice. You can find yourself comparing your process to those of other writers without being able to remind yourself that YOU are not THEM and what works for them may not work for you. Eyes on your paper, writers.

You can waste way too much time blogging and Tweeting, trying to find an audience for books you haven't written yet. Even if you find a community that's trying to be supportive, if you're not in the right mental space, it can do you damage. The writer isn't the one spending all his time hanging out online talking to other writers about "the process." The writer is the one who stays in the room.

Last year a lot of people were telling me things I wanted to hear: you're great, it's just a matter of time, don't worry about it... but it wasn't what I needed. I needed to be spending more time on my revisions. I needed to be spending less time trying to figure out the "magic bullet" of publishing, and more time just writing more and more and more to make myself better. Hell, even if I am great and it's just a matter of time, I needed to be spending more time writing new stories, and less time pursuing publication because words are my product and I need as many of them on paper as I can get, so that I actually have the work I need upon which to base this supposed future career.

Finally, and worst of all, if you work to learn the publishing trade right away, you might actually manage to get your book published right away... before it's really ready. You want your work to last a long, long time. You should make sure it's as close to perfect as it can be before it goes into print.

Screw publication. Find out what kind of writer you are, first. You'll have a lot more fun, and end up being more successful in the long run, I promise.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fear.


I'm afraid my first novel will never find representation.

I'm afraid I'm taking too long with my latest round of revisions.

I'm afraid my changes will make the book worse, not better.

I'm afraid that everyone else will like the new edits, but I'll still prefer the original.

I'm afraid readers won't "get" what I've tried to do with this book.

I'm afraid the novel won't be taken seriously enough.

I'm afraid that I won't fall in love with the characters in my second novel as much as I did with the characters in my first.

I'm afraid that I'm losing too much time on my first novel and not getting enough new work written.

I'm afraid that everyone will want my second novel to be written just like the first.

I'm afraid that I'm too close to my own work to revise it yet again.

I'm afraid of the blank page.





Fortunately, I'm more afraid of not trying.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Just bring a pen.


I've attended Grub Street classes for nearly two years. I've blogged about those classes in what my friends affectionately call my Grub Street "Cliffs Notes" series. And now, I am delighted and honored to be leading a free Grub Street workshop...

If you're in the Boston area, please come by. I'd love to see you, and I hope to be giving back a little of the inspiration that the other Grub Street instructors have consistently given me.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Johnny Depp, eat your heart out.

I realize that my blog has, for the most part, not been terribly substantive lately. I'm sorry about that, but as has happened in the past, something's had to give, and recently my online presence is what had to go. I'm putting up a short story every month on my new fiction-only blog (have you checked out the extra audio post yet?), so I'm still trying to put my writing out there, but my ability to just chat online is limited, especially with our family's summer schedule...

But I still wanted to share with you just a little of what I've been doing at home with The Serious Girl and my husband:

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LEGO pirate ship. You know you love it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The writer is the one who stays in the room.

Photo by Javiy, found here.

With apologies for the appalling delay, here is my summary of my favorite lesson from the keynote speech by Ron Carlson at this year's Muse and The Marketplace writers' conference:

The writer is the one who stays in the room.

We are not writing to support our beliefs, we are writing to discover what might be worth believing in.

Writing is like walking out into the ocean. At some point, the waves will lift you up, and you won't be able to touch the ground. And it won't matter if the ground is six inches below you, or six feet below you, or sixty feet below. When you can't touch, you can't touch.

And there will be friends waiting for you on the shore, on the warm sand with towels to dry you off, and they will console you if you swim back to them, they'll say, "it's okay, we understand, you can try again to write tomorrow."

But it's your job to stay there, to deal with the ambiguity and uncertainty and fear.

Keep swimming.

The writer is the one who stays in the room.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Muse has spoken. Twice.


Today: a new flash fiction piece, CARETAKER, is up on my fiction blog.

This week: I talk about The Muse & The Marketplace 2011, Grub Street's tenth annual writers' conference, which is where I spent my weekend.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Audience


As I approach my 300th post, a few thoughts about blogging are rattling around in my head on the subject of readership. I imagine that most writer-bloggers ponder these at some point, and now it's my turn. Who, exactly, is my audience? Are the people who read my blog actually going to be interested in my novel once it is published? Are the people who buy my book once it is published actually going to want to read my blog as well? Does it matter?

With non-fiction, it's a more obvious connection. Those authors have special and specific knowledge about a particular subject that can be the basis of their readership across a variety of platforms. Someone who writes about science can also blog and tweet about science, and the same demographic applies. It's all non-fiction.

But the non-fiction "voice" of an author is not the same as the fiction "voice" of a novel's narrator. Sure, a writer of comic novels may want to cultivate a comic tone in her blog, and a writer of middle-grade books will probably want to keep his blog PG-rated so that there is some overlap between the stories and the writer's online presence. But ultimately, the things I want to talk about may not have any appeal to my future readers, and vice versa. (Jody Hedlund covered these issues quite nicely in a blog post she wrote earlier this year.)

If I write about my path to publication, I'll naturally be attracting mostly other writers. Now, other fiction writers should obviously also be fiction readers*, but who knows if they read the kind of fiction I write. Will the fiction posts get lost in the shuffle of "regular" blog posts, making it too hard to find for the readers who do want it? Might putting my fiction on my blog (as I did here and here and sort of here) actually be confusing and unwanted for my regular blog readership? Because as much as I want people to read (and eventually buy) my fiction, I like blogging. I hope that my posts on the craft of writing have been genuinely helpful to people. I hope that people can save time when looking for their first agent because of resources I've provided.

I've decided that one blog cannot be all things to all people. So I've created a second, fiction-only blog. People who want to read my short stories can go there. People who want to hear my personal, struggling-writer's voice can stay here. I hope a lot of you fall into both categories, but it's cool if you don't.

Readers, WHAT DO YOU WANT MORE OF IN THIS BLOG? What have been your favorite posts so far? Tell me a little bit more about yourselves, so I know who my audience really is.

*If you're one of those people who thinks you can write a novel without reading extensively... you're wrong. Go watch So You Want To Write a Novel and then for the love of all that is holy go get a library card and start doing your homework.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Devil's Parrot (preview)

The devil woke up one morning and found that her hellhound had been replaced by a parrot.

Today's image comes to you courtesy of the talented Natalie Whipple. About a year ago, I won Natalie's "Dark and Stormy" contest, in which we were challenged to break one of the supposed rules of writing and start a story with the weather. I recommend following that link to see the Honorable Mention and 2nd & 3rd place prize winners, but here's my winning entry for your convenience:
A poet once wondered if the world would end in fire or ice. He spoke of desire and hate.

If
I could meet that poet, I would tell him that the world can end far less dramatically. It can end under a perfect blue sky and fluffy white clouds, unmarred by excessive heat or cold. It can end with indifference, with a man who woke up on such a fine day as this and said that he no longer wanted to be married. Who looked at me with empty eyes and shrugged when I asked why. Who had so little interest remaining that he packed only a few changes of clothes, leaving behind books, music, photos, computer files, furniture, money.

In an effort to provoke either love or anger, I grabbed Ninja, said I was keeping the dog. The man who was everything to me eyed the small black dachshund, who had indeed been his pet first, and said that was fine. Then he closed the door gently behind himself.

I wanted for it to pour rain, for the sky to turn shades of black and gray, for thunder to rage, for lightning to strike—him or me, it didn't matter. But the sweet breeze kept blowing, the clouds drifted, the sun shone. It hurt even more knowing that the weather was indifferent as well.
I had a choice of prizes, so I delayed cashing in my winnings for quite a while until I knew which one I wanted, ultimately choosing to receive one of Natalie's awesome full-color anime-style drawings based on a short story of mine called The Devil's Parrot. (And yes, that's the first line of the story as the caption under the drawing.) Natalie apologized for her own delays in getting this sketch to me, but I think it was well worth the wait. The story itself is currently on submission to various lit magazines, and I'll let you all know as soon as it finds a home.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Free Fiction (no fooling)


COMPATIBILITY

On their first date, he explained that he wrote "advancers" for the local newspaper. When any person of note passed away, readers expected full profiles online within minutes; newspapers, then, were in the business of preparing such obituaries in advance. He estimated his office had 500 on file -- politicians and celebrities, the most famous, the oldest and most infirm, and of course those most likely to die from drugs or alcohol.

He saw it everywhere now. He made a game of it, thinking up the obits for fellow diners, the pre-deceased. Following a long illness. Survived by. The highlights of education and career.

He shrugged, embarrassed by his morbidity. Occupational hazard, he said.

But she laughed. She worked in a psychiatrist's office, transcribing the doctor's oral notes and maintaining the medical files. She would never breach confidentiality, of course, but she knew the patients on sight: name, number, neuroses. She played a different version of the same game. Who was addicted to what. Who was the cheater, who was the cheated. What would push someone over the edge.

He smiled. She took his hand. They decided to stay for coffee and dessert.

Naturally, when he started drinking and she let the relationship die, neither one of them saw it coming.




Creative Commons License
Compatibility by Carrie Kei Heim Binas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Binge Thinking


I've never liked multi-tasking. I much prefer to focus on a single job, get it done, and then move on to the next project. Now this obviously isn't a practical way to function most of the time. When I was an attorney, I never had just one client or conveniently had assignments that were due one after another with plenty of space to work in between. And if I don't try to work on dinner at least a little bit before my day's work is done and Serious Girl and I come home from her after-school classes at 5:45pm... well, then there's nothing to eat. So I have to multi-task sometimes. Okay, a lot. But I don't have to like it. And it's not how I work best.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am a binge listener: I don't listen to full "soundtracks" when writing, instead I'll listen to a single song on repeat for hours and hours. It turns out that this narrow-focused mentality creeps into my behavior everywhere. When I'm writing well, I'll do nothing else for a month. But also when I blog, I just blog. When I was on Twitter, I did just that. I have to recognize my limitations.

I've been off the grid for a while now. It's working for me. I'm glad I got online and met so many cool writers, learned from people who had queried and submitted before me, and got so much support. But I can't be on social networks and write at my full capacity. Others can. Not me.

So for now, I'm writing. Just writing. But the blog isn't going dark. The blog is called Heim Binas FICTION, after all... I'm going to start posting some of my short fiction. At least a story a month, maybe more. That way, my blog will be working for my obsessive nature, not against it. And maybe y'all will actually like my stories. I'd really like it if more people were reading what I'm writing. So until the publication gods smile on me... I'll be posting here.

And here's the song I'm currently listening to on endless repeat: So What by Space Mtn.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I'm not dead yet!

I was going to link to the original Monty Python movie clip ("I'm not dead yet, I feel fine!") but then discovered that SPAMALOT had an entire "not dead yet" musical number. Enjoy!

I would like to apologize to my readers for simply disappearing for over a month. But sometimes the in-real-life issues just have to take priority.

Here's what's going on:

I've closed my Twitter account for now. Maybe I'll come back, but it was a time suck I just couldn't handle. Twitter's like a cocktail party -- if something funny happens, you really have to have been there at that moment because everything moves so fast that there's no real way to explain it or participate in the joke after the fact. Which means I felt a need to be online at all times so I wouldn't miss those awesome moments. Also, if you're feeling down, and you go to a cocktail party looking for your friends, and they're not there or they're all talking with other people, that's super-depressing, right? The same thing can happen on Twitter. Sometimes it's a delightfully social experience, and sometimes it's oddly isolating. I need to free myself from all of that right now.

At the end of last year I did another round of edits on my first novel. I'm never sure how much of this kind of thing I should put online in the public eye, but let's just say that these edits were guided by the advice of an industry professional and her assistant. These women are super awesome and even if this doesn't end up leading to representation, I'm incredibly grateful for the time and energy they have given me. LADIES, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. YOU ROCK AND I HAVEN'T FORGOTTEN YOU.

I'm submitting my short stories to various literary magazines. No new publication credits yet, but I got a personal rejection with a request to submit again from a very prestigious magazine that's basically my "dream market." Squee! Now I just have to write another piece that suits their submission guidelines. Dang.

I'm still doing the show notes for Mur Lafferty's I Should Be Writing podcast. I even called in to the show with a question of my own (see Feedback Episode #180).

Special thanks to my internet friends who've checked in on me during my mysterious internet absence: Patty Blount, Harley May, The Rejectionist, and Maine Character.

I hope to once again start blogging on a semi-regular basis, but my family life and fiction writing have to come first. I'm still trying to figure out the right balance. Once again, I hope you'll hang in there with me.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Writers' Heaven


A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

"Oh my," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now."

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

"Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"

"Oh no, it's not," replied an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Missing the Point (censoring Huck Finn)

Image found at Better Book Titles

Twitter has been abuzz with discussion -- the question often posed is, "What do you think of the new edited/censored/cleansed edition of Huckleberry Finn?" (For those not already in the know, in the new edition, published by NewSouth, the n-word apparently has been completely replaced with the word "slave.") And the runner-up question in my crowd of writers and lovers of literature has been, "What they hell were they thinking?!"

Publishers Weekly was kind enough to post a snippet from the new introduction to the new edition that tries to answer the latter:
The n-word possessed, then as now, demeaning implications more vile than almost any insult that can be applied to other racial groups. There is no equivalent slur in the English language. As a result, with every passing decade this affront appears to gain rather than lose its impact. Even at the level of college and graduate school, students are capable of resenting textual encounters with this racial appellative. In the 1870s and 1880s, of course, Twain scarcely had to concern himself about the feelings of African American or Native American readers. These population groups were too occupied with trying, in the one case, to recover from the degradation of slavery and the institution of Jim Crow segregation policies, and, in the other case, to survive the onslaught of settlers and buffalo-hunters who had decimated their ways of life, than to bother about objectionable vocabulary choices in two popular books.
Now, much has been said about the value (or lack thereof) of this new edition, more eloquently than I can manage right about now. And I've posted briefly about the new Huck Finn on Twitter ("Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself." --Potter Stewart).

I think that language matters, and so I think that replacing the n-word with "slave" devalues the purpose of Twain's whole book. If Huck has Jim stay low in the boat because people can tell he's a slave from a great distance... well, no. These words have fundamentally different meanings. A slave is an unpaid laborer. A black man labeled with the n-word is a disrespected and devalued human. Our knowledge of this distinction, along with our knowledge of Twain as an author, the time when he wrote the book (1876-1883), and the time he was writing about (somewhere between 1835-1845), serves to educate us (as does all good literature, dammit).

Additionally, I think we shouldn't shy away from uncomfortable questions of context: why it's okay (or not) for Mark Twain to write the n-word, why it's okay (or not) for Denzel Washington to say "my nigga" in his role as the bad cop in Training Day, and why I still can't bring myself to spell the word out in its entirety, even as part of a discussion about censorship.

But, again, I'm drifting into territory well-covered by others. Here's the thought I haven't seen articulated yet...

The editors of the book explain that the oppressed blacks of that time were too busy surviving and fighting "to bother about objectionable vocabulary choices in two popular books."*

Well, fine. It's 2011. So, what oppression remains? What should we still be focusing on fighting? Is it Mark Twain? Is it the language in the "popular book" Huck Finn (which, I didn't think I needed to remind anyone, is largely about a boy trying to free a slave, about freedom in the broader sense, and about characters trying to come to their own moral conclusions in the face of contrary societal values)?

Or is it the fact that books about minority characters are still getting covers with white faces? Is it that fact that, out of all the Young Adult and Middle Grade books published in 2010, apparently only about 50 (FIFTY!) were written by black authors? Only 16 by Latino authors? Should the well-educated students of today be "resenting textual encounters"? Or should they be resenting the paucity of minority texts on their library and bookstore shelves? In their classrooms?

Do we care about cleaning up the language in our books, or do we care about cleaning up the injustices in the entire publishing industry? Forget fixing the past. What are we doing about the present?

Image found HERE.

We need to get our fucking priorities straight.


* The new edition pairs Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in one volume.
I have no knowledge of what censoring may have been applied to Tom Sawyer here.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Winner of Playing For Keeps


Thank you so much to those who entered my raffle/contest... thank you for entering in the first place, and then thank you again for your generosity. Really. You all rock.

I will be writing to each of you to find out where you each want your good-luck origami crane to be sent -- you may also pick out a preferred color and if you want the crane to have a small string for hanging.

And, in a new development, the winner will be getting a SIGNED copy of PFK! This will slightly delay shipping, since I'll be having the book sent to Mur first, and then she'll ship it forward from there, but I think we can all agree that this is a delay for a very good purpose.

So, congratulations to ADAM LOYAL! (Dude. Great name.) The random number generator has smiled upon you, and I will email you shortly to confirm your delivery preferences (and, who you want the book signed to!).

Even if you didn't enter, I still say you should get your butt over to Hub Magazine to listen to Mur's novella, Marco and the Red Granny: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7. I mean, come on, the story has a sweet little old lady who's the winner of a deadly, bloody, lunar reality show. Do you like this photo?


'Cause she ain't got nothin' on the Red Granny. Yeah. Go listen to the story. You'll be glad you did.