Archive for September, 2009

Many of you reading this probably have no idea who Ed Sullivan was.

Sullivan was a New York City newspaper columnist and host of a long-running television variety show. It was a Sunday night must-see in most American homes all through the sixties and seventies.

A staple on the program was the plate juggler. Maybe it was a string of jugglers from show to show; maybe it was the same fellow. I don’t recall. But the setup was always the same.

There would be twelve or fifteen head-high flexible poles arranged in a line and the juggler would begin at one end, setting a plate to spinning atop the pole. He then moved from pole to pole, starting new plates, scurrying back to the wobbling one to keep them moving, until all were twirling.

It was nerve-wracking, watching the plates wobble and the juggler run from pole to pole, and by the end you couldn’t help but applaud the fellow’s nimbleness and his quick fingers.

I’ve always thought that writing was like that.

There are so many things to remember, to keep spinning, as you put a story together. As the author, you’ve got to keep all of the elements in balance. Got to scamper from pole to pole making sure that plot unwinds smoothly, that the setting is made real with just the right amount of sensory input, that characters are as fleshed out and rounded as you can make them. All while striking the proper balance between clear language and distinctive voice.

It’s a juggling act and even a talented writer can drop a plate. More than one sometimes. But when you do get the right spin on it all, when everything is up and rotating, what a marvelous thing to behold.

K. C. Ball grew up in Ohio, with her nose in a book, and now lives in Seattle, a stone’s throw from Puget Sound.

Her flash fiction has appeared on-line at Flash Fiction Online, Every Day Fiction, Boston Literary Magazine, Fear & Trembling, Every Day Weirdness, Flashshot and Moon Drenched Fables, as well as in print in Murky Depths #8 and the 2008 Best of Every Day Fiction anthology.

 One of her longer pieces, Coward’s Steel, won 3rd place in the Hubbard Foundation’s 1st Quarter, 2009, Writers of the Future competition.

K. C. is a staff reader for Every Day Fiction and blogs about writing at A Moving Line . She is also editor of the genre flash fiction online magazine, 10Flash.

 

Camille Gooderham CampbellThere’s a human being behind every story and poem you read — it’s called an author.

Oh, you knew that? Good.

You thought everyone knew that? Hmm. If everyone knows that, then why do we see words like “silly” in the reader comments under stories published online? Would you tell someone to his face that his story you just read was silly and the ending sucked? Would you tell someone to her face that her story was pointless and a waste of time?

Oh? You’d say that the story was a bit light for your taste and you were disappointed by the ending, that you prefer stories with more of a theme or purpose than you got from what you just read? Even saying that would take a fair bit of courage, eyeball-to-eyeball. I’d be willing to bet that most people would glance away and mutter, “Oh, er, yeah, great story… I, uh, I liked the dialogue…” Even in a writing critique group among trusted friends where you’re supposed to be brutally honest and all that, it isn’t easy to tell anyone that their precious work isn’t working — watching someone pretend not to be hurt isn’t fun.

So why do people behind the safety of a keyboard and screen feel free to drop their party manners and fling about all sorts of rudeness about other people’s published work? Honestly, I think it’s because they forget there’s a real person, a human being, waiting behind another computer screen to read those comments.

Those comments can hurt.

And that’s why I’m asking everyone who reads this to do just one thing: when you set out to post a comment on a story or poem you’ve read online, pretend you’re sitting at a table with the author. Tell it like it is, yes — I’m not asking anyone to sugarcoat anything — but tell it the way you would face-to-face. Because the author is out there behind his or her computer screen, putting on a brave face, pretending not to be hurt.

To read a new story every day, 365 days a year, check out Every Day Fiction.

This post by Camille Gooderham Campbell is reprinted here from her blog, Copy. Edit. Proof. Camille is an editor of Every Day Fiction.

Ginger B collinsAt first I was happy to just get the story down on paper! After a career writing for other people—brochures, radio spots, press releases—early retirement offered the time to indulge in personal writing. Non-fiction was fun, seeing my byline in a magazine or newspaper article was an ego boost, but after that first fiction class, I was hooked.

 Writing a novel is hard enough, but without an MFA or long list of big name publishing credits, finding an agent to take on a literary novel from a first-time author, in this wobbly publishing market, is even harder. As I polished the manuscript, I focused on getting more short stories published, and started blogging. The goal was to create an online presence, and generate website traffic to read posted stories and excerpts from published work.

 When I accepted the offer to guest post on If You Give A Girl A Pen, I hoped to share a writer’s block process that had worked for me, and in return, increase visibility for my blog and website. Read the post here.

 There was a noticeable response . . . a marked increase of hits on the website, new Twitter followers, (quality contacts worth following back) and a handful of invitations to connect on LinkedIn.

 But, there’s more . . .

 Karina Fabian, a LinkedIn contact and fellow writer, shared ideas on ways to maximize the guest blog exposure. Other LinkedIn writers steered me toward sites they frequent, connecting me to a new batch of writing communities like PerpetualProse &  SheWrites.

 The second post on If You Give A Girl A Pen confirmed the momentum was building, and when an agent requested a synopsis and full copy of my novel, WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW, I was convinced. It’s time to revamp the website home page!

 

 

Ginger B. Collins writes short fiction and creative non-fiction. Her work appears online and has been published in Freckles to Wrinkles, Silver Boomers, and the newly released Scratch Anthology of Short Fiction. She recently completed her first novel. Read excerpts at www.gingerbcollins.com.  All writers are invited to follow the blog and share experiences. http://coppertopcollins.blogspot.com.

TanyaschOnce upon a time, a book changed my life. I took it out of the library so much my name was on the card more than any other kid. It was the first book that appealed as much to the writer in me as it did to the reader. I was eight.

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Edwards – pen name of Julie Andrews – is a tale of three siblings who harness the power of their imaginations with the help of a local scientist in order to reach a mythical, magical place called Whangdoodleland. I was immediately enchanted with the notion that sheer imagination could transport me to other, better places. (In retrospect, however, isn’t that what reading IS?) I began to diligently practice the major technique mentioned in the book – I paid attention.

I noted the differences in shades of the same color, I looked for the berries behind the leaves of bushes, I sat still and watched the bees and the ants and the spiders. I taught myself to listen harder, picking out specific sounds in noisy environments. I looked up a lot. I touched things to understand how they felt, I tasted new things, and tried to identify smells. I looked down a lot. I figured out how to soft-focus my eyes and see things more clearly when I refocused.

I never made it to Whangdoodleland as it was detailed in the book – or did I? Didn’t I return there every time I re-read the words? While I was reading it seemed that the Whangdoodle, the Splintercat, and Oily Prock were as real to me as the silver maple in the side yard where I sat all summer reading piles of books. And in paying attention to what was all around me, I learned how to better experience and imagine the worlds laid out before me at the library.

It was right about then that I began to understand the true power of words. I had visited countless imaginary places created by others, and now I began to think that maybe I could create and share my own worlds with other people. Heady stuff for an eight year old. Enter Mr. Simon, my fourth grade teacher who made us write a story every week using the vocabulary words on the board, and voila! The birth of a lifelong writer.

The key, I think, is the paying attention. I can never thank Ms. Andrews enough for that simple, powerful lesson. Not only did she teach her characters how to notice the small details around them, but she also included them in the world she created. Hers were not so small, since she was writing for children, but they were there. The particulars of any imaginary scene make it more real, something the reader can relate to even if it is far beyond the scope of reality.

I never stopped paying attention, I realize. My children are often impressed with how many details I can pick out of a given scene, be it in life or a movie or even a book. And because I am aware of those details in my everyday life, I am also aware of them in my writing — aware enough to include them. Not description, mind you, but details. Description is a billboard advertising the author’s presence, saying “hey, see it this way.” Details make it real, make it powerful – they are a springboard for the reader’s imagination.

I’m quite certain that my Whangdoodleland would be different from yours, but we would each imagine that land based on the details that stood out to us. Which, as I see it, is the miracle of the connection between writers and readers.

 

TL. Schofield is a xenophobic social butterfly, a lifetime writer finally sending her words into the world. She lives in central Georgia and dreams of the ocean. She placed two stories, Arrival and Escape, on Flash Fiction Chronicles String-of-10 Flash Fiction Contest and blogs at Blogging in the Dark.

Camille Gooderham CampbellThis post was written on August 27, 2009; the day’s story at EDF was “Nipped in the Bud” by Beth Cato.

My comment to Beth when we accepted the piece was “Wow, that last line is absolutely chilling. Very well written.”

However… some of the reader comments today suggest that not everyone understood what actually happened in the story. One reader saw “several totally unrelated themes mixed together”, and a few wondered why it was tagged as horror. Another saw the plant-killing as a prelude to “young life being continued and nurtured”, which is pretty much the opposite of what happened as I read it, and yet another reader said “I’m glad she’s pregnant. But was there something horrific about it?”

Only one reader said: “I am a fan of stories that trust their reader to put one and one together and come up with two.”

Now, if you have a character with an apparent gift for blighting plants and all young and growing things, and you have a character who is or might be pregnant with a very precious and wanted baby, and the plant-killer inadvertently touches the potential mommy-to-be, what does that imply? Can you put one and one together and get “miscarriage”? Exactly how spelled-out does a plot need to be?

The trouble is, reader comments complaining that they didn’t get it — or that they had to work too hard to get it — are by no means isolated to one or two individuals or to one or two stories… it’s a theme we see pretty regularly. And so I’m starting to wonder… do readers in general really prefer stories where they don’t have to do the metaphorical math?

I’m not suggesting in any way that flash fiction should be obscure or tough to read — it’s all about the gripping hook and clean sparse prose and the presence of a story arc and tension — but are the readers telling us that it should be simple? I have trouble believing that, but I don’t know quite what to believe after hearing commenters complain over and over that they had to work too hard, that they didn’t get the point of a given piece, that they couldn’t see a subtle story arc or tie a pair of plot threads together.

I keep wondering if we’re dealing with the vocal few, who don’t actually represent the masses… or if the said masses seriously do prefer a no-work, no-brain story, and the problem rests with me.

This post by Camille Gooderham Campbell is reprinted here from her blog, Copy. Edit. Proof. Camille is an editor of Every Day Fiction.