Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Flash Memoirs

Week 3 of my FlashNaNo2020 experience, which was last week, was dedicated to memoir. In college I learned that a memoir is an account of an event the significance of which is only understood after it occurs. The four flash memoirs I wrote last week did, indeed, deal with events from years back.

Here is a little piece on writing flash memoir from True Stories Well Told. I can't tell if this is still an active site, but I liked this post.

And Flash Memoir: The Benefits of Writing Short Memoir from Writing Women's Lives Academy.
  

 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: Managing Chaos By Beginning Again

I was sure I'd written about "begin again" here in the Time Management Tuesday feature. It seemed like just the thing for managing chaos. But search as I would, I couldn't find anything here. So I guess I'm going to have to come up with some new original content.

Okay, if you spend any time reading about meditation, you will see the phrase "begin again." If your mind wanders while you're trying to meditate, no problem. Begin again. If you find that you're no longer in the present moment, that your mind has tiptoed off to your miserable past or your worries of the future, so what? You can begin again.

You're not a bad person because you didn't stay in meditation. You haven't failed. You're just going to begin again. Here is Joseph Goldstein explaining a very positive aspect of beginning again. In less than four minutes, people! How much do I love that? I love it a lot.

Overwhelmed By Chaos? Begin Again

Writers who've become overwhelmed by the chaos of living or at least their own kind of living and find that they are no longer on task with their work can use the same begin again thinking. Beginning to work again is important. But I think the really beneficial aspect of begin again is the lack of judgement. Judging and beating up yourself for work failures:

  • Is time consuming. Now you have to spend time ripping into yourself, time you could have spent writing.
  • Leads to the What-the-Hell Effect. When individuals become distressed about not maintaining goals, they can respond by giving up. We're lousy at what we do, anyway, so what-the-hell?  What's the point of going on with this?

Developing a begin again mindset won't keep us from finding ourselves neck deep in chaos. But it could help us get out of it.



Monday, November 23, 2020

"You Are Terrible, Ada. I Like You."

I like Ada, too.

She is the main character in The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. This middle grade novel is the sequel to The War That Saved My Life. I liked that book, though according to my post on the subject I found the beginning and ending a little melodramatic. That wasn't the case with the sequel. This was a book I really looked forward to getting back to reading.

Ada, who was also the main character in War That Saved My Life, is marvelous, though not someone who could be described as nice. In fact, I'm a little surprised she made the cut in children's publishing, where likability is tossed around a lot. Perhaps she was accepted because this is a historical novel, and gatekeepers felt young readers could feel some distance.

No, Ada is not likable. What she is is angry and distrustful and expecting the worst, for good reason. When we first met her in the first book during World War II, she is the victim of maternal abuse. What saves her is the evacuation of children from London. Her mother didn't arrange for her to get out, so this incredibly tough young one got herself out. She and her younger brother land with Susan who an adult reading between the lines will believe is a lesbian grieving for her dead companion and a victim of periodic bouts of depression. I love this about Susan. She doesn't wear any signs saying "Lesbian" or "Mental Health Character." She just is. Just as World War II saves Ada, Ada and her brother save Susan.

But just because Ada is saved, it doesn't mean that everything is sweetness and light for her in Book 2. There's still that pesky Hitler to deal with. And Ada is still enraged, because her mother hadn't loved her and hadn't even tried to provide her with some basic health care that would have given her a much different childhood. Ada lived a horrible life before connecting with Susan. She can't be confident that she and her brother won't end up in a similar situation some day.

So The War I Finally Won is both a World War II home front story and a personal story about a child at war with her past and her present. It is really well done. 

Oh, another remarkable bit of character development about Ada--Because her mother kept her confined in an apartment with no access to the world, she is remarkably ignorant regarding run-of-the-mill life things that other children her age would have picked up. She doesn't know what a dragon is or fairy tales, for instance.


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Finally Read One Of My Christmas Books

Last year I asked for and received a copy of Company's Going by Arthur Yorinks with illustrations by David Small. It looks as if it was a 2001 publication that was rereleased in 2018. I finally read it a couple of weeks ago, because, you know, reading a picture book is so much effort.

I'm sorry to have missed Company's Going the first time it was published, because it's a sequel to Company's Coming, which also appears to have been rereleased in 2018. Company's Coming had a huge impact on my life, as I explained in a 2015 OC post. Basically, what happened was:

"The day after I read it to my sons, it inspired my short story, How Mom Saved the Planet, which was later published in Cricket Magazine. And another version of How Mom Saved the Planet became the first chapter of my first book, My Life Among the Aliens. I may not have had a writing career, if not for Company's Coming."

So, yes, big deal for Gail.  

Company's Going picks up with the same characters from Company's Coming, except now Moe and Shirley's alien guests are so taken with Shirley's cooking that they invite her to cater a wedding back on their home world. It's just as terrific as the first book.


Interesting point: My Life Among the Aliens also had a sequel, Club Earth. Both books were a series of stories about Will and Rob, whose mom's over-the-top healthy cooking attracts aliens. In their case, though, the aliens came to them. 

Another interesting point: Both the Company books are examples of picture books with no human characters and no animals characters filling in for humans. I don't see that a lot.

Both of what I call the Will and Rob books have human characters. And aliens, of course.

 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Flash Essays

Week 2 of my FlashNaNo 2020 experience didn't go as well as Week 1, at least as far as cranking out a lot of new material is concerned. I only completed drafts of two pieces, versus five pieces for Week 1, only one of which I'm really satisfied with. Also the flash story from Week 1 that I submitted somewhere during Week 2 has already been rejected. So, yes, not my happiest seven days.

On the other hand, I didn't lose any sleep over this, the way I did last week, and I focused on essays instead of fiction. I liked expanding that way. With one of this week's pieces I was able to dip into ideas from my journal. For the other, I used a prompt from the FlashNaNo people, which I hadn't done before.

Next week I'm going to work on flash memoir.

You might want to take a look at  What's a Flash Essay? by Martha Nichols at Talking Writing.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Flash Anxiety

I managed a piece of flash fiction for days 2 through 6 of FlashNaNo 2020. Yesterday's story is unfinished, and I'm unhappy with it. I was up for an hour last night thinking about it. No resolution, but I came up with a related, while at the same time totally new, idea. 

I'm taking the weekend off from writing flash to try to do some organized flash studying (instead of the disorganized studying I've been doing in the evenings) and planning, particularly of and for flash nonfiction, which I'd like to try before the end of the month.

Anyone who pays attention here knows I rarely work on weekends, so studying and planning is pretty close to real work for me..

Here is a nice piece on writing flash fiction from MasterClass. It's kind of flashy, in fact. Short and to the point. 

And if you'd like to read a very decent piece of flash fiction, try Last Long Night by Lina Rather at Flash Fiction On-line.

 


Thursday, November 05, 2020

Book Launch For "Seven Golden Rings"

While putting together the second post for October's book releases, I discovered that author Rajani LaRocca was having a book launch last week for her new picture book, Seven Golden Rings. You all know that when a virtual book event catches my fancy, I am in. So I did, indeed, register to attend. And showed up on time.

This was an excellent event on a couple of different levels.

As A Virtual Book Launch


Zoom event vs. webinar. Another book launch I attended this past summer was a traditional Zoom event, with the people attending showing up in the Zoom boxes a la The Brady Bunch. However, the Seven Golden Rings event, as a staff member from the bookstore sponsoring the launch (The Silver Unicorn Bookstore in Acton, Mass.) explained, was a webinar. The people running it could not see or hear the attendees, nor could any of us see or hear anyone else.

This means, folks, that not only did I not have to dress up for this thing, I could have washed my hair and sat there with it drying, as I would have if I'd known how this was going to go down. Seriously, not only do I not want to have to drive to go anywhere ever again, I don't want to have to get dressed or comb my hair while I'm taking part in it from home. 

By the way, 100 people registered to attend. By a few minutes after 7, when the show got on the road, 60 of us had shown up. More could have come later. But, you know, 60 people. Good work.

Interviewer and interviewee. So the bookstore staff person turned everything over to LaRocca, who was seated in what looked to be a whole lot better home office than I have, and the person who was going to interview her, author Hayley Barrett, who was somewhere else, since we're in the midst of a pandemic and all. Barrett and LaRocca are critique partners and have known each other for some time. A situation like that has the potential to go really badly, with all kinds of inside jokes and drifting off to their shared interests that listeners couldn't care less about. But au contraire. Barrett had the inside dope on what happened while this book was being written and knew just what to ask to get that information out.

The reading. LaRocca did a reading of the book. She did not just awkwardly hold the book open in front of a camera and turn the pages. She had her book loaded onto some kind of techie thing that kept it open and turned the pages. I don't know what it was, but it was terrific. 

A surprise guest. LaRocca's son turned up, coming to us from his dorm room. It made sense why he was there. I once had two college-age boys. They are terrific, too.

A model. I think this was an excellent model for how a virtual book launch can operate so it isn't just the author talking. Bring in your own, prepared interviewer. Have some good technology. Bring in a guest. 

As Exposure To A Lovely Book

I have now actually read Seven Golden Rings while it was being read to me by its author and have seen every page. It's a terrific story centering around a math/logic issue that I was actually able to understand. The illustrations by Archana Sreenivasan are wonderful. It's very, very possible that someone in my family is going to receive a copy of this book for Christmas. I will then share with him all the insider info I have about it, because I attended this book launch.


Tuesday, November 03, 2020

When An Argument Is A Good Thing

I've had the May/June 2020 Horn Book floating around the house for months, because I wanted to bring Our Modern Minstrelsy by Kekla Magoon to your attention. This is a very interesting and well argued article about how Black characters are portrayed in children's books and by whom. Magoon says,

"...it would be apt to compare the entire body of children’s literature written by white people about Black people to the paradigm of minstrelsy."

 I would have quoted more of that paragraph, but I read a book on historical documentation this past year that frightened me about quoting too much, even when attributed. So go check out this article, yourself.


FlashNaNo 2020

 

I bet you're wondering how things are going with my flash writing this month. So far, so good. I was particularly happy with yesterday's work.
 
Here is an old piece about writing flash fiction that I'd squirreled away in my journal for reading. It's a lesson plan with a number of links, some to even older material. 


Sunday, November 01, 2020

The Case For Flash

Well, it's the start of another month, and what is Gail doing? Starting another set-aside time for another kind of writing project. Just last week I learned about Flash NaNo 2020; 30 Stories: 30 Days. I was interested because:

  • I took part in a fantastic flash workshop this summer, one that dealt with all kinds of flash.
  • I've had one piece of flash fiction published, as well as a piece of flash nonfiction.
  • "Work on short form writing, essays and short stories" is one of my goals for this year, and flash is certainly short form. 

So I decided all that made a great case for why I should jump on this, even though I had little time to organize and had originally planned to keep working on my October project during the month of November. I am chaos! Go for it! 

My Case For Flash As A Writer

My interest in writing short stories involves writing about slices of life. That's what I think is interesting and want to write about. However, traditional short stories are expected to include a change for the main character and perhaps an epiphany. My slices of life don't always go over that well with fans of traditional short stories. Flash may be a better format for what I want to do.

My Case For Flash As A Reader

Over the last few years, I've become very aware of when I'm reading something that's going long, whether a book or a short form. I think a lot of this has to do with the overwhelming amount of writing that's being produced and is out there to be read. I have a lot of interests. I want to read a lot of things. 

So I really don't appreciate it when I'm having to read a lot of repetitive material. Unnecessary characters. Scenes that are perhaps amusing or interesting but really don't support the story the writer is supposed to be telling. I'm not a fan of long descriptions. 

In nonfiction I sometimes see books begin with long, long sections in which the author tells me what is going to be covered in the book instead of just covering it. Pages and pages. The creative nonfiction beginning frame of a case study has become a cliche to me. I often skim those. Case studies popping up throughout a nonfiction book--to me that's just padding now that keeps me from the content I picked up the book for in the first place.

Because I've become interested in flash of all kinds as a reader, I want to see what I can do with it as a writer. Leading me to spending this month trying to do a draft of some kind of flash each day, and trying to read more flash and read more about flash. 

______________________________

The above post, by the way, is 450 words. My flash for today, though I do have something else in mind I'll start if I can find time on this Sunday afternoon.