Thursday, July 31, 2014

George Saunders is coming to Denver!

July 31, 2014

Been in a writing dry-spell the last couple of days. Steven and I spent the time uber-shopping for kitchen and bathroom stuff to supply our new vacation/retirement/rental Teton Valley house. Yesterday we took an afternoon break. We went to the famous Jackson Hole "Million Dollar Cowboy Bar," then on to the "Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum," which was actually very good. There is so much to see and do in Jackson glad we bought in the Teton Valley!

Anyway, my short-story writing hero, George Saunders, is coming to Denver in September. Tickets go on sale tomorrow morning. I plan to dial-in first thing,right after my coffee. Can't miss coffee.

Check-out the video. Saunders talks about spending his childhood mimicing voices. In his latest book, Tenth of December, he returned to his childhood practice and created unforgettable voices. I have the book on Kindle, but must remember to buy a hard copy for signature!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The last three days in a nutshell...

July 26-29, 2014

Well, the last three days have been a whirlwind. On Friday night, my husband asked if I would mind driving to the Teton Valley to attend the closing on our new vacation/retirement/rental home. I called my son, Steven, and he agreed to accompany me. So, on Monday I drove from Santa Fe to Denver picking up Steven along the way. He had not done any of his laundry, so we left with just the clothes on his back. (This incident is definitely going in my novel.) Luckily, I had already packed a toilet kit for him as a present for his upcoming trip to visit his sister in Albania. Anyway, we drove as far as we could last night, stopping in Rock Springs. We literally got the last hotel room in town. Apparently, everyone is going to Yellowstone or Jackson Hole. I'm waiting for Steven to wake-up, so decided to blog post.

My writing life over the weekend consisted of writing down a dream I had about the mom character in my new novel. Jennifer is quite the character. Here's my rough dream sketch:

Jennifer's fear was getting all her old friends together and having all the stinging lies emerge. Every friend would have a different Jennifer story. When she and Davis married right after high school graduation, the first thing she shed was her last name. No more Jennifer Winefield. Jennifer Caulfield would be the beginning of her transformation. When Davis was offered a job working in a gold mine in Elko, Nevada, she knew this was her chance to create a different life for herself. Lying was her favorite thing to do, though Jennifer preferred to call it a "reality change". She'd had enough actual reality to last a lifetime. She grew up to fast; an adult at twelve years old. Blankness surrounded her in Elko. No one knew her, except Davis. The nice thing about Davis was his self-absorption and selective memory. He didn't even notice as Jennifer changed from a plain Colorado girl into a sophisticated, beautiful woman with a new past she shared with her select group of mining wives. She started a book club called "Wine, Classics, and more."  She became the toast of Elko, Nevada, and beyond, with, or without, Davis.

Well, now I have to try again to wake up my 22-year-old son. Wish me luck!

Friday, July 25, 2014


July 25, 2014
I take a writing break every Friday. On Saturday and Sunday I write an hour per day. Then back to the Monday through Thursday three hours per day habit. However, it's difficult to not think about my writing when I'm not writing.

So, today, I went to a mid-morning spin class; tried to get the cat pee smell out of my new office; made some calls for my husband; watched a little TV while doing laundry; and, then, found this great, funny Kurt Vonnegut video. I miss Kurt Vonnegut. I thank the YouTube posters for all of the quirky Vonnegut interviews and lectures. He is gone, but not forgotten. In fact, there are lots of famous authors on YouTube:
David Foster Wallace, Steven King, Dave Eggers, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and even Ayn Rand, too name a just a few. Ayn Rand's interview with Phil Donahue is a classic hot mess.

Make it a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Writing in the moment

July 23, 2014

My writing schedule changed today. The early morning was spent adding posts to my two blogs. I started a new Pilates class at noon, then must-do errands. I did manage to write from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. During that time, I revised a poem I started at retreat in Grand Lake. The end product:

The Naked Playhouse
A perfect, barren wood hole. Unborn, secret, living. The peepiest peep hole. Sunburnt face rolling over smokeysmooth wood, every curled, smooth piece. Dog barking to pop radio, peeing an imaginary territory far away. I want to mark every inch. I jump, I skip, I somersault, yelling to no one and everyone, this place is mine and only mine! My daddy built it from nothing just for me!

My naked memory playhouse. My daughter wants to see my dream. Off we go, listening to 80's pop radio. The playhouse is gone. I dream, taste the logs, hear dogs, feel music. My only regret that day was not rolling naked among the logs, marking my territory, among the logs my very own carpenter sanded just for me. 

This poem is a true experience. Writing about "real life" at the retreat made me realize that I might never be a memoir writer, nor a writer of personal essays. I feel uncomfortable, and anxious, when I write true to my life. I love the freedom of fiction writing too much!

Anyway, I carried my purse notebook when I was out and about yesterday. I am like a fly on the wall, listening, looking, feeling other's experiences. Of course, when I write these down it is strictly from my viewpoint. Nonetheless, I keep each purse notebook snippets. These are true experiences I had yesterday. Here are a  few snippets from my notebook:
Target. Waiting in return line. Long line. Cashier is rude. Does not bode well for me. My turn. Clerk questioned me about poster frame return. I told her it didn't fit. She told me it had scratches on it. I said, yes, that's also why I'm returning the frame. Her look--pure disgust. She snapped at me 'cause didn't have credit card out to complete return. Could not bring myself to tell her that I also didn't come home with one of the items on my receipt. Felt powerless. Shrugged it off, got a cart, and went shopping anyway. Found exact picture frame. Yay!

Petsmart: Running thru store. Frozen food in car. Cool day, tho. Cashier and I talked about the rude people at the nearby Target. She said she was happy because at least the Target experience wasn't just happening to her.

Rec Center: Frozen food still frozen. Sitting down waiting for my card. Very efficient place. Picked-up much needed fitness schedules. Pilates therapist said my knees have healed and I am good to go. Can hardly wait to tone-up and  lose the 10-plus pounds I gained over the last three months. Ugly picture of me on membership card.

The thing I like about notebooks, or iPhone Evernote, is that I can write anywhere I go. Some of my snippets are in the exact moment; and, then, the rest of the memory I jot down in my car. All of these notes are kept in a folder. If one of my characters comes across a similar situation, then I can just refer to my notes. I tend not to use the experience that happened to me. I just riff on it.

It's 10:00. Novel writing time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Clean desk; clean schedule

July 22, 2014

First day back to my writing schedule since the Lighthouse Writers Workshop retreat. Back at home, this desk is my very own retreat!

I spent the first half hour revising a poem I wrote in Grand Lake. The rest of the hour was for going through all the paperwork from the retreat and organizing it into three piles: writing advice, interesting books to read, and, finally, all of my little paper scrap notes. These notes may, or may not, have a place in my current writing. I keep every note, character sketch, scene, and phone writing. I never know when the notes will come in handy, so I keep them all. I also learned about Evernote from a fellow writing camper. It easily synced across all my devices and has it's very own dropbox. Love it! Wonder if my paper scraps will go away now. It's a dream because it probably won't happen. I'm too used to scratching on whatever piece of paper is handy. However, it will be nice to write on my phone again. The Compositions phone app is gone now because it doesn't sync at all.

For the next two hours, I transcribed all retreat scene revisions. I also took out unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. My sentences pop without the useless repetition of these modifiers. Just for fun, try taking out some of these ubiquitous modifiers in revision. I'm sure you will be quite surprised at the result. Thanks to Karen Palmer for the idea.

The writing life yielded three very productive hours today.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

#Grand Lake Retreat Lighthouse Writers Workshop

Besides reading and revising my own work, I spent the yearly retreat writing character sketches and reading
poetry. I also paid particular attention to campers dialogue, including my own. My old Denver writing group told me that "I need to write dialogue the way people speak."  For a week before the retreat, I wrote down much of what I said. Turns out that I speak in monologues, which is so sad for the people who have to listen to me. I still believe that the family in my newest novel, "Funny is Not Enough," do not interrupt each other often because the mother character hates anyone interrupting her, though she is the queen of interrupting others. My novel turns around control, which brings out all of the character's idiosyncratic and inconsistent behavior. It's fun to see what these characters will do next.

Here's the rough synopsis:

Funny is not Enough 
Violet moves back home with her parents as she waits for her Peace Corps assignment.  She expected to go immediately in to the Peace Corps after graduation, but life had other plans.  During Violet’s year long stay back at home, she comes across scrapbooks, diaries, and other mementoes of her mother’s past.  Violet knows that her mother, Jennifer's, life must have been an extremely unusual life, or else her mother's past was a fabrication Jennifer needed to reinvent herself. Violet had always challenged her mom to write a memoir, but every time Jennifer started to write her feelings would overwhelm her and she simply could not write her story. So Violet takes it upon herself to clandestinely research and write her mother’s story in one year, having no idea that this plan would take both her, and her mother, on another path altogether.

Read this blog about the writers retreat: