Adventures with Words – August 2023

Adventures with Words – August 2023

I’ve got a bad case of the summers… don’t want to do the job, don’t want to cook dinner, just want to lie around and read. This newsletter almost fell prey to my inertia. Fortunately, it has clawed its way out in spite of my efforts to ignore it until September.

Writers Chat

You may have noticed that the August writer’s chat didn’t happen. I took a break to think about the hopes and expectations I had when I started it earlier this year, and considering how I might return to that goal. The goal is based on what I want and have wanted for years: to spend time with other writers and artists talking about our projects, our dreams, what was going well and what was challenging, and related topics. Though some of the past chats have involved talking about writing, they often veered into work chat, or politics chat. Food chat and garden chat, I don’t mind, but this space is specifically separate from non-writing jobs and politics. 

For now, I won’t be publicly announcing the events. I’ll post a schedule in this newsletter and send personal invitations to some non-subscribers.  I want to bring the focus back to writing, creating, creative process, and where we are with our projects; seeking and giving feedback as requested; sharing resources and encouragement. The only politics I want to hear about are the politics in the publishing industry, which is plenty. Writers, wherever you are in your career, if you want to talk about it, consider attending. Please RSVP via email to me (or text if you have my number) by the morning of the chat, so I know whether to save a table or not.  

Upcoming chats – at Northwest Beerwerks, 5:30 to whenever 

Tuesday, August 29th

Tuesday, September 26th

I’ll post the schedule at the bottom of future newsletters, so check each month for any changes.

Writing Group Action

My writing group, The Page Turners, continues to be a huge source of inspiration and support. We’ve welcomed a new member – Nikki McCoy – bringing us up to 4 writers meeting twice a month. During the hour-long, online sessions, we sometimes share a piece of writing for feedback, sometimes we do writing exercises, sometimes we do both. I always feel energized after, even if I was exhausted when we started.

In the most recent session, we talked about unusual ways of describing characters, and having fun with being over the top about it. We talked about using verbs to do more than just describe an action. These choices help us show rather than tell – something to keep in mind when you want to create vivid characters and settings that pull readers into your stories.

I just started Amy Tan’s MasterClass and in the first lesson, she’s talking about our writing voice. I’m paraphrasing here and curious what you writers think of this – your writing voice is your consciousness as it attempts to explain the world through stories. It is especially our attempt to explain the challenging and difficult to understand parts of life – cruelty, shame, fear, identity, injustice, contradictions, hypocrisy. Surely, that’s why our thoughts keep going back to the most painful moments in our lives? I think it’s an interesting way to frame our intent when writing, whether in story or other forms. Does this ring true for you?

Books, Glorious Books

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal of reading 50 books this year, and I’ve finished 57 so far. Maybe I’ll get to 100 by 12/31. 

I finished Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maas earlier this month and left it generously feathered with red tabs. Every chapter had practical advice that I know would be useful in my next novel revision. Many times while going through the book, I’d read a section, underline something, throw on a red tab and pick up my notebook. I’d write a paragraph or a page involving my characters or setting and then return to the book. I also have the workbook, which I will go through next. It’s not that Maas is saying something new, or revealing any big secrets – everything he talks about has been said before. The value for me was in how he presented the information – simply, with great examples and lots of enthusiasm. Another factor is that I am in the right place in my growth as a writer to understand the importance of what he was saying and have ideas about applying the principles to my work.

On the fiction side, I read The Kite Runner, after sitting in TBR land for years. One of the things we hear and read over and over again as we learn the craft is to create a vivid, impactful image in our reader’s mind. Khaled Hosseini’s writing in TKR is full of gorgeous imagery, sometimes in portraying beauty and sometimes in showing us the darkest of inner demons. One line that stood out for me was “… the kite porpoised through the wind gusts..” Using ‘porpoised’ created an immediate image in my mind and I don’t know any other words that could have done this as well.  Verbs are capable of more than showing action, they can carry mood, setting, emotion… one word can do the job of many. Think of ‘trudging’ vs. ‘walking slowly’. Even ‘placed’ vs. ‘put’ could have an impact on a sentence in terms of mood and intention. 

Yay for word nerdery.

Another recent read with great imagery is Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. The story builds slowly, and we are mostly inside Billy’s head, with his contradictions, wariness and the ghost of a dead friend who continues to dispense wisdom beyond the grave. The situation and the conflicts he faces are revealed through a kind of dual-timeline presentation, where the current events march forward with interludes from Billy’s past to add depth and understanding.

I would love any recommendations you have on books with great imagery and creative use of verbs.

WiP Report

I don’t have much to report except that I think the composting period is almost over. I’m feeling the need to sit and dig into the work. Hopefully, I’ll have a more substantial update next month.

It’s a Hot One….

This is the hottest week this year and I’m staying inside during the heat of the day… not hard on work days. I do get out in the cool of the morning to set up irrigation, make sure the wildlife water features are clean and full and other outside tasks. The tomatoes are coming on strong, and the beans have been threatening to bury us for weeks. There are corn cobs on some of the stalks and we’re hoping there will be enough for the whole family to enjoy. Hope your gardens, vacations, visits to water and other summer activities are keeping you happy and well fed. 

See you back here in September, thank you for being part of my community

Making Contact

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