Tag: Creative Writing

On Turning Over a New Leaf

We’ve all run into times when we’re just not willing to let something go. I had my experience with this recently during residency at Lesley University. This is the place where I’m always pushed out of my comfort zone. Always. It happened at the first two residencies, and I should’ve known it would happen at the third.

Because I’m a writer and I love what I do, it’s always been especially hard for me to stop working on something, to set it aside and start something new. Especially something as large as a novel. It’s a big investment, and as many people know, I’ve been working on a specific one for quite a while now. It was dismantled over the spring semester, but I was ready to get back into it–to bring it back to life and push it forward. That’s what I do. When times get hard, I push on. We all do. It’s part of writing.

On Getting Back to Work After Residency

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I’m two days removed from the end of my third residency in Lesley University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. I’m back in Wisconsin and sadly away from my writing friends and all things literary in Cambridge and Boston. And now that the classrooms are dark and empty, the seminars are over with, the workshops have ended, and the general atmosphere has returned to something resembling normality again, there’s still one question that burns at the back of my mind:

What do I do now?

I already know the answer to this question. The answer is a simple one: Write. This has always been the answer. It always will be.

So, why is this questions still at the back of my mind? It’s a funny thing, really. In the few days following my return from Cambridge, Boston, and Lesley, I go through these feelings of being lost, of wondering not only where I belong, but also if I have what it takes to get through the upcoming semester. A few more days go by, and I’ve settled back into a routine of reading, writing, and a general malaise of missing my school friends and the literary atmosphere that surrounds Cambridge. But the good thing about getting to this is that I’ve begun to write again.

And that’s exactly where I need to be. At that point where I can write again.

I’m looking forward to it. This semester is bringing new work. I’m starting a new novel and setting the old one aside for a while. I’m still a bit upset about this, but I’ve come to understand that it needs to be done and that it’s part of the process. I’m excited about this new work. I’m excited to work with Jackie Davies this semester. And I’m looking forward to where this semester will take me both as a writer and as a person.

So, while I might be feeling rather friendless in an area of backwoods, small-town Wisconsin where all things literary do not exist, I know that I have writing to do. And that is enough to keep me going for now. Because without writing, what else is there?

Lesley University: MFA Residency (January 4-12, 2013)

LUAh, residency. That blissful nine-day span where nothing matters but literature and writing. I love it and am freshly home from my second residency in the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Lesley University. While this residency had its obvious differences from the first one back in June, it was still exactly what I needed–a huge push to get back into a writing routine.

Here’s a quick look at the seminars I went to:

  • The Past Coming to You Live (A seminar on historical fiction in young adult literature.)
  • In Cold Print: The Cross Pollination of Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama, and Poetry
  • Indoor/Outdoor Writing: The Inspiration and Imperative of Place
  • An Afternoon With Mark Siegel, Author/Illustrator, Director of First Second Books
  • Chiarscuro: Darkness and Light in Children’s Literature
  • The Art of Juxtaposition
  • What’s So Funny? Exploring Appropriate Humor for Children for and Young Adults
  • In the Smithy of My Soul: When Writing Takes on the World
  • A Place Like No Other: Crafting a Compelling Setting That Readers Will Remember

In addition to these, I also had nine hours of workshops to attend.

Overall, this residency was another great learning experience. I made some great new friends and learned so much more than I thought I would. I will admit that the seminars weren’t as exciting as the first time around, but I still wouldn’t trade them for anything else. The faculty at Lesley is amazing and my work is better because of all of them. My new mentor, David Elliott, is a great guy. I have a great feeling about this semester with him.

And so it begins.

Happy Writing,

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On Preparing for Residency

LUIn less than two weeks–On January 3rd, to be exact–I’ll be leaving for Boston to attend my second residency in Lesley University’s highly-touted MFA in Creative Writing Program. Like the first one last June, I’m nervous, but I think this second residency will go much smoother, mostly because I know what to expect now. In certain ways, I’m looking forward to it.

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Because we change mentors each semester, throughout this second semester I’ll be working with children/YA author, David Elliott. That’s him above. A friend in the program worked with him during our first semester and had nothing but good things to say. He’s a nice guy and he knows his stuff. I think this second semester is going to be a productive one. I sent in two chunks of different manuscripts this time, so I’m looking forward to his comments in the workshops I’ll be participating in.

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been printing, reading, and commenting in order to prepare for this second residency. It’s been difficult as a result of being diagnosed with occular neuritis and other pre-multiple sclerosis symptoms. I’ve tried my hardest and am hoping it will all end well once I get to Boston. There are some great workshop stories both from new students, as well as the “veterans.” I can’t wait to get into full days of discussing writing again. That’s something that I’ve continually miss over the past six months.

During this second semester, my Interdisciplinary Studies project is a class. It’s online and is called “Psychology for the Creative Writer.” It’s taught by Dr, Jorge Amenteros, who is a psychiatrist, as well as a creative writer (he got his MFA from Lesley University, too). The one book I’ll be reading for the class is The Writer’s Guide to Psychology: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior by Carolyn Kaufman, Psy.D. I’ve already started reading it and I love it so far. I think it’s really going to help my main work, the story regarding the school shooting. Much of what I write has psychology ingrained, so this class is really perfect for me. I’ll be meeting with Dr. Amenteros during the residency, as well.

This is one of the few things i’m looking forward to in the coming months. Barring any major health shifts, this residency will be a great one. I’m so glad I decided to stick with it after a rough semester. Stay tuned for a full report on the event after I return on January 13th!

In the meantime, Happy Writing!

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When There Isn’t Enough Time to Write

As I’m sure you’re aware, there have been few posts here over the last few months. My MFA program took over my life, in certain ways. I also finally found a full-time job and had my sister’s wedding to help put together and participate in. Other things found their way into my calendar as well.

And here I am.
It’s November now.
I’m one week away from the last submission of my first semester in Lesley University’s MFA program. It’s been a rough semester. Why? Because I’ve constantly felt as though I didn’t have enough time to write. Yes, I was busy with other things, but that’s life, isn’t it? I can’t use those things as excuses for not writing. I did it anyway.

Here I am. A week from the final submission. I have two novels to read yet and a chapter to finish. All for Chris Lynch, one of my favorite YA authors of all time.

I’ve learned in these last few days that if you wait for time to open up, you’ll get nothing done. When it comes to writing (or anything else, really), you MAKE time for it. You carve it out of your day, regardless of how busy it is. You wake up a half hour early to write even if you already wake up at 5am. You stay up until 1am, just to get fifteen minutes in. Writing is writing, and if you’re serious about it, you DO it. It doesn’t matter if you get ten pages or two paragraphs in.

YOU JUST WRITE.

I’ve dug myself a huge hole. Starting tonight, I work myself out of it. Not only because I have to, but because I’d like to be an example for other writers. We can all do this, right? Make time for writing? Of course we can. Because we love what we do. So, let’s buckle down and do it.

Happy Writing,

On Gutting Stories We Love

Let’s face it. Very few of us are natural-born writers. That is, very few of us are perfect at what we do. As writers, we become attached to what we write. We fall in love with our characters because we spend countless hours creating them and adding that dimension of reality that’s needed to make readers like (or hate) them, too. We love our settings and the descriptions of them. Many of us love everything about our stories.

Because of that, the revision process can be pretty daunting. And by “pretty,” I mean “so frightening that we don’t want to bother.” That last part, the “not bothering,” is detrimental to any writing career. Revision is an integral part of writing because there is always room for improvement. Always. “Revision” is a big word. It encompasses a lot. A revision can be something small like a few lines or one chapter to half of your book or even a complete overhaul on a novel. Regardless of how big your revision is, it needs to be done. Period.

Because we’re not perfect, in many cases a revision is huge. It’s not uncommon for an entire storyline–that is, an entire novel–to be overhauled. This is where things get really scary. When a story needs to be gutted, we have to cut scenes, lines, and much more that we love. Please believe that it’s a regular occurrence. You’re not the only one removing favorite lines or killing of characters. We’ve all done it. We’ll all do it some more in the future. If you’re ever on the verge of tears over losing a piece of your novel or story that you love, remember this:

The things you cut will almost always make a reappearance. While something may not fit where it is right now, the perfect, scene or chapter will come long and the fit will be perfect. You’ll only have to part with your loves for a little while.

See? Things aren’t so bad now, are they? Revisions are hard. Large revisions are even harder. But you can do them. And you will do them. Why? Because you’re a writer, and revising is what writers do.

Happy Writing,

Writing in the Morning

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to write at night when almost everyone else in the house has  gone to bed. I’ve written very few pages this way and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m more of a morning person when it comes to writing. I believe this for a few reasons.

  • I’ve always felt that coffee and writing go together. And because I like my coffee in the morning, it’s only natural that I’d write in the morning as well.
  • A lot of the time, I have dreams about what I’m writing. Lately, it’s been my school shooting story (because that will be my main focus once I start at Lesley University). When I have these dreams (which isn’t all the time), I always write them down as soon as I wake up. Sometimes, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and write them down, too. But! I like to put the dream fodder into action right away while it’s fresh in my mind, so writing right after I wake up has become a routine.
  • By about 7 p.m., I’m tired. Too tired to sit down and write. Perhaps that’s a bad excuse, but it’s true. I wouldn’t call myself a morning person, but it’s much easier to think and write in the morning. I’m not sure why.

I just find that I’m much more productive when I start my writing time in the morning. This routine seems to work well, and even though I haven’t been writing every morning, I’m going to stick with it as long as I can. If I have to change things up in the future, then I will, but for now, morning is the best time for me to write.

Happy Writing,

Writing, Readers & the Inspiration to Carry On

Lately, I’ve been trying to get back into my writing. The itch to write has been present for almost two months now, but things were preventing me from actually sitting down to write. The main thing was packing up my apartment and moving. I’m done with that now and am settled into a spare bedroom at my parents’ house for a while.

So, why can’t I write?

It’s not that I don’t want to. Its not that the itch to do so isn’t there. It’s that nobody I live with respects the fact that I write. Here, writing can “always be done later,” and isn’t a “real job.”

This saddens me. Because it feels like my writing doesn’t matter to anyone but me. Perhaps that’s the way it’s supposed to be? I don’t know. It would just be nice to have some support from family. Right now, it feels like there’s nothing and to be honest, that hurts.

So, what to do about this situation.

I have one friend who is constantly supportive of my writing endeavors. He offers daily encouragement, yells at me when I don’t want to writer (thereby making me write), and always reads new chapters and offers wonderful feedback. I’m so grateful for this that there’s really not a word to describe just how happy I am that I have this person. What I’ve determined is that I need a group of people like him. I need more than just him, even though if that doesn’t happen, I’ll always be grateful with him alone.

I think I’ve convinced myself that without more than one reader, I can’t get very far in my work. I don’t know if this is true or not. I think the problem is that I feel belittled when people aren’t interested in what I do or what I’ve created. As I stated above, the fact that very few people care is disheartening. It hurts. It hurts because I believe–I’ve always believed–that support is essential to any type of long-term endeavor, especially writing. I feel that without support, my writing means absolutely nothing. But, at the same time, it means so much to me that I’m not willing to let it go. So, there’s that.

I’ve considered putting a call for readers out there somewhere. But, until I’ve determined the best way to go about doing so, I’m going to write. Because I need to. I have to get this story out there. Somehow, some way. So, I’ll continue writing until it’s done, and afterward, I’ll see where it takes me.

Happy Writing,