Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Press 53 Gathering of Writers

This weekend I went to a writing event put on by Press 53 out of Winston Salem.  This wonderful small press is putting out some great poetry and short story collections.

You might enjoy hearing some of the wisdom I got from the four sessions I participated in.

From Mary Akers on what is haunting:

Violence, vulnerability, horror, yearning, things that are shocking or unexpected, death, regret, shame, grief and other losses, disgust, missed connections.  Mary asked us to think of stories that haunted us.  Larry Brown's story, "A Roadside Resurrection" and Ron Rash's story, "Speckled Trout" from his collection Chemistry and Other Stories immediately came to mind.

We chose a prompt to write hauntingly for a few minutes.  Mine was, "Write about a time when you let everyone down."

From Steve Mitchell:

We wrote while listening to Philip Glass; to the prompt write about someone you have seen this morning and what you know about them; and to the prompt write about when you saw something you shouldn't have.  At the end we had a feeling, a person, and an event that could be woven into a unified story, he said.

A few things he said that spoke to my writing style:

1.  Embrace limitation.  By this he means don't try to make your story a novel when it wants to be a short story or flash fiction.
2.  It's okay to write in spurts.  For some people writing every day feels too much like work, and who needs another job? he asked.
3.  All writing is about saving the world so it doesn't disappear. Many of you know that I keenly feel the need to preserve family stories both in fiction and non-fiction.

From Michael Kardos:

What makes a good story:

1.  High stakes
2. Character desire: There is a motivational continuum for each character.  At the center are expectations. On one side of the expectations are hopes and dreams, the other side fears and dreads. A good predicament for a character is one in which his or her dreams and dreads are pitted against each other.
3.  Active protagonist
4.  Conflict, both internal and external
5.  Compression of time
6.  Suspense
7.  Atypical day
8.  Originality in voice, setting, method

Throughout the discussion he used Tim O'Brien's story "On the Rainy River," John Updike's "A&P," and several other stories to show how authors use these to good advantage.

From Darlin' Neal (yep, that's what her parents named her!):

We took five random things suggested by the group (boxes, carpet, thunder, fireplace, bed) added a color (orange) for good luck and wrote a piece about them.  Several of us read them out loud and we talked about how each piece raised questions in our minds that created anticipation for the rest of the story. I'm always blown away by the ability of people to write beautiful polished pieces in this kind of setting.

I was happy to be in the rooms full of people learning and sharing. It was nice also to meet some of the writing crowd from the Triad.  And it was nice to go back to the Marriott at the end of the day, and think about how I could apply what I had been taught to my own writing.

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