Bring on November!

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Yesterday, my essay, “Pinktober is Almost Over,” aired on Wisconsin Public radio. It’s the second essay I’ve done there and I’m so enjoying the experience – the taping is fun, the feedback is great! I do hope you’re looking into local options for you if you have essays to share.

The piece is about 3 and a half minutes, so if you have time and are interested, click here.

I hope some of you will be able to make it to the 175th events at Mt. Holyoke, and especially the reading to support our authors. Editors and contributors to The Lyon Review will be reading at 3 p.m. on Friday, November 9. There is more info on the cover page. If anyone who is NOT reading but attending would like to do a guest post about it, please contact me ASAP. Otherwise, I’ll touch base with the readers.

Finally, if like me, you were sick and tired of the pinking of the world, rejoice. November is here.

Second finally 🙂 — if you were affected by Hurricane Sandy in ways big or small, here’s hoping things improve for you soon.

Happy #writing.

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Mountain Day: How about a few “mountain moments”?

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Perhaps, like me, your email and facebook lit up this morning with the exciting news: it is Mountain Day at Mt. Holyoke! Do you remember the bells ringing, the happy buzz in the hallways of your dorm that yes, indeed, classes were cancelled? I had a message follow soon after the announcement from an MHC alum to two of us asking, “Why does this seem to mean more to me now than it did then?” And, I had to agree. When I was a student, the excitement was about no classes, hanging out and I hadn’t yet achieved the maturity to understand that unplanned time, particularly spent in nature or at some “useless” activity would be refreshing for body and spirit.

“Summit achieved by at least 100 students in first wave. Pres. Pasquerella greets climbers.” (From Alumnae Assoc. page on Facebook)

So, if you are living in the United States and possibly suffering from the drive to do, do, do constantly, can you carve a few Mountain Day minutes for yourself? If you don’t have time for a walk — or if the demands of work and children make that impossible — can you take a few minutes and reflect? Maybe write a paragraph about a Mountain Day memory, or if you could do a Mountain Day over again, what would you do differently? Sometimes, it is in moments of relaxation that we creative types receive insights — a solution to a block, a new idea, a change of direction for a character, etc.

May you breathe deeply and be good to yourself today. I think Mary Lyon would approve. Let us all know if you have success with giving yourself a mini-Mountain Day. 🙂

Icebergs and Backstory – What holds your story up?

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“If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water. “

© Robert Davies | Dreamstime.com

At the Bread Loaf in Sicily conference which I’m recently back from, my instructor, the brilliant Lynn Freed, showed us a gorgeous image of an iceberg and mentioned Hemingway’s quote above. It’s an important topic for every fiction writer to remember.
When I’m working at the Red Oak Young Writers summer writing camps, I often find myself talking about the backstory. And, I’ve heard myself say more than once, “I don’t think you really know enough about this character yet. You need to know what got him/her to this point — what happened before? The reader doesn’t have to know it all, but you do.”
A wise writer friend of mine once recommended I journal as my character at a point where I was uncertain of something I needed to be certain of. That technique has helped me more than once when I needed to learn more to create a believable character/situation.
The best short stories and novels don’t overwhelm with the foundations, the past events and experiences that led to this moment in the character’s life; rather, the best authors are so clear on those unseen moments – the iceberg below the water – that the reader senses what he/she needs to know to wholeheartedly accept, and maybe even love, the character and the story.
Happy #writing all. Hope thinking about icebergs might help you and your work one of these days.