Saturday, October 16, 2010

REMINDER: READ JESSICA's CHAPTER: Due date Friday October 29

Reminder: Read Jessica's Chapter by Friday October 29.  You'll find it as the first post on 10/15/10.

My comments on what Jessica wrote won't mean anything to you if you don't read it. Therefore you won't learn anything. So it's in your own best interests.

I apologize for removing comments from Jessica's team outside the blog.  I felt if the team inside the blog couldn't comment, then it wasn't fair for the others to be able to.

Reminder #2: if you want your work commented on, you will need to send me a quick email privately to

telling me your ID and what you liked best about Jessica's Chapter One and why, and what you think didn't quite work and why.

You can still hang around and read comments or listen to podcasts should such Geekdom be within my reach, but sorry, unless I know you're participating fully, you can't submit any of your own work for comments.

By the way, you can still join the workshop, as long as you get your ID to me and your comments on Jessica's post sent to me privately by October 29.

Tip #4 in Learning Skills to help you become traditionally published

Okay, so you've got your attitude on? 

I have a funny feeling that you are not all, not all, actually doing what my tips have been suggesting you do.  Even if you have, maybe you kind of scribbled down stuff, every which way... 

So just for a moment, have a look at what I am hoping your notebook looks like. 
Magazine/anthology book: name, publication date, overall editor/publisher.
Ads you've noted  (if you're using a magazine of collected stories) that might appeal to you as a beginning writer.

Story One:  Title, Author, (Editor)
Style: (1) the adjectives or expressions you used describing that style,(from previous tips) (2) first, second or third person (from previous tips) (3) narrators: one, more than one,  everyone, no one (from previous tips) (4) why you think the editor chose to publish this story (5) some nice phrases or powerful verbs you noticed in the story, or some other kind of expression that grabbed you either because you loved it or because you hated it.

Story Two: Title, Author, Editor
as above
Story Three: Title, Author, Editor
as above

(And so on, until all the stories in the magazine or anthology of short stories are treated like this by you, the world's greatest writer who can therefore find every good thing and every flaw in every story.)

  1. Now you're going to look at your brilliantly analyzed writing in this notebook, and you're going to have a really fun day or more. 
  2. First, get your notebook in shape, if it isn't.  (This will take more than one day, I think.)
  3. Then, having read every story in the anthology (obviously, or your notebook would not be the brilliantly sparkling work of art it is), I want you to pick a story that has a style you like or hate or in some way react to emotionally. 
  4. From this story, pick a section of substantial length.  (at least a page, maybe up to three pages in published form.)  Make sure the section contains as many of these kinds of narrative devices as possible: passive description, dialog (out loud), pondering (internal dialog), person (first, second or third), action, active description, everything that goes into style (including point of view: most short stories have only one PofV, or they have all points of view.  There just isn't room for two point-of-view characters.)  Look for a section that has as many narrative devices as possible in it.   If the section you choose is only out-loud dialog, don't use it.   I need you to have as much to play with as possible. It would also be fun to choose a section that contained one of those phrases you really reacted to and so wrote down.  You don't have to write the whole section of the story you've chosen out in its published  form, but it would make your notebook complete within itself if you did.  If you did this, you'd have a whole lot of writing in the notebook.  Like this:
  5. Section from Story (your choice, say Two) to be rewritten: (write out the section from that story here):

    Blah-blingle-blah, blahnish, but blah! blah blahed bingling blah.  Blah blah-by blahnik, blahsh, but blah
    buryblah, blahnikle blahn. 

    Blah?  Blah, whatblah?  Blah blaringblah bla-blah-blah, butblahshingle blahness, blahnderblah. 

    Blah.  Blah!
    "Blah, blahity, blah-blahing blahre,"
    blah said.Blah the blah was blahning blahn the blahn.  It was blah, blahr, blary, blain.  Blah blanted to blaing it blahsend.
            And so on until you get to the end of the section.

And now, rewrite what you have picked using your own choice style of narration.  Be good, get across what the writer was trying to say, but also, be loose.  You're good, you've got nothing to prove.  Just write this section in one of your preferred styles.  Write it in the notebook under the section you copied from the magazine or book.

When you're done doing this with one section of one story, decide on another story you might like better, or stick with this one, and rewrite the whole story in your own narrative style.

Good luck, but you don't need it.  You can do this thing.  You really can. Just think of it as a fun kind of costume party.  You're being you, being them, writing their story.  Never, ever publish it, though.  Plagiarism doesn't apply only to exact word-for-word copying. 


Tip #3 to be traditionally published: Be playful

I suggest you stop thinking of these tips of mine as work and start having fun with your writing. 

First, dress the way you would for a reading, featuring only you in front of the literati of New York society, all of whom have paid $250 each to see and hear you read.  Have fun preparing for this.  Pick out just the right outfit from things you already have, make yourself recklessly handsome, startlingly beautiful, with whatever you think will make you stand out as the world's greatest writer.  Some writers will wear virtually nothing draped cunningly over their female bodies and a huge thick sweater buttoned in the middle.  Some will try to decide between the bookish look and the elegant.  Whatever your idea is of the perfect appearance for this all-important reading, make it yours.  Men, wear your five pounds of 24k gold chain, or a cashmere scarf or the perfect tie -  loosened or not; decide on your sock colour and pattern, decide whether you want to look a tiny bit unscrubbed, whether you'll wear your trousers rolled, and what about hair gel?  A key-tag for a Mercedes from the dollar store could fall out of your pocket as you open your briefcase... or not.  Maybe no briefcase?  A folder?  A stack of dog-eared papers?  Make this role yours.  Women, you're already just fine at choosing the role for the occasion.  The big question is, boots to the knees, sensible pumps, stilettos or birkenstocks?   Answer that, and all the rest will follow.

Become the much more important and much better writer than any of the writers you've been reading in the anthology or the magazine.

Think yourself into the role, and you will be surprised at your own writing.

Attitude changes how you write.  A desperate attitude comes through into your writing.  So, if you are desperate, let go of your desperation.  Be more casual. Let loose a bit.

Do not think,  "I'm doing this stupid workshop to get published, I'm desperate to get published, I know I'm not as bad as lots of the writers/illustrators I see out there, so really all I have to do is follow a magical formula which they know and I don't, and then I'll get published."


Think, instead, "I'm taking this workshop to have fun with words and with other writers and just to have fun, period.  I'm already better than 90% of the writers I read, I know that, so maybe the reason I'm not published traditionally yet is that I've just been a bit too serious with my writing till now.  From now on, I will work in order to have fun."

Yes.  Work to have fun.  I know from personal experience that *that is the magic formula to get published traditionally. 
You might think it's just pretending, so it won't work.  Wrong.  What this is, is a way to enter into your own inner self who is already a perfect writer, and to write your way back out of your inner self, bringing the words of your work of art with you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Reminder: To participants in the workshop

I need two emails from each of you (or, now, just one, with the information combined), addressed to

1.  State your nickname for the workshop, and your real name and snail mail address.   It is a pre-requisite for having your own work assessed.  We have ten people confirmed like this, and Jessica's posted, and therefore, the workshop will go ahead even if we don't hear from the remaining people. 

2.  Email Two by Friday, 29 October (two weeks from today), saying privately to me what you like the most about Jessica's chapter and what you think needs the most work, i.e. the piece that is posted just before this one.  It doesn't have to be a huge long analysis, just a couple of sentences that are specific to her work.  Doing that will reassure me that you are part of the whole workshop, and not just here for your own work.  But if you don't want to have your own work assessed, you can just hang out with us. 

Keep on writing!


Here is Jessica's piece of writing. Please respond as I asked in my last post.

Lindsay Beckett felt the butterflies partying in her stomach while her sister Melanie buttoned up her wedding dress.
“You look beautiful,” Melanie said.
“Yes, Quinn is a lucky man,” said Alexis, her future husband’s cousin.
Staring at herself in the mirror, Lindsay wondered how she had transformed from being a content-to-be-single woman, living in her own cottage in Grand Bend, to being pregnant and soon-to-be-married to London’s most eligible bachelor in just a few months. Everything happened so fast after Lindsay met her ex-boyfriend Quinn during a drug raid six years after he left her and joined the RCMP.
Using a tissue, Lindsay tried not to smudge her professionally applied makeup as tears threatened to fall down her cheeks.
“Are you okay?” Alexis asked.
Lindsay nodded knowing she wanted to marry Quinn. “This baby is just making me emotional. I just need a few minutes on my own.”
When Alexis and Melanie left the room, Lindsay sat on the bed she slept in on the first night she spent at Quinn’s. They weren’t together then; Lindsay only agreed to stay with Quinn because he had more room for her than her sister did. She had to stay in London for physiotherapy and her gunshot wound to her tibia left her relying on others. Now all of her belongings were in Quinn’s bedroom.
Quinn did not take long to charm Lindsay into his bed, and there were some awkward moments due to the cast, but as Lindsay gained her independence, their relationship wavered. On the day Lindsay found out she was pregnant, Quinn was hosting one of his famous barbeques for family and friends. Their relationship was at an all-time low and Lindsay had spent the previous night in the guest room rather than beside Quinn. When she confessed the results of the pregnancy test, she expected him to blame her for being careless, but he hadn’t. Quinn surprised her by proposing in front of all of his guests and presented her with an engagement ring already bought for her.
That was four months ago, and now Lindsay was ready to marry the blonde-haired, blue-eyed man she fell in love with at University, or at least she thought she was.
A knock on the door brought Lindsay back from her memories. She expected Alexis and Melanie to return, but Melanie’s husband Henry stuck his head in the room instead. “Are you ready?”
With one last check on her makeup, Lindsay rose and met Henry at the door. “Thanks for walking me down the aisle.”
“It is my honor, since your parents aren’t with us. Besides, I’ve known you for so many years.” Henry hooked his arm around Lindsay’s and guided her down the stairs and towards the back doors of the house where her attendants waited.
Peering outside, Lindsay saw the back of the guests sitting on the wooden chairs with their white chair covers and red ribbons. Although Quinn promised only forty guests, Lindsay was sure there were at least one hundred waiting to see her walk down the aisle.
Pachobel began to play, and Melanie started walking down the aisle followed by her daughter Stephanie. Her son Nathan continued the march as the ring bearer, holding hands with Alexis’ daughter Sandy who tried to throw her petals down on the grass but ran out halfway down the aisle.
“It’s our turn,” Henry said.
Lindsay looked beyond the crowd to meet the gaze of Quinn whose smile calmed the butterflies and melted her heart. She tried to look past Quinn’s best man and best friend, Bryce Beuermann, the one man who made her doubt her feelings for Quinn. Lindsay knew she loved Quinn, but she had an unexpected attraction to the man standing beside him. Even though she did not know Bryce well, Lindsay could not explain the intense warmth that spread through her body when he was near. And when they touched…Lindsay saw visions of Bryce which left her feeling as though she had just cheated on Quinn.
Forcing her eyes away from the dark-haired man, Lindsay spotted Alexis who stood up with Quinn as well. Alexis’ smile of encouragement kept her walking down the aisle until Lindsay stood in front of her soon-to-be husband.
With a Justice of the Peace officiating the ceremony, the service was short. Lindsay took time to rest her leg as their guests congratulated the new couple before more wedding photos were taken.
Except for Alexis’ father making remarks about the untraditional wedding and Lindsay’s state of motherhood only loud enough for his family to hear, the wedding ran smoothly.
“Just ignore him,” Alexis said to Quinn and Lindsay. “Your parents would all be very happy about finally being in-laws and grandparents. Dad is just an old prude, so opposite of your dad, Quinn.”
Some guests remained overnight at Quinn’s house rather than driving themselves home intoxicated, so the consummation of their marriage was quick and quiet. Quinn and Lindsay left the next day for Lake of Bays, where they enjoyed a week in their luxurious four-bedroom, chalet-style cottage, by themselves. Besides activities common to newly married couples, Lindsay and Quinn spent much of their time in the water, or lying on the beach, staring up at the stars in the sky.
With Quinn driving back to London from the cottage, Lindsay became lost in her thoughts of the perfect life she was about to begin, the life she had secretly dreamed of while living in Grand Bend, but never confessed to anyone. Not only had she married the man of those dreams, but on Monday Lindsay would begin her new job in the Human Resources department with the Montgomery Corporation where Quinn’s cousin Alexis was the CEO. Lindsay was sad to say goodbye to Nancy, her boss since high school, but being the manager of a clothing store did not put her Bachelor of Business Administration degree to full use. Alexis offered her the position as week before the wedding.
“Earth to Lindsay,” Quinn said pulling onto Commissioner’s from Wellington. “I know you’re sad we have to leave the cottage, but we’ll go back up for Thanksgiving. Alexis will be up and you should invite your sister. There is lots of room for the kids.”
“I will do that later, but I was just lost in my thoughts.”
“Well, this is it,” Quinn said pulling into the driveway, “the beginning of our life together…as a family.”
Lindsay smiled; proud she finally found her dream life. She believed nothing could ruin her happiness, until she saw who stood in front of the house.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Results of the sign-ups

Greetings, everyone.  I have good news!

There are sixteen people on the list.  And so, we can proceed.  First, here's what I need from you.

I need emails right away to from everyone who signed up for the workshop.  Right away means today preferably, but at the outside by Thursday October 14 (the day after tomorrow).   As I explained before, in this email I will need you to give me your nickname used in the workshop and as well your full real name and real snail-mail address.   Thanks a lot for your cooperation in this. 

I would like you all to understand that I've done this a million times before and one of the problems always is that people think they don't have to read anyone else's work; they're only in the course for my comments on their work.  Now I know this doesn't mean you, of course not you.  But there are always more than a few people who are only here for me to comment on their own work.  The reason I asked for a minimum of 15 to be in this course is so that a minimum of 15 people will really learn something from my comments on each of the 15 posts.  That's 225 people-post benefits, and it makes my own considerable work worthwhile.

And so, though you will not make public comments on what you read, I will need each of you to respond to me by email at by the Friday before the Monday that will be the date of my response to the person's writing.  Please answer the following questions:
  1. what you like the most about the story/poem/other that is posted on my site, and why.
  2. what you think needs the most work in the posted piece, and why.   
Thank you very much.  Obviously, if you don't do this you won't be invited for cake.  *grin*

Now, here's the first person I'd like to ask to prepare something for posting.  If you really can't do it, tell me now, and I'll try to find someone else.  But the time is short for this month, if we're going to get things done on a first and third Monday schedule starting in November, and so I'm asking the busiest person I know.  (There's a rule that if you need something done, ask a busy person to do it.)

Jessica Subject, I would like you to be the first person with a piece for people to read and think about, and for me to comment on.  What you need to do is email me, at ,
with an attachment in Word (preferably) of the standalone piece you want me to comment on.  In order to keep to our schedule, I will have to have your work by Monday 25nd October which is only ten days from now.  But I know you've already written one novel and so I feel confident that you can polish up a stand-alone part of it (or something else) by then.  Once I receive it I will post your piece on this blog.  I've never actually run out of room on a blog posting, but if your piece does run longer than the blog will allow, I will edit the part leading up to the part where the blog would cut you off, so that it doesn't end in mid-word or something awful like that.  I can tell you for sure it won't take a whole novel.

The rest of you, please be aware that Jessica will (barring something unusual occurring) be providing me a piece by 25nd October (a Monday), which I'll then post on the blog.  I will respond to this on November 1, which gives me only one week to prepare my response to the blog, and so if Jessica can get her piece to me earlier, I'd appreciate it, and then it may be posted earlier.  The rest of you should read Jessica's piece by October 28 (the Thursday before my Monday public response) at  and send me your response emails that day. Send these response emails to

Thanks so much for your cooperation on all these matters.

I may be responding in a podcast form, depending on whether it can be organized in time.  I'm assured you don't need anything special in your computer as long as it has a sound card to hear the podcast.  It won't disappear once you listen to it, so you can listen to it again and again.  Some people just find a lot of text overwhelming.

Best to you, as always,


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