Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Blog Has New Address!

Hi Everyone,

I did some "renovating," and my blog now has a new location. I'd love you all to 're-follow' me at:

Thank you for your continued support!

-Katie, The Intrinsic Writer

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

You might be an aspiring author if...

 I started thinking about Jeff Foxworthy, and the old red neck jokes, and came up with this: You might be a writer, author, aspiring author/writer, if....well, here are ten of my own benchmarks. Let me know if you agree...or can add a new one!

 10. Entering a bookstore (full of works by already published authors) leaves you feeling both invigorated and envious.

9. You read novels, short stories, memoirs, poems for both pleasure AND education.

8. Every email, flyer, notification, tweet, blog post, magazine ad, etc. that offers a webinar, class, conference, getaway or service that you cannot attend, drop in, frequent, or take advantage of due to time, money and practically leaves you with that regrettable notion that you're missing something important.

7. Every fantastic novel you've read since you've started your own has made you want rip out the pages, pour water on the Kindle, and throw them both in a fire pit; because, daaamn, this author is SO much better than you are!

6. Laundry, food shopping, house cleaning, wedding planning, tooth brushing, eyebrow plucking, nail clipping--just about everything other than writing--feels like a GIGANTIC waste of time.*

5. Everyday you kick yourself for not beginning your project sooner--like when you were 12.

4. What to do first? Research publications? Network? Blog? Tweet? Read? Write? Drink?

3. On a daily basis, you: curse out the world, for moving too fast; yourself, for getting to old; your friends, for using one of your perfectly good, full-of-spare-writing-hours weekends to whisk you away to Atlantic City; your cat, for sticking her butt in your face as you try to write.

2. You've realized by now that in this creative pursuit, there are no patterns, no formulas, no quick tickets to success; in fact, the only thing you can really count on is sheer persistence.

And on that note...

1. No matter what stage of the game you're at, you're going to keep doing it, because frankly, it's who you are.

*This does not include new episodes of Mad Men.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ideas for Writing: Five plot-centered prompts to get started!

Be kind, please. I've never actually done something like this before. Well, OK, that's not 100% accurate. Once in a grad class, a professor asked us each to create our own writing prompts. Then he read them (anonymously, thank goodness) out loud and we all picked one for a free writing exercise. He didn't withhold his opinions, however, on which prompts were worthy and which ones were crappy. I remember when he read mine, he raised his eyebrows and blinked three times in row, a facial expression that could only be construed as: Whoa, this one's out there. I still believe very much in my prompt! In fact, I included it below--see if you can figure out which one received the 'look.'

Anyhow, these are some original writing prompt ideas. In this segment, they relate to the plot points of a novel, story, poem, etc. If you've seen any of them before, it's pure coincidence. As far as I'm concerned, they all come from my intrinsic writing brain:

1. A woman is standing at her kitchen sink washing dishes, when she notices, from out the window, a solitary, red (or any color, really) balloon floating in the vast sky. This reminds her of a significant childhood experience. Write about it.  OR A solitary, red balloon is floating in the vast sky. Tell the story of how it got there.

2. Four teenage friends are trying to get into (any concert) back in (any year). Write about their adventure.
For example, it's 1978, and four high school sophomores from New Jersey are just dying to get access into CBGB's. How does the night unravel? This may or may not require some research.

3. An old man from the World War II era is taking a long train ride to visit his grandson. When a  strange woman takes a seat across the aisle from him, he is suddenly taken by a distant memory--the day he lost his virginity to a prostitute while in the service. This also may require research.

4. A little boy (or girl) gets separated from his mother at a carnival, and witnesses something that terrifies him. Tell the story from the child's point-of-view.

5.  A young man sees a young woman in a movie theater, and swears he knows her from someplace. He barely watches the film, because he is trying in vain to figure out why she seems so familiar. After the credits, he follows her outside and approaches her. Who is she? What happens?

This is a fun exercise because it not only gives my readers potential ideas, but it gives me ideas too. Any of these prompts can twist and turn in directions a writer never expected. That's really the beauty of it all, isn't it?

Anyone else want to contribute? Pen your own writing prompt below!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What are your writing obsessions?

I'll admit, I'm ripping this one off an old college professor. In a poetry writing course some years back, she asked us to consider our "poetic obsessions." She even brought in some of her own compulsions from her office within the same building. Vintage advertisements from a younger America, books with brown, image-less hard covers and yellowing pages, china cat figurines with chipped ears. She spread it all out on the long conference table. Told us to sift through it, get inspired, write a poem. "We all have our own obsessions," she said, "obsessions which fuel our writing, whether we're aware of it or not. Go home and scan your bedrooms, work rooms, or other places you may sanctify. Examine your bookshelves, closets, dresser drawers. What seems to come up over and over again? These are your obsessions. And I'll bet you anything that from time to time, they inexplicably show up in your writing."

I was eager to come home and observe my space for my obsessions. I went straight to my office, and just as my professor said, I noticed some patterns. Flowers, for one thing. Fake flowers. Feather flowers, glass flowers, plastic flowers, wooden flowers. On my desk, shelves, end tables, etc. Then there was my lighthearted fixation on the occult: astrology books, psychic books, palm reading cards. I also have a greeting card with a painted fairy balancing the scales of justice on her shoulders. LIBRA it says in fancy font across the bottom. I have posters, calendars, and books on Elvis Presley. Numerous more books on rock 'n roll, and Rolling Stone compilations, etc.  I was surprised to find I had more than one book on England--some simply images of the countryside, some tour guides, and some chronicled histories, including an anthology on the kings and queens.

My photo albums are chock full of pictures of myself as a child. On an antique step ladder that I use for decorative purposes are photographs of my grandparents as children. I have another framed picture of my father and uncle as young boys. Then there are the lighthouses--tiny knick knack versions of course. My grandfather--formerly of the Coast Guard--was an avid collector. I also have an image of a lighthouse I took with my digital camera on the background of my computer. And cats...paintings, books, and a humorous tapestry that says, "The more I get to some people, the more I like the cat." Plus two real live ones that like to rub against my face as I write.

I could go on (Thomas Kinkade desk calendar, prints, and collectors' coffee table books), but I'll stop and say this: At one point or another, all of these things have turned up in my work. We all write for various reasons, and sometimes we get too caught up in the 'business' side of it--publications, queries, conferences, platform building, etc. and while these elements of living the writing life are both important and thrilling, I think sometimes we forget that writing is a subliminal, unconscious process that can help us connect to our hidden depths, those things that make us who we are. Writing is channeling, it's drudging up the dirt, and these 'obsessions' of ours are symbols, or keys have you, that unlock what we consider to be important.

So I'm interested...what are YOUR obsessions, and do they, perhaps inadvertently or not, reveal themselves in your writing?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How often should we be writing?

I believe that this is something writers often ponder. I've read interviews of prominent authors, attended panel discussions, participated in writing groups, taken writing courses, etc. and usually at some point in the discussion, this question will pop up like a shiny, red pimple on the morning of the prom. The truth is, various writers will give various answers. Some well-established storytellers will tell you to write everyday for hours at a time. Clearly we don't all have this luxury--I sure don't, but I'm working on it! Here's my personal opinion on this widely debated writer's conundrum.

On average, I write five to eight hours a week. When I say "write," generally what I am referring to is my novel-in-progress or one of my many, many underdeveloped short stories. For the most part, I don't include writing this blog or engaging in other forms of social networking as part of my writing time. I am solely commenting on my 'work,' or in other words, the pieces I hope-upon-hope, wish-upon-wish will one day be in print.

I teach both day and evening courses, and as a result, certain days of the week are unavailable for writing. The benefit of this is that on other days, I have a light course load, which leaves plenty of (non-excusable) hours to enter the thriving world of my own creation. In other words, it is necessary that I both find and make time to be the scribe I so desire to be. On Tuesdays, I'll grab an hour after work. Thursdays I finish teaching at 3 pm, hence I can fit in two hours or more. This quarter, I am off on Fridays, so I take at least a three hour chunk to devote to the art. Then there are the weekends, which depending on my level of 'open availability,' I either have two extra Fridays, or, sadly, a Monday or Wednesday (days in which writing is not possible).

Of course when the quarter changes I'll have to formulate a new plan, but until then this is what I work with. Are there some weeks when I write only three hours? Of course; life's ebb is ever changing, but the key truly is persistence. If I miss a day, I'll find another where I can make up for it. But regardless of the unpredictability of time, I've been working with this (albeit inconsistent) schedule since August 2010. The truth is, though I am still in the midst of perfecting it all, I really have made considerable progress.

I think the key is this: Look for time, make time, and utilize time. You know your schedule better than anyone else. But if you decide to write, you need to sit down and do it. Trust me, in this enterprise, it truly is the only way.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Just maybe

“We, and I think I’m speaking for many writers, don’t know what it is that sometimes comes to make our books alive. All we can do is to write dutifully and day after day, every day, giving our work the very best of what we are capable. I don’t think that we can consciously put the magic in; it doesn’t work that way. When the magic comes, it’s a gift.”
—Madeleine L’Engle

It's true. I wonder everyday if what I'm writing is good enough, interesting enough, worthy enough. I dreamed that one of my short stories received an honorable mention in a particular contest. When I woke, feeling jubilant no doubt, I realized that I never submitted that story to said contest. I'd let the deadline pass, assumed another rejection. My dream woke me up (no pun intended). What I really let pass was an opportunity.

They'll be more contests. Not all is lost. But maybe my subconscious is telling me that it's possible. Everyday I pray, not for success or fame or bestselling novels, but for belief. To dare believe I can do this. Perhaps it's working? I'm pushing myself to break through?

I'm not sure that what I'm doing is groundbreaking. To be honest, that's not really my intention. All I truly want is to believe. Yes, that and both the liberty and leisure to able to write more. My whole life maybe. This sounds so pseudo-inspirational. But to me it's actually very important. Regardless of what happens.

So I won't stop. I've been rewriting my novel and discovering all the things it didn't have the first time around. Now it does. It brings me personal happiness each day. In this endeavor that's all I can hope for. If not for that, I don't have much. I'm glad I'm learning to understand this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Doubt II

What IS writer's block? I used to think it meant "not knowing what to write." I don't believe that anymore. It's got to be more complex than that. The Gotham Writer's Workshop--based in NYC--sends out a newsletter, which often includes a mini-interview with established authors. The first question each author is asked? 'What are some methods for overcoming writer's block?' (I apologize, this is not the question verbatim). Nine times out of ten, these writers will claim that the proverbial 'block' is nonsense. Most will swear it's an invention of the mind. Some say there isn't enough time for writer's block, because there is just too much writing to do.

I have absolutely no reason to doubt them. They've published, sold, gained readers, etc. And quite frankly, I don't think I have it--the 'block' that is. Because, in the current stage of my novel, I know what I want to write. I know what is going to happen next. Usually once I sit down to work on manuscript, new ideas come, old ideas get trashed, the characters' voices take over my thoughts and so on and so on. In this sense, I agree. The best way to cure writer's block is to WRITE! Sit down, and scold yourself. Say, 'you may not get up from this chair for one hour. After that you are free.' Surprise, surprise. Writing gets done.

So, if the lack of flowing ideas is the surface of this awful affliction, I think my current problem goes a few layers deeper. See, I haven't posted on this blog since March 4th. My plight is more complicated. It's doubt, and it's back. I've written about the D word before. It goes something like this...what if my idea doesn't have a place in the current market, what if deep down, my story is total crap, even if I do publish, will anyone care, how many people even read this blog? What do I really want to come from this story? Am I too old? Am I running out of time? Can I call myself a writer if I have virtually nothing to show for it? And then, the big question: Is it even worth it?

I'd write all day if I could. I love it. Plain and simple, that's why I do it. But these questions consistently flow through my mind in a steady stream. I know this much. I will complete my novel. I promised myself I would. So I will. After that....???