Thursday, August 24, 2023

A Writer's Drought?


We are staying the month on Vancouver Island, near Nanoose Bay. This picture shows the cove just a 6-minute walk down the hill. Despite daily news of wildfires all through Canada, and the aftermath of the devastating fires in Hawaii, here, the air is clear blue and the temperatures are averaging about 70F. So, of course, I feel a mix of guilty and gratefulness as I watch the deer come down out of the forest to graze on the golf course just outside our patio.

And we did escape the high temperatures and smoky air back home in Spokane. At least for this month. I still remember those drought restrictions in San Francisco so long ago. The water shortage was so bad, we could only flush the toilet once a day. Ewww! Somehow, we all survived. Yet, it's hard to watch those firemen and those voracious fires that are increasingly so difficult to stop.

I also thought of a writer's drought. When do we simply stop writing and cannot seem to start again?

Actually, we could see a writer's drought as somewhat of an ebb and flow, for we do persevere. Sometimes the story itself carries us on. Sometimes a morning's reflection brings new ideas, new images, or new words.

Sometimes writing a poem, even a haiku, short and disciplined, nurtures our creativity. That's one reason I do like writing challenges -- such as NaNoWriMo (the challenge to write 50,000 words in one month), or WEP's Flash Fiction challenge every other month (that's Write...Edit...Publish...).

Sometimes belonging to a writing group or having a writing partner to share new words with brings helpful feedback and new understandings. Either can be a rare gift.

If you have ever encountered a writer's drought, what strategies or events brought you back to writing?

Meanwhile, I will return to the patio, to sit in the swinging chair, to watch the deer, and simply reflect on this complex and still beautiful gift of life.

Image from Ignited Moth

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Write...Edit...Publish: A Summer Taste of Chocolate . . .

 Just in time, here is my flash fiction post for the August prompt from Write...Edit...Publish:


I sat on the somewhat lumpy swinging chair on the veranda, hoping no one would find me. Ever since Wanda Jane began the tradition of afternoon tea, I wanted to hide. If you didn’t want to drink any of the teas she provided, from mint to ginger to green, she did offer hot cocoa. But that was nothing like the chocolat chaud we tasted in Paris. Allen wasn’t here with me now, to tease me about the lumps in the cocoa or even Wanda Jane’s officiousness, as she moved around the tables, offering hot water to dilute the chocolate.

So long ago, yet that had been our first time in Paris. We walked to the top of the Eiffel Tower, entranced by the fireworks at the end of the day, the flashes of color every bit as bright as the city lights arrayed below us. We rented a small pension, five flights up a circular stone stairway with no elevator. I smiled. No way could I walk up those stairs now. How many museums we wandered then, even that small Picasso Museum, a little out of the way in the Marais District with its rows of 17th Century houses.

We found Van Gogh’s last self-portrait at the Musée d'Orsay. A tour guide set a fast pace as she led a crowd of some forty tourists past us, pointing to the left and the right. We simply stood in one place, drinking in every moment as if we had nowhere else to be. What a joy it was to be an independent traveler.

Ah, I wouldn’t go on that long flight without him. Better to sip the hot cocoa and remember. If I close my eyes, I can still see him before me, holding out that steaming cup of rich, hot chocolate, embellished with crème, and beside it, an unforgettable crusty, warm croissant, and saying, “One day, we’ll return to Paris, my love. Even if only in our memories.”

Word Count: 437 (FCA)

About Write...Edit...Publish...  Every other month, writers are encouraged to post a flash fiction and read what others have written. You can go HERE to see more about the guidelines. 

As you may have guessed, this month's prompt was inspired by that deliciously romantic movie, Chocolat! NOTE: For this August prompt, the deadline is August 16-18. 

I barely made this deadline between problems with internet access and problems accessing files saved by that useful but sometimes frustrating iCloud! But you can still participate. A lovely prize awaits you. See DETAILS HERE.

And if writing flash fiction is new to you, Denise Covey has written a stunning and helpful 'how to' that features her take on the prompt, chocolat. Read it HERE.

HERE'S ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY FOR WRITERS: You may want to submit to WEP's upcoming 2024 FLASH FICTION ANTHOLOGY (release approximately May, 2024). Submissions are due by December 31, 2023, with DETAILS HERE.

NOTE: That inspirational picture of chocolat seen just above my flash fiction came from with their fascinating and detailed discussion of how to make the best cappuccino! This might be fun to try once we're back home. 

May you enjoy every day of these last days of summer.

Vacation . . .


Here's the view from our temporary apartment at The Swan's Pond on Vancouver Island. I don't think I've ever simply sat on a swinging settee to simply enjoy the view without a round of tasks prompting me to work. The morning quiet was marred only by the trickle of water at a nearby pond and an occasional passing flock of Canada geese. So far this morning, I've seen three young deer scampering along a woodland trail across the way. This is our home for the next month, and barring a limited kitchen (hot plate?), I think we'll do just fine.

Yesterday, we walked about 5 minutes over to a nearby cove to discover a winding path through a sunlit forest of pine, cedar, and eucalyptus. Once at the cove, we discovered giant granite rocks to climb on and a series of little beaches overlooking Nanoose Bay. We should not have climbed on those rocks! We are too old. But the view of the cove before us, once again, was simply beautiful.

Overhead, another small flock of Canada geese just flew low over the patio. I guess they're headed north, and we'll need to think of winter some day soon. For now, it's enough to simply sit here on the patio, and, I guess more true than any other time, to be in the moment.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

IWSG August 2: Conflicted over Writing?

This month's Challenge Question from the Insecure Writer's Support Group had me thinking about where my stories come from. August 2 question: Have you ever written something that afterwards you felt conflicted about? If so, did you let it stay how it was, take it out, or rewrite it?

This month, I'm co-presenting at our local author's group on how cultural diversity (our own and that of others) may influence our writing. At times, this issue can be controversial, so I'm digging pretty deep into what cultural diversity is and what issues it raises for writers. I was surprised to learn that what I write about comes directly from very early childhood experiences. Probably not a surprise to some of you writers out there!

I grew up in a pretty gritty blue-collar family. My mother was a Hollywood starlet and an alcoholic. One of my stepfathers was a steelworker. We moved so often I don't know how many high schools I attended, but my dream was to go to college, and one day I did.

The very first book I wrote is still in a drawer. Mothers Don't Die is about a serial murderer who terrorizes young women.

I didn't like the subject, but I loved to write, so shifted to historical fiction, inspired by that great economic disruption known as the Industrial Revolution, where rich landowners ousted sharecropper farmers from their land and replaced them with sheep. Standing Stones began a family saga set in 1840s Scotland and led me to write four books. Much of my fiction is about that struggle to create something good, despsite formidable odds. Fun to write. Happy endings. Mostly.

Fascinated by art and culture, I began a new series about art crime, starting with The Seventh Tapestry. I was about 50% into a second art crime story set in Egypt, when a dream about a dog and a runaway woman led me to a new series, organized around the working subtitle: A Doggone Mystery. Maybe I could write a cozy mystery, I thought. Here are my two working covers.

Which one do you think pulled me right in?

What I learned pretty darn quickly, 
despite excellent advice from Paul Tomlinson's Mystery: How to Write Traditional & Cozy Whodunits, is that the cozy mystery genre is a shoe that doesn't fit. Right now, I don't care. The words are coming. I love my story, and have not quite resolved if my heroine will achieve that happy ending.

So, my answer to IWSG's question: Have you ever written something that afterwards you felt conflicted about? If so, did you let it stay how it was, take it out, or rewrite it? Maybe I left that first story in the drawer (and maybe one day, it will come out), but now I know those themes that I have struggled with and have felt conflicted about stay with me. They influence what I write today.

James Baldwin said, "“Every writer has only one story to tell, and he has to find a way of telling it until the meaning becomes clearer and clearer, until the story becomes at once more narrow and larger, more and more precise, more and more reverberating.”

Thank you, IWSG, for a question that challenges us to rethink the issue of conflicts -- both at the story and the personal level, perhaps leading us to understand anew what and why we write.

I'm looking forward to seeing what others have written this month, and you can too. As Rick Bylina says, "Write on!" And, check out the links below.

About the Insecure Writer's Support Group: Our goal is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Each month, an optional question is posted. You can post your response on your own blog OR talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

The awesome co-hosts for the August 2 posting of the IWSG are
Why not visit them to see what they've posted?