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Treetop Fantasy

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Perched high in a magnificent tree

Becoming part of the mystical landscape

Those days and moments, my childhood treasures.

Saddened my old bones no longer cooperate in the climbing process.

Oh, to be that child again.

 

Today’s fantasy leads me to a lookout high in the greenery

Basking in seasonal colors and diffuse patterns and shadows.

Peaceful sounds created and absorbed by the silence.

Birds’ melodies in competition with animals’ breaths.

Oh, to be that child again.

 

My tree castles are mature now with years of providing strength and protection

No loggers saws, please. These memory makers deserve a peaceful passing 

With neighbors supporting their aging, then lifeless, branches.

Allow them death with dignity in their own home, the forest’s carpet.

Remember the joy. Oh, to be that child again.

 

Photo on the header

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I took the photo on the header of this blog at Smith Rock state park near Terrebone, OR.  To fit it into the allowed space, the top of the mountains had to be sheared off, but I thought the flowers overlooking the river below still made it a peaceful photo.

Writers’ Market Online

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Recently, my tutor at Creative Writing institute told me about the online Writers’ Market.  I checked it out and wonder why everyone wouldn’t prefer this way to search. The site saves your searches, gives you the ability to organize favorite markets into folders.  There is a daily update with an email alert for any changes to your saved markets and  online posting of all updates.  That book you buy every year is outdated regularly.  The information provided online on each market has a great deal more information than the book.  Saving the best for last, let me tell you about the submissions calendar.  You can post your submissions for magazines, contests, books, etc. in your own submissions folder and set email alerts to notify you when to check for results and get an answer from a query. I’ve tried several methods to keep track of this information and finding everything I use in one place is like opening a writer’s treasure chest. Do check it out.  http://www.writersmarket.com

 

Hoppin’ On The Wagon

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My wife gave me an ultimatum.

“Either you look for help getting over your block or find a paying job.”

She’s tired of watching me lounge in sweats all day, nursing cold coffee. The ashtray’s disappeared under what appears to be Mt. Helen’s last eruption. With no activity on the computer, my monitor spends the day dozing in sleep mode and my keyboard’s powdered with dust. My pencils are gnawed through to the center and I’m hoping for inspiration before I die from lead poisoning. But…, doing what writers do, I procrastinate. I sneak out the back door and go for a walk. When I get to the corner, I slow my pace.  A group of people are standing at the entrance to a local church, smoking and chatting. There’s a sign on the door that reads:

WBAA

Writers Block-Addicted Anonymous

7:00 pm Daily

Basement Hall

Darn, whadda ya know. I can come here at night, avoid getting a real job and still be able to say I’m writing during the day. The wifey will agree I’m seeking help for my affliction. I follow the group through the door. When everyone signs in, the meeting commences by reading the program’s twelve steps. The moderator shares a few examples how writers acquire block-addiction.  The excuses are varied and certainly recognizable. Hell, I’ve used most of them. Excuse after excuse, followed by plausible solutions. He finishes with this statement.

“Excuses are caused by the real culprit—procrastination. Just one slip of this deadly vice and you’re off the wagon and on the road to block addiction.”

I watch while addict after addict takes the stage and tells his or her story of conquering their blocks by winning the battle over procrastination. When they’re finished, recognition chips for addiction-free days are awarded. Because this is my first meeting, I’ve been assigned a sponsor to guide me through the process. He encourages me to attend a two-week WBAA boot camp to jumpstart my efforts. He admits this is a cold turkey method, but insists recovery will happen at a speedier rate if I’m a boot camp graduate. I agree to start tomorrow morning and regret it immediately.  I should put it off until a later date. Much, much later date.

***

My sponsor whisks me off to camp early. I’m informed by the staff that outdoor exercise is closely related to thought production. We begin each day with a five-kilometer run. This torturous routine will be accompanied by a military-style chant while keeping time with the jogging pace. It sounds like this:

Writing’s not a hobby.

Writing’s work for men.

Stop procrastinating

And move that lazy pen

After we complete the run, we’re herded into a classroom and told to write or scribble ,continually moving our pens non-stop until letters form. Much later, a word starts to form– a sentence. I’m in shock. Am I on the verge of a break-through paragraph?

Tonight I swallow handfuls of pain pills and slather soothing lotion on my fingers. Unable to open my hand from the long hours scribbling,  I apply finger splints for my claw-like digits. They call this scribbling exercise mandatory-misery freewriting. I’m ready to promise two thousand written words a day for the remainder of my life if I can just go home.

*

Each day we’ve been working our way through the steps of the program.

Step #1. I admit I’m powerless over blocks – that my writing life has become unmanageable. (Heck, I have no problem with this one. I’m here, aren’t I?)

Step #2.  I believe that a power greater than my writing group will restore me to sanity. (Won’t take much to top the sanity level of MY writing group)

Step #3. I’ve made a decision to turn my pen and pencil over to the care of the author who currently is ranked #1 on the Best Seller list. (Sounds like a sensible thing to do-he must be a fat cat with a publishing contract making boatloads of moolah. I wonder if he’s been to the boot camp)

Step #4. I’ve made a searching and fearless inventory of all my old writings. (Now does this one make any sense? If I was writing anything, would I be here?)

Somehow I work my way through the remainder of the steps and complete the course. I’m about to re-enter the writing community with fresh ideas, determination, and permanently cramped fingers.

***

Well, here I am, my first meeting at WBAA since completing the boot camp and I’m bladder-busting nervous. My pencils are carefully arranged in my pocket like little soldiers in an upright stance so everyone will notice they’re well used and even need sharpening. I’m entering the auditorium full of hope for the first time in months. As the twelve steps are read aloud, I’m feeling a sense of pride and ownership for the block addiction I’m conquering. Okay, time to go. They’ve called my name. I step up to the podium and face the group, ready to tell the story of my journey to block freedom.

“Hi, I’m Pete and I’m a block-addicted writer. I’m writing again and clean from blocks for 30 days.”

Been Hearin’ Some Recent Grumblin’ Bout Writin’ Groups

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My Story or Yours

It’s interesting to hear how a simple thought, phrase, title or sentence can trigger the creative juices in a group. Each person is born under the same sky (ie., gets the same prompt) but doesn’t have the same horizon. (ie.,writes a different story). Sounds prophetic, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t meant to be. Just a prompt from our weekly short story writing group.

I sat down at my desk to write a short story for this week’s writers’ group. However, I’ve noticed some disturbing changes in recent meetings and feel compelled to hop on my soapbox. Being an activist, I feel it my writer’s privilege to point out problems.

When someone is given carte blanche to voice an opinion or critique the work of another, human preference trots quickly out of the barn.

Critique or criticism. Two very similar words but delivered and experienced in totally different ways.

My Way or the Highway

Why so many roads on the map if they must all point to the same destination? Think about it.  Do all people indulge in the same hobbies, vacation in the same areas, drive the same cars, read the same magazines, eat the same food?  Of course not.  Diversity is alive and thriving.

One story cannot be liked, disliked, enjoyed or even bore every person in a group. And it should be that way. Otherwise, what would be the need for different genres, styles, or forms of expressing the writer’s thoughts?

I’ve noticed some critiques are little more than “I liked it” or “It didn’t do much for me”.  My question is, who cares?  What does that have to do with the writing?  Leave your personal preferences out of the discussion. Unless it truly affects the flow of the story, the writer doesn’t want to hear how you would end the story, name the character, or poison the victim. Use those preferences to create your own story. Critique, never criticize, the author’s story as it is written.

Read several reviews of the same book.  They all have a different perspective and view of the same material.  Some like it and some don’t.  That doesn’t make it a bad piece of literature.  Just the wrong audience some of the time.

The New Testament of the Bible tells the same stories by four different authors.  Aren’t they all considered inspired writing even though Matthew’s method of telling the story may be preferred over Luke’s, Mark’s verbiage different from John’s?

Many people don’t enjoy long epic or narrative poems; Shakespeare, in particular.  Think of the loss to the world if a critique of “Doesn’t do much for me” was given at his writing group.  He might have lost his self-confidence and never continued writing.

We should be listening, correcting problems, or giving suggestions dealing with proper tenses, grammar, punctuation, point of view usage, adequate construction of plots, development of characters. It’s not our job to like or dislike a story.  Leave that to the readers.  I feel sure that every ten readers who rave about a story, ten more would turn the page without finishing.  That’s why we have variety–everyone is different and enjoys different material.

Remember in your writing groups to concentrate on writing problems or successes. Critique the technique and construction. Offer suggestions where the piece could be submitted. Avoid spouting personal preferences of the story line, genre or style.  We don’t want to stifle what could be the future Hemingway, Whitman, Michener or Bombeck.

Profiling a Writer’s Voice

Another thorn under the fingernail has come to my attention. At these writing free-to-expect-sameness groups, I‘ve noticed that a writer, eventually, is encouraged to give up the right to be different.  If he’s been writing serious stuff, heaven help his reviews when he tries to write a comedic story or even a funny line.

Likewise, take the writer who’s a genius at penciling side-splitting humor. You might as well get out of the way of the flying tar and feathers if she attempts to author a serious piece. The reviewers want to chuckle at every line and will criticize until the morning sun rises again if her story line deviates from earlier works.

Hey folks. This is style-profiling. Isn’t it against the rules of good critique form? Should we really be working to ensure each person’s stories’ remain a carbon copy of the one before? Only the name changed to protect the author while appeasing those mouthing the critiques?

Stephen King successfully writes thrillers that are scary to the bone. However, his book “On Writing” is totally unlike his usual style and genre and a powerful resource for any struggling writer.  I’m glad his writing group didn’t restrict him to the one genre, just because that’s “what he always writes”.

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