Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Flash


55 words

The Faithful 

Video cameras around the Washington Mint are gods to the feline population along 9th Street. They gather to pray several times a day when a high priest makes his rounds dropping sardines at each surveillance point. No rhyme or reason to this ritual, but cats never question religion or science.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The 2014 Project-Win a Free Book!

The drawing has happened. The winners win the month of January for Pure Slush's 2014-12 Months of Stories!! They are--puh-rumpuh-bum--Jo Gatford,Jayne Martin, Debbie Kirby,Jeff Brown, and Inga Harris!!!


I want to give away January!!! Participate!! You just might win a free 2014-A Year in Pure Slush's 2014-12 Months of Stories book, vol. 1!!!!

If you add your name in the comments below (it may take a while to appear)  between 12:00 AM PST January 19 and 11:59 AM January 19th, you may win 1 of 5 free print books of 2014-A Year in Stories!! Yep, I'm having a random drawing on January 20th. 

Or if you are on Facebook, you can enter at my regular page: Gay Degani or my Gay Degani-Author Page.


Nineteen days into the 2014 Project - A Year in Stories and it's kind of taken over my life.  Well, not really, but it's kept me busy reading.  So far I've read the following:

The Miracle of Small Things by Guilie Castillo-Oriard
La Ronde: Made and Gina by Townsend Walker
The Meet Cute by Derek Osborne
Ralph Rudinsky here... by Gloria Garfunkel
Carmine by John Wentworth Chapin
first Impression by Lynn Beighley 
Wingy by Andrew Stancek
Isa by Rachel Ambrose
Carpet Muncher by Gill Hoffs
Snakes and Snails by Susan Tepper
Father Eleanor by Jessica McHugh
You Can't Choose Your Friends by Shane Simmons
Cornfield by Michelle Elvy
Storm Lake by Len Kuntz
First Inning by Michael Webb
Making Music byJames Claffey
The Suicide Club by Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz
Compassion by Stephen V. Ramey

These stories are available in print as well as an ebook or Kindle edition.  And they go on for the whole year.  Here's what editor and publisher Matt Potter says on the back of the January edition:

So this is the idea...a year of stories, one story a day for an entire year, all written like they're happening now as you read them...and each writer has a set day each month, where the read can watch /read about/discover again/enjoy characters' lives as they unfold across the year.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday Flash (55 Words)


Juliet Fails

She finishes her 'Juliet' and stumbles through backstage mayhem out into traffic. Horns honk. Lights blind, but she knows how to find the Thames. Her performance belongs on the scrapheap, no awards here. Worse. Only humiliation can follow. On the edge of the river, she doesn’t  hesitate, knowing only too well, she’s a better “Ophelia.”

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Beyond the First Goal

When we are new at something, sometimes all we can think about is that first goal.  Learning to roller skate (blade!) doesn’t look that hard.  If  we can stay upright, feet on the sidewalk, body vertical, we’ll soon be doing figure eights and sailing backwards. The same goes for writing.  When we sit down at the keyboard to write a story, we figure if  we can get enough words on the screen, we’ll have a tale worth telling. 
In some ways, we need this attitude to get started.  If we knew we’d fall on our asses for the first twelve times we skated over a twig, a crack, our sister’s Barbie doll, we probably wouldn’t try.  We need that initial belief in ourselves to put the skates on in the first place.  The same is true for writing.  We picture ourselves  clacking away at the computer keys with lines of type building and building.  It is the only way to deal with our initial fear.
However, how we handle the results of those first attempts can dictate success or failure.  For many, a bruised butt and bloodied knees spell defeat.  “I don’t want to do this!  This is too hard” and they head inside to watch Saturday morning cartoons.  Others wear their scabs like badges of honor and take a moment to reassess their goals.  They realize they can’t jump from standing upright on skates to skimming down Devil Hill, carving eights in the liquor store parking lot, floating backward to the awe of the younger kids without blood and guts.
The same is true with writing.  Although there are those who have a natural talent for the written word can sit down and write it without too much angst.  But these are rare cases.  Most of us may write a story that has many strong elements, but as a whole it doesn’t work.  Not yet.  And we need to reassess and learn the craft.
This is the make-or-break moment for most writers, the moment of looking at a piece of writing as it might be read by others, readers who do not live in the head of that writer.  The ability to look at one’s own work with a critical eye does not come easily.  It is a skill that is learned with practice, patience, and awareness of what works and what doesn’t.  An expertise that evolves over time. 
Just as a young roller skater learns the sidewalk is smoother than asphalt, a writer learns clarity is more important that an obscure turn of phrase, but to do this, both must be willing to see beyond their first goals.  They must accept the reality that becoming good at something requires the understanding that learning is a process, that the large goal must be broken down into smaller goals because everything is more complex than we first perceive. 
There is a difference in skating and writing.  We teach different muscles to work harmoniously together.  In skating we train our bodies and our brain too, but most it’s about legs and balance and reaction.  In writing we train our brains–and our hearts. 
How do we train our brains to write?  We set up mini-goals, lots of them, beyond our first goal.  Here are a few I believe in, though sometimes I find it hard to actually do them all!
Mini-Goals for Each Story
  • Create content by taking notes, brain-storming, writing a “shit” draft
  • Write a draft
  • Do research to understand the world you’ve created or the personalities
  • Think about story structure
  • Make certain everything in a story serves a purpose (especially in flash)
  • Be willing to delete that which doesn’t fit into the structure
  • Go through the story to improve the language
  • Make certain everything that needs to be clear is clear
  • Make certain that verbs are active, that nouns are specific
  • Proof-read carefully
  • Set it aside (this is one of the hardest mini-goals because usually at this stage we are sooooooo excited about what we’ve created, we can’t wait to send it out)
  • Reread and make changes after it’s been set aside
  • Ask a trusted reader to read it (trusted: gentle, supportive, yet honest, honest, honest)
  • Decide what notes you agree with and what you don’t and make edits
  • Set aside again, at least an hour or two so that when you proof-read for the final time, you have enough distance to find now what your eye skipped over before
  • Send out and cross fingers
Mini-Goals for Personal Growth
  • Read widely and deeply
  • Talk to others about writing
  • Be open-minded
  • Try new genres
  • Be a mentor
 None of this is necessary if a writer is writing only for himself.   Just as skating up and down the block might make one child happy, putting together a story for fun can work for the “Sunday author.”  But if your goal is roller-derby, you’d better to be willing to work.  And if you want to be published?  Guess what…

This article was first published at Flash Fiction Chronicles on November 22, 2009

Thursday, January 02, 2014

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2014 and some tidbits you might be interested in!


I'm participating in a writing project with 30 other writers. This is the brainchild of Matt Potter at Pure Slush out of Australia and involves each of us writing a story for one day a month for all the days of 2014.  

I picked the 19th of each month since my birthday is the 19th of March (St. Joseph's Feast Day and the day the swallows return to Capistrano and now "a very special episode" in 2014 Volume 3). The umbrella title for my twelve stories is "The Old Road," but each one is a separate piece about people who live in this particular neighborhood on the edge of a small city.  

Matt's idea is that readers will read each story on the day it is supposed to have occurred as written by the author.  All stories are told in the present tense to enhance the feeling the action is taking place RIGHT NOW.  

Some of the writers are making the experience more interactive.  For example, below you will find a link  to Stephen V. Ramey's blog,  Ramey Writes, where he intends to discuss each story on the day it is published.  Discussions to ensue!!!  For a taste of Guilie Castillo Oriard's work for January 1, "The Miracle of Small Things." 

I have a Pinterest page where you can find my research and inspiration for the stories I'm writing.  You can find this HERE. Other writers will be doing similar things to make this a fun experience.

To participate, you will need to purchase either the print volume for each month or an ebook. Worth the price to go on this reading adventure. 

If you want to challenge yourself to read the stories, the link to buy the ebook is HERE
For Kindle, go HERE
For print (and these are gorgeous books!), go HERE
For free shipping on print, use this time-limited code: SHIPSHAPE14


I confess I've been holiday-hazed. Exact date for What Came Before is unknown (blame the vagaries of my current life), but coming soon, out in time for AWP in Seattle at the end of February, but hopefully on-line sooner.  Camille Gooderham-Campbell and I are busily doing edits and proof-reading the text. I have a Pinterest Board for this too, HERE.