Another (Slight) Reimagining

Chances are, you’ve seen on other pages of this website the kinds of content I used to post on this blog. I thought, what can I blog about that I’m not going to share somewhere else? The answer: groups. Info about the groups I’ve been active in lately.

  1. A women’s book club that meets at my neighborhood library. For July, August, and September, the club selected read the following books:

Photo by  Aliis Sinisalu  on  Unsplash

a.       The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin: I’d call this book a wonderful example of commercial-literary crossover. It offers romance, mystery, and expertly developed characters. It’s a novel-length tribute to booksellers, books, and short stories.

b.       Mount Vernon Love Story by Mary Higgins Clark: This novel is an endearing look at the relationship between George and Martha Washington. This book was Clark’s first, and it does a beautiful job of honoring the humanity of these historical figures. I recommend this one if you’re looking for a relaxing summer read.

c.       The Wife between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen: This book features a man with money and his fiancée. Oh, and an ex-wife desperate to stop the impending wedding. I haven’t finished this one, but it’s keeping me on edge – in a good way. I recently arrived at a major plot twist.

2. Scribophile: This is an online critique and discussion community for writers of novels, short fiction, flash fiction, and nonfiction. You can even post your query letters for critique. Writers may understandably be nervous about posting their work online. I like that this site dates every post , so if there’s ever a question about who posted something first, the data is right there. The site is also carefully moderated and requires participants to critique several works posted by others before they can post their own work. For me, these components make me feel more comfortable about participating in an online critique group than I did before I became a member of the community. So far, I've posted a poem there for critique. Since then, I've revised the poem, and I'm working on collecting enough points from critiquing to post my revision.

As for the next two websites, I think I’ve discussed them before on this blog, but I didn’t feel right leaving them out. The last few weeks, I’ve been active on forums these sites offer.

3. StoryADay.org: On this site, I post my monthly writing goals. On the SWAGR (Serious Writers Accountability Group) Forum. This site offers a number of other writing-related resources. I find the ones on writing short fiction to be particularly helpful. This site is also the home of the StoryADay challenges. Twice a year, for thirty days, the challenge is to write a story a day. I participated in the challenge once, and it was liberating to know that the constraints of the event didn’t allow for self-critique and editing. If you’re completing a story every day, you just have to produce, no matter how silly or sloppy the result is.

4. DIYMFA: This site offers articles about all kinds of writing-related topics, online courses, forums, webinars, and other features.

At all three websites I listed above, some features are free; others come with a fee. However, in all cases, I would say that when you pay, you get your money’s worth. I hope to find time in the midst of my writing projects and teaching to keep participating in all the communities these sites offer.

I'm thinking about making the reading selections a regular feature of this blog. What you think?

For now, I'm signing off. A boy and a girl who live on opposite sides of a fence are waiting for me in my imagination.

Until the next post — happy reading, writing, wayfaring, and “wheelfaring. “

How I Became a Writer

Wow! You’re reading this. That means it's April tomorrow, and I’ve finally done something I intended to do in January. I’ve posted a response to a blog prompt from DIYMFA.com.

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DIY MFA is a place for writers to take online courses, to connect with other writers, and to get guidance about writing, publication, and marketing.

Gabriella Pereira, the founder of DIY MFA, wrote a book to go with her website. At the start of 2018, she hosted the online club inspired by the book. As a member of the club, I received two blog prompts each week in my email.

I began to respond to the prompts, then chickened out about publishing what I wrote. I’m going to blame this prompt for freezing my posting hand.

The question you see at the top of the post doesn’t make me squirm too much. It’s asking about the process that led me to become a writer. It asks “how” not “when.” My struggle began because the full prompt, while beginning with the question above, later introduces the concept of a “zero moment”—the moment a person decides to become a writer.

The "zero moment" concept trips me up.

Photo by  Matt Briney  on  Unsplash

Photo by Matt Briney on Unsplash

I can’t pinpoint one moment when I decided to become a writer. I remember imagining that historical figures stood at the foot of my bed. They told me about whatever aspects of their lives would interest a five, six, or seven-year-old. I’m throwing ages into cyberspace because my earliest memory of these nighttime imaginings must have been before I moved out of commuting distance from Washington DC. Before the move, my parents used to take me to the Smithsonian museums on weekends. These trips sparked my imagination.

My life with cerebral palsy did, too. When I was five, six, or seven I also made up stories about a girl with a cerebral palsy. I didn’t write the any of these down. They were a way of coping with my increasing awareness that I was different than other kids my age. It must have been awesome to imagine someone like me being called to adventures.

I was seven when we moved from the DC area. My new elementary school in Iowa had a writer’s club that met in the library before school. I know that I wrote during club meetings. So, if the definition of a writer is someone who writes narratives down, then using a notebook and a pencil at writer’s club made me a writer.

Yet a creative writer does so much more than put words on a page. She tells stories—or gives herself over to stories that want to be told. By giving herself over to a story, she leads multiple lives — multiple“real” ones. My stories are real long before I ever write them down. I was a storyteller before I was a writer.

Being a writer and being a storyteller are not the same. Some writers write instruction manuals. These writers have to lay out steps, objectively and simply. (Shout-out to those who do. I always say that the next time I get a new gadget, I’m going to read its instructions before I try to use it.)

Unlike technical writers, storytellers aren’t objective. Storytelling is about making a unique experience universal. (I’m getting this definition of storytelling from somewhere, but I don’t remember where. Thanks to whoever said or wrote it first.) Making a unique experience universal requires the storyteller to interpret events, to uncover their emotional meaning, and to share that meaning with someone else. Sometimes that someone is characters and an audience. Other times, there is no audience, only characters. The story forms in the storyteller because she was inspired to give her beliefs, dreams, and experiences new meaning through the journeys of characters. When a storyteller shares an experience with a character and records that sharing, she becomes a creative writer. I did — in writer's club. Writer’s club took me from a storyteller to creative writer.

See you back here in two weeks.