Posted on

SHOWING UP by Sharon Knapp

 

If you look online for writing classes, you’ll find that most classes are about the craft of writing– how to write fiction, how to create memorable characters, how to write your memoir. What you’ll rarely see is a class about how you get the writing to craft. In other words, if you’ve always wanted to write (or you just can’t seem to get yourself to moving), how do you start writing in the first place? How do you write it wrong so you can get to the point where you can write it right?

 
The obvious but oft-overlooked fact about writing is that in order to get better, you have to practice, and that involves showing up. Seriously. The difference between a would-be writer and a real writer is that real writers don’t just THINK about it. Real writers write. I honestly believe that 99% of writing is just getting your butt in the seat and remaining there until you’ve gotten something down on paper. This is easier said than done. (Trust me on this.)

 
So how do you get yourself to even show up? You form a habit.

 
Scientists now believe that it takes 66 days of repetition for a new behavior to become automatic. If you really want to develop a writing habit, you’re going to need to show up for practice every day for two months.

 
Sound impossible? It’s not.

 
In the classes I teach, we focus on one thing: setting aside 10 minutes a day to write. Ten minutes! I provide writing prompt each day and my students find a place to write, set a timer, and force their hands to keep moving until that timer goes off. They don’t read the news or answer e-mail or check their Facebook accounts. They write. And here’s what they find.

 
Ten minutes is easy. You can do anything for that amount of time.

 
Sometimes, that ten minutes is just a jumping-off point, and the writing flows. Hours go by. Sometimes, that ten minutes is agony. But what eventually happens is that if they DON’T write one day, something feels off. Writing has become a habit, and they’ve established a practice. If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is not to show up.

 
So start with 10 minutes. Put your butt in the seat. Keep your fingers moving, and you’ll already have succeeded. It’s that simple.

 

 

unnamed-2Sharon Knapp is an instructor at Writers & Books.

Read her whole bio here.

Posted on

Where Does Inspiration Come From? David B. Seaburn

 

There are often specific experiences that help inspire my writing. For example, the title for my latest novel, “More More Time,” was inspired by a game I used to play with our oldest granddaughter. I would hold her by the wrists and swish her around the kitchen floor. When I got tired, I would say, “One more time, Gianna.” She thought I was saying, “More more time,” which, in turn, she assumed was the name of the game. Almost immediately, I decided that would be the title of my next novel even though I didn’t have a story to go with it yet.
When I get into the actual writing, I discover that there are more fundamental things that motivate or inspire me. They have to do with my theological training and my years of experience as a marriage and family therapist. In theological seminary I learned that story-telling, the use of language, is a powerful way to create and sustain meaning. In fact, the process of story creation and sharing is sacred, in and of itself.
As I psychotherapist I was afforded the opportunity to enter into the intimate stories of individuals, couples and families, stories that were honest, painful, and yet full of hope. Listening to and struggling with them taught me about the complexity of the human journey and all the challenges and rewards that are a part of it. It also taught me that even the most modest life is brimful of meaning and possibility.
As a consequence of these influences, common to all my work is an abiding interest in the common struggles that make us human—loss, fear, hope, uncertainty, connection, separation, meaning, seeking, questioning, love, guilt, wonder, and joy. When I write, I feel that more than anything else, I am, even in a small way, trying to make sense of life, trying to explore its meaning. And, of course, I am trying to tell a good story in the process.

unnamed

 

David B. Seaburn has written five novels. His most recent is More More Time. Seaburn is a retired family therapist, psychologist and minister.

 

Visit his website at davidbseaburn.com

Posted on

Time For a Dream By Gregory Gerard

The title caught me. Time to Write. Just what I needed.
I’d wanted to be a writer ever since I was a boy. Watching The Waltons on Thursday nights, I’d imagine myself as John Boy, sitting in my bedroom window on summer evenings, pouring the longings of life onto printed page.
It hadn’t turned out that way. Grown-up responsibilities—paying my first apartment’s rent, navigating the politics of my first ‘real job’, traversing the angst of my first move ‘away’, maneuvering the tangle of my first dating relationships—all got in the way of my childhood dream.
Life packed my days, leaving little room for my notebook from youth. The notebook I’d carried through the fields behind my parent’s barn, past the algae-choked pond, through the corn-stalk sentinels, up the sledding hill to the edge of the forest. There I’d climb into the fattest maple’s limbs, the one that had three thin boards nailed to the trunk—weather-worn step from kids long gone.
I’d sit and write things like:

I love the sound of the creek at night.
Its rushing gurgles call me to something I don’t yet know.

But a job and a husband and a house happened. Through all of that, there was no time.
Until the 2002 Writers & Books catalog caught my radar. Flipping through, I found Wendy Low’s Time to Write. It pitched techniques to carve out time from busy life and write. That struck a deep chord within me, waking my John-Boy longing.
I’ll admit, it didn’t happen overnight. But here’s the short version.
I took the class; loved it; took another, and another, and another. I learned tricks about writing when you first wake, about finding a space in your house to hole up, about leaving a laptop on, so you can grab-and-go when inspiration strikes. These tips (and more!) spurred me to write every day.
Flash forward. With work and perseverance, by 2005, I had 70K words of a book written. By 2007, I began teaching at Writers & Books. By 2009, I published my memoir, In Jupiter’s Shadow. Today, I belong to two writing groups and I’m working on two novels.
I’m thrilled Writers & Books exists. And that, with their help, I made time for a dream.

 

unnamed-6Read Greg’s bio here and visit his website at www.GregoryGerard.net

 

 

 

Photo credit: Sonja Livingston

Posted on

“You Must Read Out Loud Darling!” She Warned Him, Encouragingly. By Brian Wood

“You Must Read Out Loud Darling!” She Warned Him, Encouragingly.
By Brian Wood

Here’s a dirty secret about short stories: when you submit them for publication, the editor doesn’t always read the whole thing. Quite often they skim the pages.
Continue reading “You Must Read Out Loud Darling!” She Warned Him, Encouragingly. By Brian Wood

Posted on

“The Enchanted” author Rene Denfeld Interview

unnamed-5

 

Excerpt from “A Conversation with Rene Denfeld

 

[Read the full interview by clicking on the link above]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writers & Books: As you mention, you have worked as a journalist and you have also written three successful nonfiction books focusing on social issues. What inspired you to move into fiction? Did you first consider writing your own true story of working as a death row investigator?
Rene Denfeld: For several years I had been working with men and women on death row. I knew because of confidentiality I couldn’t write about them. I thought, “I’ll never be able to tell these stories.” Once the idea of the novel came to me, I realized that was the way to tell the story. I think fiction can tell a much deeper truth, anyhow. In fiction we can truly immerse ourselves in the lives of others.

 

W&B: You have spoken about one day leaving a prison hearing a voice that referred to it as an “enchanted place” and this narrative began there. Can you say more about that experience and what came next in the process of starting the novel?
RD: The death row prison where I work is like the one in the novel—an ancient stone fortress built in 1866. I was leaving the prison one day, hearing the bars slam shut behind me. It was a beautiful spring day. This voice spoke in my ear, so clear and real. He said, “This is an enchanted place.” It felt like it was an inmate I had never met. He was waiting for me to listen, so he could tell me his story.
I followed that voice right into the novel. The narrator became intensely real to me. I began taking my laptop with me everywhere I went. The narrator would pop up into the passenger seat of my car as I drove into the rural woods on a death row case I was working at the time, and put his scaly feet up on my dashboard. I would pull over to write down what he said. I remember his thin gray hair, the paper smock he wore; his long curling nails. His voice was so low, so rich.
It felt to me like all I had to do was listen, and write down the poetry that came out in that quiet voice. Part of fiction is like that—the poetry that comes out when we truly channel another person.
In case you are wondering, after I finished the novel I finished the case I was working on at the time. In that case I stopped the execution. I will never forget telling his mother he would not die.

 

W&B: There is a shared humanity between all of the novel’s characters, which is clear to readers. Even characters like Striker are sympathetic when they ultimately meet their demise. Do you find this to be true in your real-life experience of death row?
RD: Yes, absolutely. Everyone has a soul. I think we can honor that while still honoring the terrible harm people can cause each other. In fact I would suggest that it is by honoring the humanity of the perpetrator we can honor the victims, by addressing the causes of crime—and preventing such horror from happening again. It’s easy to say “Lock them up and throw away the key.” But maybe the key is in prevention, and prevention is learning about why people end up hurting each other. We are all living in prisons, in a sense—bars of shame or remorse, loneliness or regret. Much of the novel is about that shared experience.

 

W&B: The novel, although it addresses a contentious issue in our society, is not in the least political. Was that difficult for you?
RD: I’m glad you ask that, because I don’t want people to think The Enchanted is a political tract. I didn’t want to write some diatribe against the death penalty. I’ve worked with enough victims to honor why people support the death penalty. If it was one of my children who got murdered—yes, I can imagine how I would feel. The desire for revenge is natural. We need to get beyond pointing fingers and work toward solutions.

 

W&B: You said in an earlier interview that you do believe people can change. Presumably that relates to those convicted of violent crime. How do you hope that readers, or even society, might be changed by reading this novel?
RD: Everyone can change. I hope that readers gain understanding of what prisons are like, insight into the men on death row, and maybe insight into their own dark corners. I believe we all need to be seen and heard, and, if we are lucky, to be loved. That is the redemption we seek.