Archive for August, 2012

Follow Up to Tears

Posted on August 31, 2012. Filed under: Events, storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , , |

So I did my sappy story this past Saturday – see my “tears” post – and I did have two people tell me that I made them cry – so yay – but it turned out to be not as sad as all that. Several people said they liked it, with no mention of tears, so I guess that’s all right.

You can judge for yourself, as the video is up.


I will be telling a funny story at the September show. Nothing to cry about in that one. If you are in Northern Virginia on September 29th, check out our live storytelling show with Better Said Than Done.  Details here.

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Writer Etiquette

Posted on August 28, 2012. Filed under: writing | Tags: , , |

Writing is not a very thank filled job. I wouldn’t say it’s entirely without it’s perks. When you churn out some amazing piece of literary genius, it can be fairly gratifying, even if no one reads it, but, for the most part, writers aren’t going around getting loads of praise, or loads of money, or loads fans everywhere they turn.  So it is really nice to have a support group to turn to for the occasional pat on the back or just a smiley face scribbled on a returned critique. I am very appreciative of my writing family.

However, sometimes a person comes along who does not understand the ironically unwritten rules of a writing circle.  Occasionally someone does not respect the way it is and always should be, and they take advantage of the one measly little buoy that us drowning writers have to hold onto. I am speaking, of course, about the users and flatleavers of the creative writing circle.

Here is the deal, if we insecure and artistic souls open our arms and welcome you into our worlds, real and fictional, then there are a few things we expect in return. Rather than blather on about the oh so many ways I have seen the literary pond scum abuse the system, I will just spell out, in much too obvious detail, writer etiquette.

1. Upon joining a writing circle, plan on staying for some time. Now, if you instantly hate everyone in the group, or find it is just not your thing, get out fast. Don’t dawdle for a few meetings and then leave us all wondering what we did to make you abandon us.  Get out fast or commit to the long haul.

2. This is minor, but don’t submit your work for the very first meeting – unless it is the very first meeting of the group in general. If it is a pre-existing group and they have asked you to visit – to assess if you do in fact want to marry your writing career to theirs – then don’t make your first meeting with them all about you. Take the time to get to know them a little before making them read through your masterpiece.

3. To follow up on that, attend meetings even if you didn’t submit your own work. This is my biggest pet peeve. I have seen it time and again. A member will submit their chapter or story or what have you, show up for the critique, praise, etc., and then skip the next meeting or two, before returning when they again have something to submit. There is nothing worse than someone who expects you to help them when they are unwilling to help you.

4. Last but not least, put some effort into your critique. I can’t say write a good critique, because everyone’s editorial skills are different, but at least try to do right by the work. I can’t say be nice in your criticism, because everyone’s personality is different, but don’t just point out all the bad parts.  Try to explain to the writer what you liked, what you didn’t like, and why. Just do your best to help them create their best.

I am so grateful for all the wonderful advice, suggestions, and comments I have received over the years from some very smart and talented writer friends. I just wish all the writers in all the circles of support out there could follow a few basic rules.

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Do Tears Mean It’s Good?

Posted on August 23, 2012. Filed under: storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I will be the first to admit, I cry pretty easily – especially at the movies, or reading a book, or hearing a really touching story. And you know what? I like it. Yep. I like when stories make me cry.

So, what about when my own writing makes me cry? Does that mean it’s good or that I am too attached?  I am trying to work this out, because quite a few of my own stories make me cry.  I know, I am weird, but I write the kind of stuff I would like to read, so there you go.

I write fiction as well as true, personal stories. I am currently working on a story about my mom and my dog, for this Saturday’s storytelling performance, when they were both sick, and I keep crying when I get to the end!  Now, obviously, I have a personal connection to the story. It’s true and I lived through it and there are some very emotional events that took place. Hence, the crying. But just because it moves me, does it mean that it will move other people?

I have (I say with puffed out chest) made people cry with my stories before. It’s very gratifying. 🙂 But there is a fine line between indulging your own emotional catharsis and creating art and, especially with true stories, that is a hard line to walk. Just because this story is making me cry, doesn’t mean it will work it’s magic onion powers on others. Hopefully, Saturday will be another successful telling and no one will throw tomatoes. (Although I have never had anyone throw a tomato at me, so don’t know how bad that would actually be.)

Then there’s my fiction writing that makes me cry. I wrote this fantastic (I do say so myself) short story about a young married couple who had to deal with cancer.  Every time I revised the ending, I found myself balling. I mean, it was good stuff! But I was told publishers don’t like cancer stories. Too depressing. And so far, no publisher has proved me wrong and bought it, so is it better to stick with lighter content?

But books like “Cold Mountain,” and “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” and “The Poisonwood Bible,” all favorites of mine, totally make you cry. There is no way you could get to the end of “Cold Mountain” without balling. And I am pretty sure all three of those books sold more than a dozen copies. So it’s not just me out there liking to cry.

I guess there needs to be more to it than just tears. I still think my cancer story was good, but maybe not as catchy as a time traveling husband. The emotional content is still important, but maybe context is as well.

Writing is a journey and we’ll see how this all develops. At least by Saturday night I will know if my most recent creation is art or just a failed public therapy session.

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Storytelling is like sex

Posted on August 17, 2012. Filed under: storytelling |

I just finished this blog about the new evidence proving storytelling is like sex.

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