Thursday, August 20, 2015

What Are You Working On ... Pamela Hobart Carter?

It is with great pleasure that I welcome writing partner and friend, Pamela Hobart Carter, to share her thoughts today.
Pamela Hobart Carter and Arleen Williams founded No Talking Dogs Press which features short books in easy English for adults. With Lynne Wiley Grant, she wrote Brace Yourself, a survival guide for adults undergoing orthodontia. For thirty years she taught science and preschool and a few other things. She lives in Seattle.

My Tangled Place of Figuring Out
 by Pamela Hobart Carter

I am working on a snarl of a novel.

Many years ago I wrote a story featuring Marcella and Rook. The year after, I wrote another with the same characters. A couple of years after that, I wrote a 10-minute play, Rook and Marcella Test the Waters (read at LiveGirls! Theater). When I quit teaching, it was for the larger chunks of time in which to focus on longer works, so I strung together these, and other Marcella pieces, as the basis for a novel. I wrote links and extensions. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Now I’m ensnared in a weed-choked, 300+-page-long marsh of Marcella.

How do I exit the marsh? This is my tangled place of figuring out.
Ever since learning about timed writing practice, as described by Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones, I have used the method to generate material. I can generate new stuff like nobody’s business.

But it’s the old stuff that’s an issue. It’s the unfamiliar larger scale that’s an issue. It’s the big thinking required that’s an issue.

Natalie reminds me to keep my pen moving because timed writing practice also helps meta-writing: I write to figure out my writing. Writing clarifies thought. (Ta-Nehisi Coates has a wonderful description of this in Between the World and Me. His mother made him write essays when she saw he needed to think something through.)

Natalie Goldberg and her timed writing practice are wonders, but so too are other folks and their practices. I am working on learning which resonate most for me and Marcella.

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Enter to Win WALKING HOME!

   Goodreads Book Giveaway     

        Walking Home by Arleen Williams




Giveaway ends September 15, 2015
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
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Thursday, August 13, 2015

What Are You Working On ... Terry Persun?

Today I'm happy to share the first guest post in my new What Are You Working On ... ? blog series, a collection of thoughts from authors on their latest works-in-progress. First up is Terry Persun.
Terry Persun is an award winning, bestselling writer. He writes fiction in many genres, and has won numerous awards including two ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Finalist Awards, two POW Book of the Year Awards, a Star of Washington Award, and an Independent Publishers' Silver IPPY Award. He has worked as an engineer, an electronics technician, and an airborne navigation specialist. Using his extensive technical knowledge, Terry writes and publishes articles about the latest technologies. Site: 

Always Creating 
by Terry Persun 
I’m always working on something, whether that means new fences for our horses, an addition to the chicken coop, or another poem, novel, short story, essay, tech article… I think you get it. I write a lot, so I’ve always got a few things going at once. I used to tell people that when I’m working on a novel, that’s it! But I lied, not because I wanted to. I basically lied out of ignorance. I get so focused on new novels that I can hardly remember anything else that I’m doing.

Here’s the truth: if I’m not working on several things at once, then something’s wrong. At the moment, I’ve got tech articles to finish writing or editing, a few poems I’ve written that need an overhaul, short stories that, while they’re going out are also being touched up every time I reread them. And then there is the novel I’m editing through, the poetry collection I’m trying to pull together (slowly, I might add), maybe a chapter of a nonfiction book (they tend to come to me a little at a time for some reason), and, of course, my latest novel (or novella or novelette, who knows until it’s done).

Since I write cross-genres, it’s not easy for an outsider to even guess what I’m working on. At the moment, I’m writing and researching for my second novella in my T.E.N. series. That’s what I call it. T.E.N. is actually the main character’s name—Tempest Eugene Nesbit—but everyone calls him Ten. The first in the series “The Killing Machine” was a techno-thriller. This one is too, but a bit different.

Enough about that. The issue is that I work on several projects, but the novel/novella always takes precedence over anything else. That’s what I get up to write in the morning, every morning, until it’s completed. I do skip a day every here and there, but seldom. And when I do skip a day it’s to do additional research for the book.

I like changing things up for myself. I write literary (or more serious) novels, but also like to have a little fun, go out on a limb, try new things. The T.E.N. novels are pulp novels, where I am light on character development, but big on concept. It’s fun to get out of my own box and write something that isn’t so character-heavy. I like that. I also enjoy writing experimental pieces where the main character isn’t really the main character, where situations are framed in a unique way.

It hardly matters to me what I’m writing, the best part of my day is during that writing time. That’s when I’m in the flow, as they say, when I’m doing what I feel I’m meant to do with my life. What I think God wants me to do—whatever your concept of God might be. So, the question, What Are You Working On, takes on a variety of meanings for me, some specific, some broad, but always fun.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

What Are You Working On?

It's been a dozen years since I entered the world of writing, seven since my first book, a memoir, was published. Now, three novels later, I'm re-entering the memoir world, re-learning the techniques I've used and taught in multiple classes and workshops.

It's one thing to teach students to list Memoir Moments as a tool for retrieving lost memories and shaping a story. It's a different thing to stare at a blank page with an equally blank mind and try to pull up stubborn memories buried deep in the gray mass of my brain. It's not like I'm writing about my childhood. My work-in-progress deals with my Mexico years. It's a story of friendship. Three women - a Brit, a Bahamian, and an American - meet in Mexico City. They each marry and later divorce Mexican men. Three decades later they reunite in London and joke about writing a book together about their adventure: The Ex-Mexican Wives Club.

I was twenty-five when I moved to Mexico City. I lived there for three years before meeting and marrying my ex-husband. The memories should be there, clear and easy to access. Instead they are hidden behind a veil of thick fog I struggle to navigate through. Who was that confused young woman and why did she make so many self-destructive decisions? Or were they decisions at all? I seemed to float rudderless through my twenties and early thirties, and today I'm left with no compass to find my way back to that younger me.
 How do I retrieve those memories? I do what I tell my students to do. I list memoir moments - those moments that pop into my head, usually as visual images, sometimes triggered by smells or music, often triggered by the simple act of writing. So I spend time writing against the clock, listing memories as they surface, one following another. Just a list to begin with. Later I'll turn those moments into startlines to use each time I practice timed writing.

I also go back to the LPs stashed away under the basement stairs, the boxes of photographs from the 1970s and 1980s, and the box of old journals at the bottom of a closet, in hopes of excavating memories and finding details of the times.

In the postscript to Slow Motion, Dani Shapiro also mentions pulling out old journals to try to piece together memories of her 20-something self as she began writing her memoir. But then she chose not to read her own words. Too many years, too many tragedies and joys, too many changes have filled the intervening decades for me to rely on memory alone. I only hope my journals and photos will jog memories of the young woman I once was, the friends I once had, and the world I once knew. That world existed long before the War on Drugs and 9/11 when crossing the border between the U.S. and Mexico in either direction was as simple for a young white American woman as crossing the Washington/Oregon border. That world is gone now, as is the young, naive ex-pat who was convinced she'd found her home in Mexico.