Friday, September 16, 2011

Weekend Writing Prompt from DIY MFA

The following are my responses to the questions posted on the DIY MFA website. There seems to be some issue with the Amazon Associates gadget so the weekly quotes will be a little late this week. Not that this is unusual. But this week I have a reason. Not necessarily a good one.

Weekend Writing Prompt

1) Do you read regularly? If so, how many books per year, on average?
I’m going to say that, on average, I read about one book a week. Now those of you who follow my book review blog are probably balking at this but bear in mind, I am currently unemployed so I have more time for reading than I would if I were working full time. So my answer is more a reflection of my normal reading pace than it is my current reading pace.

2) What are your Top 3 preferred subjects or genres?
I suppose if I were to narrow it down, my top three genres would be fantasy, young adult, and . . . poetry. (I don’t think poetry is a genre. And where would nonfiction works fall? Is memoir considered a genre? What about books on writing, which are typically shelved in bookstores somewhere between the reference books and foreign language and testing resources? I am obviously responding with “genre” clearly limited to fiction writing which is why “poetry” probably doesn’t belong. Okay. Replace “poetry” with “cross genre” or “inter-genre” where more than one genre is merged with another.) 

“Subject” is harder for me to determine. I want to say dystopian novels because I’m such a sucker for those. I also love quirky character driven novels. I avoid romance novels and mysteries because I rarely enjoy them but now I’ve shifted over to genre again. Subject . . . ? That’s a tougher one for me to narrow down. I just read something I thought was interesting in Emily's Quest by Lucy Maud Montgomery: But the materials of story weaving are the same in all ages and all places, Births, deaths, marriages, scandals—these are the only really interesting things in the world (2). I thought this was interesting because how often have we heard that “all the stories” have been told? Too often. However, we are then told “But nobody can tell your story in your way.” But I think I’ve digressed enough. Perhaps the problem here is that I’m not clear what is meant by “subject.”

3) List the last 5 books/magazines you’ve read.
(Full disclosure: I fluffed on this one a bit because I read two books on teaching children back-to-back but I’m reading those to brush up my disused parenting skills now that I am a grandmother.)

  • Poetry 
  • Tricycle 
  • Diabetes Forecast 
  • Prevention 
  • Health 
(Full Disclosure: I didn't actually read so much as flip through the last two. I am surprised by how inane most of the content is.)

1) How long have you been writing regularly?
So long I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t. As an early reader/writer, I filled notebooks with stories and drawings. I used to make my own mini-books, folding paper in half, sometimes even cutting them in half and folding them again into even smaller books. I would illustrate my stories or set a goal to fill a notebook with words, words, and more words. Many of my “ideas” were derivative. This is why I threw out my first novel manuscript, when I was in my early 20s, because I’d written a fantasy that I felt was too similar in plot development. Years later, I was watching The Power of Myth and I realized I’d thrown away a potentially good rough draft because I had done what so many storytellers had done; I’d written a classic hero’s journey fantasy story. I didn’t appreciate then that formulaic writing within some genres is not only acceptable but often expected.

2) Do you have a project you’re focusing on? Or are you experimenting with various things?
Yes and yes. I have a project, a novel manuscript, that I am revising. I also have a collection of short stories I want to which I want to give some attention—the collection is far from complete so I have some more stories to create for it. I also have two poetry chapbooks I need to revise, perhaps adding a few poems to them as well. On top of that, I’ve been requested to write some personal essays. As if that were not enough, I am the editor and copyeditor for a monthly e-newsletter. Sooooo . . . I do a lot of writing and have many different types of writing I do on any given day because of the various projects. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t easily answer the “subject” question above.

3) How often do you write? Is your writing schedule regular or sporadic?
Again, yes and yes. I write daily and some of what I write is scheduled, some sporadic. I certainly don’t sit around waiting for “The Muse” to come to me. On the other hand, there are times when life doesn’t give me a great deal of time and, if I am inspired in the moment, I can’t wait for life to get out of my way. When this happens, I may rush off a piece or at least an outline while the enthusiasm is there. Later I can return to it, flesh it out, see if the idea still holds interest, and move forward from there.

1) Do you belong to a writing group or have writer colleagues who read your work?
No although I sort of have writer colleagues who read my work. I sent part one of my novel (there are other novel manuscripts but I’m focusing on one at this time) to a friend earlier this year and she gave me some notes for it. I then shared the same part with two family members—one a published writer and the other an aspirating one. Both have the education and vocation to be able to give me the feedback I need; the former has already gotten back to me with so much excitement about what she read that I practically feel obligated to revise it now. I am not waiting on comments from the third person. Instead, today I have scheduled part of my day to go over the notes I have, add a few of my own, cherry pick the ones that feel right but keep the others for reference, and I may very well try to revise part one beginning this weekend.

2) Do you participate in workshops at conferences or other live or online events?
I’ve gone to the Wellness & Writing Connections conference a few times. I’ve participated in online workshops, which has been more traumatic than beneficial. I would love to go to more in-person conferences but I’m currently unemployed and unable to afford them. Hopefully, that will change sooner rather than later. I certainly don’t let these “hopes” prohibit me from working on my craft,, however.

3) Do you take time to evaluate the feedback and implement what resonates with you into your work?
Absolutely, assuming I trust the person who wrote the comments. I have a “test story” which I typically give to people for critique and my level of trust depends a great deal on the comments. If I see that the person has enough sense not to trust a grammar check and they “get” the theme of the story, then my ability to trust them grows exponentially. This is not to say this story is flawless but some of the recommendations I’ve received have been an insult to my intelligence (or dare I say evidence of a reader’s stupidity?).

1) Do you have writer friends?
I used to have many writer friends but marriage, children, and more have caused them all to move in directions that left me without a solid writing community. I’ve tried to create writing groups more times than I care to list and haven’t had much luck with those either. In fact, my attempts at getting writing support could be either a comedy in errors or a treatise on how not to find writing support.

2) Do you engage with other writers either face-to-face or online?
I am uncomfortable engaging with anyone online because the anonymity that the internet affords allows some people to be vicious. I’ve also had no success with online writing support but that doesn’t mean I have given up altogether. (Obviously, I would not be involving myself in the DIY MFA if I were completely opposed or turned off.) I think face-to-face is best even if it is not always easy.

3) Are you a member of any writing associations?
I was before I became unemployed and I have a list of associations, by order of preference, which I will be joining as soon as we can catch up on our bills and such. I think it would be a great way to meet other writers and perhaps immerse myself in a new writing community, since I miss my old one so very much.


  1. Totally off topic but have you read "The Death Gate Cycle" by Hickman and Weiss? It stands as one of my favorite fantasy series of all time.

  2. Samael, You know me; I'd never begrudge anyone an off topic comment given that I am prone to making them myself.

    No. I haven't although I did read another series by the authors ages ago.

    I've actually been thinking about reading more fantasy starting next year and now I'm adding this to my list of books for 2012. Thanks!

  3. Erin, No. You did not. But the project I'm supposed to be working on is the "part one" you've read.

  4. *waves* Good to see you, hope to see more of you!!

  5. Awesome post! I especially like the idea of a test story to check out a potential new reader's compatibility. I think I may have to try that one myself sometime.

    Looks like you definitely know where you're at and where you want to go, which is a great place to be when starting out a DIY MFA. Write on!

  6. Gabriela, it definitely works. I can email you some hints of what to put into the story to trip up the average reader but I would hope that your readers have proven themselves above and beyond anything I could suggest.

  7. Great answers! I totally forgot to put how long I'd been writing as a whole, and not just regularly. Duh!

    And I love the short story tease you posted after this post. More, please.

  8. Helen, Thank you. I try to post a little snippet of something every Saturday (I skipped last week for personal reasons) to give myself an idea of what's working and what isn't. Now that I have your encouragement, I think I'll have to pull that short story out of my files, and start revising.

  9. very nice test and a nicer answers .. i think R.L Stevenson said something like i don't remember the time i didn't read or write why not brilliants always meet ! ;)

  10. Raphael, Well, I certainly could be in worse company. I started teaching myself to read at the age of three and was writing stories before I started kindergarten so it's been an awfully long history of writing and reading.