Archived Writer's Notebook Messages

From March 4, 1997 to March 18, 1997

Jack Beslanwitch Tue Mar 18 23:36:44 PST 1997

Hello everyone. Head finally above water again and have another chapter away. This place is looking close to saturation, so I'll have to think about archiving soon. Which is good. It means everyone is here and participating. To everybody who sent their biographies, they are up. Take care. Also, if anyone in the immediate northwest region is planning to the go to Norwescon I'm doing four panels there - including a panel on Internet Resources for Writers. Actually, just a thought, it will be 3/29/97 between 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM. Maybe I could spend part of that time on the Notebook and we could have an online experience. Just a thought. That I think is enough of a tired ramble after most of an all nighter last night.

Toby B Tue Mar 18 18:44:20 PST 1997

Does anyone have a name that would fit a religous fanatic intent on killing off a group of people who had created his religion? See, I have this character, but no name... desperate for suggestions!

Trudy Tue Mar 18 17:58:02 PST 1997

Philip: why in the second line did you go with happy instead of laugh when in all the other lines you took the last word for the next first word. I liked this though; reminded me of an excercise a writing instructor gave us once where she gave us a word and we write the first 20 words that came to our head then we picked a word and wrote a brief piece about it or using it. I'll try this one sometime to. Seems like a great limbering up exercise.

Britomart: Your formula seems so easy I'm jealous. Is it really?

Kasin: The character in my novel that I told you about causes me to write like that

and since she's manic depressive and very up or down I can relate to what you say about finding it difficult to write.

Later all. Trudy

Kasin Hunter Tue Mar 18 17:29:29 PST 1997

Nicole James--just read your short story. The situation drew me right in immediately. I had no choice. And it felt good.

Point one--I was a bit overwhelmed at first by all the names given so immediately. They were new people to me, and I'm not good with names as it is. I had to look back to verify who was who.

Point two--I thought your simile ". . . dry like cotton gauze . . ." was most appropriate being that they were in a hospital.

Point three--Is "pottytrained" one word? I've no idea. It just looked strange. It might be me.

Point four--". . . and the doctors told me about Donna [,] they also told me . . ." It needed a comma.

Point five--Just before "The months passed quickly . . . " I felt I needed a breather to switch scenes. How about a double line space there to separate the time frames?

Point six--"Sid had guilted me . . . " Is that a real word? No. It isn't. I just looked it up. Hummm.

Point seven--I don't know. IT seems as if the father getting married is a distinct possiblilty anywhere along the line. It seems as if the protag. didn't think through her situation well or realistically. Or . . . maybe she was hoping that would never happen. That I could understand. I kept wanting to shout--get a life!! at the gal. You did good things with the girls, now, your job is over. Move on and quit throwing a tantrum. To tell you the truth, I'm surprised she didn't get married/start writing long before she was 29. I mean if she had *any* inclination to, it realistically would have cropped up before that age. And if the girls meant that much, why didn't she go for a more legal attachment? I know the Dad and she had a verbal aggreement, an understanding, but the protags not dumb. She doesn't want to be hurt. Seems she'd either go legal or leave earlier. All her fussing seems a bit too late.

The ending seemed rushed. If I were the protag and had to ease away from the girls whom I love in one conversation, I'd be pulling my hair out. I'd have a lot more questions, comments, tears and hankies. Yes, it may the right way to handle the situation, but it would still hurt, and hurt like hell. Changes are often painful. I liked the last line, "For the girls." It made me smile.

Most stories that have bunches of conversation, I usually shy away from. Not this one. I actually liked the interaction. Good writing. The people sounded like real people. Nice work, Nicole.

Health and humor, Kasin Hunter.

Kasin Hunter Tue Mar 18 16:52:42 PST 1997

Whew! I'm glad you got that out of your system, Philip.

Everyone, I want to say that I'm a relatively new member to this post area, and if I ever step on your toes in any way--hollar!! Loud and clear, if you would. You will just have to accept that my heart is in the right place even if I'm a bit gauche at times. And as far as feedback on my writing goes--right on! I want to hear what you have to say no matter what. If you think it's worth sharing, then I probably will too. And I'll thank you for it even if you think your critique is negative in some ways. No one's writing is perfect. I strive for perfection where possible, and am happy -- no -- most enthusiastic about hearing from you on anything I write. I'm in three critique groups; I can take it.

If you want to send it email, that's fine. Although we all as a group might benefit from the sharing if it were posted for all to see. I'll leave that up to you, and leave it as I find it.

For now, I'm going over to the other page and do a bit of exploring.

Health and humor, Kasin.

Philip Tue Mar 18 15:42:24 PST 1997


lurking, reading, happy, laugh,
happy, thoughtful, thinking, sad,
sad, memories, experiences, glad,
glad, writing, painting, drawing,
drawing, viewing, movie, television,
television, documentaries, news, sports,
sports, cricket, rugby, track,
track, road, car, gas,
gas, petrol, patrol, cruise,
cruise, boat, fly, trip,
trip, fall, sitting, lurking,
lurking, reading, happy, laugh.

Back soon - Philip.

Toby Buckell Tue Mar 18 14:29:07 PST 1997

Hey Larry. Sci Fi specific here! With the occasional dash of fantasy.

To everyone who responded on the music: I have everything Enya wrote and love it, I also have everything Yanni did, Gregorian chant, lots of Bach, Beethovan, Mozart, lots of Celtic instrumental compiliations, I just really depend on music for some of my written moods, and am looking for dark deep driven cyperpunk type instrumental music to help with some of my pieces. Thanks for some of the suggestions.

Britomart Tue Mar 18 04:06:01 PST 1997

TOBY: I can't believe you're having trouble finding instrumental music to write to - are you ignoring the entire back-catalogue of the Western music tradition? Try Gregorian chants, or Elizabethan lute music, or high Baroque, or the romantics (my favourite - Chopin et al), or Debussy, or how about modern composers like Gorecki or Orff? Or go to your local alternative record store and pick up some CDs by one of those ambient noise European bands on the Hyperion label. I never stop listening to music while I write - I like music with lyrics too. I kind of check out, I think. It's great for creating a mood.

KAE: Characters just talk about what people talk about, I guess, but it does have to relate to the plot in that it is advancing the plot or helping to define the character. And I always think symbolic names are a bit creaky unless it's done very subtly. It can sound like the author is having a bit of an intellectual wank otherwise.

EVERYONE: A while back we were talking about good "how to write" books - here's a tip. Don't buy a "how to write a bestseller" book written by somebody you've never heard of. If they knew, you would have heard. Having said that, there is one I particularly like because it is just really a collection of about 300 snippets of various pieces of inspiration and advice - can't remember who by or who publishes it, but it has a title like "Dare to be a Great Writer". I keep it in my toilet and I usually gain something from it, even if it's to disagree and thereby redefine my own position on a writing issue.

KASIN: You've gone public! Ah well. I agree totally that your character should speak in the kind of metaphors that reflect her inner condition - I just think sometimes (and I don't necessarily mean in your piece) that if you use too many "mixed" metaphors, you run the risk of overbalancing into "purple prose". I guess you just have to consider your audience and what kind of reaction you'd like to engender. Common sense stuff really. And for the record, my favourite metaphor is from Hamlet - "now could I drink hot blood". Much better than "I'm really angry", don't you think?

BEN: Just publish your memoirs - what a delightful read they would make. Start with all your writers' notebook entries! You know you make your life sound almost idyllic in a strange way... What are we going to do when you go!

LARRY: Plan, plan, plan. You never run into this problem when you plan - here's my recipe. Know where the book starts and where it finishes. Now break it into four unequal sections - the first section (about 20% of total) should bring you to the point where the conflict is on stage, all major characters have been introduced, and we know what is at stake. The next 30% should take you to the "point of no return" where the story can only end one way from here (the Rubicon is crossed). The third section (around 35%) you can do anything with - your reader should be with you by now, so go for the political grandstanding, the gratuitous sex scenes, the existential philosophising - whatever. The last 15% should be getting the climax up and over (the climax should come in the last 5% and then resolve, if possible, right on the last page. So now you've got a grid drawn of all the important turning points, you've got to come up with scenes that bring you to each turning point with the right sense of timing and proportion. Your problem isn't thinking of ideas, your problem is getting the proportions right! Then just plan a couple of scenes ahead and then get up and write the damn things until they sound good and then send it away and get it published. Easy!

EVERYONE: Any comments on the above process? It's copyright by me, but I'm sure I'm not the only one to figure it out. I learned it from reading Shakespeare plays - they all follow a very similar proportional format.

Bye now

Ben Woestenburg Tue Mar 18 02:32:47 PST 1997

I'm working the afternoon shift this week because of the school hoilidays for the kids. Someone has to stay home with them during the day. It gives me more time to write. I finished editing one disk: 150,000 words. Four more chapters to re-read and re-write and it's back to the storyline again. I'm anxious to get back at it.

KAE: My wife and her friends say that guys like me are few and far between; the guys call it being pussy whipped. It's just knowing when you have to face up to things and swallow your pride. People have a hard time with that -- and I'm no acception as far as that goes. I can be stubborn to a fault, pigheaded even, when I think I've been wrongly accused. Makes for some pretty tense times because she's the same way. But call it what you will, I call it being married. She's taught me a lot of different things over the years -- and I don't agree with all of them -- but I have learned how to say sorry...a lot!
As to your question about dialogue and situations. I have to go with the general concensus that as long as it moves the story along, it's all right. If it slows it down and doesn't reveal a part of a person's character, then there's no point in it. I like dialogue. I like narration too. The hard part is finding a good balance between the two. You don't want to get preachy with the narration, and you don't want to wander with the dialogue. I read it out loud to myself to see how it sounds when I'm finished. Dialogue doesn't sound good unless it sounds natural. You have to capture the essense of the character's voice and mannerisms as well as what he's saying. As for symbolism and names...I've never been into symbolism for obvious reasons (don't know enough). I write what I want to, and if it means one thing to one person and another thing to someone else, then I guess that's symbolism. (See, I told you I didn't know much.) I choose my names carefully for the most part. They just leap out at me because of the way they sound. Lavinia, Praetonius, Lucipedes. These are my ficticious names. I mix them in with real names, and no one knows any better. Of the three, only Lavinia is real. There's no symbolism, just rhythm.

TOBY: I love to listen to music as I write. I have to have something happening behind me. Hell, this morning I was working while the T.V. was on. It was BARNEY the dinosaur. No one was watching it, but it was still on because I didn't want to get up and turn it off. (I lent my radio to Manni so I don't have any music now.) I listen to rock and roll. I don't really hear it, but if I happen to catch a good Henley song (The Heart Of The Matter comes to mind), or Elton John -- anything by him -- I'll let myself be distracted. I love music.

KASIN: As for writing in metaphors and riddles of confusing verse, it depends on how the story's going. I don't want to write the story so that the reader is confused, wondering where it's going to take him/her. I want them to notice the subtleties of the prose. If what is happening in the context of the page lets me use strong metaphors or not I will, but I don't go out of my way looking for them. Writing's hard eneough without me trying to get across some obscure message the average Joe's going to miss in the first place.

NICOLE: I read your posting and enjoyed it. You'll probably want to rewrite some of the dialogue later when you read it again (out loud). I always find that what I think sounds great the first time, usually wants less the second time. But it reads like a good story in that the dialogue moved it along quite easily.

LARRY: I read your story the other day too, and was quite miffed that I didn't see how it ended. I liked the whole idea of it. If you want to expand it into a novel you might have one. If you find that you're writing too much of it into the first three or four chapters, then take some of the points you've made in the beginning and throw them into the middle of it. Build on your plot by writing out a map of where you want to take the story. You can fill in little snippets of ideas and slip them in where you think they'll fit best. Get a book of index cards and write out notes to yourself. I just cleaned my desk off for the first time in a long time, and found all sorts of notes I had written to myself, reminding me of this point or that, telling me what one charcter did to another and how the expected response should be. It works for me. Of course, what works for one person doesn't always work for another. But give it a whirl. I find that if you don't know where you've been, you can't see where you're going, and where you are right now will make no sense later.

Anyways, I'm off to bed now. I think the kids will be pounding on my head, or each others' bright and early, so I better get what little sleep I can, while I can.

Larry Mathys Mon Mar 17 22:11:25 PST 1997

I was just working on my novel (I've written only the first three chapters) and I have reached a point where I could use a little advice. When writing a novel, I seem to be faced with the dilemma of enough material to qualify as a novel. The story is there, believe me, but I seem to have a problem 'filling the middle with substance'. I have a problem moving too quickly, I think. Any pointers from the novelists? I'm green at this (it's my first attempt) and anything will help. I have characters who will develop through the story, but right now they seem to be developing at a blazing pace.

Also, I've taken a few moments to pittle through the stories and tidbits posted on the Workbook. This is a good sign of the future if some of the manuscripts I've read make it to public print.

Are there any other Sci-Fi specific writers in the Notebook? It would be nice to speak with some of them, you know, share a little anguish about publishing and maybe see some of their recent submissions. I look forward to more of your postings and comments.


Kasin Hunter Mon Mar 17 21:11:11 PST 1997

Britomart said in email: "Dear Kasin

Britomart here. I read your story in the Workbook and loved it. Clever
thing. Really lush and poetic. The only criticism I would make (and
it's entirely subjective) was just that it wasn't all that easy to
understand because of the proliferation of metaphors. I think it's a
wonderful style, but I wonder if it might be better to privilege one
metaphor over the others - kind of like a controlling metaphor or motif.
Apart from that, it's brilliant!

Britomart x"

Brit. I transferred your email to this posting, because I wanted to do two things--stimulate more feedback on my piece "Tree of Faith" and to clarify metaphoric use in short stories, which might be of interest to others on this page.

I love good metaphors, and would be hard-pressed to tell you which one is the best one I've ever heard. When you personally go with one metaphor over another in a short story for purposes, say, of clarification or just to shorten the piece to fit a demand, how do you personally choose? It often seems to me that leaving out some metaphors dulls the piece rather than just shortening it. I realize that some metaphors are critical to the life of the story. Leave those in. Some have sarcastic and other double meanings. Leave those in. With "Tree of Faith", the girl is so messed up in her search for meaning to life, that in itself is almost metaphorical--she talks in riddles, obscure references, whispers and outbursts of anger. She has drug, alcohol, interpersonal, family history problems. She's like a roller coaster. Hang on! I would have a hard time tearing the story apart in search for the illusive weak metaphors because everything she says has meaning for her.

So, I'll ask you and the others for help here. If you have any feedback, let me know. This is a rough piece from many standpoints, but I enjoyed relieving myself of it. I'll say this about the girl. She's passionate. And I like that in her. Even so, she's exhausting to write. Her mood changes and intensity are exhausting.

I usually write while sitting down at the keyboard. With her, I'm up, walking around from room to room, clenching teeth, making fists--in short, looking like an angry bear (a friend Larry comes to mind).

Am I the only one effected by certain characters in this way?

Hummm m m m m . . .

Talk later. Kasin.

Kasin Hunter Mon Mar 17 20:51:37 PST 1997

Tony, I like Enya for that kind of thing, when I'm in the listening mood. I can't understand what she says most of the time anyway, so her words don't matter. Mostly I hear her tone of voice and the tone of the music, and that usually does the trick. Then I turn her off when I want to change the mood of the writing. It slows me down or speeds me too much, depending on what she's singing. Weird, but true.

Toby Buckell Mon Mar 17 19:27:14 PST 1997

I find that when I write I almost always have to listen to music! But it has to be instrumental, voices confuse me. But it is hard to find varied music that is instrumental. Responses/thoughts/suggestions?

Nicole Jones Mon Mar 17 19:02:59 PST 1997

I just posted that story I was telling you all about in the Writer's Workbook. Maybe reading it will help. It probably still has a lot of mistakes. I apologize in advance. It needs a lot of work and I probably should have worked on it before I posted it, but I just couldn't wait. Comments are more than wlecome. THank for all the ones you've given so far.

Toby Buckell Mon Mar 17 18:23:33 PST 1997

Two replies: one- Symbolic names are alright if one is a writing a symbolic story, but if your character isn't involved in that, I personally don't believe the name should be symbolic of something. However I do believe that the name has to 'sound' right. I really myself haven't figured out what that really means yet, but I do spend a great deal of time sounding out names to myself while looking at the character's dialouge. Does it fit? That's what counts to me.

two- It should be okay to have characters talk off the subject. If it's done right it can really expose what the character's character is. It can also help move the story along if it is a witty conversation. I personally keep such snippets short and try not to dwell on them, just enough to spice the movement and the characters. Anyone else? I'm curious to see what everyone says.

Trudy Mon Mar 17 15:44:22 PST 1997

KAE: re: AND NOW MY QUESTION: do y'all feel that characters must talk about the situation they're in, and nothing else? For instance, my characters all work together, so should they talk about things not relevent to the job?

I think (IMHO) having the people talk just about work might get a little tedious. By having them talk about things outside of work, it's a great opportunity to delve deeper into their characters and to reveal who they really are. Few people are the way they seem at work and often everyday conversation about lives outside of work reveals alot about a person. That's how true relationships and friendships and hateships and so forth form.

As for, how much is allowed? Can't help you there. That would be whatever feels right. Whatever it takes to fulfill your purpose. You can't have them talking about things that don't move the story forward, then it's just filler and usually bad filler (I have this problem with my fiction writing - a lot of bad filler conversation, and description, just to get the length. A good word of advice I had in my first year writing articles for the local paper was to make the story, "as long as it needs to be." They shouldn't have said that because I wrote a really long story which of course had to be cut...and you know, it really didn't need most of the stuff that was cut to begin with) To answer "Can they talk about, say, why Aerosmith sucks?" Simply ask yourself, is it important to the overall story?

As for your second question about symbolic names. I think it depends on the story. Someday I'm going to write a novel that will be based purely in mythology and I will use all mythological names for that, but sometimes, a name is just a name. Hope this helps.


Kae Mon Mar 17 14:35:33 PST 1997

Hi everybody! Hope y'all had a good weekend. I pretty much just sat around, drinking beer & doing a little writing, nothing that really rocks my world or anything. Some day I'll post an excerpt to the workbook when I've been around (here) a little longer.

BEN: Thanks for the email, my friend, apology accepted. So where are all these guys who are so good at sucking up? I have some single female friends who might be interested in a guy like that!!!!!!!

NICOLE: Your story sounds really good. Is it a story yet, or still just an idea? TAMMI'S suggestions about the kids' reactions are important, I think. Sometimes adults get so caught up in worrying about their own shit that the kids' feelings are forgotten. A lot of times, adults don't think kids are smart enough--or cognitive, is that the right word?--to understand whats happening. Or that "they're just kids, they'll bounce back," when in reality, kids hurt much worse than adults, because they haven't had their hearts broken yet. Adults also don't realise how kids blame THEMSELVES when their parents fight.
As for focusing on "the surrogate..." What's her motivation to just give up her life and jump in with this family that she's otherwise not a part of? I understand that her best friend died, but taking care of a man (oh boy!) and a couple of kids is quite an adjustment; you should probably make sure the reader understands HER agenda. What does she get out of it? Can't she have her own kids, and she desperately wants them? Why doesn't she have a boyfriend? Why DON'T she & the husband have an intimate relationship, after the period of mourning is over? Is he ugly? :-) Is she secretly in love with him? When I was single, I had this little rule about guys: no musicians, and no guys with kids. I was always afraid I'd either a)end up being a babysitter & not a girlfriend; b)end up fighting with the kids for the guy's attention; c) would have to worry about things like babysitters when I wanted to go to that spur-of-the-moment concert; or d)would end up fighting with his bitch of an ex who was NEVER GOING TO BE OUT OF OUR LIVES BECUZ OF THE KIDS! Taking these things into consideration (well, obviously not D), why would this woman give up her life to play house when she's not even getting any? Just kidding. But do you know what I mean? I think her reasons for her sacrifice are just as important as her actions.
How about the husband? Isn't he attached to her at all? Can he just write her off like that? Maybe the surrogate needs to meet one of BEN'S suck-up guys!!! What about the new wife? Is she jealous? How does she feel about raising someone else's kids? Does she have any of her own?
Great idea; I'd be interested in reading it.

LARRY: I read your story exerpt today. I thought it was pretty chilling. I was horrified by the thought of harvesting organs from clones. I read this semi-cheesy (hot-looking female detective, ex-alcoholic, balding older authority-figure male partner) called "The Angel Maker" about this vetrinarian that kidnapped runaways and such to harvest their organs for rich people who paaaaaid. The doctor had a homely little mouse of an assistant that what in love with him, etc. But I thought it was a pretty good story--a real page-turner. If only the characters would have been more like real people...
Anyway, I definitely would like to know what happens. You have a nice, fluid style; comfortable and easy to read. I would be interested in more details about the things the clones were kept in, and that whole area. Make it as freaky as possible. It's definitely freaky now, tho! And I mean that as a compliment.
I also read your comments below; have you ever tried the sci-fi market? In light of all the controversy about cloning these days, I'd think a sci-fi publisher would jump on it. Have you ever considered changing the medium to say, a screen play?
My work-in-progress has a suprise ending as well, and at school, just about everyone told me it could never happen. The only thing is: it's based on a true stories that have ended that way around 10 times now. Even when I told them, "this actually happened," they still said the ending was "gratuitous" (there's that word again). What do you think? Do you think your ending is believable? Maybe you should try writing two endings, and getting feedback on both of them. I'm absolutely sure, that if I try to publish my story, the publisher will NEVER let me get away with the ending. I'll probably end up changing it. I don't know, I'd just go with how I felt about it. And keep trying.

AND NOW MY QUESTION: do y'all feel that characters must talk about the situation they're in, and nothing else? For instance, my characters all work together, so should they talk about things not relevent to the job? If so, how much is allowed? Can they talk about, say, why Aerosmith sucks, or do they have to talk about why management sucks? I'm having a hard time figuring out how far to go in conversations btwn the characters that are friends, who hang out becuz they like one another, not just becuz they all hate the place they work.
Another question: how important do y'all feel "symbolic" names are?

A.J. Austin Mon Mar 17 12:30:20 PST 1997

Just for the record for anyone who happens to browse the biographies anytime soon, I do know how to spell "suspense." I just don't know how to proof my work before I post.

Philip Sun Mar 16 20:54:03 PST 1997

HELLO EVERYONE: for those who have manuscripts at the ready I have just been told of two well-established, international publishers who are actively looking for new authors:

Minerva Press
2 Old Brompton Road

Janus Publishing Company
Dept 97, Edinburgh House
19 Nassua Street

Good Luck!

Back soon - Philip.

Larry Mathys Sun Mar 16 15:29:13 PST 1997

Hello everyone!

I've been away, running all over the state of Arkansas this week for my job. I haven't been on the I-net, therefore I haven't been able to post anything. The end of my story "A Question of Soul" will not be posted because I'm going to expand it from a 10,000 word long short story to novel length. If you haven't read it, please do and get back with me to give whatever advice you have for me. I welcome any criticism or praise, it can only make me better. I'm hoping a new contact I've been persuing will help me along the journey toward a published novel. Believe it or not, I met this contact through this site. Not only are there some fantastic people floating around on this site, but also some agents looking for promising new writers. This is a very exciting time for me and my work. I know there are others that feel the way I do, in that all I want to do is write.

There are other short stories I have in mind, but I think I'll set those aside and work on my novel length manuscript. Everyone stay focused and strong, the dream of seeing your name atop a fresh off the press novel is just around the corner.


Trudy Sun Mar 16 11:13:29 PST 1997

Well Kasin's message took me into the Workbook for the first time in awhile and I must say, thank you! The talent that is meeting in this corner on the web is amazing to me. Kasin knows how I feel about her Tree of Faith story; I recommend it to all to read. And, Kasin, you know I always love a good gardening poem.
On the topic of cloning, Larry Mathys posted a story (sadly only part of a story) called A Question of Soul. Very very good and I hope he shares the ending soon.
Another shared tidbit was Britomart's sneak preview of The Infernal. Thanks for that as well. And Deb you're take on the future of writing and reading and computers et al was great too.
Of course there are other entries, like Philip's and Ben's responses to Jack's graphics, and so forth and I have to say WOW! to all of you. I must go visit my pen and notebook now. I am inspired. And if you guys havn't checked out the workbook lately...what are you waiting for?
Later all, Trudy

Kasin Hunter Sun Mar 16 05:48:11 PST 1997

Deb--sounds like a great workshop. Take an extra couple of pens!

I attended a new writers' group this week. I've beenwith the same one for two years, and needed a change. This group has eleven people (too many, I feel), but on the up side, half the folks have published and half, not. The group is evenly split between old and young. There is only one male, unfortunately. I like the variety of voices, but I don't like the way the moderator runs it like one of her classrooms. She even cut me off in the middle of my intro. to let someone else talk. B.S. I didn't let her of course.

Then we did some free writing, which never hurts. The first gal read hers, and the moderator wanted to immediately go onto the next reader. I stopped her (black look), and said that I wanted to comment on the first reading. Then I plowed on ahead and did it. The reader was grateful. The moderator was not. Tough. I want my feedback to be fresh. Besides this brain can't hold eleven critiques in it to issue two hours later.

Speaking of critiques, I'll appreciate some critiqueing on my short story in the Writer's Wookbook--"Tree of Faith" if anyone has the time. My old word processor and the formating of this page doesn't cooperate, and the lines between paras got deleted, but I hope you can still make sense of it.

Health and humor, Kasin.

Deb Borys Sun Mar 16 05:01:33 PST 1997

FYI EVERYONE: I'm off to my Novel Writing Workshop in Kentucky today, so won't be checking in for a while. Try to keep the postings down to about a mile and a half long while I'm gone, will ya, so I don't spend the next month catching up. Have fun while I'm gone--but not too much.

Would like to have good news when I return. We'll see.

Jack Beslanwitch Sat Mar 15 20:12:03 PST 1997

I do indeed invite all the new people to forward their biographies to me. If you have a picture, please send me the appropriate link. If you wish me to host your picture, please discuss it via email. And I must say that the liveliness of the conversation is welcome.

Trudy Sat Mar 15 16:36:05 PST 1997

Kasin, that is too funny. I had several people read that story when I was looking for advice on how to maybe improve the story and that was a line someone really disliked. I however thought it rang true, but not being around kids much wasn't sure. Nice to see I wasn't so off base and even if it is annoying a bit I think I'll keep it. Thanks for sharing.

And to respond to some older postings:

AJ, I don't see anything necessarily wrong with leaving the boy's name as Joseph even if there is a Conrad in the book. But what about names like Edward, George, Charles, Henry?...I always think of royalty when I think of Victorian England so maybe look there for some names! Just a thought.

A book I have that contains writing excercises is Scott Edelstein's The No-Experience-Necessary Writer's Course.

Back soon. Trudy

Philip Sat Mar 15 14:25:40 PST 1997

HELLO EVERYONE: welcome to all the newcomers.

You know, in polite society people usually introduce themselves and let each other know a little about themselves. Well Jack has provided this group with an extra page where we are able to post a biography, so we can at least conform to some semblace of normal behaviour. No need to remain anyonomous or aloof in this group, a simple email to Jack will do.

Back soon - Philip.

Nicole Jones Sat Mar 15 11:41:12 PST 1997

I'm just curious to know if there's anyone else from Wisconsin in this group.

TAMMI: I wasn't doing much with the children's perspective, but your ideas make me think I should have more of their concerns involved. The story is really about the woman who moves in to help and her issues with this marriage and what her place in the family will be. The daughters should be in more, though. THanks!

Bewn Woestenburg Sat Mar 15 10:26:22 PST 1997

Thanks Deb -- reading it later makes me look like the jerk Kae thought I was -- but I'll e-mail her and suck up aplenty (because that's what guys do best), but first I have two and a half days of entries to catch up on.

Linda Sat Mar 15 10:04:47 PST 1997

To Tammi: Thanks for your support and comments. You've grasped exactly the conflict between Rod and Erin. Erin does come of age in the mid-80's whereas Rod is stuck in the career vs no carreer mode of the mid-60's. The expectation was that women could have a career until familily came along or until the husbands career "took off". Women were expected to subordinate their careers to those of the husbands. To complicate the plot even more, Erin's mother died when she was 10 . Her father and grandfather rasied her and empowered her to become all that she could be. Erin was married to a young doctor ; together they travlled all over the world- he gave her a real sense of both her femininity as well as empowered her to adventure. Michael , Erin's first husband, was killed in a motor vehicle accident.

Rod is also widowed but his wife Ann was highly traditional ; home schooled the children and gave Rod the freedom to develop his international development company without worrying about any of the responsibilities of home and family.

I'll be interested to see how they resolve this conflict??

I have also used the book " So You Want To Write A Novel" by L.Stanek. I've found it very useful. The exercises get you motivated but also move you ahead in the development of the novel.

Thanks again , Tammi for your support- I found your words affirming that I am on the right (write!!!) track.

Tammi Fri Mar 14 23:53:07 PST 1997

NICOLE: You didn't mention the ages of the girls. You also haven't given us any names, so I will use "surrogate" for your protagonist and "step" for the new wife.

Okay, how did these girls accept the surrogate? I think perhaps they felt a little less threatened because surrogate wasn't replacing Mom in Dad's bed. Now step comes along and she is replacing both Mom and the surrogate. I see a lot of resentment from the daughters.

Now, their ability to fight back depends upon their ages. Is one old enough to run away to express her dissatisfaction? Do the girls reject step enough that step decides she would be just as happy if the girls went and spent time with the surrogate, anything to keep them from interfering with her relationship with her new husband? Can the surrogate bow out gracefully, only to find that years later one of the girls decides to attend college in the surrogate's town? What if the step has a baby?

Just some ideas.


Nicole Jones Fri Mar 14 18:36:53 PST 1997

I'm working on a story right now about a woman who moves in with her recently deceased best friend's husband in order to help raise the daughters. After six years of living there and taking care of the family, the husband announces his engagement to another woman and so it appears there will be no need for the friend to continue to remain with the family. After the marriage, the family will be moving a long distance away. This friend feels very hurt by the decision and doesn't know what to do since her whole life has been taking care of the children. She even sees a lawyer, on a whim of the idea for suing for partial custody. The lawyer tells her that she has no chance because there was no legal documentation stating she was a legal guardian nor were there ever romantic relations between she and the husband so that it could constitute a commonlaw marriage of any sort. I ended it with the husband proposing that she move to the same town as they do, but shortly afterwards so that the new family can learn to function, and she won't live with them, but will at least be near the girls. I'm not exactly thrilled with the ending, but it's all I could come up with. Any ideas?

Thanks everyone for the help with writing exercises!

Kasin Hunter Fri Mar 14 18:14:52 PST 1997

Trudy, had to share this with you and your children's book efforts. Today in the garden shop, a little guy--maybe six--was walking behind his dad. His dad had a 4" daisy. The kid kept saying, "Can I, Dad? Huh? Can I?" Then he said, "Can I put in my room?" I just about bust out loud. Your part of your story fit perfectly.

That's it. Just a blurb. Take care.

Trudy Fri Mar 14 16:24:34 PST 1997

Kitty tried to send you the following in an e-mail but it didn't make it for some reason so I'm posting it here...Gee "Kitty I'll have to go back to the first archive. I hadn't realized I said anything that interesting that would have attracted you to stay other than the fact that Jack's page is an excellent idea and if I had been more patient you never would have had to call me back. I can't believe whta's happening there now. Jack must be so pleased!
As for what I've been up to... the 8 hours a day (since Christmas I've actually stuck to that though I take vacation the first week of April and I think I'll have to do a few exrtra hours to get everything done in advance). I'm also working at breaking into the national magazine market which is very time consuming. However, a personal dilemma put that on the back burner (My Dad took ill, but has recovered fine) so I must get back to it. Then there's the usual keeping a house and marriage going plus the Notebook has gotten me back to work a bit on a novel I started years ago and there's all the other writing projects I have stuck in my head waiting to escape. There just aren't enough hours in the day and unfortunately the Notebook gets me, but not the rest of the crowd.
And yes I would love to see the info on the children's writing contest. I know about QPB (if that's quality paperback that is?) but the other sounds interesting. Please e-mail details. Hope all is well with you. Nice to catch up a bit. Take care. Trudy"

Everyone else, hello. Glad to see we're all getting along. Talk to you soon. Trudy

A.J. Austin Fri Mar 14 07:54:19 PST 1997

Kasin, thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately, Jimmy is a character in another project of mine. I am so bad with names for my characters. Some of them stay un-named and marked with "??" for ages. I just can't seem to find the "right" name. I bought a baby-name book to help me out (which really freaked my husband out) and found I have to go through it 3 or 4 times sometimes looking for a name. Oh, well, maybe Joseph will rename himself.

Kae, sounds like a great story. I actually know a professor that would have loved it! This professor that I had my first year in college was really strange. He actually encouraged the class to write gore and sex. This was a man who saw sex in everything we read. For instance, did anyone else find that in King Lear, Gloucester's (I think he was the one who lost his eyes) eyes represented male genitalia? Neither of my two other profs that I read King Lear with ever saw that and I certainly didn't. Every other word in that play, according to this prof, represented sex in some way. I refuse to conform to a professor, so I got out of the class with a C. Life goes on, and I write what I would want to read. If it happens to be horror or sex, then so be it.

I am one of those people that prefers to write in the first person. I have written in third person, but I usually try to keep it neutral. I have read third person "subjective" too and sometimes liked it, sometimes not. Just depends on the writer, I guess. I have also read several books where the narrator is a character in the book who is looking on to the story. Wuthering Heights is a good example of this. Some of the story is narrated by [can't remember his name] and a lot of the story is told by his housekeeper to him. I guess the point is write in the narration style that you feel comfortable in. If you feel comfortable writing in the 3rd person "subjective" style, then, by all means, perfect it!

Karen, liked the joke. How true! I'd love to hear a story about that strange man in Ann Arbor. I had a friend tell me some great stories about his dad and grand-dad this weekend. I am now trying to get him to let me just record some of the stories and see if we can't make a book out of them. They are really funny stories.

Great weekend!

kae Fri Mar 14 06:57:53 PST 1997

Oops! I got to thinking about what I wrote last time (about using 1st, 2nd, 3rd person) and I realized that the question didn't make any sense! Duh! There are only the 3 forms! What I meant was: the type of, say, "attitude" of the narration. For instance, I used a style that I called "3rd person subjective" that (suprisingly) other writers found distasteful. The story's told in 3rd person, but the narrator's personality shows thru in descriptions, etc. The narrator never uses personal pronouns, but the reader gets the idea that *someone* is telling the story--tho no actual narrator ever admits his own existence. The other writers who read a story I wrote using this technique seemed to feel that a 3rd person narrator MUST have that "omnicient" thing happening. I only did it with one story, but it sure was fun!! A couple of famous authors I've noticed doing it were John Irving (in "Garp")and Tom Robbins. Incidentally, are there any grown-ups out there that like Tom Robbins? His last two books pretty much sucked, but "Jitterbug Perfume" is still one of the most entertaining books I've ever read. None of the profs at school would admit to reading him, but a lot of the students had. I mean, I know he's never gonna win any prizes, but there is something to be said for wit and creativity, you know?

KAREN: U of M is in Ann Arbor. It is a great town to hang out in. There are lots of things happening, very cultural. I do try to use the same voice when I write, but I have to watch it so that I don't get "on a roll." It seems I'm one of those writers that people either like or hate. If you're ever in A2 again, go to the diag & see if the Reverend (his name is "Reverend Jim" or "Reverend Bob" or something) is preaching. He REALLY gets into it, and there's always some dumb jock who will try to argue with him. My (unofficial) minor was Religious History, so I really enjoyed his lectures, even if I didn't agree. There's also a pretty cool bongo player, dressed like a Rasta-man, who comes up with some hilarious raps. Yep, A2 is a pretty fun town.

AJ: Yep, you're right. Don't bother doing the CW major--you have enough writing to do, just being an English major. I found that it does boil down to whether or not the professor likes what you're writing about, or if you conform to the style they use (see "3rd person subjective" above). I don't normally write horror, but once at school I wrote a story about a serial killer (1st person) who picks up a woman who he watches get dumped by her boyfriend, and gets her drunk, with the intention of killing her. While he talks to her he has all these dirty thoughts, crude, hateful, perversely funny, but he's really charming & thoughtful to her. When he kisses her he has very violent fantasies, runs to the bathroom vomits & masturbates, etc. It all fit into the story (it's too much to get into--I don't wanna bore anyone). Anyway, I could have taken constructive criticism, along the lines of, 'Maybe you could have him say this,' or 'this part here where he vomits seems a bit gratutious', but the professor just said, "This is horseshit." She proceded to rip me a new one about why I would write a story like that. Who really knows why we write what we write? Granted, it was pretty weird, but hey, it was a pretty good story. I didn't describe him killing her or anything. Just to be a smart-ass (a nod to you, Philip! :-) ), I called my thesis "horseshit." I'd gotten to the point where I didn't care about her opinion and I just wanted to be obnoxious. (It didn't really work becuz she didn't really care. Oh well.) But anyway, just have fun, and learn what you can from the wonderful writers you examine while you're there.

Thanks for all your support! Y'all have a good weekend!

Kasin Hunter Fri Mar 14 06:01:33 PST 1997

AJ how about Jimmy? Probably too simple

Kae - Thanks for the interest in our writing. I'm sue Nicole is just as passionate to see her novel in print as I am.

To the ghost writer, huh, that is poster -- pull tabs, yes. I found out. Has to do with losing money! Ha.!
I don't know what publishers "Pearl" has sent to. But that's a good question. She's a smart lady who's been writing and published for some time now. I'm sure she's gone to who she thinks is best. And I Know she's still trying.

Kitty edwyer@spherenet Thu Mar 13 21:13:12 PST 1997

Tammi, Toby and tout le monde, c'est moi! My apologies for not filling in the name and e-mail slots in my last post. I've been a bit preoccupied lately; focusing on the task at hand (posting a message) and neglecting the details (putting down my name and address). Catch y'all later.

Toby Buckell Thu Mar 13 19:48:35 PST 1997

I don't know who I am responding to, you didn't post your name. My favorite authors are , in order David Brin, Arthur Clarke, Vernor Vinge (but only because of one book, Fire Upon The Deep), Gregory Benford, Stephen Baxter, Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, David Drake, Heinlein, A.E van Gogh, Jonothan Swift, Wells (H.G and Orson of Animal Farm), Arthur Conan Doyle, there are other but the names escape me.
I write almost any type of science fiction and/or fantasy, but I am at a loss to describe what I prefer to write, because after writing since eigth grade I've sometimes developed my own little unique type of SF. It comes across as a mix of hard military sci fi, with often cyperpunk overtones,a dash of hard and 'golden' sci fi, with sometimes just a touch of the fantastic. I mix and match as needed for short stories, but my novel and future ideas/outlines for other novels all reflect this. Often in short stories I'll revert to a more strict definition to limit myself with, but if I feel that that is hurting my writing, promptly discard that constarint.

As an aside, my real name is Tobias, but my mother reserved that name for yelling at me when I was in trouble. I've only met three Toby's in my life, one of them actually lives in the same dorm floor as I do this year, but will be leaving next. Tolliferro was somebody famous too in the history books, but I just can't place it right now, I have a terrible memory. See ya. Toby.

Tammi Thu Mar 13 19:25:24 PST 1997

KAE and NICOLE: All of sudden there are so many people here I get confused. The bit about the book was for Nicole not Kae.

Tammi Thu Mar 13 19:12:40 PST 1997

Okay, who thinks we're neighbors? You didn't post your name.

Karen Thu Mar 13 17:58:58 PST 1997

Well, the wine did it's job and got me through that horrendous birthday. Thanks so much for all the advice and birthday greetings.

I promised to be "brighter" this time so I have a little joke to share with you. Stop me if you've heard it.

1st guy goes in to see an accountant and says "I had a terrible year. I only made $1.5 million." Accountant says "What do you do?" Guy says "I'm a doctor."

2nd guy says "I had a horrible year. I only made half a million." Accountat says "What do you do?" Guy says "I'm a lawyer."

3rd guy goes in and says "Wow! I had my best year ever! I made $10,000." Accountant says "What kind of fiction do you write?"

To Ben: Do you write stories about guys in the mill? I think those would be interesting. Not too many around.

To Britomart: WHat have you got against financial security?
And I DO lie about my age.

To Kae: I love your attitude. I think if you can write with the same attitude, you will have a unique voice. I don't know where you live now but U of M is in Ann Arbour, isn't it? Great town. I often visit there with a friend. ONe time we met a crazy older man there who told us he was the godfather of Ann Arbour. He said he teaches terrorism at the university. Told us he was going to help the IRA blow up the Ambassador Bridge. We were in a bar at the time drinking Grand Marnier. He decided that the people at the next table were with the PLO and so was the owner of the bar. He said that was why they were getting more liquor in their drinks than we were. He also told us his mother slept with Aristotle Onassis. I really should write a story about him one of these days.

Anyway, enough. I have to go write the community news. And by the way, community newspapers are great places to break into print. They usually pay little or nothing but most are receptive to freelance stories and columns. The most popular column in our paper is called "PC-911" and is all about computers.

This is a great place. I enjoy everyone's letters - especially when you get a little testy.


Tammi Thu Mar 13 17:52:29 PST 1997

LINDA: Your story about Erin and Rod intrigues me. I have often noticed how even just a few years of age difference contribute to a different world view. I wonder, do you think the accelerated pace of technology advance in this century has accentuated the differences? For example, I was born 1965, and have always taken moon landings for granted. People just five years older than me remember the trial and error and race to the end of the decade of the space program in the 60's, so their perspective is different.

As it relates to men and women, I believe that women who came of age in the 70's got shafted. Liberated (and not so liberated) men agreed that women should have careers, but weren't ready to accept that these working women couldn't do all that their (the men's that is) mothers did around the home and with the children. Not all men of that era, of course. But I think things were just a bit easier for me in the mid-80's.

I guess you can see I agree with your premise, and look forward to someday reading what you make of it. I will definitely look for the book you mention. The information would contribute to characterizations even when age difference isn't your focus.

KAE: A book I have found helpful is So You Want to Write a Novel by Lou Willett Stanek. I haven't read any of Goldberg's books, so I can't evaluate whether Stanek's is better or worse. It has helped me.

And please remember you have no enemies here.

PHILIP: Thanks for the assignment. I am reluctant to post anything I've written to the Workbook, but surely I can come up with two paragraphs.

Bye all,


Thu Mar 13 17:38:05 PST 1997

Hey y'all! Well, things have been hopping here! Kae, I would look upon the whole experience as fodder for the old writing grist mill along the lines of Kingsley Amos. You have to laugh--even if you were footing the bill and they were the hired help! You at least had the intelligence to see what was going on and survived. Did you never look around you while in the lecture hall and see the dull glazed looks of those who could not withstand the tyranny of academia? I don't think you have to go to university to be an educated person and certainly not all who emerge from the hallowed halls of academe know how to think.
Kasin, loved your "persistence" story and did we ever find out what a "pull tab" contest is? Also, is "Pearl" targeting her novel to compatible publishing houses? Maybe she should touch base with Sherrie--who stuck to her guns and is soon to be published!
Karen, as one who is looking forward to my Fabulous Forties, I hope you had a good one. I look around at the women who are of "a certain age" and I am thrilled to be living in this day and time. I intend to be rocking like Tina, laughing like Goldie, etc...
Toby, your the second Toby I've met. The first is the son of a close friend and his full name is Talliaferro (pronounced Tolliver--go figure, it's a family name). What kind of sci-fi are you ariting and who are your favorite authors?
Tammi, what part of upstate NY? We may be neighbors, sort of... What is the novel, if you care to share?
Ben, it is never too much from you. I don't quite agree with Twain, though. I think youth is wasted on some young people, but there is plenty of evidence out there of young people who are sucking the marrow out of life. And then there are the late bloomers. Our neighbor across the road, when I lived with my parents, was a pediatrician. He grew up in NYC on the upper East side, Park Avenue. He didn't go to college straight out of high school, but gadded about for a number of years and then in his late twenties he decided he wanted to be a doctor. He went to med school and his first job was working on an Indian reservation out West. When I knew him he was in his fifties with an adoring wife and four very creative, independent children, all of whom followed their father's unconventional approach to life. On a summer's eve, he would sit at his grand piano and play Chopin which would waft through the open windows to the delight of the neighbors. He decided to learn to play the piano somwhere in his forties. When his practice was threatened by the HMO's sprouting up, he converted one of his examining rooms into a studio and took up watercolors. He's had several gallery shows and his paintings sell in the thousands. He wouldn't have done any of this as a young man, but man oh man, has he lived.
Trudy, I am glad you stayed 'cause you were one of the reasons I joined the Notebook. I am happy that you are so busy, but hope to see more of you here when you can. What have you been up to? Did you know that QPB has a short story contest and I ran across a blurb for a Canadian children's story contest for unpublished (I'm assuming in children's lit) authors, interested?
Welcome to all the newcomers and greetings to everyone.

Trudy Thu Mar 13 16:03:48 PST 1997

Wow! I'm not even going to try to catch up in responding to all these postings. Has it ever been busy in here. It's nice to see so many new names. Welcome all, pull up a comfy chair, grab a glass/cup of your favourite drink and continue to join us in our journeys to fame.
It's interesting to see as more people join this page (KITTY, I must thank you for pulling me back to the notebook; can't believe I thought people weren't participating enough at one time!) that the debates get a little more heated. I hope everyone remembers not to take things too personally. I think everyone who posts in the notebook is wonderful at heart and even when negative things are said they are not in a mean spirited way but in a way meant to be encouraging and helpful. I know I try never to take things personally (Do I JACK? Not even when I get archived right after my message is just posted?).
Anyway just wanted to say hello and let you know I am ahnging around. Will try to find more time to join the spirited discussions soon. Trudy

Philip Thu Mar 13 14:28:21 PST 1997

KAE: It is my understanding that English grammar only provides first, second and third person forms of narration. There have been clever combinations of all three with blends of past, present and future tenses and cross gender narrators (away from the author's own gender). But that's it I believe, hamstrung aren't we... not.

For my second book I chose third person (past tense) narration but switched to first person narration (past tense) whenever I wanted to tell the story from my villain's point of view, then back again at will. My psychopathic bad guy was more chilling because you were inside his head and he spoke directly to you, kept you informed, asked you questions etc.

My advice would be avoid being too much of a smart ass and get to the business of writing as good a story as you are able, using our best conventions. If you make the reading of your manuscript difficult for publishers they will automatically think the reading public won't accept it. Your manuscript - your year of cleverness and hard work - will be hard pressed to win publication. It's difficult enough getting published why give yourself the extra baggage, you will only be giving yourself more reasons to fail.

I hear it - I want to be unconventional! - Yeah, sure... I interpret that as - I can't write!

For those who like a challenge try writing two paragraphs in the second person future tense and post the result in our Workbook - so we, your fellow writers, can applaud your efforts.

For my part I want to get back to the serious job at hand: writing this bloody story, communicating using the myriad of wonderfilled conventions our language offers me, my palette, really hone and craft this entire manuscript, my canvas. I've been at this manuscript for a year now, practically full time. My hope is I'm creating a dynamic and unique story: it is only in the third person, regulated by the past tense, just using contemporary settings - challenge aplenty for me.

Back soon - Philip.

Deb Borys Thu Mar 13 11:11:39 PST 1997

KAE: Chill, girl. Ben wasn't saying you threw away an education, just that experience is the best teacher. And he's not saying youth is wasted on you, not the way I read what he said. He's just giving his general opinion on the subject of the sometime stupidity of youth. How could it be directed at you personally when he doesn't know you or your age? Besides, Ben's not that kind of guy--are you, Ben?

Enough defending now. My motherly traits got the best of me.

Toby Buckell Thu Mar 13 10:59:40 PST 1997

1st 2nd and 3rd perspective. It all depends doesn't it? I've found that often times I will start a story in first, then at the end edit it so it ends up third, and sometimes vice versa. The latest story I've written started out in first person because I was using a lot of heavy emotion that felt better coming out in first person, then when editing it, felt that I neede to de-personalize the narrator a bit and switched to third. I was able to retain the emotional impact and clean up the extra 'stuff' that had gotten in, making it a story that I enjoyed even more. I guess the greatest thing about writing is 'to each his own'. Characters and Viewpoint' is a book published by Writer's Digest Magazine in Cincinnati Ohio, by I think Orson Scott Card, it did a great deal in helping me resolve the viewpoint deilemna.

Toby B

Thu Mar 13 10:41:39 PST 1997

Linda Thu Mar 13 10:41:33 PST 1997

I've missed reading the Notebook for a few days and obviously there's been a wild and lively discussion. Someone asked about the book "What If?". I have used it and found it to be quite helpful. Natalie Goldbergs book- the Wild MInd has more useful and specific exercises than does Writing Down the Bones. I've read the Wild Mind several times and it always gets me motivated.

In the last few days I really got my butt in gear and have down some concentrated work looking at the underlying conflicts between my 2 main characters : Erin (28) and Rod (43). Their conflicts arise because of the differing views of women resulting from the 13 year age gap. To develop my understanding of the conflict I used the book Timetables of History by Bernard Grun. This is an absolutely fascinating book which year by year in tablular forms looks at events in history, the arts, music, pop culture, religion, science, health and daily life. It's a steal at $20 U.S.( $26 Can). My characters have come alive through looking at their differing cultural and experiential lenses. My next step is to work out a detailed back story ( in chart form) for each character using the information from Timetables as the grid. This will give meaning to the various plot points that form the contextual conflicts that move the story forward.

Sherri: Where are you? Busy , I imagine. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Jonnie: I was sorry to hear about the trauma in your family.
Love and prayers as always. You mention packing again. Are you off on another adventure to Mexico??

To all the new members: Welcome. I'm glad you are a part of us.

Ben: You are always so encouraging - your notes continually motivate me to keep going.

Kae Thu Mar 13 10:13:32 PST 1997

Wow! Thanks to everyone who commented; I really appreciate your support.

First of all, I'd like to apologise, if anyone took me wrong: I didn't mean to say I thought you guys sound totally discouraged and bitter. I just meant that it sounds pretty tough to get published, especially novels, and I was just wondering if anyone had any pointers. I wasn't trying to insult anyone.

Now then:

BEN: I know I already sent you an email, but that was before I read your second paragraph. In that one, are you trying to say you feel I threw away an education????? And that my youth is wasted on me?????? Jesus, I just had a bad experience with U of M's creative writing department, but I graduated, man! I still had a 3.5GPA, and I'm glad I spent the time there. True, I had to bust my ass, working for 10 years in Blue Collar Hell, but I paid cash for my tuition, and had the courage to put my fears about losing my financial security behind me and got that degree. I just felt that, geez, I was chosen for this hoity-toity exclusive degree (Bach of English Lit/Creative Writing), out of around 50 people (they chose 15), and all I really learned, after all the competition just to get there, is that I suck & I could never write anything worthwhile. I don't understand how you could get that I threw away an educational opportunity just becuz I said some asshole professor trid to break my zeal for creative writing.
As for my youth being wasted on me...I'm going to be 34 in May. Either you're pretty old, if you consider one's mid-thirties young enough to piss a life away, or you jumped to some serious conclusions about me based on, say, 10 sentences. Not every student that has a gripe about the educational system is some spoiled, wet-behind-the-ears ingrate who's had everything handed to them.

Kasin & Nicole: I'm going to look for those books you mentioned; I'm a little rusty, after taking a few years off. Writing exercises certainly can't hurt!

Ed: Thanks! Good luck to you!

I'm still very happy I stumbled across your page. Now I have a question for you all: have any of you done any experimenting with narrative styles outside of 1st, 2nd & 3rd person? If so, what did you come up with, and how did it work out?


A.J. Austin Thu Mar 13 06:29:01 PST 1997

Hi everyone,

I just got back from a skiing trip and I see everyone has been busy. Welcome to Toby and Kae and anyone else I've missed.

Kae: I recently decided to go back to school and was really disappointed that I didn't get into the Creative Writing program. I was so upset, but I decided to heck with them. I am having a great time in my English Literature class and I am sort of glad that I didn't go CW. I've discovered many teachers grade on the basis of whether you conform to their style or not, and I just can't do that. I've also discovered that, like Ben, writing is something that I just have to do. What people say does matter to me, but I have learned to "take it with a grain of salt." If I don't like the criticism and I don't think it's constructive, then I ignore it. Don't get discouraged. I've never published anything. In fact, I've yet to complete a story, novel, etc., but I will get there someday. I have set realistic goals for myself as far as writing goes. Getting published is a different story.

Brit: Looking forward to seeing the cover! I've done character sketches for three of my characters now and I am really exited. The plot seems to be progressing along with the characters.

Name crisis: I have a character that I have named Joseph. It was only later that I realized I also have a character named Conrad. This was done accidentally as I've never read anything by Joseph Conrad. But one of the names has to change. Joseph is a simple nine-year old. He hardly ever talks, he's just not right in the head. He is indifferent to people in general, but there are a couple of people that he really likes and one or two that he really doesn't. I need another name for him. Any ideas? Oh, I should mention this is set in Victorian England.

Forgive my rambling!

Ed. Thu Mar 13 06:00:06 PST 1997

BEN: Way to go man...!

KAE: I'm just getting started myself, and can understand how you feel. Other than this site you could check out:-

EVERYONE. I'm off today for a long weekend. I'm going to Wales for my stag weekend. Party. Party. Party. I hope my body holds up!

Happy tapping.


Kasin Hunter Thu Mar 13 05:31:02 PST 1997

Sorry, I was posting to you below, Nicole. Left my name out.

Thu Mar 13 05:29:53 PST 1997

Nicole asked, "Are there any web sights or any other books, besides Writing Down the Bones
by Natalie Golberg, that have writing exercises?"

I've read several, some better than others. Here's one. It's from an educational institute here in town--part of their class requirements. I snuck it out from the Bookstore. Heee. "Writing Fiction-a Guide to Narrative Craft," by Janet Burroway. I have the third edition. Her first Chapter is titled, "Whatever Works: The Writing Process", so I immediately liked her style. Each chapter ends with a long list of Writing Assignments - exercises. It works for me and has been used by one of the critique clubs I belong to here in Tucson.

There was a fellah that gave a talk here in Tucson pushing the concept of "whatever works, use it" (one of my favorites), and he's involoved with a how-to book on writing. However, it's not done as yet. He's still cashing in the checks for six figures to do it. Nice! But when it does come out, Janet my editor friend and I are gonna beat it down to the library to review. I'll let you know if, when, good, crappy, etc. I hope it's something new and better. So many of the how-to books on writing seem so cookie cutter--all slightly different, but like looking at shades of grey instead of the rainbow. Anyway, we'll see.

Ben Woestenburg Wed Mar 12 23:16:53 PST 1997

Welcome aboard to all of you, and I hope you enjoy the ride.

WILLIAM: Believe it or not, I stumbled across that page once before, but couldn't interest my wife in any of the recipes. She just laughed and said: Hey, you know how to read, cook it yourself. Me? I'd rather read or write than eat, and she knows it. I could live off fried egg sandwiches, macaroni and hot dogs...thank God she doesn't care for them as much as I do. Hell, even the kids don't like hot dogs as much as I do. I think they must have heard me telling my poor wife that hot dogs were made out of lips and assholes. She's never eaten one since.

KAE: Well, there's a breath of fresh air. As to whether or not we're all discouraged, I don't think so. I've been here for a couple of months, and I can't say that I've found this to be true at all. We all go through our little periods of depression about what we're writing, or the fact that we're not selling what we want to for whatever reasons there might be, but it's not enough to discourage us. Hell girlfriend, if anybody had a right to be discouraged about anything it would be me!
You want to know how to write a book? I'll tell you exactly. Like the kid says above: IT CAN'T BE TAUGHT! You have to do it. You have to teach yourself and find your own voice (as cliche as it might sound), and you have to work at it. It doesn't just come out in long pieces that you simply write and put aside. You have to work at it. You write it the first time, put it aside and write something else, come back to it and fix it, put it aside again, come back and fix it some more, put it down. You know why? Because you're never satisfied. But there comes a time where you say to yourself: That's it! That's what I want to say. Chucking college aside because you think they're all a bunch of pretensions twats doesn't do anything for you. I chucked it away before I even went and it's been the biggest regret of my life. You get sidetracked. You get lost in a myriad doldrum of endless parties and drinking and drugs and sex (sorry, that was the eighties, you guys have to more careful in this day and age, forgot). I have no problems with joining a band either -- it kills time. If you want to write a book, then set a goal for yourself. You can't find what you want in another book. That's someone else's guidelines to what they think you should be doing with your idea. Take those five characters and throw them into the rock band situation. Add comlications to their lives. I used to hang out with a good friend that had a band once, and I tell, there's a lot of stuff happening there that other people couldn't even begin to believe. You've got the characters, you've got the background. Why put them into a situation you aren't happy with? I'm not pontificating here (besides the fact that I don't even use words like that), but if you want to write a book, then just write it. A page a day is what...? Everybody! A book! Five pages a day is an epic blockbuster that you can chop down into something readable. But if I were you, I'd go back to uni. and take different courses. Try something that might interest you. You don't have to take creative writing courses to discover that nobody can teach it to you -- they can only show it in examples of other people's writings. Take a psycology class, or an English lit class and study the thoughts and minds of great men before you (as well as watching the people about you.)

Looks like I got carried away again, but no matter. Some things just get me going, and when I see someone throwing away the educational opportunity I'd give my left testicle for, well, I have to fight back. Mark Twain was right -- and I NEVER thought I'd ever say this: But youth is wasted on the young. Better to go out and get a job at McDonald's or Burger King, or on a construction site, or (yes) a mill, than sit in those hallowed halls of higher learning. Better to get so caught up in life that before you know it, it's slipped by so quickly you don't know where to turn to, because there isn't anybody; you're on your own. Better to get so far indebted that you have to work, and can't chase the dreams you threw away in your youth. And you think we're disgruntled? Depressed? I don't! I'm not! I get called Hemmingway at work, and it just makes me more determined to succeed. If I don't sell a story I don't care. If no one wants to read my book, that doesn't matter either. It's what I want to do. It's what I HAVE to do. I'd go nuts if I couldn't read or write. End of story. We like to talk to each other here, because we don't let ourselves get brought down. We've become friends and help lift each other's spirits. We embrace each success, and feel every disappointment and failure, but we persevere with our own renewed determination and set our goals a little higher everytime we fall, because we know -- we all know -- that success isn't measured in dollars and cents, or numbers of copies sold, but comes from inside yourself. It's what satisfies you that makes you the success you feel you are. And I feel very successful, which makes me fully aware that what I am working on will sell eventually. If not this year, then next year. And if it doesn't, then there's always another book to start, and more research to do, and more time to kill creating these wonderful characters that become as much a part of your own life as your own children. My characters all have names, and goals, and desires. They live and breathe and even have sex. They drink, get drunk and make fools of themselves just as much as I do, because they are a part of me. So you say you want to write? Then sit down, close the door, turn the radio on, and get started.
That's it for now, (that wasn't too much was it Kitty?)

Nicole Jones Wed Mar 12 20:11:22 PST 1997

Has anyone ever read the book called What If? Writing exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter? I just bought it today because I wanted some exercises to help get my creative juices going after this long bout of writer's block. I've read the first couple sections and so far it seems alright. Are there any web sights or any other books, besides Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Golberg, that have writing exercises?

William Wed Mar 12 16:46:24 PST 1997

BEN: If you're still thinking about starting a dinner club, this link I stumbled across might be of interest to you, especially given your taste for ancient Rome:
Its an online cookbook of ancient roman dishes. Makes a great reference tool, too, for period pieces (or time-travel stories).


Toby Buckell Wed Mar 12 16:41:56 PST 1997

Hello everybody, and thank you very much for all the welcomes I've received. You don't know how much I appreciate it!

Kae- Hello. A most insightful comment on the nature of our education system. I would never take a course in writing, or major in writing through college. The point of an education in writing should be to learn about things to write about, with a lesser emphasis on style, as style is something that comes through maturation of skills and continued practice, and not something (I believe) that can be rammed down somebodies throat by a professor who gets most of his instruction from a textbook. I would guess that most people who go to such programs often never become writers. Since I started college (barely got in) I have attempted to learn about as much different varied things as possible, and read read read read, almost a book a day if possible. I believe it was Arthur Clarke that said one should read a book a day if intending to become a serious writer. While I doubt most can do that (workload this quarter has fought a valiant battle to prevent me from reading), it's the effort that counts.

Writing the novel. I've found that the Library has done a great deal for helping me gain perspective on this, there are many books about writing if one looks hard. And this group here is awesome as far as trying to help with advice. Good luck, and soory for the long message!

William Wed Mar 12 16:12:09 PST 1997

Whew. Back after a doozy of a cold. Slept sixty-some hours in four days. The worst thing about that kind of illness is that you can't even read. At least if you break your leg or something you can cram in a bunch of leisure reading, but when your body demands sleep, it seems like time wasted!
BRITOMART: Congratulations on the cover. I'll keep looking to see if you've posted it yet. I'd love to compare your chapter one "before" and "after", so I'll jump at the opportunity -- e-mail at your convenience.

Now, I think I read somewhere here that there've been some additions to the Workbook. Yumm....


Tammi Wed Mar 12 14:59:56 PST 1997

JONNIE: How awful for your son. My prayers are with you and yours in this time of healing.

KAE: I haven't found this page to be so discouraging. True, no one will pay you while you write your novel. And writing a novel won't ensure its publication. One thing is for sure: if you don't write your novel, it won't ever be published.

TOBY: Welcome.


Well, I have to go. The kids say it's their turn on the computer.



Kae Brown Wed Mar 12 12:01:40 PST 1997

I'm really impressed by what I saw on this page. I did a web search under "writing a novel" & your page came up. It's good to know that there are writers out there that don't feel threatened by other writers, and can actually be friendly & helpful.
A little of my background: I'm one of those lucky idiots who was selected to get the "prestigious" creative writing degrees from the University of Michigan. I worked my ass off to get there, believe me, trying to become the great American Novelist. Well, after two years of having every shread of dignity, pride, and creativity psychologically beat out of me by failed writers who became professors, and nasty little TAs who think their shit doesn't stink, I swore I would never write again. I joined a rock band & wrote songs, which I think is infinitely easier than writing fiction (and more people worship you, if for the wrong reasons). Well, my band broke up, & because most guys don't want a female vocalist, I found myself SOL. So I started my Great American Novel, the one that was just filetted and incinerated at oh-so-open-minded U of M.
Which brings me to my current delima. I'm a bit overwhelmed at how to pull a novel together. I have about 5 major characters, none of which are friends, that work together. I'm doing a vinette-type thing for each character, interspersed with chapters where they interact (not exactly new, I know, but it's really the only way to write this particular story). Does anyone know of a good book, or web site (preferably--since I can only surf at work) that talks about the construction of a novel?
My second question: you all seem pretty discouraged, as far as publishing a novel goes. What if you've never published ANYTHING? And you write a novel you want to publish? Are you pretty much up the proverbial creek? or shit out of the proverbial luck?
Any comments would be appreciated! I'll keep checking this page, or write me at (I'm not sure how this site works.)

PS Britomart: I liked the exerpt of your story; quite the page turner! Of course, at U of M, you'd have been crucified, becuz it's not about a "precocious" kid who gets his baseball cards stolen, or something. At U of M, NO ONE has EVER read anything but Faulkner or Toni Morrison.

To be fair: there is ONE prof in the creative writing dept named Charles Baxter that is a good instructor and a pretty nice guy as well. Too bad he went on sabatical after my 1st semester!

Jonnie Wed Mar 12 08:10:01 PST 1997

Last few weeks have been terribly busy. My oldest son found one of his best friends shot to death. Major trauma for everyone. He spoke at the funeral. We were so proud of him, but he needs to let it all hang out. He really hasn't grieved yet.
Joe and I left for Phoenix last week for an anesthesia meeting. Just returned yesterday-P.M.
I leave for Jackson Hole tomorrow (A 2-3 hr. drive, depending on the roads) for two days to try and tie up some loose ends on my novel. Will travel to the top of the Grand Tetons by tram to view the scenery and see the warm up shack. They are still skiing-a record yr. for snowfall. Also need to visit the hospital and get a glimpse of the E.R. and O.R. Hopefully an old friend will be working.

DISCOURAGEMENT-what a bombshell to tax our creativity. I was speeding along the highway in Phoenix this weekend and got caught in somewhat of a traffic jam. Crawling along at a snails pace it dawned on me that the process of writing and getting published is somewhat like this.
ENCOURAGEMENT-If I become an angry or discouraged driver and turn off the road, I may find that I have to make a U turn because the road I turned on is a dead end. Neither do I want to get out and run at a clipping ten miles an hr. because I will collapse before I get there.(To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't make it around the house at that speed) Somehow I must keep up a steady pace-for some it is a slow walk, for others it is a clipped walk or a slow jog. For those strong type A's it might even be a marathon with periods of rest between their workouts.But each of us must find our best position and keep plugging along.
EDUCATION-As we're doing this, it is amazing what we learn about writing along the way.The Notebook is a jewel in a sea of learning. Welcome to all newcomers. More I could say, but have to pack-again!! Jonnie

Tue Mar 11 19:23:47 PST 1997

Toby Buckell Tue Mar 11 14:57:23 PST 1997

Hi, my name is Toby. I am eighteen years old and live in Ohio right now. I've been writing science fiction for the past five years. In all that time I've never really met, or talked, or wrote to anyone else involved in the Profession. The past year of writing have been the most succesful for me. I've written a number of short stories, and actually had two of them published, but in small press magazines (Actually, I would be more truthful to say 'tiny press' magazines). I have however received some notes of encouragement from a few editors of semi-pros and pros, which went a long way towards making me feel like I was actually going somewhere.

I am hoping I can join in on this group, as I have virtually no friends who can relate to me and my pursuits.
My latest project: my novel, of which I have ten thousand words finished, and the seven page outline that I have also just finished (I am very prone to forgetting what goes where and when and who does it when I get going).

Sorry for the long message.

Britomart Tue Mar 11 13:53:53 PST 1997

Karen:you hoped you'd "be a novelist" by that time? What exactly do you mean by that? If you mean "have a novel published", then you're being a bit hard on yourself - no matter how close you are to a milestone birthday, you can't control the elements or make a publisher accept you. If you mean "be a writer of novels" and you've already started one, then you are a novelist, albeit one who hasn't been validated by one of the mutli-nationals who have (let's face it) erratic notions of quality. If you mean "be a writer of novels" and you haven't already started one -- well, isn't it about time, girl? So many people focus their energy on Plan B - ie. financial security, a "good" job etc - and forget all about Plan A. If you want to be a writer, you have to write - no short cuts. And in ten years time, you don't want to be going through this again. Think of this as a blessing - a new decade, a clean slate to start with. Good luck! (Oh, and happy birthday!) (You could always lie about your age!)


Ben Woestenburg Tue Mar 11 06:26:35 PST 1997

Karen, Karen, Karen...I've just celebrated my 39th. My hair is getting so grey now, it's ridiculous. My wife is begging me to get it coloured so she doesn't have to be seen with such an older looking man. Personally, it doesn't bother me, but I'm thinking I'll do it for HER birthday. As near as I can see it, age is all relative. It used to bother me when I thought how I've failed yet again to accomplish my goal, but then I realized I haven't failed, I'm just not ready yet. Sure, I've been working on this book for a long time, and I took a long time off to waste my twenties on the sex, drugs, rock'n'roll culture we seem to take for granted now. Time doesn't wait for us, but it's nothing to fret over. If I had more than two or three hours a day to write, I might be finished this thing in a couple of months, but I don't. It will probably take me another full year because of the circumstances in my life. I don't let it get me down anymore. Two hours a day isn't much, but it's better than nothing. What we once thought were goals suddenly become aspirations, eventualities, achievements. If we fail to accomplish them under a set time, it's no big deal because the end result is that it does get down, one page at a time. Get down on yourself because you think you've faiuled yourself? How's that possible? As long as you're still doing it, you haven't failed. You should hear what the guys in the mill have to say about the writer who's been there for twenty years! Can't be a very good writer if he hasn't published anything in twenty years can he? I don't explain the fact that I had to actually teach myself how to write during that time. I simply say: How can you say that if you don't know me as I truly am? You only know me as I am here; you don't know me at all. But I know myself. In the words of Pope(you'll love this one Brito):'Know then thyself, presume not God to scan/The proper study of Mankind is Man.'
But hey, I've got to go: Time is fleeting!

Kasin Hunter Tue Mar 11 05:58:17 PST 1997

Karen, my deepest empathy. Setting goals and not achieving them by the prescribed time can be frustrating and discouraging. But acceptance of one's writing is not prescribed despite the best "formulas", classes or degrees gotten through, and even the most ardent desires. There is so much competition out there in this field, even authors with decades of experience can't get a book published. The ones who have are called lucky. I call them persistent and experienced.

Example given, I've an acquaintance in a writers' society here in Tucson who has written several short stories and published them nation-wide concerns. And she's completed a book some time ago along same story lines. This lady (I'll name her Pearl) will not write about sex, violence or anything that "sells" in today's market. But she is adamant in her beliefs.

Each publisher that has turned down her book has said that unless she adds some gratuitous sex and/or violence to her work, they won't publish it because it won't sale.

The other thing they said was that unless she's a celebrity, her work probably won't sell either.

She's very frustrated. So far after seeing approx. 21 of her short stories going to print, she has been refused 14 times on publication of her book. But she's still trying. She's steadfast in bringing quality to the stands, wholesome, good family reading--and she won't quit until she's done just that or die trying.

I support her all I can. I don't personally feel as strongly as she does about censoring my writing. I use occasional off -color words when the character is into that. And I've written sexual scenes, but only when they are called for in the development of the plot or development of the character or both.

I can only wish Pearl luck and send her my prayers. Hopefully, someone will see the beauty in her work and be willing to take the chance.

Bottom line is keep trying no matter what. No matter what anyone says to discourage you. No matter what useless flattery you may rec. from friends or family. No matter what you think of yourself. And especially no matter what age you are! Passion for your art doesn't turn off just because life's hour glass has dropped a certain number of grains of sand. If anything, look at these previous years as just a warm up for the wonderful new things you'll learn and people you'll meet! Some people are just starting their writing careers this year. Think how far ahead of the game you are by having the experience you have today.

I hope these few words are of some encouragement. After all, if we, as writers can't encourage each other no matter what stage we are, well . . . I think that we aren't worth very much as people in the final measure.

Please feel free to email me whenever you want if ever you need a encouraging word. Hope I can do the same with you.

Health and humor, Kasin Hunter.

Tammi Mon Mar 10 18:58:20 PST 1997

KAREN: A couple years ago, my husband and I both celebrated a 0 birthday, and he suffered a great deal of angst. I chose to view it differently.

No, I have not done all the things I hoped, or hope to do. But there's still time. And the alternative to turning 30, or 50, or 80, is dying too soon and leaving so much undone.

I don't know that this will help (it didn't help my husband), but I do wish you a Happy Birthday.


LaSalle Silhouette Mon Mar 10 18:46:01 PST 1997

I am only going to use this space to whine this one time and never again. I promise. But here is the deal. I am having a MAJOR birthday on Wednesday and I am really distracted by it. Let's just say it ends in ZERO and it feels like someone else is about to push the SUBTOTAL button on my personal calculator, or about to press the ENTER or SEND button before I am finished working. Please no platitudes. I had just hoped to be a novelist by this time. And I don't think I can begin and end a novel by Wednesday. So maybe some of you can relate to my angst. There is no relief. However, I do intend to get anesthetized either Wednesday or Saturday or both.

Well, it's been a great relief getting that thought into print and shipping it off to people who must be able to understand the black hole I'm in even if they haven't experienced it.

Next time I post I will be "brighter" and adjust myself to the very positive and very warm community here.

Thanks for a great site.


Philip Mon Mar 10 14:19:58 PST 1997

HELLO EVERYONE: work... work... work... party... party... party...tender head... tender head... tender head: the picture of my week that was. It's officially autumn but the sun beats down a full eighty degrees Fahrenheit, humidity is hovering around eighty per cent, the ocean temperature is seventy-eight. It's the start of the rugby season and an end to cricket. But last weekend our local beach was packed with people claiming the summer leftovers in a sort of mass desperation.

ED: advice for bolstering dialogue in your work. I believe Britomart is on the right track here. You will of course find writers who make lists, as suggested by Kasin, and work from them but my advice is don't do that. This I call hack writing, simplistic writing under set headings, filling in the blanks. Writing to lists locks you in a cage of your own making. Your work will reflect that, like a paint by numbers piece of art. If you are really in trouble, do whatever is necessary to get past that stage but don't lock yourself in a cage of lists and afterwards set about rewriting to justify that approach, covering the joins. I have long seen my best and most dynamic writing being invented at the coal face: the process I think is a mystical one. Flair is extremely difficult to contrive from lists.

Back soon - Philip.

Ed Mon Mar 10 01:52:50 PST 1997

BRITOMART: congrat's. Will I see the finished work of art on a shelf in my neck of the woods?

Hope everyone had a good weekend.


Kasin Hunter Sun Mar 9 18:08:52 PST 1997

Irony? I was serious. I don't know you or your writing. But I'm learning. Thanks for the clarification.

Britomart Sun Mar 9 13:00:09 PST 1997

Kasin - hmmm, I wonder if I'm taking your question seriously when it was meant as a joke, but that's the problem with words on screen - can't hear the inflection of irony. My "partner" is my significant other - perhaps it's an Australian way of saying it. If I'm being completely humourless, please forgive me. Good to hear you're having fun getting organised.

karen Sun Mar 9 12:25:50 PST 1997

Sorry I did not sign my last post. I am still figuring this out. How do you get your e-mail address to appear in red? Thanks to everyone who wrote...and writes.

Deb Borys Sun Mar 9 07:58:07 PST 1997

KAREN RE: TESTING -- I sent you an e-mail, did you get it?

BRIT: Great news on the cover. I'm looking forward to seeing it. They say the cover is one of the most important points in selling the book, which is a sad commentary, but with all the glut of things on the market shelf today, a poor reader needs something that will catch the eye.

Kasin Hunter Sun Mar 9 05:50:16 PST 1997

Ben, okay, I'm not much of a drinker, so I have to ask--what is a "pull tab" contest? And could this be a way for you to retire? Hee!

Everyone, I'm finally getting around to cleaning up the house. It hasn't been organized since the gardening calendar job at Christmas, so last night I rearranged the "office" (the front portion of the living room since we don't have a spare bedroom any more), stacked up the inquiry letters, rejections, possible submission reminders, story ideas (lots of scraps of paper in this one), and started the chip-chip, plink-plink job of getting them logged into my electronic spreadsheet as needed. (Anyone who doesn't know the chip-chip, plink-plink reference, drop me an email so I can tell ya.) Next, will come the filing. I thought organizing the loose sheets by alternating them as they lay on the stack might help. And when I get down to them, it probably will.

But, have to work today, so there's another eight hours diverted.

Everyone have their summer short story/poems/filler articles ready for submission for the summer? An editor emailed me yesterday and said she has to plan four months ahead, so start working on the summer stuff. One thing about writers is that they often have to have a good imagination. Here I'm still using the heat in the morning and drinking hot chocolate, and I've got to get my gear into summer--heat, sweat, a/c, late sunsets, flowers across the desert wilting at noon . . . . Ah, well. This looks like I'm gonna need some extra motivation--crank up the oven to 350 and let the door open aughta help.

Bye, y'all. . . . long afternoon shadows, jackrabbits hiding in their holes until the evening, long cool glasses of suntea, metal that sizzles the skin when ya touch it, heat waves off the pavement . . . .

Ben Woestenburg Sun Mar 9 02:29:49 PST 1997

Hello from me!

I had a great night tonight. We went down across the line for a nice dinner at a restaraunt in Blaine. Great food. I loved it. Then we went to this cabin the people that were taking us out had. The bloody thing was bigger than the house we live in. Double wide trailer with all sorts of extensions on it. Then we went to the PASTTIME pub where one of our friends sat down and started playing pulltabs. She won eighty-six bucks in less than ten minutes, and then another twenty-five. I couldn't believe it. Her husband laughed at me and said that they were going to Mexico next week -- which I was aware of -- but that they were going because of the money she had won playing BINGO! They were going first class, and staying in a first class resort because of the six thousand dollars she had won playing that stupid game over the course of the last year. He said what was even funnier was the fact that our host's wife was even luckier. And as if to prove the point, she sat down and won twenty bucks on her first set of pulltabs. My wife was so into it by then, that she asked me if we could play too. I said, sorry Hon, but they invited us out for dinner and drinks so I didn't bring any money. (The fact that they are millionaires makes it a little easier to do this.) She asked me if we could charge it. She's a scream that girl is. So the host said that he would love to start a dinner club with us. There were four couples and he suggested going to each couples' house and having dinner four eight. My wife is right into it of course. I said that sounded good to me, and asked if the other ladies were good cooks. She says they are, but they're text book cooks. My wife likes to improvise when it comes to cooking, which probably explains the vast amounts of weight I've put on since we first got together. I used to be 165-170 when I first met her -- of course it was a chemically induced diet brought on by bacheleorhood and wild nights of partying -- and now tip the scales at well over 200. I keep saying I have to go on a diet, but then she keeps coming up with these strange new dishes she just whips up. So anyway, she says that she liked the idea too, but she wants whoever is cooking the meal to provide recipes, and then she said that she wanted tp put out a recipe book. We threw around a couple of names, and she said DINNER FOR COUPLES, I laughed and said COUPLES FOR DINNER. She liked that one.

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you guys all that just for the heck of it. I read your story today Deb, and really liked it. I wanted to start Larry's but I got called away and never got a chance to get back to it. I'll have to read it tommorow if I can sneak some time on-line.

So now I've got to go. It's 2:30, and weekends are always my worst days for sleep. I'll be up as early as I can, which should be pretty late for me. See you then.

Larry H. Mathys Sat Mar 8 20:20:48 PST 1997

First, let me say thanks to everyone for the waves of encouragement all of you have shown. It eases the heart to have someone to 'cry' to when you receive the dreaded rejection letter.

Way to go, Brit- you're living the dream. Keep up the good work.

I have yet another question for the cornucopia of knowlege. I'm attempting to write a short in first person (which I've only tried once). Are there any pointers the Professionals here can give me. (Capital 'P' means I salute you).

Thanks again for the advice.


Tammi Sat Mar 8 17:36:07 PST 1997

Hi Everyone!

I believe that is Karen posted below and unsigned. Welcome Karen.

I apologize for posting my bio here in the Notebook, but I wasn't sure how bios were being handled. After snooping around in the archives for the past week or so, I felt I knew so much about you all, and just a little guilty you knew nothing about me.

BEN: When you lose easy access to the net, we will all lose. I suspect if you ever do go away for awhile, I won't be the only one popping into the archives for a dose of your humor.

KASIN: Now I know what my problem is. I guess I should get back to my novel.

Bye all!


Sat Mar 8 16:53:38 PST 1997

This is great. Four of you have responded to my last post. I feel "connected". What a great idea this page is. At my first opportunity I will read the archives and learn more about everyone.

In answer to your questions, yes, I do write and then I don't write and then I do write again. I have had several short stories published. After several years at home raising children and writing, it was time to find a job. When I couldn't find one suitable, I started a community newspaper with a friend. Eight years later, it is still going. We publish twice a month. Not getting rich but it pays the bills and is a lot more fun than a lot of other things. THe only drawback is that I am only writing "soft news" and feature stories. That's fine, but it is not what the soul really needs to be doing. And so now it is time to squeeze out enough time from "work writing" to do some creative writing.

It's like starting all over, searching for a voice, searching for something to say. A writer with no direction or home. Like a rolling stone.

Kasin Hunter Sat Mar 8 15:13:58 PST 1997

Bristomart, congrats. But who is this partner you're talking about. I thought you wrote the book yourself??

As far as getting publishable material, I saw a cute thing in a writers' mag. a few months ago. Can't remember who wrote it, but it was something like:

Ten reasons why a writer doesn't succeed: a lack of

1. p
2. pe
3. per
4. pers
5. persi
6. persis
7. persist
8. persiste
9. persisten

Have a great weekend everyone. Kas.

Jack Beslanwitch Fri Mar 7 21:29:22 PST 1997

Britomart: COOL!!!!!. Let me know the address when you get it scanned in and I'll make a link to it in the biographies page. Also, if you or anyone else has a link to a picture of themself, I would love to have other people have pictures of themselves on that page. Or anything else that you think best exemplifies you. Take care everyone.

karen peg Fri Mar 7 18:25:55 PST 1997

HI. I am new to the net and would like to figure out how to join this discussion and exchange group. So far, I have not been able to connect anywhere. My mail gets returned. Could someone let me know if this gets through?

Britomart Fri Mar 7 14:30:24 PST 1997

Hey everyone! Exciting news - my editor e-mailed me to say that the cover art should be done around mid-next week. As soon as I get a copy I'll be scanning it and posting it on my web site, but I'll let you know. The way she described it sounds marvellous - a deep mysterious forest with a red wash over it, a kind of dreamy looking woman... and my name is going to be at the top by the sounds of it. I'm so bloody excited I can barely contain myself. I mean, it's now almost 11 months since I had the happy news that I was going to be published, and it's become so much part of my world view that I've almost become blase about it. But the thought of seeing the cover - with my name on it - well I'm all excited again, running around annoying my partner by telling him over and over I'm going to be famous. This is the best feeling in the world!


Tammi Fri Mar 7 05:29:26 PST 1997

LARRY: As to why you are not published although many people tell you your work is publishable, perhaps the people you are asking are not qualified to determine what is or is not publishable. Also editors receive many more submissions than they can publish. And finally, you must research to determine that you are sending your work to the right market.

When crafting surprise endings, remember that the ending must have been a possibility from the start, just not the one that the reader expected. Abrupt character changes or sudden information added at the last minute to justify the ending will disturb the reader. Study stories that have successfully used a surprise ending with an eye as to how the writers gave you just enough information to allow these endings without giving up the surprises too early.

I hope you keep writing and find your success.


Ben Woestenburg Fri Mar 7 05:05:33 PST 1997

Well, I woke up early so I thought I'd come down here and take a look at what's happening. It sure is busy here, and I like it. The most I can figure is that I'll have this thing for another two or three weeks before I have to give it up. I'm thinking of going on the afternoon shift for two weeks because this guy on the other shift asked me to do him a little favour by trading for a while, and I need the space to get away from those asshole bosses (well, just one in particular), who suddenly says I'm not allowed to read or write after doing it for the last 15 years on different jobs. But this isn't the place to even start with that sort of shit...

LARRY: When you give something to someone to read, they read it as entertainment value, and wonder why you can't sell it. When you give it to an editor, he's looking at it to make a buck. There are lots of reasons for stories to be rejected, probably the most common one being, we're not publishing this at the moment. Don't give up though. Like my mother always used to say to me when I struck out with the girls: There's not a handful, but a land full. It sounds cliche, but that the way it is. You just have to hit the right one. It's like playing Blackjack: you win a few, you lose a few, and then you hit the jackpot. (Am I using too many cliches here?)
As for surprise endings, they have to make sense. You don't want to be formulaic. You have to build it up, and yet, not make it predictable. This is no easy feat of course, and there are no trade secrets to writing no matter what anyone might say, or think. Sommerset Maugham said there are only three things to know about writing, but no one knows what they are. I have to kind of agree with that. When you send something out and it comes back, just send it out again. It's a business, and not personal. They're not trying to screw you over. Just because one person doesn't like it doesn't mean it's not good. If you're satisfied with it, keep trying. I always say to myself, with all the bad writing out there, I can't be that bad, can I?

TRUDY: Humour is what makes life bearable for me. I've just had the week from Hell at work, but I can come home and laugh at it, losing myself in my writing -- and well, okay, I got drunk and had a great day the next day because I didn't go to work and niether did the little woman...and well, it was back to reality the day after. But I've always laughed at things, and if it comes through in what I write here, well,shucks, that's just me. Life of the party.
In fact, my wife cleans an office on the weekends and I have to help her more often than not, which is okay because the people that own the business are friends of ours and very decent. I wrote my birthday and my wife's, (six days from now), on his calander for the heck of it (these are the people who asked us to be the maid and butler at their daughter's wedding rehearsal party), and now they want to take us out for dinner and get the whole gang together and party. In fact, he phoned on my birthday while I was at work and my poor wife had no idea I had written our birthdays on his calander...
Anyways, it's 5:00ish, and I have to go to work before I leave for the drudgery. Just wanted to pop in because I had an extra half hour.
Sorry I didn't get to welcome everyone back, or address all the issues, but that's what the evenings are for.


Larry Mathys Thu Mar 6 20:10:10 PST 1997

I have just a couple of thoughts.
First, why is it that everyone you allow to read a recently finished manuscript think it's a very publishable story? When you send it to an editor, you are summarily rejected. It is a difficult thing to handle when the rejection letters keep showing up in the old snail mail box.
Second, how does one create the 'suprise ending' if you are told that your ending sounds like something else but with different characters? I have had many good questions and stories to go with the questions, but haven't had much luck with the endings. Could someone give an encouraging answer to this? Without, of course, giving away some special secret they have to writing good science fiction.
Writing is all I want to do. But circumstances in my life require that I hold a job (for my wife who is finishing Pharmacy school). My chemist position is wearing thin with me and I would like some help entering the market.

Thanks for any answers in advance.

Larry Mathys

Trudy Thu Mar 6 17:15:19 PST 1997

Wow, busy as beavers in this spot. Had a bit of a personal crisis in the family but am back and I think caught up, but as I said you guys have been busy.

DEB, your so welcome. I just know I never throw away any writing, no matter how bad I think it at the time because I know it might contain something useful for future writings...of course I'm also a packrat so what does that tell you(:

BEN: always enjoy your long winded postings; they contain so much wisdom, though I don't think you realize how much, and humour. You're always great for a smile. Keep it up please. I agree with you on the what becomes literature topic too. One of my favourite authors is James Joyce (Did you know his book Dubliners was rejected by 22 publishers? Now it is studied in classrooms around the world) and his writings weren't appreciated in his lifetime like they are now. I have a book called the Writer's Home Companion and it is a book of "anecdotes, comforts, recollections and other amusements..." definitely soothing when the rejection letters are arriving.

LINDA: Glad to see you've returned. Hope everything is working itself out; it can be very frustrating to feel overwhelmed, especially when it seems to go on and on. Happy writing.

PHILIP: I'm writing a novel with two writers as the main characters and I think I'll create a scene around that dinner you and your wife attended and the subsequent discussion with the Booker Prize winner and thehe negative professor. It fits so well with a scene I was working on the other night...too funny. And your questions are not easy, at least for me who procrastinates fiction writing when home...well not so much procrastinates as don't make time after writing for the paper all day and then working on magazine article ideas and the like at night, plus dealing with everyday living and relationships. Will be interesting to see what everyone says though.

ED: I will never give up reading books! If I have children I hope they will have the same love of holding and reading a good book while curled up on the couch or in bed, off by ones self to enter a new wonderful world with a favourite drink. I have yet to be able to sit at the computer reading for any length of time. As it is I often print off pages I'm interested to read later when curled up on the aforementioned couch or bed. Would I write an electronic book...if they paid me!

Well gotta go will respond to everyone else later. Trudy

A.J. Austin Thu Mar 6 09:01:06 PST 1997

Hi again,

Jack, thanks for the welcome and thanks for the page. It really is great. I do keep writing, and I have a suggestion for everyone. Try keeping a personal writing journal. I keep mine on computer and write at least a page most days. Sometimes I end up with nothing more than crap, but some
days I find something useful turn up. I use the journal to
write about everything - something I saw on the news, personal feelings on something, what happened to me, and of course plot ideas and characterizations. The journal idea may be useful to some of you.

Britomart, I have to say I used the autobiography idea for the main character in my current project. Although I usually write in first person anyway, I learned a lot about Jessica in the 800 words I wrote last night. I can't wait to try it with the other characters and learn more about them. It is amazing how characters develop!

I look forward to getting to know everyone. I have been having a wonderful time reading the archives!


Thu Mar 6 04:09:58 PST 1997

KASIN: Thanks for your points on my mute characters. I think I need to put some more thought into these creations of mine. I appreciate the invite to join the Sunday live chat. However, I only have web access at the moment and until I get myself online at home, which will be soon, I am unable to take part. As soon as I do, I'll be there.

On the question of gender in talk groups - It would be helpful for a male writer to get views of how a female writer feels about things, and visa versa. However, would it be difficult to consider input from someone whose gender is unknown.

PHILIP: You caught me out! Yes, I am at work and saldly I'm without an e-mail address at the moment. Why did I want to know if you had anything published in the UK? I'd read the archives and you had a number of published works - "I'm not worthy". I'm also interested, with consent, in reading any work written by other members of this little spot, published or not.

BRITOMART: I hope Donna Tartt is not too intimidated to write a second book. WOW! How would you follow Secret History. Thanks for stuff on my mute characters. Hope I havn't caused a fight.

I must admit, when reading, I have enough distractions to avoid without adding the Smashing Pumpkins. Artafical 'old book' smell would be nice though wouldn't it?

BEN: Hope you had a good birthday.

Back to debuging a kernel dump...!


Jack Beslanwitch Wed Mar 5 23:30:09 PST 1997

Deb and Philip:
Mea culpa to you both. It was not your fault. When I archived the last Workbook I somehow pointed things to the script that updates the Notebook. This problem has been corrected and I am a little red faced. There are some interesting stories on the Workbook, check them out.

Also, for those of you who are new here and would like to be included in the biographies, send me email with the details. Also, for everyone else, if you would like me to point to a picture of you in the bios, let me know. I won't promise to update immediately, but I'll take a stab as I am able.

Tammi: glad you like the page.

Tammi Wed Mar 5 22:14:18 PST 1997


I have been reading the archives again, I think I'm through October now. What a wonderful group this is. I feel like I know you all so well.

I can't wait until I finish reading all the archives. Every night I find old topics I want to respond to, but I don't want to pull the group backwards. Not important. I should finish reading the archives within a week. Then I can start on the Workbook.

I want to tell a bit about myself. I am 31, married with three sons. My husband and I met while stationed in the 82d Airborne Division. I left active duty right after Desert Storm because someone has to stay home and raise the children. Still, as long as my husband is a soldier, I can't say I have left the army.

We recently spent three years in Hawaii, and now live in upstate New York. What a change, particularly for my sons who had never experienced winter. Fortunately, winter has been mild this year. Though I have trouble keeping the boys occupied, they used to play outside all day, every day. I have not met many people here yet because we are all indoors hibernating. I am so glad my husband bought this computer.

I think I posted earlier that I am writing my first novel. I don't have anything ready to post so far, but if I keep writing, and then rewrite, I will have something soon.

Thanks, Jack, for this page. For years, I have longed to connect with other writers, and this is the best site I've found on the web.


Deb Wed Mar 5 22:12:52 PST 1997

My apologies for the story below. Not sure how it happened. Maybe the witching hour did it to me!

Deb Borys Wed Mar 5 22:05:39 PST 1997

I was wrong--thank you, Lord--I was wrong. It wasn't the chapter that I like so well that had to go. It was the chapter following it, the one that had all the plot stuff but was dry, so dry. So I took all that plot stuff and threaded it into the well written drama of my precious baby of a chapter and--voila! It's beautiful!

I figured this all out driving home tonight. It's amazing how stimulating it can be to talk shop with other writers. Combine that with two cups of coffee and some lively Tchaikovsky on a long drive alone in the dark, and, well, you have inspiration.

BRIT: Thanks for restating your inquiry in non-academic English. I understand now--although I still haven't anything to say on the topic, too much else in my head these days. Except, maybe, that what I want to do is write good stories that SAY something, thus, by my definition, combining "genre" and "literature."

Also, ditto on the character bio idea. I did this when I started book two of my suspense series, and not only do I know the characters as well as I know myself, but I got a short story and the bare bones of a few future scenes out of it.

ED: I posted a short story in the Workbook that expresses my opinion on the electronic medium subject. I wrote it immediately following one of my writer's groups meetings, based on a debate about--guess what?

Jack Beslanwitch Wed Mar 5 14:22:27 PST 1997

Hello everyone. As usual, I seem to be behind the eight ball again on my writing schedule. However, I took a moment out to archive the Notebook. If anyone is going to Internet World let me know and maybe we can touch bases. I head for LA on Sunday.

Welcome A.J: The trick I think is to keep on writing. As for starting a new project before you've finished the last one? I cannot speak for others, but I have to say that you will probably find that most creative types have this bug. Of course, some might call it a feature ;-). Take care.

A.J.Austin Wed Mar 5 13:45:42 PST 1997

Since is my first posting, I will try to keep it short. I was "surfing the net" and came across this page. I found I really enjoyed reading everyone's postings. I found some
of them very encouraging, especially Britomart's posting about quitting her job as a secretary. I feel that I am in the same boat. I am currently a secretary who corrects grammar for someone who gets paid a LOT more than I do. And she gets the credit for most of my work. (Try putting together a seminar, organizing it, taking care of catering, taking minutes from the meeting, and then have your boss tell you that she is so proud of herself for doing all of this!)

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I am quitting! I will be going back to school. I have discovered that class and study time will equal less hours than I am working and studying now. So we will see how it goes. (At least my husband will be a teaching assistant, but we will probably be scraping the bottom of the barrel soon.)

So much for this being a short posting. Everyone probably thinks that I am really boring by now. I have not discovered my true calling in writing, it's probably somewhere between historical romance and mystery. That's the direction that my projects usually take. (I do enjoy reading all types of novels/books though.) One BIG problem that I have in my writing is that I can't seem to finish a project before starting another. It's not that I lose interest entirely, it's just something else seems to pick up my interest more. Any suggestions?

Nice meeting everyone!

Nicole Jones Wed Mar 5 10:15:56 PST 1997

Right now I have the problem of the preparation being all that I bother with and never the writing. I buy notebooks, the best pen, I research the best magazines and query for their submission guidelines. Even doing this is distracting me from the writing I should be doing. I get everything organized so that if I were to write everything would be "perfect", but by that time I'm too tired to write. What can I do about this? I know I shouldn't bother with any of it, just write0 I don't need to be told this. Does anyone else have this problem?

Ben Woestenburg Wed Mar 5 09:14:47 PST 1997

Hello, and thank you all for the happy thoughts because I could sure use them about now. My wife enjoys going out of her way and getting me absolutely gooned, pickled even. She had a couple of bottles of wine waiting for me when I came home, then Sambuka, Corona beers, Vodka...I think the night was a success because I ended up calling the mill at 11:00 p.m. and told them I wasn't coming in this morning -- because it seemed like a good idea at the time. And it is because Renu's home, the kids are in school, and it time to play house...Talk to you guys later!