Tuesday afternoon fiction workshop

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Write what you know
Can you write about what you don’t know?
Write what you know about what you don’t know

Whatever works, works
Put the pen to the paper
Keep your schedule
Whether it is a cup of coffee that helps or a special song

How many hours do you want to write a day?
Three or four
How many do you actually write?
One or two

Do you write better in the morning
Or at night?
Morning
Do you write every morning?
No

Good writers borrow, great writers steal
Isn’t stealing bad?
Not when you make it your own

Steal from Hemmingway
How?
Use short to the point sentences
Anyone else?
Steal from Munroe’s plot development

“There’s nothing to writing, all you do is sit at the typewriter and bleed”
Hemmingway said that
“I didn’t know the kind of thing I was going to write, I just knew I was going to write-I just had to.”
Munroe said that. 

Take Ardizzone’s advice
Novakovitch, Gardner, Fitzgerald
Read them all
Write your own Gatsby. 

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A conversation with a writer

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I’m happy to introduce my first interview of the series Collecting Conversations. First up to the plate is Andrea, a 25-year-old freelance technical writer who writes textbooks on Microsoft Office software. She has a writing degree from the University of Tampa and hopes to be successful at creative writing one day.

The best part of her job is she gets to work from home and doesn’t have to deal with office politics. Also, Andrea’s name can be found on Microsoft Office software textbooks. Cool, right?

After years of writing before, during and after college, Andrea has a lot of knowledge to share on the subject.

Andrea doesn’t remember the exact moment she began writing, but she remembers being young.

“I’ve always been a reader. As a kid I would carry books with me everywhere I went (and I still do),” she said. “I guess one day I decided I wanted to try writing.”

She enjoys both fiction and poetry. Ultimately she wants to write fiction but she loves poetry and doesn’t want to stop writing it.

Her proudest writing accomplishment has been having poems published in an online journal.

“To me having my own work published is a much bigger accomplishment than getting my name on a book I wrote for someone else,” she said. “I will always remember the first time my own words were published.”

She has learned she can survive writing boot camp.

Andrea finds it harder to start writing than keep writing. She recalls her first year of college as a writing major and refers to it as boot camp, saying it was hard to be vulnerable.

“You spend a lot of time writing your deepest most intimate thoughts and then listen to everyone bash it to pieces,” she said. “If you can take that criticism and weed out the crap and let the rest of it help you then I think you’ll have a much easier time to keep writing.”

She doesn’t keep a writing schedule but wishes she did saying, “I’m just not to the point where I can sit down and say ‘I will write now.’ It doesn’t work that way for me.”

She has learned it’s hard to make time for writing.

“Life gets in the way of most things, but I think if you really have a passion for it, you will make the time,” she said.

Her childhood has been her biggest inspiration. She said she remembers random, insignificant moments from being a child and turns those moments into a story or poem.

She learned not to give up.

There comes a point when most people who have dipped their feet in to writing want to give up. Andrea said she almost gives up everyday, but by sticking with it, her writing improves.

“I’m a perfectionist who could spend an entire day rewriting a sentence,” she said. “I stick with it because nothing makes me happier than that moment when I find the right words to express what I’m trying to say.”

We ended the conversation with advice she would tell other writers or aspiring writers.

“I think you can’t be afraid to write in a medium or genre that you don’t like. I never thought I would ever become a technical writer but I actually enjoy it and it helps my other writing,” she said. “I would also say to really get into poetry. So many writers seem to want to write fiction but never get in to poetry. Learning how to write poems help make your fiction stronger, they go hand-in-hand.”

A look at a few of the questions:
What is the best advice you’ve ever received on writing?
I had a professor tell me that words fail and that once you get over that it becomes a lot easier. I didn’t get it at first but now that I do I’ve had a much easier time writing.
and the worst piece of advice you’ve received?
I think most advice is bad when it comes to art. I’ve been told to not write offensive things, which to me is ridiculous. Life is offensive.
What is your favorite book, short story and poem?
My favorite book of all time is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I read it all of the time and each time I find something new to love. My favorite short story is a tie between White Angel by Michael Cunningham and Dance in America by Lorrie Moore. And my favorite poem is This Hour and What Is Dead by Li-Young Lee (honestly I love anything by him).
Best movie you’ve seen lately that was adapted from a book?
Stand by Me is my favorite movie of all time. It was adapted from a Stephen King story. I did just see The Perks of Being a Wallflower and thought it was an amazing adaptation. I love both the book and the movie.

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Writers write, right?

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The first time I wrote a short story outside of school was when I was 10 years old. It was about a magic key that led to a secret forest by the creek in my backyard (hey, I was an imaginative kid). My love of blending words together on paper grew from there.

The first time I wrote a book I was 18 years old, a senior in high school. Looking back through it years later has made me cringe at some sections because I could see mistakes and unfinished thoughts.

The first time I received direction on my creative writing was in college through workshops. Professors took my writing shook it for a little bit and handed it back to me telling me to delve deeper. After my freshman year of college I decided to make creative writing my minor. Poetry, fiction and non-fiction workshops; I took them all.

I learned the most from an unpopular fiction professor. I say unpopular because he was harsh. I’ve seen people cry because of his class. However, every piece of information I’ve ever heard him give made the writer and story better.

The best advice he ever gave me was “The longer I teach the more I realize that it’s very human to want to get something done right, but that making good art takes time, practice and patience. Workshops can often be discouraging to young writers and sometimes because of workshop they give up. I hope you know that if you really want to continue to write all good things will come to you in time.”

I let my writing slack in the past 11 months and I’m going to try to be better. I’ve realized even though writing was easier in school when I had an allotted time to do it, it will never just be handed to me. I’ll have to work on it.

The first time I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I said a princess. The second time I was asked I said an Olympic swimmer. The third time I said I wanted to be an author. Since I haven’t yet turned into a princess or Olympic swimmer I think I’ll stick to writing. I might even start one of those annoying 7- or 30- day writing challenges and keep track of it on my blog. Forgive me, friends.

“Good Writers Borrow, Great Writers Steal.”

I have been doing a horrendous job keeping my blog updated. I just realized my last post was about Valentine’s Day-almost two months ago.

I was trying to think about something interesting to write and instead I simply remembered something one of my creative writing professors said earlier this semester.  He said that good writers borrow, and great writers steal.  He also mentioned that when something is memorable in a text, that it should be written down in a notebook for inspiration on what to write in our creative stories.  So, instead of writing a blog post, I’ve copied down quotes that I have written down over the year.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” -Ernest Hemingway

“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.” -Ursula K. Le Guin

“Only a talent that doesn’t exist can’t be improved.” -John Gardner

“I didn’t know I was going to write the kind of thing I’ve written, but I knew that I was going to write-I just had to.” -Alice Munro

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” -William Faulkner

“You don’t need to wait for inspiration to write. It’s easier to be inspired while writing that while not writing.” -Josip Novakovich

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”
-Ernest Hemingway