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What is the De Wilgen Farm Stay?
De Wilgen Farm Stay is a small creative working residency in the countryside of the Flemish region of Belgium. De Wilgen is run by myself and my partner, Jonathan Vanhaelst. The residency is open during the summer months for one and two-week stays. This summer, now in our second season, we will be open for residencies from early July to mid-August. We provide space where writers and visual artists can come to spend time doing the work that feeds them. We offer a space to artists that allows them to focus on their work while we take care of day to day things such as meal planning and dishes.
I had heard of this book through the years in different circles when I lived in New York City. When my current Lille/Brussels writing group brought up reading it, I was interested in checking it out. I bought the twenty-fifth anniversary edition published in 2007 entitled The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. The original title was The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, I prefer the latter title and think it captures its essence much better. I love books about creativity and leading a creative life and this book did have a profound effect on me and my view of the world.
So, here are the ten takeaways I had after reading it:
Mimi VanHopkins peeled her glittery black shoes off and exhaled for so long it turned into a chuckle. She stretched her toes back and then pointed them out like a ballerina, fanning them open and closed. Her foot joints popped like cracking knuckles.
She played her voicemail message as she unbuttoned her white collared shirt and took off her slacks. ¨Hi sweetie, it's Mom. My friend Betty has a son I would like to set you up with. I think it would be good for you. Call me when you can.¨ She rubbed the bridge of her nose and let her shoulders slouch low as she dropped her phone on the black leather sofa and headed to the bathroom.
1. Schedule imaginative alone time.
I set up a routine and space for imagination time and I guard it. I tell my loved ones that I will be taking time for myself and don't offer what that space entails because funny enough not everyone will want to respect my imagination time needs. I do find it easier to set up the expectation well in advance. Or I might go on vacation alone and still need to schedule it with myself because days fill up so quickly or disappear so easily on the couch.
An elderly writer once gave me this advice. "You can't write that magic realism unless you've lived it too."
I've often thought a magic realist must be like the painter, Marc Chagall, who said, "I live my life beside the pond with one foot stuck in, and the other planted on solid ground." That certainly suggests Chagall moves effortlessly from our realistic dimension, which we share, to a more personal, unconscious level where inspiration and creativity lie.
Genre is a tricky thing, mostly a grouping tool for scholars and marketers. Chunking and dissecting is fun. Gothic as applied to fiction started in 1764 with Horace Walpole's novel The Castle of Otranto. In his second edition of the book he added the subtitle "A Gothic Story", hello marketing! The novel kicks off with a character being smashed by a huge helmet that falls from the sky. I am interested in checking it out...
This is the short story I wrote for NYC Midnight's First Round of the 2020 Short Story Challenge. Writers from all over the world are given 8 days to write to an assigned genre, subject, and character. The maximum word count is 2,500 words. There were about 4,000 writers all around the world participating in groups of 40. The top 5 of each group will progress to the next round. The winners will be announced at the end of March/ early April.
My genre was suspense, my subject a path, and my character a beekeeper.
I am going to discuss short fiction referring to both reading and writing it. In the past, I felt like writing short stories and flash fiction was a detour from my novel, almost like procrastinating with it until I got to the real writing that is novels. A piece of this probably has to do with the sales of short story collections being much lower. In general, I think they get a bum rap, short stories and flash fiction are an art form unto themselves. Literary magazines of all shapes and sizes are a great stepping stone for writers into the publishing world.
So, here are the five reasons why short fiction helps my novel writing:
NYC Midnight holds contests for short stories, flash fiction, and screenplays. This year's contest has four rounds. All of the participants are broken into groups with an assigned genre, subject, and character. The top five stories are chosen by judges for each group and then the winners get to participate in the next round. The first round runs from Jan. 17-25, 2020. The story needs to be 2,500 words. I did this contest about four years ago and this will be my second time participating in the event.
So why do I want to do it?
As I line edit my novel, I am writing blog posts to focus on aspects of writing I need to work on. For example, this filter word article : https://susanshiney.com/fumbling-around-with-filter-words/ .
In my last feedback session with critique partners, they mentioned my repetitive sentence structures. So true. My go to is complex sentences that start with a pronoun, in first person pov it tends to be I went...I walked...for every sentence, for 85,000 words, and that is a problem.