Susan's Blog Please feel free to comment & share
As a writer's partner I sometime feel that there is not much I can do to improve Susan's writing. I am an IT man. I like downhill mountain biking as well as other mountain biking activities. I like cars and motorcycles… So in some ways I am the stereotype of the male figure. In some ways only, because as the "man" of the house I am suppose to provide for my family and yet Susan provides for both of us right now. How? Well, she has the energy to go to work 5 days a week to teach English, pretty much 41 weeks of the year.
For me, it's all about energy and how much energy I can put or want to put at doing something. So going to work the way Susan - and most people - do is way too much energy taking out of me for the reward (mostly the paycheck). I am not underskilled but I do think in France IT workers could be paid way more than they do but for political reasons (not economical reasons) it does not. So I could fight it, or accept it, or not work at all. For now I choose not to work at all.
Many people ask: Is it worth it to pay for a writing contest? The odds of you losing that contest are extremely high, so that is a factor. However, I think it is worth it if you get feedback from judges, so you are basically paying for a professional critique. In January 2020 I participated in the NYC Midnight's Short Story Challenge. The entry fee was $48 if you signed up early before Dec. 12th and $58 if you signed up afterward. They pin writers from all around the world against each other to write a 2,500 word story in 8 days. They assign a genre, character, and subject to each group of writers. Three judges for each group of about 40 writers choose the top 5 stories to progress to the next round. Every writer that participates gets feedback on what the judges liked and what they think the writer should work on. The participants received the results and the judges feedback at the end of March 2020 just in time for the next round of the contest to begin.
I have been participating in Nanowrimos and Camp Nanowrimos since 2012 so I always forget that some people haven't heard of it before. I usually hear people respond with interest about going on a writing retreat in the woods in a cabin somewhere and I do want to do that one day as well. However, Camp Nanowrimo is a virtual writing accountability event with writers from all over the world participating. The official Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month and this one takes place in November where writers set goals to write 50,000 words in a month. Camp Nanowrimo differs in that it is in April and July and has more open goals set by the participants.
Caredwyn played with the threads of the worn beach quilt her mother made from her childhood t-shirts that she couldn't bear to donate or throw away. Her mother sat next to her staring out at the waves as if the sets were speaking to her in morse code telling her what to say to her recently divorced daughter. Crash. Smash. Whoosh. "Just listen," they advised.
Running her fingers over the Carebear's belly to her right, Caredwyn took a handful of sand and placed it on the quilt square sculpting the sand around the cartoon character. She looked at the horizon as tears trickled down her cheeks. The liquid spread as she smiled when she saw the line of sailboats racing to the harbor. "Remember what I used to say about sailboats?" she said and rubbed her face with her sleeve.
I used to be like most people and thought the story form classifications were either short stories or novels. There is so much more! Novels usually have a minimum of 50,000 words. Short stories have anywhere from 1,000 to 7,500 words. Novellas fit the space between short stories and novels and apparently they are getting more popular in the e-book world.
I have a growing interest in the stories that are below the short story designation. Flash Fiction can be anywhere between 100 and 1,500 words. There are several online literary magazines dedicated to this type of fiction. The 100 or 101 word story movement even has a space for itself too. Below 100 words can be designated as micro-fiction. And an even more specific type of story that we are covering in today's post, a story in a tweet of 280 characters. Twitter doubled its character maximum in 2017 from 140 characters and this is a much better character count for stories and can usually encompass about 55 words.
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.