Chrysalis: Emerging Women Writers

May 7, 2009

Women Writing without Claws

Filed under: Critiques,Motivations,Sisterhood,Writing — Barb @ 3:54 pm
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In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to post about the sisterhood found among friends.

I’ve seldom thought of my mother as a girl with friends.

I cubbyholed her as “Mother,” until she had a stroke and our roles switched. It was at that point I wondered about her dreams.  Did she go to dances and giggle with her friends about boys? What did she tell her friends that she felt on her wedding day? Was it the support of her friends that allowed her to endure the hard life she had?

I asked her about the  hopes of her heart, but I discovered that her disappointments and secret yearnings were only shared with friends; with me she took the steady philosophy of “Mother”, and said,  “There’s responsibilities to do…so you do it.”

That’s when I realized that often it’s our friends that contribute to the untold stories within our lives. Perhaps we should celebrate “Friend Day” right after Mother’s day?

Perhaps that’s the beauty of an all-woman critique group? In addition to writers, we’ve become friends, helping mid-wife the words of our stories  and holding the chapters of each others’ lives.


March 25, 2009

Keep Your Damn Hands off My Plot

Filed under: Critiques,Sisterhood,Writing — Barb @ 5:02 pm
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Thanks Ihasa Dog

Thanks Ihasa Dog

We have to thank the Wonderful Roxie for today’s headlines.  For those of you who weren’t there, let me tell you that it all came about because Alice ended Chapter 1 of her new novel Lost today. She left us off-balance, wondering what was going to happen next. (Which is exactly how she planned for the reader to feel.)

When you’re sitting around a table of creative writers, ideas start popping up. We listed our  guesses and it unraveled into  suggestion for how we wanted to see the story unfold.

Which gets us to the Roxie’s statement. She’s right. It’s not our story. It’s not our plot. And it is frustrating for the writer.

Now I feel embarrassed blogging about this because I’m a big plot sinner. Countless times I’ve written, “Feel free to kill this character” in the margin of someone’s manuscript because I really disliked a character. They had done a great job creating that disgust for me.  Lest you think I’m unkind, I’ve also suggested adding characters, preferably ones that are like the characters in my novel.

You see a trend here? We all have a style, a voice, a way of twisting the plot. We are attracted to writing that is similar to our own.  And often (unaware), we suggest what fits with our plot ideas, but not that of the author.

Pat L. summed it up very welll. When we read a book, we’re guessing ahead of where the story will go. But when we’re sitting with the writer, we have the chance to tell her where we want it to go.    Oooooh it’s such an overwhelming temptation. It’s so hard to pass up.

Hopefully the writer will smile, knowing that she has us hooked. She will continue to reel us in  (anyway she wants.) In the meantime, we need to keep our damn hands off of her plot.

February 18, 2009

3 Rules for Writing a Novel

What looked good last night, now in the light of day, reads like verse by someone who doesn’t have a grasp of the English langauge.

Why can’t words flood the paper instead of dribbling out like a messy Carl’s Jr. Burger before you sink into the:

From Amo Life:Capturing Life Beauty

From Amo Life:Capturing Life Beauty

The I-Can’t-Write-Blues?

Take heart. There are several things you can do.

  • Use keywords or phrases to stimulate writing: Here’s a few that circulate around the Chrysalis group: Put on Your Big Girl Panties, Thank you Thesauraus. com, and Some men need killin’.
  • Use music: Chrysalis members especially like music/lyrics inserted into a manuscript. They’ve been known to start singing and break into harmony during a scene.  Even if you don’t get a usable piece out of the exercise, you’ll have a great time watching the faces of your fellow writers as they visualize the scene you’ve written of Rhett Butler gyrating to “Living the Vida Loca.”
  • Finally, take heart. Many, many writers have self-flagellated themselves with the words, “I can’t write.” Keep your fleshy parts in the chair and keep putting words on paper. As Somerset Maugham once said: “There are 3 rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
  • Even Dr. Suess had bad writing days. (How can that be when there’s only about 120 words in his books?) But his immortal words perk up any bad writing day.

“Everything stinks till it’s finished.”

And that’s why you come to Chrysalis. If you quit now, your story may never be finished. There are friends at Chrysalis to give gentle advice. Someone to try your ideas on.  Women who are working on their craft,  just like you.

What helps you beat your stinky writing days?

January 25, 2009

Connecting With or Without a Thermos

Filed under: Sisterhood,Writing — Barb @ 12:31 pm
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At the end of every Chrysalis meeting, I’m struck by the connections. There are lots of connections going on at those sessions, but I’ll come back to that. I previously promised to talk about being hooted and whistled at by guys.

It’s been so long since it happened, I’ve was shocked when a group of construction guys pointed and yelled as I passed them. I was pretty embarrassed when I stopped at Fred Meyers, got out of the car, and discovered they’d been trying to tell me that I’d left my coffee thermos on top of my auto. Okay, as embarrassing as it was, it was still a connection. They were trying to help.

One afternoon last summer, on my way to Chrysalis, I passed a student who had what I call “Texas Beauty.” Somehow the Cowboy state yields young women with great hair, lavish contours, and long legs. I stopped and stared at her run-way saunter as she strolled down the college sidewalk.

I wasn’t the only one. Two women snagging a smoke next to the building stared after her, also.  “Did you see her skin,” I gasped. “It was absolutely perfect.”

“No,” one of the smokers gaped. “I was staring at her teeth. They were whiter than God’s.”

“She even looked like she had a brain,” the other smoker said.

We watched as the next Heidi Klum progressed down the sidewalk. Men and women turned in her wake, staring at her as she passed.

“I bet the three of us can take her,” one of the smokers smirked.

We all looked at each other. It took two seconds before we broke into hoots. I walked away; the other two went back to their afternoon break.

It lasted only an instant, but it was a connection. The three of us had formed a sisterhood over our lack of knock-your-socks-off beauty. For a moment we were willing to share that we were missing something and wished we had it.

The same types of little (or big) connections happen on Wednesdays.   Some are quick moments when we feel what another writer is saying because we’ve lived through a similar experience. Sometimes we can hear the anxiety in the reader’s voice and we connect back to the first time we read our sacred words to a group. We know that moment of nerves.

We connect through our willingness to expose to each other the simple or complex techniques that we don’t know. It took me a year (or more) to stop writing papers with comma explosions all over them, but I connected with people who were willing to help.

Sure there’s the social interaction, finding out and keeping up with others’ lives, celebrating birthdays, listening to each others’ fears or problems.

But mostly we are there to gently hold the words when a writer gives birth to a new creation. We take turns reading our crafted works, knowing that others will understand when we miss the mark; or when some of us don’t have a clue about poetry (how can you all reel off haikus without counting on your fingers?)

We hoot at the scenes that tickle the memory of embarrassing moments in our own lives. We cheer when a protagonist wins a victory. We push chocolate around the table and congratulate the person who just got published. We hug. We connect.

The image of the new being emerging from a cocoon is perfect.  Chrysalis. A safe place to make mistakes in the process of growing.

A place to be silly, serious, or searching.

A place to evolve.

A  good place to leave your thermos.

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