Writing In Graveyards – 22 Days Until Halloween

I was raised to love graveyards.

I was raised on classic horror movies and their eerie graveyards, filled with rolling mist.  My parents bought me horror comics and introduced me to Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King in elementary school.  We had the full encyclopedia of Man, Myth, and Magic, and I would lean against the bookshelf for hours, reading and marveling over the illustrations.

I was also raised to appreciate the beauty of cemeteries and to collect the data on the monuments.  My mother taught me the etiquette of walking between graves.  She taught me to see patterns in the death dates when a war or sickness ran through a community.

There is a stillness to graveyards.  There is a sense of a place ruminating on its past.  And it’s a lovely place to spin tales.

The Power Of Writing Conferences – Recap Of #FHBF2015

I’m very glad I went to the Florida Heritage Book Festival and Writing Conference this year. I gained insight into my writing and new ideas for telling stories.

Thursday was a writing critique session. Participants submitted their first 10 pages of a work in early September, and we brought written comments for each other to the session. There were nine of us and the session leader, and most of them were memoir writers. Just three of us, myself included, had submitted fiction. Any reticence I had about not working with fiction writers dissipated when I read my group’s submissions. My fictional characters work through conflicts, interact with other characters with differing levels of success, and (hopefully) grow through their story. Memoirs are stories of the writer doing just that, sometimes in heart wrenchingly relatable ways.

I was lucky to work with such a diverse group. Our ages ranged from a high senior to a couple of self-labeled “old guys.” We came from different parts of the United States and overseas. We had many different careers and life experiences. The alchemy of the group worked. We had commonality in our backgrounds even if the particulars were different. We took different things from each others’ stories, interpreted characters’ motivations differently, and from that we discussed how these nuances made the stories more complex.

We need diverse stories because it opens us up to different experiences. But, diverse stories also show us as writers how we can touch readers in fundamental ways, even if their backgrounds are different from those described in the storyIMG_9407.

Friday was the writing conference, and something serendipitous happened during
my first session. Elizabeth Sims, a fiction and non-fiction writer, lead an exercise in a writing method she calls Stormwriting. I’ve used her method before, and darned if a horror story idea didn’t pop up. It was so distracting, I found a gorgeous corner bench to chase down the gruesome little idea through the following session. Now I just need to figure out if the main character is going to get past her little problem, or it will just get worse.

If you live near Florida, I recommend you attend the Florida Heritage Book Festival and Writing Conference next year.  And join a writing critique session if you are working on something – the feedback will show aspects of your story to you in new and different ways.

Horse – A Poem Poised To Run

Horse
by Victoria Nations

Smooth planes of muscle and bone
grown over with layers of
detritus, lichen and grime
caught
in the corners
spreading
until they touch one another
crusting the surface
beneath
which lies
smooth planes of muscle and bone
and skin
shiny with sweat
wetting the living things who
drink
and cover the
smooth planes of muscle and bone
rolling beneath
hard but for
a rolling eye
wild in its socket
caught
tangled in the
detritus, lichen and grime
smothering the
smooth planes of muscle and bone

74 Days Until Halloween – 75 Days Until NaNoWriMo

Summer is ending, and Autumn dates and deadlines are suddenly upon me.  It’s also:

14 days until the first 10 pages of my short story are due for the critique session at the Florida Heritage Book Festival Critique Session.

37 days until the Florida Heritage Book Festival and Writers Conference.  This will be my first time attending this conference, and I’m especially excited that it’s in St. Augustine, which happens to be the location of my current WIP.  I can’t wait to run my hands over those coquina stone walls again.

58 days until the Florida Writers Conference.  Last year was the first time I attended this conference, and I was blown away.  Not only were the sessions varied and technically robust, but the attendees were incredibly welcoming and supportive.  It inspired me to jump into my first NaNoWriMo last November (and Camp NaNoWriMo’s, too), and to submit poetry and short stories for publication.

Fall is my favorite season, but we won’t feel it for a couple months here in Florida.  Right now, it’s nearly 80 degrees at night, and up in the nineties each day.  Right now, the nightly thunderstorm is blowing outside, and it’s getting the frogs in the swamp so excited that they’ll wake me up tonight with their croaking.

But Halloween will be here soon. Summer will be reined in, things will begin to slow down and droop, night will come sooner, and Fall will make everything crackling and mysterious.  The promise of it coming has me excited to get writing on a new spooky story on November 1.

Camp NaNoWriMo – Mosquitoes

Welcome to Day 20 of Camp NaNoWriMo!  How does your camp look?  Is your tent still dry?  Provisions well stocked?  Any interesting interactions with wildlife?

I’ve been putting all my writing energy into focusing on my novel, editing and adding scenes to improve its structure.  That’s resulted in me wandering off in the woods a bit, posting fewer blog posts and slapping away the mosquitoes of real life distractions.  I knew this would be different from the creative push of writing a first draft, but I did not expect how it would push my brain to work so differently and how much I would learn from the process.

Focusing solely on the novel is hard at times.  Real life has many distractions, but it also provides so much inspiration.  I see places I want to photograph; I think of poems and scenes for short stories that are hanging in the wings.  I’m  jotting down ideas when they come – the other morning I spent my #5amwritersclub time to write a scene for a short story because I woke up thinking about it and didn’t want to lose it.  But I’m pushing myself to always turn my focus back to the novel.

This focus is tightening the structure of my story more, which is a cool thing to experience.  I see gaps now that I’m reading some sections fresh after several months.   When I read a well-crafted story, there’s a thrill to how the characters and story elements move together.  My goal is to stitch my seams together so well that they don’t show.

Camp NaNoWriMo – Lurking in the Woods

Welcome Campers and lurkers!  Day 8 of Camp NaNoWriMo and the day is full of activities.

As I’ve posted before, I’m editing and adding to my draft novel for Camp NaNoWriMo.  Most of the story is set in Florida woods next to a blackwater river.  It’s a setting I can see vividly in my mind – lush growth and dark water – and it’s a place I have great affection for.  And it feels delightfully full of living and dead things, as all the best wild areas do.

So as I work on it during Camp NaNoWriMo, I am doubly tickled that the novel has all sorts of camp-related activities: walking in the woods, swimming, eating outside, the vague dread that the river, or perhaps your relative, wants to do you harm.

And campers.  I am very lucky to be part of a cabin of smart, funny writers who post each day to share support and talk about writing.  I found my cabin by responding to a Twitter post by an author (and publisher) I follow.  Having folks to ask about formatting internal monologue and reminisce about 1980’s horror movies had made the experience even more fulfilling and productive and November’s NaNoWriMo was.

1980’s horror movies: also fond of happening in the woods.  Near the river.  *insert evil laugh here*

Camp NaNoWriMo Day 3 – Editing, Writing, Editing, Writing

So far, Camp NaNoWriMo is rocking along for me.  I’m working on editing my novel from November’s NaNoWriMo.  I’ve never edited something this long before.  I’ve printed it out so I can scribble on it.novel 1st draft - 1

Yep, this stack of paper isn’t imposing at all.

The great thing I’ve found is that I’ve had enough time away from the story (having just added bits and pieces since November) that I can scratch through the text freely.  The naively unexpected thing I’ve found is that reading through it makes me see gaping holes that I want to fill with more writing.

That’s good, right?  I’m going with good and letting myself write in those missing details or change exposition to dialogue, rather than limiting myself to cutting things.  I have read that some writers focus their editing that way, limiting it to pruning and making notes for parts to add after they are done.  But I’m writing as the inspiration comes, at least for now.  This is a big learning experience of me.

In a future post, I’ll talk about how I found my cabin mates for Camp NaNoWriMo and how much interacting with them is adding to the experience.

Happy camping!

Writing Talismans and Camp NaNoWriMo

This is my writing scarf.

It’s my writing scarf because it’s a little spooky and my family gave it to me to wear while I’m writing.  I wore it occasionally, and then put it on for the first day of NaNoWriMo last November – great for keeping warm in the chilly spot where I sit in the kitchen – and by the end of the month it was constantly draped over me or the back of my chair, a fixture like my tea pot.  It became code in our house, that if I was wearing it, I was writing, in my head or tapping on the keys.

I’m quite affectionate towards it at this point.

It’s been getting warmer and I haven’t been wearing my scarf as often.  But Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, so I grabbed it on the way out the other day.  I planned to fit in a couple hours on a short-story while my teen was at a school practice.

Wow!  I managed 1600 words in a couple of hours.  The words flowed; I twisted my magical scarf while thinking.  It was a productive morning.

Whether or not my scarf is imbued with actual magic, I believe our rituals make things slide into place in ways.  The hot tea, the scarf wrapped around me, pulling my computer up to the same spot on the table make everything come together and tell my brain it’s time to write.  It’s comfortable and exciting.

Anyone else going to Camp this April?  There’s one more day to sign up.  Come check it out here.  Come say hi if you do – I’m Leaves and Cobwebs over there, too.

Spring

SPRING
by Victoria Nations

She stood on her hands and spun
so her dress
swirled
in a wide circle.

The sky above her filled with
green skirts and
grey crinolines,
the lace sweeping her legs as
they spread
and bent
to keep steady.

Her hands
gripped the ground for balance.

Her feet
wiggled with joy.