I recently read the essay “One Hundred False Starts” by F. Scott Fitzgerald which was published in The Saturday Evening Post on March 4, 1933. It is an interesting insight to his process. The false starts are snippets he’d written down on pieces of paper that floated around him, on his desk, in his pockets. Bits of paper with bits of a story line written on them. Most of the ideas, he claims, he’ll never run down and make anything out of.
Of course, that had me thinking about my own process. There are big ideas, bull-ish ideas that won’t let go until they are satisfied their story has been properly writ. However, when I need a break from the books, I write short stories. Some ideas come to me quickly, but sometimes I skim through my archive of ideas to find inspiration. And my archive of work, it’s pretty large. I have a whole file on my computer dedicated to documents named “just an idea” “idea22” “Idea on a Sunday evening” “Idea 543”. The file folder is bulging with my random thoughts, my angst, and sometimes it seems just writing for the sake of putting words on paper. I also have note books called “works in progress”, the tactile version of my own one hundred false starts. Bits and pieces of paper with ideas jotted down. Ideas that seemed interesting at the time, that seemed like something worth following through with. Like something worth holding onto. Continue reading
The fall school year is in full swing. The smoke that hung low and choked us for too many weeks has loosened its hold around our necks, and a glance at the ten-day weather forecast shows highs in the seventies after we fight the next two days of 95-degree heat.
I lived in Colorado for a few years, and while I was there I wrote. A lot. I was finding my voice and trying to figure out my process. I wasn’t doing these things consciously, I was just writing because I had to. Looking back now, of course I see all the lessons on writing I was learning.
During that time I also began submitting short stories. I feared submitting anything to an agent then, that seemed like such a pipe dream.
One of the publications, Mountain Gazette, had a contest every issue, they published a black and white picture and challenged their readers to write a 1000 word story about said photo. I didn’t always like the pictures, but one caught my attention. I wrote a short piece called “Ending Up.”
The Gazette did not publish my story. I pulled it out two years ago and gave it a polish. It has now won me second place in a literary contest and was just published in Flare, a literary magazine.
I just received my copy this past week and I always get a little thrill at these stepping stones in my career. So of course, I had to share this news with my three loyal followers.
Click here to open the short story.
Oh, and you might be wondering if I saved that photo?
Of course I did.
Was talking to a junior in high school who had an assignment for English class. After reading the first short story from The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, the teacher wanted the class to write a two-page paper about the things they themselves carry. They could be physical things or metaphorical things.
After reading the papers, the teacher commented that he thought the class would have more fun with the assignment. He mused that he thought the kids would talk about more physical items, instead, there was a lot of emotional and rather serious topics brought up.
I’m not sure if that is a sign of our times, but if I had talked to my seventeen-year-old self and made her write that paper, I know she was carrying the weight of the world. So it would have been emotionally driven in ‘my time’ as well.
Of course, being a writer, I started thinking about that idea and the book. I remember reading the first chapter of Mr. O’Brien’s book. I was in college and that opening chapter blew my mind. Tim O’Brien’s writing was mind-blowing. And beautiful and horrible and lovely. (I found the first chapter here if you want to check it out.)
All of those thoughts lead to my present day self. What do I carry? Without a filter, if I had to dump it all out and write about it right now, at this very moment… Continue reading
In seventh grade we had to memorize the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth.
After we had the poem memorized, we then had to stand in front of the class and spout the whole thing. Then we were graded. I remember sitting there and as my fellow classmates might have been embarrassed and shy about standing in front of everyone, no one was paying attention to them. We are all mouthing the lines along with them, grateful for the extra practice. Continue reading
At the ripe age of 44, I have trouble recalling some of my youthful motivations. Why did I want to be an astronaut? Why did I love Raggedy Ann and Holly Hobbie so? What did I ever see in that weirdly lanky kid in seventh grade that I had a crush on? (He must have had a great personality.)
I also have been wondering when my deep rooted love for Italy started. Was it ingrained in me? Italy was at the forefront of who we were, my family. Italy was where we came from. We had Italian blood running through our veins!
Perhaps it was the unattainable idea that was appealing to me in my youth. As an awkward, insecure teenage girl, Italy was far away and romantic and therefore, full of promise of the unknown.
I’ve been listening a lot to Patton Oswalt lately. He cracks me up and I need the laughter.
He has this bit about how he knows he’s gotten old because he doesn’t hate any music any more. He said, there is music he likes and then there is music he just doesn’t listen to. And that’s where it ends. Then he goes on to say that when he was younger, there was music that he ‘hated’. HATED. He would go on wild rants and raise his blood pressure and talk about who’s selling out and who’s honing their craft and who is bullshit and who’s a genius. Backing up all his claims, of course, with his wonderful Oswalt perceptions.
I was thinking about that this morning and of course one thought began to flow into another. The new whirl of thoughts drifted to my time spent in Colorado. It’s today’s weather that brings on these new thoughts. It’s a cool gray morning, with slow, low clouds. A lot of the trees in the neighborhood have given up their harvest of leaves, others are still working on losing them. I see the light dusting of snow on the mountains beyond my window. Continue reading
I’ve been thinking on a plethora of thoughts lately. The heat, however, has weighed me down and I’m not quite interested in following any of them down the road they are leading me. I’ve been reading Madeleine L’Engle slowly this summer, as if every paragraph is a conversation we’re having over coffee.
In the early morning hours, I’ve been writing. While the earth is cooled a bit and the air outside doesn’t threaten to choke me with its intensity. I wake with the early dawn and write outside as long as I can. I have three stories I’m writing right now, my morning mood dictates where I’ll spend my words.
Sunset photo by Grandpa Sharp
When I started writing, (in seventh grade), I wrote a full length book. That wonderfully rich monstrosity took me almost two years to write. It’s only 100 pages long and was hand written. The pink notebook cover has since come off and the tome is now lovingly held together with a rubber band.
It’s not great, the book. It’s barely good. But I adore every last thing about it.
I started several stories after that, book length stories, though they never made it to book length. I was trying to figure out how to write a book then. Hell I was trying to figure out how to WRITE back then. It didn’t bother me that I wasn’t finishing anything, because I was a writer and that’s what you do. I wrote to figure out how I wrote. Of course, at that time I wasn’t telling anyone that I was attempting to write in the first place.