Thursday, March 2, 2017

Novel Writing Workshop

I heard yesterday that the Zafris-Kothari Novel Workshop has some openings for the week-long workshop in July. If you are struggling at all with your novel, I highly recommend this workshop. It was previously held at Kenyon College, but has moved this year to The Ohio State University campus. The dates are July 19 to 25.

This workshop is unlike any other that I've attended or seen advertised. Usually, workshops have about ten writers and one facilitator who go around the circle and give their opinion about twenty pages of each writer's novel. This is all good and fine and useful in its own way, but getting feedback from other writers who are struggling isn't always helpful (especially in those workshops where egos and personalities muck things up) because new writers aren't experts. People attend workshops because they aren't experienced writers and they want to learn. The other downside to typical workshops is that each participant is tasked with critiquing nine other manuscripts - and the majority of the effort is in giving thoughtful and useful critiques to others.

The difference with the Zafris-Kothari Novel Workshop and the thing that made it so worth the money for me was the fact that 100 pages of my novel was critiqued by professionals. Now there's an option to submit 200 pages. Craft lessons are also a huge part of the workshop. When I was there, Karin Lin-Greenberg gave an excellent lecture on how to balance the internal and external, which I have found to be incredibly helpful in both my novel and my short fiction.

Because a huge chunk of my novel was critiqued, I was able to get solid feedback on what was working and what wasn't working across my entire novel. The fact I didn't need to critique other peoples' pages made the workshop feel like it was focused on me and my writing and not on my ability to give feedback.

For me, this workshop was life-changing as a writer. I really hope some of you can attend. If you have any questions about my experience at the workshop, please post in the comments.


UPDATE: The workshop was cancelled for this year.

Monday, February 6, 2017

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

I set up a Twitter account in 2012, retweeted something just to test it out, and abandoned it completely. It seemed like trying to parse through a million text messages. Not my thing.

But today one of my stories was published online at Streetlight Magazine. And another story is included in Best of Ohio Short Stories: Volume II. And yet another just got picked up by The Bookends Review. (I am having a good year.)

I was asked for a Twitter handle today so Streetlight Magazine can tweet about my story - they called my story "fabulous" in the email, so how could I pass on that?

So I set one up. It's @TonjaMReynolds. I'm not really sure what to do with it. I am actually very computer-savvy and used to develop really complicated software and backend components (stuff that does magic in the background).

This week, I will try to find some of you and somehow attach myself to you.

I am going to use Twitter in a minimal way. I find social media to be a distraction from the writing. The novel is nearly done. I would be writing the ending chapters today, but my kids are sick and I'm doing this instead of that.

If you have a Twitter account, leave me a comment here and I will follow you (or like you or whatever the tweeting lingo is).

If you are here because of Best of Ohio Short Stories:Volume II or Streetlight Magazine, please leave a comment. I think I am open to anonymous comments - pretty sure.

And if you have any suggestions for adding a Twitter account to everything else without getting sucked into the black hole of politics and cute kittens, please speak up. :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Short Story Challenge

Just for fun and to keep my mind engaged in non-political complexity, I am going to play around with short story structure and finish two half-written stories that follow particular structures borrowed from short stories I love. One story follows the format in one of Nancy Zafris' stories in The Home Jar: Stories, "If A Then B Then C." The other uses a "you" point-of-view, which I've never done before - this is borrowed from Karin Lin-Greenberg's "Designated Driver" in Faulty Predictions
Faulty Predictions
Both of these collections are really great. I found Faulty Predictions to be a lesson in point of view. 
The Home Jar demonstrated for me how to not overexplain and the importance of leaving some details open to the reader's imagination. The ending of "The Home Jar" will stick with me forever - read it, and you'll know what I mean.
The Home Jar
Am going to try to finish the drafts of both stories today (the novel will wait another day) and submit one of them to the Kenyon Review Fiction Contest (the deadline is next week). Anyone with me? The word count limit is 1200.
The prize for this very competitive competition is a scholarship to attend the 2017 Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, which is an amazing workshop that I was lucky enough to attend last year. The fiction workshop is generative. You come in with your body and a laptop (or pen and paper if that's how you roll) and are given thoughtful instruction and prompts before noon. After noon, you write a new story, often an impossibly tiny new story. The next day, you share it with the class and get it critiqued. By the end of the week, you are changed. I walked out of there as if I was wearing different glasses when doing line-level revisions to my novel. It's expensive, but do it anyway.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Rejection is Part of the Job

I read somewhere that writers (presumably of short fiction) should strive for 100 rejections a year.

This sounds harsh and counter-intuitive, but not submitting because of the inevitable rejection is like a software developer never going live because they fear someone will find a bug in the code (and they will) or because potential users won't love it. Developers write it anyway. They go live. They know more people will reject the program than embrace it. This is life.

I'm going for 100 in 2017. One down, 99 to go.

(I will post a link to the article when I find it.)


Monday, January 2, 2017

Exciting News

Yesterday, I was asked to do a public reading that I believe is hosted by the Columbus Creative Cooperative, the organization that published the short story anthology that my story is in.

I agreed to do the reading. But it's about two hours away, which is a little problematic. I will do it anyway because I said I would. I get to read for up to twenty minutes, which is awesome and terrifying. Mostly terrifying. But probably good for me.

I will post the details when I have them.

Here's the Amazon link to the anthology that includes one of my stories: Best of Ohio Short Stories: Volume II.

If you read the story and think I'm talking about you, I'm not - It's fiction, for the love of God. :) FICTION. (But that's another story).


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

On Poetry

When I was in high school, I used to write poems in physics class to keep myself awake. My eyelids feel heavy right now from the act of typing the word physics. The poems were always nonsensical, gravity-defying, a fight against the certainty of physics.

I have one more creative writing class to take before my master's degree is done (yay!) - and the only open class is poetry. This week, I'm taking a 2-day poetry workshop to see if I would like a 16 week class. To get in, I had to submit two poems. I had one that was solid. The rest were full of teen-angst. I haven't been a teen in a long while, so I decided use anything else. I typed out a long text message rant I had sent to my husband on a day when I had been pushed to the edge. (I did ask him first - he's the kind of guy that never minds.)

In the workshop, they compared the two poems, one I spent weeks on - the other about two minutes.

In the end, they hated my "good" poem and loved--LOVED--the text.

I'm left not knowing what to think.

Poetry, I do not love you so much anymore. I want the certainty I get from a well-composed story.

And I would give anything for a face-on-the-desk 30 minute nap right now.


Monday, October 17, 2016


I haven't been posting much lately. That may be an understatement. I've had my head down and sleeves rolled up, writing short stories and working on my novel. Moving forward, I will commit to writing here at least twice a month, probably focusing on the history I've been researching for my novel.

For today, I have exciting news!

I mentioned this in my last post, but I'm still really excited about it, so I'm going to say it again. My short story, "Hostess of the Dead," will be included in Best of Ohio Short Stories: Volume II. I had the amazing experience of receiving author proofs, and I was asked to read the story at an author event in Columbus. How cool is that?

My new is exciting news is a two-parter. First, my story, "Life is Now," won second place in the Books by the Banks writing contest in Cincinnati. Second, I also received a notification that another short story, "Invisible Girls," will appear in Streetlight Magazine. I feel joy.

All of the stories will be available online. I will post the links here when I have them.

In my next post, I'll share some fabulous writing workshops I've attended.