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.

Tonja

Monday, October 17, 2016

Progress

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.

Tonja

Friday, August 26, 2016

Getting a Short Story Published

My short story, "Hostess of the Dead," will be published in the Best of Ohio Short Stories: Volume II anthology. How awesome is that?

I have been super-busy working on my novel and writing short stories. I am very close to getting things done. Please forgive my absence. I will be back on a regular basis soon.

Tonja

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Novel Workshop

I haven't been here for a while. I've been writing. I attended an amazing novel writing workshop in August. It turns out that graduate school has been keeping me from working on my novel. So I'm taking a break - probably a permanent one.

If anyone is interested in a fantastic week-long novel workshop where your novel is what you work on (rather than spending your energy critiquing other peoples' novels), definitely check out the Kenyon Review Novel Writing Workshop. It was worth every dime. You will get an honest critique from several professionals who know what they are doing. By honest, I mean direct and to the point. It's what I needed.

I probably will post once or twice a month now while I'm revising my novel (again). I hope you all are well. I would love to hear if you all have had things published since the summer or have had any successes of any kind.

Tonja

Sunday, June 7, 2015

IWSG - June and July 2015

Well, it seems I missed Insecure Writer's Support Group day. On the up side, I've been busy writing and preparing for what I hope will be a totally awesome novel writing conference.




When I attempted to get to this page to write this apologetic post, Blogger threw literally a dozen errors at me. Is Blogger not working well any more? I suppose it's time to move to something that's actually being supported. Any recommendations?

As for the insecurity, I'm actually feeling pretty good now that I've regained my momentum on my novel and have figured out the sequence of scenes for the middle of the novel. I will be at my writer's conference for the next IWSG day, so please take this as my post for July as well. Last year, I was so insecure, I could not have gone to this intense of a conference. Now, today, I'm ready for it - and I'm ready to get done with this one so I can get rolling with the next.

Did I tell you all that I received a grant from my university to do research for my next novel? I'll be doing that research in October (probably) and will be visiting the gravesite of my mother's great grandmother. She was Cherokee and was a dead end on the family tree. I've uncovered some evidence that she was a child apprentice (basically an indentured servant) at a boarding house in Tennessee. I'm not sure if she will literally be the main character or if she will simply inspire the story. I'm really excited for this project and to finally finish the one I'm on now.

Have a lovely summer. My apologies for being absent. I may sneak in here or there, but this may be it until August.

Tonja

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

IWSG - May 2015

For this Insecure Writer's Support Group day, I just want to say what I've said for most of my other IWSG posts this year: I need to get it together and have a consistent schedule for writing. I'm letting the chaos of life keep me from finishing my novel.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Techniques in Appalachian Fiction: Authentic Voice and Dialect in Gap Creek


In Gap Creek, Robert Morgan's primary goal is to create an authentic Appalachian voice in the first person narrative. He states this in a supplementary section at the end of the book, but he didn't need to say it, the voice of the narration stands out as being the most important element of the book.

 
The narrator breaks a lot of the traditional rules of telling a story: she uses second person occasionally, she infodumps the step by step process of butchering a hog, tells her emotions instead of just letting us figure it out by what she does, and sometimes says what other people are thinking even though she can't possibly truly know. Despite all of these technical flaws, the narrator tells the story the way someone's Appalachian ancestor would tell it. She tells it just like my grandma would have and wouldn't have minded at all if it wasn't the proper way to do it. 

The current scholarship (which I will likely discuss in a later post) is that is very uncool to depict Appalachians as people who are ignorant, isolated, foolish, oversexed, violent, and/or alcoholic. Put plainly, writers should think Beverly Hillbillies and avoid doing that at all costs. I tend to agree with this. The challenge is to create characters that avoid stereotypes and seem authentic at the same time.

One thing that stood out to me in Gap Creek is the use of the word poke: "And for Christmas he got four oranges and a poke of peppermint candy" (2). A poke is a bag. I know this because it was one of the "hillbilly" words listed on the centerpiece of a Cracker-Barrel-ish restaurant that we took my grandma to when she was in town when I was a kid. I have never ever seen poke used in any other book or story I've ever read.

A few examples of Morgan's use of Appalachian dialect are:
  • Pneumony instead of pneumonia (6).
  • "He looked scared out of hisself" (5).
  • "If we was to pour it down his throat he might strangle" (7).
  • ". . . he woke up with the pains" (2).
  • "He dropped the egg on his plate like he had touched a rotten tater" (56).
  • "My hands liked to froze. . . " (4).
I think he did a fabulous job with the dialect in this novel. In the current version of my novel, I avoided this kind of dialect for the most part in favor of avoiding stereotypes. But I think I need to work on it a little more.

Next I will look at the dialect used in novels by two women who grew up and have become advocates for the environment in Appalachia: Barbara Kingsolver and Denise Giardina. I also will have another piece about narration in Cold Mountain.

If you would like to view the other posts on Gap Creek and other Appalachian novels, click on Techniques in Appalachian Fiction