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

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Techniques in Appalachian Fiction: Narration in Gap Creek


This is a continuation of a previous post where I looked at some of the techniques used in Gap Creek. Click here to if you would like to check out the whole series: Techniques in Appalachian Fiction.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Setting in Gap Creek, Robert Morgan does some things that new writers are told to avoid at all costs.

Besides the way setting is handled, the narrator self-consciously tells the story to the reader: "I know about Masenier because I was there. I seen him die . . . I seen it all" (1). We are reminded again that the story is being told by the narrator with the lines, "Now the year I'm talking about was the year after Cold Friday, that day when the sun never did come out and it never warmed up" (2) and "The night I'm talking about was windy and late in March" (24).

If I had these lines in my manuscript, people doing a critique would no doubt tell me I can take that out. (I know this because I had similar lines and they told me to get it out - I did, but I'm not sure I should have.) The argument against the self-conscious narrator is that it doesn't need to be stated that the narrator is telling the story, definitely not three times. Instead of "The night I'm talking about was windy and late in March," it should be "The late March night was windy" to make it more concise and direct. Right? Would you argue the same thing?

But in this novel, perhaps in any Appalachian novel where the story is told from a first person point of view, this self-conscious narration is perfect. It's how my grandmother or great aunt or even my mother would tell the story. If the narrator isn't educated in the best practices of writing, shouldn't the story be told the way that narrator would realistically tell it?

I think I might put the self-conscious narration back into my manuscript. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

IWSG - April 2015



Usually I approach IWSG day (see below if you aren't familiar with what that is) with an attitude of focusing on what I am NOT insecure about. Today is a little different.

I edited my manuscript that I've been working on forever on the advice of a professor. I took out some quirks that made the characters sound like real people. Now I can't hear the first person voice of one of my characters in my head. Or maybe it has nothing to do with the revisions, and I've just lost her voice (which is terrifying).

I have come to the conclusion that my masters (is that hyphenated? - oh, whatever, I'm late to the party and will leave it as is - correct it in your minds if I'm wrong) degree program isn't meeting my needs. And they've changed the program in a way that makes it less competitive - less likely to help students get into MFA and PhD programs. I know it's a little nutty to be thinking about getting a PhD at my age - mid-late forties, not that old - but I like being challenged, and it would be fun to make my ex-husband call me Dr. Reynolds. It's all for him, really.  But I need to abort the program. It's time. I think I will find another, but will give it a year.

On the up side, I got into a competitive writer's conference this summer - one just for novels. Very exciting! And my critique partner got in too. I think the conference will help us both with our own work and will also help us help each other even better than we do now.

What's your insecurity?

BTW, I need to finish my posts for the Techniques in Appalachian fiction class. I am going to write several today and will post them over the next two weeks.
 
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This post is part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, brought to you by Alex J Cavanaugh and a troupe of minions who are helping him because there are so many of us.