Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Confessions of an Erstwhile Book Pusher

I retired in 2006 after pushing books for twenty-eight years. I'm back at work again, two days a week for four hours a day. I get paid a whopping zero dollars and zero cents per hour. I have gone from Book Pusher to Book Peddler.

Let me explain. I worked for the public library back in the day. Hence, Book Pusher. Now that I'm retired I sell used and discarded books for Friends of the Library--Book Peddler. The money collected is used for buying extras for our branch. In return I get four hours of free, quiet time to work on my novel, Wild Justice.

Many libraries have book sales, so check them out and support your local ones. Everybody wins,

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Networking

It's been nearly three months since my last post. I've really got to get myself organized. A lot happened over the summer. There. I'll blame it on the heat. It's September (still hot), but in September aren't we supposed to write about "What I Did During My Summer Vacation." The highlight of mine was the writer's retreat I attended at Alpine, Texas. Merrilyn Williams and I took a two-day road trip to get there. It's in the Big Bend area of Texas. We stayed in the dorm at Sul Ross University.

Merrilyn took a class on novel writing and I took one on revision. We were in class five hours a day for five days. With that much togetherness we bonded quickly and since we had to read our work out loud, we became acquainted with everyone else's work.

One of my classmates has a movie/television production company and works with a group in Hollywood. Long story short, they're in the process of reading my manuscript, Wild Justice, for a possible movie or television. Networking definitely pays off.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mini Retreat

Have you ever dreamed of hibernating in a cabin in the woods or a beach house on the ocean or a lakeside getaway with nothing to do but write? No telephones or internet or any other time waster like Solitaire or Pyramid. I wrote in a previous post about a week-long retreat I'll be attending in Alpine, Texas. I am so looking forward to it, but it's a month away.

However, it occurred to me I could go on a mini-retreat any weekday right here in my hometown. Monday through Friday. Nine a.m until six p.m. It's cool. It's quiet, most of the time. It has spacious tables to spread out all the usual writer paraphernalia we tend to carry around.

I pull my little box on wheels full of my stuff and sit myself down in the farthest corner I can find and get to work. Then when I reach my daily word count or time allotment I load everything up and get on with other things. Also, if I feel the need to work on the weekends, the larger branches in the parish are open.

If you haven't guessed, my retreat site is the public library. Calcasieu Parish has twelve branches. I usually go to the one in my town, but I'm not too far from any of the larger ones that are open on Saturday and Sunday.

Only one problem. I worked at my hometown library for 28 years, so I know almost everyone who comes in. Sometimes they like to stop by my table and chat, but that's okay since I always like seeing everyone again. If I want anonymity I'll go to one of the other branches.

So if you're ever frustrated by all the chaos you might be living in, consider the library for your mini-retreat.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Writer's Retreat: Scratch One Off My Bucket List

It's finally going to happen. I've been dreaming about a writer's retreat forever, and now I get to scratch it off my bucket list. Every year the Writers' League of Texas offers a week-long retreat in Alpine, Texas, at Sul Ross State University. This year it will run from July 21 through July 26 and offers five classes. I have registered for Shaping Your Book to Sell, an intensive workshop on revision with Carol Dawson. Since I'm involved with revising my novel, Wild Justice, it sounds like exactly what I need: five days of classes from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. working with a professional.

There seems to be something for every writer, no matter the genre. Long Form Journalism in a Short-Form World is offered for those wanting to break into newspaper or magazine writing. For fiction writers Writing the Novel: The Basics with historical novelist Karleen Koen is available. If you're a poet you've got One-Week Exercise Program: Forms, Formulas, and More with Poet and Editor Scott Wiggerman. And, finally, The Art of Memoir: Discovering and Deepening Your Story with award-winning memoirists Donna M. Johnson and Christine Wicker, for those who want to get their own story written for whatever reason.

I just wish there was more time. I'd like to take at least two more of the classes. Maybe next year. If you're interested go to www.writersleague.org/37/Summer-Writing-Retreat and read all about it.

One last note. I'll be going on a mini-retreat in September after Labor Day. My four daughters and I are renting a beach house in Crystal Beach near Galveston for two nights. They can walk on the beach and romp in the Gulf. I'll be ensconced on the porch writing. It's going to be a fun summer.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Poem a Day Challenge

April is National Poetry Month. My writer friend, Beverly, and I just finished a month long poem writing marathon. Every morning Robert Lee Brewer, on his Poetic Asides blog, sent a poetry prompt our way and we were to see what we could come up with. We both finished the month with thirty or more poems, but it wasn't as easy as you would think.

On the first day he told us to write a new arrival poem. I racked my brains trying to come up with something. I ended up writing about the new boy in school. The next day was Tuesday, and he always had a Two-for-Tuesday prompt. April 2 prompts were write a bright poem or write a dark poem or write both. I ended up doing both, since I didn't have too much trouble coming up with ideas for them.

Some of the prompts were quite challenging. The tentative poem, the post poem, an infested poem (interesting). The infested poem turned out to be one of my favorites. We had to write a sonnet, a sevenling, a senryu, and a shadorma. These are all form poems and I had fun with them. April 30 was a Tuesday, so we got a two-for: a finished poem or a never finished poem. I wrote about my high school graduation.

The one that stumped me the most was day five. Write a plus poem. I couldn't think of anything so I took out my trusty thesaurus and looked up "plus." One of the synonyms was "lagniappe." Voila! I researched "lagniappe" and found the original meaning: a cheap present, such as parsley or shallots, given to good customers of street criers selling produce. Here's my attempt at a plus poem.

Lagniappe

Black-berrieeees! he sings
I got blackberries
I got greens and cabbages
Come and see
Buy my potat-ohs, lady
Dime a bucket, lady

She comes to the door
Turban on her head
Basket on her arm
He fills it with his wares
On top, a sprig of parsley and a shallot---
For free

If we want to we can send five of our favorites to him for a contest he'll be judging. I got mine off on Friday. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Importance of Research

I'm back after a two and a half month hiatus caused mostly by some health issues, but also just some of life getting in the way. I've been to a writing conference in Houma where I won third place in the Novel Excerpt contest for my first chapter of Wild Justice. It motivated me to get on the revisions in earnest, and gave me a kick in the pants to resurrect my blog. Also, I got off Facebook. It takes up too much of my time. Most of the posts are political rants, the majority of which I don't agree with. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I'm entitled not to have to sit through them. So now I have more time to spend on my blog.

Which gets me to the title of this blog. One night I was wasting time channel-surfing and came across the movie "Double Jeopardy" starring Ashley Judd and Tommie Lee Jones, one of my favorite actors. I had seen it before, but I decided to watch it again. Ashley has been framed by her husband for his murder and is in prison for the crime. While there, one of her fellow convicts tells her if she ever finds him she can kill him and they can't do anything to her since she's already paying for his murder. She gets out on parole and escapes from Tommie Lee, who's her parole officer. She tracks her husband to New Orleans where he's living under an assumed name with their son. All she wants is her son back. She finally has the jerk where she wants him--staring down the barrel of a gun. He tells her she'd better think twice because Louisiana doesn't hesitate to use the gas chamber for murderers.

 Bzzzzt! Red flag. Why didn't I catch that the first time around? This was a big-time movie when it was in the theaters. Someone didn't do their homework. Everyone who's spent any time down here knows Louisiana has never used the gas chamber to kill their citizens. We had a neat little contraption called the electric chair. A traveling one, at that. We aim to make the death penalty convenient.

My point in all this is DON'T TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED. Do your research and get the facts straight. You never know when an expert might be reading. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Keep On Learning

Scientists have discovered our brains are highly plastic, according to Barbara Baig, author of the current "how-to" book I'm reading right now, titled HOW TO BE A WRITER. This means they are capable of lifelong learning and change, that new ideas and insights are on our horizon, no matter our age.

So, guess what? I'm going to have a busy February and March in my pursuit of more knowledge. Beginning February 19 I'll be taking a four-week Leisure Learning class at McNeese with instructor Connie McDonald entitled "Where I'm From: A Workshop Approach to Writing from Life." We'll be mining our memories and life experiences to produce poems, stories, or memoirs.

Beginning February 21 Rachel Rinehart, MFA student at McNeese, will conduct a four-week class on "Writing About Place," in which we'll explore setting as another character in our stories. We will learn craft techniques, do writing exercises, and write our own stories or memoirs about place.

To finish things off Dr. Gabriel Morley, Director of Calcasieu Parish Public Library, will be leading a six-week class beginning March 5 on memoir writing. This will be held at the Central Library on Tuesday nights.

On top of these things I have two contests with a March 1 deadline. Writers League of Texas has a contest for a novel competition with a critique to go along with it. Southern Writers magazine is sponsoring a short story contest. I'd better get busy and quit playing Solitaire on the computer. Also, there's a little matter of revisions on my novel, WILD JUSTICE, to get ready for the Houma conference in April.

To all you wannabe writers out there: Don't wait around for inspiration to strike. Sign up for a class and inspire yourself.