Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Work in Progress

Here are the first 250 words of a short story I'm working on (in very rough first draft form). This story shares the same main characters as the novel I'm still writing, a first for me. Actually, I have ideas for quite a few novels and short stories involving these folks. We'll see how that goes!

This story is called "Et in Arcadia, Ego." It reflects my love of the great outdoors.

Clara was crying freely.

“I think I’m going to die!” she said to her husband.

Clara and Jonathon lived in a quaint little town, but one surrounded by a large urban area, not farmland. Of course she’d smelled a pig farm before, but never from quite this close-up, never quite this poignantly, pungently.

“And if I don’t die, I’m going to kill Denise!”

Their friend since high school, Denise now worked in sales. The fact that she was very good at her job was evidenced by the fact that Clara and Jonathon were actually crammed into the back seat of her new Volvo convertible, suffering along winding country roads on their way to spend the day at Denise’s dad’s farm. The otherwise spacious back seat was crowded because Clara and Jonathon were separated by their baby’s car seat.

“I can’t believe we’re subjecting Carrie to this. I’m sure she’s losing brain cells with each breath!”

Actually, Carrie seemed quite content with the hot wind blowing across her face, despite facing backwards and being sheltered by an enormous sun hat and tiny sunglasses.

Jonathon laughed, which made Clara smile. She was not usually so melodramatic, but being silly could be fun. Jonathon leaned his head back against the head rest and let the wind toss his feather-light brown hair. It was actually kind of lovely being out on such a perfect fall day, Clara thought as she watched her baby and husband basking in the sunlight.

Did I mention? It's a murder mystery and the tone changes right about here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This Is Why I'm in Two Book Clubs

I'm too tired to write much tonight. My parents-in-law arrived today for a week long visit (to be followed by Paul's sister, her husband, and their adorable baby for a long weekend). Yay!

But we were up very late last night, preparing. And I still need to create a grocery list so that I can shop in the morning. So, just quickly, then:

One of my book clubs recently discussed A Thousand Splendid Suns at its annual mother/daughter meeting. Afterward, everyone decided that a lighter read was in order for the next selection.

I just got the email listing three choices from which to choose our light, frothy, frilly, fun, beachy novel:
1) high school shooting involving multiple deaths and injuries
2) woman discovers husband is having affair (also involves her involuntarily being committed to an institution and threat of losing custody of their child)
3) heartbreaking love story beginning with adultery and ending with multiple murder (including that of children) based on a true story.


Good thing my other book club is reading David Sedaris this month.

Athletic Sex in Gotham

Let me start by apologizing to all the people who've come here recently after searching for "athletic sex" or even "crazy athletic sex" and found only this post. I assume you didn't find what you were hoping for, and I apologize for wasting your time.

Thinking of writing and wasting or not wasting time, I thought I'd post a quick review of the first week of the Gotham Writers Workshop in which I'm participating this summer. First of all, I am enjoying the online class experience. The first "lecture" didn't knock my socks off (reading the lectures will take some getting used to) but I enjoy the Blackboard functionality, and this is my first experience with it as a student (rather than as a marketeer educating sales reps and demonstrating educational products directly to customers). Second, I like the other students (at least, what I know of them so far) and think they'll be a great group to work with. I look forward to reading their pieces and getting to know them a bit more.

I like the deadlines and accountability, and I'm using the weekly homework assignments (which go just to the instructor) to work on a short story featuring the same main characters as my novel-in-progress. I'm using the first two chapters of the novel as my two big class workshop pieces.

I haven't gotten instructor feedback yet, but most of my student colleagues have weighed in on my first chapter. Unfortunately, many of them didn't follow the detailed critique directions (including the directive to post some unique praise or criticism!). On the (huge!) plus side, they loved it! Most of the feedback has been glowing. Which makes me happy and motivated and might be worth the price of the class right there.

Deadlines/accountability + positive response to work = happily writing Sarahlynn.

The first and second people to respond talked about my opening scene, which has been driving me crazy and I couldn't figure out how to fix. After reading their comments, I had a big CLICK moment and I knew what to do. Yippee. I just wish some of the subsequent commenters had focused on other weaknesses in the work; I know there must be some!

(On the other hand, they loved it! They loved specific things about it! The had really flattering things to say about the writing, dialogue, pacing, mystery elements, and characters. Have I mentioned how great this feels?)

Now when the instructor weighs in with some more detailed critique, I'll be bolstered, ready, and eager to hear it. Hit me.

So far, so good.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tomorrow's Gonna Suck

I'm taking a class through the Gotham Writers Workshop this summer, and the course went live today. That means that midnight was the first time I could log on and view course materials, including workshop schedules and critique due dates.

At 11:48 pm, I got a "Gotham Class Late Notice" informing me that I'd been chosen to go first and my piece for workshop was due before July 8th (yes, the first day of class) so I was late. Sigh. Not an auspicious beginning.

I should not have been surprised, then, by what happened when I tried to post my first chapter.

I went through and carefully edited a file to upload, making sure that everything was exactly as I wanted it. This took over an hour. I saved the document several times, because I'm careful like that. Then I closed the document so that I could upload it.

And when I clicked "Browse" on the Gotham BlackBoard site to find my document, it was nowhere to be found. I checked my whole computer; there's no record of the file. I tried to wake Paul, but failed.

Well, I guess my plans for 2:30-3:30am, previously involving some sleep, have changed.


(Update: found it, buried in an invisible internet temp file. Everything else I'd planned to do tonight (like figure out who keeps trying to log on to one of my credit card accounts) will have to wait until tomorrow. Off to bed.)