My First Webinar…Yes!

Saying Yes is Good

Kwame Alexander’s talk about his path to publication and winning the Newbery Medal for the Crossover is about saying yes. He believes in the yes. So do I.

So when Writers League of Texas Program Director Michael Noll emailed and said, “I think your Crafting Short Fiction class would make a great Writers League of Texas webinar. Would you like to do it?” I said yes.

Why?

Because a yes will take me further down the road. A no is a stop.

I have never taught a webinar before. To be honest, I’m a little nervous. I mean, it could be a little weird sitting in my office talking to my computer for three hours. But it could also be fun. After all, I really like teaching. I love talking about aspects of craft and digging in to discover what makes a great beginning or how to use setting effectively. But most of all, I love being authentic and connecting with people in a class setting. I love when something I say creates an ‘aha’ moment for them. I love sharing the inspiration of writing.

Will it be harder to do through a digital format? Hmmm…maybe.

But I still say yes.

Join me on Wednesday August 30 @6:30pm for webinar on:
The Craft of Short Fiction: Telling the Story with Fewer Words and More Punch 

Those Who Can, Teach

I’ve always hated the expression: Those who can’t, teach. It’s specifically meant to disparage teachers who can’t, supposedly, make it in the “real” world by doing their art, whatever it may be.

For some people, teaching is a second choice. They can’t make a living doing what they want to do, so they teach. If they are frustrated by this reality, it comes across in their teaching.

I still remember this undergrad creative writing professor who was described by upper classmates as a very tough. I’m pretty sure that description came from students who’d survived his eviscerating criticism and were too intimidated to say, “Hey, asswipe, telling me my writing is trite, hackneyed and pointless is not helpful.” Sheesh, We were nineteen, for crying out loud, we’d barely begun our lives, never mind, learned how to write. In short, he was mean. It was like he was on mission to: a) make sure we never wrote again; b) decimate his competition c) scare students into believing he was a good writer; d) all of the above.

Fortunately, I have had many writing teachers for whom teaching is joy. All of them are working novelists, poets, playwrights and screenwriters who brought a spirit of collegiality to the classroom. They wanted me to grow as a writer. Every one of them opened up their writers’ toolboxes and showed me how they shaped and honed point of view, voice, setting, etc. They wanted me to succeed because they loved writing. They loved sharing the joy of the craft with me. They wanted me to feel the feeling of writing an excellent story or a fully realized novel. They wanted to jump up and down with me when these labors of love got the notice they deserved.

That’s why I teach. For the joy. For the community. For the generosity of spirit.

I have two upcoming classes. One is a Writer’s League of Texas Webinar on Crafting short fiction (August 30, 6:30-9:30pm) and the other is a six week short fiction workshop at the Writing Barn which starts on Tuesday, September 19. Please join me.

Interstitial Interstices 

They look like architectural drawings
these two words
Maps of pathways between things
all columns and arches
inviting us to enter into
—what—
the thing between everything
the you inside you
the imperfect chink in the crystal lattice
the weeds in between the flagstones
the interruptions in the boring passages the
waiting periods before we assume a higher position
in our mundane existence
—as if—
all the everythings will be better then
When really what we want is to slip
Our fingers into the crevice of her hand
Breathe ourselves onto her skin
Weave through the pathways
Along and
Along
All the way
Home

The practice is inspired by Naomi Shihab Nye and her notion that words are like oars. Dip them in the water. Explore with them. Feel how they touch and bump up against one another. Let them take us further down the stream.

The Practice-Pant

On the surface, it is a short breath.

Sombra

But it is so much more. My dog pants to let me know things. He pants in front of the door to let me he has to go outside. He pants with an extra flourish when I pick up the leash. He pants and growls when it’s dinner time and I pick up his food bowl. He pants and whines in the backseat when we pass the park. I know these pants. These particular exhalations each have a meaning, an exhortation, if you will. But he has a new pant. One I don’t understand. It happens after dinner. After an evening walk. As the light is falling out of the sky. He stands in the kitchen, in the dining room, in the space between rooms and pants. In-out. In-out. Over and over and over and over. I pet him. He pants. I take him outside. He pants. He stands and pants. What are you telling me, boy? What are you saying?

He is an old dog. Maybe fourteen. We found him in 2004. He was probably a year then. Maybe two. You do the math. His hearing and eyesight are pretty much gone. He still loves to eat. He poops and pees with gusto. When he is out on a walk, his nose romances each blade of grass. Then he pants his evening pant. In-out. In-out. Over and over and over and over.

Always in the dying light of the day.

As if to say…

The practice is inspired by Naomi Shihab Nye and her notion that words are like oars. Dip them in the water. Explore with them. Feel how they touch and bump up against one another. Let them take us further down the stream.

The Practice-Shard

Is it always a shattered bit with a knife-like edge?

No, I don’t think so…

On the beach, I used to find bits of glass so soft and rounded that I didn’t believe they were glass. They were jewels. The blue ones were rare and expensive Tiffany sapphires. Clear became diamonds. Green were emeralds. Even the commonplace brown became amber.

I didn’t know where these jewels came from. I didn’t connect them to the glass slipping out of my small hands and—whoops–breaking on the kitchen floor to the soft jewels in my sandy palm. I didn’t know the amber and emeralds came from too many Pabst Blue Ribbon Beers or Molson Ales on the rolling seas. Or that my precious sapphires came from milk of magnesia bottles meant to settle a sea-sick stomach. I didn’t know how the ocean lurched and leaned and made bottles slips from wet hands, then tumbled the bits across the ocean floor, smoothing the sharp edges until they wash up in grains of sugar dust sand buried like treasure.

In the winter, I pour the treasure on my bed and put one of the gems in my mouth so I can taste the salt and the sun and the ocean.

A shard of memory.

The practice is inspired by Naomi Shihab Nye and her notion that words are like oars. Dip them in the water. Explore with them. Feel how they touch and bump up against one another. Let them take us further down the stream.