Monday, January 31, 2011

Red Writing Hood

NPR does a very interesting writing contest called Three-Minute Fiction and we thought we'd try their latest one (the contest ended last week) for our prompt this week.

The premise of the contest is to write a piece of flash fiction - it should be no more than 600 words and should take no longer than 3 minutes to read aloud.

And the requirement for this particular one is a character MUST tell a joke and a character MUST cry. One character can do both.

We encourage you to read more about it here. The winner for this particular round hasn't been chosen yet, but they have posted some of their favorite submissions here if you want to get an idea of what other very talented writers have done with it.

We hope you will find this challenging but also fun.

For you non-fiction writers, you can follow the same rules - no more than 600 words, 3 minutes read aloud - and write about a time of laughter mixed with tears.

Guest Post- Writing Student Jeremy Harbottle

Today's guest post is actually an interview I did with my very good friend, Jeremy Harbottle.

I met Jeremy through my best friend, Tonya. They were married almost eleven years ago. As you all know, when your best friend marries someone, he might not have a choice but to become your best friend too...and that is what has happened between me and Jer. I love him!

Jeremy is in his mid-thirties and currently a student at Columbia University in Chicago working on his degree in Fiction Writing. He has had quite the round about way of coming to this career choice, much like many of us who are finding that we love writing.

Here is Jeremy's story:

Me: When did you decide that you love to write?

Jeremy: I think I knew I loved to write when I was in my early twenties, but didn’t really think anything of it. I just thought writing was a hobby and I couldn’t really go anywhere with it. Then when I went back to school a few years ago for film I realized how much enjoyment and satisfaction I got when I wrote and decided to switch majors to Fiction Writing and loved that decision ever since.

Me: How/when did you decide you wanted writing as a career instead of just a hobby?

I realized I could make a career out of writing and wanted to when I was attending college and saw the possibilities and had teachers telling me I should look into writing because I had a great writing voice and when I found out you could find jobs that allowed you to write I knew I wanted to find a career in writing.

Me: Tell us a bit about your journey as a student of writing.

Jeremy: My journey as a writing student has been fun and frustrated all at the same time. It was a little weird and awkward because going into the classes I was about 15 years older than most of the other students, so of course I struggled with trying to figure out if I had made the right choice and belonged, but once I started getting into the flow of classes it didn’t bother me that I was with a bunch of kids. What’s been great is how I’ve found something that makes me happy when I am doing it. I love to write and studying writing has really helped me figure that out. Another thing I’ve had come about during my time in school is an idea for a novel that I have been developing in my classes for the last two semesters. What’s great is that I am allowed to bring this material into my class and work on it and get the feedback that helps me push it further. Overall I would say without having gone to school I wouldn’t have found my passion for writing and would have missed out on such a great activity.

Me: What sort of career are you hoping for once you get your degree?
Jeremy: My ideas for a career are still up in the air. I’ve thought about becoming a teacher to pass on my passion for writing to younger generations and to be able to stay in the academic surroundings because of how much I love learning, but I’m not sure if I have the patience to teach. Another area I have thought about is working for a publishing company in some capacity. I am not sure what I would do in a publishing company, but I think it would be fun to work with authors and getting their stories out to the public. Marketing is another area where a writing degree could be useful and is an option right now as well.

Me: What role does reading play in your process of writing?
Jeremy: Without reading I wouldn’t know what I like and I wouldn’t realize what it takes to write a great story. Reading is probably the best educator when it comes to learning how to be a better writer. If you really study what your favorite author does to create his or her story you can learn how to utilize those tools to enhance your own writing. You need to read to be a better writer. I’ve heard from a few sources that in order to be a great writer you need to read between 50 and 80 books a year and use that knowledge to push yourself. I think reading is one of the most overlooked things a writer could do to help their writing and it’s definitely something I notice in my own writing. When I don’t read much I struggle to get my ideas down on paper.

Me: What advice would you give for an aspiring writer?
Jeremy: Read and read a lot. Don’t limit yourself to only stuff you like either. Read things you wouldn’t normally read because you never know where inspiration will come from and sometimes it comes from stories you struggle to read. Don’t filter yourself. Don’t allow yourself to question what you’re doing. If you let your mind question the words you’re putting down on the paper you’ll never put anything down. Another thing to think about when writing is to think about your audience. You’re writing to them and you want to make sure you keep them entertained. So when you sit down to write picture your audience. It could be a large group, your family or a single person you’re writing to and while you’re writing just think about them every so often to make sure what you are writing still have them in mind. This will help keep your story focused and on track.

Thank you so much, Jeremy for your insight into the life of a writing student! You are awesome!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekend linkup

Time to link up a favorite post. Try to visit as many as you can - at least the one before you and after you. It's a great way to find new blogs and for others to find you!

Also, please consider turning off your comment moderation.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Red Writing Hood - Blizzard

This weeks prompt is to imagine you are trapped alone or with others at a single place during a ginormous blizzard or its aftermath.

We know some of you are trying out fiction for the first time. We think that's pretty awesome you're flexing new muscles.

One note: if you would like constructive criticism, please note it on your post. We know not all of you want it for every piece. Also, PLEASE show comment love. Some of you are fabulous commenters. Some of you, um, not so much. We know you're all busy, but to make this the fabulous community we know it can be, we all have to do our part.

Anyway. It's time to link up!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Twitter Party Recap

Thank you so much to everyone who joined us Wednesday night for our twitter party.

For those who missed it, here is a brief recap of some of the main conversation points:

1. Length. This week's prompt asks us to stay under 1,000 words. Some of us have a tough time with this; they tend to ramble. Others have a tough time writing long enough. It's difficult to figure out what to keep and what to add.

2. Which leads us to editing. One of our lovely hosts, Katie, pointed out that editing is cleaning up sentence structure and grammar, and revising is fixing content. Many of us have trouble "murdering our darlings" but know it has to be done. Good editing makes a story more, not less. Reading aloud is something that can be helpful.

3. Critique. This continues to be a touchy subject. Writers want to know how to get better, but the delivery is important. Pieces that are intensely personal need to be treated with more care. I am not entirely sure everyone who links up with us really wants constructive feedback. If you receive it, don't take it personally. If you give it, don't make it personal. Remember we are all learning and growing and writers are notoriously insecure (yes, I'm talking about me!).

4. Writing fiction. It can be daunting, to say the least. You are exposing a story you created solely from your imagination. Then again, it can also be incredibly freeing, as you are ONLY limited by your imagination. Another issue is placement. Fiction does not fit in with everyone's blog. I personally reserve Friday for the writing prompt and usually do fiction. And even though it's not the "theme" of my blog, it IS my blog and I'll post fiction if I want to! Fiction if I want to!

Ahem. Sorry. Anyway, Katie (and others) solved the problem by creating a separate blog to feature their writing. Obviously that's not feasible for all of us.

We would love to get your thoughts on these topics. Feel free to leave them in the comments! And hopefully next time you'll join us!