Tag Archives: She Writes

A Writing Group is an Anchor…in a good way.

From Zany Holidays Blog

I’ve been hanging out with a great group of people lately.

Once every two weeks, I pull my car into a small parking lot behind an old convent, run up two long flights of stairs, and sit down at a table with other like-minded individuals.

We are all writers.

I paid for my seat at the table and, in doing so, committed to a block of time that throws a wrench into my weeknight schedule of dinner, books and bedtime for two small kids. But, when I received an email asking if I wanted to return for the next session of Roundtables, I looked past my Mother Writer guilt to four reasons why these sessions are vital to my writing career:

1. I read my work out loud during each meeting. We all do. The group is run in a very egalitarian style. I’m nervous every time I read. Still, I love this aspect of the session for the exact reason that Delia Lloyd mentions in her Huffington Post article, “5 Tips for Productively Editing Your Writing,” (which I found via Lisa Romeo Writes).

Reading out loud, Lloyd says, helps you discover your voice.

You not only hear the repetition and the over-writing. You can also hear whether or not you sound too stifled, too casual, too funny or too sharp.

Besides finding my voice, reading my work to others forces me out of my comfort zone. Margaret Atwood says, “You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer.” I agree. And, each time I read, I put myself out there as a professional writer and, in the process, gain more courage to be that writer.

2. I get instant feedback. In the January issue of The Writer magazine, Robin Garland interviews a story consultant and agent, Lisa Cron, and asks what makes a good story.

“A [good] story,” Cron says, “must have the ability to engender a sense of urgency from page 1.”

Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com

Sharing my latest chapter with a live group of writers gives me a pretty good idea – right away – whether or not my story will keep a reader engaged.

This in-the-moment critique was new to me, but I’m beginning to appreciate the quality of it. Though, I know I don’t need instant feedback to continue with my rewrite, I don’t want to move on to the next chapter until I know I’m in a good place with the current chapter, not this time around anyway.

3. My draft reads more consistent. Writing a novel is daunting, and I procrastinate when projects seem overwhelming. For the last two years, I’ve worked in spurts on this novel and then put it down. When I did get back to it – after too long a break – the tension was lost. The draft felt fractured, unstructured, and too loose.

In just a short time, I knew that the feedback I received from the other writers at the Roundtable was invaluable. Finishing another chapter rewrite by the next session became a concrete deadline I didn’t want to ignore. And, with shorter breaks between revisions, I had less problems remembering where I left off and where I was headed.

4. I benefit from more camaraderie and support. I could tackle this novel alone, huddled over my laptop in the cold basement of my house. But, I focus better and am more driven to finish when I’m surrounded by the warm bodies of other writers.

Yes, I’ve met so many great writers on Twitter, She Writes, and (now) Facebook, and I wouldn’t trade those connections for anything — many of them have become fast friends and staunch supporters. But, we all live miles and states apart. While I treasure the ethereal influence they have on my writing, I need the presence of writers in close proximity just the same.

Sitting at that table has a tangible affect on my writing. I am tethered to my work in a new way that fuels my determination to finish this novel. And, my place in that group completes  another piece of my puzzle in becoming a writer.

~

What has a writing group done for you lately?

*****

Garland, Robin. “The Love of a Good Story.” The Writer. January 2011: 34-35, 55. Print.


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Wed’s Word: Guest Post by Mercy Loomis

Every Wednesday, on Writing Under Pressure, you’ll find a post based on a word prompt. Past essays, poems, or flash fiction pieces can be found under Wednesday’s Word on the sidebar to the right.

Mercy Loomis

Today, I welcome fellow She Writes member, Mercy Loomis, to Wednesday’s Word.

I met Mercy in person last month at a meet up organized by E. Victoria Flynn. Victoria, Mercy, and I nibbled on sweet treats for several hours that Saturday and talked all things writing.

We laughed at the story material found within the four walls of a coffee shop – a writer’s paradise when it comes to characters.

I also had a taste of Mercy’s writing during our meet up, and I decided to invite her for some “word of the day” flash fiction fun.

Mercy chose the route of a prompt from my personal word bag (in lieu of Wordsmith.org), thus allowing me to play Wordsmith for the day. Oh, how I love control.

The word I chose for her: bitten.

*****

Twice Shy

Trevor tried to pretend he wasn’t winded, but keeping up with Naomi’s long, shapely legs was proving to be more of a challenge than he expected. Not the he minded the view, of course; even though it was dark the trail they were hiking could just keep going up and up forever, as far as he was concerned.

Of course, his own legs would give out long before he got tired of watching. Flex and swing, flex and swing. When she’d picked him up and he saw the short-shorts he’d assumed she wasn’t the outdoorsy type, but either bugs didn’t scare her or she did a lot of Stairmaster. Naomi’s loping strides devoured the trail like…

Something pricked his arm, and Trevor swatted at it with a muffled curse. “Stupid mosquitoes,” he muttered, staring dolefully at the smear on his hand. In the deepening gloom the blood looked almost black. Pausing, he wiped his hand on his jeans and stuck the flashlight in his pocket, the beam pointing up into the leaves and giving the path a weird green glow.

“What are you doing?” Naomi stopped and turned to give him an irritated glance.

“Getting some bug spray.” Trevor dug through his fanny pack for the little bottle. “I must’ve been bitten half a dozen times already.”

Naomi sashayed back to him and took his hand in both of hers. “Aw, what’s a few bug bites? Please, I really hate that stuff. It tastes terrible.”

Trevor blinked, momentarily confused. “Tastes? But why..?” Naomi fluttered her eyelashes at him, and he tossed the bug spray over his shoulder. It landed somewhere in the bushes and was instantly forgotten. “Right. You got it, babe.”

Laughing, Naomi drew him farther up the hill. “C’mon, we’re almost there. You have to see this place.”

Trevor stumbled after her, giddy with the implications of her teasing, but when they finally crested the slope and emerged from under the trees his lascivious thoughts were momentarily silenced by the view. Barely ten feet ahead of them the bluff’s face fell away in a sheer cliff overlooking a glimmering stream that snaked through the wooded valley below. The moon lit up the landscape like a giant spotlight, and even as he stared open-mouthed he saw a barn owl swoop down over the water to disappear beneath the branches.

And another mosquito bit him.

Trevor cursed roundly, slapping one cheek and flinging the dead insect away. “Doll, I don’t understand how you can stand being out here dressed like that. Not that I don’t appreciate it,” he hastened to add, “but they must be eating you alive!”

There was an undertone to Naomi’s chuckle that made the hairs on the back of his neck rise, a low growling that went beyond sultry into something else, something animal. “Oh, they wouldn’t do that. Doll.”

Trevor turned to her slowly, trying to shake off a cold shiver that coursed down his spine. “Why is that?”

She grinned. That was when he saw the fangs. “Professional courtesy, of course.”

*****

Mercy Loomis graduated from college one class short of an accidental certificate in Folklore, which explains a lot. She has a BA in Psychology, but don’t hold that against her. Though fascinated by mythology her whole life, she blames her husband and the History Channel for her late-found love of studying history.

Her stories appear most recently in the anthologies Please, Sir from Cleis Press and Taste Test: Rainy Days and Mondays from Torquere Press, as well as in Hungry For Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance, coming from St. Martin’s Press in October 2010. See what she’s up to and find links to her other work at www.mercyloomis.com.

You can also find her at She Writes here.

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A Mother and A Writer

I love writing contests.

If I’m not using the opportunity to tighten up a old story, then I’m off creating something new.

And, once in a while, a contest sharpens my focus; it turns my perspective from outward to in. A contest I recently entered did exactly that. It gave me reason to examine – again – why I continue to write, despite the obstacles in life that could easily sway me.

In celebration of She Writes‘s first year anniversary, E. Victoria Flynn hosted a Mother Writing contest. We were asked to write, in 500 words or less, an essay on being a mother writer. The deadline for the contest came during the early days of summer vacation, and my first thought was: Mother Writer? Impossible. Still, I wrote.

Though I didn’t win the contest, I’ve posted my essay below. And, you can read the lovely winning Mother Writing essay by Diana Duke here.

Nothing was lost by thinking back on my Writerly beginnings: blogging about my children. From those short posts, I moved on to my first writing class, my first published piece, and my first attempts at writing fiction.

Thanks, Victoria, for hosting a contest that put Mother Writers in the limelight and gave me a reason to look inward for my own affirmation.

*****

The Whole of Me

Mother and Writer. There are days when, like opposing forces, these two sides of me sit miles apart. They each refuse to accept the presence of the other. When I turn to write, I feel the pull of my children; when I go back to my children, I feel an unyielding persuasion to write.

“What’s the point?” I ask myself, exhausted from the struggle of trying to keep both identities in balance. Still, despite my frustration, I refuse to give up on either: as a mother I can’t, as a writer I won’t.

In Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing, Margaret Atwood lists several reasons that answer the compelling question: why do it? The answers that resonate with me trace my own journey to becoming a Mother Writer.

“To set down the past before it is forgotten.”

As a new mother, I recorded details: of birth, the first day of school, and the first tooth lost. Details alone, though, never conveyed the rise and fall of my emotions. A date stamp would not remind me of the out of body experience I had when my daughter was born. A picture alone wouldn’t express my own anxieties about sending my son to school. And marking the day the tooth finally fell out wouldn’t hint at the number of days prior when repeated negotiations to “let mommy pull the tooth” failed.

I wove details into stories, so that I might remember the power behind each moment.

“To justify my own view of myself and my life, because I couldn’t be ‘a writer’ unless I actually did some writing.”

Writing about life with my children reignited my love of storytelling. I looked back at my stack of old journals and a well-worn spiral notebook filled – when I was fifteen years old – with stories of girl meets boy.

I always wanted to be a writer, and I realized that to become one meant I had to take action. So, I started a blog, I submitted stories to journals, I shared my secret with others. I became a Writer.

“To cope with my depression.”

Lord Byron said, “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”

My bouts with depression, though never debilitating, distract me from life. Being a mother pulls me back into the moment. Writing helps me stay there.

“To bear witness….”

To bear witness to my children that in the midst of life, of being whoever we are that day – mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend – we do not have to suppress our creative selves. In fact, embracing my creativity enhances every aspect of my life.

I don’t earn money as a writer or a mother, but each of those daily experiences makes up the whole of who I am.

~

*Atwood, Margaret. Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing. New York: Anchor Books, 2002, p. xx. Print.

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