Workshops have gotten some bad press lately. Some writers claim that workshops associated with formal study programs result in cookie-cutter “workshop poems” or “New Yorker” stories. I’ve also heard horror stories about workshops where the critiques can be brutal. That’s not my idea of a productive workshop! A good workshop can help a writer generate new work, get useful feedback on a current project, and even serve as a stepping-stone to larger projects. I know one writer who took two online fiction workshops, and the stories she produced there helped her get into a top-rated low-residency MFA program.
I’ve been writing for more than 20 years, but if I hear about a writing workshop in my area, I sign up for it. I love the challenge of writing to a prompt, the fun of meeting other writers, and the pleasure of hearing or reading someone’s work-in-progress. I value getting comments about my own work-in-progress, and getting tips from more experienced writers. I’ve been going to Peter Murphy’s Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway almost every January since 1997, and more than a dozen of my published poems got their start there. When I was writing my second novel, I workshopped chapters at a local writer’s group. Finding out what worked and what didn’t work for the group members helped me shape that manuscript, which was published in 2008 as The Other Sister. Continue reading “Workshop Your Writing by Patricia Valdata”
Jealousy is a terrible thing. And I was guilty of it for a long, long time. Of course, I still have my moments, but not like before. I have never been jealous with women. I have never wanted someone else’s car, motorcycle, or fishing rod. My problem was being jealous of other people’s successes. I’m not proud to admit it. I’ve had friends get raises, and I really wanted to be happy for them. I’ve watched bands I played with become international superstars…I really, really wanted to just feel glad. Too often, I didn’t. I could care less if someone drives a better car than I do, but when someone succeeds in a professional/creative field I take pride in…man, that ugly green-eyed bastard just shows up. I used to open my New Yorker with trepidation because I knew if anyone I knew got published, I would have to kill myself. The green bastard was in control. Or he used to be. I changed things up on him.
Today, we get a sneak peek of author Jasha M. Levi’s political memoir, The Last Exile:
The road from Sarajevo in 1921 to New York in 1956 and up to the present covers a distance. It was a particularly winding and long one for the author, from the student protests against pro-Nazi government in pre-war Yugoslavia, WWII civilian confinement in Italy under Mussolini, fighting against German troops and Quislings in Dalmatia in 1944-45, battling Soviet attempts to dominate Yugoslavia, reporting from the world and the UN, and finally taking asylum in the US in despair over his country ever becoming a democratic one. In The Last Exile, Jasha Levi opens himself and the mosaic of his turbulent life and times to the public scrutiny, His readers should find his memories as compelling as his intimates always did.
It’s true. I thought I was doing pretty well until the other day when I uncovered my baby book in a box in the attic. I’d been looking for some research materials for an action-adventure novel I’m percolating in my head. Instead, I found this ancient archive of my childhood.
As I gingerly moved it out of the box, some papers fell from it. These weren’t just ANY papers. They were all cut the same size, and bound together with a plastic-coated twist-tie. They were BOOKS. On them, my mother had written lightly in pencil “5 years old.”
Not only were they books, they were books I’d made – by hand. I’d illustrated them, and they rhymed. How in hell had I managed such a thing at five years of age? Granted, there were spelling errors, but those should have been caught by my editor. And for crying out loud, I was FIVE. Continue reading “I’m a Slacker”