The thought that keeps going through my mind is – what a great gift I gave myself by starting Writers4Writers : ) Being surrounded by intelligent, creative, seekers who have the courage to record their personal truths in the hope that what they express improves the world in some way – well, what more could you ask for? Our next meeting is April 13, 2016, at the Rancho Santa Margarita Library. Please rsvp and let me know if you would like to do a reading : )
In the interest of adding a new flavor to our delicious group activities, I had asked one of our members,
Craig Rousselot, if he wouldn’t mind teaching for part of our meeting and he graciously accepted : ) Craig has a Master’s Degree in Education from U.S.C. – Go Trojans! He has taught English and creative writing for the Orange County Department of Education for many years, written for Orange Coast and Baseball Card magazine and was a technical writer for Transamerica. He wrote a collection of short stories, Mr. R’s Totally True Stories and is currently working on a book, Son of a Senator, a story of his relationship with his late father, Congressman John Rousselot.
He enthusiastically agreed to teach and we were treated to some fundamental lessons on writing. For all of us, it was a valuable reminder of what we need to keep in mind as we hone our craft. He started with the Witches Hat – called this perhaps because if we forget these essentials as writers, it will come back to wickedly haunt us : ) It pointed out basic structure beginning with the introduction and setting, establishing the conflict, leading to the climax, resolution and then as he informed us, the very French Finis – tres magnifique! He then moved on to the:
Six Universal Traits of Writing
- Ideas – “A good writer grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let you go.” OMG!
- Organization – Does your story flow and keep the reader engaged?
- Voice – The personal tone and flavor of the author’s message.
- Word Choice – Use rich vocabulary, avoid those dead words!
- Sentence Fluency – The rhythm and flow of the language and how the story unfolds.
- Conventions – Mechanical correctness, punctuation and spelling.
Admittedly, conventions to me are necessary evils. True, they help the reader follow the story and create credibility, but my creative juices bristle at times. Periodically, I just have to do it My Way, like Frank Sinatra. For instance, contrary to accepted standards, I knowingly always capitalize Peace, because of the importance of it to my psyche : ) That just might cause a bit of a heart tremor, for some of my more rule-oriented friends : ) But that’s why editors were born. Since I’ve taken up this profession, I’ve met a number of people who get excited by where each comma, and orgasmic semi-colon is nestled. Well, I’m grateful that they are willing to sleuth through our work and I’m also thankful that creativity still reigns supreme in the land of writing – at least in the world according to Penny S. Tee : )
Craig added a seventh key point on Presentation – How it looks, does it sell, does it make me want to continue to read? All issues particularly important to writers – especially those who want to make money
: ) Well, thankfully, there are many reasons that we writers choose to share our gifts – not all money, although that’s a particularly helpful one : ) I want to personally thank Craig for generously sharing his knowledge with our group!
Filled with writing canons to live by, we next had several of our writers do readings. I always delight in anticipation as to where their adventures will take us : ) Some were coming of age stories – some memoirs and some with a touch of autobiographical fiction…
- There was the prom, the girl who wasn’t in the “In Crowd,” and her joint-smoking date who wouldn’t dance. What young girl hasn’t gone out with that loser?
- A lonely boy lived in a world of comic super heroes with his talking pets Blinky, the dog and Peabody, the cat.
- A young girl suffered under her missionary father’s severe, unyielding restrictions. There was a deceitful family secret that haunted the young girl throughout her life and festered within the womb of her family. Years later, the author continues to feel angst about her honest portrayal of her father. It’s a common feeling amongst memoir writers. Are we betraying our loved ones by authentically describing them according to our personal realities? The pursuit of truth in the written word challenges us to be as candid as our individual perceptions will allow.
A couple other readings hurled me back in time into my memories…
- One woman spoke of her joy when traveling to Paris. I definitely could relate to her love of the
ambiance. I’ve vacationed there three times and it’s so beautiful that I can’t wait to return again. It’s a city that celebrates all of your senses with delightfully, artistic sights, and tantalizing smells. Everything is swathed in an imaginative canvas, whether food, music or art. Wherever you look, from the intricately colorful designs of the pastries in the shop windows, to the plethora of museums, statues, gardens and fountains or the Bateau Mouche – the boats floating down the Seine, the sights are a visionary buffet awaiting you.
- The other story that hurled me right back into my past was one that recalled one of the most shocking news stories of our youth. It was the reaction of a 4th grade boy, to the memories of when President Kennedy was killed. If you are of that age group – do you remember where you were and what you were doing? I know, I do. I also was in elementary school. I was on the playground, and I was one of the kids, who helped supervise the younger kids. When the children came out to play, they were full of agitated excitement, as one little boy told me, “Have you heard the news? President Kennedy was shot!” Well, I suppose that was just too much for my very young mind to process, so as a good guardian of our wayward youth, I immediately benched him for saying such a horrible thing. Yes, that’s right. Power in the wrong hands can miss the mark. Oey vey, just a bit of Jewish guilt still remains. It’s moments like these, that remind me to be kind to myself for my mistakes – admittedly, a much easier undertaking when they are childhood memories – but I’m working on it. I hope you are too : )
So that’s the recap of our latest meeting. I hope you can feel between the lines how much I love meeting with these fellow adventurers and exploring the pages of their souls. If this sounds like something that would be fun for you too, come to our next meeting on April 13, 2016. Come Join Me On My Journey…