29
Aug

Rooftop Cage up at Seven by Twenty (7×20)

My cinquain Rooftop Cage (and wee bio) went up at Seven by Twenty (7×20) today. Long before I submitted it, several poems and micro-fictions were selected for the anthology 140 and Counting. A few writers never returned their contracts, so I was asked if the cinquain could be included in the anthology. I sent the contract this morning. That was a fun little bonus! I have another tiny thing going up at 7×20 next week, as well. It appeared in Nanoism a couple of months ago.

In other news, the story I got a tiny start on this month, The Listeners, is shelved for the moment. Instead, I wrote a short story in about an hour as practice for the previously mentioned September Flash Blast. And my, I’m out of practice. I love writing to prompts and I love timed writing, but I’ve done it all of once in the last few years or so. I think the story I produced has a lot of potential, though, so I’m editing it now and hoping to submit soon. I don’t want to tinker too long. I did get my one story written for August, at least, but I doubt I manage anymore.

I also have some notes on the next story I definitely want to write, which won’t be the rest of The Listeners. I think that one will have to wait a short while, since my aim is to “flash write” at least 20 times in September, though I’m really hoping for at least once a day.

25
Aug

September Flash Blast at Boot Camp Keegan

Alex Keegan runs Boot Camp, a no-nonsense place where writers write, crit, analyze and learn. Anyone who knows me and has discussed much writing with me knows that Alex wrote one of my favorite short stories of all time, Ballistics, which is now available in his collection of the same title. I won’t do a whole bio here–he’s a novelist who’s written scads of short fiction and won many awards doing so. You’d also be hard-pressed to find someone more enthusiastic about fiction.

Boot Camp is a paid program, but Alex is running a September Flash Blast that doesn’t cost anything–no strings, nothing like that–for those who want to commit to writing short fiction throughout the month of  September. Here’s how it works:

  1. You commit to writing a minimum of 20 short pieces of serious, general fiction during the month (it’s not the place for pure genre), though preferably you should aim for at least 1 per day, so 30+.  These are usually flashes less than 1,000 words or so, just based on time constraints.
  2. A couple times a day, Alex will post a list of prompts. These are often obscure words, bizarre phrases, unusual things designed to poke your subconscious.
  3. When you read the prompts, you have a maximum of 75 minutes to write and edit your story. Read anytime you like, but don’t read until you have the 75 minute window. If you read the prompts, think about them all day and write something that night, you’re missing the point and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
  4. Email your finished stories to Alex, who will then post them all anonymously in a protected part of the Boot Camp board.
  5. Comment on posted stories. No one expects an in-depth critique, but you are expected to read and comment. Comments will probably be blunt, so you have to be able to handle that reasonably well.
  6. Discuss. There’s a forum reserved for discussions and disagreements about craft that arise from the posted stories. Discussion is highly encouraged.

 

The concept is fast writing, “drunk writing” as Alex calls it, writing from the gut. I’ll let Alex explain it in his own words.

I think there are 8 or 9 people signed up for the challenge as of right now, but the more, the better. If you’re interested, you’ll need to sign up for a Yuku account (it’s free).

Boot Camp Keegan

Most of the board is locked because it’s full of forums where the paid Boot Campers work, but the Flash Blast forums are public, aside from the one where the stories will be posted.

Here are some stories produced during these types of blasts:

Paper Bird, Bomber, Words & Silence, several stories from the 2004 session

If you’re interested in the actual Boot Camp, you can let Alex know on the board. I know at various times he’s offered the first month free of charge, but I’m not sure if that’s ongoing. It can’t hurt to ask, if you’re interested. Boot Campers write a minimum of one short story every two weeks–again, general fiction, not pure genre. Those are posted anonymously and critiqued by every other Boot Camper according to Alex’s grid scoring system.

I will say that Boot Camp is a busy, steamy kitchen so if you wilt easily in heat, you’ll have to toughen up. I was a member for about 6 months in 2004, and saw more than a couple people throw tantrums and quit after their first critiques. Thick skin is necessary, but you’ll need that anyway if you intend to keep writing, right? I quit because a sort of double-tragedy struck at home and I couldn’t commit myself to it anymore, but even then I did not want to go. It was a great experience for me, so if serious fiction is your focus and you want an intense writing and learning experience, you should think seriously about trying it.

But even if not, consider the September Flash Blast! At the very least you’ll have some new material to work with come October 1st, but I’m sure you’ll get far more out of it than that.

 

 

22
Aug

Ease Discouragement in 90 Minutes or Less

I caught The Avengers on HBO today. Despite my deep and long-lasting love for Ralph Fiennes (I fell in love with him when Quiz Show came out), I’d never seen it before. I watched The Avengers on PBS when I was a kid, and so many bad things were said about this movie before and right after it came out, I spared myself the disappointment.

Thirteen years later, it’s not disappointing. It’s encouraging and inspirational. Why? Because it’s so unbelievably godawful.

Watching a bad movie has always been a writing inspiration for me. Usually that’s because I can watch a complete story in only a couple of hours and figure out as it goes exactly why the story is bad and why the whole thing doesn’t work. It’s a type of story analysis that I think applies well to any type of storytelling. I like spotting what’s terrible, what isn’t bad, what could have been improved and how.

The Avengers offers inspiration for another reason. If you’re feeling discouraged about your writing (or anything), especially if you’re suffering with the not-good-enough-blues (and most writers get this at some time, even well-published ones), watch this movie. It’s a film that’s filled with a stunning amount of talent. Great actors, horrific film. Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Jim Broadbent, Sean Connery–the movie still sucks.

It’s a shining example of a simple fact that’s easy to forget–even the best at their craft don’t hit it out of the park every time. It’s good to be reminded of that when you feel discouraged. Most award-winning, box-office-record smashing actors made one or more real stinkers (and some make them now and then today). Great writers have also written crap, but usually that crap isn’t published. (Okay, sometimes it is, but that’s another discussion.)

If you’re feeling down, watch The Avengers. It’s fun to watch these well-known actors in such an awful movie. And even if if doesn’t completely lift your discouragement, you’ll still get to see the sublime Ralph Fiennes acting refined in a bowler, you’ll get to see Uma Thurman being badass in a leather pantsuit, and you’ll get to hear Sean Connery deliver cheesy lines in that fantastic voice of his, like my favorite line in the film: “John Steed. What a horse’s ass of a name.”

If you think it would make you feel far better to read a bad book by an otherwise enjoyable writer, I also have a recommendation for you. I read The Exorcist when I was in my twenties. I’d already seen the movie years before, but was surprised how good the book was. Legion, the sequel to that novel, is even better, in my opinion. So when I found some other novels by William Peter Blatty in a used bookstore years ago, I grabbed. them. I enjoyed The Ninth Configuration, though I didn’t think it was quite as good as the others. But an older book was painful to read, despite its short length.

Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane. This story was published 5 years before The Exorcist. In 5 years he went from Killer Kane (which I found truly, truly dreadful and almost incomprehensible at times) to The freaking Exorcist. And he’d published a few novels before Kane, none of which I’ve read. Kane was re-released after the success of The Exorcist, I suppose to cash in on its popularity, but it shouldn’t have been. If you’re feeling discouraged about your prospects, try to wrangle up a copy. After a few pages, you should feel better.

12
Aug

Uncle Joe’s Activism to Appear in Eric’s Hysterics

I had a lot of fun with this one. I wrote it several weeks ago as a very short piece of prose.  I thought it was weird and funny. After a couple of rejections, I opted to revise it into what I hoped would be a darkly comic poem. It’ll appear at Eric’s Hysterics at some as-of-yet undetermined date. This marks the 16th accepted piece I’ve written this year, and the 25th acceptance for the year overall.

I’ve actually used the character of Uncle Joe once before in a Twitter-length micro-story that appeared in Trapeze Magazine in April. That might make you think Uncle Joe is  likable guy that’s fun to have around and that I might wish I had an uncle just like. You’d be wrong. 🙂

This week I resubbed a couple of stories, after revising one a little more, and worked on a very old story that I’m not having much luck with. I saw some places where I could tweak it and make the theme more coherent from beginning to end. I didn’t do a very good job of that, I see now. I also revamped the opening a bit and did a little cutting, ever amazed at how unnecessary things can still pop out after having read it as many times as I have. I still have high hopes for it.

An idea came to me last week for a story, so I started on it as my story for the month. A few days ago, another idea slammed me hard enough that I did some research for it. Neither of these ideas are the most original things ever, so I have to find an angle that raises them above the ordinary if they’re going to be anything but the same old, same old. Fortunately for me, that usually happens at some point after I start writing.

I know which “in revision” stories I want to look at this week and try to wrench into shape, too. I’m having better luck with that now that instead of looking at the list and thinking about them all, which is overwhelming, I decide which one or two I’m definitely going to work on. Then I can go right for those and get much more accomplished.

08
Aug

An old pretentious poem found a home

“Drunk Poet at the Wrong House” is a poem that started out as a serious poem some years ago. It wasn’t just serious, it was pretty bad and, worse,  pretentious. Over the years it got retooled and ended up as a humorous poem that makes fun of bad, pretentious poems like I used to write. I was pretty sure no one would ever get it but me, but I’m happy to find I’m wrong. It’ll appear in This Zine Will Change Your Life sometime this winter.