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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Quiet

(Writing Life)
Mom is trying to be a Writer.

So we’re being quiet and leaving her alone.

As we tip-toe, stomp-foot into the kitchen searching for cookies. Searching, searching till Mom asks What are you looking for? and we say Cookies and she says They’re in the cupboard drawer labeled cookies and we shrug and say That’s weird and stomp-foot back upstairs.

Trailing crumbs as the dog follows us vacuum cleaner style, which is the right and proper job of dogs and how they earn their keep.

Mom is trying to be a Writer so Dad hisses Quiet! Louder than we ever are and Sister wants peach yogurt not spiced pear and isn’t there any left and Mom says I dunno and Sister asks again,

and again,

and again,

and again.

While Dad runs the garbage disposal (which as everyone knows is super quiet), and Littlest Brother says Be Quiet! to Sister who sticks out her tongue and Dad yells We need more wood!  Which evidently doesn’t count as noise because if the fire dies we will all freeze to death and Mom’s fingers will be stuck to her computer keys forever; or at least until spring thaw by which time she will have starved or maybe even lost that weight she’s been talking about losing since Littlest Brother was in diapers.

Minutes pass. Mom’s fingers are still. We imagine she is Thinking..

And the microwave beeps and Dad rummages in the spice cupboard while making the grocery list for dinner, and Oldest Brother - spotting Middle Brother eating a bagel by the fire - exclaims Is that the last bagel! 

To which Middle Brother replies, I Ttihinbm Swo.

And Oldest Brother hollers, What? 

And Middle Brother hollers back, I Thinkbm Swo!

And Dad hisses Be Quiet!! And Littlest Brother says Mom needs a Be Quiet sign! And Oldest Brother hollers, Well what the crap is he saying? 

And Mom yells HE SAYS I THINK SO!

So Mom, who is trying to be a Writer, decides to stay up late to work. And now it’s dark outside and kinda creepy and are those coyote eyes gleaming?  The fire has burned low though she has the space heater and a cuppa tea and a bag of spice cookies and it's blessedly quiet with a full moon shining in through a window she feels not quite positively certain no one is standing outside of.

Mom’s fingers click doggedly upon the keys and her mind races and she think thinks: wasn’t that a scratch at the back door and I’m no doubt imagining the moving shadows outside the window. Isn't it odd here when everyone is asleep but me, and dang but this space heater is burning up my right leg while the left is freezing right off and this flippin' hard chair's making my butt numb.

Virginia Woolf advocated having a room of one’s own - but look how she ended up. Though I do have a room of my own and another one besides, so why’d I put my desk so near the family room in the first place?

Because trying to be a Writer takes diligence and tenacity and perseverance and total insanity; plus the other rooms are cold and lonely and no doubt that’s part of the reason poor Virginia drowned herself.

It was the Quiet.

She just couldn't take it.

L.D.B. Taylor (aka Lisa) is the author of several books whose newest manuscript is pending publication; she is represented by Rena Rossner. Formerly of Its Own Sweet Will, she now blogs at (a very new, work in progress!) A lifelong reader and writer, Lisa appreciates wit, sarcasm, chocolate, hot tea, cool mountain evenings, travel, and books by the score.

Incredibly cheesy photo of Lisa.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Learning The Ropes

As I mentioned last month, one of the best decisions I've made as a writer was to enroll in a class/critique group at a local studio in Waukesha. Here is how it works.

My AllWriters Workplace and Workshop class meets once a week, in my case on Monday nights from 7:00 - 9:00 PM. There's anywhere from 8-11 people in class and everyone brings up to 10 pages, (or 3 poems for poetry). Then, as your turn comes up you read your work. Copies are passed out to the students and they mark them up and critique after you are done reading. They tell you what they like, what didn't make sense and what they disliked. It is intended to be a positive feedback loop - no one is scorned or ridiculed - Lord knows writers do that enough to themselves.

I cannot undersell the importance of this group/process. It makes my writing better and helps me to encourage and critique other writers. It is the single thing I most emphasize to someone thinking about starting to write. Get in a group. No writer should be on an island.

But the group has done so much more for me than just help my writing. They encouraged me to submit my first work. When I had my first little poem accepted for publication I was ecstatic! How silly it seems now, but what that poem did was fuel my desire for publication. I started submitting more and more and, in large part because of the good editing I was getting from the group, I had decent luck getting work accepted routinely.

The group also holds three events called the Friday Night Free For All. At these events, students of the studio read from four different genres, Poetry, Memoir, Short Story and Novel. Because I have been chosen to do this on a number of occasions, it has helped my public speaking skills. We are encouraged to introduce ourselves and read a bit of our published work.

Writers as a general rule, tend to be introverted people. Reading in front of a group can be fairly daunting, but as writers, we need to know how to do it. If you write a book, someday, whether you want to or not, you will be required to read it in front of people, sometimes several times. And if you want to do it well, you have to look at it as performance in every sense of the word. As much as I'm not a crowd person, I went ahead and took advantage of every chance and got a little better each time I spoke.

So, good feedback, first time publication and presenting in front of a group are just a few of the things I've benefited from by being part of this writing group. Next month I'll touch on a few more things I've come away with.

Join me in March, won't you?