Tag Archives: one

Why readings are important…

Over the past few posts, I’ve been chronicling my experiences at various writers conferences and workshops. You can check out the entire lineup here.

Many workshops offer the chance for participants to read their work aloud to a sympathetic and engaged group of readers. They will even clap loudly for you at the end, no matter how eloquently (or not) you were able to share your words.

I first realized that doing a reading was a possibility for me at the Yale Writers’ Conference a year and a half ago. Our workshop leader made the announcement as if she were adding broccoli to the lunch menu, “Oh, and by the way, you’ll all have a chance to do a reading. I suggest you try it. It’ll be good for you.”

That caught me completely off-guard. As you might have read here, insecurity ushered in my application for the Yale workshop. I mean, it’s Yale, right. And, as if submitting my novice work to be read and critiqued by others wasn’t brave enough, I was being encouraged to read it aloud. Where was that little tidbit in the application materials?

Honestly, the only reason I did it was so that, one day, when someone asks me if I have ever done a reading, I can answer, “Why yes actually, my first-ever reading was at Yale.” Hopefully, I won’t have to clarify, “Yes, the one in New Haven.”

So here’s what I learned about readings.

  • Readings are not in my wheelhouse. When I read in front of others, I sound like a hoarse frog that’s fallen off its very comfortable lily pad smack into very cold, murky water. Which is super weird because I’m quite comfortable speaking off the cuff in front of people.
  • Readings are an amazing experience. Ultimately, you’ll be glad you did it. Pinky swear.
  • Practice a few million times before you actually stand up to read.
  • Attend the readings of the other writers in the group and support them the way they supported you–clapping when they are done, not pointing out they sounded like a cold/wet frog, etc.
  • Respect the time limit. You will look like a disrespectful amateur if you don’t.
  • You must respect the time limit. (Nope, that’s not a typo. I meant to write it twice. 😉 It’s really important.)
  • Stop at a point that leaves the audience wanting to know more. This is especially true if you are selling books afterward.
  • Remember to breathe. If fact, if these were truly in order, time limit would be number one and this would be number two. Take breaths. Frequently.
  • Be familiar enough with your work that you can look up at the audience every now and then. It will make everyone more engaged. (If you’re like me, it might also make you more nervous when you look up and remember there are for real people in the audience. Just remember to breathe.)
  • And have someone take your picture.

Since Yale, I have read three other times. Once more at Yale, once at the Kenyon Review Workshop, and once at the One Story Workshop. I know. I know. I’m practically a frog professional.

Here is Yale. The first time.

2013_June_11_yale writers workshop_ellenweeren_99And the second time at Yale.

Yale Writers Conf 2014-Jun 09, 2014-10I much prefer the podium.

And here is One Story…see how I am getting more comfortable? Practice makes comfort.

one story workshop-224At One Story, I read a very personal piece–a poem about a friend’s suicide. Even though I wrote it about 3 years ago, I had not read it aloud before. This is a really important thing to consider. I knew this audience provided a safe, accepting place for me to read this very private poem and I wanted to share it. But, I broke down and cried half-way through. Someone in the audience reminded me to breathe and my fellow writers were extremely supportive, waiting for me to catch my breath. I wiped my eyes, sucked in a deep breath, and made it through the piece. But it was hard. Brave and hard. I have wondered if I should have read something else. I’ll never know if it was the right choice. I do know that everyone was gracious after and I hope maybe my words touched someone in the audience. A few people cried right along with me. I will forever be grateful for that.

So, if you get a chance to do a reading, do it! And if you participate in a writing group, consider making reading aloud part of the meeting. Each writer can just read a few pages–it doesn’t have to be the whole piece. Words have a different echo when they are thrown out to grab oxygen than when they are simply lying flat on the page. Reading them aloud will make you a better writer. Pinky swear!

It’s also important to attend readings of authors you admire. It’s a chance to thank them for the many hours they spend toiling away on a story that has touched you. And it’s often a chance to meet them and get them to sign your book. Squee! It really is important to become a part of the larger writing universe. We can’t spend all of our time at our lily pads in our own little corner of the pond. Reading and attending readings is a great way to accomplish that.

Five sentence short story…..

I mentioned a little while back that Hannah Tinti from One Story was teaching online short story class. It turned out to be awesome. No surprise there.

The first assignment was to create a five sentence short story. Here is mine…

Paul and Maribeth sat in the small church holding hands and praying that someone would find their daughter alive. Maribeth mentally retraced their morning, trying to find some clue as to where Elizabeth could be. Paul looked at their intertwined hands and said, “I only left her alone for a moment.” Shocked, Maribeth left the church and headed toward the center of town. She found Elizabeth at the corner of 5th and Maple buying an ice cream cone from a vendor Maribeth had never seen before. 

I’m sure this seems to neatly tied up at the end but it’s just meant to be the framework of the story, establishing the setting, characters, conflict, plot, a secret, and the resolution.

A chance to write a story with One Story’s Hannah Tinti

In this week-long course, under the guidance of One Story’s own editor in chief Hannah Tinti, you’ll build a short story from scratch, learning the ins and outs of storytelling structure along the way. New lessons—in video or text—will be shared daily, but exercises can be done on your own time, and an active message board will allow you to communicate with fellow students and ask questions. For complete details and to register, visit www.one-story.com (look under “events” and then “online classes”).

This is an amazing opportunity to learn from one of the best editors in the business!

One Story’s Debutante Ball…..

One Story is a top-tier literary journal celebrating the best in short stories, novel excepts, confettiand stories for teens (One Teen Story). Once a year, they celebrate the authors coming out with a debut novel who have appeared in their journal  – it’s a big arse Brooklyn-style party and tickets are selling fast.

Not only does this party sound super fun, but the One Story folks are some of the nicest, most accessible people I have met. This an amazing opportunity to have a blast while meeting some of the most influential people in the literary world. Wowza!

The Ball is being held on Thursday, May 22nd, at the Roulette in Brooklyn from 7p – 11p.

The authors being celebrated are….

Tickets can be purchased here – but hurry! 😎

And some pictures from past events can be seen here – just so you have an idea of what to wear. You’re welcome.

Hope to see you there!

Hell hath no fury like two spaces after a period scorned…..

Tired of talking about the basketball tournament and brackets? Looking to stir up an engaging conversation at the water cooler?

Try out this question I posted on Facebook…

I know the answer,
But what say you,
One space
after a period

or two?

Who knew punctuation could be so controversial? Over 30 people nearly declared war on the single space, demanding two blank spaces should follow the period. “My typing teacher told me so,” they admonished. Whoa.

The poor older folks who learned to type on a typewriter are reluctant to get off the rickety ole bandwagon of yesteryear and hop on the one space train of today. Even when the experts who write the editing bibles like The Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Stylebook , and the Modern Language Association recommend using one space after a period at the end of a sentence.

(Just by the by – the practice of using two spaces is usually called “French spacing” and is considered outdated.)

The rationale is simple. Typefaces used to be monospaced, meaning each letter took up the same amount of space on the page (you can see this in the font called courier). Putting two spaces after a period eased readability. Computer fonts can be proportionally spaced which automatically eases readability (notice an “l” takes up less space than an “w”). This makes an empty space look like an empty space rather than a part of a word.

Number one hubby works at a publishing company. They edit over 17 million pages a year. Pssst. They use one space after a period.

What say you – one space or two?

Not Even a Finalist. Hmpf………..

So George Mason University was hosting this contest about the best couple’s story – you know, a “how we met at Mason” extravaganza.

I entered my story with Number One Hubby. We didn’t even make the finals.

But, I have my own blog. So there. You can still be bored to tears with how we met!

Violence in Film – A Love Story

I just know it is going to happen. At our 50th wedding anniversary, my grand-daughter is going to lean down close to my chair right before we blow out the candles on our anniversary cheesecake and whisper excitedly, “How did you and Grandpa meet?”

And just as excitedly, I will lean in closer to her with my hand cupped gently around my mouth and giggle into her tiny tilted ear, “in a Violence in Film class at George Mason University way back in 1989”. She will surely take a step back and wonder if I am hitting early Alzheimers.

My husband and I will simply laugh. Because that is exactly how it all started. I was an English major taking a film class. I (obviously) didn’t pay much attention to the genre when I picked this class. I was just trying to get one more requirement in and in a course catalogue filled with poetry and short story writing and literature and transcendental meditation classes, who would be worried about a simple film class focusing on violence? Clearly, not me. A Violence in Film class is just about the last class I would ever sign up for. It is even lower on the list than Shark Training 101.

Unfortunately, it did not all happen on a dark and stormy night because that would have made a great introduction to the story. Alas, it was actually a bright and sunny day at the beginning of the Fall semester. He was already sitting down when I walked into class on that first day. He was scrunched down in the seat, feet in the aisle, ankles crossed, and his blue tattered hat was tilted to just enough to the right. And he was cute as heck. He was an accounting major taking an upper level English class as an elective. Because that makes perfect sense.

Then I saw her. The teacher. Cynthia Fuchs. In fatigues and, if I remember correctly, she donned a strawberry blond crew cut. She looked pretty serious. Then I saw the syllabus. Violence in Film. Hmmm. I immediately wondered how many classes I was allowed to attend before dropping the class without GPA consequences. I wanted to stay just long enough to meet that guy, but not one short take more because the movies listed were gruesome – Taxi, Robocop, Blue Velvet. I would not have paid $5 to watch those shows at the theater and then suddenly I was about to let my parents drop a load of tuition dollars on this class because there was a cute guy in the back row. Excellent.

Professor Fuchs started calling out attendance. I waited and watched to see when he would raise his hand. This was my chance to find out his name.

Robert.

Here.

Seriously? Is that Rob, Bob, Bert, Robert, Robbie, or perhaps Bobby? Or maybe he goes by his initials. You gotta be kidding me. This might take more than one or two classes to figure out, especially considering the fact that every other class was scheduled as a viewing class where we would sit in the dark, in silence and watch a movie. A violent movie.

What I came to find out not so much later was that the cute guy in the tilted hat with the official first name of “Robert” actually went by his middle name.

I figured I would at least go to the next class. We were watching a movie. So, I packed my popcorn and my cranberry juice and headed off to class. The seat next to Robert/Bobby/Rob a.k.a. Number One Hubby was open. I took it. Maybe I pushed another student out of the way to get there, maybe not. But I got the seat. The lights dimmed, the movie started, and I carefully put one piece of popcorn in my mouth at a time and let it melt, slowly and quietly.

Then I heard, “Pssst.”

Really, was he talking to me? The dropping of this class and the making of our first date just might happen sooner than later.

I put my hand to my chest and shrugged my shoulders as if to say, “who me”. I might have even flipped my hair. A little. Maybe. Just a little.

To which he replied, “Could you please keep it down? It’s hard to hear the movie.”

Oh dear heavens. That is when I learned that my future husband was not only handsome, but also a smart arse. And thus the crush began.

We starting skipping the classes in which films were being shown and, instead, hung out in the Ratt. I vaguely remember beers and pizza being involved. Then we would have to rent the movie and it made more sense to watch it together. We’d go to the discussion class together and have our own discussions afterward. He liked the movies. I hated the movies. It was a match made in movie heaven.

We even worked side by side on our final papers. We had to create our own violent movie scene. And to this day, Number One Hubby will swear he got a better grade in the class than I got. And sometimes, for the sake of marriage, we let the little tales go so that one day we will be able to tell a Violence in Film Love Story at our 50th wedding anniversary party.

It all came together when he proposed to me, wearing that same tattered blue hat tilted perfectly to the right, in the Blockbuster video parking lot. We were creating a new story – not for homework – but for a lifetime.