Tag Archives: writers

NaNoWriMo, Day 11: 8,000 Words in the Red

keep-writingCaveat: This is a political post. I’m also gonna talk about religion.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we usually post our Pep Talks on Sundays, at the top of the week, and this Sunday I’ll have the pleasure of posting a Pep Talk from Rob Greene, Chair of the NH Writer’s Project.  But for many of us it’s been a tough week, and frankly I needed a Pep Talk myself.  So I wrote one.

Election Day, post-election week/8,000 words in the red = 8,000 tears I’ve shed

If you know me, you’ll know I did not vote for Trump. I believe Trump is inexperienced, but worse, a charlatan. Tuesday night, I watched the election returns report his climbing numbers in total disbelief. To be honest, I’ve watched Trump’s entire campaign in disbelief during which I have experienced many nights filled with anxiety, and when I could sleep, it was a poorly spent night of fitful unrest. Wednesday was hard. I was crying. I was disappointed. Pro-Clinton friends were  comforting each other. Pro-Trump friends were rejoicing and I was trying to listen and understand their perspective. One friend posted this on Wednesday –

I will choose love.

This morning I have a heightened awareness of my calling and responsibility as an artist – to tell the stories that help others choose love as well, to tell the stories of those who have no voice, to be a powerful and yet compassionate prophetic voice.

Thank you Lord, for reminding me that the arts, my life’s work and my true joy, matters.

-Catherine Pleis Gaffney

Many who work in the arts are politically left and progressive and are being particularly vocal on social media in the election aftermath. However, logic dictates that there are conservatives and Trump-supporters working in the arts, who, at least on my feeds, have not been as vocal; nevertheless, this call to love needs to be for ALL OF US.

My Nano project is retelling a Greek myth, so I’ve been reading about Olympian and pre-Olympian pantheism and classic Greek poets and trying to understand that culture through the sieve of my Christianity. To stay true to my beliefs, I need to wrestle with pagan ideas and reinterpret them, while maintaining some integrity of the story and respect of the culture of the time. The piece has already unearthed themes I’ve never written about and since it’s my practice during NaNoWriMo to write fluidly by adding in inspiration from current events (which have been anything from an overheard conversation to a news event), I am also processing my hopes and disappointments about the election and funneling that into the book. With every new project we have an opportunity to grow in our craft, and I encourage you to continue to be a voice and a mirror to our society.

I heard an interview with author Richard Russo on NPR on Wednesday, and he says this, when host Renee Montagne asked about

“the responsibility that…writers have, if any, in this very new era in American life?”

RUSSO: Well, it’s a new era in one way, and in other ways, it’s just the same old world. It hasn’t really changed. And I don’t think that the purpose of literature has changed either. I think we writers do have a responsibility, first to entertain, but second to instruct by bearing witness. If we had a great responsibility before this election, I would say we have, perhaps, an even greater one today.

Russo is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and screenwriter. “Nobody’s Fool,” “Empire Falls” and his latest, “Everybody’s Fool,” explore the world of the white, male, blue-collar demographic that carried Trump to victory.  This is not my demographic. I am a Filipino-American, Protestant, white collared woman. I have never read Russo, but I connect with him as a fellow-author who puzzles over their world.

Yes, I encourage you to begin a peaceful transition, and I encourage you to begin listening to each other and to try to move toward understanding the point of view that is opposite your own. This does not mean we rewrite history by erasing hateful things the president-elect has said and the violence he has incited. I hope my fears are unfounded and I hope I am wrong. I sincerely hope Trump’s campaign has not been a vanity project,  but history  will hold him to the truth as well.

A NaNoWriMo call to arms has always been, “The World Needs Your Novel,” and if we are to come together, we need many voices, and many views, and many compassionate hearts listening to each other and sharing our stories.

Your Novel will bring about that future.


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Monday’s Mix: Short Story Contest

pay the rentCame across Aerogramme Writer’s Studio site which is chock full of advice, tips, resources and wanted to share their post on an upcoming short story contest:

“Boston Review is now accepting entries for the Aura Estrada Short Story Contest 2017.

Founded in 1975, Boston Review is one of America’s most prestigious literature and politics magazines. Past contributors include Saul Bellow, Jhumpa Lahiri and John Updike.

Boston Review’s Aura Estrada Short Story Contest is open to all writers, regardless of citizenship or publication history. The winner of the contest will receive $1500 and have his or her work published in the July/August 2017 issue of Boston Review. The runners-up stories may also be published.”

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A to Z Blogging Challenge: T, Tribeca, Telling & Truth

"Cook" starring Eddie Murphy, Britt Robertson, and Christian MadsenI’m glad to be able to use this platform to give a shout out to my former college classmate and roomie, Susan McMartin, whose film debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival (NYC) last week. Entitled Mr. Church (a change from the original title of Cook) the film stars Eddie Murphy in a dramatic story that is semi-autobiographical.

The reviews are very favorable, praising Murphy’s portrayal of a man who comes to live with a single mother and her kids, agreeing to cook for them. What might have initially been estimated as a short term arrangement, Mr. Church’s relationship with the family spans 15 years.

I’ve seen only one unfavorable review so far, which criticized the story for employing a subdued Murphy to play a “magical negro”. I’m not going to comment on that review because I haven’t seen the movie, which is scheduled for a wider release November 11th. But here’s the rub – McMartin’s story is based on real life events, and whatever creative souls produce for public view, will be subject to criticism. While students at NYU, our writing professor Mark Dickerman was fond of reminding us that real life is no excuse for bad drama; rather than recording verbatim the events of our lives, we were encouraged to find the nugget or theme of the story, and often times make the ordinary events, extraordinary and the extraordinary, ordinary – even departing from autobiography to find a story vehicle that would best amplify our theme. Given the overwhelming favorable reviews, I’m sure McMartin has done that. In order to connect with our audience – be it an individual reader of our novel, or a film director interested in optioning a script, or a wider audience watching a collaborative project – we need to tap in to life truths that resonate because they are true. I think also, when we draw from our own experiences, we need to remember that these events are fixed points in history, and history needs to be evaluated in its own time, not rewritten or white-washed to satisfy the current wave of political correctness.  Is the Mr. Church character a  “magical negro”?  — All I know is that Mr. Church is a character who acts as a catalyst; in history he was a man who mended a family.

Susan’s had a life full of ups and downs and it’s been truly wonderful seeing her come in to herself and come in to very good fortune after many, many years of paying her dues and honing her craft. I’ll let her tell her own story, which she writes about in her blog Studio City Mom. My question for you is – what story will you tell?

During April, I’m participating in The A to Z Blogging Challenging, blogging 26 days of the month on writing topics while systematically moving through the alphabet. The goal is to develop a more regular blogging habit and network with other bloggers.  Join us!


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A to Z Blogging Challenge, S: SQUEEE! Sedaris!

David-SedarisA few weeks ago, I spent a delightful evening seeing humorist David Sedaris at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. A bonus of the night was that our two older daughters came up from their colleges for the show; tickets had been a Christmas present for the five of us who know his work (our youngest had her own magical night sleeping over at her friend’s house). David entered the stage wearing culottes, and then proceeded to read a story printed in the New Yorker about shopping in Tokyo.  I’ve read his books but wasn’t aware that he was writing for The New Yorker, so now I feel like I have a weekly  treat that I can look forward to between the publication of his books.  SQUEEEE!

Many years ago, a librarian I used to work with recommended that I check out one of his audio books to listen to on my long drive down to Indianapolis for my library classes, and oh my.  I found myself laughing so hard that I had to pull over, stop the CD, and pull it out of the player.  If you’ve listened to Sedaris read his own work, you’ll know he’s that funny.

Seeing a favorite author is such an emotional experience.  We fans love our favorite authors because their writing lifts from the page and speaks to us.  They can articulate things we thing and feel that we aren’t even aware of how to begin to express.  Sedaris read from his work and then raised the house lights and answered Q&As from the audience for two hours.  We waited in the book signing line for another hour, and honestly, I smiled and just basked in the enjoyment of the experience the whole time.  He was every bit as charming and delightful and funny and irreverent as he appears in his work. I held it together until we crossed the threshold on the way out to the vestibule, at which point I turned to my husband, threw my arms around him and sobbed. So many times I’d missed the opportunity to see his show on a book tour when my path didn’t quite align with his – my husband estimated it was about 11 years I’d been waiting – it might have been more , but 11 from the first time I saw that he was on tour. We’d just arrived in Germany, and David was going to be in Munich, but since I hadn’t learned the language or public transportation system, I had no way to travel the few miles to the venue.

That show felt like a culmination of so many good things – family, love, laughter, stories.  So wonderful to have a bit of Christmas in the spring.

During April, I’m participating in The A to Z Blogging Challenging, blogging 26 days of the month on writing topics while systematically moving through the alphabet. The goal is to develop a more regular blogging habit and network with other bloggers.  Join us!

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A to Z Blogging Challenge: O, Observations

harriet the spyWhen I was a kid, one of my favorite books was Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy.  Harriet was an 11 year old writer who would wander around the neighborhood to her favorite hiding places and jot down her secret observations about everyone in a college ruled notebook.  She studies human nature and the predictable patterns people have. Sure, things take a disastrous turn when her secret notebook falls into the wrong hands…namely, anyone other than Harriet!  When her classmates read Harriet’s description of them in her notebook, they are horrified. Harriet is ousted from the group. She learns a hard lesson about truth and friendship and lying and secrets…all valuable messages for a budding writer.

I think I’m going to have to make a date with myself to sit in a coffee shop sometime soon, notebook open, and just record dialogue.  There’s a fun writing exercise I used to do with a writing pal – you find a location where you can overhear people’s conversations.  You each start off working on your projects, but when someone gives the signal, you start weaving in overheard dialogue in your story.  And then when someone gives another signal…you trade notebooks!   And you keep recording conversations or tuck in an object that you see in the room or an article of clothing someone’s wearing.  It’s a fun exercise to shake yourself out of a tough place or a manuscript that’s stuck for the moment.  Sometimes something will trigger something else…leading to a nugget of an idea that unravels a problem.


During April, I’m participating in The A to Z Blogging Challenging, blogging 26 days of the month on writing topics while systematically moving through the alphabet. The goal is to develop a more regular blogging habit and network with other bloggers.  Join us!

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Friday Fun: Writers Are…

dating a writer

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January 22, 2016 · 6:33 am

Writing Prompt Wednesday: New Year’s Resolutions


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December 30, 2015 · 7:35 am