Friday, January 22, 2010

Letting Go and (Finally!) Finding My Voice

So my creative writing class started on January 19th and so far-it kicks ass :) My teacher and classmates are all such passionate people, it's contagious! Today we had our first lesson (all online) and one of the things that one of our writing books, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg taught us was: "Give yourself permission to write the worst junk in America". Now, at first, I thought that idea was kind of funny, why would you want to do something like that? But as soon as we applied that rule (along with other fabulous rules such as, keep your hand moving, don't cross out, don't worry about punctuation/spelling/grammar, lose control, don't think/don't get logical, and go for the jugular, in other words, write about things that matter to you and if your writing something that makes you feel uncomfortable, push through the resistance and keep writing) to our writing sprints and writing practices for this week's lesson things came alive (at least for me) and I don't mean my writing, that part was crap, to be honest, (and I'm OK with that!) but I mean the whole process. We had timed sessions where we would write using a prompt and have 10-20 minute writing sprints and once I got going and just kept my hand moving and didn't worry about what I was writing or how I was writing it, I didn't want to stop! By the time I was done with all of the writing sprints and practices, i had four hand written pages under my belt! Normally it takes me days to write that much! This time it took just a handful of minutes! It was extremely freeing, giving myself permission to write crap and just let go of everything else and just write, I felt so inspired and pumped up afterwards! You guys should definitely give all these ideas a try, they really do work!

In other news, for those of you that don't know, I've been toying with idea of combining little red riding hood with Hansel and Gretel and making It into one story. Well, after writing the first couple of pages I realized something: I am a total fraud. I felt like one anyway, because when I sat down to write that story, the whole time in the back of mind i kept thinking of a YA author I adore who had written books just like the one that I was trying to write. I was feeling guilty about yet again stopping another project, but I was feeling more guilty about the fact that I was trying to imitate someone else's story. Then, a few days ago a thought struck me: what if I just retell on of the fairytale from one (or two) of the characters perspectives in that fairytale? And so, Gretel's (and possibly someone else's) story was born! This story is going much better and I've even gotten some awesome comments on an excerpt that I posted! First I posted the excerpt over at Michelle Zink blog where she has an awesome feature called Open Mic where you post 300 words or less of a short story, novel, or poem that your working on and people comment on the excerpt. This week's Open Mic is extra special since Jennifer Brown, author of The Hate List, is guest commenting! :D The next place I posted the excerpt was on Steph Bowe's blog, Hey, Teenager of the Year! where is she is doing a similar thing to Open Mic. I was so thrilled by both Jennifer's and Steph's comments on my piece that I just can't help but share them with you! First, here's the excerpt of my story:

I remember that day as if it were yesterday.
My brother Abel locked up in a cage, the straw-covered bottom strewn with remnants of past meals, causing the inside of the cage to smell pungent and reek of fetid meat and other rotten food. His skin was papery white, his stomach round and bloated from the copious amounts of food he’d been forced to consume in hopes that he would become fat enough for the witch to cook and eat in order to sustain her diet of children.
And I remember me, feeling utterly helpless and racked with guilt as I watched my brother suffer from the other side of the cage while I was forced to cook the meals that were used to fatten him up. My hands were red and raw from washing dishes for hours on end and my feet and back ached from standing at the stove constantly. So not only was I a slave to the witch who had so successfully fooled us both into thinking she cared for us, but I was also an accomplice in my brother’s destruction.

Here's what the lovely Jennifer Brown had to say about it:

"Creeepy! But in a totally engrossing way! At first I thought the brother was some sort of circus or carnival sideshow, and I was down with that, but then you bring in a witch and everything gets… whoa, really exciting! And the sister is the one fattening him up for being the witch’s feast? What wonderful, horrible, WONDERFUL conflict! What I really loved most was the description of the cage — I could almost smell it — and of the brother with the white, bloated belly. I would love to hear more — I’m certain the sister is furtively sneaking glances at him, or maybe in some other way trying to help him out. Talking to him, coaching him, passing him things that will help him escape.
And you want to know what’s really amazing? I’ve already got an image of the witch in my mind, even though you never described her! You pulled me in so immediately with the description of the cage, I was able to “see” the monster who was doing this.
Cool story!"

And here's what the awesome Steph Bowe had to say:

"Wow, love the way you've written this! Hansel and Gretel from Gretel's perspective -great.
I can't think of anything else to add! I think this is great, and I get the feeling that the events of the novel occur after the events of the traditional story - right?"

Aren't those the best comments EVER?! I'm still totally in shock and over the moon about them both! What a great way to kick off the weekend! :D

Hope your Friday is going just as great as mine is! :D


Michelle Zink said...

It's been wonderful to get a glimpse of your work, Ella. I'm so happy you've been joining us on Open Mic, and I look forward to seeing more of your work.


Linda Glaz said...

Sometimes bizarre is just better. Triggers ideas for things you would never have thought of on your own. Way to go!

Courtney Reese said...

Great blog post! I've given you the Happy Award over at my blog! Swing by to pick it up. Congrats!
Courtney Reese's Blog