This post from Writer Unboxed plugs Donald Maass’s latest book, The Emotional Craft of Fiction: Writing the Story beneath the Surface. But: a) you may want to know about this book, and b) the included interview is worth reading in itself. I’ve been sharing with some of my Internet Writing Worship cronies some thoughts about that “story beneath the surface” that strokes in depths beyond simply solving a problem, depths that help us think about what the real problems are. This concept is similar to what M.Dellert calls the “plight,” the question behind the plot that the character and the reader must struggle to define together—and often cannot rationally answer. The plight, the story beneath surface, are the forces that shape our human understanding, not just our ability to string cause-and-effect together. It’s been a while since I bought a book on craft, but I just may buy this one. I thought you might like this news.
Category Archives: Interviews
Check out this rich interview with a great writer!Which of her books have you read? Which do you admire, and why?
Check out my writer’s interview, now available at Don Massenzio’s site! This was a lot of fun to write.
Lurking around on an NCTE forum for English teachers, I learned about Bryan A. Garner’s Language Change Index and thought it nicely complemented some thoughts I’ve posted on this blog about grammar and usage. An interview and a critique discuss his efforts to do more formally what I did informally in ranking usage practices by how widely they’re likely to actually be noticed (see “split infinitive”) by the learned folks aspiring authors need to impress. What emerges for me, based on the examples in these articles, is how idiosyncratic grammar prescriptives can be. BTW, “hopefully” is now a Stage 5, not, in my view, because it ever was an “error,” but because it has been recognized as a perfectly good sentence modifier along the lines of “unfortunately” or Garner’s example of a “correct” sentence modifier, “regrettably.” No identifiable subject has to “hope” any more than an identifiable subject has to “regret.” So there.
This is the second post in the story of Green River Writers, a long-lived, successful writers’ group based in Louisville, Kentucky. In my last post, I introduced the president and founder, Mary “Ernie” O’Dell, and shared a little of her writing journey. Today I’m sharing the story of Green River Writers: how it started and why it’s thrived so long.
The group was born shortly after Ernie met her second husband, Jim (she calls him her “real husband”).
We were both writers; he was living in North Carolina and I was living in Louisville—and there were no writers in my life except him and a few people that I met at writers’ conferences, so I thought, by golly, I need some other writers. So I called up a few of the people that I knew that wrote, and I said, let’s get together. Jim came up from North Carolina for a four-day weekend at Rough River State Park in Kentucky. We decided to have a real retreat in the summer of that year, 1986, I believe, and we couldn’t find housing cheap enough for all us poor people, so we rented a girls’ dormitory at Campbellsville College in Campbellsville, Kentucky, for a week at $5 a night per room. We changed from Rough River to Green River because the Green River flows right through Campbellsville.
At that time, we had 12 or 15 members. Campbellsville College (University now) was fairly conservative; they frowned upon us having men and women in the same building, much less on the same corridor. I went into the office and said, “I need to make something clear to you. When we come here, we no longer have men and woman, we have writers, and there are times when are up all night, there are times we need to consult with a fellow writer, and we don’t want to have to go down a floor or to a different building, so please put us all on the same corridor,” and they did. But they were watching us carefully. I got called on the carpet because downstairs in the public restroom, someone had left a beer can. I said, “Are we the only people in this building?” and they said, “Well, no,” and I said, “Well, we didn’t do it.” Another time someone went outside to smoke and came back and exhaled smoke into the hallway and they called me on the carpet for that. So I had to be righteously indignant many times while we were there.
Today: Ernie’s Writing Journey
If, like me, you go through stages in your writing career where you feel isolated and in need of connections with other writers, you may have sought out a writing group–or perhaps even considered starting one. Of course, online resources let us share our writing and collect tips from a plethora of experts. But these tips can be generic, not specific to our needs, and even strong online critique groups can suffer from the limitation of all online “teaching”: the loss of body language and verbal cues and the difficulty of eliciting immediate responses when we have questions about a comment or need follow up.
Recently I’ve read and shared several posts about writing groups, and I’ve written before about my group and how I value it. Some commenters have mentioned joining groups that folded or that didn’t work for them. I realized that my group, Green River Writers, based in Louisville, Kentucky, is an example of a group that has held together for decades. What exactly does make for a successful, long-lived writing group?
One important factor in the group’s longevity and success is its founder and president, Mary “Ernie” O’Dell. I cornered Ernie to learn about how the group began and why it has succeeded.
Today’s post introduces Ernie and her journey as a writer—a journey many of us can identify with in some ways.
A little about Ernie
I immediately asked about one thing I’d often puzzled over: where “Ernie” came from.
It comes from Mary Ernestine O’Dell. Dad’s name was Ernest Forbis Houck. I was named after him and his friends called him Ernie, so when I got in junior high, and was asked what my name was, I said Ernie. So that’s where that was born.
Three of Ernie’s novels have been published by Turquoise Morning Press in Louisville: Cyn, The Sweet Letting Go, and Banger’s People. I asked Ernie about the settings and ideas that fed into her books.
I grew up in West Virginia and the southern and eastern Kentucky region. All the books have the flavor of that region; two of my books involve the West Virginia coal-mining industry: Cyn and the one I’m working on now, which I’m calling “Hope” for the time being. [Hope is one of the main characters, a high-schooler who lives with her older sister Lily and their parents and siblings in a coal-mining town just at the outbreak of World War II.]
Cyn takes place in the neighborhood of little row houses where my daughter became friends with the next door neighbor when they were seven or eight. The opening scene, the little girls in the elderberry bushes getting elderberry stains on their clothes, that was me: I would play in the bushes behind our house with my little cousin and get stains on me and my mother would not like that.
The interesting thing about Cyn was that I wrote in five different points of view. When Sheri McClaren, my mentor, read the first draft, she loved all these characters except the little girl’s father. She needed to know why the child loved him, because she wouldn’t have loved him if he had been her father. So I had to go back and rewrite the little girl’s father, and in doing so I had to figure out where I found him, who he was, and why he was so judgmental and vindictive. I discovered that he was my first husband who was a minister for some years. Then I had to find out why this fictional person would be this negative. I made him the son of an alcoholic and youngest son of three brothers, two of whom were alcoholics; they all made fun of him the time. I had to really deepen his character so he wouldn’t be such a bad guy that no one would care about him.
I wrote The Sweet Letting Go a few years after my second husband (my real husband) died of lung cancer. I was his main caretaker, but I didn’t want to make it autobiographical. I turned the whole thing around to make the female the one with the serious illness with the male as her caregiver.
Ernie’s Writing Journey
Ernie’s writing career began during her career as an elementary teacher in Louisville. Continue reading
Green River Writers 2015 Writing Contest
Green River Writers 2015 Writing Contest. Two Grand Prizes and 14 other categories, including fiction, non-fiction, & poetry. Over $1700 in prizes. Grand prize categories- $3 each entry for GRW members; $5 each entry for non-members. All other categories- $2 each entry or $12 maximum for GRW members; $3 each entry for non-members, but they may join GRW and receive the member rate. Deadline: August 31, 2015. Details: http://www.greenriverwriters.org/
Will Lavender, the NYT-bestselling author who recently honored us with an interview, will be judging the “Novel First-Chapter” category I’m sponsoring. If you have a novel in progress, enter your first chapter!
BTW, if you’re in the Louisville area, Green River Writers is a wonderful community. I don’t know what I would do without my monthly GRW group!