You’re wondering which gym I go to, right? Okay, I’ll admit, people aren’t really having sex in my gym (as far as I know). Instead, I’ve been listening to Diana Gabaldon’s book, I Give You My Body . . . How I Write Sex Scenes while working on the elliptical machine. Needless-to-say, I’ve been going to the gym a lot more these days! And I’ve been learning a few things.
My main character, Leo Townsend, is quite the playboy but, so far, I’ve avoided writing about him while “in the act”. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to go about it. The writing, that is. Gabaldon says that sex scenes are about emotion more than anything — that and sensory details. Those things I can tackle.
Stephen King has been writing novels and short stories for over fifty years and yet he says that one of the things he loves about writing is that he’s always learning. That’s what I love about writing, too.
So in addition to Gabaldon’s book, I’m working my way through Donald Maass’ The Emotional Side of Fiction – How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface. It’s made me rethink the main character in my young adult novel. The premise of Maass’ book is to write so that readers go on an emotional journey. As Maass says, “. . . readers may believe that they’re living a story along with its characters. Actually, they’re not. Readers are having their own experience that is merely occasioned by what’s on the page . . . What the novelist is doing, though, is not causing readers to feel as the novelist does, or as his characters do, but rather inducing for each reader a unique emotional journey through a story.” Not a small task! And not easy. But I’m learning.
If you’ve read my books, or even just one or two of my newsletters, you’ll know that I’m more of a straight-forward writer – not particularly poetic. I’ll admit it, I don’t get metaphors. So I’ve purchased A Poetry Handbook – A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry by Mary Oliver. We’ll see if this book effects my writing as well. I also bought Annie Dillard’s Pulitzer Prize winning book of essays Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Carmen Maria Machado’s book of short stories with the incredible title Her Body and Other Parties.
And last weekend I attended the Chicago Writers Association‘s inaugural writers’ conference: Just Write — An Uncommon Writers’ Conference. There I learned visualization, how to handle sex on the page (yep, more sex), maximizing the impact of my words, and writing historical fiction. Plus I met some amazing authors: Chicago Tribune Sports Writer Fred Mitchell (click here to see him sparing with Muhammad Ali), Patricia Ann McNair, Christine Maul Rice, Christine Sneed, Katrina Kittle, Kelly Harms, Susanna Calkins, and I had the chance to catch up with my friend, Ann Garvin (she rode in an elevator with George Saunders at the AWP Conference!).
The trick of course is balance. I’ve known people who read every book on the craft of writing they can get their hands on and attend every conference and workshop their pocketbook can afford, but don’t write a single word of their manuscript. Even learning can be used as a procrastination tool. Did I mention that writers are professional procrastinators? But David Fisher and Joe Meno, keynote speakers at the Just Write Conference, said that their success is due to their tenacity — they write all the time. So now I’m inspired to devote some part of every day to my writing. Not only inspired, I’m determined.
Okay, but first, maybe I should head to the gym?
*Sex Scenes in the Gym — now there’s a title! Originally, I was going to call this newsletter “Always Learning” — but would you have read it?
Where you can find me when I’m not writing at the gym:
Upstate 8 Literary Festival, April 6, 2018, South Elgin, IL. I’m the short story judge for high school students! I get to present the Judge’s Choice Award to the winner and teach a writing workshop, twice. Can’t wait to meet these talented kids.
UW-Madison Writers’ Institute Pathway to Publication, April 12-15, 2018. I’ll be busy helping writers practice their pitches to agents, running the Book Fair, and, together with Book Doctor Kevin Mullen, hosting the Live Lit Event.
Madtown Author Daze, Saturday, May 5, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Madison Museum of Modern Art. As one of twenty-six local authors on hand, I’ll discuss my books and sell signed copies. Would love to see you there!
UW-Madison’s Write-by-the-Lake, June 11 – 15, 2018. Heaven on Earth for writers! I’m offering a workshop on setting and will emcee Open Mic for those brave souls who want to share their work. If you’re a writer, be sure to check out this amazing writing retreat.
One last thing — in my last newsletter I mentioned that I had to bring the following food items to my niece’s Oscars Party without knowing why:
* White/beige colored hummus (3 packages, all the same flavor)
* 1 yellow, 1 green, 1 red, 1 orange pepper
* 1 cucumber
* black olives
* 1 red onion
* 2 radishes
* 1 single green bean
* 1 big carrot (or a few mini ones)
* whole almonds
* blue corn tortilla chips
Here’s what we made with them:
For those of you who watched the Oscars, can you name the Academy Award nominated movie?