Oct 25

The Writer’s Ear

All writers know the importance of the writer’s eye: the ability to notice fine detail that others might miss, seeing patterns, resemblances, and conflicts. But how many of us ever consider the importance of the writer’s ear?

We all know the importance of listening to the cadences of natural speech, the way other people talk, the background noises of our lives that make telling details in our stories. But what about the other writer’s ear, the one that hears things that are not really there?

I often hear commercials on the radio urging women to be sure they get their “screaming mammograms”. I always wonder if maybe a screening mammorgram would be less painful. Mis-hearings like this can be inspirational at times. Harlan Ellison tells of hearing a woman at a party say “Jefty is five. He’s always five.” That inspired his short story “Jefty is Five” about a little boy who is always five, at least physically. What the woman really said — “Jefty is fine” — just does not have the same effect.

Similarly, the notion of a screaming mammogram leaves me with some thoughts that may one day pan out. Under what circumstances would such a thing be considered standard medical procedure? Why would women consent to this procedure? What would be their pay-off? That cross-pollinization with “what if” is what makes the writer’s ear so special. What we hear becomes a different sort of reality in our minds.

Do you pay attention to the things you hear? What about the things you only think you hear?

Oct 13

Some Better, Some Worse

What’s better:

We finally got somebody hired to fill our empty position. He starts Wednesday. It will take a while to get him trained, but at least there is light at the end of this tunnel.

Walk-in traffic at the library is easing up a little bit. Now that everybody pretty much knows their way around campus, we get a breather until assignments start coming due.

I get Columbus Day off today! Hooray for gummint institutions!

What’s worse:

I did seven one-hour library orientations last week. Brain-fry is the blue-plate special. I have four two-hour sessions this week. Two on Tuesday and two on Wednesday. Flip me over and poke me with a spatula, I’m almost done.

My short story is at a standstill. See above comments about brain-fry.

And life goes on. Next week will be better.

Oct 05

Busy Week

Fall Quarter started Wednesday. We have a record enrollment and a short staff by one position. One position may not sound like much to most people, but we only have 2 full-time and 4 part-time positions. To be missing 25% of our part-time help is a major blow at a busy time like this. I am TIRED!!

To top off the week, I attended the Crossroads Writers’ Conference in Macon. The featured guests were Joshilyn Jackson and Ad Hudler, both of whom were both immensely entertaining and very informative.

Jackson led a panel entitled “The Girl Who Stopped Writing: Breaking Blocks”. She claims to not believe in writer’s block, but we got to peer into the writing process of a best-selling novelist and pick her brain about whatever we had questions about. That was cool.

In addition, she gave one of the pre-conference presentations: “Quilting a Novel: How the Pieces of The Girl Who Stopped Swimming Came Together”. She discussed writing her latest book, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming (damn fine novel, by the way), and displayed a quilt that an art quilter (Pamela Allen) made for her that mirrors in many ways the quilt that the main character in TGWSS makes. That was plain fascinating.

Hudler Led two panels: “She drove a Camaro and dyed her hair blond: Choosing details that bring your characters to life” and “Secrets of the writer’s life: Agent-hunting, soul-searching, cocktail drinking, & tips on finding writing time in your very-busy life”. The first included an interactive exercise in building a character from scratch that was a fun learning experience. The second workshop was just a free-wheeling discussion of any and all aspects of the writer’s life.

In addition, I got to spend a day hobnobbing with my fellow wizards and meeting new people. This was the first year of this con, and it was a major success. Though it centered around literary fiction, that was fine with me, since a lot of my stories tend toward that category. I am hoping for many happy returns for this event.

Finally, the moderator of my online crit group issued a challenge to us to write a short story in October based on a photograph that she gave us a link to. That promises to be fun.

This has been one of those weeks that I both am glad it’s done and wish it could continue.