From the category archives:

Creative Writing

Motion in Poetry

by Dr Davis on April 11, 2016

Notes from poetry session of TCEA 2016

Yon Hui Bell, San Antonio College
“Cross Pollination” and Other Poems

did specifically write for this conference
the many faces/experiences of migration = theme
dominant issue in global and American politics

epigraphs introduce…
Where are you from? Question so frequent…

Hallie Raymond, Tarleton State U
“A Modern-Day Storybook Knight”

collection of poetry/prose/poetic prose
transition from childhood thinking about ideals and living them out

Belema Ibama, Texas Southern U
“Rooted” and Other Poems

orig from Nigeria, West Africa
visa office to now

He wore a hat when he came to America.
Sick smile from behind the glass window

Houston—the sweet that is not good for the teeth

Questions:
What inspired you to write poems?
Belema Ibama: My journey, so write. Unique, but universal. Go back into the mind of myself as the child. Finally understanding and write it down before I forget.

Question: Write often on this subject?
BI: Yes.
Tend to write about foreigners’ experience in the US.
Experience of immigrant and foreigner.

Yon Hui Bell: When wrote specifically for conference, very interested in this issue because it has to do with identity. Raised by white, Republican, Trump supporters… The idea is that we are all migrants. As an adopted child, I feel like an immigrant.
Some way to understand we all are immigrants. Who is other? Shouldn’t exist.

Question: Taking on personas that were not you?
YHB: myself, lived in El Salvador… don’t speak Korean, Japanese, Chinese…
Hard for people to understand.
He experiences anti-immigration. Second part in second stanza. Not a brown invasion but a white invasion. All migrants. Interesting for him to have family gatherings with my family.
Stereotypes and divisions and prejudices.

Question: White woman born in US… doesn’t apply to me?
Always felt like new people.
First poem for this conference.
Others transitions and people coming and going from your life.

Hallie: writing happens at periods of transition, when I have something to say that needs to be said…

Question: Identity and googling…
Our identity immigrating to online. What might that bring up as well?
Before the internet, we had identity from family, social groups, community.
How has that played a part in your identity?

YHB: okay relationship with tech
Benefits to it
Social media and social justice on the internet, being able to capture and transmit instances of injustice so that everyone knows about
Went viral
Forgotten and moved on
Not quite sure… global identity sense but can oversaturate you till you have no identity.
Flickering in the spaces. Nothing substantial.
People’s connection to earth.

Question: title is rooted, but poem not rooted, unrooted

BI: When I came back to Texas, ages 9-16 in Texas, then finished high school and degree in Nigeria. Houston is hotter than Nigeria.
Aspects… so many things about Houston that remind me of Nigeria. That hot feeling.

Identity—fortunate to know because I am full African.
I know my identity. The original part of them.
It’s a good thing.

Find their origins. Helpful. Gives closure.

Particular audience you were considering? What audience were you thinking?
Hallie: Didn’t enter my head. Didn’t know where I could ever share any of this.
Just thoughts that come into my head and I have to give voice to them somehow.
Don’t know who needs to hear them.

{ 0 comments }

CFP: Journal of Fresh Poetry, Fiction

by Dr Davis on August 9, 2015

mirorview journal, international journal of fresh poetry,fiction and related articles-update
full name / name of organization:
mirrorview journal
contact email:
[email protected]
mirrorview journal: An International Journal of Fresh Poetry, Fiction and Literary Criticism

About Mirrorview Journal
The journal is an international contemporary journal of fresh poetry, articles and fiction. It strives to publish the best. It will be published quarterly with ISSN/ISBN number. For further details visit us at http://mirrorviewjournal.blogspot.in or mirrorviewjournal.blogspot.in

Fiction and Poetry and Article: For fiction our mission is to publish the finest fiction (up to 10,000 words), with special attention to character-driven stories that examine the depths and heights of emotions and motivation from a broad variety of cultural and social perspectives. We are also interested in more experimental narratives as well as well-written flash fiction (1,500 words or less). Surprise us with your writing. There are no restrictions on subjects and themes. For poetry, we aim to publish challenging and engaging works by both established and emerging poets. Articles are invited on any theme related to arts, humanities and social science with broader aspects of literature within 3000 words.
Please note:
Fiction and Article: Submit one piece at one time. Poetry: Submit up to three poems at one time. Include a short third-person biographical note in your submission in single attachment. Only previously unpublished works are considered.
Copyright: The journal is entitled to publish submitted work in any form (online or in print). The editor-in-chief can also reproduce the submission in any form (book/ anthology) and authors will be reported about the publication in other form.

Submit
Submission Guidelines
1. Submissions must be sent as Microsoft Word attachments (.doc) via email to [email protected]
2. Please make the editor’s job easy: Each submission must be a new email thread, attach only one submission per email, use an appropriate email like subject: “Submission: Short Fiction:”.
3. Please give the document an appropriate title. Best would be – .

4. For short fiction, we encourage stories which are between 1000-2500 words. In case it exceeds the word limit, we might just consider it if it is exceptionally good.
5. We accept poetry of any length, but preferably within 50 lines.
6. Articles within 3000 words, referencing in MLA style.

Plagiarism Policy: By submitting paper for publication to the journal, you as contributor/ author/ co-author state that:
You are fully aware that plagiarism is wrong and you know that plagiarism is the use of another person’s idea or published work and pretend that it is one’s own.
You declare that each contribution to your work from other people published or unpublished sources have been acknowledged and the sources of information have been referenced.
You certify that you are solely responsible for any incomplete reference that may remain in your work

Call for Submission: Submission is accepted throughout the year, there is not specific bound date. It publishes quarterly in March, June, September and December tentatively. For each issue the last date of submission is 15th of the previous month, which is, for March issue the last date is 15th of February, for December issue, the last date is 15th November etc. The author will be informed about the outcome of submission within 10 days of his/her submission. Any submission after the date will be rolled for the next issue.

From UPenn

{ 0 comments }

Spock v the Sorcerers: Fantasy or Science Fiction?

by Dr Davis on August 3, 2015

These are notes from a presentation at NineWorlds. I took them last year (2014), but apparently didn’t post them. Oops.

9Worlds GeekFestSpock vs the Sorcerers: F or SF? The Genre Deathmatch Smackdown!
Anne Perry (judge, jury, executioner)
Daniel Polansky, Liz Bourke (fantasy)
Zen Cho, Geoffrey Ryman (science fiction)

Geoffrey Ryman:
write both f and sf

Liz Bourke:
Write about books on the internet

Daniel Polansky:
write fantasy as sci fi killed my parents

Anne Perry: moderator

Debate will begin with science fiction. Three minutes with Geoff. Then three minutes for Daniel. Then three minutes for Zen. Then three minutes for Liz. Then 30 seconds each for rebuttal.

Today, my yellow card is Baron Harkonen.
Red card is Hiccup that I got in Happy Meal.

Be fun and have a good time. Clap and cheer if you hear a point you agree with.

Geoff:
Can’t compare sff on quality. both usually terrible
embody ideas that shouldn’t be
sf is a sub-branch of fantasy, an improved sub-branch
SF is aiming at more positive and more mobile… not looking at past. Actively engaged in trying to imagine how tech is going to change us. Envisage good usages of tech. Not just necessarily to understanding the world but to changing the world.
It is acting on a more difficult task: dealing with the future and how we will deal with the future.
I was not prepared for the future which I was being given, but to the extent that I was cyberpunk helped.

Daniel:
That was very eloquent.
I’m going to do my best to seriously decrease the quality of the conversation.
Since time immemorial, man has looked up at the stars and seen them and thought, “Screw you.” Who would want to write about that kind of thing?
Doctor Who? more like Doctor Who Cares… (lots of laughter)
particularly profane comment
Balance of my time to read part of the script from Star Wars III: (not F)
“Oh Anakin. Thank goodness you are back.” “I’ve missed you, Padema. I’ve missed you.”
“Anakin, don’t say things like that. You are important.”
“I’ve given my life to the Jedi order, but i would only give up my life, for you.”
“Patience, my handsome jedi.”
Goes on for another 2.5 hours…

Zen:
spaceship goes faster than imaginary horses
black vulcans but no black elves
pokemon and dragons in sf
All small children cover ears, …

Liz:
not to praise sf, but to bury it
older
roots go deeper into the human psyche
around fire, monsters out there (might be sf, but I am not switching sides)
fantasy better than sf
no techno issues

Anne:
interesting points

rebuttals

Daniel:
SF is for geeks.
I don’t want none of that.
I do think Zen and I are going to switch teams.
Starships are lame.
Wm Shatner was a bad actor.

Zen:
shooting fish in a barrel
wave your magic wand–mind control and authoritarianism–I’m from there. Don’t want to live there.
the other become orcs–let’s not
Whorf had a life and girlfriends and friends and a job and a child. Can you name a single orc?
space ships are faster than horses

Liz:
horses are friendlier than space ships
Where is the joy in the journey?
Not all who wander are lost.

Anne: I am slightly offended that you are calling Shadowfax an imaginary friend.

Geoff:
f is old
got old ideas
Tolkien thought he was writing about how good variety was. Fantasy establishes power through fear.
SF is trying to be new. Usually fails if muddling it up with fantasy.

Talk about Star Wars.

Daniel:
SF folk … anything they don’t like are “anything I don’t like” is not sf. Not hard enough.
Not a desire to fake new imaginary physics.
Pod racing… Flashbacks they were in? I have nightmares about the pod racing.
What are they going to do to fix my shattered psyche?
–in US and don’t have proper healthcare

Liz:
Shouldn’t talk about it because it is so terrible.
Swept under a rug.
So much of sf and f are terrible.

Geoff:
Star Wars needs a trigger warning.

Liz:
Star Wars is sf because it labels itself as sf.
We point to it and say “that’s sf”
Fantastical way of making a definition.
Sound dodge–SF mixed with F fails.

Anne: How does SF side feel about Star Wars?

Geoff:
Star Wars tries to inflate himself.
Lucas hadn’t read Joseph Campbell’s 1000 Faces.
psychological damage … read Stephen Donaldson’s first novel. Pain of growing up and alone in Texas.

Zen:
Star Wars, fake Buddhism that doesn’t even work. get really angry when you don’t win.
George Lucas, be consistent.
Remedy for traumatic pod racing: diet of Octavia Butler, Ursula LeGuin.
ShadowFlax is running in this world. (F imaginary horse)
When a book blows your mind, it’s SF. Shows you the world in a new light.
Ursula LeGuin–planet with introvert… I thought cool. Can you live with that model?
What fantasy book does that?
sf will blow your mind rather than f

Anne:
Hands up.
SF blow your mind–a bit more
F blow your mind–a fewer less (my perception)

Liz:
rounded up–at least 3/4s of room
mind blown by fantasy
SF gets itself weighed down by plausible and technobabble…
F blows mind because ways that it approaches divinity, talks about human potential and interactions, does it in ways that speak to me in deeper ways.
F holistically is pretty much like poetry. Opens up whole levels about ways I’ve never considered before.
SF insists on only looking at life.

geoff:
raise you podcasting and give you quidditch

What is sexier?

Geoff:
SF in wrong way.
Women in short dresses with guns. Has Spock, which is sexy.
F has all those men in leotards.

Zen:
Kirk/Spock is science fiction
SF was the place out of which grew fandom based around exploring women’s sexuality. That makes it the best.

Geoff:
Voyage to the Bottom of Sea far more ?slashable?

Daniel:
Played with Baron Harkonen. Does he sodomize people? Does he do drugs? Who made a toy for this?
SF is sexier. Want the toy.

Liz:
for my personal safety I am moving to the SF side
still arguing for fantasy, think F is sexier.
Hiccup can fly. Sexy flying.

Lots of random quiet jokes that I cannot understand either because of the sound level or the accents.

Fashion

Liz:
fashion in sff are same thing–past is made of leather, but so is future
all for hats with feather plumes. Not really for skinny catsuit things. also a problem with chain mail bikini.
When you have the right combination and leather…
Velvet and silk in science fiction? Nope.

Geoff:
Steampunk.
Alternate reality. SF.
Don’t find dinosaurs sexy.

Liz:
What about werewolves and vampires in steampunk?

Daniel:
Apparently not.
In my imaginary world, I just dress handsomely.
Point of fantasy: can wear whatever you want.

Zen:
jumpsuit that is comfortable
Future–so has figured out how to go to bathroom without taking them completely off.

Geoff:
ladies in scanty outfits
World’s worst costume ever is Wonder Woman’s. Ludicrous. She would wear tunics and Greek armor. Would rather see Wonder Woman in Greek armor. Is Wonder Woman SF or F? Daughter of Zeus. F. God, not an alien.

Liz:
Amazons show up more often in fantasy and properly clad ones.
Some people who do fantasy actually do historical research.
Ancient Greeks for Amazons… lizard skin.

Who also wears lizard skin, Daniel?

Daniel:
The things that happen late at night we are not going to be taken.

Geoff:
SF doesn’t wear lizard skins unless they are lizard skins.
You can have sex with an alien.
But I would rather have sex with an elf, and with dwarves–since both women and men have beards.

Liz:
Having fun no matter who they are having sex with, I’m okay with that.

Anne:
Superheros SF or F?

Daniel:
We’ll take them.
We need all help we can get.

Liz:
fantasy–superheroes

Batman might be SF or F.

Anne:
quick lightning round

SF–name 2 important spaceships
F–name 2 horses

SF: Enterprise, Heart of Gold
Space Eagle, Justice of Turin, Skywalk

Hit us with some horses or dragons. Novik dragons.
F: ShadowFax, Binky, Valdemar horses–Roland, etc.
Toothless the Dragon. Temeraire.

EEDocSmith “marriage of the hero”
“He descended the staircase wearing sheer glamorette and 1000 xx rose as one”

Audience:
Assumption that fantasy means medieval fantasy, but urban fantasy.

Avoiding Buffy.

Audience:
who would you pick from your genre to fight and win?

Philip K. Dick because he used to take speed to help him sleep.
Octavia Butler because…

Terms of the fight determined after fighters picked.

GK Chesterton because he was 7 ft tall and carried a sword cane everywhere.
Daniel Polansky fisticuffs before the panel started, takes speed to help him sleep.

Mud wrestling with no weapons. Who wins?

Audience:
One book for your corner.
Write these down.

Geoff:
The Time Issue. Boring choice.

Zen:
prefer a female author, but Air by Geoff Ryman–about happens when internet enters head in central Asia from POV of seamstress in village. Very readable.

Liz:
Lois McMaster Bujold’s XXX

Daniel:
Gene Wolfe’s First Book of the New Sun– first one, work of legitimate genius

Audience:
which side wants to take responsibility for zardors?

Geoff:
Sean Connery F

Sufficiently advanced technology is magic?
SF: yes
F: yes

Could SF give us colorful, magical talking horses?
SF: yes

Liz, if you develop technology to having intelligent talking dogs, eventually somebody will do the same to cats and we will all be doomed.

Meta difference between 2 difference.

F = there’s is crappy
SF = We like to think.

Robots.
F = dragons, vampires, undead, golems, gods
SF =Sometimes robots have feelings and they don’t understand. Lately what we thought were gods turn out to be aliens.

Audience Participation
SF? F?
Who makes most noise win?

Fantasy 1/5 of room
SF 1/2 of room
Rest of us didn’t get up.

SF won.

2 minutes each for rebuttals.

Geoff:
Love reading fantasy, even read Tolkien.
Hope you all continue to read it, but not as much as science fiction.

Daniel:
Be bitter. I hope no one ever reads sf.
Unless I write an sf book.

Zen:
Love dragons. dragons and spaceship can almost be the same thing–have telepathy and love you the best of the world.
Everyone should read everything.

Liz:
Agree with Zen.
But Geoff tried to intimidate me before hand. Now that we have a table, arm wrestling.
Liz won.
You totally let me win that one. We might not have the brains, but we have the muscles.

Notes from Anne:
Hitler elves
Star Wars sf or f?
Fantasy is old.
Star Wars needs trigger warning.
Flying is not sexy. (Baron Harkonen)
fake Buddhism
past is made of leather
What is sexier than Steampunk?

Winner is:
SF wins.

My notes:
There was very little discussion of Star Trek in this panel. I was expecting more Star Trek than Star Wars.

No one mentioned the authors I like and read. Interesting. Big names and panel names only.

{ 0 comments }

CFP: Literature Today

by Dr Davis on July 24, 2015

LITERATURE TODAY: Call for submissions for October 2015 issue
full name / name of organization:
Literature Today
contact email:
[email protected]
we are inviting submissions for
October 2015 issue of Literature Today. Theme of our October 2015
issue is ‘Love’. You can send us poems, short stories and one act
plays on :

1. love at first sight
2. poem/story/one act play in memory of a loved one
3. love as an aesthetic experience
4. love and teenagers
5. love and romance as predestined event
6. love relationships and role of gods
7. love and marriage
8. love as illusion
9. love in the age of Internet
10. lovers as rebellions
11. platonic love
12. love and immortality
13. disappointment/deceit in love
14. lovers as saints
15 any other relevant theme related to love

Submission Deadline: September 25, 2015

Send all submissions to [email protected]
Submission Guidelines

1. Send not more than 4 poems.

2. Send not more than 2 short stories/one act plays.

3. Work submitted for publication must be original, previously unpublished.

4. Simultaneous submissions are also welcome.

5.Send all submissions to [email protected]

6. Please send a cover letter and short Bio-data with your submission.

FACEBOOK PAGE: https://m.facebook.com/literaturetodayjournal

{ 1 comment }

Metaphors

by Dr Davis on June 30, 2015

Metaphors are not just for literature anymore.

The Guardian has an article on the Glasgow University research work on 13 centuries of metaphors. The map is cool, though the description is limited.

However, you can read the @MappingMetaphor blog and find details. The newest post on fear is interesting.

Indonesian Metaphorical Conceptualizations of Anger: Does Anger Taste Delicious or Disgusting? By Tessa Yuditha

Indonesian also has its own metaphorical expressions. Some of conventional Indonesian metaphors include Dia menjadi kambing hitam dalam kasus itu ‘He became the scapegoat in that case’, Jatuhnya harga saham membuat dia bangkrut ‘The fall in stock price made him bankrupt’ and Kata-katanya membuat aku meledak ‘His words made me blow up’.

The Guardian has an article on educational metaphors. I used this in a class recently and would like to discuss it again more thoroughly. Something that was particularly interesting to me:

“My teacher is an old cow.” What does this mean? How would you respond, as a teacher, if this were said about you?

The New York Times article This is Your Brain on Metaphors is also interesting. It says that your brain sometimes/often interprets metaphorical things literally.

In a remarkable study, Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto and Katie Liljenquist of Northwestern University demonstrated how the brain has trouble distinguishing between being a dirty scoundrel and being in need of a bath. Volunteers were asked to recall either a moral or immoral act in their past.

{ 0 comments }

Judging Poetry and Prose

by Dr Davis on June 19, 2015

This year I’ve been a judge in four different contests for both poetry and prose. The experiences have given me a new appreciation for the work that judges do.

Every year Sigma Tau Delta, the English International Honor Society, chapter here has done a poetry or short story contest. I’ve asked members of the local Writer’s Guild to judge it, as well as creative writing professors at my university.

I didn’t realize how much I was asking those guild folks to do with the first poetry contest. I think they had to read 60 poems each. I have revised how I will do that next year. I’ll divide them up and ask them to pick the top 5. Then I’ll have everyone read all the top 5. Or I’ll have a second layer of judges.

I’ve been in the middle of judging a short prose and short poetry contest. It’s hard to decide how to award prizes.

First_Place_Blue_Ribbon by Oldbeeg WC CC3If a poem is structurally perfect, but doesn’t speak to me, should it win?
If a poem has some odd choices in physical placement, but is a sensory delight as well as resonating, should it win?

If a prose piece is over the limit, can it still win? (This one I decided the answer was no.)
When all the works have minor problems, how do you decide which minor problems are least problematic?

I don’t have any answers. I just realize there are a lot more questions than I know the answers to.

Note: I wonder if Sigma Tau Delta could have our members judge one of the Writer’s Guild’s contests? That might give the students a different view of the experience. However, not everyone who submits is from the chapter and we don’t really want it to be limited to them. …Despite this, I think it might be a very good thing to volunteer the club–or the club officers at least–to judge a WG competition.

{ 0 comments }

Plenary Address: Christian Wiman

by Dr Davis on June 4, 2015

teaches at Yale Divinity School–has taught at Stamford and Northwestern

poetry streamBegan his speech with a poem by A. R. Ammons, “The City Limits.”

Encouraged everyone to memorize poems.

will discuss art and faith
Herschel said faith = faithfulness to when we experienced faith

Most poets and artists do not distinguish between human and divine inspiration.
Kafka said that writing is a “sweet and wonderful reward… for serving the devil.”

Great paradox of art for the artist is that the most experiential art can require the most detachment from the artist.
You have to choose life OR the work of an artist.

Gerard Hopkins, a Catholic priest, renounced poetry for seven years, because his creative endeavors were more intense than his religious endeavors.
In a prayer he said, “My own heart let me more have pity on.”

George Herbert, became a priest, got married, found out he had TB
All his poetry was religious, but he felt that the creative work was secular.

Poem “Bitter-sweet” talks about the contradiction in that both God and people uplift and destroy.
WH Auden said that poetry is a “clear expression of mixed feelings.”
These mixed feelings, contradictions, and paradoxes are the heart of poetry.
Because of that:
Translations of the Bible that remove the poetry for the sake of clarity are problematic.

Eric Liddle (from Chariots of Fire fame) said, “I believe that God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.”

God expects us to use his gifts. He leaves it up to us how to use them.

Wiman lived in Prague the year after the Velvet Revolution.
One day he was sitting in the kitchen of his 7th floor apartment studying Czech while his girlfriend took a bath. A kestrel landed on the sill. 10 years later he wrote Postolka (which means falcon in Czech).
“When I was learning words/ and you were in the bath”
“I could almost speak/ the love I almost felt”
“I wished and wished and wished/ the moment would not end./ And just like that it vanished.”
An unconscious attempt at a devotional poem, with no mention of God.

Grew up religious. Church 3x a week, VBS, preaching, camps. That was his life.
He didn’t meet an atheist until he went away to college. “My faith fell away under the pressure of the books I read.”

energy was despairing, so my poems were despairing
Happiness writes light.

fiercely devoted to a faith that had no focus
serious events to shatter my expectations
eye of life is not the same as the eye of art
Style and form are lies. They render the truth differently from how it was experienced in life.
Life is chaotic. Art is not.

I did not write a word of poetry for 3 years.
fell in love, had a terrible diagnosis that required changes

“NOT converted because of illness” even though some claim he was.

I have the sense that these experiences over the years were a single experience and that experience was a call from God.

“From a Window” poem
“incurable and unbelieving/ in any truth but the truth of grieving”
“fitful, fluent spirit … strange cohesion”
“a man’s mind might endow”
“that life is not the life of men./ And that is where the joy came in.”

–While the mixture of rhyming was well done and interesting, I was particularly fascinated with the alliteration.

Did not have a realization and sat down to write the poem.
I was grieving and sat down to write. The poem itself exploded into joy.

“For D” poem
“half-cracked and caught in the crook of another”
“Writhes above the water like visible light”

When oblivion whispers in our ears, that is God.
Both these poems were watersheds.
I was puzzled by the poems that came after.

One interviewer asked if I considered myself an atheist Christian.

“Hammer is the Prayer” poem
“There is no consolation in the thought of god”
“… hammer is the prayer of the poor and the dying.”
“peace dame to the hinterlands of our mind/ too remote to know, but peace nonetheless.”
Is this an anti-devotional devotional poem?
It is a prayer and a weapon aimed at God.

If faith (or despair or emptiness) calls you to mute inspiration, it is not faith.

Joy of void, joy of being released from making meaning
Sometimes God calls us to unbelief to create a new faith.
“My thoughts were all a case of knives” George Herbert
Was sick unto death, both physical and spiritual
There are “no atheists in foxholes” because when confronted by death, all the background chatter ceases and you can hear. What some of us hear is that still small voice of God.

“My Stop is Grand”
This is a poem about Christ, though Christ is absent in the poem.
TCE’s favorite lines “a grace of sparks… / a lone unlearned loveliness / struck from an iron pain”
TCE thinks best metaphor “pecked so clean/ by raptor night”

boy surrounded by question marks
What about rhyme?
There are a paucity of rhyme words in English, so many gave them up because they believed there were no new rhymes to be made.
Don’t use in all poetry or even throughout a poem.
If there is no surprise in a poem for the writer, there is no surprise for the reader.
Rhyme is one of the best ways to make unconscious work. If you concentrate on the form of the poem, the meaning of the poem will show up and surprise you.

Is there a place for fairy tales and myth in the Christian life?
Of course there is.

Question about Billy Collins.
Answer involved:
My experience of art is stronger than other experiences.
My faith is strengthened by works that are not about Christian belief.

Is it desirable/possible to have Christian art?
I don’t think so. “Christian art” is ghettoized.
It either lowers the bar OR causes people to not treat it as real.

Later (in another session) someone asked about this.
The Bible is full of poetry, yet usually explicitly Christian poetry is not very good. Why not?
There is something in art that won’t be codified.
As a Christian artist won’t or don’t want to make art that creates doubt.
What is doctrine for?
Church has been afraid of art because imagination violates doctrine.
Doctrine is (or should be) sufficiently tensile, fluid to take in imagination’s ideas.

If an artist is a Christian, that’s different.
I wish that more Christians who are artists let folks know they are Christian. I think it would help others.
But that is two issues. Difference between Christian and Christian art.

A follow-up question in that same session.
Why could the Hebrews create poetic theology?
They were making art. They did not have an idea about doctrine.
The lava hadn’t set.
BUT (as one of the speakers pointed out) the religious elite hated the prophets of old as well.

{ 0 comments }

Ilona Andrews: End

by Dr Davis on September 24, 2014

Ilona Andrews Magic BleedsThis is the end. The end of my notes from the Writer’s Workshop with Ilona Andrews and about writing the end.

Why do you read a comfort book again?
It makes you feel a certain way.

Screw up the end, you ruin the feeling.

Compelling ending. (50% of impact of novel is how you end it)

End of the novel…
Protagonist and antagonist into direct conflict…
No more maneuvering. They must fight in some way.
Emotional confrontation.

Resolution
If you’ve done the beginning and the middle, the resolution will be wonderful.
You are the reader at that moment.

Cinderella is good historical romance, but Fairy Godmother is God in the Machine. Resolution comes unexpectedly.

Don’t resolve unexpectedly.

Write your big finale and then write the end in a way to make yourself happy as a reader.

girlwithabook via art inconnuGirl is hero, rewarded at the end.
Don’t cheat the reader.
Don’t cheat the reader out of the emotion.

Originally ending of Cinderella was very different. She had her sisters dancing in red hot shoes at the wedding. Revenge.
Old fairy tales “they went there.” We don’t go there any more.

Stephen King doesn’t want a happy ending and that works for him.

Avoid where your ending doesn’t match the readers’ emotional state.
Make sure your protagonist and antagonist make reasonable choices throughout.

If readers are not committed to your character, they won’t keep reading.

{ 0 comments }

Ilona Andrews: Middle

by Dr Davis on September 23, 2014

Ilona Andrews Magic Burns coverThis past Saturday I went to a Writer’s Workshop, featuring Ilona Andrews, hosted by the San Angelo Writer’s Club.

Review
Beginning—character with problem. Commits to a certain course of action. Beginning is over.
Try not to start too much in the middle of action.
A little bit of set up is not a bad thing.
Don’t confuse the reader.

Middle
Middle is a part we never know when we start.

Middle character is firmly committed.
Rubber band
Need to artificially make the reader uncomfortable, create tension.

Example: Woman who has been fired. Needs to find job. Not hired. Not hired at second interview. You feel for this woman. She’s a good person. She works at a soup kitchen. Her husband left her. You sympathize with her. As she is going through trials and tribulations you feel emotional discomfort.

When they let go of rubber band and climax explodes and reward. All tension disappears. Exhale.

girlwithabook via art inconnuReader starts even.
Then story depresses reader.
Then sends her even higher up.

Think of bad things that happened in book. Villain doing bad things. You want someone to kill him. Why do you hate the villain? Because the protagonist hates the villain.

Mechanics of a chase scene…
Action, reaction

EX: You open front door. You hear a growl. Can’t shut the door. Have to go outside.
Tense up.
Furry creature moves in the corner
Oh crap! Freeze. Look really hard at thing.
Bares teeth.
Fight or flight. Mace or fire extinguisher.
Creature charges.
Use weapon. Run inside and slam door.

Action, reaction
On you, on the dog
On you, on the dog

Write out now. Opened door. Garage was dark. I heard a growl. I tensed. My heart sped up. Something moved—something in garage. Froze; pair of golden eyes ignited and saw flash of big white fangs size of my fingers. Grabbed a fire extinguisher. Charged. I ran inside.

Ratchet up the tension.
Works for a chase scene.
Works for a conversation.

Man and woman fighting
He says, she worse
He says worser, she says more worser

Simple model.
Escalate.

Build up tension. IN YOUR HEAD.
As a reader you are holding your breath. Then explosive motion at the end. Exhale.

This is what you do in the middle of your novel. You just do it on a larger scale.

by Floydiapsych Public Domain

by Floydiapsych Public Domain

A Good Bad Guy
People paint themselves into corner with bad guy not acting. Antagonist needs to be smart and dangerous. Needs to be actively causing problems.

Sleeping Beauty… starts out with baby girl, fairies, Maleficent shows up, curses.

Your antagonist should antagonize your hero.

Interplay between antagonist and protagonist OR external circumstances (ice berg and tears the ship and ship sinking and then sharks and…)

Progressively make things worse and worse.

More hurdles for them to overcome.
Think of Forrest Gump. Someone died.

Exercise:
Think of genre that you want to write in.
Find book. Take story apart.
You will be pulling the curtain back.

Things to concentrate on in the future:
Note problems in books that you read.
What did they do right?
Sympathetic or emotional protagonist.
Compelling beginning.
Compelling ending. (50% of impact of novel is how you end it)
You don’t remember the novels particulars, you remember how you felt at the end.

{ 0 comments }

Writer’s Workshop: Beginnings

by Dr Davis on September 22, 2014

Ilona Andrews Magic SlaysThis past Saturday I went to a Writer’s Workshop with two of my favorite authors, who together are Ilona Andrews. This was held in San Angelo, TX. I received an invitation because for my Writer’s Guild began asking us to tell what books we are reading (and would recommend) each month. In preparation for a new book by Ilona Andrews, I re-read all of the old books one month and then read the new one the second month. The editor of the newsletter got a flyer on the Workshop and sent it to me.

The workshop was very helpful. Sometimes I think if I go to enough of these I will magically become a better writer. That hasn’t happened yet, but each one gives me new ways to think about things. I learn something every time.

What I learned at this workshop helped me figure out the problem with the ending of a novel I wrote and really like and how to resolve it. (The workshop didn’t tell me the answer or even relate to the problem, but doing the other things opened a creative stream that had been dammed up.)

Here are some of my notes from the workshop:

Plot = what story is about
Plot = what motivates character

Plot and setting define genre

Basic: Book opens with girl, opens garage door and there is a monster—that is the plot set up
What happens next –

spaceship cartoonHorror = monster is eating her parents
Sci fi = alien monster
Thriller = injured monster
Historical romance = monster = highwaymen and stable door
YA romance = boy and bully
Mystery = dead body with the monster

When writing, you are writing to readers’ expectations.
Meet the readers’ expectations.

What are you reading? You should be writing what you read.

Mindful of plot but don’t just rely on genre conventions.

Forrest Gump—plot hinges on conflict
What is Forrest’s goal? Jenny
Meets Jenny, all following years is trying to become man good enough for Jenny…
Movie is not a romance. It is a narrative of life. BUT if you strictly go by genre conventions, it is a romance. So don’t rely too much on the genre labels.

Plot as function of character
Start with character
Know who your character is. Shapes, defines, what kind of person
Character = compass to navigate through narrative

Who do you sympathize with? That’s NOT the villain.

Simple exercise:
Picture parked police car by character’s home. The character is walking home and sees car.
What is the character going to do?

Criminal = assumes he’ll be arrested and runs away
Soccer mom = she runs towards the house, thinking something is wrong; she is terrified
Cop = friend coming
warning
other cop at his house when he’s not there—suspicious,
IA, is he a dirty cop?
Werewolf = assumes the police need help or a buddy is in trouble

All with same situation, but as character changes the plot changes.

Writer has two enemies = indifference or confusion
Reader will walk away if feel stupid or are bored.
Average reader is an emotion junky.

Opposite of hate = indifference

Put emotion in.

Dirty cop = sees car, expecting IA investigation
Cop car at this point is the antagonist. Is causing our character to have problem.
May not be there because of IA. –maybe they saw the neighbor burning trash—if dirty cop has drugs in his house, he may draw his gun and shoot the other police

Dirty cop shoots police. He runs away. Would you keep reading?
Well, what did he do that was so bad that he would kill two police? You are intrigued. What would cause him to do this?
If he’s shooting 2 cops, he’s at the end of his rope.

Dirty cop the police are there because a drug dealer killed his wife and kids. Now he’s a dirty cop who is out for revenge.

Think of the character undergoing a test.
Your plot is a test of your character. Character either passes the test or fails the test.

If character is a scumbag and he gets worse and worse. Reader hates him. At the end he gets punishment.

No guarantee of good ending in our lives. Life is not fair.
We want Karma to work. We want there to be reward for good guys and punishment for bad guys.

Forrest Gump = good guy, always good guy = gets Jenny, gets son
Jenny = consistently fails, drugs and abusers = cancer and dies

External plot and internal plot
Internal is emotional, decision-making, thinking. Character response.
External is things happening to character, what the universe is doing, the environment.

Ideally, to make the most of narrative, the internal and external have to start apart and come together by the end.

woman_awardA-1Woman triangle
Clean house = professional success = happy family
Can only have 2 of these.

If you choose to do this in the narrative, where you have a plot point where a woman must choose career or love, if you do both at the same time—2 rewards and doesn’t have to choose, cheats the reader.

Military
Fast, cheap, or good. Can’t have all 3. Only 2.

Where do we start?
We start with change.

Has to be a change in the status quo. (So dream has to begin the book?)
Obvious or subtle, but must be change.

Subtle = laying in bed, tree outside window, nightingale on tree, bird stops singing…
What do you assume when the bird stops singing?

girl_happy_aObvious = girl opens garage door and there’s a monster
Comes home from work and goes through garage. Monster is the change.
Obvious is hard to do.

Typical historical romance = ARegency, pressure on daughter. Daughter needs to marry. Father died and they need money. She will have to marry. She doesn’t love him.

Mysteries = Someone is dead.
Detective sitting in office and dame comes in.

Moses kills an Egyptian. He loses prince-ness.

Noah tells God to build an ark. Noah has no choice. Never rained before. What’s he going to do? Internal conflict = is God talking to me or have I gone off rocker?

Your beginning should force your character to some kind of question.
He/she sitting pretty. Then CHANGE. Change must have consequences.
Change something for the character.

Change and commitment.
Girl in the garage. She opens door. Lo, a monster.

Shuts door and thinks, “There’s a monster in my garage AGAIN.” Intergalactic trouble shooter, but I’ve retired.

Girl opens door and sees monster. No action.
Either get inside house OR she needs to dispatch monster.
What are we asking her to do?
Monster between her and the minivan and can’t get kids.
Or brother will be dropped off and monster will eat brother.

school_research computer martinEasier to write
Girl has monster in garage. Sympathetic.

How many of you can picture garage?
Write first chapter.

OR
write chapter about anything else.

It is easier to write the garage/monster story because it has been plotted.

Don’t have to outline. Need to know character, bad guy, start of story and end of story. Those are things you need to know. Otherwise you don’t know where you are going.
If you want to drastically improve your word count, girl, open door, monster… Scene. We know what happens.

Make short plan every day before you write.

String the scenes together.

Review
Beginning—character with problem. Commits to a certain course of action. Beginning is over.
Try not to start too much in the middle of action.
A little bit of set up is not a bad thing.
Don’t confuse the reader.

This was an aside and relates to endings (which are not covered here):
Resolutions
Cinderella is good historical romance, but Fairy Godmother is God in the Machine. Resolution comes unexpectedly.

Don’t resolve unexpectedly.

{ 0 comments }