Writers of the Wheat Literary Festival July 10th

SUNFLOWER PLAZA
presents
image004WRITERS OF THE WHEAT
LITERARY FESTIVAL

Come enjoy the 15 talented authors who reside in Kansas and will present excerpts from their works on
Friday, July 10th, 2015 from 6 pm to 10 pm
Sunflower Plaza, 417 E. Gilbert, Wichita, KS

(I’ll be there to share PATCHWORK FAMILY.)

For more information, contact Tracy Edingfield Dunn, 316-304-5995.

HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!

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Gardening and the writer’s journey

I’ve never been much of a gardener for various reasons, but every spring I’m inspired by the sun, the new plants popping through the soil, the trees and flowers in bloom and I think – I want to make pretty things grow, feel the sun on my back and the dirt between my fingers.

I’ve had some success with Hosta, Tulips (and failures), Live Forever, Pampus Grass, Purselane, Mums and weeds, of course. I have several smallish patches to work with now and cutting down the dead stems and the oak leaves that bury the baby plants takes a lot of time. So, I’ve been going out on my lunch hour and raking a little here, snipping a little there and slowly I am making progress.tulips

Some of the new plants are just that: “new” and therefore a surprise to me. A bit of Crocus just popped and I’m thrilled. It appears I’ll have Jonquils soon. Oh, and the weeds – they’ve already begun digging their ugly little tap roots down into the soil. The little buggars.

When my son was little he used to bring me the Dandelions and I’d dutifully put them into water on the windowsill. Same thing occurred with my grandson. Now I try to pluck those yellow blooms before they go to seed.

child_writer_bwI am noticing that gardening is like anything else in life and especially creative ventures. Gardening requires time, attention, nourishment and weeding; and those same rules apply to writing, painting, singing, relationships…basically EVERYTHING of worth. Is it hard? Sometimes. Is it fun? Sometimes. It is usually worth what you put into it. So, I can’t complain if my flowers die because I didn’t water them. I can, but it’s my own silly fault.

Enjoy the journey, my friends. (And don’t forget to get your copy of PATCHWORK FAMILY at any bookstore near you or online.)patchwork_family_on_table

Writing good dialog – updated

In 2012 I wrote about what makes good dialog. It’s such a critical part of a story that I thought I’d update it.

Good dialog sounds “real.” By that I mean, it sounds like what your character would say and not words you’ve put in their mouth – that may not quite fit. How do you know when dialog sounds real? Read it aloud. Read it to a critique partner or writing buddy. And don’t forget to “LISTEN” to hear what is being said, not what you meant to say.

kid with a megaphone

I took a Playwriting class several years ago and one of our first assignments was on writing dialog. Face it, theater is mostly spoken and there are no narratives to explain the character or situation. What happens is spoken and physically dramatized. Back to the lesson: our professor said for each of us to go to a public place and eavesdrop. Write the dialog we hear, verbatim. (How cool is getting a grade for eavesdropping? Mother would be appalled.)

The coffee shop listening session was very enlightening. Two high school aged ladies were talking about a recent Friday night frightening date night and looking at fashion magazines. They appeared to be very good friends and spoke in incomplete sentences. One or the other often responded before the speaker finished, assuming they knew exactly what was going to come out of their friends mouth. What I heard were fragmented sentences, as well as thought hopping.bummed_face

SO, I used what I heard in a scene where two teen siblings were arguing and bating one another. You can really speed up the story by clipping sentences off, and interrupting is a fabulous way to show emotion.

The key is “listening” wherever you go. How do mom’s talk to their toddlers? How do couples in love speak and act? How do old married couples converse? It’s amazing what you will observe. USE IT! You are experiencing real day-to-day dialog. Recreate it in your story.

Have you noticed that most people don’t speak grammatically. They often speak in a kind of short hand, punctuating it with body language or a physical act. Here’s an example, teenage Darrin is slouched on the couch with ear buds in his ears, an X-box controller in his hands, eyes glued to the television, feet on the coffee table that is littered with an array of food and drink remains. Mom’s mad. Her hands are on her hips, the dish washing sponge is in her hand and she yells, “Darrin Michael Smith…” splatting his head with the flying sponge. He drops his feet to the floor along side the controller, yanks off one ear bud and says, “WHAT!” Mom grits her teeth and says,”Clean up this mess.”easylistening

Do you see what I mean? Clipped sentences. Body language. Incomplete thoughts. You will seldom hear mom say, “Darrin, get your feet off of the table, put down the remote, pull out your ear buds, and clean up the mess.” He only hears “Darrin” and “mess” anyway, everything in the middle is noise.

Think about it. Try eavesdropping. Try writing a short scene like this and read it aloud. Does it sound realistic? It’s worth a try. Enjoy the writing journey, my friends.

AHA Moments of Writing

“Sometimes we forget that we have this talent. It sits bottle-necked while we run to the store, wash clothes, and hit a few ball at the golf course. But to experience those AHA! moments where the work surprises even you, you have to write thousands of words regularly, daily, frequently.

When your subconscious cranks out words better than your conscious mind can imagine, magic happens. And that only occurs with a habit and an addition to put the words on paper.” ~William Faulkner

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How to be a Great Writer

I don’t profess to be a GREAT writer YET, but I’m getting better at it every day. Back in September I read an interview with Stephen King about the 22 lessons he recommends to be a great writer. THANK YOU STEPHEN KING. The article in the Business Insider stimulated my imagination to the point that I wrote the following (it was kind of like a test of what I retained from the content):

G – Grammar is only for understanding

R – Read as much as possible

E – Endeavor to write every day

A – Avoid adverbs, passive voice and run on sentences

T – Tell stories about people

W – Write for yourself and don’t worry about what others think

R – Retreat from the world when you write

I – Imagination can help you create and describe clearly and vividly

T – Temper your writing with only what is necessary, info dribbles not info dumps

E – Edit, edit, edit “Kill your darlings” is what Stephen said, be balanced not egocentric about your writing

R – Resist twenty-dollar words with a dollar-word will do, don’t be pretentious

King inspires me. He writes so well, having been successful for many years. I aspire to that as well. Wish I had a first reader like his wife, Tabitha King (also an author), but I do okay with my critique group. They are a great bunch of writers with vivid imaginations, huge hearts, and good advice.

Enjoy the journey, fellow scribes!

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“Go Out And Play”

“Children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate.” ~author unknown

pumpkins_fallIt’s my favorite time of year, when leaves change colors, it’s cool enough for sweaters and it makes me think of baking pumpkin pie, making soups and chili. When my grandson was about two we raked all the leaves in the front yard into a big long pile and I jumped into them laughing and throwing them all around. His little face scrunched up like he thought his grandmother had lost her mind. But when I took a handful of leaves and threw them at him he decided to get into the game. First he threw one leaf then tentatively got down on his knees in the crunchy leaves. I was laughing and laid down beside him and a grin spread over his face. Pretty soon the leaves were flying and we were rolling around like happy little pigs in mud.

bridgeAs we age and our “to do list” lengthens with our responsibility we sometimes forget to “go out and play.” Even our children are so “plugged in” that they don’t realize what they’re missing outside. My grandson is twelve now and quite the electronic geek. But he and his friends are involved in sports. But organized team sports, while vital to learning and good health, aren’t as good as exploring the woods behind your house. Or walking along the creek skipping rocks. Fishing in the river. Building a fort out of fallen tree limbs…

I’m not much of a camper, no tents on the ground for me – I prefer a cabin with a shower and a commode. But I love hiking and taking long walks. Talking to the bee that’s lands beside me (I won’t bother you if you won’t bother me), watching ground squirrels, finding animal shapes in the clouds, or interesting rocks. Being outside opens up your world to so many mysteries and surprises. So, drag your fanny and your kids outside and explore. See what flowers are blooming, what birds are in the trees, say hi to your neighbors. “Go out and play!”man_w_kite

(And if you think I’m not writing when I’m out there, you’re wrong. I’m storing up all of these experiences and the senses they stimulate and transferring them to the page when I get home. Care to join me?)

Practice makes perfect

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“Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring — quite often the hard way.”
~Pamela Dugdale

This works with cousins, too.

Change = Perfection? I don’t think so.

Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often.”

I don’t know anyone who is enjoys change. Not one person. Change is hard. We get into a rhythm or habit and it’s hard to break. This happens in all aspects of life: work, home, relationships, etc. But sometimes we have to change and that change is good for us in the long run. Easy to say. Hard to figure out which direction to go.

changes

At work we are changing a lot of processes and systems in an attempt to simplify and streamline what we do. It is very painful, but concentrating on our goal of saving money and time helps. We won’t see the results for some time, because changing so much takes a really long time. I imagine it was similar when they built the pyramids, it took a lot of back breaking work and many years. Granted I work in a service industry so it is not physically demanding, but in every other way we struggle under the weight of the changes.

It’s much the same when we write. We start out with a first draft and by its nature it’s just ideas and scenes that seldom hang together completely. I’ve heard “drafts” called “garbage” and to some degree that’s right. Where we find the wonderful word pictures and turns of phrase are in the changes (edits). One of my writing mentors liked to refer to editing as “mining the jewels from the garbage.” So, with that in mind we realize change is required to discover the best story we can tell. Will it be perfection? Maybe to someone it will impact them in a profound way, touching them deeply, but whose to say what is perfect? Not me.

change

Webster’s says:

“Change” is to make or become different: alter. Synonyms: modify, mutate, transform, turn vary.

“Perfect” is to be be without defect or fault: flawless. Exact. Accurate. Impeccable.

With these definitions in mind I think that what I write can never be “perfect.” I write about people, family and relationships. The essence of these are “people” and “people are flawed.” That’s what makes them so interesting, compelling, and the very core of a moving story. My stories will never be perfect, but I can promise the characters will change over time. Isn’t that what living is all about – change? No, it’s about living and loving. It’s about enjoying the journey. Will we find ourselves in a perfect place? Doubtful, but it will be interesting.

What do you think is the most profound change? The seasons of the earth? The seasons of man?

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Patchwork Family book cover is here…

Patchwork Family - 600x900x300Isn’t it beautiful? I’m so excited. And yes, readers, I’m using my first name instead of my initials. Pub date is the end of March. Stay tuned for events to be scheduled in my calendar. Right now I’m battling day-job demons so I have some planning to do. And don’t forget – dreams really do come true!