The Practice of Creativity

Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

I’ve been named as one of the judges for two upcoming opportunities for North Carolina writers. If that describes you, please consider applying as the deadlines for both are soon.

The Sally Buckner Emerging Writers’ Fellowship is sponsored by the North Carolina Writers’ Network. Writers must be in the early stages of their careers and must be between the ages of 21 and 35, as of December 31 of the year in which they apply.

Fellowship recipients will use the $500 award to allay the costs associated with the business of writing: paper, printing, writing supplies, submission fees, research expenses, travel, conference registration fees, etc. In addition to the cash award, recipients will receive a complimentary one-year membership in the NCWN, as well as scholarship aid to attend the Network’s annual Fall Conference.

Deadline June 30

More details here.

The Linda Flowers Literary Award is new and is sponsored by the North Carolina Humanities Council. The North Carolina Humanities Council invites original, unpublished entries of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry for this award.

The award is given to exceptional North Carolina authors whose work celebrates the North Carolina experience and conveys excellence in writing. Entries must not exceed 10 pages. Entries must be from authors who are at least 18 years of age and currently live in North Carolina. Entries should detail examinations of intimate, provocative, and inspiring portraiture of North Carolina, its people and cultures. Entries should be deeply engaged with North Carolina by drawing on particular North Carolina connections and/or memories. Entries should demonstrate excellence in the humanities. Entries, regardless of genre, should be original, unpublished works. There is a cash award of $1500 and a writing residency.

Deadline: June 28

More details here.

 

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This week, I’ve been deep in editing land for my novelette “Doll Seed” due to appear next month in FIYAH: Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction.

It’s always a revelation to receive editorial comments on a story. Especially a story that you’ve lived with for years, have honed substantially and have vetted through numerous writing groups.  Such was the case for “Doll Seed”.

In the past few years, I’ve felt lucky to have worked with fantastic editors. Great editors reveal new perspectives in your work, encourage clarity and support your authorial voice. In the case of Reenu-You and Nussia with Book Smugglers Press, I spent time revising a few scenes where my characters were under reacting.  With “Doll Seed”, I worked some on this issue, but more on clarifying how the magic works in the story and fine tuning the ending. I enjoyed editing “Doll Seed”. In revising these stories, all of which were written years ago, I see how much I’ve grown as a writer and storyteller.

One of the tools that has helped me become more proficient at self-editing has been my ‘weasel words’ list. A few years ago, I took a class on revision and the instructor introduced us to a list of words and/or phrases that weaken one’s writing. We can usually either delete the word or find a more active and vivid word to substitute. I believe she adapted this list from the one in James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing for Writers. I keep this list close when I revise. Doing a search for these words once yielded dramatic results. Last year, I was frantically trying to pare a story down to submit to an anthology and using this list I reduced the word count by over 500 words! That’s a lot of weasel words to round up!

Weasel Words to Watch Out For

Very
Almost
Just
Really
Finally
Actually
Maybe
Definitely
Certainly
A little
A lot
A bit
Tried to
Started to
Began to
Wanted to
Meant to
Intended to
Had to
Had been

I also overuse the words lively, inviting and flat in describing the expression of a character’s eyes.

Do you have a weasel words list? What are your pet phrases that you strike when revising?

I’m taking a break from my weekly post to share this interview that rocked my world and is worth a listen. It is led by Brooke Warner, author and co-creator of SheWrites Press and Tayari Jones, NYT bestselling author. Brooke interviewed Tayari during the recent Bay Area Book Festival.

Jones gives an incredible interview that details what happens when the publishing world gives up on you and how she not only continued to believe in herself, as a writer, but also thrive. She talks about writing her recent novel, An American Marriage and how she created characters and a story line that challenge notions of what makes a marriage and relationship work. She also discusses why she used fiction to explore the inequities of the criminal justice system and class dynamics in the African American community. It’s a compelling interview because Brooke is a fantastic interviewer who poses substantive questions and Tayari brings warmth, honesty and humor in sharing her writing journey. I found out about this interview because it was posted through the Write-Minded podcast. If you don’t know about Write-Minded with Brooke (and co-host Grant Faulkner), check it out–they offer a great format (e.g. writing actions and “green light” moments), they interview a wide spectrum of authors and they also provide inspirational writing advice. Listen to the interview here.

I had a wonderful time as a panelist at Greensboro Bound. The moderators for each panel were excellent. We received their questions a week before the conference. Our moderators were well-prepared, able to flow with the conversation and drew out the best from each of us. I am always appreciative of others’ moderating skills as I am often a moderator in my academic life (at conferences) and increasingly at sci-fi conventions and other writing venues. I love moderating and take it very seriously. I see my job as making sure that others shine and that everyone participates as equally as possible.

I’ve been reflecting on my participation as panelist. Overall, I did very well and wasn’t too nervous. I was, however, a bit over prepared. I had pages of notes and an outline. In one case, we were seated on a stage which made balancing my folder unwieldy. The other panelists were clearly prepared too, but they seemed to talk easily without notes. I was so wedded to mine that I felt like I missed connecting with the audience a few times. I also think when one can speak confidently without notes, one’s body language is more open. Sometimes I get too focused on trying to get it all right they way that I have it in my head (or notes) as opposed to just being open to what I want to share.  Before events like this, I’m always a bit worried that my memory is going to fail me right when I need it the most. There’s so much to talk about in relation to one’s work and the nuances thereof. When I let go of the notes, however, and ‘saying it just right’, my humor and passion came through naturally. Again, from the outside I don’t think my participation looked that different than the other panelists, but I was struck with the performance of the other panelists.

One is always learning how to be a writer in public and I look forward to the next opportunity I have to talk without notes!

This was the scene last night at the writers’ after party at Scuppernong Books. We were getting ready to read a page aloud from Howl by Allen Ginsberg. This is a tradition at Scuppernong Books; for several years, the staff used to invite folks to read the whole poem together over one night.

This party was a great way to cap an excellent time at the Greensboro Bound Literary Festival. It was a dream weekend of talking with writers (and other kinds of creators), readers and being around books.

This was a very well-executed festival and the writers were treated incredibly well by the staff and volunteers. More reflections soon! Now, I will go rest…

 

I’m thrilled to announce that I will be co-leading a writing workshop with Marjorie Hudson at the Table Rock Writers’ Workshop in August! We’ll be there for a week! Dates are August 26-30.

Our workshop is “Stretch. Breathe. Write: Opening the Writer’s Heart”

We’re exploring how gentle mindfulness and movement practices can enhance our work and open our hearts-so that our writing goes deeper and explores new territories. We’ll do lots of freewriting, as well as support projects that are already underway.

Writing together is always joyous, often funny, sometimes very moving. To have concentrated writing time is a rare blessing for most of us. To enjoy each other’s company for a couple of days in the mountains is sweet indeed.

Marjorie is an author (Accidental Birds of the Carolinas and Searching for Virginia Dare), my writing teacher/mentor and friend. Over the years, we have co-facilitated a number of writing and movement workshops. When we team up, MAGIC happens.

Table Rock is a supportive environment that is known for nurturing writers. It’s in the mountains and will provide a wonderful escape from the heat and humidity of the summer.

No movement experience necessary for our workshop; writers at all levels and genres are welcome.

The schedule is such that you’re in a specific workshop in the morning and then there are some afternoon sessions and evening sessions with the entire group. There’s also plenty of time for writing on your own. And, there will be time to get to meet and interact with the other faculty teaching there, chat with the editor-in-residence and get to know some of the other participants. Sometimes there’s evening entertainment. It’s a lively time.

See the full description of our workshop and more details at the website. Our workshop is already half-filled, so don’t take too long to decide!

I’d love to see you there and nurture your writing! Feel free to email me with questions!

It’s been a week into this challenge (giving away or tossing/recycling 27 items daily for 9 days) and I am still loving it. More about the origins of the challenge here. What’s surprised me are the items that I am tossing/giving away and the areas that are getting decluttered because of actions that I am taking. Case in point–tonight’s work was organizing my packing/wrapping boxes/bags/ribbons area over my washer/dryer. That area is always a hot mess as I am constantly trying to save wrapping paper to recycle/reuse, gift boxes to recycle/reuse and store future hostess gifts. Since things are stored willy-nilly, I’m always frustrated when I look at that area and can’t find anything very easily. When I took everything down and went through it, I discovered that much of what I was saving was old, unusable, or multiples of items that was overkill. I’m actually not doing that much shipping or wrapping as it turns out, lol.

Every time I do this exercise, I feel lighter and more peaceful…and that has got to be good for my creativity.

Some folks who follow my author Facebook page are also doing this challenge. If you are too, let me know how it is going!

Just thought of a good prompt for those of us writing fiction–What items does your main character need to get rid of? How would they go about decluttering their workplace or home? Are they very tidy or are they drowning in clutter?


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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