After nearly a year of plotting, planning, and tweaking, Barry and I are happy to announce the launch of our website, Writing All the Things!
You can explore our (evolving) website at writingallthethings.com. There you’ll find a slowly unfurling study on writing and reading literary fiction, a bit about us and the writing services we provide, and more content to come.
Our aim is to make reading and writing literary fiction less mysterious and reveal how enjoyable it can be. We want literary fiction to be more accessible to those who are intimidated by it, and more fun for those who already love it. While there’s certainly a writing focus to our study and analysis, there’s definitely a reading component as well.
We have other fun side projects for the website planned, too.
Please follow our blog and us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook (see our website for links). And share with your friends and writing pals!
Let us know (over there, or here) what topics you’d like us to take on, what aspects of literary fiction you’d most like us to delve into.
Let’s start Writing All the Things! (www.writingallthethings.com)
According to Gretchen Rubin, September is the new January when it comes to making life changes. Since my September was busy, I’m calling October my January.
Determined to put better writing habits into place, I said those words my husband surely dreads because I utter them so frequently: “I have an idea.”
While I’m good about working on my novel (except when I’m stumped or terrified of it), I’m not so good about polishing my short stories and getting them sent out. I’m not great about applying for grants and residencies. I could do better about pursuing freelance opportunities or following up with writing clients. Then there are other writing forms I’d like to continue experimenting with, but I just don’t.
I decided that what I need is accountability for those writing goals that I never accomplish. I need a place to record my goals that others will see, because if I do that, I suspect that the likelihood that I will write, apply, or submit will go up exponentially. I’d be embarrassed or feel as if I’d let my accountability partner(s) down if I didn’t do what I said I would.
To that end, Barry and I created a Facebook group for both writers and aspiring writers who want accountability. Whether you have already been published or have always wanted to write but haven’t, you are welcome.
The idea is that members post a goal and check in when they’ve made progress towards it or have completed the task. It can be a mini goal: “Buy a journal and start writing down ideas,” or more along the lines of “Finish my novel.” (That’s my big picture goal. But miles to go…)
Or, if members are just feeling stuck or unable to write, they can get a dose of encouragement from other writers.
The group is low commitment by design. Members are encouraged to post and follow up, but there’s no pressure. They’re also encouraged to cheer other members on, but again, only as they have the time or inclination to.
The already double-digits group is buzzing with supportive energy, which thrills Barry and me, because that’s what this is all about. If you are interested in writing and want to join, you’ll need to message me over on Facebook because the group is currently set to secret to weed out bots and the idly curious. My name there is Drema Sizemore Drudge. Say the word and I will add you.
I’ve already seen a rise in my own writing productivity, as well as being spurred on by both the goals and pom pom waving of my writing friends. It’s only Thursday, and I’ve completed several of my goals and am on task to finish the week writing strong.
Now if only I had a keto buddy. It would make sticking to my fitness goals so much easier. Sigh. Hey Barry, I have an idea…;-)
Someone PLEASE tell me to get back to writing. Our house will never be the same! Out have gone books and more books, clothing by the bagful, and oh so much more.
I even tackled the dreaded long, narrow closet in my writing room. Again. Every couple of years I attempt to make it behave but it ends up raspberrying at me. Not this time! Since I’ve been organizing the whole house, I decided to give that closet another whirl. This time I saw the solution in my mind’s eye: crisp, white bankers boxes.
When we moved to Nashville oh so long ago I bought carloads of bankers boxes. They’re perfect for moving all of your stuff and things. They’re uniform and they have separate lids for easy access. The other day I realized if I was ever going to tame our paper monster I needed to find some, stat.
Furthermore, I needed to categorize the papers better AND be willing to release more of them from my life if I was to ever be victorious.
So early yesterday morning I sat in my writing room and began assembling bankers boxes. I pulled every ugly cardboard box out of the closet, every crate, and started sorting.
Mind you, I’d been through these papers a few times. This time I decided to use the “What’s the worst thing that could happen if I didn’t have this?” advice I’d read recently.
I thought I would get rid of every printed draft of the novels I’ve written. I have clean e-copies of them, so I figured I didn’t need them. I unexpectedly decided I needed to keep those marked up manuscripts, so I did. It felt right.
Going through my old journals I realized what a different person I am today and how I am also the same. More on that another time.
Formerly treasured school essays complete with comments, writing with lovely comments from mentors, got pitched.
Some of the purge was practical: most of the comments on my schoolwork were made on stories that have either already been published or have been changed so much that the suggestions no longer apply.
A few of the papers I wanted to keep, but I let them go when I realized this: I was holding too tightly to the good regard, the confidence given to me by my mentors. I’m a bona fide writer now, hell, I’m a teacher of writing. Holding onto those comments for as long as I did helped me see that others believed in me when I didn’t. I will forever be grateful for that. I have been privileged to work with some fantastic mentors who have undeniably helped shape my work. But I can’t see myself as the writer I AM until I let go of that one-down position. And it’s time.
That said, it doesn’t mean I didn’t flinch when I tossed all of those blue essay books, those stacks of marked papers into the trash bag. Doesn’t mean I didn’t ask myself if I was being hasty. Doesn’t mean I didn’t grit my teeth as I hurried the bag out to the trash can.
Ironically, the dude driving the recycle truck knocked the wheels right off our trash can this week. I’m not sure how, but I see a connection.
By the way, the closet looks just as I hoped it would. I think I’ve done it this time. Forgot to take a pic, though. Sorry.
In the same vein (and possibly this is redundant rather than reinforcing), I sorted through our writing instruction (or craft, for the uninitiated,) books. Those have always been the hardest for me to let go of, but I discovered that I was ready to release many of those now as well. Some were outdated. Some were ponderous and tedious. Some were written by Dead White Guys FOR Dead White Guys. Some were yellowed, and I really don’t enjoy reading yellowed books.
But again the biggest revelation in reviewing our craft book collection was that I thought some of the content was either too commercial or too simplistic, that I knew some of it was just plain bad advice. I no longer need “1+1=writing” books. I took a box of over 20 (!!) craft books to the Goodwill Bin. (I wouldn’t throw those away, of course).
And for those of you who know I’m married to a writer, of course I asked him if he wanted them before I hauled them off.
Never fear: we still have three well-stocked shelves of writing books. I know I still have things to learn. The difference is I also know what I don’t need to learn.
I’ve also tackled renovating the rusty locker I picked up during Spring Clean Up. This is now residing in my writing room with cute baskets in it to hold my blank journals and writing supplies. As I told a young woman recently, “I’m not afraid of color.” Obvious, isn’t it? I heart this fresh color.
While I’m blissfully happy to be wrangling the house into order, I’m ready to return to writing beyond freelancing. Fiction keeps calling, and I’m about to, I need to, answer.
Exciting news! My personal essay “Uno, Popcorn, and Laughter” has been chosen for the Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Gratitude collection. I’m honored, especially as it features my hubby and my beloved kids. (Maybe I should make them sign the books too??!)
Who knew when we went through such tough times that our story would help others? I always believed there must be a reason for the difficulties, and the book’s subtitle says it all: “Being thankful can change your life.” I agree!
As always, I can’t give too much away about the story until it’s released this August. I can say that it features a treasured family pastime. (Clearly playing Uno is one of those. Oh, and feasting on popcorn. Then there’s laughter.)
Barry says these stories are my sneaky way of writing my memoirs. I don’t know about that, but I do know I am incredibly honored to be a part of this series. It gives me the chance to take a look back at events that might have been stressful at the time, but that on reflection helped strengthen our family.
While I am in no hurry to have grandchildren, if we are ever blessed with any I would love to play Uno and eat popcorn with them. And laugh. There will always be laughter.
We all complain that we don’t have enough time to write. I get it. (My apologies to our dearly beloved, departed Prince for ripping off his song lyric for my title, but he’s understandably on my mind. RIP.)
I worked with a trainer for a short time at the gym Barry and I recently joined. She loved having me do planks on a bosu (half a ball on a platform, if you’re not familiar. This:)
I don’t mind admitting that my core strength is not what it could be. She’d time me on that silly, wobbly thing and say, “Only 10 seconds left. You can do anything for 10 seconds.” That got me to thinking about time and our perception of it.
A while back I was honored to visit my former workplace and teach a writing lesson. It was awesome seeing former students, meeting new ones. One of the assignments I gave them was to write for five minutes. Now some of these students freeze up if you ask them to write an essay. They are terrified to put pen to paper, yet some of them wrote a couple of sentences. Some of them wrote nearly a page. In five minutes! Was it polished writing? Of course not. I don’t care who’s writing, rough drafts are always that. There were gems in their sentences, though, to be mined later. I was impressed with what they accomplished and I hope they were too.
It took me less than 10 seconds to type this sentence. I timed myself. And that was with going back and fixing a typo. What if you typed ten-second sentences every time you got a chance? How much of a story would you have by the end of a day? (So I realize how difficult it is to pull yourself in and out of the flow, but it would be a fun experiment. Better yet if you can hook those short stints onto one another and give yourself five, maybe 10 minutes even.)
Back to that bosu: when you’re holding yourself in position and everything in you wants to drop, just give up, but there’s someone standing over you, believing in you, telling you that you can do it but can you really you think and then she says you’re halfway there and you can’t believe it’s only been five seconds and whoever said life was short must be insane because this sure isn’t and your abs burn and your arms say that they’re giving you all they’ve got, Captain, but is it enough and then she says it’s time but then maybe you go an extra second just to prove that you can. Whew. Yeah, I’m not at all convinced of the brevity of 10 seconds after all. (We call that stream of consciousness in writing, that big, self indulgent gush without air, by the way. Yes, it’s just as much fun to write as it seems. Not as much fun to read unless you’re me. I like the stuff when other people write it.)
Ten seconds is longer than you think. Five minutes? An eternity. So take those bits of time. Pull out your list of ideas and get started on just one. Maybe you’ll start stealing time from things that used to matter that don’t now. You know your time wasters better than I. Just never underestimate the value of 10 seconds. Hey, maybe we should all plank for 10. On second thought, I have some writing to do.
Seriously, though, consider sharing one of your ten-second sentences with us. It doesn’t even have to be polished.
Yesterday at the gym I was talking with a trainer who said he’d gained 30 pounds by “dirty bulking.” My face must have told him I had no idea what he meant. In case you’re in the same boat, evidently it’s a method where hard gainers put on weight by eating junk food, massive amounts of it. “Oh, you mean what I do every day,” I said. Which isn’t entirely true, but it isn’t entirely false either. Depends on the day.
I recently dirty bulked my WIP. Yup. I’ve been changing directions/characters/locations in my novel, and I needed to print a copy because I revise best when I can see it in front of me and can mark it up, circle things, underline.
Because my MS was only at 185 pages or so and I wanted it to be a nice round 200 pages before I printed it, I dirty bulked. My writing version of eating donuts and ice cream, though, is “navel gazing” and philosophizing. (Navel gazing is just what it sounds like — you’re writing stuff that probably does not at all advance the plot. Likely no one else cares about it. Not an iota.) I was actually proud of some of it when I first wrote it. It flowed. It was “thinky.” I explored the meanings of words that are important to me such as loyalty and feminism.
So, junk writing done, I hit print and out of the printer flowed warm pages covered in ink. Happily I sat down, pen in hand, a chunk of the MS on my handy dandy book stand that my dear Barry bought me for Christmas last year. How excited I was to move things around, make big changes. Discover just how genius my new path was. That’s when the dirty bulk showed itself to be made of junk food. (Cue the “wunh wunh” music.)
Suffice it to say I have only put in the changes for 150 of those pages into my MS and I have already had to lose 15 pages. Fifteen bloated, useless (to the novel) pages marked out. Gone. Junk.
Do I regret my self-indulgent dirty bulk? Not entirely; I saved some of it. Some of it was just for me in real life. Some of it was to know more about my characters and their struggles and their beliefs, which are sometimes in conflict with mine. I make them argue their side so I can understand them, even if I don’t agree. Sometimes I have to write characters I don’t like or identify with. (Mini-lecture: I refuse to say “with whom I identify.” Because I’m under 50 and because that flawed “rule” has been shown to be ridiculous and it is one with which I won’t put up — please tell me you get the joke.) I do respect my characters and their right to be who they are.
It will be interesting to see how much of this last 50 pages I lose. I enjoy purging my closets and cabinets, and it’s the same with words so it’s not as if I’ll mourn what I get rid of. I don’t think every sentence I write is priceless. When my agent asked me to prune my last MS, I was happy to do so, and she was pleased with the results so it’s a skill worth having. Still, maybe next time I’ll think twice before imposing an arbitrary page count on myself to spare myself the rapid slash of my inky sword across miles of words. (If you guessed that I would have cut the last half of that sentence if I read it anywhere else, you’re right. But I’m feeling playful so it stands.)
Whether you dirty bulk with words or junk food, there’s no judgment here. Let me know how it goes. On second thought, since I’m trying to stay away from donuts, maybe save the food porn and just let me know if you dirty bulk your story.
I’m pleased to announce that Chicken Soupfor the Soul has chosen one of my essays, “Wake-Up Call” for their newest collection, Dreams and Premonitions. The book will be released on September 22, 2015 and is available for preorder now over at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Since my name is Drema, (pronounced “Dream uh”) you might not be surprised to learn that I often have vivid dreams. My essay in the book centers around a bad dream I had at a time when I was taking my husband for granted and my response. I don’t want to spoil it, so that’s enough for now. But whether you choose to buy the book or not I hope you’ll never take a loved one for granted, and I hope I will remember that every day as well.
I enjoy writing for Chicken Soup. As a matter of fact, just this weekend I bought a copy of a Chicken Soup book I have a story in at a garage sale. The woman behind the sale table, a mother of one, said that her son bought her the book to console her when he left for college. I whipped out my license, showed her my name and opened the book to page 97. We were both delighted to share a moment and reminisce about the newly emptied nest.
Living in a small town means sometimes people come up to me and say they saw my name in print somewhere, and I love it. Once I was at the bank and a teller said “I know who you are. What’s it like to write?” I had never met her before, but suddenly we had a common reference point. As a matter of fact, she had me at an advantage, because she knew more about me than I did her.
But I don’t just do it for how good it feels to be recognized for your writing. (I’m not going to lie, it feels great, of course.) I do it because Chicken Soup only publishes feel-good, it-will-be-alright pieces, and though there is much at odds in this world, I choose to believe there is much that is going just fine.
One night I was at a concert with my husband and one of his fans came up to say hello to him. When he introduced me he said that I am a writer, and that I’ve written for ChickenSoup. “I’ve read your work,” she said, tears in her eyes. “You’ve saved my life!”
While I think she probably meant the books as a series and not my own humble contribution, this reflects perfectly why I sometimes choose to share those most vulnerable, scary things. I want to share my story to help others, not to shame or put anyone down (except myself when I deserve it) but to shine a light on the human condition and how we can, mistakes and all, make it through it together. Through communicating privately, honestly, and open mindedly, there’s not much we can’t sort out. Chicken Soup reminds us of that in every edition. Bless them.
Saturday Barry and I spent a luxurious two hours eating breakfast…unheard of for us! We drank two pots of tea, sitting and chatting, and finally we decided it was time to get on with our day.
A wonderful benefit to me of Barry becoming a Spalding MFA in Writing student is that he has writing deadlines. Which, of course, encourages me to write when he is writing.
Better yet, I have discovered a writing method called “Quick Write” that I will write a post about later. We have been indulging in them, and we had promised ourselves one this weekend. But.
But, when Barry asked if I was ready to write on Saturday, I said no. Yes, his face looks just the way yours does if you know how much I love to write. We were both afraid we were coming down with colds, and I just didn’t feel well all the way around. Writing was not appealing just then.
Also, the night before we had begun watching a documentary on Vermeer. Those of you who know that one of my life’s goals is to see all of Vermeer’s work will not be surprised that I really wanted to finish watching the documentary that I had fallen asleep trying to watch the night before.
Before we turned the program back on, I asked my dear husband if he minded if I applied my hair treatment so I could let it work its magic while we relaxed. Of course we became so fascinated by the video that my hair “marinated” for probably an hour longer than it was meant to! It took two days to get my hair normal again. Thankfully I am not a priss about my hair. 🙂
Watching the Vermeer segment meant we rolled into the next one (hence the prolonged hair marinating), which featured the work not of the artist I am writing my novel about, but that of one of his influences. We were only a few minutes in when my eyes widened. Though I had known of the connection between the painters, it wasn’t until I saw the highlighted painting that I realized my painter HAD to have seen that painting.
In fact, I have been writing extensively about a painting that I now know I haven’t been seeing correctly at all because I didn’t know this new-to-me painting.
NOW I was ready, to write, or so I thought. While Barry did a Spalding assignment to free himself for a Quick Write, I wrote a brief outline of what the painting meant to me, what it meant to the artist’s work, and how I could prove it, if I could.
I should have been ready to write at that point, right? Except I wasn’t. This is where you have to dig down and ask yourself if you really shouldn’t be writing, or if you should press on.
When Barry set the timer I put my fingers to the keys and tried to write. About five minutes in I was fiddling with my phone, trying to pull up a photo of the painting. “Research,” I mumbled while he valiantly wrote on.
I wrote one scene, and then I felt as if I had finished what I had to say. I consulted my outline. I wrote a bit more. It was an effort. But finally, I realized that even though I wasn’t feeling it, what I was writing was important. It expressed some things about the artist that I hadn’t been able to articulate in the over two years I have been writing this novel.
I still wrote slowly, leisurely, compared to my usually feverish style.
The result wasn’t brilliant; it wasn’t polished, but when Barry called “Time,” I wasn’t totally embarrassed.
Honoring my process, allowing myself NOT to write when I didn’t want to, and yet pressing through when I really felt I should, opened a new door in my novel. I can’t wait to see where this goes.
As I always say, creative writing is not widget making. There are not definite steps to take to get out what you want to say. Please, honor your process. Whatever it is.
Care to share what your creative process is? I’d love to hear about it!
In “The Cognitive and Anthropological Origins of Narrative,” Richard van Oort argues for the “coeval origin” of narrative and language. If that’s true, maybe I have no business complaining about this, but I’m going to anyway.
As a writer, we have certain literary devices and terms which we call our own. They are the tools in our proverbial toolbox, and they are ours. Here’s my issue: I don’t like hearing the word “narrative” used outside of literary circles.
My husband is a political enthusiast. I am not. Our compromise is a Netflix marathon of “Scandal,” a White House-based drama. While the show isn’t the first place where I have heard the word “narrative” used to describe something quite unliterary, its repeated use in a political context unnerves me. It angers me. Our pure tool, so beautifully designed to shape truth by fiction, there means nothing more than “make the story palatable and helpful to our political aims.”
It’s unforgiveable. It’s outright theft, and I’m angry.
I suspect I am not the only one who is angry about this perpetual (in my view) word/device abuse. Did you catch Sam Lipsyte’s story in the May 5, 2014 issue of The New Yorker called “The Naturals”? He speaks of a company who wants to create a lakefront development but the area needs a “narrative.” “The main thing is we’re trying to tell a story here. A lakefront narrative,” says a consultant. Huh? His main character seems just as puzzled as I am by that usage.
Throughout the story the main character, Caperton, encounters people who openly admit to being storytellers: a wrestler, his stepmother who works in “narrative medicine” helping patients tell their stories, and his dying father who tells him that “Death is just a part of the story.”
While I think Lipsyte’s claim is a bit different than mine — I believe he’s complaining about everything needing a story and I’m specifically complaining about the misuse of the word “narrative,” our beefs may not be so far apart. Why must politicians have a narrative, which implies a purposely crafted and presented tale rather than a strict presentation of the facts which would allow a person to decide for him or herself what happened?
Okay, there may be some writerly ego involved here: I want to be the one who tells the stories, who explains through fiction, which means admitting that my story, although true, is based on a narrative created by me.
“Stories were devices for deluding ourselves and others…” says Lipsyte’s truth-disguised-as-tale. Sometimes. Sometimes our stories make the world a much more beautiful place. Sometimes they make a hero of someone who is not. But when we admit to shaping the, yes, narrative, that’s fair, not manipulative. At least not a veiled manipulation. To hear riverfronts and politics using it, well, that’s just dishonest. Give me back my narrative, you hear me? Or at least find another word to call it.
Until recently my body was in China, my mind in France, and my heart in the United States. Let me explain.
I apologize for having been silent for some time. My last post was actually written while in Changzhou, China. Drat these days of having to be so careful when one travels that one can’t shout from the rooftops “I’m in China!”
This post is not meant to be a travelogue. I’m sure stories of my time in China will come out in my posts, but I wanted to deal more with my writing while I was there. If you’re truly interested in more about our time there, may I refer you to an article I wrote about it for glo Magazine? http://www.the-papers.com/OnlineIssue.aspx?pub=glo (It’s on page 42.)
“How do you think your writing was affected by your trip?” I have been asked multiple times since returning. One of my friends has given me the perfect reply: “We’ll see.” She’s so right. How anything changes us often takes some time to reveal its effects. But I can say how lovely and fantastic the experience was!
The beauty of this retreat:
1. I did not have to do laundry.
2. No cleaning house.
3. No cooking. (That was a mixed bag as I actually like to cook.)
5. Staying in a five-star hotel. Very posh!
6. Being treated as if we were royalty by the hotel staff. They gave me a private writing space complete with an attendant who brought me drinks and snacks! Weekly fruit selections delivered! Nightly cookies! Surprise cake and desserts!
7. Amazing food generously supplied wherever we went. I now adore seafood and eating with chopsticks!
8. The gift of not being able to speak the language. This allowed me to focus on my writing, even when I was in a teahouse full of chattering people. The sound was mere music because I couldn’t understand a word! It also forced me to find other ways to communicate: hand gestures, drawings, etc.
9. Being fully appreciated by very sweet people for…well…everything! That I am a writer. That I am an American. That I am a blonde.
10. Sightseeing! Beijing. Shanghai. The architecture was spectacular. Always something new to see. Everywhere.
11. Buying pearls. In the above photo I am standing in front of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower…my favorite building in Shanghai, and I’m wearing the pearls Barry had newly purchased for me. (I’m having a hard time not wearing them every day! I’ve always been a fan of pearls.)
Clearly, I could go on at length. Let me shift gears.
My goal for writing in China (other than accompanying my husband, who was there for work) was to write a new section of my WIP. I had hoped to add 50 to 75 pages. I ended up writing over 100 new pages. There was something about writing in another country that allowed me to tap into something I did not at home. The section that I had no clue about in the States came to me bit by bit, then page after page. I wrote with pen and paper, something else I don’t usually do. It was wonderful to look up form a long morning’s writing only to realize that I was in China, not France.
Barry and I spent many fun evenings out with new friends, but we also had not only private evening dinners or room service, but we also had cherished hour-long breakfasts. We would sit and drink cup after cup of tea and talk, which thankfully emptied my mind for my day’s writing and energized him for the work day. It was perfect.
You wouldn’t think it would be any different, writing at a desk, sitting in a chair, or on a couch or a park bench, no matter the country, but it was. I honestly haven’t had much time to look over the new material I wrote while I was there, but I’m eager to see how it was different. In part I think there’s a real difference in writing not in stolen moments or almost as a hobby, but instead writing because the day was created for you to write, and everything in the universe confirms that, down to the weather. Everyone and everything seems as if it’s your handmaiden, your doula.
If you ever get the chance to take a writer’s retreat — even if you have to steal a weekend and go to a hotel, do it. There’s something special about purposely created moments. The muse, I am firmly convinced, is ever with us. (S)he’s just waiting for us to say hello, no matter the country in which we find ourselves. There’s something very comforting about knowing there’s a whole other world ever present, ever ready for us to tap. Here’s to catching buckets full of rich writing.