Wednesday, September 25, 2013

recovering from a writers con

I belong to an awesome writers group Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. I strongly recommend writers groups. Only other writers really understand what you're going through. RMFW has an annual conference, which I also strongly recommend. Frankly, it's a lot like the Seton Hill University MFA residencies: tons of workshops, panels, signings and fun and drinking. I taught a workshop Stealing From the Best: A Sample of Different Writing Methods to Find the Best Method for You with Author Rebecca Bates. It seemed well-received.

Our Guest Author of the Year, Rob Thurman, seemed to have a good time. Check out her blog entry: Writers Cons Vs. Fan Cons.
Will I be seeing you there next year? :)
Are there any writers cons you really like?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I read "Good Country People" by Flannery O'Connor recently. It's a classic and it's available several places on the web, here, for example. In a very brief nutshell: a woman, Mrs. Hopewell, runs a farm in rural Georgia with the help of her 2 tenants. Her one-legged Ph.D. daughter, Joy/Hulga, lives with her as well. A traveling bible salesman comes to the woman's house and ...adventures ensue. I don't want to ruin it for you if you haven't read it.

After reading a story I often step back and consider what was the point of this? Mrs. Hopewell is not happy with her Ph.D. atheist daughter and in the course of the story poor Joy/Hulga has a bad experience/rude awakening as a result of her paradigm. I can only conclude at least part of O'Connor's goal was to show intellectualism and atheism are basically wrong/bad/stupid/insert-your-favorite-nagative-word-here. Can the reader infer a greater meaning? Such as: even 'good country person' and devout Catholic Mrs. Hopewell should examine her preconceptions? Sure. O'Connor may have meant to convey this as well.
Overall, I'm getting a very didactic tone from this story.

Ms. O'Connor didn't really get the recognition she deserved for her writing. I think this is because she was a woman and especially because she wrote about poor southerners.
Or, maybe it was because she was so didactic.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

styles change

I recently reread "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe. You can read it for free here, among other places. Wow! Writing styles have really changed since 1839! Check out the beginning:
DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country ; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.
If one of my critique partners started a story with a lot of telling setting description, I'd recommend otherwise. I'd say, this is a cliche.

Of course, you can't say that about "Usher" because it was written before all those other stories. When you're one of the first, you can't be a cliche. :)
"Usher" is the quintessential gothic horror story, the story that influenced all others that came after. What exactly is gothic fiction? Some say it's the mode of literature that combines elements of romance and horror. The name gothic supposedly refers to the medieval or pseudo-medieval buildings in which the stories take place. What is horror fiction? This one is harder to pin down. The Horror Writers Association says horror is fiction that elicits fear and/or dread in the reader. Thus, horror can be about or include anything as long as it elicits the desired emotional reaction(s).

Are you a horror reader? A horror writer? What do you like best about it?