Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Writing Home word cloud

OK, so I'm a little behind, and maybe everyone already knows about this, but I think it's cool—it's a Wordle* representation of the most-used text on this blog (click on the thumbprint to see it enlarged):

Wordle: Writing Home Wordle

* From Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The next big idea

Stephanie Meyer (who wrote the Twilight series) says the story came to her in a vivid dream: “In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire.” (SM Biography)

J.K. Rowling says that “the idea for Harry Potter simply fell into my head” during a train ride from Manchester to London.

Today, feeling a little tired already, I decided to lie down and wait for the next big book idea to come to me. I made myself as receptive as possible, taking deep relaxing breaths and shooing away any thoughts of doubt or feelings of guilt for lying down so soon in the morning after getting up.

And there the visions came to me: a mailbox of colorful mittens saying, “Hullo guv-ner,” just like the chimney sweeps in the Mary Poppins movie. Since I was passively letting these visions flow through me I didn’t respond to them, and they didn’t say much beyond, ‘hullo, hullo” or do much except for flapping around in the mailbox.

Then I saw a girl with white-blond hair skating on an icy river, flying off with suddenly sprouting wings. She didn’t look around at me but just headed towards the distance.

In my final vision, I saw a large boatful of Medieval monks in black robes with hoods, traveling into a tunnel singing Gregorian chants.

So, to summarize, I got:
  • a new character (maybe) for Pee Wee’s Playhouse, if it is ever revived
  • a new Barbie movie or movie heroine, a skating fairy or a bewitched princess
  • a scene from a movie I think I’ve already watched
At least I felt a little more rested.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Markets for short non-fiction

I made this list of non-fiction markets for anyone who might benefit from it—but keep in mind it's mostly here so I won't misplace it! Markets that specifically publish flash or short non-fiction were hard to find, which is why I included the Creative Nonfiction list of publications from Poets and Writers; perhaps hyperlinking through it will lead to other markets.

Brevity - Check guidelines page for submissions calendar; usually don't accept in summer months.

Conclave - Publishes personal essays 750-1,000 words.

flashquake - Says it publishes flash fiction and non-fiction.

Poets and Writers - Creative Nonfiction list - A list of ALL literary journals in their catalog that print non-fiction, regardless of length. (But I thought the list was useful, so I'm including here anyway).

The Sun Magazine - Readers Write feature - No word limit given on guidelines page, but they normally run length of two columns or less. They list a new topic to write about each month, which Sun readers are to write about.

* * * * * *
Here are some anthologies devoted to short nonfiction (but, given the dates of publication, some of the markets/pubs are obviously no longer going to be valid):

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sundays in the South

A realtor was quoted recently in the Washington Post Real Estate section saying, “Most buyers have no use for a living room.... It’s functionally obsolete...” Instead, people are converting those spaces to home offices, where they can work more quietly, and alone. The realtor then goes on to explain why: “Everyone here (in the D.C. area) is so uptight. We are so hustle and bustle. Everything is work mode.”

Perhaps this explains why I rarely go to people’s houses around here and sit in their living rooms and talk. Rarer, still, for my entire family to go to someone’s house for the sole purpose of sitting and talking together, as we did when I was growing up in the South. Now we are usually too busy on weekends. And even when we're not busy, we don't know that many other people who aren't busy or whose sudden lack-of-busyness coincides with ours. (I know, also, that some people never have us over because they are too busy to keep their houses clean).

When I was young, Sundays would find us sitting in our grandmother’s living room, joking and sharing with other family members. My Uncle Raymond and his wife and kids would come up every other week from Salisbury, 70 miles away, but most of the rest of us simply walked down the street to be there. We visited her during the week, as well, but those less formal visits were confined to her den or kitchen. On Sundays in the summer, we'd walk across the street to Aunt Maxie and Lola Belle's and sit on their front porch, amid large pots of Christmas stocking ferns, watching cars drive by while we rocked ourselves on their porch swing.

(When I returned to my grandmother’s house after going away to California for a few years, I was surprised at how small it was. The elegant couch and ashtrays with tiny pink china roses seemed almost ordinary, the room and house itself smaller than I remembered.)

I would get bored sitting there with my elderly aunts, my fidgeting cousins and smoking male relatives. Sometimes moments would pass with no one saying anything. Often the topic of conversation was who was sick in the neighborhood or who was having troubles in their lives, things I didn’t care to know as a child. In the winter, in the overheated house, I longed for fresh air and spring warmth.

But still I learned about my family, I learned the history of each of my relatives, and how we were akin to each other. I learned about how sweet my great-grandmother had been, how good with his hands my grandfather had been. We were surrounded by history. Maxie and Lola Belle lived in their parents' house; their brother and other sisters married and moved out, but they stayed on, adding a chandelier in the dining room, plush carpet in the living room, other parts of the house entirely unchanged, their father's furniture still in most of the rooms.

Now my own children hear about their great-grandmother intermittently, with no tangible thing to attach to the recollection, most of the people in my stories long gone. My grandmother's house was sold years ago and I don't know who lives there. There is never anyone outside it. No one is sitting on any of the porches in the neighborhood when I drive by. Perhaps they are inside, watching television together—or they are sitting alone in front of their computers, in their home offices, writing about the past.

(Pictured: My grandparents, in their living room, in an undated photo. He died when I was six.)