Friday, May 29, 2009

Slow and Steady Wins

My friend smiled as she waited to greet me at the church door. "You must have a tremendous store of patience and perseverance."

"Why do you say that?" I said.

"Well, your bad knees force you to walk so slowly, but they don't hold you back from doing what needs doing."

I should hope not. There's too much to be done. I have books to write, dreams to dream, classes to teach, workshops to conduct, stories to tell, grandchildren to schnuggle (don't try to find that one on, songs to sing, spoons to play, books to read, and mountains to climb (figuratively speaking, I'm afraid). It's good that I don't write books or tell stories with my knees.

I have a storytelling friend who has chosen the turtle as her mascot. She also has some physical limitations, but nothing that interferes with her ability to spin a fine yarn. I tried to think of other slow-moving creatures in God's zoo that would suit me.

A sloth? No. Bad connotation. I certainly wouldn't want potential agents or editors to think that I sit around doing little other than growing moss in my hair.

A snail? Too slimy.

An inchworm? Not bad, but easily squished. Besides, I'm more of a Type B personality. Inchworms definitely are Type A's.

A tortoise? That's it! But is it too similar to a turtle? Would that be considered plagiarism?

Actually, the tortoise has much to recommend it. It's the MC of a beloved folktale. Its slow, steady pace wins for it the race. It's not afraid to stick its neck out, but knows when to briefly retreat. It carries its home with it. (For me, home is wherever Jesus Christ is.) It is impervious to those who would say, "You can't do it."

The tortoise makes its deadline. Remember? It has a tremendous store of patience and perseverance.

A fresh pot of coffee doesn't hurt, either.

Note: The lovely illustration that accompanies this posting is by author/illustrator Arlene Graston and is copyrighted. She graciously granted me permission to include it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Getting an MFA the Hard Way: Part One

This week my writers' group met. (Random thought: why do we claim ownership of anything we're involved in? It's my group, my church, my home town.) Five of us gathered to mull over our work and gnaw on a couple conundrums. One writer wrestled with how to present five POVs in her lengthy fantasy novel, while another struggled to find words to describe the smells of an Amish restaurant when she herself has no sense of smell or taste. For nearly 90 minutes ideas bounced around the table like an erratic ping-pong ball.

I was the only one of the five who was an original member of the group. The others have come within the last three or four years. We've talked about how to draw more people to our meetings. It's a paradox, because we're not sure that we want more. Perhaps I should say need, rather than want. Back in the early days when we numbered ten or twelve at a meeting, we seldom had time for everyone to read even snippets of their work. A smaller group allows for that, and I love the exercise.

We five, along with a couple others who couldn't attend this month, form a nucleus of what I call serious writers. We readily learn from one another at the meetings and throughout the month via our Yahoo group. While I cannot speak for the others, I feel that I am working toward an informal MFA by studying my craft through books, online resources, participation in SCBWI and ACFW, and dialog with other writers, editors, and agents.

"This is work," said one of our SIWS members. It is. And we revel in it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy Poetry Month!


dangles above our heads
while he stands
like a spectre
shrouded in smoke and
backlighted by the campfire.
Haints hover just outside
the ring of light
waiting to creep closer as the
fire wanes.
blows away the chill bumps
but they return
when giants clamber through the woods
hehind us.
Faerie folk wish we'd leave
so they could claim our circle
and dance their rhyme
but we can't.
We're rooted to log seats
eyes glazed
jaws slack
hearts first slow
then race
all beating as one with the
cadence of the storyteller's voice as
tricksters and troubadours
strangers and waifs
strut among the fire's flame
and ride the backs of
donkeys and dragons.
Then he stops
becomes human again
but another rises
and we're ready.
Once upon a time
beyond the Silver Sea
beyond the Azure Forest
beyond the Glass Mountain
beyond the Straw Town
there was
and there was not...

Copyright 2001 by Sharon Kirk Clifton