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All That We Gain

 

by Jennifer Paros

 

“Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. ”

~ Byron Katie

 

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Recently, I had a second opportunity to watch the Oscar-winning film, Slumdog Millionaire. For the first twenty minutes I questioned whether I’d paid any attention at all during the first viewing. It seemed my memory had been erased of all the difficult, dark parts; all I’d been left with was the good feeling at the end. The writers had crafted a script that managed to emphasize gain over loss and that was my take-away.

Jamal, our hero, is a contestant on the Indian version of the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire and every question he’s asked, he’s able to answer only because of his life experiences. Told in flashback, Jamal’s orphaned, impoverished, criminal, often traumatic and dark past is revealed as he draws upon it to win.

If we look at the story of Slumdog Millionaire metaphorically, the plot can be seen as a paradigm for viewing life. Jamal finding the answers in his experiences suggests that everything we live can provide us with all we need to thrive. There is beauty in the thought that whatever happens, whether deemed wrong, bad, good, lucky, or unlucky, is ultimately right. It’s all of use, all valuable in some, perhaps as yet unknown way. Seeing life in this way means everything is gain. more...

 

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Reading Too Deep: How To Handle Writer’s Doubt

 

by S.E. Batt

 

 

Writers know that the golden rule of writing is to write. Stories don’t write themselves onto paper, so actual writing is the only way to become a writer. There is the sister advice that tags along, however, and her name is Read Books.

 

It makes sense when you consider it. In order to learn how to tell good stories, you must read good stories. Other people’s stories can be useful in various ways. Books written in your genre help develop ideas, showing different plot devices and styles that you may have never considered before, as well as revealing what ideas have been done time and time again. Stories in genres with which you’re unfamiliar (say, suspense or romance) can educate you in other aspects of storytelling untouched by your genre. Writers, taking this advice to heart, often dive into their collection of books and begin to read them.

This is where doubt likes to strike.

 

The writer would have done some fiction writing of their own at some point, whether they have just completed their first short story or finished up a trilogy. Then they read the works of their favorite author, compare it to their own work, and then – oh dear. The prose they wrote was not as great as they first thought. They spiral into doubt. In the worst case, the new writer decides the solution is to copy the experienced author’s style or ideas, thinking it will help them in the long run. more...

 

 

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Pale Teacher

 

by Nancy Creager

 

 

She was my first Creative Writing Teacher. At that time it was called Composition. I was ten.

As she entered the classroom, I noticed her face, pale and unsmiling. She carried a briefcase. It was black, plain, large – in clear disproportion to her five-foot frame. She bent slightly to the right under its weight.

 

I sat in the back of the class. I don’t remember her name, lost in the many shuffles of my life. But I do remember what she taught me.

 

It was the first day of school after summer vacation, and my first day in this new school. The classroom was bursting with tanned girls in ponytails, their delicate voices a sweet background music. In this all-girls school we wore a standard uniform: dark blue jacket with four golden buttons in front, same color skirt, a white enduring blouse, black closed-in shoes and white bobby socks; it blended us all alike on the outside.

The classroom was large and monastic, an enclosure to learn, not to laugh. But there was a row of small windows on the left side of the room, which I imagined as a birdcage enclosing the chants of my classmates. The room’s focal point was the oblong blackboard at the center, where the new teacher’s name was printed in large capital letters.

 

I sat by one of those windows. I liked the light coming in from the outside. On my desk: a notebook, a pencil and an eraser. I had a thing for erasers. I liked their smell, sweet and quiet and their soft pliable touch in my fingers, but most of all I loved their forgiveness.

 

I could scream at my notebook in capital letters, stare at my outburst, feel wretched and then erase it all.

Outside, a light autumn rain was falling. more...

 

 

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Unlisted

 

by Cherie Tucker

 

 

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Some time ago we talked about making lists. You know that every A. must have a B., and every 1. must have a 2., and that you can NEVER have a single bullet – there must always be a second one. We established that. But lately I have come across some writers who feel that they must introduce the fact that they are about to make a list with some strange indicator. And then they punctuate the list as if it were still written horizontally.

 

It looked like this . . .

You can have a colon at the end of your introductory mark, but NEVER those dots (called ellipsis marks, by the way). Then, even if the items are short, you must begin them with a capital letter, but you don’t need end punctuation with really short ones.

Bring the following with you to camp:

more...

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January 2014

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