December 10th 2003

We had our December meeting/Christmas party of the Jackpine Writers’ Bloc today, Dec. 14. The next meeting will be January 18, Sunday, from 1:30 to 4 PM at Beagle Books in Park Rapids.

Present were: Sharon, Tarah, Luanne, Russ, Bryan and Niomi.

We discussed the fact that TS12 appears to be selling quite nicely and if we do sell lots of them, we should be able to afford to do another book in the spring. Tarah and Sharon are ready to do another one!!

This is Niomi’s first meeting. We described what we usually do in meetings. We each discussed what type of writing we like to do and the fact that we usually bring something to read and ask for feedback on it.

Russ is taking a writing course and he has been telling us some of the things he has learned. He handed around some websites and places to send our work that we will send on to everyone later. He also had a website that listed literary journals where you could submit work.

Russ was telling us that he has learned that in describing your story, you should be able to state the plot in one sentence. There should be several dramatic incidents that lead up to it. You can focus lots of power there. Sometimes it is as important what you leave out as what you put in.

You should take each major character and write down many things about each one. There are endless ways to describe a person — don’t just always use height or hair color. Make them so they are unique. Do it in narrative, usually more than an index card. The more you know these people, the more you know how they will react to situations in your story and interact with the other characters. Don’t get stuck using people that you know — if you have 3 cousins, make an imaginary 4th cousin and see what he would be like.

Russ took a class — What do Editors Want —
they are looking for love of language, vividness, uniqueness, good diction, enthusiasm, love of their characters.

Give the bad characters some redeeming characteristic and the good ones some flaws.

Your story will consist or an intro, you present a problem, describe how the characters deal with the problem, then solve the problem.

A mystery is more complicated to write because you have to know exactly what you have revealed to the reader. Everything has to tie together.

An exercise we did previously was to describe someone by describing something of theirs.

When you critique someone’s work, mark what is good, not what is bad. (One method).

Mary Oliver writes about writing poetry. She says that artists start out by imitating the masters. Poets generally do not do that, but we should. If we could imitate the masters, then we would learn. We have to have a desire to create. If you imitate the masters, you can hone your craft and then find your own style. You have to know the rules first so you can break them if you want it.

Write first and then hire yourself as editor.

Several of us read some works in progress. We are always helped by the feedback and go home with some new things to try out.

Russ gave us an exercise to do — choose one of these things and write for 5 minutes on it:

1. character — describe a person who made a strong impression on you, an encounter you had, how they dressed, how they spoke, describe the place, why it was memorable, and as they walked away, where did they go, who was the next person they spoke it.

2. place — describe a public place from your child hood that affects you today — powerful emotions

3. first person — write a true statement about yourself, like some traveling you have done, details. Then write a false statement about yourself. like — I have never left the country. and feel how different it is to put yourself into a different persona rather than the truth – it liberates you.
We had a fun and festive meeting and look forward to the next!! The holiday season is always hectic. We will think about the next book probably in February.