Friday, August 22, 2014

The Pixel and Ink-Stained Wretch is Alive and Well - On Writing Process and a shoutout to an old friend.

Have you missed me? I know I've been rather quiet in these parts for some weeks now. Fear not, as the title says, I am alive and well and still writing. Some of you may know that my family and I were looking for a new home; I'm happy to report that the gap between blog posts is a result of having found one and doing all of the hard work of preparing and executing the big move out of the city and to the suburbs. We completely filled a 24 foot moving truck and then some, are still living out of boxes, and have a kitchen to remodel. For my AV friends there might be an adventure or two in home automation once things settle down. And for the rest of you? Well, my commute did just get a bit longer, so there just might be some more writing time.
Someone made little comedy/tragedy
masks out of the O's in the railroad
station sign. This amuses me.

Writing time is the theme that brings me back to  these pages - specifically, an invitation from an old friend to participate in the "My Writing Process Blog Tour" (I'll bet you guessed that from the title). This is a chance for those of us who write to talk about what we're writing, why we're writing it and, of course, how we write. I'd be remiss without starting with  link-back to the friend who invited me, Mary Ellen Sanger. We met years ago in one of the first critique groups I'd ever joined. It was the group in which both Sanger's collection Blackbirds in the Pomegranate Tree and Talia Carner's novel Jerusalem Maiden were workshopped. Both are highly recommended, and not just because of my connection with their authors.

Q1: What are you working on now?

Good question. What, aside from the blog, have I been up to as of late? There are a few longer pieces with which I've been tinkering, but as of late my heart is really in flash fiction and poetry.  There is not, at present, a big project. If there is, the big project is continuing to unpack. That said, there are some directions I've been thinking about as of late. One is flash-fiction. I'm a big fan of very short stories which use language mindfully to focus on a single, pivotal scene. The moment when things change, the moment when you see things differently, or just something that makes you stop and think.
Quick snapshot which I
used for a poetry sketch
Another direction I've been looking at is poetry. I've been reading a bit more of it as of late and have had some fun playing with a quick sketch or two. One neat source of inspiration I found was the How Writers Write Poetry MOOC from the creative writing program at the University of Iowa. Following is one of my exercises from an early week in this course:

First, a two-line sketch:
Stylus on phone, what does she write?
Private thoughts in the quiet car.

Then the same, with added detail and metaphor:
On silvergrey patched blue vinyl seat
she lights, glowing rectangle flat on
her lap, redpainted nails dance as fingers
clutching the stylus make tiny gyrations, as if
self-ministering and old-time cure for madness.
Write and erase, write
and erase, write
and erase
write and
a tiny tremor of joy ripples
through her whole body.
I look away from the upturned
corner of her lips, leaving her
in the afterglow.

Q2: How does your work differ from others of its genre?

This is an interesting question for me; Most of my writing and reading has a fantasy element, but I don't think I neatly pigeonhole quite anywhere. I'm certainly not inventing new forms, but nor am I really copying anyone else's formula. With more writers blurring the lines between genres I'm not sure how interesting a question this is. I'll say that my work is unique for the same reason anyone else's is unique: because it's mine, informed by my experiences, my philosophies, and my personal style.

Q3: Why do you write what you do?

On this blog there are two paths, which I've labelled "pixels" and "ink". On the professional side, I write about technology because I enjoy it, because I feel that the industry gains from broad conversations with many voices, and because it helps me to be part of the conversation and connect with my peers. And, sometimes, I can let a hint of my feminism in and get people thinking about important issues in how we see and treat eachother.

On the literary side, I write because I love words and I love stories. I do it for the pleasure of doing it, and for the hope that someone will read it and find some of the same pleasure in the reading that I've found in the writing. The common thread is that both are driven by a measure of passion and love for the subject matter. This is how I share that passion.

Q4: What is your writing process?

This is the big question, and a hard one for me to answer. Nuts-and-bolts wise I pretty much exclusively type these days during my daily commute on an old Android tablet with a slide-out keyboard.  I used to write first drafts longhand with a fountain pen, but it's hard to write clearly and neatly on a moving railroad car. For fiction, I'll start with an idea, a character or a scene but little idea of where I'm going with it. Writers are sometimes described as "pantsters" - those writing by the seats of their pants - and "plotters" - those with elaborate outlines, plans, and structures. I definitely write by the seat of my pants, typing the first draft as the words and ideas come to me. Then I'll go back, either smooth rough edges or rewrite entirely. When I do longhand drafts, I'll often completely change, reorder, rewrite, or leave parts out as I transcribe them to digital format.

I like to keep a running list of ideas, prompts, and images that might inspire stories. If a snippet of overheard conversation seems interesting I'll jot it into an Evernote notebook which I keep for the purpose and to which I can turn when I feel the need to write something. I currently have more prompts and ideas than actual works in progress, but look for that to change.

"Pixel" posts about AV are a bit more pre-planned, but not by  much. I start with either a piece of technology, an event, or an idea. I'll take some time thinking about it, outlining the most important points in my head. Then I'll write beginning to end in usually one take, circling back afterwards to add photos.

And... that's it. No secrets, no mysteries. Writing this makes me realize that I miss the sensual feel of a nice pen in my hands; perhaps the next project will be a return to long-hand. If so, I'll be sure to share it here with you.