In The Last Outrageous Woman, my friend, author Jessica Stone skillfully spins a tale about a group of elder-women who decide they’re going to plot, scheme, and organize a breakout and then the most ‘outrageous’ journey of a lifetime. This delightful story asks a big life question when the character Mattie asks of her retirement home friends, “if you could do anything, anything at all, no matter how . . . you know . . . how unlikely. Just once. What would it be?” And when one friend answers “I’d ride a camel…” Well, readers are in for a journey.
First these elder-ladies must overcome their own fears, shortcomings and family/legal/financial obstacles before they break themselves free from their ‘jailers’ at Restful Palms Retirement Home.
As the story unfolds it navigates sentiments from happy to sad, then on to triumphant, and ultimately ends on an inspirational note. This is a great read for readers and book clubs in search of a heartwarming and life-affirming story. As I read I pictured my elderly mom and her senior girlfriends in their retirement home acting just like these women. They will love this book. Great job Jessica!
In addition to the Objects class I will be teaching at Edmond’s Community College this fall I will also facilitate the eight week course, Writer’s Craft Part II this year from September 21st through November 9th. I’m excited to teach this class as it encompasses everything from the Hero’s Journey to crafting that perfect first sentence. This eight week class is for all skill levels and all storytelling genres; memoir, fiction, non-fiction, short story, and screenplay. Bring your WIP (work in progress) or get inspired in class to start a new writing project. Lots of writing time, lots of critiquing, lots of creativity.
Class time structure (each week); Q & A and writing time based on individual student’s projects as seen through the lens of class material. For example, applying the Hero’s Journey or unique plot devices, developing voice, etc., to their story in progress, or the beginning of one, regardless of genre or skill level. If students want critique, there will be a workshopping schedule set for maximum 10 pages each. Weekly recommended resources and handouts.
Brief sample of class schedule:
9/21 Week One – Every Story Begins With a Journey
Identifying and finding your HERO’S JOURNEY
9/ 28 Week Two – Page One
FIRST LINES First sentences, of course, have different functions—to amuse, to frighten, to mystify—and the mechanics a writer uses to achieve this connection vary from genre to genre. We’ll do an exploration of great first lines and how knowing the hero’s journey empowers a writer to pen that first line of the journey to follow.
10/ 5 Week Three – Plot Devices (see previous post)
10/12 Week Four — Individual Writing & Open Mic Night
Focus on Student Writing – critiquing/workshopping exchange, and open mic night.
10/19 Week Five – The most dreaded word in writing, EDITING
10/26 Week Six – WHY OUTLINING MATTERS (regardless of genre)
The basics of genre; memoir, romance, mystery, thriller, horror, etc.. Also, short story, flash fiction, screenwriting…outlining matters. Outlining your novel (short story or memoir) or flying by the seat of your pants (called pantsers), and why it matters. 10 steps to follow in outlining.
11/2 Week Seven – Critique Night
11/9 Week Eight – WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED
Sign up HERE
|NEW! The Writer’s Craft Part II|
|Item: C522||Mindy Halleck|
|6:30 PM – 8:30 PM||Location: Snoqualmie Hall 205|
|Sessions: 8 Th||20000 68th Ave W Lynnwood, WA 98036|
|9/21/2017 – 11/9/2017||Fee: $175.00|
In 2011 I embarked on one of the harshest undertakings; I placed what I thought was the final draft of my novel in a drawer for one year. Why? Because, as I told others in my most knowledgeable author voice, “A writer needs distance from their material before editing and rewriting.” While that’s true, the real reason was, the story didn’t work. I thought it worked, it worked in my head, but based on a few shrewd readers it didn’t work in theirs.
During that year – fighting the wicked temptation to tweak pages, chapters and plots – I turned my attention to books on rewriting, in search of a magic key to unlock my manuscript and turn it into a novel, the kind people wanted to read. I took workshops, and reaped too many tips to list. All that matters is that nothing helped, until one day . . . .
I read yet another craft book, and SHAZAM! You know how it feels when something simple smacks you like a Mack truck of a good idea? Well, chapter 14 in the The Weekend Novelist Re-Writes the Novel by Robert J. Ray, did that for me. The ‘objects lesson’ taught me to utilize my story objects (often called plot-devices) as shorthand for backstory and eliminate a lot of dense narrative.
Finally, that magic key!
“Objects tell your story.” Ray writes. “When you rewrite your novel, you can tighten your story by repeating a single object; car, train, statue, slipper, harpoon, book. There’s a good chance the objects are already there, in your manuscript, waiting to be found, to be selected, to be repeated, to be laid down like neon breadcrumbs in the forest. Readers follow breadcrumbs.”
I began to see the power of storytelling objects everywhere. What’s Lord of the Rings without the ring, Cinderella without glass slippers, The Notebook without the book, or poor little Forest Gump without his box of chocolates?
No glass slippers, no enchanted tale, just a barefoot girl with an unfortunate name who probably does not go from rags to riches and who likely does not find her fella . . . what’s the point?
In Nicholas Spark’s novel The Notebook, that evocative leather bound book literally contains their love story. And that chocolate box on Forest Gump’s lap is a metaphor for the story to come; “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” And oh-boy does that plot device set up and deliver a story.
Though easily overdone, an object that’s well-crafted, or emerges organically from setting or characters can establish a character’s values and thus inform and enhance the story.
In a Willamette Writers Conference screenwriting/storytelling workshop taught by Clark Kohanek, he too touched on the objects lesson. “Think about Die Hard,” Kohanek said, “when Bruce Willis enters with the teddy bear. We immediately know that object defines what’s important to him; family.”
That fuzzy teddy bear represents Willis’s values and reenters the story burnt and dirty, but safe, like him, ready to reunite with what he values so much he’d kill for. That object represents the driving force, and heart of the story because it’s valued by the protagonist.
Eventually, in rewriting my novel, Return to Sender, the protagonist, a Korean War veteran (timely 😦 ) Theo Riley, now has a toy soldier, a stack of blood-stained returned love letters, and a photograph of Korean Orphans. This trinity of objects define him, inform his moral compass and ultimately chart his destiny. These objects give the reader an understanding of Theo on a deeper level. They are backstory shorthand, and explaining it once eliminated pages of narration, because when the reader sees the tin soldier, letters, or pictures (Neon Breadcrumbs), they remember . . . because objects are a writer’s magic keys.
If you’re a local (Seattle area) writer who is interested in delving into this I will be teaching a 5 week class at Edmonds Community College in September (into October). To sign up click here. Hope to see you in class.
Mindy Halleck is an award-winning author, blogger and writing instructor. In 2015 she won a Writer’s Digest short story contest, an Edmonds Arts Association fiction contest, and her novel, Return To Sender received the ‘Readers’ Choice’ award from Readers Favorites. Halleck blogs at Literary Liaisons and is an active member of the Pacific Northwest writing community. In addition to being a writer, Halleck is a happily married, globe-trotting beachcomber, antiquer, gardener, proud grandma, and three-time cancer survivor. www.MindyHalleck.com @MindyHalleck Mindy’s AMAZON Page
It’s writing conference season and this year I miss not being at one. I love the classes and the social get-togethers with my tribe of like-minded scribes. I’m getting tweets and other social media pings from my friends at Willamette Writers conference (wish I was there) as I did from the PNWA conference last week. Though, full disclaimer, I did go to the one day Christopher Vogler (www.thewritersjourney.com) workshop last week in Seattle which of course was great. Anyway, I’m not attending conferences this year because of several reasons but mainly I need to write. I have discovered that my novel will not write itself. Damn thing!
And though I am missing the conference reenergizing vibe, and I am getting some work done (a writer’s gotta write) I’m also prepping a new class. This year I will be teaching some ongoing writing courses at Edmonds Community College which I’m looking forward to. My 2nd class (already taught one last month) will start in September and is all about using plot devices in writing.
How Objects Help Tell a Story is a 5-week course starting Sept. 20th to Oct. 18th.
The blurb: What’s Lord of the Rings without the ring or Cinderella without her glass slippers? These iconic objects are shorthand for legendary stories that couldn’t be told without them. Well-crafted objects (plot devices) in fiction or non-fiction writing can establish a character’s values, inform their choices and actions and thus the story. Learn to create a narrative for an object in a character’s life, how that object can be backstory shorthand, enhance storytelling, help eliminate pages of narration, and tell a more layered story….
Please join me each week at Edmonds CC …to sign up please click here.
And if you’re at a writers conference this week, go ahead and tweet me, though I’m already jealous, I’m happy to live vicariously. So have fun, make great contacts and pitch your work to everyone you can. Good luck. Cheers, Mindy
Please share, tweet it out, find me at @MindyHalleck
You know what I miss? I miss those 2:00 AM hours in the 1970s when I’d get home from my job as a bartender and
immerse myself in my nightly ritual. I’d turn on my Garrrard turn table, unsleeve an album, usually Aretha Franklin’s ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman’ – you thought that was a Carol King song didn’t you? Well, she wrote it but it was originally written for Aretha. Anyway, then I’d pour a glass of Chardonnay, light a cigarette – yes, I smoked then – sit back and listen to the crackle of the diamond needle as it tripped the tracks, scraping the vinyl waves in search of her soulful words. I miss that sound.
“Lookin’ out on the mornin’ rain I used to feel so uninspired….facin’ another day made me feel so tired….you are the key to my peace of mind….when my soul was in the lost and found….” Lines like that stirred my damaged heart and blue soul. I’d take off my hoop earrings, slip off my platform shoes, prop my feet up, inhale what then was the seductive taste and aroma of cigarette smoke, drink in her voice, those heartrending words, the comforting wine and commiserate with my female counterparts in the stillness of my two room flat – often in front of my art easel; an oil painting I could never finish staring back at me.
The line, ‘when my soul was in the lost and found’ hit home because that was how I felt. There was no one making me feel like a natural woman, but I longed for that, for him, whoever he would be. The 1970s were a lonely time full of heartache, foxy nightlife and cunning men, shadows that when the sun rose withered back into the cracks from which they came. There was nothing in my day life worth the morning sun, so it was in those wee hours when I examined my soul so lost in the hope of being found.
Aretha’s song touched me when she sang it, and it affected me again when Carol King serenaded every American woman with her own words that became an anthem of sorts for my generation.
As much as I felt my life was dead end when I was a wise twenty-three year old, just knowing someone out there understood and had gone through what I was going through lifted my spirits in those lonesome hours between nightlife and sunrise.
Some thirty-years later I was thrilled to see Carole King live, at a shareholders meeting for a company in which I had purchased stock with a small amount of hard earned money. She sang, of course, You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman, and as I sat there, a happily married woman and a (minor, with a capital M) shareholder, I smiled at my road traveled and was again warmed by the words that helped me keep moving forward and guided to me to the discovery of the strong ‘natural woman’ within. It was a moment for me, a 20-20 hindsight thing where I felt like lighting a cigarette (though I hadn’t smoked in thirty-plus-years), pouring a glass of wine and hearing a real vinyl recording of my timeless anthem.
Instead, I settled for a latte and an autograph.
If I were to write a memoir, that would be what they call a ‘memoir moment’. What are your memoir moments? What were you doing? What were the smells, sounds, feelings? Go way back in time and pick one. Then write it, honestly and with all senses. Be brave. Expose yourself. Happy writing.
Cool, my #Author / #writing instructor #interview w/@EdmondsCC is out, have a looksee…