Category: The Process of Writing

Writing a short story has become the new challenge—something different at a time when individual and national complacency has been shaken up. Perhaps, that is the best time to shift gears, when life changes require adaptations and new avenues of effort.

I’ve been trying to remember the many short story techniques I studied during my college years and since then. I remind myself that lyrical poetry and short stories are similar in the use of concise language that, at best, awakens and moves the reader from beginning to end more quickly than a meandering novel. Perhaps, this is because a novel does well to create a believable sense of truth, in spite of the adage that truth is stranger than fiction.

A short stories’ intensity, like a poem, often surprises, even shocks the reader in order to poke holes in consciousness. There is little time for plot complexities and extensive character developments. Just like poetry, the short story, I believe, uses subtle techniques that require careful, sustained attention by the reader best implemented in one sitting.

On the other hand, one sitting would not be adequate for me to produce either a poem or a short story. Once again I recall something heard at a writer’s luncheon—“I have a policy never to revise anything more than three times.” Wow! All I know is that I do not know when the story “Are You a Holocaust Survivor?” will be finished.

Gudrun Mouw (c)

Journal Entry The Process of Writing

The day I finished reading, The Sun and Her Flowers, I saw an interview with the 20-something poet and also learned about the international admiration for this book, which has been quickly translated into numerous languages. Apparently, Rupi Kaur’s fame began with a controversial Instagram image.

I like how the author has made the idea of poetry popular, which by itself is an immense achievement.  Born in India, the poet was raised in the west with a multicultural family awareness, which I know something about from my own experience. Overall, the poetry style seems quite innovative.

I was struck by how the poems in The Sun and Her Flowers dramatically expand the possibilities of the genre. Sometimes, the poems are simply short statements; other times, there are italicized summaries at the end (which serve as captions; there are no titles). Often the language seems designed to jolt and surprise. At other times, the poems are quite prosaic. 

In the interview, the poet responded to critics, who have called her too simplistic, by saying she was fine with that, but in the end she wanted the reader’s stomach to turn.  

Though this book is interesting, in the future I would like to see the kind of poetic mastery that could, perhaps, slow down the reader in order to deepen one’s experience, move one towards a rich, intuitive silence and keep the poems from falling flat emotionally.

 

Personal Updates The Process of Writing

The pen feels awkward in my hand. I see that the last journal entry was written on Jan. 1. Whereas, the last computer generated “Note” was typed on Jan 23. Is this a trend?

As a writer, creating letters, words and sentences on paper is a different process than striking the keyboard. The kinetic sensation of writing goes beyond subject matter. How I’m holding my pen, or pencil, how different pressures affect what shows up on the page, the immediate and visible presence of ongoing corrections, additions, deletions, even the color of ink used; many such factors impact the writing experience.

In spite of a perfectly sized journal, hard covered, easily mobile, conveniently lined, glaring back at me is something that often seems uncomfortably messy. The computer, on the other hand, efficiently hides the less tidy aspects of the writing process. Still, I remind myself; each approach provides a unique value.

Journal Entry The Process of Writing

April 21, 2017

I have been editing a nonfiction manuscript that I wrote before the death of my mother. I just recently took it up again after more than a decade. I began with some optimism and ease, expecting quick completion. (I was eager to move on to new ideas for another project.)

However, as I found myself in the midst of unresolved emotions, my efforts slowed down. Difficulties seemed to arise out of nowhere as judgments threatened. I wished I had never begun. I had to remind myself as a student and teacher of yoga, this situation, most likely, was the perfect opportunity for growth.

Deciding not to reside in emotional turmoil, I rededicated myself to be the neutral witness. I set aside my desire to rework the last chapter, returned to the beginning and am happy, for now on page 16, to pursue ongoing resolution.

April 23, 2017

I have been contemplating the concept that objectivity is not neutral as an extension of my recent return to neutral attention. Still, there is more. I have also been remembering things.

After reading poetry (on a university radio station) with a friend and fellow poet, my friend said to me: “Unfortunately, no one will know what a great writer you are until after you are dead.” This happened in the 1980’s. I also remember a barely concealed sneer by the radio interviewer regarding “women poets writing about their cats.”

Why did he ask us to come on his show? Had he not “read” our proposed selections ahead of time? Having written on the death of our family cat as a metaphor for something else, unfortunately, I allowed this experience to have a dampening effect on my writing life.

Now I write, because it is the song I have to offer. And every once in a while, I am reminded how women have not come as far as we sometimes like to think we have.

Gudrun Mouw (c)

Journal Entry The Process of Writing

German CountrysideI told Gudrun I would do a guest post for her this week. She deserves a rest. I had her read her novel one last time in January, to approve the copyedits. At least a dozen writers and literary types have read From Ashes Into Light in the last year and a half as it has been prepared for publication, and there was still one typo that no one had caught. Thanks Gudrun! It was the old i before e except after c, and it almost got through.

Gudrun has read over her forthcoming novel more times that she cares to count. She has always been a thorough editor, first in grad school (English Literature at San Jose State), then as a college English instructor (during the Vietnam Draft days, her classes were packed with men!), as columnist, and as a poet. She says she has always enjoyed the revision process.

When she is writing, Gudrun likes to get out of the way of her work. Meaning, she let’s what wants to come through come through, suspending any judgment or criticism.  Then when it’s time to revise, Gudrun’s emphasis is how it sounds either reading it aloud or in her head. She uses poetic techniques to shape the effect of her passages, deleting or rewriting until the music of the writing appears. People often comment her work has a strong emotional impact and this might be part of the reason.

Of course, From Ashes Into Light required a lot of research too. As a former librarian, Gudrun was not afraid of the library at the University of California at Santa Barbara which provided a lot of the information about World War II and the time of the Spanish Conquest of California. She spent long hours there and lots of photocopying. Then there was the research trip to Czech Republic, the former East Germany, Germany, and Austria. Gudrun got to spend time with some her cousins and visit in person some of the places her characters visit in the book: Salzburg, Magdeburg, the Bodensee, Dachau.

There’s three weeks left until the publication date, and it’s a twilight time. After one and half years for me, and over 20 years for Gudrun, it’s hard to believe it’s almost here. It’s strange working on something for so long that is only going to take two or three days for folks to read. It’s ephemeral. But like other works of art, the reverberations can last a lifetime.

Thanks for tuning in to Gudrun’s Blog. She will be back, probably in two weeks. She’s working on a few guest posts for her blog tour. Gudrun’s blog tour is starting February 22nd, which just means she and her book will be featured on many different blogs as a way of letting people know about her book. There will be reviews of her book, interviews with Gudrun, and a few guest blog posts written by Gudrun for other blogs. Links to this activity will appear here, or on Raincloud Press’ website.

Forthcoming Work The Process of Writing

It has been an interesting process, looking for a genre that best describes my novel, From Ashes Into Light. Nothing seemed to quite fit the three-lives-one-soul, spiritual journey that this work of fiction depicts.

Learning about the Visionary Fiction category was a feeling of relief. I very much look forward to connecting with other like-minded writers and writings that step outside the boundaries of ordinary experience.

Gudrun

 

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The Process of Writing