Tuesday, December 13, 2016

I was fascinated by how, in different Indian homes, there would be such discrepencies about how daal is made.  At the same time, I was wanting to put together a story about a mother and daughter, and their changing relationship.  The two came together in this story, which was published by the Cortland Review.

Issue 73 - The Cortland Review

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"Daal" - Honorable Mention - Glimmer Train

Thank you Glimmer Train for the great shot out !

My story - 'A Simple Recipe for Daal' - was an honorable mention in the September 2015 Family Matters Contest.

Out of a thousand entries, this puts 'Daal' in the top 5 %.  I'm very proud of the work that went into this story, and the recognition it received from such a well-respected publication.

A sincere congratulations to all the winners - I cannot wait to read their stories.

Full list below - Thanks again Glimmer Train !

Full list of winners - Glimmer Train

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Well, I'm not a blogger, and thankfully, I learned at this year's Muse and Marketplace Conference (#Muse 15) -- that this is okay.  A year since the last post !

In my defense, ---  its because I've been writing, and not blogging..let me explain:

Another short story published - Sweet Crude, which I am proud of because it was not from direct experience like my first published short story "Shipmate" -- but from trying to have empathy and tactile experience with characters very different than me -- this is one of those milestones that I feel is on my way to becoming a "real writer" (btw - I do believe there truly no such term -- another #Muse15 learning -- quantifiable things like book sales does not define a writer - there are qualitative aspects of writing which are equally important -- writers are writers - no matter what has happened commercially)

Second - I also finished another draft of my big project - my novel.  The NYU writing class I took over last summer helped greatly in this  (thank you Elizabeth Tippens!) -- my head was so full of all of the mechanics of writing, I forget what draws most of us in -- the characters. And its these characters, with their flaws, desires, and obstacles, that draw us into the story and has us rooting for or against them.  Nothing else matters (Metallica had it right?)

well, except for setting, voice, rhythm, pacing, timing, the first twenty pages, the last give pages, the inciting incident, the climax, prologues and conclusions.....wait -- you see - forget all this ---write about Characters (thats a reminder to self).  Its about Lilly Brant - who so desperately wants to marry rich (House of Mirth, Edith Wharton), or Rabbit, and his search for meaning (Rabbit Run - John Updike), and for my beloved Frodo Baggins and his need to bring the ring to Mordor (it doesn't all have to be inner struggles does it - ).  Since where on about Characters and their wants, the ending of the story is not the BIG CRISES (think explosions, confrontations, noises, lots of energy), but at the point where the protagonist resolves their abstract desires and their concrete desires.

For this last example I turn to a film - the heart-wrenching indian film - Siddarth - about a man searching for his kidnapped son.  In a culminating scene, the father resolves his inner and outer struggles via a phone call to his own father. It was dramatic, and brilliantly scripted and  expertly shot.  Tears were flowing.

I guess finally, its about that last piece - - empathy.   I think there can be no greater reward for a writer than having the reader feel the same emotions as the character, when the stuff goes down like it does.

So, I'll do my best to keep posting, but you may want to also check out twitter - 140 characters of nonsense is a whole lot easier than entertaining, enlightening, interesting blog entires.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Around the bend

Still here.

2013 was not bad.  I completed a 50K novel as well as a 10K short story.  Not prolific, but with the tugs of work  & family  pulling in all directions, I’m still pleased I stayed with my craft.  Also, I started a book club at work for no other reason than I enjoy talking about the books I’m reading and discovering new books that I wouldn’t normally have known about myself.  We’re still finding our way in the club, but we did manage to read Swamplandia!, Gone Girl, Night Film, and the Circle in just a few months time.   In full disclosure, I should mention our discussions are taken over copious amounts of red wine & apps.

Looking at 2014, I am revisiting my first novel, I felt I have learned much along the way with my reading and writing and have grown enough that I can do it justice with a rewrite.    I also want to step it up a notch, and attend something with a little more filtering than the open enrollment conferences I usually attend.   I try not to make it too many loft goals, it’s a long road, and one I’ve committed to, so it will take it just on step at the time, looking forward to discovering what lies just around the bend.

Talk soon.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Lots of Problems.

On a recent family movie night, we watched the Tale of Desperaux, a children’s movie that had surprisingly complex characters – a rat that at goes from good to bad to good again, cycling through remorse, jealousy, bitterness, and forgiveness.

Afterwards, my daughter said – “That movie had lots of problems.”

Lots of problems!  Leave it to children to simply observe a key element of plot !

The image below is Freytag’s Pyramid, which easily illustrates the rising action & climax that is part of most three act structures.   Looking at it, it seems it’s so easy to just plot out a story.  I also found a template for this here:Template - Freytag Pyramid

But when I sit down to write, it doesn’t go so easily.  My characters take on a life of their own; instead of chasing the bad guy, falling for the girl, they do weird things, like go over and talk to their neighbor about gun violence.  Sometimes, this is party of the bigger picture unraveling, like the characters transformation from being opposed to violence, until something tragic happens, and then he finds himself crossing the state border to buy a black market Glock. Other times, its just the character doing what humans do --- boring things that don't mean much---> he was just chitchatting with Doug and had already talked to him about the weather the last four times they talked. 

Only after I complete the script, and look back, can I tell what belongs in, what helps propel the story forward, and what needs to be taken out --- in movie terms --- a lot is left on the cutting room floor.

I recently completed a 50,000 novel.  I’d say at least another 20,000 words didn’t make the cut.

Using Scrivener, I have lots of scenes which may seem interesting, but are not party of the story.  This piece of writing software, which I am always raving about to other writers, makes it so easy to move scenes around.  I really have no excuse to write a story that is not tight, which takes the reader, page by page, forward in the narrative.

I’m thinking now of Life of Pi, a philosophy book really.  But what keeps it going, especially in the movie version, is the protagonists need to survive against the odds of being trapped in a lifeboat with a tiger.

Simple as that.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Running & Writing

I love Running. I love Writing.   I hate Running.  I hate Writing.

Sometimes, I think I’m a great runner.

Sometime, I think I’m a great writer.

These are rare moments.  Most times, like on the treadmill late at night, or sitting at the keyboard with a blank page, I have severe doubts whether I am either one of these things.

Many times, I thought I was going to quit. There were days I couldn’t run a couple of miles, let alone the long runs of 8-10 miles.  There were days I was just not up for it.

But somehow, I would tie-up those shoe laces again and just head out, determined to put one foot in front of another.  My body would surprise me. My calf, which was knotted up a day before, loosened and felt great.  I accelerated on hills.  I added the “optional” loop to make my run longer.  I came home and did push-ups.  These are remarkable days.

So it goes with writing. A lot of what gets put on the page is not very good. But by building a habit, the mind is working things out. And then one day, two words come together, sentences form, several pages flow nicely, and then you have a gem of a chapter.  Keep at it, and more chapters will come, and then exhausted one day, you’ll look back and you’ll have a book.

I ran the Rutgers Unite Half-Marathon today and it had some great moments, and some hard ones, particular mile 13, right near the end.  But when I finished, I looked back on it and thought that wasn’t so bad.  Wrapped in a tech blanket, my finish medal sparkling in the light, I knew I was a runner.
Challenging my body and mind, creating goals that seem daunting, this is what inspires me.  Often times, the things we love the most, can be the things we find difficult to execute on a daily basis.  But in the end, these habits are whittling me into the person I want to become.

A runner.  A writer.

One step at a time.  One word at a time.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Great Lessons from Katherine Boo

I just finished reading “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” – and immediately scoured the net for insights into the author, Katherine Boo.
In a New York Times article, in a few short paragraphs – she’s give such incredible advice to writers:
When speaking of George Saunders – she states --  he knows when to end his stories — the moment when the best choice a writer can make is to slip away and leave the reader to assemble the last parts on her own.
She also describes very well, the main challenge and objective of a fiction writer: “ …… fiction writers seem to know more than nonfiction writers about distillation — conveying their analytical or psychological insights with economy.”
When speaking about recent books she’s read, and author’s she admires – “ They don’t beat you down with their self-seriousness, and it’s only when you’re done that you realize how much wiser you are for their books
Even a perspective on rereading favorites: “ To reread what you loved most at a particular moment is to risk the possibility that you might love it less, and I want to keep my memories undegraded.”
To reread what you loved most at a particular moment is to risk the possibility that you might love it less, and I want to keep my memories undegraded.