The Never Ending Story

Writers would walk around gratified if we could ride a puppy into the sunset and have our stories end satisfactorily…

Yeah, right.

The last time you finished a story, how did you feel about it? Did you put it away for a day, or a few days, then go back and re-read it and start tweaking it? When did you stop tweaking it?

Did you ever stop tweaking it, or did you work yourself into an exhausted heap?

I thought so.

Every time I look at stories I haven’t placed yet I feel an itch. If you’re a writer, and chances are pretty good if you’re reading my blog that you are a writer, you know this itch well. The itch spreads and becomes a rash. You can’t stop scratching.

Let me take out this sentence here. Ahh, that feels better. Oh, wait a minute, if I take out that, I need to adjust this part. Mmm, yes, feels good. Oops, now I have to remove the first three paragraphs. Oh no, it doesn’t make sense anymore.

Wait… what just happened?

Stories are like knitted sweaters. If you unravel a piece and carefully reconstruct the part you ripped out, you might complete it. But sometimes you rip out so much all you’ve got left is a mass of tangled yarn.

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Anecdote alert:

I once sent a story I thought was done to an editor I respected (and still respect.) The editor gave me detailed edits… with tracking on. (Have I ever mentioned how generous editors can be and how much I adore so many of them?)

I started going through the edits and clipping, trimming, and adding. I got to the last paragraph and the editor wrote “This would be a lot better as the first paragraph…” and POOF, the story disintegrated in my hands.

I still haven’t gone back to that story, it’s a mess. Completely shredded.

Yet another story was circulating and I got some good feedback about the ending. I agreed with the editorial team’s comments. I went in and ruthlessly cut the entire second half of the story, and felt a lot better about the beginning. Eventually, I plan on going back to that story and writing a new ending. For now the material is “resting” (euphemism for: I’m avoiding it right now.)

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Whenever I finish a story to a semblance of doneness, I send it out to be read. I get the rejection slips, the feedback, the “almost but not quites” and I go and hack away at it again. What else can I do?

But in all the time I’ve been writing, I never recall a time when I finished a story and thought, this story is perfect. I’ll never have to work on it again.

The Never Ending Story is what writer’s do…we write and stop, but the crafting of a story never really ends. We decide it’s time to move on to something else, but only after applying plenty of ointment, so we can ignore the itchy feeling we get when we re-read the work later.

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Happy Birthday Blog

Happy Birthday to my blog, that turned a year old on March 26th!

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My personal goal of exceeding 5000 page views was reached, thank you readers! The blog now has 75 subscribers, and I hope this year will see more than 75 new readers join them.

I think I read somewhere that page views and blog participation grows over time (with the exception of a Freshly Pressed hit, which sky rockets a blog into the stratosphere in one day.) My blog has been the tortoise, not the hare, and I’ve seen a slow and steady increase in page views and participants. For example, this month (which doesn’t end for 2 more days…) already has the highest number of page views at around 730 views so far.

So this year I will have to set a new goal – reaching a 1000 page view month! I think I’m up for the challenge, with your help of course. 🙂

Although I did a wrap up post in early January, looking back at 2011 as my first calendar year, this blog birthday feels good. It’s a milestone in persistence. Isn’t that what being a writer is all about? I think so.

I get mushy when I think about the many writers who have signed up for my blog and comment regularly. It’s gratifying to be part of the community and I love how we help and encourage each other. It’s a huge motivator that keeps me going when it comes to the blog.

Although I don’t talk about my personal life much, and stay focused on writing as my subject most of the time, I’ll say the past twelve months have been challenging for me personally. I’m healthy thank goodness, but there are other things going on which have disrupted my life and which I continue to deal with…it’s good to know you are all out there, reading, and being so supportive. It does mean a lot, to me. Thanks.

 

I’m reblogging this because Court has shared the good news – it’s public now: Snub Nose Press is publishing his short story collection Moondog Over the Mekong.
Congratulations Court!!

Some Rejections Are Worse Than Others

I’ve come to expect rejections of all types. Standard form rejections, personal notes with commentary, and yes, even rejection in the form of pieces that got lost, journals that closed, or journals who – for whatever strange reason – never reply at all. All of this can and does happen, although the “lost” “closed” and “no reply” versions are pretty rare.

So, without embellishment on my part, I’m going to communicate what happened with one organization: Hunger Mountain: Vermont College of Fine Arts.

2/21/2011 – submit a script for a play for their consideration

10/8/2011 – sent inquiry regarding status of my submission

11/2011 – no reply

12/2011 – no reply

1/22/2012 – sent reply to inquiry stating play still under consideration, expect decision within one month

2/2012 – no decision

3/16/2012 – sent inquiry regarding status of submission based on information provided in 1/22/2012 reply

3/26/2012 – Here is the reply I received, verbatim:

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Dear Carol Deminski,

Thank you for sending us (“name of piece sent”). We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, the piece is not for us.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this. And we do apologize for holding on to it for so long!

Sincerely,

The editors,

Hunger Mountain

Vermont College of Fine Arts

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Your mileage may vary with this organization, but I didn’t enjoy going through more than a year of waiting for a one line standard rejection form.

 

 

Film Review: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a lovely movie. It’s about an 85 year old sushi chef who owns the only 10 seat sushi restaurant in the world to be given 3 Michelin stars. More importantly though, the film is about a lifelong quest for perfection in this food art.

I don’t eat sushi, so when I saw all the food being prepared my thought wasn’t, oh that looks delicious, but more about how beautiful it looks.

Some of the very rare tuna (toro, in Japanese) is a gorgeous shade of transluscent ruby red, glistening with the veneer of soy sauce applied just before the patron consumes their meal. If it wasn’t food, you might think it was a precious jewel sitting atop a perfectly formed piece of rice to support it.

The movie also gives us a look into Jiro’s family, his relationship with his two sons, the younger of whom left to open his own restaurant years ago, and the elder son, now 50 years old and who has worked for his father since he was 19, and will inherit the business when Jiro retires or passes away.

This movie is incredibly zen. Jiro’s pursuit of sushi perfection has made him strict in his daily routine, and he never takes a day off (except national holidays.) He does the same things ever day, day after day, and has done so for 75 years.

I’d recommend anyone see this movie if they enjoy watching an artisan who has achieved a level of mastery very few, if any, have done.

Film Review: A Separation

A Separation won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film for the 2011 season. I saw the movie yesterday, and it was fascinating to watch, although perhaps a bit long as the film clocks in at a whopping two and a half hours. I’d recommend Americans watch the film because it provides some insight into Iranian culture.

The set up for the events is a wife decides she wants to separate from her husband because she has applied for travel visas (it is implied to leave the country and perhaps go to the United States – it’s never made clear) but the husband changed his mind and no longer wants to go. The wife goes to live with her parents while the husband stays at home and cares for his elderly father suffering from Alzheimers and the couple’s 11 or 12 year old daughter.

Once the wife leaves, the husband hires a woman to come in and care for the father during the day while the husband is at work. The woman that comes in is pregnant, and brings along a very young girl, maybe 5 years old.

After that the storyline gets very complicated, and if I say much more I’ll spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

I will say this, there are a lot of scenes in the movie where we see how “justice” is served in Iran. There is no such thing as a court room as we understand it in the United States, and no jury either. The magistrate (not a judge) overseeing the cases does some interviews with “witnesses” or people who might make character references for those being accused of crimes, but in the end the magistrate just decides whether or not he believes the person is guilty and then assigns the punishment. The scenes in the film showing these segments always show the magistrate sitting at a desk in a small office, and the parties being accused sit in chairs in front of the desk, along with their spouses (who often say stuff and interfere during the proceedings.)

I saw the movie with a friend, and her observation was that every character in the film (including both young girls, who are called upon to make their own observations about what happened) winds up withholding information from everyone else. (The exception is the elderly father who doesn’t speak.) Ironically, the characters in the film often try to tell the truth but on the way to telling the truth, things wind up getting very convoluted. Religious belief systems are implied as at least one of the reasons this happens.

In the end, we’re left with a deep impression of how challenging life in modern Iran can be, and the entanglements of families, religious beliefs and societal norms all have a deep affect on the quality of life available.

Random Insomnia Post brought to you by Diet Cola Beverage

Tonight’s Random Insomnia Post is brought to you by Diet Cola Beverage.

I went out with a friend around dinner time, and I ordered Diet Cola. Of course, Diet Cola has lots and LOTS of caffeine. Drinking two glasses of said beverage is a sure fire way for me to guarantee myself a sleepless night… hence a 3:15 a.m. posting.

It matters not that I have someplace to be tomorrow, and it’s so late at night it’s actually early the next morning, so even if I fall asleep now there is little chance of getting much more than 5 hours of sleep.

Let me just say that on five hours sleep, I’m a very grumpy person. In order to be awake, I will no doubt have to consume more Diet Cola Beverage tomorrow morning and afternoon just so I don’t pass out whilst conducting my activities.

Wouldn’t it be nice if this was a humor blog post? Oh, hahaha, you can’t sleep because you drank Diet Cola Beverage, that’s a laugh riot.

Hmmm, I just checked. Nope. It ain’t funny.

But as long as you came along for the ride this far, and thanks for your kind patience dear reader, why on earth did I consume Diet Cola Beverage when I could have had something else?

Ahhhhh, but you see, there’s the rub. There is NOTHING else available for me.

What’s that you say? You say it’s impossible to be out at a fine dining establishment and have nothing on the drink menu for you?

Let’s go through the choices, shall we?

– Red Wine = no, it’s alcohol

– White Wine = see Red Wine

– Beer = see Red Wine

– Mixed Drinks = getting the picture?

Okay, let’s put alcohol aside and move on to other things then.

– Coffee = I don’t drink coffee. Yes, YES – I’m a freak of nature. I know…so sue me.

– Tea = I very rarely drink hot tea, and frankly it would be a bizarre choice for a beverage with dinner

– Water = now, this one is tricky. I can drink water, but since water is free, it’s like I didn’t order anything. And if I say, “I’ll just have water,” my companion will inevitably say, “But don’t you want something…?” or “No, you can’t just have water, order something…” and then I’ll say….

– Diet Cola Beverage please. You know, the one with quantities of caffeine sufficient to keep me awake all night so I can post something ridiculous to my blog for people to laugh at? Yeah, I’ll take that.

No, on second thought, bring me TWO glasses of that. One just wasn’t enough.

 

 

February 2012 Rejection

Okay, I’ve been resisting sharing my rejections. I’ve seen Court do it, I’ve seen Hannah do it, and there I was looking from the sidelines…but no more. I’m boldly going where…well, where Court and Hannah have lured me to go.

Here is the list of rejections from February 2012. I’ll note where the rejection had a personal note, vs. a standard form rejection. Make of it what you will…

I’d really appreciate any comments on this long list of shame. Do you guys find this interesting? Helpful? Amusing?

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Wigleaf – personal

Carte Blanche

Juked

Elimae – personal

FRIGG

Passages North

Monkeybicycle

Gigantic – personal

Fractured West

Neon – personal

Blood Orange Review

Mud Luscious Online

Black Warrior

Brink

Word Riot – personal

A-Minor – personal

Used Furniture Review

Third Coast

Beloit Poetry Journal – personal

Smokelong Quarterly

Camroc Press – personal

Flashquake – personal

Phoebe

The Collagist

Corium – personal

Grey Sparrow Press – personal

Kill author

Necessary Fiction – personal

Caketrain

The Northville Review

Revolution House – personal

Slushpile – personal

 

 

 

CDeminski’s Blog Fiction Collection

My blog is only a few days away from it’s birthday, which is hard for me to believe. In the twelve months since I began blogging, I’ve posted over 165 items.

I’ve been thinking about how new readers can more easily navigate the blog.

With so many posts, it’s challenging to go through them. Even if you use the tag cloud, the archive pull down menu, or the calendar none of these tools puts lists of things together in an easy to use way.

As a result, I’ve created a new page called the Blog Fiction Collection.

The purpose of this page is to conveniently pull together all flash fiction, prose poems and humor items that I have self-published on the blog.

I hope you’ll go and check out some and breathe new life and comments into some of these postings that are still good reads, if I do say so myself.

A few of these pieces also have audio files attached if you’d like to listen to me read them.

Enjoy!

Happy New York Saint Patricks Day!

Things That Make My Head Hurt

I left academia a long time ago, and with it I left behind the arcane art of literary criticism and some of the high-end jargon used to dissect, disemble and otherwise deconstruct what a writer wrote.

Then last night, during a bout of insomnia, I came across the submission guidelines from Unsaid Magazine (a WordPress Blog based mag):

When the act of narration becomes as integral to the total story as the actions narrated, as motivated by restless urges, as fraught with perils, pains and ecstasies; then the story suddenly bristles, an automaton turned inside out. All the inner devices of poetics are exposed, brought into plain view. The author is revealed to be a writing machine. His desires now figure as mere drives, his unfathomable creative force as hydraulic differential flow. With this inversion the artist passes beyond himself, outside his ego. Likewise, the work of art, originally and reassuringly emblematized by the scenes of peace and plenty contained within the gilt frame of the shield of Achilles, inverts itself. Its cogs, planes, levers, screws and pulleys, its ropes and bellows now exposed and live (as wires are said to be live); the work of art then becomes Deleuze’s war machine, Vaucanson’s famous defecating duck gone on a killing spree. The horror . . . and the hilarity.

I’ve read this paragraph a few times now, and to be plain spoken about it, I have no clue what they’re really gettin’ at here. The story becomes “an automaton turned inside out” and “all the inner devices of poetics are exposed, brought into plain view.” Hmmm. Interesting? Perhaps. But it makes my head hurt.

There is something about the relationship between the narrator and the story that they’re indicating, okay I’m with them that far…but this idea of poetic devices being exposed is where they’re losing me. The idea of a story as a war machine with its ropes and bellows exposed, yeah, I’m not smart enough to have a clue on that either.

Personally though, I’d liken this to the He Man Woman Haters Club on The Little Rascals. You were either in the club, or you weren’t, and if you weren’t in the club…well, Darla, it’s best to move along.

The Giant Ear

This morning, I continued working on a story I’ve been working on for several weeks. Eventually, I will submit it to Court Merrigan for consideration in his guest-edited Noir issue of PANK. I’ve got no clue if he’ll like the story, or if it will measure up to the other stories being written by deft noir-hands, but I’m giving it my best shot.

One of the things I’m finding really difficult with this story is how to depict a crack addict. I’ve been doing all kinds of research (Google must be confused by my searches these past few weeks… Mr. Google, “what does a vial of crack look like?” “what are the effects of crack on the body?”) And although I know there are alcoholics and drug addicts of a variety of kinds in my neighborhood, it’s so hard to make an addict come to life in a particular way.

But…

Sometimes, I feel like a giant ear.

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I’m a huge antenna and there are so many things coming into my brain at once, it’s painful to sort out all the ideas. I was in my car yesterday driving down the road, and a song came on the radio. I don’t even remember what song it was, but it implanted an idea – something about alchemy – and now I can’t get it out of my head.
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NO, I tell my brain, I have to finish the story about the crack addict, stop thinking about alchemy… but my brain (and my ear, who are clearly in collusion,) just laugh at me and keep on sending me ideas to distract me from the addict.
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What about that other story you haven’t finished yet, my brain whispers seductively into my ear, who’s more than happy to participate in these antics. Yes, I’ll get to that later, I tell my brain, but it doesn’t believe me. It wants me to do everything at once.
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Maybe this is one of the reasons I don’t write very long stories. By the time I have 500 words (or less) on a page, and I’ve told what I think is a completely assembled story, my brain and my giant ear are dragging me on to the next thing.
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This crack addict story is already over 2000 words. Yes, it may not sound like a long story to most of you, but to me, it’s like I’ve signed on to write a Dickens novel. This story has to end soon, and my goal is to bring it home in about 2500-3000 words.
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But my ear keeps offering up helpful suggestions about new stories. I’m not sure how much longer I can fend it off…