Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Lighted Candle

So, I’ve completed Lesson 3 of my “Beginning Writer’s Workshop” class (found on the ed2go website).  The objective of that lesson was to “Get acquainted with the variety of forms available to the creative writer.

When I was thinking about signing up for the course,  I was somewhat apprehensive.
As I read through the instructor’s description of the course, this sentence is what convinced me that this class was exactly what I was looking for:

“This exciting, hands-on course for the creative writing novice is filled with challenging exercises, expert advice, and plenty of direct support and encouragement.

Although it was scary for me to think that “plenty” would not only be reading my assignments, but also making comments, I was hopeful that they, the “plenty”, would also be  providing plenty of constructive feedback.
My initial impression was that we would be a small group.  I also thought that the group, along with the instructor and the instructor’s assistants would be reading and commenting on everyone’s assignments.

So, this is the way it really is.  The class has 300 participants.  There is a short quiz and a writing assignment at the end of each lesson.   In order to have the assignment read, it has to be submitted to the discussion area.  The discussion area is in a forum format.
Unless otherwise noted, the instructor or one of her assistants will read and comment on each assignment submitted.
The students can also read and comment on each assignment submitted.
The first lesson’s assignment was:

This is what I submitted:

I did receive a comment on my first assignment.

Although it was not quite specific, it was certainly encouraging.

I was determined to be an active member of the class.  I promised myself that I would read and comment on each and every one of those 300 assignments.

After plugging through the first 50 or so, I knew that there was no way I would be able to read and comment on all of them.  Heck, I could not even manage to read all of them.

Since the default sort of the forum is by date created, I quickly realized that those who were among the first to submit their assignments were the ones whose pieces would most likely be read.

By the time I submitted mine it fell somewhere in the middle of the list.

What I found interesting about the 50 or so introductions that I did have the chance to read was that most of the writers wanted to achieve their life long dream of having a piece of work published.

This is not something that I am aiming for.

So far, I have to say, the lessons have been helpful and I am learning new information about writing and I’m gaining knowledge.

The title of Lesson 2 is “On Detail and Description”.   I learned several things.

  1.  Be specific instead of vague.   
  2. A major virtue of a well-written vivid description is that the reader will stop seeing words on a page and mentally experience the thing, person or place I am describing.
  3. When I am describing something I care about, ideas will naturally tend to emerge. 
  4. By selecting details that show how a person is feeling is the most effective way to communicate emotion. 
  5. Be as honest as you can when writing description. 
I found this to be an eye-opening lesson.   I realized that when I write my blog, I depend heavily on photos instead of words.

The assignment for lesson 2 was:

I found this to be a difficult, yet rewarding challenge.  It was fascinating to intently concentrate on an object and realize that I was able to notice such fine detail that I would not ordinarily have seen nor appreciated.

Here’s my
 “Lighted Candle”
The vintage brass candleholder is the type that might have been carried by the Lady of the house to light the way up the darkened hallway, guiding her to her chamber. The curved handle is crafted into a floral shape with a loop to fit a thumb and forefinger. A white candle sits in the center of the flower. The square base was apparently designed with molded sides so that it would accommodate a box of matches or perhaps a few trinkets.  Presently it holds two pieces of gray, flat smooth lake rock along with a couple of chunks of weathered coral.  The candle has been lit before and is now half of its original size.  Although it is white, there are streaks of red running down the sides.  I am curious about why that is and find myself distracted trying to figure out how that happened.  The wax has pooled at the top but is not dripping down the sides yet.   The triangular flame appears to be dimensional.  When first lit, the flame quietly bounced up and down in a slightly rhythmic way and seemed to be floating above the blackened wick.  I had an urge to run my finger through it.    Now that it has been burning for a while, the wick has tilted and it’s end is hotly glowing red.   The urge to run my finger through it has wisely disappeared.  

I received only one comment.  It was from the instructor.
This comment was specific and again encouraging. I would have liked more suggestions from her about how to improve it, though. 

I did read several of the other submissions.  I found it interesting that we each described the details of the flame in similar words.  

Going into lesson 4 - “Try Out Different Points of View”, I have realistically concluded that I have to approach the rest of the course differently.  Instead of expecting and looking forward to “plenty” of feedback,  I have decided to concentrate more on what I am learning from each of the lessons.   
Because after all,this is what I wrote in assignment number 1,  What I expect from this class is to learn new means and methods which will enhance my writing experience.”  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

This Time It Will Be Different?

Yesterday I went to a Bereavement Group meeting.  The group actually had their first session last Tuesday.   I thought about going.  Then I thought about not going.  Then I thought I should go.  Then I thought I probably shouldn’t go.  Then I started doing laundry and then the dog needed to go for a walk.  Then the View came on and then it was lunch time.  And then it was 2:00 and it was too late to go.
During the first few months of my grief, I did try a couple of these types of support systems.   I  went to the first meeting of each of them.  The seating arrangement was the same. We sat in a circle facing one another.  I felt as though I were a slice of “of grief pie".   We each had white labels with black magic marker letters stuck on our chests, mine carefully placed over my heart.    I kept touching it to make sure it was still there.  
I recall that I was so intent on silently rehearsing what I would say when it was my turn to speak,  that I’m sure I was only half listening to each of the other slices relate their stories.
Even though my ears were somewhat distracted by my own thoughts, my eyes would automatically shift to a new tone of voice.   My head would nod in a sympathetic and understanding way.
I don’t remember the specifics of their stories.  The images of their pain come back to me in flashes of twisted and scrunched up tissue covered eyes.
After each of these meetings, I would become somewhat defensive.  How dare those people make me cry.  What did any one of them say that could possibly ever make me want to come back and do that again?
It’s been nearly three years since Joe passed away.  Actually it has been two years, nine months and 19 days.
As I said, yesterday I went to my first meeting of this new group.   Since I was not there for the first meeting, the facilitator took me aside for a pre-meeting conversation.
She has a kind face and soft voice.    As I told her my story,  I found myself crying the hard tears of a new loss.   She asked me, “Do you know what we do here?”  I was puzzled.  Of course I knew, we would all sit in the “grief pie” circle and cry.  But of course I didn’t say that.  She followed up with , “What do you expect to get from this?”
I stumbled over my answer.  I told her that I supposed I expected comfort and support.
She explained to me that this place was indeed a place to come for comfort and support.  More importantly, though, it was to be a safe place where we were expected to not only explore but share our feelings.  Then she said the thing that I think I needed to hear.  “You are here to work on you own grief, not the grief of others.” She asked me if I thought I would be able to do that.  Then she asked me if I wanted to join the group.  I said yes.
The meeting started with us all sitting in a circle.  We each had white labels with black magic marker letters stuck on our chests, mine carefully placed over my heart.  I kept touching it to make sure it was still there.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Don’t Quit My Day Job?

On a whim I signed up for and paid $99 for an online course.  The name of the class is Beginning Writer’s Workshop in I found through the ed2go website.
I’ve taken two writing classes in my life.  One was “Creative Writing” and the other was “Writing for Business”.   Both of those were oh so long ago.
The class started yesterday with an optional pretest.

Of course, I took the pre-test.  I must admit most of the questions were common sense.  
There were a few more “technical” questions as they related to what I call the formalities of writing. 
There are many writing terms that I am not familiar with.  But even with my lack of  “formal writing” training, I scored okay on the pre-test. 

One of the reasons I impulsively decided to take the course was to learn how a writer writes.  What does the process entail?  Does a writer’s mind work differently than a non-writer? 
I have always been fascinated when I hear authors talk about the characters they have created.  They speak about them in a Dr. Frankensteinien way.   
Do they have a more heightened imagination than non writers?

When I write, I am basically putting my thoughts into written words.  

Pre-test Question No. 1:

So, I have been hesitating to delve into Lesson No. 1.  I am afraid.  Perhaps I’m afraid that I will find out that I am a better knitter than I am a writer. 

My latest completed project. An afghan with 289 individual granny squares sewn together.

As an incentive to get through the six weeks and complete the course, I intend to record my progress  on my blog.  
I wonder if I can get extra credit for that?  hehehe

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pshaw…Bish Bash Falls - A Local Legend?

Our Little Jaunt
Part I

We are on a little get-a-way.  Actually we were not really trying to get away.  I would say it’s more of a desire for a change of scenery.
So, yesterday, we left the Jersey shore area and headed up to the mountains.

We had to cross over the GW bridge first to get out of NJ.

After the bridge, there was no traffic and the rest of the 4-1/2 drive was pleasant.  

The change of scenery that we were looking for was immediate.   We left behind yellow sand and blue sea to  travel along green, hilly and curvy roads.

The meadows are softly lavender, and wildly golden.

Spotty emerging dabs of orange, and red are beginning to peek through.

Red barns and white silos complete our picturesque drive.

We debated over our lodging.  I have a hard time picking.   Well, that’s because when I go to check out each of the travel websites, the first thing I do is look at what kind of rating former travelers have given the places.  Let me be more specific.  The first thing I really do is read the “poor” ratings first.   
I mean I can generally tell when the negative comments are not pertinent.  
For instance, one woman complained that her son woke up the first morning with a few bites.  Of course she claimed that they were from bed bugs.  Interesting that not one of the other 500 comments mentioned anything about having a buggy stay.  So, I ignore those kinds of comments.
I do pay attention to complaints about cleanliness, outdated accommodations and rude staff.

There are many quaint B&B’s here.  There are also vintage throw back roadside motels.  Actually some of the motels got excellent reviews.

I decided, though, to go with the tried and true Marriott.  I am pretty happy with a comfy bed, reliable  WIFI and a flat screen TV. 

We will check out the other accommodations, though.  I would rather judge those for myself in person.

Yesterday, we tried to find Bish Bash Falls.  We were told by a couple of the locals that it is a pretty spot.  A must see, we were told.  In fact one of the waitresses at the luncheonette gave us, “better” directions than “your GPS.”

We were told that the falls were only 15-20 minutes from town.   After driving for 45 minutes we decided that the legendary Bish Bash falls are just that.  A local legend.

Anyway, today is a rainy day.  I’ve been up since six waiting patiently for Ross to wake up.

Well, time for breakfast.  It’s complimentary with Marriott, you know.

We’ll see what the day will bring. 

To Be Continued.