Tag Archives: writing life

A Storyteller’s Lazy Susan

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You know what a lazy susan is, right? Aside from this nagging question of why do folks think Susan is so lazy, I find myself coming back to a visual of one when I think about the stories I’m telling. The stories I’m writing. The ones that have space in my head. Some of them.

Years ago I had the pleasure of hearing the brilliant, award-winning playwright, Susan-Lori Parks, speak at a bookstore in St. Paul, MN.  She was so great. I’m just gonna take a second and sigh here.

I was a very new playwright working in theatre administration but filling my days with plays and workshops and soaking up everything I could from the more successful than I.  Which was pretty much everyone in my theatre world!  lol!  But to hear her speak was a thrill.

She told us that her plays, the projects she’s writing at any one time are kept on a lazy susan of sorts in her mind. I am completely paraphrasing this so there is no direct quote from her. She explained, though, how she would spin that lazy susan when she got ready to write and where it stopped, there would be the story she worked on. I think this was the part of her talk where she was sharing process. Some writers take one story and only one at a time, while others, like me and Susan, have multiple ones. (notice how that reads like we’re friends, me and Susan. We’re not but ya know… )

Since then I have learned the value of following the sage advice of having more than one story, one project, one script, one book, at a time because if the question from some producer, agent, publisher, director, investor is “What else you got?” then you have to give them something.  Shrugging and saying “Can I get back to you in a month…” doesn’t fly.

So some mornings, it’s the lazy susan that comes to mind when I sit down at the page. Which story is calling for me to “come on in, the water’s warm” or which character is demanding to be heard, to be seen.  Or which story is a murky fog on the page aching for some light to cut through.

This the curiosity of being storyteller.

Of course, this means there’s a lot of voices in my head and sometimes I look and feel a bit dizzy but it’s a good kind. A writer’s kind.  So, don’t worry about me. I’m really okay.

The love of a story prompt

I gave myself a goal this holiday. For the month that I am spending in MN with my family. That goal was to continue honing my prose writing chops by writing short stories.

I have a novel in works out to beta-readers so I’m sitting on starting revisions or the second book of that trilogy. (I CAN’T WAIT!!! And yes, imagine that in my best Oprah-esque voice) And I have all these characters sorta milling around in my head.

Okay, some of them are more demanding of their stories than others. They’re mostly cops. Female cops in gritty cities or small towns. Badass chicks who have to hunt down some evil POS and do right by the badge they hold dearly. Some are women fighting for their families, for their lives. For the world that may be kicking them in their asses but it’s the world they’re committed to save. So, I guess the image of them milling around, sipping tea and watching holiday baking shows in the afternoon doesn’t really fit them. (actually that’s me when the work is done…lol!)

I needed a way to get these stories to the page so I put the word out to my online writing friends- incredibly talented women who are so far ahead of me in the prose fiction journey, accomplished novelists and authors who have had stories published online in the top journals and in beautiful collections, just all around inspiring, talented storytellers. I found some sites that have prompts to jumpstart a story. And I’ve started popping in on an incredible writing session with book mentor, Ericka Lutz http://erickalutz.com. 

In her sessions, writers would gather in zoom room for a timed writing session. She’d give us prompts if we wanted them or needed them. Set a timer and we’d go. Aside from seeing these other writers at their computer, intense looks on their faces, sipping tea or staring off, however they were creating their magic on the page, I was seeing that they were doing it like me. One word at a time.

These prompts, though! They were like lightening in a bottle. BOOM! I had a line of dialogue that gave me a direction to take my undercover Native cop, Carla Killingbear, to the alley to confirm the dead girl was the missing girl. She and her partners disagree on how swiftly they had to move on a suspect she developing a relationship with but had no concrete evidence. Yet. This story, Skye Isles, will be a longer work of fiction. O MY GOD!! Another novel??! YUP YUP! I’m excited and so is Carla Killingbear. I didn’t even know she was waiting to tell her story until I got the prompt. Joy. Joy. Joy!

The next prompt I used in another session was a place. Ericka said country store and I immediately saw Becky’s. A dusty place Off The Highway in New Mexico. And I saw Stella, a young Native girl, in old guy Coozer’s truck as he raved about how much he loved Becky and that she would be able to help Stella get her car fixed that died on the highway. Stella was on her way to California, on a grief healing journey after her mother’s death. What they didn’t know was who else was in that country store and the murder that was going to happen. BOOM! I WAS SO HAPPY! That prompt opened up a whole new story world with these incredible characters! A short story that moves with intrigue and suspense. More Joy, Joy, Joy!

If you’d like to connect with Ericka, you can find her on Facebook at Spark the Second Fire https://www.facebook.com/groups/sparkfire/.

If you have other links to writing prompts, let me know!

Write On!

Shifts for this blog Toast…

 

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Good morning.

It’s finally coming together. My new  office.  This photo was taken from the doorway. Yes, I have a door.   A DOOR!

This new office, this creative space comes at a time when I feel a shift happening in my own work, the business part of it, how I make my presence known and how I use social media including this blog.

Through The Wilderness, LLC is coming up on its second year anniversary in March.  In two years we’ve produced two unique short films and hope to find festival screenings for them. But the bigger goal is to garner financial support for the feature-length, hence the shift in how I use social media.

Also, related to a recent birthday, a new year, and some life crap that knocked the wind out  of me, I am more contemplative about what I actually give a fuck about. Who. What things. How often.

And this has me thinking about when I feel the need to make that known. If I have a topic that I feel the urge to say something about, how do I do that? And…how do I do that with a blog that was originally designed as at “Toast” where I felt compelled to raise my glass to whatever topic I chose to write about. That has shifted.  Yes, there is still plenty to “Toast”. In fact have an idea for later I’ll post.  But “Toast” is also my addiction.  LOL. It’s comfort. It’s nourishment. It’s go-to when I’m hungry. It’s satisfactory when moments in life isn’t.  So, the shift for this blog will now include the topics that light me up, that may hound me in the middle of night, that make me wanna holler, that make me run for cover.   I’ll write more political pieces. Social and cultural commentary.  Basically, I’m going to take my rants from FB to this blog and see what blossoms.

The shift is an expansion but a good one. A needed one for this writer.

And I hope to bring you with me. I would LOVE more dialogue. More support of what is important of us, like peace and health and kindness and equality.  I’ll write more about the creative life, the world of cinema as a filmmaker of color, a storyteller.  I’ll write about being a wife, a partner, a mom, grandma, daughter, aunt and sister.  I’ll write about being a woman over 40 (ahem….).

I hope you’re with me.

Wishing you peace. Always.