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WritingWednesday: Exposition May 22, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in Uncategorized, WritingWednesday.
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Exposition may be the most maligned element of fiction craft. Too much exposition and the writer falls into the telling trap. Not enough exposition and the writer risks losing details in overwrought scenes. What exactly is exposition? How is exposition different from narrative? How is exposition used effectively? How can a writer recognize when he/she has exposition excess? We’ll discuss these questions and more in this week’s WritingWednesday. Listed below are some helpful links about exposition.

Show and Tell
By Nancy Kress, Writer’s Digest

Exposition vs Narrative
By Dr. Vicki Hinze, Fiction Factor

Handling the Exposition of Story
By Harvey Chapman, Novel Writing Help

The Four P’s of Exposition
By Sarah Brand, Alpha

Balancing Exposition and Scenework in Fiction
By Lori L. Lake, Just About Write

Technique-Exposition-Weaving
By Carlos J. Cortes And Renée Miller, On Fiction Writing

Exposition in Fiction
By Elle Carter Neal, Hear Write Now

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MediaMonday: By the Book Interview with Hilary Mantel May 20, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in MediaMonday.
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Hilary Mantel has won two Booker prizes for her Henry VIII-era historical novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. The New York Times featured her in its May 16, 2013 By the Book interview. We’ll discuss that interview and Mandel’s work in today’s MediaMonday. Here’s a excerpt:

[NY Times] What’s the best thing about writing a book?

[Hilary Mantel] The moment, at about the three-quarter point, where you see your way right through to the end: as if lights had flooded an unlit road. But the pleasure is double-edged, because from this point you’re going to work inhuman hours, not caring about your health or your human relationships; you’re just going to head down that road like a charging bull.

Later This Week in #LitChat

  • WritingWednesday: Exposition
  • Guest Host Friday: Suzanne Palmieri discusses her debut novel, The Witch of Little Italy.

Friday Guest Host: Priscille Sibley May 16, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in guest host, mainstream fictio.
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Priscille Sibley in #litchatAn unspeakable tragedy becomes wrapped in a bittersweet blessing in Priscille Sibley‘s debut novel, The Promise of Stardust. Years before the accident that would put her on life support, Elle McClure went into space to study the stars, but came down to earth to marry  a man grounded by a career in medicine.

High school sweethearts, Elle and Matt Beaulieu have everything money can buy, except a child. After suffering a string of premature stillbirths and miscarriages, the day after she learns she is pregnant again, Elle falls from a ladder and is pronounced brain dead. The Promise of StardustElle hasn’t yet told Matt of the pregnancy, and when the initial trauma examinations miss her pregnancy, Matt is shocked when another test reveals a pregnancy nearing the end of the first trimester. This is when The Promise of Stardust shoots to the stars.

Years ago, Elle filed an informed consent directive that ensures that in case of brain death, her body would not be kept alive by artificial means. Torn by the knowledge of his wife’s no-resuscitation wishes and the possibility of artificially maintaining her body long enough for the baby to incubate to the point of life outside the womb, Matt chooses to save the baby. When his mother, who holds Elle’s power of medical attorney, sides with the paper, Matt’s fight hits the headlines, leads him into court, and nearly tears their families apart.

Within the inter-fused trails of death with dignity, right to life, personal promises, and medical law, emerges a story with the best kind of champion—the unlikely hero who fights for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Born and raised in Maine, Priscille has paddled down a few wild rivers, done a little rock climbing, and jumped out of airplanes. Sibley knew early on she would become a nurse. And a poet. Later, her love of words developed into a passion for storytelling.

Born and raised in Maine, Priscille has paddled down a few wild rivers, done a little rock climbing, and jumped out of airplanes. She currently lives in New Jersey where she works as a neonatal intensive care nurse and shares her life with her wonderful husband, three tall teenaged sons, and a mischievous Wheaten terrier.

Follow Priscille Sibley on Twitter: @PriscilleSibley.

WritingWednesday: Lessons From The Great Gatsby May 15, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in WritingWednesday.
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The Great GatsbyContinuing  The Great Gatsby theme from Monday, we’re taking a look at what writers can learn about craft from successful novels. In the following essay in The Huffington Post by Andromeda Romano-Lax. If you know of other breakdowns of craft within well-known novels, please post it into the comments and I’ll add it below.

10 Things I Learned as a Writer from Fitzgerald’s Gatsby

I’ve been reading and re-reading Gatsby a lot this year, and finding more novelist’s nutrition in it as a 40-something than I ever found as a high school freshman. A swift read and half the length of most novels today, Gatsby rewards the aspiring novelist looking less for obvious symbols and themes — the prey of the analytical assignment-conscious readerr — than for things like macrostructure and revision, the quarry of the craft-conscious writer.~Andromeda Romano-Lax

MediaMonday: Books to Film May 13, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in MediaMonday.
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As the twenty-first century rendition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s twentieth century classic, The Great Gatsby, opened to full houses on May 10, the interwebs exploded with commentary. This week in MediaMonday we’re discussing the adaptation of books to film, using Baz Luhrmann’s take on what many readers consider the Great American Novel. Resource links follow.

Baz Luhrmann, ‘Great Gatsby’ Director, Explains The 3D, The Hip Hop, The Sanitarium And More
By Michael Hogan, The Huffington Post

Shimmying Off the Literary Mantle
By A. O. Scott, The New York Times Movie Review

An Orgiastic Gatsby? Of Course
By Charles McGrath, The New York Times, Summer Movies

The Great Gatsby From Book to Movie: My Top 20 Faithful Things, Part One
By Anne Margaret Daniel, The Huffington Post

A grandiose, colorful, pleasure-drenched night at the movies
By Dana Stevens, Slate

Later this week in #litchat:

WritingWednesday:
10 Things I Learned as a Writer From Fitzgerald’s Gatsby
By Andromeda Romano-Lax, The Huffington Post

Guest Host Friday: 
Priscille Sibley, author of The Promise of Stardust

Guest Host: Tara Staley May 9, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in commercial fiction, literary fiction.
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Tara Staley in #litchatThe prevailing winds of Kitty Hawk where author Tara Staley set her new novel, Conditions Are Favorable, can blow a person, a ship or a flying machine right off course. The known course for books featuring the Wright brother’s first flight experiments in Kitty Hawk begins with the iconic brothers as confirmed bachelors. The predominate presumption concerning their fondness for single-hood and dandified appearances positions them as latent homosexuals. Others who knew them well claimed they were simply odd and “woman-shy.” Yet, no one has ever examined the brothers through the spectrum of autism. Until now. In Conditions Are Favorable, Staley presents a daring connect-the-dots story suggesting that not only were Orville and Wilbur Wright on the autistic spectrum, they were affected specifically with the yet-to-be named Asperger’s Syndrome.

Conditions Are FavorableWith luminous prose true to the era and gentle use of the remote region’s dialect, Staley explores the religious, cultural and political edges of the period leading up to the Wright’s successful experiments in human flight. It was the age invention, the turn-of-the-nineteenth century, when two engineering brothers changed their obsession from manufacturing bicycles to designing flying machines.

Staley begins with the fictional Madeline Tate, a smart and spunky unmarried woman on the verge of becoming a spinster. Growing up among the old salts and sea pups of this remote barrier island, Madeline is something of a pearl trapped in an unyielding oyster. She longs for romance, but not with one of the grizzly-faced, whisky-soaked fishermen who overrun the island. When the Wright brothers choose Kitty Hawk as the staging place for their experiments in flight, Madeline’s life takes off. She sees them through eyes of need, desire, and adventure, spinning a romance around one of them that tests him as much as it does her. Conditions may be favorable for flight, and conditions may be favorable for romance, but are conditions favorable for love?

Staley’s debut novel Need to Breathe, published in 2012, was selected as a “LitPick of 2012″ on the popular Twitter forum #LitChat. It was also named a Top Pick by Underground Book Reviews. Staley’s writing background includes undergraduate and graduate degrees in English and Creative Writing, an RWA award for a past novel, and involvement with the North Carolina Writers Network. She is also a founding member of the online writers’ community Backspace.

As a freelancer, her work has appeared in such publications as UNCG Magazine, BizLife Magazine and the Winston-Salem Journal. She grew up, lives, and will most likely die in Kernersville, N.C. She and her husband have two sons, William (who was diagnosed with autism at age 2) and Reese. She also has a cat, a penchant for powdered doughnuts, her very own Leatherman multi-tool, and a professionally framed pencil sketch of the Wright brothers in the guest bedroom.

Read an interview by #litchat’s Carolyn Burns Bass with Tara Staley in the Huffington Post.

Follow Tara Staley on Twitter: @TaraStaley.

WritingWednesday: Theme in Fiction May 8, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in WritingWednesday.
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May 8, 2013: Theme in Fiction

When someone asks about the novel you’re reading or writing, how do you respond? Do you say: “A middle class woman too smart for her own good and a proud aristocrat fall in love despite their initial first impressions.” Or do you say: “It’s a story about the fallacy of first impressions and how love conquers all.”  If you say the first example, you would be describing the plot. But if you say the second example, you would be explaining the theme.

Plot is what happens in a story: character + conflict + resolution. Theme is what goes on between the lines,  the subtext or meaning drawn by the reader. Theme can be meticulously woven into the fabric of the story, or it can develop unintentionally in simply telling a good tale. Today in #litchat we’re discussing theme and how to identify and weave it into your fiction. Listed below are some resources to refresh your understanding of this important element of fiction.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg: Index of Theme-Plot Integration

Lerner.org Interactives: Analyzing Theme

The Editor’s Blog: What is Theme

Purdue Online Writing Lab: Theme

Holly Lisle: Finding Your Theme

Writing Forward: Fiction Writing Exercises for Exploring or Developing Theme, by Melissa Donovan

Find Your Creative Muse in Ficiton: Elements of Fiction–Theme, by Dave Hood

MediaMonday: May 6, 2013 May 6, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in MediaMonday.
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MediaMonday for May 6, 2013: Between Editor and Author. Source media from Slate interview between author Claire Messud and editor Robin Dresser, May 3, 2013. An excerpt follows:

Desser: Mostly I think as an editor you have to listen, to water the soil, and simply not get in the way. Sometimes you do say something completely idiotic, and there’s an explosion. Well, but maybe that might not be so terrible—if something great gets produced as a result. What do you think about that? How do you deal with the things I say that get stuck in your craw, maybe especially with this new book?

Chatscript from this MediaMonday is here.

Later this week in #litchat:

WritingWednesday for May 8, 2013

What is Theme? Resource links here.

Guest Host on Friday, May 10, 2013

Tara Staley discusses her new novel Conditions Are Favorable.

Guest Host: Laura Bates May 3, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in memoir.
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Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard

Laura Bates in #litchatWhile Laura Bates was fighting to take her Shakespeare program into solitary confinement, one of its most notorious inmates was staging a violent uprising in the very same prison.

Early in her academic career Bates declared maximum security prisoners “beyond rehabilitation.” To prove her point, she began volunteering in Chicago’s Cook County Jail literacy program. Not only did Bates’ opinion change, but ten years later she would take her Shakespeare program to the toughest offenders of them all. Bates shares this journey in the memoir, Shakespeare Saved My Life.

Shakespeare Saved My LifeArmed with her newly minted Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and photocopied handouts from Richard the Second, Bates finally broke into “supermax,” the long-term solitary confinement unit of Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Indiana. To screen prospective prisoners for intent and motivation, Bates first handed out a survey worksheet with a soliloquy by the imprisoned King Richard II, which included the line:

“I have been studying how I may compare this prison where I live unto the world; and for the world is populous and here is not a creature but myself, I cannot do it.” (Richard the Second; Act 5, Scene 5)

Bates asked the prisoners to read the passage and then respond to the excerpt. Most prisoners returned brief remarks, but one prisoner’s response revealed college-level close critical reading through his keen personal insight and explication of the literary passage. That prisoner was Larry Newton, the mastermind of the uprising in supermax that nearly blocked Bates’ opportunity to enter the unit with her program. A convicted killer with a sentence of life without parole, he had stabbed a guard during the uprising, placing him in the extreme disciplinary section of supermax.

While Shakespeare Saved My Life is a mosaic of prisoner stories paralleled by Bates’ own life, the greater picture is of Newton. A brilliant man whose abusive upbringing in a Muncie, Ind. ghetto pushed him through a revolving door of runaways and juvenile detention, the last grade he successfully finished was the fifth, and by the ninth, he had dropped out. At the age of 17 he and three friends kidnapped a college student, robbed him, then shot him dead. The brutality of the crime saw Newton tried as an adult, with rights for appeal waved. Wasting away in disciplinary lockup, Newton was angry and suicidal. Then he read King Richard II’s agonized speech and found a hero in Shakespeare.

As the prison Shakespeare program grows, so does Newton. Bates includes passages from Newton’s writing, revealing scholarly understanding as well as street-level sagacity. Bates makes it clear that at no time did she move from professor to advocate, yet her guidance is clear as Newton progresses from the prison of self and into the liberty of knowledge. Shakespeare Saved My Life is a captivating look at the transforming power of story.

Bates has a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in Comparative Literature, with a focus on Shakespeare studies. She is a professor of English at Indiana State University, where she has taught courses on Shakespeare for the past 15 years to students on campus and in prison. For more than 25 years she has worked in prisons as a volunteer and as a professor. She created the world’s first Shakespeare program in supermax—the long-term solitary confinement unit. Her work has been featured in local and national media, including two segments on MSNBC-TV’s Lock Up. She has been happily married for nearly thirty years to Allan Bates, a retired professor and playwright.

Follow Laura Bates on Twitter: @shakeinshackles.

WritingWednesday: Setting May 1, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in WritingWednesday.
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WritingWednesday for May 1, 2013: Setting in Fiction

Setting is the stage for the drama of life. Whether set in a real place; a time past, present or future; or a fictional universe, a novel’s setting can be as crucial to the story’s narrative as characters. This week in #litchat WritingWednesday we’ll discuss how to write vivid settings in fiction. A selection of resources for understanding setting are listed below.

Writers Digest: The How of Where, by Chuck Sambuchino

Author’s Craft: Setting

Education.com: Using Setting and Building Sceneste

McPherson College: The Elements of Fiction—Setting by Bruce McPherson

The Editor’s Blog: What is Setting in Fiction by Beth Hill

Writing World: Four Ways to Bring Setting to Life, by Moira Allen