Archive for January, 2014

The Great Courses, Writing, and Me


I’d seen their ads in magazines and The New York Times for years before curiosity finally got the best of me and I ordered one of  The Great Courses.  I’d watched a number of them, such as  The Joy of Thinking and Understanding the Brain, before the Literature and English Language subheading caught my eye. Currently there are 59 different courses listed under this category on The Great Courses website. Thirty-six  of them on sale. I’m not sure if anyone every actually buys courses that aren’t on sale as they are quite costly and routinely are put on sale. A number of offerings, such as Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft,  and Writing Creative Nonfiction are directly related to the craft of writing. Many other titles are related to language, words, or reading, all useful adjuncts to the writing trade.

Other uses for the courses range from the obvious–history classes as research–to the more subtle. While watching Games People Play: Game Theory in Life, Business, and Beyond, I came up with an idea for a flash fiction series which has yet to see paper and ink. Many of the courses could be of assistance for times when characters have interests you know little or nothing about. Some of the courses are as short as 6 lessons, while others are as long as thirty-six. Most are a half hour in length. Some are 45 minutes. All are taught by professors from around the country who are considered to be the best teachers in their fields.  You can order the courses in a number of different formats for different prices, and many libraries carry a few of the series. Lately, most of them seem to come with free streaming. I prefer the DVDs as I like to listen to them while I’m exercising, and watching on the TV screen is more engrossing for me than on my laptop. I have, though, ordered Latin 101 to listen to on my computer and I’ve listened to others in the car. A few may only be available as audio CDs.

In future posts, I will discuss and review the various courses I’ve found that have been useful in my writing.

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Short, Inexpensive Writing Course Starting Feb. 1

Once again I have an idea for a post or a series of posts, but I need to do more research and likely will not have that completed by the end of the day. My idea does involve an alternate method of learning about writing, so in the meantime I’m going to suggest another alternate that popped up in my inbox. Southeast Review runs a series of short online workshops for writers and the next one begins Feb 1. To sign up you can go to this page  and scroll down to the registration button. As of this moment, the page is not updated, but the up-to-date info is at the end of this post.

I participated in this low cost ($15) series a year or two ago, and although I didn’t utilize all the resources available, it was inspiring to have challenges, podcasts and other info arrive on a daily basis. It could have been an intensive short course packed with info. The beauty of it, though, is that you can pick and choose and just read or listen or write what you want. At the end of the month there is a writing challenge with the winner being published on the website. Although I didn’t win, I did write something out of my usual genre and have one more flash I can circulate.

Have you participated in this? What did you think?

As the link on Southeast Review does not appear to be updated, I am copying the information that was in the email below:

Don’t Miss the Adult Writer’s Regimen Launching FEB. 1st! 
Next start date: February 1st, 2014

The Southeast Review Writer’s Regimen (for adults) is a 30-day writing project for poets, essayists, and fiction writers who want to produce a body of work by introducing structure to their writing lives.
This winter, we once again invited our adult regimen participants to submit the work they produced during the program. Congratulations to Michelle Morouse, whose story “Everyone Is” is currently featured on our site. We will also publish at least one winner from this spring’s regimen online, so sign up by FEBRUARY 1st for your chance to be published on our website! 
Participants will receive 30 consecutive emails containing the following:
 + daily writing prompts, applicable for any genre. Use these to write a poem a day for 30 days, to create 30 short-short stories, or to give flesh to stories, essays, novels, and memoirs.
weekly messages from established and up-and-coming poets, writers, and teachers offering advice for staying at the peak of performance 
+ a FREE copy of Issue 32.1 of The Southeast Review
+ a Riff Word of the Day, a Podcast of the Day from an editor, writer, or poet, and a Quote of the Day from a famous writer
+ a daily reading-writing exercise, where we inspire you with a short passage from the books we’re reading and get you started writing something of your own+ Flashback Bonuses, where, as a little something extra, we repeat an earlier regimen’s craft talks from more writing heavyweights

All of this for just $15. That’s a mere 50 cents per day! Join us for a month and walk away with a new body of work! There’s still ONE week to get on board for our new regimen!

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What’s in a (Blog) Name?

For the beginning of the year the blog posted a blog about blog names. Both of the examples they used were cute and catchy.  Possibly people wonder why I named my blog Cuisine of Loneliness.

My initial reason was that it was the first thing that came to mind. I wanted something that was general and not necessarily related to writing, and when I was attempting to set this up, that’s what I thought of. I didn’t want to use my name since I seem to have a problem settling on a variation  to use. I like c2 but it is usually too short or taken.

Cuisine of Loneliness seemed like a decent name because it is the current title of a manuscript I’m about ready to circulate. One of the themes in the book is friendship, so I thought I could use the blog to write on that topic. One of my failed blogs (4 entries) was called Reunion Troubles, so I thought I could incorporate an old blog post or two–obviously not more than four–about reunions, and reunions are related to friendships, so I included that as part of my subtitle. And since I’m a writer trying to get more widely published, and since I do have many ideas related to writing, I included writing as another topic. Unfortunately, I’m often better at generating ideas than remembering what they are and expanding on them.

The downside of using Cuisine of Loneliness, especially if the manuscript is never accepted for publication, is that I do have other manuscripts/novels either written or in the works, and how smart is it to link a different title to that of an unpublished novel?

So just as I changed the template that I’m using for my blog as I search for the perfect look, I may at some point change the name of the blog as I again search for the perfect title. I guess I don’t believe in waiting until every word is perfect or every idea is fully developed before plunging in. If I did that, I’d never have anything to show for my efforts.

Another writer friend uses Cryptic Town:Dedicated to Paranormal Fiction for her blog title. Although she may have a novel with that name, it may also be a unifying concept for a series.  Other friends use some variation of their names. the Weird World of B.K. Winstead just sounds good. Caroline Marwitz, Writer seems a little boring to me, but her full title Caroline Marwitz Writes the World is intriguing. Not sure why it shows up as the first on my list of blogs I follow. Other blogs with the author’s name in the title: Aimie K. Runyon: Historical Fiction…One day at a Time. I’d say what most of these posts have in common are good subtitles, or in the case of Caroline, a good full title.

This morning as I was finishing this, I stumbled on another writer friend’s vlog. He used to write a blog called One Word, One Rung, One Day but now that he’s published, he’s changed the title to Bacon,Beer&Books, which fits him.

What makes a blog title enticing to you?

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Writing Classes on the Web


I just completed my first online class through Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. I’ve taken online classes of various sorts before, two through Mid-American Review, another one or two through a large nationally known commercial writing school. This recent class was by far the most inexpensive and possibly the shortest in duration. The class, Heroes, Henchmen, and Sidekicks, presented by Angie Hodapp, was an expansion of a workshop she’d presented at the Colorado Gold conference in September. The class was just what I needed to spark my attempts at revising the mess of a novel I’d written a few years ago during NaNoWriMo.

At first I hadn’t been sure I wanted to spend time on an online course. The last one I’d taken had cost me something like six weeks take home pay and in the end I came away with little other than some praise from the leader. He called my novel “heartbreaking,” which I considered a good thing, but the rest of the class had been a waste of time, and, unfortunately, money. When I realized how little this RMFW class cost, though, I decided I might as well give it a go. It helped that another member of my writing group had also signed up.

As I say, overall I’m happy with the information presented and the spur it gave to my revision, but some other, more procedural or technical, aspects of the course just didn’t work for me. Every other course I’ve taken had a reasonably easy way to follow discussions, even if some of them took a bit of getting adjusted. This class utilized the yahoo platform, probably due to the availability and, I’m assuming, low (free) cost. I spend much of the first day or two trying to figure out the platform, and after some instruction by the leader and other class members, I could make some sense of the board. Still, it was very difficult to follow discussions, probably because other participates also didn’t know how to utilize the system, and because the workshop had something like 49 participants! Unwieldy on any platform, I suspect.

Elsewhere on this blog I’ve mentioned for me, a successful writing event, whether an online course, a workshop, or a retreat, is if I come away with a new writing friend, or contact. With the unwieldy number of participates in the course, it is understandable why this didn’t happen. It is hard to make connections when you can’t find the person you were originally talking to! Prior to sharing any writing, one of the other class members who lives in my immediate geographic area asked if I participated in a writing group. I told her the rudimentary details of WURDZ, gave her my email address, and heard nothing.

Another reason I did not forge a new friendship is that almost every other person seemed to be writing in a genre that I wasn’t. The predominate genre seemed to be fantasy, with historical fiction or YA the second most common category, and usually YA fantasy. Even though I may not have read every single introduction–hard to keep track when they appeared all over the place and days after the class started–I didn’t see a single  “women’s fiction” writer. One other person said she wrote mainstream fiction, but after reading her first assignment, I suggested she might be writing more of a thriller, and since it usually seems easier to sell something if you can file it under a specific genre, maybe she should consider that.

Angie had mentioned doing a longer version of this course, and I think that would be helpful as cramming in six lessons in two weeks when you have to go to work, read material for your writing group, do your own writing, as well as live you usual life, is a bit much. Even though I more or less stopped writing down the lessons, I read over each and thought how I would use the information in my revisions.

For the time being, I’m toying with the idea of taking the next online class offered by RMFW–Editing and Revision for Fiction Writers.  With decreased expectations of finding a like-minded writing companion, I might be freer to learn and enjoy. Possibly I’ll have a heads up on the class platform as well.

I’d be interested in hearing of online schools or classes you’ve participated in and what you felt you got out of them. Were they useful? Did you make writing friends? Please leave a comment, and check out the RMFW classes, too. One may be just right for you.

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A Day Discussing Words

Today I was talking to my best friend from high school about a trip we took to Watkins Glen and Corning Glass Museum. There were six of us on that trip, plus her mother who was driving. My friend, Hannah, didn’t remember the details. I remember we were exchanging AFS students. I’d just hosted a Japanese girl for a week and it seems that we were picking up my classmate and potential AFS student, Dan Lloyd. But who the other exchangees were, I neither of us remember. Possibly I have those details wrong.

Later this morning I had a nice chat about writing, publishing, books, and characters with my hair stylist. In an hour my writing group is meeting. All in all, a day full of books, writing, and words.

I believe this was my first published poem, in the journal Voices International. It was inspired by the trip to Corning and someone else along on that trip.

In the Glassworks

Row on shimmering row of bottles
stood silent, glazed guard
while I dared not breathe
amidst the burnished vials and goblets.

Glintily he shadowed me,
grey-mirror eyes
shattering the fragile world around us
into multi-colored shards.

And I could feel the glass melt,
sense the heat
from the glass-blower’s torch,
and I could hear wind chimes
delicately tinkle
as from behind he sighed in my hair.

And in the dancing prism lights
he whispered,
voice thin as spun glass
and no one heard,
no one was witness
but the row on glimmering row of bottles.

April Cole

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Anne Tyler, Emily Neville, and the Change in the Publishing World

For Christmas this year I asked to have hardback replacements for some of the paperback books I love. I thought this would be a good present since it was something I wanted and it would allow my husband to search ebay and other places online. I received copies of Morgan’s Passing (1980) by Anne Tyler

Photo on 1-13-14 at 8.36 PM #2 (1)

and the 1964 Newberry Award winner, It’s Like This Cat by Emily Neville. Overall, I’m not a rereader, but with the passage of time and new copies in my hands, I decided to reread both.

I first read It’s Like This Cat in 5th or 6th grade. My recollection was that it was funny, touching, real, and I liked the love story. Rereading it fifty years after it was first published, I can see the points that I probably thought were humorous. The love story was very tame and hardly drove the story since it was mostly about a teenaged boy and his relationship to his father. He does change in the course of the book, but as literature for kids in past often did, it was more of a told than an shown change. Not exactly preachy, but probably not something that would be considered great literature these days. Since the language and situations are very sanitized, I’m wondering if kids in 2014 would enjoy this book? Although it is about a 14 or 15 year-old, it seems more like a story for a contemporary ten-year-old.

I must have read Morgan’s Passing sometime after it was first published as I discovered Anne Tyler while taking an Adolescent Literature class at Colorado State University. The main requirement of the class was to read so many pages of books for adolescents. I don’t remember what our page count was, but I know I read many books and someplace I have the index cards I made for the class with a summary of each book. This particular class helped me land a job working in the Children’s Department of our library, the place were the YA books were then shelved.

The book I read was A Slipping Down Life. Most of Anne Tyler’s books would not be classified as young adult, so the others I read were not for this class. I think I’ve read everything she’s written but one. The problem is, I don’t know for sure which one that is since a number of the earlier ones tend to blend together. My favorite of her oeuvre is A Patchwork Planet, one of her more recent. Reading Morgan’s Passing, a book I recalled as having a very quirky (even for Anne Tyler) character, I was struck by how much the world has changed. The character does things that I’m sure readers today think of as sexual assault and stalking, although most of Tyler’s writing is remarkably free of actual sex scenes.

The world of writing and publishing has changed as well. Anne Tyler had the privilege of being a writer who has done very little self-promotion. In this interview from April, 2012 in The Guardian, it states this is her first face-to-face interview in over 40 years! In doing some research on Emily Neville, it appears she did little self promotion, too, as she soon became a lawyer and died with little notice in 1997.

Although my writing has been likened to Anne Tyler’s—the characters, not the prose—I would wish my writing life could emulate hers as well. I’m sure I’m not the only writer who laments the need for self-promotion. A question might be, does this switch to the author having to self-promote change the face of “literature” as currently published? I’m sure many would respond that it is change in publishing world that is driving the necessity for writers to become promoters, but as agents look for a different type of writer to pitch to editors, does the style of book change? Or maybe the question is, who is driving the change to the more visible writer–someone tweeting away, blogging, doing interviews on the Today Show, online, at conferences, etc? Is it the reader or the industry? If the industry, does this do the reader a service, or are we now stuck with the equivalent of the movie industry with the constant blow them up special effects blockbuster?

To further color the analogy, are “mainstream”–as in non-strictly genre books, or those shelved in Fiction A–Z—the equivalent of independent movies with literary novels in the category of foreign films? And if so, do these have the attendant problems that are accompanying this burgeoning source of DVDs? (See “As Indies Explode, An Appeal for Sanity.”) Possibly the many DVDs are more akin to self-published books?

And writers, which type of author would you prefer to be?

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We were speaking of dreams the other day and since I’d written about my “best” publication, I thought I’d copy out the actual poem. I’m also taking a two-week workshop and will have to devote time to that rather than my ramblings.It was written under an early pen name. (Kalliope, Volume 7, No. 2)

April Cole

In a dream I was taught by touching the walls of a cave

I would turn to stone,

not be noticed by the armies of the night.

Watching brown-shirted boys

wrap around blue-bloused girls,

blowing hot breath in their tangled hair,

I feel my fingers claw the clay.

I am sixteen.

Between arias

we eat Tandoori chicken

twine fingers to cislunar violins.

Intermezzo harp resonates

deep space darkness of the heart.

He licks saffron from my lips.

Natant, I become the liquid sky.

I am twenty one.

In the distance he is standing

silhouetted against brush blue hills.

I call and he runs towards the scarlet sun.

He is a rabbit hopping through reeds,

he is a bramble bush blowing down the fence row.

He tumbles and flies, tumbles and flies.

I am twenty four.

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Lessons Resolutions Have Taught Me

I’m not sure I’m ever going to get around to writing the post I was thinking about all week, so I’m taking the easy way out and discussing resolutions.

I haven’t often made those lose weight/exercise more resolutions that are easy to make and easy to discontinue when February rolls around. In the past, I’ve attempted to resolve to do something I’d want to continue for many years. One year my goal was to entertain in some capacity at least monthly. Another year I planned to do something cultural on a monthly basis. That kind of goal prompted me to do something that I enjoyed and probably wanted to do but had been finding excuses not to do. Even though I don’t set either of these as current goals, the fact that I did them for a full year helps me stay in the groove. For various reasons, entertaining has morphed into a goal of twice a year–once outside in the summer and once at the holidays, but the mere fact that I once did this more often encourages me to exceed my goals.

I started implementing my resolution for 2014 more than a month ago. This year I am putting things where they belong in the first place. No more jackets thrown on chairs or mail shoved to the side. This should help me be both neater, making it easier to clean the house, as well as accomplish more since I won’t have to be looking for missing items. If I open the mail and pay the bill, throw away the donation request right away, etc. I won’t have missing bills or other mail avalanching off my desk. This resolution is a direct result of B.K. Winstead’s post Mindful Writing, Mindful LIfe.

The advantage of making a resolution and sticking with it for a year may be that remnants of it continue to influence in later years. I might not entertain monthly these days, but I do still think to ask people over; I look at occasions as a possible time to entertain and I am more willing to take the time to attend a concert or visit an art museum. In the back of my mind, I’m still counting how well I’m doing with both those goals. They are now part of how I operate. My writing goal for this year is to post a blog a week. I believe I posted my first blog on Sept. 27 and although all my posts have not been scintillating, I have already posted often enough to average once a week. This is, then, both the last entry for the past year and the first of the new one.

Since for me writing is all about interaction, I’d love to hear what your writing goals are for the year and how you plan to implement them. At the end of the year we can all see how we did!  Happy 2014.

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