Photos of Spring and a Publication Note

Flowers April 6

The daffodils, all three of them, bloomed this week. As did the pear tree.

Grackle April 6

While it has plenty of bird visitors, the pear tree hasn’t seen its usual complement of pollinators.

Robin April 6

The pear blooms usually draw bees and beetles by the hundreds, but many of the pollinators seem to be sleeping in this year. Yellow-rumped warblers are getting most of the nectar.

Warbler April 6

The pear tree’s pollinators may be sleeping in, but the carpenter bees are awake and active. Territorial males have claimed pockets of airspace near the house, fence, and deck. Their physiology must be wondrously efficient, because they patrol and defend their claims with seemingly endless vigor, never pausing to eat. They aren’t interested in nectar. They’re waiting for females to arrive.

Carpenter Bees April 6

My favorite news from the yard this week comes from the milkweed. It survived our long, cold winter, which means we might have more monarchs this year!

Milkweed April 6

My favorite other news involves a publication note. My short story “Numbers” is now posted at The Blue Hour Magazine. This is my first fiction publication!

“Numbers” is the first short story I ever attempted. For nearly ten years I returned to it periodically, each time applying what I had learned since its last revision. Finally, in 2013, the story seemed to defy further revision. By then the opening had been entirely restructured and the word count cut by more than half. That year “Numbers” won Honorable Mention in the Frank Lawlor Memorial Fiction Prize at the Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference.

I let “Numbers” drift to the bottom of my to-do pile after its award, but in January of this year I decided to give the story one final edit and begin submitting it for publication. Then I selected a new practice manuscript from the archive, because I am not through learning. My journey with “Numbers” has reached a happy and satisfying conclusion, but my journey with writing will never end.

Hampton Roads Writers 5th Annual Conference, 2013

Pink Spotted Hawkmoth Sept 22

As evening approached on Thursday, September 19, the writers gathered. Drawn by the promise of shared wisdom and new perspectives on writing, we made our way to the second floor of the Westin Virginia Beach Town Center.

Pink Spotted Hawkmoth Sept 22

This year I challenged myself with sessions about short story writing and first person point of view. (I rarely attempt short fiction, and I never write in first person.) Between challenges, I attended sessions about copyright, novel writing, and poetry.

  • Creating the World in a Short Story — Clifford Garstang
  • Copyrights and Wrongs: Fair use of quotes & other things to avoid a lawsuit — Jeff Ourvan
  • Where Does My Story Start: How to Write a Winning First Chapter — Lisa McMann
  • First Person Problems: The specific challenges and opportunities of writing first person — Lydia Netzer
  • Different Voices, Different Times — Lydia Netzer
  • Do Put Words in my Mouth: Creating realistic and effective dialogue — Ethan Vaughan
  • Exquisite Sounds — Jeanne Larsen

Pink Spotted Hawkmoth Sept 22

Each morning of the conference started with a keynote address followed by First Ten Lines Critique sessions. The critique panel consisted of authors Lisa McMann (Friday morning only) and Kevin Maurer, along with literary agents Ethan Vaughan, Jeff Ourvan, and Dawn Dowdle.

Recurrent themes emerged as the panelists discussed samples of writing submitted by conference attendees. Overwriting hampered many openings. Weak dialogue and too much description slowed the pace. Shifts in tense and point of view distracted from the stories.

Pink Spotted Hawkmoth Sept 22

Each of these problems exist in my writing, but they are easier to see in someone else’s lines. I came away from these sessions with renewed gratitude for my writing partners, who see my mistakes more readily than I do.

Pink Spotted Hawkmoth Sept 22

I could spend weeks cataloguing what I learned and fail to cover it all. I could read for months and not read all the books I discovered.* Instead of attempting either, I’m writing.

Pink Spotted Hawkmoth Sept 22

I’m following paths of scent and light, spreading grains of pollen gathered at the conference. Perhaps a few of my poems and stories will germinate, will take root and grow.

Pink Spotted Hawkmoth Sept 22

The conference ended with a delightful surprise. My short story (my only “finished” short story) won Honorable Mention in The Frank Lawlor Memorial Fiction Prize!

HRW 2013

* I came home with a new title from Unbound Content, and I’m waiting impatiently for delivery of books by Jeanne Larsen and Lisa McMann. Next year, I’ll order Lydia Netzer’s new book as soon as it is released. In the meantime, I’ll read Shine Shine Shine again.