Saturday, February 24, 2018

MasterClass Assignment - Letter from Character

Checked in a the "Hub" and was surprised to find it was a bit more organized then the other day.  Actually, for the first time I found the place to post the assignment right away.  Didn't have time to look around accept at some post for this class.  However, with a more organized "Hub", I just might be able to look around.  Really helps with you are not sifting through things that are set up at random.  I am pleased as some times I just want to post and move on to something else not spend an hour sorting through posts that don't apply.  And, sometimes I might want to scroll through other work and comment. I did some of that today.

I just finished my assignment for lesson 11 and 12.  We were suppose to write a letter from one of our characters. This is just an activity in creative writing which could be  helpful in moving one along with something already started.   I chose my character Maree and here is what I wrote:

Assignment lesson 10 and 11- Letter from Character
Image result for whale spout
 Hello there:  Have I finally got your attention?  I’ve been nudging you for years and wondering why you abandoned me.  It’s not that I am ungrateful—I am very grateful.  You brought me to life and, out of the many places you could have walked away, you choose to leave me in the most beautiful place.   From this hollowed out ledge high above the sea, I have felt the presence of ancestors as I’ve watched the movement of time.   With the tides coming and going, I have watched the rising of the Moon as it gives light to the night sky.  I have watched that blue-black sky fade to apricot and rose as the sun births a new day.  I have watch as that sun claims its rightful place to spread a golden light that glistens and floats with the rise and fall of the sea.  And, there has been the gift of life all around me.  Water sprouts upward like a great fountain as a dark oblong body of a whale swims by and huge schools of fish pass like flocks of birds.  Puffins, with bright orange beaks and feet, nest in crevices along the cliffs close by.  I have watched each season come and go spreading its own light and darkness.  For all of this I am grateful but now it’s time to move on. Today the granite is cold and damp and I feel like I am disappearing.   You wrote me here to understand who I am and what brought me to this place.  Now you must tell my story.  Don’t even begin to tell me you don’t know my story because you don’t and you won’t until you begin.  You will only know my story through the tips of your fingers.  And, I promise you—you won’t be disappointed.  
Your favorite Character.

Check out Master Class here
You can read Judy Blume's Bio here

Inside Creative Writing
Professor Robert Olen Butler teaches creative writing at Florida State University. He has a video series which follow his creative process of short story writing from inspiration to completion. He is an awesome teacher of creative writing and this is truly worth your time if you love to write. These episodes are recorded in real time.

Disclaimer:  I do not receive any payment for blogging about MasterClass, Judy Blume, or Inside Creative Writing.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

MasterClass Lesson 10 and 11

I just completed lesson 10 and 11 of Judy Blume's Master Class.  This class was about creating characters that you never want to leave behind when the story ends.  I really love Blume's energy and find myself more motivated and excited about writing.  Her lectures are wonderful. I read once that that Judy Blume said  "I'm an optimistic person, so I like to leave my readers with a sense of  hopefulness."  I think that is why I come away from her lectures thinking "It's going to be alright, Everything will be all right."  There is a peaceful calmness about her presence.  I can't speak for others but for me I come away from her lecture with a sense of peacefulness.

In these lectures, she talked about needing to write her characters in order know them.  What I take from that is that she has to live with them, follow them, and let them speak to her before she can tell a part of their life story.   I understand that because some characters I have written about stay in my mind as if they are waiting for me to free them.  Honestly, I have a character that I left sitting on a hollowed out ledge over looking the sea.  She keeps prodding me to do something.  Now this has been going on for years and I can still see her sitting there as if she is waiting, ever so patiently.  She has never left my mind.  I can't figure out what to do with her....I can't see where she's going.  E.L. Doctorow said, "Writing is like driving at night in the fog.  You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."   Lately, that character seems to be saying that I should begin where she is and how she got there, perched on that ledge, is just my way of  knowing her.

The assignment for these lessons was in three parts.  I probably won't follow through on all but will on the part of the assignment that is about writing a letter to us from one of our characters.   I do believe this is a good opportunity to let that young woman tell me how she feels sitting there all these years with the salty sea breeze in her face.  It could prove to be a very interesting writing exercise.  

Master Class "Hub" has been revised, reordered.  The "Hub" is the place for assignments and posts and it's now open to all of the Master Class community.  It is pretty confusing.  It is a mishmash. I looked for where to catch up on writing assignments posted and I find posts about Oscars, on screenwriting, producing and not my particular class assignments.  It is just all mixed up and appears totally random.  It would be so much better if every class was isolated with a link to the entire masterclass community.  And, perhaps a way to open your post or completed assignment to the entire community or if you choose not.  Perhaps some participants are hoping their play or talent will be discovered but I really don't have time to read through everything to find out where my class assignments should be posted.  I would love to read the post from other classes but I don't have time.  This should not discourage anyone from taking this class and you might like it and have the time to explore.  Judy Blume's lectures are totally worth it.  And, I imagine that the other classes are just as remarkable.  I just don't have the time.  I really  want to write and am looking for ways to keep myself motivated and my focus on writing.  As Ray Bradbury said, "You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you."  

I am off to do my 2 Mile Walk with Leslie Sansone.  Yesterday, I did a 3 Mile Walk.  You can find her on Youtube.   And, later a walk with the dog.  Beautiful warm day here in the mountains and the sap is flowing, trees are being tapped, sugar shacks are filled with steamy sweet bubbling syrup--going to be a good year for maple syrup and just in time, I'm down to my last drop. 

Check out Master Class here

You can read Judy Blume's Bio here

Inside Creative Writing
Professor Robert Olen Butler teaches creative writing at Florida State University. He has a video series which follow his creative process of short story writing from inspiration to completion. He is an awesome teacher of creative writing and this is truly worth your time if you love to write. These episodes are recorded in real time.

Disclaimer:  I do not receive any payment for blogging about MasterClass, Judy Blume, Leslie Sansone, or Inside Creative Writing.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Slow going....

Been dragging my feet with this class lately.  I just completed lesson 8 and 9.  What happens to me is that Judy Blume's lecture is so engaging I end up staring off thinking nothing in particular. For me, her reflecting is done with such honesty and candor that I am left in awe and at a loss for words.  We are so used to hiding our real feelings or being worried about what someone will say or think about us that we hold back.  Judy Blume seems to have conquered that fear.  Course, she has written about 50 books so she is probably use to positive and negative comments.  When I grew up we learned early that there are things you just don't talk about.  Certainly, Judy Blume is from that same sort of generation, so how did she over come that fear.  Probably by writing and writing and writing and definitely not shrinking from the subject matter.

In lesson eight, Judy Blume shares the process of writing her novel "In the Unlikely Event".  She shares how she merges real events of the past with the fictive aspects of her story.  She shared those personal events so you can see how they were interwoven with her imagination.  In lesson nine, she shared some of  the ways she builds her characters into the fictions. She read from her notebooks and talked about in what ways her notes made it into the story and how and why they were left out.  It seemed to me that through her notes and notebooks she was getting to know the background of her characters and as they came to life in her mind she formed a story about one aspect of their lives.

I bought "In the Unlikely Event" because after her lecture I needed to read the novel to experience first hand the way the real and the imagination merge together for her. It is a fascinating story about three airplane crashes in small community in New Jersey.  The events really happened in the 1950s and the story deals with how it impacts the lives of the young adults in the community.   I am probably not going to write for children, though I never quite know what will come from my  imagination, but this class is a gem in understanding one gifted writers process.

I must admit I have not felt inspired to do the assignments from these two lessons.  I just haven't felt the desire to jot ideas for stories in a notebook or write a childhood memory.  One can't help but reflect on the past after listening to the lecture but the type of assignments are not story writing and more about jotting down memories and ideas.  I suppose I could write a short memory--maybe I should.  The other struggle I have is trying to figure out where to post the assignments.  It's sort of a mishmash and no real order to where they go.   Some are posting short clips of something they are working on and asking for feedback.  For some reason I am not always comfortable just posting my writing out there.  Maybe I need to get over it.

If you like writing and have an inkling to listen to some wonderful lectures.  You won't be disappointed in Judy Blume's Masterclass.
Or check out her website: Judy Blume

Disclaimer:  I do not receive any payment for blogging about MasterClass or Judy Blume. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Creating Narratives from Headlines

My first assignment got a really positive response from another participant. It has had 14 reviews. In the past it has been so difficult to put my writing out there. Hence, not saving it at all. So foolish. But,that is where something became stuck.  Writing the assignment "childhood" something unstuck. Now if I can avoid stepping into that hole again, we should advance a little with the writing.

MasterClass lesson 4 , continued with Blume sharing more about her childhood and the surprising ways in which you life can appear in your writing. Blume is candid, open, and gentle, with an honest sensitivity that encourages and allows one to feel safe as return to my actual calling-- my passion to write. In many ways she is truly an inspiration. In some ways evidently I needed to hear what she is saying about writing. Blume was born in 1938. Hard to believe she is eighty when you see her. She has a sweet, youthful innocence about her that is childlike.  Feels like an honor to be in her presence. She has truly brought out my writing self that has been in hiding for many years.

 There was no assignment for this lesson. Lesson 5 was about how to become inspired
and discovering what inspires you.

 After watching the video lesson, I was reminded of another time when I was still writing. Actually,I was probably studying the art of writing when I went to a series of author’s lectures held at a private school in the area. One author talked about creating narratives not from the articles but around headlines. He said the best story ideas can begin that way. He read several of his stories which were just a short clip-- “a moment in time” is what he called these narratives. I remember creating a few of these and it was really fun to juxtapose newspaper headlines with life. I decided since the assignment was about ideas and articles, I’d give it a try again. I wrote down some headlines and created a narrative around them. It’s surprising how much fun it is to see the similarities in the headlines and possible events in people’s lives. I posted this as it truly is a way to conjure up ideas.

Narrative around newspaper headlines:

 She rushes down the stairs into the kitchen and past her husband who is reading the newspaper.
 She sets her briefcase on the chair.

 “I have that important meeting this morning, you will have to drop Polly off at school,” she says, pouring hot tea into her travel cup.

 He nods, barely looking up.

 “I have been asked to give that presentation. Remember?” She says. “And, I need to be focused. No distractions.”(She Won Italians’ Hearts. But Can She Win Their Votes? NY times Feb 9th, 2018)

“By the way,” she says, “My credit card is maxed so I am taking one of yours.”

“Must you?” he says, setting the paper down and reaching for his mug of coffee.

“Yes. I need to put gas in the Volvo,” she says.

“You’re taking my car?” he says.

“Ben, I told you last night. The meeting is in the city remember?” she says. “It’s an hour’s drive. The Corolla is having a problem with the air conditioner and I can’t use the phone, there’s no Bluetooth."

He does not respond but drinks from his mug and turns over the newspaper.

“You might take the car in and get the air looked at while you’re in town,” she says, “You know, we really need to think about a new car. Maybe you could look at the new Honda CRV while you’re there.” (The G.O.P. Is Flirting With Fiscal Disaster, February 9th, 2018, NY Times)

He looks up, sighs and returns to the newspaper. “You know if this presentation goes well I will be up for a promotion.”

“Really,” he says, not looking up. (Door Opens for Women to Run for Office. But Will They Be Allowed In? February 9th NY Times)

She goes over to him and pats the top of his bald head, grabs her briefcase from the chair and dashes out the door.

 He hears the car engine as it leaves the drive way. Neatly folding his newspaper, he calls to his daughter. Standing up, he picks up his mug, walks to the sink where he stands staring out the window beyond the pool to the wide stretch of green grass. (27 Realistic Marriage Vows You Didn’t Think To Make At Your Wedding, Huffintonpost, Feburary 9th, 2018)

You can read Judy Blume's Bio here

Inside Creative Writing
Professor Robert Olen Butler teaches creative writing at Florida State University. He has a series of creative episodes which follow his creative process short story writing from inspiration to completion. He is an awesome teacher and this is truly worth your time if you love to write. I have watched every one of his episodes which are recorded in real time.

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

First Assignment submitted

I have just spent days editing and rewriting my first assignment for the Judy Blume MasterClass.  I can't stop editing. It's an obsession.  Today, I published my assignment in the "HUB".  It is like sending your child off for the first day of school.  The "Hub" is what they call the space where we publish and meet and greet and critique other class participant's work.  It took me a while to figure out how to post.   I am pretty computer savvy--so, I'm not sure why I struggled.  Evidently, you have to create a new topic otherwise you would be publishing as a reply in another person's assignment.  It looks like people have done that and probably because they were just as confused as I as to how to post.

It'snowing.  We are expecting a storm that will get heavy at times.  It's a really fine snow right now.  I remember my grandparents saying that it's the fine snow flakes that turn into a really big storm.  The birds are busy at the feeder.  They are probably filling their bellies so they can hide out in their nests.  I never knew that birds used their nests in the winter.  One year, we had a nest near the sliding door.  I happened to be opening the door for something and two little birds picked up their heads and looked at me.  They were cuddled inside that nest keeping warm.  They didn't fly away but tucked back down inside.

It is a relief to have that first assignment done.  I will now take a day off and tomorrow I will tackle the third assignment.  I believe it has two parts. Right now I am going to exercise.  I do the"Walk a Mile" with Leslie Sansone.  She put a New Year challenge on Youtube.  This is the last week and today the challenge is three miles.  Thursday and Friday it is five miles.  We'll see how that goes.    Three miles is equal to forty-five minutes. It averages about fifteen minutes a mile. It works. Give it a try.

You can find her here:
Leslie Sansone

Or give it a try walk a mile:
1 Mile Happy Walk

Check out MasterClass  Just scroll down and browse the many classes.

(I receive no monetary gain from this post.)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

First assignment -childhood

 I finally finished the first assignment.  I looked at some of the posts for this assignment.  Some are very short. I commented on one post.  It was very well written.  There doesn't seem to be any right or wrong way and there was no posted word limit.  Which is nice.  I have  spent a couple of days editing.  I never know when to stop editing.  I edit and edit and still every time I read it I see something wrong.  Everyone needs an editor.  Seems like no matter who reads what you write there are things that still need correcting... editing is a never ending job.  I feel sorry for those that have a book published with editing errors.  I understand what they went through.  No matter how many times I read it, put it away, and read it again another day,  I will find errors or something that needs revising.  I am on to the next lesson. 

MasterClass- Judy Blume: Assignment 1- Childhood


I just woke from a dream.  One of those dreams that are like pearls of wisdom you can’t let go.  I’m standing on the beach, watching the gentle ebb and flow of the tide.  I press my toes into the sand, a wave rolls over the top of my feet then receding it tugs at the sand beneath my toes.  I feel a tap on my shoulder.  “Brendalee.”  I turn but the sun blurs my vision and I can’t see who is standing there.  “Remember me,” said the figure. 

I squint and unsure, I hesitate to respond.

The figure comes closer.  I want to back away but I don’t.   “Do you remember when you were learning to tap dance?  Your dance Instructor would dance with you on the stage, showing you off to the older students. Remember that special feeling. Then one day without warning the lessons abruptly stopped.  You overheard your mother talking to a friend.  She said the first grade and taking dance lessons would be too much.  She said she didn’t think you could do two things at once.”

I catch my breath.  “Those words, that sentence diminished you,” he said, "You left a piece of your soul back there on that sidewalk.  It’s time to call it home.” 

I stare out at the sun’s sparkling path across the water. “I was only five.” I said.

"Yet, you're still trying to prove you can handle more than two things at once," he said.  

I want to walk away but I don’t.  Unable to move, I close my eyes.  Instantly, I am watching my small self.  She is turning the key to tighten the metal roller skates onto her shoe. Scene after scene floods into my mind. I see her twirling round and round and falling in the grass, laying on the grass in the dark of night listening to stories of the starlit sky with her brother uncle, sitting at the round dining table cutting paper dolls out of the McCall’s magazine, putting leftovers by the screen door where the morning glories grew for the little people and holding her grandmother’s hand as they go for an evening walk.   I can smell the lilac blossoms lining the back yard.  Then I see her.  Petite with platinum blond pig tails, proudly tap dancing down the sidewalk.  I hear my mother’s voice behind her.  I watch her hang her head and stop dancing.

The scene shifts to school.  She is hanging up her coat, the other girls surround her asking why she isn’t going to be in the dance recital.  She hangs her head and shrugs her shoulders. The scene moves to the teacher coming up behind her desk.  They are practicing penmanship.  The teacher abruptly grabs her paper out from her hand and holds it up to the class.  The teacher says, “Class, this is perfect penmanship.”  I watch her slide down in her seat, shrinking as if to disappear underneath the desk.  She decides then that she will never do anything that will attract attention to herself.   

I’m stuck in time and I can’t breathe. My belly feels strangely hollow. He places his hand on my shoulder.  “Take her hand and lead her away from there,” he said.

I feel her hand in mine. “Come with me,” I said.  Desperate to get away, we move and drift weightless, going nowhere and yet everywhere.  

“Talk to her,” he said.

I don’t know what to say and then I hear my voice.  “I know how hurt and disappointed you are about not dancing.  I am so sorry.  Just know it has nothing to do with your abilities. Be proud of yourself.  You are going to have a wonderful life, filled with people and places and lots of adventure.  You are beautiful and perfect just the way you are,” I said. I put my arm around her and she leans against me.  “It’s okay to dance and sing out loud and to even get mad because sometimes you have to stand up yourself, for what you want.  You can do it.  It won’t always be easy and there will be times when you will be sad.  Be brave, don't be afraid, speak out and remember that things will always work out as they should. You will never be alone.”  I put my arm around her, draw her close and like butter she melts into me.

A tear forms in the corner of my eye.  My stomach no longer feels hollow.  I breathe slow and deep and then after a time, I open my eyes.  

“I remember you,” I said.

“Shall we walk.” He said. He reaches out and takes my hand.  We walked down the beach along the water’s edge, just where the waves, like an ancient scroll, gently unroll across the sand.   


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Keeping On Track...

Hurried off to the grocery store at seven o'clock this morning as a snow/rain storm was predicted.  An hour later and a light dusting of snow has covered up the dirt and left the pine boughs looking like they were sprinkled with white powder. It seems we will not be getting much of a storm after all and finally the temperature is rising.  The temperatures have been dropping to minus degrees and I’ve been carrying Bella outside then quickly back in as her little paws freeze.  Within a minute she is hopping from one paw to the other.   If I put little boots on her she will not move, puts her head down cocked to one side glaring at me. My plan for the day is to settle in a get on with this Master Class. 

Review of the first and second lesson from Master Class is completed.  I decided to share my journey through this writing class not only for motivation but to stay with the commitment.  Over the years, I have taken other writing classes online. However, there were requirements which made those classes more time consuming.  You were required to critique a specific number of fellow participant’s work.  Reading and keeping up was difficult if you had a demanding work life.  This class is a bit more flexible. Community interaction is suggested but doesn’t seem to be a requirement.  I haven’t seen any certificate of completion or final judging of a story that could put more pressure on getting the work done.  

It was suggested we say hello to the community. I checked out what other people wrote said and then I wrote: “So glad to be here. I am truly looking forward to this class. Haven't been writing in a while. Life seems to have a way of filling all the empty spaces I leave for writing. I've cleared the deck and am now ready to begin again.”

I reviewed Lesson 1 and 2 a couple of times. I was confused as I couldn’t find the assignments and at the end of each lesson the PDF appeared to be the same as the previous one. I explored the community forum and found that others were having the same problem. After a while, I located the assignments which were after the PDF for Lesson 3.

Lesson 1 was an introduction by Blume.  It was refreshing to hear her genuinely sharing her feelings about the writing process. She offered encouragement and what resonated with me were her words of advice especially when it comes to encountering other people’s opinions. 

Lesson 2 was a lecture about childhood.  As Blume talked about her childhood, I was flooded with memoires including cutting paper dolls out of the McCalls magazine, knitting clothes for my little dolls, listening to Little Orphan or the Shadow Knows on the radio, and mostly of being with my grandmother.  It also brought back memories of my imaginary friend.  When I a small child I had an imaginary friend I called “suki”.  Because I was the youngest in this family everyone joined in.  Suki took a bath with me and enjoyed a seat at the table. Suki was always included.  I am fortunate that my imagination was nurtured not suppressed.  I was raised on stories, myths, and fairy tales.  It was hearing Blume talk about what her childhood was like that brought back these wonderful memories.

We are encouraged us to comment on each lesson.  So, I read what others wrote and I decided that since Blume shared an honest reflection of her childhood I would to do the same.  I sense the importance of getting real and once you can break through the barrier of fear of saying something someone might not like you have made an important step forward in your writing.    

So this is what I wrote:  “So much of our childhood defines who we are as adults. I am thankful for this lesson as it brought back so many wonderful memories.  My mother was fifteen when I was born so I grew up as the youngest in a large family.  I grew up on fairy tales, myths and story.  Whatever I imagined they all played along.  My imaginary friend had a place at the table and a bath when I did.  Because of all this attention to the imagination, I never lost my ability to be imaginative and creative.  In many ways, it was an idyllic childhood.  I believe there is struggle to overcome in every childhood and mine was my mother.  She was the baby of the family and her baby replaced her.  It’s not good to be better than mother.  Some of that struggle still sits somewhere deep in the emotional center of the brain where we carry memories. With a scent or taste or even with the idea of success it can pop up with the vividness of yesterday.  At least today I recognize it and hopefully before I sabotage myself.”

The first assignment is to write a letter as or to your childhood self.  A few suggestions are offered about what to include in the writing.  After that we are suppose to post it.  This is where it gets difficult.  Because I dislike talking about myself, I need a bit of time to think about this assignment.

Upon exploring the site I came upon a forum titled:  Talk About Your Accomplishments.  I believe this forum is for the entire Master Class community.  As I scrolled down, I realized that there are some very accomplished and talented people taking these classes.  There are pictures of the finest chef’s dishes, music recordings, books published and in the process of being published. It is a little overwhelming but so much fun to explore the works of these bright creative and talented people.  I am captivated by people who can share their accomplishments with pride.  Perhaps, I will gain that skill from all of them.  I am such an introvert.

It is so difficult to talk about what I have accomplished.  Over many years, I have had short stories published, won awards for writing, wrote a screen play and I didn’t save any of it.  I have a couple of stories I saved but I have no idea which stories or where they were published.  I just did it and then let it go.  Let this be a lesson to anyone that reads this.  Your work is important, everything you write is important—maybe not today but some day you might wish you had that award, that magazine with your published story.  Every time I have run away from writing, it has been when something gets recognized.  Then I don’t write again for years.  Is it a fear of success?  This is the one thing I have always wanted to do and it is the one thing I run away from.  Once I burned all my journals.  Why? Because they were full of whining about writing and not writing.  I am just so done with this—whatever this is.

I’ll be back once I finish this assignment.  Hope you’re writing!

Here are few links to other writing classes on line:

This is one of the top online writing programs.  Very expensive but offers small classes and one on one attention from instructors. They also offer a Private Class --if you prefer working alone.

 Creative Writing NowOffers free writing classes.

Writer's Village
This is one of the most popular online writer's community.  Fiction writing class had over 48,461 hits in a day. Over the years, I have taken classes here.  There is a membership fee and classes are scheduled but you can take self-study courses anytime.  There are over 200 writing courses and workshops. 

Ever wonder about your imagination.  Here is a couple of links about creativity and the brain:

Creative Writing and Your brain
Creative People's Brains Really Do Work Differently

Friday, February 2, 2018

Master Class

It's Ground Hog Day and he woke up to see his shadow and then scurried back into his hole. Looks like another 6 weeks of winter.  

Life has been really busy and life always has a way of encroaching on the empty spaces in my life especially when I want to avoid writing.  Seems like I am hiding from writing.  I am so tired of looking for reasons for not writing and trying to figure out why I continually obsess and whine over it.

I have been reading a lot about "Master Class". An advertisement seems to pop up here and there while surfing the net. Intrigued, I decided I would take Judy Blume's writing class.  After all it is Ground Hog Day and I have six more freezing, slippery, snowy weeks ahead.  Wondering how I would keep myself committed as I wind my way through the class, I decided it might be fun to document the journey here.  (no, I am not getting paid)

Here is a link to Master Class if you want to check it out.  Browse Classes and watch videos of the artists talking about their classes

Go here to see Judy Blume
The Ground Hog has spoken.  Check it out here