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MFA in Writing at Vermont College

Saturday, July 28, 2012

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Am I a writer?

Merriam Webster simply defines a writer as, “one who writes.” 

Am I a writer!

I sit at my desk every evening tapping away at the keyboard.  That must make me a full-fledged writer!

But wait…

Dictionary.com defines a writer as, “a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession.”

Now what does that mean?  Especially as an occupation or profession?  I certainly don’t make money from my writing.  Forget supporting myself as a writer, I can’t even afford an ice cream cone from my writing income. 

But that word especially is a bit of a disclaimer isn’t it.  Does a person need to get paid for his or her work to be a writer?  How much money exactly do they need to make from writing for it to be considered a profession? Does a person need to be published to be a writer? 

Much like a tree falling in the forest… if no one reads my stories are they really stories? 

Am I a writer? 

Sure, I tap away every evening on my computer creating characters and plot lines but no one ever reads them.  Okay, okay, sure my wife reads them.  My writing group reads them.  And hopefully they make their way out of a slush pile and an agent or publisher reads them before sending back my rejection slip.  But after a while they simply go into a file on my computer and I start over with something new. 

Am I a writer?

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Either write something worth reading, or do things worth writing.” 

Wow!  Can you imagine being in a critique group with this guy.  Talk about pressure.  But he begs the question, if you don’t write something worth reading are you truly a writer?

Am I a writer?

Am I a writer?

Am I a writer?

Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Well maybe I am a writer after all!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Broken Suitcases

I hate it when my suitcase breaks!

As a business traveler I pride myself on not looking wrinkled and disheveled while carrying heavy bags through the terminal.  I avoid long lines by constantly scoping out the TSA path, careful not to get behind old people or strollers.  I never carry liquid in my carry on, never buy a belt with a metal latch and I only wear slip on shoes.  That is why I absolutely hate broken luggage. 

Yet, there I was on a recent trip to Brevard County, Florida hunched over, lugging my forty-five pound suitcase across the rental car parking lot because the handle on my suitcase would no longer work. 

It doesn’t take much to break a suitcase.  In fact, I go through at least two of them a year.  And the majority of the time it is the handle that does me in.  The handle slides up and down on two thin rails and all it takes is one heavy bag to come down just right and the track is bent and the roller won’t move.  I tried every tool available in a hotel room to fix the handle (yellow pages, coat hanger, bible, towels, and the flimsy room service menu). Nothing worked. 

The good news out of all of this is that as I was hammering on the rails with a Marriot pen it suddenly dawned on me what was wrong with my story.

My desire line was bent!

A character needs a clear desire line that smoothly moves all the way through the book much like the track on my suitcase.  If my desire line gets bent or moves off track in some way the story is not going to flow smoothly from beginning to end – and like my suitcase, the story will be broken.

So, I took my Marriot pen and outlined my character’s desires and needs on a tiny hotel pad of paper.  What I found was that I was off track.  I was writing scenes that were getting away from my desire line.  Thank goodness for broken luggage!

More good news… When I got home I saw that Kohls was having a sale on luggage… I wonder if I can buy a story while I am there as well!