VOICE CLASS

THE WRITER’S VOICE

A six-week writing intensive designed to help writers understand voice as a whole, and to understand the elements that make her own voice unique.

The exercises are mostly timed writings, and are designed to build, week by week, to help you see what you have to offer the world with your work. Are you a funny ethnic writer with a thread of poignancy? A serious historical novelist with roots deep in a particular time?  What influenced you to become a writer and what do you want to get from it?  Who taught you to speak, and what have you read and loved?  These are all elements of the writer’s voice.

The class runs from Tuesday to Tuesday, and is comprised of lecture, exercises and discussion. Due to the intensive nature of the reading and writing requirement, class size is limited to 8.  If an entire critique or other like group takes it together, there is a 10% discount, and as always, I will offer one scholarship available for each segment.  To be considered, email me with “scholarship” in the subject line and specify which class and date you want to be considered for.

Questions? Email me.

COST: $225
DATES:  April 30th–June 4th 3013

July 30th–Sept 3rd 2013
IF THERE IS SUFFICIENT INTEREST, I WILL CONSIDER OFFERING THE VOICE II CLASS LATER IN THE FALL.

 

SYLLABUS

WEEK ONE:

What is voice, exactly?
Childhood and cultural influences

WEEK TWO

Becoming Aware: ourselves and our places
Voice vs. Style

 

WEEK THREE

Other influences: other writers, stories, genres.

Individual truth and emotional honestly; why writing is scary sometimes, even if you’re making it up and the heroine is a princess for heaven’s sake

 

WEEK FOUR

Check in: how does it feel? Discussion.
More on influences and exercises on how to see them, see yourself, see others, pick out a voice
Illustrating the differences.

WEEK FIVE

Exercises designed to show individual voice and quests.

Two part exercise designed to illustrate each individual voice. Reading, side by side posts.

WEEK SIX

Pulling it all together. A worksheet and discussion to help each writer answer lingering questions, put all her ideas in one place, and have a chance to display her own work.

 

To sign up for the class, email me  and I will give you details.

To apply for a scholarship, email me with VOICE SCHOLARSHIP in the subject line. I’ll draw names from a hat the week before the class starts.  Please don’t feel you have to give reasons. I’ve been there, and I trust you–if you can pay, you will.  

 

Two things this morning:  #1  Posted a blog to Writer Unboxed this morning, Plotting for the
For those looking for Voice, that one is on hiatus until summer, probably in June.
Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference, August 15 – 17, 2014, Los Angeles, CA Plot Your
Have settled the summer schedule: June 15, 3013: Missouri Romance Writers "The Heroine's Journey" Booksigning:
Flickr Creative Commons photo This morning, I ran the vacuum over

A New Walker

Yesterday, I took Amara to the park.  We walked most of the way.  I couldn’t help but think of my grandmother, walking with me in a dozen parks and on hundreds of city blocks and country roads and shopping malls and small towns.

So the circle turns.  What a blessing!

Afoot with Amara

 

 

This is the view from my window just now, with dawn coming from the east
Last night, as I unloaded the dishwasher, I realized I've had my blue glass dishes
I absolutely adore figs. I don't think I'd ever eaten one until I was an
One of the hardest things about starting a new book is the awfulness of it.
I had a letter this morning from a reader of this blog, wondering if it

Tilting toward Spring

It is February which means I have survived the worst month in Colorado, which is always January.  The days are short, ending claustrophobically even before I’ve started dinner, and it is often bitterly cold. The worst is the boring weather–indifferent, icy sunshine pouring from a frozen blue sky, day after day after day.   I ache for snowstorms in January, or cloudy days, or something to break up that endless blah cold.  It isn’t that I hate winter.  I just hate boring January.

And then February arrives and the earth tilts ever so slightly toward summer, and the days progress minute by minute toward dinnertime, then catch it.   In February, it can snow a lot, soaking the ground in readiness for spring.  If we’re lucky, crocuses might start popping up.  The tree branches start to swell.

My gardener’s heart turns to catalogues, oh torturous exercise!  Look at those plump tomatoes, those tender flower sprouts, even the clogs and knee protectors.  I want to go turn the compost just to smell the earth.  I spy the seedling trays and tug them off the winter shelf, wondering when I might be able  READ MORE  on The Goddess Blogs>>>>>>

 

 

 

I am tired this morning. It's  Friday, bright and sunny. I've had a good week--lots
This is an in-progress drawing that's been living on my desk the past week. It
A friend of mine has started a business flipping houses. We live in a lucrative
I am a fan of Gretchen Rubin, whose books on happiness and habits offer a
Lately, I've been reading the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn to help create

A Memory of Potato Salad

I am making potato salad this morning, from a cookbook that is so tattered and well-used that I have to rubberband it together to keep all the pages in.  The cookbook is one I’ve mentioned here before, Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine, given to me by my grandmother when I married (my now-ex) thirty years ago.  Her handwriting on the fly leaf is fading, but visible, and I feel her with me when I cook.

In fact, this morning as I assemble the ingredients for what really is one of the BEST potato salads of all time, I’m suddenly and inexplicable transported to a day that must well over a decade ago.  My grandmother and my mother-in-law, whom we all called Mama sat in my blue-painted dining room together. They had not had much time to chat before, though I knew how alike they were—both devoted to God, both beauties. That afternoon, they were both quite well-dressed in the way of Southern Women, wearing skirts and good jewelry, their hair nicely done.  One white, one black, both of them exquisitely beautiful, even at their advanced ages.  They sat spoiling Sasha the terrible terrier who charmed every old woman in that room and then spent the evening farting pungently and snoring in pure happiness from all the tidbits they fed her.

Why do I remember that day, in particular? I must have made this potato salad fifty times, a hundred.  But this is the day that rises up, whole and shimmering. The sun shone through the lace curtains and music was playing from the kitchen and I was making potato salad with Fern, Mama’s sister. (My memory stutters suddenly—was it Fern? Or Vivian? Which sisters came with her? I narrow in on that kitchen I so loved, with two windows, and that day sun was shining through the elm leaves. Fern, so tidy and smaller than the others. Yes, that’s who it was.  She taught me to how to boil the potatoes whole, then let them cool so the peeling is easier.

I don’t remember the reason for the gathering—was it an anniversary? Someone’s birthday? Why did Mama and her sister come all the way to Colorado? It was the only time they made the trip. The reason escapes me.  I don’t remember who else was there.  Only Mama and my grandmother and Sasha and Fern.

I see their laughing faces.  I see Sasha begging with her fu Manchu beard and bright eyes—a dog who lived sixteen years and it wasn’t quite enough still.  I have the sense that I knew my marriage was doomed already, that there had already been a lot of trouble, but my husband was there, too, barbequing maybe.  Almost certainly in charge of the music.

Today, my potatoes are ready and I set them in the sink and run cold water over them.  The potato salad today is for my nephew, home for a couple of weeks after joining the Navy.  I wonder how it will all look to him now, after eight months away.  My parents will be there, and I’ll bring my granddaughter back home with me, to sleep over so her parents can go to the fair.  Will I remember this day, a decade from now when I make this recipe?

Who knows? Not me.  What I do know is that the potato salad is delicious, that Mama and Grandma would be thrilled with my grandmotherness—and my darling Amara– now, and that Fern would be pleased to know that I remember her showing me that trick.  Recipes are tradition and love and the very ordinariness of repetition.

I hope you’re cooking—or eating–something today that makes you remember people you love.

Do you have a dish that conjures up memories of people you love, or a day you like to remember? 

Finally, there is real spring in the air. You can feel it burning off the
A reader wrote to me recently with these comments: I just finished another of your
It's been awhile since we've had a recipe here.  I made this over the weekend,
I was bragging about this recipe online, and someone asked for the recipe, so here
  Obviously, the girls in the basement (my muses) have been taking some pleasure in shooting photographs

One Ripe Peach

I heard the unsettling news that an old friend died suddenly last January.  We were in college together, and he was part of the Cantina gang, many of us Mass Comm majors at CSU Pueblo.  We talked about having lunch, taking time to catch up, but you know…we didn’t.  It was disconcerting that he died so suddenly, and also that I didn’t hear about it for such a long time.

Another friend from that same group is desperately ill, and I’ve struggled a lot this year with the sudden, extreme illness of a another friend.

And then, I found a hummingbird, dead and eviserated on my dining room floor.  I’d been hoping it was too fast for the cats, but clearly, they got him.  I was quite upset by it.

So I wandered out to the garden to water the lilacs and the peach tree. (What a long hot summer it has been!)  It’s all in full, intense, maturity at the moment, everything big and sturdy and fertile.  The peach tree is so heavily laden with peaches that the branches are bending over, touching the ground, and every day I test them gently to see if any of them are ripe.  I have to say, they are not the most perfect peaches that have ever been grown.  They are smallish and most of them have marks from the endless hailstorm that fell for three hours one June twilight.

But they are my peaches, from the tree I have been tending carefully, so to me they are beautiful.  I stood next to the tree and thanked her, once again, for all she’s had to endure, and as if to nudge me back, she offered a hidden peach, one growing in a protected spot near her belly.  I reached for it, and it fell off right into my palm–furry and ruddy, all the soft green gone from the skin.  One hailstone injured it, but the peach grew around the spot, giving it a dimple.  In the store, you might pass this peach over for one that was more perfectly symmetrical.  I held it in my palm, marveling at all the days it grew, all the days of this very specific summer.  I ran it under the water and bit into the furry round side, and the taste of this very summer, the cold hail and the hot hot days and even the smoke were there, in the flesh, each day bringing its own gift to the flesh, to the sweetness.  It was every so slightly warm, and juice burst into my mouth, ran down my chin and down my arm.  I stood next to my friend the peach tree and let her see how much I appreciated the gift, how lovely it was, this very singular, very ordinary, unique peach, the only one just like itself in all the world.

I looked over the garden to the swing, took in the brussels and sunflowers and the swing at the far end, and knew that in grieving my friend and the hummingbird, I’m also grieving the fact taht someday I have to leave this plane, too.

But right now, with peach juice running down my chin and arm, I am alive.  I have this moment, this very summer, this very singular, very ordinary day. And that’s enough.

 

This is the view from my window just now, with dawn coming from the east
My old dog is pacing this morning as he often does these days. He's a
I absolutely adore figs. I don't think I'd ever eaten one until I was an
Looking for a cuddle One of the great things about living
By now, most of you must know I have a new book out, The All

Life Returns

Another photo & essay about the Waldo Canyon Fire

(Read the first one, about the explosion of the firestorm) 

My friend Brenda lives in the middle of the Mountain Shadows burn area. Her home survived, but her daughter’s burned to the ground just one block south. We were chatting Sunday about the daughter’s children drawing farewell notes to their stuffed animals on the driveway before it was razed (and weeping).

I asked if she was going to stay, if it would ever feel like home again. She said, “Have you seen it yet?” I said I had not, but I hoped to get there before all the damage was erased by new construction.  There is a book brewing, of course. That’s what writers do with intense experiences–transform them into stories and narratives.

She said, “You must come.”  (This is the same angel who took me to the soup kitchen where she volunteers when I was writing Garden of Happy Endings.)

Today I joined her for a long, long walk around the burned neighborhood. I was braced for feelings of sorrow, but that wasn’t what I discovered. It is dismaying, of course, to see the damage–the blackened trees and burned out cars and houses that have not, even after seven weeks, been touched.  I wonder about the families who haven’t even sifted through the debris–where are they? Is it too difficult? Are they despairing or furious or what?

But there was a lot more that was hopeful, even exuberant.  Like seemingly dead trees coming back to life. (To see any photo better, click on it and you’ll see it full-sized.)

 

And cactuses doing double duty.  Look at them, reproducing out of the burned cactus!

 

One of the most touching things I saw was a garden.  This is in the very worst spot, where 140 houses burned in a cataclysm that is still hard to understand.  Brenda told me about it before we came, and I was eager to see it, because that was the thing that ran through my mind so much during the fires: I could lose a lot, but it would be agonizing to loose the garden I’ve been working so hard to create. The neighborhood where this happened is filled with beautiful gardens, and I thought of all my brother and sister gardeners so often.

This is what we saw:

Please notice a couple of things.  There is not house standing.  The orange fence surrounds the foundation of the house.  Notice the denuded tress.  Not a leaf, not a living branch.

Also notice the bird feeder.  The fact that the garden is green, and tidy, even though there are no utilities to this site.  Those big plastic tanks are filled with water.  And this is what remains:

How did the garden survive?  How is it that there are dead trees all around and yet her garden, much more layered and elaborate than this photo shows, is thriving?  She came back and made it a priority. She focused on what she could do.  I admire that, and wanted so badly to speak with her. Brenda said she’s often there, working four or five hours a day, as she did before the fire, but she wasn’t around today.  Another time.

Another thing that surprised me were the little beauties, here and there. Volunteers have come through and sifted through the debris of many of the houses, leaving stacks of artifacts for the home owners.

There was more, so much more.  We walked for three hours, and I shot over three hundred photos, collecting images before they disappear. A chimney sticking up so tall you begin to understand how big the house was, a fridge standing alone in the midst of a debris field, its contents unrecognizable (as sometimes happens in my own).

We chatted with an elderly couple whose house looked untouched from the front, but had been badly damaged in the rear, and they were aggrieved to report they had also been rear-ended two days ago. The variation in what has been done and what has not is vast–some lots are scraped clean, and are ready for new building.  Others are untouched, even by the cleaning crews, the bricks still laying in a pattern that suggests explosion.  The area was oddly empty, patrolled by police, crawling mainly with construction and clean-up crews.  We walked up one hill and down another, and then another.  It is not at all barren or lost. By next spring, the hills will be covered with greenery, if not new trees.  There will be fresh homes built.

In one place, I captured my favorite image of the day.  Roses growing in the debris of of a front yard.

 

And last, but not least, this is something you see all over the city, in one form and another.  The firefighters themselves were surprised by the outpouring of love they experienced here, and it’s worth noting.  I think of them a lot, trying to stand their ground, save a house, try to outsmart the beast of fire, the weather, the patterns.  I think of them losing that ridge, and losing a house, and sleeping in tents in a school yard down the block from my church.  I say this, too:

 

 

It’s over, in a way, but in a way in never will be.  We’ll remember it, always, the dragon firestorm that wanted to gulp the city whole.

A mountain wildfire started in a canyon nearby the westside of Colorado Springs Saturday.  I
CR and I went for a long Sunday drive in the mountains today.  We took
My old dog and her favorite thing...a fresh bone.
10 little stories about Michigan over 4th of July, including fireworks, foodie visit to Zingerman's,

A Tough Year For The Garden

Some sage English gardener said, “It takes 50 years to create a beautiful garden.”

An allium from my garden, before the hail, heat, and smoke.

It comforts me.

Last year, you may remember, we started the Great Suburban Back Yard Overhaul. Tore out the decrepit wooden deck, rototilled half the lawn, put in new fences, and built a new garden bed with seven areas and pathways. I was half drunk with the glory of planting last year—lilacs and a peach tree, vegetables and perennial flowers, roses and herbs. I had a few disappointments: the onions kept being eaten by some tiny worm (which happened again this year—help!). The only rose that made it was in the mini-greenhouse I erected. The peach tree nearly died of a fungus until I figured it out.

But an inaugural year is always sweet, isn’t it?

This has been a very unkind year for gardens in my world. There was the late spring, then an early and endless and destructive hailstorm just as I managed to get all the seedlings planted. Then came the extreme heat (102 degrees in Colorado Springs is weird indeed), which coupled with the altitude of 7000 feet scorched and exhausted the June plants.

Before the heat broke, fire began to rage in the mountains. The Waldo Canyon Fire pumped tons of ash and particulates into the air, thus further smothering my poor babies. It was too hot and smoky to do any weeding, though I still did my best to keep up in the evenings. Weeds don’t care about smoke or heat or hail. There is a particular little succulent weed that thrives on all of that and they have made themselves very much at home.

Finally, the fire is out (or at least contained). Even better, the monsoon season has arrived. It has rained a lot the past week, and there is more rain to come, nearly every afternoon over the upcoming week. The plants are THRILLED. The corn has gone from a pathetic ankle high to thigh high in six days. The potatoes have started flowering. The peas have croaked, but that’s normal this time of year. I’ll plant some more in a month or so.

The only things that just are not going to thrive this year are the tomatoes. They’re puny and overwhelmed. The watermelon plants were demolished in the hail storm and have not recovered, but they were a looooonnnnnnggggg shot from the start. I’ve left them, anyway. You never know.

Clearly, I am behind on my weeding and mulching, but it all burst into glory in about three days flat.

This morning I sat in my swing beneath the Ponderosa pine in my garden and admired the returned vigor of the lupines and the beans, the rose that has begun to bloom again and the snapdragons that add a corner of zest. I don’t know if I’ll get peaches, in the end. They were battered badly by the hail, and the tree still looks bedraggled. But there are a lot of them. They haven’t dropped off. They might be unbeautiful, but maybe I’ll get some jam.

Gardens, books, and children, I suppose. You don’t know how it will all turn out for a long time. In the meantime, you show up and do the work—writing pages or pulling weeds or driving them to violin lessons—and try to be present for what is, and trust that things work out.

How is your garden faring this summer? How are your other long term projects—books, children, remodeling? Does anyone know how to organically rid the soil of those annoying little worms eating my onions? 

I am a grouch this morning. There’s no other word for it. I didn’t sleep
A writing blog today..... I’m in the midst of an enormously fertile period. I’m writing
Finally, there is real spring in the air. You can feel it burning off the
On special this week at Amazon:  IN THE MIDNIGHT RAIN: Ellie Connor is looking for
In the moment...... It is a late Friday afternoon in February.  My dog Jack is

A baby, an appendix, and a book…oh my!

Since my last post, these are the things that have happened in my world:

Amara was born over two days.  It was not an easy labor for mama, but I was very honored to be there and watch my first grandchild make her way into the world.  She was born February 18, and this is a picture from that day:

 

Two days after she arrived home, my beloved Christopher Robin fell ill. We first believed it was food poisoning, so he gave up all food and slept for a day.  The next day, I decided it might be appendicitis.  I was right.  It was a very terrible case of appendicitis, about as bad as you can get and still survive, and he spent four days in the hospital, then another ten days at home in bed.  I made periodic trips to kiss Amara, but mostly, I urged CR to drink more tea, and eat eat eat eat….!

On the work front, I’m juggling three projects: the first is the arrival of The Garden of Happy Endings as a real live book in stores and ebook readers near you on April 17.  There are signings, conferences, blog tours, giveaways, and I hope you’ll check them out. I will have a schedule up next week sometime.  I love this book very much, and hope you will, too.  It showed up nearly whole, throwing down a gauntlet that kicked my rear all through the spring and summer last year. There are gardens and dogs and sisters and a woman who became, through her courage and questing, one of my favorite characters ever.

Second project is finished: the rough draft of my online serial novel The Mirror Girl, the first book in a three-book YA urban fantasy/sff series is finished!

The third is the book for next year, involving all manner of research and food and the losses we think we can’t possibly survive, and the people who help us through–fathers and friends, animals and love affairs, hobbies and work we love.  Very engaged and excited about this book.

And it might be true that time I might have spent blogging has been spent kissing the downy cheek of a little girl.

Wouldn’t you kiss her, too?

This is the view from my window just now, with dawn coming from the east
My old dog is pacing this morning as he often does these days. He's a
I absolutely adore figs. I don't think I'd ever eaten one until I was an
Looking for a cuddle One of the great things about living
By now, most of you must know I have a new book out, The All

My favorite rose

Double Delight is the name. The petals are photo-sensitive and the blossoms are highly fragrant and smell heavily of oranges.   Ordinary and yet, so not.  As is often the case with roses, and many other things.

 

 

 

Ambling around the internet this morning, I found this challenge from Book Chick City: Since
This is what can be fun about the shift in the way books come to
HOW TO BAKE A PERFECT LIFE by Barbara O'Neal Available TODAY in trade paperback from
First: we're working behind the scenes on the Barbara O'Neal and Barbara Samuel webpages, which
from Publisher's Weekly How to Bake a Perfect Life Barbara O'Neal, Bantam, $15 trade paper

The Fruit of our Lives

Posted at Writer Unboxed this morning

As I write this, it is the last morning of summer. My yearling kittens are crouched in the garden, watching a squirrel on the fence make his way through the face of a sunflower, methodically plucking out striped seeds with his tiny hands, cracking their shells, devouring the kernels. There are piles of hulls, here and there, through the garden, where I have tied the flower heads to the fence or a branch or a gate. Light angles at a long angle, illuminating the withering squash, the tired corn. As I drink my tea, I’m a little melancholy, knowing that this season is turning. It is such a particular summer.

They all are.

One of the things that has come up in formatting my old books for publication in e-format is the recognition that they are fruits of the years in which they were born. This might seem a simple, clean observation—well, of course they are, you might say. In 1993, the peaches were good and there was a lot of rain, and there were certain political events that influenced my views and ideas. Music always shapes and influences my work, so the popular tunes of the time will add spice and flavor.

When I began the work of going through these books, written from about 1990 through 2000 or so, I never planned to rewrite them in any meaningful way. I have so much work flowing through me currently that that spending time on finished, whole work seemed a bad use of time. It is important to me to update glaring tech issues that date the material in negative ways—changing Walkmans to Ipods, for example, and updating language to reflect the moment.

But even reading to do that much is almost impossible, I find, because they hold too much of me, of my life. It is as if the fruit of those months or years of writing has been bottled and turned to wine that now carries the most powerful notes of that period in a way that I almost cannot bear. READ MORE>>>>>>

Three of my most beloved novels from my contemporary romance days are now available in
Good news! We've been working behind the scenes to get old books into ebook format,
Classes are filling.   1 slot left in each VOICE I, which begins October 1 (this
For the past three days, as I showered, or chatted with a student or another
Here is the story of a novel.   It was written in the wee hours before