Weekend Edition – Planting the Seeds of a Writing Life Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

Planting the Seeds of a Writing Life

seedlingThere is no short cut to creating a writing life.

There is no 3-step process, no silver bullet, no magic spell.

You plant the seeds. You water. You wait.

Sometimes you say nice things, nurturing words of encouragement and inspiration.

Sometimes you slip up, and mutter dark, sharp things under your breath. Cutting things that slice carelessly into tender green shoots.

But somehow, the seedling survives.

You say you’re sorry. You add some nutrients to the soil. You let some sunshine in.

You keep writing.

Some days, you think you know how this writing life will turn out. You feel like you have a plan. A purpose. A path. It all makes sense, and you work away – pruning and fertilizing – secure in your sense of certainty.

But then, one day, a new blossom appears, and you don’t recognize it. It doesn’t match the picture on the seed packet.

Curious.

You forgot that this writing life of yours is not a domesticated species. It is of a genus and variety unto itself. It is a one-of-a-kind creation – exotic and constantly mutating. You forgot that there are no guarantees about the kinds of flowers and fruit it may bear, or the types of hybrid offspring it might propagate.

Throw away the seed packet. The picture doesn’t mean a thing.

Throw away your expectations. The adventure is better without them.

Tend the garden of your writer’s life with care. Give each seedling a place to grow. Spend time coaxing each new bud and leaf and bloom out into the bright world.

Take delight in the wildness. Bask in the colors. Surrender to the scents. Swing from the vines.

Amazing that such an Eden could spring forth from one, small seed.

That’s all it takes.

One. Small. Seed.

What I’m {About to Learn About} Writing:

I’m planting a new seed of my own next month. I’ve registered for a course on flash fiction. 6 Weeks, 6 Stories is an online class offered by the fabulous Grub Street creative writing center in Boston. I have participated in several workshops and classes there (all of them fabulous), most recently Fiction I taught by KL Pereira. 6 Weeks, 6 Stories will be, however, my first online Grub Street experience. I’m kind of excited.

book field guide flashTo prepare for class, I’m reading A Field Guide to Flash Fiction, edited by Tara L. Masih. Pereira recommended this book during last fall’s Fiction I class. Some of our in-class readings were flash fiction, and one of the students wrote some fabulous flash pieces of her own. I knew little about the genre, but was intrigued.

Though I am only about a fifth of the way through the Field Guide, I have already learned that flash fiction (sometimes called postcard, micro, sudden, or “short short” fiction) is not a new literary genre. The practice of condensing stories into a handful of words (the jury is out on exactly if or how word count should be used to define flash fiction) apparently goes back to the 1800s in the states and Europe, and potentially much further back (as early as AD 220) in China, where these tiny stories are often referred to as palm-of-the-hand or smoke-long stories.

I have also learned that there are many ways to define and describe flash fiction. A few of the themes and ideas that I’ve already heard repeated in the various essays in the Field Guide are:  short (obviously), surprise endings, twists, exact attention to detail, poetic prose, ambiguity, slice of life, sketch, vignette, true to life, lyrical, strong imagery, irony.

I’m looking forward to learning more about the history and craft of flash fiction. And, I’d love to hear what you know of this unique, bite-sized genre. Have any stories to share?

What I’m Reading: The Red Pony by Steinbeck

book red ponyFor years, a small, battered, paperback copy of John Steinbeck‘s The Red Pony has been among the books on my shelf. Through several moves and a number of yard sales, this book has remained on my shelf as a “to read someday” book. Last week, after abandoning a contemporary novel, I opened this classic and found myself pulled into the small, but deeply felt world of Jody Tifflin.

This series of four, linked short stories showcases Steinbeck’s realism to great effect. The sparse language, specific details, and storytelling through concrete observations are all part of a style that is very different from most of today’s fiction.

Reading Steinbeck’s stories felt like an invitation to slow down and feel something. There is much in these stories that is harsh and tragic. Through his experiences on his family’s ranch, young Jody learns important lessons about the way of the world and the people in it.

This isn’t what I would call an enjoyable read, but it is a masterful example of realism in writing. There’s a reason they are called “classics,” and they are always worth revisiting.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

A lovely quote from one of my favorite authors, Ursula K. Le Guin. If you have a half hour, do listen to the BBC broadcast of their interview with Le Guin on her 85th birthday: Ursula at 85 which I came across because of a tweet from @neilhimself.

pin leguin writer is

I hope you are enjoying the garden of your writing life. Plant those seeds. Love the words. Embrace the fear and delight. 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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45 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Planting the Seeds of a Writing Life Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

  1. Thanks Jamie. A great read! ‘Flash fiction’ sounds awesome. I don’t know much about it but please do share after your course! I’m still learning a lot and it’s all food for thought. My writing, ideas and techniques are changing all the time. It’s exciting! Thanks again. Mark

    • Hello, Mark. 🙂
      Thank you. I will absolutely share more about the flash fiction course once it starts. Always fun to experiment with new forms.

      I hope your writing has been going well this week. Sounds like your “garden” is growing in all kinds of exciting directions. Excellent!

      Enjoy!

  2. Will try to do my best with my broken english (I write in spanish) but your article is awesome and want to reply with some of my thoughts and of course re blogging it on my own so my friends can read something great.

    Incredible inspiration, a long time without reading an article to forward the essence of creating from the soul and not just from the mind although both are intertwined in synergy to achieve something sublime. In addition to some tips and other blogs to follow (I will point myself to review some of them that are calling my attention) . Thanks Jamie .

    • Thank you, Miguel, for the lovely comment and for sharing this with your friends. I really appreciate that.

      I agree that creation is something that comes from the soul and the mind – there are so many layers to the inspiration and the process. I love that it’s messy and organic and full of surprises.

      I hope you enjoy the other blog posts (some great stuff this week!) & wish you a wonderful week of writing ahead.

      Thanks again for being here. 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on Miguel Niemtschik and commented:
    Increíble inspiración, tiempo sin leer un artículo que transmita la esencia de crear desde el alma y no desde la mente aunque ambas se entrelacen en sinergia para lograr algo sublime. Además de consejos, y otros blogs para seguir (yo mismo me apuntaré a revisar algunos de ellos que me llaman la atención). Gracias Jamie.

    Incredible inspiration, a long time without reading an article to forward the essence of creating from the soul and not just from the mind although both are intertwined in synergy to achieve something sublime. In addition to some tips and other blogs to follow (I will point myself to review some of them that are calling my attention) . Thanks Jamie .

    • So true. Patience is more than a virtue – it can be its own magic. Sometimes we make the most profound discoveries in the spaces in between.

      Thanks for coming by!

  4. Jamieeeeeeeee

    Although this edition was shorter than some of your others, it is also one of my all-time favorites, which is saying a lot considering that everything you produce pierces my heart with hope an love ❤

    Have fun penning Flash Fictions, sweetie! And thank you for linking us to all those fabulous articles – woohooooo…you ROCK!

    Every writer should learn how to curate, create, collaborate and communicate like you ❤

    LOVEEE you
    Kitto

    • Hello, Kitto!

      Sorry this response is to tardy. Been a CRAZY week & only just now catching up on blog comments! Whew!

      Thanks, as always, for such wonderful encouragement. You make me smile each week.
      I’m glad this one resonated with you (despite being brief), and I LOVE your “Four C’s” for writers blogging: Curate, Create, Collaborate & Communicate. That might be a blog post right there! Wonderfully put. 🙂

      Hope you enjoyed exploring the articles & had a good week, writing and otherwise.

      xo

      • *huffing* How DARE you ignore MY comment for a whole week? *puffing* hehehehe – no problem, sweetest Jamie #HUGSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

        I can’t wait to read last week’s installment… ❤

        LOVEEE YOUUUUU

        Kitto

    • Thank you!
      Just responded to your comment on my 4/25 weekend edition. Finally making my way back to catch up on comments here.
      Glad to have you joining the conversation at the “Weekend Edition cafe.”
      🙂

  5. For a second Monday in a row I remember to look through the blog posts I may have missed, I remember I mostly read your weekend writes, and then I go and find they just make my Monday a little bit better.

    Here’s to your never-ending inspiration, and to all a merry book-crossing day on Thursday!

    • That is so nice to hear. Seriously. And I love that these weekend editions are providing you a little bright spot on your Mondays. Somehow, that’s extra special.

      Thanks very much and here’s to your creative inspirations as well!

  6. Hy Jamie! I loved this post of yours, especially the first part is so inspiring! The way you write about writing makes me want to spend the rest of my life doing nothing but writing…

    • If only that was an option! 😉

      Writing – like anything else – has its ups and downs, but at the end of the day, it’s usually the thing I like doing most of all.

      Thanks for being here and for your kind words. Happy writing!

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