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Archive for December, 2008|Monthly archive page

Creativity Rescue

In Write Free on December 30, 2008 at 7:44 pm

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Creativity Rescue Package
Tough economic news and holiday blues can dampen your creativity just when you need its energy the most. The creators of Write Free offer you a Creativity Rescue Package, to “bail out” your stifled creativity and rejuvenate you for the New Year.

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–Free subscription to the 2008 Newsletter archives (regularly $9.99)
–Twenty percent off all hard copies of Write Free, lovely as gifts and indispensable to any writer’s library, for the entire year of 2009.

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Cuss Time

In Interviews, Profiles, Musings on December 29, 2008 at 3:13 am

Jill McCorkle was my first mentor teacher at the Bennington Writing Seminars, where I  earned my MFA in creative writing. She’s a much beloved teacher there for many reasons, from her big, flirty, Southern personality, to her incisive  ability to tell you what works and what doesn’t in your fiction. She was a fabulous entry point for me because she could criticize me and still make me feel like she’d kissed me on the cheek.

She’s written a fantastic article about, in essence, freedom of speech, called “Cuss Time” at The American Scholar. Her article also confirms for me why I hate it when people teach their children to use goofy sounding euphemisms for their body parts. I like to call reality as it is!

Here’s just a taste. Please read the rest for yourself.

From Cuss Time, by Jill McCorkle.

Potential is a powerful word. I remember feeling so sad when my children turned a year old and I knew, from reading about human development, that they had forever lost the potential they were born with to emulate the languages of other cultures, clicks and hums and throat sounds foreign to me. For that short period of time, a mere 12 months, they could have been dropped anywhere in the world and fully adapted accordingly. But beyond this linguistic loss, we are at risk of losing something far greater each and every time we’re confronted with censorship and denial. Perfectly good words are taken from our vocabulary, limiting the expression of a thought or an opinion. I recently read about high schoolers who are not allowed to use the word vagina. And what should they say instead? When you read about something like this (just one recent example of many), you really have to stop and wonder. Is this restriction because someone in charge thinks vaginas are bad? I once had a story editor ask me not to use the word placenta. I wanted to say: “Now tell me again how you got here?” Oh, right, an angel of God placed you into the bill of the stork.

Give Yourself A Writing Workshop

In General on December 16, 2008 at 11:42 pm

My former editor at Writer’s Digest magazine, Maria Schneider, and I are offering a series of online workshops on the business and craft of fiction writing beginning in January through her fabulous new writer’s site and forum: Editor Unleashed.  Our prices are reasonable and the courses will be self-paced. They’ll be a lot of fun, too, so I hope you’ll treat yourself or a writer you know to one or more of them!

The workshops are as follows:

Fiction Writing: Make a Scene

 Description: Scenes are the building blocks of great fiction. This workshop will teach you the basics and then some for writing powerful, concise, page-turning scenes. This workshop is appropriate for writers of all levels.

In this Workshop you will:
• Learn how to construct the basic architecture of a scene.
• Develop your characters and their motivations.
• Make every scene count toward the overall plot.
• Learn the crucial scene types such as opening scene and flashback.
• Find out how to make more effective transitions between scenes.
Start date: Monday, January 12, 2009
Duration: 6 Weeks
Fee: $350.

Fiction Workshop Intensive

 Description: This workshop is for writers who have a complete or nearly complete manuscript for a novel or short story collection and are ready for an intensive group workshop experience.

In this workshop you will:
• Get highly individualized critiquing and feedback on a weekly basis from your workshop leader.
• Receive professional editing and formatting suggestions.
• Participate in group critiques.
• Workshop a novel chapter (of fewer than 3,000 words) or one short story per week.
Start date: Monday, January 12, 2009
Duration: 6 Weeks
Fee: $350.

Marketing: Query Letter Clinic, with Maria Schneider

Description: No matter what you’re writing and trying to sell—a novel, a memoir, or a magazine article—the essential step in marketing your work is a compelling, well-crafted query letter.

In this workshop you will:
• Learn the basic template of a good query letter from relevant examples.
• Develop your lead paragraph into a compelling hook to attract agents and editors.
• Summarize your project into a coherent one-paragraph summary.
• Find out what biographical information to include and not include and what drives editors crazy.
• Finish the Workshop with at least one strong, polished query letter to start sending out to agents and editors.
Start date: Monday, January 12, 2009
Duration: 4 Weeks
Fee: $250.

Online writing: Blogging 101, with Maria Schneider

 Description: Every writer needs to have an online presence today, and the very best way to get started building your web cred is with your own blog. Take this crash course in blogging and get started now.

In this workshop you will:
• Start your own hosted wordpress.com blog (set-up is free).
• Brainstorm names to help you start building your blog identity.
• Develop posts that are relevant to your readership.
• Learn good blog etiquette and tips for building your readership.
Start date: Monday, January 12, 2009
Duration: 4 Weeks
Fee: $250.

Meme Time

In General on December 9, 2008 at 11:26 pm

My friend Ellen Meister tagged me for a meme. Here goes:

RULE ONE, I have to grab one of the books closest to me, go to page 56, type the fifth line and the next two to five lines that follow.

The book is: How to Write Like Chekov: Advice and Inspiration Straight From His Own Letters and Work Edited by Piero Brunello and Lena Lencek

“…tell me what do I stand to lose? Time? Money? And what do
I stand to gain–a lot of hardship? My time is worth nothing.
I have no money to speak of. And as for hardship, I’ll
have twenty-five–maybe thirty–days on horseback and the rest of the time
I’ll be sitting on the deck of a steamer or in my room writing letters to you…”

RULE TWO, I have to pick five people who love books. My five picks are (in no particular order):

Stephanie Anagnoson
Erika Mailman
Maria Schneider
Tracy Burkholder
Elizabeth Kennedy

The Best Writing Book You Never Found

In Business of Writing on December 5, 2008 at 5:45 pm

So here’s a quick question for you: Is there a writing book you wish you had? One that you haven’t found that answers questions or explains craft elements? This would be the perfect book of answers to your writing conundrums.

What “is” that book? What would it reveal to you, and how? Answer here in the comments.

Exercise Your Pen

In Craft on December 3, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Today I offer a writing exercise:

In my book Make A Scene I offer the following “ingredients” that most good scenes require:

-Characters (who are complex and layered)
-A consistent Point of View (the “lens” through which information is filtered)
-Action (significant and plot worthy)
-New Plot information (that advances your story forward and fills in clues)
-Conflict and drama that tests your characters
-A rich, physical setting
-Spare amount of narrative summary

So, here’s a challenge for you. Grab a scene out of anything you’ve written. It should be at least a couple pages in length. Now, using the ingredients list, go through and label the parts of your scene. See if anything is missing and if it might not enrich your scene to add it in. See if you’ve got too much of something that’s bogging down your scene.

For extra credit (or just a feeling of pride), see if you can’t identify:
-Dramatic tension (the feeling that conflict or action or excitement is on the horizon if not nigh)

-Elements of subtext–images, innuendo, parallel but background actions, and more that run below the top layer of your scene and add depth.

-Scene Intentions. Just by looking at your scene, without reading prior or later scenes, do you know what your character’s intention is for the scene?

If you have any thoughts or insights to share, post them here in the comments.