Monthly Archives: April 2008

What Poets and Writers passed up. . .

Here’s the skinny. . .

In the next to last issue of Poet’s and Writer’s magazine Dan Barden wrote an aptly titled “rant” against workshops. You can read it here.

I wrote the following in response. They elected not to publish it. Hence, here goes:

Dan Barden’s “Workshop: A Rant Against Creative Writing Courses,” (March/April 2008) once again calls attention to issues that have troubled writers for years about the workshop. In fact, Barden and others who despair enough to rant might find solace in the recently published crop of books that explore teaching creative writing both theoretically and practically. In Anna Leahy’s Power and Identity in the Creative Writing Classroom: The Authority Project, Graeme Harper’s Teaching Creative Writing, Steve Earnshaw’s The Creative Writing Handbook, and my own anthology with Kelly Ritter, Can It Really Be Taught?: Resisting Lore in Creative Writing Pedagogy, to name just a few, Barden will find essays by fellow writers who have also struggled mightily with the pedagogy of the workshop, who examine it closely and who often suggest concrete ways in which instructors can revise it so that actual learning he questions does take place. Supporting these writers’ effort’s by availing ourselves of the growing body of knowledge that explores creative writing pedagogy is critical and empowers all of us who teach the subject.

Stephanie Vanderslice
Conway, Arkansas

It had to get out somehow. Talk to you soon.
Bye y’all


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What kind of reviser are you?


I think what I appreciated most about Trent Lee Stewart’s visit to UCA last week was his humility and the way this humility underscored that there is no one way to be a writer, that it’s about finding out what process works for you. 

This was most evident when he talked about drafting.  He says he labors over his first drafts so that when they’re finished, they’re more or less finished, requiring just a little tweaking.   He doesn’t enjoy subsequent revision because of the amount of time he puts into those first drafts (given the time element, I wouldn’t then call them first drafts but that’s another story).   But then he went on to add that he knows lots of writers for whom revision is the whole point and writing the draft is agony.

That would be me.  Sure, there are times when the “flow” is going pretty well in the drafting process, but most of the time, first drafts really are the hardest parts for me.  I just can’t WAIT to get to the point of revising, tinkering, tinkering, tinkering.  This makes novel writing, which I’m in the midst of, hard because the first draft seems to go on forever and I’m just dying to get to the revision.   The fun, “phew, the basic creation is done,” part when I can fuss over words and sentences and, in the relaxation of revising, get all sorts of new ideas to enrich the writing along the way.  Your basic carrot at the end of the stick.

I’ve tried the “revising as you go along” thing but it just doesn’t work for me.  When I do that, I end up obsessing so much that I revise the same three pages for weeks and totally lose track of the story itself.  Definitely a no-no when you’re working on a novel.  Gotta keep the big picture in view.

So, at this point in your writing life, what kind of reviser of you?


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And now, a word from your friendly garage sale connisseur

Diverting COMPLETELY from writing, words and books for this entry (don’t worry, I have a juicy new book to review in my next post) I have three pieces of advice for those holding garage sales this season and because my grant writing post seems to get a lot of hits, I’m also hoping to grab the attention of anyone venturing into garage sale retail.

So, after a particularly frustrating few hours this morning, I offer these words of advice:

1. Please, please, please give directions or a well known cross street or subdivision in your ad. You want it to be EASY for people to find you, not so hard we have to give up. Yes, I know there’s mapquest, but if the internet is down, as it was this morning, I have to wing it. I hate driving around and around! Gas is expensive and time is money!

2. Decided, for whatever reason, NOT to have the sale you advertised for TODAY? Or, maybe, the ad in the paper put the wrong date? Please, please, please put up a SIGN saying so. I know you feel guilty, but I’d much rather know so I can drive right by and keep going instead of driving around and around trying to figure out where the sale is or if it’s on or not.

3. Got lots of antiques? Sell them on consignment at an antiques store. No one wants to pay a fortune for something at a garage sale. We want a deal, at least a reasonable one. Hint: this may be why a lot of your stuff ends up unsold at the end of the day.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Tomorrow is another day!
Bye y’all,

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We have another winner!

Cindy Hoppes, commenter extraordinaire, has won The Observation Deck, by Naomi Epel.  I’ll probably get it in the mail Friday, Cindy.  I have your address.

Looking forward to: A Q and A session with novelist Trenton Lee Stewart of Flood Summer, Mysterious Benedict Society and Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey fame in about twenty minutes.  I have not read the former, but the latter two are wonderful about four quirky gifted kids and their adventures saving the world from adults under the leadership of the infamous Mr. Benedict.  I got a preview copy of the Perilous Journey at the Arkansas Literary Festival 2008 this past weekend and have kept the kids in thrall reading from it each night since.  Based on the length of their adventures and the size of the type, as well as the limitations of my poor eyes, even with new glasses, we probably won’t finish it until July or August (it took over three months to read the first book together) but it’s nice to have something meaty to look forward to every night.

As a writer, I also find that reading quality writing out loud each night, as Mr. Stewart’s writing most certainly is, is good exercise for my “ear.”   

Severe weather is expected tomorrow, in fact, most likely, a repeat of last Thursday except during the day.  Sigh.  I suppose we were due; we’ve gotten off pretty lightly in the last few years.  Of course, my other trusty go-to-weather guy, Mike Francis, would be on vacation this week, so I guess Brett Cummins will have to fly solo. Nothing against KATV, or KTHV, but you have to have one station you can anchor to while you switch back and forth and KARK, with Francis, Cummins and Jason Kadah is mine.

It all started with Mike Nicco, who’s now doing weather out in San Francisco (lucky him, except for the earthquake threat, nothing serious). I’m not sure how qualified he was but there was something about him I just trusted. Now Francis and Cummins, I’ve checked their stats and they completely know their stuff weather wise. They’re both degreed in meteorology.

I can’t wait until we’re through it, hopefully by Friday morning.

Take care, take cover and

Bye y’all,



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Twisters, Tomes and Giveaways

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Wow. One minute you go to sleep and the next minute you wake up in the bathtub”

                                        Will Vanderslice, age 7, musing on last night’s events


It all happened rather suddenly. At eleven last night, I was upstairs glued to the tv keeping storm vigil, as I usualy do during severe weather.  Everyone else was asleep.  I was tracking the tornados that kept raking over Hot Springs and then following them through Little Rock and beyond.  KARK’s trusted meterologist Brett Cummins (he’s so serious, so earnest) had just explained how these tornadoes had formed out ahead of the squall line and those were therefore the most dangerous.  As opposed to the line of storms in the squall line heading toward Conway.  These were strong, but not as much to worry about.

Hmmm, I wondered.  Then what’s that little spinning arrow showing rotation just west of Conway? 

I kept on wondering but no one on any of the local stations said anything about it, focused as they were on the pummeling of Hot Springs and Little Rock.

Then the tv went out out. 

Ok, no cause for alarm yet, this can happen in a hard rain.

Then the sirens went off.  Time to “put your tornado plans in place,” as Brett says. I sprang into action, dragging the boys out of bed and downstairs and John out of bed, and all of us into the downstairs bathroom.  Even though it only happens once every couple of years (Thank God), we know the drill.  Boys in the tub, John and me on the floor outside tub, squeezed between the commode and the wall, all of us with the twin guest mattress over our heads, waiting.

Jackson, bless his heart and his God given ability to sleep through anything, just curled up with the sleeping bag and went right back to dreamland.  Will sat up with us and shared the countdown until 11:45, which, as you might imagine, went like this:

“How many more minutes?”

“About twenty.”

“How many more minutes?


And so on. You get the picture.  Thankfully, the warning expired at the predicted time, the boys all went back to bed and I stayed up to make sure that the excitement was, indeed, over for the evening.  The sirens were for a funnel cloud north of us, but on the whole, Conway was spared, though poor Little Rock and Hot Springs are in serious recovery mode.

I haven’t forgotten the giveaway, I’m going to do the drawing this weekend and announce the winner of The Observation Deck in my next post.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading and writing and rounding out the semester.  Visiting classes to observe the finalists as part of my job as committee member for the Teaching Excellence Award Committee.  I really like visiting the different classes and feeling like a student again.  Except, No Tests!  So far, I’ve enjoyed learning about Neurological disorders in a nursing class and am looking forward to an honors class, a biology class and a speech pathology class next week. 

Reading.  The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeanette Walls, for a lively new monthly women’s book club I’ve joined.  A rollicking, crazy retelling of her childhood with a wild, nomadic family.   

Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir</a> by Natalie Goldberg.  I used up almost a whole post-it note pad marking up all the great writing exercises I want to use in this.  As good or better than Writing Down the Bones, the most accessible, sensible book on memoir I’ve read.  However, Goldberg’s tendency to tell you, in one way or another, to write for just ten minutes, got old really fast.  There was the old standby, “write for ten minutes,” my favorite.  Simple.  Unassuming.  Never goes out of style.  Then there was:

Go.  Ten Minutes. 


Ten Minutes.  Go.


Give me ten minutes on. . . or, Go ahead, Give me ten minutes.

I completely understand the purpose of these short assignments, you write with a concentrated burst of energy and if the piece demands it, you go back later.  Presto, subjects for longer essays. 

I just didn’t like feeling like I was in boot camp.

Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s novel The Boy Who Dared, based on the true story of sixteen year old Helmuth Hubener, who defied Hitler Youth in Nazi Germany and hung for it.  I read it for more novel research (one of my characters is a Nazi Youth member about Hubener’s age).  It could be quite compelling at times but at others, felt more like summary than scenes.  This may be because Bartoletti knows the subject so well; she won a Newbery Honor medal for a nonfiction book about Hitler Youth. 

A fun book called Garage Sale America, by Bruce Littlefield (a must click link!).  Ah, he captures the spirit of the sport perfectly.  And the beauty of it: I got this relatively new book for 2.50 at a flea market where everything in the booth was half off. Bruce would be so proud!

It’s that time of year again, folks.  Spring is in the air and bargains lie in wait at on sawhorse tables all over Central Arkansas.  I went early today for an hour and a half and let me tell you, if I was in the market for antique furniture, I would have hit the jackpot.  As it was I scored: a great vintage apron ($1), a vintage toleware tray($1) and a funky wood sixtie’s lounge-style painting ($1). Not much, but not bad for a rainy day either and I’m only getting started. . .

That’s all for now–look for the winner in the next post–

Bye y’all,

PS $563,000 has been donated to far to Save the Mount. George Soros, are you reading this?




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