Camping the 1950’s Way

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My parents were adventurers. In my lifetime, the only time they truly got along was when traveling. They lived in separate houses 400 miles apart, but remained married, and traveled together a lot.

Crouching behind the suitcase to get out of the wind.

The way we camped was to pack the trunk of the car with sleeping bags, a stove, a tent, water, gasoline, and a box of food, then drive–only backroads– highways were for tourists, not adventurers. When it came time to sleep, they’d pick a spot that seemed safe and secluded to put our sleeping bags on the ground if there was no rain, tents if there were. I’m pretty sure we were trespassing in farmer’s fields much of the time, and that was mostly okay in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, as was sleeping on the side of the road.

Sometimes, people DID consider it trespassing, as when some shepherds in Turkey attacked us in the night and we had to make a getaway across a river, but that was before I was born.

My novel Blue Woman Burning (due out in December 2021), is partly autobiographical, and starts with one such trek from Santiago, Chile to Oneonta, New York, in a Dodge Dart sedan. 12,000 miles. Took us six weeks.

I’m thirteen, and washing the dishes with my older brother somewhere
on the altiplano between Chile and Bolivia.

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Book Review: There There by Tommy Orange

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Overcoming Writer’s Block Tip #4 Follow the Energy, and Try, Try, Again

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If you have any writing block tips, add them below! I love to hear from you.

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Overcoming Writer’s Block Tip #5: Play

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Overcoming Writer’s Block Tip #3: Sprint

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Overcoming Writer’s Block Tip #2: Write About It

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Overcoming Writer’s Block Tip #1-Stop and Go

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Using Tiktok to Memorize Poetry

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Who knew this medium could help you revise and memorize? First you have to find a poem that fits easily into 60 seconds. It can’t be much more than 20 lines, because you need to speak slowly if you want people to really absorb it. Normal speaking rate for public speaking is about 150 words a minute. For poetry, I’d go slower. You have to do so many takes that it forces you to learn the lines and to make better decisions about how to say them. Add a little music, flip the camera around to record something besides your face once in a while, and voila!

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Using Tiktok to Revise Flash

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One special effect on Tiktok is devil eyes, which gave me the idea that I should use it to read my story “Lilith Confesses” from my book Strange Appetites, due out on Amazon in September, about the baby-strangling, demon-birthing first wife of Adam’s from Jewish mythology. At 340 words, it was way too long for Tiktok, which tops out at 60 seconds. Here’s the result. I like it better than the original.

@lalette.a.tete

#voiceeffects “Lilith Confesses” from STRANGE APPETITES, available from Amazon in September. #Booktok #indiebookstore indie writer #writertok

♬ original sound – Lale Davidson, (she, her)

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What is Flash Fiction?

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If you’ve been writing for a while, you already know what flash fiction is, but if you’re somewhat new to writing, you may not have heard of this liberating form. Man, are you gonna love it! My students do!

Sheets of paper sit on a writing desk with a magnifying glass on top. Decorative.
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Flash fiction is very short fiction – between 50-750 words, and it goes by a few different names, micro-fiction and short-shorts. It embraces extreme compression and is a literary hybrid between a short story and poem. It tends to bend, explode and reinvent genres and most writing rules. As H.K Hummel and Stepnanie Lenox say in Short-Form Creative Writing: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology, it is “trangressive” by nature. Traditional story elements found in longer stories, such as complex character development and a series of reversals of fortune, don’t always apply to flash. Nevertheless, they have an internal logic that makes them tick, and when you miss that logic, they fall flat.

One of the reasons I love the form so much is that it forces you to put every word under the microscope to see if it’s really needed. A few years of writing and grading flash fiction has made me much more confident about editing longer works, including novels.

A great online journal to explore the form is Wigleaf (linked here). Every year, they pick fifty very short stories they consider the best of year (one of mine was picked in 2015).

Usually, the trick is to write about the last few seconds of an event, as Joanne Avallon does in “All This,” a copy of which can be found at this link, also anthologized in the text above, published by Bloomsbury. This story provides us with the anatomy of a moment’s revelation when a woman’s three-year-old bites her and she slaps the child. Between the hand drawing back and the hand hitting the child, so much happens, and yet the whole thing is only 244 words — less than a page.

The most common mistake students make when attempting flash is to try to cram too much into the short form, resulting in bland summary. Nevertheless, it can be done if you use the fable form, as we see in the story “Row” by Charmaine Wilkerson, available here, about how a civilization responds to climate change. The story is only 100 words. The reason it works is that it uses third person plural, in which the people go from minor to major denial, and it uses just the right amount of concise detail: they “eat cactus and fried lizards” and they “tie their rowboats to the higher branches.”

Another exciting thing about the form is that experimentation appears to be inherent. Lydia Davis, who said she could never master the conventional short story form, found liberation in flash fiction. All those things you’ve written in which you can’t quite identify the problem — or don’t quite know how to turn into a short story– turn out to be great flash fiction. A great example of an experimental form is “Three Ways of Saying the Same Thing” by Leonora Desar. It is just what it says it is, three paragraphs, each with their own subtitle, that talk about states of non-being, but which also employ surrealism or fabulsm (also called magic realism), as we see from the first line: “One day my boss was talking to me and I just disappeared.”

So, I hope you enjoy this brief introduction and dip your toes in soon.

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