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    Contessa Riggs received an MFA in writing from Vermont College in 2006. Her work has appeared in the literary magazine Marginalia and been collected in the anthologies East of the Bay: Writers on the Chesapeake, and Of a Monstrous Child. She received first runner up for fiction in the 2008 Poets and Writers Maureen Egen Writer’s Exchange and an honorable mention in Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Narrative’s essay contest. For the last 10 years her writing has sat on a shelf while she raised her son and dealt with a series of family crises. She is both looking forward to giving herself time and space to write again and terrified that she can’t.
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  1. file:///C:/Users/contessa/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.jpg FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement. A pre-teen girl is in love with her father’s world of fishing, drinking, freedom, and passion and strives to be a part of it, particularly since it is such a contrast to the meek and sensible life she sees her mother and other women living. But when her father’s passion spirals into destructive violence, she chooses to cut herself out of that world and her father out of her life. She learns about a different kind of strength, but also loses a central part of herself. Only by recognizing her father’s humanity and acknowledging her love for him, despite believing that he has done the unforgiveable, can she also learn to accept herself. SECOND ASSIGNMENT: in 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story. Keep in mind their goals, their background, and the ways they react to the world about them. This is where I am floundering. I can see how not having a clear antagonist makes it hard to develop a storyline and harder to keep the readers interest or make them care. So, I end up with something that is a Frankenstein collection of short stories, vignettes, and nostalgic prose of a way of life that’s over, all at times lovely, but ultimately unsatisfying because it’s hard to know what’s at stake. There are multiple antagonists. Both parents, poverty, gender roles, the town itself…. THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed). Salvaging the Joy FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: - Read this NWOE article on comparables then return here. - Develop two smart comparables for your novel. This is a good opportunity to immerse yourself in your chosen genre. Who compares to you? And why? I read the article and I'm working on the comps. I could probably find some memoir comps but in general I don't like the older, wiser memoir narrator who provides context and meaning to the action of the story. So I'm struggling. file:///C:/Users/contessa/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.jpg FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound following the format above. Though you may not have one now, keep in mind this is a great developmental tool. In other words, you best begin focusing on this if you're serious about commercial publication. After seeing her father smash her mother’s teeth out, Bones renounces him. But she also recognizes the violence that she saw that night in herself and ultimately has to find a way to forgive him in order to accept herself. ______________________________________________________ file:///C:/Users/contessa/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.jpg SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction. file:///C:/Users/contessa/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.jpg Next, likewise sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment. Will this involve family? Friends? Associates? What is the nature of it? FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail. What makes it interesting enough, scene by scene, to allow for uniqueness and cinema in your narrative and story? Please don't simply repeat what you already have which may well be too quiet. You can change it. That's why you're here! Start now. Imagination is your best friend, and be aggressive with it. I grew up on the outskirts of a town that celebrated the beginning of hunting season like Christmas and distrusted anyone who wasn’t at least a third cousin. Main Street – 3 bars on one side and 2 churches on the other – fought over salvation, the towns sole grocery store sat on the corner as if it could referee. Located on a bent finger jutting out into the Chesapeake Bay the town was named after a fish. Tons of Striped Bass – also known as Rockfish or simply Rock – were caught in the water surrounding the land and hauled to shore. They called the spot Rock Haul Harbor and a town was created around it, built on marshes and fill dredged from the bottom of the bay. But the dirt retained its affinity for the water - having come from it, it wanted to return. No matter how many bulkheads the town built, a little more of it was eaten by the bay every year. Huntingfield Island, where I waded as a little girl, catching soft crabs and having picnics, will be gathered up by the bay, eventually becoming nothing more than an uncharted shoal. An absence that, because it is no longer there, boaters will run aground on and curse.
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