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Eliza Mimski

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    San Francisco, California, USA
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    Writing, of course, and photography, and I have been studying French on and off for four years. I love film festivals, and big love for dogs...

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  • About Me
    I live in San Francisco, California and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where there are hot summers that I miss. Writing is my first love but I also dabble in photography, another love of mine, and mostly shoot San Francisco architecture. As a retired high school English teacher, I loved teaching writing and getting kids turned onto the power of words. I’ve completed my novel The Red Dress and am presently editing a second novel I’ve written tentatively called Nobody-Girl. Both coming-of-age novels have female protagonists who are young women searching for their identity. I enjoy writing micro-fiction and short essays and have been published across the net.
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  1. Name: Eliza Mimski Genre: Women’s Fiction with humor and romance Comps: A sexually-active Miss Havisham meets Catherina Ingelman-Sundberg’s little old lady books meets Mick Kelly from the Heart is a Lonely Hunter…. Hookline: When a young woman accompanies her sexually active great-grandmother to an erotic love resort for elderly women and young men, the young woman desperately looks for love in this unlikeliest of places. She struggles to discover her sexuality in spite of the sexual messages her great-gram gives her. Pitch: In the South American resort called Ciudad de las Pumas Antiguas, or City of the Ancient Cougars, elderly women and young men congregate for sexual escapades. A senior fashion beauty contest is underway, the winner splitting the contest money with her seamstress. Skeeter, a lonely young woman who is financially dependent upon Bedda, her domineering great-grandmother, sews for the different challenges while Bedda decides every aspect of Skeeter’s life, determining what she can wear and how she can look. The town is geared up for the contest with a huge red tent set up in the town square, with nightly dances at the hotel. With the hijinx in the backdrop of male go go dancers at chubby chaser bars, with gigolos and fetishists, with the Bobby Bitches who celebrate a young man known as the Cunnilingus King, and with an institute for vaginal rejuvination and shops like Battle Axe Wax and Spare Hair, Skeeter befriends a young woman who gives her a make-over and encourages her to make beautiful clothes for herself. Doing this, she soon finds a note on her door with a poem written for her, and an invitation for a blind date. Bobby, the poet, chickens out and stands Skeeter up. He later poses as Skeeter’s friend and acts as her confidant, hoping she doesn’t discover his secret. Skeeter, secretly crushing on him, believes he only likes elderly women. While Skeeter struggles to keep up with the other seamstresses, striving to become financially independent, Bedda contrives to break up Skeeter’s love interest, exposing Bobby’s identity. Skeeter must find the courage to stand up to her great-gram in order to live her life on her own terms, hoping for not only a physical makeover but an emotional one as well. Prose Sample: Bedda Harris had always loved sex, and at seventy-eight she was still going strong. She was limber for her age, her joints in good working order, no titanium parts, her heart beating like a clock and her bladder – well, no diapers for her. Yet sitting in the front of the bus, her face turned toward the window, she was fighting off panic. As the South American sun beat down on the Mamacita Highway, the airport shuttle made its way toward Ciudad de las Pumas Antiguas. No newcomer to beauty pageants, Bedda was on her way to the 4th Annual Fashion Beauty Pageant for Women of a Certain Age Plus More, and she had to win. But something strange was happening to her body, something she couldn’t bring herself to think about, yet as she caught a glimpse of herself in the window - her angular face beneath an avalanche of big blonde wig, her sculpted cheekbones, her deep-set eyes and skin as soft and powdery as confectioners' sugar - she calmed down. Curlicues of laughter floated through the air, one older woman flirting with a young prospective date, another leaning forward and showing off her cleavage to anyone who cared to see. A very old woman with sun-baked skin was communicating with her dead husband from the grave. Eight of the young men on the shuttle harbored an affection for white-haired ladies with soft aging bodies, large relaxed breasts and flabby upper arms. Six of the men adored the womens’ money. One man, short, fat and impotent, his hair styled in a pomp to add inches to his five foot five height, was seeking the comfort of older women for the first time. He was unsure if he’d like anything about them, but was hoping they’d be more sympathetic than the younger ones. Fifteen minutes later, the airporter pulled into town and slowly drove down the cobblestone street from one end to the other. Bedda glanced at the Cleopatra-themed banners announcing the pageant, ribbons wrapped around lamp posts, bows festooning them. She drank in the men in their twenties and thirties chatting with older women on the sidewalks and in outdoor cafes. Young men were the potion that kept Bedda young and she was ready for her dose. The town looked forward to the revenue that would pour in from the pageant. While bellhops in dark blue uniforms privately rolled their eyes at the age differences and Father Miguel, the town priest, prayed inside his rectory for all these sexual sinners who had lost their way, the town was about to make more money in the next six weeks than at any other time of year. The sprawling Gina Lollobrigida Hotel with its orange fresco walls and tall arches, its chandeliers twinkling with tiny white bulbs that shone like diamonds, its red leather couches and plants with rubbery leaves stationed in every corner would be home to the tourists for the upcoming weeks. The hotel had tripled its staff, restaurants and cafes would soon be booming, nightclubs swelling, boutiques thriving, selling everything from evening gowns to micro-bikinis to G-spot vibrators to CandyMan thongs. The local shuttle, running every seven minutes from the hotel down the main street, would climb the grade to the world renowned Institute that loomed high on the hill with its many departments: The Department for Failing Memory; The Department for Vaginal Rejuvenation; The Department for Hair Growth; The Department for Grief; The Department for Love… The shuttle came to a stop in the hotel’s circular drive-way, international flags hanging from the edifice, almost hiding the small simple flag of the host country with its diagonal red and black stripes separated by thin gold lines, plus Ciudad’s flag of a very old woman in a low-cut dress surrounded by smiling young men. Bedda rose to her full height of five feet ten and squeezed the driver's hand as she carefully stepped down. Skeeter, her great-granddaughter, whose only gift in life was that she could sew, trailed behind her. Inside the lobby, Bedda turned in a circle, arms spread wide as she threw her head back and laughed. “Oh, it’s so good to be alive. So very good to be alive.” When she noticed that no one was watching her, she studied the women, none of whom could hold a candle to her. A wench with silvery hair chatted with an Asian-looking Harry Potter. A Ryan Gosling twinnie nuzzled up to a blue-haired matron wearing turquoise jewelry. A Helen Mirren wannabe shared a lip-lock with a Will Smith look-alike. The woman failed to carry off Ms. Mirren's sexy style, but who was Bedda to criticize? She laughed. Why, she didn't have a critical bone in her body. Bedda carefully eased herself onto a red leather couch that let out a whoosh of air. She glanced at the lanky Skeeter, the girl dragging her sewing machine along with her. "Stand up straight," Bedda had instructed her. "Own your height. It's not a sin to be six feet tall." Had the red-haired, freckle-faced, hump-shouldered Skeeter listened to her? Of course not. At twenty-one, she'd nary had a boyfriend and didn’t seem to understand a thing about men. The girl’s father had died six years ago, and Bedda prided herself for taking her in out of the kindness of her heart. But even though it was useful having a live-in seamstress, the girl made her nervous with her fresh freckled skin and full, tangled head of red hair. To ensure that Skeeter would never compete with her for men, Bedda had forbidden the girl to wear make-up and only allowed her to wear brown, navy blue and gray clothing of the baggy variety. Bedda sat back on the couch. On the seat beside her lay a copy of the Geezer Gazette. Welcome senior cougars! Welcome handsome hunks! Welcome contestants and talented seamstresses – we can't wait to see your dizzying creations! This year's $100,000 winner will split the prize with her seamstress. Cougars: have fun with this year's crop of young male specimens! They look mighty tasty! Bon appetit! Listed below, in alphabetical order, were the first names of the thirty contestants: Alice, Azalea, Bedda, Bertha, Blaise, Carmen, Cecilia, Dixie, Evelyn, Francoise, Giselle, Hazel, Ingrid, Isla, Jean, Loretta, Mingzhu, Muriel, Natalia, Opal, Patience, Qiang, Reina, Sadie, Sofia, Trina, Ursula, Vickie, Willow, Zahra… Unlike some pageants where contestants were required to have won prior contests, for this one the women had to pay a large entry fee. Bedda touched the loose skin on her neck that collected in a latticework of wrinkles while ignoring her hand that was shaking. She smiled at a lad in glasses standing near a statue. The heavy black frames made him out to be the intellectual type. “Hello, darling,” she called. “My name is Bedda C. Harris. Perhaps you'd like to have a drink with me later once I get settled in my room and have my nap?” “Cool,” he said, smiling. She couldn’t wait to get Mr. Intellectual into bed. She’d take those glasses off. **** Skeeter Jones stood in line waiting to check in, her portable sewing machine beside her on the floor, her loneliness breathing alongside of her. Young men milled about – short ones, tall ones, thin ones, fat ones - but none would be interested in her. She glanced at her great-gram seated on a red leather couch. A guy with a buzz-cut was staring at Bedda. At the same time, a guy with an Apple logo on his T-shirt gave Bedda a thumbs-up. A guy with big lusty lips tipped his head back and flared his nostrils at her great-gram. Skeeter observed all this in the course of seconds. An unbearable feeling of sadness washed over her. She'd never felt more unattractive in her life. She removed the rubber band from her ponytail, ran her hands through her frizzy hair, smoothed it back and put the rubber band back in again. Bedda was all she had, and Skeeter did what she was told. But if they won the contest and she got that money, she could live on her own, away from Bedda, the pageant being her only chance at freedom. They had to win, had to win, had to win, a chant repeating in her head. Skeeter edged her foot against her sewing machine while glancing at a gigantic statue in the middle of the lobby, a bronze woman with a bronze tiara atop her bronze head, her hair arranged in a bronze flip, her waist cinched, accentuating her pointy breasts. “That's Gina Lollobrigida,” a voice behind her volunteered. Skeeter turned to see a short stout woman with a moon-round face, springy gray curls and crinkly blue eyes that had all kinds of fun in them. "She's an Italian movie legend from before your time. Miss Lollobrigida was my role model. Her boyfriend was tres tres young.” Skeeter sucked in her breath. She hated the statue and what it stood for. “My name's Pinky,” the woman offered. Her pink dress strained across her middle and pink feathers shot out of a little pink hat tilted on her head. Pinky glanced at Skeeter's sewing machine. Her eyes then moved to Skeeter's brown dress. Skeeter wished she could wear a bright, fitted, colorful dress like Pinky’s, but her great-gram said that young girls like herself had plenty of time to call attention to their figure later. Pinky's eyes settled on the hand-painted pink rose that Skeeter had pinned to her dress.
  2. NY Pitch 7 assignments Story Statement. A lonely young seamstress, struggling against her narcissistic great-grandmother’s tyrannical rule, must win her share of the senior cougar fashion beauty contest money in order to become independent from her great-grandmother, one of the contestants. Antagonist: Bedda Harris shares main character status with Skeeter, her great-granddaughter. At seventy-eight, Bedda sleeps with a bevy of young men who prefer senior cougars. Now in Ciudad de las Pumas Antiguas, a fictional South American resort where the 4th Annual Fashion Beauty Contest is underway, she suffers from ailing health and needs the painfully shy Skeeter to not only sew for her but to take care of her health-wise. Ever fearful that Skeeter may take male attention away from her, Bedda only allows her to wear baggy clothes in gray, brown, and navy blue, and permits no make-up whatsoever. She encourages Skeeter to see herself as someone who would never attract the young men Bedda wants for herself. When Skeeter shows up at one of the fashion challenges dressed in a form-fitting mini-dress she’s made for herself, and good Lord, wearing make-up and sporting a new hairdo, Bedda calls the hussy a tramp. Skeeter moves out, living and sewing in a storeroom. Bedda realizes she might have lost Skeeter, and lies and cheats to try and get her back, fearful of dying alone. When a young man who has rejected Bedda later falls for Skeeter, Bedda connives to break them up in order to have Skeeter all to herself. Title: The Red Dress - The red dress that Skeeter makes for herself symbolizes Skeeter’s independence from her controlling, narcissistic great-grandmother with whom she’s lived for the past six years since her father has died. Bedda is threatened by Skeeter’s sexuality and tries to keep it from blooming by forbidding her to wear attractive clothing. Skeeter makes the dress from scratch, creating the pattern, as if she is making herself from scratch, creating a new Skeeter. The Zero-Sexual - At 21, Skeeter has never been kissed much less had sex. She refers to herself as a zero-sexual because she fears she is unloveable and will always remain that way. The Contest - The 4th Annual Fashion Beauty Contest is underway, but in protagonist Bedda's eyes, she finds Skeeter a threat and competes against her for male attention. Genre: women’s fiction, coming of age Comparables: The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson (2018) Both this work and my work share a pageant as the setting, and involve a young heroine who is used to experiencing life second-hand who is suddenly thrust out of her comfort zone. Both heroines are used to offering support but suddenly find themselves in the limelight. The Vacationers by Emma Straub (2015) In both Emma Straub’s funny yet serious family drama and in my work, the setting for the novel is a vacation spot with family relationships at the fore. Just like the Post family in Straub's novel, dysfunctional relationships abound in my novel. Hook or Logline: A meek young seamstress, financially dependent upon her narcissistic great-grandmother, must win her share of the senior cougar fashion beauty contest money in order to escape her great-grandmother’s tyrannical rule and create a life, including a love life, of her own. Core Wounds and the Primary Conflict: Skeeter’s primary conflict is struggling with her grief after the death of her beloved father when she was fifteen. As a result of his death, Skeeter has dropped out of school, has no friends and because of self-isolating has never been on a date much less been kissed by a boy. She perceives herself as ugly, and Bedda, her narcissistic great-grandmother who she lives with, reinforces this. Bedda dates young men, allowing Skeeter to only wear drab, baggy clothes and no make-up, fearing that Skeeter will draw attention away from her and steal her suitors. Skeeter’s only outlet is through sewing, and she’s good at it. Secondary conflicts occur when in Ciudad de Las Pumas Antiguas where Skeeter is Bedda's seamstress for a fashion beauty contest for senior cougars. Here, Skeeter makes friends with a young woman her age who encourages Skeeter to sew beautiful clothes for herself as well as for Bedda, and she gives Skeeter a make-over. Skeeter struggles with this new self she is creating, having little confidence that she could be beautiful. When Bedda sees the new Skeeter, she tears away at her confidence by calling her a tramp. When Skeeter later has a love interest and Bedda tries to derail it, afraid that Skeeter will run off with someone and leave her to fend for herself in her old age. Skeeter moves out of the hotel room they share, fighting for her independence by sewing for tourists on the side so she can make enough money to escape Bedda’s clutches in case they don't win the contest money. By the end of the novel Skeeter has enough self-confidence to tell Bedda she will no longer live with her, and is beginning to have the courage to say goodbye to her father. Settings: Ciudad de las Pumas Antiguas: Ciudad de las Pumas Antiguas, or City of the Ancient Cougars, is a fictional South American resort where the novel takes place. It is home to the 4th Annual Fashion Beauty Pageant for Women of a Certain Age Plus More. The resort caters to elderly women and the young men who travel there to be with them, either out of desire or because they are gigolos. The main street includes a breakfast hangout called Crone’s Scones, stores called Hag’s Rags, Spare Hair and Battle-ax Wax. At the town square is the big rent tent, a huge tent where the contest takes place, and at the end of town is a steep hill that leads to the Institute with its different departments, such as The Department for Failing Memory, The Department for Vaginal Rejuvenation, The Department for Hair Growth, The Department for Grief, The Department for Love, and even The Department for Impotence for men. Tourists stay at the sprawling Gina Lollobrigida Hotel, named after the famous actress known for her young boy toy. Example of the shops along the main street: She passed a breakfast hangout called Crone’s Scones, people chatting inside, and at the town square a huge red tent-like structure was set up for the contest. Lanterns hung from trees, vendors sold food, the smell of meat filled the air. A string of boutiques lined the street. As Skeeter passed Hag’s Rags, she pressed her face against the plate glass window. Mannequins wore loose-fitting boho dresses in colorful paisley prints. Further down the avenue at Spare Hair, fluffy wigs in different shades of blonde were stretched over black plastic wig heads. Glancing in a window at the very end of the street, Skeeter was surprised to see a girl her age behind the counter. The girl’s skin was the color of coffee with cream, her dark eyebrows arched above her large round eyes. Skeeter saw herself reflected in the window, her red hair fiery in the sun, but her eyebrows and eyelashes were so pale they were almost invisible while her plum-colored eyes seemed empty. Next to this beauty, Skeeter looked like a glass of plain milk, or a ghost. Example of the Institute: Feeling sorry for herself, Skeeter hurried on. At the base of the mountain, a shuttle marked Institute waited, but Skeeter decided to walk, for after all, she was young. As she reached the halfway point, the shuttle passed her, gears grinding as it bucked up the hill. Ten minutes later, she reached the top and stopped to catch her breath, sweat dripping from her forehead as the sun beat down on her. A row of white buildings glittered in the sun, the shrubbery trimmed in the shapes of circles and stars, fairy lights strung around the trees, which must have looked beautiful at night. The place seemed magical, as if great things could happen up here, exceptional things, and she wished something magical and exceptional could happen to her. A manicured lawn, fancy wrought iron benches, a gravel pathway, a shiny marble directory... Old women in sun hats and sundresses strolled about. She consulted the directory and found the Department for Vaginal Rejuvination listed in Building A2. She wound around the gravel path until she found it. “I need some...” she started, but couldn't get herself to say the words. Embarrassed, she opened her purse and handed the clerk the packet. “Six of them,” she said. She paid with Bedda's Visa card and hurried out the door. Example of the Gina Lollobrigida Hotel: The town looked forward to the revenue that would pour in from the pageant. While bellhops in dark blue uniforms privately rolled their eyes at the age differences and Father Miguel, the town priest, prayed inside his rectory for all these sexual sinners who had lost their way, the town was about to make more money in the next six weeks than at any other time of year. The sprawling Gina Lollobrigida Hotel with its orange fresco walls and tall arches, its chandeliers twinkling with tiny white bulbs that shone like diamonds, its red leather couches and plants with rubbery leaves stationed in every corner would be home to the tourists for the upcoming weeks. The hotel had tripled its staff, restaurants and cafes would soon be booming, nightclubs swelling, boutiques thriving, selling everything from evening gowns to micro-bikinis to G-spot vibrators to CandyMan thongs. The local shuttle, running every seven minutes from the hotel down the main street, would climb the grade to the world renowned Institute that loomed high on the hill with its many departments: The Department for Failing Memory; The Department for Vaginal Rejuvenation; The Department for Hair Growth; The Department for Grief; The Department for Love… The shuttle came to a stop in the hotel’s circular drive-way, international flags hanging from the edifice, almost hiding the small simple flag of the host country with its diagonal red and black stripes separated by thin gold lines, plus Ciudad’s flag of a very old woman in a low-cut dress surrounded by smiling young men. Bedda rose to her full height of five feet ten and squeezed the driver's hand as she carefully stepped down. Skeeter, her great-granddaughter, whose only gift in life was that she could sew, trailed behind her. The print shop and Reina’s kitchen: Skeeter became friends with two young townspeople her age. The first is Luna, who manages the local print shop, Imprenta al Final de la Ciudad, that does all the advertising for the contest. Luna, into make-up and hair, gives Skeeter a make-over in the print shop bathroom, boosting Skeeter’s self-esteem. It is at the print shop that Luna encourages Skeeter to like herself. Luna also allows Skeeter to live in the cave-like storeroom out back of the shop when Skeeter flees the hotel after Bedda calls her a tramp for wearing a pretty dress. Jamie, a close friend of Luna’s, lives with his elderly relative named Reina, last year’s winner of the contest. It is in Reina’s kitchen where Jamie cooks and bakes, nurturing Skeeter and encouraging her not to think of herself as a zero-sexual. Example of the print shop: Luna had been sitting before the computer screen amid the familiar smell of heated paper, the copy machine whirring, spitting out copies into the waiting tray. Serving Ciudad for More than Thirty Years, a sign above her read, her uncle’s shop a fixture in the town. Ask About our Photographic Services, another sign read, displaying a picture of Luna behind a camera. She did everything from photo enlargements to private shoots for couples to events to taking shots for flyers and posters. Another sign advertised prices for prints, posters, copies, banners and business cards. She’d run the shop for the last five years, ever since leaving the States to get away from unwanted male attention. In Ciudad, the male tourists were rarely interested in someone young. To help with her nostalgia, she’d personalized the hallway between the shop and the bathroom with posters of New Mexico - one of a winding highway, the mountains in the distance, one of the Carlsbad Caverns with its hanging stalactites, another of adobe houses in Santa Fe like the one in which she’d grown up. She kept an Out of Order sign on the restroom door to keep that room private. Example of Reina’s kitchen: Skeeter had made a friend through Luna. His name was Jamie and he was gay and young and perfect as a friend. She walked to his home through the wealthy neighborhood, houses like bright dresses lining the street, puffs of flowers with lime-colored hearts, trees with leaves like big red hats. When she arrived at the grape-colored house for the pie-making, Jamie showed her into the cheery yellow kitchen, the sun shining through the sliding glass doors. Outside, Skeeter could see Reina floating in the shade in an inflatable lounge recliner, five or six men hanging about the pool. So many cuckoo clocks on the kitchen wall, the pendulums swinging back and forth, ticking in unison... Skeeter eyed Jamie’s essentials on the kitchen table. A rolling pin, four Granny Smith apples, a glass pie dish, seasonings, a lemon, a bag of flour and one of sugar, mixing bowls, measuring spoons, a measuring cup. No one had ever shown her how to bake before. No one had ever explained how to get guys to like you, how to be a woman, except for Bedda’s ideas that most often made her feel weird. Jamie wore a full-sized apron, Baking Queen written on the front, a fancy gold crown above the words. He looked really cute, and as he peeled the apples and then cored them, tossing them in a bowl with the juice of half a lemon, along with the cinnamon and nutmeg, she asked him questions like what was his relationship to Reina. Ombu Park: Ombu Park, the local town park, has a special section devoted to grief ceremonies where widows arrive dressed in black, and assisted by Father Miguel, the town priest, plus paid cryers, also wearing black, speak of their late husbands before writing their husband’s name in something called The Book of Names, a large book sitting on a podium, its pages weather-proofed. It is here that Skeeter comes by herself, near the end of the novel, to write her father’s name in this special book, feeling she is finally ready to confront her aching grief. Example of Ombu Park: She helped him with the dishes and they left. They walked down the road to Ombu Park. The grassy park was large, broad, with tall trees that extended way back, and a well-kept lawn and black metal benches. They walked inside the gate and came to a big ole tree with branches like a huge umbrella. Jamie said it was an Ombu tree, and it had these gigantic above-ground roots. When they sat down between the claw-like roots they heard chanting, women's voices followed by a chorus of men’s deep baritone ones. A procession led by a priest with dark wavy hair followed, women in black dresses with black veils covering their faces slowly moving behind him. As the women got closer, Skeeter could see rosaries hanging from their hands, and each woman carried a long-stemmed white rose. Soon, a group of men appeared behind them in lightweight black suits. “What’s this all about?” Skeeter asked. “I’m not sure,” Jamie said. They decided to follow from a distance. When the mourners came to a woodsy path with overhanging branches, the light grew dim, the trees forming a canopy overhead. The mourners formed a single-file line, she and Jamie at the end. A few minutes later they came to a small clearing with a podium in the middle, a few large glass vases in front of it. One by one, the veiled women placed the white roses in the vases. It seemed so formal. The mourners fanned out in front of the podium where one woman, her face hidden by a black veil, stood next to the priest. The woman was crying, her sobbing making small hiccup sounds.
  3. How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program. If so, what were they? David Maass Writing the Breakout Novel has become my bible of sorts I find it vastly helpful, from David Maass' advice on upping the stakes to creating tension on every page to remembering to like my villain to having successful subplots to ... I found writing out of story dialogues between the author and characters very helpful. I was having trouble getting my character Bobby to show up, and did this exercise where I wrote back and forth with him and it helped me to understand him better. I also found it helpful to bend this exercise a little and write dialogues between him and other characters (dialogues that I wouldn't use but did simply for the purpose of understanding how the characters thought), and one character told me how the plot was advancing too quickly and I needed to slow it down. Amazing! Another part of the book that I felt was helpful, although I didn't want it to be because I'd have to change things, was Chapter Four's Time and Place. So many of my scenes are in living rooms and bedrooms and although some need to be because of what's going on, I'm moving the others into more dynamic settings where there is more town flavor. I do notice that my scenes in the waxing parlor, poolside, during the parade and at quirky cafes have a lot more punch. Here is a list of possible new settings: In the Samantha Jones Recreation Center; In the Mae West Ballroom; Movie night at the hotel where tourists watch reruns of The Graduate; In the streets; Taxis and shuttles; In the hotel lobby... I realized while reading the section entitled The Psychology of Place that a little like a science fiction novel, I am “world building,” or creating an alternate reality. My fictional town in South America hosts elderly women and the young men who adore them. However, I haven't included enough of the “world” – Maass writes that the “world” is not just the physical setting, but the way people think, what they wear, their outlook on life. I am going to pay a lot more attention to this in my re-write. Question three doesn't apply. Annie Dillard I reread Annie Dillard's book while flying from San Francisco to Birmingham, Alabama. I liked reading it the second time around for many of the same reasons as my first read -- the language is so pretty and she is able to say what I feel about writing in both a poetic and a clear way. For example, it helped to be reminded of how writing is first a vision of what the work will be, or the intellectual framework, and over time the form of the work changes when it "grows into itself." This aptly explains the feelings I go through when writing and she does it with such eloquence. I also like the facts she includes such as how it takes between two and ten years to write a novel, finding this encouraging as I always think everyone else is so much faster at writing than me. One of my favorite vignettes is when a reader asks her who will teach her to write, and she answers that it is the process of putting in the desk time with the blank page that is the teacher. This is something that I need to continually remind myself of for it is only in the doing that I learn, taking the action of confronting the blank page when I don't know where the writing is going. Question three doesn't apply. Elizabeth George I found this book much harder to get into and it didn't really speak to me. Perhaps it was because I had just read Writing the Breakout Novel which was so helpful. I did get a few things from Elizabeth George though. In the chapter entitled Knowledge is Power, Technique is Glory, I enjoyed her examples of different sentence structures from simple sentences to deliberate run-ons, and how the use of different sentence types convey different moods in writing. I tried this in my novel and found it effective. Her list of THADS, or Talking Head Avoidance Devices were helpful. These are activities that characters can engage in like laying carpet or beating a rug or doing an autopsy (!!) that can keep a scene from becoming just a dialogue without anything grounding it. I have some scenes like this and found some activities on her list that I used. In terms of characterization, it was helpful reading about character's core needs, which is where their motivation springs from. And if their core needs are denied, this causes psychopathology, or what a character does while under stress. My character of Skeeter longs for a home of her own, and when she finds herself threatened and perhaps out of a home, she resorts to cheating in a big way. My character of Bobby is not as well thought out as Skeeter, and I realize I need to pay attention to his core needs, once I figure them out. Question three doesn't apply. John Gardner The Art of Fiction by John Gardner is the last of the four books I am reading. He's very chatty and theoretical and I prefer Maass' book which is more down to earth and easier to find your way around. In his section on plotting, he writes that the reader must be shown dramatically why each character believes what they do and why each cannot sympathize with the values of their antagonist. This made me stop and pause as both Zelda and Reina operate from the position that they must win the beauty contest at any cost, that losing is not an option. Zelda is motivated because she feels she has never reached her true potential and winning will get her there, whereas Reina is used to winning and is motivated by greed. I started wondering if these two characters are too much alike, and if I should give Reina a deeper reason for her desire to win. Something more than just greed. The jury is still out on this. I liked reading the section about the fictional dream, how the writing needs to be vivid to all the senses in order for the dream to continue. Clumsy writing breaks the fictional dream, and he describes clumsy writing as the excessive use of the passive voice, introductory phrases containing infinite verbs, lack of sentence variety, needless explanation and more. I often find myself writing in passive voice and this is one of the hardest habits of mine to break. I am guilty of the other no-no's as well, and definitely needed a reminder to work on them. I am a big lover of writing exercises and I found the exercises at the end of the book very helpful, especially the ones where you describe something from a certain pov but don't mention the pov. For example, "Describe a landscape as seen by a bird, but don't mention the bird." I tried this exercise describing my setting from Zelda's pov, a 75 year old woman in love with young men, and then from Skeeter's pov, a twenty one year old woman who resents old women stealing from her pool of resources. They came out so very different.. Question three doesn't apply. .
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