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MelissaSeligman

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    I love reading, writing, hiking, and painting. I feel like a jack of all trades, and, of course, a master of none.

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  • About Me
    <p>I am the author of two books, <em>The Day After He Left for Iraq</em>, and <em>Simply Green</em>. My articles have been published by the <em>New York Times, Army.mil, </em>and the <em>Army Times</em> to name a few. I am a contributing author to <em>Reflect and Relate</em>, <em>1001 Things to Love About Military Life</em>, and <em>Heart of a Military Woman</em>. I have been featured in many national news discussions involving the effects of war, to include CNN, and I am the founder of the blog and grassroots movement, <em>Her War, Her Voice</em> which has a combined following of over 10,000 fans. I am a military wife and a mother to two children. In a former life, I was a teacher.</p>
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  3. "The Art of Fiction" by John Gardner (a great primer for this commercial program) "Writing the Breakout Novel" by Donald Maass (another good primer) "Write Away" by Elizabeth George (a no nonsense primer, and humorous) "The Writing Life" by Annie Dillard (a look at the struggle) The Art of Fiction by John Gardner 1. How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? What spoke to me the most regarding this book was the focus on the authenticity of a story. As well as the focus on "feeling" giving rhythm to sentences. It caused me to go back and look at my sentence variation. Was I using fragments to show frustration or jumbled thought? Did I have longer sentences to represent reflection and deep thought--symbolizing the descent into the thoughtful rabbit hole? I loved the statement: "The primary subject of fiction is and has always been human emotion, values, and beliefs." I fully believe this as a reader. It gave me a bit of a jolt of confidence to consider that my novel does explore these things, and that there is a place for it out there. I also loved: "Novelty comes chiefly from ingenious genre-crossing or elevation of the familiar materials." I had thought that perhaps my novel was too static of an idea. Or that it would not be worth reading if it did not involve space ships and dystopian concepts. The literary novel has always appealed to me, and this book helped me remember why. 2. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? There were many. 1 "Thus, plot not only changes but creates character: By our actions we discover what we really believe and, simultaneously, reveal ourselves to others." Show. Don't tell. 2. "Fiction seeks out truth." At first, I worried that I may be too close to this material. But, once I read this, I realized that was okay. I could tell the truth, and it would not have to be my actual truth to be a universal truth to explore. This was pivotal to my confidence in the story. 3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program. If so, what were they? I do not think so. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass 1. How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? I loved this book. I found myself highlighting and dogearing pages left and right. One of the main things it helped me understand is that I am the only one who can write this specific book. "t requires that the author be true to his own 'voice.'" "These novels change us because their authors are willing to draw upon their deepest selves without flinching. They hold nothing back, making their novels the deepest possible expressions of their own experience and beliefs. There is purpose to their prose." "A breakout premise comes from someplace real." Inherent conflict comes from "anywhere that is not safe." All of these aspects really pushed me to understand that my novel was plausible, real, honest, and also...the "unsafe" place of conflict is in a cultural space that is not only hot right now in terms of women, but also always relevant. It pushes the reader to consider how women are treated every day in subtle situations. "How can you catch the mood of our times?" I could go on and on, but these are samples of what really brought my view of my novel to life. This book is what challenged me to do my first revision after starting this class. This is the book that made it click for me and helped me to understand conflict on every page and to keep the tension moving. I feel it made my writing much richer and more authentic. 2. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? 1 That is is okay to reveal the key points of my novel out of order. I could do flashbacks to build the exposition and to keep the reader turning the page. I could employ the "tale told in flashback," as well as "the visitation story." 2. It also helped me develop my MC, Annie, even more. When I did my revision, I found myself thinking of this book and of the character development. I needed to make Annie more real. And to also up her motivation for her choices. Why was she willing to rot in jail for a man who had abused her? Thinking of this and pushing myself to keep it real and authentic, I had to come to a realization that it wasn't there yet. This book sent me back to the drawing board. And my work is better because of it. 3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program. If so, what were they? I did not notice anything. Write Away by Elizabeth George 1. How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? I am glad I read this book after the previous one. I feel the previous book taught me how. This book, showed me. I really like that she took us on her writing journey. I also found that she had such practical tips for writing. I love, love her character worksheets. And I have used them in creating my fifth novel during NaNoWriMo. Her character worksheets helped me really get to know my characters. I thought I knew Annie and Johnny because I based them on people in my real life. But when rereading my novel, I found that they were very flat. I realize that we also had to do this in our module homework, but I really liked her layout. It helped me a lot. I also liked that this book reiterated that our characters need to be real. That we need to believe in them. That helped me, again, in shaping Annie to be more relatable. I also loved her breakdown of plot. "Plot is what the characters do to deal with the situation they are in." This helped me shape Annie. It was so simple. And made plot seem a little less scary when thinking big picture. All I had to do was ask: "What would Annie do next?" Her focus on scenery and landscape was also helpful in allowing me to see that I needed more detail. There were places in my novel where Annie feels frozen in time. I needed to freeze the reader. Annie taking stock of her surroundings and emitting small details she could hear, smell, feel, gave life to the concept of PTSD and what kind of trauma creates that. As well as how memory triggers it. I also loved her journal that she keeps about her daily writing on the novel. I truly wish I had done that from the beginning with this novel. And I will do it from now on. 2. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? 1. Doing the work of character analysis, outline, and scene development definitely isn't the sexy part of writing, but it completely opens the mind to the creative side when writing. And building it first gives me space to play with the writing when it is time to put down the foundation. I have often just written with an idea in mind and characters in mind, but I naively believed the novel would build as I go. And that has felt creative and fun, but it also has created more revisions and work for me. 2. The novel journal is something that I am doing now. It is so helpful to go back and find notes and to see where it has grown or shifted. I can't imagine doing it any other way now. 3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program. If so, what were they? I did not notice anything. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard 1. How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? This book taught me that it is okay to be a bit relentless with my needs as a writer. So it was more about giving me inspiration than writing techniques. I did not love it as much as the others because it felt a little more poetic and not as scholarly as the others. However, once I stepped out of looking for a lesson, what I got out of it was passion. It is okay to have passion. And with that passion, balance. 2. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? 1. I learned that at some point, I will want to burn my work. I will hate it and wrestle with it. I think I have always done this on my own, but in those moments have felt like a failure. So to see someone successful writing about those feelings helped me. 2. I loved that she was relentless about her work. She seems fearless to dive in. I want to be that way and have been working to stop worrying what my family may think about this novel. To question why I wrote it. 3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program. If so, what were they? I did not see anything.
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