Writing Podcast: The Creative Nonfiction Podcast

Welcome to the next installment of Writing Podcast at Writers Forum.

Another great podcast I regularly listen to for writers is The Creative Nonfiction Podcast. I found this podcast a few years ago when I was looking for podcasts on nonfiction writing that might help me with my memoir. The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, or CNF, as host Brendon O’Meara likes to call it, was one of the first hits on my search. This is a weekly podcast in which Brendon interviews a nonfiction writer each week.

I’ll be honest. When I first hit ‘play’ on the podcast, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. Brenden seemed a bit too brash for my tastes. A little bit too hip.

However, I really wanted to hear the author he was interviewing.

I’m glad I stuck around. Brendon’s persona during the interviews is totally professional. He asks penetrating and engaging questions, and then backs out to let his guest answer the question. I’ve tried to listen to too many podcasts in which the host seems to like the sound of his/her own voice too much. CNF is not like that at all. I have never come away from a CNF episode without learning something and being encouraged in my own writing.

Brendon is passionate about helping writers find their voice. Check out his podcast. I think you’ll be glad you did.


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events. 8.) Short fiction 9.) Poetry

Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Lessons From ‘The Freebird’s Dilemma

Today I share the most important lesson that I learned from writing ‘The Freebird’s Dilemma.’


I wrote “The Freebird’s Dilemma” in 1992 as a submission to Bridges, the Los Medanos College literary publication. That was the year that I first took a lit class. I was also in a supportive writing group that included my lit instructor, Madeline Puccioni. That was the year that I started writing seriously.

I also learned my most astonishing lesson of all from writing “The Freebird’s Dilemma”.

The submission guidelines were simple and direct. Twelve-point Times New Roman font. Double spaced. Ten pages maximum.

I wrote the story making maximum use of my experiences working on trail crews in Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks. I also used my experiences of feeling trapped in the town I lived in and really wanting to be back out in the wilderness. And I threw in a romance. I figured that couldn’t hurt, but that part was total fiction. Mostly. Rachel was based upon a single mom that I did know at college, but there was no romance in the real relationship.

I wrote the story. I edited the story. I got it down to twelve pages. And then I didn’t think I could cut out any more. Anything else that I cut would eliminate what I thought was critical information for the reader to have to understand my characters. I thought that it was going to be a twelve-page story, and that was that.

I explained my problem to Madeline.

She grinned and said, “Welcome to the world of writing! Ten pages means ten pages. Those are the submission guidelines, and there are no exceptions. Trim two pages, or it won’t even be read.”

This was the second most important lesson I learned from this piece. Submission guidelines are not suggestions. Not even when your friendly teacher and writing group coach is the one enforcing them.

The day before the submission deadline, I had a long afternoon break on campus. I sat in the cafeteria with a cup of coffee and looked my manuscript over one more time. The story opened with exposition of Joe and Rachel’s background, explaining how they had gotten to the point they were at in their relationship. I realized that the exposition made for a slow start, so I tried to find ways to tuck that information into other places in the story. Shuffling material around didn’t help me trim two pages, though. I could not let go of my need to make sure this background information was in the story.

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Member Monday: The Freebird’s Dilemma, by George Parker

Today’s Member Monday submission is Part One of a two-parter. ‘The Freebird’s Dilemma’ is a story that I submitted to my college’s literary magazine in 1992. Tomorrow I will post the most important lesson that I learned from writing this story.

The Freebird’s Dilemma

By: George T. Parker

“You’re sure you want to leave?”

“Yep.”

“Even if I give you a raise?”

“C’mon, Pappy. You know it’s not the money.”

“How about a vacation, Joe?”

Joe glanced up from the parts catalogues spread across the desk then looked back down at the forms and other paperwork. “You know why I’m leaving, Pappy.”

“I guess I do at that,” Pappy said softly. “You’ve been here a long time. Pert near a year. I had a hunch you’d be movin’ on soon.”

“How could you tell?”

“I used to have the wanderlust when I was your age, too. How long have you been thinking of moving on?”

“A couple of months ago I sent applications for field technician jobs to the US Forest Service and several universities in Canada. I got a reply from the University of Winnipeg yesterday.”

Pappy nodded and said, “Can’t say as I blame ya. Movin’ on can be an excitin’ thing. Didn’t get it out of my system til I was almost forty years old.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever get over it, Pappy,” Joe said as he gently tugged at his beard. “I’ve been on the move since high school—ten years now—and I still get the fever every time I pick up a National Geographic or look at a map.”

Pappy looked out the window over his workbench. Green was returning to grass on the hill and the tree across the street after the rains of the last few weeks. He could see the lavender blooms on the lilac branch just poking up from below the window. “It usually hit me at springtime, too. Everythin’ is comin’ alive again. The days are gettin’ longer.” Pappy looked down at the torn apart chain saw on his workbench. He picked up a screwdriver again as he asked, “What about Rachel?”

Joe was silent for a minute. “Yeah. What about Rachel?”

“Why don’t you ask her to go along?”

“Aw, Pappy. I couldn’t ask her to just pull up and leave her town. And what about Jason? Tramping around the mountains is no way for a kid to grow up.”

“There are worse places to tramp around.”

“A kid needs stability.”

Pappy shrugged and said, “I suppose so.” He sat up straight and stretched. He grabbed his white ceramic coffee mug with greasy hands, smearing new designs in the grease already covering the mug. He peered over the top of his black horn-rimmed glasses at Joe filling out the parts inventories and order forms. Pappy gulped the cold, black brew, put the mug down, and went back to work.

Joe rubbed his eyes. They burned from the harsh florescent desk lamp. He reached out to the chaotic pile on the desk and pulled a new catalogue from the bottom of the pile. Two other catalogues slipped from the pile, knocking a framed picture from the desk and sending a storm of papers to the floor. Joe muttered as he gathered the spilled papers. He picked up the framed picture and looked at the image of a far younger Pappy with his wife and little girl. He asked, “How did you know you were ready to throw down some roots, Pappy?”

Pappy shrugged as he said, “Don’t rightly know. I don’t think I ever felt like I was ready. I spent all my time driftin’ from job to job, city to city, state to state. I met a lot of men just like me out there. We all bragged about how great it was to be mavericks with no corral. I read a book by Thoreau once that said somethin’ about the herds bein’ keepers of men rather than men bein’ keepers of herds. It made for fine, manly soundin’ talk. But when the shop whistle blew or the foreman called it a day, us young bucks went back to our greasy spoons and lousy flophouses while the married guys went back to wives and kids and home cooked meals. As much as we talked, quite a few of us would have traded places with them in a heartbeat.”

“So how did you know it was time to settle down?”

Pappy paused his saw work as he thought. “I guess it just seemed like the right thing to do.”

Joe sat for a while staring at the poster on the wall of a snow covered mountain with a creek and a cabin in the foreground. He found himself planning a route up the peak.

********

Joe sang along with Lynyrd Skynyrd as he drove to Rachel’s apartment. He turned his stereo down as he pulled into the parking lot. His heart beat as hard as it had on their first date.

A boy answered his knock. The boy said, “Hi, Joe!” and raised his hand for a high five.

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Writing Podcast: Writing Roots

Have you ever listened to a writing podcast?

If you haven’t yet, you might want to look into this convenient trove of writing advice and inspiration. ‘Podcast’ might sound like a foreign high-tech word to some, but it’s really nothing different from listening to a radio talk program, except that you can listen to it at your own convenience instead of having to be at a radio at the right time to catch a broadcast.

Podcasts are also portable. You can listen to them anywhere you can take your digital device. I had to drive to Sacramento and back today for work, and I wasn’t at the mercy of whatever radio broadcasts I could pick up along the way. The podcasts that I regularly listen to are downloaded on my smartphone. I just had to connect it to my car stereo. You can do that with Bluetooth, or with old fashioned wires if you are so inclined.

The podcast I wanted share with you first is called Writing Roots. Writing Roots is hosted by Ley Esses and Leigh Hull, and every week they bring you informative and entertaining advice on the craft and business of writing. They are currently running a series on myths about writing. The latest episode is on the myth ‘Said is Dead.’ You can listen to the latest episode here. Previous episodes over the last few weeks have discussed the myths ‘Write What You Know,’ and ‘Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover.’

The links in the above paragraph will take you to their podcast website, but you can listen via most services you might already use for podcasts. I listen on Podbean. They are also available on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, Pandora, Google Podcasts and others.

Ley and Leigh pack a lot of information into a short podcast. Episodes are less than fifteen minutes long, which is very short for a podcast, and they do not waste your time. They get right to the meat, and serve it up strong.

They are affiliated with AspenHouse Publishing, an ‘assisted publishing’ house. They are geared to helping you self-publish your book. Their website’s FAQ tells us:



Assisted publishing is all the convenience and professionalism of a traditional publishing house combined with the freedom of self publishing. We’re here to offer as much support as you like, but you maintain all the rights (and profits) of your work after you’re out there for the world to see.

Give the Writing Roots podcast a listen! I bet you will be glad you did.


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events. 8.) Short fiction 9.) Poetry

Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Member Monday: Excerpt From “The Once and Future Queen”, by Jennifer Levens

We have another Member Monday submission for you. This is an excerpt from Jennifer Levens‘ novel-in-progress, The Once and Future Queen. Jennifer currently has three books available at Amazon.com: The Virgin’s Daughter, Words: A Collection of Short Stories, Essays, and Very Bad Poetry, and A Little Romance: A Small Collection of Short Stories and Poems.

Excerpt from The Once and Future Queen

By Jennifer Levens

Prologue—2019—a Park in New York City

Three nannies watched their respective charges climb on the bars and swing on the swings in the park playground. Fiona James approached them with a child in a walker. She had no uniform. She approached the three women. “Hi!” she said, her Welsh accent thick. They looked up at her. “Um, me name is Fiona Matilda James. I just got this job. Frankly, ladies, I’m not quite sure what I am to do with such a babe in such a fine park as this.”

“Well, Fiona, this is not a place to let children run free. I would recommend that you take the tyke over to that sandbox, sift for cat pooh and if there is none, put him in and come back here and tell us your story. We can see well enough from here. Don’t worry. Nothing will happen to the kid. We all have them here. It is safe and we watch for perverts.” The sandy-haired nanny in the gray uniform said. “Oh, my name is Sandy. I think my mom named me after the girl in Grease. She had a crush on John Travolta.”

“You may as well do as she says.” The girl in blue said in her French accented English. “Do you see those two monsters over on the monkey bars? They are mine. I just don’t feel like chasing them down now. So go put the little one in the sandbox like Sandy said and come over here. We can swap stories.” She swept her head around flinging a shock of dark hair over her shoulder, her chocolate colored eyes smiling a welcome.

Fiona did as she was told and was soon back with the three young women. The third one another blonde said, “I am Joan. I am from New York and I go to NYU. I do this to be able to afford living here. I have four other roommates in a two bedroom flat up near Columbia. I only have one semester to go and I am out of this berg for good. Now, Fi, dish. What’s your story? And why New York?”

“Alright. It is a strange story, and I don’t believe that this has happened to me. I don’t really need to work. It is just a way to get to know the city and some of the people in it. Just think, if it weren’t for this job, I would never have met you three. So, are you ready?” Fiona shook her head looking down at her lap. Her red curls and green eyes shone. Sunlight glinted from her hair and excitement from her eyes. “Tis a strange happening of events. I need to tell you, I want to go to school here in America. It is much easier to get a college education here than in Great Britain. Anyway, I was raised in northwestern Wales. If the story holds, my family has some royal blood..”

Sandy interrupted, “ You mean like a welsh king or something?”

“No, Sandy, Queen Elizabeth I. But that is not particularly important to this story. As you heard my middle name is Matilda. In Wales I am called Tildy. We don’t know why me ma called me Fiona. Perhaps she just like the name. I don’t think there is any connection to the Irish, but who knows. To get on with it, one of my great, greats and they go back so far, I have a hard time thinking about it, owned an inn Wales. It still stands today and someone in my family owns it. When all of us inherited it, we went to look at it. There was the sign newly painted but with the same name as in the past, the Cock and the sow! Could have been just a pile of rocks and rotted wood, but it wasn’t. There was a little problem with one of the barns, but the inn and the gardens were in good shape. From what I can gather the woman I was named after was a Matilda, so she must be one of the great greats too. So, we started going through the place. Like I said it was in good condition and with a little updating it would bring some nice change. You see one of my cousins is a chef and another is in the hospitality business I guess you call it here. So, it was established that those two would buy out the rest of us. Property in that area is not so terribly expensive as in England or even around the cities. That was a good enough deal, but the best part was when we went into the barn. There was a lot of rotted wood and the roof leaked, I mean there were big holes in it, like no one cared about the building and so didn’t fix it. There were old tools stacked up in some of the stalls. The smell of rotting hay was really bad. A couple of the cousins couldn’t take it. They left. There were only three of us left in there and I went into one of the emptier stalls and fell through the floor. Oh, I didn’t get hurt, but I found that someone had made a hidey-hole and left stuff in there. Some of it was paper and rotten, but there was a hide bag, rather large, and I pulled it out. I called to the rest to come outside.

“We gathered and I showed them what I had found. They were all over me. My relatives were just a mingled hoard. I yelled at them to get back. I said, “I found this. I get to open it. I hope there aren’t any dead rats or anything in it. Stand back. We can share whatever this is. Oh boy, I didn’t know what I was saying and the red tape…”

“So what was in the bag, Tildy?” Seraph, the French girl asked.

“I’m getting there. I opened the bag and looked in. It looked like a little girl’s collection of toy jewelry. I told someone to get a sheet or a blanket. This needed to be dumped out. Walter, one of my cousins ran to his car and got the car blanket. They helped to spread it out evenly and we all knelt around it. I dumped the bag.”

“You can go faster you know,” said Sandy.

“Should we check on our children?” Fiona/Tildy asked.

“Oh my god, I forgot about them, “ yelled Joan and got up to check on them.

Seraph and Sandy did the same. Fiona/Tildy smiled and went to the sandbox. Her charge was well and good so she went back to the bench.

The other three joined her. “Can you hurry it up, Tild?” asked Joan.

“Yeah,” Sandy and Seraph joined the chorus.

“What happened they all asked at once.

“Here’s the interesting part.” The other three groaned. “Come on! I don’t get to tell stories much and I am almost through except for the cleanup details. All right. I dumped the bag and out fell jewels and jewelry. There were earrings, necklaces, pins all encrusted with jewels and then there were the unset jewels. It looked like millions of pounds lying there on the ground and there were only five of us!

“The upshot was that we had to report the treasure to the authorities, but the good news is that after evaluation and the inheritance taxes and the income taxes on this windfall, we five had over thirty million pounds to split up. The cousins who wanted the inn bought it outright from us other three. They still had plenty to invest. My brother and cousin took their share and that left me. So here I am in America, where I always wanted to be and you ladies have just heard a great story.

The three nannies looked at Tildy with wonderous disgust. Seraph said, “You are acting as a nanny when you are so rich, taking the food from poor girls’ mouths?”

Sandy gave a Bronx cheer. “You have got to be kidding. Nobody, I mean nobody brags about being rich in the United States. This was just a good story right Tildy?”

“I have to get to school for classes. See you all tomorrow. Oh, and Tildy? Great story. It would be so nice if it were true. Goodbye all.” And Joan left with her charges.

Tildy went over and picked up her daughter. “Come Sydney Elizabeth. Some people just don’t know the truth when they hear. Let’s go home.”

Copyright by Jennifer Levens; used with permission


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the e-newsletter.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events. 8.) Short fiction. 9.) Poetry.

Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.