Wednesday, March 25, 2015

More Amaryllis

We had a bumper crop of amaryllis. 
The Stardust produced a second stalk and five more flowers. Here they are backlit for a stained glass effect. Note the stamens and carpels in the center of the blossom.
Now Dancing Queen has started to bloom. This flower is a double which means there are more petals. Double flowers are homeotic mutants in which stamens and/or carpels are replaced by petals.
fire in the sky

Friday, March 20, 2015

Overheard #309

“The hold-music seems unnecessarily mournful.”

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Five Stages of Revision

1.  Wallowing. The writer has just re-read a first draft or received an in-depth critique. An overwhelming amount of work is required to turn this pile of words into coherence, let alone greatness. The mistake I often make during this stage is forgetting that the operative word in self-pity is self. No one cares how bad I think my manuscript is.

2.  Mud Wrestling. Ideas are slippery and hard to pin down. It’s easy to regress into wallowing. This is a time to experiment with new concepts and techniques. Anything that doesn’t work can go back into the murk. With determination, the writer can progress to …

3.  Running the Marathon. Points to remember:
  • You can’t see the finish from the starting line.
  • This is the land of The Tortoise and the Hare. It’s okay to change roles occasionally. It’s okay to take naps. Eventually the race must be finished.
  • There will be dead-ends and detours.
  • You may need to plot a new course.

4.  Rinse and Repeat. The marathon may need to be run again. And again. No one said this was easy.

5.  Spit and Polish. The novel has now has structure, real characters, six-pack abs and a killer ending. Where did all those needless words come from? Doesn’t that sentence need a coma? Find a place to read out loud.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Overheard #308

"They make you read something that's acutely obtuse."

Monday, February 23, 2015

On Practicing

Everyone has heard the old joke.
Q: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
A: Practice.

While practicing improves the performance of any skill, many of us resent, postpone or even shun practicing.

The ACT college entrance exam is given early in March, so I’m in tutoring crunch time. I tell my students that practicing on sample tests will increase their speed in answering questions. As few things are as mind-numbing as ACT practice tests, it’s safe to say that none of my students has ever done her homework.

Recently, I asked my son, Jeremy, how to get students to practice.
“Scare them,” he said.
“Um, what?” I asked.
“My guitar teacher writes a metronome setting, and I’m so scared, I practice until I can play that fast.”

That approach works for Jeremy because he owns the problem. He understands that becoming a great guitar player includes the ability to play fast with clean articulation. My students don’t see how recognizing an Oxford comma or a 3-4-5 right triangle will help them excel in college. Imagine that!

My mother used to say, “Practice makes perfect.” But how do writers practice?
Trunk novels: Few writers publish the first novel they tried to write. All those manuscripts languishing on my hard drive have honed my writing skills.
Writing exercises: I do fewer of these than I used to. Perhaps it’s time to revisit the literary version of scales and arpeggios.
Free writing: See above.
Revision: Re-writing and re-envisioning are essential. It’s safe to say I practice revising every day.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Overheard #307

“We are more alike than we are not.”