Getting to Know the Author

From the many, many submissions we received for our recent anthology, a collection of nine stories by nine different authors made the cut for our sophomore release, Overgrown: Tales of the Unexpected.

Some of these authors you may recognize from our first anthology: Origins.  Several of them are new to Columbus Creative Cooperative.  Regardless, each author demonstrates a unique approach to writing short fiction that we are sure you’ll enjoy.

So, with less than a month until the release of Overgrown: Tales of the Unexpected (9/8/11), make sure to check back to our blog regularly, as we will introduce you to two authors each week leading up to the release.

This week you’ll meet Kim Younkin and Birney Reed.  Stay tuned!

Thy Reader, Thy God

Looking for a book to help you master the art of crafting perfect sentences?  I encourage you to get your hands on a copy of June Casagrande’s It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences. Here’s a short excerpt from the book that provides a simple but commonly overlooked principle.

“If you want to master the art of the sentence, you must first accept a somewhat unpleasant truth—something a lot of writers would rather deny: The Reader is king.  You are his servant.  You serve the Reader information.  You serve the Reader entertainment.  Only by knowing your place can you do your job well.  You have a boss—a fickle, exacting, surprisingly slick one—and you can’t ignore him just because he isn’t physically reading over your shoulder.  Good writing hangs in the balance.

Here’s another way to think of this: Your writing is not about you.  It’s about the Reader.  Even when it’s quite literally about you—in memoirs, personal essays, first-person accounts—it’s not really about you.  When you forget the Reader, you get what I call writer-serving writing.  It exists at every level of writing expertise.  I’ve gagged on it when reading personal essays and caught whiffs of it in award–winning books and articles.  I’ve been horrified to notice it in my own writing.

Writer-serving writing is perfectly appropriate in diaries and journals—but any writing that’s meant to be seen by a Reader must serve the Reader.  This is the rule: whether you’re Christian, Jew, Muslim, or a disciple of the church of Penn Jillette, when you sit down to write, the Reader is thy god.

True, you can’t know everything the Reader wants.  You can’t serve all the Readers all the time.  And you shouldn’t try.  But there is one thing all Readers want: clear, concise, comprehensible sentences that mean something to them.”

Ted Kooser Explains Why It’s OK To Be Ordinary

After scouring the library for writing advice that didn’t feel like a high school grammar lesson, I stumbled upon an essay (Ordinary Things) from Ted Kooser, which explains why the small things really do make a difference on the page.

 “In my work, I try to look at ordinary things quite closely to see if there isn’t a little bit of something remarkable about them.  By habit, most of us go through our lives without paying much attention.  Surely, it’s happened to you: at the end of a day, you drive several miles home and when you get there, you can’t remember a single thing you saw along the way.

When I was beginning to write, Robert Bly once criticized me, saying, “You’re just making this up.”  He meant that I’d created the scene from my memory, sitting in my comfortable chair.  What I’d written were the predictable things, the kinds of details the imagination finds easily.  The imagination makes a lousy realist; it places in its scenes only those that it prefers to see there.  Bly was encouraging me to write from life, to go out and actually experience something and then write about that while its particular and unique detail was fresh in my mind.

It won’t be the birthday cake covered with twinkling candles that will make readers feel you were really at the party, but the bone-handled serving fork with one tine missing and the place where the lace has pulled loose from the hem of the tablecloth.”

Publications Guidelines: PG-13 Content

Note:  These guidelines apply to work submitted for publication only, you’re welcome to submit anything you’d like for feedback at a workshop.

Columbus Creative Cooperative anthologies are distributed to a unique market.  Most of our books are sold at local coffee shops, bakeries and markets.

It’s not our intention to censor anyone, but out of respect for our valued retailers we do have to pay a little bit of attention to the content we publish and leave lying around on their countertops.

Submitted work should follow PG-13 guidelines.  This means that adult elements are OK, but care should be taken in their presentation.  Here are some guidelines:

Language: Profanity with purpose is fine.  It’s a great way to establish character and extend extra emphasis to a situation.  If it’s not serving this purpose, though, it should be cut.  Our general rule is that the F-word may be used once with purpose, and only in a non-sexual context.

Violence: Violence is normally OK, just so it’s not excessive.  Detailing the path of a bullet through a crowd is probably OK, describing in minute detail a gory mutilation that doesn’t further the plot is probably not.

Sexuality: This is often the most sensitive issue.  People have sex and it effects their lives.  Of course this can be a part of your story.  However, ideally we’re looking for the “cut to the fireplace” scenario.  Mention of sexual acts is normally fine, graphic description of sexual activity and/or body parts is usually not.

Drugs, Alcohol, Tobacco and Criminal Activity: Almost always OK, just so your work couldn’t be used as a how-to guide on shooting up heroine.  🙂

We’re not looking to filter out any great work, and your story won’t automatically be tossed if it doesn’t fit these guidelines.  If you submit a great story with graphic content, we’ll certainly work with you to find a compromise that represents your artistic vision and also respects the casual coffee fetcher.

Thanks!  Please contact us with any questions.

Editing tips from William Zinsser

As we quickly approach the submission deadline for the next CCC anthology: Tales of the Unexpected (June 27th), editing our drafts into something that won’t cause readers to poke their eyes out with a spork becomes more crucial than ever.

For a little assistance with my draft, I turned to William Zinsser’s On Writing Well:

“Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.
But the secret to good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what—these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence.
Writers must therefore constantly ask: what am I trying to say? Surprisingly often they don’t know. Then they must look at what they have written and ask: have I said it? Is it clear to someone encountering the subject for the first time? If it’s not, some fuzz has worked its way into the machinery. The clear writer is someone clear headed enough to see this stuff for what it is: fuzz
Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”

TWCP Cyclist Information Meeting (Non-CCC Event)

Franklinton Cycle Works, a Columbus bicycle co-op, will be hosting an informational meeting for The Water Cycle Project’s 2011 Ohio bike rides on Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.  The meeting will be held at the FCW shop at 897 W. Broad St., Columbus, Ohio.  Refreshments will be provided.  More info.

The Water Cycle Project is a fantastic, zero-overhead organization that hosts multi-day bicycling tours in Ohio to raise money to drill fresh water wells for impoverished communities in rural India.  Check out their website and blog for more information.

Clean drinking water is the first building block in breaking the cycle of poverty and helping communities to improve their social and economic conditions.  A village well provides freedom for women to pursue new industries and achieve equality, and allows children to attend school.

Due to The Water Cycle Project’s unique organization and network, they can drill wells for only $2,500, which will service a village of 600 or more members for the duration of their life.  Clean water will double the average life span in these villages, and prevent a vast majority of childhood mortality.

The Water Cycle Project is a zero-overhead organization, which means that every donor dollar goes directly to well-drilling teams.  There are no middle-men, paid staff or commissions.

Brad Pauquette, a contributor to the CCC, and his wife, Melissa, are the volunteer directors of The Water Cycle Project.  Please check it out, attend this informational meeting, and support the individuals and organizations that make Columbus Creative Cooperative great.

More information: http://watercycleproject.org/news/?p=93

On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=225680587449454