Friday, March 25, 2011

The Horror...The Horror!

Recent reading: Frankenstein by Mary Shelly and Dracula by Bram Stoker--which I just finished this morning.
My review on these horror classics is simple: Frankenstein gets the thumbs down--Dracula, thumbs up!
Part of this is style--Shelley's tome is a story within a story (and sometimes even another level within that--and so never really grips one. Stoker, on the other hand, though he tells his whole vampire story in diary and journal entries, along with letters and such, often feels quite immediate, and often quite eerie.
Neither is the sort of horror tale to keep one up at night with lights on--or give one bad dreams--though Dracula definitely produces a shiver or two.
Another recent read: Wuthering Heights, which certainly qualifies as ranking in the eerie literary world, full of ghosts and such, is still set in a more real unreal world. Heathcliff is a scary old bastard, that's for sure, but the "love story" never gripped me--guess I'm not a true Bronte fan.
Best horror tales I've read would definitely include some Stephen King, like The Shining, Pet Sematary, and It.
Oddly, the spookiest book I ever read was Communion: A True Story, by Whitley Strieber, which is about aliens and the like, but written from such a skeptical "voice" that--true or not--it really frightens!
Next I return to the "scary" world of reading modern fiction...whoo-ooo...
hasta pronto!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The San Diego Latino Film Festival

The last ten days we've been seeing movies at the San Diego Latino Film Festival...Check out their site here or find them on Facebook. What an exciting couple of weeks it has been...Saw a couple of great films and have two more to see today. Speaking of that, here is a Reader article about the "live soundtrack" performance that will be happening during one of the films today...
Seeing films is great homework when you are working on screenplays--it really brings home all the thing you know about how to, and how not to do it--and all the things you always tell yourself! For example--keep the story focused, keep extra characters and subplots to a minimum. Let your film's setting and its visuals tell a majority of the story without words.
We loved "Chicogrande" a new, epic western, shot in Durango, and based on a true story about one of Pancho Villa's supporters. What an incredible setting!
The Watchfire set sail this week, as well--we anchored in Coronado Island's Glorietta Bay and had a lovely time. I'll post some pictures on Facebook soon...or as soon as I can find the time. I'm off to the movies now...
hasta pronto!

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Great Short Story by Lore Segal; Listen and Learn!

If you don't already subscribe to the New Yorkers free fiction podcasts, I highly recommend it--the only thing better than reading great fiction is having someone else read it to you...you can sign up through the iTunes store or visit the New Yorker's podcast archive website to learn more.
I just heard Jennifer Egan read “The Reverse Bug,” by Lore Segal (and discuss it with The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman). This is perhaps one of the best short stories ever--and the whole podcast is less than an hour, so go ahead and download it or listen to it now!
Writing teachers and gurus always talk about the subtle and not so subtle use of metaphor and symbolism--but most of us fear sounding like a soapbox when we try to tackle big issues. The "Reverse Bug" is an excellent example...In fact, this story is a Master class in the art of writing: how to draw characters, reveal setting and especially, how to employ stunning metaphor.
Again, to go to the New Yorker page where you can listen to or download the story, nicely read by Egan, for free, click here.
I'm writing today...
hasta pronto!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Writer's Groups and Read and Critique Groups

Last weekend, during my workshop at SD Writers, Ink, someone asked how to find a writer's group...
Well, it's hard--or very easy. A couple of friends and I were wondering the same thing a few years ago, so we started our own group. It has had as many as 7 and as few as four members, and we've been meeting monthly (or so) for the last six years!
I was also asked what a writer's group is and does...
Every group is different, but our meetings usually start with us socializing over a meal (usually we all just bring something, to make it easy for the hostess) so we can catch up on life. Then we read anything anyone has brought to share. After we all critique those pieces, we do timed writings until we're too tired to write anything interesting...We have even done writings by the whole groups, just as exercises, by passing a round a story and adding to it.
We six (or so) have become good friends, but more importantly, we are a good audience for each other's work. Right now, all of us are working on projects--books or screenplays, and we keep each other encouraged and inspired with frequent emails during the month between meetings.
There are "official" Read and Critique groups all over--check your local bookstore, library, or writer's collective for one near you. Visit and see what you think...If you feel more inspired to write, then keep coming back.
hasta pronto!