Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Saturday Afternoon in Forest

I always like to hear how a professional writer or editor has achieved success. Saturday, author and editor Kurt Rheinheimer, of Roanoke’s Leisure Publishing, spoke at a Virginia Writers Club program sponsored by the Valley Writers Chapter. He gave the audience gathered in the meeting room at the Forest Library some helpful advice about writing short fiction and submitting to magazines. Here’s a bit of what he said about writing fiction:

  • 1. Don’t Quit. “Touch” your work everyday (revise, get a manuscript ready to mail out, etc.)
  • 2. Read, listen, and watch the things you love. (music, movies, plays, etc.)
  • 3. Save every snippet and fragment that you find.
  • 4. Think really hard about these submission guidelines from John Gardner of the Southern Review:
The work must
(1) create a vivid and continuous dream;
(2) demonstrate authorial generosity;
(3) reveal intellectual and emotional significance;
(4) be rendered with elegance and efficiency; and
(5) exhibit an element of strangeness.
(On the last point, Rheinheimer mentioned, “When you think you’re finished, go back and put another twist.”)
  • 5. If you love it, send it out again as soon as it gets rejected.

He told us his material comes from two main sources: memories from when he was twelve (“I must have twenty stories from then.”) and geography (“Something I saw that imparted a shimmery emotion. . . .” ) Place is important to him; “a character walks into a place, the character and place fit, and a story results.”

He gave us a “quiz” by reading some paragraphs that described a fictional setting and having us guess the real place. (Valley Writers member Dick Raymond got the most right answers.)

Switching to non-fiction, he fielded many questions from the audience and provided insight into what an editor wants. At least half the audience were freelance writers, so his suggestions were helpful. He emphasized that writers need to study a magazine to see how their material could fit.

Submission guidelines for Leisure Publishing’s imprints are online: Blue Ridge Country, The Roanoker, Mountain Homes, and Costal Homes.

Last night, I started reading Rheinheimer’s collection of short stories, Little Criminals—and kept reading. While I’m not a great fan of literary fiction, I really liked his stories: good writing, a strong sense of place (place was more than setting; it was almost a separate character), interesting and well-developed quirky characters.

I can see why Little Criminals won the 2003 Spokane Prize for fiction.



Blogger Amy Hanek said...

How inspirational! Thank you for sharing this with us! I enjoyed it thoroughly!!

I wish I could have been there to rub elbows. Sandlot Football called and boy was it hot!

5:30 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Sounds wonderful - sorry I missed that one! I'm a firm believer in doing something everyday with my writing. I keep a calendar just for my writing. Whether I'm researching markets, jotting down ideas etc... I mark on my calendar what I did. On the days I feel discouraged, I pull out my calendar and review all the work that I've put into it. It's a great encouragement tool! Thanks for a great post!

7:29 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

Okay, I'm going to be honest here. I don't understand anything John Gardner said in his guidelines except about being strange. I feel like the Caveman on the commercial where he is asked by the interviewer, "Any response?" and he says something like, "What?!" Maybe I'm not that smart.

Is Little Criminals available in the library? I love literary fiction.

10:59 PM  

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