Friday, March 6, 2020

Micro-Revision in a Macro-World

It’s no secret that a great way to become a better writer is through revision. But in a world where we’re constantly bombarded by information that requires a response, it might be less obvious that slowing our writing down to do concentrated revision can be an even bigger help.

Whether you write fiction, nonfiction or hybrids, if you’re on deadline for a story, you may not have time right then to focus on the details of your writing. But taking time to self-consciously tinker with your prose can yield more progress than hours at the keypad. Why? Because you’re not just paying attention to the before of your writing; you’re also paying attention to the after.

If you’re like me, you enjoy watching makeovers. Whether it’s a living space, a person or a business, it’s encouraging to see change for the better. It gives us hope. But when we watch a makeover, we rarely see the details of each individual step in the process. As writers in charge or our own work, we can learn how to improve our writing style and structure simply by paying attention.

For example, taking time to add sensory details to a descriptive paragraph can make the difference between a lifeless picture and one that rises from the page. If we pay attention to the effects of our changes as we go, we can learn what works and what doesn’t and do it in real time. More importantly, we can learn why the changes work. Once we learn this, we’ve learned technique, and what we learn becomes part of our experience. When this happens, we’ve gained a repeatable skill that can remain in our writing toolkit.

Here’s an example of the tinkering approach:
  • Before: The highway to the beach was bathed in sunlight, and the temperature in the car was getting hotter and hotter. Carlo wiped his forehead and rolled the window partway down. He couldn’t see the shore from here, but he could feel it.
  • After: The road to the shore shimmered in the sun as the temperature in the Fiat rose like a kiln. Carlo wiped his forehead with the back of his hand and rolled down the window. He couldn’t see the sea from this flat strip of asphalt, but he could feel its heat and the pull of it like an outgoing tide.
Tip: To tinker with your prose, select a descriptive paragraph, and revise it slowly, word by word, sentence by sentence. Then do the same with a short scene. An added benefit of this technique is that it helps settle the mind for improved focus.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Ridgefield Library and First Annual Muse & Music Evening Cabaret

Thank you to writers from the Westport Writers' Workshop, Gerry O'Hara and Austin Scelzo of the Angry O'Haras bluegrass band, author and singer-songwriter Chris Belden, the Ridgefield Library, and you - our wonderful audience - for a wonderful first annual Muse & Music Evening Cabaret.

Readers, clockwise, included: Gillian Grant Lavoie, Chris Friden, Carolyn Toner, and Connie Briones.

Singers and musicians
(left to right):
Adele Annesi
Austin Scelzo
Gerry O'Hara
Chris Belden

Muse & Music Evening Cabaret
Come in from the cold Friday, February 7, for a festive evening of songs, stories, and more at the Ridgefield Library's first annual Muse and Music Evening Cabaret, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Muse & Music Evening Cabaret will spotlight a variety of new works from area writers affiliated with the Westport Writers’ Workshop, plus a blend of original music from Austin Scelzo and Gerry O'Hara, of the Angry O'Haras bluegrass band, and singer-songwriter and author Chris Belden. Hosted by the Ridgefield Library and sponsored by Word for Words, the cabaret-style evening includes a wine and cheese reception.

The event is free and open to the public, and registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information and to register, go to Muse & Music Evening Cabaret.

A preliminary program is below, along with the performers' bios.

Set I:
Duet by Chris Belden and Adele Annesi: "Marion Ettlinger"
Jillian Grant Lavoie: Excerpt from "The New Build"
Michele Dawson: “A (Brief) Parody of Pride and Prejudice”
Connie Briones: Excerpt from Isabella-A Poet’s Journey
Chris Friden: Excerpt from his YA novel, The Student Code
Set II:
Music by Austin Scelzo and Gerry O’Hara of the Angry O'Haras
Gwen Mitrano: Excerpt from her novel
Marc Heller: Excerpt from his novel, Redemption
Maxine Paul: The true story of afterlife communication
Music by Austin Scelzo and Gerry O’Hara of the Angry O'Haras
Set III:
Carolyn Toner: Short story, "They Go To Die in Palm Beach"
Jackie Kamenstein: Short story "Potted Plants"
Music by Chris Belden and friends

  • Connie Briones is a middle school teacher with a master's in history. The idea for her novel developed during her thesis on the English Protestant Reformation and its impact on the literacy of women.
  • Michele Dawson is an English teacher and writer living in Sherman, CT.
  • Chris Friden is a lifetime storyteller whose career highlights include directing for television; producing and hosting a sports-comedy program; playwriting; and board game publishing. He is currently revising his young adult manuscripts, and both teaching and learning at the Westport Writers Workshop.
  • Marc Heller studies novel writing at the Westport Writers’ Workshop and is at work on two novels.
  • Jackie Kamenstein is a short story writer who studies advanced fiction at the Westport Writers' Workshop and has studied short fiction at Sarah Lawrence College.
  • Jillian Grant Lavoie holds an MFA in Fiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and is currently working on a collection of short stories. She lives in Fairfield, CT, with her two young children, who occasionally go to sleep and allow her an hour of writing.
  • Gwen Mitrano is the mother of two high school age daughters and a pampered pup named Penny. Her career as an event producer for a wide range of clients, and twenty years as a Darien resident, provide regular inspiration for her satirical writing.
  • Maxine Paul is a retired lawyer, who is: an expert in Foreign Medical School Education by day, a theater producer and story teller by night, and a Helicopter Mom 24/7.
  • Carolyn Toner is a Trinity College graduate, with a creative writing minor, as well as an actress, children’s theater instructor, and short story writer.

Chris Belden is a musician, singer-songwriter and author of Shriver and Carry-on, and the award-winning short story collection The Floating Lady of Lake Tawaba. He teaches at the Westport Writers' Workshop.

Gerry O’Hara is a founder of the Angry O'Haras bluegrass band and part of the Worship Band at the First Congregational Church of Ridgefield.

Austin Scelzo plays fiddle for the Angry O'Haras and On the Trail bluegrass bands. He also teaches bluegrass for all ages and abilities. His monthly music series is the FCC Bluegrass Coffeehouse.

Adele Annesi is event coordinator for Word for Words, LLC, and an award-winning editor, writer, and teacher. She is co-author of Now What? The Creative Writer's Guide to Success After the MFA and a founder of the Ridgefield Writers Conference. Also a development editor, Adele teaches at the Westport Writers' Workshop.

Westport Writers’ Workshop is a premier writing studio based in Westport, CT, with workshops for all levels and interests conducted in a friendly, supportive atmosphere to encourage, inspire, and spark the imagination. Since 2003, and now with over 75 workshops for all schedules, including Zoom distance learning, Westport helps writers discover and develop their unique talent and voice to achieve each writer’s individual goals. For information, see Westport Writers' Workshop.

Word for Words, LLC, is a boutique editing, writing, and event coordination services firm that offers evaluation, development, and editing services for partial and completed projects for emerging and established writers of fiction, nonfiction, and hybrids. For more information, visit Word for Words, LLC.