Author Archives: lizshine74

About lizshine74

Liz Shine writes fiction and has published work in Shark Reef, The Writer's E-Zine, and Blue Crow Magazine. Through this site, she hopes to provide inspiration to other writers who, like her, struggle to write despite work, family, and self.

lucy barton

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

My Name Is Lucy BartonMy Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I needed a book like this. An uncomplicated book that in spite of how busy and complicated other aspects of my life are leaning just now, I could drop in easily and stay. When I say it’s uncomplicated, I’m talking about style. My Name Is Lucy Barton is a book that leaves a lot uncovered, and that’s part of its greatness, because the book is in part about the things we keep to ourselves because they are ours and ours alone. There are some moments of metafiction, set up by the fact that this is a story of a writer who comes to write and finds a mentor writer, who finds success in writing. Those moments are spare, but connective. In a sense, this was a story about stories, how we construct them imperfectly as we are imperfect and memory is imperfect. Hopefully though our stories “report on the human condition…tell us who we are and what we think and what we do.” The power of this story lies as much in what is not written as what is on the page, the places where Lucy can’t or won’t be specific or explain, where the reader is the one who fills in the gap with his/her imagination.

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hallelujah book cover

Making time, people. Are you?

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Chris and I read Big Magic this summer. If you are loosing heart, not making time for your creative work, read it–read it now. We actually carried a hardback copy of the book into Enchanted Valley and back, read the entire thing out loud. As we walked the last 2.5 miles of road to our car, we finished the last pages of the book and perhaps because our bodies were aching, torn, and exhausted, but also because of how the book spoke to us both, there were a few tears shed before closing the paint-splashed cover and driving home.

It’s Saturday morning, the first weekend after the first week of school and I’m at Mudbay Coffee in Olympia writing. My best writer friend Carrie  is writing across from me and Chris is in the corner working on a short story. This, for me, is so much bliss. I’m finishing up the first draft of a novel I’ve been working on for a year and a half and starting to think about draft one of book number two in the trilogy. In the past year, I self-published two beautiful books through Red Dress Press, a self-publishing service co-founded by me, Chris, and my baby sister, Em.

I have a routine and I’m making time. That’s how I’m getting there. It’s not easy getting up at 4 in the morning to write, but this feeling of accomplishment, having made two books I’m proud of, putting the finishing touches on a draft of a story I love writing, makes it more than worthwhile.

 

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Ready to write?

It’s the infamous hump day in my writing week and I felt it on my morning run. I had to shuffle my way up every hill one tiny step at a time. Toward the end of the run I did get an idea for a short story I’ve been mulling over that I look forward to drafting soon. So, I suppose though I was power-walking toward the end of the run, in one sense I finished strong.

I’m about to settle into writing for the day now. I’ve got a fresh cup of coffee and a bowl of apricots to guide my way. A pair of noise cancelling headphones arrived in the mail this week and they are amazing. Most of the time, I don’t even put any music on, I just wear the headphones to muffle distractions. When I finish this blog, I’ll jot down my goals for the day and get to work. Who knows what the day will hold for me, but I showed up.

How about you? How are you showing up for your creative work today?

 

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patience

On patience in revision.

I’ve been thinking about the importance of patience this morning, how it is so necessary, but also something that has to be learned. Why, you ask, was I thinking about this? I spent the morning going through a first draft of a novel, charting all the changes to make before I begin draft two. I charted scenes that are currently in the novel in one column, scenes that I want to be in draft two in a second column. I charted POV, motifs, and details. I feel great about this slow process of revision, but it is something that has taken me twenty years to come to.

Maybe you, like me, came to writing in the first place because you loved the creative immersion, the flow, the story–and I won’t lie–the idea of being a writer? But that only gets you so far. Patience and discipline carry you the rest of the way. Suzannah Windsor Freeman wrote about this idea on Jeff Goins blog. Her post is worth a read. Maybe it will resonate with you the way it did with me?

 

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first draft editing

Yep. It’s a first draft, all right.

This week, I finished up another draft of a manuscript that is in nearing the publishing phase of the editing process, then finished a read-through of a first draft of a novel I’ll spend the summer revising. A pretty productive week! I had this moment after reading that first draft where I let loose an enormous, heavy sigh. That sigh was me letting go of all the delusions of grandeur I’d let mount over the months I’d spent writing. In fact, in spite of my highest of hopes, it was a true first draft, lacking so much of what I’d intended to be there, including some things I had intended, but that now seem like a pretty bad idea. I’m okay, though, I have a plan.
First, I’ll go through the book again, charting some notes on key scenes, details, conflicts, and motifs chapter by chapter. Then, I’ll write more before diving in and making changes to that first draft. I’ll write new scenes first before going in to delete and change what I already have. Then, I’ll begin weaving it all together into a second draft, hopefully, better than the first. This is how we do it. It’s not magic. It’s first inspiration, then persistence, discipline, and planning.
Tomorrow; however, is Friday, and with all this editing in my life right now, I’m aching for that first draft feeling where it’s all vision and flowing words, and damn, you’re good! So I’ve declared that as for my writing process, my Fridays are going to be something akin to casual Fridays and I will write new words, first drafts.

 

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beach path writing retreat

Learning from a confidence crash: Reflections from a writing retreat.

I started this blog as a way to keep myself writing. It was the same kind of desperate attempt to build good habits that causes people to talk their significants into doing dietary cleanses with them. I needed an audience, some accountability outside my insecure self. It wasn’t enough to just remind myself why I was writing, how I was writing, that I deserved to make time for writing. I needed to shout it out loud.
That’s still true, but over time it has become a creative work of its own. A voice has emerged, a voice I didn’t know I had. A voice strong, confident in the fact that she has something to say that’s worthy of being heard.
I’m in Ocean Shores on a writing retreat now. This is a place I know well. I’ve spent many hours with my cousins on the beach, the adults who brought us sheltered from the wind in the car we’d driven right onto the beach. Yesterday, I drove into town on my own to pick up a few things from the store, get gas, shop for some souvenirs. I went in to pay for the gas, began pumping, sat in the driver’s seat to wait for the tank to fill. That’s when it happened. My self dissipated. What was I doing here? Who was I kidding? What kind of fraud had I perpetrated, masquerading as a writer for over twenty years?
I’m mostly immune to these kinds of identity crises, though as a young writer they plagued me. You see, I’ve built good habits in getting up in the morning to write, keeping this blog, annotating every book I read. I love the work and I’m not so worried about who approves anymore. In the face of this unforeseen confidence crash, I parked my car at the IGA and went for a walk through town, breathing deep and consciously, feeling the straps of my backpack, each stride. I shook it off, remembered I don’t care about that shit anymore. I simply make time and do the work. Beginning my summer vacation with a writing intensive that includes my summer writing schedule (up at 5AM for a run, shower, then pour a cup of coffee and get to work) is likely the cause of the crisis (when you retreat for a week to write the pressure to get work done is great) and now that I’ve recovered, I’m glad I had that moment. Because when I had returned to my body and was breathing freely again, I felt immense gratitude, commitment to do the work, to stay in the room, focused on the goal or two I’ve set for the day.

 

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Review: Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric

Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric
Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My book group picked Citizen for the month of May. One unusually sunny April weekend day, I was bopping around Powell’s dreaming of leisurely summer reads when I came across Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (published in 2004) in the new books, used prices section. I noticed the subtitle is also “An American Lyric” and I thought, hmmm, I should read this one too and I should read it first. So, I did, and now I have less than a week to read the book we are actually discussing. This doesn’t worry me since I read Don’t Let Me Be Lonely in three days. I didn’t read it straight through, though. I would read a section, then close the book to catch my breathe before opening the book again to read more. The book is a co-mingling of words, images, and footnotes. I read them all together the first time through, then flipped back and looked at each separately. I got something different each time. The book begins like a simple diary, a recording of life events and that forms the backbone of the book, which dips into image, poem, spoken word, then back to diary. Rankine meditates on television violence, pharmaceuticals, depression, death, and history to show the consequences of fear: dark, pervasive loneliness. It is in the last pages where the book becomes most clearly metapoetic: “Sometimes you read something and a thought that was floating around in your veins reorganizes itself into the sentence that reflects it.” And this is the digression that saves you from being overcome by the dark truths in the book. Rankine writes, “In order from something to be handed over a hand must extend and a hand must receive. We must both be here in this world in this life in this place indicating the presence of.” Rankine suggests the possibility of art as perhaps not an antidote, but at least a respite to the pervasive loneliness that arises from the inevitability or death, especially in our modern world.

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book poems

A book of my poems? Why, yes, it is.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Red Dress Press publishes first author-designed book.

Linger, Love. by Liz Shine is a collection of poems written and edited over twenty years. Placed together in this single collection, they present a sort of essay regarding the human heart, its possibilities and its limits. The poems span childhood to adulthood, address many subjects including identity, relationships, parenting, and divorce.

You can buy the book here: http://amzn.to/1NuRKEi

 

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Review: An Atlas of the Difficult World

An Atlas of the Difficult World
An Atlas of the Difficult World by Adrienne Rich
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An Atlas of the Difficult World delivers, as Rich’s collections always do. Reading her work must be ennobling; It feels as though it must. Even though so much here eluded me in the moment (i.e. I didn’t “understand”)–it is the lines that strike an immediate chord, then the reflection on the work as a whole that allow me to say I understood and was moved. To me, this collection seems to be a case for art, though it is difficult and there is so much suffering already. Art is better than memory for remembering. One line that cut right through: “because no one understood all picnics are eaten on the grave?”

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Review: The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I’d pick up this book at the right time (less busy), I might have finished in a day, or three, which is rare for me. It caught me in that way books sometimes do when you can’t stop thinking about them, can’t wait to pick them up again. I started the book the last morning we spent in Port Townsend over a month ago. I remember opening the book while we waited for our breakfasts to arrive during what turned out to be a long wait.” Oh, oh,” I kept interrupting Chris’s Harper’s article, “listen to this sentence.” The novel begin with these three sentences:

May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees.

In these sentences, Roy begins setting the reader up for a book in which everything is alive, ever object, every living thing, every thought, every feeling. The story will make you cry, perhaps it will make you sob achingly as I did as I finished the book this morning. The characters are so real, so human, sometimes grotesquely, that I suppose you could read this book and miss the at times biting environmental and social criticisms the emerge in a well-aimed narrative insight or a suggestive motif. Those messages existed, but did not overshadow the story of Ammu and her twins, their loves and their heartaches, their roles in their tragic human play.

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