Tips for Young Writers...with some help from BuffyHello readers!I spend a lot of time talking with young writers about writing. Whether it’s the art of putting a novel together or ways to break into the industry, I get asked a lot of the same questions. So I thought I’d compile a list of tips here for writers getting started at any age. Maybe you’ve heard some of these before, maybe not. Either way, I hope they help you along your path.1. Show, don’t tell.Yes, you’ve definitely heard this before. A million times over. But what does it mean? The difference between showing and telling is the difference between sitting in a cafe in Paris sipping a latte and reading a menu online. You want to immerse your reader. If I’m telling, I’m over-describing, maybe even listing scenery. If I’m showing, I’m slipping in details where they fit naturally.
BullyHear me perform it on youtube.We are not morethan each other butI bul-lievevirginity is a childhood disease;I knowbecause my friend tells meI won't find a way to keep it.So I do keep it.You are not morethan me, yetI bully you:'sex is an adolescent dream.'You knowbecause your friends tell youthat you will hold someoneclose enough to have it.So you hold someone closer.And it doesn't bother methat I twitch from the grief,wince from my gut and groundmy teeth for the truth;I do those things becausethis thought makes sense to me:I think I'm morethan you.
Crossing ArielYour wedding;you spoke your way toward itone prospect at a time;having not beenthe cripple or whore,you settled forsingularity, no future or past,just announcement and umbra, joy in shade,soft smiting breath.How though did you put your children away?Mylar-eyed,squinting toward dawn.If your days had been countedpurposefully,perhaps you would have gone offfatter, sated as a rook scavengingin the quietinstead of blindly staring out bread crumbslike a gassed canary.The shine of your boy's hungry mouthdid not dissuade your long whim;to any call of lonelinessthe answer was a towel,clean and wetand a ration of cold milk.Did any irony strike youlike a bell hammer?Aimlessly you once doodledcast-off shoes;no small feet wigglingtoe-ward to fill them.Gentle prophecy ofwater-filled mouth,immortal effigy for the beauty of drowning.The flaxen-haired sirencounting out pins from her hair,swallowing them slowly to armor her heart,a myth of eatersand sadness consumed
First Day of School."Miss, miss!""Sit down Gerald. Waving your hand and jumping around will not make me choose you quicker. Everybody will get a turn. Now, Natalie.""Yes miss.""Stand at the front then. There. Nice big voice.""whatididonmyholidays by Natalie Marsh. What I did on my holidays we went to the beach it was nice and su....sunny. I had ice cream and I went on a boat. The boat was nice. The sea splashed up and we all got wet. Then there was a shark and it ated us and we all got dead TheEnd.""Very good Natalie. Well done. And you spoke nice and clearly too, but try to be a bit louder next time. Now who's next? No, Gerald, I will not tell you again. Sit down. Now, Kyle. Your turn.""What I did on my holidays by Kyle age six. What I did, I went to the zoo. I went... no, wait, I know,
my soul is leakingthe steady drip drip of it in the kitchensink has me grinding my teethwhat a waste you said, and in vaintried to tighten the taps as I laugheda waste!indeed I am.you told me, pride is a virtue you seem to be lackingand I said pride leaves the blinds open and you laughedand left the the blinds open.Shiny black patent shoes, I watched as you werelowered into the ground and wondered if that's where life got you,if that's where life always got you,then,what good is pride anyway?
He WavesHe waves. It's a friendly little gesture, almost a two finger salute to an old friend. He's watching you through your window.Strange.The Boy has fine, burnt umber hair that shines like silk in the midmorning sun. It's almost a shame to see it in the unisex, unflattering buzz cut of the OldGens. He is obviously one of them; the OldGens. No self-respecting NewGen would be caught dead in this kind of state muddy face, torn knees, his empty collection sack over his shoulder. It is the NewGens who are expected to keep themselves neat and orderly. They are the only ones for whom it is worthwhile doing so.Strange.As a NewGen child, you have been raised to behave exactly as your parents tell you. And your parents behave the way the GenWatch tells them. But in all your years, the one thing they have not been able to straighten out of you is your curiosity. So you stand up. You leave your desk exactly the way it's not meant to be covered with unfinished homework and you
How to Sleep and Never Wake UpThe year they discovered my best friend, twenty years old and silent under the heap of her wrecked car, I learned one can sleep forever and never wake up.That year, her sister, only seventeen, ate magic mushrooms and lost her mind and her brother, fourteen, started running and stopped eating and I didn't eat magic mushrooms but lost my mind anyway as everyone watched my skin, too white to be real, disintegrate before their eyes.That year I flew to Colorado to see an urn surrounded by pointe shoes. It reminded me more of a wastebasket than the last I would see of the girl who shared my soul. Her sister ran naked through the street a few days later after ingesting a certain fungus at her school's homecoming dance. Most say it was the drugs. Maybe, I said. But I knew exactly what it was. Her brother started walking with his feet turned out, a remnant of his ballerina sister instilled in him. I ripped the flesh from my arms, hoping to find her somewhere underneath my fingernails until a
The art of blacking outHow I wish I could say strangerscrept inward, night by night,stealing my medication andrearranging my furniture.But I know it's not true.There are holes insidemy head. Oxidation.No one unlocks this doorbut me. I am justforgetting.
SorrowbirdI watched him flap helplessly between the teeth of a barbwire fence, screeching for help."Papa, look Papa! A boy!"My papa stood dazed for a moment, dust billowing at his legs, his eyes teetering along the field. It wasn't until later that evening he told me he hadn't understood what I had seen. What he had seen.With grass tickling the backsides of my legs, I bounded toward the boy, "What are you doing? Are you okay?"As I approached him, I felt his skittish eyes rake across my every movement. With his ten-year-old arms slung inside the gaping maw of a fence and darkened feathers pasted along the creases of his face; he looked squarely at me. I could hear his bird-bones quaking at my voice, he pushed harder against the fence. I winced for him."Hold still, we'll get you out," I turned back to my papa who stood alongside the road, "Papa," I pleaded, "Please! Help him!"Reaching out, I touched his shoulder, "Don't be afraid. We're going to help you."He didn't pull away from me. I thou
the thirteen words of prisonsometimesif we were luckythe sun would rise before we went to bedand i recalled how it was only everthe people who had it the worst who used to say'one day there will be sunlight'like one of those six word stories.one day there would be sunlight.and i remember how it was only ever the peoplewho were serving their life sentenceswho i would ask 'what's it like to never see the sun'and they would only ever answer'it's enough just to know it's there'and i always wanted to take out one wordseven was too long; but i didnt want to take outthe meaning.and it was odd because i wonderedwhat hope these people had.but as it so turned outthe most hopeful of them allwere the ones whose hope was on the insideand whose stories were thirteen words longlike some strange unlucky number"one day there will be sunlight"...but as it so turned out"...it's enough just to know it's there."
Goodnight Enigmatic SongShe was the song you hear and, at first blush, don't like. Well, you don't know how you feel about it so you keep listening in an attempt to discover how exactly you feel and then you reach the end of the song and you realize, you don't like it; you love it. That was Grace.She was my coworker and she was my friend.We carpooled together, I drove and she slept most of the way."Don't get much sleep at night, do you?" I asked her, catching those drooping lids mid-descent."Insomnia, love."She looked out the window streaked with rain; it spoke in percussive touches filling the car with quiet overcast conversation.I felt the warmth of her smile in the corner of my eye. The blur of her hand reached at the window to feel the cold of the droplets."When I was a girl, I used to race these. I thought it was funny the fat ones always won," she giggled and I imagined her as a little girl in the passenger seat then, legs too short to reach so kicking, and hair messed in the bac
ToddThere was a big fanfare when Todd came back. Even a couple of newspaper reporters showed up. It was only right I guess, what with him being dead for a year. At least I think it was a year. I mean, he was gone for eight and I'm pretty sure if a person is missing for seven years the government declares them dead or something. I know that his parents bought a tombstone from the place on First Street a while ago. They put it up in their family lot at the cemetery, next to his grandparents. I went to visit it after the funeral. It had his name and a little inscription. They left the dates off though. After that they took him off the missing persons list too. I know because I used to check it. I'll bet that everyone was real pissed when they found out the truth. He got into town on Tuesday but nobody said a word until Friday. Then on Satur
Five Seasons (Alternate) There was this moment, early last May, when I could have glanced up from the book I was reading at the breakfast table. I could look out my window and see you standing on my lawn, this waif in a windbreaker grinning at a daydream you're probably too old for. I could bring you an umbrella. I could invite you in for coffee, and we could lose the whole day debating questionable Scrabble plays. We could take to the streets after dark and try to find an all-night diner that will feed us both for less than fifteen dollars. I could fall in love with you. But I don't....spring You go home with nothing but a story about how springtime leaves you feeling lonely. Your roommate blows off a dinner date to take you out for drinks. You send a Chardonnay up to the stage between sets and the singer takes you home. The new girl at work works up the nerve to ask me out. I don't have a reason to say no. Your
A ParenthesisYou were (a parenthesis, that pausedthe daily, mundane stuffof life;a bundled breathof fresh joy,and borne in the wonderof love.Gasping and grasping,'til in quiet you laidstill;and I, my Child,lie in quiet, stilltears).And now, that is all you are,and still so much more.
All the Things You Never KnewIt was your favorite thing to say. “We know everything about each other. Not just the good things, but even the bad ones. We have no secrets.” And the way your eyes lit up when you said it, how your arm would curl around my shoulders and squeeze me against you… I couldn’t say anything. I promised myself that I would when we were alone, but the moment always seemed wrong and eventually the fact that I still had secrets became a secret itself.It turns out I wasn’t the only one.I never told you about the crying or the cutting or the nights I spent awake staring at the bottle of pills. I was terrified it would be too much for you to handle, so I didn’t mention the time I ran away, or the first time I ended up in the hospital. I locked the memories up in a box inside my head with “For Tom, to open later” written on the outside.And you, in turn, never told me about the cancer, fearing it would be too much for me to handle. Well, you were ri
Don't Give me a Reason to Sell My SoulDon't give me a reason to sell my soul, she should have said.Instead, she just stared at the man on the screen in front of her, the man with his long, drooping skin, tired eyes, haggard face and balding head. He was hardly the admiral we had once known. She said "I don't have any desire to do it," and then quickly, "but I'll follow my orders, if you give them to me."There was fright in her eyes. She gripped the edges of the captain's chair and bit her cheek, fighting off inevitable tears. But not here. She couldn't cry now. People relied on her to be strong. What people she wasn’t sure, but someone, somewhere, surely. She had to believe that."Those are your orders," the man said, sinking heavily into his chair. "I trust you'll carry them out."She snapped off communications with ill-hid despair. Her blonde hair, thin and almost colorless, hung around her face like a fallen halo, fading with every sin. Her lips were tight, her cheeks drawn, and her eyes stared out of bru
paper hearts. Theres a crevice in the wall where she hides her little baby girl, all plastic smiles and mechanical giggles. She cuddles it like it has a soul and speaks to it like it has a name. Its soft rubber skin has been covered with paper hearts and marker stars, and its little plastic ears have been filled with whispers of adoration and love. Its wiry blonde hair has been crossed into braids, twisted up above its head, and she has pulled a dress onto its synthetic body with the brightest little smile. She reminds it that its beautiful, even though it cant hear. She fastens it tight into the beaten pink stroller and skips behind it as it rolls across the pavement, dancing in the sun like there is no tomorrow and yesterday is only a dream. And maybe she's only six years old, but she knows how babies are made. Not the ones you buy in the store, the ones you have to tear out of the cru
Your Daughter has Sold Hundreds of Local PapersBut listen to me: I will tell youhow to love a bedspread;a car seat; a sun dressthat you cleaned two months ago.and should they find herin the breast of a riverbankor a cabinet,I will tell youfacts about scavenger birds;kettles, wakes and how to chair a committeewith a body on your desk,as scavenger birds do.
Everybody knows this is nowhereSorting second hand carsit was just a robot,as we flicked off the radio,sick of the hard rockwe'd been bouncing to for miles.Joe was playing with his lighter,a nice piece, skull-shaped.We got out, circled it. When he moved in, a little dustwas blowing up off the ground.Its body suit caught quickly.We watched it striding awayacross the desert, flame-swept, a dwindling candle.We were kids. Just kids.