Faye Rapoport DesPres

fiction

A third place win for my first mystery story

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I have some fun and exciting news to share today.

The winners have just been announced in the MYSTERY TIMES TEN 2013 Short Story Competition sponsored by the independent small press Buddhapuss Ink (publisher of my first book, due this spring). My story, “Who Let the Cats Out?”, won 3rd place out of 200 entries in the competition, which was judged by an independent panel of readers and publishing pros. The ten winning stories will be featured in an upcoming print and Kindle anthology set to be published in October.

You can read the full list of contest winners here.

I had a wonderful time writing this story, which I submitted in June. It was based on the characters and setting I created for the NaNoWriMo “novel” that I penned last November during the annual challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Although what you really get after that exercise is a rough draft full of ideas that might or might not ever become an actual novel, that proved to be exactly what I needed to pen my first mystery short story.

Many thanks to the judges and to Buddhapuss Ink. This small press has a number of exciting things coming up, including a full redesign of their website, more literary competitions, and new books. I’ll keep you posted on the news and opportunities.…

The blog is back — and so is the writing

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As I mentioned in a quick post the other day, my blog was out of commission for a couple of weeks — sorry about that, readers! One day I logged in to write a new post and got a strange error message noting that there was a mistake in a random line of code. Not being a coder (I can only code the most basic HTML) I had no idea what the message meant. So I emailed my trusted Webmaster, Justin Sablich. This made me feel kind of ridiculous, because since I met Justin several years ago and he built my website and blog for me, he’s become a bit of a “big shot.” Now a multi- media sports journalist and designer who writes and produces news stories for The New York Times, he was even sent to London to cover the Olympics. But because he’s also a kind and generous human being, he got to work on my blog the first moment he could and within days had it up and running again.

I know people recommend web designers all the time, but I honestly can’t say enough positive words about Justin. I believe he still pursues his web design business in addition to his work at the Times, and he has never been anything but wonderful, generous, and helpful to me — all at a very reasonable price. So if you’re looking for web design services, do contact Justin (and tell him Faye sent you!).

I feel as if I’ve missed so much time with the blog — I wanted to write something about my experience at AWP in early March, and I’ve had thoughts since then about some of the writing I’ve been doing, as well as publications news from other writers. I have also been going through the process of having my agent, Joan Schweighardt of GreyCore Literary Services send my essay collection/memoir manuscript to a number of presses. It’s been an interesting experience to “shop” my first book-length manuscript, but I’ve been hesitant to say too much about the process here. You never want to second-guess what might or might not happen, or to jinx any possibilities (even while all of your toes and fingers are crossed). I’ll just say this — it’s been an illuminating experience in many ways, and it has helped me to understand the publishing world better and to think carefully about where to focus my writing as I move forward. If and when there’s news about the manuscript that’s worthy of sharing, you can be sure I’ll share it here. I can say this — with everything the manuscript has been through so far, I’m gaining more pride in the accomplishment of working on and finishing that book, no matter what happens.

But as one friend familiar with the publishing scene told me, the most important thing to do while a project is out there is to move on and keep writing. So that’s what I’m trying to focus on now. I’ve working on a variety of things — getting back to my writing desk first thing every morning, tinkering with both old and new personal essays (which I think I’ll always do) and planning on trying some fiction. I even have a children’s book in mind that I’d like to write. There’s so much out there to try and explore, and I’m going to cast around for what feels right for my next project.

Wish me hard work and good luck. I wish it right back at you.…

A Small Bit of Publishing News

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Picture 1It’s a cold, snowy afternoon in Boston (quite a change from hot and humid Florida, where I was last week) and I thought I’d pass on some publicatin news.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was one of four writers who contributed to the November “Exquisite Quartet,” a column published by Meg Tuite in Used Furniture Review. Meg has now compiled all of 2012′s columns in a print anthology, and it is available through Lulu here.

It was quite an experiencing being the third of four writers to write a single story in succession. It was really fun, actually, and my thanks go out to Meg for inviting me to participate and for producing this anthology.

Enjoy!…

Finished! (My NaNoWriMo Novel is Done)

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This morning, four days shy of the deadline, I finished my 50,000-word “NaNoWriMo” (National Novel Writing Month) novel. The novel actually strayed about 700 words longer than the required word count, and that included wrapping up the story VERY fast at the end. I realize, of course, that I didn’t have to stop at 50,000 words. But I wanted to stick to the goal and allow the project to be what it was meant to be. So I wrapped up my story when I hit the 50,000 word mark knowing that in the future if I revise it, the whole thing will be much different and more drawn out. The real work will begin if and when I decide to turn this very rough, loose draft into a real novel.

Still, it feels like a true accomplishment to have sat down every morning in November (with the exception of Thanksgiving) to complete the project. It also felt good to “write with abandon,” as NaNoWriMo encourages — to forge ahead and let the characters appear and the story develop in a free, easy, and even cliche form, without worrying about the quality of the language or even the story itself just yet. Ideas came and went, the story flowed, names were silly, the plot was a little too neat, and everything wrapped up much too quickly so that I could finish the draft on time. But none of that matters. What matters, according to the NaNoWriMo website, is simply to reach for the goal and complete it — to get the words out. The site also claims that I can now call myself a “novelist,” but I’m not sure I would go that far.

What the effort did do for me was boost my interest in writing fiction and learning more about the craft of that genre. But it also taught me a few things that I can apply to my ongoing work in creative nonfiction. It is so important to let your mind go in early drafts and to prevent that critical editor that sits on your shoulder from stopping you from moving forward. There is plenty of time to strive for perfection during the revision process. And for me, it’s also important to have specific goals and even to set deadlines.

Well, NaNoWriMo is over for me. But it was a great experience, and if you’re interested in trying to hammer out a first draft of a novel while testing your discipline under a deadline, I encourage you to try it next November.

Anyway, a little congratulatory video declares you a “winner” when you upload your novel and the word count is verified, and it’s always nice to be called a winner. It’s funny, when I think about it, how that word can mean so many things.…

NaNoWri…What? Or, My First Attempt at National Novel Writing Month

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You might have noticed that I haven’t updated the blog regularly in November. In addition to the usual ebbs and flows of blog posting, there is another reason I’ve been a bit absent this month. Like thousands of other writers in the U.S. and around the world, I’m taking part in “NaNoWriMo” (National Novel Writing Month) which started at the beginning of November.

You might quite reasonably ask, “What? Why is a creative nonfiction writer attempting to write a novel…in a month, no less?”

In fact, NaNoWriMo represents a number of firsts for me – this is the first time I’ve ever participated in the valiant effort that tens of thousands of writers make each November to pen a 50,000 word novel in just one month. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve ever tried to write a novel, period. Well, strictly speaking, that’s not true. About 10 years ago, when I’d already had a career as a journalist and professional writer but knew very little about being a creative writer, I wrote about 180 pages of what I thought might become a novel. The story was based on true-life experiences from a time when I lived in Boulder, Colorado. I had no idea what I was doing at the time, the novel didn’t really go anywhere, and I abandoned the effort and completely forgot about it a few months after I’d started. When I re-discovered the file on an old computer disk about a year ago, I realized that I would have been much better off had I known at the time that there was a genre known as “creative nonfiction” that was better suited to what I wanted to do.

Ten years later, I have an MFA and have spent the last five years writing and publishing personal essays. But after I finished my book-length collection in August (which is currently in the hands of my agent, Joan Schweighardt, of GreyCore Literary Services), I found myself at a sort of crossroads as a writer. I knew that I wanted to continue to write essays and to submit them to literary journals for publication. Personal essays are where my heart lies right now, and creative nonfiction is the genre I’ve studied and practiced most recently and most intensely as a writer. But my progress in producing new work has slowed down since I finished my manuscript, and I have found myself wondering if there are other aspects of writing that might be worthwhile to explore.

The truth is I started out as a poet; poetry (admittedly bad poetry) came naturally to me as a child, and I published a couple of poems and took poetry writing courses and graduate workshops when I was in my twenties and thirties. But I haven’t written any poetry in quite a while. Fiction, meanwhile, has almost completely eluded me. I published one short story in a now-defunct online journal called Void Magazine a number of years ago, but the story was based heavily on a true incident (I later re-wrote it and incorporated it into a nonfiction piece). I also published a brief fictional piece in The Whistling Fire last year, but it was again based on a real-life experience (although it was highly, HIGHLY fictionalized).

So when I felt stalled recently and noticed that November was about to begin, I thought – why not? Let me try to write a novel in a month. I knew that the concept was basically ridiculous — most writers spend years crafting a novel, especially if the book is their first. But something appealed to me about this mad dash to get 50,000 words down in thirty days (the amount is, ironically, about the same number of words in the essay collection that took me four and a half years to complete). What I liked about the concept was that it would force me to do something that I have a lot of trouble doing in creative nonfiction: free-writing.

When you write a “NaNoWriMo” novel, the goal is not to end the month with a truly finished, polished piece of writing – it’s simply to let the words flow until you meet that 50,000 word goal. The concept pretty much forces you to write daily, or almost daily, and to allow yourself to write with abandon. In order to meet the word count you have to let go of that persnickety editor who usually sits on your shoulder and insists that you to go back over poorly chosen words or badly structured sentences or incomplete ideas while you’re trying to create a first draft of your work. Being too worried about quality in a first draft can hold you back; it can prevent you from discovering the new thoughts and ideas that show up when you just let your mind go. Getting the whole thing on paper — including awkward sentences, clichés and bad metaphors, and even bad grammar — often inspires new ideas and lands you in a place where you know what you really want to say and how to say it. Getting it right is what revision (and revision and revision) is for. It’s the rare writer who can write great work in a first draft — and the rare piece that works right from the start.

On day 10 of NaNoWriMo, 22,020 words into my “novel,” I am really enjoying this process. In fact, I am enjoying fiction. I am allowing my mind just to invent everything — when a character walks into a room I invent his or her name, age, background, outfit, motivation for being there. I’ve invented a whole town in fact, and a protagonist who still needs a lot of fleshing out but who is narrating her own story.

I started with just a basic concept for this story and nowhere near a firm plot. And I’m finding that although I am still not sure where the plot is going, the ideas are readily flowing. This …