Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Guest Poster Susan Kane

It's my pleasure to introduce today's guest poster, Susan Kane who blogs at thecontemplativecat

I love her tagline:
One who observes and thinks about one has seen, what has passed my way, what greater meaning lies behind and beneath life's small events.

Today she'll be sharing her take on what makes good writing.

The pieces matter. The pieces are what combine to make a whole.

This seems simplistic, I know, but this sums up my approach to everything. Paying attention to the details of life, art, writing, quilting, relationships—those pieces or details change everything.

When I was teaching third and fourth graders about writing, convincing them to focus on the pieces of an experience was next to impossible. Write about the best thing you got to do? Your favorite day? The best birthday ever? *Sigh*

Every story was a bed-to-bed story in which the student got up, went to Disneyland, ate pizza, and came home (to bed). Blah. That was it. It took months to work through the clock and write about an event that lasted five minutes. Only five minutes.

The most successful write was after we had gone on a field trip to the butterfly exhibit at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. It was a domed tropical habitat filled with plants, water streams, and freshly-hatched butterflies.

Students wrote about the awe they experienced when an amazing tropical butterfly landed on their hands. Still, they stood so still watched the splendor of this fragile creation. Then they understood what it meant to write about just those minutes when they experienced beauty in such a form.

As a life-long writer, I have learned that it is the minutes that make up our lives, not the broad sweeping strokes of time.

I have learned that longer is not necessarily the best writing. Slash that adjective! Burn that adverb! Modifying progressive verb phrases? Fewer are better… Long hefty paragraphs are weary. I stop paying attention midway. Elaborate metaphors are tiring.

Now I write in pieces with the goal of combining to make a whole. But, man! I make those pieces sing. Make them dance. Paint them with vivid senses.

After that, I pray that the reader experiences the joy I felt in the writing.

Just a quick reminder from the guest post scheduler, we are still accepting guest posts. This is your chance to use this blog with a nice following to showcase your blog and what you're all about. Email me directly (see email addresses under the contact tab) if you're interested.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Vivid but short - I can do that!

Anonymous said...

Concentrate on the'm a bit of a verbose rambler but I'll give it my best shot.

Empty Nest Insider said...

Catchy and true! Julie

Tina said...

I remember this lesson distinctly from my junior year English teacher. I wanted to write about a great experience I had going oyster fishing on a GT trip I took in 9th grade, but I thought, as your 3rd and 4th graders thought, that the story needed to be Friday through Sunday. My teacher, not so kindly said, "This section here on the water in the early morning is really good. That's what you wanted to write about. Why on earth did you bore me with the whole rest of the weekend?" So true. Nice that your students will learn at an earlier age.
Tina @ Life is Good
Post A-Z Road trip!

Arlee Bird said...

I like it. Kind of like stop and smell the roses instead of just saying I drove past a rose garden on my way to work.

What do you think?
Blogging from A to Z

Unknown said...

Nip it, tuck it, snip it, stuck it. Keep it concise and make it awesome. I'm with you all the way :)

Stephsco said...

Great analogy on a rookie writing mistake; I still have to weed out "bed to bed" writing in my own first drafts!

klahanie said...

Hi Susan,
A wonderfully stupendous thoughtful incredible awesome extravaganza of thoughtful writing here and because I also think that run on sentences can be tedious and the over usage of the conjunction word "and" only adds to the annoyance and certainly makes me lose interest very quickly and besides reading an overly long sentence can cause one to note that they are practising to see how long one can hold their breath and that would be if you read this far in this rather silly ridiculously long sentence that seems to be devoid of commas or anything that has any semblance of sense it it.
When I write, I like to think that it's intimate. The writing is a shared experience between me and the one reader.
Well said, my friend and I highly recommend those who have not visited your blog, do so.

And a note to those hosts of this site. I believe you should make folks more aware that your site is up not only in April. Then again, maybe you have done that.

Take care Susan and hello to all those who embrace the ethos of a sharing, caring blogging community. All different, all equal. Rejoicing in the great diversity.

Anonymous said...

I rely so much on my editor! And I love your last sentence. It is a joy to write and we want to share the joy and have the reader experience joy too.

Elephant's Child said...

Susan, you are an inspiration. And yes, your pieces so often sing for me. Thank you. Lots.

Jenni Steel said...

This is very interesting. I understand what your say makes so much sense. I will work on applying it to my posts from now on.

Thanks you so much! Jenni