Writer's Life, Writing Events

Q: What’s the hardest thing about writing poetry?

The hardest thing about writing poetry is that the poem I write is never as fine or as satisfying as the poem I imagined I would write. In other words, perfection isn’t possible, and anything less is disappointing. There’s a process that I went through as a poet that I think most poets go through. When I first began writing poems at the age of twelve I thought each one was wonderful. I’m a poet, I told myself, and aren’t I great! When I finally began to try to place poems in journals I was quickly disabused of my “greatness.” At this point, a lot of would-be poets quit. But I was too stubborn to do that. Instead I started reading other poets to try to find those whose work excited me. I read them first for pleasure, then read them again to find out how they did what they did. I couldn’t be them, but studying them helped me learn the skills to be more me. In the end that’s perhaps what we ought to be after in plying the art of poetry. And if greatness is not achieved by most of us, we can at least become poets of our own substance and our own consequence.

Myrna Stone newest book of poetry, Luz Bones, came out last week from Etruscan Press. Stone is the author of five full-length books of poetry. She has received two Ohio Arts Council Fellowships and a Full Fellowship to Vermont Studio Center, is a two-time finalist for the Ohioana Book Award in Poetry, and was named 2001 Ohio Poet of the Year by the Ohio Poetry Association. Her poems have been included in nine anthologies, and have appeared in over fifty journals, including Poetry, Boulevard, The Massachusetts Review, Southwest Review, Ploughshares, River Styx, Nimrod, and Crab Orchard Review. Stone is a founding member of The Greenville Poets, a well-published group that meets monthly in Greenville, Ohio.

Upcoming arts events

MONDAY: The Atacama: The Driest Desert in the World. May 22, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm. Dayton Metro Library – Northmont Branch, 333 West National Road, Englewood, OH 45322. There are areas in the Atacama Desert where zero rainfall has been recorded in the past 500 years. Allen Johnson traveled to the desert to visit its unique environment and make astronomical observations at the Atacama Lodge, the home of the space center and telescopes, and visited the Salar de Atacama, El Tatio Geysers, and Aldea de Tulor. More.

TUESDAY: Biking to the Arctic Circle. May 23, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm. Dayton Metro Library – Kettering-Moraine Branch, 3496 Far Hills Ave, Dayton, OH 45429. Biking to the Arctic Circle? Impossible, there’s snow and ice up there. Regardless, Allen Johnson did just that. He couldn’t convince any of his grandchildren to join him for the whole four thousand miles, but family and coworkers joined him for portions of the trip across the Alaskan Highway and Canada as he faced flat tires and head winds and saw bald eagles, deer, and bears. Was it worth the effort? He says “You bet!” More.

TUESDAY: Dayton Grand Slamm! May 23, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm. Wiley’s Comedy Joint, 101 Pine St, Dayton, OH 45402. This is the Grand Slam event! Story Slamm Dayton is pleased to present each of the monthly winners from this season, battling it out on stage for the title of Grand Slam Champion. We are also proud to welcome guest judge and storyteller, Mary Coomer, Louisville Moth regular and two-time featured storyteller on the Moth Radio show. Doors open at 6:30 and the show starts at 7:00. More.

TUESDAY: Megan Whalen Turner debuts new book. May 23, 2017 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Books&Co, 4453 Walnut St, Beavercreek, OH 45440. MEGAN WHALEN TURNER, author of the entrancing and award-winning Queen’s Thief novels, will introduce her newest work, Thick as Thieves. It features Kamet, a secretary and slave to his Mede master, who has the ambition and the means to become one of the most powerful people in the empire. But with a whispered warning, the future Kamet envisioned is wrenched away, and he is forced onto a very different path. This epic adventure sees an ordinary hero take on an extraordinary mission. More.

WEDNESDAY: Wasahi Papermaking. May 24, 2017 @ 9:00 am – 3:00 pm. Antioch College, 1 Morgan Pl, Yellow Springs, OH 45387. Japanese techniques for papermaking, like similar methods used in other Asian countries, allow the production of exceptionally thin, long-fibered sheets. This workshop will begin with each student making their own mould and mould covering which they will be able to keep for their own papermaking at home after the conclusion of the workshop. The fee for non-students is $40, which includes all materials costs, including your own paper creation to take home. More.

THURSDAY: Molly Campbell introduces her new novel. May 25, 2017 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Books&Co, 4453 Walnut St, Beavercreek, OH 45440. MOLLY CAMPBELL will introduce her novel, Crossing the Street. In it, we meet Beck Throckmorton who finds herself living unexpectedly in a small suburban Ohio town with an 83 year old neighbor who has turned out to be her best friend, writing erotica and stewing over the fact that her ex has taken up with her sister. Enter a needy but wise little girl who finds a place in her heart and Beck finds herself “at an emotional intersection she never anticipated. And now it’s time to cross the street.” More.

SUNDAY: Heritage Day Festival. May 28, 2017 @ 11:00 am – 8:30 pm. Carillon Historical Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd, Dayton, OH 45409. Held on Memorial Day weekend, Heritage Day at Carillon Historical Park celebrates Dayton’s unparalleled history through special activities, costumed interpreters, and more. Draped in patriotic decorations, the Park welcomes thousands of guests each year to this family friendly event! After a full day of historical demonstrations, miniature train rides, and general merriment, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra fills the air with beautiful music. More.

Writer's Life

1. What has being an instructor taught you about writing?

I have learned through my teaching that there is so much I still need to learn about creative writing. One of the reasons I love creative writing is because there are countless ways to do it “right.” I am fascinated by the multitudes of ways to combine language and the different points of view my students bring to their writing. I work hard to create an environment in my classes where we all learn from one another. There is always room for improvement in my own writing. One of the best ways for me to grow as a writer is to engage in discussions about craft with other writers. I love to go to writing conferences and workshops for this very reason, and I always leave with a few new ideas of how to approach my own writing projects.

2. What’s the hardest part about writing for you and how do you push through it?

For me, the absolute hardest part of writing is finding time to write. Our lives are so very busy and noisy. We have so many demands for our time through work, family, friends, etc. I’m also not the most disciplined person in the world—given the opportunity, I will choose to binge watch Netflix or take my dog to the park instead of writing! It’s important for me to block out at least 2-3 days a week where I have a few hours of solid writing time. I’ve also found that there are too many distractions for me if I try to write at home. I work better if I go somewhere with the specific intention to write. I seek out coffee shops, libraries, pockets of silence at my workplace, etc. Another key element that helps me make time to write is a hard deadline. Sometimes I need that additional pressure of a commitment in order to get my work completed.

3. If you could only give your fiction students one piece of advice, what would it be?

Consider revision a gift rather than a chore. I know this is sometimes hard to do because it feels like a lot of work. Here’s the thing: writing IS a lot of work! Nathaniel Hawthorne says “easy reading is damn hard writing,” and I couldn’t agree more. Revision may feel like a chore, but it is essential. I’ve learned that if I walk away from something I’ve written and give it a week or two before going back, I’m able to find areas in the writing that need more work and clarification. The process of revision has grown on me, and I don’t think I could survive as a writer without it!

Meredith Doench teaches writing at UD. Her fiction and nonfiction has appeared in literary journals such as Hayden’s Ferry Review, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Lumina, and Gertrude. She served as a fiction editor at Camera Obscura: Journal of Literature and Photography and her first crime thriller, Crossed, was published by Bold Strokes Books in August 2015.  Her second, Forsaken Trust comes out this week.

Writing Events

Photo of the week

Ernest Hemingway starting fishing young. Here he is at the tender age of 4 fishing at Horton’s Creek, near Walloon Lake, in Michigan (via JFKLibrary). Hemingway would go on to set a world record for catching the most marlins in a day (seven at the time). He was such an avid fisherman, he’d later carry around a machine gun so he could blast sharks that tried to eat his catch.

This week’s top literary events

MONDAY: Memoir: Write Your Story with Katrina Kittle, 5-week class, Mondays from 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm. Every person has a story. Whether you want to honor someone who’s made a difference in your life, document unique experiences or travels, or record your family history, this five-week class will help beginning or experienced writers put their stories on paper. We’ll examine storytelling techniques and pitfalls, and plenty of prompts and exercises will help you dig deeper into your life and mine important memories that add depth to your story. Mondays: March 13-April 10, 12:00-2:00 pm. LOCATION: Oakwood Starbucks, 2424 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton, OH 45419. Price: $165. More.

MONDAY: 2nd Monday Authors: Kristin Bailey and David Kettlehake. March 13, 2017 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm. Centerville Library, 111 W Spring Valley Pike, Centerville, OH 45458. Meet this month’s featured authors in the lobby: Kristin Bailey, from Greene County, grew up in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley in California. In the course of her adventures, she has worked as a zookeeper, a balloon artist, and a substitute teacher. Now, in addition to an author, she is a military wife and the mother of two children and several very spoiled pets. Her featured book is The Silver Gate. David Kettlehake, from Warren County, is the author of two books and he’s a die-hard supporter of the British soccer team, the Fulham Football Club. His featured book is Fever, c2016. More.

SATURDAY: Cynthia Gregory: Book Binding Master Workshop. March 18, 2017 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm. Rosewood Arts Centre, 2655 Olson Dr, Kettering, OH 45420. Exhibiting solo artist Cynthia Gregory is a Kentucky-based maker whose studio work examines themes of time, history, accumulation, and containment. Join us as Gregory leads a workshop in basic book binding structures and techniques. Fee: $15 for Kettering Residents ($20 non-resident). More.

SUNDAY: Dialogue Mini-Workshop with Martha Moody. March 19, 2017 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm. Books & Co, 4453 Walnut Street, Dayton, OH 45440. Say WHAT? Dialogue is one of the most important craft tools for fiction and nonfiction writers. Learn how to use it effectively to create compelling fiction and engage readers! Led by novelist Martha MoodyMore.

SUNDAY: Book Discussion with Alex Heckman of Dayton History. March 19, 2017 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm. Wright Memorial Public Library, 1776 Far Hills Ave, Dayton, OH 45419. Discuss The Wright Brothers with Alex Heckman of Dayton History, who was a consultant for the book, The Wright Brothers. More.

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Writing Events

Upcoming literary events

TUESDAY: Daydreaming on Paper Workshop Kickoff (Ages 55+). March 7, 2017 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Dayton Metro Library – West Carrollton Branch, 300 E Central Ave, West Carrollton, OH 45449. Participants in this free 6-week collage-journaling class for adults 55+, led by teaching artist Teresa Olavarria, will explore relevant themes with a combination of found, altered, and created images. All necessary supplies are provided at no cost to registrants. Tuesdays, March 7-April 11, 6:00-8:00 p.m. Registration required at (937) 463-BOOK or on the Events Calendar at DaytonMetroLibrary.org.

TUESDAY: Writing Workout with Katrina Kittle, $10. March 7, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm. Starbucks, 2424 Far Hills Ave, Dayton, OH 45419. Word’s Worth’s Katrina Kittle begins a new tradition—an informal-tune-up-charge-your-engine writing workout. On the first Tuesday of each month you’ll gather to receive intriguing writing prompts and time to explore them. You’ll get a mini-craft lesson, loads of tips, and the opportunity to share your impromptu pieces. Turn off the inner critic, connect with fellow writers, and collect some inspiration for the month! More.

WEDNESDAY: Marsha Danzig Author Talk. March 8, 2017 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm. Wright Memorial Public Library, 1776 Far Hills Ave, Dayton, OH 45419. Join author, speaker, healer and yoga therapist, Marsha Danzig to hear her amazing life-affirming story. From the Roots: The True Story of How I Beat Death and Learned to Live explores one woman’s decision to find grace, hilarity, and ultimately joy, in the worst of circumstances. As a result of surviving childhood bone cancer twice, Marsha endures long-term side effects that include the amputation of her lower left leg, the loss of her bladder and kidneys, congestive heart failure, a kidney transplant, and scars galore. A rebel to the core, her defiance in the face of disease, doctors, establishment, insincere people, and anyone who would steal her joy or life force offers moments of profound depth and humor. More.

THURSDAY: Drawn Together by Art (Ages 55+)March 9, 2017 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm. Dayton Metro Library – Burkhardt Branch, 4680 Burkhardt Ave, Dayton, OH 45431. This free 8-week drawing workshop for adults 55+, also taught by local teaching artist Teresa Olavarria, will sharpen your powers of observation and improve your drawing skills. Make new friends and experiment with a variety of techniques in this fun, ungraded class. All necessary supplies are provided at no cost. Thursdays, March 9-April 27. 10:00 a.m.-Noon. Registration required at (937) 463-BOOK or on the Events Calendar at DaytonMetroLibrary.org.

THURSDAY: Antarctic Plunge: Tour of Penguinland. March 9, 2017 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm. Dayton Metro Library – New Lebanon Branch, 715 W Main St, New Lebanon, OH 45345. Allen Johnson will describe his two week trip across the Antarctic Circle to the icy mainland. He encountered thousands of penguins, hundreds of seals and dozens of whales. More.

THURSDAY: New York Times #1 Bestselling Author, Chris Tebbetts, Returns to Yellow Springs. March 9, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 10:30 pm. Little Art Theatre, 247 Xenia Ave, Yellow Springs, OH 45387. Chris Tebbetts is the author and co-author of many books for young readers. Titles include the #1 New York Times bestselling MIDDLE SCHOOL series, as well as PUBLIC SCHOOL SUPERHERO, with James Patterson and illustrator Laura Park; the New York Times bestselling STRANDED series with Jeff Probst; the young adult novel M OR F? with Lisa Papademetriou; and THE VIKING series. Champagne Reception at 6:30pm, Presentation with Q & A 7:30pm Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life screening to follow presentation. More.

Around Town: Dawn Paul at Storybrooke Cafe

Local author Dawn Paul submitted this pic of her reading last weekend at the rather magical looking Storybrooke Cafe in Englewood. Dawn gave a reading from her upcoming book Gnomeling, which comes out on Amazon on March 31. Check her out on Facebook or DMPaul.com.

Come see me at the Antioch Writers’ Workshop Spring Seminar

The amazing people at the Antioch Writers’ Workshop invited me to be on a panel at their one-day spring seminar on March 25. I’m honored, nervous, excited to join Becky Morean, Grace Curtis and Ryan Ireland as we talk about “Finding Your Writing Tribe.”

This is AWW’s second-biggest event of the year (second only to their week-long summer workshop), and it’s phenomenal. Cathy Day (author of Comeback Season: How I Learned to Play the Game of Love and The Circus in Winter) will keynote the event. Last spring, AWW brought in Margaret Wrinkle. I blogged about Margaret’s talk here, and I swear, there’s not a week that goes by that I don’t think about it.

“Your rational mind is a boat drifting on the ocean of your subconscious,” she said. “Do you want to tell the story from the tiny boat or from the ocean?” It doesn’t matter where you’re at in your writing journey, if you love the written word, there’s nothing like spending an entire day surrounded by others who feel the same. Learn more about the spring seminar here.

Angel kisses

I just found out freckle tattoos are a thing, and I’m oscillating between disbelief and wanting to get some. Apparently, they start out dark and fade to look more natural over time. Eventually, they disappear entirely. I dare you to get some. You will be my hero.

Writing Events

MONDAY: Judd Winick introduces kids graphic novel, HILO. February 27, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm. Books&Co, 4453 Walnut St, Beavercreek, OH 45440. Award-winning cartoonist JUDD WINICK, creator of HILO, a funny, action-packed full color new middle grade graphic novel series, will introduce its third book, HILO: The Great Big Boom. Hilo may look like an ordinary kid, but he’s definitely not! This series will appeal to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate fans. It has lots of slapstick humor with an appealing dose of friendship, acceptance, and adventure. You don’t necessarily need to start with Book 1 to enjoy the series. More.

FRIDAY: Beatnik Cafe. March 3, 2017 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Books&Co, 4453 Walnut St, Beavercreek, OH 45440. Western Ohio Writers Association (WOWA) will present their BEATNIK CAFÉ, a presentation that pays homage to the hole-in-the wall poetry clubs of the 1960’s, but with a more modern style. The theme for this event is Beyond the Reach of Sleep. Performing original work, each writer will present poetry, short stories, or who knows what. Here is your chance to hear some talented regional writers as they showcase their work, in person, to entertain and enlighten. More.

SATURDAY: Jack Bennett Young Writers’ FestivalMarch 4, 2017 @ 9:30 am – 1:30 pm. Building 8, Sinclair Community College. Empowering the spoken & written word of Dayton’s young people (grades 6-12). For more information, call 937-512-3078 or email lisa.mahle-grisez@sinclair.edu. More.

Free feedback on your query letter?

If you want to get published by one of the Big Four, you’re going to need a query letter. It’s how you shop your book around to agents (who then try to sell it to a publishing house on your behalf). Ohio author Mindy McGinnis offers free public query critiques. So long as you’re a follower of her blog, you can send her your query letter, and she might review it on her site adding her thoughts and suggestions. Be warned, she doesn’t pull punches. She calls the service “The Saturday Slash” and says the experience should “be fun! Or incredibly painful!” Check out some of her past “slashes” here.

‘Sleep together shops’

If you’re ever lonely in Japan, you can stop by a club to sleep beside a stranger. No sex allowed. The so-called cuddle clubs are for busy guys who want some cuddling without the hassle of a relationship. A 20-minute nap starts at $38, and a 10-hour, full-night sleep will run you $640 (source). “Other add-ons include head petting, spooning, sleeping in the girl’s arms (and) staring at each other for 1 minute.”
Writer's Life, Writing Events

I had a great time last Sunday at the Tim Waggoner LitSalon — a fundraiser for the Antioch Writers’ Workshop. Dayton Daily News Editor Ron Rollins (left) spent about an hour interviewing Tim (right) on the writing life.

My three favorite parts:

1) Tim says the most important thing we need to know about our characters is how they respond to stress.

2) He thinks of short stories as paintings — paintings that start at or as close to the climax as possible. Novels are just four or five paintings put together.

3) He sees lots of students who have the ability to be writers in his classes. They’re creative. They have an appreciation for language, an ability to string together compelling sentences, but they never make it over the hump. It’s not talent that’s rare, it’s a commitment to the writing life.

Tim’s written more than 30 fantasy, horror and sci-fi novels and teaches writing classes at Sinclair Community College. Learn more about him at www.timwaggoner.com. I particularly love his post “Writing Dreams and Harsh Realities.”

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What makes you sexy?

Any idea what a woman’s most prominent sexual characteristic is? According to some psychologists, it’s her hair. “If that surprises you, imagine a woman you think attractive as bald,” writes Sol Stein in Stein on Writing. “Would she still be sexually appealing?” “The same psychologists hold that the most important sexual characteristic of a man is his voice (And if that surprises you, think of a man you believe to be attractive and imagine him with a squeaky, high-pitched voice. Would he still be sexually appealing?)”

Upcoming literary events

SUNDAY: Incorporating Research into Your Work, February 19, 2017 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm, Books & Co, 4453 Walnut Street, Dayton, OH 45440. You’ve done your research for your story, novel, essay, memoir or other writing… now, how do you use all those great, savory details to enhance your writing, without overwhelming your reader? Join us for some tips and techniques! Led by novelist Sharon Short. Learn more about Sharon at www.sharonshort.com. More.

MONDAY: Grand opening of the new Miamisburg Library. February 20, 2017 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm. 545 E Linden Ave, Miamisburg, OH 45342. A ribbon cutting ceremony and sneak preview of the new library, open to the public. Among other things, the new Miamisburg Branch Library features a constellation-themed children’s area with a STAR Theater, a TeenEDGE area with a dedicated PS4 gaming system, a quiet reading room with cozy fireplace and an outdoor patio. Regular library hours are Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 9:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. For more information, visit DaytonMetroLibrary.org or call (937) 463-BOOK.

TUESDAY: Poetry of Phyllis Wheatley, February 21, 2017 @ 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm. Dayton Metro Library – Trotwood Branch, 651 E Main St, Trotwood, OH 45426. Phyllis Wheatley was the first published African American female poet. This re-telling of a poet’s life is presented by Winnie Johnson, Manager of the Madden Hills Branch Library.

TUESDAY: Story Slamm – Love Hurts, February 21, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm, Wiley’s Comedy Joint 101 Pine St, Dayton, Ohio 45402. Love is all around us in the month of February! The passions that we have are the ones that can burn us the most. Bold souls will step onto the stage to share their stories of love, loss, and moving forward. Doors open at 6:30. $5.00. Show starts at 7:00. Storytellers drop your name in the hat and 10 are chosen. Stories have to be true and about you. Limit your tale to 5 minutes. No notes, this is live and in person! Audience judges all stories and the winner gets $50 cash and an invite to the year-end GrandSlam event in May! More.

THURSDAY: Book signing with Didi Pershouse, February 23, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm. Yellow Springs Community Library, 415 Xenia Ave, Yellow Springs, OH 45387. Didi Pershouse presents The Ecology of Care: Medicine, Agriculture, Money, and the Quiet Power of Human and Microbial Communities. In The Ecology of Care, Pershouse takes us on a fast-moving, sharp-witted journey through her own life: from growing up with the neurosurgeon who accidentally discovered the seat of memory in the brain, to working in a smoke-filled office at New York magazine, to her career as an innovative acupuncturist in Vermont, and on to a passion for close-knit communities, grazing cows, and soil restoration as solutions to much of what ails us. More.

THURSDAY IN CINCINNATI: Ada Limón, February 23, 2017 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, Elliston Poetry Room, 646 Langsam Library, University of Cincinnati. Ada Limón is the author of four books of poetry, including Bright Dead Things, which was named a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry, a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award, and one of the Top Ten Poetry Books of the Year by The New York Times. More.

THURSDAY: PechaKucha Mini Lectures, February 23, 2017 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm, Hope Church, 500 Hickory St., Dayton, Ohio 45410. PechaKucha 20×20 is a simple presentation format where a group of speakers show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and the speakers talk along to the images. Dayton writers Marsha Theresa Danzig and Jude Walsh Whelley will be among the presenters! More.

FRIDAY: Gabrielle Civil presents Swallow the Fish, February 24, 2017 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm. Antioch College Theatre, 920 Corry Street Yellow Springs, OH 45387. Free. Black feminist performance artist and former Antioch performance professor Gabrielle Civil will launch her new book Swallow the Fish, a memoir in performance art. Incorporating reading, live performance, storytelling and appearances by special guest stars, this event will crack open her text, and explore the medium of performance from within its beating heart. She will repudiate body politics, invoke racial history, and proclaim her overarching desire to be an artist. More.

SUNDAY: Fairy Tale Day with Dawn Paul. February 26, 2017 @ 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. Storybrooke Cafe, 556 S. Main St., Englewood, Ohio. Sunday February the 26th is National Tell a Fairytale Day! Author Dawn Paul will be visiting to help us celebrate, reading with us and giving us a “sneak peek” at her new book (The Tales of Christian Tompta: Gnomeling) due out 3/31 .. So come share the magic with us and have a happily ever after kind of day! More.

Writing Events

WEDNESDAY: Lara Elena Donnelly debuts Amberlough, February 15, 2017@ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Books&Co, 4453 Walnut St, Beavercreek, OH 45440. It’s as if Le Carre meets Cabaret in this debut spy thriller, Amberlough (TOR), as a gay double-agent schemes to protect his smuggler lover during the rise of a fascist government coup. More.

THURSDAY: Erin Flanagan on Defining Self in Creative Nonfiction. February 16, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm. Dayton Metro Library – Kettering-Moraine Branch, 3496 Far Hills Ave, Dayton, OH 45429. Figuring out how to write accurately about yourself and others is one of the greatest challenges in creative nonfiction. In this talk titled You’re a Real Character: Defining Self in Creative Nonfiction, we’ll discuss psychic distance, reflective voice, character development, and other tricks of the trade to help you think about how to put yourself in an essay, as well as the other option, leaving yourself out. More.

THURSDAY: Jessica Garrett Makes Science Fun. February 16, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm. Books&Co, 4453 Walnut St, Beavercreek, OH 45440. Former science teacher JESSICA GARRETT will discuss her book, Oh, Ick: 114 Science Experiments Guaranteed to Gross You Out! She helps young people discover there is science behind absolutely everything – including burps, earwax, and boogers. More.

SUNDAY: Sharon Short on Incorporating Research into Your Work. February 19, 2017 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm. Books & Co, 4453 Walnut Street, Dayton, OH 45440. You’ve done your research for your story, novel, essay, memoir or other writing… now, how do you use all those great, savory details to enhance your writing, without overwhelming your reader? More.

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Writer's Life

A one-question interview with author, professor and martial artist Steve Bein

Answer: Three big lessons leap to mind, and they’re about frailty, being a beginner, and surpassing your own limits.

The first thing I learned as a martial artist was five different ways to tear apart the human wrist. This was before we did anything you could properly call martial art; it was just calisthenics. You’ve got these five basic wrist locks, and it’s good to apply them on yourself to limber up a bit before you start throwing each other around by the wrist. The point is this: I hadn’t shed my first drop of sweat and already I’d learned how easy it is to tear my frail little body apart. Something like eight pounds of pressure is enough.

The same thing happens as a writer. Once you decide you want to pursue this craft, you start reading differently—or at least you should—and then you start noticing how many people are better at this than you are. You come across that perfectly executed scene, that one detail that makes the setting come alive,  that single line of dialogue that transforms a character from flat to fully formed. You read things like that and you see just how far your own work falls short.

It makes you feel frail, but if you ask me, this is a very good thing. You should want to find work that’s better than yours. That’s the surest way to improve your craft: emulate writers who are better at this than you are.

That gets me to the next lesson, which is what it means to be a beginner. Shodan, the Japanese word for a first-degree black belt, means “beginner’s rank.” It took me six years to earn my first shodan—six years to get to the point where I could start getting serious. There aren’t many pastimes where you practice two or three hours a night, five nights a week, for as long as it takes to collect a couple of college degrees, just to get to the point where you’re called a beginner.

But then there’s that apocryphal quote floating around: “The first million words are just practice.” (I first heard it ascribed to Graham Greene, but versions of it are ascribed to Jerry Pournelle, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ray Bradbury, and others.) If you were to write a thousand words a night, five nights a week, it would take you about four years to log your million words. Elmore Leonard agreed, and said that’s about how long it takes to figure out what you want your voice to sound like.

Log your first million, find your voice, write the next Great American Novel, and you’re still a beginner. You’ve still got to publish. If you go the route I went—traditional publishing, shooting for one of the Big Four houses—you’re going to need an agent. It took me three years to find mine. Signing on with her was a huge thrill, to say nothing of actually and getting the book contract a few months later. But even then I felt like a beginner. In hindsight my naïveté is just shocking to me. I signed a two-book deal with only the vaguest clue how I would write the second book. Then I decided it would be clever for the second one to set up a trilogy, blissfully unaware that the Big Four have no qualms about dropping an author midway through a series. But I got lucky, and today my trilogy is sitting on a bookshelf, not a thumb drive. If you’re stuck being a beginner, you might as well cash in on a little beginner’s luck.

It’s not all luck, of course. I worked hard to make sure my second book was better than the first and my third was better than the second. That’s the last thing the path to black belt taught me about being a writer: you have to surpass what you think you’re capable of.

In the dojo I came up in, the shodan test was a grueling affair: three hours of testing, followed by an hour of non-stop sparring where you get a fresh opponent every five minutes. It’s awful. It’s the greatest day of your life and it’s still awful. You can’t even take solace in the fact that you’ll be proud of this moment later, because in the moment itself you’re so exhausted that your only thought is of how to stay on your feet for one more round. It’s the longest hour of your life, and the worst, and the best.

This is exactly how I feel about writing. Maybe other writers don’t subject themselves to this, but I feel enormous pressure for each book to be better than the last. I also made a promise to myself from the beginning: you will never turn in a piece unless it’s the best work you could have turned in that day. So if the last book was the best I could have done, and the next book is supposed to be better… well, you see where the pressure comes from.

This loops back around to the lessons on frailty and being a beginner. Here’s the thing: no one is good at all of writing. Every writer has strengths and weaknesses. It’s the same as tying your belt and stepping on the mat: even if you think you’re not a beginner anymore, there are still too many skill sets to learn for any one person to master them all. Even when you get close to mastering one of them, there are still those magicians out there whose talent leaves you convinced you will never, ever catch up.

I think that’s okay. We need geniuses to emulate. They’re the ones who can inspire us to raise the bar with each book and still find a way to clear it. If they leave us feeling a bit beat up, that’s part of the training.

Steve Bein (pronounced “Bine”) is a philosopher, martial artist, traveler, translator, and award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Interzone, and in international translation, and his Fated Blades novels were met with critical acclaim. Steve teaches at Asian philosophy the University of Dayton. You can find all of his work at www.philosofiction.com. Please follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Writer's Life, Writing Events

Question: How do you define an artist?

Answer: “My definition is, perhaps, a bit non-traditional, because I truly believe that everyone is an artist. Every day, each one of us is shaping this world. We are all leaving an indelible imprint on this Earth and altering the trajectory of humanity with every action, every thought we make.

For example: a mother is an artist, as well as a business owner or scientist. They, too, are all creators that bring life, products, and ideas into this world that were not in existence before they gave birth to them.

It’s empowering to think of oneself in this manner, and very necessary. Now more than ever, this world needs all of us to find our own unique artistic gifts so that we can heal and beautify our shared reality.”

Tiffany Shaw-Diaz runs a cooperative poetry group on Facebook called The Co-op Poetry Lab. The group creates poems cooperatively with people all over the world and plans to release its first book of poems later this year. Learn more on Facebook.

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Upcoming literary events

SATURDAY: It’s Raining Men! (Panel), $99February 11, 2017 @ 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm. St Margaret’s Community Room, 5301 Free Pike, Dayton, OH 45426. Does this sound familiar? “All the good ones are taken.” “I am tired of waiting for Mr. Right and attracting Mr. Wrong.” “All men are dogs.” Not to worry! A fulfilling relationship is possible for you! Join us for an all-male panel sharing real relationship advice that women would be crazy to ignore. Enjoy chair massages by professional male therapists, dinner, an autographed copy of the I Love Myself Journal, and a custom goody box gift filled with goodies selected just for you. Based on the bestselling novel, The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box: Relationship advice that your father didn’t tell you and your mother didn’t know. More.

SUNDAY: LitSalon: Tim Waggoner, $20. February 12, 2017 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm. Home of Kate Geiselman, AWW Acting President. Tim Waggoner, author of more than 30 published novels in the fantasy, horror and sci fi genres will chat with Dayton Daily News editor Ron Rollins. Tim’s publications include his own original work as well as television series tie-ins and feature film novelizations, so he will offer insight not only into his own writing life, but into these unique areas of fiction writing. Learn more about Tim and his achievements at www.timwaggoner.com. The LitSalon will be hosted by and held at the home of Kate Geiselman, AWW Vice President, essayist and Sinclair Community College creative writing instructor. The afternoon will also feature tasty treats and beverages, and a fun raffle auction… all in support of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop! More.

The Hoopla

Since I use Overdrive to borrow audiobooks and ebooks from the library on my phone, I never bothered downloading Hoopla. Last week, I got an email from Dayton Metro Library saying they were offering double the Hoopla downloads this month, though, so I decided to try it. Pretty amazing. The interface is simple and intuitive. If you have a library card, you’ll get instant access to a great selection of audio and ebooks … and it’s a selection that grew by more than 50% last year. Check it out.