If You Write Fiction

The Good Sister book coverOr want to, then I hope you’ve had the chance to study with Drusilla Campbell. She’s the most amazing instructor. She teaches at various writing conferences in Southern California and at The Ink Spot.

I used to be completely plot impared and Dru taught me how to structure a novel so my ideas had a framework to hold on to and shine. Thanks to her, I was even able to obtain a grant to finish my novel.

Tonight, there is a publication party for her latest book, The Good Sister, at The Ink Spot. I suggest you check out her book and take a class of hers.  There’s a great reivew in the North County Times and she’s teaching a Novel Cram workshop at the Southern California Writers Conference in February.

If you’re in San Diego, I hope you make it to one of her appearances and if not, you can buy the book at Amazon.

My Writing Friends Featuring Stephen Wing

I have an amazing group of writing friends and because they are often hesitant to shamelessly promote their works, I’m going to do so for them.

First up is Stephen Wing – a man I know from my twenty years of involvement with the Rainbow Gathering. His novel, Free Ralph!: An Evolutionary Fable, was published in 2008.  He graciously sent me a copy a year ago to read and given my busy schedule it took me awhile to get started, but once I did, I was hooked.

Now for those of you who think this is some rambling hippie tale, think again.  Wing’s comic gifts and straight forward story telling take the topic of human and chimpanzee communication, evolutionary ecology, a drunken safari leader, his much too serious mother and toss them into the circus along the way spinning a tale worthy of a Monty Python treatment.  Nerdy janitor, Wilbur Trimble,  finds his true family in a band of chimpanzees in Africa and returns to the USA to rescue their kidnapped son who has been turned into a circus performer.  Now my two cents cannot do justice to the original work, so I’ll share just portions of a passage when Trimble gets on the bus.Human evolution isn't finished yet.

“There on the side of the road stood Wilbur Trimble–in a leopardskin loincloth.

Trimble still wore the same wire-rimmed glasses, but his feet were bare and flithy, his thin shirtless chest burned reddish by the sun. … But no experienced hunter could mistake the smell of a freshly skinned pelt. Nor could the flies, who were beginning to buzz enthusiastically around Trimble’s loins. ”

To purchase your very own copy or read reviews by people with far more credentiails to their name, click here.

Fixing a Scene

Today I’m working on fixing some kludgy places in chapter 16 of my novel. On the wall above my bed I have written out the logic of motivation reaction units (MRU). Every time something is clunky or not flowing properly, I try to re-write it using an MRU and most of the time, the scene starts to flow “naturally.” If you’re a writer, this is a killer craft tip. Read more at MRU online.

It’s Official, I’m Crazy

I’m applying to a Ph.D. Program in Myth and Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute. If I am accepted, I have the privilege of spending three years taking classes and two years writing a dissertation. I already have two full times jobs so I ought to have my head examined.

I’m attempting this because I want to write stories that help humanity progress in a conscious way and that illuminate the great works done by all the heros I know that are saving the planet or teaching peace or feeding people or growing organic food. I’m lucky that way, I know a lot of heros.

The Novel – Round Seven

Today, I’m getting organized for the seventh draft of my novel, Falling From The Moon. Yes the one that was supposedly finished in June. Thanks to my friends, I received some wonderful feedback on the novel and this last round will incorporate most of the suggestions I received from friends and a couple of agents who read the first chapter and a synopsis at the La Jolla Writers Conference in November.

The main change is that the first chapters, which all happen in 1990, are now going to be in strict chronological order. I’ve spent the morning reworking my meta text and renumbering chapters. My goal is to finish this draft by year end meaning I have my work cut out for me. That’s a chapter a day for the rest of the month. 75% of the work is incorporating the line edits and a few minor bloops into my electronic version. The remaining 25% is fixing transitions due to the chapter order being tossed upside down.

I have the best friends in the entire world. I know you all have very busy lives and I am honored you made the time to help me get to round seven. Thanks to Carletta, Cyndi, Jennifer, Karen, Debby, and Debby’s neighbor who I’ve never met. You rock!

Graduate School Round Three

In 1999 I returned to college to finish my undergraduate degree so I could go to graduate school. Unfortunately, just before I started, my mom had a massive stroke and lost the ability to do much of anything. I decided to put off graduate school for a year or two to help her get back on her feet (literally and metaphorically). In 2006, I realized that waiting for her to get back on her feet, or die, or for me to win the lottery just wasn’t going to happen, so I applied to graduate school and left practical thoughts like how to pay for it and where would I find the time to the wind.

Either I’m too old or too dumb or something as I was rejected by all the programs I applied to (a total of three). In the fall of 2007, I quit my job and entered into my own version of graduate school. I took classes in literature, writing, publishing and received a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation to finish my novel. I also attended a three day symposium on The Art of Writing at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California.

My first introduction to depth psychology and creative writing and tending the soul of the world was like seeing my heart outside of my body. I’ve always known it was there, but seeing it made be want to learn more about it.

The desire for graduate school hasn’t gone away either and I’m trying again. This time I’m expanding my horizons. In addition to MFA in Creative Writing programs at UC San Diego and UC Riverside, I’m going to apply to Pacifica. The only problems is there are two programs I’m interested in there: an MA in Engaged Humanities and a Ph.D. in Mythological Studies.

My heart wants to apply for the Ph.D., but my brain says the MA would be easier to fit into my life. Either way, there is knowledge and wisdom that I am lacking to help myself and my community in the twenty first century and I’m feeling that an advanced degree will help me shore up my skills a bit in the area of “changing the world” and writing about the amazing people that I admire from the depths of my heart.

Wish me luck.

I Finished the Novel – Now What?

I finished my novel, Falling From the Moon, in June and September is almost a memory. In June and July I gave copies of the book to a few trusted friends to read, hoping to get some feedback. I’ve been working on the novel for years and years and years and no one had read the entire book cover to cover and I definitely wanted to clean up the typos, grammar issues and matters of choreography before trying to show it to someone who might actually want to publish it.

Yes, that is the goal. As much as I was compelled to keep writing the book even when I was sick of it and wanted to escape from its clutch, I always knew that someday I would try to get it published.

So I’m waiting on my friends, hint hint, to return their copies with lots of pen marks on the page. I’ve registered for the La Jolla Writers Conference in November and my deadline to have my synopsis and first twelve pages in their post office box is October 1st – so I better get hustling.

I’ve been trapped in synopsis hell, learning how to be concise, cover the basic plots points and be a bit of a tease so I can leave prospective agents hungry for more. This conference asked for a one page synopsis and after slaving over it for days, I think I have a one page draft.

In the meantime, I’m reading the novel myself and scribbling all over the printed page so I guess my triumphant June post wasn’t so climatic after all. But this last draft is mostly sentence changes and minor edits. I hope to be done with this verion by November 1st.

Wish me luck!

How Riding the Bus Saved Me from a Nervous Breakdown

Every morning when I wake up, I’m already behind on my to-do list and before I’ve even had breakfast, my stress level is through the roof. My brain knows that if I take a few minutes to sit quietly, I’ll feel more relaxed, but once I’m loosing my sanity, it’s hard for me to figure out how to sit still. Not to mention, trying to find a moment between trips to the potty, phone calls and the endless stream of work related messages to my crackberry, relaxation seems as out of reach as Jupiter.

Yet the moment the bus arrives at the bus stop and I climb on board, everything stops. I can pull out my book and read, watch the boats on the water as we zoom by on the freeway, edit my novel, or just eavesdrop on the conversations of excited teenagers wrapped up in what Bob said to Sally or other simple problems. My heart slows down and I can make notes on what I need to do or think or how I’m feeling. I can do nothing. Today I wished the trip was longer. Thirty minutes after climbing on board, I was off and speed walking through the streets to my office tower overlooking San Diego Harbor. Now I’m anticipating the journey home so I can get back to working on the synopsis of my novel I need to have done by Friday for the La Jolla Writers Conference in November.

Hail to the Number 30 Bus – my savior.

Me and UCLA

The UCLA Writers’ Program offers an amazing banquet of writing classes through UCLA Extension. From October 2007 until March 2008, I took a great on-line course in advanced fiction that gave me the tools I needed to finish my novel.

When I was awarded the Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, my instructor told me to let the Writers’ Program know and I would get some great publicity out of it. And she was right. Check it out, I’m famous for today anyway.

From UCLA Writers’ Studio web site:

“Online Student Receives Fiction Writing Grant

Student Karin Zirk was awarded a grant for unpublished novels through the Elizabeth George Foundation. Karin has been using the grant to take Writers’ Program online courses to finish her novel, Falling from the Moon.

Karin says, “The grant provided time to write and funding for classes such as Novel V, where I studied under the incredible Caroline Leavitt. Not only is she a cheerleader extraordinaire, but her ability to share tools that helped me find the holes in my novel and fill them with the missing pieces of the story was incredible,” Karin says. “In addition to the Novel V class, I had the privilege of taking Katharine Sand’s Riveting Writing course, which has given me the tools I need to pitch this book to an agent.”

We look forward to reading the finished manuscript, Karin! Congratulations.”

It’s Done! (sort of)

On Monday I finished my novel, the novel I started in 1995. Six to eight drafts later and six months of writing fifteen hours a week and it’s done (sort of).

So what’s the next step? Two close friends will read it while I’m gone to Wyoming for the Rainbow Gathering. Hopefully, when I come back, all I need to do is some line edits and then I can start looking for an agent.

It feels anti-climatic and scary. I’m not sure who I will be if I’m not the person working on the stories of Sapphire and Lauren. Can I let them go? Will I have empty nest syndrome? Only time will tell.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way!