Free Writing Workshops for Young Women Writers at The Carnegie Center

Free Writing Workshops for Young Women Writers at The Carnegie Center

The Carnegie Center, located in Lexington, Kentucky, is taking applications for the 2016 Young Women Writers Program, a series of free writing workshops geared toward youth interested in expressing themselves through writing. A committee will choose 6 promising writers in grades nine to twelve to participate in six 4-hour workshops.

February 13: Magical Realism with Sarah Combs

February 20: Creative Nonfiction with Journey McAndrews

February 27: Fantasy with Gwenda Bond

March 5: Spellbinding:The Art of Performance with Bianca Spriggs

March 12: TBA

March 19: Poetry with Kate Hadfield

Writers with professional literary backgrounds will teach the participants how to express themselves through different genres such as sci-fi, young adult fiction, and creative nonfiction. Participants will also master the methods of giving a successful public reading, as well as learn about different careers in writing and publishing.

Deadline for applications is January 8, 2016. Download an application here.

The Carnegie Center

The Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning
251 West Second Street
Lexington, Kentucky 40507
P:(859) 254-4175 / F:(859) 281-1151

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Vivian Gornick, writer of In Search of Ali Mahmoud; An American Woman in Egypt, once said that her problem with documenting her life in Egyptian was detachment. “I didn’t even know [detachment] was something to be prized—that, in fact, it was crucial, that without detachment there can be no story” (They Went: The Art and Craft of Travel Writing (The Writer’s Craft), p.111). How two people are different—an accomplished author and travel writer who has lived double the life of an American teacher in Japan—can suddenly look similar is what makes writing about our lives so fun.

When I try to convey Japan in text, I’m paralyzed with emotion sometimes. I want readers to understand that the wonders of Japan, whether it be its famous anime industry or its traditions, need to be treated with respect, not excitement or narrowness. But I can’t find the right words to explain everything I’ve experienced in 5 years. Maybe I haven’t found the right second to write it.

While Ms. Gornick was in Egypt, she took notes of her adventures. Tobias Schneebaum kept a journal when he visited the Asmat that resulted in his book, Where the Spirits Dwell: An Odyssey in the Jungle of New Guinea. Notes! Journals! Why am I so unprepared and unorganized in tracking my life through the urban woods of Japan? I think back at the times when I wanted to write about the Dream Robot Exhibition where the Terminator, AstroBoy, and other robots danced and shined in my childlike vision; when I took pictures on an obsolete slider phone, hoping that later I’d email them to myself and didn’t; when the numbers and email addresses and names on my contact list fail to bring a face to my memory.

It’s a good possibility that my memory, though fuzzy as it is, holds more emotion than actual memories. My best friend from mainland Japan is my brother. My friend with CWH on my contact list is my beloved uncle who makes me laugh and think, a real mentor and father figure for the one I don’t have. And my Japanese tutor who corrected my diary entries brings calm and warm conversations to mind. The many students who tried to hug me but policy forbid any physical contact between foreigner and student made me feel pride at their graduation and joy at their transition into college goers. The teachers who changed my view of every day life in Japan, picking apart my quiet stereotypes and giving me laughter and lessons, remain at the forefront of memories labeled “work life”. I struggle to sort these feelings into cohesive thoughts, and I suddenly understand, after being shy of 2 months in the US, Ms. Gornick’s detachment issues.

Every writer—every person—needs to take a step to the side and look at their experiences and surroundings with unclouded eyes. Without that clear vision, the memories tumble out and confuse listeners and readers. I’d like to lead an unambiguous life, a life without struggle for both me and those around me.

The real question for me is: can I construct a real memory without emotion, or do I stand on one side, sifting them from one another, without actually saying anything? The latter is what I fear the most. I hope in the future I’ll understand what my memories truly mean to me.

Learn Bad Writing from Gotham


Learn Bad Writing from Gotham

It’s easy to find inspiration in great books, movies, and TV shows, but sometimes, the best inspiration comes from horrible books and scripts. As Stephen King wrote, “[…] quite often the bad books have more to teach you than the good ones” (On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft). The revived Batman series, Gotham, flies into King’s quote with no hope of escape, making it a perfect study for aspiring writers.

The writing is the most important aspect of the entire Batman franchise because it was considered a neo-noir–Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett casing today’s block in black spandex. Neo-noir has many tricky elements–dark scenes, cynical yet straightforward lines, femme fatales, gritty plots, and bold character development–and when one of those elements don’t match the rest of it, the entire work dies as swiftly as Martha and Thomas Wayne.

My biggest problem with Gotham‘s script is the abstract, uncharacteristic lines that pass through the actors’ lips. For example, when Detective James Gordon meets the Wayne butler, Alfred, to talk about little Bruce’s mental problems, they have an unconvincing conversation that’s supposed to show Alfred’s exasperation with Bruce’s behavior.

GORDON: You make the rules, don’t you? You’re his guardian.

ALFRED: I raised his father. Gave me very firm…orders was his and his missus to die. Now I will raise the boy the way his father taught me to raise him.

GORDON: Which is how?

ALFRED: Trust him…to choose his own…course. He is, after all, a Wayne.

GORDON: Sounds like a recipe for disaster. What do you want me to do?

BRUCE: He wants you to talk some sense into me.

From these eleven sentences, there isn’t much that moves the audience, and the choice of words are cliché (“Sounds like a recipe for disaster.”) and unbelievable (“Trust him…to choose his own…course.”). Anyone can trade “course” for “destiny”.

ALFRED: Trust him…to choose his own…destiny. He is, after all, a Wayne.

Nope, it’s still too abstract. As a writer in the Neo-Noir genre and a fan of the Batman franchise, I’d like to edit the script to suit Detective Gordon and Alfred.

GORDON: You make the rules, don’t you? You’re his guardian.

ALFRED: His father gave me firm orders to raise the boy the same way his father wanted him raised…if he was here.

GORDON: Which is how?

ALFRED: Allow Master Bruce to make his own…decisions. He is, after all, a Wayne.

GORDON: Then why am I here?

BRUCE: He wants you to talk some sense into me.

This script has more feeling because the lines are straightforward and realistic. In real conversations, people don’t usually speak in a passive voice. Also, the new dialogue captures Detective Gordon and Alfred’s personalities. Gordon was a U.S. soldier, hardened to take lives and hone survival skills, before he faced corruption within two police departments. This person would cut to the point, as commanding officers only want the bottom line without much lip service. Alfred, a former intelligence agent experienced in domestic support, is an English version of Gordon, only he has more tact and sarcasm in his personality.

A good example of punchy lines suited for their characters is the 1966 Batman series.

JOKER: Where’s Bruce Wayne?

ALFRED: Mr. Wayne is not at home, Sir.

JOKER: Too bad! I’ll get my revenge later. Right now, I’ll settle for cash. Where’s the safe?

ALFRED: My duties do not include aiding and abetting thievery.

In the face of danger, Alfred stands his ground with just one line and the audience immediately understands his character. There are no winding lines that lack emotion or imagery. The above lines are reduced to basic English grammar: subject, verb, and object or complement. That’s my kind of Point A to Point B.

Gotham missed the characters’ personalities and active neo-noir lines, making it a piece of worthless writing, but just as Stephen King advices for writers, “[…] bad [writings] have more to teach you than the good ones.”

Hard-Hitting Comics in a Different Way: The Comics Workbook Magazine #4 Review

cwm_bannerI have two loves in this world—writing and art—or three, if comics weren’t art already. When I find books and magazines and blogs that combine my loves something punches me in the kidney and says, “Hey, pay attention.” The Comics Workbook Magazine, a new e-zine for aspiring comic creators, makes a punching bag out of my organs. “You’re paying attention, right?”

Just like a haymaker, the fourth issue of the Comics Workbook Magazine comes out of nowhere and gives readers a unique take on art in editorials. This May issue featured essays by L. Nichols, Sarah Lautman, and Barthelemy Schwatz, an interview with Alex Degen, and comic strips by Andrea Bjurst, Krystal DiFronzo, Ines Estrada, and Emma Louthan.

I found Graham Sigurdson’s interview with AREACC artist Alex Degen the most interesting. Degen’s thoughts on silent comics ought to be given to all comic artists who want to improve their visual narratives. His statement—“[…] even if I didn’t fully understand the text the pictures would fill out the context”—should be a code for all artists as, “Your audience will understand the pictures, so make the pictures talk”. Degen’s success and Sigurdson’s eye for capturing the Mighty Star artist in his element will rub any reader the right way.

After Degen’s interview, there are comic strips that give the eyes a time out. Bjurst’s’ “I Have Purpose!” comic strip is minimal as if she traded Edvard Munch’s mixed-media screamer with a penciled one. “True Lies” by Estrada followed by DiFronzo and Louthan’s comics make good gut-busters, at least, compared to the serious editorials in the later part of the magazine. These comics balance the entire magazine without losing a bead of sweat.

This magazine may deliver some clean punches to the body, but veterans know how to parry them with clear eyes. Any type of art magazine, even if it is a literary medium, is an educational art piece. Artists read art. Editorials reinforce the visuals. They work together, and when they don’t, it’s going to be noticed—and not in a good way. The Comics Workbook Magazine shows that art and literature are arm-length apart. In every essay, only one or two images break up the text, and the penciled comic strips look unprofessional flushed against each other. All writings should spar again—they need another revision. Some of my pet peeves in literature include long-winded openers, all-capitalized words, and obvious self-promotions, all of which are in this magazine. Still, I can’t get angry, or I risk forfeiting nuggets of wisdom. This magazine is a beginner mimicking the likes of The Greatest.

Aside from the swings that refuse to land, the Comics Workbook Magazine is a good resource for aspiring comic book artists who write their own stuff. The writers and artists in this magazine created a small yet provoking magazine that can only come from people who are just like me—attentive lovers of writing and art—minus the inflamed organs.

The Comics Workbook Magazine is available on The Copacetic Comics Company website for $2.00.

Winner of Writing Contests


I’m one step closer to accomplishing my goal as an aspiring writer.

My story, “The Loaner”, won the grand prize for the A.B. Betancourt Short Story Science Fiction Writing Contest. Another story, “The Visitor”, was selected as one of the seven short stories for a science fiction anthology.

I usually enter many writing contests and submit stories I’ve written before. Both times around, I went through the backgrounds of the contests and the judges to see which of my stories suited the contest. I also asked my husband, author of Blubber Island, to look at my stories and give me a critical critique. After I got his feedback, I went through the stories and fixed some of the story problems or grammatical errors I had overlooked. Last year, I entered many contests and won none of them, but I also didn’t put in at least one month of writing, editing, and researching into them. This made all the difference this time around.

You can find “The Loaner” on A.B. Betancourt’s blog. A.B. Betancourt is the author of The Key.

The Prince and the Singularity – A Circular Tale

theprinceandthesingulairtyI’ll admit it: books about metaphysics are boring. They’re so abstract and non-committal, I feel like I’m ending a relationship rather than putting a book back on the shelf. Thank goodness there are some good books about metaphysics that don’t follow the same dreary format, and that book is Pedro Barrento’s The Prince and the Singularity – A Circular Tale. The title is appropriate (thanks for being clear); the main character named the Prince decides to battle Greed and Revenge inside humanity’s core by delivering a message of peace to the world. Though his intentions are good, the Prince faces obstacles that keep repeating, just like the creation of the world.

Although many metaphysical tales use references and characters from the Bible, Quran, or other archaic sources, The Prince and the Singularity takes the messages from well-known texts and turns it into a new story, one that people today can relate to. The Prince doubts himself every step of his way as he watches people commit heinous acts, causing him to fall deeper into doubt until he rescues himself with his own resolve.

What I like the most about this book is that it has a soft flow to it as gentle as putting a hand into a crystal clear bath. It’s easy to read and the messages within the book are easy to understand. This book, if it were personified, would make other books jealous over its simplistically-written deepness. Within the deepness, there isn’t a condescending jerk waiting to “save” your soul or pretend that everything makes sense just because there’s a thing called religion. The author doesn’t try to persuade you with abstract ideals or promises of damnation. He lays out the message and gives you room to accept or reject what he’s putting out there.

For optimistic readers in need of a soothing relationship with metaphysics, The Prince and the Singularity is one of the best options out there.

The One Who is Two


Author: Stuart Oldfield

Anything with white rabbits invokes a blond little girl in a blue dress, but Stuart Oldfield’s The One Who is Two ventures into an adult satire of Alice in Wonderland without jumping on Lewis Carroll’s toes.

The One Who is Two follows adulterer and failed father Simon Cadwallader on his adventures into a strange dimension where signs move, animals talk, and inanimate objects hold high opinions. After leaving his ex-wife’s home, he finds himself transported to another world. As he tries to find his way back home, he comes across many peculiar characters, some human, some not-so human. His travels reveal that he wasn’t the only person to enter the alternate dimension, and soon, he has to abandon his cowardly ways to save the new world.

The premise of The One Who is Two isn’t original, but the way newcomer Stuart Oldfield tells the story is well-done and easy to read. He paints the alternate reality with fresh and vibrant descriptions while maintaining his comedic voice as Loofah, Simon’s name when he enters the new world. In places where the prose is a little too well-done, readers can read slowly without feeling as if the story will drag into a dimension of boredom.

Throughout the whole book, subtle and obvious points bring the theme home: duality. The One Who is Two is relatable and un-relatable to adults; the sexual innuendos and the dreary office scenes (hovering overseer—I mean, supervisor—included) are understandable to working adults; the talking animals and murderous inanimate objects are completely foreign to sensible adults. Many readers will easily find the alternate reality’s duality as a satire (and unfortunate comparison) to society now. By the end, readers will want to get the next book from Oldfield’s White Rabbit series.

For readers who are looking for another Alice in Wonderland, The One Who is Two isn’t the same book. Still, open-minded readers looking for a quick read made for adults, The One Who is Two is such a book.