Monthly Archives: September 2010
Happy Halloween—or Happy Poe Season, as we call it in my house!
Many of you are fans of my ghost stories, and now you can have the opportunity to develop your own! I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be teaching the first-ever online five-week course/workshop of its kind: The Essentials of Paranormal Fiction, Part 1: Grasping the Ghost Story at To Write Well, www.towritewell.com.
Using a literary approach with an eye toward Poe’s Single Effect Theory, Grasping the Ghost Story illumines the finer points of creating the subtlety that makes ghost stories work. Close readings, critical responses, exercises, and free-writing will hone your recognition and command of what is the very essence of a good ghost story—one that will haunt the reader long after he’s turned out the lights.
If you’re interested but now isn’t the right timing for you, there are four more sessions planned for 2011. And if this isn’t your bag, To Write Well is offering other unique courses, such as Writing the Thriller & Suspense Novel with Mark (James Axler) Ellis and Breathing Life into Your Story: Memoir Writing, both of which feature exclusive techniques. And this is just the beginning. Other courses in such topics as Southern Fiction are planned for next year. You can take basic editing or how to write a novel or plot and character workshops anywhere, but To Write Well is the only place where you can take writing courses and workshops tailored to your specific passion!
If you’re curious about any of this, you can check it all out at www.towritewell.com.
I’m ecstatic some of my work is being used to help students! This summer, “Wailing Station” was taught in a Summer Session English course at Brewster Academy, a private school for grades 9-12 in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
Now, “Doors” has been added to the syllabus for Bristol Community College’s Composition II: Introduction to Literature course; I’ll travel to Attleboro, MA in October to speak to the class.
“Paisley Surprise” has been included in the syllabus for Community College of Vermont’s Winooski Campus’ Freshman Seminar, Dimensions of Work, which introduces students to a number of skills they’ll need to successfully navigate college level studies. “Paisley Surprise” will be used to help the students learn about reading literature critically.
This is all really exciting. I think my late father, a high school English teacher for thirty-two years, would be pleased.
My flash fiction piece “Shell Game” is now available in Eclectic Flash’s Volume 1, September 2010 issue.
Hardbound copies of the magazine are available through Lulu.com and are $9.95 each—I just read mine, and if you love good flash, then this is the place to find it; the thing is jam-packed with good stuff. You can order it here: http://bit.ly/9ul936
If you’d rather read it for free online (not downloadable), visit here: http://bit.ly/auZ9W4
I’ll be recording the story for their “Voices” section, which means it’ll be available to listen to on an mp3, and I’ll keep you posted.
The Norman Mailer Writers Colony recently let me know I’ve been accepted for another residency this winter! I’ll be up in Provincetown writing from January 16-31, 2011.
Based on how much I got done last year, I’m looking forward to getting a good jump on projects—one in particular, which absolutely has to be finished—due in 2011.
There is an application process and residencies are based on merit. There’s still time to apply for the coming season. Deadlines are as follows: October 1 for residencies in November and December, 2010; December 1 for residencies in January and February 2011; February 1 for residencies in March through May 2011.
If you’d like more information on the Fall/Winter/Spring Retreat Program or you’d like to apply, visit here for information: http://www.nmwcolony.org/contents/fellowship_winter/2/30 and here for the application: http://www.nmwcolony.org/files/2010-08-24-031100Fellows_2010-2011-Winter_Application__with_fee_8-18-10.pdf
“Crossing Guards” is in a new Table of Contents at Pill Hill Press and a slightly different version of “Paisley Surprise” is in print at Static Movement.
The beauty of anthologies is that there’s one for every taste, and so I’m pleased that “Crossing Guards” appears in vastly different collections. Millennial Concepts’ Walls & Bridges anthology offers pieces for every preference—there is poetry, there are literary pieces, there is horror, there is memoir, there is romance.
“Crossing Guards” is also now available in Pill Hill Press’ Haunted anthology—which focuses on scary stories set in haunted structures. If you love a book packed with spooky stuff, Haunted is for you.
“Paisley Surprise” is now in print with several other fine frightening pieces in Static Movement’s Inner Fears anthology.
With Halloween around the corner, it might be time to treat yourself to something scary…and although it’s only September, if you’re anything like me, you might already be considering Christmas. An anthology makes a great gift for a special reader in your life!
Ordering information is below.
Walls & Bridges (Print):
Walls & Bridges (Kindle):
I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been appointed to the faculty at To Write Well—an online private educational organization devoted to teaching the craft of writing through workshops that go deeper than the basics.
Here’s the official announcement: http://lmdonovan.wordpress.com/tww-2/welcome-kristi-petersen-schoonover-to-our-tww-faculty/
Between now and next October, To Write Well will offer five sections of a ten-week course in Paranormal Fiction. I’ll teach Part 1 – Grasping the Ghost Story, and fellow writer C.L. Ross will teach Part 2, which will delve into other types of paranormal fiction and lore (vampires, werewolves, etc.) As of this writing, it’s the only Paranormal Fiction course being offered anywhere.
As for what will be covered in Grasping the Ghost Story: Ghost stories exist to unsettle and terrify—but in order for that to happen, certain subtle elements must be present. Using a literary approach with an eye toward Poe’s Single Effect Theory, Grasping the Ghost Story will illumine the finer points of creating such subtlety. Close readings, critical responses, exercises, and free-writing will hone the student’s recognition and command of what is the very essence of a good ghost story—one that will haunt the reader long after he’s turned out the lights.
Students taking this course will enter with a draft of a ghost story that they’re working on, and it will be assumed that the student has a solid understanding of the basic and advanced elements of fiction. Since the ghost story is the foundation for other types of paranormal fiction, this course will be required before signing up for Part 2.
I’m tremendously excited about this opportunity—it’s a chance to work in what I really love!
Nana (my grandmother) lived in Daytona Beach, Florida, so growing up, we visited her frequently. When I was fifteen, Dad took us to the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse. The admission price included a climb to the lighthouse’s beacon, where visitors could behold the view. I had trepidation about climbing—it looked gargantuan.
“It’s only one hundred feet high,” my Dad—a man who’d once convinced me to jump into his arms off our beach’s dock because he was touching bottom—said. “Because it’s standing up, it’s an illusion. If you laid that down, it’d fit in between our mailbox and the McBrearity’s.”
Of course this wasn’t accurate. But just like at the dock, I bought it.
We ascended the endless spirals of metal stairs. When my legs burned, I’d stop and peer out windows through which I could see places from my past: the bright yellow cart where Nana bought five-year-old me my first conch shell. The ribbon of beach where nine-year-old me was stung by a jellyfish. The orange grove where eleven-year-old me picked oranges and made my first fresh juice. The restaurant where twelve-year-old me ate fried shark for the first time. The park where fourteen-year-old me petted a sea turtle. All these places getting smaller and smaller the higher we went; each time I saw a place, I’d look up at how far we still had to go and think, ‘okay, I’ve seen enough, I can stop now.’
But I kept going.
When we reached the top, I couldn’t believe the splendid view: the palm forests, the beaches, the ocean beyond. There was a whole world full of places I’d never been that were mine to explore. Everything was in front of me.
Fast forward twenty-four years, and I’m visiting the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum with fellow writers Marita Golden and Adrienne Wartts. I hadn’t climbed anything since Ponce Inlet, so I was eager. Adrienne wanted to climb, too, but wasn’t as full of gusto.
“It’s not that high,” I said. “It’s just an illusion because it’s standing up.”
She probably didn’t really buy that, but she went with me anyway. Up and up we went.
The fact that it was a combination of stairs and ramps should’ve made it easier, but it didn’t—there were burning legs. There was peering out windows at now-abandoned places from my past (in this case, recent past—winter): my old apartment, the dunes, the cemetery, Napi’s.
And there was assessment of how far we still had to go.
But then we reached the top, and I forgot about it all—once again, all I could see was a new Ptown. What lie ahead.
Visiting the monument, which had been built to immortalize the Mayflower Pilgrims’ landing in Provincetown in 1620, had special significance that day—just ten days prior, the town had celebrated the structure’s 100th anniversary. The monument took three years to complete, and along the way, New England towns, cities, and organizations donated interior blocks. It very much gave one the sense that the monument had been built more slowly, maybe, than was necessary; that it had been done painstakingly, stone by stone.
And all I could think about was how much the process of building the monument and the experience of climbing it paralleled my writing career.
On the drive to Ptown, I’d listened to an episode of my favorite Disney Park fan podcast, Inside the Magic. The show’s host, Ricky Brigante, was interviewing Peter Cullen (if you don’t know who he is, you might if you were a Transformers fan—he’s the original and current voice of Optimus Prime). Hasbro had just inducted Cullen into the Transformers Hall of Fame, and he shared his thoughts on creative success:
“It takes a long time. Some people are fortunate and they get it very quickly, but they’re gone very quickly…don’t give up. Keep the main ingredients and the main source of your heart and your ambitions together in one place in your mind and do not let defeat ever destroy you, just—always go after it, because you’ll really appreciate yourself later on when you do find some success.
“Some very important people in life have taught me some very important attitudes that I’ve applied. Lucille Ball once said, ‘never refuse a job no matter how small, no matter how big, how miniscule…because every job leads to another job. And don’t be so proud that you expect perhaps fifty lines and you only get half a line. That half line will take you to another line and so on.’ So always have the courage and the love of your craft to keep on going despite the disappointments, because there will be many.”
Those of us in creative careers should keep this in mind—in this world, everyone wants instant success. But that happens to only the few, so it’s good to remember that for most of us, reaching that pinnacle really is a long, slow process. That sometimes it’s really hard work; that sometimes it hurts; that sometimes we have to stop and assess where we’ve been and appreciate those struggles, but not let them keep us from moving forward. And that every small accomplishment is another stone or another step toward our goal. It may take a while—years, perhaps decades. But as long as we keep going, we will, eventually, get to the top.
And the view will definitely be worth it.
 The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is located at 4831 South Peninsula Drive in Daytona Beach, Florida, and has great historical significance—for example, Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage, based his most famous short story, “The Open Boat,” on his horrifying experience of being lost at sea within eyeshot of the Ponce Inlet Light (then called The Mosquito Light) after the sinking of the S.S. Commodore (the wreck of which was discovered in the 1980s). This one incident is probably why my father decided to bring us there. He taught The Red Badge of Courage in his English classes, but he loved short stories, especially ones of adventure.
The museum complex features extensive exhibits on its role in history as well as the lifestyle of lighthouse keepers. To learn about the lighthouse or plan your visit, click here: http://www.ponceinlet.org/index.html. To read Crane’s “The Open Boat,” click here: http://www.ponceinlet.org/images/openboat.pdf
If you grew up on man-made Candlewood Lake, you’re probably familiar with its lore. Its bottom is a valley that was once home to farms and towns, and structures and possessions were left behind, making it a marine archeologist’s dream. Sometime in the 1970s after Jaws made a splash, a local artist (high on something, the rumor goes) took his boat out to the middle of the lake and painted a giant angular rock to look like a Great White’s snout thrusting up out of the water. In the southern end of New Milford, there’s a cliff, and to survive a leap from it is to prove man-hood. And some people have spotted a huge, unidentified creature which has been dubbed “Candy.”
Recently, Nathan and I were looking for a little escape for the day—something nearby, easy to get to, and inexpensive. We thought of all sorts of places—The Bronx Zoo (a frequent haunt), an hour away. Rye Playland, also an hour away. Kent Falls, forty-five minutes away. But all of that seemed like too much hassle, and it was growing late in the afternoon.
We finally decided we’d go to lunch, and then it was the usual “where the hell do you go eat in Danbury that’s even mildly interesting?” Pathetic, I know, but I Googled ‘Restaurants Danbury’ and nothing came up of interest. Then I Googled ‘Restaurants Brookfield CT’—and the first thing that popped up was Down the Hatch, a popular eatery on the lake’s shore that’s only open seasonally.
If you live on the lake—which many tourists, I’m sure, only wish they could live on—you know that Down the Hatch is as much a part of the lore as all those other stories I shared. It’s the best place to go for a cold beer and friend clams in the middle of summer, and I’d been there many times. But what sold me on the idea of going on that day was a phrase on their website: “You will feel like you’re on vacation the minute you step ashore, see the beautiful views, and grab a cool tasty drink.”
The idea of being on vacation five miles up the road appealed to me, although I doubted it would work—I’d been there many times, after all. What was so special about it?
But when we arrived, that changed. I stepped outside of myself and tried to pretend I didn’t live locally, that I’d never been to the place before. We were ushered to a table outside on the patio and ordered a couple of tropical drinks. We had cheap burgers, fed the ducks, and drank in the beauty of the lake. By the time we got back to the house about two hours later, and I felt as though I’d taken a full day off. To sum up—I felt like I’d been on vacation.
So if you can’t get away and are area-bound this Labor Day Weekend, stop and think about what treasures your locale might harbor that you’ve forgotten about, step out of yourself and pretend you’re a tourist.
You might find that a little relief is, surprisingly, just up the road.
 Rommie Duckworth of New Fairfield, CT, one of the towns bordering the lake, has written a really terrific summation of the lake’s formation, history, and the treasures that can be discovered beneath the waves. You can read all about it here: http://thescubasportsclub.org/diveInfo/Candle.html
Nathan feeds the ducks.
Here, the bluegills get in on the action. They’re no good for eating, but they are a local favorite for kids learning to fish. These little guys are actually pretty nasty-looking, and have a nasty little bite as well. If you’re swimming with any kind of ankle bracelet on, you’re asking for trouble.
He finishes feeding, and the animals are disappointed he doesn’t have more!
I’m thrilled to announce that Carpe Articulum Literary Review’s Fall 2010 Issue, which features my short story “Doors,” is now available.
This issue contains interviews with the former head of MGM Studios, Herbert F. Solow (if you’re a fan of the original Star Trek, he was the Executive in Charge of Production), and his wife, Harrison, a Pushcart Prize winner. What’s even more exciting for me is the presence of ghosts in this issue—Dr. James Ulmer presents a fantastic critical essay, “In Defense of the Otherworldly: A Discussion of the Ghost in Western Literature,” followed by his short story, “Covered Bridge Road.” For those of you who know I’ll soon be teaching a course on writing good ghost stories, you can see why I’m ecstatic.
And for those of you who know about my deep connection to the ocean and its creatures, you’ll understand why I can’t think of a more appropriate place for this special story—this issue’s theme is Mystery, and many of the pieces and artwork focus on the sea. Perhaps, as Editor-in-Chief Hadassah Broscova points out in her introduction, the most mysterious place on earth.
The Fall issue can be purchased at Barnes & Noble, Borders, I believe Amazon, and directly from Carpe here: www.carpearticulum.com/