Edith Wharton on Writing a War Story…or a Love Story…or a Comedic Story…or a Story Story

In September 1919, Woman’s Home Companion published a lovely little nugget of story by Edith Wharton. “Writing a War Story” is the tale of Ivy Spang, a poetess-turned-short-story-writer. Working as a nurse in France during WWI, Miss Spang is commissioned by an editor at the magazine “The Man-at-Arms.” He tells her that he wishes her to write, “A good, rousing story, Miss Spang; a dash of sentiment of course, but nothing to depress or discourage. I’m sure you take my meaning? A tragedy with a happy ending–that’s about the idea.”

In order to write her masterpiece, Miss Spang heads off to Brittany and moves in with an old governess of hers. And, like every writer before her and after her, Miss Spang hits a snag:

Edith Wharton Quote War Story 1

And, if only Miss Spang’s snags stopped at the beginning.

But no, Miss Spang suffers through questions about plot — “People don’t bother with plots nowadays” she explains to her governess.

Questions about deadlines:

 

Edith Wharton Quote War Story 2

Questions about where to find ideas; the difference between subject and treatment; chasing Inspiration; collaborators; what to do once the thing is published. What do you do if no one reads your story? Whose opinions should you listen to? What does it mean to be a woman writer in a world dominated by men?

If you have a hot second, it’d be well worth your time to read this short story — written by the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize (1921 — for The Age of Innocence). All of the questions this short narrative poses show up a lot in Wharton’s work, which I’ll be talking about a lot in the next few weeks.

You can find a copy here,which includes a brief introduction to Wharton’s own participation in WWI relief efforts.

So, really, this blog post isn’t much more than a reading recommendation — but it’s an extremely enthusiastic reading recommendation. Let me know what you think when you’re done!

Writing Prompt Wednesday: Work Place Avoidance

I’m sure most of you are at work or doing something distracting you from writing. But RIGHT NOW: Write something creative–whether it’s on a piece of receipt you pull from the cash register you’re at, a scratch piece of paper from your printer, or on the very device you’re “cheating” at work with and then share it with the rest of us in the comments.

Introducing: Writing Desk II

A couple months ago, the new owners of the Damon Runyon Theatre in Pueblo gave us SET ensemble members an opportunity to dig through their stuff (and if you’ve ever been in a community theatre, you understand there’s always a TON of stuff) and take away whatever we wanted.

So we went down to P-town and shopped.

Shopping in Pueblo

^^^There we are, having lunch at Jorge’s after loading up the trucks. (I’m in the corner. If you feel like knowing who the other cool people are, you can find most of them here.)

Anyways, in the theatre was this roll top desk. Large. Dark wood. Had seen better days. There were bits of taped-on labels like: ‘hair ties’ and ‘glue.’ The kinda things you find backstage. But other than being fairly worn, it was in pretty good shape.

I already have a pretty nifty small roll-top desk (hereafter known as Writing Desk I), so at first I didn’t think I wanted it.

Then…I thought about it.

And thought about it some more.

And it wound up on the back of the truck.

And it wound up in my garage.

And I wound up refinishing it.

I mean, I haven’t showered in days between work, writing, and theatre…but the desk is done!

(The lighting in my garage sucks, so you get a close up for the color.)

(Also, special thanks to all those crafty people on Pinterest who recommended the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. Love it.)

Jenny finishes her desk

^^^I’m in the corner.

Writing Wednesday: New Age Bullsh*t

I don’t know if Chuck Wendig, King of Random Generator Prompts, has used this one yet, but I discovered it and thought: “Now there is a thing.”

Behold! The NEW AGE BULLSHIT GENERATOR

Here’s whatcha do: Go to the site. Hit the “Reionize Electrons” button at the top of the page. The generator will give you some New Age Bullshit. Take that information and write a short piece (100 words? 1000? It’s up to you.) Share the results/link to the results in the comments section.

Writing Wednesday: The Done List

This writing prompt is two pronged: one for us and one for you.

Last week, I read this article in Slate about the anti-to-do list. As someone who can get discouraged by the length of my own to-do list (I get bogged down in the have-tos until it feels like that is the sum total of my life: all the things I have not done), I found L.V. Anderson’s article much more inspiring.

To sum up: instead of listing things you need to do, make a list of what you have already accomplished for the day/week/month/whatever. Today, for example, I have written three blog posts, ordered scripts for an upcoming production, hunted down two more jobs to apply for, and responded (articulately) to three important emails. I’ve only been awake a couple hours. Go me!

So, your two-pronged writing assignment, should you choose to accept it:

  1. Write a DONE! list for yourself for the last week. You don’t need to share this. I just want you to feel good about what you’ve accomplished. And….
  2. Write a DONE! list for a fictional character for this past week — Batman, Dr. Who, or someone you create yourself. Share it/link to it in the comments section so we can all have a giggle or a cry.

Happy writing!

Writing Wednesday: The Girl in Blue

My friends and I have a Pinterest board where we share interesting pictures to inspire us to write cool things. This is one I keep coming back to, and which I responded to in a 365 story (below image). I’d like to see what you guys do with it. Share your response or link to your response in the comments. Happy writing:

15726309_10156575698646515_7170854070756805876_n

09-04-2016

Writing Prompt Wednesday: 100 Words of Your Own

So, I’ve just written a bunch of 100 word stories…now I think it’s your turn.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it: write a 100 word story of your own. It doesn’t have to be great. This process is just to play.

Put your results in the comments section, or share a link to your own blog/website. Can’t wait to read what you come up with!