Thanks for joining us for our second group chat about process! The four of us have been contributing to Cimmerian Tales for three months now and we have been inspired by a sculpture, a song, and a poem.Which was your favorite type of prompt and why?
Anne: Originally, I thought my favorite prompts would always be the sculptures. Sculpture speaks to me like no other art form. Then we had some music prompts. I love music prompts! They’re my new favorite. As we learned from this month, poetry is my nemesis.
Audrey: My favorite was the sculpture. A lot of times when I write, I have picture in my head of a place or a moment that I want to capture so the sculpture worked really well for me.
Julie: I’ve only done one image and one song prompt so far, and both of those were tough for me. But I’m not convinced that the poetry prompts are my favorite … they just come with more words that work into my brain.
Jen: I find rhythm really helpful when building a story so I always have fun with the music prompts.
Anne: Yes, the beat really seems to seep into my story. It’s like magic.
What story are you most proud of?
Anne: Honestly, I’m always most proud of the one I’m working on right now. I’ve liked writing past stories, but I look back and know I can do better in future.
Audrey: Nothing stands out as a favorite?
Anne: Well, Dreesicle, I also have a problem with remembering things for longer than a week.
Audrey: LOL. I see your point, Anne. I love my stories until I put them up and then I want to change a million things.
Julie: I don’t know if there’s a story I’m most “proud” of. I still really like my Stars prompt story, and I was happy with the story that came out of Crystallize despite having no idea where I was going. I also like the device I used for the Loud Without prompt, but I’m not going to spoil it here.
Audrey: I think the one that turned out best was “Mr. MacGregor’s Garden,” the flash piece I wrote for No Rules Friday in August.
Anne: Oh, please, let me have a trilogy of that world. No, a seven book series!!
Audrey: Thanks, Jen. I loved your Samothrace one.
What prompt did you find most challenging? Were you expecting this prompt to be difficult or was it a surprise?
Julie: I had a hard time not taking the El Petó sculpture prompt literally.
Anne: The most challenging for me was when Jen and I decided it would be a good idea to string together five prompts in a row. It wasn’t the subject matter, it was the fact that we had to continue a story off-the-cuff for five weeks and make it an interesting read.
Jen: That was so awful because I don’t plan very well so coming up with a continuing storyline that also had a few separate endings was difficult
Audrey: I was surprised how much I struggled with “Loud Without the Wind Was Roaring.” It was such a long poem – I had trouble focusing on what I wanted my story to be inspired by.
Julie: The song prompt also was tough for me because it didn’t have words… so perhaps it really is a word thing in my case!
Audrey: I struggled with that too, Julie.
Julie: I wanted to be inspired by the rhythm–especially the fact that the song brought together two rhythms–but I ended up going with the ice theme.
Jen: But I think the most challenging prompt for me was the Pleiades prompt. It was the only one so far where I started a story and then deleted the entire thing, and I think it was because I was really forcing an idea. Once I relaxed and stopped “trying” it became clear which direction I needed to go
Anne: The music really got me out of my own head long enough to get a story out. Songs with words are harder because I find myself singing along.
Out of everyone else’s stories, do you have a favorite?
Julie: I haven’t read through the archives, but one that I liked immediately was Audrey’s Alchemist story. It was so understated, and yet all sorts of dark things were going on!
Audrey: Thanks, Julie. Mine is a tie between Anne’s “Dreaming Under the Table” and “The Sea, The Sea, The Sea.” These were some of her first stories and they are what drew me into CT as a reader and now I am having so much fun contributing my own stories.
Anne: I’m going to cheat. I loved Julie’s world-building in the Crystallize prompt. Her words were carefully selected to add to the overall feel. I love Jen’s bird girls. And I adore Audrey’s strong female characters who always seem to win. The endings make me smile every time.
Audrey: I always kill people. I’m trying to stop, but it’s hard.
Julie: I guess technically I killed a person not on paper.
Audrey: I need a writers-who-kill support group.
Julie: You’d be in there with the best. Actually, almost all of the stories I’ve written have included death.
Anne: I need to kill more characters, clearly.
Jen: My favorite is Anne’s “The Road” prompt. The suspense was such a great build and it was so feely and great. I love the feels. They make me happy.
What’s your main goal/hope for the next story you write for Cimmerian Tales?
Jen: I would simply like to get better at crafting stories. I have learned so much from writing for this blog and it’s been so fun.
Julie: I have a goal for a future story, but not necessarily the next: I’d like to do something in third (or even second) person, and I want to write an urban fantasy piece, because I’ve never attempted that genre.
Jen: I might try to write a contemporary.
Audrey: Other than trying to write something where I don’t kill someone… I just want my stories to get stronger — better pacing, more feels, mind-blowing endings. It might take me longer than next prompt to get there, but I’m going to keep working at it.
Anne: My main goal for our next prompt is to scare the shit out of you. For one, because it’s October — my favorite month of the year. For two, I’ve never posted a horror story, and that’s where I started.
Julie: Oooh excited.
Audrey: Scary is good.
Jen: Oh no, I hate Halloween.
Anne: I believe our goal, always, was to improve our craft. I want to learn better pacing. I want to have stronger endings. And I really want to make you feel something deep in your spleen.
Do you feel like you are growing as a writer?
Julie: I’m paying more attention to some things like passive/active sentences and not telling. Sometimes I get caught up in the pretty of my sentences and don’t realize they’re tell-y.
Anne: Do you mean growing from all the writer snacks I’m eating while composing said works? Ha ha. This exercise has really proved to me that I have a lot to learn. And I don’t care. I love it! I love it!
Audrey: CT really helps me to write regularly and to look at my stories more critically. It’s also helping me to be way more brave — I never shared a single story publicly until I joined CT.
Jen: I would like to work on broadening my subject matter, exploring new worlds and characters. I need to work on outlining to be a stronger writer and telling instead of showing.
Audrey: Also, I have issues with writer’s snacks too.
Jen: I have issues with snacks.
Anne: I’ve been seriously impressed by you, Audrey. I say this publicly. I’ll say it to your face later.
Audrey: Now I feel all warm and fuzzy, Anne.
Jen: I’m really happy with the work we are doing.
Any favorite snack while writing?
Jen: Gummy bears
Anne: All the snacks?
Jen: Always with the gummy bears
Anne: I like anything dipped in dark chocolate. Bite-sized for easy handling.
Audrey: Tim Tams are my go to cookies for November, otherwise I am addicted to mocha sugar wafers.
Julie: If I eat while I write, it’s probably trail mix filled with chocolate pieces.
Do you ever get to a point while you are writing where you can see the story going in multiple directions? How do you choose a path?
Anne: Interesting question. For me, the choices decrease the farther into the story I write. In the beginning, it’s hard to know where it will go. By the midway point, I have it down. I choose like the Goddess that I am. BOW DOWN TO ME, CHARACTERS! And then, they go do something wildly different. Like you do.
Jen: I’m really bad at planning out my stories (pantser for lyfe), so I usually make decisions as I go along.
Julie: I’m usually in a flow when I write these stories. Once I have a thought or idea, I let things follow from there and it’s really not “my” story anymore.
Audrey: Before I start writing, I mull the story around in my head before I fall asleep. I do this for a week or two, so by the time I actually sit down to write I’m pretty sure I know where my story is going. It surprises me every time when my story goes someplace different, but I just go wherever it takes me.
Julie: If only it went so smoothly when I worked on longer pieces … .
Audrey: LOL that’s why I’m taking a hiatus from longer pieces.
Anne: That’s the joy of going last, Audrey. Jen is the mistress of turn-arounds.
Audrey: Well, I do need the extra mulling time.
We have shared some poetry for our “No Rules Friday” posts. How do you feel about your poetry?
Julie: There’s a reason I call myself a fiction writer.
Anne: Everyone in this group can write poetry but me. I celebrate the fact that I am the worst. I love poetry. It’s unique and blood spilled across paper. No matter how hard I try, though, I can’t write it. And that’s okay.
Audrey: Just you wait, Anne. I may steal that title away from you. I haven’t shared any poetry yet, although I will. I was really into poetry in high school (poetry club and all), but I can’t seem to move past rhyming poems. And most of mine are totally embarrassing.
Julie: I got some good poems out of a college poetry workshop … but fiction is where it’s at for me.
Jen: I have really gotten into poetry as of late, and most of it is really awfully emotional.
Audrey: Emotions are good in poetry!
Jen: It’s a good release.
Julie: Yes. I’d rather hide away in fiction.
Anne: Yeah, when you don’t have emotions, you get my No Rules Friday poetry. Math is AWESOME.
Audrey: It’s a great way to heal. I poetried my way out of my parent’s divorce.
Has rejection in the past influenced how you perceive yourself as a poet or a writer?
Julie: Not really. I think a lot of rejection has to do with your material not being quite what someone is looking for.
Jen: I have not put myself into the world in a way of being rejected, so I don’t know how to answer that question. I know that I am often very self-conscious of my own work and sometimes that is a hindrance.
Anne: Rejection tells me that I’m not ready yet. I perceive myself as a work-in-progress, and I am working on it. I hope I’m getting better, but sometimes it’s hard to tell when you’re in the middle of change.
Audrey: I really haven’t put myself out there much for rejection either, but Anne tells me I need to have a thick skin so I try to take each rejection as a learning experience. However, the tiniest bit of praise goes right to my head. I love it!
Julie: I certainly do look back at some things that have been rejected and acknowledge that they need work. But when I send my work out to little contests or speculative mags, I know a lot is up to personal taste.
Audrey: That’s very true, Julie.
Are you emotional when you write? Any laughing or crying?
Jen: I have cried once while writing my completed MS (I killed my fav).
Audrey: Usually if I cry when I’m writing, I take it as a very good sign that I have completely emotionally connected with my characters. I never find my writing funny.
Julie: I don’t think I connect with the characters in the CT pieces enough to get emotional, for the most part. I don’t remember for the last prompt, but that came out of a lot of personal feelings. In the past, it’s probably happened while working on longer things.
Jen: I have not cried while writing for CT either.
Audrey: I’m not sure if I have for CT either. I write them so fast; I don’t have a lot of time to bond with my characters. This also makes them easier to kill.
Julie: I laugh at a lot of stupid things, so that’s possible.
Anne: I laugh at myself a lot. I laugh when I torture my characters. There may be something wrong with me.
Audrey: No, you are perfect.
Anne: I laugh when you ladies torture your characters.
Audrey: I like it when I make other people laugh. I may need to add more torture.
Do you have a favorite poem or poet?
Jen: Andrea Gibson, hands down.
Julie: I enjoy a good Rumi verse. I love Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet LXXXI. Elizabeth Bishop. H.D.
Audrey: I am obsessed with an old book of poetry I found at my great-grandmother’s house by Ethel Veva King. I think it was printed locally, it’s all hand cut pages and beautiful words. I’m going to make one of her poems a prompt.
Jen: That sounds gorgeous, Audrey.
Anne: The Brontë sisters, of course. Omar Khayyám is also a personal favorite of mine. I’m not a squishy-love person, but his verses are divine. Robert Frost is a given. Mary Oliver. I could go on and on.
Audrey: I love “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear (but you probably already knew that).
Anne: I’d also like to add that lyrics are poetry and Sting is one of the best.
Audrey: Oh and Dr. Seuss.
Julie: There are a bunch of poets I’m forgetting. Naomi Shihab Nye…
Jen: I love spoken word.
Thank you so much for chatting with me, Ladies! I hope everyone enjoys this peek into our writing process. Join us next week for Jen’s answer to our October prompt.