Writing Short

I ran across a contest in the Gotham Writers’ magazine for a “tweet contest.” The story must be no more than 140 characters, including punctuation and spaces. I sent the link to my Santa Barbara writers’ group and two of the members submitted right away. I was impressed by their speed.
I have a history in my writing of being verbose. I find writing short difficult. I’ve heard people say that it is harder, and I agree. Maybe this is why I’ve never really gone in for poetry.
Hemingway wrote a short story only six words long: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” He was a master of the concise. There is so much behind only six words – the last two make a heart-wrenching story.
Here is a link for some Science Fiction microfic from Wired, sent to me by a member of my SB group.
It is a powerful tool, to be able to say a lot with few words. Below I’ve pasted some of the ideas I had for the tweet contest, which I did not submit (can’t post my submission here, in case I win!).

First Date
The scent of burning hair seeps from a corner. “Let’s skip the date,” she said. The flat iron set fire to the curtains while they f*cked.
Hand under shirt. Lips on corner of ear. Lip on lip. Hit pause on good moments. Don’t cry looking at lonely engagement ring.
Home Alone
She sucks a burned fingertip. Better than cigarettes, she thinks, twisting down the dial on the stove. Better than you.
The tweet contest is the perfect example of how the world is changing. The other night I heard someone say that ADD is evolutionary: humans are actually evolving to have shorter attention spans. As the world changes, writing changes. While we explore the digital age, newspapers and magazines shrink and it is just as important to negotiate e-book contracts as traditional publishing.
Are novels going out of style? As I begin to revise my rough draft, I hope this is not the case.

PEN Emerging Voices Reading

Last Sunday I attended a reading in Hollywood put on by Tongue and Groove and PEN Center USA (postcard above). I met one of their “Emerging Voices” in the Advanced Fiction Workshop I took last quarter with Adam Cushman, and the PEN Fellow has joined my LA writers’ group.
He submitted a piece to the group that we work-shopped the Thursday before his reading. At the event four days later, the piece had morphed into something completely different. I liked the changes, but I found the most interesting part being privy to the revision process, particularly as I embark on that journey with my novel.
In the PEN program, Fellows work with mentors. One of them turned out to be Lou Mathews, who taught the Intermediate Workshop I took last fall. I feel lucky to have a mentor myself, and to have taken classes with writers who know what they’re doing.
The venue, the Hotel Café on Cahuenga, was a small, dark place lit only by hanging lamps and the stage. The only evidence that it was still sunny outside was the thin bright line around the exit door. I felt totally posh telling the guy at the ticket booth, “I’m on the list.” It was very much like going to a club, including walking over stars in the sidewalk on the way there and waiting in line to get in. I went with another writer from my group and on the way out, we encountered an African American dude in saggy jeans wearing a backpack with speakers blasting MJ. “How you doin’,” he said into his microphone. So Hollywood.
All of the pieces read were powerful in their own right. Of course I preferred certain ones, and the level of speaking made a difference. Performance matters, even for writers. This was the city of the stars, after all.