Lit 101

Don’t know if anyone has noticed under my “Events” tab, but I have been participating in the local Lit 101 for the approximately six months that it has been running. What is Lit 101? A night of flash fiction at the Francesca’s on Ninth Street in Durham, on the third Sunday of every month, at 7pm. I observed for the first one, and read approximately 600 words (you have no more than five minutes) from Benevolent (twice), The Family Elephant‘s Jewels, and The Night of One Hundred Thieves (this time).

Like I mentioned, the group is new, and it started pretty big, fell in attendance, but then this last time it filled the room. It has turned into a reading-slash-roundtable, which each component split from the other in time. I love it because it is close enough to my home that I can pull it off most the time, even as a mom. I don’t normally get nervous when speaking or teaching, but I do get nervous reading, so I consider this a great opportunity to repeatedly stretch myself in this manner. And there were a couple other things I wanted to say about the Lit 101 from yesterday.

A(n incomplete) list of meet-ups for writers, in the Triangle area, which I got from this one evening of networking:

  • every second Tuesday: SF/F Group, at Atomic Empire in Durham.
  • first and third Tuesday: Tongue & Groove at Tir Na Nog in Raleigh. Music and perhaps poetry(?) open mic.
  • first Thursday of the month: Open mic at Cup 22 at The Ballroom in Saxapahaw. Great venue, I hear.
  • second Wednesday of the month: Durham Writers Meetup. Critique circle. Limited space, whereabouts revealed to group.
  • second Thursday of the month: 7p. Flyleaf poetry reading and open mic. Fosters/Flyleaf book store in Chapel Hill.
  • third Sunday of the month: 7p. Lit 101. Open mic and discussion circle. At Francesca’s on Ninth Street in Durham.
  • third Thursday of the month: 6p. Open mic at Stars Theater and Arts Center in Fuquay-Varina.
  • There was something the last Thursday of the month, too, but I can not figure it out!
  • fourth of July time, two weeks, annually: (Not too close, but…) Wildacres writer’s retreat in Little Switzerland, NC.

*Please comment if there is another group you know of that I should add.

Also, when someone asked me a question at the roundtable, it was this: “In the piece you read tonight, you used a series of one-word sentences. What makes an author decide to use that techinique?” The answers that I gave, with contributinos from others around the circle, amounted to this:

  • Use enough proper grammar to make the reader understand, and enough innovation to make it interesting.
  • When Shakespeare wrote, a significant amount of his writing was pure gibberish at the time. But it worked. Think of Lewis Carroll’s “The Jabberwocky.”
  • Modern writing tends to be minimalist: the writer cuts and cuts until all that is left is a breath away from poetry. Sometimes that means sentence fragments.
  • This technique can be used to mimic internal thought, especially in first person writing and stream-of-consciousness. At the very least, it creates a sense of empirical, sensory input, but can also be thick to read.
  • Language will vary based on the tone of the piece and passage, and also on the character or mood being used at the moment. In the example the other writer was asking about, I used the one word sentences because the character’s guilt was causing him to play mind-games with himself, chasing words from routine to sin. It also, I think, mimics the ceremonial sweeping that the character is doing while he thinks.
  • Often, these decisions are intuitive.
  • You can write to sell or you can write to show off your prose. The two do not often go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately. Or fortunately. (See what I did there?)

So get out there and network, if you are not already. And checking out your “local” groups on the internet can be a start. Perhaps I’ll make a list of Durham online groups sometime. I know its not always easy to get out the door on a week night or to sit alone in a new group of people, but it is important to get to know other writers, to get feedback, to practice reading… all that.

Lit 101, August 17, 7pm, at Francesca’s. Be there or be square.


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