Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Ten Commandments of Writing

I just finished reading John Dufresne's The Lie That Tells a Truth, and it has become my new favorite book on craft. It's full of mind-blowingly practical, and yet brilliant, suggestions, rules, and prompts. About a quarter of the way through, I came across his "Ten Commandments of Writing," and I decided I'm going to write them on a card and post them near my writing desk. As an MFA student, I hear these things all the time, but it's helpful to see them gathered together in one place. What are the Ten Commandments of Writing, you ask? They are as follows:

1. Sit Your Ass in the Chair.

2. Thou Shalt Not Bore the Reader.

3. Remember to Keep Holy Your Writing Time.

4. Honor the Lives of Your Characters.

5. Thou Shalt Not Be Obscure.

6. Thou Shalt Show and Not Tell.

7. Thou Shalt Steal. (No, that's not a typo.)

8. Thou Shalt Rewrite and Rewrite again. And again.

9. Thou Shalt Confront the Human Condition.

10.Be Sure That Every Death in a Story Means Something.

The Lie That Tells a Truth, John Dufresne, 2003

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tradition on Toast

The mad rush of Packet #4 continues. I have less than a week and a half to finish my mountain of assignments, but what a payoff - a month and a half of essentially no schoolwork! Just me and Lucy Addison hanging out and watching way too many movies. Of course, this mad dash to finish has cut into my cooking and housecleaning time (and blogging too.) So the dreaded question every night has become: What's for dinner? (Yes, that was a dreaded question before my schoolwork deadlines, but it's worse now, okay?)

So today as I contemplated (briefly) what to prepare for our dinner, my mind flipped past the usual quickie suspects. Leftover spaghetti? Had that Monday night. Tacos? The ground beef is still frozen, and anyway, tacos? Again? Steak and peppers. How many nights have we done that over the past couple of months? Then it hit me. I knew what we were having for dinner. I swear I could almost hear trumpets playing a fanfare as the revelation came to me.

Tonight will be a turning point in our relationship. Tonight, we will go where we have never gone before. Tonight, I will fix Steve Chipped Beef Gravy. Yes, dear reader, my husband has never tasted of that culinary delight so often enjoyed on toast or waffles, that creamy goodness that belies its oh-so-common name. Despite my family history, (I come from a long line of chipped beef gravy enthusiasts) I have never prepared this delicacy for Steve. I don't know why. I have no excuse. As a matter of fact, every time my cousin or aunt mentions chipped beef gravy in their Facebook status (yes, it's happened more than once. What can I say? We like to talk about food.), my mouth waters, and I vow that soon I will make chipped beef gravy for dinner. Alas, until tonight, I have never followed through.

I will not be documenting this occasion with step-by-step photographs as I did with the sugar cookie experiment. There's not really anything dramatic about the process...just a little fried meat, a little flour, a little milk, you get the idea. I do have high hopes for the evening, however. I may have struck out with the whole Slumgoyan thing, but I am determined to make Steve love chipped beef gravy. He doesn't care for waffles, and we're out of bread, so I'm flexible. I plan to serve it over a football sized baked potato. I can compromise. Too bad I didn't eat it while I was pregnant. Maybe then I could have at least guaranteed one future fan to eat my family favorite with me. If not, well, there's always my fried chicken gravy. I swear Steve would eat that poured over an old shoe. As a matter of fact, so would I.