Garret Freymann-Weyr And The Fantastic Tollbooth Contest
Care to punch up your prose? Do your chapters demand more details?
Win a critique from Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty member Garret Freymann-Weyr!
For the next two weeks Garret will be in the Tollbooth, offering you the chance to win a critique! How do you enter? Read on and post your entry in the comments section.
And without further ado — here’s Garret!
I wrote a story for an anthology called STARRY EYED and the publisher/editor asked that all the contributors do tweets, contests, and giveaways. Now, I may write YA novels, but I am a woman kindly referred to as “of a certain age.” What I know about Twitter begins and ends with the Arab Spring when it was a tool of revolution, not self-promotion. However, I am lucky enough to be a Visiting Professor at Vermont College of Fine Arts and help was on the way. One of my students (the splendid and sharp Jim Hill) introduced me to the alarmingly accomplished Tami Brown and Catherine Linka and they proposed that I have a writing contest on their blog.
So, here I am and I’d like us to write a little something that focuses on detail.
As a teacher, I am comically obsessed with detail. As a non-teaching person, I find that focusing on detail is really helpful when it comes to understanding others. For example, if you discover the one thing that a friend, co-worker, date, or what-have-you, is most passionately attached to (sometimes it is a child, sometimes it is butterflies, and sometimes, as was the case with a dear friend, it is the Oxford comma) then you have found the key to best connect with him/her.
I would like for each of you to think of a beloved room from childhood. If you are working on a manuscript and are having trouble with a particular character then uses this exercise for that character and choose a beloved room for him or her. Pick one item in the selected room that have some meaning to you or the character. List the item along with its meaning and history.
For example, I would pick the room in which I slept at my grandfather’s apartment when we visited him. On my list would be the bars of Toblerone chocolate left on our pillows, the blue, brightly- flowered and shiny bedspread, the sliding glass door to the balcony, and also the volumes of African and diplomatic history on the shelves, which reflected both my grandfather’s career as a diplomat and his lifelong his interest in the ways colonialism had left ruin in its wake.
For a character I am currently working with in my next book, I would pick her bedroom in the house in Cambridge where she lived for the first nine years of her life. In it would be her father’s toy soldiers, her basketball, a tennis racket, her mother’s old text books from medical school, and a discarded hair ribbon from a beloved play-mate. If you do this exercise, I am willing to bet that you will find a portrait of either yourself or of your fledgling character comes into focus.
The one that leaps off the page and grabs me with details that are alive, vivid and full of meaning is the one which wins the book. Plus, I will return your writing with my comments. The next two best ones will also get my comments on their work. Since I am not your teacher, the huge advantage here is that you can IGNORE what I say. Or not.
Thanks for playing, read you soon, Garret
So here’s how to play this game.
Select an item- fishing line, combination lock, wrestling trophy… you get the idea. Then write about it. Your description of this physical detail may be up to 250 words but it could be as short as ten or twenty. Post your descriptive passage in comments, or if you’re shy post an “I’m entering the contest” message here and email your entry to email@example.com. Submit your entry by 3:00 pm, Wednesday, November 20. For the rest of this week and next we’ll post Tollboothers’ favorite passages with telling details. In the meantime, Garret will judge your entries and next Friday, November 22 we’ll announce the winner!
What do you win? A full fledged critique of your entry from Garret Freymann-Weyr, a copy of her new anthology Starry-Eyed– and a deeper understanding of your character. What a lovely detail!