Dear Woman Who Writes—
Writing instructor, Tarn Wilson, in her short essay, “Good Noticing: A Whole-Body Strategy, Brevitymag.com, instructs her creative writing students to notice “Layers of sound. The quality of the light. Textures and patterns. Stillness and movement. How it feels to inhabit our bodies.” She asks her students to keep a sensory journal. This creates “a radical leap in the student’s ability to write an immersive scene.”
Scenes—actions and interactions between characters in a specific setting—are at the heart of good storytelling. Sensory details make the scene vivid, specific, and accessible to the reader. Such details often lead the writer to action. For example, a character might brush away an insect she feels on her skin. She might recoil from the cigarette smoke she smells on a friend (or she might crave a cigarette!) She might spit out things that taste or feel unpleasant. She might run in the direction of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
Consider one real-life experience that inspires the use of the senses. If you’ve ever attended bourbon tasting at a distillery, you’ll understand. Here are the four elements of bourbon tasting—1) Appearance/color (sight), 2) Nose/Aroma (smell) 3) Flavor (taste), and 4) Finish (the description of how a bourbon lingers, like a memory). The process requires the taster to pay attention She holds the glass, notices the color and clarity of the whiskey, whiffs deeply, sips, then sucks air through her lips and onto the tongue. Swish. Swish.
No surprise, this month’s prompt will focus on sensory details. We’ll begin with what your nose knows! Scroll down to find our monthly writing prompt, as well as our summer/fall schedule, board news, and resources including publication opportunities.
AN ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE BOARD
The Women Who Write board met on June 13 to evaluate whether we should continue hybrid meetings, a practice that began during the pandemic. At our meetings, we experimented with a mic/camera combination designed for small hybrid meetings.
We based our decision on the audio-visual quality as well as the personal experience of the board members in the room and those on Zoom. Our conclusion was a unanimous vote to return to in-person meetings beginning in July. Our central reason is our mission to build community, to provide a place, a space, a voice, as our tagline says. Three recent gatherings also influenced our decision—the March conversation with author Erin Keane, our May member meeting, and the June Valaterra retreat. At all three, the interactions were of high quality. We felt nurtured by these meetings. We believe our writing community thrives best in person.
We are disappointed that this decision will affect attendance by regional members who won’t be able to drive the distance to Louisville. However, we hope they will be able to attend some of our special events—twice annual retreats, our conversations with guest authors, and workshops.
Photo was taken by Kimberly Crum at our June 3, 2023, Valaterra day retreat.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR—
Our next monthly meeting is Tuesday, July 11 beginning at 6:30 PM in person at the Bon Air branch of LFPL, 2816 Del Rio Pl. Louisville 40220. Persons interested in receiving peer critiques please bring 7 printed copies of the manuscript you want us to critique. No more than 1300 words for prose or two pages of poems. If the prose piece you’d like for a critique is longer than 1300 words, please bring an excerpt.
If you want a peer critique on Tuesday, July 13, please let us know at">
Our August monthly meeting will be Tuesday, August 8th at the St. Matthews branch of LFPL, 3940 Grandview Ave. Louisville 40207. We will begin our meeting with the usual conversation about writing, followed by a peer critique session. (In case you are wondering why we keep changing meeting places . . . the LFPL allows us only to reserve two months at a time. The library system meeting spaces are in great demand.)
Our September meeting will be Thursday the 14th, the day of Give for Good Louisville, an—annual one-day online fundraiser for nonprofit organizations. On that date, we invite our members to bring friends and friends to enjoy an evening reading by members.
In October, we are planning an overnight retreat Saturday and Sunday, October 14, and 15. We’ll announce the details very soon.
THE WRITING PROMPT
What the nose knows
“Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary, and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes
during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town.”
Sometimes I envy my dog’s sense of smell. Ida’s black nose quivers as she breathes in the world. The fresh air tells her stories about the passing dog, the weather, the mouse trembling under the deck, and the presence of the young possum soon to invade our backyard.
“. . . readers believe what’s rendered with physical clarity,” says Mary Karr in her essay, “Sacred Carnality” in The New Yorker. We expect poems to contain sensory detail. But prose writing benefits from such details, as well.
Here are some readings and a writing prompt—
Read this poem, “Smell is the Last Memory to Go,” by Fatimah Asghar, on the Poetry Foundation website.
Read this essay, “Scent in Literature: The Best Smelly Writing,” in LitHub by Emily Grosvenor. The excerpts from both fiction and nonfiction are excellent. Consider reading the excerpts aloud.
Read the craft essay, “Read “The Art of Literary Olfaction,” by Jill McCabe Johnson in Brevitymag.
Here are prompts borrowed from the Method Writing website.
“Brainstorm smells from your past, and free-write on what they are and how they make you feel. Think about childhood, school, adolescence, relatives’ homes, and places you’ve visited.”
“Refresh your nose-palette, to make familiar smells unfamiliar. To do this, go into a different smell environment – outdoors in the fresh air, for example – and then return indoors. What do you notice differently? Free-write and try to capture the smells and scents you discover.”
“What emotions are associated with those smells? Write a paragraph about the smell and try to evoke the emotion without calling it by name.”
WE WANT TO SUPPORT YOUR WRITING LIFE!
Links, newsletters, and books we love!
Janet recommends The Guncle by Steven Rowley, “It is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, but it is also sweet and poignant,” she says. When Patrick’s BFF, who is also his sister-in-law, dies and his brother checks himself into a drug rehab program, Patrick is called upon to take their two children into his care for the summer. “That setup sounds like a tragic novel is in store, but their adventures at the ‘guncle’s’ home in Palm Springs are hilarious.”
Megan is enjoying (for the second time) Jeff Tweedy’s How to Write One Song: Loving the Things We Create and How They Love Us Back. This time I’m listening to Tweedy read it, which has the added gift of his playing the guitar and singing along the way. While the book is focused on songwriting, much of his advice is good for writers of all things. It’s short and sweet, and a fun read whether in your hands or your ears!
Kim loves the memoir, Happiness: A Memoir: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After by Heather Harpham. So beautifully written, a page-turner about love, a child’s illness, and resiliency. This is one of those books during which I say to myself, “I wish I could write like this!”
Janet likes learning from Marion Roach Smith, especially the QWERTY podcast where she interviews folks who’ve just published memoirs. She also enjoys Jane Friedman’s newsletter where she posts links to articles by other nonfiction writers and teachers.
Megan likes the Tiffany Yates Martin Foxprint Editorial newsletter and website. Martin also leads some great classes. Also recommended is the Gotham Writers monthly newsletter. They have regular contests for all genres. Gotham has a new online journal called Razor. They are affiliated with the Zoetrope journal.
At Women Who Write, we celebrate both rejections and acceptances for publication, because you can’t have one without the other.
All members are invited to submit to the Women Who Write web blog! We accept personal essays, poetry, fiction, and memoir. No more than 2,000 words, please! We’ll read your work in advance and offer revision suggestions if needed. Publishing on our blog will expand your writing platform since you can share the blog link on social networks. And you’ll help WWW show off the variety of talents within our writing community! Browse our web blog now! http://womenwhowrite.com/our-blog/. Write to and tell us about your story, poem, or essay—the one you’ve written or the one you want to write!
Submit a story to Landslide Lit(erary) on Medium.com, a publication edited by two WWW members—Kimberly Crum and Bonnie Omer Johnson. We will provide developmental and editorial suggestions. Here are the submission guidelines.
Chestnut Review is reading both poetry and prose submissions between July 1-Sept 30 for the Winter Issue Open Submissions
Rose Metal Press: Open Submissions
Thimble Literary Magazine is primarily a poetry journal, but we happily publish plenty of short prose and art. Next submissions August 1 through September 30. Thimble Literary Magazine: Open Submissions
Folly is an international journal of poetry, prose, and art (published in New Zealand). Submissions are year-round. “We are drawn to dark humour, satirical takes on the social scene, and starkly honest accounts of ordinary life. Diversity is celebrated, adversity is welcomed, and, above all, personal expression is championed. Open Submissions
Green House wants poetry, short stories, creative essays, and flash fiction for bi-monthly digital issues. The website is worth a visit! Clever, unique, and informative!
Green House: Open Submissions
Sad Girls Club: Open Submissions —”We want to see writing that explores what it means to be human. Make us laugh until our stomachs hurt, ugly cry, and everything in between. We accept poetry, flash fiction, short stories, and creative nonfiction.”
HerStry literary essay/memoir blog seeks to empower women through their writing. Submissions for general admissions are ongoing. Submissions for monthly themed issues are by the end of each month. Find out more here! Themes for the remainder of 2023 are—Grief, Periods (aka menstruation), Stories that Haunt Us, Thank you, I Guess, and Winter. If you have a work-in-progress that fits one of these themes, or if any of these themes prompt a personal essay, bring it to a WWW peer critique!
Poets and Writers has an extensive list of literary magazines to which you can submit. Learn more here.
N+1 literary journal accepts new fiction, drama, personal essays, criticism, and translation on a rolling basis. Find out more ">here.
Gionsko Literary Journal. Gionsko means, “to perceive, understand, realize, come to know; knowledge that has an inception, a progress, an attainment. The recognition of truth from experience.” Accepting short fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, social justice, and literary insights. Learn more here.
Sky Island Journal is an online journal that publishes emerging and established writers. Prefers flash fiction and creative nonfiction (less than 1,000 words) and poetry. Rolling submissions. Inquire here.
Halfway Down the Stairs publishes quarterly themed issues of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and book reviews. Learn more here
Consider writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul. Some upcoming themes— The Power of Positive Thinking, Angels, Dogs, Cats, and Make Me Laugh! Learn more here
Consider submitting to this online magazine of personal essays—Dorothy Parker’s Ashes has as its tagline, “Brazen words by witty dames. Everything true. More or less.” https://www.dorothyparkersashes.com/the-writing-life
Thimble Literary is “based on the belief that poetry is like armor. Like a thimble, it may be small and seemingly insignificant, but it will protect us when we are most vulnerable.” The online journal publishes quarterly. Find out more here!
The Fictional Café is a unique literary venue inviting fiction and poetry. This international platform does require membership (looks like it’s free) to submit. They describe themselves as a Coffee Club, and their editors and staff as baristas. Here is their invitation— “Want to submit a short story or poetry? A chapter from a novel-in-progress?”
The Blue Mountain Review publishes poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, on a rolling basis, for publication in this quarterly print journal. “Blue Mountain Review is a Southern publication, but it draws no boundaries or borders on that interpretation. It seeks pieces that boldly create something new.”
The Keeping Room is an online magazine for women writers, poets, and artists, interested in “Women’s Wisdom, Lessons Learned, Self-care, Bodies, Relationships, and Community.” Find out how to submit here.
SUPPORT OUR WRITING COMMUNITY!
Become a member (or re-member)—As a community, WWW strives to nurture your writing life. We hope you choose to join or renew as a member and participate in our monthly meetings, author talks, retreats, and workshops. Our membership chair will notify persons when they are due to renew. Regular annual membership is $50. Student annual membership is $25. Membership entitles you to discounts on workshops and retreats.
Attend our monthly member meetings on the second Tuesday of each month for a brief program, peer critiques, and conversations about the writing life. Not currently a member? You can attend two meetings before deciding to join.
Visit our web page WomenWhoWrite.com. Also, visit our Facebook Page and stay awhile—@womenwhowriteky. Don’t forget to like us and follow us. Answer polls. See video interviews of WWW meetings with visiting writers.
Participate! Members, please send us links to your published writing. We will include these links on our Facebook page!
Love your writing life!
The Leadership Team
Kim, Alisa, Megan, Janet, Irene, Ashley, and Katie