Sunday, April 15, 2012

Oh My Gosh How Time Flies...and Something to Share

I cannot believe it has been nearly an entire year since I last blogged. My apologies.

Though, I'm not sure anyone was sitting at the edge of the computer chair clicking refresh on this page until new content popped up. Still, it is bad form for a writer to not share writing.

Currently I am working on my dissertation, and as I do, I will share little tidbits of wisdom I find in my readings. I share quotes on Twitter, but here I will share the nuggets of gold that are larger than 140 carats - I mean characters.

For starters, I love how this student questions what creative writing actually is, especially in comparison to composition.

"I'm really confused here. What's the difference between the two? Most of the time I use the two words interchangeably....For all I know, it is a grave sin to use one for the other. Is creative writing stuff that is done for fun, and composition stuff that the teacher makes you do?"

Part of me loves that this student thinks "creative writing" is the fun stuff. On the other hand, both composition and creative writing should be challenging, rewarding, and fun.

Here's one more from the same essay:

"I think I was misleading myself for a very long time. I had so many grand ideas about writing that I had forgotten that you have to write to be a writer...[Now,] instead of pondering over ideas and waiting for the perfect one, the one to make me famous, I take small ideas and make them good ones. I just recently finished a short story that I am very proud of. It was 8 pages long, the longest one I had ever written. It had scenes, summaries, dialogue. I love it. I didn't really ever think I had it in me. I was putting so much pressure on myself to write the masterpiece that all of my writing was overdramatic, didn't say anything and was shallow. I have learned to write in stride, write for myself & let my ideas flow."

This student who is just discovering his writing abilities and who is proud of writing eight pages is wise, wise, wise. I particularly love the advice about not sitting around waiting for brilliant ideas to strike. Why not turn small ideas into good ones, big ones, powerful ones?

Great advice from students of the late Wendy Bishop in her essay "Crossing the Lines: On Creative Composition and Composing Creative Writing"

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rainy Days and Mondays #24

Happy Monday, everyone. I want to share a fun video with you to get the week started. It would be so fun to pull a prank like this...

Also, I'll be sharing more tips from the PennWriters conference through my Twitter account today. Follow that at @TamaraGirardi.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Resolutions and All That

Is it possible? I mean, really possible, to devise resolutions at the beginning of a calendar year and somehow stick to them?

I once interviewed residents of the Alle-Kiski Valley, a suburban area of Pittsburgh, for a newspaper article on New Year's resolutions. One woman made a very interesting comment. She said she didn't believe in these kinds of resolutions. Rather, she believed that a person should always evaluate his place, his success, his expectations and resolve to change when change is needed - not just on January 1.

I couldn't agree more, but here we are. It's January 1, 2011, and I'm talking resolutions. There's something about the calendar that just lights a fire under...well, you know the saying. But also, I'm planning to connect my blog to the classes I'm teaching this spring, so now is a great time to plan for 2011 changes.

My students at Westmoreland County Community College will be creating blog teams. Together, the teammates will create blogs, choose themes and topics, schedule posts, and write the blogs. The writing they do in these public forums they create will be graded for the course.

Privately, the students will reflect on their experiences and the improvements they see in their writing.

Since I'm asking them to write more often in a public forum, I will do the same. My blog, although it will remain The Girardi Diner, will take on a theme "Writer 360" for the next few months. In my posts, I will be talking about writing from three different perspectives - a writing teacher, a composition PhD student, and a writer.

More ahead...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Firecrackers and Blue Jeans

Sorry for the delay in getting this blog up. I was kind of lost in the whirlwind of the funeral last week. But I promised you all tales of my gram, the firecracker.

She was a firecracker, which really is just a polite or more colorful way to say she had a temper, right? For instance, this one time, we were driving down the road when I was in high school, and she got angry at me. She slammed down her turn signal and broke the entire steering column.

Thus, her "firecracking" was sometimes directed towards me or inanimate objects. But other times it was directed to people who had done her family wrong.

When I was in elementary school playing basketball, she came down from the stands to scream at the referees and the coaches because when I was wrestling with another girl for the basketball, the girl punched me and knocked the wind out of me.

Gram was fired up that day, but her hardheadedness started long before I was born, long before my mom was born even.

When gram was a high school student in the mid-1950s, she walked into a girls' bathroom to see a couple white girls beating up a black girl in her class. She stepped in the middle and started swinging at the white girls. That was the end of her friendship with them, but she didn't care.

Right was right, and wrong was wrong.

Then again, even she blurred those lines from time to time. During those same high school years, she wanted nothing more than a new pair of Levi blue jeans. She asked her father for them again and again, but he said they were too expensive.

So, she chose not to eat lunch and instead saved her money until she could afford the jeans herself. She paid for the jeans, removed the tags, and wore them home from the store. Her father saw the red "Levi" tag sticking out from the seam and yelled at her, but she smugly knew she could not return them since they'd already been worn.

Eventually, though, she felt guilty for wearing expensive jeans when she saw other things in the family that needed replacing, her father's shoes that were worn thin for instance.

Still, when I was in high school 45 years later, she grabbed the little red tag on my jeans (I feel the need to point out that Levi's are now very affordable) every time I walked by her, and she told me that story.

She told me lots of stories I will treasure and always be thankful for. I'm thankful to you all for reading as well. Thanks for your comments and good wishes.

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bragging Grandparents

As I was growing up, I remember my grandmother bragging about me - a lot. She even submitted to a local newspaper column called "Bragging Grandparents." She would tell anyone who would listen - grocery store workers, high school friends she bumped into at Denny's, the servers at Denny's (and you get the point) - about my sports, my grades, and my travels.

It kind of embarrassed me then, but now it's a sweet memory and unequivocal proof she was proud of me. I wish I could be humble or nonchalant about it, but as a girl who has lost four "parents" before her 30th birthday, knowing I've made them proud matters.

Yes, my grandmother loved to brag, but now it's my turn to brag about her.

When I was in kindergarten, I had the coolest job in the world. After my morning classes, I would come to the cafeteria for lunch while all the other kids went home. I would eat with the big kids, and then when lunch was over, I was a special helper to the janitor.

He gave me a rag, and I wiped every table and chair in the place. I took my job seriously, making sure every crumb disappeared. My reward was a handful of candy from his office. I got this job because of my grandmother. She was in the kitchen volunteering - cooking and cleaning.

After we both finished our duties, I climbed into her car and drove away with her. When I had to stay in school for the afternoon in pesky first grade, I remember missing those times with my gram.

But we had other times.

She drove me to Girl Scouts and basketball practice. She came to school events like Grandparents Day, and she was there when I won the Geography Bee in third grade.

Each Christmas, she planned a massive holiday party for the whole family - her three children, seven step-children, their spouses, and 23 grandchildren. She even arranged it so Santa could visit. There are pictures from those parties somewhere, pictures of the 23 grandchildren piling on top of each other to squeeze into photographs in front of the Christmas tree.

She planned summer picnics, too. She let me climb the cherry tree in her backyard. She watched me score baskets and spike volleyballs. She watched me walk across the stage before Prom and give my speech at graduation.

When my mother passed away my freshman year of high school, Gram didn't give taking us in a second thought. She immediately sought a lawyer and made sure the adoption was finalized pronto. She struggled immensely in losing my mom, her baby girl. But she was still there for us - her kids and her grandkids.

She was also a firecracker. But more on that tomorrow...

Thanks for letting me share.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Saying Goodbye is Not Final

In my book, THESE WALLS CAN TALK, which was originally titled THE DINER ON THIRD, my protagonist Leia Angeletti is very close with her grandmother. She visits Grandma Jack often at the nursing home and does her best to reach her grandmother through the fog of Alzheimer's.

The character Grandma Jack was based on my grandmother, Anne Goerman Farneth. Yesterday, she passed away at the age of 73.

With my grandparents Anne and Clarence Farneth on the day I graduated from Valley High School in New Kensington. They adopted me and two of my siblings when our mother died in 1997.

My family and I spent the afternoon at the funeral home discussing arrangements, including the obituary. We toiled over how it would be worded. Would we list that she adopted three of her grandchildren, me included, when she lost her youngest daughter (their mother) to illness? In what order would we list the many relatives who preceded her in death? Should the grandchildren be listed by name?

The questions seemed silly. Did it really matter, I wondered? But I realized in a way, it did. The funeral director said, "This will be the last thing written about Anne." It would be the final record of her life.

Final record.

I don't mean this as a joke, but that sounds so final. And it shouldn't be.

Anne Goerman McSherry Farneth lived 73 years in a town called New Kensington. She had three children, seven step-children, 23 grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren. She worked as a bookkeeper, grocery story cashier, and volunteered in the cafeteria of her grandchildren's school. She was infinitely proud of her family's heritage of starting the first local newspaper and the first local fire company in the 1800s. She was beautiful, loving, and flawed. In her 73 years, she touched the lives' of thousands of people, and her life boils down to a one-column obituary?

She deserves more, and even if this humble blog is my only platform to deliver that, I will gladly do it. So all this week, I'll be sharing stories of my gram. And all my life, I'll be missing her.

Thanks for allowing me to share her with you.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Backspace is around the corner

I've been such a slacker with the diner. Sorry about that. There really is good food here, and I should stop by more often!

So, in two weeks from today, I'm boarding a plane at Pittsburgh International and heading for the Backspace Conference in New York City. I've been revising my manuscript THESE WALLS CAN TALK for months now, and I'm so excited to get back out there and share it with agents and editors who will hopefully love it as much as I do.

I've had some first readers who've loved it, too, it should be noted.

In any case, I'm unagented, but hopefully that will change in the next couple months. Of course, I'll share good news as soon as there's any to share. And the good news I'm sharing now is that I will be the official Twitterer (Tweeter just sounds strange) at the Backspace Conference.

I'll share all the great quotes from agents, the success stories, and the faux pas writers should avoid (as per the agents' requests of course).

So check out the conference and follow my tweets: for all the dish.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What Happens in Vegas, Even if You're Not in Vegas

I feel like a movie set stalker. Today, I drove through Kittanning, a small river town north of Pittsburgh where Janet Evanovich's One for the Money is being filmed. I walked along the river and listened to the glorious calls.


"Background!" (And cars start moving along the bridge).

And finally, "Action!"

If I didn't have to drive up to Indiana University of Pennsylvania today to reserve a study space in the library, as they all go within hours of the first day of classes, I could have been driving one of those cars.


But instead, I listened from the sidelines as the cool breeze blew through the trees in the riverside park and the morning sun reflected off the water. For people who live in New York City or Los Angeles, movie sets may be common place. Pittsburgh has played host to several film crews, especially recently, but it's still fresh and exciting to see the trailers, actors, and cameras in town.

And seeing all of that in Kittanning this morning reminded me of last week. Point of information: production companies make background actors (aka extras) sign confidentiality agreements that specify the actors will not talk or publish pertinent information about shooting. This includes locations and plot points.

They might say something like what happens on the set stays on the set. But they might also say when the movie comes out, feel free to blog, tweet, and Facebook all you like.

If you're following me, good. If not, rewind, and read between the lines.

In other words, I've taken some notes about my experience in "Vegas", and when a certain movie hits theaters, I will post more details about filming.

In the meantime, it's back to IUP for me (classes start tomorrow) and more work on my revisions (which are going well) of THESE WALLS CAN TALK.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Very exciting Monday morning

After several emails, I have finally managed to get hired as an extra on a movie set.

I'm not saying much just yet because I want to be a good extra. But later, I will blog and let you know anything I can. Hopefully I'll have a few photos as well - not of the set. Cameras and phones are strictly prohibited on set. But I'll see what I can do!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jackie Evancho - wow

The city of Pittsburgh is a buzz over the 10-year-old singing sensation Jackie Evancho. Jackie wowed audiences on America's Got Talent, but she has been making a name for herself in the city for some time now, even being compared to another Pittsburgh native, Christina Aguilera.

There are several YouTube videos of Jackie, including this one: