What Started Out as a Eulogy: a Dispatch from the Workshop by Cynthia Stock
by Writing Workshops Staff
A year ago
I spent over forty years at the bedside as a Critical Care Nurse. During my career, I pursued writing via multiple institutions and mentors. My work room is cluttered with piles of stories in various stages of development.
My story "The Father-Daughter Dance" started out as a piece called Eulogy. It began as just that: a eulogy to my father, who died over forty years ago. Many revisions later, it was recently accepted for publication. During the process, I discovered Writing Workshops Dallas and the group of talented writers who lead classes and share their wealth of knowledge.
I’d like to tell you writing is easy. It isn’t. It is hard work, diligence, and determination. It demands that the writer dares to take a most precious child, a story, subject it to acute scrutiny, listen to criticism, and reconstruct what was thought to be the perfect child, and then repeat the process.
"The Father-Daughter Dance" morphed from an exploration of grief to a story about the complex connection between a father and a daughter over the span of a lifetime. I would put the story aside for months at a time, present revisions to my writer’s group, submit multiple places, and still have my story unclaimed. I took two different classes at Writing Workshops.
In the Advanced Fiction Workshop, Jenny Bhatt suggested ways to elevate the ending so the reader would feel both satisfied, but hungry for more. I found a place seeking submissions with a word count limit. It required me to trim one thousand words. I recovered slowly from the pain of excising so many beautiful words. I submitted the story to over ten places, determined that this one would find a home. Thanks to my work with Blake and Jenny and major word surgery, it did. Finally! Success!For anyone wondering if they should write, I have a few pieces of advice. My formal education is in Nursing, not Fine Arts.
- Don’t let a career in something other than the arts stop you from pursuing your dream.
- If you are writing already and you notice you feel grumpy or lethargic on days you don’t write, KEEP WRITING.
- Read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. The Beatles logged over 10,000 hours of playing time before they became stars. I try and write at least an hour a day.
- When submitting, remember this baseball analogy: if you don’t step to the plate, you can’t hit a home run. Rejections hurt. But there is a reason for them.
- Criticism is your friend. Seek it out. Listen to it. Use what will make your story better while remaining true to your work.
- Embrace the writing community. Writing Workshops Dallas and Blake Kimzey jump-started my writing and turned some of those aforementioned piles into published pieces. Sharing the passion, the struggle, the successes, and the failures in a supportive environment means survival as an artist.
My dad taught me to love the written word. I know he’s somewhere reading my stories.
Author Cynthia Stock has a master's degree in nursing and worked as a nurse in critical care for over 40 years. She has studied writing at Southern Methodist University and Writing Workshops Dallas. She lives with her husband and their two cats in Galrand, Texas. Her first novel is The Final Harvest of Judah Woodbine.