it’s a trip . . .

tips, quotes, insights, and lessons about writing and publishing learned the hard way

lessons from friends #2 – Lori Bentley-Law

"Orange Crush" One of the things I learned from writer Lori Bentley-Law is the value of digging deep for an original story line in fiction. In at least two of her books, MOTOR DOLLS and THE UNDERGROUNDERS, she pushes herself, never settling for the comfortable or easy premise. As a result her work has a freshness and a creative abandon to it I have tried to emulate, a quality that will surely lift her work above the cliched stuff glutting agents’ in-boxes.

The first chapter of MOTOR DOLLS, entitled “Orange Crush” opens up with one of the protagonists, an artist with an irrepressible joie de vivre, jumping into a vat of orange dye just to see what it feels like.

“In perfect form, Jeda raised her arms and bent at the knees. With one more deep breath, she sprang from the ledge, executing a swan dive into the vat of swirling orange dye.”

Perhaps because Lori is an artist herself, a videographer by profession, she has the artist’s worldview that makes artists so engaging when they turn to writing.

Since I am more familiar with THE UNDERGROUNDERS, her YA novel, I’ll pay special tribute to that one  in this post. I have a YA novel, too, but mine is grounded in (or maybe I should say weighed down) by my own experience and limited by my preconceived notions that I have to represent life as it is. However, consider Lori’s premise for THE UNDERGROUNDERS:

“Weird stuff is happening to thirteen-year old Viola DeMarron, and it sure the heck isn’t puberty—unless puberty consists of getting sucked Underground to have deep and meaningful conversations with the roots of vegetables and the Tenders who care for them. After waking to find mud on her feet, it dawns on her these episodes must be more than freaky dreams.”

Viola has a nose like a potato. While underground, she chats up a gregarious carrot and consoles a grumpy turnip, that is, after she diagnoses him with club root.

One of Lori's clever characters

one clever carrot!

This past summer, I wrote my strongest short story ever. It was based on a woman with a hen’s nose and elephant ears–a woman who looked like a Dr. Seuss character and had a Grinch of time meeting men because of her frightful face.  Had I not admired Lori’s work and spent so much time enjoying it and happily studying it, I might never have ventured out of my own comfortable art-is-life skin and into a more fantastic story line.

Thanks, Lori, for showing me that when something feels so comfortable in one’s writing in very little time, it may be because the writer has seen it or done it before.  Lori’s storytelling shows me what is possible when a writer really pushes herself not to settle for what is comfortable and familiar in one’s writing and how successful one can be as a result.

P.S. Lori also (informally) tutors her friends in the craft of writing by lesson and by example–look at this week’s craft tip, which Rachel Greenaway shared with me, something she learned from Lori (aka Modobenny).

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2 Comments»

  rachel wrote @

Lori’s work has a surreal quality that once read gets under the skin and stays. I think that’s one of the signs of fantastic writing: the essence (mood, flavor, personality) remains long after the story’s finished. I can’t say forever, because I haven’t lived that long, but I have a feeling it will be.

She has also taught me so much — and taught it so kindly — that I owe her my house and soul.

  modobenny wrote @

Really, Rachel? Your house? Hmmmm…. I hear Canada is lovely this time of year. Thanks, both of you, for the very kind words. I’m humbled.


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  • my author bio . . .

    I began writing creatively three years ago, fueled by midlife and a Curves' addiction. Since then, I have published short work in The Christian Science Monitor and Sirens Magazine in the same year. How's that for versatility!
    Sirens Magazine

    Sirens Magazine

    Also the Duck & Herring Company's Pocket Field Guide, The Giggle Water Review, Alighted, Wet Ink Press, America's Funniest Humor, Brilliant!, Laughter Loaf, Flash-Flooding, and the Greensilk Journal where my short story, "How I Boinked John Cusack" won editor's pick.
    The Greensilk Journal

    The Greensilk Journal

    My newest novel, THE SHAKER PROPOSAL, has received numerous accolades, the latest a fifth-place in the 2008 annual NWA (National Writing Association) Novel Contest.
    THE SHAKER PROPOSAL

    THE SHAKER PROPOSAL

    I am a marketing professional by vocation (but not by choice). My husband and I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania—the sounds, sites, smells, and flavors of which are a never-ending source of literary inspiration.
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