Exercise in Courage

Got the t-shirt, or in this case, my 2012 NaNoWriMo Winner-180x180winners certificate. I wasn’t as excited to collect this “goodie” as my first time around the NaNoWriMo block, in 2010. Nothing rivals first times.

If I picked feelings like daisies growing in a grassy field, I would pick these: satisfaction that I persevered and have a new story to continue to shape; relief that the exercise is over; and wonder over how much I have learned since my first experience writing 50,000 words in 30 days.

In The Forest for the Trees, Betsy Lerner quotes Michael Cunningham:

Fearlessness in the face of your own ineptitude is a useful tool.

I love that novel writing is such an exercise in courage. Writing builds character –the writer’s character as well as fictional characters. To persevere in the face of distraction (I dropped my blogs for a month), rejection (a friend dropped me for being unavailable) and demanding fictional characters who hijack your story and take you places you may not want to go, demonstrates you are willing to pay the high cost of a creative life.

It’s the difference between standing on a riverbank, wondering what life is like on the other side, and jumping into the water to experience the pull of the current, never mind what’s on the other side.

Congratulations to all those who put a toe in the river this year.


Cloud Atlas Shrugged


Clouds over Crater Lake

Movie reviews set us up to believe that Cloud Atlas is unique in the way it zips us back and forth through time and shows us how people and events connect from era to era, but Jim Broadbent’s character, sitting at his typewriter, gives us a clue—this movie is the equivalent of literary fiction in structure; it uses “tricksy” devices, flashbacks, foreshadows, repetition and such to make a point that, in the end, is not all that profound: everything is connected.

Most interesting is the question the movie poses: How much leeway do we have to change the natural order of things? What can and should be changed and what should be left alone? Continue Reading »

Food for Thought

The argument between science and spirit is an old one. In writers’ group we analyzed E.M.Forster’s short story The Other Side of the Hedge where a man strides a dusty road toward an unknown goal. He tires of the effort and monotony of his journey, sits down, and feels the breath of fresh air blowing gently through a hedge alongside the road. Curious, he crawls through the hedge and discovers what we might call a parallel universe (and some would call Eden or heaven) on the other side where time stands still and people live joyfully in the moment. Perplexed, he says:

Give me life with its struggles and victories, with its failures and hatreds, with its deep moral meaning and its unknown goal.

Our conversation focused on the degree to which striving makes us human. We acknowledged that an unknown end discourages us; I would add especially as we get closer to it.

Continue Reading »

Poets & Writers workshop program

Take heart! Little things in life give you courage

Our first Tuolumne Writer’s Retreat was a huge success! On Friday night, a full moon hung low in the trees over the gold rush town of Columbia, CA where we gathered among the gravestones on cemetery hill for a poetry reading. A vacationing writer who lives in Alaska opened a window on life in that wondrous landscape with her poem about a marauding bear. On Saturday Wendy Brown-Barry introduced us to the gut busting humor and touching pathos of cowboy poetry while we ate lunch in the Douglas Saloon dressed in different versions of Victorian garb.

It wasn’t all rhyme and rose water. I walked to my next seminar with Suzanne, who is on hiatus from her life in Tanzania where she works with the courts to bring human rights violators to justice. She has stories to tell. Continue Reading »

Glacier National Park, Montana

The first Tuolumne Writer’s Retreat is September 28- 30 in historic Columbia State Park, California. I’m giving a presentation on my experience completing my first manuscript.

Keeping Focus

Ragne Kabanova|dreamstime.com

Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella (adapted by Bill Rauch and Tracy Young) might be a stretch for those who view theatre as entertainment; however, I come to praise the effort, not to bury it. Acknowledging that it is a two-Tylenol experience, it’s worth the headache.

Sorting out three stories played simultaneously on one stage challenges an audience composed of people who are still digesting their dinner. Characters in one play cross plot intersections and join the action in another play. Medea wails in grief for the loss of Jason’s affection and then waltzes off to the ball with Cinderella and her Prince. Continue Reading »

Legacy or Baggage?

ancestral booty

Shortly after my sister retired she ran herself into the ground with joy. A celebratory road trip through the hottest part of the eastern U.S. coupled with raising her hand to babysit her tribe of grandkids while their parents took a time out landed her in the ICU with severe dehydration.

In our retirement dreams we pursue passions put on hold during our working years with all the enthusiasm of a twenty-something.  Sadly, our sixty-something bodies lacks the elasticity of our ageless imaginations. We are soon felled by any number of chronic conditions. It’s the relaxation release syndrome; relax enough to begin to enjoy yourself and a parade of ailments show up for the party. Organs lose their rhythm, joints lose their blue book value and if we aren’t sending get well cards to our friends, we are receiving them.

To get ahead of this curve, I’m trying to lose baggage that weighs me down. I figure a lighter load has got to be good for my health. My baggage is a large house full of stuff – my stuff and stuff I’ve inherited from generations that go back to when the Israelites wandered the desert.   Remember, they plundered the Egyptians before they took off for the Promised Land?  I think I have some of that stuff.

Here is a short list of stuff that makes my house look like a museum. Continue Reading »

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