Archive for the ‘writing life’ Category

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.


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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.


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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. (more…)

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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.

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Detroit Institute of Arts

I am holding a 3 am wake for the deceased day when the shadowy muse darts past a distant door. It occurs to me that I should give more thought to entertaining her.

In the classical sense, a muse embodies the arts and inspires their creation. As she passes by, she may float a memory that wants flesh or whisper a prompt for our improvisation.  The muse is grace personified.

The traditional muses had monikers, genres and logos. For example, the muse known as Polyhymnia specialized in sacred poetry, hymn and eloquence. She also dabbled in agriculture and pantomime. Today, she would adopt a pen name for those activities so as not to alienate her more meditative fan base. Polyhymnia’s badge was a veil. That serves the concept well but is difficult to illustrate in modern graphics.

I don’t see a muse on the list (three to ten ladies—the list expanded with time) that I could invoke. Writing novels and blogs are not classical activities. I confess that my muse looks more like Tinkerbell than Calliope or Thalia; more like a forest sprite circa the Bard or a Greek chorus that assembles from the cast to offer commentary and then does a quick costume change.

I should give her a name, focus her attention on a popular genre and design a logo for her. No, I should ask her to tell me her name, reveal her passion and leave her imprint on my heart.

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I’m not just flirting with Twitter; we are in a committed relationship.  I’m testing this new partnership, pecking through the seed to find kernels of true value and discarding the husks that prove unfruitful.

 I’m told there are apps that build your audience for you. You can PayPal your way to stratospheric numbers, following tens of thousands around the globe and culling those who don’t return the favor.  Or you can build your relationships the old fashioned way—slowly, selectively, one at a time.  This approach won’t get you the big numbers, but you can get some momentum by being genuinely friendly.

Here’s what I’m learning:

Push your borders. Having tweeps of all ages in all parts of the world is one of the true values of Twitter.

Set your boundaries.  I check profile descriptions and recent twitters and filter out profanity and shameless self or product promotion. Your boundaries may be different but hopefully you have some.

Do the math. If someone has 20,000 followers, 20 people they follow and 2 tweets, I’m not sure I see the point.

Join a conversation.  I’m not doing too well on this one, but it’s on my list. It ‘s the difference between going to a party, sitting in the corner entertaining  your hors d’oeuvres, and mingling with the guests, laughing at their jokes and adding an entertaining bon mot of your own.

Focus your tweets.  I think of Twitter as a modern day set of Psalms and Proverbs. Kings David and Solomon shared their experiences in poetic reflections, passionate revelations and prudent advice that has been read and re-read through centuries.  Try that in 140 characters!

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The Old Testament writers were masters of “show, don’t tell.” Consider the tale of the woman from Tekoa.

King David’s son Absalom has been banished for killing his brother. (The motive is a whole other story. See the rape of Tamar.) David’s chief of staff Joab wants to reconcile David and Absalom and restore peace of mind to the people so he employs the services of a wise woman. He instructs her to pretend she is in mourning and to seek the king’s help.

The wise woman bows before King David and plays his heartstrings. Claiming to be a widow whose family is in upheaval because one of her sons has killed his brother, she says her family is calling for the execution of her remaining son. This will leave her childless and penniless. (more…)

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