Monday, July 26, 2010
One of the team-building exercises entailed sitting with a co-worker for 10 minutes and talking about our lives outside of work. (We switched off three times.) I faced a long-standing dilemma: do I reveal I’m a writer and just finished a book, or do I pick something else out of my life to share? I went the authentic route. The absolute biggest thing in my life now is my writing and I said so. My co-workers were genuinely interested and supportive.
I’ve had a chip on my shoulder about revealing this part of my life because I haven’t published and I have no idea if/when that will happen. But I’m a writer NOW, each and every day. It’s what I do and who I am.
The exercise also opened my mind to who my co-workers are beyond their roles at Goodwill. An expert quilter, a weekend sailor, a baker. It’s taken me 20 years to recognize that our work doesn’t define us completely.
How do you define yourself? Has it been a struggle to share your deepest passions with others?
Friday, July 16, 2010
I'm caught between worlds -- my writing style isn't exactly literary and it's not genre (like crime, mystery or romance). I guess I will just be true to my voice and the stories that demand to be told. Despite how exhausted I am, I am excited to jump back into the novel "23 Conversations Before a Funeral," to revise the short story that was workshopped here and keep doing writing exercises (which forces me to write without self-editing).
Now that I'm through with critiquing papers and completing writing assignments for class, I can truly enjoy a glass or two of wine and some espresso chocolate. Back to the real world tomorrow. Next week in DC-metro area for work when I just really want my own bed!
Thursday, July 15, 2010
- Links associated with my work as writer/editor at Goodwill Industries International, the
- American Nurses Association, or the UN/World Health Organization.
- Links about me being the executive director at the Women’s Resource Center.
- My blog, The Writing Life.
- Me being a party in a lawsuit to expand rights of independent political candidates to gain ballot access.
- Random Tweet that I was going out to get an iced tea.
- That I was crowned Miss SPJST in 1982. Long story.
- My results in three half marathons. Which are pathetic and don’t explain that I WALKED.
- My review of a cake recipe (4 forks) on epicurious.com
The Twitter thing has me worried, especially since it came up pretty high in the search results. It just seems dumb. Overall, I’m OK with a publisher reading everything that was posted about me (at least in the first 22 pages of results). Can you say the same thing? If you’re under 20, are you concerned that your random Tweets will reflect who you are to the online world?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Had a short story workshopped by my 10 classmates and our instructor, author Pam Houston. Such great feedback -- they got the subtleties I intended, the emotion beneath the surface. What more could a writer ask for.
Well, now that you mention it. How about a fantastic consultation with a VP at William Morrow Publishers?! Yes, in the same day! She began her critique with: "I have no doubt that you'll be published." She suggested that "This Side of Crazy" may not be the book I publish first, meaning it might be a tougher sell because of subject matter and a 16-year-old narrator. She LOVED the idea of the other book I've worked on, "23 Conversations before My Funeral." Both my friend Katrina and sister Tessa said more than a year ago they thought that was the book to go with -- well, it took me a circuitous path to get back to it but I will.
Heard and noted at the conference:
- "I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it." -- Pablo Picasso
- "In 1910, we stopped reading for plot and starting reading for characters." --author Pam Houston
Monday, July 12, 2010
First, she talked about her process. She says she’s the opposite of an outliner. In the beginning, when she’s getting the raw stuff on paper, the writing is associative, not logical. Pam says this is the time to shut up the analytical bitch who just wants to organize a ‘story’ rather than capture the ‘glimmer’ moments. These moments are potent, resonating ticklers that may become part of something larger. For her, the longer she stays in the ‘not knowing,’ the better. Don’t over-determine, don’t over-direct. So many of us do just that with our writing. We want to know the beginning sentence or who does what to whom and how to get there. Here are three questions she never allows herself to ask when writing:
- What does it mean?
- Where is it going?
- How does it end?
I didn’t outline my novel. Several sections wrote themselves as I witnessed twists in the storyline I couldn't have dreamt up in the beginning. Some authors like my favorite author, John Irving, outline. Irving says he always knows the last sentence in the book first. Loved the group’s discussion on process. We’re all so different.
Second, Pam admits to failures of confidence where she goes days, weeks or months without writing. What? She’s an established, successful author. Most of us who are not figure that the pros have figured out the confidence issue; that their ‘process’ involves some way to keep writing the good stuff, the publishable stuff.
Well, she has figured it out. Start writing the unedited glimmer moments, the stuff that sticks out and begs to be written down. When the analytical bitch jumps in to edit, move onto the next glimmer moment. Keep going. One day it you will have the raw material for that story or novel or essay and can begin moving around those bits and pieces and creating again.
Now, I have a writing assignment and manuscripts to read for our critique tomorrow. Good day from Taos.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
At the welcome dinner we were seated with the writers who will be in the same workshops for the week. My workshop is advanced short fiction led by Pam Houston, who also ate with us at our table. Nice ice breaker before our class begins tomorrow morning.
The keynote reading was by Cristina Garcia, author of Dreaming in Cuban, The Aguero Sisters, Monkey Hunting and The Lady Matador's Hotel. Such rich, vivid imagery in her complex tales that take place around the world but all have a Cuban thread. I asked what type of research she conducts for books set in other countries like China, Iran and Mexico. I received the most unexpected and intriguing answer: she reads poetry from those countries (from the specific time period) because she says the poets capture the culture and essence of the people so much better than history books.
When someone asked about her process, she said that only a small fraction of the time is the writing the "white heat" periods where the passage writes itself, almost perfect in form. The rest of the time is adding detail and layers; the document alive and changing.
I'm fortunate that I've had those "white heat" periods. Garcia says the trick is capturing the same beauty and perfection of those passages in the rest of the book.
More from Taos tomorrow.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
TAOS, HERE I COME
I’m trying to wrap up some urgent work stuff before I head to the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference next week. My instructor assigned some reading – short stories in an anthology edited by author Joyce Carol Oates. I enjoyed all of assigned stories. One, in particular, is probably one of the best short stories I’ve ever read. Ever. Incarnations of Burned Children by David Foster Wallace drew me in and twisted my insides out. If you read it, let me know your reaction.
I recently read a blog by a literary agent encouraging would-be writers to savor the time prior to becoming published authors. He included this story about a writer he knows: Before publication, when she sat down to write, she could do whatever she wanted. There were no expectations about what she’d write, no deadlines to write to, and no promotional commitments to take her away from her creative time. She felt that she lost a little something when she became a published writer, and she wished that other authors would stop and enjoy the process.
The blog got both positive and negative comments. The jury’s still out for me. I do enjoy this time because yes, I feel creativity is within my control. I can tell the story I want to tell. Once published, will that be the case? Or will I worry more about what would sell?
I wonder how others feel about major life events and whether they can savor the time before those events: the years we spend in high school or college, the weeks leading up to a wedding, the days spent training for a marathon. Thoughts?
SOMETHING TO SMILE ABOUT
This has nothing to do with writing but I have to tell the world how freakin’ obsessed I am with the hamsters in the Kia SOUL commercial. I watch the YouTube video at least once a day. Hey, it makes me smile. Shouldn’t we smile at least once daily?
Thursday, July 1, 2010
My friend Wendi e-mailed me a list of 50 quotes associated with risk taking that she found on BusinessWeek.com. I’ve culled the list to the six that resonate.
- “Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” —Helen Keller
- “If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough.” —Mario Andretti
- “Don’t be afraid to take a big step. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” —David Lloyd George
- “Do one thing every day that scares you.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
- “The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.” —Goethe
- “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” —Anais Nin
Of course, risk is one of those words that knots my stomach and closes down my mind instantly. Growing up in chaos created an almost obsessive desire for control and safety in my adult life. So, what do I do? I pursue a risky profession that holds no guarantees and requires big leaps of faith — almost daily. Ha! The universe chuckles at the irony.
Goethe probably put it best in that ‘safety’ is one of life’s dangers. Pursuit of it can close down our spirits to the breathtaking heights we can reach without fear. Safety makes the world very small. It’s a death shroud, shielding us from the wonders of life and living.
There is so much joy in creativity when we put aside the idea that it can be controlled. Has fear of risk kept you from a dream? What help do you need to blossom?