How do you read?
The Kindle version of What We Take for Truth has just been released, and it's got me wondering how you read. Personally, I love to hold an actual book in my hand as I read. I like to annotate my books and put sticky notes on my favorite passages. But, I also love being able to read outside in the dark (in the summer) without having to turn on a light. I love coming across a word I don't know and just putting my finger on the word to get its definition. At the same time, I love being surrounded by books that have impacted my life, to look at my bookshelves stuffed with my reading history. These days those shelves are overflowing. My house is small and I simply don't have space for many more books. Plus, there's the issue of sustainability; books are made from trees after all. But then Kindles are made of plastic and are not biodegradable. It's not an easy choice. I'd love to know how you handle this dilemma. #howyouread
I just spent the weekend with fellow writers from my MFA program. We celebrated one another's successes and learned about each other's work-in-progress. It was a weekend full of the joyful, stimulating, and the kind of sustaining connections that keep me going in this otherwise isolating work. Writing can be lonely, scary work when you're deep into a dark wood of your own imagining. But those dark woods are the places where our creativity is incubating and braving the journey is often the only way to access our full imaginative potential. This is why writing with others is so helpful. Even if each of you is on your own journey, writing in the presence of friends who are doing the same can make the process less intimidating. In the writing groups I facilitate, we develop a sense of safety together and magic happens all the time. Check out my website for the next workshop and join me!
I've been deep into my current novel--a shadowy world in the forest of the Pacific Northwest. It was a challenging place to be through the warmth of summer, but I made progress and am now onto the umpteenth revision. That's the way this writing stuff works. Revising and re-imagining is such a big part of the job. Some might call this part the drudgery of writing, but for me it's the kind of hard work that is exhilarating. I feel as if I'm climbing a mountain and each step on the switch-backed path reveals some new perspective. I keep learning and moving up. I do stumble occasionally, of course. And there are times when I just need to find a boulder or a tree stump and sit this old body down and rest. But even then my mind is churning, taking in the view and wondering. On a bad day, when I keep slipping in the mud of my own making, I may just sit on that stump and pull out a book--one written by someone else who knows how to pull me out of myself and into their imagined world.
Knowing there are so many who've made it to the top of this mountain of words before me gives me hope and reminds me to look for the handholds they used, the stashes of food or water the may have left for me to find, the cairns they've piled to mark the trail. While it often feels like a lonely enterprise, we never really write alone. The community of writers is huge and rich and welcoming, whether you find it between the covers of a book or through a workshop or class.
So now, as the season shifts and the light begins to change, consider joining me walking along the path with me as we write together. I'm offering a new workshop (see the calendar for details) and we'll be creating community as we generate new work. I'd love to see you there!
Hello Writers! I have neglected this blog for many months, but waking up to those valiant new sprouts in my garden has inspired me to get back here. So much has happened in the last months.
You may have noticed a new look to this website. Thanks to Jim Hyde's help, the site is easier for me to keep current. So now I have fewer excuses--thanks Jim!
At the end of February several of you joined me and my daughter, Eden Trenor, in our first 'Embodied Writing Workshop.' We had such a wonderful day writing and moving together! Eden's background in expressive movement and poetry (checkout her latest chapbook: The Rainbow Speaks) allowed her to bring a delicious energy to the workshop. The combination of her approach to body awareness combined in an exciting way with the AWA approach to writing. We look forward to future collaborations!
Coming up in April, I'll be offering a new 6-session writing group through the Whidbey Island Continuing Education Center (see the Calendar or the Offerings page for more information).
The other big event in my writing life this last month was attending my first AWP. This enormous gathering of writers and teachers of writing provided great fuel for future blog entries. Come back soon to learn more about things like how a good short story often leaves the reader with this message: "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here."
As member of The Madrona Workshop Troupe, my focus is on helping writers revise and edit their work. If you are working on a piece of writing and are hoping to see it published one day, you will most likely need to do some revising. In preparation for the revision process, you need to get some distance from your work and shift your perspective. Here are a few ideas to help you get ready.
As you write you are immersed in the world of your book; your focus is tight and narrow. When you’ve completed your first draft and are preparing to revise it, you need to take several steps back and open up your view. If you are going to be able to effectively evaluate your own work, you need to first distance yourself from
it. As Susan Bell says in her wonderful book, The Artful Edit, “You must achieve a transparent view of your material that derives from having emotional and psychological distance from it.”
Here are a few ideas for creating the distance needed to shift your perspective and to see your work with a critical eye.
1)Time: Give yourself time. Put the manuscript away and don’t look at it for several weeks. When you pick it up again, you’ll be less familiar with it and more able to read it with the surprise of a first time reader. If you don’t have the luxury of a few weeks or even months, give yourself as much time as you can.
2) Mode: Do your revising in a different mode than you did your original writing. If you’re a pen-and-paper writer, type your manuscript into a document on your computer and do your revising there. If you wrote your first draft on the computer, print out the pages and do your revising by hand on a hardcopy. Or, if you are
reluctant to print out the full 350 pages of your manuscript, considerer changing the font to give the whole thing a different look. If you created the work in Times New Roman, revise it in Calibri or Arial; your writing will seem
less familiar. By giving your words a different physical setting, you can change your relationship to them.
3) Space: Change your physical location when you revise. If you have one space in your home or office where you write, that may not be the best place to do revision work. Find somewhere else that has a different ambiance, perhaps different lighting or sound, so that other parts of your brain are awakened and you can nudge yourself out of any ruts associated with your work.
Once you’ve gained some distance from your work, you will be ready to begin the re-visioning process.
The world of publishing has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years. With the large, traditional publishing houses making strategic financial decisions to play it safe and publish primarily known quantities, the work of new authors rarely gets attention. Authors are nothing if not creative, so it didn’t take long for the DIY spirit to take hold and for the world of self-publishing to come into its own. There are now more options than ever for the writer who wants to get her work out there and it can be a bit overwhelming.
I was recently invited to join a couple of experts in the world of self-publishing, guys who’ve been there and know the pitfalls and the routes to success in this world. Tom Trimbath, the author of Modern Self Publishing
and 9 other self-published books and Wynn Allen, Ph.D., an expert in marketing and public relations, as well as a fiction and non-fiction author, asked me to collaborate with them to offer workshops on the art of
self-publishing. Editors have served as the primary gatekeepers in the publishing world. When you bypass the publishing house, you bypass the editors as well. This can be a significant problem, but not an unsolvable one. In my role as a member of the Madrona Workshop Troupe, I will be talking about word-smithing and self-editing as well as giving workshop attendees suggestions about how to find a freelance editor. In my role as book coach, I’ll be offering individualized services as well. This should be great fun! Our first 2-day workshop is set for January 26-27 in Mukilteo. For more info check out: www.MadronaWorkshopTroupe.wordpress.com
The title of Pat Schneider’s book outlining the principles of the Amherst Writers and Artist Technique is Writing Alone and with Others. I love the simplicity of that title and that what it suggests is a bit radical in the world of writing. Most of us who write have plenty of experience writing alone. In fact, that’s the aspect of the writing life that many find the most challenging. Writing is an isolating occupation, whether we do it for a living or we live to do it.
It’s the “with others” part of the title that can seem odd and even antithetical to the process of writing. Yet, when we come together with the intention of supporting one another in letting the words get out there, we can create an environment of creative energy in which amazing things happen.
I write alone nearly every day of my life and some days I like what I write and other days I think it stinks, but either way writing alone generally feels like work. When I write with others, whether in my own workshops or in groups, I always surprise myself and I always have fun.
When a group gathers to write together we create a kind of bubble around us that inflates with our combined imaginative energy. Once you experience it, you’ll appreciate how nourishing it is to write with others.
Most folks find that after writing in one of my workshops they go back to writing alone with a new vigor and excitement.
This holiday season, give yourself the gift of a writing workshop! Join us on December 1 for an all-day workshop at Deborah’s home in Mukilteo. To register or for more info: Deborah@Soundviewwriters.com
From where I sit the view is full of potential. Clouds, winks of blue sky, yellow
sprouts glowing in the sun. There is energy in the air. I hope you’re enjoying
the season and letting the creativity around you seep through your writing!
I am so excited! I’m trying something new and I really hope that many of you will be able to join me in this
adventure. For the last year or so I have been taking Feldenkrais classes. Never heard of Feldenkrais? Well, you’re in for a treat. This is a practice designed to keep the body limber and allow you to move fluidly as you age. It’s gentle and very effective--and it’s all about awareness, just like good writing! There’s much more to say about Feldenkrais, so check it out: http://www.feldenkrais.com/method/awareness_through_movement_classes/
My wonderful Feldenkrais teacher, Jan Kingston, and I have realized there is much in common between her approach to movement and my approach to writing. So, we’ve decided to team up and offer a workshop that combines both experiences!
I know there are writing and yoga workshops out there and I’ve even seen writing and river rafting. Both of these are appealing because they speak to both the mind and the body. The combination of an Amherst Writers
Workshop with a Feldenkrais lesson is a unique combo, though. We will be able to address both the mind and body in a new way for most participants. No experience needed in either writing or Feldenkrais work. Please join us! Our first combo workshop is June 23, 2012 in Edmonds, WA.
Contact me for more info!
I’ve been a writer since I could hold a crayon. As a kid I stapled pages of very wide lined paper - wide enough for
the meticulously printed words I then considered “big words” - into my books. Sometimes there were actually more words than pictures in the laboriously composed stories. I kept a diary all through school. In those years before I left home for college I wrote poetry, tales of romance, mystery stories, and lots of memoir. In high school I submitted my work to the “Avant Guard,” our literary magazine, and was thrilled (in a low-key, cool kind of way, of course) when one of my poems was printed there. I left Southern California for the East Coast and college in a cloud of adolescent grandiosity and drama - I was putting my past behind me. I could ‘finally’ be the real me! My wise and patient mother waited until I had settled into my dorm before she told me that she’d packed up all my journals and diaries and shipped them to me. She knew that I’d want them someday. And I certainly did want them as I groped for a foothold in the strange new world I’d entered. But the anchor from my past writing never arrived. Somewhere in the midwest the train carrying the box full of my literary history caught fire; a carton of wet ashes was delivered to me weeks later. (My mother had covered the outside label with layers of Scotch tape, rendering my college address inflammable.) The loss gave my pause, but it also gave me a source of angst that needed a voice. I’ve been writing in some form ever since.
But it wasn’t till this year, at the age of 63, that I allowed myself to indulge in the complete joy of writing fiction full-time. I have even enrolled in an MFA program in fiction (really!). So, even though I’ve earned a Ph.D. in psychology, written a dissertation, co-authored 2 non-fiction books that have been published by well-respected publishers, seeing my first published short story in an online literary journal has thrilled me to my core! The Balance was published by Contemporary World Literature and you can read it here: http://contemporaryworldliterature.com/?cat=421
There are times when I feel a need for a challenge--something that will help me to focus my writing a bit without shutting down my creative spark. One type of challenge that has appealed to me lately is writing stories in a brief format. Flash fiction has many definitions, but the general idea is that a complete tale is captured in a few words. I’ve found venues where flash fiction is defined as anything under 1,000 words; other journals have a 750 or 500-word limit. Writing within these confines is both challenging and fun. Such an exercise makes you aware of how much each word can do.
A few months ago I entered a local Short-Short Story Smash. The word requirement for entries was 100-words. 100 was not the limit--you couldn’t write a story in 99 words or 75 words and enter it--the story had to be 100 words exactly. On a drizzly evening in March a small audience gathered at the local theater and all the entries were read aloud by professional actors; then a panel of judges selected the winners. It was thrilling to hear my words read by an actor on stage. It was also surprising; the woman who read my piece gave it an interpretation I
hadn’t anticipated when I wrote it, but I loved it! And the biggest surprise of all was that I won 2nd place! You might want to give yourself a challenge and see what you can do in 100 words! Several friends have asked to read this piece, so I’m including it here:
Love at the Lost and Found
Lost: My heart, red and beating, dropped as I was handing it to you, along with a small drop of self-respect—the only one I had left—somewhere near your apartment last night . Only you can return it.
Found: Huge apologies surrounding dregs of love bleeding in the gutter. Owner was temporarily blinded by responsibility; emergency resuscitation has begun
Lost: The will to fight; nothing left but hope
Found: Path to your heart– long and winding, but light at the end—intend to follow
Lost: Resistance; loneliness
Found: Diamond ring perfect for you
From time to time I will share my thoughts on writing, alone and in groups, as Pat Schneider would say. I will also use this blog as a place to post news of new publications and opportunities for you to publish.
Writing with a View of Puget Sound