Sunday, June 29, 2008

time to read

Recently I was in a situation for a couple days with periods of "down time." The "down time" didn't mean I had no reason to be there; it meant I was available whenever a need arose and had to maintain awareness of what was happening around me. But I wasn't actively doing the thing I was there to do all of the time. (There is much time in this repeated situation where I am engaged in that activity for five minutes to two hours at a stretch, but it's not constant.)

So, during these "down moments," I can read or sometimes do writing revision or make lists or do crosswords. I haven't really been able to do much original writing, due to the nature of where I am and the amount of "focus out" required. I go to this place regularly, usually with a magazine, one fiction book and one non-fiction book, and a notebook. It's unusual I'm there two days in a row - but it happened recently.

The fiction book I'm reading right now is Miranda July's "No one belongs here more than you." I like the writing - a lot - and agree with someone else's assessment that "sometimes [the book] challenges me." It's not really the type of book I want to take into that situation where there is the potential of a participant looking over my shoulder. Besides, with the dual book and outward focus, I would lose a lot of the meaning in the stories.

Which means I took my professional newsletter (which I finished in less than an hour) and writing books because I didn't want to start a new fiction book right now. This has been a good thing, because I completed Alan Ziegler's "The Writing Workshop Notebook" and then started The New York Writers Workshop "the portable MFA in creative writing." I've been skimming the books, but haven't taken focused chunks of time, until now.

It has been inspirational and encouraging and has given me new energy to roll up those shirt sleeves and dive more deeply into my writing. There are challenges to that with getting ready for the three-week teaching job (coming up quickly - yikes!) - but the books have helped. So, while this job can sometimes feel like being stuck in a different dimension for the duration of the shift (which it kind of is), there are also advantages to being unplugged from my Blackberry and my computer and any other electronic interruptions. My work comes first when I'm there. But when I'm not needed, it's a nice perk to be able to delve into writing books.

Today I made it through the pros and cons of getting an MFA and the fiction chapter and started the poetry one. I made notes in the book, and notes of books to look at, and notes for workshops I'd like to give and to take ... and I feel hungry to read more.

Which is why I came home after a thirteen hour day on five hours of sleep and am writing this post. I got excited about writing and creating. I don't think I will do another NaNoWriMo installment tonight since I am meeting my exercise buddy at 8 am and need to catch a little more sleep than last night.

I like being excited about something I'm doing and looking forward to doing more.

And I like having these "forced" reading moments. I could be watching the TV or movie with the participants of the job site, but I'd much rather read my book. *smile*

Friday, June 27, 2008

...and the winner was..

... Cannon Beach.

There was a slight delay in getting out of town - not unusual unless I can manage to turn off everything that beeps or buzzes or rings and get into my car and out of town before someone finds me. Yesterday I forgot the other rule: don't look through the mail; just bring it in the house, put it down, and go. I looked. And there was something needing pretty immediate attention which required getting ahold of someone else and probably two someones. And the must contact someone was busy, blah, blah, blah.

I did get out of town, finally, about 2:00. But Cannon Beach isn't that far; only about an hour and 40 minutes or so. I'm used to going to the mid-coast, where it does take two and a half to three hours.

The beach was beautiful. The temperature in the town was a little breezy and "cool" in summer terms - a light jacket was handy. But on the sand, it was warmer due to the reflecting sun off the beach and the wind was very mild. The water was perfect temperature to cool someone off and definitely not so cold to freeze the toes. Nice. The only thing I forgot was a hat, so I put a little sunscreen on my part - I wasn't going to be entering any beautiful hair contests, so a little dab of grease to prevent a sore scalp later was worth it.

I walked for two hours, along and in the water. After I returned to my car I drove a similar route from the public parking to the southern park where I turned around and it was almost two and a half miles one way; so I walked somewhere around five miles in the sand.

I picked up bits of conversation as I passed groups of people. Mostly I picked up mannerisms and observed human interactions. Who was family? Some obviously probably step-family. Who were the guests and who planned the trip? Tourists. Recent high school grads wanting to be cool. Younger kids trying boogie boards and trying to look cool like the bigger kids. Fitness fanatics. Walkers on a mission, like me. Lovers. Dogs and more dogs and packs of dogs.

A t-shirt washed up on the beach. Probably a medium brick or red when dry; looking like it had been soaked in wine as it lay in a wadded heap being rolled around by the surf.

The recent completion of a wedding, with the bride in white and the bridesmaids in aqua standing around. Most of the guests seem to have been gone. There were a few guys in suits or tuxes. But what was most interesting to me to look at were the now empty rows and rows of chairs; probably 8 rows of 20 chairs each with an aisle down the middle. Of course there was an aisle - what's a wedding without one! But I didn't really notice guests. And some workers/employees/?? dismantling a white lattice archway and another carrying away a giant vase of flowers which would never grown naturally in Oregon, let alone on the beach. It was kind of surreal and comical and ... something I can't yet describe.

I passed several volleyball nets standing, waiting for a game. But didn't see anyone playing. There were a couple of different types of rental beach vehicles. One time a mother and daughter were each riding in this thing that looks like one of those recumbent bikes (I think that's what they are - where you sit level with your legs out in front and pedal) but these had coverings reminiscent of a helicopter body. So the two of them were pedaling down the beach, kind of a friendly race or catch-me-if-you-can. They stopped. The daughter, probably about 12, gets out to stretch and dip her toes in the water. The mother tries to get out and can't. She struggles a bit. It's awkward. Her face turns red. She's laughing. She's laughing and trying to climb out and has to snake sideways and she's about halfway out and the little covered park starts to tip over on her. And she's laughing harder.

I kept walking. Looked back. She was standing and all looked fine. She and her daughter were laughing.

Walking back toward my car, there were surfers. I don't know if this is true or only what I imagine to me true, but it seemed that the experience of surfing on the Oregon coast must be different and, well, slower. I have never surfed. I think I have seen real surfers in California, but that was a really long time ago.

I watched a bit. One guy was up on his board and coming in on a wave and then, the wave just kind of lost power. He was standing fine, it seemed to me. He didn't fall. But the wave was carrying him (slower, like I said, it seemed the waves with surfers - standing or lying on their bellies - moved slower than the waves I've seen in movies from Hawaii or California). And then the wave which had risen up and he was on the crest just collapsed and he wasn't surfing any more. He was standing on his board and there was a little bump in the water and he went down. But is wasn't falling off the wave. The wave lost steam.

And I kept walking.

Passed another pack of dogs of all sizes. There was a little miniature something (I'm not a "dog person" so my knowledge of breeds has giant gaps) all the way up to a largish (I think) German Shepherd; six of them. And one guy with one of those dog ball throwing plastic things - so you don't have to get your hands slimy playing with your dog. I do remember that from when I was a kid. So this guy throws the ball; if it goes far, the little mini-dog just runs in circles around his feet until the big dogs come back, one of them with the prized neon yellow tennis ball in its mouth. If the guy does a little toss and the ball lands near, the mini-mutt will join in the chase. From down the beach I'd heard a dog barking and braying and it sounded like it had laryngitis. I noticed that one of the dogs in this pack with the tennis ball is a basset hound. Ah, I think; they really do sound like that. I forgot.

I get back to my car, water bottle empty and sand in the rolled up cuff of my pants. And I felt both tired and rejuvenated. It was a very good walk and a good day to go to the beach. And I feel like I picked up some more images to use in my writing.

And I feel lucky to live where I have the option of sand, hills, snow, or desert, all within a few hours ... or stay in the city.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

play day

I saved out one day just for me. To play, write, walk, swim, whatever I want to do.

Whatever?!? Yikes!

~$50 in gas if I go to Seattle (PROS: Blue C sushi, Fremont, Daniel Smith; CONS : trafffffic, six hours driving minimum) or the coast (PROS: long walk on the beach, fresh air, out of town; CONS : four hours driving minimum) or central Oregon (PROS: out of town, pretty drive, nice scenery, potential for walking; CONS : over five hours driving, don't have "the" spot to go yet) .

The cost of coffee and lunch if I go on a walking excursion in town (after a swim, of course). Or about $5 more if I buy an all-day bus pass to supplement the walking.

So, with laptop, water bottle, and my yellow Miranda July book in tow, which way to go?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

three mile hill walk on Monday

Starting and end point: Multnomah Village. We couldn't just follow the guide book, smile, we modified a bit, by shifting our starting location from a corner of the park to a corner of the street. We were lucky today that it wasn't raining. It started out a little overcast and then burned off before we were done - which was pretty much perfect, in that Oregon kind of way.

We headed up through some residential neighborhoods, winding through little streets, rolly and steep hills, some roughly paved, some with no sidewalks. The houses were varied and we saw some beautiful homes and some gorgeous yards. There was one flowering vine we smelled before we saw it; about half a block later we smelled it and then saw it draped along someone's front yard fence. Neither of us know what it is called, so I can't even bring up a picture because I have no idea where to start. The scent was a little like cinnamon, mixed with the overpowering white and pink lillies that you can't leave in an enclosed space overnight because you will choke on the smell the next morning. (Well, at least that's how they affect me!)

We walked the edge of some newer homes along one of the uphill climbs we did. (We didn't see this actual house, but I couldn't find a picture of where we were walking.) There were no sidewalks in this particular area and the streets were narrow and twisty. On one of the little hills, we had to decide whether to walk towards traffic so we could see it coming before we were hit, or to walk on the opposite side where we would be more visible to cars coming down the hill toward us before they hit the curve. We didn't get hit, though, and did opt to walk toward oncoming cars. It was a very quiet, off the beaten path, residential street, and there was little traffic.

We entered Gabriel Park at the entrance near the community center (which is an amazing space; we didn't go in today, but I have been there a couple of times in the past... it has pretty much everything). We walked past several summer camps, it seemed; past baseball fields and basketball courts, other people walking and jogging. We came to a fork in the road and turned the map upside down so it was matched which way we were walking and made a guess. We walked for a ways, then were confronted with a path leading into underbrush and overgrown shrubbery and we didn't know where we were. The map didn't mention that area. So we decided to get out of the park and head back. Which we did.

And we ended up on a very steep hill going up, with a very narrow gravel place to walk which was barely room for one. But we did end up coming out at exactly the spot where we'd parked the car. Unplanned and perfect.

We drank some water and left our water bottles in the car as we walked down one more little hill to Marco's Cafe. There we split a sandwich on 12-grain bread and a golden beets, avocado, bing cherry salad with white balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Yummy.
Afterwards we walked up that same little hill, which now felt like nothing after a couple of the bigger ones we tackled today, to the car. Three miles of hills and side streets (and a few feet of busy main roads), a refreshing and tasty lunch, and three hours of exercise and conversation with a friend.

I returned home satisfied and feeling good. And I finished up another six sentence story I am going to submit, as well as getting the graphic part of a PowerPoint presentation done.

A good day.
Multnomah Village in the rain: Portland Ground
Urban street: Andrew Hall, Portland Bridges
Multnomah Garden Apartments: W Realty
Gabriel Park bridge: Portland Parks & Rec
Marco's Cafe: Public Press

Sunday, June 22, 2008

note to self...

clock at 3 ...3:00 in the morning : not a good time to start a writing session...

...will get an earlier start tonight...

...notes from The Writing Vein Playground on a lesson learned (falling asleep at the keyboard does not help build word count stamina!)...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

breathing space

Today I worked in the yard with a friend's help. This was our exercise for today - instead of another hill climb or tackling stairs, we tackled some unknown weed, vinca major/minor (it was planted so long ago I can't remember which), rhododendron killing weedy plants, rhodies, hydrangeas, and whatever else stood between me and a cozy back yard.

As my friend trimmed the 80+ year-old light blue hydrangea, I tackled the needs-to-be-dead-headed nearly as old rhody. Each of these plants lives at one end of the cement porch and both had tendrils reaching halfway across the porch's span.

I also took a weed-whacker to the flowerbed (well, it used to be) under the blooming cherry tree, and then raked.

With the overgrown shrubbery held a little in check, I felt like the house could breathe a little better. From the back porch, I could see to the back fence and the former garden, which is currently a weed patch, though we began that working on that area, as well, later in the day. Standing on the porch, the gigantic hydrangea which had been devouring one end and the rhododendron which had bitten off the other end were reduced to plants, not house-eating monsters. The beds of weeds were now bare patches of earth, with creeping vinca, and still striving ferns despite the neglect (or maybe because of neglect!).

We moved the two faded plastic yard chairs and the stained with dirt plastic table to a shaded area under the tree. The furniture was ugly, but represented what can be.

The houses breathed.

The plants breathed.

We breathed.

And I was, again, reminded of that old saying, "can't see the forest for the trees." When we broke it down into pieces, we were able to accomplish a lot in six hours; when I had previously looked at each weed and each died-off flower on the rhody, I felt only overwhelmed. It was hopeless. Sometimes we need to clear our mind from similar debris, to make room for breathing. And when we breathe, we write better because we think better and we can see the possibilities.

What are your weeds? Where are your overgrown energies and do they need to be there? Or can you trim them down to size and see what else is there?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

update: Net Neutrality

With a big thanks to Gretchin at Scarlet Star Studios, I became aware of Lawrence Lessig and the work he has done related to net neutrality, copyright law, and related endeavors. Below are some links to his blog, and a couple of websites with more information.

The following is the profile of Lessig from (another amazing resource I discovered today):

" No expert has brought as much fresh thinking to the field of contemporary copyright law as has Lawrence Lessig. A Stanford professor and founder of the school’s Center for Internet and Society, this fiery believer foresaw the response a threatened content industry would have to digital technology -- and he came to the aid of the citizenry.

As corporate interests have sought to rein in the forces of Napster and YouTube, Lessig has fought back with argument -- take his recent appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court,
fighting the extension of copyright protection from 50 to 70 years -- and with solutions: He chairs Creative Commons, a nuanced, free licensing scheme for individual creators.

Lessig possesses a rare combination of lawerly exactitude and
impassioned love of the creative impulse. Applying both with equal dedication, he has become a true hero to artists, authors, scientists, coders and opiners everywhere."

Lessig has also written several books and there are numerous online articles and videos.

This issue of net neutrality and creative copyrights is important. I know there are many important issues competing for attention and time and, I will admit, I wasn't really paying attention to this one.

Always learning!

-- Lessig Blog
-- Read an interview from The Washington Post, No Tolls on The Internet.
-- Or an online article at Democracy Now,
Law Professor Lawrence Lessig on Net Neutrality, the Rise of Google and His “Change Congress” Project to Take on Corruption in Washington.
-- Or you can watch a video, Larry Lessig: How Creativity is being strangled by the law, on YouTube, which is not specifically about net neutrality, but about creativity.

"Human Lobotomy - Save the internet"

Thank you to Mead Hunter for sharing this link about net neutrality and why we should care. Although I do pause and wonder about the spelling error in the beginning of the video: "there" instead of "their"...I will look into this issue of net neutrality more to get more views. My search for the original video on YouTube brought up links to other videos which lead me to believe there is some confusion about what it is and where the fear really lies. Still, this has information to digest and see how it sits.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

ramping up

A couple days ago I decided to take a leap without wings and see what happens. You know that saying by Kobi Yamada: "Sometimes you just have to take the leap,. and build your wings on the way down." Immediately I concocted a plan to build those wings.

First of all, the leap is:

That's right, I signed up for NaNoWriMo, The National Novel Writing Month, where the goal is for participants to write a 50,000 word novel (or a draft of) starting at 12:01 am on November 1st and concluding by midnight on November 30th. And the building of wings is taking place at my experimenting blog, The Writing Vein Playground. I've been trying to write every day and have been writing most days. Sometimes the writing is revision, sometimes it is notes, sometimes it is free write, and sometimes it is directed write. So I've decided to try to build up my writing stamina and building toward the goal of 1,667 word per day average - which is what would be required as a daily dose to reach 50,000 words in a month. I don't know at this point if I will be looking at is as a daily total or a two-day total, or weekly when it gets to the actual event. I suspect I will set a daily minimum less than the 1,667 with a 11,700 words per week goal. This will allow a little flexibility in the daily routine should something happen and, hopefully, decrease the stress and self-criticism which might happen as a result of falling short periodically of the daily total.

I don't know. Which is why I want to ramp up and build toward that daily goal. This will allow me to see how long it actually takes me to write that much and then block time out accordingly in my schedule. As of right now, I know I will not be teaching in the fall, so less unpaid work for paid work there. I also will not have a show during November, so another time cruncher will be missing from my schedule. This means, I think, I can block out enough time to write in my schedule.

So far, with just a couple of short sessions, I do see that, as time lengthens, the words per minute decreases. I assume that trend will continue - even though the longer time so far was partly due to a brief interruption.

It seems like an odd thing to just jump into. But not really. I have just come off a very busy time with my other profession and have had very little time to write. Especially not sustained writing periods. I want to try this. NaNoWriMo came up in something I was reading and then in a search for writing resources for a kid referred to me and I thought, why not? It's a goal. It's for fun. It's a commitment I could enjoy and, if I don't make it, nobody dies.

So I signed up. And I could still back out if I change my mind; but I don't think that will happen. I am already loving this challenge to myself and looking forward to connecting with others during the process.

the last three flights of Mt Tabor steps
photo by Migin
I am also spurred by my workout buddy and I climbing the steps at Mt Tabor. We set that as a goal for ourselves - for later. We thought we'd walk up the hill, look at the steps, maybe go up one flight - and build our stamina up to go up all of them eventually. Instead, we looked at them after climbing the hill and said, ok, let's try two and see. We got to two, paused to look at the view and assess our condition, watched the father and son run down a flight and then start up two steps at a time and pass us. We decided to go one more and that would probably be it. Instead, we made it to the top of that set. We walked up the road a bit and then ran into a crowd gathering for some event ... something about people and dogs. So we retreated and decided to go ahead and climb another three flight set of stairs we'd passed so we wouldn't be run over by the pack of dogs and owners. And we did it! You'd have to know us to know what a feat it was and how we even surprised ourselves. We thought it would be at least a couple months before we'd be able to do all of them.

So when NaNoWriMo kept popping up and I was already thinking how to build writing time into my schedule, I thought of Brenda and me climbing all those steps. I can do it! I thought. And, if I don't make the 50,000 mark - at least I tried. And there's always next year.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

event: new writing - theater

Portland Center Stage (PCS) has an annual event, Just Add Water (JAW), in which new plays are rehearsed intensely for a week and then are open for viewing - for free. There are many entrants and only a few are selected to participate in this feast of new writing on stage. Because of the large number of applicants from Oregon, and their skill, PCS started a "Made In Oregon" pre-JAW festival event. It looks like a good line-up with a lot of talent behind the scenes, too (directors and dramaturgs). Mead Hunter adds interesting behind the scenes information about the plays at MrMead's Pupu Platter blog.

Other than Mead's description, I am not familiar with the work of the first and third writers. I do, however, know Ginny Foster and highly recommend her work. I had the pleasure of seeing a few short 10-minute scripts in their development and as staged readings. She has a gift of putting words together so that you are drawn into the story. Her characters are real (and I heard her write a really wide variety of characters and challenge herself, very successfully) and you want them to tell you more. Unfortunately, I have to miss her play, but will keep my eyes out for a later production of it somewhere in town! Go if you can, I'm sure it will be a worthwhile experience. An added bonus is that Karin Magaldi is directing; more information about her is available via Mead's blog. I have experience with Karin, as well, and she is passionate about what she does, is clear and very intelligent, with a good eye and ear ... she knows her stuff and I would see anything she works on. She is a talented writer, director, instructor, dramaturg (and more, I'm sure) - with a warm and open heart for what she does and the sensibilities to make it all flow. What a dynamic combination that is not to be missed - and I mean that in all seriousness, despite the use of cliches.

The plays JAW : Made in Oregon
"Script-in-hand readings by three of Oregon’s own. All Made In Oregon readings begin promptly at 7:30pm in the Ellyn Bye Studio Theater at Portland Center Stage."

The Cloud-Bangers
by Matthew B. Zrebski
July 8
All the clouds are cumulonimbus in this heady mix of meteorology, migraines and steamy romance. Only an air-clearing storm will reveal who’s zoomin’ whom.

Starvation Heights
by Ginny Foster
July 9
In this adaptation of the true-crime novel by New York Times best-selling author Gregg Olsen, lady doctor Linda Hazzard opens a sanitarium with some unorthodox treatments. When her clients start leaving her care feet first, a mysterious figure known as Nanny appears, determined to save two patients in particular.

Willow Jade
by Hunt Holman
July 10
Nowheresville, Southwest Washingon. Meet four aging chums with a good idea: stave off middle age by reviving their high school rock band. Bad idea: coming to terms with their past during a disastrous game of D&D – in costume.
photo of the White Stag sign on Burnside
from On Stage 6/9/08

Monday, June 16, 2008

Share: PDX Profile on DIY Alert

Zeitgeist by Serena Barton

DIY Alert!, which boasts itself as the place with "all the crafty stuff in PDX," just published its interview with Serena Barton as the current PDX Profile.

Serena's art is very literary, probably owing to the minimum four books a week reading habit, which doesn't include the art books and research for a current series of paintings. And I have it on good authority that book every other day pattern is during the busy times. She has been known to have periods of consuming a book a day.

The art shown on DIY Alert! is a good overview of Serena's work. The leading painting (above) has potential as the protagonist in a story. I like her use of colors and strong characterization. In this particular piece, I also like that the time period is a little ambiguous. Because I know Serena, I know the actual time period of the piece. But when I strip that knowledge, this person could be at various points in history.

Serena also uses a lot of writing in her mixed media, collage, and assemblage pieces. Well, and in her paintings. Sometimes she hand-writes a letter or a phrase in another language, sometimes she uses pieces of a book, sheet music, copies of a letter, and so on - bringing visual art and written art together.

She also creates altered books and offers workshops and classes in their creation. Using the book as the foundation, she builds stories in 3D and layers, textures, and cuts away to create a new story based on the old one. There is a picture of one of her altered books near the bottom of the article. Just those two pages from that altered book could be a starting place for a new story or poem.

This is a nice article about a talented artist. And, yes, I am bragging just a little.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Originality vs Authenticity

Still reading Ziegler's book, The Writing Workshop Notebook. In one section, Ziegler presents thoughts about originality. For some writers - and other artists, I believe - striving for originality can be a block in itself. "But everything has already been written/painted/sung," we may lament and feel hopeless to find something new. Ziegler includes a quote from W.H Auden, who made the distinction between originality and authenticity: "Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about." Or, as Ziegler himself wrote: "If you can't make it new, make it yours."

Thanks to Bug's Blog for the link to an original *and* authentic website for No One Belongs Here More Than You. I agree that the navigation takes a second to find, but when you do, it really is quite simple. And I will pass on his warning that, when you think you've reached the end, you really haven't. Trust me as I trusted him, keep going. You'll know when you're truly done *smile.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Nibble Notes

The writing book I'm currently reading is The Writing Workshop Notebook by Alan Ziegler. There are many tidbits of information organized in to sections, with lots of quotes from other writers and creative types. I'm only about a quarter of the way through the book and yet I find it worthy of recommendation.

And quoting. Although some of the things I have underlined or starred or circled are quotes Ziegler gathered and presented to me. So how do I cite a quote of a quote? Hmm...a tangent for me to look up so I don't step on the wrong toes.

But I ramble; back to my point.

Under the "Notebooks" section of "Notes on: The Material," I smiled with recognition when I read Ziegler's suggestion to "Write 'nibble notes' (consisting of key words, idea kernels)." I was already in happy agreement with the writing about having different notebooks - one to carry in a pocket, a little larger portable book, one to live in the car, one which lives at home - in which to write. I've found myself with journals scattered here and there and have finally settled on my own random pattern: the largest possible page size which fits in the outer pocket of my Eddie Bauer bag (4"x6"), a lined inexpensive 8x10 composition book tossed in my work bag, an "ideas" Pentalic a la Modeskin hand decorated on my desk, a Fat Lil' Notebook in the driver's door of my car, and a writing workshop/group Modeskin in my going walking bag.

And then I saw it: nibble notes. Grin. As I read more I was relieved to find others quoted who don't write or create at exactly the same time everyday or in the same place. And it's okay. And keeping the notes on whatever is handy if you don't have notebook is okay, too.

I like Ziegler's writing style and I like how this book is organized so far. Basically, he's writing about writing options and how what is important is for each writer to find his or her way. What works, what doesn't, encouraging experimentation to see what fits.

And he relates writing and other creative pursuits. He encourages movement to help generate writing; movement which may include walking or dancing or standing in the middle of the room and dancing with just your arms - or riding a bus, train, boat and letting your body be carried in the motion.

Everything seen, felt, smelled, imagined, overheard, touched or untouched is potential for a writer. Always carry a pen/pencil and some paper to jot down that one or two word found inspiration. And maybe inspiration isn't always the right word. If something draws your attention, put it to paper for later. Or send yourself a text message from your phone. Note it, somehow.

Go on. Nibble.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I just started working out with a buddy today. I've been walking more, readying myself for nearly a month in Colorado, where I've been told the elevation is higher (well, duh, I know That!) and - oh, it will take a little getting used to. I will be without a car - though I may rent one for a weekend if I get a couple days off, so I can go see some sights - so walking will be the norm. Which is fine and is what I generally do most of my vacations - even though this isn't one of those.

So, I've been walking more. And I've been moaning about wanting to get back to the gym on a regular basis. And back to swimming which my body loves and I have a long list of excuses why it's been so hard to get there. And my schedule, which is true and yet...

...wait... I'm self-employed. Didn't I make that move so I could gain a little more control over my schedule? Yes. Oh, but it is a practice profession, which means the work available is based on others' schedules - but can't I still set some parameters?

I think I can! Once several commitments are completed, three of which come to an end this week.

So, I started planning for how to build in more time to take care of myself physically by increased time for exercise, adding back in swimming, and so on. And I really wanted someone to work out with because it's simply more enjoyable.

Then I received an email from a long-time friend whom I hadn't seen for several months. We met for lunch. She talked about her new workout and on the road to fitness routine and, voila! We scheduled our first walking date.

That was this afternoon and it was energizing and inspiring and fun. We walked for over an hour; challenging ourselves on, first, a little incline and then we saw a steeper one off to our right. We got to walk down it first, our cool down, and then walked back up; it was about double the steepness of what we'd just done. It was about 80 minutes of just wandering and seeing where we ended up and then finding our way back to our cars. And we have our next date set to approach Mount Tabor and maybe take the first flight of steps up. We've set ourselves the goal of walking up all of the steps to the top, but that will come over time.

Despite not really having any communication for several months, we have been wanting similar things: someone to travel this path to wellness with who doesn't mind a little sweat and is willing to just see where we go.

When we met today, she gave me a little pewter bauble with a leaf on one side and Harmony written on the back. It was, indeed, a moment of harmony that we connected at this moment and have found a new shared interest. Neither of us had any idea when we planned our lunch date last week.

I also know that taking a little more control of my schedule and returning to more physical activity will be a bonus for my writing. I can already feel the juices flowing again. And after I'm done with all of my grading and evaluations and this next show is done, I know I'll be using some of the time I've blocked out for just that.

photograph, Harmony, by Steve Higgs

Saturday, June 7, 2008

virtual pros and cons

I'll admit it, my first reaction when I saw the "Wii bowling championship" video link was ... You've Got To Be Kidding! What's next? I watched the 7+ minutes video with a mixture of horror and fascination. In all honesty, not sure how I felt about the thing. Better than nothing for those who can't participate in a real bowling tournament or poor substitute which will isolate (or insulate) people further?

While I was taking a little detour to see what else they were doing, I found the following YouTube post from "sarcasticgamer" ... and knew I was not alone! I am especially fond of the soccer game example.

Friday, June 6, 2008

found: character study

True story: Sitting in the central lobby of a hospital wing was a patient's boyfriend and some other guy he seemed to know. The two had spent all night with the female patient. Reason for stay was unknown to me, except she was wearing a neck brace. The boyfriend had really long 70's style sideburns with short curly hair slightly matted and pushed to one side, probably from sleeping on one of those chair beds. Or maybe he was lucky enough to get an actual cot in the room.

Regardless, here he is in the hospital with his pal. Sitting in the lobby talking dirt about other people, sitting on the worn blue plastic twin chairs, stuffing his face with -- you ready? -- cheese in a can being squirted onto habanero Doritos. And talking with his mouth full, the orange bits of either chip or cheese, maybe both, popping out between loud crunches and splattering the floor. And beside him is one of those giant nearly gallon sized containers you can get filled with pop at the convenience stores.

I tried not to stare, but the sight struck me as odd and fascinating in a way. Whoosh, squirt, pop on the top, chip and cheese into the mouth, crunch. "Wha' yu say, bu'dy", spray the orange. Repeat.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

competition:deadline 8/1/08

Wordstock is
A Short Fiction Competition

Wordstock, Portland’s annual festival of writers, books, and storytelling, is pleased to announce the call for submissions for The 2nd Wordstock Short Fiction Competition.

The national contest is a “double blind” competition. The judges, a collection of writers, academics, publishers, bookstore owners, and literary critics, will choose 10 finalists. The winner of the competition receives a first prize of $1,000 and publication in the December 2008 issue of Portland Monthly magazine. All 10 finalists’ stories will be published in The Wordstock Ten, an anthology that will be available at the festival, at Portland-area bookstores, and online through the Wordstock website. Every writer who enters the competition will receive a copy of the anthology.

The final judge for this year’s competition will be Ursula K. LeGuin.

Submission Guidelines

• All short stories must be works of fiction written in English
• Stories must be an original work and not previously published
• The entry fee is $25 per short story entry
• There are no genre restrictions
• Manuscripts are to be typed, double-spaced, on 8.5” x 11” paper
• Stories should be no less than 1,500 and no more than 4,000 words
• Each submission must have a cover sheet with the writer’s contact information—DO NOT put this information on the manuscript.
• No manuscript will be returned
• Entries that do not follow these guidelines will be disqualified

Submit your entry by mail to:

Wordstock Short Fiction Competition
c/o Franklin, Beedle & Assoc.
8536 SW St Helens Dr., Suite D
Wilsonville, OR 97070.

Please make your entry fee check payable to Wordstock. All entries must be postmarked by August 1, 2008.

Announcement of winners will take place at Wordstock on Saturday, November 8, 2008.

Monday, June 2, 2008

found: image for inspiration

This photograph is rich with images of space and time and attention. When I look at it I see history and being present. I see the past reaching up from the layers and flowing out through the instrument to fill the room as I join the watchers. As performance is created in the moment. As my mind scans the edges, drawn by the baseboard moulding in the room, and back to the center and wonder: where is the center.

Where does this picture take you?

Food and Shelter Festival, Improv Movement and Sound
photograph by Serena Davidson
from her Performance album on Facebook