Monday, August 29, 2011

Learning From Students

Today was the final event of the special summer tutoring class I taught for the interpreter training program.

The students who participated in this event showed up ready, smiling, nervous, dressed appropriately - on time. There were a few technical snafus, as there often are. But everyone kept their cool, the proctor was awesome, it went really well in spite of some significant alterations.

A few years ago I participated in a couple of mentoring and teaching-mentor trainings. I believe that we learn from the students - in being the "guide on the side" instead of the "sage on the stage." But one thing which stuck with me from one of those trainings was that we *always* learn from the students : at the very least, we learn how they need to be taught.

Today, after each student was finished with the final event, they stopped to chat for a bit. I was sitting outside of the room, assisting the proctor, troubleshooting, protecting the things which needed protecting.

And they each thanked me for teaching the summer session. For being there for them during today's event. Told me how much it helped them; how their confidence improved or their skills improved. They let off tension and laughed or cried or shared a story.

Today they reminded me why I teach and why I turned my schedule a little topsy turvy to be able to do this special tutoring class this summer. Not for the thanks. But for their insights, their questions, their progress toward becoming interpreters and their pleasure at moving closer to their goals.

Thank you.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Razor's Edge for 8/26/11

Today's prompt is a trip back in time.

Think back to when you were 25 years old. If you're not yet 25, then use a parent's 25th year, or uncle or aunt - or an older friend. Or, if you'd like, think ahead to when you will be 25.

Go to Google or Yahoo or whatever your favorite search engine is and put in that year, the city in which you were living (or would like to be living if you are future casting) and pick a month.

See what the top news stories were at that time. Pick one and write a story in which the news event has a role. Where might you have been? What colors do you see? What smells are in the air - the rain on hot pavement, electricity of lightning crackling through the spring air, dry hay, pork fat on the neighbor's barbecue grill? Who were you with? What were you doing?

Give yourself a couple minutes to find the event and have an image come to you - then write for 10 minutes. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Floating Down The Lazy River

 I was thinking about what I wanted to say in this post.

I recently wrote about a time of transition. And I was thinking that during this time, I've had to make some difficult decisions - choosing between things I like and want, letting go of some, making different choices than I may have in the past because it feels like the right decision now.

And as this short summer tutoring class I've been teaching comes to a close, and as I begin the final review of this draft of the memoir before sending it on to my mentor for editing, and it's at the end of August where everything slows around here until the early fall ramp-up next month - I have this sense of, well, almost a lull.

It is not the lull of going to sleep. Or the lull of inactivity. Or the lull of boredom.

That is what got me to thinking about rivers. I miss being on the river. This past season, I withdrew from dragon boat racing due to time conflicts, which included completing the memoir and the novel. I put the novel on hold while I focused on the memoir. Then I pretty much put short story writing on hold until I finished the memoir. Now that I am at the final keystrokes of the memoir, I am missing the river even more. I haven't even been able to take time to go out in a kayak. (Yes, fall can be a beautiful time to be on the river in a kayak and I do have hope that I will get in some lake/stillwater kayaking before the season gets too cold for me.)

Columbia River (photo by Dot.)

I thought about writing. About endings and transitions. About times of change and my title phrase about "lazy river" popped into my head.

That thought was immediately followed by the thought that rivers are anything but lazy. Their surfaces may look meandering and calm, ripples flowing over each other, leaves and twigs being carried along, not in a hurry - soothing to sit on the banks and let your gaze quiet.

Rivers are pathways from here to there. Under the surface rocks tumble and move, rub and erode and crack, trap and release. Life lives in the river - fish, bugs, plants. Water temperatures change, affected by weather and snow melts far away in the mountain range, by the sun and the wind -  the surface temperature and the deep temperature vary. Sometimes the water is smooth over rocks or choppy over rocks, speeds fast or slow. Rivers are always moving. Rivers are always incubating life, percolating change, are an agent of change.

Rivers are anything but lazy.

Like now. My river of transition. Calm on the surface, not a lot of action visible - flowing, shifting. This is going from here to there - fuel for the next creative outpouring. I am floating in the current for a brief time, to soak in the accomplishments, rejuvenate my spirit, to restore that gently rocking balance in preparation for the next stage. While underneath the surface the ideas continue to grow, the senses adapt and change, excitement builds toward the possibilities of what could be ahead.

Calm and lazy are not the same.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Not Writing Can Be Inspirational

Tunnel toward Manzanita (by Dot)
A couple of days ago a friend and I took a spontaneous day trip to the coast. I had been thinking about getting out of town for my first afternoon & evening off in a couple of weeks and the coast was high on the list.

This is one of the beautiful things about living in Portland, Oregon: within 90 minutes or so I can be at the beach or in the mountains or in The Gorge among cliffs and the winding Columbia River which divides Oregon and Washington. Within two hours I can be at a little farther north or south on the beach or in the high desert or in the heart of the Willamette Valley.

So I was debating whether to take some time away and escape to the beach for an afternoon or evening - or whether to stay in and do more writing. I am at the final sentences of the memoir and want to get it done so badly and yet the one scene I have yet to write is being difficult. I know the basics of the story and I will write it - but it's a hard one. I was straddling the fence of staying or going.

Then I received an email from a friend that she was thinking about going to the beach that same afternoon.

And a plan was hatched. I had my dentist appointment and she did the things she needed to do and we met up and drove to the beach. We walked in the water and I went probably 2 1/2 miles or so. Longer than I'd been able to walk without pain for a while. And I was walking on sand in my Crocs in the water and it was good.

Then we went to a restaurant that was nearby and was a favorite for each of us. We were given front row beach seats and we ate dinner and watched the sun go down. And watched the other customers: a party of 11 of various ages and backgrounds from appearances; an older artist couple who appeared to be very much in love and very skilled; another older couple who were very prim and reserved and the woman was looking judgmentally at the party of 11 and some other patrons . And watched the people on the beach: the man dragging a piece of driftwood as long as he was tall to dump in on a fire; the young couple in a four-log shelter trying to start a fire in the center; a round-up of chairs all linked together, with a windblock banner on one side and some towels - all empty.

Time away from the city and the computers and the traffic. Time in the wind and the salt air and wading in the water which soon numbs your feet so you don't even feel the cold. This is what was needed. This is what fueled more creativity and inspiration. Time away and clean air and conversation with a friend.

Time away will get me to the end of the memoir.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Time of Transition

It's been a few days since I wrote a post and each day it gets harder to know what to say.

Each day there has been one more thing - one more decision to make, or a decision challenged, or more alternatives surfaced. Each day has been good and each day has brought something new.

So here I am writing when I should be going to bed because I'll be in the dentist's chair nine hours from now. So I'll make this short.

This is my Friday. No, Wednesday was my Friday; but "today" is the end of my Wednesday because I just got home from work for my "Friday" this week was Wednesday. My "Monday" will be Saturday.

I have a full two days off from other-than-writing work and will, in fact, spend a lot of my weekend time writing.

Finishing the memoir. Yes, this time for sure. Because I have one chapter left to write and one left to type into the computer.

Transitioning from a 90% writing focus on the memoir and back to more fiction.

Transitioning through the final week of teaching this tutoring/practice summer class.

Transitioning to an altered schedule for the inspiring, amazing, awakening, breathing, living experience of PICA's T:BA11 (Time Based Art 2011). Ten days of creativity in all its forms: dance, theater, literature, visual art, spoken word and - yes - this is when Mike Daisey's 24-hour monologue will happen and I Will Be There for all 24 hours. T:BA11 is my Creative Staycation.

Then transitioning to a temporary schedule which was based on the possibility of being accepted to a program to which I applied. From which I withdrew for a number of reasons but I have four or five weeks of work scheduled around that possibility.

And teaching begins.

Then my more regular schedule.

And then it will be NaNoWriMo time! This year I will be attending the Night of Writing Dangerously and I am already confirmed. I will be doing more fundraising for OLL so watch here for links to my fundraising page.

What all of this has to do with writing is that I am making more space in my schedule for writing. I live by a schedule where decisions now don't surface in one area of my life for 6+ weeks out. Change it now; experience it later. And I have experienced - with days like last Saturday's close the drapes and stay in my pajamas all day with some healthy and nutritious foods and snacks, my laptop, fresh kombucha and a good bottle of wine (yes, I did!) - that more time off has a positive effect on my ability to write and my mental and physical health. (About time, I know.) Also, as I've written here previously, that writing begets more writing and more ideas presenting themselves in the world. No; there are not more ideas presenting themselves, but I recognize and remember or write down the ideas as they come - I don't push them away or overlook them in the rush to get somewhere or the crawl to alertness going from one appointment to the next.

So no nice Monday through Friday, 9-5 hours for me - but this topsy turvy period is productive and has purpose. And I have to wade through just a little more muck to walk out on the other shore.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Final Pages in Pajamas

Today I'm alone. It's midday and I'm still in my pajamas.

I'm in the living room with a cup of coffee with soy milk, a spinach + broccolini + chicken apple sausage scramble, a bowl of fresh blueberries, and a big bottle of electrolyte enhanced water. I also have a supply of Trader Joe's Roasted Seaweed Snacks, Dark Chocolate Nutty Bits, and some air popped popcorn.

Because today I think I'm finally going to write the final words of my memoir. No, I'm not procrastinating by writing this post. But I am stating my intention and I am using this as my warm-up to writing the final words.

First, I have to type in a couple of chapters I wrote by hand. Then the final pieces I only have outlines for.

Hopefully, before I go to bed tonight (and it does have to be *tonight* - I have an early job tomorrow), I will have written to the end of this book. I will print out the newest pieces to do some editing on breaks at work.

Hopefully, number two, is that I will have this printed out and to my first editor within the week. (Note to self: check with her to make sure she wants a hardcopy - I forgot to ask.)

So - pajamas, writer fuel including coffee and water, drapes closed (I really am in my pajamas), my laptop, and background white noise to block out the cars on the street and the guys playing hackysack and the lawns mowers and weed whackers. Writing.

Writing to The End in my personal at home retreat.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Razor's Edge for 8/12/11

Write about a time you acted out of character. It may be the first time which led to a realization and change, or it may have been an anomaly. What is important is that it was something you did or said which did not follow your usual pattern.

Include at least one color, show the reader the time of day, and put an animal in the story.

Write for 10 minutes.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Copyright Basics from Writer's Digest

Writer's Digest has Online Writing Tutorials. There are short preview of the tutorials and there are several plans for purchasing - by month, over several months, or for individual tutorials. The one sent out in Tuesday's email is an overview of Copyright Basics, which is a timely topic.

I should say, copyright is always a timely topic for writers. And as I am on the threshhold of getting the memoir into print, this topic is top in my mind.

on-demand writing tutorial
from Writer's Digest


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Life Is A Mixed Bag - And Other Things You Already Know

This has sure been a time of ups and downs: unexpected surprises (of possible good news) and unexpected surprises (confusion causing contacts) and excitement wires crossing nervous wires and not being sure which is which.

I gave myself a deadline of completing the draft of this memoir of July 31st. I didn't get it done. I'm close. Really, really close. I can't remember if I already said this here or if I posted it on Facebook: it's beginning to feel like the never ending bowl of spaghetti at a restaurant. But then I go back and I have several more chapters completed and one new, unplanned chapter I wrote - it snuck up on me while I was writing something else and, voila, a new chapter was born. But there are still four unfinished. And a little editing is needed on the newest ones before I pass them off.

I    am    almost    done   with     this     book.

Then I hit a busy work week. More hours than normal and more days than normal and then there are the personal appointments on top of that. The end of that busy week led into another and then a strained foot made it so I couldn't even get to a friend's birthday party; the one "just for fun" activity missed. Then an email waylayed me emotionally for a day, which added another appointment to my week. Then I had an out of town meeting with another interpreter - that was very exciting and stimulating and plans and ideas were bursting on my drive home. This last weekend I had a two-day job which provided some great experiences - some went really well and a couple not so well and it's all a part of what I do. During that job I sometimes felt like "this is why I like what I do" and those couple of "not so well" times I felt like I should never do this again. Then another job went really exceptionally well and my self-esteem returned. And so it goes.

But I didn't write a thing this past weekend. All work; no play; no writing. I did sleep. I didn't get to the gym or on the bike or for a walk in the neighborhool. In fact, the only walking I did - in addition to all of the "floating" to see if we were needed at the conference - was the halls of my part-time job the night after the conference.

I've been at this place before - the end of a particularly busy time of work, trying to get some type of balance back. I woke up this morning, after my resolve yesterday to get myself to the gym and into the pool, feeling like there was no way I could do that and everything else I needed to do. Feeling too tired; overwhelmed; frustrated by a particular situation - "why bother?" - and that change-is-hopeless pit tugging at my ankles. Then the emails, the messages, the phone call to return, the survey to complete.

And now it's noon. The good thing about it being noon is that the classes in the pool at the gym are done. And I don't teach until 5 and then work after that. See - I can find my optimism again.

So - overwhelmed or not; nothing written except emails and taking care of business; I have had my coffee and my breakfast and. Yes. I will go to the gym. Then pick up the laptop and get close to the school (so I avoid the rush hour traffic to get to the school) and write.

Ups and Downs. I'm on the roller coaster of life and I will get this memoir done. Every bowl of spaghetti has a bottom and every book has The End. My schedule, while not yet "ideal," is better now that the conference and the long week before that are done.

Now, to the pool!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Via Hazel Dixon-Cooper: Mercury Going Retrograde

Thank you for the great tips for this Mercury retrograde period, Hazel!

I've been busy working on my new book about Mercury. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, remember your "re" words. Revise, review, repair, recheck, re-think, re-evaluate. The list goes on, but you understand. Mercury can cause miscommunication, lost messages, and electronic glitches. Back it up. Check it out. Get it fixed.

Until August 8, Mercury backs through Virgo then slips into Leo until it turns direct again on August 25. Here are five special tips for this cycle.

Tip One: Get organized. Does this look like your desk? I've been there too. Remember that a retro period is a good time to dump your junk. While Mercury retros through perfectionist Virgo, you'll be surprised at how much you can accomplish in just an hour or two a day.

Click on the title to read tips two to five, which include information about watching what you say, health, intuition, and time off.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Razor's Edge for 8/5/11

Recently I met Saffire, a performer, musician, writer, dancer, and more. So as I prepared to put together this week's Razor's Edge, I decided to look up his music - I'd already heard some of his written words - and use that as the musical background if I could find something. And I did.

This week's prompt is the musical video below, then a word prompt. Listen to the music, which is just over 4.5 minutes, then read the prompt. Write - or draw, dance (a great fit for this drum prominent piece), sing, sculpt - for 10 minutes.

As she watched the ripe fruit falling from the trees . . .

Thursday, August 4, 2011

quote: Pema Chodron: Seeing Ourselves Clearly

by Pema Chodron
When we begin to see clearly what we do, how we get hooked and swept away by old habits, our usual tendency is to use that as a reason to get discouraged, a reason to feel really bad about ourselves. Instead, we could realize how remarkable it is that we actually have the capacity to see ourselves honestly, and that doing this takes courage. It is moving in the direction of seeing our life as a teacher rather than as a burden. This involves, fundamentally, learning to stay present, but learning to stay with a sense of humor, learning to stay with loving-kindness toward ourselves and with the outer situation, learning to take joy in the magic ingredient of honest self-reflection.

excerpted from
Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears
received via email from
Heart Advice, Weekly Quotes from Pema Chodron

Monday, August 1, 2011

Writing Workshop at Powell's City of Books

Community Writing Workshops

Write Around Portland offers a unique generative workshop called Prompt designed for writers and aspiring writers in the greater Portland area who want to participate in a Write Around workshop and support the communities we traditionally serve who might not otherwise have access to writing and community.
Based on the acclaimed Write Around Portland model, this dynamic workshop incorporates many of our favorite writing exercises designed to inspire the writing life, including freewriting; work with writing elements; strength-building feedback and early-draft revision. The Prompt workshop caps off with a community broadside.

Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside, downtown Portland
Workshop Facilitators - Thomas Cordova, Robyn Steely 

Cost: $285
Payment plans available.
Cost includes free parking, snacks and access to the “Bowels of Powells”

All proceeds go toward funding Write Around Portland programs, including workshops for people affected by HIV/AIDS, veterans living with PTSD, teen parents, those with physical or mental disabilities, people living in low income housing and others without access because of income, isolation or other barriers.

Registration is limited to 12 adults per workshop. IMPORTANT NOTE: Spaces fill quickly! Please call ahead (503.796.9224) to confirm there is space, to register and to discuss payment plan options.

Upcoming dates:
Ten Tuesdays, Aug 16 - Oct 18
Ten Thursdays, Oct 6 - Dec 15 (skip Nov 24)