Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween and that means?

No, this is not a trip through the etymology of "Halloween" nor the various origins of the celebration.

This is ... come on, you can guess it ...

...a short post to say,
It's NaNoWriMo time!

Tonight I'm leaving work a little earlier than normal to dash across town to join 40 or 50 or more people in the first write-in of NaNoWriMo 2012. The Vancouver NaNoWriMo group has put together a fun place to get our 50k+ novels started - PDX. Even though they are the Vancouver group, they are of course welcoming Portland (or other, I'm sure) NaNoers to join them. Which I will.

"And what's your novel about this year, Dot?"

"Uh. Um. Well. I have a title!"

"And that is, what?"

"Oh, my title? It's, well, see, it started when we went to see Laurie Anderson's 'DirtDay' and I was inspired on several levels. But there was this one part and I was like, wow, oh wow, that. And then I got inspired with a TINY germ of an idea, but the title was instantaneous."


"Oh, sorry. I'm just so excited. But first I have to go get a blood draw (how appropriate is that for Halloween?!) and then I have a personal appointment. After lunch I have an appointment. No - first the blood draw and then some laps in the pool and then -"

"Dot - focus!"

"What? Oh."

"The title?"

"Oh. My NaNoTitle! Yes, after I swim, then I have to get some lunch if I have time but I think I will and. Oh. Title. Gotcha. My NaNoTitle is 'Forty-nine Days of Bardo.' Like it?"

"That seems like an awful lot to live up to. In 30 days?"

"It is."

"What's it about?"

"Well, 49 days in bardo."

"But your story, I mean."

"Oh. Well, you can follow my progress and you'll know almost as soon as I know. And you know I'll be posting updates here. Every day. I hope."

"And everything will be NaNo-ized, right?"

"That's right. Thank you for stopping by and - "

"But how do we follow you?"

"Right. You can check it out over here on my NaNoDot author page."

"Oh boy. NaNoDot?"

"NaNo NaNo, as Mork used to say."

"You're not...."

"No. I'm not bringing Mork and Mindy into this. NaNo just, well, saying NaNoThis and NaNoThat, and it brings to mind Mork and Mindy and - "

"Dot. Bye."

"Thank you, Ms Muse, for checking in. Um, could you please visit me every day? Just to say hi, and maybe through - no, I mean, throw - a few inspired thoughts along my brainwaves and fingers? Please."

"I'll see what I can do. For now, I think I need to get some extra ZZZZ's. I can tell this the next few weeks are going to be a little busy."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Razor's Edge : Taking a Vacation

I've been posting the Razor's Edge on Fridays for a few years. Or on most Fridays.

My original intent was to post the weekly prompts, keeping them fresh and incorporating music, video, photographs, and word prompts. I've made most Fridays, with a few missed deadlines or vacation absences.

I still support the idea of weekly writing prompts. But I also feel like the essence of "Razor's Edge" hasn't been met and I'm thinking about this.

I am on vacation this week and didn't get the weekly post put together before I left town.

And I've decided to give "Razor's Edge" a hiatus while I think how I want to proceed. I may bring it back with a new format, or I may do something different.

I will keep posting other things.

Oh, and NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, so you know you'll be reading about those adventures!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Radical Writing Advice: The Flawed Guru

There is a tendency to seek out teachers or mentors or artists we want to emulate. This is a good thing. Like that old saying, "why re-invent the wheel?" But sometimes we want to know how the wheel was constructed. What things did this person try - and what worked or didn't?

What are our options?

Did you know that in the past, it was common practice for developing artists to copy the works of The Masters. And I don't mean to follow their style or interpret a famous painting. To actually try to paint a painting of one of The Masters. To duplicate it in order to get the feel of the brush stroke, the shadowing, the colors, and so on.

Some writers do that, too, I've seen that advice here and there over the years. Copy, by hand, some poetry or a short story or piece of a novel of a writer you admire and whose style you strive to achieve. Not to plagiarize, no, but to get the feel of their language and their pace and the thing you like to read in their work into your hands and your body.

And then there are the writers we want to learn from. It may be from book s or workshops or videos. From online seminars or writing retreats or magazine articles. This, too, is good.

A couple of days ago I discovered I had an audio book in "my library" at This was from 2004. My technology at that time was very different than what I have now - and the technology at Audible didn't work with what I had, and so on. So I had this audio book, "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott (and I also own printed version). I'm going on a road trip and was thinking about getting a couple of audio books for the road, maybe taking Audible up on their special new member deal right now ($7.49 per month for the first three months, which gets you one book per month). I was happy to discover I already had a book, so I could test it out with the Bluetooth in my car. And it works, really well. Yay.

But in listening to her read her book, there were some familiar pieces of advice. In her own words and her own style, of course. But a few things were very similar to Natalie Goldberg; one of my writing gurus. For example, Anne Lamott has a different version of monkeys and things which take away our attention - but I'm particularly fond of Natalie Goldberg's discussion on "monkey mind" in "Zen Howl" and some of her books, which draws us away from our writing or our creativity, maybe making us feel hungry or like we have to go to the bathroom when we don't if nothing else works.

Then while thinking about that I was also thinking about some well-known writers who have inspired me over time, like the two I just mentioned, and a couple of other mega-famous writers. How sometimes we think their lives are probably perfect (or perfect for a writer) and everything they say is golden and we should pay attention. But then they prove themselves to be human and we back away. We may feel betrayed or tricked in some way and we may start to feel that what we thought was excellent advice is now not worth our energy.

I admit to doing that a time or two. Not that I've completely disregarded someone I used to admire, but they had fallen in my opinion.

But as I listened to Anne Lamott talk about her monkeys and started thinking about Natalie Goldberg's Buddhist "monkey mind" and remembering another writer who talks about the things which distract us. Something has come up regarding each of these writers which put me off, caused me to take them off the pedestal where I'd placed them.

Wait. The pedestal was mine. I placed them there. They are human. They are not perfect. They have a right to be who they are and - I don't have to throw out everything I liked about their  advice and insights because there religion is too conservative for me or they were snobbish during a workshop (note to self, however: never go to another in-person workshop with that very big name person again, stick to her books, which are awesome and fit my style) or they have too many discriminatory "isms" for me.

Really. Gurus are not perfect, nor should we expect them to be. Lead by example - sure. Be a good role model - okay. And are there people whose work we may want to not support? Sure. But in the case of the ones I have in mind, their work on writing is pretty solid. Well-known. Recognized. And some good advice which has helped thousands or millions, I don't know how many.

So I was thinking that sometimes we mistakenly want our mentors or our gurus to be perfect. To have all the answers. To never slip. But in reality they are human. Just like us. They have flaws. But being flawed does not negate their good, they are simply our flawed guru.

image from

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"On Being Creative" video : Ira Glass

A short video on being creative, by Ira Glass. This is an excerpt from a longer video, which I haven't seen. But this just under two minutes clip is wonderful. And there are no captions because they aren't needed - every word said is right there in the video. It's just this.



Friday, October 19, 2012

Razor's Edge:

It's the middle of the night. You heard a sound outside your window and, after lying in bed debating, you decide to take a look.

From a safe distance.

You pick up the flashlight from your bedside table, press it against your pajamas and click the on/off switch. It clicks. But no light. You return it to the table and walk on your tiptoes to the thick, nearly blackout level dark blue curtains. The sound seems to be gone but you think you hear whispering. Or the wind. Or maybe raccoons hissing at your cat. Or something.

A twig snaps. Too loud to be an animal, you think.

You stand as flat against the wall as you can and lift the edge of the curtain, waiting for your eyes to adjust.

You turn your head and look outside. And there, just feet from your house you see ....

(start the video below, go, write for as long as the music lasts - about 8 minutes)


Thursday, October 18, 2012

announcement: Theatrical Interpreting Preparation Series workshop

I'm happy to announce that I am offering a four-month theatrical interpreting training program which will begin on December 1st, 2012. This series workshop is intended for newer interpreters, but any skill level is welcome. Feel free to save a copy of the PDF flyer below so you can print out and return the registration page, or share it with colleagues.

We will meet for three hours on two Saturday afternoons a month from December 2012 to March 2013.  You will also be attending one interpreted Thursday evening performance per month during that same period.  The exact dates and times are listed on the flyer.

CMP and ACET are currently pending approval. I will update information when the paperwork is processed. These CEUs will be offered at no additional charge. CEUs awarded will be applied to transcripts for 2013.

All sessions of both the workshop and interpreted performance observations will be at Portland Center Stage in Portland, Oregon.

NOTE: There will be an advanced, intensive mentored training offered in April 2013; more details to come. This introductory training is a requirement, along with an audition, for that advanced training.

Click on the link in the left column to see the flyer with more details.



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Story in Pictures : Travel Ahead

Not too long to wait now. Soon I will be traveling to California for a few days off; almost a week. The purpose of the trip, as I've mentioned before, started with seeing Philip Glass' "Einstein on the Beach" in Berkeley. The length of the trip was set, but the details have expanded and changed. Now I will be visiting Bonnie Hearn Hill and her writing group one day, then to Berkeley and "Einstein...", followed by Olympia Dukakis in "Elektra" at A.C.T. in San Francisco the following day, and then a day of rest before. I return home.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Radical Writing Advice : What Do You Need to Hear?

I get torn between searching for "the thing" I need to hear, or see, or do, and waiting it out, until it happens. I make lists. I contemplate. I go online and spend time exploring options, read magazines, listen to snippets of conversations about the topic I might be interested in pursuing.

Sometimes in that "doing" I lose the thread or I'm not able to hear my heart. I start following with my head and not my spirit and then I, sometimes, lose my way. Or I knead my schedule - okay, I know the more common term is "massage" my schedule, but that's not what I do. I pound it and shape it and fold it over on itself until I can make "X" or "Z" or "Q" fit. Then, sometimes, that thing I worked so hard to get in there cancels. And I have this twisted mess on my hands and not the thing I tried to squeeze into the odd shaped container.

So it goes with writing advice, too. If we're not open to opportunities we may miss what we need or what would be beneficial to our writing. I don't mean we have to accept everything which floats our way. But sometimes we should trust our instinct and go to hear that author read from their work and talk about their process. Or pick up that book a friend recommended even though it's nothing we would look twice at on our own.

Because, maybe, in that book or in that author's storytelling and process discussion there are nuggets which help improve our writing. Or boost our self-confidence. Or lead us to that secret place where we stored that good idea in our head but it was lost behind all the plotting and planning.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to interact with a couple of authors in my "day job." I was planning on attending the general event - and was volunteering for an organization later in the day - and I may or may not have stopped in to hear these two read. Nothing against either of them, but there were so many choices and I probably would have ended up somewhere else - if I was even there by the time they spoke.

And in their readings and their discussions, even though I was working in another capacity, I felt energized by their words and picked up a few of those little gems in their talks about their process. It felt good both as a writer and for the reason I was there.

An additional benefit of that for me was that I was also being a little bit hard on myself. See, I'm trying to get a better handle on my scheduling and I'm trying to not work on most Saturdays. Except for theater work (rehearsal purposes and teaching the workshop I've designed). But I took this job last Saturday and was giving myself a bit of a hard time about that: "why didn't you just take the day off, Dot?" (except I was volunteering at Wordstock later in the day and I had a theater rehearsal that night), or "you said no work on Saturdays!" and so on.

But then I realized that at some instinctual level, I knew what I was doing. I met a great author and we might have a planned meeting in an entirely different capacity in the future. I was interpreting about writing, about literature. And I learned a couple of things which will help me as a writer - simple, basic, yet important things I might not have heard otherwise, or not for a long time.

So - don't be too quick to judge if the interaction will be useful. Don't worry so much about trying to figure out the perfect way to make it all fit. Plan? Sure. Dream? Absolutely. Explore? Yep.

But leave room for the unexpected. Keep space in your days to wander. Keep your ears and eyes open to that sparkly thought which may pass in a blink; catch it. And trust that sometimes the not-quite-what-I-intended  encounter will hand you a gem.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Very Art-full Day

Saturday began with a trip to Wordstock.

Before I get into today's events, I want to take a little side trip to tell you how I ended up there. Or, how I ended up there as I did, today. Which was not how it all began.

I originally held the day to attend Wordstock. I knew I'd be working on Sunday, because I almost always work Sunday late afternoon into the evening. So, Saturday it would be. So, nothing scheduled for the day. Then along came an email from the Portland NaNoWriMo ML (Municpal Liason, for those not up on NaNoWriMo lingo). She announced that the Salem group and the Portland group were going to go in together on a booth at Wordstock and needed volunteers.

Hey, I thought. Sure. Why not? I'm going anyway! So I signed up. I was the second or third person to sign up, so I got to pick my time slot - the only slots filled were ones I couldn't (or wouldn't) do anyway.

Time passed. Then came an announcement that the NaNogroup didn't have enough money so they couldn't have a booth. I was disappointed, but I'd already received two other emails asking if I'd volunteer for two other writing groups I have association with. I looked at one and decided I'd rather just go as a participant. Then the second group, which was Write Around Portland, asked me if I could volunteer.

If you've been following my blog for any length of time, I'm sure you've noticed Write Around Portland crop up more than once. I love Write Around Portland and everything they do. So I looked at the schedule of what they needed and picked my top two and replied, "yes!"

I had a sign-through rehearsal for the play I'm interpreting next week, so I selected times which would be within the vicinity of that, time-wise. With enough time to meet up with my interpreting teammate and our sign coach before the play started.

All was going great. I got my first choice of volunteer slots.

Then a couple or so days ago I received a request for interpreting work at Wordstock. I jumped at that call, though I'm trying, as much as possible, to not to work on Saturdays. But to interpret at Wordstock? Yes. You bet I wanted to do that and I got the job. That was scheduled to end an hour before my Write Around Portland volunteer shift started, so it was perfect. The author was a joy to work with and I enjoyed meeting her, hearing parts of her book and about her process; and I have a copy of her book to read.

It was a perfect day.

Interpreting at Wordstock and meeting a very nice author/stand-up comic/publicist from NYC. Then having an hour to wander and look around, buy a couple of books, pick up brochures and information. Volunteering two hours with another personable and nice to share space with volunteer for my favorite non-profit. Followed by a couple of hours for dinner and going over the script, discussion with our sign coach. And then our sign-through for the play at Portland Center Stage. Or our sign-through of Act One because in Act Two our headsets weren't working correctly and we finally gave up after about 30 minutes of struggling to be able to hear. But it's okay - Act One is the most challenging due to pace and density of information.

So I guess that's my story. A very art-full day of literature, interpreting about literature, meeting people, and being at the theater.

A good day.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Razor's Edge : Unexpected

This week you have another series of pictures to use. Pick one if it inspires you, or use the series of three and tell the story it, or they, brings to mind.

  1. Look at the photos
  2. start the sound video (it's ~10 minutes long)
  3. and using the word prompt :  That morning, she noticed that something was different...
  4. write until the rain stops.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Radical Writing Advice: Story Time

As I begin typing this post, I'm not sure where it's going. Yes, I know.

But what about your platform, Dot? Your image. You should plan it better, you should know what you want to say before you put it out there.

Surely you're not going to just wing it and fly it? At least look like you have something to say!

Part of what I write about when I write about writing is the process. So that's what this writing is most likely to be about: process. And in that process, something other writers can use may emerge. Or maybe think, I'm not alone out here.


The topic is making decisions. It is a writing related decision and it is a taking care of me as a whole person decision.

Here's the dilemma. In a couple or so weeks I'm driving down to Berkeley to see the touring performance of Philip Glass' "Einstein on the Beach." I knew I wanted to go when I first saw that it was being performed, which was a while ago. The stops of the tour weren't yet posted and I was hoping for something nearby. Berkeley is the closest stop; although I would love to see it in New York, too. But Berkeley is do-able.

I purchased my ticket and would plan the trip later. Then I decided to take a few days on either side of the 4-hour performance to have a vacation, see the sites, allow enough time to drive. Since I bought my car 18 months ago, I've wanted to take it on a long drive. The furthest I've been able to go since then is Seattle. So Berkeley seemed perfect.

Then I started thinking, "Hey, since I'll be 'in the area,' I should try to see Bonnie Hearn Hill." Being three hours away from her is "in the neighborhood" compared to our homes, which are nearly 13 hours apart. So I wrote an email and we started a correspondence about a visit.

My original - no, my second - plan was to drive half way on the day I left and stop overnight. Not push too much driving in one day. Then I thought maybe stop in Ashland, take in a play. Maybe. Then get to Berkeley the second day. Have time to chill and relax and settle; and see the performance on the third day. Then I would have a couple of days to take BART into SF, sleep in, write, walk, whatever I wanted to do. Then come home.

My original thought was drive straight through to Berkeley in one day - the day before the performance.

And, as I already said, with my second plan, I realized that since I was driving, I could pop on down to see Bonnie. It's no further than from Portland to Seattle and I've made that a day trip before. That seemed like a very good plan. Visit Bonnie and then start the trip home from Fresno and divide that up over two days.

Now it's several weeks past all of those options coming up. And I have a new option to throw into the mix.

Bonnie invited me to visit her writing group, and bring something to read. This is exciting. I've been hearing about her writing group since I was reconnected to her. I've read about it online. And it seems like a very good writing group. Of course I want to go. But, wait, it's the second day of my little vacation. At 9:30 am.

Still. Not impossible. No. But I certainly won't be staying overnight in Ashland!

For those who don't know me well, I'm a master at trying to make everything fit. If I shift this thing in my schedule and slide in that thing, and the other thing that this other person wants to do goes here, and if I skimp a little on sleep and and and. You get the picture. I did that very well. I am actually an excellent multitasker. The problem with all of this is that I sometimes forgot to take care of me or got my priorities mixed up and there were some less than optimal personal things which happened. Enough of that.

So, when I start "figuring out" - those can be trigger words.

But the opportunity to meet the members of this group is something I want to do. It seems like an opportunity that I don't want to pass up right now. And I have to be careful to not push myself physically too much in that way.

My thoughts have been:
- no, I can't make it to the group.
- I can drive all the way from Portland to Fresno in one day, crash in a hotel and sleep and go to the group.
- I can drive to Berkeley on day one; then get up early to drive to Fresno.
- no to the preceding idea; that means leaving Berkeley by 6:30a; for those who don't know, I'm not an early morning person.
... and a few others.

I've ran this idea by a few people and I think, finally, I have a plan. With flexibility. And I guess that is the key - at least for me. I will drive down towards Fresno, and stop at a town along the highway that is about 2 hours from there. Going to Berkeley adds about an hour to the total time. That way, I can get up at a more reasonable for me time and get to the writing group. And, while it will be a long drive for sure, it seems do-able and, with short stretch and restroom stops, I won't get in that late. Do-able.

And I realized that I can have this plan, and leave it open for change. I'm not going to make a hotel reservation in a nearby town - there seem to be a bunch of them along the highway. I'm going to see how I feel and what seems like a good place to stay. And it leaves it open, if I need to, to stop earlier and not go to the writing group. I don't think that will happen, but I need that option. I could be wrong about my back and knee being fine to make that long of a drive in one day - but I don't think so.


I'm excited to meet these people.

I'm excited to see "Einstein on the Beach." All 4 hours of it. Yes.

I'm excited to get a little time away from all work. And to take a little road trip in my car.

I've checked my priorities, I've checked in with my heart and body and soul to see what is the true desire, and I believe I've found it. And I'm not closing out the option of stopping if I need to.

In a way, this is keeping writing high on my priority list. There aren't many things at this point in my life, after a few lessons the universe has handed me, that I would even consider doing this for. But to spend time with Bonnie and her writing group, to spend time talking about writing and sharing writing - this I will do.

And I believe that both the performance and the time with these accomplished and talented writers will be inspirational and an energy boost to get NaNoWriMo 2012 to a great kickoff for me, not too long after I get home.


Yes. To Fresno and the writers. To Berkeley and the Philip Glass epic production. To me, and listening to what I need, too.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Razor's Edge : Neighborhood Found Prompt

I'm returning cautiously to some event walking. Building up slowly and carefully, paying attention to my back and knee, pushing just a little for fitness sake and not pushing too much to set myself back again. And setting an attainable bar, not reaching for the sky with only a 6 foot ladder.

A few weeks ago I signed up to do a 5k walk, which is a part of a bigger event. I have a friend who is walking (or maybe she's jogging, or a combination, perhaps) the half marathon part of the event. She will start an hour before me and her time for a half marathon is now under 3 hours - yay! But that means I'll cross the finish line maybe 30 minutes before her. Maybe.

And that's okay.

So signing up for this event has kept walking more in my fitness routine than it had been. I am certainly not giving up on swimming; I need that; my body needs swimming; my mind need swimming. But I've been walking more than I had been and I've added distance. Which, obviously, means longer walks.

This week on one of my walks, I was in familiar territory, though I hadn't taken that particular route for a while. It's in an area I tend to drive through or around, but not much walking.

Walking an area brings out sights you don't see from a car. Again, obvious, I know. But I came across this delightful installation. And I thought it would might a nice prompt for this week.

Look at the picture.

What book would you put in the mailbox?

What book would might you discover there?

Or choose to write about the people who live in the house who installed this feature?

Or what book would you write to put into the mailbox?

Go. Write for 10 minutes.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Radical Writing Advice : Creativity Missing in Action?

I haven't come up with a great topic for this week. I've been thinking about it. And I think, in the midst of the contractor-insurance dance, the will-they-won't-they debate of who will show up but then doesn't, and certainly the hurry-up-do-it-now flurry of activity followed by periods of silence while they haggle over dotted t's and crossed i's. (Yes, I know I wrote that backwards. Thank you for noticing.) In this find the floor and contractor and we're coming to your house now, that my ability to think outside the box and be radical has diminished to just-write-it. Whatever it is. Just put down the words and call it good.

I had a story to tell, but even that seems mundane. Too boring to share. Or maybe too personal; no, not that. Too - well - undecided.

Maybe some of this is that I'm interpreting my first play of the season tomorrow. There has also been a lot of focus on that - time spent at the theater, with the script, with the CDs, thinking about it, figuring out creative uses of the target language. Practice.

I did manage to write something for last week's Literary Kitchen assignment. It wasn't as bad as I was afraid it would be. But the topic? Yes, the water leak, the contractors, the unplanned bathroom remodels.

And what's so "radical" about that? Nothing.

What I keep thinking, when the stress climbs and we have to do things in time we don't have is:
(a) as a good friend says, "it will end:" and
(b) someday this will make a good story.

Perhaps that is the message for this week: Even when things seem hard or impossible or that the schedule is too full, don't give up. This is all fodder for the next short story or novel or play. Someday, it will make a good story.

Keep in touch with your writer self even when it seems pointless or hard or boring. Nothing we as writers do is wasted or unrelated to writing.