Sunday, February 24, 2013

Advice : from Jess Walter

Thank you to Jessica Morrell for posting this on her site, The Writing Life Too. I needed to hear this today. And I want to share it.

Yes. I needed this. And will need it again because I will forget again, and climb into my head.

 "Be patient. Be bold. Be humble. Be confident. Don’t give in to the speed and surface banality of the culture. Don’t give in to jealousy, commerce, or fear. Do charity work, or coach kids, or be a Big Brother or Sister, or something. Whatever it takes to get out of your own head and avoid authorial narcissism. And whatever you do, don’t ever take advice from authors."                            Jess Walter: How I Write


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Port Cities Review has Launched

I don't know if you remember, not too long ago I sent out an announcement and a link to Port Cities Review. A new literary publication which is worth your time to read and worth your energy to submit to if you're a writer.

It has officially launched. Hop on over there and take a look for yourself... and check out their submission guidelines.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Reading as Preparation for Writing

This is not news. It's not new; I know. Writers should read; reading helps writers.

But it has been reaffirmed for me recently with two books I've read. Correction : one I am still reading - not yet done. The great thing about the book I'm reading is that I'm doing it the audio book way. I've started up with audio books again because it helps keep my frustration down while driving in heavy traffic and it makes good creative use of that time, as well. And some books are great being listened to, as long as it's a good reader.

And this one is. Both the book and the reader. The audio book I'm reading/listening to is "Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore." It is a fun read. I'm not done with it yet, so I'm hoping the good writing and the fun continue and it doesn't wimp out in the end.

In this process of reading (listening), I feel more connected not just to reading, but to writing, as well. Ideas are coming again and I feel inspiration flowing inward.

I've been busy editing, and working, and some of the work is creative - the theatrical interpreting piece has creative elements and I love theater. But I've been feeling that most of my creative energy has been in output - not much input.

Last week I went to a White Bird sponsored dance performance by Black Grace. That was amazing and energetic and inspiring. Creativity flowed in from that experience. And now with this book, I've even been listening while I'm working out - keeping the step aerobics sound up just high enough so I can keep with the beat but the book turned up louder so I can hear the story. I even turned the volume up as high as it would go (I have it downloaded on my Blackberry) so I could listen in the shower.

I recommend to book.

And I recommend reading for writers. And going to dance performances. And theater. Also try drawing something. Or making a collage. Or going for a walk in a new place and notice. At least get your head out of the space where you are to something new and something which inspires you.

Writing needs inspiration and energy coming in. Find what works for you.

And try Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore. It's a good read, fun, fast-paced - though I can't yet vouch for the ending, it is taking me on a good reading-ride.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

WIP - a book in search of a name

 The process with the Works In Progress (WIP) writing group seems to be going well. I am submitting two to three chapters each week to the other writers for feedback and receiving the same from each of them. It's nice for many reasons - but one reason is that one person has never read any of my writing so this is all fresh to her.

Which is great.

Another reason is that this timeline we've set up seems to be working well for me in terms of editing. If there were more of us or we were trying to submit more to each other, it would probably be too much. I still usually come in under the word limit we've set; it's how my chapters run. One week I had three chapters but after the editing I was about 1200 words below the limit.

Coming in under the word limit is not a problem.

And there isn't a problem. Let me say that right now. No problem at all.

The editing is going smoothly most of the time. Much better than previous experiences tackling big writing project. And I'm actually enjoying some of the editing process - which is not my norm, and I'm happy about that. Because I am not a spit it out in one draft, have it ready to read, kind of writer. Not that I know any writers like that. I was just remembering a new writer a couple of years ago who was surprised at all the editing and drafts and deletions from the version he typed up; he got over it, though it was a bit of a shock.

I'm editing out some things which I thought were for sure keepers. I've taken out some darlings, for sure. And there are some places where I wonder why I ever wrote it like that.

And I see growth in my writing of this thing over time. I call it a thing because I still hesitate to call it a memoir sometimes. I shouldn't say that out here in the public cyber land, but there you go. I admit it. It's sometimes hard to say that I'm writing a memoir. I'll get over it. (And I'll tell you more about that later - but it's not the point at the moment.)

The writing has changed and that's good. Honestly, it's improved (what a relief, right?). So it feels good to be making some of these edits and the better word and phrase choices sometimes appear on their own; less struggle; they fit.

One dilemma is the title. I don't like it. I thought it was kind of clever and charming and fit so well earlier in the process. But now I'm not sure. No, I don't think it helps make it any clearer and I think it might actually set up some expectations which aren't met because it's not the right title. I've been calling it this since it first became more than a few creative non-fiction/memoir short story pieces and became an It - a Book in Progress.

The book is progressing and it feels good.

And I've decided to just keep on with the editing and rewriting and wait.

A new title will come to me when it's time; when the book is ready to release its name.

Friday, February 8, 2013

New Literary and Arts Publication : PCR

There's a new publication in town. Well, and beyond - it's not limited to just Portland, OR.

You can sign up to be one of the first on the list of updates. They are also now open for submissions.

Click on the PCR Facebook page link to read more about them the publication.

It looks like a great lineup behind this venture and I'm looking forward to the first issue. And the second, and so on.

Who knows, I may even find something to submit!

Check it out and and sign up to be there for its launch.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Meanderings : MFA


picture from How to Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon,
one of my new favorite books,
I've read it from cover to cover.
Now that I've read it, I pick it up often and open it randomly
and see what I need to know for that day.
It's not just for writers or artists.
It's about creativity.
Buy it.
You'll like it.

This first paragraph is how I started this writing today and I'm going to leave it, as development, as an example of how meandering thoughts can lead to having something important to say. I don't have a major focus to write about at this point. Instead, some wandering thoughts - I was going to say random thoughts but they aren't random. Not really. Keep reading; I discovered a focus even though I thought I started with none. Oh, and I did come back in and add a word to the post's title to more accurately reflect the finished piece.

One piece of information is that my Bachelors Degree university is now offering an MFA in creative writing. That's really good news. I checked their website within the last year, maybe even with the last six months, and there was nothing there. One reason I checked there is that I had a really good experience, their format worked really well, and I hoped they might come up with something similar.

This is good and always makes me smile: my undergrad degree is, tada: a BS in Liberal Studies. Love that. With double minor in English:Writing and Theatre. But it was a great experience. Distance education, with some in-person of what would now be called "rigorous" 3- to 4-day classes (where there were pre-reading requirements, post-attendance assignments which were lengthy to prove that you did your homework and understood it), some online classes, even a correspondence course via regular mail, and a little bit online. It worked. My advisor was very helpful and encouraging. It was great.

Anyway - see, rambling, meandering - I checked their website and, nada. Until now. They recently were approved for the MFA in writing. And someone I would love to take a workshop with, a class with, is one of the professors.

And I was tempted.

But I've decided that right now is not the time for me to jump in. I thought I would when I saw it, even with the two week application deadline. I know I could write up two 750 word essays and find work to submit and all of that. And it would be kind of cool to be in the first cohort. And the curriculum looks good. Looks like what I want in an MFA if I do that - and I've been thinking about it for a while; I like the look of the curriculum, a lot.

Now is not the time and having the first two week residency in June - no, not a good time. I will just be at the end of a busy theater season and starting the process for scheduling the next season. I also have a summer theater workshop in the development phase and will be (hopefully) doing final preparations right at that time for the workshop. And I am on a national committee which is putting together a standard practice paper on performance interpreting - which has an early August deadline for getting the first draft written up before our national conference.

So this June - not a time to start an MFA.

I'm not ruling it out for later. Just not now.

Okay - maybe I did have a focus for this writing. The MFA.

To MFA or not to MFA, that is the question.

Short answer: not now. Long answer: maybe.

I'd like an MFA and there are factors to consider. I'll pose some of my questions and I'd love to see what others say. I know someone in an MFA program and I drool when I see her posts. And sometimes I think, whew, glad that assignment isn't mine (at least not now).

I read about the inspiration of an MFA. The community. The camraderie. The knowledge about the business of writing and publishing and, yes, networking. Confidence building (that one I really want; don't guffaw - I really could use it!). Feedback. Energy. Creative momentum. The paper which says I did it and validates that I Can Write.

I read about the negative aspects of an MFA. It's not the real world. It's sterile. It dilutes creativity and replaces it with an academic mandate or style of writing which can swallow the soul. It's too expensive. It creates a false sense of quality or expectations. It's unnecessary. It's insular and isolating (within a context of others of similar experience). It's not real world and there are other ways to write outside of academia.

Oh - and an MFA gives your permission and time To Write. For me the time is not an issue; an MFA wouldn't give me time. It would give me a Timeline and it would be one more thing in the list of things I'm doing. And that's one key for me right now : not wanting to add anything in because I feel like I've just reached a point of some relative balance and sanity in my schedule. Balance like a teeter-totter with evenly weighted ends, not flatlined.

So I did have something to say, after all.

What do you think about an MFA in writing? Is it worth the time and money? Why or why not? What is on your list of pros and cons?