Saturday, March 30, 2013

Blogging from A to Z Challenge

Okay. If you've been following my posts for more than a few months, you've probably seen that I like a writing challenge. Today I discovered a new challenge, thanks to a fellow Wayward Writer from Ariel Gore's Literary Kitchen. Rocky Hatley posted about a challenge he's undertaking, the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I had to follow up on this new adventure.

In the past, I've done the NaPoWriMo - National Poetry Writing Month. I did that a couple of years in a row. I also did a Small Stones one year - writing micro fiction sensory pieces on a daily basis.

This year, I didn't plan on doing a writing challenge in April. But then this opportunity appeared and, so, I will! The timing is great because I needed a writing boost from somewhere. I've gotten a little bogged down in editing the memoir, which is beginning to feel like a never ending bowl of spaghetti, plus doing feedback for other writers - which I love doing - and doing more correspondence and proposal type of writing.

I needed a little virtual kick in the butt to get my fingers working on new material. (Which I hope will also help me with motivation to get more writing out into the world. That's a topic for another day: how writing new pieces helps propel me to submit more. Maybe I can work that topic into the A to Z challenge. Hmm.)

There are a few rules, but not many and they're simple. Write a blog post every day except Sunday and have the topics go in alphabetical order - the "topic" is flexible - but somehow, each letter of the alphabet must be incorporated; see the website for examples.. Simple, right? Click on their banner above to see more information and sign up yourself!

This is just the level of challenge I can handle right now and it's perfect. Simple motivation and letting loose a little. Yes.

Buddha Machine Wall

I've been searching out more information about the Buddha Machine and have discovered a couple of things to note. One, it is based on an older device, called various names such as "Taiwanese digital jukebox" or "digital Buddhist jukebox" and variations on those. Those devices are still available, as well, and come in a variety of sizes. "Size" being relative to their physical measurements but also relative to the number of songs; I found quite a few models with three to twelve songs, and then there were some with up to 69 songs.

I also found the FM3 Buddha Machine Wall. So, while the Buddha Machine app won't install on a desktop and not everyone in the world owns an i-Device, there are options.

I had fun playing with the Wall. You can mix and match sounds, adding and deleting them. I like it. My partner, who was sitting nearby working on her computer, wasn't as thrilled with my find. We like many of the same things - including music - but this was not one of them. But I find it soothing and inspiring. Next time I'm doing some heavy editing, I think I'll whip up a special combination and let it help me keep focused on the task on the keyboard. I mean, sometimes I like editing and sometimes I'm easily distracted; this will help with the distracted times.

Try it.

(This is a photo of the Buddha Machine Wall. But I've hooked it up as a link to the actual Wall, so go ahead, click on the picture.)

Friday, March 29, 2013

News, Accolade, and Sound

You've probably already read the announcement : Amazon is buying Goodreads.

Some of you reading this might be saying, "So?" Others might say, "Good - what?" And then there are the opinions of the expanding control of Amazon as a good idea, a bad idea, who cares. I'm not sure what I think yet - my thoughts fall on both sides of the issue right now.

Amazon, who has its own publishing company (which is related to but separate from, I've been told) in addition to the mega online shopping site, which sells millions (probably bazillions) of books. 

I have a Goodreads account, but haven't really gotten into the social networking side of it. As a writer, I've been trying to build my presence there, but didn't feel the need to add one more internet site to my list of places I should be spending time. It's interesting to look up reviews - but the book reviews I really follow are from people I know, and I can just ask them. I don't need another website for social networking.

Amazon already tells me what books (and other products) it thinks I would be interested in based on past purchases (which may or may not have been for me) and on items I've looked at. Amazon also already purchased, which is where I get audiobooks. The up-side of Amazon buying Audible has been - well, I'm not really sure. That I now have one login name and password to remember for both websites? 

What will it mean with Goodreads? It's obviously more than just about encouraging people to read, as most of the articles mention. They wouldn't make a big money purchase unless there was the expectation of big money return. 

It's happening. No going back. And here is one article about it, if you haven't seen one yet.


The accolade goes to kd lang, who was recently named the Greatest Canadian Singer by the CBC.

As a longtime fan of kd lang, this makes me happy. Her music has spanned several genres, she has been true to her music and herself, and she is a talented musician. I loved her country and cowgirl songs, swooned with her crooning songs, and have listened to her covers and crossovers. She is also a delight to see live.

Click on here to read the article:

And, of course, I must share a video of her singing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. There are many renditions of this song and hers is right there on top.


The final find for today is this, the Buddha Machine.

It's an endless loop music device, created back in 2005. There was recently a new edition put out and I discovered it in an article in Shambala Sun about music and Buddhism.

I'm not even going to try to describe it beyond that. Read it for yourself on the webstie. For me, this has great possibility for writing, for walking and working out, for making art; for many things.

Oh, and yes, there is an app for that! See the website or iTunes. Now if they'd just expand the app to Blackberry...


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Creativity Flows in Two Directions

To be a creative person, whether it's writing or visual arts, creating or playing music, dance - I believe one commonality is that the creativity must go in two directions. We create our passions, our lives, our experiences and interpretations and those flow out into the world in whatever way is our own. But we also must have creativity flowing inward.

We must also be the audience, the reader, the viewer, the listener. We have to be refilled by things outside of us - by which I mean to be inspired and exposed and present in the world.

I know that some artists sometimes have to go inward or to retreat from the busy-ness which can consume our time and energy. But I also know that we have to go out and see what others are creating. It doesn't have to be in the same medium in which we create - but just to be witness to the process and product of others.

I believe it's good to step outside of only what we create and get inspiration from other mediums. To expose ourselves to, and sometimes to immerse ourselves in, something outside of our norm is good. It keeps us awake and aware.

And it keeps creativity flowing in as well as out.

On Friday I went to the final White Bird Uncaged performance of the season. I bought season tickets to all of the Uncaged series, as well as individual tickets to a couple of other shows. This performance was originally with a different group from outside of the US; but Visa and immigration issues cropped up which prevented them from being able to get here in time for the performances. White Bird tapped Illstyle & Peace Productions, a hip-hop dance company from Philadelphia as a replacement.

Even though hip-hop dance is something I've never done and never will, it was inspiring and, yes, creativity flowed inward. A couple of parts the movement and the energy was so strong that I had tears. Not crying because of narrative content or regret or anything negative - but tears of awe of the dance and the physicality and how the dancers worked together.

For me, watching dance can help to fill my creative tank. Often the most inspiring and the ones I respond to most are the ones I could never explain to another person; I don't even try. I respond to dance at a physical and emotional level - it's not something which passes through my logical brain. I may admire the skill and the movement - but I don't know what most of it is called and I don't even try to figure out the meaning. I react with my body and with my spirit. And my spirit is where my creativity lives.

What fills up your creativity? And where is the center of your creative response?

This is a video of Illstyle & Peace Produtions. I like that there are some pieces of performances, as well as information from the founder and choreographer. It does have captions, as well.



Monday, March 18, 2013

Write with the Door Closed; Edit with it Open

artwork by Serena Barton

Write with the door closed and edit with it opened was one piece of advice from Stephen King in "On Writing."

That seems like reasonable and sound advice. He said this at several points throughout the book, with examples and reasons and it was solid.

His point was to write your book without letting it be interrupted or unduly influenced by outsiders. Not just by people who would steal your time, intentionally or untintentionally, but also by the do-gooders who are trying to help or have advice or want just a peek. Set up your writing time and treat it as sacred, as your time to show up so your muse knows where to find you. Just you, the page, the muse.

I like that idea.

Yet I also wrestle with it. Some of my best writing has been "in public." Not that I was the center of attention, but I was with other people. Sometimes it is with other writers - would that be a gaggle, a murder, a flock? I don't know. Sometimes it's just me in a public space, usually a cafe of some sort, writing.

I understand that keeping things close to me. I understand keeping to my writing and not letting others spoil the process and potentially the "product."

But I do wonder about the hibernation aspect to writing. And, while it is an approach which has obviously worked really well for Stephen King, I wonder if it is necessary or if it is just one good idea. No; I do think it can be a great thing to do, the door shut/open model, and I believe that there are other valid options.

One example which came to mind as I was listening to him read his book this time around (I read the paper version not long after it came out) was my experience Ariel Gore's Literary Kitchen. That was so opposite of the shut door writing model. And it worked; most of the time. King talked specifically about the writing in groups/classes/MFAs and one criticism was the need to write something out quickly and then, how good, really, was the feedback? The Lit Kitchen was pretty open door in the writing process and some of it was put out there raw for others to read; although there was a different type and level of feedback on the raw material or the little bit more worked material. But, still, an open door policy.

I wonder if there is tendency toward a gender difference? Of writing in community and sharing the still pink on the edges material? Although there have been males participating in the Lit Kitchen.

I wonder what other writers think about the writing=closed door vs editing=open door advice?

I wonder if solitude is required? Or when is it required?

I wonder when other writers might want to write in solitude? Or in community? Or solo in the midst of life happening?

Just thoughts. No answers. And questions.

Do you like to write alone? Always or when, if the answer is "sometimes."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Write As If You Mean It

I'm listening to Stephen King tell his story. How he came to writing. His favorite genres. How as a child he was influenced by this or that, his brother, his mother. His teachers. His opinions. I read a paper copy of "On Writing" previously and enjoyed it, was inspired by it. So the information is not completely new, although some of it I didn't remember. So listening to him read his book is good and I hear more in the words when they come from his mouth.

I don't remember Stephen King saying "Write as if you mean it," but some of his words are similar to that, or conceptually similar to that in my opinion. Others have uttered that concept, as well.

Stephen King has a lot to say about reading and writing. About writing in your voice, writing your stories with your set of linguistics, writing with your own toolbox and he has some great words of advice about how to pack your writer's toolbox.

But, again, I find myself questioning if I'm a "real" writer after awhile. Because right now I'm not filling every spare minute with writing or reading. Because sometimes I do zone out watching an episode of Weeds or Bones or X-Files on streaming Netflix - rarely, but once in a great while. Sometimes I do play Sherlock, a logic puzzle game, on the computer or a game of Hand and Foot against the computer. Then I'm not writing.

And I think: wait. Sometimes my brain does need a bit of down time. When I take a mental break - and even better when I take a physical break - I am inspired. When I can let down, relax, let go, I can create. If all I do is go and go and go then I burn out before I get anything down. Although I will admit that sometimes, when I'm busy, creative ideas are generated - just not much generated in terms of action.

I started to type: "so I search for a balance - " and I realized that it's not the balance I'm looking for. Looking for balance is like searching the night sky in a metropolitan area for the tiniest star: it may be there, but you can't see it. "Balance" seems like a set up for failure. Instead I think I look for a minimal wobble teeter-totter.  And perhaps that is a up too close look. If I back off a bit to the big picture, then I suppose maybe the wobble would appear more balanced.

Note to self.

When it gets to actually putting word on page I think the important thing is to believe in what you're writing. Write as if you mean it, even if you're not sure. Intention is at least half the battle, right?

If I'm sitting down to write and I doubt that what I'm doing is any good or that I have a right to write, then, well, you know. I don't have to tell you. You have to believe in what you're doing. That is a message Stephen King would support, I believe, and it's one thing I extrapolated from "On Writing." I appreciate the reminder that as a writer I can't let other writers, famous or local or unknown/imagined bring down my writing before I even get it out.

I, the writer, have to believe in my own writing. That doesn't mean to not get feedback or listen to advice. But at some point I have to say that this is mine and that this is what I want to write and, and, so there.

I have to write as if I mean it. And then keep writing and it will be true.

Tomorrow I interpret the Oregon State finals of the Poetry Out Loud competition. This will be the fourth performance event I've interpreted in two weeks; the final event in a month of preparation. That is what has been filling my time, along with theater-related blog posts, a few posts here in The Writing Vein, and editing the memoir.



I held this post, hoping to revise and find a good picture. The title doesn't sit well with me. But there it is and here I am and the Poetry event is done. It went well; the contestants were excellent; and "we rocked it." Our interpretations were, for the most part, right on the mark in alignment with the goal of what we're doing - what the contestants are doing.

I finished the Stephen King audiobook on the way home from the VRS shift I did after interpreting the poetry. Just in time to move on to a fiction book. And I closed it just as I closed the physical version I read a few years ago, satisfied, inspired, and accepting a good percentage of what he said.

So as I listened to the last chapter of the book as I drove home in the dark and the rain, I also downloaded the first section of the book I want to read (listen to) next. Time to grab some fiction time between plays - I have just over three weeks before preparation on the next one begins.

And I packed up the section of my book I'm editing for Monday's submission to my writing group.

I'm back full circle.

Reading, writing, editing.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

update: Mr. Penumbra

A little while ago I wrote about the book I was reading, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. I was loving it. I bought copies for friends and was going to buy it for my partner, but decided to ask before I bought it. There's no way I can keep up with all the books she reads; sometimes she loses track. Not a criticism, just a fact. She reads - a lot. And she had read the book not long after it came out.

I enjoyed the book. It was fun and quirky and new and it was a great little ride.

Until the end. The ending didn't ruin the rest of the book for me, but I was disappointed. I don't like the ending.

I'm not talking about how it ends - that's all fine. My problem is with how it's written.

I wonder if that was the author's idea? Or an editor's? Or even the publisher's?

It felt like there might have been more at some point but it was too long, so, chop chop, here you go. The End. Or maybe not long enough so it was tacked on to fill space.

Maybe not. Maybe this is exactly what the author wanted.

But, for me, it doesn't fit. There are these great details in the rest of the book. The characters are written with enough distinguishing features to allow the reader to create them in his/her mind. There are some well-written scenes in places real and imagined and hybrids. Fast paced dialogue. Characters you can relate to or at least you know someone like them or have read/heard/seen something about these someones.

A well built story that keeps the reader engaged and then, wham. Tie it all up in a little ribbon and fast forward with a skipping motions, tada, there it is, and so long.

My partner said she'd reread the book so we can talk more in depth about the ending. I'd love to have some conversation about the ending of this book, which I still recommend, even though I would have much rather had a sequel, or a longer book even, than this treatment.

For me, the ending doesn't fit.

Have you read the book? What do you think?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Week Off

This is the week my Monday writing group decided to not exchange work. Busy schedules, one person out of town, one using the time to catch up, me working both my regular stuff and some performance interpreting. Busy. Busy. Busy.

But with the two plays and the poetry work I'm doing, I also found I can't read fiction. This isn't a new discovery, but it is a new confirmation of this fact. When I'm interpreting a play, I'm working with that story, getting it and the characters and the production's presentation of those things in my head, in my body, on my hands. It's difficult to really focus on other stories when that one story (or two in this case) is primary.

Luckily, I've just discovered that I can read non-fiction. I can listen to audiobooks about writing, or other things. I find that my other listening habits change, as well. I don't really like listening to the radio - too much talking and extraneous noise. Sometimes usually favorite music CDs don't sit well, so I have to find something else.

These aren';t problems - just interesting facts to discover. What works while I'm in theatrical or performance mode and what doesn't.

I wonder where that fits for writing, as well. I know in the past that I've sometimes gotten particular artists associated with certain pieces of writing. Or found that particular types of music fueled some writing so I would line up those musicians' work when I sat down to write. Now all we have to do is collect our favorite songs on the digital device of our choice and we can add categories or whatever they're called in the particular brand of machine.

And when I'm not doing the writing, not working on feedback on other's writing, I think a lot about writing. Of course I am also listening to Stephen King read his book, "On Writing," about, well that's obvious - writing. So that's on the front line of my consciousness. But I have ideas and inspiration and want to write.

Yesterday I wanted to write a poem and the words were flowing - in my head. I was driving. On the freeway. And when I got to where I was going I had no time to make notes and some of it was gone anyway. But rather than get upset, I figure it will come back. If it was that good or that important, it will come back. And maybe the next version will be even better.

A week off. Ha! Of exchanging writing with my group - yes. Of reading or listening to fiction - yes. But not off from creativity nor performance interpreting nor regular work.

Just a slightly different pace.

And one punctuated by hobbling around on crutches. The update there is that my doctor said I could get off the crutches a week from the date of the injury and continue with the ice/rest/ace bandage care for an additional week. That's good news. The crutches really slow me down and are loud and make things awkward.

Though I'm really not even complaining about that. There is irony that the sprain and complications and crutches happened right now; right when I would have said - no, it's impossible, I could never slow down or be limited in action or movement during this time. No. But I am. It is. And I'm getting through. With a few adaptations. But I'm getting things done and "it's all good," as They say.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Grumble Grumble

In late 2011 I had "Saddle Pulmonary Emboli." That was scary, expensive, and launched me into many medical tests, second and third opinions, and, finally to acceptance that I have to be on Coumadin/Warfarin for the rest of my life. (If you weren't reading The Writing Vein at that time, I was hoping to get off the medication after  6 months, which is what the medical providers originally projected. Some of the blood work was checking hereditary factors and, voila, a genetic mutation was found. And that particular mutation is exactly the condition that Warfarin/Coumadin treats - this even according to a top Naturopathic Physician in this field; with my regular ND, the specialist ND, my regular MD, and a specialist MD all telling me I need to be on the medication, I gave up the quest to final alternatives; if alternatives were available for my particular set of mutant genes, the specialist ND would know - there were none.)

So, about seventeen months later and here we are. Two and a half months ago my INR (which measures the medication in my blood) was finally declared stable enough to go down to being only tested every six weeks. I'd been at four weeks for a while; but before that it ranged from weekly to biweekly.

On Thursday I sprained my knee. A simple and minor sprain. The sprain was not - is not - the problem. The problem? Internal bleeding in and around the knee joint caused by - yes, you can guess it - the Warfarin/Coumadin. It was (is) very painful. I couldn't walk earlier in the day on Thursday. 

And for those who know: yes, indeed, I was scheduled to interpret a play that very same Thursday night. Which I did. I hobbled in on crutches and my team and I sat while interpreting; there was no way I would be able to stand for 2 1/4 hours to interpret the play. 

After going to the doctor's office. 

I met with a PA I'd never seen before (one plus about Kaiser, there is usually someone available to see you in the office if your regular provider is busy or out of the office). He was great. I felt immediately comfortable with him. And he did good work. He aspirated blood from around and in my knee, which was extremely painful. But there was some instant relief, so the pain was worth getting through. 

Now we're waiting and hoping the internal bleeding doesn't return. He ordered xrays which cleared up once and for all that there is no break or fracture in the knee; good to have that confirmed.

Oh  - and a bonus. I remember my mother telling me when I was a teenager that I had double knee caps in my right knee. Yeah, right. Well, guess what - I do! I saw it on the x-rays today. There is actually another name for it - but that is one common name. And when the provider listed some of the periodic symptoms this condition can cause, I was nodding my head with relief.

This is not a good time to be getting around very slowly on crutches. I am also scheduled to interpret poetry recitation competitions the next two weekends - which I will also do. And I have another play next Thursday. I am planning on being there for all of them. The poetry this weekend will obviously be from a seated position; the play next Thursday might unless my knee is recovered enough to make standing a viable option.

Okay - there it is - my grumble for today. A truly minor sprain and very painful drug-induced internal bleeding. On the mend and looking for patience with the crutches issue.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Books. Workshops, and other Stuff for Writers

I started to write this post about Natalie Goldberg's newest book, which will be out in just a few days. I will still note that below, but other workshops and such have come up since I first started this, so it's become more of a few writerly things I heard about and want to pass along.

Later I will write more. For now, I'll just say that I'm still in editing phase of the memoir and exchanging work on a weekly basis with my Monday writing group; I've written a couple more blog posts for Portland Center Stage; I have ideas galore for more writing including a play. And I'm interpreting "Blood Knot" at Profile Theatre this Thursday with the fabulous Rich Hall, the Poetry Out Loud regional competition this Saturday with the fantabulous Steve Nail, and next Thursday am interpreting "The Whipping Man" at Portland Center Stage with a three-interpreter team including Rich Hall and the amazing Jayodin Mosher. So - I'm creatively busy and in a good flow. And did I say busy? So, for now, the things which have crossed my attention recently which could be of interest to writers!

Natalie Goldberg's newest book, The True Secret of Writing, will be available March 19th.

Lidia Yuknavitch is teaching an online class at LitReactor called, "Ecstatic States, Sex, Death & Memoir." This is sure to be a powerhouse master class and the number of participants is limited to twelve.

Ariel Gore has two offerings this spring: both her fantabulous 8-week Lit Star Training course, which starts March 16th, and her 12 assignments in 12 days intensive. Her courses are always helpful, inspiring, and the participants are great. The Lit Star Training may or may not still have a spot left, but check it out if you're interested; totally worth it!

The Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat. Ariel Gore is one of the teachers at this retreat, which takes place March 15 - 17 in Washington's Cascade Mountains. (If I wasn't going to be interpreting poetry that weekend, I would probably make this trip; being in a nature setting, writing, perfect!) Click on the link to get more details.

The Summer in Words Writing Conference, put on by Jessica Morrell has a great lineup. It will take place June 21 - 23 in Cannon Beach, an even more perfect setting for writing - the Oregon coast.