Thursday, January 31, 2013

Notes on Writing Dialogue

In many - or perhaps most - writing workshops and classes, the topic of writing dialogue is brought up. There are exercises and assignments about writing dialogue. It's good; I'm not disagreeing with the practice at all. But I have found that dialogue flows easily for me.

If the writing assignment instructions say to include at least six lines of dialogue I can just smile. I have that; no problem; and I might make it twelve or twenty. Not that I'm counting.

I have had some great writing instructors and mentors with good writing exercises and experiments. Things like one from Inga Muscio to go somewhere we don't normally go (or may even internally rebel at going) and strike up a conversation with someone unlike ourselves. Ariel Gore is great for helping writers get to the dialogue - to include conversation in our writing. Other tips from here and there have included eavesdropping, of course; interviewing; watching people and listening. And more.

encaustic painting by Serena Barton
A couple days ago I was thinking about writing and reading. I won't walk you through the stream of thoughts and how one thing led to another - oh, except to say that I was thinking, again, about how I haven't been doing as much reading recently. Not until starting last weekend.

I wasn't feeling guilty about not reading more. I do that, sometimes; I mean, as a writer I should be reading more, right? Right? I do read. But I'm not the speed reader my partner is; I'm not super slow. I'm busy.

Anyway. I was thinking about how good it was to be able to read a book again and thinking about which fiction book I'm gonig to read along with the non-fiction (mostly writing) books I have in progress. Oh, and I do have an audio book going - always; it's great for my drives to and from work, decreases my stress on the busy routes I have to travel.

A little bit of guilt crept in and I realized - not for the first time, but it's been awhile - that I wasn't reading anything other than audiobooks and some non-fiction for about three weeks because I was in preparation for interpreting plays. Two of them a week apart, which meant overlapping preparation and reading two stories.

 I do find that I read books less when I'm working on plays. Some of that is because I have to really get into the story of the play; I have to know it fully and have the pace, the flow, the characters, the concepts inside of me. And I'm working on translation of concepts and how to get characteristics and differentiation of the characters in my body.

So I am reading and re-reading the plays and thinking about them.

I'm reading dialogue!

I do write dialogue well and I think I always have. It's something which comes fairly natural to me as a writer.

Bu I also realized that all of my script reading has probably had a strong positive influence on my ability in writing dialogue, as well.

(a) I'm not "not reading" - I'm reading scripts
(b) I'm reading dialogue
(c) I'm embodying the dialogue and the characters and their stories

Oh. And (d) I am a sign language interpreter, so I work in language and dialogue. Which is not saying that I do or can use anything I do in the course of interpreting in my writing - I don't; but, again, I do work in communications, and not the electronic type as in computer science type of things.

So it was an interesting insight.

Maybe I'll try that with a writing workshop I'm developing - a new approach to writing dialogue.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


The decision to get up early on a Saturday morning to attend the "Making it in Changing Times" one-day writing conference was worth it. It was a day filled with books and writing and inspiring and knowledgable speakers. And food. As we were reminded several times, there's lots more food left, eat more.

But it was the people who made the day. The "writers' tribe" as Jessica Morrell called it - yes, these were my people even though I only knew two others and knew of (had met, have read their work) the speakers: Jessica Morrell (who put this conference together), Lidia Yuknavitch, Polly Campbell, Deborah Reed, and Kevin Sampsell.

And thanks to Wallace Books, my bag was a little heavier as I left the building and was walking back to my car, thinking, Why is this bag heavier now than when I went in - I drank my coffee and the bottle of water? Oh - books.  I didn't buy all of the books I wanted today, but I bought several.

Jessica is an entertaining and straightforward writer and editor, who had much to say. I've heard her speak before at the Willamette Writers Conferences. And I'll hear her again. I'm hoping that the next time she offers Line by Line I'll be able to take it; and if not the next time, then the time after that.

Lidia was, not surprisingly, powerful. The is entertaining and puts it all out there. She is the badass for sure. And inspiring. I'd also love to do a class or workshop with her. One in person, rather than online. She had a lot of really good things to say.

They were all good.

I'm still absorbing information from the day and may post some favorite quotes later. But not now.

And it did inspire me. It took a little bit of down time, and dinner. And watching another episode of my current streaming Netflix TV program. And then I dove into revising my current WIP.

And I mean I really dove in. I have been working on this for a while and the revision stage is slow and sometimes difficult and sometimes overwhelming. But I'm doing it. In this current set of chapters I'm revising for the Monday writing group there is one particularly rough to edit chapter. It was written early in this process and it shows. It was written with a workshop prompt in mind, and that shows, too. So I have to take out those obvious assignment elements. I had to clean up the awkward language - actually clean up the voice which no longer fits with how my writing has evolved and the voice of this WIP has evolved.

I also cut some monumental chunks. Nearly one entire page and several entire paragraphs. And I rewrote several paragraphs as well. It needed it - they weren't frivolous or temperamental cuts; they were necessary.

I made progress. Significant progress. And it felt good.

Thank you, Jessical Morrell for a well-spent and inspiring day.

Thank you to all of the speakers - I enjoyed them all. But a special thanks to Lidia and her idea that "the page will hold you (when you write your truth)" and to identify one risk we can take in our writing today; her talk on The Worth of Risk.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mecca, James Beard, "Making it in Tough Times"

I should be in bed right now. I will go to bed in a few minutes, as soon as I finish writing this and send it out into the world.

Really. I will. I have to get up very early tomorrow. Remember that time is relative. For someone who works until past midnight several days a week and goes to plays on other nights of the week, getting up at 7:00 AM is very early, indeed. Not so for my running and mountain climbing friends, I know.

But what's up with the title of this piece? It's my creative live over the past couple of weeks.

Last week I interpreted "The Road to Mecca" by Athol Fugard at Profile Theatre. And it was wonderful. The play is beautifully staged and acted and directed. The story well told. And my team interpreter was awesome to work with. And I feel we did well. I also had the opportunity to see someone I haven't seen for a few years who attended the performance - himself a playwrite, author, sign coach, and more.

Last night I interpreted "I Love to Eat" by James Still at Portland Center Stage. That is also well staged, the actor does a marvelous job of being James Beard, and it is a fun show. I would have loved to have had a larger Deaf audience - but those who were there for the interpreted performance were awesome. And I was prepared for that play and I had fun doing it.

Then tomorrow, yes. The reason I'm getting up early is because I'm going to a one-day writing conference put on by author and editor Jessica Morrell : "Making it in Tough Times." There is a great lineup of presenters throughout the day, promised writing time and "instant feedback" (optional). I am very much looking forward to tomorrow. Early, but worth it. Tomorrow will be a day of creativity coming in and I am looking forward to it. One friend from out of town is spending the night because she's going to the conference, too. And one of the Monday writers is going, as well.

This is a good time. It's been a little busier than I like for the past three weeks - but for good reason. The next month my schedule slows and I will take the time to enjoy it before the onslaught of March and another round of creative output for two theatrical performances and poetry competition.

And my editing of the book continues, as does the feedback from and to my Monday writing group. That is going really well. I still have some edits to finish for this week's submission to the group, but I did finish up this week's feedback for the other writers.

Yes - Mecca, Beard, Making It. Thank you universe for these inspiring and pleasant experiences.

For now, good night. And may sleep come quickly!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fishtrap Event

Portlanders: Fishtrap is coming to town!  On February 23rd we will host a Fishtrap Celebration of 25 Years of Writing and the West at Ecotrust. This is a celebration of the past and fundraiser to help us launch the next 25 years! Featuring Kim Stafford and Molly Gloss and the amazing spoken word poet, Myrlin Hepworth, this event will include nibbles from Wallowa County and other treats. Mark your calendar: Saturday, Feb 23rd, 7 -9 pm at the Ecotrust building (721 Northwest 9th Avenue #200  Portland, OR 97209). Feel free to invite friends. Suggested donation at the door. If you want to donate some food or drink or help in any way, please contact me or Susan Laarman at  We hope to see you there!

One Month In : How am I Doing?

I set some intentions at the beginning of the year. And while I haven't forgotten that I set them, I also haven't been consciously thinking about what I said. Neither good nor bad, it just is.

Today I went on a search through earlier posts for something else. I haven't yet found what I was looking for because I got sidetracked with this idea and other things have come up. I will get back to that. But I came across my intentions and I decided to take a look at them and see how I'm kicking off this year in terms of those intentions.

Not bad.

Here is my list of 2013 intentions:
  • to renew my writing schedule, including focused editing on both the novel and the memoir; 
  • to find physical activities which are also fun and varied enough to fit my schedule and interests (to which I can say I am off to a great start with the new Wii, including Wii Fit with the balance board; will also include hiking when the weather is a little better, and hopefully kayaking again); 
  • to maintain some true down time in my schedule (pajamas til 5pm kind of days); 
  • to spend more quality time with my partner; 
  • to spend more time with friends - talking, writing, hiking, creating, bicycling, eating or drinking wine, and more; 
  • to be present.
I know there are still 10 days left of the first month of 2013, but I'm doing pretty well so far.
  • Renew my writing schedule? Partially thanks to my new Monday writing feedback group, I am writing on a (somewhat) regular basis. We only meet in person once a month (on a Monday), but the other Mondays we submit a piece of writing to each toher which is between 10-20 pages (or under 5000 words) and we exchange feedback on the previous week's writing. Because of this, I spend at least two days writing on my work in progress (WIP) and two to three days doing feedback. I am also back on track with writing my blog posts for the theater. And, other than the theatrical blog posts, I haven't written anything from scratch - but I'll get there. Maybe in February. Okay - "writing scheduled renewed" - check. Oh, and this Saturday I'm going to a one-day writing conference.
  • Physical activities which are fun and varied? Check. I'm back to the pool now that I'm over the winter illness that made the rounds, including a couple of passes through my sinuses and throat. I'm not going to the pool often (see "down time" below), but I'm going. What I AM doing is the Wii. Almost every day. I've only missed 2 days on the Wii in the past 3 1/2 weeks - and one of those days was a swimming day. I spend at least 30 minutes every day with Wii Fit Plus, and my average is 45 - 60 minutes. My top day was 3 hours - although not all at one time. And I'm having fun. The Wii Fit Plus has aerobics, balance games, yoga, strength training, and "training plus" which includes body-mind coordination, some aerobics, marching band type fun, snowball fights, skateboarding tricks (which I would never do in my 3-D life) - fun! 
  • True down time. Um. Er. Well. Uh. Next month? If you read my most recent post you get the basic idea. It's a whirwind of performance interpreting right now and that's good and fun. But is not conducive to down time. No performances next month! Time to rest up and rejuvenate for March with two plays and some awesome poetry recitation. So - no. Still working on it.
  • More quality time with my partner. Check! Could still use more of this - but we're working on it. We're both creative and at least partially self-employed. She is working on promoting her book, teaching art classes, art coaching, preparing for upcoming art retreats and has her therapy practice, as well. So, it's not just me. But we've had a date a week, which is an improvement. So, yes.
  • Time with friends? Yes, some. Want even more, but working on that, as well and some positive change.
  • Being present? Check. Yes. I'm actually doing really well on this one and it's good. Not always easy; sometimes I'd rather check out or go to the wha'-me-worry?/head-down-plow-through mode, but I don't. I am present and keep with what is happening and get through it just fine. Imagine that! And without any major anxiety issues. Yay.
So - as we near the end of the first month of 2013, I'm doing pretty well on those intentions. I'm riding a creative wave and that feels good. So rather than fuss about not having enough time for writing, I will enjoy the writing time I do have and enjoy the performance interpreting time and go with the ebb and flow of my two major creative adventures. And keep on with the Wii and increase the pool time as I can, and add in some outdoor adventures as things more in a more temperate weather direction - which is a ways off yet.
Good. Good for me.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Day in the Creative Life

Today was a very creative day. One I wondered how I would make it through when I was looking ahead on Tuesday. And then one email arrived requiring attention and I fell behind. The next day another email I couldn't ignore and needed to do something about.

Requests for time I didn't have and I already had work from the two writers in my Monday writing group which were awaiting feedback which I had glanced at but barely begun.

And notes to put down about the Saturday workshop I'm leading so they weren't just hanging in my head, where they could get lost in the flurry of activity.

A blog post to write for one theater company and reminder to send out about this week's interpreted performance.

My own writing left waiting untouched until ... what? Until there is time? Until after I have a chance to breathe a little and then I can tackle my own words for my own book.

So that's where I am.

I woke up this morning with this big day ahead. A new approach planned and I wasn't quite sure how it was all going to come together.

It did.

I did my workout first thing in the morning, after a few almonds to quiet my hungry but not ready to eat tummy. I made a cup of tea in the microwave which would be heavily steeped, just as I like it, when I was done with my workout.

Then a light breakfast and a shower and...

Off to a performance of the play I'm interpreting next week. Wait?!? But I was interpreting another play tonight.

Yes. And with the timing of these two plays, I needed to see the other one today because tomorrow night I'm doing a "sign-thru" for the sign coach and I needed to see the play one more time before that. 

My confidence was boosted after the matinee. I have this character down and I know the play and I'm nearly ready. I need the Deaf eyes and the feedback and discussion about some interpreting choices - but I'm ready and know the story.

Then I went home and had a very healthy and light vegetable and cottage cheese lunch. And went upstairs to write the blog post and go over tonight's play again - to wrap my head around "The Road to Mecca" and let go of the story of James Beard just for tonight.

And I did.

I also sent out a reminder email to the workshop participants.

Tonight's interpreted performance went really well. We were ready. We both knew the show and had our characters and our interpretations down and we work well together; it was good.

Now here I am at home, catching up just a little. I'm taking a break from feedback at the moment.

And life feels very good right now. And creative.

Theater. Writing. Mentoring. And more theater. More writing. True that I haven't worked on my own book yet today - but I will do that this weekend; perhaps even a little tomorrow.

This was a good day.

Write In Portland: Write to Publish: Write What You Know tickets are ...

Write In Portland: Write to Publish: Write What You Know tickets are ...: Portland State University’s Ooligan Press is excited to announce its fifth annual Write to Publish conference, to be held February 23rd, 2...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Power of a Personal Note

Yesterday I wrote about some changes I'm making in my writing, in my life, in being true to myself and my goals.

And that is good.

Today I received a note from a writer I had the pleasure of sharing some time with in the Literary Kitchen.

Recently she'd posted a note in our secret Facebook writing group asking for addresses of other writers from the online classes/groups. I was curious and sent her my address.

Today a card and a personal note arrived. It's lovely and perfect and it's made and written by hand.

A simple and perfect message.

Congruent with my post and my being.

Just what I needed.

Thank you, Sailor, and thank you, universe, for helping keep me in alignment.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mixing it up

I decided to take a break from my regular online writing group this time around. The facilitator is awesome and her prompts are excellent story starters, and her feedback is great. I've been doing it for a number of years and I have done several in-person writing workshops with her, as well. So it has nothing to do with her or with the other writers - many of whom are also frequent flyers in the Literary Kitchen.

It has to do with me.

My last time in there, my writing was slow and it became a chore. I wanted to give more feedback than just the minimum requirement, but that was all I had time to do. Most of my writing was for the assignments and I wasn't working on revisions of the two books in progress, I wasn't sending out much work. And I was feeling frustrated that I wasn't doing more.

So I decided to step back from the Kitchen and shake out my writing self and see what else I needed to do.

I joined a writing group, which made immediate changes the week I attended. I wasn't sure the group was for me with the new changes, but was willing to give it a try. I missed the second meeting because I was sick. And there were more changes to the group, including two of the originators dropping out.

Yesterday this group met and I went. This is a small group, now three of us, but I think we've got a nice plan which we're testing out. And it is what I need, I hope, although it's a little different than what I had envisioned. Again, I'm willing to try it and we'll reassess the plan over the next few months.

I can feel it working already. Just today I made more progress on one of the books than I have in the last two months. Having a deadline to submit a certain number of pages/words to others may work. We're starting with just our small group to see how this goes. We may add another person later, but we're being careful to not overwhelm ourselves; we all have other interests and responsbilities, too. We're trying a hybrid of online and in-person gatherings.

I also registered for a one-day writing mini-conference on Saturday, January 26th. I'm very excited about that, as well. (You can check back in my post archives for that information or search online. It's "Making it in Changing Times" put on my Jessica Page Morrell.) That looks like a nice boost and another change of pace for my writing self.

I've also stepped up sending out submissions. I've stepped up exercise - by buying a Wii for home, including Wii Fit which is so much fun! I bought Zumba dance, as well - but that one is hard and I need to take more time with it; the first time I tried I tweaked my back a little so it was back to the easy yoga, stretching, aerobics and balance games and exercises of Wii Fit. Tomorrow I'm also returning to swimming, from which I had to take a break because of an ear infection and then three rounds of the nasty cold/sinus illness which was circulating.

So, all in all, things are looking good. I have a new writing plan and it feels good. I've found some fun ways to exercise which can fit with my schedule. And the performance interpreting preparation workshop series is going really well.

Sometimes I need to change things up a bit to get a different result. I'm going to be exploring that a little bit. I know that sometimes having a routine, something familiar can help with productivity, but for me I needed something new. Like that saying which goes something like, "if you want to keep getting the same results, keep on doing what you're doing."

Maybe that's it - I wasn't happy with my results so I knew I needed to change what I was doing.

How do you know it's time for a change? Or know that it's a rough patch and you need to just keep at it?

Where is your line between the familiar or the new?

Friday, January 4, 2013


This post is dedicated to my friend, A.S.L.. To my signing friends, no, I'm not talking about the language ASL, but a person whose initials are ASL.

My friend and I met up for coffee and a snack last month. It had been a really long time since we'd gotten together and much had changed. Some of it I knew and some of it I didn't know. And all of it was fine - we've been friends for, wow, about 18 years or so. So we can go for spells of not getting together, sending random text messages or inquiries of schedules but not seeing each other. And it's all good.

We'd planned to get together last week since it was a slower work week for both of us. But life happened. Then this thing and that thing and pretty soon it was about to cross over into this week, so we decided we'd probably get together on Thursday. Which was yesterday.

And we did. After work and errands I went over to his place for a homemade dinner (yum - thank you!) and I brought a bottle of wine and a salad. We talked and ate and talked a lot, drank the wine, some coffee and moved to the other room and talked and drank the coffee and talked, and then it was later and we had a glass of port and talked and talked. And very soon it had gone from being 8 pm to being 3 am.

It felt so good to hang out with him. Eat real food. Drink wine and coffee. And talk. I've missed that.

We talked about relationships and work and film and writing and theater and children and radio and politics and so much more.

And we talked about the future.

Which may include a blog for him and I hope so. He has so much to say and I think he's worth listening to. I hope he does it; the world is listening.

A.S.L. - are you there? This one, sans graphic, took about 8 minutes. See? It is possible.

Thank you for the dinner and conversation and the candlelight.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

So, here we are, in 2013

I feel like I've been rather silent over the holidays. I contemplated various topics to write about: inspirational, insightful, or my more typical meandering and random. I did manage to write a little bit about Solstice and, thanks to Gretchin and Sven I posted a fun video on the 24th.
So here it is on the first day of a new year and I thought I'd check in.
I won't be listing resolutions for the coming year. I won't reflect on the year that just ended, either. I can look back through my posts on The Writing Vein or check my Facebook Timeline and see what I highlighted throughout the year - not that those are everything which happened nor that those were necessarily the most important things. But those two places do hold some keys to what happened in me in the year 2012, which is now behind us.
I don't make resolutions because they feel like a set-up and, if it is something worth doing, then I will just do it. And not just because I decided at the beginning of a new year to try something new or to renew or whatever. I've learned that sometimes things happen in life over which we have little to no control. So flexibility and balance are what's needed and, for me, it's better to just do the right thing because it's what feels right for me and what makes sense, rather than promising to do something which could be arbitrarily interrupted. Those who know me in the physical world (or what friend Steve Nail recently called the "meat world" - thanks, Steve!) know that I like to keep my commitments. So, I don't make resolutions.

I do set intentions.

My intentions are few but strong:
  • to renew my writing schedule, including focused editing on both the novel and the memoir;
  • to find physical activities which are also fun and varied enough to fit my schedule and interests (to which I can say I am off to a great start with the new Wii, including Wii Fit with the balance board; will also include hiking when the weather is a little better, and hopefully kayaking again);
  • to maintain some true down time in my schedule (pajamas til 5pm kind of days);
  • to spend more quality time with my partner;
  • to spend more time with friends - talking, writing, hiking, creating, bicycling, eating or drinking wine, and more;
  • to be present.

It's 2013. I remember when that seemed very far into the future, so far that I couldn't really imagine it, other than in a Piers Anthony or Ray Bradbury kind of way. But here we are.

Goodbye, 2012. You weren't the worst of years and I can say there were some good things. But there were also some trials and bumpy moments which I'm glad to have resolved and behind me.

So, welcome, 2013. May we be good friends and travel smoothly along a creative and innovative path.

Happy writing, painting, sculpting, dancing, filmmaking, business endeavors, and a good life filled with health and prosperity for all.

Happy 2013.