Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cross Pollination: Art and Writing

Detail from Heart Connection mixed media by Dot.
Writers write and visual artists make things.


But aren't we more than just the primary label we apply? Or what is applied to us?

I think we are. I had a wonderful discussion over brunch today with three artists. One of them, my partner, recently had a book published. She doesn't identify as an author - yet she is that, now, too. The other two artists are artists and teachers. And one of them was talking about how she has written articles and a piece for another artist friend's book. The third artist described a wonderful project for a workshop he did a number of years ago which included a story he wrote.

And I know authors who take art breaks. No, a better description might be authors who also make art as inspiration or as a different creative focus when they need to step back from the writing piece they're currently working on.

So artists also write and writers make art.

What about you?

What is your primary artistic identity? What other artistic pursuits do you enjoy or do you use for relaxation, inspiration, meditation, percolation? What other avenues do you use as a break or focus for your creative endeavors (cooking, walking, swimming, biking, floatation tanks, meditation, reading, or...)?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lesson in Re-making, in Re-vision

In order to get to the heart of the story, the darlings have to go. Mixed metaphors, I know. But I can't "kill my darlings" - not necessarily because I can't let them go, but because there aren't many of them in the book. There are some good sentences, uses of language which I will keep. These are based on my own sense of what is working and what isn't, as well as feedback from writing friends and writing group partners. But I'm not finding that many of them. If they're not working, then they're not "darlings," right?

And I've already written about getting to the heart of the story. You know. Daily heart practice. Vertical reading. Finding the power, truth, energy. There's been a new development in that arena, which I will save for a little later; it's too new to share and the work is being integrated.

So right now I'm looking for those nuggets to keep. I'm taking the manuscript and whittling it down to the armature, or the outline, or whatever it turns out to be. There is energy and humor and entire stories missing. And feelings. Yes, feelings missing; except for one story where the absence is deliberate, though I need to work on firming up other parts of that chapter so that it doesn't look like sloppy or unskilled writing.

It's almost like starting over. But not from scratch. From ideas and sketches and new imagery and energy.

Re-vision. Re-make.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

On Revision

On Memorial Day weekend I attended a workshop by Lidia Yuknavitch in Port Townsend. It did what I hoped - shook things up and gave me some new perspectives. I know, I've written about this a bit before.

But tonight I was looking through my notes from the workshop and writings from weekend and found some quotes. One stood out.

See, I'm working on the memoir and there was a particular story I want to submit to the writing group. I was looking for a piece of that story I wrote in the Port Townsend workshop - from a new perspective, with new energy.

The Lidia quote I found : "stop th. inking about it as revision, think of it as remaking."

This is what I'm doing. Revising. But I like thinking of it as remaking. Because what I've realized is that my revision is, truly, rewriting. Some things will be kept. But much it may be scrapped down to the bones - the backbone, perhaps, of the story. More than a simple outline and maybe not much more.

But I've realized that to get to the energy of the story - to get to the heart of the story - some of it needs more than just revision. It needs, as Lidia named it, remaking.

I've also heard that a writer should be prepared (sometimes?) to throw out the entire draft. Recently I was talking to someone who completed an MFA not too long ago and she said the most important thing she learned was that you have to throw the first book out and start over. Wow.

So that's where I am. Maybe not throw it all out. But trim it down and maybe cut it out and paste it into a storyboard. Put it with the throughline from the weekend. And remake it, word by word.

Daunting? A little. But I know this is what I need to do.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Powerhouse Workshop

I am delighted to say that today I registered for an amazing workshop in October. I heard about the workshop the weekend I was up in Port Townsend for Lidia Yuknavitch's workshop and knew that I would sign up as soon as I could ... and I did. It is up at Port Townsend, again, through The Writer's Workshoppe.

I am excited, energized, and, oh, I already said excited.

There isn't even a full description of the workshop available yet and I don't care.

The reason? Here is the reason:


  Oct 5th and 6th, 2013
"We know! We are as thrilled as you are!

Description to be announced soon, but let’s just say this weekend will blow the top of your head off and set your writing on fire. Yes, you can sign up now. $300. This workshop will be limited to 32 participants divided into 2 groups. You will have Lidia Yuknavitch one day and Dorothy Allison the next day. On Saturday night we will have a reading with BOTH OF THEM. "

'Nuf said, right?

I also reconnected with a friend at another friend's wedding on Sunday - who is a writer, among the long list of other talents she has (massage therapist, artist, and more). We discovered that we live about nine blocks from each other. She has a major piece of writing on-hold-in-the-works and we talked about setting up some writing dates. Times where we show up to just write. To support and write. Scheduling may be a challenge but how many times have you read those words in my writing? Many, I know.

I'm writing. Writing is "in the field" so to speak. Creativity is flowing.

And I got a seat with Lidia and Dorothy!

Call me smiley.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fighting the Demons #1


There may only be one in this series of posts. Which makes it not a series, I know. But I do know there is more than one demon battling for time and attention so there is the possibility of writing more than one piece with this title. So I might as well start with #1, right?

This is my way, today, of breaking through the barrier to writing. To write. Just do it. Though I'm not writing on the memoir at this moment, it is forward movement, words coming out through my hands. Writing.

Today the undertow is financial. A harder financial hit than I had originally projected due to a change at my part-time job. A hit from something which has no relationship to how well I do my job, to how much of a team player I am, to how much I follow the rules meet the statistics smile and say thank you or my excellent job performance reviews. It's not even a change in how many hours I work - though that threat is always there on the table and could happen without warning. As this did.

It was a small change and a frustrating process which led to it. And I have to say again that it had nothing to do with job performance and meeting standards and doing my part and more. (And it wasn't just me.)

This one little change has not been so little on the paychecks. Today the second significant reality of that change was realized and the cumulative effect is greater than expected.

But the demon is, again, money. Time and money because when you work part-time for yourself and you work part-time for someone else without benefits or guarantee of hours, time is money. I hate that phrase.

I really hate that phrase because time is also what I need to write. Time is what I need to sleep. To organize things in the house. To read. To go to a movie the theatre dance performance the park walk swim. To do nothing to write to edit revise to write.

The danger in this demon is that at times in the past I have filled my schedule with work to escape the finance demon and I won. But then the writing the doing nothing the sleeping the reading fell silent and my body screamed.

No - let me back up. The demon isn't money - that's the mask it's wearing today. The demon is feeling that I have to do more be more prove my worth. Today it was triggered by being devalued and brushed aside by a system over which I have no control and which does not consider the impact on the individuals only on the system as a whole.

No. I'm not going into more details on what happened. Really, that's irrelevant. It's a corporation thing. And the one I work for is no different. Those of us with a brain are always wary of that proverbial other shoe. This wasn't that.

And just now, as I was looking through my notes on the memoir project I found an earlier note to myself. A reminder I needed to see today: to "keep positivity on my radar" and to "let go of aggravation and despondency." And the phrase I was using in my daily practice at the time, "I am positive and realistic about my good financial situation." This is not an airy fairy lalaland ignore reality chant. Rather, it's a note to my self that it will work out. It has worked out in the near twenty years I've been an interpreter; this is no exception. It's not even a setback except in the moment and the moment will pass.

The demon of self-doubt in the mask of money. Ah, yes, familiar.

Not today.

I won't go into the black hole today. Besides, I'm meeting with my new writing group in half an hour.

See? The demon is, again, vanquished.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Next Big Thing Authors' Blog Hop

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop” was created by writer and poet Zoe Brooks in August 2012 on She Writes

What is the working title of your book?
"Out of the Frying Pan." This is only the working title and has been since the project came into being. I am doing major revisions so have not landed on the actual title yet.

Where did the idea come from for the book?It emerged from several writing exercises in weekend intensives and online workshops with Ariel Gore in The Literary Kitchen. As the stories started to appear on the page before me, I realized there was a book in there somewhere!

What genre does your book fall under?
Memoir - creative non-fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I don't have actors in mind for the movie rendition of this story. But I do know who I would want to direct the movie : Jane Campion. I would trust her decision in choosing the actors best suited for the characters and the story. I don't think there would be a role for Holly Hunter, but I could be wrong. Wait! I take that back - I can think of one. But I will leave it up to Jane Campion.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
This is the story of how a young woman learns to open her own doors, and by the end, she also knows how to close them.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
That is yet to be decided. I would love for a publisher to pick it up and I have a handful I'd like to reach out to. But I'm open to the possibility of self-publishing. I know that memoir can be a hard genre to jump into in terms of traditional publishing.

How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first draft? That's hard to say what constitutes the "first draft." If I look at when I thought I had the 1st first draft done, I'd say about two years from first story to everything ordered and written and in a binder. But then when I had an actual first draft, ready to give the whole manuscript over to someone for editing feedback on the piece as a whole? I'd say it was nearly three years. Now, I have new insights, with some exciting changes which are going to make it sing, so the fourth or so draft is on its way. But the first draft, the real first draft, was nearly three years in the writing.

Who, or what, inspired you to write this book?
Ariel Gore. Blame her. I do, with a smile. Ariel and the various other Wayward Writers and The Attic workshop participants, and other writing partners and critique group members who have inspired me, given feedback, shared their own work. And Lidia Yuknavitch, who helped me find the missing key for this book. Also Bonnie Hearn Hill, who encouraged and supported my writer self, even during the years we lost contact. To be completely honest, I didn't set out to write a memoir. I was writing short stories and some poetry; I'd written for newsletters, some articles, other non-fiction. My intent was a novel (and I do have one of those in the works, too). But the memoir was born of its own insistence and it's nearing its release into the world.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
This is a story about putting one foot in front of the other to get through each day, each stage of life, each change. Of pretending you know what you're doing but making it up as you go. It's about trusting those who say they care even when it hurts, even when it's a lie, even when you know it's a lie. It's about being the tallest girl in school, with ringlet curly red hair, glasses and freckles, who likes to write, until you can't. Until even you are telling lies. It's a story about growing into a woman who thinks she's escaped but finds herself feeling eerily similar to what she left. It's about finding the door to get out.

painting by Serena Barton

You can read one chapter, The Shotgun and the Peacock Feather, which was recently posted on The Literary Kitchen.
Thank you to Jenna Zine for tagging me for "The Next Big Thing!"

Up next in this line will be Deb Scott and Rooze Garcia (links to come later) - and maybe a couple of other authors I've contacted to tell us about their recent or upcoming projects!