Why Write?

I write to make sense of the world. I write because I am on the hunt to find meaning.

I write because I worry and need to reassure myself.

I write to make lists and tell myself to do tasks.

Sometimes I wonder if a woman should write as much as I do. I wonder if someone took away my keyboard — Would they tell me to get out there and get living? For me, living is writing. And writing is living. Writing is as essential as breathing. As dreaming.

Our dreams are our brains telling us stories. We need stories. We — I — write through the night.

The other night, I had a dream that I was on my phone, texting or scrolling. Scrolling or texting. I woke, feeling like I’d been cheated — you should not be on the phone when you are dreaming or writing.

Although my one writing friend is working on / writing a novel on his phone. I don’t know how the project’s going. He was swallowed into his phone and no one’s seen him for months. Maybe he will come back in a dream. Or in my writing. Like now.

When I ask myself, Why write? It is so that I, Ishmael, do not become swallowed into the big belly of the beast.

I write to find my way out of the whale.

I write my way in and my way out.

I wrote this Why I Write on 750words.com I don’t write every day, but I like looking back at what I’ve written. I like checking the boxes.
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Write to Heal Rape Culture – press release

Join Mary Beth Coudal and Sheryl Burpee Dluginski for a series of workshops to focus on healing a culture that normalizes rape and sexual violence. Through memoir and non-fiction writing exercises and discussions, participants will create hope, healing, and a new vision for a safe, fair society, in which all people can thrive without fear of harassment and assault. To support participants through the process of turning their difficult stories into art, short periods of mind-body movement including yoga and energy work will be interspersed with writing, reading, and discussion. In four bi-weekly sessions participants will receive validation, support, and feedback as they progress through four steps:

Week 1: What I Want To Say

Week 2: Telling My True Story

Week 3: Using My Story as Fuel for Personal Growth

Week 4: Using My Story to Help Heal Rape Culture

The workshop will culminate with optional participation in a public reading and/or a published collection. Additionally, writers will receive suggestions for where to submit their polished work.

This workshop series is ideal for writers of any level who would like to be part of a supportive network of people involved in the important work of speaking out about, healing from, and preventing sexual violence. Due to the potentially triggering material to be discussed, we suggest that participants have therapeutic tools and support in place to help process issues and emotions which may emerge.

A portion of the proceeds from this workshop will be donated to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.

When: Sunday, January 13 and 27 and February 10 and 24, 2019 from 10am to 12 noon

Where: Creating Health Studio, 222 East 75th Street, New York City.

Price:  $190 for all four sessions. $50 per session for less than four.

Early registration price, before 12/31/18:  $150 for all four sessions. $40 per session for less than four.

Mary Beth Coudal is a writer, teacher, and founder of the Writers Boot Camp. Sheryl Burpee Dluginski is a writer, mind-body fitness instructor, and founder of Generations Fitness and the Creating Health Studio.

For more information and to register, email Mary Beth at bootcamp4writers@gmail.com or Sheryl at sheryl.genfit@gmail.com.

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Studio Touring in the Garment District

Last night, my friend Ina invited me to visit some of the dozens (hundreds?) of art galleries in the Garment District during the Garment District Arts Festival. My nephew Girard joined us. We three were blown away by the varieties of creativity and mediums of so many artists.

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Here’s Girard at an artist’s studio where the Dutch artist is riffing on our surveillance society by surveiling on Newark’s surveillance camera.

There was so much political and personal art. I loved the beauty of it all. To be creative, you have to admire other’s creativity.

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Here I am with one of my new favorites, artist Margaret Zox Brown. I loved the color and the dynamism of her work.

Before the art touring, I fulfilled my civic responsibility by writing Postcards to Voters. I gathered with some church friends, where we encouraged random voters to vote. My assigned candidate was Jen Lunsford for State Senator in New York. I don’t know her, but having read about her, I like her! We have to keep pushing for better leaders — civil discourse. Our current political climate is abysmal. We need leaders who care more about humanity than money. We need leaders who value freedom of the press, art, equality, respect for our neighbors, the environment, integrity.

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A gathering for good — Postcards to Voters

Doing good — supporting political artists and encouraging voters — feels good. These activities restore my faith in this country. I’m grateful to be among so many upstanding citizens in New York — my friends, fellow artists and my nephew, too.

Change the Narrative

Susanne Craig, a business reporter with the New York Times, is a hero of mine. She co-authored the story that proved Trump’s folksy narrative of himself as self-made billionaire is a lie.

This investigation into the fraud and financial misdealings of our commander in chief was the first story the Times has ever published twice — one time mid-week, and then again in last Sunday’s paper. The team combed through more than 100,000 financial documents over 18 months. The eight-page story follows the charade of shady financial dealings of the Trump family.

Asked about the administration’s animosity towards the press, Craig replied, “You have a president who believes that the Bill of Rights starts at the Second Amendment.”

That being true, “Donald J. Trump is as good for the media as war is good for the economy,” she quipped.

In preparing to publish the ground-breaking story on Trump’s misconduct and deceitful practices, the Times gave the pres a month to respond. “Stories are always richer when the other side comments,” she said. However, he did not comment (or deny).

Craig cautioned us several times that sources must understand that a reporter can never induce them to give a reporter evidence. A journalist can only receive evidence if it is unsolicited.

In looking to the future, she did not refute the possibility of another financial meltdown. The current administration is “going after protections that were put in place” to safeguard the economy, like the Dodd Frank Act.

I am inspired and impressed by the work ethic of Susanne Craig. It’s clear from listening to her that all presidents should release their taxes and ‘end this charade.’ This way we will know if they are in the pocket of industries, countries, or special interests. Follow the money to find the truth.

In 2016, Susanne Craig was the recipient of the three pages of 1995 tax returns that appeared in her mailbox at the New York Times. The itemized loss of a billion dollars meant that Trump received a billion dollar gift card.

As we continue to learn news of Jared Kushner’s lack of paying ANY taxes, I am grateful for journalists who comb through arcane tax codes and pages of documents.

The truth will come out. It always does. The resilience and reporting of journalists like Craig is a gift card to the American people.

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Susanne Craig speaks to students at the School for Ethics and Global Leadership.

Investigative Reporting


Dogged determination. Facts. Empathy. Fairness. These are just some of the attributes of investigative reporter Mike Rezendes of the Boston Globe Spotlight team.

Rezendes, who began reporting on the Boston Catholic clergy abuses of children and youth some sixteen years ago, has noted a change in society of late. Back when he began, when people came forward with allegations of crimes, they were seen as shady. And they were, generally, not believed. Even children were not believed by their parents. The ‘sea change?’ “Now they’re listened to. They have credibility. That was profoundly satisfying,” Rezendes said.

Asked about the attributes of an investigative reporter, he replied, ‘Be naturally empathetic, curious, a good listener.’ He also said that, along with his fellow Spotlight reporters, he “became an amateur psychologist. When you’re a reporter you pick it up as you go along.”

He laughed when asked whether Mark Ruffalo was an apt actor to play him in the film Spotlight. He reported that Ruffalo and he, besides sharing the same initials, shared similar characteristics. (And Ruffalo might have nailed Rezendes a little too accurately.)

**

Hearing the wisdom of Rezendes and Susanne Craig, who I will write about tomorrow, at the homecoming and family weekend of the School for Ethics and Global Leadership in Washington DC, and the brilliant students who questioned them, totally inspired me. These young people and journalists have great integrity.

While I am a fast and good (humble) writer, I am not a dogged writer. I lose interest in stories that require lengthy research. I joke that my favorite parts of journalism are accepting the job and accepting the paycheck. It’s all the in-between stuff that I find difficult.

That’s not completely true, I do love interviewing people too. I like to cut through B.S. and get to what matters to people. My motto? Go deep fast.

Back to the seismic shifts in the betterment of society from the reporting of Rezendes and Craig — I believe that there is a sea change of honesty and empathy emerging in our national conversations. I have hope that my fellow civilians will treasure the work of the press the way I do.

Asked about how they respond when naysayers call the media ‘fake’ or deny the facts, Rezendes said, “Get the documents. Get the proof. Push for evidence.”

Regarding his own reporting on the institutional abuse of children by the Boston clergy, he said, “I wanted to be as fair as I could be…I’m a paid skeptic.”

As Noah Bopp, founder of the School for Ethics and Global Leadership, said at the outset of this panel, “Our ethos is to be empathetic.”

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From left, Reporters Susanne Craig, Mike Rezendes, interviewer Valeria Gonzalez, and School for Ethics and Global Leadership founder Noah Bopp at the homecoming weekend.

Writing Weekend

Jostled by the Amtrak, I was heading home from the Adirondacks. It was the first time I offered one of these long writing weekends, I called my biz partner Kelly, “This is what I was put on this earth to do. I have found my purpose. It went so well.”

Yes, of course, I’ve felt this way, at other times, as a parent, writer, and teacher. But this calling — to be a writing workshop leader (facilitator? guru?) was different. I immediately felt gratification and somehow I knew by doing it, I’d changed the world for good. This was needed then.

It is needed now. Especially with the world of late. The news never seems good. For a few days next weekend, I’m looking forward to ditching my social media habit and my daily gnawing worry for the state of the union.

I need to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I need to figure out who I am and what I think and how I feel. I need to express and share this vision — small or large. About relationships or about the nation. About my peace with the past or my intentions for the future. About tuning in to the present moment — the sound of a loon calling or the lake splashing against the dock.

There are  spots still available. You are most welcome to join. Especially if, like me, you need time away to get your head, your heart, or your life together.

We are a smart, creative, compassionate group right now. Register for the Adirondack Writing Weekend here. glenburnie

A Piece of Me

I love to run to the Britney Spears song “Piece of Me.” But I haven’t been running lately.

Like Britney, everyone wants a piece of me — a piece of ass or a pound of flesh. No one seems to add to me. No one but chocolate and wine and cappuccino. They give without asking and I love them for it.

My kids want the $20s in my wallet. I’m the bank. My husband wants me to replace the ink cartridge in his printer — because now that H. has gone to college, I’m Tech Support. Yes and when H. comes home, he wants clean laundry; I’m the laundress. He also wants a dinner bigger than Trump’s ego. As for work — my writing job wants my stories written last week and at my teaching job, my students want to be entertained and given straight As.

Don’t they all know I could be fricken’ Hemingway if only I had the time?

Well, let them extract their pound of flesh, I could use to lose a few pounds. But take from my hips, not my brains or heart. Not my wallet. Go ahead, take. I still have a lot to give. I am not a placemat. Do I mean doormat? In any case, I am not a mat that you put dirty dishes or dirty boots on.

I am a doily — a small, pretty, lace thing. Delicate and grandmotherly. I survive this period of my life because someday, I’ll be a grandmother. By then, maybe my kids will no longer pick my wallet or expect a meal or clean laundry. They will see in me the things I am really good for. And do really well. Play. Tell stories. Make jokes. Sing silly songs. Write poetry. Walk (not run) in the park. Sit on a park bench.

I do look forward to growing old and returning to my childhood. A second childhood when no one extracts a pound of flesh.