Alone this Summer

At the beach association #huntington #longisla...
I went away to Southampton this weekend with a girlfriend and the weekend before I was in Huntington with my book club. How lucky am i?

I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks. And I’ve put Facebook on the back burner.

I’ve been rethinking my confessional writing.  It’s a relief and a release to write honestly about my life – writing helps me with my struggles and shows me that I’ve got resilience. Besides, as I’ve said, the more honest I get, the more readers I get.

But I do wonder if I have gotten what I needed from blogging and personal essay writing. And what is that? Money? Attention?

I have written about:

  • my struggles with marriage to a chronically ill spouse;
  • my desire to not spoil my kids in an age of helicopter parents;
  • my business lift-off and sometimes my business failures;
  • my beautiful New York City places;
  • my advice for writers, bloggers, creatives.

But life’s gotten busy.

For this one week, I’m deliciously alone.

My family’s been blown to the winds. My son is in Botswana. My daughters are at camp in Vermont. My husband and his brother, who also has Parkinson’s (my husband diagnosed 12 years ago and his brother a couple years before that, I believe) are traveling together — on a fishing trip to Canada.

As for work, I’ve had a wonderful client for whom I’m cranking out the work — blogging for them and totally pleased to put in a bit more time now and then.

I’ve had a crazy art handling job. This job would make an excellent sitcom – the curator and fellow art handlers are so funny and fun. Art handling means that I’m the grunt who puts up and takes down art for two art galleries — the treasure room and the lobby of my former office building. So, ya, pretty much lately, the people I used to sit in conference rooms with are the ones who occasionally walk past me as I’m working with the maintenance staff. Of course many stop and chat. And then I’ll feel guilty for not doing the art handling, and instead, schmoozing on the job. (Well what job does not benefit from schmoozing?)

I’ve also really been trying to put in an hour and a half a day (or three pomodoros (25 minute work blocks)) on a sexy, short novel. More about this at a later date. And for this stick-to-it-iveness on the languishing novel, I thank my coworking chum, Patty Golsteijn, over at Minimal Switch

In any case, for this one week, my immediate family is unreachable. And I’ve toyed with the idea of giving up my smart phone entirely. (Or maybe just checking in on it a little bit.)

In July:

  • I want to embrace my solitude;
  • Become more spiritual;
  • Work out;
  • Finish my novel;
  • Ride my bike;
  • Reassess my social media habit.

I want my social media to work for me. And I’m not sure how to recofigure my writing for the web, my websites.

In the meantime, let’s face it, I also just want to have fun. (Thanks, Cyndi Lauper!)

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Maya

Ah, Maya, I never knew you. But you knew me. You spoke to me and valued me. You valued us all, enough to invoke us to tell our stories. You held yourself so regally. You made it okay to be a performer, an artist, a writer, a teacher, a mother, a friend. To be creative and public in so many outlets.

At times, I have felt, I am too many things. I should be only one. But you showed me that we contain multitudes. Besides that, we shared the same birthday – April 4.

I felt in you, a kinship. Your words inspired me. Your poetry, essays and advice.

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou

“I don’t think there’s such a thing as autobiographical fiction. If I say it happened, it happened, even if only in my mind. I promised myself that I would write as well as I can, tell the truth, not to tell everything I know, but to make sure that everything I tell is true, as I understand it.”

“The best candy shop a child can be left alone in is the library.”

“We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans — because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings.”

Shooting into the light at the end of the day ...
Shooting into the light at the end of the day #goldenhour #adirondacks #amwriting via mbcoudal

It is in this candy shop, in this exploration, that I have ventured forth, offering my writing, encouraging others to write. I only want to hear stories. And to tell stories. And to get at some truth.

I believe stories live on. That the story teller disappears but that the truths remain.

And when you die, somehow you are home. “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” (This was one of Angelou’s tweets — so awesome that she embraced twitter – a forum for poets or pundits, snarky or sincere.)

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Getting to Why

Writers working on their stories at the first writing weekend at Skenewood.
Writers working on their stories at the first writing weekend at Skenewood.

When Kelly and I started boot camp for writers almost two years ago (wow!), Felicity Fields, web developer and marketing guru, told us to watch this Start with Why, Ted Talk by Simon Sinek.

Sinek’s point was that you need to frame your business so that the why, or purpose, is clear to your customers. The purpose of Apple is not just to offer great computers, but to challenge the status quo. People dig that.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

What is the ‘why’ of boot camp for writers, our writers’ collective?

  • to build a writing community
  • to disrupt your life
  • to tell difficult stories
  • to make the story of your life a hero’s journey.

Since starting this biz, tbh, (to be honest), I’ve hardly made any money. Maybe because I’ve been offering free Meet Ups or the cost of the space sinks me or maybe it’s just that I’ve valued building creativity over building capital. They say it takes three years to be profitable in a new business venture. Most of my income’s come from my freelance writing, teaching and videography work since I left my day job,

I still believe in my biz. When I come home from offering a writing weekend or an evening workshop, I think, wow, that was great, this business is much-needed. I have a why.

So here’s your why — join boot camp for wrtiers: be a part of a community; disrupt your life; tell your story; and give your narrative a purpose. Know that you are the hero of your journey, not the victim of your circumstances.

We can talk more about this over coffee on an Adirondack chair in the morning watching the sun rise over Lake Champlain. Or over a glass of wine as the sun sets off of the patio. Come to the beautiful Adirondacks mountains. May 29 to June 1. There are still a few private rooms left in this 10-bedroom manor house.

house
The Adirondack retreat is held in this beautiful 100+ year old house in Westport on Lake Champlain, NY.

Full weekend including private room: $530, all meals, lodging and pick up from the Westport, NY Amtrak train station. Register at: Adirondack Writing Weekend.

Here’s a video from the first fall writing retreat for writers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYKWfbgd6nU And here are pictures of the historic manor house where we will write and dine. Visit: http://www.vrbo.com/382611.

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Wordless Wednesday

This morning I felt so downhearted when I saw the snow.

downhearted

But I rode my bike. I met my friend Barbara for breakfast. I led a writing workshop. I met some colleagues about meaningful work.

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And I saw this awesome play I Remember Mama tonite at the Transport Group Theatre — 10 older women play 25 roles. These pics are from the set. 20140416-230122.jpg

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So, despite the snow, it was a good day after all.

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Blog Tour: My Writing Process

solaceEllen Wade Beals at Solace in a Book invited me to join this blog tour. The idea is that I answer a few questions about my writing process and then introduce you to some new bloggers who might, next week, answer these same questions. And so it goes.

1) What am I working on?

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

  • use of bullets
  • humor
  • emoticons ;0
  • lack of proper punctuation and capitalization

I think I am known for my honesty. I have a tendency to be a little dramatic and a little funny.

I am pretty loose with my style. I believe that we should all push ourselves into dangerous terrain when we write. I’ve several times led a workshop called Dangerous Writing. I find the best essays show some break through, humiliation, self doubt, and ultimately, resilience. Yes, grit.

3)     Why do I write what I do?

I write to figure out what i think.

I write because I need a lot of attention. My husband is an actor who has Parkinson’s and well, he’s a fabulous person, and he needs attention too. And honestly, I know this is not true, but there are times I do not feel my life (or work) is as important as his.

And since I feel sidelined by my marriage or my husband’s illness, writing puts me back on the field as a star player, if only to myself. I love sports metaphors and am slightly athletic. But I love metaphors because they are visual. I am a visual thinker and a team player.

Inevitably, when I’ve felt like stopping this blog, someone tells me — at the checkout line in the grocery store or at a party for a school event — that she reads my blog and is inspired by it.

And people tell me they like my pictures (all taken with my iPhone 4S). And that keeps me going. That real life connection feeds me.

4)     How does your writing process work?

  • I journal every morning, a la Artist’s Way, before the kids get up
  • I write right after the kids leave for school
  • I use the pomodoro technique. I set the timer on my phone for 25 minutes, let nothing interrupt me, do my work, stretch for 5 minutes. Then I do that again. And again.

I learned the pomodoro technique at my fabulous coworking space, New Work City. I get a lot of support there for my business. I like being accountable to my coworkers about my goals.

my writing business

I started this coaching-of-writers biz last year. I’ve offered dozens of workshops and weekend retreats. I’m giving it a good go. But as my spring meeting with my accountant creeps up on me, I am forced to face the reality: the business has brought in very little money to our household.

Last night one of my daughters asked me, “Isn’t it time you go back to work?” The kids think that they liked when I worked, but they forget how much they complained when I traveled for work.

I told her, “I’m doing so much and making some money too — substitute teaching, tutoring, videography, corporate blogging.”
“But that’s not from your writing workshop business?”
“That’s true.”
“And you’re not making as much as you used to make?”
“That’s true,” I agreed. “But look, I went to almost every one of your swim meets. I couldn’t have done that when I worked. And it’s been priceless.”

And so there it is. I write because I need the attention. I’m trying to promote my biz. And I’m trying to entertain, inspire, learn about myself, and show my own and my family’s resilience.

– m ;b

P.S. Let me introduce you to three bloggers, who might keep this blog tour rolling next week. They are writers I know and love IRL (in real life). I love their honesty and their integrity. I love their grit.

Next stops on the blog tour might be:

Xavier Trevino – We are friends from Charles’s class. He says:

I started this blog about a year ago. I wrote one or two posts and got one or two visitors for the first four months, then I sort of lost my job and had more time (and things) to write about. In April of last year I started writing more posts and getting more readers, and I settled on writing two posts a week, Tuesdays and Saturdays. Since then I’ve written 106 posts and gotten almost 5,000 views.

Some posts do very well, some are hardly looked at. Some are shared on facebook, or reposted on other people’s blogs.

I’ve always written, and I guess I have to describe myself as a former drug abuser who works as a doorman and writes.

Wendy Karasin – We are friends from a women’s once-a-month writing group. Wendy worked in educational publishing, taught, and raised four children as a single parent. She says, “Losing my parents in relatively close proximity profoundly changed my life. And that’s the subject of my memoir, Passing Through.”

She says:

I have a distinct and hearty laugh that once heard is not soon forgotten. My mother used to say among a million people in China, she could locate me by my laugh. Curious, happy and responsible; conscientious, educated and playful – all wrapped up in a blogging, baby boomer. Love reading, writing, cats, yoga, kindness and connection.

And then, my brilliant biz partner Kelly Wallace. She has a lot of projects; here’s one:

working on a memoir tentatively titled “The Yellow Blanket” a manuscript about her experience as a child sexual abuse survivor and rejection by her entire paternal family system. The story opens with eight year old Kelly on the witness stand testifying in court against her grandfather. The focal point of the story focuses on the rejection Kelly experienced by her entire paternal family and her father’s legally aiding her grandfather’s defense team.

Excerpts from Kelly’s The Yellow Blanket are available here: http://atticinstitute.com/node/896and here: http://atticinstitute.com/node/1450

I am on Canal and Broadway - in the middle of ...
This is near New Work City, on Canal and Broadway. I’m standing in the middle of the street – looking for the M5 bus – “love me” #nyc
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Tending Twilight

the day darkens. i get too tired. i find the housework oppressive.

i ask for help, then don’t want it. like in the decluttering. i don’t know why it bothered me. what to do with the tapes from my old show? leave me alone.

Today #snowday #gopark #riverside #park #urban...
Snow day in Riverside Park via mbcoudal

the snow — more of the same color of the same grey sky.

i like when the sky is a crisp blue, like today. then i can forgive the weather gods. i can go on. but when dark and grey, i want to stay in bed. i have only a few weeks left of winter. i would like them to be azure blue.

i would like blue sky days. but after all the grey — why is grey so like death?

i go to Florida — old people, malls, alligators.

for a few days, i sleep in a twin bed, and laugh with Nicole and my brother, (and dad and Marty). we talk about creativity.

Tonite at the lower school #sunset #riverdale ...
Lower school sunset in Riverdale via mbcoudal

that is the start of my spring. and that is followed by the buds on the trees in Riverside Park.

my kids get older, get away from me, find fault in me, our apartment, why don’t we have nicer floors?

the sun does not ask for thanks. so i try to just give light too. just do my job — mother, wife. but the endless giving becomes a chore.

sure, the sun must want a thank you. the grey day gets no thanks. for it takes my energy. it does not give. it is the negative ion. i need the positive.

the wind whips and the shadows blend into dark night. i know spring comes after winter, always taking me by surprise. then the summer. lighter, longer days of laughter, hugs.

we are destined for spring.

Laughter is the language of the soul
Laughter is the language of the soul (Photo credit: symphony of love)

I wrote this in a writing group last weekend. Here’s more writing from a blogger in the group: Wendy: the prompt that made me cry

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Teaching Trials

I am teaching a blogging workshop on Thursday night at New Work City in Chinatown. You should come, because it’s going to be awesome. And I need some support. I’m looking forward to teaching adults, because I’ve had some struggles with my middle schoolers.

I’m chagrined about my creative writing class in the after school this semester. I’ve had some challenges. And I just want the kids to write, damnit. I want them to sit quietly with pen and paper in hand and go for it. I give them great creative writing prompts, and I give them fun assignments. And we’ve gone on lovely field trips.

But still, they throw carrots at each other and scribble on each other’s worksheets. And in the last class, after a trip to Shake Shack, no less, one girl poured salt in another girl’s hair.

I don’t know if I’m not keeping my kids busy enough. Or if I am being too hard or too soft on them. I love them but I don’t understand them. And I overheard one girl tell another one that I hate her and I told her, “I don’t hate you, I love you, but I don’t like what you do.”

And it’s freakin’ after school, so it’s supposed to be fun. Let’s respect each other. And let’s get creative. Let’s write.

On my pinterest board, I reminded myself: The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways.

I try to remember that. And I do give them a lot of love.

My friend thinks I should start calling parents and washing my hands of the kids who act up. But I don’t want to give up. I have faith in these kids. They just have to write more.

If only they’d write about their lives, I know they’d know themselves better and feel better about themselves. And maybe stop goofing off.

That’s why I blog — to know myself better and to feel better about myself. And to stop goofing off.

While I am feeling unhappy about my after school teaching experience, I’m hoping that my adult students on Thursday night will be a little more manageable.

Blogging workshop at new work city on January 9, 2014

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