I’m not giving up red or white. I’m not giving up sweets, trashy TV, gossip or coffee. Been there, done that.
In fact, I might even drink more, watch more Shark Tank, eat more sweets, dish on the neighbors, and hit the latte bar.
Seriously, you know, I’m a righteous soul. I’ve got to do something for Lent.
I’m going to take up some things that make me happy:
Eating a plant-based diet*
Having people over for dinner*
*These last two were inspired by Pastor Andrew’s sermon a couple of weeks ago at Rutgers Church.
On second thought, having dinner parties may be challenging, given that I’m going to be traveling too. (My friend Barbara Wheeler-Bride just wrote an awesome blog post about one of my parties, Thank you, Mary Beth, at Busted Halo. Thank you, Barbara.)
If you want to join the decluttering challenge and do some synchronous cleaning, I can add you to a super-secret Facebook decluttering group. Just message me.
I want to blog more because I have been learning so much through starting my own business. I want what I’m learning to be useful to other people.
And why travel? Just because. I’ve been a little down this week. And travel always makes me happy. In fact, I’m writing this from beautiful Nokomis, Florida. (Thanks, Nicole and Brendan for hosting me!) Next week, the family and I will be on spring break at Circle Z dude ranch in Arizona. Then, just my son and I head to Charlotte, North Carolina to look at colleges for him.
While in Charlotte, I’m offering a really fun and creative workshop, Spiritual Journeying, with Cindy Sloan. We’ll be making collages and writing about moments from our lives. We’re offering the workshop on Sunday afternoon, March 23 at Dilworth United Methodist Church ($29). Please come and tell me what you’re giving up for Lent. Or if, like me, you are just giving up.
I just got great news. I’m going to be teaching at the International Women’s Writing Guild summer conference at Drew University. I’m going to lead a workshop on Dangerous Writing: Your Spiritual Autobiography from August 8 to 12. Yup, we’re taking our writing to the edge.
When I was 28, I wanted desperately to attend the guild summer conference, then held at Skidmore College, but my ex and I were flat broke. We were living in Inwood. He was unemployed. I was a temp. I was literally so sad that I couldn’t afford a week of writing that I lay in an empty bath tub, fully dressed and cried.
The next year I still couldn’t rub two nickels together, but by then, I was separated from my ex and willing to take risks to pursue my passion for writing.
I threw myself at the mercy of Hannelore Hahn, the founder of the guild, asking her for a scholarship and promising her that someday, as a scholarship recipient myself, I would give a scholarship to a deserving young woman writer like myself.
She agreed. For partial tuition, I happily worked the registration table.
That was, a-hem, more than 20 years ago. Off and on over the years, I’ve been able to attend the summer conference. I’m not quite yet able to give a scholarship, but I am able to give a heckuva workshop. Check back with me in 20 years.
Life’s funny, right?
Attending the guild summer workshop as an instructor is worth the wait. I’m just happy this year to be a part of it and not crying alone in the tub. (I hope!)
I have been taking a MOOC, a massive open online course, offered by MIT Media Lab. Every Monday morning, along with, like, 24,000 people, I listen to a lecture and chat on a back channel about creativity.
Last week, Alan Kay, one of the founders of the personal computer, was a guest lecturer.
“An idea is a network,” Johnson said. And this: “Chance favors the connected mind.”
I love that MOOCs spark serendipity and digressions. MOOCs are a means to an end but they are not the end. MOOCs also must ignite real life encounters.
I dig Johnson’s TED talk for he values the coffee house vibe and the slow brewing nature of good ideas. Good ideas are not a sudden AHA! Good ideas slow cook. Good ideas need many cooks to throw in stuff for the soup.
Good ideas need to get together, face to face, to ferment. I signed up for this MIT media lab with Mitchel Resnick because a real life friend Emily Miller recommended it. Honestly, I’d probably get even more out of it if I met people face to face to discuss the big ideas.
In my own way, I am doing that, trying to make IRL face time creative ideas happen. I’m putting together a slew of writing workshops and weekend retreats.
My next afternoon workshop is The Story of Your Life in Jamaica Plain, Boston, on Sunday, March 24th, 1 to 4:30 pm. ($25 registration fee goes to the food pantry.)
P.S. Here are a couple of pics of my afterschool creativity students. They took on a project I learned about on the MOOC — the spaghetti challenge!
Given 20 pieces of spaghetti, a bit of tape, and a bit of string, how tall could they make their structure and top it off with the marshmallow? You can see how kids feel pride when they make stuff and are encouraged to be creative and playful.
And you can see how the girls won the challenge! Girl power!
Kathryn Cramer, one of the workshop leaders called our writing weekend, “an unqualified success.” And George Davis, another leader, made this awesome video:
As you can see, we wrote, we ate, we talked, we wrote, we did yoga, we walked, we ate, and we wrote a little more.
On the last day of the weekend we started writing with a prompt that began, “I weathered the storm when I…”
I weathered the storm of hosting my first writing weekend. Turns out the hardest part was not the weekend, but getting home again.
It took me a couple of days to get back to New York City from the Adirondacks due to the storm known as Sandy. My Amtrak was cancelled and I relied on friends to give me lifts along the way. (I began writing this post yesterday from a comfy Holiday Inn, half-way home in Albany. I admit I enjoyed my enforced solitude, a menage a moi!)
During the storm, my fam and I stayed in constant digital contact. On the Upper West Side, we never lost electricity. But there is no replacement for real life hugging. And real life writing. And real life family.
I’m totally grateful to the family and friends (and small businesses) who helped make the writing weekend happen. While holed up in the Albany hotel yesterday, I wrote a letter to the editor thanking everyone (I hope!) who had a part.
To the editor:
In this political season, there has been a lot of talk about which political party helps small businesses the most.
After my first foray as a small business owner hosting a writing weekend in Westport, New York, I believe that no party helps a small business as much as the party of other small businesses.
Thanks to the Westport, Wadhams and Essex small business communities who fed the bodies, minds and spirits of a dozen
The writing workshop teachers, storytellers George Davis of Essex, Kathryn Cramer of Dragon Press Bookstore in Westport, Ted Cornell at Crooked Brook Studio in Westport and Joanna Parson of Letter Perfect in New York led the writers to hone the art and craft of writing stories from real life.
Thanks to artistic director Shami McCormick of the Depot Theatre and to teacher Shoshi Satloff for their support and to the entire Jones family for the setting of Skenewood, a magical place for a writing weekend.
This memoir writing weekend was my maiden voyage as a small business owner. I felt lucky to set sail and discover land in Westport, New York. Because of the work of small businesses, artists and teachers in Westport’s midst, the writers at Skenewood had a meaningful and fun time at our first Adirondack Memoir Retreat.
Mary Beth Coudal
My biggest thanks go to the noble writers who attended the weekend, willing to depart on a voyage in uncharted territories.
The art of memoir requires risk, as does the art of making a writing weekend happen.
My business coach, the awesome Mandy Gresh, was the first to call this writing weekend “my maiden voyage.” I like that.
Turns out the journey through the woods and into the writing weekend was not as fearful a journey as it could’ve been. (Though the weather in New York City was more treacherous.)
We’re tentatively planning another Adirondack weekend retreat for Artists and Writers: Talking about Setting from May 16 to 19, 2013.
Stay tuned to our website at Boot Camp For Writers for updates on writing workshops and weekends in Portland, OR and New York, NY. Which reminds me of two last thank you’s.
We do not write to be understood. We write to understand. – C.S. Lewis
This was one of the quotes from Writing for the Soul, a workshop led by Rev. Lynne Hinton in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the United Methodist Association of Communicators. She has written 14 novels. Yes, 14! Oh, to be so prolific.
Tomorrow, Nanowrimo starts so I’m hoping to write one more novel this month!
In Rev. Hinton’s workshop, we began with free writing à la Julia Cameron’s admonition in The Artist’s Way to write three morning pages — which I have been practicing for about 15 years. Every morning, I hand write three pages of brain drain. But give me free rein later in the day to tap into my unconscious and I’m, oh so happy.
Lynne gave us an exercise where we chose random words, picked like wild flowers from our unconscious, to add to word prompts, like these (but not these, exactly!):
You get the idea. We wrote our own couple of dozen words down the page on the blank lines. From our written words or the provided prompts, we made sentences on bits of paper. Then we shuffled our sentences and wrote them down in a poem format.
How fun! Our internal censor didn’t even know we were writing a poem, we were just playing around! Writing is play!
It’s impossible — at least, for me — to attend a writing workshop and not make new friends. I find the adage so true — A stranger (or a fellow writer) is just a friend I haven’t met yet.
Often in writing workshops, my friends and I drop into such a deep level of sharing that we cry when we hear each other’s work. I felt this way hearing the poems of my fellow writers, Jessica Connor, Beth Buchanan, Kerry Wood and Isaac Broune. I was blown away as they unearthed playful and meaningful poetry from their unconscious.
I am so grateful for the wisdom of fellow writers, writing teachers and my own ability to tap into my unconscious on a regular basis. Going a little crazy in my writing keeps me sane!
I’m too tired from writing. I’ve been writing all day at the International Women’s Writing Guild at Yale University. In my first class I wrote a short short story that I love and want to get published.
I’m almost too tired to tell you about something that happened in my last class — how one of the teachers was talking about how a woman from Jehovah’s Witness came to her door. “I’m rewriting the Bible,” she told the woman. “Today a Psalm. Tomorrow a Lamentation.” And then the teacher showed the evangelist the Adirondack trees ablaze in orange and red outside her window, “These are my burning bushes.”
And the class laughed. But one woman, wearing a batik dress got up. She was behind me. The teacher asked, “Are you leaving because you’re leaving or something I said?” And the woman said, “I’m of that faith. And we believe in the Bible.” She was offended. She did not believe just anyone could write or rewrite the Bible. It was very tense. A few quick words. The student said, “I believe the word can raise the dead.”
“So can my word,” said the teacher. “Can’t we all be prophets?”
“No, not like that.” They disagreed. They stood their ground. “I have to leave.” And the teacher said, “Don’t leave without a hug.” They hugged. The teacher put on a short video. After the video, the teacher said, “We mustn’t live in fear. This is what we’re up against.”
The teacher gave us an assignment to write a blessing, a praise or prayer of gratitude.
After some of us read our writing, the teacher asked for feedback on the conflict with the woman who’d left. One person said, “We all laughed when you said a Jehovah’s Witness came to your door. I feel bad about that.” Another said, “I felt like leaving too.” I said, “I avoid conflict at all costs so I was interested to see how you’d handle it.” The woman beside me said, “It would make a good story.” More than a dozen of us commented on the conflict.
Then we went back to another writing exercise: write something from the Bible from a woman’s point of view. I wrote something funny and true about Martha and Mary.