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.
Ellen 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?
a sexy novel, length of a kindle single (tentatively called Unwieldy Soul. No one likes the title.)
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
use of bullets
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.
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?”
“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.
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.”
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.
But if I had to live on an deserted island, I know I’d have to take one more thing — sunscreen. Because my dermatologist would yell at me more than she already does if I showed up at my twice-yearly appointment with even more sunspots.
In terms of non-things on my island, (in addition to my immediate family, of course), I’d also want to take my book club and my writing class because we never seem to run out of things to say about what we write or read.
I’d also like to take Manhattan to my desert island because it is a treasure trove of beauty, especially on a foggy day like today.
Man, today was bea-ut-i-ful — so perfect for a bike ride through Central Park. Scroll down for a few more pics.
On a writerly note, I was going to post a memoir piece about my Norwegian grandmother that I wrote in the my Monday night writing group, but suddenly it felt too personal. Any way, come to a writing workshop if you want more personal writing. Check out the workshops at: http://www.bootcamp4writers.com/
I have loved my job for so many reasons for so many years. Just because you love someone or something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let it go. Like parenting. My kids want to go to camp or on school trips. I love them but let them go.
Without going into all the deets, my workplace has offered a voluntary severance package to everyone. And I’m taking it (effective within the next couple of months).
Sometimes work grows around you like a vine in a tropical rain forest, hitting the top layer and you’re still on the forest floor. Or sometimes work’s part of the undergrowth. And you’re reaching for the sky.
According to the internet, (which we all know is NEVER wrong!) there are four layers to the rain forest (and these coincide with where we are on any given day):
the emergent layer
the forest floor
I think the point of life is to grow wherever you are. Life is only about growth. Or maybe the pursuit of happiness. That’s all.
And I need to grow. And pursue my happiness. We all do.
To such an end I’m starting some projects such as offering a querying and getting published workshop in New York on August 16 in partnership with Kelly Wallace who’s offering the workshop in Portland on August 18. We’re working on the website. We’re onto something.
We’re on the forest floor or the emergent layer, continuing to grow, starting anew.
Yesterday I was studying memoir with the International Women’s Writing Guild at the National Arts Club. It was a great group of women in New York’s most beautiful brownstone.
This morning I was journaling about how much I love writing conferences and being in community with other writers. I also love Twitter chats around the hashtags #blogchat and #wjchat (web journalist).
Writing is a solitary endeavor so communing with other writers online or in person inspires and energizes me. I fill my soul with other writers’ stories and feel less lonely and more courageous when I return to my writer’s desk to write my own story.
Here is advice on attending writing conferences:
Sit in the front, pay attention
When a volunteer is called for, raise your hand
When a question is called for, have one ready
Make one friend
Tweet one quote from the speaker
Tell someone about your big secret project
Share the struggle, share the joy — be honest
I mostly took my own advice:
I sat in the back, but I paid attention
When a volunteer was called for, I read something funny about marriage and work being overrated (got some nice laughs)
I made a friend who is heading to Abu Dhabi to report from a falconer conference
I tweeted, “Writers make the invisible visible” -Eunice Scarfe #iwwg
I love IWWG women’s writing workshops because, beyond the juicy substantive information, i.e., Eunice shared a ton of unknown delicious memoirs, there is always depth, laughter and understanding among women writers.
I love when people open up — give me stories about your divorce, depression, cancer treatment, or dysfunctional childhood. And then half-way through your writing, lay it on me about how you handled the whole thing with faith, resilience, humor, or alcohol.
Better yet, write about your most embarrassing moment — the time you felt so humiliated you thought you’d never crawl back into civilized company again. You’ve got an epic fail? You’ve got an epic tale.
The stories of our struggles are the ones that will get published, get a laugh, get a tear, get a friend to open up on her crappy/crazy/resilient/hopeful life.
I’m not saying we wrote about any of these things (Maybe we did, maybe we didn’t!) at the Westport Creative Writing workshops, which I offered the last three Saturdays of August 2011 at the Heritage House.
But even if we did, I wouldn’t tell you, because the rule in my writing classes is confidentiality.
I will tell you generally what we wrote about — in the first class, among other topics, we wrote about a safe place from our childhoods; the second class, we wrote about our mentors from high school; the third class, with Hurricane Irene on her way, we wrote about riding out a storm (literal or metaphorical).
At the first class, we had 6 people, then 3, and then at the last class, 8. Hooray! It felt great. There were so many brilliant writers with brilliant life stories. It was an honor to be a part of and facilitate a creative writing experience for non-writers and professionals alike.
I believe there is something healing and transformative about writing your life story. It is sometimes unbelievable, but never never dull.
I will offer these “Story of Your Life” workshops (inspired by Dan Wakefield’s book of the same name) again.