Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Figure of the Teenager

Awesome images in the video below showing "youth as a political and cultural battleground." That is why I write for whom I write.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Anita Laydon Miller discusses the MFA with me!

My friend Anita is in the process of getting her MFA degree and recently we had a conversation about our experiences. Perhaps you're considering an MFA? Perhaps this will help. Find full links to Anita and her books at the bottom of the page!

TINA: I want to know more about your MFA program. Can you tell me what it is about?

ANITA: My MFA is through Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania. It takes a few years to earn the MFA at Seton Hill. During each semester, I take a couple classes long distance. One of the classes is always writing based, so students complete at least one novel by the time they graduate--I'll probably get a few done. Twice a year, all the MFA students go to Pennsylvania for about a week. We take classes and critique each other's work and meet with our mentors. It's a great time. I missed my last residency, because I was hospitalized. It was such a bummer to miss it. 

Where did you earn your MFA? Did you learn a lot through your program? 

TINA: I went to the creative writing program at the University of Minnesota. It is a three year program and what I loved about it was the teaching assistantship. I spent three years teaching undergrads lit and comp and loved the experience. I learned a ton and much of it was about teaching. I also think workshopping in group settings where you get to hear others respond to a piece of writing that you are also engaged in critiquing is one of the most valuable learning experiences I have ever had. I really miss it now that I am writing full length books. At the time I was writing non-fiction essays. I had a lot to learn.

I am very curious about a "writing based class." Can you tell me how they work?

ANITA: I'm jealous about your assistantship component. My program doesn't offer anything like it, but I guess it would be hard to do, since I'm several states away from the university! 

The writing-based class involves writing approximately 60 pages per semester. The pages are written in increments and shared with a mentor and a couple students/critique partners. I have learned sooo much from my mentors. They've truly helped me improve my writing. I look at things I wrote before the program and cringe. My critique partners have also been great. I learn as much critiquing their work as I do reading the critiques of my work. 

Do you see any negatives about MFAs? 

TINA: And I'm jealous that you are doing the program now with your family-life and writing-life so well established! I think I would have gotten so much more out of the MFA knowing then what I know now (because I would do it again in a heartbeat!).

I guess that is what I think I missed with the program -- what it actually means to establish a writing life. I think the program really eased me toward an academic-life rather than what I needed to learn -- to write through thick and thin and to love it even when it was thin. Sometimes you have to be stupid and say things wrong and write in cliches to get to what is creative and new. But the judgement that is so inherent in academia really stopped me short of that.

Your class sort of seems to be the antithesis of what I'm talking about. Writing so much in a semester seems like it would really push you to produce and not be at all precious in your writing. It might be the antidote to the academic strain toward comparison and expected outcome.

What do you think? Are there other drawbacks you see?

ANITA: It's actually stipulated in my program that the work our critique partners see should not be "finished" can't turn in something that's already published, for example. The designers of the program want people to see the benefits of critiques. Having said that, we don't turn in junk, either. We want our mentors and critique partners to be impressed with us...because we all want that validation, don't we? 

Also, I took a module (this is basically a one-shot class) during my residency that talked about writing while living a full life. We discussed "obstacles" to writing (things like other careers, children, housework) and how to work around those obstacles. 

There is a balance that must be achieved with the MFA--listening to the critiques, but maintaining your unique voice. It's a struggle. And it's hard to hear when your writing isn't working. That's always tough. 

You sound like you miss the MFA work. Maybe you should go again. :) 

TINA: That class sounds great. Those designers are smart!

I do miss school. And it's the validation I miss. There is something so justified about having the school work to do.

The trick with the degree I hold in my hand now. You'd think I'd find justification with this MFA I earned. I finished the program, I got in, someone chose my work and yet I am not satisfied. Publication has that same draw. Validation. Suddenly writing is a real job. Someone saw enough worth in your work to put it out there in the world. But, like the MFA, publication is not going to be as validating as I expect it to be. So again there is the balance. Balancing expectation with outcome.

An MFA program is not going to make life easier for anyone but it will provide a lot of built in structure for getting the work done and getting feedback and making writing connections. All those things are valid in themselves. I would love to have that life to do over.

One of my challenges is I wasn't writing fiction during my MFA so I have taught myself a whole new genre since then. On my own. Not to mention I was going to school back when the internet was hardly anything. I envy your experience of knowing exactly what you want to do AND having the blogging established and social media to help you out. But...I have to keep moving on to the next thing: publishing my books in some shape or form and taking my teaching experience into other teaching opportunities.

 How do you balance it? You have much going on with promotion of your two eBooks, a nano novel on the way, your school work, critiquing, blogging, your column, not to mention family life which has way too many facets to count; how do you do it all?

ANITA: Regarding validation: I'm not always successful at this, but I'm learning to VALIDATE MYSELF. It's pretty simple, saying "Anita, you are awesome." I don't know why I'd want anybody else to do it, when, frankly, I'm the one I really want to hear it from. See, when I wanted to hear it from an agent or editor, it was just so that I could, in turn, tell it to myself. Now, like with epubbing, I'm skipping the gatekeeper and going right from the person who needs to send the message to the person who needs to receive it: Anita to Anita. 

Regarding doing it all: I don't. My husband helps with so much (you sound like you've got a great husband, too) and my kids are a big help. Sometimes my kids get the short end of the stick, but I tell myself that if they see me working on something that's important to me, they'll find their own passions when they're adults...things they'll want to put time and energy into. Here's the thing: I love writing. And I have days when I think I suck at it, but then there are those really wonderful days when I tell myself, "Anita, you're awesome." :) 

Good luck to you, as you find your way in publishing. And thanks for having me at your blog! 

TINA: The pleasure is all mine! I have loved your blog since way back and always benefited from your wisdom! You make an excellent point about who we really need to please with our writing. The books are better when we write for ourselves. And thank God for good husbands! And children too. You absoluteley are a marvelous working role model for them. Thanks so much for this conversation and I can't wait until I can read your YA eBook!

Check out Anita's blog, middle grade blog, and her buy page. I've read both her kids eBooks and they are totally worth the purchase (they are a bargain at 99 cents!). A Scary Good Book is a great kids mystery with an even better protagonist, perfect for those Trixie Belden lovers among us, but if you're more into aliens, laughs and high-stakes adventure, give Earthling Hero a try!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I needed to share this.

Thanks to the ever irrepressible J.
keep drawing from studio shelter on Vimeo.

Not to worry. My NaNo book is coming along roughly with many mistakes.

NaNo equals process not product.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A little bit of writing, a little bit of Gaiman, a class plug.

Have you ever seen this? It's the fabulous Neil Gaiman reading his picture book, Instructions! (I guess I don't know if I should call it an illustrated poem.) Illustrated by Charles Vess.

Writing exercise for your nano novel: After watching this, try writing the next section of your novel in second person as a set of instructions for your main character to act out. It brings your novel back to the level of thought/action beats and has the effect of fun, orderly tone where you (and by this pronoun I do mean you) are the one pulling the strings!

Refreshing, I tell you!

Check out my new class page where I have announced a November offering. (Things are gonna keep changing around here for a while until I get better organized. House cleaning is always the last thing I want to do, but it must get done.)

This link makes a good case for taking my upcoming class. We will explore a single project with lots of hand writing. My current NaNo had its roots in short explorations through writing prompts, now it is weaving itself together like nothing I have ever written (Caveat: this is only the 3rd day of NaNo, so I will keep you posted). So far, so good!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Choice in Publishing

A group of us are posting on our thoughts on traditional/nontraditional avenues of publishing today. We are all titling our posts My Choice in Publishing. You can find our Tweets and contribute your own (please do!) with the hashtag #mychoiceinpublishing. I'd love to know what you are thinking.

Publishing has never much felt like MY choice. A book is published like this: Someone decides its worthy. They put their name and labor behind it. Sell it to their people. Their people sell it to the world. That is when I will know I'm a writer. Or at least that is how I have been imprinted.

But lately the news has been bleak about the likelihood of that happening. And it keeps coming. Just this weekend the NYT published a story about Amazon stepping up to sign authors. Two days ago on Anne R Allen's blog, agents are overwhelmed, taking too many writers on and not serving the ones they have. Author advances have plummeted and big publishing houses are not willing to take chances on those new authors (watch this video from yesterday on Meghan Ward's Writerland). Besides, the story of an agent/editor finding me and falling in love with my book seems like another of those fairy tales I'm prone to.

My thoughts changed after my friend Anita self published. But not right away. My first thought rose in my stomach like a wave: So cool she is taking this risk. She is so brave and smart. But I am still going the traditional. My initial response, she can do that but not me, showing how attached I am to those old markers of success.

But since then I have watched the worlds attitude towards self-publishing shift. All the reports that the internet has made it possible for writers to get their books to readers faster than ever, cheaper for the readers, more lucrative for the writers. And more and more writers are making the choice. Just read this dialogue between Eisler and Konrath and you'll be convinced too. They say publishing houses are holding on to status quo for dear life against the tide of change and without considering the interest of readers or the interest of writers. Publishers are attached to their role as the gatekeeper and according to E and K, it's a missed opportunity (in the above link to Meghan Ward's video, Andy Ross talks about being a new agent right now and how being new allows him to approach the changes differently).

It's said that the printing press had a big part in the cultural and industrial revolutions. The gatekeepers of the time (the church) resisted and claimed that so much access to the written word to be the end of the world.

And the world did change a lot.

The printing press brought the world inexpensive ways to exchange information.

Sounds familiar. This article from Slate delineates a history technological scares from printing press to Facebook.

And the world still changes.

More and more people are reading books on hand held devices.

Not just people, but CHILDREN. And books can be delivered to them immediately. As it is the middle man is becoming obsolete. We cannot see how markers of success will be rewritten. With the printing press, publishers stepped in and were needed to get ideas to the people. How will the good books get to the children's hands? That is yet to be decided.

So...My Choice in Publishing: I don't know.

My book is not ready. I think it still needs someone to fall in love with it, take it on as one of their own, foster it out into the scary big world of the traditional/nontraditional published alike. So I will keep looking for that person until I can see and fix the book myself.

But my job is try to see the world without the lens of my attachments. I am a writer after all: we SEE things.

Can we let go of the world as we know it and step into the future with our eyes open as the canon shifts and shakes under our feet like the giant pile of paper books that it is?

Can we navigate the world not knowing what the future of books and publishing will be?

Well, we can at least write about it.

 I will leave you with this:

 Oh those Norwegians!

Read these other choices in publishing:

Heather Kelley Edited to Within an Inch of My Life
Kristine Asselin Writing. For Real.
Lynn Kelly Lynn Kelley: LynNerd's Random Acts of Writing.
Ansha Kotyk Ansha's Blog - A Writer's View of the World
Anita Laydon Miller Anita Laydon Miller's Middle Grade Blog
Tom M. Franklin Franklin, Ink

Or meet me on Twitter and tell me about your choice.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

another reassuring video

Much shorter this time. So you should totally take the time.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo. (Here is a link to the long version where Ira Glass critiques himself. Very interesting.)

Thanks to Marisa for the link. Boy, do I love my practice room! Thanks for all your support, people!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Today's Video

I would love to do what Sarah Kay does. I find this TED talk energizing and exciting and leaving me wanting to go find teens to hang with. It's 20 minutes of your day so only watch it if you have the time. Some of you should be working on revisions, others of you have birthdays to get ready for and still others have classes this evening with writing exercises to come up with and bathrooms to clean. You know who you are.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dancing Men in Bodysuits

I love the way the dance keeps becoming something unexpected. You think you know what is going to happen and then whoosh it changes direction. What is the novelesque equivalent?

 Thanks to OK-Go for wearing slightly risque outfits and being willing:

I am deeply into a revision of my first manuscript. I picked it up again after an 8 month break. The distance was necessary. I think it is a good revision. But the book started from big ideas and aspirations. It is a first book. I have worked at it for too long. I learned much about writing novels and characters and sustaining plots and subplots within its 50k words. I have axed characters, chapters, flashbacks, and bus scenes - at least its weight in words. After all the book's sacrifice, all its willingness to bend to my whims and the whims of each crit partner, can I salvage its inner beauty, can I find an essence of truth that needs to be read?

I'm not sure.

I have to be willing to fail at this. I have to be willing to make a fool of myself. Be willing to be a laughingstock. Be willing to be dumb. Be willing to go slow. I may also have to be willing to give it all up.

Willingness is hard for me. I'm giving it a try.

(thanks to J for the video link many long months ago - finally ready to use it :))

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

apple scene, lit scene, music scene, also announcing class

It's apple season and I am in love with these chestnut crab apples. They are the perfect size for my kids lunches and you know how I am always fretting about the making of lunches. They are crunchy and sweet. That is just the description is at the appleman's booth at my farmer's market. I can eat about a million of them a day (that may make an argument for a larger apple but they are not as much fun).

 It's local kidlit season too. I went to two readings this past weekend. 

Kurtis Scaletta's The Tanglewood Terror. I dragged my son and his friend--it wasn't a hard sell. I loved the scenes he read, found them hugely touching. I think I would have, even if he hadn't. And the boys loved the props. The book is about a mushroom crisis and the boys took notice.

The second reading was Kelly Barnhill's The Mostly True Story of Jack. I brought same son and same friend and daughter. I loved that she set her mostly child audience to thinking about questions before she even began reading. The Wild Rumpus Bookstore birds were squawking and the toddlers were partying and she read perfectly despite the ruckus (the bookstore totally lives up to its name, Kurtis' reading at The Red Balloon was much mellower, like I imagine a balloon ride might be!).

Do you remember what music scene was like in Minneapolis circa 1987 (probably I am the only one old enough to for that)?  Well our kidlit community is just as rockin' now. I'm so not kidding. Steve Brezenoff's novel Brooklyn, Burning just came out. Anne Ursu's new book Breadcrumbs is coming out end of this month. And this is just the really recent books. (Please tell me if I'm missing anyone, but I so don't want to leave anyone out.) And there seem to be kidlit writers and illustrators all over the place. There is a ton of energy around here.

Back in '87 I had pledged to see all my favorite bands by the time I graduated: Husker Du, The Replacements, The Cure, David Bowie, I can't think of those guys from Wisconsin (darn it, my brain is like that) and prob more. I missed out on The Replacements because I was behind in social studies. Or was it math? It was a hard choice, graduation or Let It Be (More likely it was Tim, but for the purposes of my story, Let It Be serves better. For the record, my favorite Replacement's was Hootenanny). I may have made the right decision.

Well, I missed Steve's reading due to family engagements out of state, but that fact has a beautiful synchronicity because his epigram is from "Androgynous." I began reading Steve's book last night. Reminds me of Cannery Row by Steinbeck. Is that weird? It is one of my favorite books of all time. So I mean it as a complement. The relationships in both are so sweet and that sweetness contrasts so well with the cultural starkness of poverty. Maybe also the drinking is similar in both. But it's probably been since 1987 that I read Cannery Row, so my memory may be rusty. So yeah, I haven't finished but I am loving it.

All three books are getting loved by various readers in my weekend entourage right now. Kurtis' book went home with friend Jesse, who was terribly interested in the fungal terror (and the pig was sweet too). My son cannot put down The Mostly True Story of Jack and keeps exclaiming, "Kelly Barnhill is such a good writer!" He also told me that the story started as magical realism, but it quickly became very fantastic. I will admit I am intrigued. And I picked up Brooklyn, Burning last night against my better judgement (no time to read, I have a revision to finish, people) and I am so glad that I did.

 Also announcing: Class begins tomorrow in my studio! Check it out! You can subscribe to email announcements (which always happen in timelier fashion) in the sidebar.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm back from vacation.

Never really announced around here that I was going or when I was coming back, but I believe the folks knew over at TPR. But here I am and school has already begun for the kiddos and the garden is bursting at the seams, so I am off running.  Where do you think I have left my writing?

Just to recap quickly: went on some beautiful hikes on Mount Rainer in Washington State (see below).

Josh and I have a long history of the self-portrait--some are better than others.
This is right before my hat blew off and on to the snowfield where we were too scared to go and get it. Look closely and you will see my son was less than thrilled. 

Before that I was in northern Minnesota doing the quintessential Minnesota cabin thing.

Before that I was in the little known Voyagers National Park boating with very good friends.
I miss my hat.

Saw a plethora of sisters (one of my sisters remained back home with the dog). Saw many favorite cousins (some of mine and some of my childrens'). All in real life, which for many of us is a rarity. All in all it was a perfect escape from virtuality to reality -- lots of stone, water and snow and family --  now I return to keyboards and screens and folks I am counting on to get me working again.

Help me!

Hello all! Really looking forward to face time at TPR. :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bargain Good eBook: get it while it's hot!

Anita's new middle grade mystery goes on sale today. Her last kid's ebook, EARTHLING HERO was a fast paced and fun read. TODAY she has a second kids' ebook, A SCARY GOOD BOOK, available! Based on her sample of it (available to read here), it's gonna be even better than the first. And you got to admit the time is right. You can put it on your eReader in seconds flat. Right before you head out on that car trip, and it's bound to be a book the whole family can enjoy! 

You know the price is right too. At $.99, this book pays for itself with the first couple of paragraphs (although they are technically free if you check out that link above). I love the voice as it introduces us to Hannah's misery. The tension in these sentences is palpable as we wait for the narrator to tell us why, unfolding detail after detail, delaying our gratification even as elucidating us to Hannah's life. Satisfying and titillating at the same time. This promises to be a well-written and interesting good book!

Read the description below or click over to Anita's blog and give it a try!

 Twelve-year-old Hannah Stone tells everyone she’s “okay,” but that’s a total lie. Two years ago her dad was killed by a hit-and-run driver. The detective in charge of the case never found the driver, but he somehow managed to get Hannah’s mom to fall in love with him. The jerk. And speaking of love, Hannah’s developed a major crush on Ollie Ortega—he’s her best friend and the only one she can talk to—a crush on Ollie is so not a good idea.

Also not a good idea? Searching for a missing person with no help from the police. But that’s exactly what Hannah does when she finds messages in library books—underlined words that point her in the direction of someone who needs her.

And, suddenly, Hannah’s even further from okay. She breaks into a library, gets caught in a kidnapper’s web, and is stalked by her dad’s killer, all in an effort to save a life…but can she save herself, too?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Let's hang out!

Read this post about how to conduct writers' hangouts in Google+. Seems clear that I should form a TPR circle and we should try this out. There has been lots of talk about this in our TPR chats. We explore ways in which we could possibly do a Brady Bunch style chat (remember the lead in to the show? The other famous old-era example would be Hollywood Squares). Skype requires money for group calls and gchat only allows one person at a time.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Have you tried Google+? What do you think of it so far? And writing circles? Are they gonna be all the rage?

Watch this hangout video.

Makes you wanna do it doesn't it?

In the meantime, I am installing a guestbook over at TPR. I encourage you to sign in if you have ever visited or participated in TPR. As always click through that door to see what you find on the other side. Hopefully I will have the book all ready for you! I will publish links in The Practice Room to make it  easy to keep up with fellow practice room writers. (Idea thanks to the great Heather Kelly.)

We had our first Google+ Hangout at TPR on August 3rd at 2 pm EST. Click through to see how it went.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The San Francisco's Writers' Grotto

I know of the place because of Dave Egger's connection to it but to I don't really remember what that connection was. You can click through and check their classes out or read on and I will tell you of them here*. Journalling Happy Hour sounds a lot like our class. Down to the last line even: yoga without the stretch pants (We said it a little differently: no spandex required).  The fee is a little rich compared to ours (I'm guessing the overhead at the Grotto is steep compared to my little studio space), but ... what a excellent sounding class! I'd totally sign up!

Cases of convergences thrill me. This isn't exactly up to par with Lawrence Weschler’s Everything That Rises, a book I bought for my brother-in-law years ago. To this day, I pick it up to read every chance I get. Weschler's connections between the seemingly unrelated are beautiful. Click through for a example. You can even click farther to see images of maps?/leaves? that are stunning.

Maybe there is different kind of name for what I'm talking about. Events where ideas erupt like volcanoes simultaneously all over the world, even though folks have no overlap. As far as I know the grotto has been doing classes like mine for years and I just thought it was a fresh idea, plunked right down in my head from who knows where. But more likely I think it is a cultural convergence, one of those phenomena of timing and consciousness. Whatever the case, this was the exact class I was dying to take back in 2005 when my daughter had turned 3 and it was time to return to the writing. Where were those ideas then? (It was yet another baby I was raising!)

Another class on their list was one I am also doing around here! Can you believe it?! I have been calling it a Write-in. We use the Pomodoro technique to structure time. 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break and then repeat. I copied Jan. She described it first on her blog. Four of my writing girlfriends came over and we had a practice almost a month ago. We wrote early on a Saturday morning. It was a productive blast. Plus there was great food, coffee and mimosas. I plan on trying it in the evenings eventually. The practices will iron out the kinks. And then I will open it up to my list.

Starting my next class tomorrow. Link to the page above if you want to sign up!

*Actually I went back to their site and it turns out you can't read about the classes anymore - they must be SOLD OUT.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wan made this!

Check out The Wide-Eyed Legless: A collection of things "mer-inspired" for your surfing pleasure. It is curated by a good friend and crit-partner of mine.

Monday, June 27, 2011

#wits, showing enthusiasm, Twitter

I went to see #wits with Neil Gaiman last friday. You can watch a streamed version here (Oops, not available anymore. :( Sorry.). Above is Galahad, Josh Ritter's last song of the show. He is the main reason we bought tickets. I love the way this man writes poetry. I first saw him perform a few years ago when he played at the varsity. I was an instant fan, enamored with his puppy-like energy. This same energy is also the same reason I married my husband. I am attracted to palpable non-Minnesotan ways of showing enthusiasm. Very different from my staid and grounded demeanor.

I have never wanted a smart phone so badly as when reading tweets up on the screen both before the show and during intermission. It was during intermission that the New York news hit that they had passed the Gay marriage law. The theater was already buzzing with a party like atmosphere because of the ability to make charming repartee via social media but when someone tweeted the news (I believe it was @editrixx, you know Steve Brezenoff don't you? Well, his wife made the announcement, didn't know at the time, only found out later on Twitter. If only I had a travel size Twitter-checker, I could have said hi.) The whole theater erupted in cheering. Such fun! Another non Minnesotan showing of enthusiasm. Another reason to love Twitter.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

another class announcement

Don't mean to bore my regular and non-local visitors, but it can't be helped. Keeping it brief.

In response to the requests, we will keep the studio doors open for drop-ins. Link to the class description here. This is the perfect opportunity to try the class and practice your writing. Email tina dot laurel at gmail dot com for details.

Open studio for the next three Wednesdays: 7:30 until 9:30. (Think yoga class with writing postures. No spandex required.)
$10 drop-in or $25 for all three.

After Wednesday June 22nd, who knows? It's an experiment. But definitely a fun one!

Monday, May 23, 2011

I'm all a-Twitter.

Thanks to Nathan Bransford, I just read his blog and learned a lot about Twitter's @replies. The subtlties of who recieves @replies and when just makes me love the place more (also read about the subtle shifts of old school RTs verses new school at Nathan's blog - follow all the comment links if you want to find out why to use the old retweet protocol). Of course I found the post from his tweet in the first place. Which has been what has been the most fun about Twitter. The things you find (this you tube video about anti-gay marriage amendment in my legislature, these pictures of homemade dams, stink bugs and the Ashpocalypse, not to mention it is how I heard about school closings and the 9 pm curfew after last afternoon's tornado shook up the Northside, and this was just today). Twitter will not replace my bloggy connections, but it's faster and doesn't require quite the committment. It's poetry is a little addicting. I find my twitter feed developing its own personality. Sometimes its mood surprises me. I'm still figuring it out but I do believe it is going to to make the blog world better. I can see why this bird is all the rage.

Also, play the twitter game: #AlternateEndings today! Follow any of these folks if you want to see how it works  .

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A writing exercise and how it worked.

The first class of my new session was last night. I had so much fun! One of the things we did was use this blog post from - specifically Melissa Koosmann's take on Harry Potter: good telling and how that complements showing. The exercise: we pick a word out of my trusty bag, take a moment to daydream the image to describe. Then we come up with a telling sentence. This can be bland and boring. Contrast it with the showing if possible. Then detail the image. Timed: 10 minutes

It was more prescriptive writing than we normally do in class and was a little hard to grasp at first. Here's how it worked for me: My word was "coughing." My sentence about it threw me right into a voice and I spent too long telling, but once I realized, I got to showing. It was cliched but interesting for me to approach a beat like that, setting up the purpose before choosing the details. Afterward we all read and discussed. I learned as much from examining others' attempts as making my own. Ryan's topic sentence worked really well. His word was "nighttime." A bland sentence about a job. Followed by details of nighttime and secrecy. It gave his showing immediate meaning and drama. His paragraph described a robbery.

Another purpose a style like this might serve is to plot scenes. Could a series of these "topic sentences" provide a framework to the whole emotional arc of a character or reader to which I can apply the showing details after? I want to try.

I learn so much from my class. :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

A list

I love cabbage, let me count the ways:

1. Cabbage is cheap and you can find it on your supermarket shelves at any time of year.
2. Cabbage stays crisp for 6 weeks (or longer!) in the refrigerator (also stays crisp and fresh in your backpack when you take it on a hike).
3. Raw cabbage dips into numerous things (if you are in a hurry to your unplug after yoga try it with a little peanut butter)
4. Cooked cabbage is pleasing with sausage, white beans and tomatoes in a soup; or lovely with lentils, turmeric and ginger in a dahl.
5. For a quick dinner eat cabbage raw with a fish stick and chipolte mayo on a tortilla.
6. It's very beautiful sliced open (I always buy the red kind although I think it would be better called purple).
7. It can look like a rose.
8. Chefs love it.
9. Did you know that Captain Cook took sixty barrels of fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) when he sailed around the world in the 1770s? Not one crew member developed scurvy.
10. Cabbage is an ordinary vegetable but has many layers. (I wanted to link to my post where cabbage first came up. In the meantime, you can read about onions and their many layers - while I keep looking for it.).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I like your emails and all but...

I miss the days of cozy commenting. You know what I am talking about? Where there's a conversation after a blog post. The blogger posts. People comment. The blogger comments back. Sometimes those comments can take you to whole different places and subjects and sometimes it's where the best epiphanies come from. I'm afraid the conversation may have switched to Twitter. I am afraid of that because I'm not particularly conversational on Twitter.

Melissa(MG Higgins) had a post a bit ago discussing the merits of the email response vs. commenting in response. Quite a lot of people came out in favor of blog comments over the emails. Anita's posts and subsequent comments feel like a convo to me (join the convo about Middle Grade books here.) What do you think? Are there any others out there? I'd love recommendations. Direct me to some blogs where a lively conversation exists. And what do you think those authors do to make it happen?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tea or something?

Proudly announcing my next class session (which means posting it here and sending out an email to my local contacts):

Dates: 3 Wednesdays: May 18th, May 25th, and June 1st, 2011.
Time: 7:30 pm - 9, 9 - 9:30 optional writing time
Cost: $25 for 3 sessions or $10 per class - pay at class.
Location: south Minneapolis in our new studio space

And here is the description:

Writing Bootcamp!
Jumpstart your writing metabolism! Join our three week writing intensive workshop and get physically writing. Find yourself motivated and energized as Rachel and Tina lead you through structured exercises and give you the tools to establish your own writing routine. Open to all experience levels (modifications will be offered). Bring your favorite writing utensil and a cheap notebook. Please email Tina at with questions or to save a spot in class. Class capped at 6.

Come strengthen your writing core - because you get better at what you practice!

If you are in town, you should try to come. It really is a fun class. The people and the enthusiasm are fantastic! Practicing writing is energizing. And my garage space has turned out to be very convivial.

I need your advice though! Now that is it warming up (I think it is warming up - it is seriously hard to tell around here) what should I serve to my peeps instead of hot tea?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Time for a Makeover

It was 1984 and I had gone to The Salvation Army Thrift Store ("The Sal") and bought myself an outfit. A little too daring for my small town high school. But was it? Seriously, nothing I had worn since I moved to town in 5th grade was satisfying the powers that be. I had fit in in Minneapolis but small town rules were much more rigid. I just couldn't get them right. There wasn't enough money for me to keep up with the proper Adidas and Izod uniform. So I planned my makeover. The night before I lay my outfit out. Necklaces to wrap around my wrist. A short black slip over leggings and the piece de resistance a leopard printed corduroy jacket. I was to be so Desperately Seeking Susan before I had even seen the movie. The beauty really wasn't the outfit though, the beauty was Madonna's attitude. I donned that as well, but I was nice (I like to think I was more of a Cyndi Lauper type).

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Time to play?

There is a great article on creativity here via Mike Jung. You should read it if you have the time. Essentially Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (writer of 8th Grade Super-Hero) writes about how taking the time to play feeds the writing and she gives ideas. The beginning, where she says she cleans fast but does not write fast, could have been said by me (it's true - I have speedy cleaning skills). Like Olugbemisola, I do not appreciate my slow writerly-ness. Oh how reassuring to have someone else write words like that and publish them on the internet! Thank you, Olugbemisola.

Oh, and here is part two. More things to play with.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Dear TPR!

So tpr and I lit one candle this morning at the early morning unplug. Since he doesn't have a plate of his own I let him borrow my YOU ARE SPECIAL TODAY plate.

In preparation for this anniversary I have been going back to read those first recaps. I am in the habit of recapping each chat, listing who was there, and noting any links that were shared. I had forgotten that the first few times there was no chat box. We just checked back in comments. That first TPR had something like 26 comments as we tried to have a conversation wibij style. (Does anybody remember that fun old game? We are hoping you haven't forgotten.) It didn't take too long before I explored posting chat boxes at tpr and the current format was born. Back in the early days when tpr just began, there were some doozy recaps. Especially the evening tprs, which brought out folks from the west coast. There were some good and wild times. Here are just a few of the early recaps for your reading pleasure:

Reconvention Chat, April 28th, 2010: Total success! If staying up late (Ann Marie until 3 am in Greece!) is success. The energy in the chat room was palpable and you gals and guy are quick and smart. I bow to your extreme artfulness and I can't imagine what you write on your hour alone. Present: Ann Marie, Jon, Heather, Marisa, Casey, Dena (surprise! awesome!), Elana, and last and for sure eldest, myself(yay!). Thanks you all for coming! What a fabulous time I had!

Does anyone know where Ann Marie went? I miss her and all her caps! I also miss Dena! Come back guys!

Reconvention Chat, April 29th, 2010: Chat Update: Where we experimented with the shift key, compared weather and discussed meatloaf, step-family status and Jon channeling his character. I'm sure much more has been forgotten. Present: Heather, Jon, Marisa, Kelly, and Elana.

Reconvention Chat, May 17th: The chat where we commiserated with Heather about how soul wrenching critiques can be when delivered in an English accent, with Marisa visiting from the beach, and providing descent as her English husband is only kindly with his accent, we pitched in to help Casey decide what to draw with her stick, while J compared burritos to eating diapers. Fun was had by all.

Reconvention Chat, May 18th where cabbage makes an appearance: The chat where water leads to all things(I cannot do justice to the beautiful water repartee), or was that cabbage, a guessing game of Jon's least faves, Kate wrote something like a million words, Casey's kids are clean, the lovers are haters, and I vow to have Kelly loving cabbage yet. Present: Jon, Kelly, Kate, Casey and myself.

There! We said it on May 18th, Cabbage leads to all things!

Reconvention Chat, May 24h 2010: The chat dawned with Dena finishing up her story and Kate admitting to cheating. Marisa was back from her vacation and all was right with the world(or The Practice Room) and just to prove it, her musical Muse was a sweetheart. Two phrases were coined: LETS GET READY TO RUMBLE and competitive writing isn't just for NANO anymore (as H said on her blog!) Giving The Practice Room a new competitive feel(we're turning over a new leaf). And there was talk of holding muse auditions. Marisa said, From musical muse to peeing on the side of the road muse. Dena said, We should have a muse lottery and pick muses out of a hat and assign them. Between Kate and Marisa it is a reality tv show, named America's Next Top Muse ala Kate. Dena suggests: We can put crazy muses in the mix lol. The possibilities! The numa numa kid, me peeing on the side of the road, the dramatic squirrel. Will you get stuck with the muse for the hour or the rest of your life? Bwahahahah! (Just remember it started here folks!)

I would still love to play the muse game. Oh what have I been doing with all my free time!

Reconvention Chat, May 25th: The chat where the moping devolved into mooning and more tawdry stuff. But by the end everyone was feeling a little better. Jon, Kelly, Marisa, and Myself.

By now we call moping, mooping and I didn't find the chat where that devolved.

Reconvention Chats, May 27th 2010: Earlier in the day: The chat which may very well be Kate's very last one--or at least for a good long while. We wish her lots of good luck as she heads out on her travels and also with her big news. We will watch her blog for updates: My Life in Fiction. (We may also miss her because Marisa and I could very easily succumb to pity parties on our own!) Present: Marisa, Kate and Myself Later that same day: I'll have to go back and look, but that may have been the largest chat ever. Subjects ranged from how long are your chapters, twitter, to strategies of querying, as in: I plan on querying Nathan so I can get the first reject. in less than a minute and I was thinking I should query Mandy Hubbard because she gripes about rejected queries on Twitter... and I want to know what she'll say as she rejects mine! But also covered braces, how to make a smiley face, text speak and twitter speak. Meaty chat to say the least. Present: Casey, Jon, Laura, Heather, Kelly, Marisa and myself.

Reconvention Chat, June 25th: The chat where we commiserated with Heather about how soul wrenching critiques can be when delivered in an English accent. Marisa visited from the beach, and provided descent as her English husband is only kindly with his accent. We pitched in to help Casey decide what to draw with her stick, while J compared burritos to eating diapers. Fun was had by all.

I have to admit that between those old chats (and that is just a few) and now I have gotten a little sparse on the recaps. But I will include this morning's recap:

April 12th 2011: Anniversary, Happy Birthday party! Same folks who graced the very first TPR a year ago. We did a quick little celebration and then we got on with business. Talking crits and virtual hugs.

Makes me wonder what I will come up to make tpr searchable (any ideas?) or how to keep an ongoing record of visitors. TPR big events: First few months, Tour de Writing, WriteOnCon, Nano. I organize my memories of the year with these larger worldly things. But ordinary is enough. As I look forward to another year I remind myself that TPR is all about being ordinary. That we meet everyday to practice the the things we want to be doing and the reason for the place is not the place but the community it serves. So, perhaps I will get better at making the place searchable this year. Maybe I will do monthly guest books, write here's-what-happened-in-the-practice-room posts, get better at labels, so that by the end of the year I can look back and have a record of this second year. Or maybe not. The point is to keep writing and supporting each other. Thanks so much for the year, folks.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Step Five: enough already!

The rest of this week I will be spending a bit of time with my mother. Much needed time, but I can't wait to see you next week, when I have extra attention to focus your direction. It will also be TPR anniversary on the 12th. I will attempt to recap the year, the folks, the rough drafts and finished drafts.
Oh and there is this: Recently my son showed me a dance he has been choreographing. He plans to perform it with his little sister and some other small family friends at our summer camp talent night. After he turned the music on and poised to get started, he said: Mom, the dance will look very different by the time we perform it. This is a rough draft, just like writing.

As far as I can tell, blog intentions are too.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Step Four: Rewarding Yourself (or how it works for me)

This is the forth post in a series leading up to TPR's one year anniversary on April 12th. It is time for us examine our habits and recommit to the practice room premise (it was also time for me to spell it out)! Find the other steps here, here, and here.

Make writing itself the reward.

I did Julia Cameron's book The Artist Way five years ago. Back when I just returned to writing after having my second child. I had got through grad school with one baby on my hip, but it was painful. I planned on giving up the writing when the second came around. Just for a little while. And then graduated very pregnant, gave birth a month later and did not pick up a pen again until the new one was three. Very thought through. It seemed like a good age. And when my planned return to writing came around, I did manage to find a little bit of time to sit down and do it. But the writing did not come as planned. I discovered it is not like riding your bike. There is too much baggage. I would pick up my pen and get tired. Excruciatingly so. Everything in my being screaming at me to stop. I took a lot of naps.

In the meantime I had discovered mindfulness. My new baby daughter required it of me. She was an explosive, sensitive infant and didn't comfort as my son had. For both our sakes I needed to learn how to breathe. And I did. I meditated her to sleep at night. I did yoga for me. I learned to breathe for her when she couldn't.

She is a changed kid. I can not take credit for it. But, thanks to mindfulness, I did no harm.

Writing was another sensitive and reactive baby. I needed to find mindfulness to cut it off at the pass before I made it to some kind of monster. Enter The Artists Way. You can say a lot of things about that book and I won't, but her morning pages are brilliant. Her program requires three handwritten pages a day. There is no goal to this writing. No good or bad day. No need to read them. No need to believe what they tell you. Just do it. The writing doesn't matter as much as the practice itself does. Writers write. I write. I wrote every crappy thought that crossed my mind. I didn't like them or hate them I just put them behind me. The words began to be something I craved instead of something that put me to sleep. It became another form of meditation. And in itself a comfort. I still write my morning pages everyday. But the pages have changed. I can not take credit for it.

There are a lot of critiques of writing as therapy. I don't totally get them. Where are the critiques of biking as therapy or yoga or breathing, because as far as I can tell all things that get you to the place where you no longer matter are therapy. The things that bring us to that flow state are therapy. That is where we find connection to something greater then ourselves.

I am writing this blog post as I write my pages. I do them on the computer now. At 750 Words. That address in the ether feels unhindered by expectations. I can explore my thoughts on my new manuscript, write a draft for a blog post, write copy of class descriptions and circle round my fears and insecurities, circumventing them until I am writing more and more and more.  I copy and past what I want to save, I leave behind those things I don't. I am not a good writer, nor am I a bad writer. I write.

How do you reward yourself?

Next Thursday: Habits are behavioral.

Friday, March 25, 2011

News, News!

First of all, I have a new class slotted to start on Wednesday. We tweaked some things based on feedback and there is a new description and times for the next class. So if any of you folk are nearby enough to come write with me, I would love it. Email me!

Writing Bootcamp

Jumpstart your writing metabolism! Join our three week workshop aimed to get you physically writing. Find yourself motivated and energized as Rachel and Tina lead you through structured exercises and give you the tools to establish your own writing routine. Open to all experience levels (modifications will be offered). Bring your favorite writing utensil and a cheap notebook. Please email Tina at with questions, to save a spot in class, and for more information. Class capped at 6.

Dates: 3 Wednesdays: March 30th, April 6th, and 13th, 2011.
Time: 7 pm - 8:30, followed by an optional 30 minute writing session
Cost: $25 for 3 sessions, payment due at first class.
Location: Linden Hills neighborhood

Come strengthen your writing core - because you get better at what you practice!

Also, Anita, middle grate writer and book reviewer extraordinaire,  has a new blog dedicated to middle grade titles. Anita is by far one of my favorite bloggers. She has so much to say and yet she keeps it succinct. One of the finest traits in blogging. And she is always asking your opinion! Her perspective is unique, refreshing and upbeat. All the things that will make her your go to source for all things middle grade! Find her new blog here, friend her up, leave a comment, you will feel brilliant when she responds! Her blog is alive with interaction!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Third Step: Understand the Agreement (just for an hour)

This is the third part in a series leading up to The Practice Room's one year anniversary on April 12th. The first step is about the power in attention. Step two is about values, the engine that keeps us working. This post is about the agreement.

What does it mean to sign in to TPR?

For each person it's a different thing. For the stay at home mom, she puts off that huge to do list (and the small child) and focuses on her writing life for one TPR hour. For the blogger, twitterer, and chatter, it may mean that she turns off all media and just gets down to the uninterrupted act of writing. For the teacher that comes home to a busy family, it may be her one hour of the week that she lets herself jump in and fully engage with her project.

For all of us, it is an hour that we put people off, it is the appointment we have with writing, it provides the structure for something that otherwise feels too hard to do. It's the same amount of time as a TV show, less than the time it takes to watch a movie. The agreement is to write, not do the other things. Again, what that looks like to each person may be different. Whatever the actual writing task, it is our hour to hone that attention from step one, and live that value from step two.

But remember, we are like puppies, getting distracted by the world over and over again. And during the hour we train ourselves. Bringing our puppy selves back again and again. Kindly. And with plenty of treats.

Next Thursday: step four, rewarding ourselves.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Identify your writing values - part 2

Here is my example - I make almost all the food we eat at my house from scratch and from organic ingredient. It is a health choice for me. I do believe it is healthier for me and my kids. They have those obesity studies. There have even been nutritional differences found between organic and non, stemming from overproducing soils etc. But my value of it goes even further. It is political. I think that animals and vegetables that are raised by ethical practises, practises that are humane to the animals and earth that we live on. ecologically responsible as long as I have the money to do it educates my consumption. I can chose that item that is more expensive because it is based on deep held values that I have.

So likewise with writing, what are your deep held values that will help you chose to do what is difficult, write over watching TV or sending that next email or keeping the kids happy or just not starting because the whole of it is too hard to consider ever getting done? I would like to know. Why do you write everyday even though everything says you should stop now (the lack of money, the lack of appreciation, the chances that someone who can do something with it are slim)?

Well I love it - that's why I do. I love the unraveling and the re-raveling. I love the puzzling it requires and the close attention to feelings and the close attention to every other detail there is. I love how I feel when I read those things that have been raveled and re-raveled by other authors especially the ones that I can tell have been labored over and cared about down to every minute detail themselves. I love what I reveal to myself after I puzzle on the page for awhile.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

(Re) Kindle your TPR Fire: Step Two, Identify Your Writing Values

This is my second post in a series leading up to TPR's first birthday on April 12th. I posted the first step last week, Examine Your Writing Habits.

There is a lot of suffering in the world right now. It causes me to question my relative ease in it. As Japan shows us that no one is insulated, that hardship can and will affect us all, and the fact that I live in an industrialized country, may pose additional threat, my place in the world seems precarious. As I struggle with the feelings surrounding this doubt, it is the perfect timing for this post. To examine why I am doing what I do?

So what makes me tick? Why do I continue to tick even when the going gets rough?  I am not talking rough like for those in Japan. I am talking the doubts and depression that goes with life in general. Generally, the going for writers is tougher than most. Look at the fate of some of the most admired writers - David Foster Wallace, Hemingway, Plath, Virginia Wolf, Shakespeare (haha, that's a joke. I think he died a happy old man dressed as a woman.) Those are just from the top of my head, which is on plenty of other things at the moment. Anyway our road has plenty of land minds, most of which are planted in our brains. If we are going to keep ourselves walking it, why? In the light of recent disasters, war, governmental chaos, demonstrations and sufferings, the likes of which will continued to happen over and over again, why do we write?

It is important to note that a value is not a goal. To get published, to finish this draft, to become wealthy and famous, to be respected, those are all goals. They will be finished when you reach them. A value is something that you will continue to strive for even after you reach the above goals. If it is important to you to be a good person, you don't just become one and stop trying, right?

I want to know what you really value. Why are you writing that book that you are working on? Why put yourself through this pain and suffering and demoralization? This cannot be as simple as making money, being famous, having a best seller, seeing your name in print. That is all a long shot and we all know it. This has to be something that feeds your soul. Some reason that would keep you at it day after day.

Here is why I keep doing it: I really believe that the more I do it the better at it I will get, especially if I try to learn from every step. I am fulfilled by it both as a mindful act, but also now that I have reached some level of mastery, I take pleasure in the product. The work thrills me. Even when it doesn't and I do not know what else to do for myself. I find sustenance for my children. I wash the bathroom floor yet another time. I still believe I have something to say, that this truth is worth documenting. It could change everything for someone, at least for a few hours of their life.

Why you do it?

Next Thursday: Step 3,  Understand the Agreement.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

(Re) Kindle Your TPR Fire: Step One, Examine Your Writing Habits.

This is the first post in a series leading up to TPR's anniversary on April 12th.

A few years ago I went to a conference on parenting. The trainer used a study as an example of what not to do. It was a study meant to prove Primal Therapy. The idea was that "catharsis" releases anger and makes everything all better. The children in the study were to make use of punching bags and foam bats in managing their emotions. The thought was, when they were all done beating the heck out of things they would be more manageable. Instead the study found they were just more likely to beat on things. It turns out, this trainer told us, that you get better at what you practice. The story and the phrase has stuck with me (hence the doorway to The Practice Room).

Then there is the 10000 hour rule. It takes 10000 hours of practice in order to become a master, according to a study by Anders Ericsson in the early 1990s. He correlated achievement into hours of practice and found that the very best practitioners of ______ (fill in the blank with the expertise of your choice) had put in about 10000 hours of practice, the good 8000 and the average 4000 hours. Read more about it here.

So add those two things together and it indicates you should use your time wisely. Energy flows where attention goes.

This week examine your current writing habits whether you are active in TPR or not. Are your practices getting you where you want to be? No reason to get worked up about it, just notice. Ask yourself these questions: What makes you start writing? Why do you stop? What are your distractions? What are your procrastinations? Just describe. This is the first step in choosing where your energy will flow.

The practice room has been my chance to "hone my attention" (Thanks for the phrase, Dianne Salerni!).   I do my best to let everything else slide during our unplugging hours and have found that because of the intentionality of the time, there is an intensity and productivity to the focus. Try it for yourself. Everyone is welcome!

 Next Thursday: Step Two, Find Your Writing Values.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Still More Class. (and tpr anniversary coming up)

The final class came and went last Wednesday. People brought in their "assignments" to take one written exercise further at home. They each approached this differently but  all were energized by the prospect of something they did in class informing something outside of class. One person had never approached her words from the other side of her brain before and was struck at how different this felt, while other students were old hat at that kind of thing. A long discussion ensued on revision vs. drafting, voice and persona, creative nonfiction, etc. etc. That is the beauty of these writing classes, folks get comfortable with one another and you can't get them to shut up long enough to get those writing minutes.

My one regret, we talked more than we wrote this last class. But otherwise the whole series was a resounding success.

What can I do better next time? There are ways that I can tweak the description to better represent the class(expect to hear about this soonish). I can shorten the class by 30 minutes, not because we didn't use that time or enjoy it, but because 2 hours is daunting to commit after a working day. I can lower my overhead (even more because my spectacular park building doesn't require a lot) so that the class can remain small because its intimate size serves and still compensate me a bit for the time. And I love the idea of running these classes in series of 3s, pushing a little harder with homework and other expectations - but not too much. Maybe even an optional final writing exercise at the hour and a half mark so people have the option to get the two hours in, which is really what the class should be.

AND on a separate note The Practice Room will be a year old in April! Marisa, Heather and I convened for the first hour of official practice room unplugging (there had only been practice practice room unplugging before that). It has been a fantastic year of which I wish I had kept better records. In the next few posts I will attempt to both honor the work we have done and see if we can re-commit to unplugging practice for a productive second year. As always to come join - EVERYONE IS WELCOME - head through the door on the right. Next schedule posts Sunday, March 6.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

More Class

In the first class (last Wednesday night) we jumped into writing and reading out loud. It is daunting and scary to read something you wrote on the fly. You are tempted to make excuses and immediately taint what your readers hear, how you feel. But it is exhilarating when you listen. Not just because you get a view into the emotions and connections that are created by something you wrote. But also, you get to learn and riff off each other. Reflecting back to the writer right then and there and learning from the observations of others. Having someone articulate what you felt is not only validating but educational.

By the second class (yesterday) we found our groove. And the writing has begun to build on itself. One writer picks up the details of another (Ikea plates). Or two writers - prompted by the same word (dishes) - have counter responses to a piece, reading it for our comparison. Writing grows and expands the themes within one writers repertoire and then within the entire group. Finally, beneath the layers that we have written and read away, we found something else - a nugget of anger, a whole bunch of attitude, some crazy dirty character (or two) who makes everyone laugh. There was a whole lotta that and amazement going on last night.

Also Rachel (my writing and now teaching sister) designed a couple writing exercises, ones meant to get us out of the regular mode of narration. They stopped and turned us as we wrote, sending us in whole new directions. And there's an assignment. This week we will choose any section that we read aloud and spend time taking it further. That is up for interpretation - the taking it further part. It shall be fun to see where the words go next.

So often in writing we labor by ourselves. It is by nature a solitary work and so much of it begins and ends with you. YOU need to sit down and do the work, it is YOUR thoughts, ideas and handwriting on the page and finally YOU are the one at risk when you send it out and about in the world. But there is so much energy in writing with others, whether they sit beside you while you put pen to paper, collaborate with you as you write something new, or teach you as they respond to your work.

Soon a few will meet in cyberspace when they are done with an hour of work. YOU can too. Write with us and then discuss books, drafting vs. revising, writers block, loneliness - you name a writers' difficulty du jour and we are bound to hash it out in the practice room. As always find the schedule through the door on the right.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What have I been doing?

I have two big writing things going on at the moment. On the one hand is a "class" essentially about getting your writing exercise. My friend Rachel and I are leading it. It's not about teaching as much as practicing what everybody already knows. Last night we wrote in ten minute sessions, using single words as prompts, and shared what we wrote as we finished. Then reflected back to each other what we heard. Not only was it fun to hear first impressions on our words but there were some amazing writers in the group. How energizing the whole experience was! I'm already excited for next weeks class!

And I have also have been working on a group crit for a co-practiceroomer. We have been meeting on gchat to discuss the first 3rd of her dystopian work in process. There has been a literal floodgate of discussion about her book and the world and the narrator. It has been tons of fun to consider the difficulties of world building, characterization and book openings. Her book is complex and exciting and well done, so as a result we have had much to say about it. At the same time I'm trying to be aware of how overwhelming that would be (she also has a toddler and an infected wisdom tooth). Let's just hope it is not too much to stomach when you are on the receiving end. She is a trouper for letting us discuss and I only hope that these gals will do the same for me when my next novel comes round for the go-round. And I also hope that my book provides as much fodder for discussion!

Meanwhile the practice room has been trucking along. Join us and see how much you can get done in an hour. The next schedule posts on Monday, February 21st. Check it out through that door on your right.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

As per Anita's Holiday Declaration!

2nd Annual Unofficial Post a Photo of Your Work Space Day

Here is my soon to be work space. We are converting the garage into a "studio" for the whole family to use. I will finally have a little corner of this to call my own.

[Photo missing.]

As you may recall, my work space from last year involved an exercise ball. I still mostly sit there, but as of Sunday night my (our) computer refused to boot up. So thanks to my hubby I have been using his work computer below at the cafe tables in our messy triple duty dining area.

I am in fact sitting there right now as I post this.

It is also TPR hour as I post this so I better get to work, as when the hour is up I must have something to say for myself!

I would love to see your workspace too. Let me know in comments if you have posted it on your blog and I will come to check it out.

Oh and here is the usual plug - come check out the schedule and join us in the practice room. Everyone is welcome.

Monday, January 24, 2011

a .38 Special metaphor for the new book

My son is very comfortable with live animals. Lizards, salamanders, frogs, baby squirrels, baby bunnies (someday I will link a poem here). He finds them often, picks them up always, and holds them gently but firmly. He is not afraid or squeamish (as I am). What is a good word for it? Pragmatic. He has a pragmatic touch. I stand back and want very little to do with them. I either touch them too gently or when I get freaked, too firmly.

What does this have to do with writing? I have a new manuscript in my hand (the one from Nano) and  it is like a wild animal right now, unpredictable, dirty (as in a mess and I'm not sure what germs I want to get on my hands), most of all scary. It seems like I should take my sons approach. Have a gentle but firm grip on the thing. Unlike the last one where I pinned it beneath me as I tried to wrestle it into shape. With this new one, I want to take a new approach and hold it like my son would, with just the right amount of pressure. Respecting that it has a will of its own, but also what? What is it about his grip that I still have to learn? He holds it without fear but also has this sense of propriety over the animal.

As I write this post, I have this song in my head!

I chose this Youtube version because the video game images seemed to go well with book writing. And I think my manuscript would do well if I approach it with like passion. Can I hold this one lightly and never let it go? "Don't let her slip away, you sentimental fool." That line works for me.

Pragmatic, I say. It will be my new mantra.

Come find us at TPR. It has been busy lately and Jon Arntson has been hosting some late evening times (eastern standard time). That's the time of day when my writing is at its most stilted, but a lot of you out there are brilliant all the time. The practice room has been busy most days, full of writers working towards their goals. Come and join us. We'd love to chat writing with you. Check out the schedule through here.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Write Everyday (Resolution 2011)

This post is about resolutions. You've got to expect it from my first post of the new year.

I am joining Jon and Heather in their commitment to write everyday or give a dollar to charity. You can join too, just go over to their blogs and email them with a link to your post on the commitment. Start at anytime. It is never to late to write.

 So I will Write Everyday - beyond that my expectations are low. I will get up in the morning and put in 750 words and beyond that I can write all the crap that I want. The words will come out haltingly and like laundry lists of gibberish. And I am determined that I WILL KEEP WRITING THEM.

Like brushing my teeth, I will do it everyday even if I don't see immediate results.

Years ago, post-MFA, post-second baby and pre-novel I did the artists way ala Julia Cameron and the best thing that that book taught was to make writing a habit. She called them morning pages and only required 3 of them. The idea was to stay and plumb the secret depths of your mind just long and see what is in there waiting to come out. Let writing become your antenna. Like a prayer perhaps. Some people sit beside their bed with their hands folded. I do it a bit differently. I sit down on my exercise ball and type some words into the ether, using: 750 words . The guy who designed the site did Julia Cameron's artist rehabilitation as well. Then he made this website where I can go write into cyberspace. It's brilliant really. I make a mess far away from anything that resembles my manuscripts and the site keeps track for me. I can even rack up points although I am now on zero because I fell off the wagon over vacation. But oh well, no beating myself up, just put money into the charity jar. I choose St. Stephen's as the beneficiary of my laziness. My son has been serving meals there in preparation for his bar mitzvah. I will join him by putting my money into the pot - our family will take on ending homelessness with ferocity. So on the days when I can't write, I will make amends. (I'm $26 dollars in at this point - I put $25 in just to get myself started.)

As my yoga instructor said today: Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.  Actually Rumi said it first and I like it for this resolution, because you can't do wrong either way. I also like it for TPR. Come through the door at the right and check out next week's schedule.  If you can make it, there is an hour for you to meet your resolution.