"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~ William Wordsworth

The Writing Life Too

And if you're reading this, it means you're not writing.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Hallows Eve,
Clouds are massing to the north, washing machine is sudsing away, and I've got a basket of miniature candy bars poised near the front door for costumed callers. All day every time I stepped outdoors the crows seemed to be conspiring to riot. And I just saw a small flock swoop past--wonder what's up in the crow community. Trick-or-treaters are coming to the White House tonight and retailers are reporting that costume sales are up. I'm predicting a lot of Sarah Palins out tonight.....

Now I must paint my nails because I'm going out later as a Mad Men chick and need to figure out how to make my hair look like the sixties....Does anyone remember Dippity-Do? I could use a bit.

And just for fun--heard on Prairie Home Companion a few minutes ago, the winner of the Six Word Short Story Contest: Returning your zucchinis. Accept this fruitcake.

Watch out for goblins.....and don't forget to set your clocks back.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I woke this morning and in my dream was my Aunt Kathleen, who has been dead almost ten years from cancer. She was speaking to me as I awoke and I lay there for a long time thinking about what she told me. If you have problems remembering or hanging on to your dreams in the morning, it helps to stay in the same position as when you awoke. Meanwhile, sky is dusky colored and rain is predicted for the next few days. I still have lots of gardening chores to accomplish this fall so I’m hoping for a spate of drier weather.

Something odd has been happening with my body clock. I seem to be writing my new book in the middle of night. Wait a minute—that last sentence was imprecise. I’m writing much of my new book in the middle of the night. I’m typically a morning writer, but my body clock has spun off into an entirely different pattern and instead of fighting it, I’m sitting here, working away. And making progress. Planning on passing it along to my agent at the end of November.

File this under “I wish I would have said this.” It’s Margaret Atwood speaking at the Whiting Foundation which was honoring the new winners. Here are several paragraphs from this wise and witty writer:
“On this occasion it seems that I’m to act as a kind of symbolic dignitary – writers can’t be actual dignitaries, as they are by nature too undignified – and wield a virtual wand of blessing, like the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio, or wave a banner from a casement window as the young troops ride out to do battle. Gird on your word-swords, I must say to them! Buckle up those adjectives! Make sure your plots are tight, your epigrams sharp and pointed, your lyrical intervals lacking in bathos. Be vigilant – there are ambushes everywhere. On one side lurk the critics, getting ready to sneer and denounce, or worse, to praise for the wrong reasons; on the other side your parent figures, who always wanted you to be doctors, and who have furnished themselves with a list of writers such as Checkhov who were writers, yes, but doctors too: why can’t YOU do that? This is not helpful.

And on the third side is a stack of bills – bills for things like the rent – that whisper in their papery voices about the impossibility of making a living doing what you most wish to do. Alas, there is no inevitable connection, positive or negative, between talent and money. A bad book can make piles of money, a good book none. Or else a lot. It does happen. But nothing can be foreseen, because writing is among other things a form of gambling. You can win in one throw. You can lose disastrously. Fortune is a notoriously cruel goddess.

This is the moment for a bracing quote from Tennyson: “Doubt Not, Go Forward – If thou doubt’st, The Beasts will tear thee piecemeal.” Fare well, I will say to the anointed ten – the fate of our language is in your hands, and it is a crucial fate – for if these the future guardians of it should falter or disappear, and if even our human language should fail us –should it become a rusty and untrustworthy tool – where will that leave us?”

And by the way, Atwood’s newest book is Year of the Flood. Haven’t read it yet, but sounds intriguing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Human beings can't live without the illusion of meaning, the apprehension of confluence, the endless debate concerning the fault in the stars or in ourselves. The writer is just the messenger, the moving target. Inside culture, the writer is the talking self. Through history, the writing that lasts is the whisper of conscience. The guild of writers is essentially a medieval guild existing in a continual Dark Age, shaman, monks, witches, nuns, working in isolation, playing with fire.

When the first illuminated manuscripts were created, few people could read. Now that people are bombarded with image and information and the World Wide Web is an open vein, few people can read. Reading with sustained attention, reading for understanding, reading to cut through random meaninglessness - such reading becomes a subversive act. The writer's first affinity is not to a loyalty, a tradition, a morality, a religion, but to life itself, and to its representation in language. Ego enters in, but writing is far too hard and solitary to be sustained by ego. The writer is compelled to write. The writer writes for love. The writer lives in spiritual debt to language, the gold key in the palm of meaning. Awake, asleep, in every moment of being, the writer stands at the gate.
The gate may open.
The gate may not.
Regardless, the writer can see straight through it
- Jayne Anne Phillips

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The sky has lots of blue showing at the moment, but yesterday at this time it was raining, make that, thundering buckets from the sky, then breaking into mist with a few brief glimpses of washed-out blue. I was out of town for a few days and am surprised at how far behind I am in things, including the sky.

I was teaching up in Snohomish County, Washington which seems populated by a lot of engineers and people who work at Boeing or Microsoft. The town I was in lies north of Seattle, east of the glorious Puget Sound, dotted with forests and suburbs, and abuts the northern Cascades. Rolling foothills and mountains in the distance, hillsides dusted with copper and gold and russet. Named after the Snohomish tribe, it seems to be a fast-growing place where towns stretch into the countryside, eating up the farmland.

I haven’t traveled much in the past year since I’ve been recovering from a car accident, so it was delicious to meet new people, and to be on a train again. I was working on a manuscript as I traveled along, the weaving car and countryside rolling past were dreamlike and cozy. I also ending up chatting with passengers and met an older woman, Sally.

Sally is newly widowed after 53 years of marriage and it was the first time she’d traveled alone. She was nervous, so we hung out for part of the trip, chatting about our lives, and I made sure she landed in the correct seat and stowed her suitcase when we left Seattle. And she was so grateful she was weeping. She was shaking with nerves as we headed down the tracks, teeming with travelers and bustle. I soothed her to like I do six-year old Paige when she’s scared of what’s coming next. It seemed like such a small thing to help her, and I cannot get her out of my mind.

I often joke that train travel is romantic, with the far-off-and lonely-sounding whistle and the sense that an adventure or encounter lies around the next bend. It feels like Cary Grant or an exciting stranger can end up sitting next to you. When I left Portland a group of travelers were dressed in Victorian travel garb and they looked so appropriate in their sumptuous coats and feathered hats that I longed for a costume of my own. So it wasn’t Cary this time, but a frightened woman with a big heart trying to find her way and courage in a new landscape.

But enough about the trip—I want to tell you about this amazing essay by Andrew Chee about learning from Annie Dillard. And I just have to mention that it warms my heart that another writing teacher cringes at the word soul.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The sky is the color of doom and the drumming rain would make a perfect background for a horror flick. Last Saturday I took part in panel at Marylhurst University about how to sustain your creativity. It was fascinating listening to the other panelists talk about their writing backgrounds and to note that we all had an interest in science.We were asked about our first influences and interest in writing and I talked about growing up in a small, northern town and spending lots of time outdoors. Of snow piled up in winter, frost gracing the windows, summers spent under an endless blue sky. And then there was the eavesdropping part of childhood. We lived in big old farmhouse and the upstairs floors had metal grates in them so heat could rise from below.

Because my parents had six kids and we had the biggest house, often on Saturday nights my mother's family would gather for a party. My brother and I would hang out near the grates as cigarette smoke rose from below along with laughter and the songs they sang together, practicing harmonies. I've been an eavesdropper ever since and believe that the habit of awareness is the best tool for writing.

I started writing as soon as I learned how to form letters and words, mostly poems. But my interest in being a writer was firmly launched in fifth grade because of our strange teacher named Mr. Becker. We were all afraid of him because he walked around with a pained look on his face as if he was about to burst into tears. He was emotional and high strung and the church organist and choir director and he wore baggy wool suits from an earlier era and a crew cut and thick rimmed glasses.

In his classroom once a week he tuned into a radio program. There was an old, oversized radio in the back of the room in a walnut cabinet. An ancient woman with a voice scratchy with age would assign a weekly writing project. Then we'd complete them and read them in front of the class. And although I had been playing make-believe for years, it was one of the first times I fashioned stories.

I also talked about other writerly habits I've added over the years--my writing notebooks, keeping a word list, and walking. What first made you a writer?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sky a pearly color this morning but it’s supposed to be sunny later. Colors here have not yet peaked and the palette is magical. Here’s the first paragraph from a terrific piece by Emily St John Mandal at The Millions, Working the Double Shift. In it she muses about how to keep writing while you need a day job that demands your time and energy. It’s a topic my friends and I have long discussed.

It begins: “Most novelists have day jobs, even the published ones whose books get good reviews. Writing is my second career, and one of the very few things that it has in common with my first career—contemporary dance—is the necessity of maintaining secondary employment. I’ve been supporting myself since I was eighteen years old: I’ve made sandwiches and cocktails and uncountable latt├ęs, put price stickers on wine glasses, supervised the unloading of trucks at 7am on Montreal winter mornings, sold everything from clothing to furniture to vases in three cities, run errands for architects, scheduled meetings, designed and coded websites, written reports and managed offices; all the strangely varied occupations that a person accumulates when the primary objective is not to establish a career, per se, but just to pay the rent while they’re working on a novel.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A steady drum of rain coming down. Last night I was up past midnight and needed to get up early because a new stove was delivered. The old one was lousy for baking so I'm happy to have this small area of life solved. But I'm sort of bleary-eyed this morning and already longing for a nap. I've been having this fantasy of creating a writing prompt from the jumble of crazy emails that end up in my spam file. This means writers would need to include luxury watches, diplomas, Viagra, or some form of penis enhancer, and speaking of enhancement, larger bosoms, software updates, vitamins, lottery winnings, in a single story......
Here's another fabulous quote:
“Are you born a writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.
Do it or don’t do it.
It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.
You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human reach one millimeter farther alone its path back to God.
Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art, Winning the Inner Creative Battle

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

“I learned... that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.” Brenda Ueland

Monday, October 19, 2009

Trying to name the color of the sky--it's a silvery pewter,with a bit of quartz blended in. Busy weekend and so much fun including the heated and prolonged debate last night over the themes and ending of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle among my book group members. Brain is still reeling this morning and I had to go to www.absoluteshakespeare.com to review the plot and ending of Hamlet. You need to read this book.

But on to another book that sounds intriguing and fun and complicated. Last summer I met Melissa Hart at the Willamette Writers Conference. And was immediately taken with her --she's the sort of stylish, spunky, hip type that makes you wonder what is happening inside her head and of course, makes you want to read her writing. She teaches journalism at the University of Oregon and now her memoir Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood Girl is in print. She's going to be at Powells on Hawthorne in Portland on Thursday at 7:30 and at Elliott Bay Book Co.in Seattle on Friday at 7:00. Here is a link to a review which should whet your appetite:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

If I could name the color of the sky I'd call it Introspective Autumn Afternoon or Sky in Flux or When the Heck will the Next Storm Roll In? or Greyscale Done Right or I WISH I WAS A POET. It looks like a far-away train whistle sounds---both broody and sad, but still full of promise. So it's bold and sort of wild and I like it. But then fall is so gorgeous I can hardly stand it. Fall makes me want to write. A lot. I'm in the midst of a really busy weekend, and am heading off to several gatherings in a bit, so tomorrow I'll check in and tell you about the oh-so interesting panel I was part of yesterday at Marylhurst University. The topic was how do you sustain creativity and it was aimed at graduates of the writing program. So more to come...And oh yeah, THE PACKERS WON!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

This is a reminder that there is still time to register for my Power Writing and The Plot Thickens workshops in Monroe, Washington on October 24th.

I've been teaching since 1991 and over the years have developed a lot of classes and workshops. The Power Writing workshop is one I’ve taught all over the country to fiction writers, memoirists, editors, and journalists. It’s a workshop I’m especially proud of because it will change your approach to writing as the day progresses. Lots of hands-on exercises that will help you energize your sentences, boost your powers of observation, and prove the powers of figurative language. There will be a special focus on nailing sensory descriptions and details.

Then in the afternoon we’re going to talk about plot. You’ll learn about the three-act structure on which stories are based, the underpinnings of fiction, with an emphasis on plot points so that you’ll see stories, including films, in a new light. The information is also relevant to memoir writers. Let’s not forget and subplots, because we’ll discuss those too—how many you need, why you need them, and how to braid the whole plot together.

And, of course, you’ll be able to apply these insights to your own stories. As a developmental editor I’ve learned that most writers have great ideas. However writers too often blow the deal with plots that don’t launch with enough pizazz, or have enough twists, reversals, and surprises, or endings that conclude the story with resonance.

Besides the fact that the information is helpful, we're going to have fun. Generous handouts will be included.

Cost is $80.00 for both workshops and your response would be much appreciated. To Register: Contact Lisa Stowe at 425-923-3844 or email lmstowe@yahoo.com. Mail checks and contact information to PO Box 213, Index, WA 98256. Space is limited and pre-registration is required.
Gloomy skies. Someone asked me on Facebook about we talked about last night at Blackbird Wines. We talked about the practical aspects of the writing life--that you need to be tough, because it's a tough business, that you need to dip into the river of language every day, and that if your writing is bogged down, you probably aren't having fun with it. The writing part of you isn't the accountant part of your personality--it's the part of you that remembers what it's like to jump in the ocean waves or sail homemade boats in a puddle. Now, are all aspects of writing fun? Goodness no, of course not--not revising and not waiting for a publisher to give you a go-ahead on your manuscript....but the main aspects are.

"Writing is one of the most easy, pain-free, and happy ways to pass the time in all the arts. For example, right now I am sitting in my rose garden and typing on my new computer. Each rose represents a story, so I'm never at a loss for what to write. I just look deep into the heart of the rose and read its story and write it down through typing, which I enjoy anyway. I could be typing "kjfiu joewmv jiw" and would enjoy it as much as typing words that actually make sense. I simply relish the movement of my fingers on the keys. Sometimes, it is true, agony visits the head of a writer. At these moments, I stop writing and relax with a coffee at my favorite restaurant, knowing that words can be changed, rethought, fiddled with, and, of course, ultimately denied. Painters don't have that luxury. If they go to a coffee shop, their paint dries into a hard mass."
- Steve Martin

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"The question authors get asked more than any other is 'Where do you get your ideas from?" And we all find a way of answering which we hope isn't arrogant or discouraging. What I usually say is "I don't know where they come from, but I know where they come to: they come to my desk, and if I'm not there, they go away again.'"
-Philip Pullman
Sky still dark here and I'm up early, working on my book proposal. Just wanted to remind people living in Portland that I'm going to be speaking tonight at Blackbird Wine Shop at 4323 N.E. Fremont at 7 p.m. I'm going to talk about avoiding rejection and keeping your sanity and sense of humor while writing. As I just typed this I realize what a tall order this is....
Keep writing, keep dreaming.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Clouds are breaking up, heater in my office is on, feet are covered, and the seasons they go round and round. Just spent 3 hours working on my book proposal and I'm still so excited about this book.

Just a little gripe for a moment, then I promise to be charming....or something not grumpy. I was looking up some info and ran across a review of my new book in which the reviewer complained about my use of gender as in I used Man vs. Man to describe a common plot structure. Now, I've been a feminist for a loooonggg time, probably longer than the reviewer. Attended many Women Studies classes and believe in women/chick/girl power equality in all its permutations. But when it comes to copyediting and style standards, often the publisher weighs in on how they want gender to be depicted. Four of my publishers did not want me to use "he or she" type references because they're simply awkward. In fact, in one book in the introduction I expressly told readers I was using "he" as a shorthand for both male and female. But in this the 21st century is this all still necessary? Can't we understand that we don't need to think in terms of gender, but instead in terms of humanity and not get our hackles up about every little thing?

Here's today's writing tip: Commit on a daily basis

A first draft of a memoir or novel runs about 80,000-100,000 words. So do the math. Then come up with a daily or weekly number of words that is meausurable, doable, but at the same time stretches your abilities. And here is where the math is irrefutable: the more words you commit to each day, the faster your story will get written. National Novel Writing Month happens each November and thousands of writers sign on to commit to 50,000 pages in a month. And they pull it off.

But back to you. If you write 1000 words a day, 7 days a week, it will take you about 100 days to write a novel. If you write 1000 words, Monday through Friday [or five days total] it will take you 140 days. 500 words a day, five days a week and it will take 280 days. A page a day [250 words] will take you about 400 days to write a novel. Then comes editing and rewriting. Do the math and commit.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I'm up before dawn working on a new book. I was in Manzanita over the weekend teaching a workshop and basking in the glories of autumn and hanging out with writers. I drove home yesterday from the coast and the day was so golden and fine that it still lives in me and I'm filled with the colors of this season, scarlet, gold,russet,pumpkin, amber, lemon, persimmon.

Writing can take you to the deepest parts of yourself and along roads of discovery that you never dared imagine. Writing is also is a wonderful occupation, but in all honesty, it’s scary as hell. I suspect that all writers are afraid. Of sitting in a room, alone, with a cold-eyed computer screen blinking as accusation, “What are you doing here?” Then there are the maddening times when you’re wrestling with a poem or story, and you can’t describe a thing, and it’s flat and vapid and stupid. You swear you’re going to lose your mind before you get it right and decide that you must be crazy to write at all. Crazy because you spend hours struggling to find perfect words to fit perfect places, while you fight off your doubts and grapple with your need to be flawless.

So you sit down to write and find that you’re scared. Of starting, of trying, of putting your bruised heart on the line and words on a page. But I believe that we can quell this fear, put it beside us like a sleeping dog, and write despite our fears, our doubts, our cowardliness.

You must be wondering, if writing is such a pain, why bother? The answer is easy: because writing is good for us. It deepens us, strengthens us, teaches us how to be honest and patient and loving. Writing is both a practical skill and a way of connecting to ourselves and a bigger source. Becoming a writer will unleash our creativity, and in turn, creativity brings meaning to our lives. It all adds up to something wonderful. . . . .

I’ve been teaching writing and creativity classes for years, and I’ve watched my students apply writing to their simplest or noblest desires and seen the transformation that follows. I’ve heard hundreds of students read a piece of their history or some precious invention for the first time in front of the class. My students begin by apologizing, explaining that what they’re about to read isn’t good, that they’re new to writing, that they haven’t had enough time to work out the kinds. Sometimes I think if I could collect all these apologies, they’d be tall enough to topple a skyscraper. The class is forced to sit patiently, squirming through their stumbling confessions, and then the room becomes still and church-like and words start spilling into the air. There’s a sort of collective that follows when they finish reading and something subtle shifts inside all of us. I wasn’t raised Catholic but I imagine that the absolution that follows these readings is a little like going to confession. Good for the soul. Cleansing. Revealing. I’ve noticed that even if we hate the student’s writing, we like that he or she had the courage to write it anyway.

Writing makes your life better because you get to speak your truth and turn a discriminating eye at this weird planet and tell other people just how you see things. Most people who write regularly, who make writing a crucial component in their existence, like themselves better than when they’re not writing. It’s really pretty simple. I know it words because it worked for me. If you write regularly—not matter what the subject or format—you’ll shift your muddled worries to clarity, your vague hopes to reality, and your denial to crystal truth….

But how do we get out of bed each day, calling ourselves writers and settling ourselves into that sacred spot where words come forth? Instead of putting off our dream, we write anyway. We write no matter what’s going on in our lives. We write despite our cowardly heart rattling loud enough to shake our bones. We write despite distractions and agonies. We write when our family or the ghost of Mrs. Schultz, our third-grade teacher, looms at our shoulder and whispers that we’re no damn good.

Then we write some more. Then we set some goals and eventually stuff our precious words into an envelope and mail it to a cold-hearted stranger. And return home from the post office and do it all over again. Until we die. Because writing feels so good when it flows, when you’re on a roll. And it brings meaning into our lives. Really. Because once we conquer our fears, writing is about the best legal fun there is. It’s right up there with sex and dancing, standing high on a mountain, or playing with children who belong to someone else. From Writing Out the Storm, Jessica Page Morrell

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Glorious blue skies again and I'm feeling virtuous since I vacuumed and washed my car and then dropped it off for minor repairs and maintenance. As I was walking home I spotted little white flags marking off a neighbor's lawn. They said "Invisible Fence." So here's the writing prompt: What is the invisible fence in your life? What about your character's life?

Be well, keep writing.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth
“Journals capture my ideas, my emotions, the smell of the mowed grasses, the taste of a wildflower lemon stalk, the images from the farmhouse porch on a cool spring morning. My farm journals do the same; they record my feelings about a spring storm on peach blossoms or the fear of invisible diseases growing on my grapes. Writing and farming share a common tie—neither is done well by using formulas. Good stories are not based on recipes, a juicy peach cannot be grown by following “how to” books.”
David Mas Masumoto

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Skies so blue they'd break your heart. Really. I'm having sort of a problem today--I've had a big writing breakthrough and cannot stop writing/dabbling, feeling full of wonder and inventiveness. But alas, I have a deadline for a client so must rein in and slip into my left brain/problem solving editing mode. Perhaps I should buy a hat/cap just for editing....No, that won't won't work because then I'll have hat hair......but ooh man, these writing days are worth all the revising and the tribulations that come with writing book-length projects. You know what I'm going to say before I say it: Keep writing. Keep dreaming.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Calling all writers,
There is still time to sign up for my Show, don't tell workshop happening this Saturday , October 10 in Manzanita. I've been teaching since 1991 and over the years have developed a lot of workshops--but this particular workshop is one I'm especially proud of because it will change your approach to writing as the day progresses. Lots of hands-on exercises that will help you expand your powers of observation, imagination, and language. There will be a special focus on nailing sensory descriptions,
how to turn small moments and events into scenes and developing a narrative arc through details. Besides the fact that the workshop rocks, we're going to have fun. And what's not to like about a day in charming Manzanita?
Contact me for more details, including the availability of a scholarship. Jessica 503 287-2150
A publishing opportunity:
The Choosing America Project is looking for true short stories (1,500 to 4,000 words) that express the essence of being an immigrant in America, gripping human interest stories that will reflect the diversity of the American immigrant experience, past and present.

The final goal of The Choosing America Project is to create a series of short films directed by a variety of directors who will choose from the pool of stories they are now collecting. For more details, please go to the project's website www.choosingamerica.com.
Golden autumn afternoon here in Portland and I just crossed off an editing project from my to-do list. Whew. Here is another event that came via my in box for Portland area residents. Sounds intriguing and helpful.....
The Portland State University MFA in Creative Writing Program presents:


A conversation between Joshua Kendall, Senior Editor at Viking/Penguin in New York, and Tom Bissell, fiction and nonfiction writer and professor in the PSU Creative Writing MFA program

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
4 p.m.
SMU 327

Free and open to the public
As a senior editor at Viking/Penguin, Joshua Kendall has worked with such writers as Ron Carlson, Stewart O’Nan, Andrew Sean Greer, and Donovan Hohn, recent recipient of the Whiting Award. Additionally, Josh has taught fiction writing at The University of Iowa, The Aspen Writers’ Foundation, and Eugene Lang/The New School, as well as having served as a contributing editor at The Paris Review. Raised in Tacoma, Washington, he currently lives in New York City .

Tom Bissell, who recently joined the PSU faculty, is the author of Chasing the Sea, God Lives in St. Petersburg, and The Father of All Things. Early next year he will publish Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter.
We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter's evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true.
Woodrow Wilson

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Gloomy, glowering skies here today. From my in box:


Portland, Oregon – September 2009: In celebration of Oregon’s Sesquicentennial Anniversary, esteemed literary journal Poetry Northwest and the Oregon State Library have released a list of 150 outstanding poetry books – one for each year of our statehood. These books range in style and subject matter, and poets both well-beloved and newly emerging are represented, from William Stafford to Michael McGriff. Each nominee has a connection to Oregon, whether the poet grew up in Madras or writes about the rain. The list will be published online as a service to libraries, schools, and citizens. Oregonians can access it online at Poetry Northwest (www.poetrynw.org).

Poets from the list will honor the Sesquicentennial with readings at the 2009 Wordstock, the annual literary festival in Portland, on October 10 and 11, 2009, on the Mountain Writers Stage. The Mountain Writers Series sponsors readings, workshops, and seminars with local as well as national and international writers, and serves as a hub in the Oregon poetry community. Among the Wordstock readers will be Lex Runciman, Donna Henderson, Carlos Reyes, Mary Szybist, Matthew Dickman, Jessica Lamb, and Maxine Scates. A full schedule of Wordstock readings, including the Poetry 150 List, can be found at www.wordstockfestival.com.

To create the list, Jim Scheppke, State Librarian, and David Biespiel, editor of Poetry Northwest, solicited nominations from Oregon authors, as well as from the general public. The response was overwhelming. Oregonians wrote in large numbers with lists of their favorite books, and their nominations created a diverse list of Oregon’s best poetry. The State Library had previously released the Oregon 150 Booklist, which included works in children’s literature, fiction, and nonfiction, as well as poetry. Mr. Biespiel recognized that poetry had a strong community in Oregon and merited its own list, and so Poetry Northwest spearheaded the collaborative effort.

While the list cannot possibly include every poetry book published in or about our state, it provides a foundation for reading and a valuable resource for Oregonians. Because citizens and readers made the nominations, the list is unique from scholarly anthologies. Its creators believe that public engagement has shown the importance of poetry in the lives of citizens. According to Mr. Biespiel, the community has come together in support of the state and of literature. The result, he says, is “a spectacular civic achievement.”

Poetry Northwest: 4232 SE Hawthorne Boulevard, Portland 97215. 503-236-0615 poetrynw.org

The Oregon State Library: 250 Winter St. NE, Salem 97301-3950. 503-378-4243 oregon.gov/OSL

Mountain Writers Series: 2804 SE 27th Avenue, #2, Portland 97202. 503.232.4517 mountainwriters.org

# # #

Friday, October 02, 2009

There's a great post at Larry Brook's blog, Storyfix from James Frey. One paragraph especially made me giggle:

"Did you notice, when you told your mother or father, sister, brother, or friend that you wanted to be a writer, the shocked, hurt, bewildered expression on their faces? Spouses, upon hearing the news, often get ill or take to the bottle. Some start packing."
Skies are a fabulous blend of clouds and suncast and blue. Looks like it might be a wet day.

From my Division of Good Works:
I'm giving away a scholarship to my Show, don't tell workshop on October 10 in Manzanita. If you know someone who would like to attend, please contact me. Also, it's just a smokin' workshop--will change the way you write and think about writing as the day goes on.....

And of course, keep writing and keep dreaming.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

From my Division of Shameless Commerce:

There is still time to join my Show, don't tell workshop in LOVELY Manzanita on October 10. Hours are 10-5:30. Cost is $75. I've been teaching since 1991 and this is one of my workshops that I'm most proud of because I watch the participant's writing move up to a new level as the day progresses. And it's fun. In fact, it smokes and you can also squeeze in a stroll on the beach....and I'm always game for wine afterward. Contact me at jessicapage at spiritone.com
"I wanted to be a writer so much that the idea of failing at it was almost unbearable to me, and so I really didn’t tell people as I grew older that I wanted to be a writer—you know, because they look at you with such looks of pity, and ask what you’ve published—whatever, I just couldn’t stand that. And so I didn’t really tell people." Elizabeth Strout