... and allowing the writing to come. Whether it's based on current events - such as American news, Thai rescue missions - or from the natural location, letting the brain relax in its 'resting-bitch-face' is a powerful method of renewal.
I learned this in another lifetime when I was attending design school during the mid-80's. You have to feed the creation-factory with a rich source of nutrients (music, books, magazines, nature, food, etc, etc). Time spent with family - especially if that's observing grandkids work on projects of their own (like building rafts!) - can be a nutritive enrichment base.
And so as I send wishes for enjoyment and sustenance from this bountiful time of year to all my creative cohorts, here's a smorgasbord of the delectables from my own summer vacation (in the Great Lakes area of northern Ontario!)
Keep writing (& keep submitting!)
After about 8 months of submitting and tracking the years-worth of poetry I had stashed away, I'm now reaching toward the bottom of the barrel and needing badly to replenish the stockpile. Whether it's poetry or fiction that I'm working on, it's definitely quiet that I require.
QUIET - to read. To feed the hungry machine with outside stimulation, be that newsy, entertaining or academic in nature. It gets the ideas coalesce.
QUIET - to digest. Allowing the better part of writing to happen while tackling chores or simply staring out at the horizon. Walking is also excellent.
QUIET - to write. Committing to paper (yes, I always write best first drafts by hand, feeling the scratch of pen to paper) what spills from my swampy head (lol). Letting thoughts flow organically with all their marvellous twists, digressions and leaps.
QUIET - to be. Our souls need precious moments of rest from the chaos that is modern life. Artists in particular must catch their creative breaths.
As summer settles in, make sure to take some time for yourself. How else can the 'magic' be shared with the world? IF not created during the stolen time...
Happy writing (& sunning & supping & lapping up nature!!)
I was honoured to be invited to read a spring poem for local city council (City of Oshawa) for April which is National Poetry Month. Here's a taste!
Keep writing, keep submitting...poets all...
Nothing is as difficult as getting back into the groove after vacation, but I'm going to do my darnedest to catch up all the various threads I left hanging when I left for Germany.
First, here's evidence that my poetry collection, DEVOTIONS really made the judging pile (see that spiral bound baby at the bottom?) Always a good feeling to try, even if you don't succeed (every time)!
Then (see below) evidence of one of two scholarships that WritersPlayGround gifted to novice writers (both in Durham Region & in York Region) this spring. First time & it felt to good to pay-it-forward...happenings in April & then in May (in this case).
A break is a good thing. Acceptances (& rejections) rolling in while I was traveling, making the effort of consistent submissions the most gratifying experience. I'd love to tell you, "if I'd only known" but truthfully, I've always known that pushing work out is the only way to get pieces published. You are your greatest advocate.
So, happy writing!
When the universe hands you a free weekend...2 days in which to hunker down inside and contemplate life - including my writing life which is at the core of my contentment these days - then (feet-up) that's what I've been doing. It's always interesting to have time handed to you sequestered out-of-life. The fact that winter has popped up in the middle of what should be spring gives my head-space sort of a throw-back, whip-lash. It's all good though...
Having gone through the submission experience for more than 6 months (with poems that are up to a decade old) and garnering some real success in publishing, I (this week) upped my game by submitting poetry (at not submission fee) to such high-powered journals as Penn, Columbia, Seneca Reviews. Call me crazy, but you don't know how far your work has come if you don't test the waters, right? These are all unthemed calls for submissions (so a little different than the others I've sent in during fall/winter) but I'm used to getting rejections...these would be rejections from high calibre publications. Yay, me! So, I continue to write poetry (not as personal now that my Mom's death is fading somewhat) and more political/philosophical/historical/observational. We'll see? I'll keep you posted...
In the meantime, I crochet and knit. Anxiety-management I put in place during a gruelling fall (think heart attack symptoms!) seem to have nurtured me through a long, long, long (etc lol) winter, so carry on...
And lately, I find myself drawn to the colour pink. I know what you're thinking...I'm not exactly a pink person! But the prospect of a Master Suite addition to my 1973 house has me thinking of soft blush tones. And it feels good. I'm also watching an over-abundance of foodie programs on Netflix, baking bread at least once a week (with my maturing sourdough starter!) and experimenting with luscious herbs and spices from my fall harvest of the garden and those ordered up from California (post-San Francisco visit in October!) Wow, do the flavoured oils and vinegars as well as rubs and spices ever make a (POW) difference!
So on this (what could be miserable) captive day, I'm feeling like I'm heading in the right direction. Yes, I've retired some projects (kicked them off my plate) in the past year; now I'm revelling in the new; the rich & flavourful; the change!
Tonight I'll be reading from my latest book, DEVOTIONS at the Ontario Writers' Conference's Festival of Authors (at Creative Math & Music, Pickering, ON) in the 7-10pm time slot between cups of coffee and forkfuls of yummy cake! Do join us for author readings (mostly not poetry, if that's your thing). Brad Smith, Greg Gilhooly, Katherine Ashenburg...Blue Heron Books...Ted Barris, Wayson Choy...Story Starters Contest voting...
Then tomorrow, I'm hoping to sneak down to Bowmanville for a crafters' market (of sorts) because a purse-creator I know from FB will be showing/selling her wares among other artisans at GATHER (51 King St E, Bowmanville, ON L1C 1N1).
Followed in the afternoon by the Richmond Hill Central Library's Annual Poetry Gala (free), hosted by the amazing Barry Dempster. He always showcases 4 or 5 poets, who all read from their works (on sale at the event).
As if that's not enough, Sunday afternoon The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, ON will host The Wild Nellies, holding a benefit event for Denise House Women's Shelter. And, yes, that's as energizing as it sounds! I know several writers and artists who belong to this new group of feisty women artists and (if I've got stamina left) will certainly be there!
Happy Spring Weekend (despite fat snowflakes) ~ Happy Writing!
These winter-ish months are the perfect time to devote yourself to writing - raw, uncomfortable, out-there-on-a-limb kind of writing. If opportunities don't present themselves to you for the churning, heart-palpitating, flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants creation, then you have to go looking for those experiences. Fold them into your life even if it's just 1 or 2 at a time.
As a poet, I'm a devotee of James Dewar's Poetry Sanctuary. A day of writing prompts and silent writing time combines with wonderful food, speaks to me. This past weekend, we were exposed to American poet, Ellen Bass' technique of encompassing everything (including the kitchen sink) in a 'long-armed poem'. If you're intrigued, please check her out - http://www.ellenbass.com/poems/
The other gift I've given myself to keep the energies flowing (during this endless wait for spring lol), was to join The Literary Nest's online poetry workshop out of California (a mere US$40 for 8 weeks of prompts and submission for feedback). And sure enough, I find myself stretched into filling assignments that require (dare I say) 'happy' poems this week. Okay, that's a true challenge for me (Queen of the gritty poem).
As subject matter, I was drawn to the log farmhouse that my second Ex and I built from scratch; the home that I left behind (for my Ex to live in) more than a decade ago ; the one my (now) adult sons grew up in. Happy was not possible, but nostalgic and melancholy will be apparent in the final few lines (written in the second person):
Was quitting your salvation when heartstrings
thrum recalling summer lanterns strung
from slivered porch rafters? A vacation
craft, you slicing the tops off soda bottles
then tasking your boys to finger-paint De Kooning
wild. How muggy nights still haul to mind
you pegging them in place on a crackled stringer
of old Christmas bulbs to rival fields of fireflies.
So, I encourage you to find those moments in your writing life that stretch you out of your comfort-zone. And happy writing!
Those of you who know me personally (have seen me at various writerly events in the past 6 months or so) have hear me expound on submitting your work whenever/wherever possible. Now I'll admit that's easier to do when you're a poet as I am. Those little nuggets take much less time to write and then to polish. But short stories, essays and then larger written work such as novellas, novels, whether in their entirety or as excerpts, should be sent out into the world as well.
By tracking submissions, rejections and acceptances, it's relatively painless to keep writing moving (out and back). There's always the opportunity to polish or edit between submissions, especially if you're fortunate enough to get some feedback. Yes, rejection is tough, but there are so many benefits to having your work interact with editors and, eventually, readers. It's the ultimate high when an editor says, "we were impressed with such-and-such."
And finally, the only way to toughen up that writer-armour is to expose yourself to the outside world. Yes, there is rejection, but it becomes much easier to swallow when acceptances happen. So, send that stuff out!
When offered an opportunity as a poet to participate in a reading for my local municipality ~ I jumped at the chance! As isolated, insulated writers, shouldn't we all take every gig that comes our way? The answer to that is yes. Yes, and...not no, but...
But it's tiring, you say. It can be exhausting pushing your work out; maintaining your visibility in the marketplace; not just creating, but selling yourself. When meeting with the lovely Marnie Mandel (Cultural Development Coordinator, City of Oshawa) over a coffee yesterday, we not only compared her visual arts background with my literary one, we talked what I called transmedia and she called intersectionality. We discussed her needs. We meandered around my projects and experiences. All interesting and perhaps fruitful. And that's important too!
She told me about a (free) opportunity that I'd like to share with you. A roster of professional development workshops that will help with that icky business side of things ~ branding. So, the first workshop has already happened...no matter...consider refining your own sense-of-self as a creative and register today. I know I am!
Anyone who's ever chatted with me about my writing routine (HINT: I don't write every day or do morning pages) has heard my recommendation to build into your life the structure that best suits your needs. Do you require the habit of a daily writing routine? Do you need silence? A busy coffeeshop? Do you produce your best work by writing-in-group? Then that's what you should do...
For almost 5 years (starting in 2008 ~ ending when my friend Tina was widowed and couldn't write), we met every other Tuesday morning and shared at least 3 pages of first-draft material with each other over coffee. We wrote novels that way. Reading each other's pages outloud to each other. The deadline mattered. The trusted first-reader mattered. The tiny bit of distance from pen-on-paper ~ letting us hear that our words were not dreck ~ that all mattered. So, if you need a trusted reader, make it happen. If you need to email copies to a friend, do it! If you need that coffee-date to produce, set it up. It's your job to figure out what your writing demands of you and make it so!
Many who hear me speak about writing these days have heard about WATTPAD (online, free books for the reading). Well, yesterday I added 2 more stories to that site. Game-Boy (a Y/A) was written with Tina's help (finished in 2011) and the sequel, Sh*t For Brains was completed 2012. These are mysteries (genre I'd never tackled before); with a psychic (lol) and have a great deal of mad-capped humour (also not my usual). The storylines and cast of characters are engaging and I'm quite proud of the work, but they never went anywhere (much) other than my drawer. Once brave - always brave? Yes, they're out there in the world. Check them out if you feel so inclined...
I feel (at my age) that we writers need to share our writing in some fashion. With the publishing industry changed, I take my opportunities where I find them now. I'm hoping these rambling might be food for thought. Cheers. Happy writing & reading!