Friday, February 27, 2009

Hear Me Read a Story

Here is audio of "All the Difference," a story I read at the Artists' Sharing Evening at the end of January. It's a short piece about how Dorothoy packs up her bags and heads to the forest with Toto to spend time searching for the meaning of life with the Lion Formerly Known as Cowardly. Enjoy!

This widget will play the audio for you, but if you want to listen to more stories, go to - it's a great site where authors of all kinds can publish their audiofiles and find new audiences.

Monday, February 16, 2009

On Being a Writer After All

We write ourselves into the person we want to be. We act as it, and then we become it.

I have been working on a new story since 11 this morning, and it is going very well. (I would say I have been working straight, and that would be true, except for the interruptions of two children home because of the President's Day, the puppy, the quick rescue necessitated by the two children taking the puppy to the dog park just before it began to rain and hail (I was in the kitchen making tea and realized I was hearing hail outside, then realized, children, puppy, and friend with Malamute had all walked down to the dog park) - I loaded up the van with an old moving blanket and all the dog towels I could find, drove to the dog park, got the dogs in the back (one grateful Malamute and one very disgruntled Airedale puppy) and the kids in the front and brought everyone home).

The story has deepened nicely as I've worked on it, and I'm liking it very much. But more than that, is the way the process has moved through me today. And I realized that I have begun to create myself, write myself, into being as a writer. This is what being a writer actually means - a day spent in front of the computer, at the desk, staying within the story, hearing the characters talk, making adjustments, considering alternatives. Folding it into who I am, folding myself around it, allowing it to define me as much as I define it.

Grad programs

I think the most difficult thing about writing while in a grad program, or even undergrad, is actually getting writing done. Okay, getting good writing done. Good writing takes time. It's not time in the conventional sense of hours and minutes, but time in terms of being able to delve deeply and explore the material fully. I think most writing in academic programs is of the drive-by variety. Quick bursts to have something to turn in rather than sustained efforts to go as deeply into a particular story as possible.

In my undergraduate program, which was all workshops, we were required to produce one NEW story every five weeks. That means, basically, no time to rewrite, no going deeper into a story to find its particular truth, no getting to know the characters. In my grad program, although it has an emphasis on creative process classes rather than workshops, I still find the same pump-and-dump mentality because we are required to produce so much so quickly in order to fulfill the requirements of a class.

This isn't really a complaint. More of an observation as I work on a story for my workshop class, develop (quickly) a piece for my playwriting class, and continue work on Choice.

On the one hand, it stops the procrastination because it prevents analysis paralysis on any given work. But on the other, it also keeps the work from developing fully before it's given out for review.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Thinking of Audience

Something happened a couple of weeks ago that I didn't mention, but I was thinking about it tonight. I gave Choice to my professor to read - I'm working one-on-one with one of my professors both to get Choice finished and work on revisions (trying both at the same time, it's fun - mainly because, until it's finished, I'm really uninterested in reading anyone else's stuff, which has a major impact on my classroom performance, it's a bit of a drawback about being in school. I don't think any one's noticed, but I bitch and complain about having to read other people's work because it bleeds into Choice every now and then).

Anyway, I emailed the bulk of what I'd written to Alice a couple of weeks ago and promptly went into a flutter of panic because I realized - SOMEONE ELSE WAS READING WHAT I'D WRITTEN.

And what I realized tonight, was, duh. Isn't that the whole point of the writing thing? I mean, yes, there's that, I'm writing for myself that we all tell ourselves because it makes the lonely hours of creation palatable. But, come one, when all is said and done, if you're serious about wanting to have a career as a writer, you are writing for people to be reading your work. It's not an earth-shattering revelation, I know. As far as revelations go, it's pretty lame. Probably right behind the "Oh, I'm a carbon-based life form" but it still struck me tonight and was a great way to procrastinate typing up more pages to hand over to Alice tomorrow night.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Winter Maladies

Went to the doctor today and found out that the lingering cough I've had since coming back from my writing retreat, is or has morphed into bronchitis. Which explains why I've been feeling like...well, you probably get the picture. No energy. Coughing all the time. Don't want to do anything.

The strange thing is that I knew I wasn't feeling well. I knew this. It was very obvious. But once the doctor put a name to it and gave me a list of medications to take as well as a prescription, I started feeling better. She also told me to take it easy. Which gave me permission to relax, take a nap, and stop beating myself up for not getting everything done that needs to get done. All I can do, is all I can do.

So, not a lot to report. I was at the dump on Saturday and found a great treasure trove of angels. I'm looking at creating an alphabet - A is for angels, B is for broken blue bowl, etc. At least that's my present idea. The next time I go, I'll probably figure out something else I want to do. The great dilemma is choosing one thing to work on and explore.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Being Told You're a Good Writer Makes You Feel All Warm Inside

Met tonight with the professor who is working one-on-one with me on revisions of Choice. I appreciate this professor very much. That Choice is where it is right now is very much due to her allowing me to bring the original short story into her workshop last spring (I have this story that got really good rejection letters, including a personal note on the form rejection from The New Yorker, and was also got me named a finalist for two Nevada Arts Council Fellowship, but I haven't been able to get it published. I've revised it and want to know if I'm on the right track, can I bring in the original and see what the class does with it? - It was the best thing I've ever done in a workshop for understanding that I DO know what I'm doing with revision). So I gave her the 170-some odd pages I have written and in the computer and she read them last week and we met tonight.

I was so nervous, but she told me she thinks it's wonderful. She's very impressed and I should have no problems finishing it this semester, and then I can start looking for an agent to get the thing published.

It is extraordinary how much these words mean to me. I have been glowing for the past five hours and every time I think about it, I break into a huge smile. It is also such a relief to hear that someone liked reading what I've spent the past several years working on, that the things I think are on the page are actually on the page, and that the book works as a book. Yes!

I did not get anything done on my residency today, I spent the day being very much under the weather with this cold that has been lingering in my body for the past couple of weeks - it finally decided to kick things up a notch and blossom into a low-grade fever this afternoon.

I did run into a friend of mine on the way to class tonight, and got some great advice about the residency project. I told her about this fabulous suitcase I had found and wanted very much to use but I needed to figure out a way to keep the contents from getting spilled all over the floor. I've already written the piece that I want to go with it - it was incredibly fertile ground for moving me into narrative.

Beth said not to worry about it until later for a couple of reasons. 1) I needed to understand what is important to me in the way I wish to present the physical object - did I want to preserve the found objects in the integrity of how I found them? If so, I shouldn't do anything to disturb them, such as removing one object to test out how to solve my problem. 2) the solution for this particular problem might not work for other objects and, since I'm working to present a body of work, the solution needs to make it possible to present all the objects in a similar manner to create cohesiveness.

I thought it was great advice.

Well, I'm off to do some reading for class tomorrow and then to bed.

What a fabulous day!

(blogger's note: You're probably looking for this post: How to Know If You're A Good Writer The post you're looking at right now comes up a lot when people are searching for advice on how to know if you're a good writer, but it's really about my experience of being told I'm good. If you want some advice on how to know if you're good, try the other one. I think it will help you out. And good luck! Diane)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Everything you want, you will find it here

Let me just say: I love my life. I have the best job in the world. I mean, how great is it that I get to spend my day going through all this stuff?

Here are a few pics from my first day at SF Recycling:

It's impossible to truly convey the amount of stuff that comes through this place. It never stops coming. There are always trucks unloading everything from office furniture to wood from remodeled houses to the contents of a storage shed. The sound of the bulldozers is constant.

But the guys who work there are great. One of them told me, "Everything you want, you will find it here. Everything comes here eventually." And I thought, how wonderful that sounds. A place to find everything you ever wanted, and immediately got lost in the idea of finding love, peace, a sense of purpose in the detritus of our throw-away society.

I found it quite amazing, and was taken with the beauty of the space. There's something in the structure of the building that I quite like, the expansiveness of it and the way the light filters in.

I spent almost three hours there today, some of it gathering a few items that caught my eye, a lot more of it just sitting and watching what was going on and then taking pictures. I've got some ideas brewing, but mostly today was about taking it in and getting used to the place. I am now quite exhausted. It was one of those non-stop days, and I still have a lot of work to do before class tomorrow.

New Month, New Stuff

I start my residency at SF Recycling today.

Here's the link to the program's home page.

I am both tremendously excited and scared out of my wits. I keep seeing piles of junk but no art. It's sometimes both a blessing and a curse to have an active imagination. I can spin out 20 ways for me to fail faster than taking a breath. I know it'll all be fine, this is just pre-emptive jitters. Plus stress because it's going to be a very hectic semester.

I'll keep posting working notes as I go through the residency. My first main project is going to be working on this children's book and gathering stuff like a bower bird.

A few updates on my activities:

Choice is going well. I've got about 80% of the draft complete and it went to Alice before the weekend to start reading. I'll be talking to her tomorrow night. It's incredible how focused I can be on it right now - the story is flowing and nothing really breaks me out of it. I actually wrote yesterday while waiting for a play to start even though there were conversations going on all around me. I'm usually so distractable, but not right now, now when I'm working on Choice.

I read "All the Difference" at the Brisbane Artists Evening of Sharing on Saturday night. It got a great reception. I made people laugh! I got a couple of requests for copies of the story, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that since it's an unpublished story. What I'm probably going to do is record it and post it on dublit and send people the link so they can listen to it.

The spring semester has started and I'm triple-loaded this time. I'm nuts. I know it. I've told my family not to expect to see me much this semester. My goal is to take everything as it comes - no expectations, no getting bogged down in things that derail my focus on what it is I'm creating this semester (which is - a professional, working creative life), and to not drive my family nuts in the process. We'll see how it goes.