Month: January 2015

A Tribute to the Philippines’ Fallen 44

Today is a National Day of Mourning in the Philippines. The whole country pays tribute to the 44 gallant men of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force who lost their lives on January 25, 2015 in the town of Mamasapano in Maguindanao. The 44 were part of the Philippine National Police’s elite corp that was entasked with the responsibility of serving arrest warrants to two terrorists:  Malaysian  Jemaah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli bin Hir also known as Marwan, who is listed among America’s most wanted terrorists; and Filipino bomb maker Abdulbasit Usman. Marwan is believed to have been killed in the encounter. Update: On February 4, 2015, the The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Field Office in Los Angeles, California, officially confirmed that  preliminary DNA testing of a finger supplied by the Philippine National Police belonged to Marwan.   Marwan was considered the “Osama Bin Laden” of Asia, and was among Al-Qaeda’s top bomb makers. Thank you for your courage and loyalty to the country…you do us proud. “Is it worth it? One international terrorist, equivalent to 44 SAF troopers? …

Another Free Writing Course from Coursera: Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade

Coursera is offering a free course on fundamental English writing beginning January 30 till March 9, 2015. The course description for Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade reads: Learn to become an effective builder of sentences using the basic tools of grammar, punctuation, and writing. By dedicating yourself to the craft of writing English, you will learn to use the eight parts of speech and grammar to develop the four basic sentence types into a well-organized, detailed paragraph. This course is designed for anyone who wants to become a better writer. If you need to write more clearly for work, prepare for a placement test for a college, or improve your skills for current writing projects, this class is beneficial. Please be aware that basic writers are the targeted audience for this course. Here’s where you can register and find more information: Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade photo credit: Prince Heathen via photopin cc

Dialogue – Another Tool for the Journal Writer

Whenever you get stuck in your monologue, open your mind to dialogue.                                                                  -Christina Baldwin It’s one of the most important tools in journal writing, but one I always forget to use: Dialogue. It’s a tool that’s most helpful when one is stumped, or when you are dogged by a persistent issue in your life. But you can use it anytime and for anything. Christina Baldwin in her book Life’s Companion, Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest, says that “Dialogue is the most versatile tool of journal writing.” According to Baldwin, when we write in monologue, we may just go around the issue.  “Dialogue gets to the heart of the matter,” says Baldwin. To use dialogue in journal writing, you have to ask questions – these will spur the conversation. When we use dialogue in journal writing, one part of the brain asks the questions …

Poking the Bear: Call for Submissions

Originally posted on BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog:
From the bear-poking folks at Rawboned: Recently, a friend and I were discussing the role of art, written or otherwise brought into being. To us, and to a great many others (I suspect), it is this: to poke the bear. We writers and artists do what we do because we have questions. Creating our art may not bring us the answers, but it can more fully, and in sometimes astonishing ways, articulate the questions. “Good” writing/art pushes readers and viewers to find their own questions. Issue #6, to be published in April, will be dedicated to poking the bear. Whether you question your culture, your government, literary criticism, or why you always make eggs on Sunday morning, question something. Or send us something that makes us question something. And do it in 750 words or less. Surprise us. Stun us. Please. http://rawboned.org/call-for-submissions/

An Afternoon with Hemingway

In 1964 Edward Stafford wrote about the unforgettable afternoon that he spent with Ernest Hemingway. Here are some quotes from Hemingway, from the article written by Stafford: The hardest trade in the world is the writing of straight, honest prose about human beings. The important thing is to work everyday. I work from about seven until about noon. Then I go fishing or swimming – whatever I want. The best way is always to stop when you’re going good. If  you do that, you’ll never be stuck. And don’t worry about it until you start to write again the next day.  That way your subconscious will be working on it all the time. But if you worry about it, your brain will get tired even before you start to write again the next day. But work everyday.  No matter what happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail. Watch people, observe, try to put yourself in somebody else’s head.  If two men argue, don’t just think about who is right and who …

Writing with Integrity

  You cannot write with the conviction that your work will be one day reprinted to the extent that Hemingway’s has, but you ought to write in such a fashion that if it is, you will have no apologies for it.  Nothing is as destructive to a writer’s self-esteem– and, ultimately, his ability– as shoddy craftsmanship.  Make it well.  Whether or not the thing lasts, the care you have taken will be the measure not only of your talent, but of your integrity.      -William Ruehlmann  in Stalking the Feature Story

Writing as an Act of Hope

  Jack Heffron in The Writer’s Idea Book wrote: “Writing is an act of hope. “It is a means of carving order from chaos, of challenging one’s own beliefs and assumptions of facing the world with eyes and heart wide open. through writing, we declare a personal identity amid faceless anonymity. We find purpose and beauty and meaning even when the rational mind argues that none of these exist.” Have a blessed Sunday… Photo courtesy of pippalou

Why Taglines are Important

After updating my “About” page, the old tagline didn’t seem to fit in anymore. I changed it (again) so that it would be in tandem with the updated “About” page. My previous tagline was: Exploring creative non-fiction and the writing life The new tagline is:  Exploring, creating and celebrating the writing life What are taglines and why are they important? A tagline is a short description of your blog. Blogging guru Darren Rowse explains: “Firstly it can convey a strong message to your reader about the content that they’ll find if they decide to explore your blog. We know that readers make very quick decisions about whether they will stay or leave a page and so any way that you can quickly communicate them the benefits of your blog is important to put some thought into.” Taglines are important because it is often one of the first things that is picked up by the search engine spiders, primarily because it is on the top portion of a blog. “We know that words at the top of a site have …

“About” Page Update

A few blog posts ago, I wrote how, after reading a most eloquent “About” page written by Barbara Mahany, I was prompted to ask myself why I blog. The Kitchen Table is Mahany’s “About” page and reading that made me realize two things: 1) The title “About” is so banal; 2) My existing “About” page was so uncreative, and did not fully express the reasons why I decided to blog. In that previous blog post, I said it was time to rethink the purpose of this blog and write a better “About” page. So, here it is – not nearly as poetic as Mahany’s, but it says much about how this blog has grown and how it has made a difference in my life. Needless to say, a blog is only a bunch of words without its readers, so this too, is a note of thanks to those who follow this blog. This blog began as a journey. When I set up this blog, I didn’t really know what to expect. I created this blog on impulse, and …

The Joy of Writing

Today I want to celebrate the joy of writing! A toast to this wonderful way of expressing ourselves…and to add cheers to this celebration, here are some quotes from authors about this amazing craft.   It’s hard to explain how much one can love writing. If people knew how happy it can make you, we would all be writing all the time. It’s the greatest secret of the world.   —Andrea Barrett Writing is an extreme privilege but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone. —Amy Tan Writing’s not terrible, it’s wonderful. I keep my own hours, do what I please. When I want to travel, I can. But mainly I’m doing what I most wanted to do all my life. I’m not into the agonies of creation. —Raymond Carver And the idea of just wandering off to a cafe with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for a while is just bliss. —J. K. Rowling I’ve never worked …

Studies Reveal Benefits of Writing and Editing Our Own Stories

A recent article that appeared in the New York Times will give journal writers cause to celebrate. In Writing Your Way to Happiness, Tara Parker Pope chronicles the various scientific researches that have been done on expressive writing, which prove that it is good for a person’s general well-being. The author also delves on a recent research study which involves writing and then rewriting one’s personal story. This method of journaling can provide journal writers another way to tackle the blank page. I haven’t tried it yet, but I would certainly keep it handy in case the blank page of my journal refuses to give a message or the words simply won’t flow from my mind. This method of expressive writing, according to the author, has been found to have various beneficial effects. Pope explains, “The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then …

Fellowship for Writers Who Meditate

Originally posted on BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog:
Is a contemplative practice part of your writing life, personal life, or both? Vermont Studio Center is partnering with the Hemera Foundation to offer ten fellowships that include time at the VSC, time at a residential meditation retreat, additional class, workshop or retreat time, and the services of a mentor-artist. The Tending Space Fellowship Program for Artists was developed with the view that art has the capacity to infuse the experience of everyday life with awareness. The aim of the program is to nurture the creative practice of seeing things as they are, to cultivate that awareness, and to live and create from this insight. Toward that purpose, we support artists with opportunities for both contemplation and creation. Qualified applicants will be artists who are rigorously committed to their art form and who have a demonstrable interest in contemplative practice. The application information is here. The deadline is February 15th. ?

A Journaling Exercise (part 2)

Part 1 of A Journaling Exercise was all about changing a pattern – instead of quickly writing on a blank page, we are asked to: 1) spend some time staring at the blank page; 2) ask for a message or messages 3) engage the blank page in a dialogue 4) and finally, write about your impressions about the exercise. Now. we all know that the blank page won’t really answer – if it does even I would bolt for the nearest door!  In this exercise, the blank page serves as a focal point.The exercise serves several purposes: First of all, it provides a break from your usual, daily journaling habit which could lead to boredom. The waiting part silences the conscious mind and provides an opening for the subconscious mind.  Jenny Davidow, in Embracing Your Subconscious: Bringing All Parts of You into Creative Partnership wrote: “Your subconscious is a powerful and mysterious force which can either hold you back or help you move forward. Without its cooperation, your best goals will go unrealized; with its help, you …

Sunday’s Blessings: Pope Francis on Real Love

“Real love is about loving and letting yourself be loved. It’s harder to let yourself be loved than to love. That is why it is so difficult to come to the perfect love of God. We can love Him but we must let ourselves be loved by Him. Real love is being open to the love that comes to you. The love that surprises us. If you only have information you are not surprised. Love surprises because it opens a dialogue of loving and being loved. God is a God of surprise because He loved us first. God awaits us to surprise us. Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by God. Let us not have a computer psychology that makes us think we know it all. All answers on computers – but no surprises. The challenge of love. God reveals himself through surprises.” —Pope Francis, in an impromptu speech delivered at the Univeristy of Santo Tomas in Manila on January 17, 2015 photo credit: Kris Krug via photopin cc

The Pope, the Philippines and a Typhoon

But Rosanna, it’s January,” an American client told me this morning, after his therapy session. “I know,” I agreed, “I’ve lived here most of my life and a typhoon in January? It’s never happened before, as far as I can remember.” As we talked, Typhoon Mekkhala was bearing down on the  Eastern Visayan islands of Samar  and Leyte. In December last year, Super Typhoon Hagupit devastated parts of the island of Samar, and Tacloban City in Leyte was one of the places ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, when more than 7,000 people lost their lives. Earlier in the morning, braving the oncoming typhoon, Pope Francis arrived in Tacloban City,  on the third day of his visit to the Philippines. The Pope celebrated mass at the airport where more than 300,000 people – mostly survivors of Typhoon Haiyan – sat and listened to the Pontiff explain how he felt several days after the typhoon leveled most of  Eastern Visayas: “I wanted to come to be with you. It’s a bit late, I have to say, …

A Journaling Exercise (part 1)

  If you are a journal writer like me, you’ve probably tried different ways to fill the pages of your notebooks. You may have tried freewriting, ranting, listing, poetry, naming and describing. Here’s an exercise you may want to try. For a change, instead of writing on the blank page, just stare at it and don’t write anything. That’s right, don’t write anything. Instead, ask the blank page what message or messages it has for you and then wait for an answer. When an answer comes, don’t write – not yet. Dialogue with the blank page. Keep talking to it until it stops talking to you, and then write about the whole experience. I could share with you what I wrote about my experience with the blank page but if I do that, I will be putting ideas into your head and you won’t have an authentic experience. So I won’t post it here. Besides, I’m reserving it for another blog post! photo credit: Melissa Venable via photopin cc

Good Writing

I so admire Barbara Kingsolver. Her non-fiction books are like musical scores – there’s a lovely rhythm that permeates her essays. I haven’t read any of her six fiction books, but I’m sure they’re just as amazing. Here’s how she defines good writing: “What makes writing good? That’s easy: the lyrical description, the arresting metaphor, the dialogue that falls so true on the ear it breaks the heart, the plot that winds up exactly where it should.” Well if that’s the recipe for good writing, it looks like I still have to find the right ingredients.   photo credit: Vaultboy via photopin cc

Reflections on Daily Blogging

I know, it’s too early to tell. Almost 14 days through daily blogging, I am still at it, and it hasn’t been hard at all.  I began early morning writing again before 2014 ended, so writing has once more become a vital part of my life. It takes time and effort, but the more often I blog, the easier it gets. In the past two years, I’ve joined several blogathons but it was quite stressful. I guess it had to do with the added responsibility of visiting other blogs and back then I wasn’t so used to blogging – I must have stressed over it needlessly. I squeeze in writing the blog posts usually in the evenings after coming home from work and after I’ve fed all 22 animals in our tiny shelter. It’s my nightcap on most days, but today I have a very light workload so I’m taking a few minutes to write this post before I leave for work. I’ve enjoyed the past 14 days so far – maybe writing is becoming fun! I could focus on …

Freewriting

The best time to write is when you don’t know what to write. Those moments are golden opportunities, full of possibilities because ideas could just come from nowhere. Beginner’s mind – that state of mind in Zen where one’s mind is free from all fetters – is a jewel in a writer’s world. We call it freewriting – writing with no agenda other than to write down without judgment all the words that flow from within. You keep the pen on paper and write without stopping to think about grammar, syntax or if you are making any sense at all. On the surface, this kind of writing seems useless. But among other things, you are giving the mind permission to relax and play. It’s like allowing the mind to let go and be. And when the mind is allowed to play, the body relaxes, and for some of us that’s  hard to come by given the many stressors and stresses of modern life. Try it, – write freely. Give yourself permission to play with words, to …

Writing Fiction

There was a time when I used to write short stories. And then I stopped and concentrated on non-fiction writing. I’m reading Courage & Craft, Writing Your Life into Story by Barbara Abercrombie and what she says about fiction writing is intriguing. The whole point of writing fiction is to free yourself, to tell yourself a story that you didn’t know until you began to write. Or if you did know, how it unfolds becomes a surprise. The point is to to put on costumes and play “let’s pretend.”      photo credit: Skakerman via photopin cc>

Turning Aside

All monastic life centers around silence and solitude. These twin blessings are also the essence of a writer’s life. Writers need silence and solitude in huge chunks.  However, in an increasingly noisy world dominated by cell phones, mp3s, tablets and social media, we are barraged by constant stimulation. The renowned psychologist Wayne Edward Oates developed a technique called turning aside, which helps one find silence within even in the midst of turbulence. Turning aside means removing your focus from the chaos around you and shifting your focus upon a small object. Giving the small object your hundred percent attention trains the mind to shut off all the noise and chaos around you, and in time all that will matter to you will be the object of your focus. It is as though the noisy world simply recedes into the background. This exercise can be done anywhere and at anytime. It’s a great exercise for writers. I’ve practiced turning aside for many years. My brother taught me how to shut off the noise around me and fully focus on my intention or …

Reflections

Seth Wickersham, senior writer, ESPN The Magazine said, “Stories end up being a reflection of you. You choose to begin a story with a certain sentence and to end it a certain way. Objectivity is a myth. You can’t be objective because you’re a person.” In so many ways, our blog is also a reflection of who we are.        

On Writing

A quote from Ralph Keyes: “Anxiety is not only an inevitable part of the writing process but a necessary part. If you’re not scared, you’re not writing.” Advice from Barbara Abercombie: “We’re so good with the negative voices: You idiot, what kind of an idea is that? Who do you think you are to be writing a book? Why are you sitting there in your bedroom slippers writing about your boring life? Who cares? When that voice starts chirping in your head and chipping away at your confidence, here’s what you do: Listen to another voice, the sweet, calm voice that’s saying, Just do the work. Tell your story; it’s important. Have faith. If you’re sitting at Starbucks or at the library, it’s probably best not to say this out loud, but if you’re home alone — say it loud. And often.” According to Eric Maisel, this will improve your writing life:  We make many kinds of spaces for ourselves: noisy spaces, busy spaces, unsettled spaces, and sometimes calm self-reflective spaces. Make a calm self-reflective …

Lessons from Rock Balancing

I’ve always had an affinity for stones and rocks. So, late last year when I heard about rock balancing, it was a no brainer – I simply had to learn how to do it! I took some small stones and a few rocks from the garden and brought them into my bedroom and in the evenings, I tried to learn how to balance stones and rocks. There’s a science to it, actually. You just have to “help” the rock find its center of gravity by “assisting it.” You let the rock fall and then slightly turn it away from the side where it falls. The rock falls and falls and falls, and each time it does, you turn it slightly, until finally the rock stops falling – it has found its center of gravity! I’ve spent many nights balancing rocks and stones. There’s a feeling of exhilaration each time the rocks find their center of gravity. I’ve done the same thing with my writing – I’ve set goals over and over. I’ve fallen time and time again. I’ve tried …

On Journaling

“I realize now that journaling has been the one consistent thing that I’ve done for myself. Through the days of serving and helping others, journaling has been my way of paying attention to me.” I wrote those words late last year, through the business of the holidays and work. It seemed like I was caught in a whirlpool of work, chores and social obligations. Nevertheless, I continued to journal and tried to do it during the first few hours of the day. My journal became my sanctuary, far and away from the crazy demands of the world. “The decision to write a journal has been the most important decision I have ever made because it has led to every other important decision I’ve ever made,” writes Christina Baldwin in her book, Life’s Companion, Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest.”  She continues, “The existence of the journal provides writers with confidence and courage that we can travel as far as the mind allows, and find our way home through the act of writing.” Journals have been my constant …

Writing and the Forgotten Art of Savoring

Jack Heffron tells writers to have fun with the writing process. I’m sure humor writers have lots of fun when they write, but I was absent when heaven showered writers with the gift of humor. I have the sneaky feeling though that two other bloggers, Pam and Susanne were in the front row when  it happened and I always grow green with envy after reading their blogs. To have fun during the writing process, I started a “fun journal.” That’s my best shot at having fun while writing. I love to write, but I cannot say it’s fun. How does one have fun while searching for the right words to express one’s feelings? English is my second language so when I’m writing, I’m regularly questioning whether this or that word is the right one and I Google the meaning of words when I am in doubt – which is quite often. No, writing isn’t fun for me yet, I haven’t found the path that leads to that state and I hope I’ll see the signposts that leads to that place – soon. But  writing does …

Writing Tips

“You’re not going to be a writer someday. You’re a writer today. Discipline yourself to write and take time to enjoy writing. Do it a lot. Have fun with it. Begin now.”   -Jack Heffron For today’s post, I’m featuring some wonderful tips from Jack Heffron, a freelance writer and editor. In The Writer’s Idea Book, Heffron says, “Like many things, writing becomes a habit. If you do it, just keep doing it.” How to make writing a habit? He offers the following suggestions: Show up, go to your desk or open your computer on a regular basis. Try using Thomas McGuane’s approach for one week. Every day, McGuane goes to his study at a certain time and stays there for a certain length of time to write. If the words don’t come he tells himself, “I don’t have to write, but I can’t do anything else.” Be kind to yourself if you’re not able to follow your schedule. Acknowledge the difficulty and keep trying “Though it may sound stupid, cultivate gratitude even for the obstacles that stand …

Why We Blog

A couple of days ago I ended my blog post with the question, “Why Blog?” Susanne, who blogs at Life in a Flash answered, “I blog to write and have people read my writing. I’m not sure I would continue if there weren’t any readers! And I SO enjoy connecting with people from places I may never visit and learn about their worlds and lives.” A blonde reader and blogger (Blondewritemore) wrote, “Interesting question! I am still thinking about that myself, I suppose its about having a regular voice, attracting like minded souls and venting some creative frustration.” I can answer this question now! I blog because: I love to write and when people read what I write, I am encouraged to write some more; there is that need to share with others what I have learned but I cannot do this on a deep level if I cannot open up and write about my feelings. Blogging is the perfect way to achieve all these while I keep a day job which I need to pay the bills.   Once …

Of Blogs and Blogging

And so I began to write about things I thought I would never tell another soul as long as I lived. — May-Lee Chai 2014 was a happy and pivotal year for me. I think the reason why I feel the need to edit my “About” page is because I have changed so much last year, and so my motivations and aspirations about most things in my life have also changed. I think that our blogs become testaments to our growth and chronicles of our journey. When I read the posts I wrote last year, I see how I’ve changed. It used to be hard to open up about my own feelings – I was a very private person. When I worked briefly as a journalist, I used to write about other people and their lives and feelings. I never wrote about how I felt. I was always lost in the background. Blogging challenged this “privacy.” It helped me open up and write about my thoughts and feelings – which used to be confined to the pages …

Why Blog?

This seems out of order – after making a pact with myself that I will blog for 365 days in 2015, I am now asking my self this question: “Why blog?”  I know it should be the other way around – first determine my purpose before committing. Perhaps if I took the time to sit down and make an editorial list, or a schedule of blog posts, I would have seen this slight anomaly. I don’t, however, make a blog post plan. I like the challenge of staring at the blank page of the WordPress Editor, and for some reason I choose to use the classic mode – the one that provides an “improved posting experience” still feels alien to me. The question arose this morning after reading Barbara Mahany’s “About” page. A lovely blog by a retired feature writer, Mahany writes why she decided to blog, “as i have grown older, wiser, inhaling more deeply the rhythms of the natural world, the rhythms of my own heart and soul, i have discovered that perhaps my …

365 Days of Blogging

Mark Twain said: “Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”   This is why I don’t make new year’s resolutions. Who wants to pave hell? Excuses…excuses. Today though, I reached an agreement with myself – I will take blogging more lightly. In order to do that I realized that the best way would be to post on this blog daily, and once a week on my other blog. Daily blogging as a means of easing up seems paradoxical, but right now it appears to be the perfect solution. And it will be easier on you too, dear readers, because instead of overwhelming you with lengthy posts once or twice a week, I’ll  write shorter posts. I hope to be able to write short but succinct posts all 365 days in 2015. Take note, though, this is not a New Year’s resolution – it’s something I’m hoping for! Thank you so much for following me through the meandering paths this past year. If it …