Month: March 2015

How to Write Crisp, Evocative Descriptions: The Eye of Memory (5)

When the eye of the imagination is engaged, it illuminates the artful possibilities hidden within actual events. From the hard rock of fact, stone by stone the writer builds a castle – Rebecca McClanahan Rebecca McClanahan describes the Eye of Memory as a “kind” of Imaginative Eye. When she talks about the use of memory in writing, she goes beyond the mere recollection of past events. McClanahan emphasizes that as writers, we should use the facts and details of our experiences as raw materials that we should transform into a new shape. If you are a fiction writer, you can transform your experiences by taking an event or experience and “loaning” it to a character who is very different from you. “Hand over the event, no strings attached, and see what your character does with it,” writes McClanahan. Or, you can take two events which happened years apart and place them in the same story or poem and see how they interact with each other. McClanahan explains, “The interaction between the two events will force you …

Walking in My Neighborhood, Several Stories Deep

Originally posted on Catching My Drift:
Maxie, the newly appointed mayor of the neighborhood… I clip the leash onto the collar of my wacky little dog, Greta, and pull open the back door. Greta stiffens, and I look down to see Maxie, the new mayor of the neighborhood, standing expectantly outside the storm door. Maxie is a black cat with a priest’s collar; his head is the size and shape of a squashed softball. He is sleek and talkative. He waits in the ivy, under the shrubs that line the drive, when I come home. As soon as I open the car door, he starts his approach, spouting a long line of complaints: Yowlyowlmewwwwrrrryowlyou! MEW. He always ends decisively, waiting for a response. I usually give him a little piece of frozen turkey from a baggie in the freezer; he accepts this, but seems none too thrilled. Max lives with the Next-to-Newest Neighbors across the street–a lovely mom and her just-college age daughter. Max was the daughter’s friend’s cat. When Daughter’s Friend was going off…

A Listening Walk

    This morning I took a Listening Walk. I love to take walks but this is the first time I paid attention to the sounds as I walked. I had always been a “visual” walker, and it was such a different experience to be an “auditory” walker. This Holy Week, I promised myself I would take a Listening Walk everyday until Easter. The idea for the Listening Walk came from a children’s book, The Listening Walk  by Paul Showers.  I Like to take walks, I take walks with my father and our dog. Our dog is called Major. He is an old dog and he does not walk very fast. We go down the street and we do not talk. My father puts his hands in his pockets and thinks. Major walks ahead and sniffs. I keep still and listen. I call this a Listening Walk. On a Listening Walk I do not talk. I listen to all the different sounds.  I hear many different sounds when I do not talk.     You can …

Brenda Ueland Explores the Craft of Writing

Here are some memorable quotes from Brenda Ueland: “Writing, the creative effort, the use of the imagination, should come first–at least for some part of every day of your life. It is a wonderful blessing if you will use it. You will become happier, more enlightened, alive, impassioned, lighthearted, and generous to everybody else. Even your health will improve.” “If you write, good ideas must come welling up into you so that you have something to write. If good ideas do not come at once, or for a long time, do not be troubled at all. Wait for them. Put down the little ideas however insignificant they are. But do not feel, anymore, guilty about idleness and solitude.” “That is why I hope you can keep up this continuity and sit for some time every day (if only for a half hour, though two hours is better and five is remarkable and eight is bliss and transfiguration!) before your typewriter–if not writing then just thoughtfully pulling your hair. If you skip for a day or …

Friday Web Finds: Writing as a Form of Prayer

Since the beginning of the Lenten season, I had been looking for ways on how I could commemorate it differently. My search has led me to some websites that discuss writing as a form of prayer. In an interview published by the Wall Street Journal, novelist Ruth Ozeki said that Writing Is ‘a Form of Prayer.  In Writing as a Form of Prayer  novelist Gail Goodwin wrote,  “When you write as much as I do, and when you have been “undertaking God” for as long as I have, there is no way that writing can escape becoming a form of prayer.” In Writing as Prayer,  Laura Boggess says, “Writing is a candle for me—a reminder of the sacred in the mundane.” In a guest post, Author Ed Cyzewski wrote, “While my prayer and writing stand apart as distinct practices, they blend together and support each other. There is no sacred and secular. There’s just life, and both practices work together.” If you are looking for prayers for writers, you’ll find a couple of prayers in this …

How to Write Crisp, Evocative Descriptions: An Exercise in Observation (4)

The naked eye provides us with sensory, concrete experiences. The imaginative eye opens up other worlds. –Rebecca McClanahan   Here’s an exercise in observation that is geared towards training the naked eye to see more intently. Choose an ordinary object – a soup bowl, comb, or blanket. Make sure it’s an ordinary object you see or use everyday. I made the mistake of choosing a big quartz crystal and questions about its origin distracted me from observing it. The second object I used was a pair of scissors. That worked better. Place the object in the center of a table, or right in front of you. Set a timer for 10 minutes and  observe the object you chose. Use your eyes and other senses. Smell it, feel its texture, look at the small details. If your mind wanders (and it will), gently bring your focus back to the object. Among other things, you’ll realize how long ten minutes could be when you have nothing else to do but observe a simple object. When the 10 minutes …

How to Write Crisp, Evocative Descriptions: The Different “Eyes” of a Writer (3)

Depending on your writing process and style, the eyepiece could be the physical world, or it could be the world of the inner eye, the world of dreams and illusions. Or you might be a writer for whom the world themselves – their sounds, rhythms and shapes create the world of story or poem. – Rebecca McClanahan I think every writing class should begin with the concept that a writer can write from different “eyes.” McClanahan identifies six “kinds” of eyes that a writer can use. The naked eye is most simple and easiest to use – it is based on reality, on what exists right before your eyes. As in the previous post, McClanahan emphasizes that the problem is that writers don’t often stay long enough with a subject to observe its dynamic form and nature. As a result, we lose the details that could give what we are describing a different perspective. She writes, “The most common things yield startling surprises when we give our attention to them.” The eye of the imagination is more complex than the …

How to Write Crisp, Evocative Descriptions: Key Ingredients (2)

Description begins in the beholder’s eye, and it requires attention. If we look closely long enough and stay in the moment long enough, we may be granted new eyes. —Rebecca McClanahan In Chapter Two of Word Painting, McClanahan says that good description begins with observation. When we focus on something or someone long enough, we begin to notice things that we would have missed if we didn’t give our full attention. Singer and songwriter Paul Stookey said, “Sometimes, if you sit in one place long enough, you get used. You become the instrument for what it is that wants to be said.”  McClanahan advices writers to keep on looking, to put the writer’s eye to use as often as possible and long enough so that we will be able to see forms emerge and patterns reconfigure themselves. Says McClanahan: “Most of us simply don’t stay in one place long enough to be used.” She also pointed out that the advice a comet-hunter gave to novice comet-hunters during a radio interview could also work well for …

Prayer

“In prayer we discover what we already have.  You start where you are and you deepen what you already have, and you realize that you are already there.  We already have everything, but we don’t know it and we don’t experience it.  Everything has been given to us in Christ.  All we need is to experience what we already possess. “The trouble is, we aren’t taking time to do so. “If we really want prayer, we’ll have to give it time.  We must slow down to a human tempo and we’ll begin to have time to listen.  And as soon as we listen to what’s going on, things will begin to take shape by themselves.  But for this we have to experience time in a new way.”   -Thomas Merton    

Encouraging Words from a Writer: Susan Tiberghien on Writing

“Annie Dillard says that it is “life at its most free.” Julia Cameron says “the writing life is a simple life.” For Stephen King, it’s “a brighter, more pleasant place.” From William Strunk, Jr. to Brenda Ueland to John Gardner, writers have been offering counsel to encourage people to write. And all the words come back to one fundamental truth: a writing life is a creative life.” “For me it has become a life that awakens to birdsong in early morning, that lingers with sunlight in late afternoon. For me it is a life that slows down to touch each moment, a life that deepens from an inner source.” “Once I acknowledged that I wanted to be a writer, the well within me filled with fresh creativity.” “The first component, inspiration, comes from my trust in writing as a way of life: a trust nourished by practice. It is a habit. A person who writes has the habit of writing. The word habit refers to a routine, but also to a stole, to a costume …

Writing and Silence

In a previous post I wrote, “The changing seasons seem to mirror the changes in my writing life. I am neither here nor there.There is a seeming tug of war within. And there is an unpredictability about it that I have not yet begun to understand.” The tug of war that I wrote about revolved around silence and writing. I was and am hearkening to the call to incorporate more silence into my life and I had no idea how silence would fit into my writing life. It was a conundrum that I faced daily since the beginning of the Lenten season,  a sort of Koan: How do I merge writing and silence? The answer came to me a few days ago: Write from the silence. It seems simple, but it will take a lifetime to explore this path. It was a surprise to find several websites that explore writing and silence. The International Association of Conscious and Writers featured an article on How to Strengthen Your Writing With Silence. In  Justen Ahren Demystifies his Monastic Approach to Writing, the poet …

How to Write Crisp, Evocative Descriptions (1)

“If description is the flowering, it is also the root and stem of effective writing,” wrote Rebecca McClanahan in her book, Word Painting, A Guide to Writing More Descriptively. I’m reading this book because I meet my Waterloo every time I have to describe something in writing. I honestly feel this makes my writing flowerless. This is such a good book and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to write well. McClanahan says that description is one third of the story telling tripod; with exploration and narration as the other two legs. She emphasizes that “Description doesn’t begin on the page.It begins in the eye and ear and mouth and nose and hand of the beholder.” According to McClanahan, the most essential task of a writer is careful and imaginative observation. That means I’m in big trouble because I have no patience in noticing. My eyes skim scenes and gloss over details. I’m only in the first chapter and so far McClanahan has not yet presented any exercises that I can do to help …

Fun Time!

I wanted to have some fun today and surfed the web… and discovered Storybird!  It’s a great visual community that revolves around storytelling. Storybird allows anyone to create wonderful stories accompanied by gorgeous artwork in a matter of seconds. You can write a poem by choosing an artwork and some words that you drag into the artwork   Press the Publish button and voila! You have a copy of your fully illustrated poem!   I also wrote a few pages of a picture book and this is the cover   Here are the first two pages…both written in a matter of minutes!   You can also create a multi-chapter longform book. There are lots of great artwork that you can use to illustrate you poem or story. Grab some fun now!

Pssssst! Do You Want to Receive Free Author Coaching for One Week?

Ever heard of Compose, A Journal of Simply Good Writing? I’ve been a subscriber since its inception. It’s a great online magazine that features good writing and accepts submissions. I still have to summon up the courage to submit my work though. But that’s not what this post is all about. This post is about freebies now being offered by Compose to its readers. There are a couple of freebies right now:The first is a free download of their No Excuses Book Map.  The second freebie is courtesy of Jennie Nash who was once a features editor for Compose. The current issue features an article by Nash: A Lesson on Procrastination and Doubt. Certainly a good read if you have these two nemeses as bedfellows Aside from this, Nash also offers Compose readers one week free trial of her Author Accelerator program. If you sign up, you will receive sample emails for one week which will offer lessons, insights and inspiration. On the 7th day, you have the option to send up to 10 pages …

BEing

Far from the turmoil that now hounds the earth is a state of BEing – a peaceful place available to everyone. It is far because people have distanced themselves from matters of Spirit. Life goes on as though the material world is all there is. Many have and continue to listen to the stirrings of Spirit, but they often find it difficult to reach higher levels of soul communication because of the trappings of the material world. It is when the spirit of Love pervades that one is able to successfully transcend the temptations of the material. Nowhere is there a place more perfect than this – the state of BEing.  — from Lights Along Our Path photo credit: Love to all my contacts* via photopin (license)

On Writing: Quotes from Parker Palmer

“I’ve always been an obsessive writer, and, before age slowed me down, my rush to write sometimes kept me from seeing the beauty around me. Part of me regrets that fact. And yet, back then — focused laser-like on surveying and mapping what’s “in here” to the exclusion of what’s “out there” — I was able to write something that helped a stranger find new life. Looking back, I’m awed by the way embracing everything, from what I got right to what I got wrong, invites the grace of wholeness.” “For 50 years I’ve been writing almost daily. I’m driven not by expertise but by my own bafflement about many things — some of them “in here” and some of them “out there.” Every time I write, I’m surprised by what I discover about myself and/or the world. “So I no longer wait until I have a clear idea to start putting words on the page. If I did, I’d never write a word! I simply start writing, trusting that the writing itself will help …

From My Journal: Trading the Camera for Pen and Notebook

I live in a tropical country – the Philippines – and every year during the last quarter, our 7,100 islands play hosts to thousands of birds migrating from other countries like Japan, Korea and China. The birds begin to arrive in October to escape the cold winter months. Our lakes, rivers, seas and land become temporary haven for these migratory birds. Many years ago I belonged to a small bird-watching group and we used to travel to the provinces armed with binoculars and field guides to watch the birds. Travels during the last quarter of the year were especially fulfilling because we were able to see some migratory birds as well. But these days it’s no longer necessary to travel to the provinces to see the migratory birds. They come to the suburbs as well and every October we see a few of them on empty fields or near lagoons. A flock of plumed egrets arrived in a field near our house last October. Just a small flock of about twenty birds, and they were in …

Writing Away from the Keyboard

I haven’t been spending much time writing these days. These daily blog posts are just about the only writing I have been doing. But it doesn’t worry me. I’ve taken writing fasts before and they have all been productive, though in a very different way. In an interview with George Wickes which was published in the Paris Review, Wickes asked Henry Miller, “Is there a particular conditioning that the writer can go through, like the Zen swordsman?” Miller answered, “Why, of course, but who does it? Whether he means to do it or not, however, every artist does discipline himself and condition himself in one way or another. Each man has his own way. After all, most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I’d say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you’re walking or shaving or playing a game or whatever, or even talking to someone you’re not vitally interested in. You’re working, your mind is working, on this problem in the back of your head. So, when you …

The Changing Seasons of a Writing Life

A few weeks ago, many trees in our tropical country began to shed and soon many of them were naked.  In the Philippines, falling leaves signal the changing of seasons, and many streets in the suburbs and provinces are littered with dried leaves. The shedding of the trees happens between the cool months and the hot summer days.  The evenings and early mornings remain cool, but the days begin to feel summery. It is as though there is a tug of war between the cold nights and the hot days.     We know summer is afoot because the egrets that have migrated to the city from China begin to leave…     And bougainvillea plants begin to bloom copiously…     But today, we had rain, and suddenly it felt like the rainy season again. Climate change is so noticeable here in the Philippines, and today is a gentle reminder that the weather is ever-changing and has become quite unpredictable.     The changing seasons seem to mirror the changes in my writing life. I …

Words of Wisdom from a Writer: Connecting with our inner and outer worlds

I’ve finished reading a most interesting book about nature and writing and I’m sharing some wonderful quotations from the book,  Writing Wild: Forming a Creative Partnership with Nature by  Tina Welling: —  Simple writing exercises can contact wisdom from within ourselves to match any call for healing, once we become conscious of the need. In every case, our healing lies side by side with our wounds. Our answers come from the exact place our questions arise. Where else would they be? — The act of writing weaves our inner and outer environments together. It makes us conscious of our bodies and of the earth and brings the whole experience into physical form — words on paper. — As writers, we need to live more fully than others; most certainly, writers need to live more fully than their readers. We must be exquisitely aware of ourselves and our surroundings and the life force that throbs within us continuously. — A writer must have experienced the wild edges of aliveness in order to write about them with vivid truth. — Creative writers can no …

How Submittable Works

Originally posted on BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog:
From top: Glimmer Train, Tin House, Ploughshares, One Story, Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, Kenyon Review… Submittable. So much better than stealing photocopies at our temp jobs or wondering if no response means “lost in the mail.” If you’re not already using Submittable, the site is a service for authors to submit work to literary magazines, and for magazines a way to control and organize the tsunami of submissions without letting anyone slip through the cracks. In terms of paper saved, Submittable is probably responsible for half a rain forest, or at least the contents of several hefty recycling dumpsters. Editor Kelly Davio has helpfully broken down how Submittable works, in a post worth checking out if you are new to using the service, or have been using it without really knowing what all those status changes mean. Submittable’s blessing and curse is: greater involvement in the submission process. Using Submittable’s features, you can see the progress of your submission and even manage withdrawals and edits. Not that we’re…

Friday Web Finds

I found some interesting posts on the web….! The Writing Life: A Case of the Mondays  Cynthia Morris: Why Books Can Take So Long  Productivity 101: How to Use Personal Kanban to Visualize Your Work How To Train Your Brain To See What Others Don’t  

Dancing a Slow Dance

I feel like I’m dancing a slow dance. Priorities fall away one by one and I am left with one task at hand, and then another, and another. No multitasking, no running after time. It is a strange place, a landscape heretofore unknown. But I like being here, dancing to a slow tempo that allows the body to really feel life’s melody, and the spirit to relish every step. In this kind of life there is no need to rush, simplicity is the norm and wants and needs fall by the wayside. This is the life that Zen inspires. Many, many years ago I began to practice Zazen, which is basically the study of the self – a form of meditation that is very much at the heart of Zen practice. Zazen was life changing for me, and it has taken all these years to reach the pinnacle of this journey. And now the challenge is to find out how this new way of BEing can be applied to writing. In the Writing Life, Annie Dillard wrote: A …

When the Muse is Nowhere to Be Found

The Muse has been absent lately, and writing is taking a backseat again. If I had not committed to daily blogging this year, I wouldn’t be doing any writing at all.  I must admit that I am enjoying these days of non-doing. So this is a very short post. What do I do in my spare time when I don’t feel like writing? Sometimes, I do embroidery work – I do Totsuka, a form of Japanese embroidery.    

Musings: On Revising

  When I was a feature writer, I heeded the advice of established writers regarding revisions of manuscripts. The common advice was: Revise, revise, revise! The chorus convinced me that revising was indeed important, so every article I wrote was revised, revised, revised – and revised some more. The advent of blogging and my forays into content writing has tempered my determination to revise to the nth degree, but revisions are still very much a part of my writing life. I read about an author who writes with a pencil.  As he transfers his work to the computer, he automatically makes revisions. Then he reads his work one last time for a final editing. I do revisions periodically as I write.  First I read what I had written silently and revise. Then later I go back to it and read it aloud and make more revisions.  There is a definite change in the way the words come together when I read my work aloud – somehow the cadence is more apparent and I can “hear” the …

Doll God by Luanne Castle

Originally posted on wuthering bites:
Chalked on the blackboard of Mr. Black’s grade ten high school English classroom was this quote from Carl Sandberg: Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits. It stayed there for the month or so that we covered poetry, reminding the tryers among us what we had to do to make people go “ahhh”. Later, in third year-university, Professor Ron Wallace brought all us “excellent” English students to our knees as he taught us how to parse a poem. We weren’t allowed to talk about feelings. No, we had to explain HOW the poet conveyed what she wanted the reader to feel. I learned never to take a word for granted. I learned connotation and denotation. I learned sound and word placement. I learned rhythm and meter and stress. I learned I was a shitty poet and didn’t understand poetry very well after all. It was horribly humbling. Still, I continue to write poetry, mostly for fun and without serious intent. It is a kind of catharsis. Some people keep…