Tuesday, June 29, 2010

July Read-Around

Hello to my Sisters in the Writing Circle,

Our next read-around is Saturday, July 10 at 9 a.m. at Wellington Square Bookshop.  As I mentioned in the previous post, The "Ugly Me" Essay," I would like to try something new.  Write a 1,000-word essay about yourself.   Think about stretching your talents . . .  and making the most of leaving your comfort zone while in the safety and support of the Circle.

If you are uncomfortable, then please bring whatever you desire to the read-around.  Your work never ceases to amaze and inspire me.

I will work on my own "ugly me" essay for the next meeting of the Circle.  Meanwhile, if you think it is hot now, please think again.  I was in Tucson, Arizona this time last year where temperatures hit 105 by noon.  Here is a typical sunset from my former home in the Catalina Foothills. 

See you July 10.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The "Ugly Me" Essay

When we see great characters on screen or in books, it is often their vulnerabilities that connect us to them.  Margaret Mitchell drew an indelible portrait of Scarlett's selfishness, her childishness and cruelty, her infatuation with the wrong man. . . all of it crystallizing into one of the most unforgettable heroines in modern literature. We loved her, we hated her. I wanted to be her. Or maybe I just wanted Rhett.

Putting our vulnerabilities on paper - writing about the "ugly me" - can be revealing and provocative.  I remember when I was in second grade, the teacher asked us to draw a landscape of fields and pumpkins. The next day our artwork was hung from clothespins on a string in front of the coat closets. One drawing jumped out at me - and, I am sure, at  everyone else. It had lovely contours, shading . . it had perspective. Birds soaring in the distance looked real! By comparison, my pumpkins sagged like lopsided beach balls; my corn stalks rigid stick men on a bad hair day.

Without understanding why, a jealous rage welled within me. As everyone headed outside for recess, I stayed behind.  Surreptitiously looking around, I grabbed a piece of black chalk.  My hand reached up, my heart pounded. 

The teacher made much of the "culprit."

"Whoever did this, come forward now!"  We sat frozen in our seats looking at the picture with horrible black scribbles defacing its lovely vista.   "The child who did this can expect coal in their stocking at Christmas," Miss Stafford  fumed.

For years I thought about that day with shame, although I suppose I wasn't much different than Scarlett throwing an expensive vase into a wall after she learns Ashley has found another woman.  Growing up, learning that others are more attractive or talented - or that someone doesn't love us as much as we love them - is hard. Yet these are the lessons that connect us.

I would like to try something new at the July meeting of the Circle.  Write a 100-word essay about yourself.   If you are uncomfortable, then please bring whatever you desire.  I will work on my own "ugly me" essay for the next meeting of the Circle at 9 a.m. July 10. See you there.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Anniversary Memories

Tomorrow, June 17, would have been my 32nd wedding anniversary.  Many of you have asked me what John looked like as you have traveled the road with me these last three years, reading my memoir as it took shape, giving me encouragement and insight  . . . .  So here we are on our wedding day.  John and Susan, for better or worse.

Despite the cancer that eventually robbed me of my husband, cancer could never steal my memories which remain in my heart this day and always. As I look back over 17 wonderful years - 16 wedding anniversaries - with John, I know how lucky I was.  I once had true love.   "Here's lookin' at you, kid."

There is Nothing Ordinary about the Ordinary Life

Last night a woman handed me a brochure for The International Women's Writing Guild "Remember the Magic" writing conference at Brown University from July 30 to August 6.  As I looked at the workshop programs, I noticed a whole session entitled: "Transformation of the Self."  Once again, I realized how empowering - and powerful -  this movement of women writing the stories of their lives really is.

Writing our life story is more than just "scriptotherapy," it is stretching ourselves and celebrating the journey unique to women.

Often people will say, "But who would want to read my memoir?  I am just an ordinary person."  Yet there is nothing ordinary about any life.  Each of us has all the knowledge of the universe at our fingertips.  Our stories have markers along the way that lend insight into that universe, that point to the commonality of kindred spirits.

While exploring themes that resonate with  readers can be the job of both writer and editor, it is the very act of writing that allows the woman to cast aside old notions and delve into the "true script."  The winds start to blow and with it the sense that something new and exciting.is happening . The weight we carry . . . guilt, disillusionment, failure -  those three Horsemen of the Apocalypse -  falls away.  Once again, we experience the magic.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Stepping out of the Shadows

When a woman hides her true thoughts and feelings because she fears it might elicit a negative reaction, she buries her creative passion.  Such is the transformative power of memoir - casting aside the worry about judgment and putting truth in words.  Only then can a woman's creative spirit spring forth from the shadows.

No small task and hardly easy, but "a healing type of thing," as Becky said at today's read-around.  As Robyn said when she began reading, "This is a story of the heart . . ." Stories of the heart are a sacred gift that we tenderly unwrap and hold in the Circle. 

Today the window opened - a crack for some, and more for others - as to who we are. A woman's creative life can't be eroded when she steps out of the shadows and breaths in cool, clean air.  From there, the window can only be flung wide open.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Art of the Reading

Belonging to a writers group offers invaluable opportunities to hone our reading skills in front of a live audience. 

A friend attended my first reading Monday night sponsored by a local writers group.  As I approached the podium and looked out toward an audience of strangers, I felt my stomach clench with nervousness.  Would they like my work? Would they laugh in the right places?  I took a deep breath and began.  After I finished, my friend suggested that next time I slow down . . . pausing after sections in the chapter would help the audience savor my story.  As a former journalist, my experience lent itself to anonymity.  I NEVER had to read in front of an audience.  The reading I participated in the other night was terrific practice for me.

As we move forward as authors, readings become an important marketing tool if we plan to publish. The Women's Writing Circle offers practice in the art of reading.  See you Saturday. I look forward to hearing your work and practicing my own skills.
All the best,

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Reading Hogs

Do not be a hog at readings.  If you have ten minutes to read, take the ten minutes . . . or less. Last night someone read for close to 20 minutes, despite the 10-minute allotment. That is asking a lot of the audience and it is not fair to the other writers who work within the allotted time.... We all love our work and the sound of our words and voices, but remember.. .  a reading is a gift, not a right.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Come to a Reading

I will read the first two chapters of my memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, at Chester County Book Company at  7 p.m., Monday, June 7.  This reading is sponsored by the Brandywine Valley Writers Group.

Please join us for what is bound to be a fun and inspiring evening of writers whose work covers all genres.  The link to the Brandywine Valley Writers Group is on the right side of this website as are directions to the Book Company, located in the West Goshen Shopping Center, West Chester, PA.  Hope to see you there!