Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nov. 6 Read-Around of the Circle

Our next read-around will be held at Wellington Square Bookshop on Saturday, November 6 at 9 a.m.  Please share a piece of writing with the Circle and enjoy coffee and tea at this charming bookstore, located in Exton's Eagleview Town Center.

For those who have not participated in a read-around, we give each writer 10 to 15 minutes to read and ask for read-back lines that resonated with the Circle.  (The longer time is allowed depending on the size of the group.) Critique and comment are offered, if so desired by the writer. Writers may bring essays, poetry, memoir, fiction or non-fiction.

The read-around is a lovely exercise of reading aloud what you wrote in an intimate and supportive setting while "test driving" your voice and your work.  This is your time to contemplate and reflect in a community of writers.
Hope to see you.

All the best, Susan

Monday, October 18, 2010

Community of Writers

What better way to share our stories and writing than with a community of like-minded people? So it was this past weekend at our Art and Practice of Memoir workshop at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in  Glenmoore, Pennsylvania.
Our workshop facilitator, Mary Pierce Brosmer, author and founder of Women Writing for (a) Change, began with a quote from Brenda Ueland, journalist and writing teacher:  "It has made me enjoy writing the more to understand that writing is not a performance, it's a generosity."  

Ueland also wrote: "Everyone is talented, original, and has something important to say."

I felt gratitude for the voices and stories of so many gifted and giving people.  The chatter of the outside world receded as all 18 of us took our seats in the circle and began without apology . . . instead, trust and acceptance along with an intention to write our own stories without being imprisoned by someone else's version.

Some call it the "divine." As one workshop participant put it, "When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, the truth emerges."

Many, many thanks to Mary Pierce Brosmer, pictured here, for holding the circle with respect, sensitivity and great teaching skill.  She gave us a better understanding of memoir, ideas of how to proceed with our projects, and offered up writing time, read-arounds and discussion of  ways writing can heal. 

As co-facilitator, I spoke about read-arounds offered through the Women's Writing Circle, which is a resource for local writers, and the pros and cons of self-publishing I am experiencing as author of my memoir, Again in a Heartbeat.

Mary concluded the workshop on Saturday afternoon by extinguishing the candle placed in the center of the circle, which she lit Friday evening when the workshop began. I had made new friends, including Mary who I was meeting for the first time.  She arrived from Cincinnati in a driving rainstorm with a chest cold, but marshalled the strength and stamina to see it through and give us a truly special experience.

In this community of writers, there was connection and belonging along with renewed energy to write.  As one workshop participant said, "I am leaving with a new lease on writing and a wonderful sense of the power of a community."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Put Yourself in the Writing

I remember when I first starting writing memoir. I was still in full reporter mode, although it had been a year since I'd stepped foot in the newsroom at The Philadelphia Inquirer.  I was caught up in  facts.
As a reporter, I stood back, observed. I was not paid to be introspective. I prided myself on accuracy. I spent many sleepless nights wondering if I got it right. The people I interviewed - their faces, the sound of their voices - diminished against a backdrop of checking and double checking names, places of work and titles, ages, organizations linked to websites.

While accuracy is important, this emphasis on "reporting" becomes deadening once we step into the arena of storytelling. You suffocate, drown in details.  You submerge  the big picture.  It's like life. You lose the thread.  

Thinking back on when I first moved to Tucson, Arizona for a year, I waxed poetic about sunsets, rainbows and full moons hanging over Sabino Canyon.  I forgot to write why I was there!  Too many lonely nights back in the bedroom in Pennsylvania, my arms hugging an old teddy bear, a hitch in my throat, crying over the loss of my husband. I had to get away, believe there could be a second chance at happiness.  The desert gave me that. Once I started writing about my fear of being alone, I knew I had something . . . not just for myself, but the reader.

Creative writing comes down to putting your emotions out there. Writing should be less about the subject and more about its significance. 

Is the story about money or what motivates greed?
Is it about loss or how to come to terms with growing old?
Is it about despair or how despair hones resilience? 
Is it about the excitement of a new place or about second chances?

Once we move beyond the subject and understand the significance of our stories, we can employ techniques to enhance meaning.

  • Think about what's behind the feeling.
  • Don't just describe the feeling, show the physical impact of the emotion.
  • Create a mood in each scene.
  • Let your characters talk. Dialogue livens a scene. 
  • Show, don't tell.
  • Think about the message.
  • Forget accuracy if it interrupts and slows the pace. 
  • A little fiction and embellishment are entertaining.
  • Transcend limitations and advance your vision. 
In the end have fun.  This is your chance to set the record straight. No one can take that from you. Put yourself in the writing. You can't go wrong.