Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Memory - A Prompt

Do you remember the coming of age film, The Summer of '42?  The movie was based on the screenwriter's memoir and recalls one summer on Nantucket Island when a teenage boy falls in love with an older woman who is awaiting the return of her husband from World War II.
As the heat here in Pennsylvania makes clear, summer is upon us.  Our writing prompt for the June 11 read-around is Summer Memory.

Try writing a 900-word piece that offers up a snapshot of  one special summer of your life. This prompt lets you explore some of the writing techniques we have discussed in the Circle, including mixing narrative with dialogue and adding good description rife with detail. 

It also lets us dive into the emotions of a special or meaningful time. In this way, we face ourselves, if you will. What was special about that summer and what does it tell us about who we are and where we are going?

As always, if you prefer to bring something else to the Circle, please do that.  We love the variety of the stories we hear.   I hope to see you Saturday, June 11 as we light the candle and read our work to each other at Wellington Square Bookshop.  Our read-around goes from 9 - 11:30 a.m. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me at sgweidener@comcast.net

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Let The Story Reveal Itself

One thing I have learned when writing a book. It takes time (not just effort and work) to let - to allow - a story to reveal itself.  While numerous options are out there to quickly publish and people are urging you to "get the book out," set up readings, "target" your market before you have even finished the first chapter  - the reality is this  . . .   writing is an art. 
Good writing conjures magic. The muse comes when you least expect her.  You can't demand her presence. 

So you have picked the "big" story to tell - stories of pain, tragedy, redemption, love, frustration, grief. Do you want an account of these events for family and friends?  Do you want to reach a wider audience?  If you chose the latter, do you need to write the story again from a greater distance?  Does the story need time to percolate?

You wait.  Meanwhile, you  keep writing, journaling.  You work on allowing your "voice" to be heard because you know to be afraid of revealing, afraid of disturbing others, diminishes the story. 

Believe me, I know the publishing business is falling to pieces.  These are incredibly exciting times for self-published authors and people are urging you "to get on with it." You want to bring your story to an audience.  But don't let your friends or anyone else tell you what to do.

Remember.  Writing is art.  There are no quick and easy paths to the finish line, unless you want to join the legions of hack writers.  Whether you go the traditional or self-publishing route, good writing is good writing.  Would you want to offer your readers anything less?   

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writing Is Living Twice

You want to write about the past. You need to write about it. Can you bear the feelings that come with going back? As an editor once said to me, "Writing is living twice."

Can you write about the day your big brother slung an arm around your shoulder and asked, "Hey, little sister, how about a game of cards?" And you wondered . . why? Why would this handsome guy who has girls hanging all over him want to spend time with an ugly girl like me?

Now you know better.  You know you are beautiful and your story worth telling.  Little sister is all grown up.

When I wrote about the past, I felt drained, transported, elated, melancholic. Be prepared for the feelings. Be prepared to bawl your eyes out.  Be prepared to turn your heart inside out.

Writing memories is living twice, maybe more poignantly. If a tsunami is about to wash over you, put the pen down, close the laptop. Decompress. Take a walk. Come back to it when you are ready. It's not going anywhere.

This is your memory, your magic.  It's your life and it's worth parsing over, marinating, reliving . . . everything people tell you that you shouldn't do.  Why live in the past, they ask?  What's the use?  What's the sense?  You know why and if they don't, that's their problem.

As Virginia Woolf so eloquently put it:

“I can only note that the past is beautiful
because one never realizes an emotion at the time.
It expands later, and thus
we don't have complete emotions about the present,
only about the past....
That is why we dwell on the past, I think.”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Connecting in the Circle

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I am going to be brief. 

I often emphasize how energizing and humanizing sharing our stories is in a community of writers.  Sometimes, it sounds like so many pretty words strung together.  But when it happens - and it does over and over again in the Circle - you  experience the magic. You feel it.

When a very personal, honest and courageous piece is read, everyone is moved.  We are moved by the universality of our human condition - the pain, the suffering, the individual triumph over seemingly impossible odds.  Sometimes, we just have to jump up, hug each other and say "thank you"! 

After I wrote my memoir, I felt healed.  This gave me the ability to share with other women in a way I never could have if I had not done the soul-searching work that is the lot of every good writer.  The joy of the Circle is that the women are finding this to be true for themselves; they, in turn, are connecting and empowering each other with the confidence of their voice.  The Circle remains unbroken. And that deserves a whole lot of hugs.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Devoting a Morning to Ourselves

Life is busy with many activities and demands on our time as women.  Can you allow yourself the luxury of  committing a morning to yourself and your writing?

I am convinced that women are told it is selfish to devote time to their own passionate pursuits.  It is important that women have role models.  Together, we can be each other's role models in our commitment and devotion to saying "my story matters."

This is what our Women's Writing Circle is all about.  Easing the solitary life of the writer, validating and acknowledging each other in a supportive and intimate setting . As Joanna Russ writes in How to Suppress Women's Writing: "Without models, it's hard to work; without a context, difficult to evaluate; without peers, nearly impossible to speak."

All genres are welcome in the Circle, as are both published and unpublished writers. Our group is diverse and lively. Please join us the second Saturday of every month for coffee and tea and a love of writing. For additional information and questions, please email me at sgweidener@comcast.net