Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Writing Anniversary

A woman's work never ends. All of us who write know how hard it is . . . how much dedication it takes. Together we support each other.

Establish contact.
Explore our voices.
Create a reverent space for writing.

Dream your dream.  Don't let anyone derail you. Keep writing. People are wary of writing.  Sometimes those people are family and friends. Push yourself a little further even when you think you have nothing more to say.

Join us from  9 - 11:30 a.m. November 19 at Wellington Square Bookshop as we celebrate the second anniversary of the Women's Writing Circle. Our read-around will offer surprises and more.

The past two years have been a journey of voices, stories, talent and trust.  I look forward to more time together as our voices resonate with the joy of writing. All genres and experience levels welcome.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Persona In Memoir - A Writing Prompt

Have you ever wondered how different your life would be if one of its most defining moments had never happened?  Or if you stepped aside and tried to look dispassionately at a situation from another person's perspective?  These are strategies to create persona.  Persona is the voice of the narrator in the story; in memoir it is you, the author.

As Vivian Gornick writes in The Art of Personal Narrative, "self-centeredness doesn't work."  Rather, what works is "transforming detached empathy and making it something of value to the disinterested reader."

How might one accomplish that in memoir?  One way is to play around with provocative questions and then write. For example,  "Who was she to her mother?"  and "Who was the mother to her?" lead to very different versions of the story.

The narrator in memoir is the guide not just to story, but to the inward journey that takes the reader on a voyage of discovery.  This cannot be accomplished simply by "lying down on the couch in public," as Gornick says, and writing in a "whining and accusatory voice."  Rather, it requires stepping back and giving structure, shapeliness and expression to that story. 

A persona allows freedom to explore humor, irony and other emotions.  It can be fun and satisfying for the writer.Our prompt is to experiment with persona.  Create a voice that is emotionally expressive, but detached. 

  • If  this had not happened (you fill in the blank), how different my life would have been. 
  • If I had not stepped inside (the store, the house, the school) that day . . .
  • Write a scene from another character's point of view.  Have a conversation with your mother when she was the age you are now.  Let her talk about how she sees her life.
As always, if these prompts do not suit, please bring to our Circle what your muse inspires.  I will see everyone on November 19 at Wellington Square.  This is the third Saturday of the month because I am traveling the second Saturday of the month. 

Your blank page is waiting  . . .

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Highlights From Mastering Writing

Courage, illumination, potent information, a powerful personal experience . . . words on soul/index cards left in the Circle from writers who participated in our Mastering Writing weekend workshop. 

Grilled cheese sandwiches and salads at Lion's Share in Exton as we broke for lunch on Saturday. Mushroom and pepperoni pizza at VIP in Chester Springs on a glowing October Indian Summer Sunday. 

Back to the inn for writing - the Fairfield Inn where the Brandywine/Lionville room was our home for the weekend.  Apple cider, lemonade, butter cookies and pretzels to chomp on while we wrote.  Many, many thanks to the Fairfield Inn for Continental breakfasts of Belgian waffles, yogurt, fruit and eggs, and 24-hour coffee.

"I brought a blank page, my soul and a few pieces of my work," Flo said.

"I brought a mind and spirit open to learning and sharing," Harriet wrote.

Critique on Saturday afternoon.  Painful, illuminating and constructive.

On another soul card . . . "I take away the knowledge that the human experience - especially of women - enriches, satisfies, fills some empty spaces."

Cindy and I wanted to foster a reverent space for writing - where we could step away from a world filled with noise and distractions and enter a place that allowed our writing to flourish and our voices to be heard.  Between instruction in the craft of writing and exploration of why we write, we all learned from each other.

I left our workshop feeling privileged to hear poetry, short stories, and excerpts of memoir from a diverse group of talented writers.  Thank  you for keeping the magic alive.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Writing and Believing

Last night I watched the HBO documentary on George Harrison, Living in the Material World.  I was struck by Harrison saying how even after writing song after song,  he still hoped to write what he considered a "good song." 

That got me thinking about what Natalie Goldberg wrote in her classic book, Writing Down the Bones.  Goldberg said we have trouble "connecting with our own confident voice and even when we do connect with it, we have trouble claiming it."

The doubt that besets artists after people tell them they love their work is all too familiar.  They are amazed since they don't believe it themselves.

When people tell me they loved my memoir, I often think they say that just to be kind because I know I could have written a much better book.  When that happens, I want to stop writing. Then I go home and try to remind myself that confidence is necessary if I want to continue to write.  For the very act of writing is risking vulnerability.  It is opening yourself not only to the criticism of others, but to your own censorship and fear.

It comes down to trusting your voice and writing about it and then, as Goldberg says, "acknowledging it and standing behind it." 

Luckily for us, Harrison's inability at times to claim his greatness was offset by a charming bravado that surely helped him become the writer he was.  For he said that if Lennon and McCartney could write songs, then "anyone could."  And with that he penned his first song, "Don't Bother Me."  Maybe it wasn't a great song, but look at what came after. We'll never know if he thought "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was good enough.