Saturday, January 20, 2007

Welcome New Writers!

Over the past month I've been pleased to have several new writers bravely post their first passages publicly.
I've also heard from several students who have visited the blog, but did not post. I do hope in future they overcome their timidity and post some of their responses, questions, and possibly first attempts.

To blog or not to blog is a simple question. If it's just me warbling away into cyber space: NOT. But if this is a blogsite where others can feel safe and free to warble along: let's blog.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Di's Beginning

Eben Reilly

Di is a bright, articulate, funny friend who would amuse us both as we stood before the deli counter at Prunier's, the local grocer in Castleton VT, with her insights into the ordinary ridiculousness of life.

She's always spoken of having a book knocking around in her head and surprised me with a fictional response to both our questions: 1) How do you feel about your name? 2) How does a writer a begin a book?

Well, a word begets a sentence, and a sentence begets a page. and well in biblical terms you know how that goes...

Good luck, Di, with having begun your own.


Yes, where do I begin. Just a nugget. The week has been big and bulbous to get around, but here I am on Saturday morning, stealing some moments....The Skates and the Teeth

"Oh man, I keep hitting that infected thing on my finger. I godda stop ripping off hangnails with my teeth."

Yolanda scanned the kitchen counter for her glasses. The glasses weren't there, or maybe they were, maybe they were under something. On Tuesday they were under something, but this was Thursday.

"Oh man, where are they, where was I....I godda go...."

The car had that cold front seat feeling, unforgiving and immutable. This was Vermont in January. Nobody has garages anyway. Her belongings on the seat next to her rattled around, each one trying to beat the other one at the game of "Who's going to fall over the other side of the passenger seat first?" Yolanda was, however, coddling her coffee cup. In comparison, it didn't matter whether she had remembered the keys, purse or cell phone. The coffee was her friend. The coffee really loved her. And she loved the coffee with her whole heart too. Sounds like addiction. Psychological maybe, but her coffee cared that she had a soul. It gave her a moment to find it, a precious portal to God. And Yolanda found her soul, with the encouragement of the gentle, humble, creamy brew. The flavor made her cry.

The splatter of gravel into low lying orbits over the driveway, belied the passions of the woman at the wheel.

"...wish I could get a good squeal out of them. One of these days, I have to let loose. Nah, I don't want to hit the mailbox.""

Yolanda headed up the very short stretch to make a left and head for the highway. As she rounded the turn, she knew her coffee meditation could begin. Route 4 was not stressful. Route 4 allowed her to think her thoughts, and spread out on a beach blanket.

"I'm not a Yolanda. Why did they name me Yolanda? Everyone thinks I'm from Spain or Cuba. My ancestors are from England, Switzerland, and Scotland. Yolanda is somebody else's name.... Everyone calls me Yo anyway. "Hey yo, Yo!" That was always a hoot too. Yo. Who wants to be called Yo! It's the verb for playing with a yo yo. I can't stand it. And I let people call me Yo without saying, Hey, my name is Yolanda! I'm pathetic, I don't want to trouble people to have to say my whole name?"

The coffee was only gone, a little, but she was lost in the insight of the moment. She cherished it. A pungently fragrant gardenia. The fog was lifting off of Birdseye Mountain, but the endless gray, almost seamless between sky and treeline almost enveloped the thought. Yolanda held on tightly, almost crushing the gardenia....

This is the beginning of my story. Nathaniel got up. Brad's at a training and PEBE is at a friend's. I lost my focus, but it will come back. Anyway, this is what is flying around in my mind. It is in relation to last week's question, but I'm slow. I'll keep writing, later today.

Love, Di

Sunday, January 07, 2007

POV Sheela

Here's some advise by Sheela Hastings Wolford in response to Keisha's question: how do I begin my autobiography?

Perhaps I can best explain my approach my stating what a person SHOULDN'T do, since I have more experience there.

1) Don't think every word has to be magic.
2) Don't think you should scrap the whole thing and start over.
3) Don't hold back on real events (even if it's going to get your family mad).
4) Don't put the paper down and give up.
5) Don't expect it to flow out perfectly the first time.

Now, let me try, as I am trying now at the age of 51, to approach how to start:

1) Give thanks that you have the gift of writing and you have not rejected it.
2) Take a long walk every day and let your ideas "moodle" their way to you.
3) Read at some point every day.
4) Stay aware of your work as you are doing other work and JOT it down when it comes to you.
5) Speak honestly in the moment.
6) Do a free write at the beginning or morning pages to censor the critic in your head.
7) Don't show anyone until you are FINISHED. (This is the Stephen King approach and I believe in him.)
8) Rewrite, revise after you've let your Ideal Reader (someone you trust as a writer and reader) read it. Listen to their comments.
9) Edit and rework as much as YOU THINK it needs it.
10) Now look for an agent.

Lastly, a few semesters ago, I followed another teacher's lesson plan for memoir writing and in it she gave a lesson developed by a Native American and I found this exercise very helpful. Here it is:

Take your life and divide it into four equal parts of your age. For example, if you are 25, divide your life from birth to six, six to 12, 12 to 18, and 18 to 25. These are the four seasons of your life. Within each of those seasons start writing. You can ask yourself pointed questions and answer each in those periods and then pull out the story for your autobiography. I agree with Jude in thinking about the MOST important events that mark your life. Maybe the seasons can be the bone structure he writes about.

Whatever you do, do it with gusto and heart. If you don't have the heart to write about your life, no one will want to read it. Finally, when you get bored and start rambling, shut the notebook or file and take a walk.

It's moodling time.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Keisha's Question


Thanks so much for stopping by the site. I'm alerting my other writers of you your question: how do I begin my autobiography?

I'm "moodling" over your question and will post my response in a day or so. (BTW "Moodling" is a word I learned today from another writer who learned it from a mentor: Moodling to mull over your thoughts in preparation for writing-- an important part of the work of the writer which to non-writers looks like you're sitting around doing nothing. Next time a non-writer types accuses of laziness, daydreaming or general sloth, reply politely, but firmly, "I'm moodling. Back off and let me think."

Reading of WOLF

A quick thank you to the students downtown Brooklyn who attended the first reading of WOLF. I appreciate the warm reception and enjoyed our lively exchange.
A number of you have expressed an interest in writing, please feel free to share your work with me at any stage.

(That also goes for Keisha at ASA College whose writer's question for the week is simple, but
profound: how do you begin?)