Saturday, March 23, 2013

2013 AWP Conference, Boston

So many amazing things to do and see at the conference this year. Admittedly, I haven't been to one of these in a few years, so I was totally blown away. This thing is HUGE! There were something over 12,000 people there, three floors of books, so many panels it was hard to choose sometimes. It wasn't like this in the past. We had a few headliners and everyone flocked to see them. This year there were so many brilliant writers, I was a little star-struck.
Three floors of books just like this room.

I loved this conference, and, too, I love Boston. When I found out the AWP was in Boston, I knew I'd be going. I figured that it would be the last time on the East Coast for a couple of years, so I should go. Having gone, I'm actually considering going next year to Seattle. I met some people I want to stay in touch with. I feel a little invigorated with my writing projects.

Being around so many writers is surreal. People on the plane were going to AWP. Everyone in the van that picked me up from the airport was AWP. Everyone I met, bumped into, passed by in the hallway--writers.

For me, here is the best and worst of the conference.

The best:
No one called it a "con." As big and overwhelming as this sometimes feels, it's still not a con.

I saw Jeannette Winterson, and she was amazing. She has so much energy, I can't picture her sitting still to write. On stage though, she was brilliant. I saw Derrick Walcott, Rosanna Warren, Tim Seibles, Rita Dove, David Ferry, and Olga Broumas. I had dinner with my Uncle Michael, himself a playwright.

I shook hands with Seamus Heaney. Whoa!

I watched Sharon Olds read "Ode to the Clitoris."

And it snowed in Boston. At 3 in the morning, I saw a bunny jumping through piles of snow somewhere in Cambridge.

The worst:
I thought I'd see people. I mean, I thought I'd run into them. I knew they were coming, and I should have seen them. Next time, I'll know to make plans to meet for lunch or dinner or whatevs. There's just way too many people to think you'll casually see them.

I saw Scott Cairns, tried to catch up to him, and then he disappeared into the crowds. I had a moment where I was standing in the middle of a thousand people, and I didn't know if I should turn into the books, go up the escalators, what. He was my thesis advisor, and I haven't seen him in years. I would have liked to say hello.

I didn't get to see Augusten Burroughs or Cheryl Strayed. I didn't get to see Janet Sylvester, but I met someone who showed me where to find her online. I met a stranger who knew her!

She's not a stranger anymore. Debra Monroe knew both Janet and Scott, and we talked all the way to the airport. We're in touch on facebook. I've bought her book. I missed Millicent Accardi, Pinsky, DeLillo, Jorie Graham. And more. So the worst thing is that it's kind of impossible to see and do everything you want to.

I'm already looking forward to Seattle 2014. I'll have to catch up there ~

Thursday, January 31, 2013

How I Read Nonfiction

Fiction, actually
I read fiction at night, non-fiction in the morning. Fiction to relax, to gel. Non-fiction is mostly for jazzing up the brain, waking up to a day. If I read non-fiction at night, I get more awake, not less. So I save the fiction for night-time reading.

Also, it helps to have children and a job so that you are forced to wake up so early that it's still dark outside. And know that if you don't write and read then, you might not get to it. For me, it's akin to not having a cup of coffee. If I don't do this, then I am off my game.

I love being up this early and doing this work. I am not a morning person. I would sleep until noon if I could. I don't watch TV. I just don't have time. Whatever I am going to watch will be on Netflix on the weekends, or on a DVD. I go to the movies. But I don't sit on a couch with the TV on at night. I don't have "shows." I am spared endless moronic adverts.

But what I do do is phone stuff. Yes, I check FB, Twitter, The Atlantic, Huff Post, emails. I try not to do this too much before I start to write.

Checking my electronic stuff is a huge time-waster, and I'm getting up early to save time. I wanted to add that so I don't sound all mightier-than-thou by not watching TV. I do stuff. I keep hearing that a bunch of great TV is out now. Cool. I'll watch it when it gets to Netflix.

So I write first, and then I hate to just stop being in this moment. So, I usually grab something non-fiction from the piles I keep next to the bed. I like having a bunch of different choices. You wouldn't want to only have one TV channel, right?

Here are a few of the books:

The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing by Jeff Davis

Finding Water: The Art of Perserverance by Julia Cameron

The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain by John E. Sarno

The Best American Essays, 2012 by Robert Atwan

The Conde Nast Traveler Book of Unforgettable Journeys: Great Writers on Great Places

There are more. I'm just realizing that I don't remember them all specifically by title. There is a book of travel essays. There is a book on how the Outer Banks was populated. There are a few magazines. It's just like writing - a paragraph or a few pages at a time, you get stuff going.

It's dark outside. I make a cup of tea. The day is not yet crayzee.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Word about the Blog and 2012

So it turns out that 2012 was a blogless year. As far as I'm concerned, 2012 can suck it. I had other concerns, and they pressed harder. So let's start fresh. I'm on to 2013. I'll commit to doing 1 thing a month (more if I'm feeling frisy!).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

holiday affirmation

How is it that two seemingly incongruous things so often go together? Love and hate, peace and war, etc. This month it’s holidays and stress. Ho ho ho and bah-humbug!

A friend recently told me about AFFIRMATIONS.

An affirmation is a like a Jedi mind trick from your heart to your brain. It’s a way of letting the steam out of the mental pressure cooker that holidays and family visits can be.

If you start to feel overwhelmed (sales and presents!) or disappointed (the odd Christmas sweater from Aunt Eth, again!) or pressured (20 batches of gingerbread by tomorrow!), you can think of your affirmation for some self-soothing and guidance. Say to yourself, I'm generous; I have a thoughtful family; I'm a good cook.

My friend knows how to do these; she was able to list out the essential elements of affirmations, which I can’t recall from memory, but there are web sites that have more information. Click here for a web site that does a pretty good job of listing parts of an affirmation. I would say that at 9 things, it’s a little much, but I’m no expert.

Dr. Maoshing Ni, a doctor of Chinese medicine, says positive affirmations may be the key to stress-free health. He says that we should repeat positive thoughts in our minds as this affects our health and energy levels.

So here it is, positive affirmation guidelines for the holidays. I’m going to keep it simple.
1. Be positive
2. Be specific
3. Believe absolutely in what you affirm
4. Repeat

The thing is, cut yourself some slack. The more good stuff you feed your brain, the less room there is for the negative. And next month, with the start of a new year, you’ll definitely want to make new affirmations. Keep it fresh. Good luck!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

getting down to art

A couple of years ago, Elizabeth Gilbert gave a speech about creativity that I've always loved.

In his own way, Caveh Zahedi is saying a similar thing about artists and art.

"What we admire in these artists is their individuality, their uniqueness. But I believe that all art is 'channeled,' i.e. that it comes from God, however one defines that word. But the modern view of art is that it is the self-expression of a sui generis individual, a 'genius' who is somehow more brilliant and talented than the rest of us."

"The truth is that we are all manifestations of the genius of God. The artist is no different than anyone else except insofar as he is closer to the source of his Being. But today, the artist has acquired the status of a saint, and the culture of celebrity has become our new religion. Only instead of a panoply of saints, known for their virtue and good works, we have movie stars and rock stars as religious icons. These people are worshiped not because of their spirituality or wisdom, but rather because they enable us to project a more grandiose image of ourselves, namely that, like them, we too can be more important and powerful than we actually feel ourselves to be."

-Caveh Zahedi, independent film maker

Thursday, October 20, 2011

you don't have to be a genius

From "How I Write: A Conversation with Nancy Packer"
Feb 3, 2011 at Stanford University
(Available from iTunes U)

A writer's process is often as interesting as the writing. Here are some excerpts from a conversation with Nancy Packer.

On the process:

I realized you didn't have to be a genius... Not everyone is Faulkner. That there is room... it was not closed to me... That was an important lesson.

Don't share your work with your friends. Share it with people who know what they're doing.

Chekhov said to his brother - go to Moscow where you can find other writers. Go where there are writers. 

If you're trying to write, you can't wash socks or mow the lawn... you have to have a regular time. Once I had that established, then I was okay. ... I did the work. I stayed at the typewriter. ... Three pages and out.

On the audience:

You're not writing for yourself... You write to communicate with somebody. Who is it that you're trying to communicate with? 

Frank O'Connor once said that he wrote for the man in the armchair. 

I'm writing for ... somebody like me who isn't a writer. ... That's my audience. ... I'm not going to write down to try to appeal to an audience, because my audience doesn't want that. 

On why:

That moment when what you've just done is exactly right. ... Maybe a sentence, maybe a word, but whatever it was, was exactly perfect.

The story starts with a character and then the character takes over. 

I never gave up my writing. I never gave up wanting to be a successful writer, even during the darkest time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

what the kids say

Tonight my 4-year-old looked up from his plate and said, "Is there meat in my hotdog?"

I don't like to lie to the kids. I knew I was on shaky ground. My kid doesn't like meat. Anymore, he doesn't like to eat anything except for candy and ice cream. He used to eat mac & cheese and apples and pizza. Even these go-to foods are no longer a sure bet.

"You know," I said, "it's a hot dog." So that's not really an answer, and it's possibly a lie by omission. But incredibly, it seemed to work, and he went back to eating. It was only good for two more bites and then, pushing back from the table, he declared it wasn't the kind of hot dog he usually likes.

My older son just turned six, and he's making relevant observations about his world all the time. It's hard to keep up with everything the kids say, but I won't soon forget that he got in trouble for calling his teacher a name. What name?

"I called my teacher Fatty McBeautiful. She didn't like the Fatty Mc part."

He didn't laugh once telling me this. The other morning while getting ready for school, he turned to me with a serious expression on his face.

"You know what? When a burp loses its way, it comes out of your butt."

These are typical conversations at my house. My kids love fat stuff and anything to do with farts.

I've heard that your brain can only hold so much new information. It becomes saturated, and after that, all new information pushes out the old stuff. I know I should feel horrible, but I can't remember what it is I've forgotten.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

this is a sign

Check it out.
Good and evil have united to help me write my novel!