Write for 5 quietly launched

From Creative Commons – https://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosimoes7/

It could have been worse. At least I wasn’t passed the wrong envelope on a stage while other celebrities looked on and the wrong big news had been verbalized and had to be retracted from people who thought all this year’s problems would be solved by winning an Oscar.  And they may have been right about that. Ouch!

Thanks to loyal friends, the first Write for 5 launched quietly. Thank you so much to Candace, Michelle, Marjorie and Jo-Anne for participating. It was interesting to me that none of you chose the images to write to that I thought you might.  I enjoyed reading each of your submissions immensely.

Maybe this week, I’ll just stick with one image posted again on Saturday morning, March 4th at 8:00 am (PST).  I think the earlier the better on Saturday before the day gets away.

We will carry on, or at least I will, because I’ve always enjoyed writing to an image. It’s an easy kick start. I welcome anyone who feels so inclined to join in, perhaps especially if you’ve never written to an image as a writing prompt.

In the meantime, Candace in Uruguay will be getting a subscription to Geist for one year as the first person to post her writing this past Saturday. That was a one-time offer.

Here are a few events that I’m aware of happening this week related to writing. I’m sure that there are at least ten more, at minimum, because the Lower Mainland seems to have become a hotbed of literary events.

March 1: at VPL a panel of three writers will be at VIWF’s INCITE series. Janie Chang, Jen Sookfong Lee and Carleigh Baker. Sure to be interesting.

March 2:  in New Westminster, BC, the Royal City Literary Arts Society hosts a workshop facilitated by writer Anosh Irani whose latest book, The Parcel, was published in 2016.

March 2: The Writer’s Studio Reading Series at Cottage Bistro takes place at 8pm.A

March 2: To Love the Coming End, a book launch by Leanne Dunic.

Clearly March 2 presents a dilemma for those who would, if they could, go to all three events.

Drop by tomorrow for inspiration to Write for 5. And ease into your week.

A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; A wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victimMaya Angelou

Join in. Write for 5 for fun

Dear friends,

Thanks for joining in today in this little experiment: Write for 5.  

I will say, it was a wee bit of a challenge choosing a single image! So I decided to choose 3. Pick just one to write about.

Whenever you’re ready, start the timer. (We won’t include choosing/examining the photo in the 5 minutes of writing time. Take your time for that.)

Write for 5. That’s how it’s going to work. At least for this first time.

We can complete the Write for 5 exercise any time this weekend so if it doesn’t work right this minute, then later. But if you’re just procrastinating, don’t! Do it now if you can!

We’ll all be brave and agree to post our Write for 5 submission in the comments of this post when we’re done.

I’m arbitrarily choosing 9pm on Sunday, Feb. 26 as the cutoff for submitting to this week’s Write for 5.

The first person to post their Write for 5 result gets a subscription to Geist Magazine (6 issues) courtesy of me for one year.

I’ll respond to some of the writing throughout the week on the blog and we’ll do it again with a new image next Saturday. That’s the plan. The universe may have other plans. We’ll just see. baby steps!

If you want to say anything about the experience for you, that would be interesting. Only if you want to.

Go!

Write for 5: The best things in life (and in writing) are ideas

This Saturday our little Write for 5 dalliance won’t cost you a dime. I’ll post an image. You’ll take a look, get a spark, time yourself for five minutes.

You don’t have to get dressed up and pretend to be your grown-up self. Stay in your PJs or old bathrobe. No webcams here. Coffee or tea? It’s up to you.  This is for you as you are.

Use a pen or a pencil or a keyboard. Think of that like colouring your hair — only you’ll know for sure in the end, unless it’s purple.

Think of it as a quick weekend luxury. Take as long as you want to look at the image that gets posted. (Well, don’t spend more than 30 minutes or anything like that). We won’t count examining the image as part of the five minutes.

Do time yourself. Keep it to 5.

Most importantly, believe in the imagination and the brain to rise to all creative challenges. That grey matter will somehow find the words that exist up there in the muck and the wonder of your subconscious where all the most interesting meetings occur. Like chocolate meeting peanut butter.

Shut down the critical thoughts. The enjoyment in timed writing prompts for me happens when words and weirdness and beauty come out of my mind and onto the page and it’s like, “Where did THAT come from?” That’s the best part. Don’t you agree?

Maybe broaden your idea of form. Poem? Flash fiction? Script? Dialogue? Fortune cookie fortune? Surprise us!

So here’s how I think this might work.

I’m going to post the image tomorrow, Saturday, February 25 at 9:00 am.

  1. It would be so fantastic to have some participants.
  2. Post your 5-minute writing results as soon as you can in the comments.
  3. Stay positive in the comments. You have to have something nice to say. Yes, it’s the equivalent of everyone getting a blue ribbon. When was the last time THAT happened?
  4. I may highlight the piece(s) that resonate for me the most and refer to the writer’s website (assuming that they have one).
  5. I encourage you, as well, to connect to one other writer who posts in a comment by commenting on what they’ve posted.

If you have any suggestions as to how this might work best for you, let me know.

Really looking forward to reading what your writerly minds seize the courage to share tomorrow.

Don’t forget to come back after 9:00 a.m. on February 25.

Thanks for playing.

A feminist success story continues: Making Room

I went to a panel on Tuesday at the Vancouver Public Library on the 40th year anniversary of the literary magazine, Room, or Room of One’s Own as it was called in the past. What stood out for me is how challenging it is to capture and retain the many authentic voices that make up the oral history of an organization. I know that’s true whether that organization has been a feminist collective run by volunteers such as Room or a large private corporation. Anyone who has ever tried to write a history of an organization will know this to be agonizingly true.

You may not know, as I didn’t, that the VPL has in their catalogue, bound copies of every decade of the four decades that Room has now been published. A physical presence on shelves that leaves the complexity of what has actually taken place to sustain it to one’s imagination.

It was fantastic that there were a few women on the panel who had been participants from years gone by.  I wanted to hear a lot more of those types of personal experiences because they really highlight the struggles and the conversations in the inevitable tug o’ war dynamics of a democratic process that goes on in every organization that is concerned not just about producing something of creative value but of ensuring that the way in which those volumes come into being is also something to be proud of.

One of the women spoke about how she came to Room at a time when they were really challenged by funders who were questioning whether the journal was unique enough. There are only so many stories about motherhood and breast cancer, not that those aren’t important, that any of us can take.  They went so far as to hire a Branding specialist who began to ask them annoying but typical Branding type questions like “If Room was a woman what kind of woman would she be…?” And then at some point in Room’s history there was even a question about whether feminism needed to be central. Blasphemy!

Cynthia Flood’s response to why Room still matters, mimicked, dare I say, the response Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave when he was asked about why he felt a gender balanced cabinet was important and he replied, “Because it’s 2015.” Flood’s response was: “Because sexism still exists.” My apologies for the comparison, Cynthia, but the succinctness and the truth were comparable.

Chelene Knight as managing editor for the past year said that they want to be constantly questioning the type of work they are publishing, and questioning perhaps even what they aren’t publishing, and recognizing that it’s not just about the content but about the process and being open to involving women who may not have considered Room as a place for themselves or their creativity.

They spoke of how recognizing the evolution of Room is to recognize the entire evolution of print and how technology has impacted the way the magazine comes together. It’s been possible in the past few years to expand the editorial team to include Toronto and Montreal. They spoke to the way in which they now receive manuscripts through Submittable which has significantly reduced the amount of on-the-ground labour. At the most basic level, nobody has to trudge down to the post office and pull reams of envelopes out of the post office box and transport those back to the office. Formerly, the process involved paper being passed from one editorial reader to the next. Meetings no longer have to take place face-to-face, at least not as much.

Chelene acknowledged former editor Rachel Thompson as the catalyst behind her own participation for taking on the responsibility of managing editor, urging her to do it, assuring support, and pushing her to greater empowerment given that Chelene came from a background where envisioning herself in that role would not have been a part of the personal stories she told herself about herself.  Those are some of the women writers, artists, and editors the magazine hopes to embrace.

Forty years! It’s a quietly impressive legacy and if you’ve been paying attention in the past two years to what’s inside Room, it’s clear that an evolution is happening that has indeed led to an interesting diversity in the contributors and the issues overall. Chelene said that constantly questioning that, not getting complacent…making room…is the way forward.

For the first time ever, there will be Growing Room: A feminist literary festival in March. Tickets are selling fast.

Write for 5 for those who hate writing prompts

Call it serendipity but this morning I received an e-mail from a blog I follow and it was about hating writing prompts. And what it has to say is exactly why we shouldn’t look down our noses at writing prompt exercises.

Without ruining the ending of this story, and (begrudgingly overlooking the misuse of the word loose instead of lose) this little essay explains why writing prompts can have positive outcomes.

If you’re planning on joining us for Write for 5  on Saturday from an image posted on my blog here that day, this might give you an additional reason to participate.

If you have 10 minutes, read it here off Dinty Moores’ Brevity blog.

Getting inspired to Write for 5

It’s not too long until Saturday when I’ll be posting an image here on my blog with the hopes that some writer friends, or anyone who wants to give it a go, will participate in a timed writing exercise. I wrote about the idea on my last post, Using Imagery as Muse.

In preparation for that, I thought I’d remind you of what most of you already know, and that is, there’s nothing like reading some inspired writing, right before you know you have to write something to get yourself into the right frame of mind. That’s a lot of rights to live up to!

Maybe because of the free flowing nature of poetry, (at least until you try to write it and then you realize there’s actually nothing all that free flowing about it except maybe the first draft), I find poetry often inspires me to get into a creative mindset for writing on demand.

The other thing you also know is that the editor in your head, that dastardly perfectionist, must be slain or at least sent off on a long errand for a product that hasn’t been invented yet. Adopt a “This is not a test, this is an Experiment attitude.” It’s a jumping off point to investigate how the brain can rise to the challenge.

As an aside, I was reading the NYTimes on my phone last week (in bed), as I often do (sad but true) because that’s not what anyone should be doing in bed, and they posted the original short story of BrokeBack Mountain written by Annie Proulx.

I re-read it and couldn’t put my phone down and if you want to read something that is really amazing, you should read that story that the Oscar-winning movie was based on. It’s amazing how she uses language.

Unfortunately, that story come block-buster movie ended up causing Proulx unending irritation because people just didn’t get it. Here’s what she told the NY Times…“And one of the reasons we keep the gates locked here is that a lot of men have decided that the story should have had a happy ending. They can’t bear the way it ends — they just can’t stand it. So they rewrite the story, including all kinds of boyfriends and new lovers and so forth after Jack is killed. And it just drives me wild. They can’t understand that the story isn’t about Jack and Ennis. It’s about homophobia; it’s about a social situation; it’s about a place and a particular mindset and morality. They just don’t get it.”

And you thought that getting published would solve all your problems. Guess not.

My absolute favourite poem (getting back to being inspired) and I have to say that loving this poem hasn’t really changed since the first time I read it, although there are so many poets to choose from it’s kind of crazy to say that a poem can remain a lifelong favourite, is a very old poem by Margaret Atwood that was in her very first book of poetry, The Circle Game.

Here it is. Hopefully this inspires you in preparation for Saturday. And, I should say, there’s nothing that says you can’t write a poem in response to the image. The slate is blank. Colour it!

Against Still Life by Margaret Atwood
Orange in the middle of a table:
It isn’t enough to walk around it
At a distance, saying
It’s an orange:
nothing to do
with us, nothing
else: leave it alone

I want to pick it up
In my hand
I want to peel the
skin off; I want
more to be said to me
than just Orange:
want to be told
everything it has to say

And you, sitting across
the table, at a distance, with
your smile-contained, and like the orange
In the sun: silent:

Your silence isn’t enough for me
now, no matter with what
contentment you fold
your hands together; I want
anything you can say
in the sunlight:
stories of your various
childhooods, aimless journeyings,
your loves, your articulate
skeleton; your posturings; your lies

These orange silences
(sunlight and hidden smile)
make me want to
wrench you into saying:
now I’d crack your skull
like a walnut, split it like a pumpkin
to make you talk, or get
a look inside

But quietly
If I take the orange
With care enough and hold it
gently

I may find
an egg
a sun
an orange moon
perhaps a skull; center
of all energy
resting in my hand

can change it to
whatever I desire
It to be
And you, man, orange afternoon
lover, wherever
you sit across from me
(tables, trains, buses)

If I watch
quietly enough
and long enough

at last, you will say
(maybe without speaking)

(there are mountains
Inside your skull
garden and chaos, ocean
and hurricane; certain
corners of rooms, portraits
of great-grandmothers, curtains
of a particular shade;
your deserts; your private
dinosaurs; the first
woman)

all I need to know:
tell me
everything
Just as it was
from the beginning.

If you have any piece of writing you get inspired by prior to writing, feel free to share it in the comments.

Using Imagery as Writing Muse

Rummaging through some papers, I found this image from a magazine stapled to something I had written on July 18, 1998.

I was in a writing group then that met monthly – or tried to –  and re-reading it brought me right back into the small living room in the house where we’d meet. It was an old house, up rickety stairs, rooms all chopped up.

I was thinking how much fun it used to be to sit in that group, a bunch of magazine pages ripped out haphazardly, each of us taking turns choosing which image to pick so that we could scribble away during a timed writing exercise, letting whatever words come to us as they came. It was a form of writing meditation.  I think 5 minutes was what we settled on back then.

I was thinking how much fun it would be to let other writers look at a photo on the blog and see what they could come up with. It’s kind of a nice idea, a way to share. And then, you could post what you’d written after your own timed five minutes at home. No cheating!

If you feel inclined to try and time yourself and write to the above image, and then add what you ended up writing into the comments, it would make things a million time more interesting around here. I could then add a new image every week with whatever I’d managed to come up with in my own timed 5 minutes.

Here’s what I wrote back then although I will admit, I changed a few things after sitting down to type it out before posting it here. I changed her name. I decided this woman was Turkish and so Isabella didn’t seem like the right name.

Gülçin, a name bestowed eighty-nine years earlier, reveled in the spicy warmth of the nicotine as it streamed through the shriveled opening of her throat, lingered for just a few seconds, and was then expunged, pushing its way against the afternoon’s hot wind like an apparition.

She was safe in her chair, her favorite place. That same chair that had balanced her when the roundness of her thighs had not crept round the wooden corners of the frame but had fit snugly, like foam, atop the smooth wooden cup of the seat.

Her cane, carved by her grandfather over a few months the summer she turned eight, had been her most constant companion in the last few years. She had remembered him sitting near the red rocks, and bits of grass at the cliff edge near their home, the sparkling sea like a rug as far as the eye could see to the horizon.

She’d sit on her porch, perched above the dusty street in that town she’d lived in since she’d married more than 70 years ago now, and she’d watch the youth pass by in the way a factory foreman might watch assembly line workers. She never barked out orders or even greetings. 

When a neighbor or familiar face passed, she’d remove the cigarette and blow the smoke between the space where her two front teeth used to be and in that subtle shift, they’d know they’d been acknowledged, they’d been seen. And it was enough.

Most of the time she would not even notice the strays barking, the wrestling of small boys whose bare feet raised the dust to feather their ankles, or the bustle of women, beautiful full girls, and slap-dashed-together mothers hurrying back from the market in preparation for another day of the cooking, washing, feeding, cleaning cycle. She was there and she wasn’t. She was with all of them and she was with the images of her past that greeted her just as real as company, adding excitement and grief, love and energy to what would turn out to be just another 12 hours, like the 12 hours before that, wrapped in heat and routine.

 She’d think back to her best friend as a child and the hours they’d spent playing in the back alleyways, listening to adults they knew only by the first names their mothers used to refer to them as they gossiped. Mostly they watched. Anything to escape the one room they each shared with three generations who had perfected the familial folk dance, weaving around each other, ducking anger, ignoring bodily functions and even the tears everyone would have preferred to have kept hidden if they’d had the luxury of privacy.

Usually around midday, she would sometimes feel the phantom lips of her deceased husband as if they were grazing her forehead. A tear-dropped wet bead of sweat would seep from beneath her white headscarf and slip over the band of folded skin that decorated her chest like a handmade necklace.

She had loved the memory of his lips. Not just because they had become as familiar as her own but because they embodied everything they had shared together; framing the rite of two-as-one even though he’d been gone for decades.