Week 4: Write for 5 right now

Photo 1 -from a magazine from long ago and unfortunately I have no photographer to credit at this point.

Photos 2 – from Creative Commons CC0

Hi kids,

Hope you didn’t have any green beer last night. If you did, I don’t want to hear about it. And let’s face it, you wouldn’t be up at 8am now, would cha?

These weeks are rolling by as if 7 days are wrapped into two. Don’t you feel that way? Here we are at Week 4 of Write for 5 our lives flashing before our eyes.

I guess I’d have to have a following of thousands and thousands to have the kind of participation that would be thrilling. Still, it is exciting for me to read whatever anyone submits and I’m super grateful for anyone who takes the time to play along.  It is true that interaction is what blogs are supposed to be about, right?

I’m wondering if you’ve noticed anything about your process or about how things come to you once you actually start writing. That would be interesting to hear about.

Guidelines

If you’ve participated before, you know the routine.  If not, here are the guidelines:

·         I post a photo (or two) above at 8am on Saturday morning. Like now!

·         You take as much time as you need to look at those photos, (above)  then choose one.

·         When you’re ready to write, set the timer for five minutes.

·         When you’re done, you post your results in the “Leave a Reply” box below.

If you need to see last week’s submissions, please go to this post and scroll down to the comments:

·         Five minutes goes by super fast. In a blink really. As long as it takes the kettle to boil. But, as I’ve said before, this is really about revving up the imagination more than it is about writing. Think of it as the appetizer for the main course: your “real” writing. Don’t think about it at all actually. Just get at it and see what comes.

·         Form is open: poetry, CNF, Flash fiction. Or whatever.

·         On Monday, I’ll let you know whose writing touched me in some way. Then, I choose a book for that writer (no matter where they are in the world). I pick one of my own books and mail it to you with a card and a note.  It’s an awesome way to cull my books, and to give someone a nice surprise.

Good luck. Give it a try!  You’ve got until Sunday (let’s say 11pm) to post your results but you don’t have to wait. Just stick your piece in the comments when you’re ready.

Let the free associating begin. Let the creative wizardry unfold. Let the subconscious rise to the occasion.

I’m sleeping with Susan Musgrave, and writing advice

photo by gayle mavor of a book by Susan Musgrave

Amal Alamuddin gets to sleep with George Clooney.  Ellen DeGeneres gets to sleep with Portia de Rossi.  I get to sleep with Susan Musgrave.  Let me explain.

I went to make my bed yesterday which entails merely throwing the duvet cover in place and I found this book. It was upside down.  My first reaction when I saw the book there was, Jesus! I’d actually slept on it. I’m  sleeping with Susan Musgrave. That made me laugh. And then the very next thought I had was, oh thank God, I can manufacture something out of nothing for tomorrow’s blog post. No offense to Susan Musgrave. I don’t know who she sleeps with, if anyone  but clearly it’s not about her.

My third thought was about how much writers, or maybe just writers who have yet to be published in book form, can’t seem to get enough of hearing about the writing process. Even though most writers eventually realize that there isn’t really any other writer or anyone else who can tell them how to write what they’re trying to write.

Only you can do it. Writing is a bit like dieting. There’s no magic bullet. You want to write. Sit down and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. But first it helps to have something to say. And that’s the hardest part.

I can’t even explain what it is about reading about another writer’s process that is so appealing. It’s like the self-help genre for writers.  And I know I’m not alone in this.  If I was, nobody would ever show up to writing workshops, festivals or readings and there wouldn’t be an entire industry built around it.  

I think it’s akin to reading horoscopes. It’s not like you actually believe yours but there might be something in there one day that will make all the difference to your day, if not your life.

Fully aware that their process isn’t mine, and that it won’t ever be mine, that doesn’t ever stop me from devouring what published authors and the newest flavour of book that just received acclaim have to say.

I can’t even count how many talks, readings, festivals, workshops, and even a writing program or two I’ve been to. Might it be possible that I just nodded off when one of them provided the Holy Grail of writing advice and if only I hadn’t nodded off, I would have realized that they’d just slipped in the one bit of writing advice that was going to crack everything open and suddenly I’d have some story come to me like I was channelling J.K. Rowling?

No! Not going to happen. Let me rephrase that. It could happen but not because of listening to anyone else.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t educate yourself about writing, and all the elements that go into how to knock the socks off storytelling. That’s different. It’s the difference between research and research that looks as if you’re trying to rewrite, oh, I don’t know, THE BIBLE! 

Anyway, I just thought I’d admit that I’m as guilty as you are in devouring every morsel of writing advice and I’m sleeping with Susan Musgrave’s book written in 1994, Musgrave Landing, Musings on the Writing life, and with a photo to prove it.

Guilty as charged!

PS: I enjoyed the book. She’s funny!   Oh. I almost forgot. You can join in and Write for 5 with me and one or two others this weekend. What’s it going to take for me to get you in the mood?

To fuel creativity, write from a place of curiosity

photo by gayle mavor, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand

I went to this wonderful animated feature last night called Window Horses by Canadian filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming. The creativity of imagination through storytelling and drawing, poetry and music flowed across the screen in unique and refreshing ways. Perhaps, because of the degree of collaboration that went into the film, the end result was that much richer. It sounded as if the film had been percolating for a long time.

Ann Marie Fleming had drawn the character, Stick Girl, about 20 years ago and at the preview at VanCity Theatre on Mar. 2, her connections from Emily Carr (Veda Hille), a meeting from the past, a poem, all lay in wait, mingling and transitioning in a quiet process of the subconscious to come together for a wonderful project.  

And doesn’t that just describe creativity in general?

We see something. It reminds us of something else. We meet someone whose work is leading us to follow a different path in our own or to raise an awareness about a way of being that isn’t working. We bring two things together, dismiss one of them, a third comes into consciousness. Creativity is taking a journey in  real time and then leaving us with gifts of conversation, mind pictures that stay with us being dredged up to fill in a scene we never imagined would stay with us. The way the light falls on the wall in a moment that has never left us or a memory of a person from the look on their face when they said goodbye. The sounds of a kitchen while lying in bed one floor above. What was going on with us emotionally at that time and how that emotion, like a thin veil, a transparency, was a contributor to interpretation. It’s endless.

Maybe that’s why I like writing to an image. It’s the smallest way we have to examine what is not possible to know about the depth and breadth of what’s really there in the muck of our minds and our hearts in any given moment. 

Writing to an image for a short time isn’t really about writing at all, actually. That’s the least important thing about it for me. It’s about introspection and the surprise of what’s there.

Having said that, I am going to post a photo tomorrow at 8 am (PST) and I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and give it a shot. Write for 5 Don’t focus on the writing.  It’s about the amazing things that will come to you, when you stare at an image.

What do you focus on first? What next thought does that bring you to? Even if it doesn’t happen immediately, stay calm. It will. You will begin to make connections from whatever image you look at. Your mind can’t help itself.  What’s the most pleasing thing to you about the image? What questions immediately come to mind?  Do you think of people? Who might inhabit the space? What about this person in the image, if there is a person? Do they remind you of anyone?  How would you feel in that space? Would you like being there? Would you be there alone or who else would be with you? 

A demand for curiosity.

I really want you to see what comes up for you if you’re brave enough to give it a try on Saturday. Let’s have some fun.  And, this time, I’ll give a prize like last week except this time I’ll just choose someone who participates because something about their response touches me. I’ll choose it for you from books I already own and I’ll mail it to you with a note.

Have a happy Friday.

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!

Word Vancouver: From Comics to Kids Lit

WORD2015

This year at Word Vancouver, I decided I’d go to sessions that I might not typically be drawn to, especially comic books and Kids Lit.

First stop was a panel of children’s authors. One of the authors walked us through the steps she takes to create an animal character as the subject of a rhyming poem.  I really enjoyed that. Four authors spoke about how much going into the schools and reading to kids is an integral part of what’s required of children’s authors. That sounds like a fun thing. And as always happens, which is why it’s important to attend events such as this if you write, my own ideas came bubbling up as background all throughout the talks. Think of it as creative mind mapping, silently but stealthily, a running commentary of possibilities mingled. Creative thought begets creative thought.

I listened to Caroline Woodward, who had worked in the publishing industry for 30 years. She was speaking about living at the Lennard Island Lighthouse at the entrance to Clayoquot Sound near Tofino. Being one half of a lighthouse keeper has enabled her to get back to her first love, writing. Her latest book, Light Years, is about her time at the various light stations where she and her husband, Jeff George, started as relief lightkeepers. George’s photographs in slideshow format were a nice touch. Woodward’s favourite lighthouse is Nootka because of its history and its natural beauty.

I didn’t even know there were still people working at lighthouses anymore. Apparently seven of the 23 people who are stationed at lighthouses in B.C. are couples.

I listened to John Vaillant whom, of course, I’d heard about but had never seen in person or read before. He gave a compelling  intro to his book  The Jaguar’s Children and the life and death crossing into the USA of an illegal immigrant.  His reading and the prose was so precise that it was a clear lesson in how a compelling presence mixed with vivid language does indeed go a long way towards selling books. He said a teenage boy’s voice came to him clear as day one day while he was working on something else. He felt compelled to carry that voice onto the page.  This happened while he spent nine months living in Oaxaca with his wife who is a potter. Perhaps the spirits visited him. Perhaps they knew he was someone who could do their story justice.

It was cool to hear the journey of The Flour Peddler by brothers Chris and Josh Hergesheimer. Their original focus on local grains and farmers’ markets in B.C. (starting in Roberts Creek) eventually took them on a global journey to South Sudan. Their bicycle-powered flour mill is adding efficiency to small farmers there. Chris is now in Ecuador doing Ph.D. work through UBC’s Land and Food Systems faculty.

I found it kind of sad to hear the trials of cartoonist David Boswell and the trajectory of his comic, Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman. What began as just a one-off, one pager for The Georgia Straight back in the day, developed a small cult-like following with a script eventually optioned for a movie at Warner Brothers Pictures only to be quashed at the 11th hour by the executives who just didn’t get the humour.  That’s funny actually! The script remains locked in the vault there, stuck in limbo, history.  Boswell showed a movie that one of his nephews made about him with guest appearances by Matt Groening and others who sang his praises and the genius of the character, Reid Fleming.

The last session I attended was by Michael Kluckner. The local artist and heritage advocate has put together a graphic novel, a love story, called Toshiko.  I was surprised to learn that not all Japanese families were interned during WWII. Some lived independently, specifically up in Tappen, B.C., and Squilax near Salmon Arm where they worked on a farm called Calhoun’s.

I really tried not to buy but resistance is futile when it comes to books. I have to laugh at my purchases though which are more a reflection of proximity and mood than a strategic plan since I didn’t actually end up buying The Jaguar’s Children. I bought The Flour Peddler, Toshiko and Amber Dawn’s How Poetry Saved My Life.  Boswell was selling his comic book, a signed copy for a Toonie, so I got one of those as well. Go figure?

Did you go to Word this year? What stood out for you?

A Gum Ball Machine that Spits Out Poetry

poetrycapsuleI went to WORD Vancouver on Sunday, another gorgeous fall day and when I came away, I realized that it’s true that when you go through The Writer’s Studio (TWS) at SFU, you do indeed become part of a community, even if that community is more likely to be woven across the landscape of the many writing events that dot the city than up close and personal in your living room.

As I walked around, I met up with Barb, a poet who was at TWS the same year I was. I hope she won’t mind me saying that she’s re-energized about getting back to writing poetry, hunkering down for the winter as the mood more easily shifts into a reflective mode but right now she’s working on a piece of non fiction.

Before then, I chatted with Andrew Chesham, publisher, writer and program assistant at The Writer’s Studio. He was asking me about a tweet I’d posted the day before in reference to some writing event I’d been to and my less than enthusiastic response to the famous author. Andrew was worried it may be something related to TWS which it wasn’t.

Barb and I put our Toonies into the Poetry Machine that was designed by Anne Stone, a novelist, editor and teacher, and Wayde Compton’s partner. I put in my Toonie and out popped a poem written by Anne Hopkinson. I was wracking my brain all night wondering why that name sounded so familiar only to realize that she’s in the book club of my friend, Anne Watters, who lives in Sechelt. How strange that I should get her poem, of all the poet’s words stuffed into the plastic containers inside the revamped gumball machine.

Barb had a bit more difficulty with the technology but eventually ended up winning a poetry book as a prize in the capsule that finally got spit out.

Wayde, poet, essayist and director of The Writer’s Studio was there with his six year old daughter. He was reading from his newly released debut work of short fiction, The Outer Harbour.  I missed Wayde’s reading intentionally because I’m aiming to attend the official release at the Vancouver Public Library on Sunday, October 19th at 2 pm. You should come too if you’re into that sort of thing.

I passed Elee Kraljee, Thursdays Writing Collective and as I was arriving I noticed Rene Sarojini Saklikar, children of air india, going outside.

I think I saw Karen Jean Lee, whose non fiction piece, Happy Hour, was published in Prism International’s Love and Sex, Fall 2014 issue.

Brian Payton, former non-fiction mentor from 2012, was there reading from his book, The Wind is Not a River.  I believe Lorraine Kiidumae was in the audience. Afterwards, Barb and I ran into Brian in the library foyer and chatted, briefly discussing his impressions of the new cover on the paperback version of his novel which was released earlier in the month.

Cynthia Flood, Red Girl, Rat Boy was seated behind the Joy Kogawa House information table. I didn’t know you could actually rent out that space for readings for 15-20 people.  Cynthia will be reading as part of an event to support the People’s Co-op Bookstore on October 10th at 7:30 pm at the store on Commercial Drive.

Coming up the stairs from the Alice McKay Room, Kagan Goh was leading the dragon procession going down into that area for reasons that weren’t clear, and then we had a nice chat afterwards about his recent engagement in a hot air balloon in New Mexico and thoughts about him and his fiance, Julia,  possibly moving to Mexico. As I write that it strikes me someone needs to write a gossip column focused solely on writers in Vancouver. There’s only one problem, I don’t know any really juicy gossip and even if I did, I’m not sure it would be the wisest move to put it out there.

Finally, just about to leave, Brian O’Neill who is in Wayde’s Master Class with me came up to say hello. It was his birthday and he was recovering from a party the night before. I wasn’t masochistic enough to ask how young he might be. How many candles on the cake? Just a baby.

I’m sure there were many others there from TWS throughout the day that I didn’t happen to run into or notice, but it was a really nice way to spend a sparkly Sunday afternoon. How could you not have a good time?

There should be a whole bunch of other familiar and new faces this Thursday, 8pm at The Cottage Bistro on Main Street when the feature reader will be Doretta Lau from her latest book, How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?

Looking forward to however the evening unfolds.