"I am trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I'm doing." - John Cage


WORKSHOPS

Individual Coaching: I coach for SAT/ACT and college application essays, tutoring, book projects, blogs, dissertations, and website content. Call me to talk about your goals.

5/27 Write a Better Blog: What do your readers need? How can you write posts that increase your audience and highlight your strengths? $40. 5:30-8:30 pm.

5/5 - 6/16 (no class 5/26) Monday Night Creative Writing Workshop: A fun and generative workshop. Craft, technique, and prompts for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. A 6 week kick in the butt for your writing life! Connect with a community and improve your writing practice. Tea and chocolate provided. Mondays from 6:00 to 8 pm. $140.

4/30-5/21 Write that Story Now! Start, develop and improve your short story writing by exploring process, character, plot, conflict, setting and other elements. Sierra College Community Education.

Contact Karen at tangledrootswriting at gmail dot com to sign up or for more information.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day 22: Rikki Ducornet: Rational Rooted in the Imagination

The beautiful Rikki Ducornet began her week here at Vermont Studio Center by reading to us rapt writers from her imaginative book of little prose pieces titled One Marvelous Thing.  Read an interview with her and read the title story of her book at the links above. At her craft talk, she shared her writing process, a deeply intuitive process that listens to her dreams and her memory.  She taps into places that give her a power source – accessed through meditation, imagination, primal memories, and creatures in their world.  These places of power are where dreams and the hot material for her writing come from; this explains why a sudden idea can dissipate so quickly, as dreams do once we wake.  She urged us to take a great leap, to work on what catches fire, and to leave something behind.
She said we are the dreamers - and there is a great deal of rational rooted in the imagination.  
This idea of nesting the irrational in the rational, the imagination with the concrete, is the play and tension that I want to develop in my own writing this week.  Now, with 6 days left, I’m cutting up, line by line, poems of similar subject matter or imagery and exploring wild new combinations of phrasing and idea that question the definitions of irrationality and meaning. How can recombining lines from different poems access a place of intuition and the subconscious? Try it yourself and see -


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 17 at VSC: Transformation and Story Telling in Painting and Poem Making

KyleStaver comments: "Transformation…Painting is transformation. It’s like alchemy of something. I remember being an art student and making light for the first time. Feeling like light was actually coming from the painting. How would you ever give that up after once discovering it? And then the different kinds of light. Before my light was very exclamatory. Bright color, loud light! And then it changed, and I didn’t want it screaming. I wanted to control what it expresses. And the very last painting that I did in the show was the Syrinx, and when I was painting it, it came so close to being nothing, to just disappearing. So at what point could the light still be read as color? Some days I thought I just lost it completely, it would just disappear. All I had left were the little marks where the light sparked up. And then I would build the painting up again. I looked for the light that would just sort of hum."

I listen into this to hear how images and words could similarly capture light, transform, or disappear. How does a poem layer image and meaning in a word, in a line, as a painting might?

Staver's paintings try to capture a moment in the story where the transformation happens - see the painting of Daphne just as her father changes her into a tree to protect her from being raped.  As Robert Hass says in Twentieth Century Pleasures, "“In stories…I suppose there is always a moment… when the image, the set of relationships that seem actually to reveal something about life, forms.” In poem making, what is that moment the poem needs to capture?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

VSC Day 10: Life Drawing as part of the Writing Process

My charcoal is real vine cooked into a blackened stick.  The materials of drawing are physical and dirty.  No judgment of the body. The unprotected body is natural and bears no indicators of class, social and political identity that clothing and jewelry and shoes and bags broadcast. Creases lines bulges curves shadows arcs. Its language is skin and muscle and bone and nail and cartilage.  Now his chest curves in on itself, the belly squeezed into a Y.  Now I see the light coming on his shoulders; his eyes are open.  The charcoal lines can be smeared, dark and sharp, or misty, foggy. Here's a drawing from yesterday:

Someone tells me not to try and make my drawing resemble what I’m looking at.  I want to do this with my writing. The inspiring and lively artist Kyle Staver presented a slideshow of her paintings two nights ago and showed many different forms in which she experimented with the same subject: aquatint, plaster sculpture, linoleum print, oil painting.  How would a writer explore a subject with the same diversity of perspectives? Maybe a drawing, a sonnet, free verse, journaling, expanded, shortened and contained within other forms. 

Below is one of Staver's paintings of the myth of Andromeda and Pegasus. More on Staver in my next post!


Monday, April 7, 2014

Day 8 at VSC: A Frozen River

This is April in Vermont.  They say mink may mate outside my window. I can cross my legs in this raisin-colored chenille chair and rest my head back on a wing, close my eyes.  Who am I? I’ve become someone who habitually distracts herself and now I’ve brought myself to Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, to see if I can break this habit. The print-maker from Lisbon, Portugal, asked me what kind of trees we were passing in the shuttle from the airport and I couldn't say.  Through busy-ness, I’ve lost touch with myself as I would a childhood friend. On my bulletin board in my studio here, someone wrote “Don’t forget to get out of your own way. Let go.”  I can feel my worn anxiety shedding like corrugated sheets of snow off a roof, leaving that jagged fracture line.  Writers’ footsteps cross the hallway above my studio, doors slam, paper jerks its way out of the printer like a wagging tongue. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Creativity in Tahoe Part 3: Building Community to Strengthen your Creativity

What can creativity offer a community? What can we do as individuals and members of our society to support and strengthen creativity? There’s an idea writers call “literary citizenship” that describes a responsible way to live within a community.  “Literary citizenship is the importance of remembering that no one is alone in the writing world,” wrote Roxane Gay in the Writer’s Chronicle last November.
I gave a talk at Sierra Nevada College’s MFA Creative Writing residency in January that outlined actions writers can take in Tahoe (and wherever else their community exists) to promote and support other writers and artists, to engage in their community in a way that gives back, and to also seek and develop the support they need for their own work.  
But this idea is not limited to writers and artists – the value of building community can enhance each person’s ability to live their life creatively. And with the lack of snow this winter, everyone being creative in their efforts to discover replacement recreation.
What are our creative resources in Tahoe? We are surrounded by 5 colleges and universities, 3 here in Tahoe: Sierra College, Lake Tahoe Community College and Sierra Nevada College.  Wow! So much opportunity available to us here – and open to the public are readings, talks, publications, and the seething raw materials of new ideas, new connections. One thing creativity offers community is this potential of making new relationships between what has always existed.  The excitement of originality is creating a new relationship between these concrete and abstract things that make up the world.
Riverside Studios has a call for submission right now for art to be included in the Lion Heart show benefitting High Fives, a local nonprofit.  Northstar just sponsored a ski competition between nonprofit board members and volunteers that creatively served two purposes: inform key community players of Northstar’s marketing plan and other efforts, and offer nonprofits the opportunity to win $15,000 in prizes. Squaw Valley just wrapped up a call for submissions for creative entries answering the question what is the soul of skiing.  Many opportunities exist to creatively participate in community - seek them out.
With the New Year come resolutions to start something new. This practice keeps us young; here are other local resources that will support your creativity: Riverside Studio’s First Friday Art Opening. Uncorked Truckee Third Thursday literary reading. For Goodness Sake, downtown Truckee. The Bookshelf, Truckee’s independent bookstore. Kindred Art and Folk Institute of Truckee. Community Arts Center.  T Pots Pottery. Thursday night trivia at Pizza on the Hill. I could go on. Seek out new venues and events and breathe their freshness into your own creative endeavors.
Conversations at my talk led to the questions What are our creative resources in Tahoe? How can you generate the support you need for your art and your life? Who and what can you help with the gifts you have to offer this community? Ask yourself these questions.  Here are some actions you can take that make a difference to yourself and the people you share your community with:
1.      Attend an art opening, theater performance, or literary reading in your neighborhood.  Contribute your presence at an event, even if you are tired and want to stay in to watch Madmen on Netflix. Consider the idea that you are participating to support creativity in your community as much as you are going for entertainment.
2.      Promote and support other artists.  We are all contributing to the same big work.  Our community is small – everyone is on the same team.
3.      Buy a book from an independent bookstore. Wean yourself from Amazon.
4.      Drop a note to an author you admire.
5.      Closely observe and absorb the beauty in Nature as you hike/ski/bike.
6.      Often creativity lies in the little nuggets of honest exchanges that present themselves throughout our community on a daily basis. Greet that person sitting at the cafĂ© table next to you.
7.      Drop a note to someone who has given you support.
8.      Ask yourself, what are your gifts to offer your community? Who or what can you support?
Becoming a person who cultivates their own creativity will grow a community more creatively vibrant. While being inspired, you will inspire. What creative thing are you doing today? (Published in Northwoods Magazine 2014)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Poetry Chapbook Accepted for Publication

I'm so excited to announce that my poetry chapbook titled Bite & Blood has been accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press!  I was able to meet the publisher Leah Maines at the AWP conference in Seattle a couple weeks ago to thank her personally for seeing something that spoke to her in my poems.  Writing poetry is such a private solitary practice so it is so encouraging when someone (especially an editor!) finds a personally relevant expression in the poems. We will be developing the cover design and book galleys over the next several months.  I'm hoping the chapbook will be available this fall.

Working the table at AWP for Finishing Line were two vibrant poets: Laura Long with her chapbook The Eye of Caroline Herschel, and Zara Raab with her chapbook Rumpelstiltskin, or What's in a Name? I listened to other Finishing Line poets read from their work and I felt lucky to be part of such an impressive and diverse group of writers.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Creativity in Tahoe Part 2: An Interview with Soren Wolff


What is it that makes one artist innovate and another artist, living in the same place and time, stick with a style that works? “Courage, straight up!” Soren Wolff, studio artist, doesn’t drink coffee, so this sunny November morning he watches me drink my latte as we sit outside Coffeebar.  He lets me pick his brain about his creative process behind his large canvas oil paintings currently showing here, part of a collaborative show with ceramics artist Kara Strehle.
Soren describes a person walking a proverbial plank off a ship.  People behind them are yelling ‘No, no, come back and be with us!’ and in the water swim either beautiful creatures or sharks. The original innovator takes the jump. This analogy applies to people living every day, not only artists, he says.
Soren lives in Tahoe Donner.  He built his house specifically with a painting studio and wall space for his large abstract canvases.  In winter, he is a supervisor at Squaw Valley Snow Sports School, and in summer, he kiteboards, windsurfs, and paints.
“My number one influence is water, in all its forms, frozen, liquid, gaseous - whatever.  How can you do anything creative without being inspired by Nature?  We are a natural thing, we are nature.”
The evening of November 8th Coffeebar was filled with an eclectic mix of admirers of art in Tahoe taking in the collaborative effect of Kara’s ceramic sculptures of curvaceous movement frozen in a moment and Soren’s large paintings of dramatic ellipses and spheres.
“It’s a totally different experience looking at a smaller piece versus standing in front of a large canvas. Two artists that have influenced me the most are the painter Al Held and the sculpture Naum Gabo. They work on a huge scale. 50 x 80 feet.  Very graphic.  I learned from how Gabo uses tools of perspective in incorporating an ellipse.”
But when I questioned Soren further on influences, he insists, “I don’t want to be influenced.  I would fear being insincere.”
Because the moment of beginning a new canvas is so daunting, part of his creative process is building stretchers and canvases, a meditative process to get into the right space. “When you are standing in front of a blank canvas that big, you’re like, oh God. There’s almost never a point when I’m not coming up with visual language to describe what I’m thinking about.”
I ask him about the meaning of a particular bright orange canvas that stands out, titled Nonlocality.
“Nonlocality is the idea that one particle can exist in two locations at the same time. This is also called action at a distance, where there is no apparent interaction between two objects separated by a distance and yet they impact each other. There is no chain of events, no causality.  This happens in our day-to-day lives.  Have you ever had the experience of reaching to call someone and they have already picked up the phone to speak to you? That’s nonlocality.
“As you move up through the scale of human experience, the same thing happens - we just don’t recognize it.”
There are three factors that play in any artist’s life, he continues, “Sincerity, humility, and fear.”
How have you taken risks, I ask.
“Showing my work is a big risk. It’s personal. I’m always trying to remove myself from my work.  You know that dream where you are on the school bus in your underwear?  You’re living it.
 “What’s also scary is thinking you can make a living as a painter. What keeps my work sincere is that I’m virtually guaranteed no financial revenue from my work.  We want to fit in and if you’re being original, you’re not going to fit in. I’m cursed and blessed by not having the viewer in mind.”
We talk about the creative soup of other artists and influences that exist in places like New York City. When I ask him how Tahoe’s geographic isolation from other artists and influences affects his work, he says, “We’re not isolated.  In Tahoe, we have that [creative soup] on a limited scale. Nearly everyone here is trying to live creatively.
“But if I had my druthers, I would live at CERN, in Switzerland, where the Large Hadron Collider is located. That is a multi-billion collaborative effort to prove that something you can’t see exists in every point in space. That’s pretty cool.
“If you want to talk about cutting edge thought and innovation, that’s where it is, in the sciences.  It is always walking that plank. I steal from them. Theoretical particle physics proposes questions incredibly hard to comprehend in this realm of three dimensions – it’s like magic. So many of these questions have to do with scale.  I’m trying to express these ideas by limiting them to two dimensions. A lot of my intent is somehow bound in the frailty of the human existence.” (Published in Northwoods Magazine 2013)

Karen Terrey, MFA, is a writing coach and editor for business and creative writing including college application essays, offering workshops in Truckee through her business Tangled Roots Writing. She teaches at Sierra College and Lake Tahoe Community College. For information on workshops see her website www.karenaterrey.blogspot.com.