"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

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

And if I successfully write a shitty first draft in November, then what?

It's always more fun with a friend.

You can re-enter your work, re-vision the draft, on your own.  Go for it. 


Continue to set up accountability, what worked for you in November and supported you to produce this fantastic, exciting, ambiguous first draft:

Starting January 2017! Revision and Development Writing Workshop for Fiction, Essay, and Memoir.

Attention Nanowrimo-ers!

This workshop is deadline- and goal-oriented to complete the next draft of a project for publication. In this small workshop, the goal is to revise your first draft by pushing further to the next level, strengthening your writing skills, and simultaneously exploring meaning in your writing. Plot, structure, character development, voice, setting, time, subtext, dialogue. You will get professional feedback for developing the heart of your subject to unearth what really matters. Learn techniques to creatively so that your writing stands out as surprising and original to an editor. Call for details.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Ask not what you can do for Nanowrimo, but what Nanowrimo can do for you (and still make a donation)

I've been saying for a long time now that before I can experiment with writing prose (essay and short story) that I need to complete my poetry manuscript. A few weeks ago I woke up with the knowledge that it was time to commit to writing the prose, to moving on to a new project, that "shiny new thing" as Neil Gaiman called it in this talk at Google Authors.  Taking on this new project in no way means I'm leaving the manuscript in the dust.  In fact, I have a new fire under my butt to get it ready for submission.

Some of you have committed to Nanowrimo and some are still on the fence.  Nanowrimo.org inspires and supports nearly 300,000 writers each November to write the first draft or 50,000 words of a novel (or other prose/hybrid creation) by November 30th.

Here's an excerpt I'm reading by Elisa Albert from her essay titled The Snarling Girl that might speak towards making this commitment:

"I write to make sense of things, to make order from chaos, to make something from nothing, to examine my own thinking. Because what I have found in the writing of others sustains me. Because while I am struggling to live, the writing—a kind of parallel life—helps me along. Because language is my jam. Because I never learned to play the guitar and no one ever asked me to sing in a band.
I mean, writing is liberation! Or so I tell my students, over and over and over again. Flex your muscles, I tell them. Feel the sun on your face, the wind in your hair! Struggle with your shortcomings. Leave everything out on the field! Do it again tomorrow! What rigor. What joy. What privilege. Say whatever the hell you want to say, however you most accurately can! Complete and utter freedom. Work.

And this:

"'The notes for the poem are the only poem,' wrote Adrienne Rich. There it is. There’s my ambition: Notes.

And then this too:

"Keep your head down. Do your work. Focus on the work at hand, not the work that’s done. Do the work you’re called upon to do. Engage with what moves you. Eventually you’ll get recognition. And if you don’t get recognition? Well then, all the more badass to continue working your butt off. Recognition has nothing to do with the work, get it? The work is the endeavor. The work is the process. Recognition comes, if/when it does, for work that is already done, work that is over. Recognition can really fuck you up. Remember the famous koan? The day before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water; the day after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. Substitute recognition for enlightenment, putting aside how ironic that is, and there you have it."

So - personally, I'm looking forward to having a fire under my ass to do the work I've been talking about for a while.  That's what we'll offer each other, myself and my writing buddies.  And some good opportunities to write and drink wine together!

If you are working on a novel, memoir, or book-length writing project, get in touch with me - maybe you'll want to join our writing tribe this November or the revision workshop I'll offer in January to follow up on our 50,000 word drafts!  More on that workshop later -

Thursday, October 13, 2016

How can poetry be an agent of change?

“Poetry is a call to action and it also is action. Sometimes we say, "This tragedy, it happened far away. I don't know what to do. I'm concerned but I'm just dangling in space." A poem can lead you through that, and it is made of action because you're giving your whole life to it in that moment. And then the poem — you give it to everyone. Not that we're going to change somebody's mind — no, we're going to change that small, three-minute moment. And someone will listen. That's the best we can do.” - Juan Felipe Herrera

I was honored to speak on a panel about poetry as an agent of change for 100,000 Poets for Change at the Sierra Arts Gallery in downtown Reno on September 24th. 

The New York Times recently published I, Too by Langston Hughes as the voice for what they wanted to declare:

“Appropriately for a public museum at the heart of Washington’s cultural landscape, the museum’s creators did not want to build a space for a black audience alone, but for all Americans. In the spirit of Langston Hughes’spoem “I, Too,” their message is a powerful declaration: The African-American story is an American story, as central to the country’s narrative as any other, and understanding black history and culture is essential to understanding American history and culture.”

I, Too
I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,"

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

What would be lost in the poem if the simple word “too” was not included? These three letters link the poem to the history and context of ongoing conversations about race and what makes America America.  Poetry is a conversation between the speaker and the reader – an engagement with the reader.  This word “too” gives the poem its timeless relevance.

America is this abstract idea in the poem that is distilled into a person and a kitchen and a table and a meal.  This abstract involves beauty and shame.  For me, poetry merges oppositions in a way that makes ambiguity and emotional truth become the Ah ha! Moment.  And this happens because the reader is in the poem, experiencing the poem as a present act, like Juan Felipe Herrera describes.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

New Offering! Glenshire Elementary School Creative Writing Enrichment Class this fall

“In the beginner’s mind there are always many possibilities; in the expert’s, not as many.” – Buddhist saying. 

I'm excited to offer this new 8 week morning class at Glenshire Elementary for the enrichment program.  

 Creative Writing for Grades 4-5
Cost $90
Friday 8-8:50 am
Max: 8 students

Freewriting, creative process, inspiration and writing prompts – we’ll combine these elements to create a safe place to be creative on the page, to learn tips and techniques to write stories, poems, comic books, song lyrics – whatever you are drawn to write.  We will learn about the elements of writing and do a lot of fun writing with guidance in this supportive class! 

For more info and to sign up contact Amy Schutz, PTO Enrichment Coordinator at Glenshire Elementary School.

As the magical Ursula LeGuin says, “First sentences are doors to worlds.”

Sunday, August 28, 2016

How to Submit Your Writing: Three Resources from the Garden Party

Anyone who has taken a Tangled Roots Writing workshop knows about the detailed notes and handouts included in the workshop.  This afternoon writers gathered once again in my garden for a new workshop.  We discussed tips and trends for submitting our work out into the world - and then spread out with wine, cheese, fruit and chocolate, to research appropriate venues, format manuscripts and push the SUBMIT button!

Consider three choice resources shared in the workshop (read the articles linked to author names):

1. Have you read posts in Medium.com yet? What about serializing your novel into posts here and then sharing them for free?  If it's the first in a series of books, it makes sense for some authors:

·         “You’ve probably read in the news about the ongoing Amazon vs. Hachette battle or the recent deal between Amazon and Simon & Schuster. We won’t dive into the gritty details here. Suffice it to say they’re ugly. Technology is reshaping the business of storytelling, and the big players are tearing at each other’s coat tales as they struggle to catch up. Meanwhile, indie writers and voracious readers are forging a new world.” – Eliot Peper

2. I've heard so many seemingly serendipitous stories about author connections made with agents or publishers - but the randomness is not the predominant force here.  I think what happens is that an author is prepared to step into that opportunity when it suddenly appears because of the preparatory work they've been doing for years:

·         “Writers who have been active for years in reading in their genre can easily reference other works in their pitches and conversations with agents/editors, plus they can pinpoint how their style is similar to or different from other authors. They know what stands out about their work and where it follows conventions. They can have a conversation with another author, agent, or editor about the exciting works in the field, and what they like and don’t like about current trends.  And this is what it means to be a part of a discourse community; it makes it possible to strike up a conversation with someone you've never met before, but immediately have common ground and shared language that informs how you talk about a book or a project." - Jane Friedman

3.  Poet and Blogger Trish Hopkinson interviewed on The Fem:
F: What makes a piece of writing feminist?
TH: Feminist writing can be any writing that either celebrates diversity or undertakes the hard topics of social justice.

On her blog Trish compiles a thorough list of journals that undertake these topics and celebrate diversity and "communicate, educate, and broaden the perspectives of those who are treating others unjustly".  

Join the next Submission Garden Party Workshop in September if you want to gain new perspective and ideas on how to submit your work successfully to the right venues!

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Tahoe Weekly profile: Karen Terrey

“I love the diversity of projects I get to work on and the people I get to work with,” Terrey says. (read the article in The Tahoe Weekly here

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Make a Big Splash: Water, Risk and Garden Parties

I live my life in growing orbits
Which move out over the things of the world. - Rilke

Lately I feel the trick is to keep growing outwards, my life the spreading rings in a pond once it is disturbed, to keep moving out over the things of the world.  This analogy means I must be disturbed, shaken out of my comfortable circlings, my habitual haunts.

2016 is my year to say YES and welcome invitation, with the goal of switching things up, re-inventing and accepting the crowd of myself.  Water is my element for this year since I'm serendipitously embarking on river trips, jumping in lakes and rivers.

I'm excited to bring this risk-taking into my workshops, coaching and editing.  I invite you to take a look at my blog and workshop offerings, coaching opportunities and manuscript review services.  If you have a nascent idea or a project in progress, I will listen closely to your own goals and purpose and then help with brainstorming possibilities.

A new workshop with Tangled Roots Writing, inspired by Kate Asche, is a garden party with wine, cheese, community and guidance for where and how to submit your work.  After an initial presentation on tips and trends, we will sit down, prep and send out our work into the world right then and there.

My  goal is to build literary community in Tahoe/Reno so I hope to see you at art and literary events over the next several months!

Happy writing!
Karen Terrey