"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

Monday, February 20, 2017

New 6 week generative writing workshop starts 3/6!

“Words, like sensations, are blind facts which, put together, produce a feeling no part of which was in the data.” – RP Blackmur

Writing with other writers feeds the creative impulse.  Generating new material with encouragement to take risk and experiment in content as well as craft is what we do in the Monday Night Creative Writing Workshop. 

A new 6 week series runs 3/6 - 4/17 (no class 4/10): A fun and generative workshop.  Do you wish you wrote more? Want to feel a sense of community when you write? Want to start or finish a book? Craft, technique, and prompts for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.  A kick in the butt for your writing life! 

Connect with a community and improve your writing practice. Tea and chocolate provided. Mondays from 6-8 pm. $150. Downtown Truckee.  No class 4/10.  All levels of experience welcome!

Monday, January 23, 2017

And tonight I wanted to read a sonnet that fights

“First fight. Then fiddle”
I love the sonnet form, how it can be used to ponder an argument, using the turn and the 14 line constraint to strengthen the paradox or conflict. This wonderful sonnet by Gwendolyn Brooks was chosen by Robert Pinsky in response to the 2016 election for a piece in Slate.com.    

 (Gwendolyn Brooks, from The Womanhood, 1949)

First fight. Then fiddle. Ply the slipping string
With feathery sorcery; muzzle the note
With hurting love; the music that they wrote
Bewitch, bewilder. Qualify to sing
Threadwise. Devise no salt, no hempen thing
For the dear instrument to bear. Devote
The bow to silks and honey. Be remote
A while from malice and from murdering.
But first to arms, to armor. Carry hate
In front of you and harmony behind.
Be deaf to music and to beauty blind.
Win war. Rise bloody, maybe not too late
For having first to civilize a space
Wherein to play your violin with grace.
According to Robert Pinsky, "Gwendolyn Brooks’ sonnet from her sequence The Womanhood uses that form to present the relation between art and battle, with their related priorities and demands: a practical, urgent struggle for a black woman poet of Brooks’ lifetime. “To arms, to armor,” she writes, with her fluent mastery of the sonnet form enacting a victory."
Read the four poems from the past that Robert Pinsky collected for readers at Slate.com in response to the 2016 election.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Four Thursday nights in February: The Business of Writing: How to Be a Writer Who Publishes

This 4 week class at Sierra College Truckee Campus features guest speakers from our community and surrounding areas who are successful journalists, editors, published authors, marketing and ad copy writers, novelists, researchers, and free-lancers. In intimate discussion you'll be able to hear the details of how they developed the business side of their writing career, ask questions about your own projects and get resources for how to follow through from idea to book.

Through info-packed presentations and discussion, handouts with resources and talks with visiting authors, you’ll learn the ins and outs of writing and publishing. Discover tips for working with an editor, freelancing, managing your author platform including blogging and social media, writing query letters and navigating the many details of the publishing world, and maybe a few secrets of the trade. We’ll also cover opportunities at conferences, workshops and retreats, how to be a good reader at events, the painless way to handle submissions and rejections and how to get involved and promoting yourself in the literary community.

Friday, January 13, 2017

New generative creative writing workshop starts January 16th

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect." - Audre Lorde

Because of our beautiful winter storm this past week or two, you didn't miss our first meeting. The new 1/16 - 2/20 Monday Night Creative Writing Workshop starts this Monday 1/16! A fun and generative workshop.  Do you wish you wrote more? Want to feel a sense of community when you write? Want to start a book or finish a book? Want to become a craftier writer?

With a different focus on technique and creativity each week, we discuss, read, and write from a series of progressive prompts.  You will write new surprising material each week.

Craft, technique, and prompts for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. A 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. $150. Downtown Truckee.

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.