"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, January 4, 2023

New Winter Workshop Offerings Create a Writing Community


"A story always turns circles around meaning." - OlgaTokarczuk

First, the new workshop schedule I've posted tries to blend in person and on Zoom opportunities to build community, no matter where you live or what the weather looks like.

Just as December was connecting the end of another year with the next beginning, I became disgusted with the accumulating mouse droppings under my sink and among the pots and pans in the lower cabinets. 

The idea of a circle is that it does not have an ending. If we are looking for meaning by continuing to circle, we won't find meaning. This doesn't mean that there is meaning to find.

Olga Tokarczuk is one of my favorite authors because she wrote Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead. I discovered that she wrote this book, almost a side project, as a mystery/thriller to raise some needed money while she was writing the much longer, more complex Books of Jacob. The tender, eccentric, and independent voice of her narrator is a knife to my heart every time I read this novel. Someone sympathetic and irritating (Olga's own description of her protagonist), how I sometimes feel about myself. 

Olga writes in her Nobel lecture in 2019, The Tender Narrator, that:

"Tenderness is deep emotional concern about another being, its fragility, its unique nature, and its lack of immunity to suffering and the effects of time. Tenderness perceives the bonds that connect us, the similarities and sameness between us. It is a way of looking that shows the world as being alive, living, interconnected, cooperating with, and codependent on itself.

"Literature is built on tenderness toward any being other than ourselves. It is the basic psychological mechanism of the novel. Thanks to this miraculous tool, the most sophisticated means of human communication, our experience can travel through time, reaching those who have not yet been born, but who will one day turn to what we have written, the stories we told about ourselves and our world."

So, January 2nd I pulled all the pots and pans, brown paper bags from Grocery Outlet I'd been saving, vacuum bags, spray bottles, cloth totes, half-cleaned paint brushes from past projects, out from under the sink. I sprayed down the cabinets and cleaned them with a cloth and purged the redundant utensils. Then I reassembled the lower cabinets with an updated organization. It feels so good to begin a new year with this accomplishment of cleanliness and efficiency. 

My word for this year is Mindfulness. For this year, meaning could become a distraction. Outside my little house, the wind is picking up tonight as the atmospheric river runs over California. What is the meaning in the photo of the tree snag on the snowy slope with the lake behind it? So many circles in this photo, around the tree's base, the arc of slope, the circumference of the lake.

I have designed a winter's workshop schedule that will hopefully help us writers create within our fragile darkness of winter together. I'm so excited for these offerings! Reach out to your writing and arts communities through a workshop on Zoom or in person, a coaching session, a gallery visit, a book club, a public reading, or a private moment of reading a book in silence. 

Happy New Year,


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