Monday, August 25, 2008

state of mind

Dear K
I’ve been in LA for five days, visiting my kids and my nephew’s family, completely disconnected from my normal reality. We ate great food, drove through Beverly Hills, walked along Venice Beach, played poker at a casino, went to The Getty, hung out in my nephew’s hot tub. I checked my e-mail 3 times, quickly. Now I’m back home, have been awake only a few hours this morning, and have been on the computer most of that time.

I have almost lost the ability to hand write, or to think about writing when I’m away from my computer. (And it has to be my computer, not someone else's) My brain connects writing with my computer. My brain connects work and self-importance to my computer. According to a fascinating book I’m reading for a review, Everyday Survival by Laurence Gonzales, our brain writes scripts (and we’re also born with pre-written scripts right in our DNA), and it takes a great deal of effort to rewrite or change these scripts, even if we understand that what we’re doing is not good for us. I moan and groan that the computer is ruining me, and yet. . . Here I am.

Here I will be.

Monday, August 18, 2008

20 Something Writers

Dear K,
I’m reading this book, 20 Something Essays by 20 Something Writers, because I’m going to teach a creative nonfiction course at JCU this fall. Yeah, not fiction. Just the way the scheduling worked out–they have a new guy, for a year, maybe more, to replace Steve Hayward, and he’s teaching all three Fiction Workshops (I imagine that will be a difficult task, workshopping 45 students. Whoa), and I’m doing the Intro to Creative Nonfiction workshop, which I do have some qualifications for, having taken that MFA course Neal Chandler taught (he’s brilliant, you know that, right), and I’ve had some essays published, but it will be a new course, and a new syllabus, and new books and exercises and all that, so I’m reading this book, and my god, it’s stunning. These writers. . . They are really, really good, and I start to think about how much talent is just blooming out there, and that maybe one of my students might be someone who has this kind of a gift, and I can help them find their voice. . . well, that would be very cool. Also, it gets me back to wanting to write stuff like this. Yeah, I’m inspired. So, here I was, moaning and groaning about not getting to teach fiction, and as often happens, it’s really a gift. It makes me work harder, read more. Think more. Want to write. Want to teach.

Anyway, I want to recommend this book to you. It’s edited by Matt Kellogg and Jillian Quint. There’s an essay by John Fischer that’s beautifully written and informative, about Internet technology and how it’s changing his life–and not in a good way. I’d sum up his thoughts for you, so I could sound smart, but I’ll leave it to him. That’s up to him, and if I don’t tell you anything (except I really love it) then he gets to surprise you, word by word. Also, take note of "You Shall Go Out With Joy and Be Lead Forth With Peace," by Kyle Minor. Wish I had the guts to copy this one for my class and hand it out. (I found this book too late to put it on the required reading. Paula McLain just recommended it to me. She taught this course last year, but isn’t this time. (But that’s her story to tell.) This story, the one by Kyle Minor, well it might be too edgy for my JCU students. Not all of them, but some. The language is a bit "rough" too. I have to be careful. Maybe after I get to know them better. . . Anyway, his essay made the hair on my arms stand up. No joke. That’s a rare thing. If you read it, let me know what you think. Also"Tricycle," by Rachel Kempf is wonderful. Most of the essays are. Just thought I’d mention it.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

A letter to K

Dear K,

I’ve been thinking about this blog thing, pretty much figuring that I need more photos. Bells and whistles and blinking avatars. Something bright and shiny like fishing lures. Then I figured out what was wrong.

I began this blog because it seemed to be a good way to offer information about writerly things that I think, do, or will do, and it was, in my head, written to a general public, a writerly general public, which reduced the reader to a common denomnator, and my words felt common, and only vaguely interesting. Heartfelt, but dry. Even I wouldn’t stop by often. Maybe blogging is easier than making a lot of phone calls, or mass e-mails, but it somehow bores me to tears. This will not work. Not for you. Not for me.

The blog entries that interest me most are those that share a quick personal moment, or an intriguing or lyrical line one might think about for the rest of the day. Someone opens a tiny door in their head for me to peek into, shows me something quite personal they are willing to offer to others. Something they care about. They hold it out to me and say, if you like, here it is. Thanks for looking. I grow bored with the doors that are too wide open, where I feel as if I’m watching someone trim their toenails.

So, while writing a blog post about how I think about writing a blog (all of which I erased twice already), I came to wonder what it is I want from blogging, and who I’m writing to anyway. I don’t want to generalize my reader, so that my words become careful and sweet, even if somewhat helpful. (To me? To them?) And yet, I want to, need to, blog. The world of writing, and publishing, is changing, and I need to try to get my feet wet in this river of webwords. I need to see if I can swim here, too–or not. And I want attention, just like everyone else who blogs. I want to say something in this public format.

So, this is what I’ve come up with, for now. I’m going to write to a particular person. Make it personal. I picked you because you’re a writer. Maybe you’ll write back. Or not. No pressure. Maybe other people will write in. But I’m going to write to you, K. Hope that’s okay. (People may think they know who you are, but don't worry, they can't be sure. I can name four writer freinds who's names start with the letter K.)

Short notes from now on. Probably. Sometimes I go on too long. You know that about me. You’ve been very kind to let me go on. I’ve always felt you were a really good person to talk with.

Until the next time,
peace and all good things,

Friday, August 1, 2008

Workshop at The Spencer canceled

Note: My writers' workshop at The Spencer (see previous post) has been canceled. They are going to revamp their whole special events calendar. It was their first year at trying to offer programs and events, and they’ve just realized that their wonderful ideas may have been a lot of fun, but maybe they were over ambitious in their expectations. They are scaling back by about half, but promise me I’ll be there sometime in the next year. So for those of you who have expressed interest, I’ll certainly post something as soon as I know when that will be. Thanks for those notes letting me know you were going to register, and I hope to se you there in the future.

P.S. I get lovely notes from people who stop by this blog, sent to my e-mail address, which is perfectly fine, but I’d love to develop a place where writers can talk and get to know each other, so please remember to post a comment here too!