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Archive for June, 2010

Tips for Writing with Pleasure: Aphrodite’s Way with Words

I’m rebellious by nature, so discipline has been tricky for me.  In graduate school, trying to force myself to write was like pulling a mule up a hill. Then Aphrodite appeared–red gown, pearls in her hair and sparkling eyes. I could not resist her urging to blend writing with pleasure.

“You don’t have to write, if you don’t want to,” Aphrodite says, smiling. Taking the “have to” out of my daily writing completely disarms my inner mule and opens my creative channels.

“Why don’t you just get comfortable,” she says, leading me to the couch. I wrote the first pages of my dissertation lying down on the sofa as if casually journaling. Today I write luxuriating under redwoods, at the ocean, in candlelight, at favorite libraries.

“How about a treat?” she says with a wink. Our first bargain was, “Write a few lines, go to the movies!”  Some days I wrote my paragraph while standing on the movie line, but a year later I had 400 pages.

“Let’s try something new,” she says, narrowing her eyes with mischief.  I experiment with variety–writing in color, by hand, on a computer, speaking into a microphone, with a writing buddy, in my dreams.

Listening to Aphrodite, I love to write.  Who wouldn’t?

Biography of Sage Bennet: Sage Bennet, Ph.D. is a teacher, lover of wisdom, and author of Wisdom Walk: Nine Practices For Creating Peace and Balance from the World’s Spiritual Traditions. Recently awarded a fellowship, she is exploring: What does it mean to be a citizen of the world?  (www.sagebennet.com)  She is also a current participant in a Writer’s At Work workshop.

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Creating a Memorable Bookstore Reading
Having not been on “stage” since I played the world’s largest Charlie Brown in college (I’m 6’3”),  I approached the bookstore events’ office for my newly published memoir with dread.

But with just a little work, I managed to skate through with ease! And you can, too.

  • Develop an introduction for yourself and your book,  i.e.,  a little background on who you are and why you came to write this book. Maybe 2-3 minutes long. Turn it into a story.  Before I developed my introduction,  I would just say, “This is a memoir about my belief in magic.  As a kid, I used to pretend to be Endora from Bewitched.” And the reading that followed it would just sort of lay there.  But once I explained WHY I pretended to be Endora, and how I came to write about this, using anecdotes and weaving it all into a little mini-journey for the audience, they got engaged, and the subsequent reading from a chapter came alive for them.
  • Rehearse.  A lot.  I have an elliptical machine in my house and whenever I was on it, I would rehearse my introduction and my reading pieces.  I probably rehearsed each chapter 20 times. Familiarity REALLY helps when you’re nervous and reading in front of strangers.
  • Perform the material.  Don’t just stand there and read.  Gesticulate, use expressions, pauses, different voices (if you’re comfortable with them), etc.  Nothing too over the top, but the more it becomes a performance piece, the more the audience will enjoy it.  And look at the audience as often as possible (this is where familiarity with the material comes in handy).
  • If you have actor friends or access to professional performance workshops, consider availing yourself of them. I developed my introduction and the specific chapter excerpts that I read at UnCabaret (www.uncaberet.com), an LA performance workshop, and in private with an actor friend.  The advice I received not only made my performance of the pieces better, but helped give me confidence.
  • If you’re waiting in a green room (i.e. the break room, manager’s office, etc.) in a bookstore before you go on, ask whomever’s handling the event to leave you alone for a minute or two before you go on.  I had one manager of a bookstore yammer on to me right up until the second I went on and I stumbled out to the podium completely unfocused. Take a moment of silence and center yourself.  It will pay off in spades.
  • Remember: the audience (many of whom, at bookstore events, are friends and family) WANTS you to succeed. They will forgive almost anything. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put in the work to make it as good as you can!

Biography of Eric Poole: Eric Poole is the author of the new memoir, WHERE’S MY WAND? One Boy’s Magical Triumph Over Alienation and Shag Carpeting. He resides in Los Angeles with his partner of eight years.

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Do something you don’t usually do or go somewhere you don’t usually go.  Go rock climbing, visit a goat farm, float in a sensory deprivation tank, take a belly dancing class.  Shake up your normal routine.  While you’re having the experience, pay attention to everything–what do things look like, what do they smell and sound like, what terminology do people use, what kind of people are there too, what does it feel like to be doing this activity or be in this environment?  You’re gathering data.

Pretty quickly after the experience is complete, give yourself some time to write notes about it.  It may not turn into a “piece” of writing for a while, but you don’t want to lose your immediate impressions. Then, see where it goes.  You may be writing fiction and find out that a character has had this same experience–maybe she or he felt different about it than you did.  An image or a word may find its way into a poem.  You may end up writing an essay or memoir piece about it.

But the experience will stay in your memory bank, and you’ll always be able to draw on it.

Biography of Terry Wolverton:  Terry Wolverton is the author of seven books, most recently a novel, The Labrys Reunion.  She is  founder of and instructor at Writers At Work.   www.terrywolverton.xbuild.com

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Three P’s per Pierce

With countless stories and a novel on the shelf, I’ve had a harder time creating clever prose lately than when I seemingly sailed through projects with ease.

The truth is, it wasn’t easy, and I don’t think it gets easier.  Ponder these when feeling stuck:

  • Patience: I’ve sat with fellow writers who talked about being a writer, without one page to their name.  You must write the story, rewrite, rewrite and rewrite.  If you wish to sell it, don’t toss the typewriter on the first or fortieth rejection.  Keep a file of ‘marketable’ works and you’ll be ahead of the pack when the call comes.
  • Perseverance: Some writers take two weeks to craft a novel that gets an agent, sold and fast tracked to publication, or so the legend goes.  It will take we mere mortals longer.  A lot longer.
  • Purpose: I write for me; not with the goal of selling the work.  When I followed trends because “it’s guaranteed to sell,” I flopped.  I promoted vampires long before Twilight and my foray in the “chick-lit/lad-lit” craze was passed on:   not “original.”  Sheesh.

Whether it’s personal or professional, procrastination can be pounced.

Biography of Max Pierce: Max Pierce is the alliteration-crazy author of The Master of Seacliff (Haworth, 2007), which he completed as a member of Writers At Work.  He is currently conflicted as to which of his many projects to pursue to completion, and has found this assignment fun, yet no less challenging.   Google him.

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