“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” --Ernest Hemingway There is a deep excavation process that goes on when a writer is trying to write from the deep places that real, true writing come from. This is true regardless of genre—whether the writer is composing fiction, non-fiction, or memoir. Getting to the core of an difficult issue, tapping real emotion, a painful piece of our past or a basic truth about life—the kind of deep truth that enlivens all good writing—requires that we take the plunge and dive into some of the most difficult and painful parts of our history and our psyche. Recently, I had the opportunity to write about these issues to a student ... [Continue Reading]
Sid Roth joined my Tuesday night writing class with his father on the "new student special." I loved his response to the prompt, "Ode to an Ordinary Object," and thought it was particularly fun when paired with his classmate's response (see below).
Mr. Pencil, your uses are many. I know your ancestry; perhaps your humble beginnings from tree and mountain deep reflect your strength and resilience, and the strength and resilience you lend to me. I know the other humans despise you; they say your glyphing is faint and your point is weak. It is, however, your inner integrity and inflexibility that makes you most valuable to me. Pens, they either work or they do not. I know your failure ... [Continue Reading]
Shannon LaGrandier is a committed member of the Wednesday morning writing group. She wrote this in response to the prompt: Write an Ode to an Ordinary Object. I loved it because we writers are often obsessive about our writing implements.
Oh how I love you, purple pen, let me count the ways. The way your cursive letters splatter all over this page makes my heart skip a beat. The way the ink flows out of your tip is like a gentle breeze grazing over my sheet. So many words long to leave my soul. As my heart opens to the world, you are the vehicle in which it escapes.
Each word begins to come together into sentences, paragraphs and pages. These beautiful purple ... [Continue Reading]
It’s my last day in Mexico and we’re heading back to San Miguel. We passed once again through Tzintzantzun. We drove through the wonderful gauntlet of huge statues, past the town market, and there the carnival we’d seem disembodied on the road day after day. Now it was all set up and ready for children: As Richard was backing up the car, a man stepped out in the street to direct him safely. Richard rolled down his window and gave him a 5 peso coin. “You made his day,” Suzy remarked. Five pesos, apparently was a big tip—the man might have expected half a peso or a peso for his service. “When I first got here,” Suzy said, “I was sometimes annoyed when people would come up to me in the grocery store parking ... [Continue Reading]
I woke up before dawn this morning, quietly dressed, and went out for an early morning walk. The air was bracing and I was glad I’d pulled on my fleece. I headed off, thinking I’d walk as far as I could in a single direction so that I wouldn’t get lost. After a couple of blocks, I crossed the street, looked through an archway, and saw this enticing set of old steps: Soon I was climbing up a steep hill, and with the altitude, I felt winded. At the top of the hill I came to a curving set of steps—also going up. I followed a gaggle of school girls on their way to school and continued to climb: I was on a narrow street moving ... [Continue Reading]
As we wandered around Pátzcuaro this morning, doing a little shopping, we came across this storefront. Apparently, even AA obeys the rules of signage in this colonial town: “Once,” Suzy told me as we walked, “I was in Oaxaca and I came across the national headquarters of ‘Neuroticos Anonimos.’ Now that’s a 12-step program we need in the U.S!” Over breakfast, we learned from Victoria that the beautiful lake we circumvented yesterday is shrinking and is horribly polluted. Sewage goes directly into the water, as does industrial waste. So much for scenic beauty. Mid-morning, we set out for Santa Clara de Cobre, where more than 80% of the town’s population is employed as copper artists. The ... [Continue Reading]
Breakfast at La Casa Encantada was served at a wide wooden communal table with beautiful place settings, hot coffee or tea, freshly cut fruit salad, three choices of eggs cooked to order, beans and toast. It was a pleasure to get to know some of our fellow guests, the food was delicious, and everywhere I looked in the dining room, there was another stunning piece of artwork. [Continue Reading]
I really wanted to sleep in this morning. I was dreaming of ten hours of sleep and not opening my eyes until 9 AM, but at 5:30 I was wide awake. I guess there’s still a lot of adrenaline coursing through my body from being on performance mode at the conference. It was still completely dark in my room, yet I could tell, that without pharmaceutical support, more sleep was impossible. And it was too late to chip a little piece off the Ativan by my bed. I didn’t want to wake up three hours from now, groggy. I thought about how nice it would be to lay in bed, put on my earphones and listen to my audiobook of The Goldfinch for a couple of hours until breakfast was served. But then I remembered my father and how, whenever we traveled together when I was a child, he’d always get up at ... [Continue Reading]
At the end of last year’s writer’s conference, I spent one night with my friends Richard and Suzy before flying home, and that night we cooked up the idea of going on a little road trip at the end of this year’s conference. It’s demoralizing to work so hard and be so exhausted only to fly home and immediately start working all over again. Although I miss my family and really want to see them, I’m happy I gave myself these days to see another part of the “real” Mexico, to relax, and to have a little vacation before returning home. Richard and Suzy picked me up around noon today and we shoved my huge suitcase (so huge it’s worth making lots of jokes about) into the back of the car and I climbed in beside it. I felt dwarfed in its shadow.. Next thing, we were on the road—it was going to be ... [Continue Reading]
I’m sitting in a big white tent with a floor of green grass, looking out at eight rectangular tables, set in rows, full of 22 of my students. I’m teaching my last class of the conference, on “The Unusual, Quirky Detail.” Right now, they’re in the middle of a writing exercise in which they make lists of specific unusual details before they write a story, and then integrate them into the story. The result is usually writing far more vivid and compelling that what they usually write. While they write, I wanted to take a moment to write my last post to you from the conference. The morning started out freezing—we were all ... [Continue Reading]