Saturday, August 25, 2007

So you love Palindromes? Watch this--




Here's Weird Al doing "Bob," a spoof on Bob Dylan's vintage video. Btw, I recently learned that Allen Ginsberg was in Dylan's orginal version of this. No kidding.

Monday, August 20, 2007

MotherTalk- Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued by Susan O'Doherty, Phd. - Review











Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: Seal Press (May 24, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1580052061
ISBN-13: 978-1580052061

______________________________________________



I'll be honest, I'm always looking for ways to unblock creativity even though I see myself as a highly creative and productive person. When I heard MotherTalk was looking for reviewers for Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued by Susan O'Doherty, I thought this was a perfect way to start off my writing life after grad school as there are some creativity issues I struggle with-- most revolving around the balance of my writing life and motherhood.

I felt hopeful reading the opening. O'Doherty says that some of her early negative beliefs about creativity are with her and she needs to still overcome that every day. She suggests, "I do this by reminding myself daily that I have a right to pursue my dreams. I set aside one day a week in which I do nothing but write for eight hours. . .as much as it goes against the grain, I have learned to say no to request from friends, relatives, and even the PTA if they interfere with my sacred writing day." The book helps women artists and writers set boundaries for themselves and respect the idea that creativity may go against the general path of society, but to welcome that and follow it.
What I appreciate about this book is that O'Doherty hits every issue a woman could have for being stuck creatively. She travels us back to our childhood, makes us look at our role models, past successes and failures, our shadow selves, our lives as mothers and the feelings that come with that, the perils of success, the challenges of being a woman artist and speaking to that issue specifically, as well as growing older as an artist.

O'Doherty was able to share her own troubles and challenges as a creative woman and writer in the world. Since she looks at other women's stories, I thought it was important that her life was also considered. Seeing what she has overcome made me respect her ideas and advice as she has experienced some of the struggles she is helping others with. At first I resisted the early chapters where we return to our childhood to figure out where our negative beliefs about art or creativity came from, though ultimately I was able to take something from them through the other women's stories. O'Doherty also reinforced a few of my beliefs such as to realize that when we're being pulled from our art or not finding a way to have it in our lives is usually "when we most need our art to sustain us."

For me, the section called "The Impossible Position: Managing Motherhood and Creativity" was worth the price of the book for any artist/writer mother. This is the area I struggle the most with in my life and the examples from the author's life as well as another writer mother made me once again realize I'm not in this alone in the plate spinning act.

The main point of the chapter was "it's usually possible to carve out time for self-expression if we truly believe we're entitled to it." And that's seems to be one of the main struggles creative women have--the belief that art is a luxury and by writing or painting or creating, we are somehow being selfish (that phrase that shot us like an arrow as little girls: "Don't be selfish...") I wrote about this a while back in Permission to Write. O'Doherty's book supports the belief that we all deserve to follow our creative passions and how could I not love hearing that message reinforced page after page.

While the chapters on returning to our childhood to figure out who gave us these negative beliefs about creativity were probably my least favorite parts of the book, the later chapters on motherhood, fear of success, and creativity in our later lives were fascinating. Especially the chapter on success where a woman artist begins to have some success and then everything comes to a stop. This chapter explores how "when our work begins to garner attention and especially when we faced with the task of promoting it" we do a little self-sabotage and sometimes just allow ourselves to fail. She suggests, "Self-promotion is even more complicated for women, who have often internalized cultural prohibitions against 'pushiness.'"

She believes that some women fail when they start to be successful because "there is no way to draw attention to our work without attracting notice to ourselves." O'Doherty looks at all these issues we keep as women artists and writers. She offers exercises at the end of the chapters to explore our deepest issues as well as examples of other women's struggles so we can be the outside observer looking in at their lives. Sometimes we see someone so unlike ourselves we know exactly why they are having the troubles they are having, sometimes we can only see ourselves.

This would be an excellent book for a woman who wants to return to an artistic or writing life, but feels as if she's not sure where to begin or why she's having such a hard time creating. If you are stuck, seriously stuck and perhaps, carry some of those childhood issues with you, this book will help you through them. It's as if you have your own handy-dandy therapist to keep in your purse.

And for other women who either aren't stuck or just need the occasional reinforcement, the book does that as well. It's a bit like hanging out with your artist friends and listening to their stories, except in these stories, everyone is being honest. There are no false images of perfect families, no hidden insecurities being covered up. Here, everyone tells you that their life isn't perfect and the struggles they have to be working at their craft. O'Doherty is your own personal cheering section and this book can help return confidence lost and offer insight to why a creative block may be occurring. If you really want to write, paint, dance, create, ____________(fill in the blank) and you have many reasons (a.k.a. excuses) for why you're not doing it, this may be the book to help get you back on track.
The final word on a creative lifestyle: There are no excuses, if you want it, it's there for you.

New Blogger in the World - Debra Jarvis



My friend Debra Jarvis is blogging here.



Her new book IT'S NOT ABOUT THE HAIR: AND OTHER CERTAINTIES OF LIFE & CANCER will be coming out soon by Sasquatch Books.

You can pre-order your book on Amazon for delivery Sept 28th, 2007.

What makes Debra fabulous? She's my friend, she baptized my daughter (and nothing was better than having my daughter baptized by a writer), and she's hilarious, positive, and what I hope to come back as in my next life.



Here's what she wrote about the book, which tells you a little about her and how the book came about (make sure to visit her blog on how her family is reacting to the book!)--

From Debra Jarvis--

I am the general oncology outpatient chaplain at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). I see patients who are receiving chemotherapy, getting radiation, having their blood drawn, or waiting to see their oncologists.I was in my fourth year at the SCCA when I received the upsetting news that my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. However, I didn’t have much time to be disturbed about it because five days later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I couldn’t decide if her case or mine was the most disturbing, so I settled on being equally disturbed about both.

Still, like having your car break down when you work at an auto repair shop, I thought if you had to have cancer, it was pretty convenient to work at a place that treats it.“But you’re the chaplain! You should be immune!” I heard this from a lot of outraged people, as if I had some special spiritual protection.

So what if I’m the chaplain? I’m a Christian, the faith that’s all about the crucifixion of the guy who is considered the Son of God! I mean if the Son of God can’t get a break, why should I? I’m only the chaplain.So I chose to have my surgery and chemotherapy at the University of Washington, the medical center affiliated with SCCA. During my first appointment with my oncologist she made it clear she completely understood if I wanted to go elsewhere if I felt uncomfortable or for reasons of privacy.

“Why,” I asked, “would I not want to be treated at a place that is filled with people I know and love? And why would I not want to be treated at a place where I have witnessed the finest care given in my twenty years as a hospital chaplain? And above all, why would I not want to be treated at a place where I know the location of every single restroom?”She got my point.

Besides knowing the staff and the location of the restrooms, I had another advantage. I had seen people deal with cancer a thousand different ways—some inspiring and some less so. I’ve listened to patients who tried to pretend cancer is a million yucks. It’s not. It’s not even a hundred.And I’ve listened to people who are whiny and tragic. Even if your situation is tragic, it doesn’t feel good to whine—for very long. Forgive me if I sound harsh. I’m not talking about expressing your feelings, I’m talking about whining, and there is a the difference.

Whining is basically about being stuck. You are stuck telling the same story in the same way in spite of everyone’s efforts to help you resolve it or reframe it or find meaning in it.

Somewhere between the joking and whining, there is this precious place of absolute centeredness—peace in the eye of upheaval and chaos. It is an assertive kind of peace because it takes effort to stay grounded and centered while things swirl around you. It’s not as if you’re just sitting there blissed out, denying your pain or your fear. It means you feel your feelings, give them a voice, and then move on.I have read a new patient’s chart and thought, "Holy-Jesus-God-and-all-the-saints! What a disaster!" But then I met this patient, and she was all upbeat and grateful for this and grateful that. She said, “Here’s a funny thing that happened on my way to brain surgery . . ."I wanted to say, “Have you read your chart lately?” But I could tell she knew exactly what was going on and was being completely authentic. It was all in how she chose to be with her situation. She was her Best Real Self.

That’s how I wanted to be: my Best Real Self. For some people that means being more private about it, but for me, that meant being very open about my diagnosis. So I sent out e-mail updates on my treatment progress. Friends and family wanted information, and they also wanted to know how I was with what was going on. And my therapist friends wanted to know how I was with how I was.Knowing that time is precious and e-mail can be overwhelming, I included just a few thoughts and feelings in each message. I wanted to write more about what surprised me, what helped me, and what disappointed me, but it didn’t feel right to send six page e-mails. It’s an e-mail, not an electronic book.

I learned much about cancer from being a patient, and probably the most astounding thing to discover was only a small part of the cancer experience is about medicine. Most of it is about feelings and faith, and losing and finding your identity, and discovering strength and flexibility you never knew you had. It’s also about looking at life and staring death in the eye. It’s about realizing the most valuable things in life are not things at all, but relationships. It’s about laughing in the face of uncertainty and having the courage to ask for more chocolate and less broccoli.

And, if you haven’t figured it out by now, it’s about realizing cancer is the best excuse for getting out of practically anything—except chemotherapy.And although many people asked me how I felt about it, what it was going to be like to lose it, and how I was going to deal with not having it . . . it’s not about the hair.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Verse Daily!

Too cool! I'm on Verse Daily today and what a fantastic job they do. Here's the link - Verse Daily

It's for my poem, "Praying to the Patron Saint of Saved Marriages" from 5 a.m., which has become one of my very very favorite literary magazines. They not only have the best poems, but the best quotes in "Quotes without Comment" such as these:

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful. And so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
George W. Bush

and

"I was a Republican until they lost their minds"--
basketball star Charles Barkley

* * *

My poem is in the Quirky American Issue along with poems from:
Nin Andrews
Alicia Ostriker
Dorothy Barresi
and others...

If you haven't read 5 a.m., I suggest you get your hands on a copy or sign up for a subscription. They have yet to disappoint me. Ed Ochester and Judith Vollmer are the editors and they really do an incredible job of choosing INTERESTING poems! Imagine.

*

More Info on Liam Rector & donations---

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be made to the Liam Rector Scholarship Fund at The Writing Seminars of Bennington College, to organizations in support of Free Speech, or to The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP).

Sad News...

Sadly, this is the end to many poets these days and through history....

From the NY Daily News:

Poet & prof Liam Rector, 58, kills self

A famous American poet and college writing instructor killed himself with a shotgun blast yesterday in his Manhattan apartment, police said.

Liam Rector's wife found his body in a chair in their W. 12th St. flat in Greenwich Village about 8 a.m., police said.

Rector, 58, had written and edited numerous books of poetry and taught at universities throughout the country - including Columbia and The New School in New York.

At the time of his death, Rector was serving as the director of the writing seminars program at Vermont's Bennington College, a program he had founded.

His friend and the country's 14th poet laureate, Donald Hall - whose term ended on Aug. 2 - said Rector's loss will be felt by many, especially his students.

"He had many friends and many people who admired him," said Hall, 78.

"He ran the program at Bennington College, and he's affected thousands of people that way."

Rector's wife, Tree Swenson, was weeping uncontrollably outside the building - called the Mark Twain - after finding her husband's body, neighbors said.

* * *

Liam Rector on The Academy of American Poets



Age Moves
by Liam Rector


Age moves in the hound
As it was in me moving
Through forest I found

As to dog I went
That year scrounging
Through Manhattan....

The wood opened out,
Unlikely in the city,
As to boy slandering

To leave his fitful home,
Bright he might survive
With his pen-knife only.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

More on Dreaming Awake - Tapping into the Unconscious Zone

Here are a few more thoughts on how to get into "the zone" for your writing.

One novelist here (who doesn't believe in writer's block) said to treat the subconscious as a muscle and approach it as something that needs to be exercised. I've heard another poet who sits down to write every day say the same thing. He said, "You wouldn't just go up to bat and expect to hit a homerun without practicing and warming up."

One poet told her that in a class with Richard Kenney, he told his students that every day they need to write down three images that they see each day. Another poet said this technique trains us to be more in the world because you have to pay attention and be aware of your surroundings. Someone said that doing this and seeing so much material around her and knowing that her next poem, story, or essay somewhere around you is a good feeling.

Other ideas--

Stop writing before you finish. Hemingway did this. Sometimes he'd stop in mid-sentence, just so he'd have a place to begin the next day mid-thought. I wonder if this. . .

;-)

Use a line at the top of the page for a prompt.

As for writer's block, the reasons are emotional-- fear of success or failure, setting your standards too high (Think Stafford "Lower your standards"), boredom, wanting to be perfect at first, fear of "losing oneself" in the work and the feeling of "loss of control" when that happens.

Writer's block is based on emotional issues the poet/writer is having and not on a lack of ideas. When you are feeling writer's block, it's because there is something inside you that is putting up a YIELD sign and you need to work through why you are feeling this way.

I tend to be someone who will force her way through writer's block. When the wall comes up, you can figure it out and walk around, or you can pull out your bulldozer and knock it down. I tend to knock it down by just continuing to write, even if it's painful and what I'm writing is terrible, I would rather write terribly than not to be writing at all.

My favorite line from the class (which I misquoted a bit in my journal) was this:

"Originality is achieved through diligence, it does not come naturally."

Which means, while we each may have our own "gifts," we succeed because our of diligence, perseverance, and dedication and not because we "were born with it."

Writing is a choice--
Excuses are the tissues (or glass of wine) we turn to at night.

To write a book, be a writer, write a poem, finish a manuscript (or not finish a manuscript) is a choice. Busier people have written books and done bigger things.

We make choices as writers to write or not to write. Each day is an opportunity for a new beginning. You can wake up and say, "Today I will write a poem," or you can choose to do something else. We all have the same amount of time, what you choose to do with your time is your choice.

Be aware of how you are spending your time. If you want to write and are not, look at how you are setting up your day. Do you set yourself up to fail? Do you tell yourself you need at least an hour to write? What self-imposed ideas have you given yourself about writing? Which of these hurt your creative process? What new idea or thought can replace an old one? ("I can write a poem in twenty minutes." "I can start a poem in twenty minutes. I will finish this novel by October.)

Listen to your self talk. Are you always saying "I don't have enough time." Or "There wasn't time to write today." ? There is always time to write, there is just needs to be the choice to do it. What excuses (job, family, gym, pets, etc) do you use not to write? Be aware of your thoughts and what you say because they become your reality.

Give yourself the time to write. Exercise your unconscious. Sit down and put your fingers to the keyboard. Write something without judging it. Then do it again.

Remind yourself we are all struggling with many of the same things and we can each get past them.

Now, go forth. Write.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What Made Me Laugh Today--

THE FAMILY MONKEY by Russell Edson

We bought an electric monkey, experimenting rather recklessly with funds carefully gathered from grandfather's time for the purchase of a steam monkey.
We had either, by this time, the choice of an electric or a gas monkey.

The steam monkey was no longer being made, said the monkey merchant.
But the family always planned on a steam monkey.

Well, said the monkey merchant, just as the wind-up monkey gave way to the steam monkey, the steam monkey has given way to the gas and electric monkeys.

Is that like the grandfather clock being replaced by the grandchild clock?
Sort of, said the monkey merchant.

So we bought the electric monkey, and plugged its umbilical cord into the wall.
The smoke coming out its fur told us something was wrong.
We had electrocuted the family monkey.


*

From The Clam Theater (1973)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Blogroll


I just made a few changes in my blog template and may have accidentially deleted a few of my fellow bloggers in my blog roll.

If you were deleted from my list OR would like to be included on my blogroll, just drop me an email and I'll add you to my list.

Dreaming Awake - Finding Inspiration and Tapping into the Unconscious Mind

I attended a session on how to find inspiration (or get into "the zone" to write) by fiction writer Ann Pancake, who is an incredible person and writer.

Yesterday the class shared techniques of what they do to access that unconscious part of themselves. As she puts it,there aren't too many books that explore that "without being to woo-woo."

Here are a few she recommends:

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande (1932)
On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner (1983) --there's a section in here about self-hypnosis.
Writing Down to the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (1996)
Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott (1997)


Some students recommended -
Zen and the art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Writing the Australian Crawl by William Stafford

And also the Stephen King book called On Writing was supposed to be good as well.

*

Techniques to tap into that unconscious place and be in "the zone" vary and are individual to each writer. We are each unique beings that need to find what works best for us.

Here were some things that worked for others--

Have a ritual (make a pot of tea to bring to your writing place, light a candle, say a prayer)

Find your best time to write (either early morning, midmorning or late at night-- she says a lot of times it's that closeness to sleep that helps, before your brain has done something --say pay the bills--that turns off that your unconscious mind)

Set a writing time/place and stick to it - the visual cues or stimuli around you will eventually tell your brain "this is where I write" and you can faster access your unconscious mind.

Do a repetitive task-- laundry, dishes, filing, running, walking

Use music - some students have a soundtrack for their novel that they play over and over while writing. Some use just one song.

There a CD called "Creative Mind" that is supposed to help access your unconscious mind. One student listed to a CD of waves.

Ask for help before you begin-- Literally, ask the unconscious, God, universe, whatever you believe or call it for help with your project.

Listen to the voices in your head. Allow yourself to follow what they say even if it doesn't make sense or isn't logical

***

To generate work, write from "the zone." Write in fragments and the things that come to you that you don't completely understand. Allow yourself the freedom of not editing, just moving forward. You can edit later.

*
For me, the best suggestion was that - Before you begin writing, ask yourself "What do I need today" or "What to I need tonight" and write down what you'd like to accomplish in your writing.

We're finishing up part two of the class this afternoon, so I'll add a few more things about this later today.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Notes from PLU - Final Residency

I'm completing my final residency at PLU for my MFA. Here's what interested me today.

Notes from today's morning talk--

This morning Kevin Clark discussed accidents that come up during the writing of a poem. He says you might fail and you might risk embarrassment, but this is a risk you have to take. "Sometimes when you're most embarrassed, you're getting closer to what matters. You have to risk." He believes our authentic vioces are signaled or involved with the way we incorporate, organize, or deal with external stimuli. He says though you may go deep inside yourself for your poem, allow outside sources to take you to a diffent place.

"Art should demonstrate the guise of accident." Alice Fulton.

"Poetry is the art of surprising yourself." Kevin Clark
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