Happy New Year 2017!

I hope that the holidays brought you comfort, time for politics to recede, space to escape into stories and poems that inspire, and to write. Since the election, many of you have confided your struggles to get to the page; that your story or novel feels unnecessary or unimportant given the uncertainty of the future. Others speak of the weight that the past election places on their creative energy, the space it occupies in their brain. And many women have experienced a revisiting of fear or anxiety about sexual harassment or abuse they thought was buried in their past. Know that you are not alone.

Everyone is reeling a bit. As writers, we have our pens to help us zero back in. Please, do not let the ugly discourse of social media, the airwaves and editorials  deter you from telling your own story. Remember that only you can tell it, that it comes from deep inside of you, that is essential. If ever the world needed beauty and truth, it is now.
 
Sometimes a rant is just the right medicine. There is no better time than now to exercise the power of your pen. Get it all down, down hesitate, let it rip, allow your words to surprise you. Remember, whether it's in your journal, in letters to editors or your elected representatives, there is power in your pen! Use it.
 
I am currently enrolling a six-week winter session, shorter than usual as I'll be travelling a lot this winter—including the Women's March in DC on January 21st, AWP in February--Let me know if you'll be there!--and I'll be at Hedgebrook again in March where I'll be teaching for one week, then in residence to focus on my own work.
 
I am delighted to host author Mary Volmer to lead a novel writing master class on January 28th. Mary is the author of "Crown of Dust" and "Reliance, Illinois", two powerful novels featuring strong female characters challenging the limitations society placed upon them because of their gender. If you've never worked with her or read her work, you're in for a treat.

Be well dear writer, have faith, and keep the pen moving! Wishing inspiration and joy in the new year.
Teresa

Fall in and Write 2016!

I've just returned from the 2016 Squaw Valley Community of Writers conference enriched by new friendships and inspired! My head's chock-a-block with language, ideas, stories, craft lessons, characters and quotes. I look forward to sharing these discoveries and inspirations with you in the months ahead. At the Conference I heard a bit of advice: When you sit down to write: Stop. Sit quietly for a moment. Close your eyes. Journey with your senses. Consider what you hear, taste, smell, feel. Open your eyes. What do you see? Do this to enter into your work with your all of your senses working for you.--And don't forget to turn off your phone and internet access!

Thank you to Mary Volmer and Hedgebrook for a fabulous one-day writing retreat for women last month at St. Mary's College. It was a fabulous day of writing with a fascinating group of women on the beautiful campus in Moraga. 

I've been traveling quite a bit, reading, hiking, celebrating milestones and just completed my short story collection Hold Off The Night. I have returned to writing the final revision of a novel. My new work is currently published in  Alaska Quarterly ReviewDogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose and is forthcoming in Parcel.
 
The upcoming Lakeshore Writers Workshop Schedule includes a master class with the fabulous MOLLY GILES. Our ongoing women's Thursday morning GENERATIVE workshop begins next month along with a new manuscript class on Tuesday evenings focused upon the art of REVISION. (see below for schedule and costs.) Note: Manuscript just means a work of writing in progress. Contact me for more info.

I'm developing an exciting roster of master teachers and classes for 2017, including a short seminar on publishing and a how-to: READING OUT LOUD. This class will help writers more effectively bring their work to life in public readings. (Holiday Lakeshore Writers reading event TBA.)  More news soon!

Some great reads to enjoy through summer's end include: Mary Volmer's Reliance, Illinois, Elizabeth Strout's My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All ThingsMs. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, and a story collection by Greg Spatz: Half as Happy. Enjoy!

Keep the pen moving!
Teresa

Spring-Summer 2016

Greetings!

Just a quick reminder that 6-week Tuesday evening and Thursday morning (Thursday is Women Only) workshops begin next week. Be in touch if you haven't yet grabbed your spot! There are just a few left. 

I've been hunkered down writing, when I haven't been traveling: writing retreat with Bread Loaf buddies in Atlanta, AWP in LA, and just finishing up a writing intensive to finalize my story collection.  I'm looking forward to jumping back into writing new material in workshop with Lakeshore Writers!

A DIY writing retreat is a more low cost way to get that writer-community-energy we so often crave. I met with my amazing writing buddies that I met at Bread Loaf Sicily. We eat got our own rooms, wrote all day, read each others work and met each night to get literary and party! I came home inspired and feeling very supported. Some writers can work completely in a vacuum--I've never met one but I've heard they exist. The rest of us need each other. How often have you felt the need to share your work, a problem with a story, or just sit and talk writing with someone who gets it?   It's important to make the time for this, it's a part of your writing job.  Make a writing date, meet a friend for coffee and write together, you might read a bit of your work to each other, or simply take a walk and talk about your work or the best thing you read recently. Sometimes the act of explaining what your story or novel/memoir is about helps reveal details and turns you weren't aware of. It can also help you recognize gaps in the story line or character motivations. And sharing works that you found powerful, dissecting them with another writer is a great craft exercise.

Technology is not always my friend. A computer glitch at my office prevents phone messages from making it all the way from my buildings front desk up to my office. The historic Bellevue Club building has issues. If you need call, dial 510.451.1000, type in 132 as soon as the operator answers and you can leave a message that I can retrieve. I'm hoping to get this corrected someday, but repairs move slowly in an historic building. You can always email me at: teresa [at] lakeshorewriters [dot] net with your number and I'll be happy to give you a call.


To share your news of publications, great reads, or events, drop me a line! I love to hear what you're up to.

I look forward to hearing from you! 
   
Be well, and keep the pen moving. 
 

Fall 2015

On faith and self-care

Writing can be a dangerous act. Some days we emerge from writing feeling alive and strong, more connected to the wide world, while other days we feel raw, sensitive to the enormity of life, or we're frustrated by our inability to convey what we mean to say.

Sharing our work can be a painful experience. The other morning I read a Facebook post by a fellow writer who'd been blindsided when a person publicly called his work, and his literary journal, worthless and trash. Understandably, it cut this writer deeply. My mother always said, "Consider the source" when someone dished out unkindness, but it's not so easy when the disdain is directed at our work, our voice, the place where we are most alive. 

It raises the question: How do we measure the value of our work in our lives? How do we develop the thick skin necessary to carry on and trust that we have something to say?

By opening ourselves body, mind and soul to the world we make ourselves more attentive and available to its wonder. It's how we attempt to capture the beauty of being alive, explore the mysteries around us, make sense of all that we don't yet understand, and to discover truth and beauty in the most painful aspects of being in the world.

I caution writers to care for themselves when sharing new work. Choose  readers who are dedicated to helping you hone your voice and grow as a writer.  If you share your work be clear about the type of feedback you want.  Creating a respectful community for writers is an important reason why I started Lakeshore Writers Workshop, to provide a safe space for people to come together, to write, to move the pen across the paper, to take risks, get wild and let the critics be damned. 

When we're discouraged, all I know for certain of is that we have to return to what we love, to the work of putting the words on the page, searching for the right phrasing, rhythm and language to render a thing real, visceral; to write story into being, to say best what we most want to say. And to trust that if what we have to say truly matters to us, if we've said it strong to the best of our abilities in that moment, there is someone who will want to read it, who will be touched by our words, welcome the company of our language, and be reminded that they are not alone.

Having Faith. Fall 2015

Writing can be a dangerous act. Some days we emerge from writing feeling alive and strong, more connected to the wide world, while other days we feel raw, sensitive to the enormity of life, or we're frustrated by our inability to convey what we mean to say.

Sharing our work can be a painful experience. The other morning I read a Facebook post by a fellow writer who'd been blindsided when a person publicly called his work, and his literary journal, worthless and trash. Understandably, it cut this writer deeply. My mother always said, "Consider the source" when someone dished out unkindness, but it's not so easy the when disdain is directed at our work, our voice, the place where we are most alive. 

It raises the question: How do we measure the value of our work in our lives? How do we develop the thick skin necessary to carry on and trust that we have something to say?

By opening ourselves body, mind and soul to the world we make ourselves more attentive and available to its wonder. It's how we attempt to capture the beauty of being alive, explore the mysteries around us, make sense of all that we don't yet understand, and discover truth and beauty in the most painful aspects of being in the world.

I caution writers to care for themselves when sharing new work. Choose readers who are dedicated to helping you hone your voice and grow as a writer. This is an important reason why I started Lakeshore Writers, to provide a safe space for people to come together, to write, create, to take risks, get wild and let the critics be damned. 

When we're discouraged, all I know for certain of is that we have to return to what we love, to the work of putting the words on the page, searching for the right phrasing, rhythm and language to render a thing real, visceral; to write story into being, to say best what we most want to say. And to trust that if what we have to say truly matters to us, if we've said it strong to the best of our abilities in that moment, there is someone who will want to read it, who will be touched by our words, welcome the company of our language, and be reminded that they are not alone.

 

Winter 2013

For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.- T. S. Eliot

Greetings and Happy New Year!

The beginning of a new year brings with it a rush of hope and new intention that this year we will do the things we've been promising ourselves. We'll make those changes in our lives to be healthier, less stressed, have more fun and finally, this year, set aside more time for our creative lives. A balance of hope--that we can do it, and fear--that we won't. Discussion at holiday parties, on Facebook, abound, while news reports stories and statistics about the success of annual resolutions.

I recently read an article by Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche: "The Great Perfection of Creativity," in which he says our creativity is a function of our state of being. That to fully realize our creative selves requires a "state of natural flow," a state that hope and fear keep us from achieving.  He writes that: "To keep from getting caught up in hopes and fears, you must first stop focusing on the goal." Yet, as writers we are inundated with "how to" articles, books and emails promising quick paths to writing goals: Complete your novel in 30 days! Land a Book Deal in 2013! And then there's Nanowrimo, writing to produce quantity rather than quality.

So how do we do this? It's counter to our culture. Here are a few ideas:

Be realistic about your time. Determine periods of your week, your days, to set aside for writing. Approach your writing desk, pad, or computer with a desire to discover. I find that meditating before I write opens this door. Just 5 quiet minutes, breathing, can reboot your creative energy!

UNPLUG. Many tools exist to help you disconnect from the noisy world and go inward. One is Freedom that allows you to make your computer work better for you by tuning out the world for a specified period of time. I used to turn off my internet access, but a research questions might suck me back in. With Freedom, you have to reboot your computer to get around it.

Let's say you have only 90 minutes to write. Turn off your phone. Engage "Freedom"or similar app--Unplug for 45 minutes. Sit for a few minutes, eyes closed, feet on the ground, hands on your thighs and pay attention to your breath, allow yourself to return fully to your body. Even just ten slow deep breaths can make a difference. Notice when you smell, hear, taste and fell. Then begin. Ask yourself: What is the scariest part of your story, what is the part of your novel you've been avoiding—go there, see what excites you. Forget about the deadlines or grammar, tell your critics to take a seat; you've got work to do. Be bold. Be fearless. When the 45 minutes end (with a program like Freedom you'll get a notice, or perhaps you set a timer), stand up, do some stretches, make a cup of tea/coffee--do something renewing. Try not to plug back in, allow the work you've been doing to rest in you, see what ideas come as you walk, sip your tea.  Then return, reset for another 45 minutes. Pay attention to what it is you're working on when you want to jump up and stop. Is there something pregnant in the work, something wanting to emerge, something at the edge of your awareness?

During our funnel rain-crazy weather I couldn't resist going out into the downpour with the excuse and goal of unclogging rain gutters, digging out drains. I got lost in my work. As I pulled rafts of leaves, needles and branches from the street gutter I stopped, suddenly aware of an overwhelming gladness. Aliveness! I was reminded ofthat powerful scene in James Joyce's "The Dead" that I'd reread the night before. What delight to be out in my old rain boots, listening to the staccato rhythm of the rain, watching the wind stir up the world and coax leaves to abandon their trees as water seeped through my clothes, my hands happy in my gardening gloves diving into each task, directing the flood.

As writers, our moments of being most alive occur when the ideas flood through us, spilling onto the page, delighting us when just the right language arrives. Yes, yes yes! We are not counting the words or the days because we are alive to our own voice. We know just where we're going! We could write forever! Our work is to stay in this alive place, to let go of the big goals as we write, to be present to what our writing is trying to say.

Most of our work is trial and error--writing, reading, rewriting, rewriting. As we begin this new year, I invite you to consider your writing from this last year, read it all again, read for what calls to you, for what feels most alive. And rather than counting the number of pages, your publications and rejections, focus on what you're doing best, acknowledge your growth and development as a writer, read for the aliveness and return to those places. Can you remember where you were when you wrote the best of it? Did you meditate that day? Take a long walk before?

PROMPT: Write about jumping into a difficult task, fighting the elements: What are the physical costs? What is the goal? What complicates achieving that goal? What do you feel? Smell? What is the temperature? Is there a moment when the goal seems impossible? Use all of your senses. Write wild, anything goes...surprise yourself!

Fall 2012

Fall Newsletter 2012

 

If you don't feel you are possibly on the edge of humiliating yourself, of losing control of the whole thing, then what you're doing probably isn't very vital.   
If you don't feel that you are writing somewhat over your head, why do it?  If you don't have some doubt of your authority to tell this story, then you're not trying to tell enough.

                                             -- John Irving

*  * *  * *  * *  *
Dear Writer:

I've just posted the Fall 2012 schedule. It's hard to believe summer's half over! If you are finding it hard to get to the page this summer you're not alone. Changing schedules, out-of-town guests and family vacations can be a challenge for writers trying to carve out time for their work.

I have often found summers wreak havoc on my writing life, so this summer I planned ahead. Before I let myself commit to anything else, I scheduled writing retreats and enrolled in two short master classes--Lynn Freed and Peter Ho Davies--both were fabulous and inspiring. After my plans were set I was surprised by an invitation to the Norman Mailer Colony and Writing Center in Provincetown where I was given a condo and bicycle to use, and participated in a workshop led by the amazing Sigrid Nunez for two hours a day and the rest of my time was free to write! I haven't ever had a six week period so filled with insightful feedback, generous support, and so much time for my writing. I am feeling very spoiled, energized and snapping inspired, and will have lots to share with writers this fall.

If getting away to a writing workshop or retreat this summer is out of the question--if you're juggling work, kids camp schedules or family vacations--I highly recommend blocking time off on your calendar just for YOU. Whether it's a week, a weekend, a day here and there, or simply an hour--Do it! Go off the grid! Don't go to appointments or the store, don't answer email, turn off your phone; give yourself over to what you really want to say. Be wild, crazy, write bold. Say something dangerous.

And remember: it's Summertime! and you are required by the gods of sun and parks and rec to find a patch of grass or sand, an old Adirondack chair, or a quiet corner and kick off your shoes and read. Surround yourself with the voices and tales that enliven you. Or simply lay back, watch for characters to emerge from the clouds, or simply close your eyes and dream. Let your wild mind roam.