I just read Ali Hale’s tips for writers that were included in today’s WriterHouse newsletter. The one that seemed to elicit the most responses was, “Call yourself a writer.” It’s tough. Why is it that so many of us do not feel worthy of the title unless our writing pays the mortgage?
I am reminded of the story of a young child, hard at work behind the easel at his preschool. His teacher, viewing the tempura paint masterpiece in progress, exclaimed, “Why, Johnny, you are going to be an artist when you grow up!” You can guess his indignant retort: “I already am an artist.” Indeed.
And so are you a writer if you make a regular habit of putting words on a page. Let this become your mantra: “I am a writer.” Believe it. Look in the mirror and say these words to yourself:
I AM A W R I T E R.
Then tell your dog. Tell your neighbor, your aunt, your friend, your coworker, every stranger you meet. . .” Soon, it should slip easily off your tongue without the urge to use any qualifiers.
Ready? Keep chanting as you grab your notebook of daily scribbles. Targets set, join your writing group for coffee, remembering that being a writer is a criteria for being in a writing group.
Coming soon to WriterHouse:
»Sign up for fall classes and seminars now for an early registration discount. Full details…
»An Evening of Student Readings, Monday, Aug. 31, 7-9pm. WriterHouse Summer Session students from all classes will present brief samples of their work.
»Fall Open House and Instructor Reading, Sunday, Sept. 13, 7-9pm. Meet the instructors for the fall session, meet other writers, and listen to readings by the fall instructors.
»The Renegade Form: The Case for the Novella in Contemporary Fiction with Josh Weil, Thursday, Sept. 24, 7-9pm. This award-winning young author’s debut collection of novellas entitled The New Valley is set in the hill country between West Virginia and Virginia and “written in strong, masterful language laced with tenderness.” It received a rave review in The New York Times Sunday Book Review. We have copies of the book for sale–get yours now during open hours.
More Public Events…
Whenever I see a piece titled “The Moth” I assume that it must be related in some way to the writings of Virginia Woolf, Annie Dillard, or countless others who have written elegies to the short-lived winged insect. But the article I picked up in Sunday’s New York Times had nothing to do with death by candlelight. It was instead about a very spirited Moth that seems to be morphing all around the country.
The Moth, a nonprofit group who sponsors storytelling events in New York and Los Angeles, was formed by poet and novelist George Dawes Green. His move to New York took him far from the gossamer arthropods that lingered to hear stories on his Southern family’s porch. He missed them — the stories, that is — and the community that ensued. And so, he began to invite others to his city apartment to hear and tell stories. Three or four people became thirty or forty and before long he was looking for additional room to host his new community of friends.
One of the photos that accompanied the newspaper article showed people lined up around the block, anxious to hear and tell stories. The article was largely about how a forum for the everyday man and woman had grown into a place where professionals are now regulars, hoping to be noticed by agents who frequent the halls. But it is the initial idea that inspired my response to the article. I would love to reproduce that storytelling community here in Charlottesville. And WriterHouse seems a likely place to try it out because that’s what we are — storytellers!
After visiting Moth’s website, I learned that Moth encourages spin-offs, even helps others get something off the ground. They call it “MothUP – The Living Room Satellite Moth.” Storytelling evenings would complement the already popular WriterHouse-sponsored readers’ evenings. They just might attract a new audience of writers into our fold, those who like to perform their stories, in the style of Garrison Keillor or Ira Glass. If anyone else has any interest in this, I invite you to visit the website at www.themoth.org and let me know what you think.
The National Endowment for the Arts has a great online resource for researching and applying for NEA grants. The literature page has a complete listing of fellowships, grants, and other funding opportunities. Particularly of interest is the Creative Writing Fellowship, available in alternate years for prose and poetry. These grants are for those who have previously been published. The deadline for applying for the fiction or creative nonfiction grant for this cycle is past, but for poetry you have until March 2010.
Weeks ago I answered the call to commit to blogging on this site. “It will get me back into the practice of meeting deadlines,” I thought, “and it will be a gentle way to enter the world of blogging, heretofore foreign to me.” But, it’s hard to let go of old friends. Procrastination has been by my side for decades. Her shrill voice disrupted my thoughts every time I sat down to blog. “You don’t have time now. You have out-of-town guests arriving any minute. . . Why not wait until the rambling days of summer give way to Autumn’s more disciplined schedule?” And, worst of all, “Are you crazy. . . you have nothing to say!”
Yesterday I had a mournful email from a friend. Pat and I are writing pals. We met at a writer’s conference nearly ten years ago. At the close of the conference, she suggested that we keep in touch with one another through weekly freewrites. The telephone, paper, and pen are our tools. We talk every week, alternating callers. The caller is responsible for having a topic to write about (a single word or phrase, a passage from a book, a snippet of a poem). Once delivered, we hang up, write furiously, and call back in twenty minutes to share. I now must have as many notebooks as Natalie Goldberg! While mine collect dust, Pat has turned hers into a novel. She has had it workshopped and is searching for an agent.
A few days ago she called excitedly, ready to break open the champagne. An agent was interested. We raised our metaphoric bubbling flutes to her meteoric success. Last night, the broken shards of glass lay strewn across my desk as I read her disappointment. “His cruel words rocketed through me. I am taking to my bed,” Pat wrote.
Pat’s rejection has prompted the posting of my first blog. Here, I figure, the stakes are low. Blogs are a little like our weekly freewrites. They connect us and give us empathetic listeners. I am hopeful that we can generate ideas and ponder questions together — and be there for one another to pick up the broken pieces.
Have you ever wondered what “bellwether” meant? How do you correctly use “either”? And what should one do with a comma, exactly? If you’ve been bugged by these and other grammar and usage questions, you should pick up Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words. I recommend this book to even those writers who feel secure in their linguistic knowledge. We could all use a refresher sometimes.
Bill Bryson makes grammar seem less like a monster (a fault of some instructional books I’ve come across) and more like a doddering relative. He acknowledges the inherent confusion of English, the language of mish-mashes, dialects, ethnicities and slang.
Also try Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors.
WriterHouse Public Events
»The Online Writer: a Two-Part Workshop on Web site Design, Blogging, and Web-based Work for Writers—Our most requested seminar has just been scheduled, this time in a two-part format. This is a soup-to-nuts picture of what it means to be a writer in the digital world, led by copywriter and communications consultant Kristen King. The first part is an introduction and the second part is a hands-on follow up. Part 1: Saturday, August 15, 9am – 4:30 pm, Part 2: Saturday September 12, 9am-4:30pm. More info…
»WordSmith’s 6th Poetry Jam, Wednesday, August 26, 7-10pm, IS Venue, 709 W. Main St.—Expect a wide variety of artistic voices including poets, spoken word performers, open mic enthusiasts, musicians and singers. Proclaim your right to be heard through performance. $5 admission, IS and Si Tapas menu available for purchase. Open mic sign up starts at 7pm.
Last week when WriterHouse called, members and friends answered. Ten good men and women showed up to pull taps and pop corks on Friday, July 31, at the Fridays after Five show at the Pavilion to raise money for WriterHouse.
Many thanks to Andrew, Ben, Brandon, Christy, Dan, Jennifer, Jared, Kris, Mary-Patricia, Rachel, and Sean, for putting a friendly face on WriterHouse for the Pavilion crowd and making some money for our coffers. We’ll be doing it again Friday, September 4. If you want to help out and have some fun, take a minute or two to fill our our volunteer form on the main website.