Monthly Archives: August 2009

Love Your Body

Ever get tired of seeing how the media, advertisers and Hollywood misuses and abuses the female image for furthering their own agendas?  Well, check out the details for the NOW Foundation’s 2010 Love Your Body campaign poster contest.  Contest winner receives $600 and the honor of having their poster design distributed to girls and women around the world through various channels.

When perusing the site, don’t forget to check out the section on magazine ads deemed “Offensive to Women” complete with descriptions/captions.  Do these people really have heads on their shoulders?

And finally…check out this video:

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Filed under From One Mother to Another, Living

A Different Sort of Change

Ok, so the following video calls for an entirely different sort of change than that referenced in my last post.  But, while I was searching You Tube for David Bowie’s Changes, I came across this video.  If you haven’t seen it by now, you obviously haven’t been spending much time perusing the techniverse of social media.  In short: Playing For Change, the group responsible for the production of the internationally performed and compiled version of the classic, Stand By Me, is working to promote global peace through musical efforts.  How cool is that?

This one’s for you, Dad…

For more on Playing For Change, go here.

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Filed under Artists, Living, politics

Ch-ch-ch-changes…

I used to think I was pretty good at handling changes…welcoming of new adventures…a seeker of the unfamiliar.  But, in four short months, my world will turn upside down and I seem to be struggling with that fact. 

Yes, I grew up outside of Seattle, went to school in Tacoma and lived in Pittsburgh for five years.  But the past six+ years of living in Montana has allowed me to grow accustomed to a slower-paced life (despite the hardship of winters that last darned-near forever).  So when our family relocates to the San Francisco Bay area at the end of the year, I will have some adjusting to do.  Not only for me, but for the sake of our kids.

Add to a BIG move…I will return to school within the next year, studying Women’s Studies and potentially Anthropology–researching present-day women during pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood.  I will use these studies to further my writing and public speaking career.  I will work my ass off to accomplish this goal.

‘Cause here’s the thing: amidst the preparations for a big family move, applications to graduate school, and transitioning my little childbirth education business–I’m still a mom.  I still have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to make, laundry to tend to and errands to run.

Our daughter started first grade yesterday, so the school year busy-busy routine is back upon us.  Our boys will start their preschool year next week.  Dance class begins soon after that, along with church kids’ choir.

So, in tandem with packing school lunches and carting kids all over town (tarnation?) I will be packing boxes, calling moving companies, searching California rental properties and preparing our own home for the open market.

Anyone want to rent or buy a house?

And now, in honor of my family’s up-coming changes…a little blast from the past…

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Filed under Kids, Living, Mommy and Motherhood, Writing and Publishing

Social Media: A Rekindling of Memories and Friendships

Ah, the wonders of social media!  If you haven’t gotten yourself onto Facebook, or linked in through Linked In, you’re well behind the times, ma’am.

I have to admit: I was fairly skeptical about the whole social networking craze when my oh-so techy husband (I say this with affection and admiration) started prompting me to create accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and more.  In the interest of promoting myself as a writer, I finally relinquished.

While I have had some decent runs at posting tweets and submitting “What’s on your mind” tidbits… I wouldn’t call myself “addicted” like so many I know.

Still, I have had the chance to reconnect with some old, beloved friends, and to stay connected with new friends and colleagues.  My favorite social media moment thus far?  It happened this morning at 4:35am when I (again) couldn’t sleep:  I remembered a song shared between two teenage friends.

Picture it:  Junior high school drama class.  Two teen girls passing the time before the bell rings hailing another passing period.  A friend of mine, a new friend at the time (she’d just moved from Nebraska to suburban Seattle) was an AMAZING singer, even at the ripe old age of fifteen.  For some reason (was it in a movie score?  Had a re-worked version been popularized on modern radio airwaves?) Elvis Presley’s Falling in Love With You had become a mutually favorite song between us.  At my completely puritanical request, this friend would sing the song to me over and over again–lulling me into the understand of how enriching love, friendship and music could be.  This moment reenacted itself for several months, and then faded into the memory bank as teenage life rolled on.

Last month, via the wonders of Facebook, this friendship, this memory, this song reemerged from the catacombs of my mind.  For me, this song is about loving relationships shared by friends.  It is about nurturing and submission to a higher purpose:  communion with others through true friendship and trust.

That friend of mine?  She has gone on to become a professional musician and a damned good one.  She also makes documentary films and is an expert on folklore.  I wouldn’t have known these things, had it not been for social media.  Hhhmmm…I guess it can play a valuable role, after all.

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Filed under friendship, Living

Re-cap of the 2009 Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop: My Favorite Quotes of the Week

Okay folks, as promised, here’s a little more for you on the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop ~ namely, my favorite lines, quotes and anecdotes (written in Workshop schedule chronological order only–no favoritism is represented here).

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*  “The lover is the writer, the reader is the beloved.” – Brenda Shaughnessy, poet
* ‘The essence of the person lies mystically in the name.’ – roughly quoted from B.S.
*  “If you are afraid of something or running away from something–that’s what you should be writing about” – B.S.

* Establish your writerly self as a person with “good taste” that the reader will want to follow/partake of.  The reader is trying to improve him/herself by their association with the authors they read.  Don’t let your readers down. – taken from workshop discussion with Walter Kirn

* “I like to think about prose as an athletic event.” – W.K. re: choosing which style of prose you’re most talented in, and “competing” in that style.

* Manuscripts mustbe as polished as possible before submitting to literary agents or editors–this represents you taking yourself seriously as a writer.  (Taken from panel discussion with Denise Shannon, Bonnie Nadell, Besty Lerner and Julie Barer)

*”Obsession fills our spiritual need.” – Steve Almond

* There are moments in your life that snag your attention.  Don’t over analyze why  you can’t let go of those moments.  Just honor your attention toward/obsession with those moments and write about them. (take from lecture: Obsession A New Musk by Steve Almond

*”How does the thin-skinned writer become a thick-skinned author?” – Literary Agent, Betsy Lerner in her lecture on Query Letters to Agents

* “Endings are just beginnings returned in new form.” – Walter Kirn

* “Foreshadowing is the promise the reader will be told a story.” – W.K.

* “Be true to your trance.” – W.K. discussing the “zone we, as writers do and must get into for effective writing.

* “Editing is a cost-benefit analysis.” – Keith Lee Morris

* “Beginnings are shadows that are cast across the entire story.” – Walter Kirn

* “A beginning is an act of bravado.” – W.K.

* “The beginning has to do more than anything else in the book…accept, maybe, the end.” – W.K.

* If dialog feels like it’s coming out poorly onto the page, perhaps it’s because you don’t know your characters well enough. (take from lecture by Keith Lee Morris on writing dialog.

*”Memoir rightly belongs to the imaginative world because it is a product of memory–it becomes a creation of the mind.” – David Shields

* “Great art is an analysis of mixed feelings.’ – D.S.

* The only thing worse than boredom is fear of boredom.  Omission is a form of creation.” – D.S.

* Good characters are not “built,” they are “revealed.” – from Bret Anthony Johnston’s lecture on Writing Exercises – Character.

* The fewer the characters…the easier the story becomes to write.  A narrative is like climbing a steep mountain while wearing a backpack…each additional character adds to the weight of the pack.  (taken from above-referenced lecture by B.A.J.)

* “Never ask a reader to do more work than you [the author] are willing to do.” – B.A.J.

* Johnston’s assessment of good vs. bad characters:
       Good characters are 51% good and 49% bad.  Bad characters are 51% bad and 49% good.

* The writer’s job, according to B.A.J.: “Make the reader want something and then make them wait for it [via narrative arc obstacles, etc.]”

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A room once occupied: now empty.
A house once full: vacant.
Water dries.
Soap suds pop.  Bubbles drain.
People leave.
                                                   ~ KMH

From discomfort comes ill-ease.
From ill-ease: dis-ease.
Dis-ease precedes disease
and from that: personal growth.
Thus is the experience of communcal bathing.
                                                                                  ~ KMH

Thank you Tin House!!!

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Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop: A Round up

Okay, so now that I’ve returned to the blogosphere, I really owe it to the organizer’s of this year’s Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop to recap, from my little ol’ perspective, of what it was like to rub elbows with some of the finest, present-day, American literary writers.

Yes, aside from visiting the Fountain of Youth and returning to one’s college days of commune-like dormitories and unabashed dope smoking, Tin House really is all about the writing…and partying…and writing…and did I mention…?

To gain the privilege of attending Tin House’s Writer’s Conference, one must first submit a writing sample. Depending on your genre (notice my foul use of the word “genre” here.  The Tin House folks and adjunct faculty generally snub anything categorized by “genre.”  This is not the conference for romance novelists, mystery or thriller writers.  This is hard-core literary instruction for literary writing.  So what is literary? It is anything deeper, more obtuse, wordier, character-driven, and philosophical than what you’ll find in a Dan Brown or James Patterson novel.  Not that those books aren’t wonderfully captivating and well-written.  But literary writing certainly serves a different–perhaps more discerning audience.  It’s not exactly mainstream, folks.

So, anyway, you must submit a piece of writing you’ve been working on to the Tin House crew prior to acceptance.  One can submit a work of long fiction, short fiction, creative nonfiction, memoir or poetry.  Then the Tin House staff gets to review your work and decide whether or not you can cut the mustard with the rest of the accepted attendees…and hopefully send you an acceptance letter.

Of course, many of us were wondering if the “acceptance” process was a bit of a farce.  None of the folks I spoke with had heard of anyone actually being denied acceptance to the workshop…so perhaps the submission-acceptance thing is a clout builder.  And if so–so what?  The conference still totally rocks.

Over the course of seven days, Tin House offered 22 lectures (almost none of which were scheduled concurrently, meaning, as a workshop goer, you had all the reason and no excuse to not learn a hell of a lot about writing).  Some of  my favorite lectures were:

-Obsession, A New Musk (Steve Almond)
-The Agent Game (a panel discussion with literary agents Denise Shannon, Bonnie Nadell, Julie Barer and Betsy Lerner)
-Query Letters to Agents (Betsy Lerner)
-Dialogue (Keith Lee Morris)
Character & Plot (Bret Anthony Johnston)

My second time seeing Steve Almond lecture at a conference, I am even more convinced he is a truly brilliant man set in the body and consciousness of a stand-up comedian.  Somehow, Almond captures an audience by the end of his first spoken sentence and gains momentum until the audience is flogging him with applause at the end of his talk.

Almond suggested that upon picking up a book, the reader begins with a basic question:  what will I care about over the course of reading this book and what do I think the writer cared about while writing this book?  Translation: what obsession does the reader get to hang onto over the course of two-hundred-some pages.  In essence, after deciding what the prevailing obsession throughout the book will be (getting the girl to love the guy, vindicating a loved-one’s death, winning the national hot dog eating contest, etc.) frame obsession into every scene, story character (each character can have his/her own obsession).

Aside from the largely fantastic lectures (yes, there were a few that were not entirely fantastic) Tin House lined up eighteen author readings…not to mention the readings and discourse conducted at the Tin House Tenth Anniversary Celebration held in Portland’s downtown Newmark Theater.

Aside from the above-mentioned goings on, each participant who opted into small group workshops met for 2 1/2 hours each morning with their esteemed leader and eleven other participants for hard-core critique of each others work.  My group leader was Walter Kirn, writer for GQ, New York Times Magazine, Vogue and Esquire, reviewer for the New York Times Book Review, and  author of several novels, along with his recently released memoir Lost in the Meritocracy.

Aside from a few organizational and personal hiccups (one guy stormed out of our workshop on Day One because he felt he wasn’t receiving an adequate critique on his work) we had extraordinarily in-depth discussions on each person manuscript submission–and on various writing techniques in general.  Each person took their turn going on the hot seat for over an hour…listenting to discussion about and, when invited, commenting  on their manuscript (the twenty or so pages submitted to the group, anyway).  I left my small group experience with a spinning head, and overwhelmed psyche, and an idea of where to take my fiction manuscript next.

As you can see, the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop is an intense experience.  It’s well worth the $1500 (this includes all workshop activities, a meeting with a literary agent or Tin House Literary Magazine editor, housing and food for the entire week) and equally deserving of a following week of exhaustion and navel gazing.

If you’ve happened upon this blog post in your own search for a writer’s conference to attend in the future I can tell you I’d highly recommend this one.

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Seasonal and Life Transitions

I know, I know:  it’s been darned near a month since my last entry.  I’ve been silent.  Incognito.  Incommunicado.  A blogosphere ghost.  But, I feel secure claiming that “it’s all been for good reason.”

In the past month I have:

– driven 1,400+ miles round trip to and from Portland, OR for the esteemed Tin House Writer’s Workshop at Reed College (more on Tin House later).
– Researched preschools for our two boys
– Hauled our kids around to doctor and therapy appointments
-cleaned out our entire basement, craft room and the Black Hole of a space otherwise called Our Daughter’s Bedroom where she regularly squirrels away every conceivable (and inconceivable) household item in bags, boxes, desk drawers and the depths of her closet floor.
-Attended a family reunion in honor of a recently deceased family member
-Researched the next HUGE phase of my adult life.

So, in short, I’ve been a little busy.

Now, with summer break winding down and the start of school looming, I’m looking forward to that which is soon to come in fall schedules and school commitments, all the while relishing the best time of year to live in Montana.  I anticipate having three half days a week this coming school year, during which I can totally and entirely devote to writing/career stuff…perahps alleviating a few of the late nights and long Saturday morning coffee shop stints that have fueled my writing over the past three years.

And you, dear reader?  What will you be doing to close out the summer and prepare for fall?

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Filed under Kids, Living, Mommy and Motherhood, Writing and Publishing