Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Pens (and Computers)

Today is Novermber 1 and it is NaNoWriMo — or rather, National Novel Writing Month.  This is a community of writers committed to hammering out 50,000 words by November 30.  You can track your progess, connect with other writers, and tap into their ever expanding resources.  If a novel isn’t quite your thing, WordPress is doing NaBloPoMo — National Blog Posting Month.  It’s simple, just do one post a day for the month of November.  The format is open, the content is yours for the choosing.  You can read more about it here.  And the goal always is to get your pen moving!  Why wait until January to start on a new goal?  Go for it!

NaNo Poster2.47

(print for purchase here)

Poetry Night

The Salt Water Writers met again last night and pushed up against (and with) poetry.  I am by no means a poet, or even a well-read one.  But just like with modern art, I continue to engage and try to better understand why it is that I like something.  I can’t explain why I like some poetry (and some art), but my hope is that if I continue to experience it and try to figure out what it is that I like about it, then I will be able to emulate and/or create something of my own.

It could have been the bright moon or the fact that we’re close to Halloween, but last night was decidedly strange as we were all in a peculiar (read: dark/tired/snarky) mood.  One of our writers created a haunting tale of a hospital scene that was so spot on and used merely 14 words (or thereabouts).  Another wrote about an inhumane practice from a foreign culture; another about the tiny wounds we inflict on one another; and another about a foggy morning and a butcher knife.  Although a lot of what we created was “dark”, the writing poetry was good — and that is still my metric for success.  I love writing with these people.  Maybe I should read a little E.A.Poe this weekend to continue our dark path…

Blood of a Poet

[scene from the film — Blood of a Poet]

The Form Our Writing Takes

This past Tuesday the Salt Water Writers gathered again and basically blew my mind.  I absolutely cannot explain the amazing magic that happens when we all write together.  I love that as we spontaneously create our individual narratives based on prompts I have given, we each find our voice taking shape in a different form.  Some writers feel compelled to write in poetry, others prose, and still others sound more like a screenplay.  And here’s what Pat Schneider has to say about using different forms:

In my opinion, the pressure on writers toward specialization is unfortunate.  I have resisted, and I still resist, writing groups limited to one genre.  When writing begins, it needs freedom to take its own form.  [Inspiration] will express itself sometimes as story, sometimes as poem, sometimes as grand opera, sometimes as country-and-western ballad.  People frequently join my workshops saying, I write only poems, or I write only fiction and are surprised when something completely different comes bubbling up in response to a good exercise.

I love the rich and fertile give-and-take when writers are working in varying forms.  A fiction writer learns how to write dialogue by listening to two workshop members read aloud the scene that a third workshop member has brought to the meeting.  A poet is encouraged to use specific, concrete imagery by listening to a vivid prose description of a man opening a can of beer and taking his first sip, the foam catching the bristle on his unshaven lip.

Writers need the refreshment of various forms.  Daphne Slocombe observed:

“The demands of using a particular form can help to focus the author’s attention and intensify his or her engagement.  For new writers, I think it is important to know that there is a reason for forms.  You can fool with them, mess around with them, can get to know them by trying them out and seeing how they affect the material you’re working with.  No need to be intimidated by them; they were invented or discovered by other writers like us, trying to find the best, most effective container for what they had to say, for what they wanted to show us.”

In the workshops I lead, we write two, sometimes three times in one evening session.  Once in awhile someone writes three wonderful separate poems in one evening.  Some writers can write three sections of a novel-in-progress.  But most mortals, like myself, may write one prose piece, one journal entry, and – if we’re especially ‘hot’ – one poem.

Writing Alone and With Others (p.116)

We also talked about the fact that it’s easier to try new forms (or those that are not intuitive to us) while writing in the group versus on our own at home.

So I was pleased as punch when I was directed to a book called Unscrolled: 54 Writers and Artists Wrestle With the Torah.  And in particular, I loved the snippet from Damon Lindelof (writer of LOST) and his take on the near sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham.  It reads like a screenplay with a cop interrogating Abraham.  Awesome.  You can read it here.  My curiosity is piqued — I wonder what other forms these artists have used to rub up against such a significant body of work.


Digital vs. Analog

It’s a lifestyle choice, right?!  So I’ve not yet jumped on the digital e-reader bandwagon.  My mom has a Kindle (circa 2009) and I haven’t been too impressed (more of a *meh* response) and really I make too many notes in the margins of most of my books for an e-reader to even be an option.  But that’s usually because I read mostly non-fiction.  However, lately,  I’ve been adding a lot more fiction to my nightstand / to-read-wish-list, and I think that an e-reader would be most beneficial for this genre (or at least a higher turnover rate).  I read at a moderate pace and I usually have multiple books in progress, so I think that an e-reader would be beneficial for this too.  Still, in the con column though is the price of an e-book.  Yeowzer.  Ten to Fifteen dollars?!  I’m a total sucker for buying second-hand books for way cheap (or even better — borrowing from my sister because she probably bought it brand new!)  However, in the pro column, I found out that  you can check out digital books from our library.  So… I’m still a little torn.  Pro — many books, tiny space.  Con — no color cover art to help me choose my selection.  🙂  Really, my biggest con is something I can’t quite articulate.  Somewhere in my brain, physical books = comfort.  Maybe I just need to try it.  Any thoughts? (Hey, Amazon — would you like this self-proclaimed analog lover to test your new, fancy paperwhite? Email me for my deets!) *cheeky, I know*

Digital or Analog

In the Magic Business


The Salt Water Writers gathered again this past Tuesday and wrote about “home” and menial things.  I continue to be blown away by the words that comes out of these people.  They can take an idea like unpacking a suitcase or organizing a closet and make it into quite the adventure and layered with depth.  One of our writers mentioned a book she read about the collective unconscious and I tell you, we were sharing something similar.

At the end of the workshop, the writers began to talk about some things that they like about the group; what they did not realize is that they were discussing exactly what makes the AWA method so powerful.  It added a new sparkle to my eyes to see the method in action with novice participants; and to actually watch a writer who thought she had put crap on paper realize that it wasn’t crap and in fact it was quite beautiful, gave me a rush of adrenaline.  It was equally as amazing to watch another writer find grace in an area of life that is usually full of despair – all because she wrote it out (and in an unconventional way!)

And really, this is the unarticulated reason I wanted to open this studio: to make magic together.



First Lines


Last night the Salt Water Writers met for another rousing week of exploration and fun with our writing.  Last night we spent some time on first lines.  It was a great exercise that proved to be a (not-so-gentle) catalyst launching us into other-worlds with actions already going on.  I continue to be so impressed with our writers original voices.  It is such a joy to write with these people.

I scoured the interwebs for great first lines and boy, there were a lot of lists.  It’s too hard to narrow down in my book.  But The Telegraph took a stab at it:


‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ | George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

Red Badge of Courage

“The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting.” | Stephen Crane: The Red Badge Of Courage (1895)


“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” | J.D Salinger: The Catcher In The Rye (1951)


“All this happened, more or less.” | Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse Five (1969)

Moby Dick

“Call me Ishmael.” | Herman Melville: Moby-Dick (1851)


You can see their comprehensive list here.  And a couple of months ago I read a great article here about Stephen King and his search for great first lines.