Mojo Monday: Artist Chuck Close and “the” Paul Simon Talk Process

It’s Mojo Monday, and as always, I’ve got a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge you into writerhead.

I love process talk. And truly, what follows is some amazing process talk between photographer/painter/printmaker Chuck Close and singer/songwriter Paul Simon. Despite the camera, they’re pretty honest and revealing. Paul Simon loves 6/8 time, has learned a ton from listening to the music of other cultures, and explains how much he grew as an artist when he began to listen more deeply; Chuck Close has learning disabilities, has been in therapy for 45+ years, and is surprised and comforted by the fact that he still has breakthroughs.

At this moment in my own path as a writer, I’m fascinated (a little obsessed) with rhythm on the page, so what Paul Simon says about rhythm and symmetry and the breaking of symmetry resonates strongly with me. I’m into variations.

So watch, respond below, get your mojo on, and then, as always, get thee to writerhead.


(These videos are from I’ve included just two of the six videos of this conversation. If you’re interested in watching them all, click here.)

Q4U Writers / Thinkers / Artists / Creators of Beautiful Things: What resonates with you in this conversation? What makes you go “uh huh”?

Expat Sat: Did It Really Happen?

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writing. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and grabbing the story in life to expat writers around the globe.

We’ve been back in the States a little over seven months now and almost every day, I’m still experiencing what I call the “Did it really happen?” syndrome. Here’s how it works:

I’ll be at the grocery store, in the bathroom at Macy’s, on the threshold of my daughter’s preschool classroom, in the middle of the playground, hunched over my computer, driving to wherever, drooling over my iPhone, stirring chocolate into milk, breading chicken…anything…when I think of a particular moment in my nearly 5-year life in Shanghai and I freeze.

“Did it really happen?” I think.

But it’s more like this:








(insert any loud, annoying onomatopoetic sound!)

And honestly, in those moments, it feels as if China were a dream. And for the few moments following, I don’t really know.

To reassure myself that I’m not losing my mind and that, yes, indeed, I’ve recently returned from many years in Shanghai, I go to my photos.

This is me, I tell myself. Me and the surprisingly bristly panda in Chengdu who was clearly being plied with as much bamboo as necessary so that folks at the panda center could peel as many RMB notes as possible from the wallets of desperate I-want-to-touch-a-panda visitors like me AND so that the panda didn’t suddenly say “I’ve had enough” and then bite off my face.

Yes, I say as I study the photo, this is not photo-shopped. I was there.


Q4U: Am I the only person experiencing “Did it really happen?” syndrome (please say no)? Do you have this? Talk to me.


Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Janna Cawrse Esarey

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author answers three questions about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.

Today I’m happy to welcome Janna Cawrse Esarey to Writerhead Wednesday. She’s the author of the laugh-out-loud funny, rather poignant travel memoir The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife (Simon & Schuster). It tells the story of how Janna and her newlywed husband spent their honeymoon sailing across the Pacific Ocean in a somewhat dilapidated sailboat…for two years…just the two of them.

Yes, you heard that right. Just the two of them.

If, by the time this blog entry posts, Janna hasn’t been nominated for sainthood or been offered the Academy Award for living alone with a husband on a sailboat for two years, she should be.

The Scoop About The Motion of the Ocean:

“The Motion of the Ocean gives readers a satisfying mix of adventure, soul-searching, and romantic comedy. Join Janna and Graeme on their 17,000-mile journey and their quest to resolve the uncertainties so many couples face: How do you know if you’ve really found the One? How do you balance commitment to others while preserving space for yourself? And, when the waters get rough, do you jump ship, or do you learn to navigate the world . . . together?”

The Buzz:

“This highly entertaining debut memoir follows thirty-something journalist Esarey and her new husband, Graeme, on a 17,000-mile journey around the Pacific Ocean in their small sailboat. Before they leave, countless married friends tell them, ‘If your relationship can survive this, it can survive anything.’ It doesn’t take the nautically challenged Esarey long to realize just how true the warning is. A well-written, rollicking high-seas adventure, this will appeal to anyone who enjoys a good love story.” ~ Library Journal

“Love at sea was the idea when Esarey and her newly minted husband decided to honeymoon in a beat-up old sailboat on a trip across the Pacific. Eight hundred and thirteen hilarious, treacherous and, yes, romantic days later, she comes to some serious conclusions. Let’s just say you’ll be wildly entertained and glad to be on solid ground.” ~ Publisher’s Weekly, “Favorite Reads for the Summer” (2009)

“I didn’t think it was possible to write a ‘new’ cruising yarn. However, Janna Cawrse Esarey has done it—from a female sailor’s perspective. This isn’t a story of a cruise; it is an insightfully-written story of a maturing relationship. Best of all, her pen is as sharp as her wit. She pulls no punches. I laughed and cried—and saw myself on every page.” ~ Cap’n Fatty Goodlander, Editor-at-Large of Cruising World magazine

First Line:

“Somewhere fifty miles off the coast of Oregon I realize the skipper of this very small ship is an asshole.”

Second Line:

“He also happens to be my husband.”


And now…for Janna’s writerhead:

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

These days writerhead occurs at sparrow fart. That’s Kiwi slang* for very early in the morning. I get up at 5:30 every day to write before my two young daughters wake at seven. First, I make coffee—at which point I’m Mrs. Goldilocks, cursing my husband for last night (too late), my girls for this morning (too early), and myself for my push-pull obsession (just write). BUT around the time I’m doing my dying cockroach exercises , my writerhead starts warming up—“and ONE and TWO”—and by the time I’m at my laptop, I’m in my zone.

Writerhead reminds me of what my then-boyfriend-now-husband once termed quicksilver communication. He had this idea, see, that we would get to a point in our relationship where I would just know his thoughts and feelings—and vice versa—without having to talk about them. Connections between us, he said, would just zing-zang-zing like quicksilver. Well. Mind reading isn’t my specialty, nor, clearly, is it his. I informed him I’d much rather communicate(!) than rely on some mystic, intuitive brainwave poppycock.

But here’s the deal. Maybe I do believe in some mystic, intuitive brainwave poppycock when it comes to writing. I mean, the connections between words and images, themes and ideas that randomly, serendipitously, fatefully, miraculously show up are (yes, admit it) like quicksilver communication between one’s soggy brain and some kickass muse. The moments we writers write for.

Though sometimes writerhead ambushes me. If this happens during the day while driving, say, or playing Applause for kids’ dressup, I call it inspiration. If it occurs at night, right as I’m falling asleep, I call it inconvenience. But when it occurs in the middle of the night—wakes me up or keeps me up and will not let me go until I write-it-down-dammit—I call it insomnia. Still, the cracks to some of the toughest nuts come during sleepyhead writerhead, so I try not to complain. Too much.

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

In my world as a part-time mom/part-time writer, the most common interruption of writerhead is—you guessed it—kids. So let me tell you what happened ten minutes ago while writing up these answers. My five-year-old who still naps (I know!) woke up early from her nap (grrr), and had I just been checking email or googling what G.I. stands for (Government Issue), then I’d have been a good mother and closed my laptop and said, “Wanna read more Little House, chuckums?” BUT I was in writerhead. So here’s what happened instead: PBS. (Which is precisely why I try to schedule writerhead at sparrow fart and do other writerly duties during naps.)

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

You, of course, already know this without us having to talk about it, right? Writerhead for me is like quicksilver communication. Zing. Zang. Zing.

*No, I’m not from New Zealand. But I met this lady once who was, and I really liked that saying because isn’t that exactly how it feels?


Janna Cawrse Esarey wrote the humorous travel memoir, The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, & a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife (Simon & Schuster). A Publisher’s Weekly Summer Fave, Today Show rec, and Parade Pick, it’s the true story of a couple that sails into the sunset only to find their relationship sinking. Janna was selected as a 2008 Jack Straw Writer and currently performs the juggling act of writer, mom, and wife—only dropping a few balls daily. Visit her at

You can connect with Janna on Facebook and Twitter (@ByJanna). Also, check out her blog at


Q4U Writers / Readers /Sailors / Landlubbers / Husbands / Wives: Now I know y’all got something to say about the prospect of spending two years on a dinghy with only your spouse to keep you company. So lay it on us. And in addition to that, any thoughts on writing at sparrow fart, sleepyhead writerhead, or mystic, intuitive brainwave poppycock?