Mojo Monday: A Little Monster Mash Mojo

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 (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


Boo!

(& Happy Halloween!)

 

Expat Sat: Where Do You Write?

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


Back in Shanghai, I often wrote on the second floor of Jamaica Blue, a coffee shop on Wulumuqi Road. It had god-awful muffins that sometimes were only partially cooked, but the really nice guy behind the counter would make me iced tea (even though it wasn’t on the menu) and the second floor had great mojo.

I could hunker down there for hours, deep in writerhead.

How about you, writers? Where do you write?

 

_____

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Anne Easter Smith

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.


There are a couple of things I just adore about award-winning historical novelist Anne Easter Smith (whose most recent novel Queen By Right was published back in May):

First, she visits every place she writes about. (She talks about her process in the video below.)

Second, on her Facebook page, she wishes “Happy Birthday” to people like Richard III. Love this!

And third, she’s a British expat (& as you know, I have a soft spot for expats).

So give a hearty welcome to Anne Easter Smith! And please, whatever you do, do NOT interrupt her writerhead because, well, keep reading and you’ll see why!

The Scoop About Queen By Right

From the award-winning author of A Rose for the Crown, Daughter of York, and The King’s Grace comes Queen by Right, another masterful historical novel—the story of Cecily of York, mother of two kings and the heroine of one of history’s greatest love stories.

In Cecily Neville, duchess of York and ancestor of every English monarch to the present day, [Smith] has found her most engrossing character yet. History remembers Cecily of York standing on the steps of the Market Cross at Ludlow, facing an attacking army while holding the hands of her two young sons. Queen by Right reveals how she came to step into her destiny, beginning with her marriage to Richard, duke of York, whom she meets when she is nine and he is thirteen. Raised together in her father’s household, they become a true love match and together face personal tragedies, pivotal events of history, and deadly political intrigue. All of England knows that Richard has a clear claim to the throne, and when King Henry VI becomes unfit to rule, Cecily must put aside her hopes and fears and help her husband decide what is right for their family and their country.

The Buzzzzzzzzzzz

“Intelligent, compelling and engaging, her novel is lively, believable historical fiction with a heroine readers will take to their hearts.” ~ Romantic Times Book Reviews, Editor’s Top Pick

“With her signature attention to detail, Smith fully fleshes out the life of this English lady and, through her eyes, skillfully dramatizes the thick of the Wars of the Roses. A master of historical accuracy and complex political intrigues. ~ Library Journal

“Her most compelling and gripping novel yet…absolutely captivating, a tale you will want to read over and over again!” ~ Michelle Moran, author of Madame Tussaud

First Sentence

“A scream pierced Cecily’s dreamless sleep.”

_________

And now, Anne’s writerhead

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

I’m too analytical to give myself totally over to my creative side. But I have some tricks to help me get my fingers flying and my mind in a space between my efficient-British-secretary head and my urge to tell a story. There are days when I spend hours organizing my filing system: does this belong in the costume file or the knights and castle file? Of course those days are merely an excuse not to put pen to paper (sorry, I’m old).

But then there are the days when I walk into the office after a productive half an hour in the shower (which is where I get my best ideas), sit down at my desk, turn on my Medieval Babes music, and enter another world, where ladies didn’t wear panties and men wore tight hose and little skirts; where four feet away from the fire meant you got pneumonia; where lice battled fleas for possession of your skin; and where having a liaison was the only sensible way to get around an arranged marriage. It is a world I would go back to in a flash and so when someone is rude enough to jerk me out of it by ringing my phone, knocking on my door, or pinging me on Facebook (when I stupidly leave it open), “What the hell was that?” says 15th century Anne—it wasn’t the bell for matins, nor the alarm bell at the castle, nor even the beggar’s bell asking for alms. And then the 21st rope jerks me back to the present and there goes my writerhead until I find the syzygy to take me back to my medieval haven.

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.)

If I am in a foul mood (not often, I promise) an intruder on my writing may be shown pictures of the rack, the thumbscrews, or the Spanish tickler (and no, that last is nothing like a French tickler), but I am actually a pretty sociable person who cannot resist a ringing phone or a friendly knock at the door—to the detriment of my writing.

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

When I have written a good scene, I feel as satisfied as when I used to win a tennis tournament, only I’m not so sweaty!

_________

Anne Easter Smith is an award-winning author of historical fiction and published by Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone Books. Her five-book contract with Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone Books is a series about the York family during the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century. Anne’s third book, The King’s Grace, won the Romantic Times Best Historical Biography award in 2009 and her fourth, Queen By Right, was published in May 2011. The final book in the York saga will tell the story of King Edward IV’s “merriest” mistress, Jane Shore. Although Anne spent some of her childhood in Germany and Egypt as the daughter of a British army officer, Anne’s love of medieval English history began during her teenage years in England, where she had London on her doorstep and an inspirational history teacher nicknamed “Conky.” While living in Plattsburgh, NY, Anne became the Features Editor of the daily newspaper and covered the arts, health, fashion, cuisine, among other subjects. Anne has lived for 43 years in the U.S. on both coasts, but is finally settled down in Newburyport, MA with her husband, Scott.

If your curiosity is piqued and you want to know more, visit Anne’s web site (www.anneeastersmith.com). Though she doesn’t Tweet (yet…), you can also pop over to her Facebook page and say hello (or wish Richard III a happy birthday)!

_________

Q4U Readers / Writers / Historical Fiction Aficionados / Brits / Expats / Travelers / Global Nomads: Okay, how many of you didn’t know that 15th century ladies didn’t wear panties? (raises hand)

_________

 

Mojo Monday: Theo Jansen’s Kinetic Sculptures

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 (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


What are YOU going to make today?

 

_____

Want to learn more about artist Theo Jansen? Click here.

Expat Sat: 3 Writing Contests for Expat Writers

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


Wow…after 10 weeks of writing prompts, it feels a little strange to be posting something else. If you’ve been writing from the prompts, awesome! (If not, what are you waiting for? Get busy! Here’s the link.)

Anyway, here are three good contests for you to enter:

The Zócalo Public Square Poetry Prize

(Note: All information has been taken from the Zócalo Public Square web site.)

Description: The Zócalo Public Square Poetry Prize is awarded annually to the U.S. poet whose poem best evokes a connection to place. “Place” may be interpreted by the poet as a place of historical, cultural, political or personal importance; it may be a literal, imaginary or metaphorical landscape. We are looking for one poem that offers our readers a fresh, original and meaningful take on the topic.

How to Enter: For consideration, please enter up to three poems to poetry@zocalopublicsquare.org. Include your name, address, phone and email address on each poem. Personal identification will be removed prior to judge’s review. We will accept online submissions only.

Prize: The winning poet will receive $1,000.

Deadline: Entries will be accepted between September 5, 2011 and November 5, 2011.

Judging: Zócalo Poetry Editor Stephanie Brown will be the judge. Entries will be judged based on originality of ideas, how well the poem fits the theme, and style. Judging is at the sole discretion of Zócalo Public Square. The winner will be announced in March 2012, and the winning poet will receive $1,000. The winning poem will be published on zocalopublicsquare.org.

The Kicker: This contest is only open to U.S. poets. (I assume that means U.S. poets living any where in the world so all you U.S. expats, get a move on!)

The Upside: No reading fee.

Advice: This contest is all about place. P-L-A-C-E. The very thing we expats/repats/global nomads spend so much time thinking about, talking about over glasses of wine and cups of coffee, dreaming about, obsessing about as we traverse the world, and yes, yes, yes, writing about! So get your butts in gear! Submit.

For full terms and conditions, click here.

Active Travel Asia’s 2011 Writing Competition

(Note: All information has been taken from the ATA‘s web site.)

Description: You love traveling and at least had travelled to Indochina (Vietnam – Laos – Cambodia) once in a lifetime? It must have been an interesting exploration and a sense of Indochina’s beautiful nature? So why don’t you participate in our competition “Indochina in your eyes” and get the chance to come back Indochina once again and explore the grandeur of the nature? Please feel free write about your adventures and share with us!

How to Enter: Simply email your entry of no more than 1000 words (no attachments) to event@activetravel.asia. The entries after being sent to our mail address will be reviewed to guarantee the content of entries comply with the terms and conditions of this competition.

Prize: With the highest prize: The winner can choose one of our tours for 2 persons as below:

  • Kayaking Halong Bay
  • Trekking Sapa and homestay
  • Mai Chau Trekking
  • Motorcyling the Ho Chi Minh Trail
  • Biking Angkor Wat

Incentive prize: To encourage the writer we will award 3 incentive prizes for those who have the amount of like ranked highest. The prize is Hanoi City Tour with the private tour guide for 2 people plus some valuable extra.

Deadline: November 20, 2011 / The competition will start from 01/09/2011 to 20/11/2011 through our networks:

  • Facebook: www.facebook.com/Active.
  • Travel Travel news: www.activetravelmagazines.com & news.activetravelvietnam.com

The winner will be the person who has the amount of LIKE ranked highest on our facebook page plus 2 travel news sites: The prize will be announced on 30/11/2011.

Judging: ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA is responsible for the publication and the adjudication of this competition.

The Kicker: Honestly, I’m not quite sure how this competition is being judged, but still seems legit.

The Upside: Great prizes and a great opportunity to write about Indochina.

Advice: Give it a shot.

For full terms and conditions, click here.

10th Annual FundsforWriters Essay Contest / Theme = “Diligence”

(Note: All information has been taken from the FundsforWriters web site.)

Description: Your definition of diligence, however, might involve a personal relationship, a child, a career, a manuscript. Maybe you weathered a difficult phase in your life, and now that you’ve come out on the other side relieved yet wiser, stronger and empowered.

In this day of instant publishing versus traditional, of impatient waits for answers to query letters, the theme of Diligence seemed most appropriate. No, you don’t have to write about self-publishing versus traditional. Just make Diligence the clear, ultimate, and striking point of your nonfiction essay. (Not to exceed 750 words.)

How to Enter: Email entry to hope@fundsforwriters.com. (No fax or hard copy submissions.)

  • No attachments to emails. Embed in the email itself. (Viruses are nasty creatures.)
  • Note ENTRY FEE or NO ENTRY FEE on your submission.

Prize: A major different between FundsforWriters’ contest and other writing contests is the option of paying an entry fee. Some writers don’t believe in fees and other can’t afford them. So we offer a no entry fee category. Others, however, are willing to submit the $5 entry fee in order to vie for the higher prize purse. Take your pick.

  • ENTRY FEE CATEGORY – First place – $400. Second place – $100. Third place – $50.
  • NO ENTRY FEE CATEGORY – First place – $50. Second place – $25. Third place – $15.

Deadline: Receipt deadline Midnight (Eastern Time), October 31, 2011.

Judging: Judges are selected from Hope’s peer group of writers, authors and journalists, still pending, but the finalists are chosen by C. Hope Clark.

The Kicker: Zilch.

The Upside: Must be in English but entries accepted internationally. (Entry fees must be in US dollars.)

Advice: Write! Write! Submit! (Come on, expats, we’re some of the most diligent people out there.)

For full terms and conditions, click here.

_____

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Áine Greaney

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.


Say “Áine Greaney” to bookish people anywhere up in New England and you’re met with a lovely hushed reverence. She’s a cool person, a gorgeous writer, and yep, she’s Irish…as in “of the country.” (Or, I should probably say, “of the county, County Mayo.”) And now you, lucky you, get a wee glimpse into her writerhead.

So pull on your Wellies and let’s get moving…

The Scoop About Dance Lessons

A year after her husband’s death in a sailing accident off Martha’s Vineyard, Ellen Boisvert bumps into an old friend. In this chance encounter, she discovers that her immigrant husband of almost fifteen years was not an orphan after all. Instead, his aged mother Jo is alive and residing on the family’s isolated farm in the west of Ireland.

Faced with news of her mother-in-law incarnate, the thirty-nine-year-old American prep school teacher decides to travel to Ireland to investigate the truth about her husband Fintan and why he kept his family’s existence a secret for so many years.

Between Jo’s hilltop farm and the lakeside village of Gowna, Ellen begins to uncover the mysteries of her Irish husband’s past and the cruelties and isolation of his rural childhood. Ellen also stumbles upon Fintan’s long-ago romance with a local village woman, with whom he had a daughter, Cat. Cat is now fourteen and living with her mother in London. As Ellen reconciles her troubled relationship with Fintan, she discovers a way to heal the wounds of the past.

Deeply rooted in the Irish landscape and sensibility, Dance Lessons is a powerful story of loss, regret, and transformation.

The Buzzzzzzzzzzz

“A beautiful examination of three women’s lives, this novel deftly explores both relationships and solitude, with Ireland’s gorgeous countryside as backdrop.” ~ Booklist

“The author is able to capture emotional nuance with minimal flourish; her characters emerge as strong individuals confronting unexpected pain.” ~ Publishers Weekly

First Sentence

“The kitchen phone is ringing again.”

_________

And now, Áine’s writerhead…

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

If I’m working on a project, I’m usually in writerhead on and off throughout the day and (horrors) mostly at night. Honestly! I do dream about my work quite a bit, and when I wake up at 3 a.m. and again for work at 7 a.m., I am immediately thinking about the project and puzzling it out in my head. I keep a notebook beside the bed, and my favorite way to write is to just get up, get coffee and get going. It’s much easier for me in the morning.

My favorite way to write is to go away and hole up on writer’s retreat. When I’m away on writer’s retreat, the project and the words and the voice are there all day and most of the night, too. I love that kind of intense (manic?) immersion in a project. It’s my favorite way to work. When I go away to write, I pack the usual bag but truthfully, I rarely unpack or wear even half of it. I live in a state of total slobbery for days on end. The summer before last, I was under deadline for my writer’s instructional book, so I sneaked away to my little hideaway. Imagine how mortified I was to realize that I’d been wearing a grungy stained T-shirt most of the week. (Hmmm… so that’s why that snooty poet was gawking at me like that!). But when I’m truly immersed, I tend not to care about the basics—except food, of course. Writing the battle hymn or the disco dance numbers for Noah’s Ark’s next grand voyage would not keep me from my three squares.

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.)

Hmmm… that depends on the project, doesn’t it? Sometimes, I’m delighted to be interrupted, and have been known to keep the mail man in longer and deeper conversation than is ever necessary (“You deliver ‘round these parts often, then? You know, blue really *is* your color”). But when the project is humming and happy, I can quite easily ignore a ringing phone or even the front door bell. When I was writing the first draft of my first novel, The Big House, our local library had been relocated to another building while they were renovating the main library downtown (speaking of Noah’s Ark era stuff). It was deep winter and I was clacking away on my old laptop and never looked up to see why or if the library had emptied out of all other patrons. Eventually, one of the librarians came, touched my shoulder and said, “We’re closing the library early because of the snow emergency. Will you be able to dig your car out?” I had an old Saab 900 back then, and, sure enough, there was the poor thing, the last car in the lot, absolutely buried under a day’s snow. Who knew? It wasn’t snowing where I had been, right?

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

When I’m in writerhead I feel like I’m chomping into some homemade apple pie (there’s that food thing again). I’m in love. In ecstasy. It tastes and feels fabulous, but then, there’s that small voice that’s saying, “you’re going to pay for this.” I’m always excited when a project is going well, but I’m always bracing for when it’s not. Yes, it’s a very fatalistic, glass-half-empty outlook. Err … must do something about that.

_________

Áine Greaney is an Irish writer who lives north of Boston. She’s published four books, including two novels, a short story collection and an instructional writing book, Writer with a Day Job from Writers Digest Books. Her most recent novel, Dance Lessons was released in April 2011 by Syracuse University Press. The Women’s National Book Association has chosen Dance Lessons for 2011 National Reading Group Month. As well as writing, she teaches creative workshops at various schools, arts organizations and libraries.

Intrigued? Thought you might be. To learn more, skip on over to Áine’s web site (www.ainegreaney.com). Pop into her blog, Writer With a Day Job. Give her a nod on Twitter (@ainegreaney) or like her (love her!) on Facebook.

_________

Q4U Readers / Writers / New Englanders / Irish-philes / Writers With Day Jobs: Glass-half-empty or glass-half-full?

 

Mojo Monday: The Kind Of Woman I Am

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 (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


Nuff said.

Thanks to one of my fav online peeps Christa for posting this a few weeks back.

 

Expat Sat: Writing Prompt #10: Kooky

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


This is #10 of 10 in a series of writing prompts for expat writers. So listen up, my nomadic pals. Then grab your keyboards and start writing. (Yup, the last one in this series. But don’t worry…there’s more fun stuff a’coming.)

__________

kooky |ˈkoōkē| adjective ( kookier, kookiest ) informal; strange or eccentric

I love the kooky stuff. The wacky stuff. The stuff that makes you whip your head around and say Huh?

When I first moved to China, nearly everything was kooky. The hospital patients strolling the neighborhood with their IV bags in tow. The frog-tying guy on Wulumuqi Road. The fish that escaped its basket and flopped as fast as it could down Anfu Road, trying (and failing) to escape from the cook who chased it. Expat rants. Crazy-ass mannequins in shop windows. And so much more.

Assignment: What is the kookiest thing you’ve seen in your host country? What has made you whip your head around and say Huh? Write about it.

Tip: Put the kooky thing in context. Don’t leave it out there floating in space. Are there cultural reasons for this particular kookiness? Is there anything in your home country to which you can compare it? Did you tell anyone about this kooky thing at the time you saw it? Did anyone else see it? What was their response?

 

Have some fun with this one…and as always, get thee to writerhead!

_____

Image: Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Megan Stielstra

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.


Way back in the day, Megan Stielstra was a student in my “Intro to Fiction Writing” class at Columbia College in Chicago. She was a freshman, and even back then, she kicked ass. She was smart, savvy, uber creative, generous, supportive, intrepid on the page. A natural storyteller with voice oozing from every pore.

She still kicks ass, and today I’m super happy to report that her first collection of short stories—Everyone Remain Calm—will be released as an e-book later this month.

Whoop! Whoop!

The Scoop About Everyone Remain Calm

In this debut collection of stories, Megan Stielstra will explain the following in revealing detail: how to develop relationships with convicted felons and 1970s TV characters; how not to have a threesome with your roommate; the life and death nature of teaching creative writing; and what happens when discount birth control is advertised on Craigslist. Witty, tough, imaginative, and hot-blooded, Megan Stielstra’s fiction and first person reporting are the missing links between Raymond Carver and David Sedaris.

The Buzzzzzzzzzzz

“Here’s the thing about Megan Stielstra: she has a profound understanding of where we all go in our minds, and the unique ability to turn it into a story that sounds like your new best friend is telling it to you. You know, the kind where you’re going ‘Oh my god that totally happened to me’ or ‘It’s like you see inside my head’ until she gets to the part where there’s suddenly a marching band following her down the street or she’s sleeping with the Incredible Hulk or having a three-way which is the part where you go ‘Okay that didn’t happen to me but damn, why does it still seem like it did?’ Megan Stielstra brings it to the party and rocks it.” ~ Elizabeth Crane, We Only Know So Much

Everyone Remain Calm is a rarity: a bold, imaginative, and cunning collection of stories. Spanning a wide variety of styles, forms, and tones, the language here is unapologetically inventive and often humorous, while the sentiments are deeply heartfelt. Ms. Stielstra’s inimitable voice is a fiercely unique creation.” ~ Joe Meno, The Great Perhaps

“Stielstra writes beautifully and kinetically. Her work possesses a rare aural quality, no doubt the result of spending so much time onstage, or even in front of a classroom…. in Everyone Remain Calm, she gleefully tests the boundaries of the short-story form.” ~ Time Out Chicago

First Sentence

“When Wade Del Dallas put his fist in my eye on our third date, my dad went after him with a .375 Holland and Holland magnum.” (from “Shot to the Lungs and No Breath Left,” the 1st story in Everyone Remain Calm)

_________

And now, Megan’s writerhead

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

At this point in my life, writing is more about time than space. I have three jobs and a three-year-old. I’m trying to market one book that I dearly love and finish another that’s got me so distracted I keep missing El stops. Last night, on the way home from teaching a 6:00-10:00 class, my writerhead was in Prague in the late 1960’s with a sixteen-year-old waitress deciding to sleep with her customer—a leader in the Communist party—in order to get out of the country. How ridiculous and terrifying and necessary is that scene when she takes off her clothes in front of him, what does she think about this swanky hotel room—a kind of opulance she’d never imagined—and here’s this man, so much older, so ugly, so desperate himself, and as her dress hit the floor I heard, “Next stop—Howard!” I was eight stops past my house. It was 11:30. I was exhausted. But the writerhead was so, so good—so really, who cares?

I’m going to admit something here, and don’t laugh, ‘cause I feel lame even saying this: my fantasy life, right now, involves a desk. No, not sex on a desk (although that’s fun, too!); rather writing on a desk. Having my own space, my room of one’s own. I think of wallpapering it with corkboard so I can pin chapter arcs to the wall and just… look at them. Just… think. Right now, since I’m always coming from somewhere or on the way somewhere else, I jump into writerhead when and wherever I can. I write in coffeeshops, 2nd Story’s studio space between rehearsals, in the car in front of my son’s school, in the school library before or after class, on the kitchen floor. Every night, before I go to sleep, I copy the messy notes I wrote all day in a longhand journal into the computer, and then, during longer stretches of writing time on the weekends, I see how those notes fit into the overall scene or story. I think of how Flaubert would copy whole sections from his letters and notebooks into his fiction—that’s what I’m doing.

The truth is, I’m always in writerhead. All of my jobs involve story in some way—I teach creative writing, I teach teachers to teach creative writing, and I’m the Literary Director for the 2nd Story storytelling series—so there’s a constant dialogue about literary craft and creative problem solving with very passionate, talented, and diverse artists who inspire the hell out me and challenge me to go deeper and take risks. Last week in class, we were discussing the scene in The Things They Carried where Tim’s in the boat at the Canadian border, and a student commented that this was the first moment where we saw Tim being honest about himself. Up until then, he’d been describing the experiences and feelings of other characters, but it was this moment of vulnerability that really made him a fully realized character. Hearing this slammed me right into writerhead: What does it mean to fully realize a first-person narrator? When in my own work am I showing the character’s vulnerability? This sixteen-year-old girl in the hotel room in Prague—is she vulnerable in this moment? Or powerful? What would be a moment of vulnerability for her? I was so excited just then! And excitement is a deliciously contagious thing—my students can feel it and feed off of it in the same way I feed off of their comments and questions, and those comments and questions lead to more realizations and ideas, and this all happens to me twenty times a day. Quite frankly, it’s awesome, and even as I fantasize about my future desk, I wouldn’t change where I am right now. The ideas—of story, of how to tell the story, the writerhead—is my day-to-day, hour-to-hour, and while I can’t currently have Ass In Chair for six/seven hour stretches, I can get it in six/seven hour bursts—in the chair, in the classroom discussion, in my head on the el, back in the chair, in my head while I’m cooking, in my head on the tredmil, in my head at the theatre, in the chair, in the chair, in the chair.

The only time it really, honestly turns off? When I’m building super-ramps with my kid. I make a mean super-ramp.

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.)

A few weeks ago, I was trying to finish a story—I was on deadline, which is great ‘cause you have to force yourself to finish but also awful ‘cause you have to force yourself to finish—and my three-year-old kept tugging on my pant leg. I kept saying, “Five more minutes, baby,” but it wasn’t five more minutes, it was five five more minutes, and when I finally looked up, he was sitting on the carpet holding a Hot Wheels car in each hand staring at me. “Am I now?” he asked, and I started to cry. I picked him up, rocked him on my lap, and cried. He didn’t know what was happening, and the truth is, neither do I. How do you do it? Be a writer and a mom and a wife and a professional and a friend and a human and all of it; I feel guilty and excited and fortunate and grateful and crazy.

I’m in the process of figuring it out.

I’ll always be in the process of figuring it out.

Last spring, Robin Black was featured on Writerhead Wednesdays, and in answer to this question she said, “I have been known to weep.” I loved that. I laughed my ass off because it’s so, so, so true. You weep because an interruption takes you out of the story—but sometimes, I need to be taken out. I need to be in the world.

Right now, this very moment, I’m writing this from a coffee shop next door to my son’s school. When I dropped him off today, he said, “Have good writing, mommy!”

I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

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

Writerhead is like Sookie Stackhouse on True Blood; she’s telekinetic, and is constantly, 24/7, hearing the thoughts of everyone around her all the time. It’s nonstop noise, an endless stream of voices. Sometimes writerhead feels like that, like I’m off in this fog and unable to be fully present in the moment. I’m trying to be mindful of this, trying to imagine that there’s a dial on the side of my head that I can turn up or down: all the way up and I’m fully committed to the story I’m imagining; all the way down and I’m fully committed to the story I’m living.

_________

Megan Stielstra is a writer, storyteller, and the Literary Director of Chicago’s 2nd Story storytelling series. She’s told stories for The Goodman, The Steppenwolf, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Chicago Poetry Center, Story Week Festival of Writers, Wordstock Literary Festival, and Chicago Public Radio, among others, and she’s a Literary Death Match champ. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Other Voices, Fresh Yarn, Pindeldyboz, Swink, Monkeybicycle, Cellstories, Annalemma, Venus, and Punk Planet, among others, and her story collection, Everyone Remain Calm, is forthcoming October 2011 from Joyland/ECW. She teaches creative writing at Columbia College and The University of Chicago.

If you’re smart (and I know you are), you’re going to want to tip your hat to Megan cause, well, she rocks! So pop on over to her web site (www.meganstielstra.com). Or give her a wave on Twitter (@meganstielstra) or Facebook.

_________

Q4U Readers / Writers / Moms / Dads / Writing Teachers / Storytellers / Jugglers Extraordinaire: What’s your take on Megan’s statement that “excitement is a deliciously contagious thing”?

 

Mojo Monday: Steve Jobs, An Ode

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 (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


I was lying in bed reading Tweets on my iPhone when I saw the news that Steve Jobs had died, and in that moment, I felt a slice of the universe go silent. I’d known it was coming. He was so skinny and gaunt during his last appearances. But geesh, I was thrown. Heartbroken. Silent myself.

Man, I would have loved to have interviewed Steve about his writerhead. Dug into his moments of deep creative flow. How did they feel? What did they look like? To what would he have compared his writerhead?

Anyway, I think the best way to honor him is to follow his lead. So be good to your creative impulses today…and get thee to writerhead.

(Back in April, I posted the video of his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford. Here it is again.)