Mojo Monday: Joan of Arc Said…

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 am not afraid…

I was born to do this.

~ Joan of Arc

 

 

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Image: Carlos Porto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Expat Sat: Holidays: Eat, Drink, and Make a List

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.


It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving here in the U.S. As you read this, I’m most likely eating pumpkin pie for breakfast and planning a vigorous walk to burn off a few of the gazillion calories I’ve ingested during the Thanksgiving eating extravaganza.

In addition to eating, do you know what holidays are good for?

Making lists!

And lists are great tools for writers. Expat writers. Repatriated writers. All writers.

So, as I stuff one more forkful of my mom’s incredibly delicious pumpkin pie into my mouth, make a list of traditional foods you eat during a holiday in either your host country or your home country.

I’ll start.

Here’s a list of foods we in the United States like to eat on Thanksgiving:

  • turkey
  • stuffing
  • gravy
  • mashed potatoes
  • cranberries / cranberry sauce
  • pumpkin pie

In addition, because every family does Thanksgiving a little differently, here are a couple of dishes our family always puts on the Thanksgiving table:

  • zofric peas (These are peas–canned peas–prepared with a roux. It’s a Croatian thing that my gramma always made and that my sisters & I L-O-V-E-D when we were little. We still love them, as do all of our kiddos. Zofric isn’t spelled right…I don’t think…but it’s close. And besides, spelling doesn’t matter. Having them on the table matters.)
  • Pillsbury crescent rolls (which we always burn)
  • apple pie
  • chocolate meringue pie (my favorite!)
  • sweet potato mashed potatoes

That’s all for now. I’ve got pumpkin pie to eat. Happy list making!

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Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writerhead Wednesday: NaNoWriMo Writers Tell All

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.


Hey, beautiful NaNoWriMo writers, I’m wildly, insanely curious about how writing 50,000 words in 30 days is affecting your writerhead!

[Need a quick definition of writerhead? Writerhead = the purest moments of creation. Those beautiful (sometimes excruciating) “Sh, sh, sh, ssssssshhhhhh, I’ve got to get this down” moments when words are bubbling, popping, zinging, and swinging. The ones when the “real” world disappears behind a gauzy cloud (insert sucking sound here…) and the imaginative world takes on firmer lines and brighter hues. A.k.a. “the flow” or “the zone.”]

So…

Is your writerhead the same as it is during “regular, ole, non-NaNoWriMo writing stints”?

How is it different?

What does it feel like? Smell like? Sound like? Rev like?

To what can you compare your writerhead right now…today…23 days into your adventure?

What do you say to your writerhead to get her moving in the morning?

How do you shut down your writerhead for a little R&R?

What do you know about your writerhead that you didn’t know before?

At this point, does your writerhead look more like this:

or this…

Share, share!

 

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Image: think4photop / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mojo Monday: Adam Sandler’s “Thanksgiving Song”

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.


For those of us with U.S. citizenship, this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving. It’s a fairly self-explanatory holiday (a day to give thanks) which falls each year on the fourth Thursday of November and on which we pretty much eat ourselves silly. It’s been this way since 1863 when Abraham Lincoln raised his presidential gavel and made it so.

We’ve got a number of hallowed Thanksgiving rituals:

*  Unless you’re a vegan or vegetarian, turkey is the highlight of a traditional Thanksgiving meal (see photo).

*  Many of us watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade either in person (if you live in or visit New York City) or on TV.

*  Many of us (especially those with somewhat dysfunctional families) watch movies about dysfunctional families who gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. It helps. (My favorite is Home for the Holidays, starring Holly Hunter…hilarious.)

*  And finally, there’s Adam Sandler’s “Thanksgiving Song.” This one you can see for yourself. Right here. Right now.

Enjoy! And Happy Thanksgiving!

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Image: Tom Curtis / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Expat Sat: Chimamanda Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story”

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.


For those of us writing about cultures—our own and others—you’ve got to watch this TED Talk by Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie. Her books include the Orange Prize-winning novel Half of a Yellow Sun and the collection of short stories The Thing Around Your Neck.

Here Adichie “tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice—and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.”

Such an important talk for all writers—expat writers, writers who teach writing, writers who teach writing to young writers, and all of us interested in finding our authentic voice and telling the authentic story.

Writerhead Wednesday: The “Tell Me About Your Writerhead” Giveaway

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.


This week, Writerhead Wednesday is all about you.

Yes, you!

Yes, yes, you, the writer in the red shirt.

You, the writer in the tweed jacket.

And yep, you, too, sleepy writer still tromping around in your pajamas.

All about you and YOUR writerhead.

Here’s the scoop:

This week, I’m giving away a $25 Visa gift card…with the hope, intention, and understanding that the lucky winner will use it to buy necessary writer-related stuff—books, pens, paper, a shiny new stapler, one-third (one-fourth?) of a much-needed therapy session, a thumb drive, business cards, a couple of double-shot lattes, a few hours of babysitting time, a bottle of Jack, etc.

And all you have to do to win is share a little something about YOUR writerhead. Tell us what writerhead is like for you.

If you need a bit of inspiration, check out these recent writerhead interviews with authors Eric Olsen, Alma Katsu, and Diana Abu-Jaber.

Easy peasy.

If you’re new to this site (welcome!) or need a refresher course on what exactly writerhead is, keep reading:

Writerhead is “a (usually) temporary state of dreamy concentration and fluctuating consciousness during which a writer is most creative, productive, and artistic.”

You know…the purest moments of creation. Those beautiful (sometimes excruciating) sh, sh, sh, ssssssshhhhhh, I’ve got to get this down moments when words are bubbling, popping, zinging, and swinging. The ones when the “real” world disappears behind a gauzy cloud (insert sucking sound here…) and the imaginative world takes on firmer lines and brighter hues.

Some writers call it “the flow” or “the zone.” Some call it “hell.” Others refer to it as “writerland.” I’ve always called it writerhead.

(“Sshshh,” I growl at my husband if he tries to talk to me in the morning before I hunker down to write. “I’m in writerhead!”)

For example, perhaps your writerhead is something like this (lucky you!):

Or maybe, on a tough day, more like this. (Don’t worry…we’ve all been there.):

So get moving…post your description of your writerhead in the comment section below. You’ve got until midnight on November 22 to do so.

Good luck! Can’t wait to read about your writerhead!

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GIVEAWAY RULES & REGS:

*To enter the giveaway contest, please leave a comment about your writerhead.

**Comments must be posted before the clock strikes midnight on November 22, 2011. (That’s Eastern Standard Time U.S.)

***This contest is open internationally.

****A winner will be drawn on Wednesday, November 23. Be sure to check back to see who wins.

*****The winner will be drawn randomly by the highly scientific method of my 3yo pulling a name out of a hat (or some other convenient container).

******Though I welcome all charming comments, only one comment per person will be counted in the contest.

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Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mojo Monday: Right Brain Left Brain

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.


That old right brain/left brain story?

Out the window.

Here’s renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist talking about our divided brain. Cool, cool stuff. (There’s a great Berlusconi joke around minute #10…)

 

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Image: dream designs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Expat Sat: 5 Culinary Things You Can Write About Right Now

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.


Ready to write?

Stumped for writing material?

Here you go. Five things you can write about right now.

Get your pen poised.

Ready?

Go!

1.  a piece of fruit from your host country (mangosteen, lychee, mulberry…)

2.  an observation of a person eating (I love, love, love doing this!)

3.  a memory of the first food you ate in your host country (good or bad experience…)

4.  the longing you feel for a particular food from your home country that you can’t get in your host country (come on, we all have one…)

5. a culinary how-to (how to make fried rice; how to use chopsticks; how to eat with your hands; how to track down the ingredients for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in your host country…)

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Image: 7thsens / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Eric Olsen

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.


If you write—and like me, love talking about writing and writers and the writing process—you need to read Eric Olsen and Glenn Schaeffer’s We Wanted to be Writers: Life, Love, and Literature at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (1974-1978). It’s like being a fly on the wall at the Iowa workshop. Great storytelling. (In fact, I can’t seem to get this blog post done because I can’t stop reading the chapter about John Cheever, who was teaching at Iowa at the time.)

So read the book. But first, read about Eric Olsen’s writerhead because, like the book, it’s kinda brilliant. (Just wait ’til you get to his answer to question #3…)

(FYI…today I’m giving away a copy of We Wanted to be Writers. Leave a comment to enter the giveaway.)

The Scoop About We Wanted to Be Writers

We Wanted to be Writers is a rollicking and insightful blend of original interviews, commentary, advice, gossip, anecdotes, analyses, history, and asides with nearly thirty graduates and teachers at the now legendary Iowa Writers’ Workshop between 1974 and 1978. Among the talents that emerged in those years—writing, criticizing, drinking, and debating in the classrooms and barrooms of Iowa City—were the younger versions of writers who became John Irving, Jane Smiley, T. C. Boyle, Michelle Huneven, Allan Gurganus, Sandra Cisneros, Jayne Anne Phillips, Jennie Fields, Joy Harjo, Joe Haldeman, and many others. It is chock full of insights and a treasure trove of inspiration for all writers, readers, history lovers, and anyone who ever ‘wanted to be a writer.'” [from amazon.com]

The Buzzzzzzzzzzz

“As a longtime fan of many of the writers who have passed through the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, I was thrilled to discover We Wanted to Be Writers. I had hopes that it would speak to avid readers like me as well as to writers and writing teachers, and I wasn’t disappointed. I read the entire book aloud to my husband on a nine-hour road trip from Oregon to California. Both of us were delighted by the clarity of the individuals’ voices as they spoke with candor and insight of the influences that have informed their work: the events that led them to Iowa, their experience in the workshop, and the vicissitudes of a writer’s life after they left.” ~ K. Girsch (amazon.com review)

“The scuttlebutt about life at the school is a pleasurable diversion while reading the good stuff about writing.” ~ Schuyler T. Wallace (amazon.com review)

First Sentence

“In 1977, sixty days after graduating from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop with a master of fine arts in imaginative writing, I was a stockbroker trainee in Beverly Hills.” [Chapter 1, “The Creative Enterprise,” by Glenn Schaeffer]

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And now, Eric’s writerhead

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

We talk quite a bit about this in We Wanted to Be Writers, how we get into that state of mind when the words are flowing and that pesky internal editor has shut up for once. For a lot of us, me included, it seems as if the state of mind we hope for, long for, and organize our writing space and time around is that moment when the work begins to write itself, and we’re just along for the ride. Or as C. G. Jung put it, “The work in process becomes the poet’s fate and determines his psychic development. It is not Goethe who creates Faust, but Faust which creates Goethe.” T. S. Eliot said something similar: “The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.” The irony here is that artists of all sorts are known for their outsized egos, but what they often crave above all else is to escape that ego, lose control.

Jung offers a poet as an example, and Eliot himself is a poet so maybe they’re both talking about poetic inspiration in particular, but I think inspiration is inspiration. Of course, when I’m working on nonfiction, it’s usually for a buck and with a deadline, so it’s not as if I have the luxury of coaxing some particular state of mind. I just crank the stuff out. Still, even then, sometimes the work seems to take on a life of its own and carries you along; I live for those moments.

When I’m going to work on fiction, which for me is a somewhat different process from nonfiction, I’ll light a St. Jude candle. St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes. St. Frances de Sales is the official patron saint of writers, but St. Jude seems more appropriate, if you ask me. He had his head lopped off in 65 CE in Lebanon. St. Jude is often depicted with a flame around his head, or coming out of the top of it. This flame is meant to indicate that he received the Holy Spirit. I think of the flame as symbolizing that inspiration we all hope and pray for. There’s something rather writerly about that flame, and the decapitation, which is a little like a rejection slip for all your troubles.

I blow out the candle when I’m done working for the day. Thus these candles can last for days, or weeks, a sorry commentary on how often I work on fiction. The idea of the candle is to remind me that I’m not writing fiction because I hope to sell it and make a buck but because, well, I guess because I can’t help myself. Anyway, it’s my little attempt to set the time I work on fiction apart from other time. It’s a little sign for the Muses that, OK, I’m ready, I’m waiting, bring it on….

I have the candle right in front of me at my desk, and also a retablo of St. Jude hanging on the wall, so I’m always looking at the poor guy no matter what I’m working on, and so at least I’m thinking about my fiction, even if I’m not working on any at the moment. It’s helpful to have that little nagging reminder….

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.)

I lack the discipline to turn off my phone and the little annoying “ping” my computer makes when a new email has plopped into my in box, so I’m always getting interrupted. But that “zone,” that state of “flow,” when the work it carrying me along, is such a tenuous and fleeting thing at any time that it always comes and goes on its own, and I guess I’ve learned to accept the interruptions and shifts in mood or state of mind as part of the process. The really important thing for me is to keep my butt in the chair and put words on the “page.” Even when the words aren’t coming, or they’re coming and my internal editor is telling me they suck, at least I’m making myself available to a good idea. So I don’t have a lot of ups and downs.

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

As I mentioned, I think of this state of mind as “going along for the ride.” You’re standing by the side of a two-lane country road out in the middle of nowhere, thumb out, waiting for a ride, and along comes a 1957 Cadillac convertible, pink, and driving it is a beautiful young woman (the Muse, of course), and she pulls over and tells you to get in, and you ask, “Where you heading?” and she says, “We’ll see.” So you get in and you’re not sure where you’re going but you don’t care because it’s wonderful to go along for the ride, and you settle back into that plush leather seat and watch the countryside flow past through half-closed eyes. But it doesn’t last long. Just as you’re getting comfy, the beautiful young woman pulls off the road and parks in front of a rundown one-pump gas station with a big, faded Coca Cola sign on top and goes inside, and a couple minutes later she comes out with a bag of butter-toffee peanuts. She tosses the car keys to you and tells you to drive. She gets in on the passenger side and opens the bag and starts eating the peanuts. She doesn’t offer you any. You’re driving now, but you have no idea where you’re going.

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Eric Olsen was born and raised in Oakland—go A’s!—California and started college as a pre-med student at UC Berkeley, like all ambitious young freshmen at the time. His interest in medicine lasted about halfway through his first quiz in “orgo.” He finished college many years and false starts later with a BA in Comparative Literature (Classical Greek, a long story and we won’t get into that here). He received his MFA in fiction in 1977.

With Glenn Schaeffer, he co-founded in 2000 and then directed the International Institute of Modern Letters, a literary think tank that helped writers who were victims of censorship and persecution. Eric also helped establish the first American City of Asylum, in Las Vegas, an Institute program. The Institute also ran programs to support emerging writers in this country and abroad.

Prior, Eric served as executive editor of custom publishing at Time Inc. Health, a TimeWarner company, and he worked as a freelance journalist.

Eric has published hundreds of magazine articles, a few short stories, and six nonfiction books, including We Wanted to Be Writers. He served as a Teaching/Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (1976-77), and after leaving, he received a James A. Michener Fellowship for fiction. Most recently, his writing has delved into art and design.

Eric continues, despite common sense of family and friends, to work on a novel and screenplay. He does sometimes wish he’d toughed it out in orgo.

Want to connect with Eric? Check out the We Wanted to be Writers web site. You can also give him a wave on Twitter (@2bwriters) or say hidy-ho on Facebook.

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GIVEAWAY!!!

Today—Wednesday, November 9, 2011—I’m giving away 1 copy of Eric Olsen and Glenn Schaeffer’s We Wanted to be Writers: Life, Love, and Literature at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

RULES: To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment for Eric and Glenn right here on WRITERHEAD.

*Comments must be posted before the clock strikes midnight on November 10, 2011. (That’s Eastern Standard Time U.S.)

**This contest is open internationally.

***The winner will be drawn on Thursday, November 10.

****Though I welcome all charming comments, only one comment per person will be counted in the contest. (I know, I know…but this isn’t American Idol.)

*****The winner will be drawn randomly by the highly scientific method of my 3yo pulling a name out of a hat (or some other convenient container…blocks box, [unused] cereal bowl, sand bucket, etc.)

 

 

Mojo Monday: A Wee Bit of Wisdom

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.


“You can’t get to wonderful without passing through all right.”

~ Bill Withers

 

WISDOM Trailer from Andrew Zuckerman Studio on Vimeo.