Mojo Monday: Boo!

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.


A little something to help you get your Halloween mojo on!

Boo!

 

#38Write: Win, Win, Win a Scholarship to November’s Writing Workshop

#38Write—my global writing initiative—is a monthly series of online writing adventure workshops for place-passionate, culturally curious writers around the world. Each writing adventure focuses on one particular aspect of craft or the writing life (for example, writing kick-butt descriptions), and during each 38-hour adventure, writers connect with me and #38Write writers around the world via a Twitter hashtag and a group Pinterest board. Join us!


Big news!

I’m giving away one scholarship for the November #38Write writing workshop! Yep, one lucky writer or aspiring writer will get to take the workshop for free.

The workshop will take place on November 3–4, and the theme is “Habits” To learn more about the workshop, click here and here.

Folks all around the world are encouraged to enter the #38Write scholarship contest. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can take this writing workshop.

Here’s the scoop…

How to Enter

Leave a comment below telling why you’re the perfect candidate for this scholarship. Perhaps a quick story about a place or culture with which you’ve connected deeply OR a place or culture with which you’ve disconnected completely. Make a list of all the places you’ve lived or write a description of the place where you’ve lived all your life. Tell me why you’re interested in the workshop. Or… (you get the picture)

Please don’t just say, “Pick me! Pick me!” Tell me (and the world) why you.

I’ll choose the winner on Wednesday, October 31. You may leave comments until then. (only one comment per person)

AND…please be sure to leave an email address OR check back on Wednesday to see if you’ve won!

Who Can Enter

You quality if:

  • You’ve NEVER taken a #38Write workshop before. (If you’ve EVER taken a #38Write workshop, you may not enter the contest.)
  • You’ve NEVER won a scholarship for a #38Write writing workshop.
  • You are able to write in English. (English might be your second, third, or fourth language. Perfectly fine.)
  • You can commit to the November 3–4 weekend.

Details, Details

  • You can’t transfer this scholarship to another #38Write. Nope, not for any reason…not illness, a dental appointment, a wacky travel schedule, a sick kiddo, an unexpected jail term, a Nobel Prize, etc. The winner must take the November #38Write (November 3–4).

What Are Writers Writing in #38Write?

Ooh, such good, good stuff (both fiction and nonfiction):

  • Here’s a sampling from August’s #38Write (Peregrination).
  • And a sampling from September’s #38Write (Square Peg, Round Hole?).
  • In the July #38Write (Structure), I asked writers to define culture without using any external resources (dictionary, thesaurus, Internet, friends, etc.). Here’s what some of them wrote

What Are Writers Saying About #38Write?

  • “I entered 38Write timidly and came out confident.” (Anita C., U.S.)
  • “And what I love the most is that the writing exercises and Pinterest board make me look at stories, people, and places from different perspectives. They make me think of the whole craft behind the beautiful words on the paper.” (Maria C., U.K.)
  • “…thanks to Kristin I am inspired to continue to find that voice and explore the world of written expression once again.” (Lisa T., Belgium)
  • “…unbeatable cultural connection—writing perspectives from Belgium to Turkey!” (Meena V., U.S.)
  • “To focus, for one weekend a month, on some particular way of tackling ‘place’ has been a perfect way to hone my skills, get some inspiration, and learn from Kristin as well as the other fascinating participants.” (Jennifer L., South Korea)
  • To read lots more from #38Write writers, click here.

Unique Aspects of #38Write

  • It all happens in a weekend. 38 hours.
  • #38Write is a global workshop, with writers in South Korea, Australia, Belgium, the U.K., China, Chile, France, and many more countries.
  • The workshop has a strong social media aspect. Writers in the workshop connect via both Twitter and Pinterest. (Some writers in the workshop choose some or none of the social media engagement; it’s up to each individual.)
  • You get solid feedback from me, an author with an MFA degree, nearly 20 years as a writing workshop instructor, and almost five years of experience as an expat in China.

How I’ll Choose the Winner

  • I’ll be using the highly scientific method of putting into a hat the names of all folks who comment and having my four-year-old reach in and pull a name. (Time and time again, this method has proven to be fail-safe under the most extraordinary conditions. You can depend on my four-year-old.)
  • Again, this will happen on Wednesday, October 31. Don’t dilly-dally.

Spread the Word

  • Please spread the word about the scholarship! Tweet about it. Put it on your Facebook page. Share it in your blog.

 

Women Read | Women Write: A Pittsburgh Book Event

So, so, so excited to share this event and its founders/curators with you today!

This coming weekend—on Saturday, October 27—I will have the honor of joining a spectacular lineup of women authors at the Women Read/Women Write event being held at the Galleria Mall in the South Hills of Pittsburgh (my hometown…whoop! whoop!).

If you’re not yet familiar with Women Read/Women Write, it’s a very cool forum designed to bring readers and writers together. And it’s the brain child of two very talented and funny Pittsburgh writers, Gwyn Cready and Meredith Mileti (whom, you may remember, was featured on Writerhead Wednesday in August 2011 when her novel Aftertaste was first published).

Gwyn and Meredith (and I and all the other marvelous writers who will be talking at this weekend’s Women Read/Women Write event) would love for all of you book-passionate people in Pittsburgh to head to the Galleria on Saturday.

Want more?

Thought you might.

Here’s a Q&A with Gwyn and Meredith that will tell you everything you need to know about this wonderful forum.

Q: What is WRWW (Women Read/Women Write)?

Gwyn: Women Read/Women Write is a forum to bring readers and writers together to celebrate the books women love, but it is essentially our attempt to capture the magic of book clubs and blow it up into a book festival.

Q: Why (& when) did you create WRWW? What was missing from the reading/book culture in Pittsburgh? What niche do you hope to fill?

Meredith: We came up with the idea in early 2011. My debut, Aftertaste: A Novel in Five Courses, was on the verge of coming out. Gwyn and I live in the same community, and we met through a mutual friend. I was looking for the support of other writers, and so was she. We started talking about the sense of community and shared passion one seems to always find in book clubs. Gwyn is a Rita award-winning romance novelist, so we both do a lot of book club visits. Even when women gather for events that aren’t book-related, how long does it take for the topic to turn to books? Not very long. There’s just some special effervescence that happens when you mix books and women.

Gwyn: So we said, hey, we should turn that into a book fest. How hard could that be?

[mutual laughter]

Gwyn: It was a considerably harder than we expected, but everyone we talked to as we were planning thought it was such a great idea. And then the turn-out at the first Women Read/Women Write astounded us. We had chairs set up for 30 people and over 150 showed up. It really made us see we’d hit upon something that hadn’t happened before, at least in Western Pennsylvania.

Q: How has the community responded to WRWW? Where have you found support and energy?

Gwyn: Women love the idea. So do the authors. It really feels like one big grown-up slumber party or something. And the media outlets here in Pittsburgh have really given us some great coverage. We are very, very appreciative.

Q: What plans do you have for the future? (big, global, pie-in-the-sky vision AND smaller events/schedule/etc.)

Meredith: We’d certainly like to continue to grow this festival into an even bigger gathering.

Gwyn: I’m thinking Super Bowl-esque.

Meredith: Whoa, that’s a lot of folding chairs.

Gwyn: We would like to begin to offer workshops during the festival next year. At last year’s event one of our most popular panels was the writing/publishing panel. There was so much energy and enthusiasm from the audience. People asked great questions. We definitely got the sense that there are other writers out there who are looking for support.

Meredith: For that reason, we’d love to do a writers retreat at another time during the year.

Gwyn: We just want women to feel like they have a place to get really get passionate about books and writing.

Meredith: And it would be like a slumber party.

Q: Please describe the upcoming October 27 event at the Galleria in the South Hills.

Meredith: It runs from 1 pm to 5 pm on the lower level of the Galleria. We’re offering a panel discussion every hour on the half hour with some of the best writers from Pittsburgh and beyond—Edgar nominees Kathleen George and Katherine Miller Haines. New York Times bestselling authors Madeline Hunter and Gaelen Foley. Sonia Taitz and Teri Coyne are coming in from New York, and Kristin, you’re coming in from Boston. We have Casey Daniels from Cleveland, and a whole bunch of others. The complete list is at womenreadwomenwrite.com.

Gwyn: The panel topics this year are great. In “Mining Your Life”—that’s the first panel, at 1:30—we’ll talk to authors about the risks and rewards of using tough personal experiences in your writing. In “Getting Published and Staying Published” at 2:30 we’ll talk about the shifting sands of the publishing world. So much new is happening. Then at 3:30 there’s “50 Shades of Blush” on the reverberations of the 50 Shades books. And we finish with a discussion of the modern heroine in “Lisbeth vs Hermoine” at 4:30.

Meredith: And the whole thing is free! If you’re anywhere near Pittsburgh on October 27, please consider joining us.

Gwyn: Keep that magic rockin’!

 

Thanks, Gwyn and Meredith! See you Saturday!

 

BIO: Gwyn Cready, a Pittsburgh native, is the author of six romance novels. Her latest, Timeless Desire, was released in July to high praise. Cready’s second book, Seducing Mr. Darcy, was awarded the RITA Award, the most prestigious award a romance novel can win. She has been featured in USA Today, Entertainment Weekly and Real Simple, among others. Visit her at cready.com.

BIO: Meredith Mileti is a long time Pittsburgh resident. Since its release last year, Aftertaste: A Novel in Five Courses has garnered glowing reviews. The New York Journal of Books called Aftertaste “a keenly observed novel that is…enough to make you want to hop on the next plane to Pittsburgh… Mileti’s debut novel is as thoughtful and poignant as it is wickedly funny…” Visit her at meredithmileti.com.

#38Write: Best Writing Quickie in the Known World

#38Write—my global writing initiative—is a monthly series of online writing adventure workshops for place-passionate, culturally curious writers around the world. Each writing adventure focuses on one particular aspect of craft or the writing life (for example, like peregrination), and during each 38-hour adventure, writers connect with me and #38Write writers around the world via a Twitter hashtag and a group Pinterest board. In the September workshop, we had 13 writers in 8 countries.


There’s quickie sex, quickie divorces, and quickie drinks (esp. in Britain).

And thankfully, for writers, there’s #38Write, the best writing quickie in the known world. Once this online writing workshop starts, you’ve got 38 intense hours to complete the adventures, write, and polish a piece that you turn in for feedback.

38 hours. Just you and your pen / keyboard / phone / etc.

And because it’s an online global workshop, you can participate no matter where you’re living, squatting, or traveling: UAE, Bali, Mexico, Turkey, Canada, etc. As long as you have an Internet connection, you’re good to go.

It’s a passionate, creative burst of writing that forces you to dig in and work hard. Once it’s over, you may be exhausted, but you’ll also be wildly inspired.

The next #38Write runs for 38 hours on November 3-4. Registration is now open. Just click here.

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Peter Selgin

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks 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 welcome Peter Selgin to Writerhead Wednesday. Peter and his memoir, Confessions of a Left-Handed Man: An Artist’s Memoir, caught my eye on Facebook because he is both artist and writer, and I’m insatiably curious about the intersection and overlap of those creative paths.

Let’s go…

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

Well, let’s be honest, inspiration doesn’t strike all the time. It’s not like knitting or doing a crossword puzzle, either, where there’s a consistent rhythm or where the problems have all been worked out in advance. Every sentence, every word of a good piece of writing is charting some sort of new territory, is both raising and answering its own questions. If words come to us too easily, we really should suspect them. Most writing that’s done with great facility and ease is suspect. If and when we get into the “zone” we do so, must of us, usually, through great effort. As for where and when it happens—for me, anyway, it’s not predictable, although I love those wide-open days when everything else has been put aside and I can do nothing but write for hours. In that case I write in my studio, which lately occupies the loft of an A-frame on Lake Sinclair in Georgia, and faces out through one of two very large triangular windows facing the lake, with the dock from which I periodically swim centered in the view under a tree. It’s one of those views you can get lost in, that inspires daydreams. At times I have to remind myself that it’s not one of those rear-projector fakes like the ones Hitchcock used to use all the time in his movies, that I really can go jump in the lake any time I want. The view is distracting but it’s also comforting. In some ways I think it mirrors an ideal internal state, the state of tranquility in which emotions are recaptured.

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.)

Since I live alone here out by the lake there are very few interruptions. My neighbors are mostly weekend and summer residents; often their homes are empty, and if I wanted to I could walk out naked to my dock for a skinny dip and get away with it (I don’t). I keep the music (usually opera or classical) very quiet and even then sometimes I have to turn it off completely. There are several dogs in the neighborhood, but they don’t seem to bark, thank goodness, although there is also a red fox who makes a hideous sound, a sort of half-howl, half-bark, but he does it deep into the night when I’m usually asleep. Since I do 99% of my corresponding my email the phone seldom rings. On summer weekends the powerboats and jet-skis all come out on the lake. The jet-skis in particular bother me, not just because of the noise, but because they’re such disgusting, infernal nuisances. I really detest them and have these terribly uncharitable fantasies about their drivers colliding (they also scare me since I’m a swimmer and like to swim across the inlet and back, and so the greater likelihood is that one day one of those morons will collide with ME). As for other kinds of interruptions, usually they’re self-engineered. I stand up, I stretch, I look out the window, I make a pot of espresso, I do some push-ups, I jump in the lake. It’s good to move the body now and then. Sometimes, if things aren’t going well, I find other things to do. Writing is the most avoidable of all endeavors.

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

I’m afraid I may be the least romantic of all your respondents to this question. No, for me inspiration isn’t at all like eating a bowl of warm pudding or rolling down a fur-lined embankment or anything like that. It’s more like snuggling up to someone in bed—the someone (if I’m writing narrative) being a story, its setting, its characters. Mostly, though, it’s snuggling up to words, caressing and exploring them, finding new ways to put them together. In that sense it is sort of like a jigsaw puzzle, except that first you cut out and shape the pieces, then you discover how to put them together. But there’s always effort involved. At the very least there’s the effort to surpass and challenge oneself. If someone tells me that writing is easy, that it’s pure joy for them, my first thought is always, “Well, maybe it should be a little harder.”

BIO: Peter Selgin is the author of Drowning Lessons, winner of the 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award for Fiction, Life Goes to the Movies, a novel, two books on the craft of fiction, and two children’s books. His memoir, Confessions of a Left-Handed Man: An Artist’s Memoir, was short-listed for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. His latest novel, The Water Master, won the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society Prize, and his essay, The Kuhreihen Melody, won both the Missouri Review Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize and the Dana Award for the Essay. Selgin’s full-length drama, A God in the House, was a National Playwright’s Conference winner. He teaches at Georgia College and State University.

CONTACT: Visit Peter’s website at peterselgin.com.

Mojo Monday: Do the Unexpected

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.


In this clip from The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Ellen sends her writer, Amy, to Costco for a hidden camera prank—where she only speaks to people in song lyrics. It. Is. Hilarious. I laughed out loud for, oh, I don’t know how long. Love, love, love this!

Once you’ve watched, brilliant writers, take this into your writing day. Make your characters do something unexpected, startling, off the wall. See what happens.

Enjoy!

 

#38Write: The Oct/Nov Writing Workshop Is Open for Registration

#38Write—my global writing initiative—is a monthly series of online writing adventure workshops for place-passionate, culturally curious writers around the world. Each writing adventure focuses on one particular aspect of craft or the writing life (for example, writing kick-butt descriptions), and during each 38-hour adventure, writers connect with me and #38Write writers around the world via a Twitter hashtag and a group Pinterest board. In the September workshop, we had 13 writers in 8 countries.


The *October/November #38Write writing workshop is open for registration!

Topic?

Habits.

When?

November 3–4.

Cost?

$38 (U.S.)

How to register?

Easy peasy. Click over to the CLASSES pages.

WHAT IS #38WRITE?

#38Write is a writing adventure workshop designed specifically for place-passionate, culturally curious writers that will get you out of your house—no matter where you live—and into your environs.

In June, I launched the first #38Write online writing adventure with #38Write | Description.

In July, I continued with #38Write | Structure, which went forth with 16 writers in 9 countries. One of the assignments for that workshop was to define culture without using a dictionary, thesaurus, or other reference tool. It sparked some pretty spectacular definitions (read them here) and a lively conversation on Twitter.

And in August, 16 writers in 8 countries participated in #38Write | Peregrination. Though the writers are still nursing their blisters, they wrote some pretty amazing pieces about walks that connected them culturally to places. (Read those here.)

Most recently, in September, 13 writers in 8 countries explored experiences when they either fit in or didn’t fit in during #38Write | Square Peg, Round Hole? (You can read a few of their short pieces here.)

THE UNIQUE ASPECTS OF #38WRITE

  • Each writing adventure is 38 hours long. It’s a manageable amount of time that fits into anyone’s busy schedule. (Good gracious, no, you will not be writing or adventuring for 38 hours straight. I’m ambitious for you, but not crazy. You will need approximately 2-4 hours to work during the 38-hour period…give or take an hour.)
  • Each writing adventure will focus on one particular aspect of craft or the writing life. You will not be writing an entire essay or short story (but you might accidentally do so). Some adventures will focus on a skill, like writing kick-butt descriptions; others might get you to look at what inspires you or how you move from idea to writing; all will encourage you to engage with and explore the culture in which you’re living.
  • During each 38-hour period, you’ll be able to connect with me and #38Write writers around the world via a Twitter hashtag. (How cool is that?!)
  • You will get feedback from me. (For more info about me, click here.)
  • Terrific for folks writing fiction, essays, memoir, or poetry.
  • Beginners and experienced writers are welcome and encouraged to join. There are some of each (and everything in between) in every workshop.
  • It’s affordable. A single #38Write writing adventure costs only $38 (U.S.).

WHY DID I CREATE #38WRITE?

While living, writing, and teaching writing in the U.S. and Shanghai, I learned (and/or relearned) a number of things:

    1. Each of us has a heck of a lot to learn from folks in other countries (and not usually the things we think we need to learn).
    2. Story is an international conversation that can help us better understand one another.
    3. By helping writers from all over the world to improve their craft, I can play a wee role in facilitating this global conversation.
    4. Writing is recursive. You must practice. (And if I do say so myself, I’m pretty darn good at getting writers to practice.)

IS #38WRITE FOR YOU?

#38Write adventures are designed for all place-passionate writers, including expats and repats, globetrotters, armchair travelers, nomads, cultural spelunkers, deeply rooted souls, mapmakers and mapbreakers, wanderers and wayfarers, voyagers, and all writers interested in exploring and writing about their environs.

So, yup, if you’re asking, #38Write is probably for you.

To learn more and sign up for #38Write | Habits, visit CLASSES.

 

*Yes, this particular workshop is a combo…Oct/Nov. I’ve got something special planned for December so I needed to double up on these two months.

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Kate Burak

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks 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.


Back in August, I featured Erika Robuck on Writerhead Wednesday, whose new novel HEMINGWAY’S GIRL was inspired by, well, Hemingway, of course (you know, THE Hemingway…Ernest Hemingway). Today, I’m excited to feature another author whose new novel was inspired by one of our literary greats: Kate Burak, whose new YA novel EMILY’S DRESS AND OTHER MISSING THINGS was inspired by Emily Dickinson.

Welcome, Kate! (and Emily!)

Now, readers, you know the rules for mucking about in writerhead. No talking. Hands to yourself. No entry into trap doors.

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

For me, it has a scent:

I lived in the fog that summer. It filled the front part of my head. I was writing my first book, spending 6-8 hours a day in that state. After a couple of weeks of this, I noticed my detachment from the real world. Even though I have an electric kettle, I put in the stove and turned on the heat. I only realized my mistake when the smoke detector went off. I did the same thing, a couple of weeks later at my sister’s house: put her electric kettle on the open flame of her gas stove. This is why I have come to associate serious writerhead with the scent of melting plastic and burning wires.

For those around me, who observe it, it has a look:

I’ll tell you how my son described the look of writerhead—because that’s a point of view issue:

The conversation we were having was about writing, how good it feels.

“When you write it doesn’t look like it feels good,” he said. “It looks like it hurts.”

“No,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “You should see your face. It’s full of pain.”

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.)

Interrupting my writerhead is probably more frustrating for the person who interrupts me than it is for me. Take my son, for example, who tells me how he knows I’m in the writerhead zone by the look on my face. He says I answer questions, but it’s like a zombie talking. Information comes out but nothing else.

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

No matter what my son sees, it doesn’t feel like pain. It feels like being underwater, knowing I have to come up for breath eventually, but also knowing it’s okay to be where I am even though it’s below the surface and kind of dangerous. I have the power to emerge if I want to, but the world under the surface is so interesting to explore. I can almost be convinced I don’t need air.

BIO: Kate Burak is the author of EMILY’S DRESS AND OTHER MISSING THINGS, a young-adult novel. She teaches writing at Boston University.

CONTACT: Visit Kate’s website at kathrynburak.com. Give her high-five on Twitter (@DressWriter).

 

#38Write: If You’ve Ever Felt Like a Square Peg in a Round Hole

38Write—my global writing initiative—is a monthly series of online writing adventure workshops for place-passionate, culturally curious writers around the world. Each writing adventure focuses on one particular aspect of craft or the writing life (for example, writing kick-butt descriptions), and during each 38-hour adventure, writers connect with me and 38Write writers around the world via a Twitter hashtag (#38Write) and a group Pinterest board. Lots of good work getting done.


The theme of September’s #38Write workshop was Square Peg, Round Hole? Thirteen writers in 8 countries participated. After reading a number of essays, articles, and blog entries, as well as watching the oh-so-hilarious episode of the “I Love Lucy” show I’ve embedded below, I asked writers to write a couple of pieces, including a short piece about a time in which they either conformed or did not conform to a cultural reality.

Here’s what a handful of the brilliant #38Write writers put on the page:

 Anita | U.S.

Two weeks after starting work at the convent, Sister Mary Alice questioned me about my religion. After taking her medications, she asked “Are you Catholic Anita?”

“No, Sister”

Her wimple framed her sudden frown. “What religion are you?”

I squirmed under her scrutiny. I was raised Methodist but I now follow the Buddhist philosophy. My mind raced through the ramifications of telling Sister Mary Alice of my fall from Christianity. If I told her the whole truth my role would change from being her nurse to being her project, so I told a half-truth. “I was raised Methodist, Sister”.

Fingering her rosary she gave a weak smile. “I’ll pray for you dear.”

I had become a project after-all.

 Meena | U.S.

I landed at La Guardia airport dying to see the gregarious America sculpted by my childhood staples of Archie comics and slapstick sitcoms. It was summer of ’96. The immigration queue labeled ‘Aliens’ was long. Me, the alien waited for my turn that finally was about to come. Before me was an old Indian auntie who spoke little English. She had her papers in order but was finding it hard to understand the official’s question on the length of her stay. Rolling her eyes, the New York official bellowed the question to the helpless auntie. I stepped forward, past the yellow line saying I could help translate. “Ma’am, step back,” barked the lady official. I heard few sniggers behind my back and felt embarrassed. When my turn came to stand by her window I instinctively knew that my entry to USA was going to be unpleasant. She scanned the front, back of my passport and papers. I was invited to offer database programming expertise for an organization that’d sponsored me for 4 months. She then, handed my visa stamped for 3 months. Finding my voice I stated that the program was for 4 months. “You Indians, you are here more than in your own country,” she said insultingly, waving me away. Offended, I pointed to the company letter and said loudly, “Well, an American company invited me. Your country lacks qualified people to do specialized work and that’s why I am here.” It was petty but heck I wasn’t going to take the slur silently. Maybe it was my anger. Or maybe because she wanted to reserve her bullying for another alien, she became quiet, turning her face away.

The friendly Indian auntie standing beyond the counter smiled at me.

Jennifer | S. Korea

Dongjin told me the stories in moments of vulnerability, the two of us alone and intertwined in the black of night. How his father was separated from his parents at the start of the war, his terrible survival, his persecution as the relative of a Communist, the deaths of his wife and first child. I was filled with sympathy for this man I had never met, and fantasized that I could be the perfect daughter-in-law, a balm to him in his old age.

It didn’t last long. I ground my teeth when he told me that women were responsible for happiness in the home. I nodded when he told me to smile more and always speak with a light, pleasant voice. When he blamed a fight he and DongJin had had on my influence, I only bitched to DongJin about it.

But when he started to give me advice about my child I put my foot down. He told me that long-term breastfeeding would create a wimpy, “Momma’s boy.” He accused me of starving Jae because I wouldn’t follow him around and feed him. He told Jae that no one would play with him if he cried. Lacking the ability to argue well in Korean, I ended up lashing back with the same frustrated, dismissive, petulant tones he used to me. Then I’d repent, turning my anger into analysis: He’s taught himself suspicious of happiness; it never lasts. He deals with his anxiety by constantly preparing for disaster. He doesn’t know how to talk to people, he only knows how to command and scold. For a while, the only solution that worked was to pretend I didn’t understand what he was saying.

Ten years later, I still bounce between good intentions and imperfect execution. But I’m proud that Jae can say, “I used to think that Grandfather was nagging me all the time, but now I realize that that’s just how he says he loves me.”

Rocio | Belgium

When I was six years old, I was supposed to go to Morocco with my parents and my brother after Christmas, but I got a fever. My parents decided to leave me with my grandparents and go anyway. I was just enough feverish not to be fit to go, but it was nothing serious. Going to exotic Morocco, wasn’t a prize for me. We used to go very often as we had some relatives there and my parents loved it. The trip was a nightmare, a whole day in the backseat of the car dividing the space in two halves with my brother. This is before highways existed in Andalusia! After almost a day driving, we had to cross the Gibraltar Strait in the ferry for a couple hours, maybe more, and then at the end go to the border and pass the control. And this, too, was long before any electronic passport was in use.

So I was really happy to be left behind and stay. My grandma cooked everyday delicious stuff; even her fixes of Christmas turkey were transformed in amazing homemade cannelloni. I wonder now, if I didn’t fake that fever somehow… But, always a but, I had to accompany my grandparents to church, oh god! I was so nervous before going! Already that young, I knew it, I was a square peg in a round hole, dying to fit in. I had heard at school about god, angels and all the paraphernalia, scary. When we entered the church, I was wishing my grandparents wouldn’t go sit in the firsts rows. All I wanted was for time to go by quickly, me unnoticed; and all I could see were the images of the saints, with those decrepit and melancholic marble faces.

Being in church was hell for me. The mass began. Each and every single part of the ritual, I was absorbed by all the procedures, now stand, now sit, now do the cross… all I wanted was to get it right and all I was imagining was the priest pointing his long thin finger to me, lightnings and thunders accompanying his gesture, and saying out loud: YOU!!!! It was martyrdom. And then the mass finished, I was still there, alive! Back home to a dish of hot cannelloni.

Maria | U.K

I failed miserably at being a free-spirited student during my university years. You know, the kind of student who studies like crazy during many sleepless nights, but who also parties like an animal when the occasion appears. When I was 19, fresh into Journalism school, and for the first time living alone in a flat in Bucharest, all I could think of was getting a job, earning money, and standing on my own two feet. Escaping from under my parents’ tutelage had been my dream since first year of high school. While other freshmen were learning the ropes of how to get from A to B in the Capital, I got my first job—working nights in a media monitoring centre, smoking two, three packs of cigarettes a day and feeling damn grown-up. I seldom attended parties, never took a trip to the mountains with my friends, and didn’t touch alcohol for about three years. Sadly, it also took me almost six months to actually get to know my university colleagues. At a time when I was supposed to learn all about the hot places to hang out in Bucharest and enjoy my longed for freedom, I incarcerated myself in a job, learned the ropes of office politics, and got almost eaten alive by my older, well-versed work colleagues. After the four years of study were up, I suddenly realized what I had missed. And that’s when the bitter taste of regret started eating at me. All I could show for during my college education were a few paychecks, a lot of working week-ends and an untimely coming into adulthood.


Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Yuvi Zalkow

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks 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.


I know y’all have been wanting to sneak into Yuvi Zalkow’s writerhead ever since you caught word of the publication of his new novel A BRILLIANT NOVEL IN THE WORKS. [And, yes, I know I’ve been using the term y’all a lot lately; see Dinty Moore’s intro last week. Sometimes I’m southern.]

Me, too.

Though I do think that in Chapter 1 when Yuvi (the character in the book, not the author) says to his wife, “Hush, I’m trying to work,” he really should have said, “Hush, I’m in writerhead.” Maybe Yuvi (the author) will update this in a later printing.

Regardless, I’m delighted Yuvi agreed to yak about his writerhead when I asked. A BRILLIANT NOVEL IN THE WORKS—like Lydia Netzer’s Shine Shine Shine—is going to be one of my favorite novels of the year.

Now, as you know, there’s to be no stomping around in Yuvi’s writerhead. Any stomping, hollering, hooting, or other disruptive behavior and you’re out!

Got it?

Good. Let’s go.

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

It’s funny because much of my writing is not really in writerhead, or at least not in my version of writerhead.

Oops. Now I’ve made it so I have to describe two things: writing in writerhead and writing in non-writerhead.

OK. First writerhead: Writerhead is when I lose track of time or day. I skip meals. I forget to do the shopping that I promised my wife I would do. Sometimes this happens on my laptop in a cafe. Or sometimes on my iPhone in the bathroom stall of my day job. It can happen with a notebook and pencil with me pulled over on the side of the road. Or a park bench in the shade. It is where I get so immersed in my story that I barely register external sights and sounds. Or else it might be while I’m blasting that instrumental Beastie Boys album (seriously!). It could be when digging through a critical scene in my novel or when I find the perfect voice for my storyteller. Or when I finally realize how the story must end. Writerhead is more than just in my head. It feels likes every part of my body and everything around me. I worship writerhead.

But most of the time, I write in non-writerhead. Writing in non-writerhead is when I’m thinking about that email I have to respond to. Or when I decide to check my twitter timeline. I’m thinking about my flaws as a parent or husband or as a human being. I worry about friends who are sick. I think about my taxes or the bad book review I just received. I awkwardly chip away at a scene and I see that the writing is bad. Or worse than bad: it is empty. I try again. My two hour window has suddenly become twenty minutes because I wasted time telling a poop joke on twitter. But it’s even worse than that: it was a poop joke that no one liked enough to retweet! While I’m working on my novel, I start thinking about an unrelated essay I want to write. I read a blog post that makes me depressed. I should call my parents and check in. My throat hurts. I’m sleepy. That picture on the wall is crooked. Maybe I should straighten it. Time to pick up the kid from daycare. I have squandered so much time!

I think both these spaces are essential to the writer. This is what I wasn’t warned about. Those crappy moments at the table are essential too. I produce meaningful stuff in non-writerhead, even if it is far less efficient. Sometimes I can channel that difficult emotion of being in non-writerhead and use it effectively in my scene in a way that writerhead might not have offered me. Or perhaps non-writerhead is where I organize and tame the few bursts of brilliance I produced during writerhead.

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 get resentful as a first response. And then I begin to feel like a failure… What is wrong with me? If this happened to [other-writer-I’m-jealous-of], they would be able to keep writing beautiful things. But for me, it spells disaster.

But I can also sometimes use that frustration from being interrupted as fuel for my writing. For instance, I’m writing about a character right now who has these grand aspirations but is always falling on his face, never achieving what he dreams to achieve. So my own interruption from writerhead can produce a disappointment in me that is useful when writing from the point of view of my character.

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

Forgive this total cop out, but writerhead is a place I’m not sure exists except during those moments when I’m in it and then I’m so immersed in it that it feels like there is no metaphor that could properly pay tribute to it. But then it’s gone and all the second-rate metaphors come back: the river, the sun, the light, the seed, the marathon, the plane, the clouds, the thunder, the explosion, the sex. But to hell with all those f***ing metaphors! I just want to get back into writerhead!

BIO: Yuvi Zalkow’s debut novel (A BRILLIANT NOVEL IN THE WORKS) is now available online and in stores. He received his MFA from Antioch University and his stories have been published in Glimmer Train, Narrative Magazine, The Los Angeles Review, Carve Magazine, and others. He is the creator of the “I’m a Failed Writer” online video series and has been rejected more than 600 times by reputable and disreputable journals. Visit his website at http://yuvizalkow.com.

HIGH-FIVE: If you’d like to give Yuvi a high-five (or encourage him to rewrite that line that I mentioned above so that it includes the term writerhead), here’s where you can find him: website, Twitter (@yuvizalkow), and Facebook.