#38Write: 4 Questions Worth Asking & Answering

#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 culture, craft, or the writing life, 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 and lots of good work getting done.


You’re an expat, a traveler, a dreamer, a cultural spelunker, a place-passionate writer, a map-obsessed armchair traveler…and you write…or you want to write. You’ve happened upon #38Write and you’re wondering, “Is this workshop for me?”

If you answer yes to any or all of the following questions, it’s time to register for December’s #38Write workshop:

  1. Do you wake in the morning thinking, “Maaan, I need to write but I don’t know how to get started”?
  2. Are you longing for guidance, solid feedback, and a kick in the writerly patootie?
  3. Do you write on napkins in bars, the palm of your hand, the margins of books, menus, airplane tickets, etc?
  4. Are you looking for a supportive writing community of like-minded souls (who also write on napkins in bars, the palms of theirs hands, the margins of books, menus, airplane tickets, etc.)?

Ah, see, I knew it!

Yes, yes, yes, and yes!

You are in the right place. Click here to register for December’s #38Write!

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Elena Passarello

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.


Usually on Writerhead Wednesday, I put the author’s photo up here at the top of the blog post (like this). And although—like all authors who have graced the pages of Writerhead—Elena Passarello is a beaut, I just had to put the cover of her new collection of essays here instead. How could I not? I mean, LOOK AT THIS COVER!

Elena is an actor and author of the new collection of essays about the human voice, LET ME CLEAR MY THROAT. As you can imagine, she’s got some juicy stuff to say about her writerhead.

Enjoy!

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

Writerhead for me is not an easy thing to come by, because my most generative days are the days in which I do not allow myself to get still in some kind of still, tunnel-vision-ed writer zone. Every moment of my writerhead is so specific to the unique “writertask” du jour that I have to court it royally. So it’s never just “sit in front of the computer, feel inspired, and clackety clack”; it’s “clackety at the computer for an hour, then go hand-write in the garden for a while, then take a long walk, talking out loud and taking notes, then hit a noisy coffee shop and clackety some more, then wake up in the middle of the night and type when it’s so quiet you feel like the last survivor in a zombie apocalypse and clackety until sun-up.”

I love it when I get the chance to do it, but an eighteen-hour, multi-locational writerhead bender is a rare opportunity. This means that, more often than not, I am working while out of writerhead—and that’s an important lesson I always try to keep in mind. Writerhead is a treat, but writing is a constant.

One thing is dead necessary, however, no matter what: in order to even begin to achieve any kind of writerly success, I must be wearing stretchy-waist pants.

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.)

Well, the reaction depends upon the distraction:

Phone Call: Not a problem, because I never know where my phone is.

Spouse: My partner is also a writer, and so he is amazing at steering clear of my work time, writerhead or not. But if he ever does interrupt me, I relent, because he is handsome/ winsome/ awesome and I am a total sucker for him.

Lover: My lover is the Internet, and she has much worse manners than my spouse’s. What a vile temptress she is. I have built up some resistance, but I am not always immune to her distractions, especially if said distractions include cat videos.

Coffee Shop: My most violent reactions. I shoot dirty looks, loudly stack papers, rant to the barista about these total jerks sitting next to me who won’t stop yelling about their stupid Ugg Boots and who will soon get a latte dumped on said stupid Ugg Boots. One time, I even tried to fart in the general direction of a gaggle of high-decibel stroller moms. It did not work. Also, I might need therapy.

Computer Crash: When the computer crashes (or the cat pukes on the keyboard and zorches two hours of work, which happened last Spring) I quit. I just quit. I go eat an entire Big Grab of kettle cooked potato chips and take a nap. Because sometimes, life just isn’t fair.

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

For me, writerhead is like one of those dates you have to work really hard to impress. It can’t just be dinner and a movie; it has to be dinner and a movie and a gondola ride and ice skating in an empty hockey arena and “let’s do it” spelled out in rose petals on the sidewalk AND a very special serenade from D’Angelo AND a three-dimensional scrapbook of our relationship—with holograms—mailed with a bushel-sized bouquet the next morning. But when it finally puts out? Good googly moogly.

BIO: Elena Passarello is an actor and essayist whose first book, Let Me Clear My Throat, is a shout-out to some of the most memorable human voices in history: Howard Dean, Judy Garland, Marlon Brando, Caruso, etc. Her work has appeared in publications including Slate, Creative Nonfiction, and Iowa Review, and in the music writing anthology Pop When the World Falls Apart. Last year, she became the first woman winner of the “Stella!” Screaming contest in New Orleans.

CONNECT: Oodles of ways to connect with Elena Passarello:

Mojo Monday: Michaela Pavlatova’s “Words, Words, Words”

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.


Writers, readers, lovers of words…you MUST watch this. It’s a short animated film by Michaela Pavlatova, an animation film director/teacher/brilliant chicky-babe from the Czech Republic.

Geesh, I love this!

#38Write: December’s Virtual 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 culture, craft, or the writing life, 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 and lots of good work getting done.


OPEN FOR REGISTRATION!

Whoop! Whoop! The December #38Write writing workshop is open for registration!

Topic?

At the party!

When?

Any 38-hour period between Friday, Dec. 7, and Wednesday, Dec. 19. (Your pick this time! But you have to be going to or giving a party!)

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.

In September’s #38Write, writers wrote about square peg, round hole situations. Read a few examples here.

#38Write has been growing ever since.

Most recently, in November, 15 writers in 9 countries took a look at habits—cultural, personal, and writing. (You can read a few of their short pieces here.)

**Ready to register? Click on over to the CLASSES page.**

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 culture, 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’ll also get to engage via a Pinterest group board. (Read more about how I use Pinterest in the workshop here. And check out the group Pinterest boards for #38Write | Structure and #38Write | Peregrination.)

• You will get feedback from me. (For more info about me, click here.)

• You have the option to participate in peer critiques.

• 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.).

**Ready to register? Click on over to the CLASSES page.**

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 | At The Party, visit CLASSES.

 

 

Mojo Monday: Italian Pop Star Performs Song That’s Not Written in Any Language At All

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.


Kelly Hevel shared this video story last week on Facebook & it speaks to me…sings to me…dances to me!

It’s a video of Italian pop star Adriano Celentano performing his 1970-something No. 1 hit in his home country (despite the fact it wasn’t performed in Italian).

As NPR explains, it “…also wasn’t performed in English.

“In fact, it wasn’t performed in any language at all.

“The song, called Prisencolinensinainciusol, was written to mimic the way English sounds to non-English speakers.

“Celentano, now 74 years old, says that he wanted to break down language barriers and inspire people to communicate more.”

Cultural spelunkers like me are gonna love this! It’s amazing. (I’m now considering giving up writing to become an Italian pop star!)

#38Write: Annoying Habits

#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 November’s #38Write online writing workshop was Habits. Fifteen writers in 9 countries participated: China, Turkey, Australia, the U.K., France, the U.S., South Korea, the U.A.E., and Japan.

Let me tell you, there are some habits in those 9 countries!

After reading/watching a number of assigned pieces/videos, I asked writers to: “…go on out into your community and find a habit that annoys the hell out of you. Yep, put on your walking shoes, hop in your car or on your bike, and go to work, a bar, a restaurant, the street in front of your house, a school, a library, a park, a movie theatre, the Laundromat, etc. Go any place where you’ll find people who annoy you.” Then I asked writers to lay it on the line (or in this case, on the page).

Here’s what a handful of #38Write writers put on the page. Now, you may cringe once or twice, thinking “Wow, that’s got a little bite to it!” but that’s exactly what I asked the writers to do. Get the bite on the page.

Sean | U.S.

Dr. Seuss’ Grinch put it best… “That’s one thing I hate! All the noise, noise, noise, noise!”

I’m a self-professed foodie, culinary aficionado, and home chef, yet I absolutely cannot stand listening to people eat. Really. It literally makes my skin crawl, I’m confronted with the fight or flight response in its most primal form.

Death for me is meal time void of conversation or at the very least white noise. Otherwise the sound of the food being masticated along with the accompanying chorus of tongue and esophageal noises rush in to fill the void.

Six months of the year I am forced to exist in a level of hell unknown or yet undisclosed by Dante when my mother-in-law shares our home. Poorly fitted dentures and age-related temporo-mandibular disorder punctuate each bite with a range of “snaps”, “clicks”, and “pops” adding to the cacophony of consumption and elevating my misphonia to an entirely new dimension.

I am cursed.

Maria | U.K.

Serge has this incredibly annoying habit of always leaving the hangers with clothes stretched on the bed whenever he takes out a shirt or a coat from the wardrobe. Even after almost nine years together and many, many rows on the topic, I am still going bonkers when I find them just lying there on the bed or even on the bedroom floor. Like a broken record, I ask him why in the world is it so difficult for him to put the damn hangers back on the rack. I ALWAYS get the same answer. “I will put them back, chill out!” Of course he never puts them back and although I know it is a lost battle, I cannot help and work myself up into a seizure and start nagging, mumbling and sometimes shouting. And when he sees my veins on my forehead bulking and my eyes popping out with rage, he serves me his scram face adding idly “chill out woman! What are you fussing about? They are just clothes, and I am in a hurry.”

For almost nine years, he’s always in a hurry! In that moment, I just want to go for his throat and strangle him slowly and methodically until I feel he’s hanging on to dear life. For God’s sake, all he needs to do is raise his arm and hang the damn clothes up where they belong.

Lately I have given up trying. I bark the usual “Again, you left your clothes all over the bed. I am going to take them all and burn them and put the ashes in a plastic bag and throw them out!” without really expecting an answer. I just feel good saying it. But then his answer only deepens my frustration: “I will put them back, don’t worry”! God forbid, I should worry about my partner being tidy and organized. God forbid I should worry about waking up one day and not finding any of his clothes scattered around the house waiting for me to pick them up!

I went through so many stages—annoyance, rage and finally psychotic rants. Nothing helped, nothing will I guess. I just have to resign myself and think of green pastures and happy places when I see those hangers on the bed. Think about all his wonderful qualities and accept that tidiness is definitely not one of them. And then I hear my mom’s voice drumming in my years: “You are so messy. When you will be a wife and a mother and you’ll have to pick up after your husband and kids, you will remember my words and only then you will understand”. I never paid much attention to my mother back then, but I am finding myself sounding more like her every day. And by God, I thought she was irritating. I can only imagine what a nuisance I can sometimes be.

Catherine | Turkey

Joanna sat down just outside the door of the café. It was still warm, the October breeze hadn’t cooled the temperature much. Martha arrived a few minutes later, apologising and giving out about the crush on the dolmus. They ordered and Martha ran through her usual complaints about her latest Turkish boyfriend. The last one was too full on, the latest too distant. It took a few minutes to register that Joanna was unusually quiet.

“You usually have a few more opinions on this stuff,” Martha asked. “With all your experience… You ok, hon?”

“What experience?” Joanna replied.

“Jeez, leave the question-answering-a-question bit out. You know what I mean, you and Alper are nearly married.”

“Nearly doesn’t count for anything.”

Martha could never let a silence go.

“Come on, spill already.”

Joanna waited until after their coffees were served and the waiter was out of earshot.

“Alper doesn’t want to marry me.”

“I don’t believe it,” said Martha. “What’s the problem – his mom won’t let him marry a non-Muslim?” She laughed but stopped when she saw the look on Joanna’s face.

“I don’t think so; I get on great with his mam. He just doesn’t want to.”

“There has to be a reason though. You guys did discuss this.” Martha was more serious now.

“We did ages ago. But last week I asked him about it again and he didn’t answer. He talked about his plans to go to the UK for a doctorate and how he wanted to do what was expected of him. He hasn’t answered my calls for the last two days.”

“He didn’t say no, then.” Martha smiled, half-heartedly.

“He didn’t say yes,” said Joanna. Martha frowned.

Another silence, again Martha spoke first.

“This is just like the plumber, the electrician and that guy who was going to give you a job at the publishing agency, isn’t it? Promise to do something and then back out by just ignoring your calls…”

“I’m afraid it might be.” Joanna felt the tears begin, she’d just confessed her worst fear.

Martha sighed, “The curse of the Turk—they just can’t say the word no.”

Jennifer | South Korea

Chuh bok chuh bok was the sound of Father’s footsteps. From the anbang, where he gathered up another pile of gear, turned back and went through the maru, past DongJin sitting at the kitchen table eating apples. A steady beat of chuh bok chuh bok. Without a glance at DongJin, Father continued to the doorway to add to his pile of gear. Then chuh bok chuh bok back through the maru to the anbang. Back and forth, back and forth, the rhythm of his footsteps as steady as a metronome.

First DongJin tried to drown Father out by humming Smoke on the Water while tapping his dessert fork on his step-mother’s new Corelle dishes. Then he tried to create a counter-beat by loudly crunching on the apples. But Father’s pacing continued, unfaltering. Chuh bok chuh bok… It wasn’t just the sound; the footsteps vibrated through the floorboards and permeated DongJin’s body like a second heartbeat.

Chuh bok chuh bok. I could go to the bathroom or bedroom to escape, mused DongJin. But he was determined to be conspicuously lazy. I OFFERED to help, he fumed. I TRIED to take the heavy bags from his hands, but Father waved me off like a pest. Told me to go ‘Eat some fruit and rest.’ So that’s what I’m doing. While he lugs more and more stuff over to the doorway and grumbles about how his back hurts. Chuh bok chuh bok.

It always came down to this: Father’s way or his way. And Father always presided. Father made the decisions, Father did all the important stuff, Father even set the goddamned rhythm of the place. Chuh bok chuh bok. Leaving DongJin to sit and sulk. Like he always did. Like he had when he was a child. Which only made Father feel justified to treat him like an immature, incapable idiot.

When do I get to grow up? In Father’s mind, he is the adult and I am the child, one or the other, black and white, nothing in between. How can I prove to him that I don’t need to be coddled, when he never gives me any chances to show it? When he tried to step up, take responsibility, act like an adult, Father pushed him down again. Told him to sit and eat fruit. Chuh bok. chuh bok.

Anita | U.S.

It started in the buffet line at the Allenberry Playhouse Restaurant with the old lady in front of me. She was using a walker and had come to a lingering stop. Another woman in her 50s, who had been helping the old lady with a walker, stepped away saying “I’ll be right back”. Waiting, the old lady, with one hand on her walker, repeatedly reached under the glass shield with her free hand and fingered cubes of cheddar, pepper jack and Swiss before nibbling the winner. The growing line was at a standstill. Annoyed as hell and avoiding the cheese platter I stepped around the old lady and proceeded to fill my plate with salad greens.

Next, the ‘hot entrée’ line was backing up when the woman in front of me barked “Go around the other side. It’s open!” I stood fast. The ‘other side’ of the hot entrée line was led by a man with Parkinson’s; food was falling from his trembling plate back into the serving dishes.

Finally, sitting in the dining room, my appetite gone, I looked at my salad and turkey dinner wondering what had it been exposed to before finding me. As I picked over my food, I couldn’t help but over-hear the conversations at the next table.

The obese man with thick eyeglasses at the table to my right was telling his tablemate that he gives himself insulin twice a day…” Between bouts of bemoaning the woes of having diabetes, I watched him make two trips to the buffet line returning each time with mounds of potatoes, breads and meats with gravy. Then he visited the dessert table returning with a piece of lemon meringue pie and chocolate chip cookies.

His tablemate, a thin fellow except for his belly which tested the strength of his shirt buttons, added that he was glad he didn’t have to give himself a needle but that he did have to take three blood pressure pills. As he spoke I watched him add salt to an already salted meal.

My husband heard the same exchange at the table to my right. Before I could start preaching, again, about personal responsibility, my husband lowered his head, peered over his glasses at me, winked and smiled. I smiled in return and watched him appreciate his food. I’d wait until later to tell him about the cheese and ‘hot entrée’ table…maybe.

Russell | Australia

I can’t handle this job, Dave, I really can’t. You know me, right? How long have we been together? Two years already? You should know me well enough by now, Dave. Well enough to know that I cannot abide messy people. I can’t stand them. I literally can’t.

So you remember me telling you that we were moving desks today? Remember I said we also had a new team member joining us? Rose Janning? Remember? Oh come on,

Dave, I only told you last week. Yeah, that’s right, you’ve got it. New location, new teammate, and all of it happening today.

Okay, so Rose seemed like a lovely lady when we met her last week. A bit on the ratty side—bird’s nest hair, weird sense of dress, a little bit out there. Actually, definitely way out there but still, she seemed alright. So, today, she moved her things over to her new desk. My God, Dave, you should have seen it. Reams and reams of paper, she must have 30 binders, and the plants… Dave, honestly, you should have seen the plants. Ten of the ugliest damn plants you will ever have seen. Ever. Period.

I’d already spent all morning cleaning our team’s new desks, you know, getting them ready for us to move into. I’d been wiping them down with disinfectant, tossing any rubbish into the bins, recycling, polishing, scrubbing, and tidying. I must have used a ton of hand sanitiser while cleaning. It was disgusting. Grime all over the telephones, fingerprints on the monitors, coffee stains on the desktops.

You know what I’m like, Dave. I can’t handle the thought of any germs. I can’t even go to the toilet without taking my hand sanitiser with me. Heaven forbid if I accidentally touch the toilet seat or the cubicle handle with my bare hands. Anyway, I cleaned and then cleaned some more. So Rose moves over and brings her plants with her and places them on her desk, on the windowsill, and even on the other desks I spent all morning cleaning. Ten of them. Ten sprawling, leafy, dust covered bushes spread out across our sparkling clean office. I just couldn’t believe my eyes.

I tried to ignore it, Dave. I tried to look away. I tried to concentrate on my work. I even got up and went to the toilet three times in one hour, which I never usually do. You know what I’m like, Dave, when it comes to toilets. I never go three times in one hour unless I’m having a really bad day. Eventually, I decide I can’t hold out anymore and I have to eat some lunch. I start unwrapping my sandwiches… Just the memory of it freaks me out as I’m telling you, Dave. It was so disgusting.

As I unwrap my lunch, there were flies, Dave. Dirty, infectious little fruit flies everywhere. Buzzing around my desk, near my food, getting caught up in my hair. I tried killing one with my spray cleaner and another one appeared. I was so grossed out and I swear it was down to those plants. There were no flies before those plants arrived, Dave, no flies at all. It has to be those awful, nasty plants. Before the week is out, those plants will be gone, Dave. I swear it. I swear it on my hand sanitiser’s life. You just wait and see.

Mojo Monday: A New Anthology In Honor of Our Veterans

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.


Today, in honor of the military veterans of the United States, check out this new anthology of writing by veterans: Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors.

As the Southeast Missouri State University Press website explains, “The anthology is the first in an annual series published by Southeast Missouri State University Press in Cooperation with the Missouri Humanities Council’s Veterans Projects and the Warriors Arts Alliance.”

Proud to Be “showcases writing from military veterans and their families from across the nation, including writing about WWI and WWII, Vietnam, the Gulf Conflict, Afghanistan, and Iraq.”

The anthology was edited by Susan Swartwout.

Now click on over there and get yourself a copy.

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

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.


If you’re a mom or a dad (or grandparent or aunt or stepparent or best friend, or…) who loves smart, beautiful, meaningful picture books for the kiddos in your lives, you are going to love today’s Writerhead Wednesday author/artist Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw. Love, love, love her!

She is a wildly talented author/artist (or she might say, artist/author) who creates books that, yes, can be shelved in the “multicultural” section at your local bookstore, but who really creates books that go deeper than that—her books encompass the world. They wrap their enormous bookish arms around the earth with all its beautiful and interesting cultures and give it a big squeeze. (And in a house like ours, with a mom from the U.S., a dad from Ireland, a kiddo from Vietnam, and one emotional family foot firmly planted in China, world-encompassing literature is important to us.)

I’m honored that Jenny said yes when I hounded her to be featured on Writerhead Wednesday. Like many of us, she’s juggling like crazy (artist, author, blogger, mumma, chai traveler, and homesteader…yep, homesteader!) and squeezing in anything extra is challenging. (Thank you, Jenny!)

So make a cuppa chai, sit back, put your feet up, and see what Jenny has to say about her writerhead/storyhead!

Prepare to be enchanted…

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

I feel shy here because I do not consider myself of the writer species. I am an artist who loves story and doodles words and pictures. I think my “altered” state should be called storyhead. There are two types: (1) the dreamy beginnings and fragments of stories, and (2) the obsessive, very focused flurry of bringing a picture book idea to life in storyboard form.

The first state is a dreamy, ethereal realm that my brain enters in and out of throughout the day. Sometimes I enter consciously, after my daughter says something clever like, “Mama, I wish I had a pet angel.” Other moments I find myself searching for stories—as if I’m flying around the world or reliving a day from childhood. I notice my eyes open much wider and move about and I make odd faces during this time. It’s like I’m watching the stories and characters play in front of me like an old film projected on a bed sheet. Most days, I am with my energetic 3-year-old daughter, and her ambitious ideas keep me busy. At the risk of forgetting a story idea, I scribble them in a sketchbook or on scraps of paper that I keep inside a cigar box. Sometimes I send myself emails. I also treasure nights when my daughter and I cuddle in silence as she falls asleep. It’s then that I play with ideas deeper.

When I develop a story into a manuscript or a dummy, I need long chunks of time. My husband and daughter go on adventures or I sneak away to a shared artists’ studio in town. I also work during naps and late nights. Throughout this stage, I am still in the dream-world (because the story is still forming) but I also have my feet on the ground (and butt in chair). I teeter totter between drawing and writing, and the pictures and words take turns leading the way. This piggy backing helps me from getting stuck and often surprises me.

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 am getting better at blocking out non-human sounds, but I’m considering those headphones that block out all noise. Right now, my family is at home, and I am tempted to steal away into the bathroom (our only room with a door) to finish these questions. When my husband interrupts my storyhead, my blank look makes it obvious I am stuck between worlds. He often “gets” that I need my space; other times, he stays and I take a break. Sometimes we talk about an idea. (He is a very helpful part of my process!). With my daughter, there isn’t a choice—I’ve learned to hit the “pause” button. However, I interrupt her, too, and “test” out my book dummies on her, which always prompts insightful comments and helpful art direction.

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

For me, storyhead is like chasing and wrangling one of my hens in our thick pine forest. It takes me for a ride over yonder, or in circles and back around to the same places. It can be scratchy, sticky, dirty, frustrating, exhausting, humbling, obsessive, enlightening and hilarious. And it’s only when I surrender completely that my hen (or my story) walks home by herself.

BIO: Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw is the author/illustrator of the picture books, Same, Same but Different (2011) and My Travelin’ Eye (2008), published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt, and the illustrator of The Mother’s Wisdom Deck (Sterling, 2012). She is a freelance illustrator of books, kid product and wall decor, and lives with her family at their mountain homestead in New Mexico. Her website is DancingElephantStudio.com.

CONNECT: Yep, you can find out lots more about Jenny and her beautiful projects at her website, but you can also give her a high-five on Facebook. In addition to heart-opening books, she also creates gorgeous artwork, like this depiction of our world. She’s even been featured in the Mumbai-base newspaper Mid Day.

 

#38Write | Habits: The November Writing Workshop Has Launched

#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. Lots of good work getting done.


It’s November 3! Launch day for the Oct/Nov #38Write | Habits!

For this spectacular online writing workshop, we’re got 15 writers in 9 countries:

  • China
  • Japan
  • U.K.
  • U.S.
  • France
  • Australia
  • South Korea
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates (I’m especially excited about adding the U.A.E. to the mix. I have a long history with this country, strong emotional ties, and many wonderful memories of my U.A.E. friends from college.)

As I type, writers around the world are digging into both their cultural and writing habits.

I’ve been using Pinterest in the workshop since the July and August workshops, and since it works so beautifully, I’m using it again. #38Write writers are already pinning on the group #38Write | Habits board. (Check it out here.)

And we’re off! If you’re curious about #38Write, check out the conversation among writers this weekend using the Twitter hashtag: #38Write.

Happy writerhead!