Writerhead Wednesday: The New Season Launches Next Week

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.


Although I refuse to admit that summer may be heading to a close in just a few short weeks, I am happy to announce that the fall season of Writerhead Wednesday will launch next Wednesday, August 29, with none other than (drum roll, please)…

Erika Robuck

Erika’s second novel HEMINGWAY’S GIRL is due in bookstores during the first week of September. You, lovely readers, will be lucky enough next week to tiptoe into her writerhead.

See you next Wednesday!

Mojo Monday: Anais Nin, Dreams & the Highest Form of Living

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.


“Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.”

~Anais Nin

 

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Um, Yes, Summer Hiatus!!!!

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.


Yuuuuuuupppppppppp! Still on summer hiatus! Eating ice cream, swimming in ponds, picking ticks off my pup, wiping tears when lime Popsicles fall to the ground and trying to instill the lesson of detachment, and all the other wonderful things that summer brings.

But keep the faith! Writerhead Wednesday will back with gusto! And we’ll be sneaking into the writerheads of some amazing authors, like Erika Robuck, Hank Phillipi Ryan, Kate Burak, Marcia Aldrich, Lynda Rutledge, and, oh, many, many more!

See ya soon!

#38Write: Register for the August Workshop Now

#38Write—my [new-ish] 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 July workshop, we had 16 writers in 9 countries!


Looking for a unique writing workshop that nurtures your interest in place, culture, maps, journeys, odysseys, travel, etc.?

Perfect timing…because the next edition of the 38Write writing adventure series—38Write | Peregrination—is now open for registration. (Click over to the CLASSES page for lots more information about this specific workshop and to sign up.)

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, whichwent 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.

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.
  • 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.)
  • You will get feedback from me. (For more info about me, click here.)
  • Terrific for folks writing fiction, essays, or memoir.
  • 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 | Peregrination, visit CLASSES.

#38Write: How Do You Define “Culture”?

#38Write—my [new-ish] 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 July workshop, we had 16 writers in 9 countries. It’s pretty darn awesome!


In the July #38Write workshop (#38Write | Structure), I asked writers to define culture without using a dictionary, thesaurus, or other reference. I wanted writers to arrive at their own organic definitions of a term that gets tossed around a lot. For many of the writers, I heard the task proved to be much tougher than they originally anticipated. Here’s what some of them came up with; I love these!

(drum roll…)

“An ever-widening pool of thoughts, ideas, dreams and nightmares turned into staggering physical objects, sounds and words that touch us in various ways and give us a taste of the incredible intricacy of the human mind and soul and perhaps, a peek at immortality.” [Maria, U.K.]

 * * *

“Culture is the armor we put on to protect us from the judgment of others while wielding our own. It is the cloak of conformity protecting us from the marginalization brought on by our two greatest faults. Individuality and free will.

“It is corporate speak, one plus one really does equal three. It is the thought police and politics of fear and division. Red vs. Blue, Rich vs. Poor, if you aren’t with us, you’re against us. It is feeding at the media’s buffet of consumption and disposable consumerism. A hedonistic diet that invites us to insert ourselves into the minutia of others while avoiding empathy.

“It is the simmering pot we find ourselves in, awaiting the boil.” [Sean, U.S.]

* * *

“Culture is created by people to include, alienate, frustrate, bamboozle and inspire others. It is indescribable in entirety—spanning language, music, architecture, food, drink, dress, attitude, smiling, grimacing. It enables or disables relationships, both personal and geographical. Culture is something to be drunk and savoured, to taste. It can never be completely digested, as it is ever-changing in itself and your perception of it. It is the stuff of (your) humanity.” [Michelle, France]

* * *

“Culture is a mother. She tells you bedtime stories, explains who you are, why you’re special, what to believe, defines your choices and boundaries. You let go of her skirt and feel lost, listless, unknown. You build your own stories, day by day. You become a mother.” [Jennifer, S. Korea]

 * * *

“I think of culture as the unspoken rules of play. It’s the inside information that gets us a seat at the cool kid’s table in the lunch room. Over time, culture is formed from the whos, whats, whens, and whys that matter most—life’s decoder ring.” [Laura, U.S]

 * * *

“Culture is what you believe you are. It is the sum of what you have learned by being where and when you have been. It is what you have absorbed from those around you. It is what you believe about what you have been told about who you are.

“Culture is those things you do not see. It is the cloud that surrounds you. The fluffy white cloud you can’t see through, the gray cloud that dims your vision, the scattered wispy clouds that throw barely perceptible shadows. Your cloud is the sum of your family’s miasma, your town’s history, and your country’s storyline. It is the mist that surrounds you and every one is unique.

“When your various clouds cross, or your clouds cross those of others, flashing lights, loud booms, and tumult result.” [Kelly, Turkey]

* * *

“Culture is always tied to place. It’s showing a place the way locals see it in a deeper way, insider knowledge versus the way a tourist sees it skimming only the surface.

“It considers the quality of life of its residents, the little guys who make up the fabric of the city’s neighborhoods. People like you and me. Sense of place is an intangible weave of culture (stories, art, memories, beliefs histories) and the tangible physical components of an area: its rivers, woods, monuments, architectural styles, its pathways and its views. Place also embraces our personal relationships and those who think like us, kindred spirits. This attachment to place, this sense of feeling, is derived from the natural environment, but it also includes a mix of natural and cultural features in the landscape.” [Michelle, U.S.]

* * *

“Culture is a society’s folksong of beauty and deformity. It clasps nuances, peculiarities, obscenities and is the overt and hidden essence fine-tuned by breathing in the scenic and ugly pail of humanity. Clouded by human thoughts, its evolution is sorely dependent on random and expected perspective as also geographical thresholds.” [Meena, China]

* * *

“Culture is the derived from the group(s) we are born into and it shapes the way we think, what we say and how we behave in any given situation.” [Diane, U.S.]

* * *

“Imagine a sandwich. Think of a country as that sandwich. Picture the delicious filling that smothers the sandwich’s core and oozes into its every fibre; that binds the sandwich and delivers unique smells, sights, tastes and textures. If a sandwich is a place, then the filling is its culture.” [Russell, Australia]

 

What do you think, readers? How do you define culture?

_________________

If you’re interested in signing up for future #38Write workshops, you can either:

  • send me an email
  • subscribe to the Writerhead blog so that you’ll get the workshop announcement conveniently in your email inbox
  • check back in a week or so for the August workshop announcement (“Classes” page)

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Continued Summer Hiatus, But…

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.


As I mentioned last week, Writerhead Wednesday is officially on summer hiatus and will return in even greater glory in a few short weeks. In the meantime, if you’re hankering for a writerhead fix, check out some of the many spectacular past interviews, like the one with Keith Cronin (ME AGAIN) or perhaps Lydia Netzer (SHINE SHINE SHINE). Or maybe you missed the interview with Jefferson Bass (THE INQUISITOR’S KEY). Or—say it isn’t so—you might have missed the writerhead interview with the oh-so-eloquent nonfiction-writing Ned Stuckey-French (THE AMERICAN ESSAY IN THE AMERICAN CENTURY) or his equally eloquent fiction-writing wife Elizabeth Stuckey-French (THE REVENGE OF THE RADIOACTIVE LADY).

And there are so many more.

Happy writerhead! See you soon!

Writerhead Wednesday: Happy Summer Hiatus

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.


Writerhead Wednesday is officially on summer hiatus. I promise, this feature will resume in a few weeks, but in the meantime, enjoy your own writerhead. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, bask in the buttery warmth of summer; if you’re in the southern hemisphere where it’s cold and blustery right now, I’m sorry for you.

Just kidding.

If you’re in the southern hemisphere, you can hunker down in writerhead just as easily as those of us who are warm and buttery. Probably much more easily, since you’re not being lured outside by lightning bugs and barbecues and sandy beaches.

So go, beautiful writers. Be in writerhead. Write.

And in the meantime, if you need a little inspiration, a writerhead fix, head over to the Writerhead Wednesday archives; there’s something there for everyone.

See you soon!

38Write: Is This Writing Workshop Right For You?

38Write—my [new-ish] 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, you’ll be connecting with me and 38Write writers around the world via a Twitter hashtag. It’s new. It’s different. It’s crazy, mad fun!


 

I sat down just now to write a blog entry about why #38Write is the writing workshop for you, but instead, I find myself in writerhead, being drawn to work on a piece I’ve been writing about the chicken man in Shanghai. All kinds of things are stirring me up creatively this morning: this NYTimes piece about singer/songwriter Frank Ocean; Julian Gough’s open letter to Jonathan Ive (and Apple) about a short story he wrote called “iHole” (which I discovered via a Tweet on Sunday morning); and even this study about how dogs in an office setting can reduce stress (weaving it into my argument for taking my new pup to work).

So if you’re sitting out there in China or Ireland or Boracay or Alaska, thinking, hhhmmm, 38Write? Yay? Nay?

Yay. For sure, yay. And let’s get on with telling the story.

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Lydia Netzer

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.


Here’s what I want to say about Lydia Netzer‘s debut novel Shine Shine Shine: It’s special. It’s one of those soul-changing, DNA-altering, oh-my-god-I-see-the-world-differently-since-reading-this-book kind of books. Lydia and Shine Shine Shine came to my attention via Sarah Reed Callender, and I’m forever grateful. (Thank you, Sarah!)

You know that quote by Franz Kafka? The one that goes like this: “A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.” Well, Shine Shine Shine is an ice-axe that broke the sea frozen inside my soul.

Crack! Crash! Smash! Damn the frozen f’ing sea!

You should read Shine Shine Shine. As soon as possible. But first, read about Lydia’s writerhead. It’s as cool as the book.

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

Writerhead can happen anywhere: on my back porch, in my office, on someone’s mountain cabin’s kitchen island, as long as there is a computer there, and a rectangular screen where I can look at the words coming up. Place doesn’t matter much, but there are very specific rituals and routines that can be used to invoke writerhead, and draw the words out of the brain. Here are a few of mine:

A. Music

I like to put a song on endless, endless repeat until it melts away into nothing but a feeling. Often I endlessly repeat a song my iPod calls Luilak / Fiere Pinkster Bloem (http://www.amazon.com/Luilak-Fiere-Pinkster-Bloem/dp/B005EU16B8). I have no idea what language it’s in or what the words mean but I think it might be Bulgadavian and the song is probably about sheep or political oppression. The words sound like this:

Lilac, sometimes a brick,

Hatches up a lilac tit

Hatches up a lilac tit

And a brick, and a block, and a very bad block,

Is a head that wants to be softened!

Dogs have thumbs so lie like a dog

In a head that’s spun so often!

Okay, in the interest of accuracy, I just Googled Luilak and came up with this image (http://www.50plusser.nl/forum/userpix/50570_luilak_2012_tndt_copy_1.jpg) of Wilma Flintstone hovering over three kids in a bed, while Ringo Starr sweeps the floor and agitates a tiny man with no pants pooping into a case of Dr. Pepper and waving a white flag at Mrs. Garrett who is smoking a gigantic purple doobie. So you can see that I really do prefer a song with lyrics that are intensely relevant to my themes.

I also do well with Spicy McHaggis by The Dropkick Murphys, the Brahms violin concerto, Imogen Heap, and other obscure Bulgadavian folk music.

B. Clothing

Clothing can be crucial in drawing out writerhead—the wrong pants and you’re stumbling uphill, the right pants and you’re like a solar flare on the keyboard. I have these terrible brown cargo shorts with a very unattractive rip in the rear, a pilly black tank top and a chewed-on athletic hoodie: these are the best garments for engaging writerhead. Other cargo pants can be substituted but they must be a bilious green or noxious brown, other tank tops will suffice but they must be black, and as for replacing the hoodie, well I’m not sure I even want to speak those words aloud. If I whisper I can tell you that a replacement has been attempted, in the interest in not looking like a flipping lunatic in public, but the attempt was abandoned.

 C. Odors

When I pack for a writing retreat, I need certain smells: Crabtree & Evelyn “West Indian Lime,” Viktor & Rolf “Flowerbomb,” Thierry Mugler “Angel.” Also Vick’s Vapor Rub, grapefruit shampoo, and rosemary. When I was writing Shine Shine Shine, the smell of lavender evoked the character Emma for me, and bergamot helped me think about Sunny and Maxon’s burgeoning love affair. Some smells turn my brain off: stuff that’s too floral or bready or nice and virtuous like Ivory soap or lemons. Limes are for writing dark, interesting novels. Lemons are for washing dishes and being really cheerful. This is the difference between limes and lemons.

I think I may be exposing myself as a superstitious nutjob.

When I was 20, I wrote with a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of red wine in the other, and I used my irresponsible whims to do the typing while my reckless disregard for health and virtue was popping the pill bottle. So this is better. Nutjob perhaps, but now that I have children and a pot rack I need to replace the martini glass with something that looks better in church. Like a ripped up hoodie that smells like eucalyptus.

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.)

The children do interrupt. And it always makes me feel like a terrible person. I remember one night, I was sitting in my office in the dark, writing a particularly horrible scene where someone died or was killed or killed themselves or something. My daughter opened the door, and stood there framed in the light: two years old and sweet and innocent as the dawn. “Mommy,” she said. I looked at what I had been writing, and looked at her, and as she crawled into my lap, I wanted to turn myself in as an unfit mother, and have my child re-homed with someone who lives on a farm and writes about the antics of goats or about how kindness is really nice.

(http://www.flickr.com/photos/lostcheerio/3593128093/in/set-72157615890062020/)This is why I can’t write sex scenes with my children in the same geographical region. All the sex scenes in Shine Shine Shine (there are four—would you like page numbers?) were written at the aforementioned mountain cabin, 600 miles away from my children. At home, I would always just allow the curtains to sweetly close. It took a full 24 hours of absolute separation to get me into a space where I could even get to PG-13.

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

Writerhead is like beating through walls with a sledgehammer. It’s not some easy bliss on the other side, that you have to beat through walls to get to—it is the beating and it is the walls.

When something’s not working, that’s hitting at the wall and your mallet is accidentally rubber, or the wall is actually granite, and it just makes a dull, thumping sound, and doesn’t even ricochet, just thuds.

Writerhead is when the walls get big, dark cracks in them and then your mallet turns to steel and with a whooshing sound the walls break open and you’re smashing through, climbing through, finding another wall, crashing through that, and on. It’s paragraph after paragraph of going somewhere, changing the landscape, opening up new air pockets, consuming those and opening more. And when you’re done, it’s a complete mess (that’s what edits are for!) but you’re standing in a new place, a place you couldn’t see from where you started. When I started writing Shine Shine Shine, I did not know where it was going. I don’t even remember, from where I ended up, what I thought was on the other side of that first wall. That’s what writing books is for me: trying to see what’s on the other side, hammer in my hand, smashing for all I’m worth.

BIO: Bio: Lydia Netzer lives in Virginia with her two homeschooled children and her math-making husband. She plays in a rock band, pulls weeds, and is afraid of bears. Her first novel—Shine Shine Shine—will be published by St. Martin’s Press on July 17, 2012.

If you want to connect with Lydia—and I’m quite sure you will; how could you not?—become her friend on Facebook, Tweet her on Twitter (@lostcheerio), visit her website, or read the first 50 pages of Shine Shine Shine for free here.

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Dawn Tripp

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.


Earlier this year, I saw on a Facebook post that author Dawn Tripp (Moon Tide, The Season of Open Water, and Game of Secrets, a Boston Globe bestseller) had slipped into writerhead while running on a beach. (Of course, Dawn didn’t use the term writerhead, but her description of what happened while running had writerhead stamped all over it.) In a blink, wild, writerhead-obsessed me jumped all over the opportunity, and pretty soon, Dawn had agreed to a Writerhead Wednesday interview.

The paperback edition of Dawn’s most recent novel, Game of Secrets, came out yesterday, June 5, so it’s a perfect day for Dawn to share her writerhead.

Ooh, readers, you’re going to love this…

So hush!

Listen up.

Bend your beautiful ears this way…

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

Smack-dab in the state of writerhead, I wrote this note to a friend of mine:

I am either losing my mind or beginning to create a slightly breathtaking story, the scope of which leaves me rather dizzy, because I can’t quite believe (with my daylight mind, of course) that it is possible, that it could really all work, that I could execute it, and that it wouldn’t fail, disastrously or gloriously, and maybe this is simply the other side of crazy I am arriving at, and it is all rubbish, what I am chasing, but it hasn’t let me rest all spring, whatever it is, and still won’t.

To me, this message describes the essence of writing, at its best, and most necessary: a restless, exhilarating, at times terrifying, ride. The strongest work has come from this place. There is a certain authentic intensity—an almost feverish rush of words and images, accompanied by an equally intense piercing doubt—because while I can feel the story, glimmers of the story in my body, when I am in writerhead, I can’t always grasp the larger arc and logic those pieces belong to. For me, there is the sense of being moved by a force that is at once inside me, and at the same time, beyond me. It’s like being in love. It’s like having the flu. And over the course of my career, I have come to have faith in this particular state.

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.)

Writerhead for me isn’t a moment—it’s not entirely temporal—so it doesn’t get interrupted in the same way. When a story really burns in me, it doesn’t matter if I am at my desk, running the dog, or driving to school to pick up my boys; it doesn’t matter if I am out for dinner, or in a conversation—it’s like a parallel skin layered over everything else. It might be silenced for a moment, or be turned to a lower volume—I might get wrenched out of a paragraph, or a line I am in the midst of it, that line might be lost, but I have a certain faith that if a line or even a paragraph gets scattered like that, it will return if it’s meant to. The line might be gone, but the state isn’t. And to me, what matters is that larger state of being on fire for a story. When a story has me that way, it moves like hot silver through my veins, and it is always falling through me, pushing up in me, that is the state I am in, and I can answer the phone or the doorbell, or not, I can respond to an email, or not, I can drive into school to pick up my boys, fix dinner, go to baseball, come home, take the dog for a walk, and at the end of those instances of ordinary life, that story will still be there waiting—for me to write into it and write it down. When I am in that place of free-fall through a story—which it can last for several weeks—the most significant change, I notice, is that I don’t really sleep. It keeps me up late after the rest of the house is in bed; it snaps me awake at 3 a.m.

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

Cliff-diving. Like liquid silver in the veins. That rush of speed and falling through free space. Love it.

BIO: Winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, Dawn Tripp’s fiction has earned praise from critics for her “thrilling” storytelling (People Magazine), her “haunting, ethereal” prose (Booklist), and her “marvelous characters” (Orlando Sentinel). She is the author of the novels, Moon Tide, The Season of Open Water, and Game of Secrets, a Boston Globe bestseller. Her essays have appeared on NPR and online at Psychology Today. She teaches workshops on structuring the arc of a novel out of fragments of fact and fiction. She graduated from Harvard College and lives in Massachusetts with her husband, sons, and 80-pound German shepherd.

Want to give Dawn a high-five, ask a burning question about Game of Secrets, or find out the name of her German shepherd? Lots of ways to do so. Check out her website; connect with her on Facebook; tip your hat on Twitter.