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!

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Keith Cronin

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.


When I spoke about Writerhead last week at the PechaKucha event in Kennebunkport, Maine, I told folks in the audience that every writer’s writerhead was unique and that how every writer talks about her/his writerhead is unique.

This week, Keith Cronin—the fantastic author of Me Again—has proven me right. His take on writerhead is unique, hilarious, honest, and—though I’ve never met him—I suspect, very, very Keith.

Enjoy!

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

You might think of it as the ultimate backstage pass. As a professional musician, I’ve lived most of my adult life around rock stars. And as anybody who’s ever attempted to meet a rock star has learned, it’s all about access. You can’t get close to them without the right backstage pass (they come in gradations, from Peon to VIP), your name properly spelled on the guest list (a rare and miraculous occurrence), or a sudden covert text message from a roadie named Spike whom you befriended during your misspent youth, telling you at which gate in the arena to wait for him to slip you backstage to meet your idol. And only a very, very select few are blessed with one of those cool laminated passes that you hang around your neck on a lanyard, with those two ultimately empowering words on them: ALL ACCESS.

That’s what writerhead feels like—a highly anticipated but all-too-rare moment when you are granted passage beyond EVERY obstacle that stands between you and your goal: in this case, writing with the passion, grace and confidence of the awesome writer you know you can be (but are so rarely allowed to be).

My hat’s off to people who can get into that kind of zone or headspace at will. For me, the muse is both a powerful and elusive force. So I relish those moments when I’m granted access to the rushing literary waterfall that a good dose of writerhead can open up.

But I do my part to facilitate these moments. I clear time during the part of the day when my creativity is at its sharpest; I surround myself with tools and gadgets to help me capture the inspiration, including a voice recorder, a NEO word processor that boots up in seconds, and even a scuba diver’s underwater writing slate (for capturing ideas in the shower, a brilliant idea I picked up from writer Tracy Hahn-Burkett). I also repeat the odd rituals that I’ve found have triggered writerhead in the past, such as going for a drive, taking a shower, etc. The driving thing is what works best for me: after noticing how often I’d get cool ideas while driving somewhere, I’ve started hopping in my car with no destination in mind, for the express purpose of prompting more ideas.

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.)

Two things can interrupt writerhead: people and stuff.

Of the two, stuff is definitely the more challenging opponent. By this I mean things like having to go to work in order to earn a living, fixing the toilet (which seems to be set on a recurring semiannual auto-destruct sequence), or getting an emergency root canal. Let’s face it, these are all hard to avoid. So the best you can do is to plan some workarounds: get up early to write before work and/or set aside writing time on weekends; stock up on spare parts for the toilet; and only eat soft foods and keep ample amounts of Scotch on hand to serve as a dental anesthetic.

People-based interruptions are different, because they require something that is often in short supply when in the throes of writerhead—I’m talking about diplomacy. When you’re truly cranking on what might well be The Greatest Book Ever Written In All Of Human History, it’s hard to summon the strength and presence of mind to look up and utter a gentle, “What was that, honey?” to your interrupter (who is inevitably your romantic partner or a beloved child) without a certain undertone of annoyance. And trust me, your own annoyance never goes over well with others; indeed, it seems to only spark up a higher level of annoyance on the part of the interrupter, and then things really start to go south.

So I have taken to confronting such interruptions with a three-pronged response plan:

  1. The Look. The advantage of this approach is that you don’t say anything, which of course means that you don’t say anything stupid, which will only make your quality of life take a rapid plunge into the abyss. But be careful—there’s a lot of nuance involved. I recommend practicing The Look in front of the mirror, until you’ve mastered the fine distinction between the look that says “I’m a little busy right now, so maybe you might want to try me later, but don’t forget I love you more than anything on earth” and the one that says “How DARE you interrupt my moment of genius, and thus impede me from writing what might well be The Greatest Book Ever Written In All Of Human History, you insensitive baboon?!?” In situations where The Look is not successful, you will need to escalate your efforts, and go to the second stage:
  2. The Sigh. Now you’re bringing some audio into the equation, while still avoiding the risk involved in actually speaking. But again, nuance is important. You want to avoid too much Overt Exasperation, instead going for a blend of Charitably Patient and Mildly Distracted, with a soupçon of Tormented Genius gently drizzled on top. Again, you’ll want to spend some time practicing this to get the sonic recipe just right. But when this doesn’t work, it’s time to proceed to the third and final stage:
  3. The Surrender. This entails putting down what you’re writing, taking a deep cleansing breath (trying not to allow your exhalation to be interpreted as Yet Another Sigh), and realizing that right now, writerhead just ain’t gonna happen.

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

Three words: writerhead is Drano.*

And I’m not talking your garden-variety, everyday basic Drano. I’m talking the industrial-strength, shock-and-awe, super-mega-nuclear-foaming-action with lasers version, which can cut through anything in less than the time it takes to update your Facebook status.

Because that’s what writerhead does: it cuts through the barrier between me and the story I want to tell. I’ll see the thing in my head, and know how good it can be—or at least how good I want it to be. But there are always those nasty clogs preventing the flow, which only writerhead can drill and burrow through. I just wish bottles of writerhead were available in stores. I’d buy it by the gallon.

* Please note that the author is receiving no compensation—either in the form of financial remuneration, commercial endorsements, or invitations to exclusive parties with supermodels—from Drano® or any of SC Johnson’s other fine brands. But he wouldn’t say no to a lifetime supply of Ziploc bags, or perhaps some of those cool plug-in Glade air-freshener thingies (having always thought the “Alpine Mist” scent was particularly nice). Oh, and the whole partying-with-supermodels thing would be okay, too.

BIO: Author of the novel Me Again, published in 2011 by Five Star/Gale, Keith Cronin is a corporate speechwriter and professional rock drummer who has performed and recorded with artists including Bruce Springsteen, Clarence Clemons, and Pat Travers. Keith’s fiction has appeared in Carve Magazine, Amarillo Bay, The Scruffy Dog Review, Zinos, and a University of Phoenix management course, and he is a regular contributor at the literary blog Writer Unboxed. A native of South Florida, Keith spends his free time serenading local ducks and squirrels with his ukulele. Visit him online at www.keithcronin.com or Facebook. Though he’s not wildly active on Twitter, feel free to give him a yodel there and he’ll probably yodel back (@KeithCronin). You can also watch the book trailer for Me Again here on YouTube.

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring John Colman Wood

Shhhh. I know it’s exciting to have John Colman Wood—author of The Names of Things—at Writerhead today, but you’re still expected to be quiet while we listen in on his writerhead. Don’t worry…there will be plenty of time for questions and rousing applause at the end.

So sit back. Pour yourself a cup of coffee. And enjoy.

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

Let me start with a disclaimer: anything I say about writerhead is bound to be nonsense. But I’m an academic, and the risk of uttering nonsense never stopped me. It’s a serious point, however, about nonsense.

First, writing about writing isn’t writing. Not really. It’s something else, like loving the idea of loving isn’t loving, or that imagining happiness isn’t happiness. Second, writing about writing requires a self consciousness that is, I believe, antithetical to the state of mind that occurs when one is lost in the act, which is what I think you mean by the term writerhead.

In other words, trying to adopt a writer’s state of mind is one way to make it go away. So I suppose “getting lost” comes closer to writer’s mind than anything else I can think of. More on that below.

In any case, it rarely happens to me. And when it does, it never lasts longer than a few seconds, a minute at most. When it happens, I am always caught up in something, so focused, so unselfconscious that I’m not thinking at all, just doing. Of course, as soon as that happens, and the right words are falling from the tree, I almost immediately think “Ah, this is great! Now I’m writing” and then puff, the moment vanishes, killed by a thought.

Ironically, this writerly state of mind seldom occurs when I am at a desk with pen, computer, or typewriter at hand. Rather, a word, an image, a sentence, a next paragraph, a turn of plot is more likely to fall from the sky when I’m out walking. Just walking. I am not very writerly when I am writing, and I do my best writing when I am not.

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.)

When I am writing, my distractible mind looks something like this:

First I have to make coffee. It’s good for about ten or fifteen minutes of keyboard avoidance. The switch on the coffee maker is unreliable. The thing turns off in the middle of brewing. Since only half the water has filtered through, the coffee is twice as strong. That’s not bad if you like strong coffee, as I do, which is probably why I haven’t replaced the thing.

With a fresh cup of tar in hand, I turn to my desk and a story I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks. I like a clean desk. I mostly work on a laptop, which sits, half-cocked, front and center. There’s a lamp to the left, a couple of sharp pencils and a legal pad to the right, the coffee within easy reach beyond. That’s it. The world is now well ordered.

The story is about a girl I sat beside about forty years ago in seventh-grade English. My family had just moved to a big city from a small town. Everything was new and frightening.

The teacher’s name was Mr. Defoe. He had a bald head and wore a white shirt, striped tie, black trousers, and black wingtip shoes.

There’s a knock at the door. This is typical. There’s always a knock at the door. A driver from Fed-Ex offers me an envelope in exchange for a signature. He smiles, comments on the weather, thanks me, and skips back to the van like he’s done me a great favor. I sit at the desk and calculate that I’ve just paid fifteen bucks for the privilege of being interrupted. The coffee’s cold.

The school was generations old: dark wood, flaking paint, blackboard pitted and gouged so the chalk broke in Mr. Defoe’s hand. The tall windows were greasy from city air.

I tinker with the last sentence. The windows started out “fogged with city breath” but I had something dirtier in mind, so I changed “fog” to “grease” and decided not to personify the city but just give it dirty air.

I need to pee. I take along my cup to fill in the kitchen.

While I stand in front of the toilet I think of a writer who spoke years ago at the university where I was a graduate student. He was South Asian, a famous guy, and we all wanted to meet him. At the party afterward, I remember watching him talk with one of the professors. The famous writer had a glass in his hand, and as he listened he kept sipping from the glass though there wasn’t any more whiskey in it, just ice. He chewed on chunks of ice, spoke occasionally, and otherwise nodded at whatever was being said. His lips curled into an attentive frown as he chewed. It seemed such a human thing to do, his chewing on ice, and it surprised me because he was such an admired figure, hardly human at all.

Why I think of him now after so many years I don’t know, except maybe my stance in front of the toilet reminded me of his in front of that professor.

Back at my desk I pick up where I left off.

The girl, in contrast to Mr. Defoe, was blonde and small and sunny. She wore a skirt and blouse and penny loafers with shiny pennies in their eyes.

Those two sentences take all of half a minute to type. I read them over. Then a gurgling noise from the bathroom draws my attention. You must think me lavacentric, if that’s a word. I’m not. It’s just that the bathroom is near the study, and I use it often because of all the coffee I drink. I jiggle the handle and return to my desk.

She had slightly crooked front teeth—a tiny, distinctive flaw that made everything else about her perfect. She smiled almost all the time but was self-conscious of her teeth, so she’d smile and then wrap her upper lip around them in a bashful way, like she was trying to hide her smile.

I read that over. The work so far today has taken half an hour. It’s all descriptive. Straight forward. Nothing fancy. I like the bit about her smile. It’s the best of what I’ve written today, and it came by accident. I didn’t set out to write it, wasn’t thinking of her smile when I started.

Now the kid two doors north has begun to practice his drums. He would, wouldn’t he? It’s two-thirty in the afternoon, which seems early. But there he is. He’s beating away without rhythm. It sounds like a lot of stuff that’s been piled on shelves in their garage is crashing to the concrete floor, only it keeps crashing.

It’s time to take the dog for a walk.

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

I think writerhead is a matter of getting lost. You need to set off in one direction and then, sometime later, find yourself somewhere else. In that sense writing is like walking.

It is pointless, while walking, to intend to get lost. The intention itself keeps track of where you are. I’ve tried to get lost. I write about place and space, and several times I’ve thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to get lost and see what that’s like, to find my way back. Can’t be done. I’ve been lost, of course, just not by intention. I think it’s just as pointless and for the same reasons to try to get lost while writing.

You can, however, let it happen. You can allow intention to lapse, just as you can wander into an unfamiliar forest and walk and walk, thinking about other things and, after a while, find yourself lost. It happens to people two or three times a year in the forests near where I live. They go in, lose track of where they are, and they’re lost.

I think it’s important to get lost while writing. At the risk of sounding Taoist, you can’t find your way unless at first you’re lost. The kind of writing I do is always a matter of finding my way. I seldom know where I am. And it is relatively easy to get lost while writing (without really trying) because, let’s face it, there’s so little at stake. We can always decide that what we’ve written while finding our way is nonsense, and then we can toss it in the trash.

BIO: John Colman Wood teaches at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. His research with Gabra nomads of Northeast Africa has been funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the National Geographic Society, and the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. His fiction has appeared in Anthropology and Humanism. He has twice won the Ethnographic Fiction Prize of the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. He is the author of When Men Are Women: Manhood among Gabra Nomads of East Africa (University of Wisconsin Press, 1999). Before becoming an anthropologist, Wood was a journalist.

To learn more, visit John’s blog Im/placed: Identities in space and place or his publisher’s site at Ashland Creek Press.

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Stacy Bierlein

A hearty Writerhead Wednesday welcome to Stacy Bierlein, author of the short story collection A Vacation on the Island of Ex-Boyfriends. I’ve known Stacy since we did our MFAs together way back when at Columbia College in Chicago, and I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity to share her very sexy, rather hot, laugh-out-loud-and-shake-your-head collection. As Pam Houston says, “These are stories that will make you laugh, and long for, and challenge, and think.”

Now, pull your chair close and lean in. Listen.

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

Writerhead typically arrives unannounced. It might very well refuse to come when summoned. Ideally writerhead shows up in my office, early in the morning, when birds sing in the canyon and I can shut the rest of the world away; or in the coffee shop, bursting in with the rush of the caffeine, spurred on by the bustle and voices around me. These days writerhead might hurry in late at night, keeping me wide awake while the rest of the house sleeps, sometimes determined to stay until sunrise. Writerhead willingly accepts blame for dark circles under my eyes. I like writerhead as a travel companion. Sometimes stories take shape on airplane napkins or hotel memo pads and that feels good and right. Writerhead disappears completely when I am stressed out or overwhelmed. It may go missing for months at a time, but reappears to find all forgiven.

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.)

In the years before I became a parent, I could fight hard to keep writerhead around as long as possible; to protect it from threats of interruptions. If the writing was going well I would do anything not to give it up, often to the frustration of my husband who can probably recall a hundred not-quite-conversations like this:

Ned: Your phone is ringing.

Stacy: I have voice mail for a reason.

Ned: Your phone is ringing again.

Stacy: Whomever it is will call or text my cell if it is urgent.

Ned: Your cell phone is turned off.

Stacy: Switch it on if you have a death wish.

Ned: Did you even hear the doorbell?

Stacy: Of course not! How many times do I have to explain this? I am not actually here!

Ned: Your flight leaves in two hours.

Stacy: There will be another one.

Ned: Sean Penn just ran across the street naked.

Stacy: Did you say something?

Ned: Have you heard a word I’ve said all day?

Stacy: Huh?

But writerhead is no match for a seven-year-old. These days I will forsake writerhead at the sound of my daughter’s voice, even if I always try to beg a few minutes more. My daughter will say, “Mommy, I need your help.” I’ll say, “I need two minutes and then I am all yours.” Thirty seconds later (or so it seems) she will say, “Mommy, your minutes are taking forever!” And writerhead takes a timeout.

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

Writerhead is the morning after the first time with a new lover. It is the warm and cold of the next day, the anxious heart filled with wonder. It is the assurance that words and gestures link together and pull and push and need—the stunning recollection that sentences linger. It is a jumble of memory, the uncertain order of events, the jolt of newness, of rearranging. It is comfort as well as surprise. It is complexity and vigor and fear. It is a suspension of time, a dance, the keeping and the letting go, and a resilient whisper of his lips on your neck.

BIO: Stacy Bierlein is the author of A Vacation on the Island of Ex-Boyfriends. She is the editor of the award-winning anthology A Stranger Among Us: Stories of Cross Cultural Collision and Connection and a co-editor of Men Undressed: Women Writers and the Male Sexual Experience. She is a founding editor of the independent press Other Voice Books and co-creator of the Morgan Street International Novel Series. She holds degrees from Syracuse University and Columbia College Chicago. A native of mid-Michigan, she now lives in Newport Coast, California.

Follow Stacy on Twitter (@StacyBierlein). Say hello on Facebook. Get to know her publisher too.

Expat Sat: Travel Writing Scholarship

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


This is such an amazing writing opportunity for some youngster or oldster who fits the criteria. Check it out. (Please note that all information has been taken from Travel Writing Scholarship. I’m just sharing the goodness.)

 

DESCRIPTION:

“Do you want to be a published travel writer?

“This year we decided to shake things up a bit and instead of choosing just one country for our scholarship…we’ve decided to send you off to three different countries in Southeast Asia! Once on the ground, you’ll have the opportunity to see for yourself life beyond the banana pancake trail, and get to know Southeast Asia from the local perspectives, through the eyes of three amazing writers.

“Here’s the triple-dip deal:

“First you’ll head off to Singapore to go on assignment for five days under the mentorship of Rough Guides writer Richard Lim to review and update ‘The Rough Guide to Singapore’.

“Then you’ll fly to Bali and meet up with Stuart McDonald, founder of Travelfish, the online travel guide to Southeast Asia, before heading off on six days of cultural insight and adventure in Indonesia.

“For the last leg of the scholarship, you will be whisked off to Malaysia for a food odyssey through Kuala Lumpur and Penang with former local and cookbook author of award winning hsa*ba Burmese cookbook, Tin Cho Chaw, to explore how cuisine shapes the lives of Malaysians.”

HOW TO ENTER:

To enter, you must:

  1. write and submit a 2,000-word essay
  2. fill out and submit an entry form

Topics and details are here.

PRIZE

See description above.

DEADLINE:

April 23, 2012 (Write! Write!)

WHO CAN APPLY:

* This opportunity is open to students, emerging and non-professional writers and lovers of travel looking for a career change.

* The scholarship is open to all nationalities, however, you must have a high degree of proficiency in written English.

* The opportunity is designed to give you a taste of what it’s like to be a travel writer on the road, so you must be comfortable doing some travel on your own.

* Minimum age 18 by the date the scholarship application close (April 23, 2012)

* A current passport with at least six months before expiry

* You must be available as per the dates set out. Please note these dates are not changeable in anyway, you must be available for the entire assignment.

* You should be an exceptional writer with a lust for adventure travel, a desire to experience new cultures (and eat them!)and above all, a burning desire to become a professional travel writer!

THE KICKER:

None that I can see.

THE UPSIDE:

Duh.

ADVICE:

Check out the Travel Writing Scholarship. There’s lots more information there. Then get busy and write.

_____

Image: worradmu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mojo Monday: A Writing Mantra Word Scramble

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.


Prophecy: If you can unscramble one of my most effective writing mantras, you will have a good writing day.

sear

ni

rhiac

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Jacqueline Luckett

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 first learned about Jacqueline Luckett (and her new novel Passing Love) at Carleen Brice‘s blog White Readers Meet Black Writers…one of my go-to sites for good book recommendations. As I clicked from link to link—ultimately landing on Jacqueline’s website—I became more and more intrigued. There’s just something about this woman’s voice that draws you in (you’ll see what I mean below). By the time I’d absorbed the fact that Passing Love is about a woman who leaves her home country for another…and that it explores the world of expatriates in Paris…I knew I had to hear about Jacqueline’s writerhead. (If you follow this blog at all, you know I’m a sucker for anything expatriate.)

So, readers, settle back. You’re in for a glorious ride…

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

Like a bad boy lover who knows he’s got me hooked waiting for his call, his email, his text, his touch, writerhead takes its own sweet time to visit. I hunger for its return. There are days when I sit in front of my computer for hours, pecking away at mindless, empty scenes. Waiting. Just waiting, like I might for the sound of a lover’s personalized ringtone. And then…

Sometimes it happens when I sit in silence. Sometimes, if I’m alone, with others around me (cafés, writing retreats, and the like), writerhead comes swiftly. It spreads through my body like too many glasses of fine wine. It makes my blood rush in my ears, makes its way around my head, pushes words and scenes back down to my fingertips making them want to fly.

Thankfully, my State of Writerhead isn’t limited to my time in front of the computer. I can slip into it as I walk down the street or eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations or people-watch and lipread. Sometimes, I don’t know that I’ve slipped into writerhead until I’ve left it and sometimes not even then. Is that daydreaming? Does it matter? It did the time I wanted to use a sentence I found in my notes and couldn’t.

I keep track of new words and sentences that come to me in these moments that I’m in deep. The magical moment, for me, is when I’m able to take notes, observe, and create at the same time. Right then and there, I scribble notes and fuss because I’ve forgotten my notebook. So, I capture my thoughts on whatever is handy: notebooks, napkins, magazines, and newspapers. (I have several notes written on funeral programs.) Eventually, I file them, or retype and store them in a computer folder.

While writing Passing Love, I came across a wonderful sentence in one of those files. I loved the sentence. I wanted to use it in the novel. I loved its power and daring composition. Damn, it was good! I readied myself for the wonderful prose sure to follow this inspiration.

The note was typed, not handwritten. I waited.

The perfect sentence stood alone in the middle of a page. I couldn’t remember if I had written that sentence or if it was a quote from another author.

I couldn’t remember then.

I don’t remember now.

That is my state of writerhead: a fog, a spell from fairy dust, a missing moment. The precious time of getting lost in my head, of digging and seeing the furrow deepen, of writing sentences, paragraphs, and scenes where I have fallen so far into my imagination, that I don’t recognize my own words. I dearly love that time.

It doesn’t last long enough, and it doesn’t come everyday. But, ahhhh, when it does…

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.)

My mother will be ninety in the fall. Whenever my phone’s Caller ID displays her number, I answer regardless of what state I’m in.

“Are you busy?” This she asks, on nearly every call, after having chatted for five minutes about the weather, her last doctor’s appointment, or a tennis match.

“No.” Catholic school guilt lingers—I must follow the fourth commandment: Honor thy father and mother. I breathe. I wait. I listen.

She tells me what else is happening in her life. There are days when she calls because a friend has died, and she’s fretting over that loss and her own mortality. Maybe the cable company increased her bill by $1.49 and she’s fussing over that charge.

After we hang up, the lost writerhead state may or may not return. No matter. It’s my mom, and I love her. I smile and feel grateful that she’s still in my life.

But any one else? Any one whose call I happen to answer out of reflex or expectation of my mother’s follow-up call? Anyone who asks—knowing that writing occupies most of my day—“What are you doing?” and I realize that I shouldn’t have answered the phone…

I GET CRANKY @#$*!!!

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

For me, writerhead is like falling into a pink cotton candy machine with no awareness of body or possible harm: whirling and whirling, bumping and gathering the soft, wispy, delicious matter, until my head is full and fat. Just enjoying the sticky spin.

BIO: After leaving the corporate world, Jacqueline Luckett took a creative writing class on a dare, from herself, and began writing short stories and poetry and never looked back. The Northern California native travels as often as she can to nurture her passion for photography and exotic foods. Her essay, “Traveling with Ghosts,” was included in Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011. She is the author of two novels, Passing Love and Searching for Tina Turner.

Lucky for you there are all kinds of ways to connect with Jacqueline. Follow her on Twitter (@JackieLuckett). Visit her author page on Facebook. You can even subscribe to her newsletter.

 

Expat Sat: Speeding Around the World

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


I’m curious…how does this video make you feel? What does it inspire you to write? Do? Where does it inspire you to go?

Me?

I’m off to commune with the elephants…

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Jessica Keener

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.


Ssshhhh!

Today we’re stepping into the writerhead of luminous author Jessica Keener, whose novel Night Swim has stirred readers/writers/critics everywhere into a delightful tizzy.

Now it is a little dark in here so turn on your flashlights. And remember, do not take any unmarked paths or make any sudden movements. The results could be disastrous.

All right…let’s go.

 

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

Early morning is my best time for entering writerhead. First thing after coffee at my desk, and sometimes from my couch writing longhand, it’s easy to slip into that particular weightlessness that is writerhead. My body releases gravity and rises or drifts to a place that is no place. It’s also soundproof from external noises around me. Or, if I hear those outside noises, they soon grow distant and meaningless. In writerhead, I float down pathways of time and no time, visiting memories, thoughts, and feelings. I float and dip, hover and circle through colors, lights, smells, shapes, voices, images, conversations. There is no direction and all direction. In writerhead, my internal satellite opens wide to the universe—my psychic ear listening far and close for story waves, phrases of narratives, wafts of dialogue all of which funnel through my body, down my arm and fingers onto the computer screen or page.

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

If someone interrupts me, at first I might try to talk to them while staying in writerhead. This kind of talking is almost hypnotic. When it becomes apparent to the other person that I’m not truly listening to them or answering sensibly, the resulting internal/external dissonance yanks me out of my trance. It’s like pulling myself out of taffy. At that point, unfortunately, I tend to snap and bark at the interrupting person—what do you want? What? I’m writing! My head feels shaken. I feel disoriented and displaced. I am not kind. I behave badly.

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

In writerhead, I become an invisible capsule gliding across plains of time and space; pausing at will to witness and experience the most intimate emotions and thoughts between lovers, friends, families, and strangers.

BIO: Jessica Keener’s fiction has been listed in The Pushcart Prize under “Outstanding Writers.” Her stories and novel excerpts have appeared in numerous literary magazines and online, most recently: Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Night Train, The Nervous Breakdown, Wilderness House Literary Review, The Huffington Post. Writing awards include: a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist’s Grant Program and second prize in Redbook magazine’s fiction contest. For more than a dozen years she has been a features writer for The Boston Globe, Design New England, O, the Oprah magazine and other national magazines. She reads fiction for the award-winning Agni magazine.

If you’re intrigued by Jessica and Night Swim—and how could you not be?—shimmy on over to her web site. Say hello. Buy a copy her novel. Send messages of faith and devotion. Or give her a thumbs-up at these writerly watering holes: Twitter (@JessicaKeener4) and Facebook.

Mojo Monday: Mark Grist’s “Girls Who Read”

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.


Have you watched spoken word poet Mark Grist perform?

Whhhaaaattt? No?

Oy! Here’s your chance. This is Grist on why he likes girls who read. I love this! (And once you’ve watched, hunker down with a topic about which you’re passionate. Riff on it. Writerhead! Writerhead! Writerhead!)