• April is National Poetry Month!

    Prose writers can click here to find one way to honor their poetry fellows. See what Pacific Northwest poets are doing in April here.
  • I’m a writer, too!

    On 12.01.09, I estimated that I had about 32,000 words left to write to complete my first draft of the opening book in my paranormal mystery series, THE LOST & FOUND.

    Here's my progress updated 2.12.10:

    33% of 32,000 (10,648 wds)
  • INTRODUCING… Writer’s Rainbow Gift Certificates! The perfect gift for the writer in your life!

  • PAC NW LITERATI

  • Archives

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 5 other followers

  • Advertisements

April Monthly Dispatch: How prose writers can honor National Poetry Month

… Pick up a pencil, not a laptop

I think of myself as an accidental poet. I have written and published poems over the last 10 years, but I’ve never studied it to the extent that my serious, hard-core poet friends have. Sure, I took a (great!) poetry workshop and it helped me a lot, but if I were hard-pressed to know why my poems worked, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I just know that learning to write poetry has made me a better fiction writer.

[more]

Advertisements

Conquering Procrastination: Part Four of Four

PART FOUR
Things you can do to conquer procrastination

 ___________

This short blog series is designed to help you identify habits that lend to procrastination, to help you understand why you have fallen into these habits, and to offer you an action agenda for dealing with it. I know it’s only November, but now’s a great time to be thinking about New Year’s resolutions for your writing life. Certainly, procrastination is high on the list of many creative people. Why not prepare to cast off bad habits and begin new ones today?

___________

Things you can do to avoid procrastination

  • Break down your manuscript into smaller components and tackle each component individually, one at a time. (This is the “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day” approach.) You can write anything to completion in just 15 minutes a day by doing this.
  • Give yourself rewards for completion of unpleasant tasks. In example: “If I write 10,000 words toward my novel, I will take myself shopping for ___________.”
  • Make a blueprint of all the tasks you need to undertake to finish your manuscript. Rank them in order of importance to you (sometimes they rank themselves naturally because some need to be done before others can be done). Then set some completion goals (with dates and times, if possible) for each of these tasks. Be reasonable with the amount of time you expect each will take and forgive yourself if you take longer than expected. Being flexible will keep you on course until you can master a strong sense of how long things take to complete. As long as you’re working, you’re not procrastinating, and that is the ultimate goal: the get things done.
  • Allow yourself some time every day to weigh and make decisions. Sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough time to consider our options and then, when we are pressed to make decisions, we flail. Even 10 minutes a day spent looking at your To Do List and making decisions for that day alone can help tremendously.
  • Creative visualization really does work. Regularly daydream about succeeding at your project. Enjoy the positive feelings that come with visualizing success. Then imagine what it will take to accomplish your project. Check in on your visualizations at any time, and especially when you feel yourself faltering. (This is the “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” approach.)
  • Remember that setting out to write (and to publish) anything is a courageous act of faith. Don’t forget to consciously assign real value to your work. Do you know anyone who can do what you are doing? Probably not. Reminding yourself that what you do has unique value and durable meaning can go a long way to motivating you to your work’s completion.
  • Set up your working and/or creating environment in such a way as to minimize distractions. Don’t answer the phone (land line or cell) when you write. Don’t answer email all day long; choose specific times of the day just for these sorts of tasks, then get in, get out and let it collect offline. Turn off IM. Log off the web. Eliminate unnecessary noise and/or encounters with other people as much as possible. This may mean scheduling work time with a sign on your door that says “writer at work” so that others around you know to leave you alone. Be protective of your writing time, space and energy; if you aren’t protective of it, who will be?
  • Delegate certain tasks to others whenever possible. Sometimes we all just have too many things on our plate. Set loose those optional tasks you do out of obligation but  which only consume your time and don’t feed you. This is especially important for women, as we tend to take on unpaid, unrewarded roles out of a need to satisfy social expectations. You don’t have to be part of the PTO to be a good mom, for instance. Share your tasks with others who are better able to do it or who are more available. It is never a sign of weakness to ask for help.
  • Ask a friend to check up on you as a way to keep you accountable to your tasks. Taking a class that demands weekly homework is another way to do this. Meet with a friend to write, and then stick to that schedule.
  • Schedule periods of time that are strictly for writing and all its related tasks, if you are able. This is how Toni Morrison wrote her novels when she was a single working mother raising young children.
  • Also, just as important: schedule downtime. The working brain, like working muscles, needs quality rest. For downtime, choose activities that are relaxing and invite laughter and stress relief, such as exercise and socializing. Meditate, garden, bake, make other kinds of art, read, build jigsaw puzzles, play Sudoku.
  • Sandbag your schedule. If you’re most productive at the beginning of the week, schedule more writing time then. If you are most productive in evenings or on weekends, choose those times for scheduled writing. Figure out when you are most energetic and productive as a writer and shape your schedule to maximize this.
  • Visualize what happens if you don’t do the work of writing the book. That’s actually a way to assign positive reinforcement to your goals: if you can see what the price is you’ll be paying for not doing the work, you’ll be more likely to get the work done to avoid unpleasant consequences.
  • Sometimes writers get bogged down in lots of small tasks that still need completion. Take one day every couple of weeks and tend to these nagging details. Do them, one after the other. Completing them will make you feel like you’re accomplishing something (because you are) and alleviate some of the weight that comes with the task of writing. There’s evidence that striking things off the To Do List generates a sense of chemical well-being in the brain; treat yourself when you can!
  • Remind yourself that if you can talk, if you can think… then you can write.
  • If you panic at the presence of a blank page, sit inside that panic for a few minutes. Recognize how it comes on. Understand that fear is self-limiting. It comes on, it lingers, and then it fades. Knowing this makes it possible for you to own the fear. Say, “This is my fear. It happens to me sometimes. It’s all mine and of my own creation. But it has not destroyed me, it has just delayed me because I have allowed it to.” And then tell it to go away, you have work to do. Literally. Once you own your fear, you can tell it what to do. Try it.
  • Take notice of other places in your life where you procrastinate. Awareness is the first step to combating all sorts of personal bad habits, including procrastination.
  • Remember this: You’ll never know what you can do if you don’t do it. The lesson here is this: Living in regret is far more damaging than the wounds of other people’s judgments or a failed writing project (which is still a step toward something better).

Feel free to share your solutions to the pervasive problems that procrastination presents in the comments section below. I’d love to hear what other ways you’ve been able to keep your manuscripts on target!

See Also:
Conquering Procrastination─Part One of Four:
“Indicators that you’re procrastinating”

Conquering Procrastination─Part Two of Four:
“Reasons why you might be procrastinating”

Conquering Procrastination─Part Three of Four:
“Lies we tell ourselves”

Public Domain Image: “Three Little Pigs: Third Pig Builds a House” by L. Leslie Brooke, from The Golden Goose Book, 1905. Courtesy Project Gutenberg.

Quick Q&A with “…Inappropriate” author Daniel Nester

dnester

Daniel Nester

I met Daniel Nester last February at an AWP panel we shared on the subject of Web 2.0 for the literary crowd. He’s not only a master of literary Internet integration but a funny guy and great writer. To launch this new monthly feature, Quick Q&A, I open with the author of the very recently launched nonfiction book, How to Be Inappropriate. 

 

[Note to fans, inappropriati, and would-be nuisances: When you buy a copy of HTBI and send this PDF coupon, along with the book, to Daniel Nester’s home, he will not only sign your book and return it to you, but include an official How to Be Inappropriate whoopee cushion in the bargain. That’s right: inflate one of these puppies and let the faux farts fly! While supplies last.  Address: Daniel Nester/HTBI, 170 Adams Street, Delmar, NY 12054]  

QUICK Q&A with Daniel Nester

Writer’s Rainbow:  You reference a good deal of pop culture in your essays. Advice previously given to writers has typically discouraged the mentioning the artifacts of popular culture in their works. Does this “rule” no longer apply? What would you say to writers who want to explore pop culture themes in their own work?

Daniel Nester: Who gives this crappy advice? I have climbed this mountain already. Back in graduate poetry school, my workshop members—not by teachers, mind you, but a good-sized cohort of students—considered allusions or mentions of popular culture as somehow beneath the endeavor of writing a poem. What a lot of us did back then—this is 15 years ago—was to write cross-genre-type pieces that would get us off the poetry hook, what I call the bugaboo of addressing the ages.  I remember one night that I was workshopping a piece that mentions—just mentions—the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album.  And there were people who said the mention “took them out” of the poem, that a poem is meant to be forever, but the Beach Boys is somehow fleeting. Set aside that Pet Sounds is one of the landmark works of art of the 20th Century; this was the mindset.
 
Then the late Williams Matthews, filling in for Galway Kinnell that evening, took a stab at the issue. “What did posterity do for us lately?” It just filled me with joy.  Ever since that night, I didn’t worry about whether a piece of writing was going to be immortal because it mentions power ballads.  So that’s my advice is: Go ahead and talk about your world, continue your “search for local objects” as William Carlos Williams calls it.  And don’t worry about whether your work is above or beneath or highbrow or lowbrow.  That’s for other, far more fastidious and precise people to decide.
 
WR: Of course, there are other rules, about “polite living,” that you also—perhaps wantonly?—violate as the author of How to Be Inappropriate (such as, “Do not discuss body parts in mixed company”). It would be easy for the casual reader to assume that all you really want to do with this book is shock them, with otherwise socially unacceptable content, through the use of humor. Could you explain some of the other impulses that led you to write this book? 

DN: It’s not a primary intention to shock, although I can see that happening and that’s fine. It gets people’s attention.  What I wanted to do with this book, at least in part, is to write honestly about moments that I always talk about: embarrassing moments, human moments, too-much-information moments.  It’s those moments when I feel the most alive, frankly.  They’re pastoral in the sense that everyone has moments when they feel prone or naked or ambiguous.  The essay I wrote on mooning, I think, is a good example of this.  Butts are funny, sure, and showing one’s butt to another person is a ritualized practice that spans millennia. There’s more than meets the eye when we talk about naked assplay. It’s a subject that should be interrogated as seriously as movements of symphonies.
 
WR: You’re an assistant professor of English specializing in creative nonfiction at The College of St. Rose in Albany, NY. Do you teach specific themes in your classes that advocate the kind of risk-taking that regularly inhabits your own writing?
 
DN: Yes and no. Of course, I don’t think it’s necessarily taking risks to write about what most embarrasses you, or makes you feel the most tender, or feels the most wrong or heretical. It’s an avenue that needs to be explored, however, and at least presented as an option. Whether one writes about, say, a sexual proclivity in detailed language is not everyone’s cup of tea, for sure; the challenge, it seems to me, is if a writer wants to write about it one some level without going all brass tacks.  That’s usually the case, actually.
 
And that’s why I use the term T.S. Eliot made famous: objective correlative.  If you have a crush on that dude in the other class, or if you have problems with your girlfriend, and you don’t want to write about it, fine.  But if you do, then you have other options than simply describing the situation.  You can describe the scene, the sky, the weight of your stomach.
 
I’ll tell you a story.  One day we were workshopping a student’s memoir piece.  It was a conversation between she and her boyfriend about moving in together to another town, far from college, to be near his work.  This student had a great ear for dialogue; there was back-and-forth, there was some narration, but it was mostly dialogue.  And we all knew it needed something more.
 
So I asked the student, “Where was this discussion happening?” And she paused to think, and then her cheeks turned read, so I knew something was up.  “It happened in the shower,” she said. And I just so appreciated that moment: they were literally and metaphorically naked while this Big Talk was going down! Her revisions were just awesome.  She’s holding her pink razor while she presented her reservations about moving, there’s water, they hand each other towels.  Tiny moments, intimate moments. 
 
WR: Writers are often fearful that someone will find old drafts of their work and discover they’re not as stellar as, say, their breakout novel suggests. However, at your
website, you happily display all the projects you’d once attempted but never brought to a successful conclusion. Why did you do this, and what can other writers learn from it?
 
DN: I do it because some failures have a certain charm, and sometimes the first idea is the best, or at least the first impulse, or the one people react most to.  I wrote my first book, God Save My Queen, as notes to each song by my favorite rock band, Queen, as I listened to them in chronological order.  I thought I was doing research for some straightforward memoir project, but I found the notes themselves were really the project.  I revised them after that, sure.  But it took me years and years to respect the initial impulses of my writing and then help shepherd it to the final stages. 
 
WR: You not only write creative nonfiction, but poetry and journalism. What would you tell writers who are interested in writing outside their chosen forms?
 
DN: Do it!  Creative nonfiction and journalism have been very, very good to me, as far as publication and teaching opportunities go.  Poetry is my first love, sure; I feel like I am more of a fan now than practitioner.  But I would have never gotten to the kind of writing I do now without writing poetry first. I wish I could say that it’s improved my poems, but I haven’t written one in awhile.  But I am thinking about it. I really am.
 

MORE INFO:
Daniel Nester |
http://www.danielnester.com
Coming this fall: How to Be Inappropriate
http://www.howtobeinappropriate.com
Twitter: @DanielNester
Teaching blog:
http://nestersteaching1.blogspot.com/ 

 

Live writing workshops for Kitsap WriMos and bloggers via the Park District!

ATTENTION National Novel Writing Month participants (aka “Wrimos”) and newer bloggers! If you live in Kitsap County or the downtown Seattle area, please consider enrolling in the different workshops I now offer live through the Bainbridge Island Metro Parks and Recreation District.

THIS SATURDAY! Four spots left!
Blogging 101 for Writers (BIMPRD #523310, $40), Sat Oct 10, 10am-3pm
Now’s the time to get that blog started! I’ll help you set up a WordPress blog and give you tips for writing, managing and maintaining content.

SIGN UP THIS WEEK! Starts Sun Oct 18!
Team Rainbow! National Novel Writing Month clinic (BIMPRD #523311, $80), Sun Oct 18-Dec 6, 1-3pm *no class 11/29
Ready to take on the task of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days? Let me help you get there. I’ve succeeded twice and am a better writer for it. 

Complete class citations on page 15 of this Park District PDF

BIMPRD landing page with registration instructions and log in

Last day to sign up for the Inner Critic workshop and the first session of Content Builder for Bloggers! (plus, $25 savings if you register for the whole series)

I have a few spaces still open in two classes, and registration ends this weekend for both of them. Don’t delay!

Silencing the Critic [WRAIN 500] is an interactive online workshop where participants share their struggles in dealing with those voices inside them that keep them from being the most creative people they can be. We all have an inner critic; mine has the voice of a friend who made a judgmental comment about some new work I’d done at a tender moment in the development of my craft… I’ve heard her voice ever since. No one can completely excommunicate their inner critic; however, together, we can find ways to strip them of their influence. This workshop is all about creative problem-solving and shared solutions.
Class Info  ||  Sign Up Now

Content Builder for Bloggers [WRAIN 303 series] is a series of three 3-session workshops that can be taken “a la carte” or as a package. These are what I call Theory/Practice workshops: I give you the theory behind the development of certain kinds of content, and then your job is to apply that content in practice to your own blogs. This is one way I can practically guarantee that you will have at least one new blog post a week while you’re enrolled! Students interact with each other by way of comments directly applied at your blog site, so not only do you get the practice of writing new kinds of blog content, but you have the opportunity to gain new readers and heighten the interactivity of your blog. If this appeals to you, I can make two recommendations:

  • Sign up for the first 3 sessions now (TODAY IS THE DEADLINE!) and try it out. If you like the experience, you can sign up for consecutive sessions as you go along. Or,
  • Sign up for the entire series (9 sessions in total) and save $25.  This offer expires today!
    Class Info  ||  Sign Up Now

Interview with author Jennifer Culkin


Bookmark and Share

I am more fascinated than ever with creative nonfiction. Whether it’s memoir, a collection of personal essays, or creative journalism, the narratives of people’s lives inspire and inform me in ways that straightforward biography simply doesn’t.

Recently I read an amazing collection of personal essays by local author, Jennifer Culkin. Her book, A Final Arc of Sky, recounts her experiences as a critical care nurse and life-flight medic within the framework of her life as a working mother with multiple sclerosis. I found the depth of her narrative astounding and truly appreciated the intimacy of her essays because they illuminated a lifestyle I’ll never be privy to myself.

Today I offer an interview I recently conducted with Jennifer; we chatted quite a bit about the writing life in general, and what follows are insights into her world that readers of the Writer’s Rainbow blog are sure to glean something from.

———

An Interview with author Jennifer Culkin, author of the memoir, A Final Arc of Sky

Writer’s Rainbow: What is the greatest pleasure you take from writing?

Jennifer Culkin: It feels like a form of wrestling to me—muscular, up-close engagement with feelings, ideas and language.  When I sit down, I usually have something sitting in my gut that has arrested my attention in some way, but I don’t know exactly what there is to say about it.  I write in part to discover—with as much precision and specificity as I can—what there is to say about it.  Tremendously satisfying.  It hits any number of sweet spots.

WR: Do you have a particular weakness in your skill set or process that continues to hound you as a writer?

JC: Oh, there are a lot of things.  The worst is that when a deadline is coming up I’m a horrible procrastinator, and ultimately that’s as painful as ripping out fingernails.  But I don’t know how to change that about myself.  I’ve tried all sorts of schedules and mind-games but the writer in me seems to be a balky teenager who wants to sleep late.  Sigh. And I’m a slow writer.  That’ll never change. 

I’d also like to write a novel, but I’m not a great plotter.  I do think I have potential to improve in that area—it could be fun to make the effort to improve in that area.  And I’m sick of my own tics as a writer.  If I’m boring myself, I’m boring the reader.

WR: You’re a busy working mom. Are you an everyday writer, or do you just write when you can fit it into your schedule?

JC: When I work at the hospital, my day starts at 4:30 AM and I don’t get home until about 9:15 PM; work is a fast trot/total immersion for twelve hours and there generally isn’t a minute available on those days, unless I were to try to jam something into a notebook at lunch. 

Usually I do a desultory crossword puzzle at lunch and luxuriate in the sensation of sitting down.  But those long days enable me to work 2-3 days per week instead of 4-5.  I do write something every day I don’t work—whatever I feel like writing unless I’m under a deadline.  When no deadline is looming, I amuse myself.

WR: What’s your favorite writing “situation”—where and when do you like to work best, and with what tools?

JC: I’m a computer girl.  I love the glowing blue-blank page, the tactile click of the keys, and my process is completely dependent on the ability to edit as I go.  I don’t know what will happen if the end of the world comes and the lights go out permanently.  Or if MS worsens to the point I can’t type.  I dread that day.  But I suppose I’d adapt, like people do.  

I have an office-loft that overlooks the living room in my home, and because of the office chair and adjustable computer screen it’s physically the most comfortable place to write for hours—my neck and shoulders thank me.  But the informality of the laptop in other locales also has its little siren call.  Once I’m engaged with what I’m writing—once I’ve achieved escape velocity—I can do it anywhere with any amount of background noise.  Right now I’m sort of half watching the Tour de France.  Boys on bikes!

WR: Describe any writing rituals you might have.

JC: I always feel like writing first thing in the morning, so most days I do, right after I make the killer cup of coffee.  When I’m working on something serious, I put on these old black corduroy pants that have an elastic waistband and I sit down in my loft.  If I’m stuck or feeling particularly procrastinatory, I either journal about it so I can bitch to myself or I deal myself out three Tarot cards and divine my future.

WR: Do you ever play music while you write?

JC: I did it once—listened to Green Day’s American Idiot on my MP3 player while I worked on the “Night Vision” chapter of the book.  It was fun—almost addictive fun—but the voice in the chapter took on punk overtones.

WR: You’re an avid cyclist. Do you ever lose yourself in thoughts about writing while trekking around on your bike?

JC: I love riding because I can think about everything in the universe while my legs are busy.  The feel-good neurotransmitters start to flow and take the edge off everyday anxiety. 

I’ve also noticed that my physical abilities transiently improve when I engage in vigorous exercise.  The physical and biochemical changes that occur during exercise must make nerve impulse transmission more efficient across those damaged areas in my brain and spinal cord.  

It’s also my chance to listen to music as much as I want.  Mudhoney, anyone?  The straight life baby/has taken its toll/confined your mind and/stolen your souuullll…yup, it’ll get you up a hill.

WR: Your book, A Final Arc of Sky, is a memoir about your life as a critical care and life-flight nurse. However, you also interweave in the narrative your discovery of what would be the eventual diagnosis of MS.

I’m interested in the intersection where nursing, writing and multiple sclerosis meet: how does encountering each of these facets of your life inform the others in this trinity? Does nursing inform writing, does writing inform self-care for the MS, does the MS inform you as a nurse?

JC: Hmm, a complicated question.

Physically, for me at this stage, MS is like carrying around a 20-pound backpack all the time.  I’m not so severely impacted that I can’t do things I want to do, but my energy is extremely finite.  It goes, it goes!  It always goes before I’m ready for it to go.  My energy is like the caboose of the train I ran to catch, disappearing into the distance.  And once it goes my neurologic symptoms—dizziness, balance issues, tremor/fine-motor impairment, spasticity, deficits in memory and information processing—get worse, sometimes a lot worse.  Too tired for too long and I’m setting myself up for a flare—that happens about twice a year at present.  

So I have to husband my energy.  I can push myself—I’m the sort who will push herself—but sometimes that backfires.  It’s not always the right answer.  Critical-care nursing in my current setting is demanding physically, intellectually and emotionally, so I know two days a week I’m going to have to go all out for 12 hours, 17 if you count the commute. 

On one hand, I think it improves my endurance in the big picture, like cycling does.  My natural inclination as a person is to put out a huge, focused effort followed by sloth.  This is why 12-hour shifts in an intense specialty appeals to me.  In college and grad school, I was the type who wrote 30-page papers the day before they were due.  But now that sort of effort is often too much for me. 

I manage by working part-time.  I manage by having low domestic standards and expectations of myself.  We’re talking cracked paint and weeds.  I manage by living in the now.  I don’t know what my abilities will be later in the day, next week or next year.  I judge minute to minute what I can do and screw the rest, frankly.  When I truly CAN’T throw my leg over my bike or start an IV anymore, when it’s an absolute, then I will at least know I did it when I could.

Artistically, nursing uses a whole different area of my brain as opposed to writing.  It’s immediate, scientific-analytical, highly social, and cracks along at record speed.  Writing is both a physical and an emotional release from that.  It’s sedentary, solitary, ruminative and painstaking—I can give myself all the time in the world to sort it out and get it right. 

The way they balance each other is almost exquisite.  When I write I’m sitting down, physically resting, and I get a chance to think about what I’ve done.  A chance to think about all the little things that I noticed while I was taking care of patients, and while I was living life, but had no time to dwell on.  And writing is a safe place to explore my feelings about MS. 

My circle of family and friends is supportive, very supportive, but they have their own problems and in my estimation they shouldn’t have to worry about mine any more than I can help.  I don’t want to whine to them.  So I can have my unadulterated say about MS in a journal and it bothers nobody.

WR: You like to journal and it was your journaling that helped bring this book into existence. What piece of advice would you give to the would-be author who is considering a practice of journaling?

JC: You only have to please yourself when you’re journaling.  That’s the beauty of it.  Whatever your practice is, it should feel good—organic–to you. 

 If you have to force yourself to journal, then it might not be the right thing for you, or so says my sulky inner teenager.  Your journal should be a place of release and rest.  I have a lot of writer friends, and everyone’s idea of journaling seems to be different, which is great.  Some people only journal by hand, some people draw in their journals, some people collect tactile bits of life and stick them in their journals.  Some jot down cryptic phrases and ideas for development later.

My own journal is a place of focused play.  Extensive focused play, all in Word documents with weird little titles that clue me in to what I wrote about.  I zero in on something that intrigues me, bothers me, sticks with me in some way, and I tend to explore and develop the theme. 

I love tinkering with the craft of writing, with the language, punctuation and construction—it feels satisfying to do that, and in fact, that is how I become engaged each day in whatever I’m writing, I start by tinkering with what I’ve already written.  So my journal tends to be dense, to read like a piece I might publish, but I can be no-holds-barred honest and the pressure is completely off. 

I don’t journal with the idea that I’ll use any of it, but then I’ll find myself working on something and I’ll realize oh, I’ve already written about that.  I tell a story to myself in my journal, and sometimes I can then tell others the same story, or modify some of it for use.  

Writing is art, and art is not linear.  A journal isn’t linear, either.  So if your natural tendencies as a writer are anything like mine, this style of journaling might be useful to you.  It is time-consuming, though, without any certainty of payoff in the real world.

And a word about e-mails: I have some lovely, talented writer friends who are generous with their ears and their time, and I sometimes exchange pretty extensive e-mails with them.  This is one way I procrastinate, true, but sometimes there is good stuff in these e-mails and I can use it later.  Maybe you’re like me, and you can, too.

And one more thing. I talk myself through stuck places with journaling.  When I write, I have three documents open: the piece I’m working on, a document called “Outtakes” for phrases and paragraphs that need to come out in the short-term but that sometimes find a place later on, and a document called “Notes”.  “Notes” is for talking to myself and figuring out why I’m stuck.  Sometimes I’ll get on a jag in “Notes” and realize I’m not stuck anymore; I can cut and paste a whole section back into the piece and keep going.

WR: You won the Rona Jaffe prize last August for your memoir. Describe that experience.

JC: I was at work, having a busy day in the Emergency Department Observation Unit.  I checked my voicemail at lunch on June 30th last year and there was a message from Beth McCabe of the Rona Jaffe Foundation asking me to return her call.  It was 3pm here, and they’re on the East Coast, so it was too late to call her back, but I figured then I had won.  They never call if you lose; they send a thin letter. 

That was a moment of pure elation.  And over the next several months the Rona Jaffe Foundation was so good to the six of us who won.  They did their utmost to publicize and showcase us and our work, and I’m still using the $25,000 to supplement my income so I can work part-time instead of full-time.  The money is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing.

WR: What are you working on now?

JC: At this point, I’m a little fatigued, and I’m trying to figure out what might cohere into a second book.  I write most days as I always have, but I’m in a phase where nothing is linear and nothing seems to be adding up. There’s good compost, but no garden yet!

Fall 2009 online workshop schedule completed! Registration now open!


Bookmark and Share

Here’s a sneak preview of Writer’s Rainbow’s fall lineup of online classes. If you’re interested, sign up soon; class sized are limited and fill up quickly. For more information and to register: https://writersrainbow.wordpress.com/online-teaching/

CLASS PREVIEW

*Back to School, Back to Writing
Generative workshop for writers returning to the craft after an absence.
Registration Deadline Aug 26

*Blog Content Builder
Three (3-session) blocks of blog-building strategy sessions, to be taken separately or together, for bloggers looking for new ways to generate content.
Registration Deadlines: Sept session, Aug 29
                                                 Oct session, Oct 3
                                                 Nov session, Oct 24

*Rabbit’s Hat
Generative workshop for magical realist writers who are somewhat familiar with literary magical realism or speculative fiction.
Registration Deadline Sept 3

*Silencing the Critic
Live interactive strategies for managing the inner critic, supplemented with handouts from the instructor.
Registration Deadline Sept 13

*Prose Ekphrastika—”Strangeness”
Generative class using Ekphrastic method (writing inspired by works of art).
Registration Deadline Sept 24

*Wet Dog Stories
Revision strategies for short stories up to 2000 words in length.
Registration Deadline Sept 30

*Team Rainbow 2009! National Novel Writing Month clinic
Live online clinic for all writers interested in writing a first draft of a novel between the dates of Nov 1 and Nov 30. Team Rainbow is the code word for success! Supportive team effort makes this difficult challenge much more playful and manageable. Students must be willing to follow National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) rules, which include no pre-writing before Nov 1. Instructor offers tips, techniques and encouragement for getting through 30 days of intensive writing. Go Team Rainbow!
Registration Deadline: Oct 5