Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In Case You're Wondering. Day 14

Such a time lapse between posts, I know.


So sorry about that.

In my keen and wildly excited pre-class state,
I thought I'd have time to post here every day
AND focus on my homework memoir assignments.

Are you kidding me?

What was this writer thinking?
That it was going to be a cake walk?

Miss Lisa Dale Norton, patient instructor that she is,
told me she's being extra picky over my first piece
and am I Glad of it!
Seems my tenses are were all wacky.

(I will share all...soon.)
In my case, I'd say the learning curve 
has been sharper than a hairpin turn!

I feel turned in-side-out.
It's fun.  It's terrible. I wanna stay. I wanna quit.
All in the matter of 30 seconds of emotion.

I did learn that memoir writing
 in its most basic definition is
"a collection of memories."

Seems easy enough.
Yes, well, that's what I thought too.

But it's learning how to gather these memories and
turn them into 'finely detailed stories'
(as one of my classmates put it).

Stories that will draw the reader in and
make her feel that she's finally found someone who
understands and can, maybe, even show the way.

Ah...that's the rub.

All that to say...

Here's the plan... once the course is over
I will share my journey then.
I'll show you my homework... explain what I've learned...

Since this will occur 'after the fact'

it means I'll be sharing....
my own little 'collection of memories'.

I sure hope I learn something before then.

I'll be back...

PS.  Every time I look at the hour glass at the top,
it makes me think of a toddler bent over with her head between her legs.
Too funny!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Don't...Day 9

"D" is for Don't

 A great reminder, just sent from my sister,
penned by another great friend of writers, Anne Lamott,
as I mull, pencil chew, and begin jotting down
words and images for the next assignment:

Don't dream of getting published--
dream of writing a beautiful book, 
whose existence is helpful,
for its compassion, truth, humor.

~ Anne Lamott

Isn't this great?
It puts the horse back in front of the cart
and gives us eyes to see the right thing.


This is my new life and I'm writing to find the right words

Photo source:  morguefiles.com

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Memoir Class. Week 2


  Week One Done. Week Two Begins. 

My first 1,250 memoir assignment
was sent to my class forum last evening.

Am I smiling?

Once I remembered to write from that precise place I am right now
and to write as the person I am right now  --
Once I just relaxed and listened to the shimmering image
of the memory that came in the quiet  --

Then I felt the peace. And, yes the fun.

A learning time in a safe environment is fun.
Because we're given permission to explore without fear or shame.

What greater gift can there be...this freedom to write
where we are and who we are right now!
It takes the pressure off... can you feel it?

Now we wait for feedback from our instructor.
And from my classmates, for part of our homework
is to share our own responses to each other's work.     

At first I thought about posting my piece here for you,
but then realized it probably should stay within
my classroom setting at this stage.

It's a fragile place this new beginning.

So now that I've got my feet wet,
I'm off to muse about my next assignment
which is another 1,250 words of fresh memoir material.

I selected the photo above because I felt inspired by its autumnal loveliness.
That bench under the big tree is where I imagine I'm sitting.

A perfect place for dreamin'
A perfect spot to hear one's heart beat. To listen to the song it sings.

Photo source:  morguefiles.com

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Write From That Precise Place. Day 7

Two things can stop me from getting some writing done on a given day. Deciding what to write about, and then letting the first draft free flow from my right brain writer MINUS the cartload of censoring critics and organizing committees from my left brain writer/editor.  Both are needful but not at the starting gate.

As I stood at the brink of this memoir writing experience in Lisa Dale Norton's class, these two things show their faces...yet again.  Because, it is not from a lack of ideas, but from too many choices where I get stymied. And when I try to make a decision, then the other voices chime in with their opinions, and being a diplomat at heart, I see their point and think, well now that's a good idea too.

But this time, as I do have a deadline, I do have an instructor and classmates waiting for my input, plus I did put good money into this class, I knew I needed to push through. And decide.  Quick like a bunny, as my mom used to tell us.

Author and friend of writers Julia Cameron comes to the rescue with this quote: "Make art from the precise place we find ourselves." from Letters to a Young Artist, p. 11

Wherever we are as a person right now. (Mmm... Lisa just told us something similar...confirmation.) Whatever the mood, situation or memory trying to pull at our sleeve for attention. Whether I'm bored, tired, moody, sore, agitated, gleeful, or sad, write from that place! Just where I am right now...physically, emotionally and mentally.  So I don't have to work up a muse or inspiration.  Just be honest and write where I am right now. Okay, I can do that.

A second point Julia makes from her own experience,  "Give me something to write and I can always write it -- unless I'm trying to write it well. It's the 'well' that freezes an artist up." ibid, p. 12

In the first drafts, writing it 'well' is a killer. I know that for sure. But I am making great strides in forgetting the notion that it'll come out polished and well the first time. (Where on earth did we get such a notion in the first place?)

The essence, yes, may be there, or it may take a few 'first' drafts to sort out the piffle and get to what I really want to say.  Diamonds need mining, cutting, polishing. People rarely want them in their raw state. And readers are mind miners, they like their books crafted and honed and polished too. They value a diamond by its cut, colour, clarity. So too with readers, they look for the sparkle as light refracts across the pages.  So let's put on our miner's hat and start digging for the diamond we want to write.  And it will take time to perfect. That's okay, I can do this.

So we need I need to remember that these first few days of my memoir writing exercise needs to be free flow time, to let the imagery come up from my heart, emotions, and trigger spots. Just write it down as it comes. Typos and all.  It's easier to fix or change something when it's already there than to fiddle, fiddle, fiddle with the first sentence or paragraph and never get any further. Yes, I can do this too.

Another thing that seems to help me: If I can't get to the crux of where I want to begin and head towards, I look for a listening ear (or friendly email inbox) where I can just spill the beans in a relaxed way, as if I'm sharing a breezy chat over a coffee. Just explain it... no fancy words, no trying to be literary. It relaxes me and then I can go write that down. Often, the essence gets clearer. Rambling bits in between or not.

Guess it comes down to the two words, Just write. And trust it will come together. Okay, I can do that.

This is my new life and I'm writing to find the right words.

(c) Brenda Leyland, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Song. Day 5

We need each other.
Don't know why I've tried to do it myself... this journey of writing.
Keeping things close to my chest.

Maybe I have felt unworthy of other people's attention on me and my stuff,
Or maybe I thought I had to do this alone...stand up on my own two feet.

Perhaps, more to the point, my very private inner self
has been too skittish to reveal more to the world.

Yes, there is a need to stand up on our own two feet,
But too independent--too closed--also closes out those we need most at such times.

For we need the encircling, embracing support of others...
those who long to pour their own kindness into us....
after all, they too have been gifted with gifts to encourage, challenge and inspire.

I'd say this is a good time to allow their gifts to flow toward me
and to be a good receiver.
So I open my arms and my heart to receive your affirming gifts.

Yes, we need each other.

In that light, I'm posting a few affirmations received from people
who are speaking into my life right now.

Others you will find in the comment box.

Yet others have been tucked into my encouragement file
from times past whose words still speak courage to me.

"I think you have a great start to your work of art in words. Continue the good write." ~ from R.

"Very well written.  ....it was really there all along.  I think, maybe, it's God's timing, too. You sound so settled in your heart, more sure of your direction.  It's all good.  I sense you are on a journey, but you can now be more focused. I see a bunch of blossoms tied in a bundle, rather than scattered around. Am happy for you... Go, go, go!!"  ~ from P.

Dear Brenda, Both of these threads are evocative to me as a reader and an editor. Because I am always thinking of publishing (as an editor it can not be far from my evaluative mind), I find myself cleaving to the latter of your two threads, even though the search for faith noted in the first is of interest to me personally.

Still, I think a woman speaking candidly about being single for far longer than she had planned, and doing it with grace is a message that would find a ready audience.

But that said, I know as writers we must follow the energy, and I will trust you to make the choice of the shimmering images that most speak to you.... ~ from L.

from the heart of my bottom.


Photo Source:  Morguefile.com

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Inspiration Arrives At The Library. Day 4

Hanging around in the atmosphere with all those famous
...and published authors...
must have rubbed off.

Just relaxing at one of the large tables in our new comfortable library,
staring out the huge window and watching people walking on the street,

browsing through the latest issue of Artful Blogging,
letting the images and creative words wash over me,

I knew I could reach for my pen (no laptop for this girl...yet)
and let the imagery of what this memoir project is all about seep through.

Sure 'nuff

A change of place and pace... 
sleeping on it... 
praying some about it (help, Lord, help!)

And here it is,

my memoir project description

with working title and a first shimmering image
from which to start the journey of a thousand steps
five thousand words by the end of this course.

Packing for a Woman’s Journey: A Memoir of Spiritual Discovery and Intimacy, by Brenda Colleen Leyland, 2013

I’m standing in the now deserted and empty room, the dorm I called home for two years. Studies were done and it were graduation.  The year is 1978.  I looked around… stopped… and in my heart a prayer formed. I don’t remember thinking ahead about it, but it seemed the right thing in that moment.

God, I just want you to know right now that for the rest of my life I want to do what you want me to do with my life. And for those times I’m not willing, I’m willing to be made willing. And second, God, please don’t let me marry the wrong man.

And I walked out.

This prayer has ‘shimmered’ at various points throughout my life. As you see there are two story lines that ribbon from it: first, I long to write how I discover God’s desire for my life day by day and how I eventually learn that his plans, because He loves me, are good, beautiful and trustworthy.

Second, I didn’t meet the right man (and I didn’t marry any wrong ones) until I was almost 40, which means there is a whole journey to unpack in this slice of life, as I learned to find beauty and joy in living as a single woman, for being single that long was never in the plan.

Right now I feel more strongly to pursue the first part…

This is my new life and
I'm writing to find the right words...

Photo source:  morguefiles.com

Friday, September 6, 2013

Let's Just Say. Day 3

In getting started on this new class,
let's just say
I already feel like I've jumped in the deep end.

because I don't know how to swim.

Yesterday we worked on a short bio for class
It's our online way of getting to know one another and why we signed up for this class.

I breeze in there with a bio that's way longer than anybody's.
(Many have taken classes with Lisa before and know the ropes.)

And when I use the word breeze, 
I feel like I've stepped into a place where everyone else's stories are so intense and painful
that my own stories, which at this point are not like that,
are going to seem too 'breezy' and out of place.

I know it's not true,
but it makes me want to head for the piny hills nonetheless
...if we had some of those around here.

Today I'm working on the memoir project description.
Oi vey...

Can I go home now?

Anyone ever feel that way when they first start a new project?
I was excited and now I'm not.

Thankfully, our class is small and everyone is kind and very supportive.

(time lapse...the author goes for lunch with hubby)

We're back...
And things look and feel much different. ;o)
I got my trembling nerves shored up from my in-house cheering committee
and with a good lunch inside my tummy, the whole world seems brighter.

Which is a good reminder of that old saying
that a person should halt whatever she's doing when she starts to feel
Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.
To take a deep breath, fix what needs fixin'
and then jump back into the pool, saddle, or whatever metaphor you like.

We're off to work on the project description.
Pencil chewing here
What to do, what to do.

You'd think I would have some ideas in mind.

Yes, I do, but I was hoping inspiration would spring forth
and blaze the topic in neon across my computer screen
in response to my excitement at being in this class.
And then I could just run with it.

Mmmmm...I think I need a nap.

See you soon.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Memoir Writing Class Begins. Day 1

Class begins today.  Week One. 

 I'm excited and happy to be taking Memoir Writing: Toward Completion  
being taught by author and book editor Lisa Dale Norton of Santa Fe Writing Institute.

First assignment:
A short biography to introduce myself to the class 
about my life and family, my work and writing, and why I'm taking this class.

Second assignment:
A 250-word description of the memoir project I plan to work on this term.
Pencil chewing about which 'slice of life' experience and accompanying memories
to explore, corral, then form into words worth reading.

Third assignment:
Inspired by this week's lesson,
write 1,250 words of fresh memoir material 
End Goal of the Class:
To create 5,000 words of new material for my memoir project

A good start to a book, maybe?
I sure hope so.

This is my new life and
we're writing to find the right words.