She Rocks in the Treetop

...this is my brain on a writer's conference: i wrote 20 new pages for the book yesterday...i sat for 4 hours and worked, then spent another hour last night mapping out the final chapters, making notes to myself about how to improve the 20 pages i wrote, and getting psyched about editing the entire thing...my panel had a small, but attentive audience and was moderated by a wonderful psychology professor--Michelle Haney--who i'm sure was diagnosing my neuroses as i read...

...the feedback i got at the workshop on sunday morning was invaluable...Melissa Delbridge is not just a fierce writer, she's an amazing teacher...i needed a swift kick in the pants--way too many verbs of being (= lazy writing) and rhetorical questions (what was i thinking? whoops...there i go again)...she read a passage from my introduction and i actually cried...i'd never heard it in someone else's voice...and i couldn't help it...barry and tom would be so ashamed...i wanted to apologize afterward, but couldn't find her in the sea of writers at the final lunch where Dorothy Allison preached a sermon on writing...

...i had many refreshing and deep conversations about craft, life, faith...way too much to write here...but if you don't know these names, you need to find these women right now: Melody Moezzi, Lee Ann Pingel, Nancy Werking Poling, Alicia Clavell, Sandra Meek, Lynne Barrett, Deirdre Sugiuchi, and Caroline Young...

...i was sure to take notes, especially when someone said something so simple and yet so profound:

Barbara Hamby: "I have the attention span of a tennis ball."... "Put your writing first."
...her plenary talk was a huge dose of common-sense...she spoke, at one point, about having girlfriends who wanted to lunch once a week and it got to where all they did was talk about the same things and she found herself thinking she could be using that time to write...i'm at that point now...i'm so close to the end of the first draft, to getting into the editing process, that i feel like i need to hibernate for a while...she said her real friends understood, and those women who got offended weren't really her friends...

A. J. Meyhew: "Be persistent."
...here's a novelist who didn't publish her first book until she was in her seventies...her simple words reminded me of many of my friends from the MFA program who threw in the towel a few years after graduating...they were fresh voices with something to say and the world needed to hear them, but because they didn't get big magazine publications they gave up...

Josephine Humphreys: "Something can be salvaged out of a bad time."
...it was as if she was speaking just to me...she recalled quitting her teaching job to write...the enormous risk to self, family, friends this took...i left her talk knowing i'd done the right thing...

Melissa Delbridge: "Present the facts, then go a little deeper.  Then present the facts and go a little deeper." ... "Creative non-fiction must answer one question: So What?" ... "Reflection is required."..."I've had enough good in my life."
...she blanketed me, and the other members of the workshop, in these words...she reminded us that at the end of the day, the words on the page are what matter, equally--if not more so--than the story...

Dorothy Allison: "I've always been writing to tell the story to the girl I'd been." ... "Grow an ego. Then break that ego down."
...my chair, at this final lunch talk, was directly in front of Ms. Allison, so i couldn't help but feel like a child in church, as if the preacher was looking and speaking directly to the dark parts of my soul...Berry College filmed her talk, and i'm hoping to find it on youtube and post it here...afterward, i told her my reaction: "All I could think was 'fuck.'" ... she laughed, her eyes sparkled, then she said, "So tell me what you're writing." ...such a gracious woman, and one of Americas most overlooked treasures...if you haven't read her, go to a bookstore immediately and buy everything with her name on it...

...again, i had to be reminded that authors are their own publicists...that even before we have books, essays, fiction, poetry published, we need an audience...we have to cultivate that audience and get our work out there...so i caved...i took the advice that was given to me directly...i started a twitter...with the caveat i will only be tweeting AFTER a full day of writing...so go ahead, follow me...tweetle deedlee deet...

Comments

  1. Sounds like an awesome workshop. I'm glad you got to attend.
    I have a Twitter account but just can not keep up with the Tweet machine! Every time I log on I feel bad about missing so many Tweets. Silly, I know. So, unless it is for a contest or something, or to ask someone something quickly, I avoid it. I will add you though. :)

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