Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Aftermath from Wildacres

Porch, North Lodge, Wildacres Retreat
After spending a weekend at Wildacres, in North Carolina's Smokies, I came home eager to attack a number of writing projects. Though this year I've vowed to try fiction and poetry, I'm still faithful to the creative nonfiction that I've enjoyed some success with in writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul and other anthologies. So here's an update on what I plan to to write over the next few months.

The writing group I've joined, Poets and Dreamers, undertakes poetry each summer. I scratched out an ode for today's class, and will draft a lament for next week's. It's been at least fifty years since I've undertaken to write anything with a rhyme scheme and meter, so it's an invigorating challenge. I learned some techniques at Wildacres that I'm eager to share with the group.

During one writing prompt exercise break at the retreat I didn't sketch out a poem but instead latched onto an idea for a work of fiction...maybe a short story, or perhaps a novella. I want to pursue it this summer while it's still gnawing at my consciousness.

Creative nonfiction ideas for short pieces:
  • Since I reviewed John Benz' book, Do The Clearing, I've been remembering the relief I felt when I parted with at least eighty percent of everything I owned, preparing to downsize to my current shoebox-size apartment.
  • I may write some more on how I felt to actually think about my birth mother on her actual birthday this year...just learned what it is this last year.
  • I haven't written much about my experiences in Seychelles, but want to write about the wonderful peer educators there, and have an idea connected with one of their projects.
I haven't forgotten the novel about Southern California much to write this year. I start tomorrow on at least one of these projects!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Here Comes "The Sun": Into the Fire

“What is to give light must endure burning.”--Viktor Frankl; motto, The Sun
This next week I'll be at Wildacres Retreat, Little Switzerland, in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. Though The Sun magazine also stages a summer writers' retreat at Esalen, right here in California, I chose to cross the continent to attend this one for a variety of reasons:
  • I've never been to nearby Asheville, home of the Biltmore Estates, the Thomas Wolfe Museum, or Grove Park Inn, where F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed in the mid-'30s while visiting Zelda, when she was hospitalized nearby. I plan to see them all. 
  • I welcome a chance to spend a couple of days in Atlanta, GA, before returning home. Yes, I'm aiming for the Margaret Mitchell house and The World of Coca Cola museum, American cultural icons, or the epitome of kitsch, depending on viewpoint.
  • Spring seems the perfect time for me to renew my enthusiasm about writing.
  • I can use my frequent flyer miles for this trip...a big plus.
Since I've returned to my Southern California homeland, I've allowed its never-ending seriess of attractions to lure me from my New Year's begin writing fiction. Instead of following recent homework assignments given by the facilitator of the writing group I now belong to, Orange County Poets and Dreamers Tuesday Morning Group, I've continued to concentrate on creative nonfiction, primarily inspirational stories, and feature-writing.

I intend to remedy that now, by choosing workshops at "Into the Fire" that will inspire me to get started on that novel...and to finish a short story or two. But I'm reminded of my late husband's response when I asked what he wanted me to bring back from the grocery store. He'd complained that we had nothing sweet in the house for his dessert.

"What do you want?" I asked. "Cookies? Cake? Twinkies? Pie?"

Ken didn't hesitate for one single second. "All!"

That's how I felt when I tried to choose just one session per time slot. I've changed my mind more than once, trying to narrow down my three choices. Here's my final answer...these are the ones I'll attend:
First the Container, Then the Wine, Bruce Holland Rogers
Finished writing is a marriage between what and how: What do we want to relate, and how do we want to relate it? The same experience could be described using a different order of events, tone of voice, or viewpoint. Usually we think of our subject matter first and the strategy second, but starting with a strategy can sometimes lead to surprising and delightful results: like choosing a container and only later thinking about what might fit in it.

Creating Convincing Characters, Lee Martin
Writers of both fiction and nonfiction face the challenge of creating convincing characters and then letting the narrative surprise us by what it reveals about those characters and, by extension, ourselves. Lee will talk about how he created the characters in his essay “Not at This Address,” and will lead participants through a writing activity to help them craft multidimensional characters in their fiction or nonfiction.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up, Krista Bremer
Like fiction writers, nonfiction writers must learn to tell a good story. To do so, they employ some of the same techniques used in fiction, such as building a narrative arc, creating compelling characters, and using tension to move a story forward. This class explores how to apply fictional techniques to nonfiction writing both effectively and with integrity — without blurring the line between fact and fiction.

 Here's the program for the weekend retreat:

Which workshop sessions would you choose?