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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Open Canon: IWSG September 2018



It's IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader. Co-Hosts this month: Toi Thomas, T. Powell Coltrin, M.J. Fifield, and Tara Tyler.  To read posts from other members, click here.


Writers learn to write by writing. We also learn to write by reading which has never been a problem for me. Libraries and bookstores are among my favorite places, as well as the corner of the couch where I plunk myself down to start a new book. I’ve never belonged to a physical book group, but after learning the objectives for the Open Canon Book Club, I joined. Open Canon is an online group moderated by PhD professor Wiley Cash, author of A Land More Kind than Home, This Dark Road to Mercy, and The Last Ballad. 


We live in a time when appealing to and listening to the diversity of America's voices are more important than ever. The goal of the Open Canon Book Club is to introduce readers to voices and portrayals of the American experience they may not have otherwise encountered in their day-to-day lives, their education, or their book club meetings. Literary diversity plays a vital role in making us understood to one another, and this hope of understanding is the hinge upon which our democracy swings.

Regardless of our beliefs, most of us will agree we’re becoming more divided as a country. It has become acceptable for online communications with those with whom we disagree to become hostile. This, I think, has led to a general disrespect in how we treat folks in person. In the virtual world, interactions are layered with accusation and discord. We’ve lost our manners simply because the means to disagree in a public way is easy, immediate, and if we choose, anonymous. And once we act poorly online, doesn't it become easier to do so in person? Who cares if we talk on the phone rather than addressing the clerk while checking out at the grocery store? What's the big deal if we endanger others by texting while driving? Does it matter that we walk down city streets so immersed in our smart phones we miss the woman stumbling off the curb, the homeless veteran seeking spare change, or the lost stranger in need of directions?

Similar to IWSG, which focuses on kindness, caring and empathy, Open Canon proposes to use technology to promote a shared humanity. And in joining, there's an added benefit. Author Cash offers discussion points and companion readings for each month's selection as well as his own reflections on the writing in a section he calls Reading like a Writer: A Note from Wiley. So there you have it, a free learning venue composed of diverse perspectives, combined with educational observations on writing. What's not to like?

The online discussion of the first book, The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson takes place on September 26.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Priming the Pump - IWSG August 2018


It's IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader. Co-Hosts this month:Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery!

 
 Last week, I had a hankering to write a blog post. Not an IWSG post, just a post…the way I used to so regularly. But that didn’t happen before IWSG time rolled round again, so it appears I’ve got to twine the two. Lacking sage words with which to comment on the question of the month, I cast about seeking a topic, but nothing comes. How about stream of conscious…which is often a great way to prime the pumps?

When I’ve been stuck for words in the past, I’d go for a walk, take a picture and come back and write about the experience, or even the picture itself, but it has been a challenging year to date. So much so, when I pulled out my camera the other day I discovered I hadn’t picked the thing up since February. I haven’t been walking much either, and it occurs to me that my brain is starting to atrophy. The muscles are weakening. Brain exercise. That’s what I need—new experiences to keep the creative juices flowing. 

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron suggests taking artist’s dates— once a week outings on your own to engage in or explore something that has interest to you. In the past, I’ve taken walks by the beach, tramped through museums, hiked nature trails, visited historic sites, and checked off things my bucket list. I’ve even driven down certain streets, just because I never had. Artist’s dates require focused time spent in ways that inspire creativity. Here's a link to 101 artist date ideas. Historically, my artist dates almost always triggered inspiration. I’m realizing right now that camera or no camera, it’s time to get myself out on a few. 


 For your viewing pleasure: the last picture on my roll...
  

How to you inspire yourself during writing dry spells?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

All I've Got- IWSG July 2018


 


It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader. Co-Hosts: Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne! To read posts from other IWSG members, click here. 

This month, the OPTIONAL IWSG Day question is: 

What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)? 

I feel like I’ve written this post before, but here goes. My ultimate goal is to publish my novels via a traditional publishing process. 


Eight or nine years ago, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron changed my life. Recently unemployed, I’d determined that writing HAD to be a part of my new incarnation but wasn’t sure how that requirement would take shape. I’d blogged like mad for a while and my essays here on Middle Passages helped me to shape my writing and find my voice. Then I freelanced, writing magazine articles (fun) and resumes (a skill learned during my former employment and not so fun) until I began to wonder what was next. Perhaps like many folks, I thought (naively), it would be “neat” or “cool” to write a book, not actually thinking I could, until an acquaintance suggested I complete The Artist’s Way course. Essentially, the daily and weekly exercises therein help participants eliminate real or imagined barriers that stifle creativity. In other words, The Artist’s Way dared me to try.

I met that challenge by managing to complete one rough novel and one I will call “better,” after which I amplified my goal to improve my writing and complete a publishable novel. The jury is out on that folks, as I query my third novel and approach the point on a fourth where I'll share it with critical readers.

This much I know now. Writing the best book I can, one that will attract an agent, one that will sell, is so much more than “neat” or “cool,” that it’s hard to put it into words. The process is as energizing and enriching as it is grueling. Sometimes words like daunting and discouraging and even soul-sucking apply. At the same time, I’m as much in love with my stories as I am sick to death of them. They’re my babies. My loves. They’ve given me almost as much joy and angst as my flesh and blood child. And yet, while I’ll be forever proud at what I’ve accomplished to date, my current road is such a tough one, I wonder I’ll ever achieve publication.
 
But if we’re open to them, there are messages in the universe to encourage us to carry on. Today, I read the following:

You have three choices in life. Give up. Give in, or, give it all you've got. 

Lord help me, I’m pretty sure there’s only one choice there.

What has it taken for you to meet your writing goals? 

Wishing all my American readers a Happy Independence Day!