Tag Archives: Priscilla Long

All works are equal

I’m not going to throw my hat into the ring of commentary-on-Ferguson. I’m not going to think about how there-but-for-the-grace-of-god-go-I in regards to random violence. I’m not going to imagine the pain of Brown’s parents. I’m not going to listen to the estimates of when the elephant will become extinct (most likely in my lifetime. I’m broaching 50, so you can do the math).

I am going to remember that I asked Priscilla Long, in regards to her Work Inventory, why she didn’t note where her pieces are published. Because, she said,I have a body of work I want to do, and it doesn’t matter where it’s published. All works are equal.

All works are equal.

I am going to remember the giggle I couldn’t suppress while waiting to board airplanes this summer, when the gate agents called the “first class/priority” passengers to come through their priority boarding area. Which means those passengers walk over a rubber-backed 3×5′ piece of polyester carpet atop the regular carpet, to the left of the “boarding area” sign. They walk over this piece of carpet and they get to sit down first and they get to sit in seats that are a bit wider and if the plane blows up or disappears they get to lose their lives. Just like everyone else.

All works are equal.

I am going to reflect that on the day Captain Byers died in Iraq, my local obituary page held death notices for Catherine Cupp, Alma Frey, Goldie Gearhart, Lillian McClean and James May. I am going to assume that each person left behind a “to do” list, an unrequited love or two, and others who will remember their frown, their laugh, their bad puns.

All works are equal.

I am going remember that Michael Brown’s status as a young black man headed for college is a distraction from our disgrace.

All works are equal.

I’m going remember that the effect an essay, poem, screenplay, or novel has on any one person is as much, if not more, about the person reading than the work itself.

All works are equal.

I’m going to work today.

 

 

To write, perchance to produce?

World Cup Cafe

World Cup Cafe

I returned to Taos for the third consecutive year last week, for the Taos Summer Writer’s Conference. It’s a highlight of my year. It’s a highlight because it’s in the desert southwest; because its attendees are, to a one, interesting, informed, and intriguing; because it’s an excellent “reset” button for my writerly self; because it’s near Taos’s World Cup Cafe; because the World Cup Cafe serves a mocha borgia; because I feel like a brilliant writer after a mocha borgia; because when I fell like a brilliant writer I am a more productive writer.

Productive writer. An abstract concept that toddled into my thinking three years ago when I first read Prisicilla Long’s must-have-if-you’re-a-writer book, The Writer’s Portable Mentor — an abstract concept that steadied itself and began walking, sure-footed, during the time I worked with her (for the second time) at the Taos conference this year.

Prisicilla Long's book ...

Prisicilla Long’s book …

Long, like Macklemore, notes that the greats aren’t born great. They’re great because they paint/write/practice a LOT. Long suggests writers make a “list of works,” an inventory to track their pieces’ completion dates, where they’ve been sent, and when they’ve been accepted. In The Writer’s Portable Mentor, she says,

The list allows you to see the work you’ve done and it signifies respect for work done. It allows you to track your yearly production. It allows you to find any given piece to take up again. The list gives you a practice that you now share with those high-achieving creators who do quantify their works. (Georgia O’Keefe, 2.045 objects; Edouard Manet, 450 oil paintings among other works; the American painter Alice Neel, about 3,000 works; dare we mention Picasso? — 26,000 works; the remarkable short-story writer Edith Pearlman has published, according to her website, more than 250 works of short fiction and short nonfiction. That of course, does not tell us how many works Pearlman has composed.

I have a modest list of works that has grown incrementally for the past three years. And I do mean incrementally, because I haven’t been able to focus on more than one writing activity each day: if I’m generating a new short story, that generative free writing takes all my writing time. Ditto editing and conceptualizing.

But this year, for the first time, I managed two, sometimes three, types of daily writing during the conference: generative, editorial, and conceptual. And I did this because I told myself, per Long’s advice, that I only had to do it for 15 minutes. Those 15 minutes, for five days, yielded a found poem, an improved short story, and several roughed out story concepts.

I’m sure this capacity was enhanced by the total absence of my Domestic Goddess responsibilities, Engineer Hubby, our two sons, the dogs, the cat and that pesky groundhog in the backyard — a lot of my writing is done while it appears I’m daydreaming, and there’s no daydreaming time in my Real Life. Nonetheless: I’ve managed the 15 minute practice every single day, for a week, so I know I can make progress on several fronts simultaneously.

Here’s to slow, steady and productive. May it be so.

The Yuletide 100

My writing craft group and I agreed that during the holiday break we would  jot notes about the holiday.  At least 100 words or phrases to capture the essence of the season.

I’ve resisted the list concept for most of my writing years: all those “list my life” books at Barnes and Noble. Listographies  for couples, for singles, for mothers and daughters. Barf. Like a list matters. Plus, is listography a word? (Not in my 1979 edition of the New World Dictionary! Oh, I feel so vindicated!) Regardless: making a list is just too easy! One must *suffer* for enlightenment!

You’d think I’d have learned by now that when my instinct is to sniff haughtily, a great Lesson is lurking. But no. I sniff away and it is only under duress — duress I PAY for in the form of a workshop or a book, or duress that is unavoidable (yes, I consider the holidays a time of duress) — that I grudgingly push open the creaky door of my Self  to possibilities.

My writing group adapted a Priscilla Long list exercise from her book The Writer’s Portable Mentor, and here’s mine. Not only was it a valuable exercise that I’m Officially Adding to my Writerly Toolbox, it tells a wee story. Happy New Year!

Unknown

  1. 12 y.o. has two teeth pulled after last day of school.
  2. 12 y.o. vomiting, 2 AM.
  3. 12 y.o. sick first day of vacation.
  4. Amazon shopping.
  5. 16 y.o.’s girlfriend over for supper, to make treats for neighbors.
  6. 12 y.o. rallies to deliver treats to neighbors.
  7. Xmas tree purchased day after mini ice storm.
  8. Ice inside heated home = water. Duh.
  9. Entire first floor washed by melted ice.
  10. Kids dub ice “christmas juice.”
  11. Xmas tree trunk too big for 70’s-era metal stand.
  12. Engineer hubby drags tree to deck for trunk detailing.
  13. Engineer hubby shaving  trunk with pathetic little saw.
  14. Engineer hubby borrows Real Tools, updates Xmas wish list to include Real Tools.
  15. Tree tilts 15 degrees to the left
  16. To the right.
  17. More trunk shaving.
  18. Tree tilts 5 degrees to the right.
  19. Engineer hubby: I’m done. Kids: but the tree …
  20. CVS has one tree stand left.
  21. Tree top breaks off. No one cares
  22. Tree is vertical!
  23. Burned out Xmas lights.
  24. Xmas eve shopping at Dicks Sporting Goods: all Medium sized fleeces gone. Panicked call to Engineer Hubby re: 16 y.o.’s preferred basketball clothing. Does it matter so long as it’s in school colors of blue and yellow? Engineer hubby: you know there are different shades of blue. Me: Seriously?
  25. Two hours later: new fleeces acquired for all the men in the family. Restorative hot chocolate purchased for frazzled mama on way home.
  26. My dad and brother arrive; my brother tallest person in the house @ 6’2″.
  27. Tissue paper for wrapping.
  28. Cat on tissue paper.
  29. Curling ribbon.
  30. Cat claw stuck in my thigh after “playing” catch the ribbon
  31. Can only find one batch of gift tags. All gifts labeled with the same green disc.
  32. Dog treats laid out with Santa gifts on coffee table.
  33. Dog treats all gone.
  34. Dog barf Xmas eve at midnight.
  35. Six hours sleep.
  36. New bird feeders: one with copper roof glinting in the sun. Birds confused, pecking forlornly at deck railing.
  37. 16 y.o.: “This is great!” re: coupon book for movies, dinners out, “Dates” with parents.
  38. Bag of gluttony and regret: chocolates & electric toothbrushes
  39. Kids give me hot tea/cocoa coupons 🙂 I redeem immediately.
  40. Settlers of Catan.
  41. Multi-handed solitaire.
  42. Blokus.
  43. Goldfinch.
  44. Mini Poppers: pig, monster, penguin, monster. Unknown-1
  45. Dogs eating popper balls. You’d think they’d had enough stomach upset. You’d think wrong.
  46. 16 y.o. visits girlfriend on Xmas day: a first
  47. Panettone
  48. Holiday-blend coffee from Milwaukee’s Colectivo Coffee.
  49. Turkey breast.
  50. Turkey breast with spine intact.
  51. Turkey breast deboning YouTube video.
  52. Dull knives.
  53. Scissors.
  54. Brining on back deck.
  55. Cold sunshine.
  56. Walking dogs.
  57. New scarf.
  58. Stuffing with sausage.
  59. Cranberry sauce by my dad. 3072908890_d2d0eb7ddd_b
  60. 16 y.o.: mashed taters.
  61. Toasted pecans.
  62. Frozen crust.
  63. Cook’s Illustrated cookbook: brand new. Corn syrup on page 720 by 3 PM
  64. Dessert wine.
  65. Port.
  66. Sauerkraut crock.
  67. Nine cabbages.
  68. Dill borrowed from neighbor.
  69. Virgnia Tech pillowcase over sauerkraut crock.
  70. About Time with 12 y.o. & Engineer Hubby. 12 y.o.: “That makes you think about life.”
  71. The Dark Knight Rises: surprisingly good.
  72. Sherlock Holmes, season 1 marathon
  73. The Full Monty: even my dad laughs
  74. The Last Emperor: like taking vitamins
  75. The Santa Clause
  76. All is Lost. Yikes
  77. Listing all colors for brown with writer pal Andrea Badgley day after Xmas.
  78. Basketball tournament in Roanoke for 16 y.o. Massive losses ’til very last game.
  79. Sauerkraut smells a bit funky.
  80. Old friend visits after New Year’s
  81. Old friend’s dog encounters skunk in backyard.
  82. Friend’s dog rolls on rug, runs through house.
  83. Friend to PetSmart for enzymatic skunk cleaner
  84. Friend’s dog washed on back deck with skunk cleaner.
  85. Temperatures dropping.
  86. Friend’s dog confined to crate.
  87. Friend’s dog depressed. Our dogs confused.
  88. Entire house smells of skunk; food tastes like skunk.
  89. Apple-cider scented candle lit.
  90. Sauerkraut smell obliterated.
  91. Rug removed to patio.
  92. Clothing washed with de-skunker.
  93. Friend’s dog washed repeatedly next day.
  94. Dog smelling better. Released from crate confinement.
  95. Joyful frolicking.
  96. Friend returns home.
  97. 16 y.o. to youth orchestra. Cello, case and music all smell like skunk.
  98. Xmas tree to fire pit, rug to dumpster.
  99. Sauerkraut funk again discernible.
  100. Carpool buddy to 12 y.o. on first day back to school: your hair smells like skunk.

Striped_Skunk_(Mephitis_mephitis)_DSC_0030