Tag Archives: Writers Resources

I’m jumping …


… into a new part of the writing ocean: I’m offering a workshop with my writerly friend and colleague, Jenny Zia of the Center for Creative Change. We’re focusing on process, sustaining a writing practice, and getting to know one’s writing self. I’m tickled about facilitating the program in the community meeting space in the Lyric Theater’s Community Arts Information Office — we’ll go to local cafes and stores for some of our writing exercises.

Contact us at joyofwriting04@gmail.com for more info; some details below.

Writing for the joy of it

Have you always wanted to write but don’t know how to start or sustain your practice?

This workshop provides a series of structured exercises that honor the writing process, support discovery of your writer’s voice, and exploration and development of your stories.

Instructors Jenny Zia and Lesley Howard ground their facilitation in their own combined six-plus decades of daily writing practice, inspired by the philosophies of Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg, Anne Lamott and Priscilla Long, among others.

Jenny Zia, MA, MSW, has shared writing prompts and journal practices with a variety of individuals and groups. Lesley Howard is a local freelance writer, blogger, and one of the founding members of the New River Valley Voices juried reading program. Both are members of a long-standing writing group.

When and Where?

Jump Start: Saturday, Sept. 7, 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM

Momentum-Sustaining Sessions: Tuesdays, Sept. 17, Oct. 1, and Oct. 15, 6:30 – 8 :30 PM

The End is the Beginning Closing Session: Saturday, Oct. 26, 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM

$100 for all sessions; includes muse-nourishing snacks and beverages.

All sessions will be held at the Community Arts Information Office in downtown Blacksburg, VA; we will take field trips to local cafes for some of our exercises.

Contact us at joyofwriting04@gmail.com if you need additional information or to register.

The New Year is ten days old …

… and I remember ten days being a milestone of sorts after giving birth. Double-digits a Big Deal for my westernized mindset; tenth birthdays received Special Treatment for both the boys as well, though whether that was due to my influence or the inherent tidiness of the number ten I can’t say.


Abandoned bits Photo credit: the|G|™

This year, ending with what some consider to be the unlucky thirteen, has begun its inevitable forward march, and I have found myself trailing behind the column of daily soldiers, picking up the lost boot with the broken laces, the reading glasses with the crushed lens, the muddied confetti and the shiny, neglected pennies. I’ve dawdled behind with my bag of assorted broken treasures, unsure of what to hope for, daunted by my mounting rejections, turned upside down in others’ emotional furor.

And then one of my oldest friends, from way back before I was a mother, sent me the link to this article about Jeffrey Eugenides by Todd Hasak-Lowy, ostensibly about how to write, but also wrestling with the inherent tension of writing as “art” and writing as “product.” It provided me with the energy I needed to sort through my broken-treasure collection and cull out the fix-able paragraphs, the still-inspires-me story ideas, and the hopeful jottings. May it prove equally inspiring for you.

National Novel Writing Month is about OVER. Thank Gawd.

ImageI decided, on the third of November, that I would participate in the National Novel Writing Month project this year. I have a short story whose protagonist has been poking me with the proverbial pointy stick for fifteen-plus years, and she and her neighbors and family and Preacher weren’t obeying my command for them to stay within the short story format. So I decided to let them romp for all of November. Whatever they wanted, they could have.

This is not a stance I adopt often, in either real life or creative life. I am one of those who has an idea of where the story is headed, often not because I’ve forced it, but because endings come to me before beginnings. Ah, I think, there it is. The. End. Then I have to figure out how that character arrived at that end.

As my kids will attest, the day when anything goes is a cold day in hell in our household, indeed. I have this motherly insistence on fresh veggies, limited screen time, and not consuming more sugar grams than one can count on one’s fingers and toes. At least not at a single sitting.


Photo credit: Roger Penguino

So yes, go ahead and call me anal, or right-brain dominant, but structure serves me well. Routines and habits allow me to get me to the writing desk on a regular-enough basis without paying the piper in the precious psychic coins of mounds of dirty laundry, no milk, no bread, dirty litter boxes, and dog fur matted into a pseudo-carpet on the stairs.

But because I started a few days later than November first, I was behind on the average words-that-must-be-generated-daily-to-write-50,000-words-by-November-30th. Gack. I had to do 2500 words a day, more, ideally, if I were to get enough ahead to be semi-present during the Thanksgiving break when we would be out of town. Double gack.

So I dared to step at least one foot over the threshold of my comfortable routines. I didn’t go to the gym first thing, I wrote. Then I skipped the gym entirely! I didn’t keep up with my email. We ate a fair amount of frozen food. Without fresh veggies. I believe a gallon of ice cream was consumed in less than twelve hours by my children. The dog’s walks were considerably shorter (now she glares at me from the couch when I say, “walk time!” accusing me of abusing the term walk. It’s not a walk when you go out, do your business and come back in. It’s a walk when you go to the woods, chase the squirrels, roll in deer poop, eat some of same, and run, run, run. Liar, her glare accuses. I have to do penance, apparently. I did not know dogs kept score in addition to giving unconditional love.)

I frolicked in letting my writing all hang out. I enjoyed the encouraging NaNoWriMo emails. I buddied a friend I’d made at a writing conference. I gloated over the graph on the website that showed my forward progress.

And I noticed several things: 1. When I treat my writing like a job with a deadline, I get more done. 2. My writing doesn’t feel like a job when it’s all about generating new words only (eg, no revising, no research). 3. The jobs of revision and research appeal to me today, at the end of a month of nothing but making up a new story. I, queen of the routine, need variety.

Yet again, just when I have become semi-self-satisified that I have figured out “the answer” to what works for me, I discover that I don’t, in fact, have it figured out. Either because my circumstances have changed, or I have changed, or because the story needling me demands a different exit method.

Duh. But obviously a lesson I need to learn, again.

A green and red Perseid meteor striking the sk...

A green and red Perseid meteor striking the sky just below Milky Way. The trail appears slightly curved due to edge distortion in the lens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hope all of us fumbling creative souls, in the shortening days leading to the solstice, may have a version of NaNoWriMo:  a moment, at least, to step outside ourselves and gaze with surprise and wonder at the starry skies above us. And then another moment when, returning, we step inside and gaze with equal delight and awe at our own spinning universes, so often clouded over.