Chance Encounters

The scene was a funky underground bar in the Greenwich Village. Live jazz, pool tables, shuffle board, and other assorted games. The occasion: my brother and his wife’s annual visit from China. 

We were enjoying a wonderful evening, full of food, fun and rain-soaked subway journeys. We were in New York, together- a rare and wonderful circumstance.

My sister-in-law is a brave, smart, vivacious woman from Shandong Province in China. On that night, she took it upon herself to introduce me to a young man who was enjoying a game of chess with a friend nearby.

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We started communicating and it didn’t take long for us to discover we were both writers. He shared with me the link for the online literary magazine, In Parentheses, which he helped to create and contributes to on a regular basis.

Later, sifting through the content, I found an incredible mix of prose, poetry and essays written by a number of different contributors. The range of material was impressive, but held firm to their belief of ‘intellectual expansion of the masses.’

In the weeks following that random meeting, I was encouraged to submit to the blog, which I did, and they were gracious enough to post the piece. Please check out my submission, and the rest of this awesome blog. 

Is it just random chance that we meet other writers? Or is it something more; can we sense a certain camaraderie? Have any of the other bloggers out there had similar chance encounters with fellow writers? I’d love to hear your opinions and personal stories. 

Happy Writing, and Happy Mingling! 

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*Snaps* For Good Decisions

I had a strange sensation while driving into town this afternoon, on my way to run a few simple errands. The night before had been one of those magical, hot, random summer nights filled with friends, dancing, swimming and laughter. 

As I drove, I replayed scenes from the night before, remembering interactions and unexpected faces. My mind buzzed actively and the muscles around my mouth tugged upwards. What is this? I found myself questioning. And then it hit me. Oh right: happiness. 

Last winter I found myself in a Catch-22. I felt, quite literally, stuck in Colombia. I hadn’t made enough money to move on to another city in South America, as I had anticipated. I was emotionally drained from dealing with visas, the uncertainty of moving to a new city without a job of a plan, being immediately targeted as a tourist. I knew I couldn’t stay, but where to go?

My first instinct was money. Follow the money. Everyone in the international teaching world knows that the money is in Asia. I began searching for and applying to jobs from Japan to Hong Kong, Thailand to Malaysia. The money was enticing. But in my heart of hearts, I knew it wasn’t what I really wanted. The problem was, I couldn’t think of any alternative. And so, anxiously, I dove into the applications head first, despite my better judgement. 

It wasn’t until I a conversation I had with an old friend that I started to reconsider. I still remember this as being one the most influential conversations of my life. Come home, she told me. And finally, I allowed myself to listen. 

It wasn’t an easy decision. I felt embarrassed to be returning home, jobless, with much less money than when I’d left, and only a year and a half into what I had imagined to be a several year long adventure. I didn’t want to look like a failure. 

Thankfully, I’m lucky to have a family that is both understanding and supportive. They have helped me get back on my feet and finally start to pursue my passion: writing. I am so grateful for the wonderful friends who have helped me through life’s difficult decisions. 

Five months after my return, I have never felt more certain that I made the right decision. Not only is this place my home, but it is an inspiring community for writers. I have met so many people of all ages who share similar interests and pursuits. 

At times, I think about what my life would be like at this moment if I had taken a job that brought me to the other side of the globe, far from the people and places that make me who I am. I may have been wealthier in some ways, but I truly believe that my quality of life would have been much poorer. 

Driving this afternoon, the sunImage shining on beautiful green pastures on the side of the country road, a smooth breeze breathing through the open windows, I identified that peculiar sensation: I am exactly where I am supposed to be. 

 

More Than Paper

It has been nearly a month since my last post. No excuses. My emotions in these weeks have run the gambit from frustrated to elated. For a while, I seemed eager to distract myself from my writing with any interesting and fun activity that presented itself. 

In the depths of one of my more worried moments, I turned to my Writing Sage, as I have come to think of her. I told her I felt lost, directionless. Having given up so much to pursue writing, I felt like I had not only lost the path, but I had lost the spark. 

My Writing Sage just turned to me and smiled. We were sitting on the couch. We had had more than a few glasses of wine. She said to me, writing is so much more than what comes out on the page. It’s more than what we write down on paper; a major part of the creative process is internal. 

New experiences, laughing, swimming, being with friends, working, sweating, crying. All of these things do not produce writing in and of themselves, but I do strongly believe that they facilitate good writing and good stories. 

That night, my Writing Sage helped me understand than even when I am not producing as much writing as I would like, I am still growing in ways that will one day be reflected on paper. In the meantime, it’s important to realize that all experiences help shape who we are as people and as writers. 

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2 Month Marathon-Summer Procrastination

I’m not sure about all of you, but as soon as the weather turns nice, I am suddenly uninterested in anything that doesn’t involve being in the sun. This is good for my tan, not good for my writing.

Things I did today instead of writing:

-Mowed the lawn

-Filled the potholes in my driveway

-Sunbathed

-Hung out laundry on the clothes line

And then I wrote, for about 30 minutes. Needless to say, I am falling behind on my goal to finish my manuscript in two months. I’ve stretched it until the beginning of August, giving myself a few extra weeks, and still, it will be tight.

I haven’t been sticking to the four-hours-a-day policy that I was so enthusiastic and diligent with the first few weeks. I’m procrastinating. I even procrastinated on writing this post.

Healthy body, healthy mind. I’m hoping that by occupying my time with activities that make me happy, it will somehow positively influence my writing.

Anybody up for the lake?

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Why Do You Write?

In the book Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, she recommends the exercise of listing the reasons why you write. If ever you are feeling stuck with your writing, it is helpful to simply start with that question and see what answers you come up with.

I did this exercise myself a few months ago in one of my journals and then promptly forgot about it. Coming across it the other day, I thought it was pretty funny and wanted to share it with you all.

Why I Write:

I write because I’m hopeful

And I want to put myself through the wringer.

Because a desk job is just too painful.

So I can feel good about myself and others will too.

So I can feel bad about myself.

Because there has never been anything else.

Because of the feeling of pulling a story out of thin air

And turning it real.

Because of my friends who inspire me into creation.

Because it’s fun to make fun of people.

So I can create my own heroes.

To get through my own demons.

Because I still want my mother fucking yacht. 

I would love to hear other writers’ responses to this prompt! Feel free to create your own list and leave it in the comments.

Happy Writing-for any reason at all. Image

2 Month Marathon- Day 20-The Word Whisperer

My readers will know that I am in the midst of a big push to finish my manuscript by the end of July. At the start of each week, I begin edits on the next five chapters of the novel, in the hopes that at the end of the summer I will have a finished product.

I have hit a few bumps along the road. Last week was very busy for me, work-wise. In addition, I was helping my parents get ready for a cross-country trek. I wasn’t able to get my four hours-a-day in. I started to panic. 

Instead of driving myself crazy trying to jam the writing into my already packed schedule, I made myself a deal. Take the rest of the week off. Start fresh on Monday.

Yesterday, over a lovely dinner on the porch with my dear friend and fellow writer, I confessed my recent anxieties over my manuscript. It’s not good enough, it will never get published, I’ll feel like a massive failure in front of everyone I know.

My wise friend said several things last night which helped calm my fears.

1. It’s not only about the destination. The journey of writing a novel has been so valuable in itself. Even if I don’t end up with a manuscript that is deemed publishable, I have learned lessons in persistence and the pursuit of a passion, which are invaluable.

2. Don’t push it. Working on any creative endeavor is so different than most other kinds of work. Even in the editing/revision stage that I am currently in, I need to give myself and the novel, time to breath.

3. Be kind to the novel. Whisper to it, my friend told me. Ask what it needs to grow, to succeed. Listen. Be aware of the novel as an entity separate of yourself. 

4. Visualize success. As with so many things in life, the simple act of visualizing an outcome can help manifest it. Picture the cover, my friend told me. See the pages, each word, your name on the cover. Let that image guide you.

I want to thank my friend for giving me such great advice, and I felt it was my own responsibility to pass this along to other writers out there.

Whether you are struggling, or the words are pouring out, or you haven’t written in months. I hope that this advice can help you achieve your goals. 

As always, Happy Writing and Happy Whispering!

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Reciting Poetry

In the few months I’ve been home, I’ve done several readings around the Pioneer Valley. It has been nerve racking and exhilarating to read my prose in front of an audience.

Last week, I chose to read some of my poetry at Spoken Word Greenfield. It was a completely different experience. Poetry, being so much personal than fiction, was much more difficult for me to get through. I felt vulnerable and exposed.

It was difficult, but it was a great experience, one in which I hope to build on in the future.

I would love to hear from other writers out there. Do you feel a difference when you read poetry versus prose at an open mic? Which do you prefer?

Here is one of the poems that I read:

AMHTHYST BROOK

Out in the woods I stand in the middle of a bridge

And I can’t tell which way the water is moving.

Like myself, coming and going

Moving perpetually in two directions.

I’ve seen enough roadkill to last a lifetime.

I don’t want to drive anymore.

I want to close my eyes next to you.

Be near me so I don’t have to think.

Be near me so I don’t’ have to know myself.

There is too much inside.

No matter where I go I find myself at a trailhead.

I walk fifty yards into the woods and then turn around

Because I fear its depth.

Like how I stand in the shallow end of my soul.

I don’t want to know how far down it goes

Or what lurky beasts hide in its midst.

It’s all mist down there.

Caution signs everywhere.

I told you to stay away

That at the end it would feel better.

But then, that’s a lie

Because I batted the fuck out of my eyelashes for you to come over.

What took you so long?

I’ve been watching the clock,

Not long until my moods swing.

Let’s hit the bathroom.

Oh it’s too nasty?

I like to play dirty.

So I guess it’s all my fault

I wind up with shards of glass in my skin

And dirt in my eyes.

I don’t want to stop.

Nothing feels better than pen scribbled on paper. 

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