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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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

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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Using Voice as a Tool

Olympus VN-7100- This is the recorder I bought and I highly recommend it.

Olympus VN-7100-
This is the recorder I bought and I highly recommend it.

As an aspiring writer, most of my life takes place on a computer screen. I see my words, how they look on a page. But hearing them spoken aloud is a whole different experience.

Last week I purchased a digital voice recorder as a part of my two-month marathon to finish my manuscript.

I have been reading each chapter into the voice recorder. I have a paper copy of the chapter in front of me as I read. Then, I go back and listen to the recording and make edits on the paper.

I have found the voice recorder helpful for finding awkward wording, repetitive phrasing, excessive adjectives/adverbs and generally unnecessary fluff words.

Sometimes it takes more than just seeing the words on the computer screen to be able to evaluate my own writing. Especially when it is a piece that I have been working on for almost a year!

Here are a few before and after sentences to show how the voice recorder has helped my writing:

Before: The DJ was dwarfed by the expanse of her loft. The cavernous ceilings were lined with large industrial piping; blank white walls shrunk her further.

After: Blank walls and cavernous ceilings lined with industrial piping dwarfed her.

Before: She wrote up the contracts and then sat behind a desk by the front door and interviewed long lines of eager candidates.

After: After writing the contracts, she sat behind a desk near the entrance and interviewed candidates.

Before: She was dressed in normal street clothes, but Crazy Woodsum could tell that her body underneath was salacious.

After: Her body under street clothes was salacious.

Several writers had recommended using a voice recorder as I go through revisions. Now, I feel like it is my duty to spread along this piece of advice to other aspiring writers out there.

Happy Recording!

Spring Survivor

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The Robert Frost Trail
Amherst, MA

ROBERT FROST TRAIL

Ok, this is awesome:

I’m in the middle of the world.

Water moves by slowly.

Straight, tall trees march up the hill

And cling to rocks.

A few trees have fallen across the water

Casualties of winter

But I won’t be one.

I have my face to the sun for the first time in months.

I am blown away by love

But I’m in love with nothing so petty

As a person:

The whole universe.