Monday, September 29, 2008

Powerful Article

I encourage you all to read this blog post and consider its implications. I was grateful for the reminder of how far we still have to go as a culture.

This is Your Nation on White Priviledge

Monday, September 22, 2008

Writing Tips from Gregory Maguire

“Like everyone else, I began life in anonymity, as a child.” It sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale. It was the opening line of a talk by Gregory Maguire, given last Tuesday at The Williston Northampton School. After reading from Wicked, Maguire traced the development of his creative passions from fourth grade on using a very entertaining slide show of illustrated stories he wrote as a child. His message to aspiring writers of fiction was, in a nutshell, boredom is the kiss of death. If you are bored with what you’re writing, then your readers will most certainly be bored as well. Inject the unexpected and the quirky as much as possible. Make your spies into a couple of balding old ladies, and have plenty of avalanches and bomb scares to keep people hooked.

Maguire revealed that his process of storytelling was aided greatly by illustrating his own stories. Before theories of right brain vs. left brain were popular, he used drawing as a way to develop plot. “I would draw the picture first,” he said, “and then ask the what, where, how, why? Why is the princess still clutching her handbag as she falls from the tower? What is in the handbag?”

In a more serious tone, Maguire made a great point about the thinking behind his empathetic treatment of the Wicked Witch of the West. It is tied in to a larger vision. Similar to Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, Maguire is examining the story of Dorothy Gale from multiple perspectives. “We don’t have enough knowledge if we only have one point of view,” he said. His next book, A Lion among Men, is told from the perspective of the Cowardly Lion.

This was the first in Williston’s fall 2008 Writers’ Workshop Series, which includes public readings and lectures by prominent writers followed by a Master Class for students.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chinese Moon Festival

Thanks to Daphne Burt (Chaplain at the school where I work) for letting me know that today is the Chinese Moon Festival, or Mid-Autumn Festival. On this day, families eat dinner under the moon, eat mooncakes, pomeloes, and tell the story of Chang’e, the moon maiden.

Some of you may know that my damselfly tattoo was inspired by a theater experience I had (it was more than just being part of the cast) while at Hampshire College. The play was based on the story of Change'e. So... I feel a connection to this day. My journey from cast member to damselfly is a mystical story, not really fit for this brief blog entry, but I wanted to at least acknowledge that ancient and beautiful Chinese myth here.

Blessings to all this day!

Does anybody know what a pomelo is?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Environmental Writing Contest

I recently received this notice from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

From Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth century to Rachel Carson and E.O. Wilson in the twentieth, writers have played a profound role in drawing attention to our natural environment and inspiring people to protect it. To continue this tradition and inspire action on global warming, the Union of Concerned Scientists has partnered with literary publisher Penguin Classics to encourage the public to submit essays and images about climate change for publication in a new online book, Thoreau’s Legacy: American Stories about Global Warming.

We want to hear from you. To participate, write a 200- to 500-word first-person account of global warming that relates to your life or the world around you. Is there a place that holds a special meaning to you that you want to protect? What people, animals, or activities that you love are at risk from a changing climate? Are you taking steps in your own life to stem the tide of global warming? Tell us your story, or send us a photograph related to topics like these. The best submissions will be included in Thoreau’s Legacy, which will be published online in spring 2009 and in a limited-edition hardcover version.

Two leading scientists and one of the nation’s most respected nature photographers have contributed representative works to the project to serve as examples of the kind of essays and photographs we are seeking. To view them and learn how you can submit your own essay or photograph, visit the UCS website.

It’s time for the writings of a new generation to inspire our country to take on the challenge of global warming and save our natural—and national—heritage. Submit your story or photographs today.

Monday, September 1, 2008

I Survived the 3-day Novel Contest

I return to this blog after running a marathon...a writing marathon, that is. I signed up for the 3-day Novel Contest and chained myself to my desk over Labor Day weekend. I laughed, I cried, I screamed, and I drank a lot of coffee. I conclude the experience 12,809 words richer. I do not have a novel to show for it, not yet anyway...I worked for a while on my main story, and when I hit a wall I worked on a few other short stories. It seems that many participants came away with more words or pages than I, but the point is not to compare...the point is the journey, and I have done it.

I felt at times a bit like I did when I ran the 8-mile race in this picture: completely unprepared. I did not train for the race. I think I finished 10th from last. But I beat my goal in terms of time, and I finished. The same was true this time...I did not practice writing fiction. I have never in my life completed a work of fiction (correct me if I'm wrong, Mom. I may have done something of the sort in middle school). So it was a little crazy to expect myself to draft a novel with no preparation and hardly any planning. Still, I managed to write for a total of 18.5 hours (about 6 hours per day).

Where's the fun in life if you never do anything crazy? Now I hope to go back and actually do some studying of fiction while I work with the new material I generated this weekend. Pat Schneider, in her book Writing Alone and with Others, relates a fairy tale in which the hero finds a wealth of copper but must give it up in order to earn silver, and then must give up the silver in order to earn all he can carry in gold. She says that is a metaphor for writing, that if we keep going, if we are willing to shed things along the way, we will find treasure. I found some treasure, and it surprised me. That's the whole point, right?