Inspiration is Everywhere

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While gathering seeds to plant next spring (Morning Glory and Nasturtium) I came cropped seedpod alienacross a Wooly Bear caterpillar hiding out under cover of the mass of Nasturtium leaves. And I found this seed pod:

Reminds me of a certain alien opening its mouth to implant unsuspecting hosts (it is a seed pod, after all–that’s what they’re designed to do).

Coupled with the alien graveyard I found earlier this year:

alien husks

and the myriad moments of awe and intrigue I experience every day just observing the world, Nature is simply full of inspiration, stories, wonder, and possibility.

What have you seen recently that inspires you, that made it (in some form or another) into a story or work of art or into your imagination?

Happy Autumn (Northern-Hemisphere-ers)!

That Four-Letter Word: Plot

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Perhaps this is why I’m a poet first and a fiction writer second. Because I think young_boy_ponderingdepth and spirals before I think linear and omg, this three-act structure monstrosity, I struggle with the unnatural thing, I tell you.

So I’m intrigued by discussions of plot that describe it in a way that I can understand (that doesn’t leave me baffled or shuddering). Generate Nerve-Shredding Story Tension—Power of the Secret-Keeper at Kristen Lamb’s Blog did just that.

As Kristen Lamb put it: “Plot merely serves to change characters from a lowly protagonist into a hero…kicking and screaming along the way.

One element that is critical to understand is this:

Everyone has Secrets“.

It’s the tension of misunderstanding, of balancing the keeping of secrets with staying healthy/happy, of keeping your world view in tact (because no one wants to rethink their world view unless they have to–it’s a shock to the system, to “reality” to be forced to notice that what you think is true is just another story you’ve told yourself and it isn’t true).

key_smallIn storytelling this means your characters will “have to reveal their sins, but this will cost them the ‘perfect version of themselves’ they’ve sold the world… (and frankly, themselves)”.

This I can do. This I can write about because it is layered, it is human, and it is what causes so much pain and grief in our daily lives.

This I can do because it is what I try to show in my poetry–that things are not as you believe them to be–they are and they aren’t–they aren’t because they have their own lives, their own stories or no story–they are, because you make it the way you want to see it in your story.

Because there are no observer-less observations.

Because of light’s particle-wave duality. Because of quantum entanglement. Because there IS NO STORY, NO tidy Plot to life. Because patterns exist only when you leave out all other data points, which means there are no patterns.

Because life is beautiful nonetheless, or because of, or despite all this and THAT is something I can write about, and if you want to call that plot then go ahead, but it isn’t and THAT is also what I want to show.

[All quotes from Kristen Lamb's blog post "Generate Nerve-Shredding Story Tension—Power of the Secret-Keeper". Read the article and find out what other secrets characters keep that keep us turning pages!]

Blooms and Bugs and Posts

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I reblogged a post from Elodie Under Glass, or at least tried to, I’m not sure it worked. What I wanted to share was this: Reader Letter: Random Paper Airplanes because it’s awesome and has everything: Anne Lamott; how to clean your home when you’re not the Clean One; mindset; etymology of “experience” and “expertise”; quotes like “you’ve reached an Age, and you haven’t unlocked the required babies and car achievements for that level”; and gifs. Go read it!DSCN0670

Sharing some photos of the garden. This is the first year I’ll have been here the whole summer. It’s very exciting, thingDSCN0674s grow! I mean, it’s amazing. DSCN0676

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nasturtiums have edible flowers. They taste peppery and look lovely atop salads. They also help deter animals from eating the strawberries planted behind them.

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And here’s a busy busy bee.

I, too, must get busy with the words and the writing.

Enjoy summer (you Northern Hemisphere-ers). Enjoy these pictures of flowers if you don’t have your own to wonder at. Enjoy Elodie’s blog, everyone.

 

Goals, mini-update

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But first this blog post, “Still Writing, A Year After Odyssey“, by Bill Powell, one of my dear Odyssey class of 2013 fellows.

One thing with goals is to remember what they were and acknowledge when you’ve reached them. For instance, last year I’d told myself that I was going to a writing workshop. If I didn’t get into Odyssey, Clarion, or Clarion West I would sign up for workshops through the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. But one way or another, I was going somewhere and dedicating time, energy, and effort to my writing.

And I did. Which means I achieved a major writing goal.

It’s important to remember that I did this thing. Otherwise it’s a never ending list of what I must do’s without the acknowledgement of accomplishment or work and achievement.

And now I have a new goal with a deadline (end of August): I’m beta reading one of my other dear Odfellow’s novel. How exciting! So for the next seven weeks I’ll be reading, taking notes, and writing a critique of her novel.

And I’ll be focusing on my own writing (again, having fallen out of the habit for a few weeks). Which is a less concrete goal. More on how to deal with that later.

Almost a year since Odyssey. Thousands of words written, revised, submitted. Most of us are still together in regular contact. That’s accomplishment.

One of the wonderful things about that? As Bill wrote, we’re just getting started.

Pen On Top of Papers

Pen On Top of Papers

Goals, part 1

Dear Reader,

I’ve a tiny heap of partial blog posts sitting over there staring at me, and a too long gap between posting dates. (Connection?) The last post I started but did not finish was about goals: what they are, how they relate to writing, basic philosophical treatise that went nowhere. Clearly my brain knows things and is elbowing me trying to get my attention, because goals! I need to consider, write down, and clarify me some goals and then, you know, adhere. Follow through.

My writing habits and my goal-making follow the same pattern I use to do chores–I multitask. And what happens when I multitask? Less gets done than if I’d just stuck to some one thing (okay, or two things, let’s not get carried away) and followed it through. But the divergent multi-layered dance of thoughts in my mind! How will I keep all those thoughts and their relationships to one another and the interconnectedness and weave of interplay if I only follow one thought? I’ll lose so much.parabola

But I lose plenty, too, when I try to follow them all because I rarely finish. This is undoubtedly somehow related to goals. I’m pretty sure.

So is organization. Something I’m still working on. Something that should be taught in schools–I know, in theory that’s what we learn while doing other things, like learning how to write and essay and a by-product of writing out all your “work” to math problems. But that’s not the same as learning how you think and how best (not only just one best, but you know, all the bests) to organize your thoughts according to your own special neurological processes.

This is the beginning. This is how we learn–we become aware of a need that is not being fulfilled, we imagine something that is not but could be, and we try to figure out how to get there to that place where that thing we want is. This is how goal-making starts. At least, I think it does.

When I Can’t Write…

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My flowerbed is an alien graveyard.

My brain was not cooperating with the whole writing thing today, so I did some gardening instead. Fresh air, soil, getting my hands dirty, nothing to think but be with the plants and worms. Good old physical labor and clean air.

Then I found these:
alien husksI hope they had a good life in the huge tree that shelters our house and in our yard that we let grow wild last summer. These little aliens now share a flowerbed with Irises and Daffodils, and an assortment of shade tolerant seeds including various Daisies, Foxglove, Poppies, Sweet William, and Blue Pimpernell among others.

it's only a gargoyle if water runs out it

It’s only a gargoyle if there’s water running through it.

They and our home are kept safe by our gargoyle:

 

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…and there is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

all curled up

all curled up

And here’s some spring color, because it’s not all death and dormant seeds:DSCN0518

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geranium bloom

violets

violets

Odyssey Workshop Application Deadline Approaches

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Last summer my life changed forever–I attended Odyssey, a six week intensive writing workshop for writers of speculative fiction led by the inestimable Jeanne Cavelos. It was amazing, trying, thrilling, exhausting. I learned so much that I am still learning what I learned. I never so loved being around a group of strangers, but they weren’t strangers exactly–we all love writing, reading, and the life in words. I met a whole group of my sisters and brothers of my dreamworld. We wrote up apocalypses that destroyed cultures and whole worlds then the next day we birthed new ones; we created horrors and dreams, monsters and gods, and then we met for dinner.

If you are considering investing in your writing, in yourself as a writer, and have considered applying to Odyssey, do! I did not get accepted my first round of applications to the three big workshops (Odyssey, Clarion, and Clarion West). But I kept writing and bettering my craft and the next time I applied, last year, I was wait-listed and then accepted to two of these fine institutions. The process of applying is a worthy process–you can learn from it regardless of outcome. But it’s the only way to be accepted into one of these programs.

Write your heart out, revise, and apply!

ImageHere’s a brief description from Jeanne:

The application deadline for this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop is April 8.  If you want to make a big leap forward with your writing skills, now is the time to apply to Odyssey.  Graduates have repeatedly said that six weeks at Odyssey has taught them more than a two-year master’s program in creative writing, and more than years of study on their own.

We have a wonderful session prepared for this summer, with guests including Catherynne M. Valente, Ellen Kushner, Elizabeth Hand, and Gordon Van Gelder.  Our writers-in-residence, Melanie Tem and Steve Rasnic Tem, taught at Odyssey 2005 and are among students’ most beloved writers-in-residence.  I was thrilled when they agreed to teach again this year.

You can find more workshop information here:  http://www.sff.net/odyssey/workshop.html

And you can find instructions on how to apply here:  http://www.sff.net/odyssey/apply.html

Saint Anselm College, photo credit: Kate Hall

Saint Anselm College. Photo credit: Kate Hall (fellow Odyssey ’13 graduate)

 

Poem up at Stone Telling–grand double issue!

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adapted from Urbex House…, by ElvinMy poem “That Thief, Melancholy” is in Stone Telling issue 10, The Body. The photo above accompanies the poem. I think it’s a great visual adaptation/ accompaniment.

This is a double issue! Lots of amazing poetry for you to read and listen to. Excellent poems from Sofia Samatar, Lisa M. Bradley, Jaymee Goh, Bogi Takács, Sonya Taaffe, Emily Jiang, and oh so many more! [Links are to authors' websites--for their poems click Stone Telling issue 10.]

StoneTelling10-COVERFrom the editors Rose Lemberg and Shweta Narayan regarding issue 10: Speaking about the body is a radical act. The body – with its ills, idiosyncrasies and secrets, its daring, its slow or rapid disintegration; the body that is beauty of old age and the pain in bones; the labored, uncertain gasping for air that supercedes all other desires. The body and the passions of it; the shame that is societally circumscribed and weighs us down like chains; the mind, which is a part of the body, in all its brilliance and defeat. Stone Telling poets have long been in dialogue with the body. The body dancing and at rest, the body wounded and healing, the body clothed in words or stripped bare. The body fat, thin, unapologetic, apologetic, too angry to be shy, not angry enough, the body that crosses boundaries, the body that says “I am here, see me, see me,” the body that whispers, “move on, there is nothing to see”.

The body is not always the same, the body varies in brightness, its true brightness may be ascertained from the rhythm of its pulsing, the body is more remote than we imagined, it eats, it walks, it traverses with terrible slowness the distance between Wisconsin and Massachusetts, the body is stubborn, snowbound, the body has disappeared, the body has left the country, the body has traveled to Europe and will not say if it went there alone…

I’ll be live on Radio Literature, January 23rd, 89.9 FM

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Rhonda Lee will be hosting me on Radio Literature on Thursday, January 23rd, 7:30pm (central), at WORT 89.9 FM.

Rhonda and I will talk about poetry, writing and literature communities including Wiscon and the Odyssey Writing Workshop, and I’ll be reading some of my poems, both published and unpublished. You’ll hear about Bluebeard’s daughter, Saints and their smiles, eternity, and winter.

All this at WORT’s studios–that’s 89.9 FM on the radio dial and http://www.wortfm.org/ on the internet (the “listen live” button is in orange in the upper right-hand corner of their home page).

Can’t listen live? WORT archives radio shows for a week. You can reach their archives here.

Radio Literature News & Culture Thursdays @ 7:30 pm
Radio Literature is a weekly half-hour show devoted to airing poetry, spoken word, fiction, and non-fiction from Wisconsin and the nation. It often features discussion with writers, as well as readings of their work.

 

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