Friday, May 28, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
The Poor and Pure of Heart
In this city, in all these stores, I have spent
Everything I have, even my last dime.
I'm so hungry now, I'm chewing on my hands for food
And my emotions have turned from callousness into insights.
Like the rose whose petals fall after blooming,
In my body and spirit I have set a fire.
Last night a nightingale came to my window and sang.
Its song was so sweet I listened, and it had this to say:
"O pilgrim, be happy. Your Beloved is often angry because of
Poverty and bad luck. There is no need for you to act like this!
"If spiritual enlightenment is taking too long and you are tired of the world,
Then give up everything, even your words.
"Even if waves of misfortune were to come crashing on the roof of the sky,
The poor and pure of heart would stay completely dry."
O Hafiz, what if it were possible to achieve union with God?
Do you think that for even a moment you'd continue to behave this way?
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
A few nights ago, I spent hours scouring writers' blogs. By the end of the evening, I couldn't help but wonder what she would say about our blogging community. In some writing/blogging circles, the idea of building followers is imperative. The idea of creating blogging gimmicks to attract readers is mandatory. The skill of commenting personally yet wittily on each blog you follow is an absolute necessity.
How would Kay handle herself in this world? The answer clearly abides in her choice to stay far removed from it. She does not tweet or blog; she loathes the idea of modern 'mentors' and 'workshopping.' She has never taken or taught a creative writing class. She lives quietly, teaches remedial English, hikes in the desert. No tenure and guest speaking at great universities. No gimmicks. No ambitions beyond living truthfully to herself and to her art.
It's interesting that her privacy may have hampered her success. One article suggests that Ryan's work may have taken decades to attract wide readership in part by her lack of literary connections. But is that such a bad thing? She has said, "I think the people who become the most interesting writers are always going to come from, in some sense, desperate circumstances. There is a great deal of very private testing that has to happen in a writer. It has to be faced. I'm not sure it is good idea to hold hands with others too much."
Holding hands. That's what we're doing as we network on the internet and attend luncheons and retreats. In a way, attending these events is, to me, delightful. And in a way it is, for me, imperative. I don't know that I would have carved out the time necessary to write a novel if Laini hadn't gathered us up and cheered us on. I wouldn't have continued if Jennie and Jay and jldy didn't keep holding my hands through April.
But as I consider Kay Ryan tonight, I wonder what it would take to become a "most interesting writer."Stop blogging? Stop reading blogs? No; I like you guys too much. :) I will stay devoted to a small circle of lovelies whom I enjoy and find inspiring. But I won't believe it when I hear folks say a new writer has to blog, has to have hundreds of followers. We don't have to. We can succeed without them. I think what our poet laureate can teach me is to rely on the wind and the desert, the cup in my hand and the dog howling out back . . . rely on the world to shape my writing, not the computer. And rely on myself to succeed--but, oh, how daunting that sounds.
I will try to blend my delight for connection and need for support with the reality of a writer's inevitable private testing. I'm certain I will not grow roots as deep as Ryan's, but I'll trust I'll blossom sweetly, all the same. :)
Most of it's too dreary
or too cherry red.
If it's a chair, it's
covered with things
the savior said
or should have said--
in nail polish
too small to be read.
If it's a picture,
the frame is either
burnt matches glued together
or a regular frame painted over
to extend the picture. There never
seems to be a surface equal
to the needs of these people.
Their purpose wraps
around the backs of things
and under arms;
they gouge and hatch
and glue on charms
till likable materials--
apple crates and canning funnels--
lose their rural ease. We are not
pleased the way we thought
we would be pleased.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
We each came into this venture at different spots of our novels: jldy, just beginning a long-loved story; DM giving fresh eyes to a story you've been working on (and living out in your imagination) for three years. Jennie, in the delicious throes of following a story that you had developed well but that was twisting its own plot, and I was pushing through a story I had started in November but really hadn't devoted time to until Laini Taylor called for a mini-nano in March.
So where did we end up? Did we meet any personal goals? Or was this month really just about developing: developing both our stories and ourselves?
I don't think I could list all the lessons and blessings I gathered through this experience.
You three are enormous blessings. (With the door always open for new writers. We're a friendly bunch; come join us!)
I learned that most of us have "the sky was purple" moments, and I also (humbly!) learned that it's probably better that the sky was purple rather than "the amethyst twilight kissed the tips of the quivering aspen while the June breezes slipped in and out of Carla's red curls, blah, blah, blah."
This lesson is due to a fantastic essay on how important it is to write like we talk. Author Timothy Hallinan shares this fantastic piece of advice: Read it [your story] aloud to someone you like and trust – someone like your ideal reader. It's amazing how the better pieces of writing zip right by when you're reading your work to someone, and how the less-good patches seem to take longer to get through. You can actually feel the energy – both yours and your listener's – flag when the over-written material makes its appearance. Circle or underline those passages and keep reading. You'll come back to them during your next writing session.
Note to self: NO OVERWRITING
I also learned to stop taking my issues out on the NaNo. Poor NaNo. I gave it a hard time last week. :) To make up, I'll share this wildly successful NaNo story:
Stephanie Perkins wrote a novel during the 2007 NaNo WriMo. She cleaned it up, sent it to an agent, sold it to an editor, cleaned it up a bazillion times more, and her novel Anna and the French Kiss is coming out this winter. Hurray Stephanie!! Bravo for drive and resilience and creativity and--lest I forget to say it--hurray for the NaNo that brought you and Anna together! :) (Seriously, click on her name and then scroll down a little in her blog. She lists the events of the whole whirlwindish ride. Totally inspiring.)
So are we going to go again? One more ride on the roller coaster? Are we up to sharing out ups, and down with sharing our downs?
I'm totally in.
In March, I wrote 14,000 words; in April, 9400. I would love to finish the bare-bones of this story in May--another 7,000? And then start revising.
What do you say?
It's within view, guys! :) Can we make it through the poppies? Will weariness overtake us?
Monday, May 3, 2010
My first May Joy is this ray of sunshine:
Oh, the possibilities . . . :)
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Kay Ryan is a poet who reminds me so much of Annie Dillard: a rooted muser, a wit and a wonderer, but never the fool. To get to know her better, enjoy an essay she wrote in 2005 about her experiences at that thing she dreads the most, the Writers Conference. Some snippets I cherish--
On the old way of mailing one's writing to an editor:
Whether or not I started out liking the patient discipline of this exchange, I came to like it. It slowed me down. If I’d gotten those poems back at email speed, say, they wouldn’t have been away long enough for me to lose hope the way you need to. You really shouldn’t be living for a reaction all the time. I also liked the fact that there were no faces or voices; we were all disembodied, writer and editor alike. Just the slow old mail. I wanted my poems to fight their way like that. Fight and fight again. No networking, no friends in high places, no internships. I think that’s how poems finally have to live, alone without your help, so they should get used to it.
On writers' workshops:
I have to assume that the writer respects these other writers’ opinions, and that just scares the daylights out of me. It doesn’t matter if their opinions really are respectable; I just think the writer has given up way too much inside. Let’s not share. Really. Go off in your own direction way too far, get lost, test the metal of your work in your own acids.
On poetry readings in an auditorium of hundreds of listeners:
But what could you tell about anybody’s poetry in this big-top atmosphere? The room is all out of proportion with how poetry works. The pressure is all wrong. This place is right for revivals and mass conversions, for stars and demagogues. I don’t think I’d trust poetry that worked too well here. Aren’t the persuasions of poetry private? To my mind, the right sized room to hear poetry is my head, the words speaking from the page.
Here is her poem, "That Vase of Lilacs," to celebrate the budding of ours.
That Vase of Lilacs
Not just lilacs
are like that;
other purples also
leave us vacant
to vagrant spirits.
But take that vase
of lilacs: who goes
near it is erased.
In spite of Proust,
the sense don't
attach us to a place
or time: we're used
invaded by a line
double rows of
by nose in an