Monday, April 27, 2015

Absent from Myself

I have been absent from this blog, which also means I have been absent from myself. Funny how over these past four years, blogging has become a barometer of how in tune with myself I am. If, as for the past four weeks, I'm either traveling, or hosting/attending dinner parties, attending a writers' conference, socializing or visiting with friends for what feels like 24/7, then I am definitely absent from myself. I don't get enough downtime, and I don't get enough sleep. I'm busy absorbing and being engaged and while these are all good things, I've had too much of all that over this month and I've been simply exhausted.

Now I am slowly settling into my routines again (how I love those routines when I'm tossed about!) as evidenced in my pushing myself to get this post out. Being absent from blogging also means it's harder to get back on the bandwagon. However, my brain feels halfway sorted now and real life is at least stacked in piles, virtual and real ones. I trust some of those piles will become blog posts.

My online memoir class starts next week, so I am busy putting the final touches on that. Would be great to see you there!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Two Years of Morning Pages

Today is my two year anniversary of Morning Pages. Incidentally I find myself in the same spot where I began this practice in earnest: on the banks of the Potomac at the conference my former online writing group organizes at regular intervals. Kind of fortuitous, isn't it? Auspicious even?

Over these two years I have filled these five notebooks with my early morning scribbles, and they have become dear friends to me. They harbor not only what's on my mind and comes out through my hand each morning, they are also where my lists of ideas and tasks live, and where I glue in the occasional memento, such as a ticket stub from a show I loved, or the acceptance letter from a publication I was thrilled to get into. Morning Pages books are where little celebrations find a home, where the hohum of everyday life comes to a halt to get looked at.

I am deeply happy when I can settle into my spot on the couch at home, while the house is still quiet, to write my Morning Pages. It's an early morning gift of happiness to myself. Writing Morning Pages is not discipline (I hate that word.). Rather, Morning Pages are visiting with myself, casting an anchor. If, for some reason, I don't get to do my Morning Pages routine for a few days, I feel unhinged.

So, while I began the Morning Pages practice two years ago in a quest to keep the flow of writing going, I am, more than ever, indebted to Julia Cameron for recommending this practice because it has become a cornerstone of steadiness and happiness in my life.

More on the rationale of Morning Pages here, here and here.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Happy Passover with my German Grandmother's Hazelnut Torte

I'm in the midst of getting ready for Passover, but I wanted to share that my grandmother's signature Torte made it to Tablet Magazine.

Story and recipe here.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Online Memoir Class

As part of my role as writer-in-residence at the Hemingway Birthplace Home, I will be teaching a four-week online class on how to write short memoir in May. I just wrapped up teaching this class in person in the parlor of the Hemingway House, and it was a truly lovely experience. What a setting! The online class will include video lectures from the Hemingway House (I think that will be extra fun!).

Through my many years of teaching memoir writing at StoryStudio Chicago, I've concluded that writers are more likely to find success by going small, by distilling one particular event into a short memoir rather than struggling with a book project. Your memoir can simply be a series of short pieces (which are, incidentally, also easier to publish), or you might, once you're comfortable with the shorter form, venture to write a larger piece.

Here are some examples of short memoirs that my students have published and that are available online:

Wednesdays and Sundays by Susan Wigoda
Frozen by Barbara Coe
Surfacing by Kelley Clink

Incidentally, Kelley Clink has gone on to write a book-length memoir, A Different Kind of Same, that is coming out this June.

Each week this class will focus on one aspect of craft crucial to effective storytelling, as well as a particular realm of memory, such as writing about a favorite smell or a meaningful place. This will show you how to create vivid writing while also bringing to life a pivotal memory that has universal appeal. Class begins May 4, runs for four weeks via email and a blog, and includes feedback on one manuscript (up to 1,000 words) from me and your classmates. I hope to "see you," virtually anyway, at the Hemingway House!

Register through the Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park.