Wednesday, October 21, 2015

365 True Things: 206/Writing

Last year I participated in the wonderful Writing by Writers conference, organized by Pam Houston, at the Marconi Center in Tomales Bay. I was feeling fired up about my "Amber Moon" project, and it was exciting—and very fun—to work with Andre Dubus III. Also to spend five days with my fabulous sister-in-law Patty. It was a terrific experience.

Early this year, I decided that, hell yeah, I'd do it again! This time I went for acclaimed poet and memoirist Mark Doty, who advertised a workshop on cross-genre experimentation.
Unscrew The Locks From The Doors:  New Forms for Poets and Nonfiction Writers
Walt Whitman, early in the “language experiment” he called LEAVES OF GRASS, calls on his readers to open the locked doors, allowing unexpected speech and surprising formal inventions like his own extraordinary free verse. In Whitman’s spirit, this generative workshop is designed to invite writers to move in new directions, blending poem and essay, memoir and lyric, word and image, fragment and whole. We’ll look at the work of some writers who defy easy classification, including Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine, Anne Carson, Nick Flynn and Terry Tempest Williams. Mostly we will write and write, suspending judgment, diving deep into what we don’t know how to do yet, seeking insight, complexity, and forms that lead us, like new roads, to new places.
Sounds great, no? I applied in January and was in.

That was ten months ago. In the meantime, my writing has gone . . . moribund. I haven't been researching Amber Moon. The only writing I've been doing has been this blog—which, granted, isn't nothing. But it doesn't feel especially "creative." It's fine writing, workmanlike. But . . . I aspire to something more . . . serious.

So I arrived today at the Marconi Center feeling some trepidation. I'm surrounded by writers—writers who actually write, don't just talk about it.

In our introductory session, Mark had us go around the room and tell who we are and what struggles we have in our writing. People mentioned all sorts of things: fear that you're not good enough; finding the right structure in memoir; discovering plot, story; finishing; finding the "golden thread" through a longer piece of writing. He had something wise or insightful or pithy to say about each problem.

Me, I said simply: "Starting. I feel like I spend so much time circling the desk, staring at the blank page." He said, "Well, you've come to the right place!" I immediately felt a flush of relief. He reminded us that this is a generative workshop. Not only that, but the beauty of a conference like this is all the fire: we're all sparks of creative energy, and we spark each other, teach each other. That reminded me of last year's workshop, which was stimulating, sometimes a little scary (coming up blank on a prompt or two), but mostly absolutely fun and inspiring. I came home feeling energized.

So . . . I'm hoping for something of the same this time.

This evening we heard Mark read many of his poems and a piece of prose. Wonderful stuff.

I'm ready for the sparks to start flying.

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