Tag Archives | writing events

Inspiration from Room to Write

800px-Tower_at_Scarritt_BennettI just got home from Nashville, where I co-produced the re-instituted Room to Write, along with Terry Price and Janet Wallace.   This event is not a writing conference.  Rather, as we like to say, it is a time for uninterrupted creativity.  While we did offer several talks throughout the weekend, they are totally optional, because the point of the weekend is to give you time to get away and write.  So we emphasize that if you’re in the flow with your writing, stick with it and don’t come to the sessions.

The event is held at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in the heart of Nashville, a gorgeous spot that is a former college. As such, it is dotted with cool old stone buildings and beautiful mature trees.  It’s a very popular spot for weddings. Each participant gets several meals in the Harry Potter-style dining hall and a room.  The rooms are, shall we say, spartan, and most of them share a bathroom.  When I say spartan, I mean spartan: one single bed, one desk and a chair.  I’ve actually grown quite fond of these rooms and am able to do some great writing in them–like I’m holed up in my own little writing cave.  But participants also have free run of the entire campus and many of us ended up hanging out in Lasky, where they serve coffee and there’s lot of places to sit and write.  I got a lot of good writing done up there, too.

I could go on and on about what a great time I had, including dinner with my student Norma at Epice and lunch with the beloved J.D. and Donna at Chuy’s, but my real intent here is to share with you some good info I gleaned from the presentations.

Labyrinth Walk

First up was Terry’s labyrinth session.  We met in a fine mist at the SBC labyrinth, which is based on the one at labyrinthsbcChartres Cathedral.  Terry is a labyrinth fiend and full of great information on them.  A labyrinth can be used a lot of different ways, but it is most often used for  spiritual or creative purposes.  It is one path with no tricks and no dead ends, unlike a maze.  You just follow the marked path (in this case, it is a grass labyrinth delineated by bricks) all the way through.  It will lead you to the center and back out again.  You don’t even have to think, and the point is not to.  It can be useful to ask a question before you enter the labyrinth and most often you’ll receive an answer before you depart.  Keep your journal handy!  I’ve walked the labyrinth many times and this is the first time I’ve failed to get an immediate answer, though it did come to me later.  If you would like to find a labyrinth near you, check out this site, which lists labyrinths all over the world.

Sustaining a Writing Practice Over the Long Haul

This was my session, and I had a great time.  Since we were a small group, I invited everyone to chime in with comments and questions as we went along and it turned into a great discussion about how to keep to the page.  I divided it into 4 segments: writing, doing something writing-related, doing something that will lead you back to your writing, or doing something that will support your writing.  The feedback that I got was that the ideas were very helpful and so I’ll probably work them up into a blog post or two in the coming weeks.

Creating From Wildness Through the Poetry of Rumi

This was another great session from Terry, using Rumi’s work to encourage wild, mad creativity in our writing.   It was a rich, deep session.  As one of our attendees said, “Terry is like blood pressure medicine,” and he is.  Very chill and calming and wonderful.  Here’s a snippet of the Rumi poem, I’ll Be Mad, to give you the flavor of it.

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.

Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.

I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on, I’ll be mad.


Leaving the Writing Cave and Building the DreamJanet at Room to Write

Janet’s presentation on the mindset and marketing pieces we writers need for the business side of our lives was powerful.  She alternated between mindset recommendations and marketing advice.  Examples of mindset are: make peace with your desires, nurture your relationship with money, improve your gratitude, practice self-care of greater success faster, and nurture your relationship with time.  For marketing: write a personal manifesto, get clear on your ideal customer (or reader), use social media to build community and sell your books, find your tribe and continue to thrive.  Great stuff.  I took a ton of notes.

Besides the sessions and the blocks of time to write, another great aspect about Room to Write is meeting your tribe of writers.  We enjoyed an opening Happy Hour event to discuss goals and ended with breakfast at Panera on Sunday morning to talk about what we accomplished.  In between, there was much camaraderie over meals, a few spontaneous tarot readings, new friends and contacts made.  All in all, a wonderful time, well worth flying across the country for.  Of course, Nashville is my second home so I’ll head there any time!

Are you planning to attend any writing retreats or conferences this year?

6

The Writer’s Loft at MTSU

The Writer's Loft at MTSU.

That, my friends, is a link to the awesome video that Janet Wallace just made for the Writer's Loft.  (Check out her blog post that also features the video.)

I haven't written about the Writer's Loft
in quite awhile.  The Writer's Loft is the distance writing program I
co-direct in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (for those of you not from the
area, Murfreesboro is about half an hour away from Nashville, the home
of MTSU, the largest university in Tennessee, which is where our program is housed).

The
Loft is a three semester certificate program in which you work
one-on-one with a supportive mentor, who not only reads your work, but
recommends books to read and helps to guide your course of study.  As
I've noted in this space repeatedly before, there really is no better
way to improve your writing skills.  Working one-on-one with a mentor
allows you time at home to write while still getting focused
instruction.  Our program is modeled on the brief-residency MFA
programs that have become so popular, although, as our founder, Roy Burkhead says, the Loft is an "MFA lite" program.

You
can sign up for the Loft and complete all three semesters and earn a
certificate in writing.  Or, you can take one semester if you need a
jump-start on a writing project, or perhaps need guidance to finish
something.  You can join the Loft and just continue to sign up,
semester after semester, which is what several of our students have
done.  They refuse to graduate and we love them for it!

There's been a lot going on in with the Loft lately.  My original co-director, Terry Price, has decided to spend more time on his writing and is now Director Emeritus.  I am pleased and proud to announce that Rabbi Rami Shapiro has stepped up to become my new co-director.  Rami and I have worked together at the Room to Write retreats and Path and Pen workshops.

I've written more about the Loft here,
and you can learn lots more about it by going to our website.  For
anybody in the area, or even close, think about heading to the MTSU
campus on September 17, when we feature workshops that our open to the
public.  This semester Whitney Ferre of Creatively Fit and Kathy Rhodes of the journal Muscadine Lines
will be doing workshops for us.  The price is $50, and you'll not only
have the benefit of the fabulous workshops, you'll get to meet
wonderful writers, including moi.  C'mon, I'd love to meet you in
person!

And, of course, if you want any more info, just email
me.  My address is at the top of this page.  (Top left, I think.  I've
been rearranging things.) By the way, Janet Wallace, who made the video, is our new marketing expert.  She specializes in helping writers, authors, and other creative types with their marketing and social media.  Check out her blog here.

0

A Successful Writing Life

Last week at the Fall Writer's Loft orientation, we held a panel on The Writing Life.  I moderated, and mentors Bill Brown, David Pierce, and Linda Busby Parker participated.  It was a freewheeling and wide-ranging discussion, as I'd hoped.  Since I was moderating, I scribbled notes, just in case the conversation lagged and I needed to get it going again.  That didn't happen, but looking back over my notes gives some idea of what all we covered:

  • Finding a balance between making a living and writing
  • Tips on just doing it
  • The value of getting into the flow of writing 1,000 words a day, no matter what
  • "Stay with it" momentum (see above)
  • Handling rejection
  • Pointing yourself in a specific direction
  • Switch it up–try non-fiction if you mostly write fiction, etc.
  • The pressure to write a blog and keep up with twitter and social media
  • The best writer's conferences and events
  • How to use prompts
  • And we covered all this in 45 minutes…

After I got back home to the lovely (and hot) PDX, I started pondering the writing life anew.  I didn't talk much at the panel, as it was not intended to be about me.  But many people have expressed interest in the writing life that I have created for myself.  While I don't yet make buckets of money and I'm not a household name, I do have a satisfying life that I love.  It gives me tons of freedom and independence, which are two of my most important personal values.  I can pretty much do what I want when I want, though let us not forget I earn this right by being slavishly devoted to my clients and their deadlines. (Just so you don't think I'm a slacker all the time.)

Anyway, I started thinking about some of the things I've done to create myself a writing life and came up with the following:

1.  Decide what kind of writing life you want.  Do you want to pick a job that doesn't require you give it your heart and soul, and thus frees your emotional energy for writing?  Or do you want a job that is in writing or a related field?  Obviously, I chose the latter and I like it because the more I write, the better I get.  All of the various kinds of writing that I do–ghostwriting, copywriting, blogging, fiction, critiquing–enhance each other.

2.  If you do choose the full-time writing life, be willing to do anything (well, within reason).  Like most free-lancers, I wear many hats, and I like some of these hats lots better than others.  But that doesn't mean I turn down the things that aren't as much fun.  For me, its all writing, and I still get a thrill from even the dullest of jobs.  I had no idea that ghostwriting could be such a fun and lucrative gig, until I did my first assignment, which I got nearly by accident.  So keep your mind and your options open.

3.  Be willing to take low-paying jobs at first.  You need experience.  You need clips.  Work for free or a pittance if you have to at first.  I got paid a miserable wage in my first years as a writer, but I was able to up my fees quickly once I mastered the various genres and had the clips to prove it.

4.  Broaden your physical horizons.  We're a global community now.  Many of my ghostwriting clients are in LA, and my students in Nashville.  Doesn't matter–we've got this thing called the internet that allows us to communicate instantly.  Don't reject jobs because they are in other locations.  Besides, one of the best parts of my job is the fact that I get to travel to places I love.

I'm sure I've got more advice in me, but the workers who are doing God only knows what at the house around the corner are so noisy they've got my brain scrambled.  So, since I don't have to report to anybody but myself (did I mention that as a huge benefit?)  I'm taking my freedom and heading to New Seasons.

PS.  Read more about the Loft orientation at Linda's blog, right here.

3