Guest Post: Networking: An Essential of the Writing Life

Please welcome my good friend Linda Busby Parker to Wordstrumpet today.  I'll let Linda tell you the story of our friendship, but I want to urge you to go visit her blog, because she is starting a book club on May 1st, and let me just tell you, nobody deconstructs a novel the way Linda does.  You'll learn so much about writing, trust me.  So check it out.  And now read on:

My good friend and fellow writer, Charlotte, invited me to occasionally post on her blog.  She favors me by doing the same—posting on my blog.  Here’s my first post for Wordstrumpet.


I first met Charlotte in the fall of 2001 when we both entered the low-residency MFA in Writing at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky.  We were both in a workshop taught by Sena Naslund, author of AHAB’S WIFE, FOUR SPIRITS, and ABUNDANCE.  Charlotte submitted a terrifically good short story for workshop—I still remember it.  It was subtle and understated.  For whatever reasons, we hit it off right away and became companions at meals and joined a group of other students after hours for a glass of wine to close the day down. 

Our circle of writers in the MFA program grew.  At the last residency in the fall of 2003, Charlotte and I participated in a novel workshop.  Each of the five participants submitted a completed novel for critique.  That workshop was led by writer/professor Julie Brickman.  The five students in that course plus Professor Julie became close friends, colleagues, and supporters of each other.  We called ourselves THE NOVEL GODDESSES. 

It’s been nearly seven years since that workshop convened, but the novel goddesses are still friends and colleagues.  Two members of the group—Julie and Deidre—reside in California, Charlotte in Oregon, Maryann in Michigan, Katy in Kentucky, and I’m in Alabama.  We’ve enjoyed one writing retreat—all six of us came—on the Gulf Coast of Alabama.  In the fall of 2010, we will again convene as a group—all six participating—in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

In the intervening seven years since we first met, we have supported each other through many writing triumphs and disappointments. We’ve also given advice to each other when asked to do so.  On a personal level, we’ve seen each other through the deaths of four of our collective parents, the major illness of one husband, and the marriage of one daughter.

Having these writing sisters has sustained me more times than I can count.  They are the first group of friends/colleagues I go to when I’m terribly disappointed about what’s happening in the writing world in general or my writing world in particular.  It’s also the first group I go to when I want to share a great joy in my writing life. 

I’ve established other networks of writing friends here locally in Mobile and at both Bread Loaf and the Sewanee Writer’s Conference, but the Novel Goddesses constitute the largest of my writing networks—the Goddesses have remained a close group and continue to offer support for each member in the network.  I cannot stress enough the importance of forming networks if you are a writer.  The writing highway is crooked, the hills steep, the disappointments numerous, but joys are also a part of that crooked highway.  Networks get us through the crooked bends and twists in that highway and give us sustaining friendships when it’s time to celebrate!

Linda Busby Parker is author of the award-winning novel, Seven Laurels and is a professor of writing at The University of South Alabama in Mobile.  She also teaches in a low-residency program in Continuing Education—The Writers’ Loft—at Middle Tennessee State University.  Her blog is www.lindabusbyparker.us 

Invitation to “Embracing the Goddesses Within” Filming

I'm breaking my rule of no blogging on the weekends to bring you this information which I've been asked to post.  This event is going to be so cool and I'm attending myself.  So grab your tickets and I'll see you there!

Beverly Please join us for the filming of the PBS Special, "Empowered Living: Embracing the Goddesses Within" with Beverley Danusis. Filming will take place in the lower level of the Parthenon in Nashville on Monday, April 19th, beginning promptly at 9:30 a.m. and lasting until about 12:00 noon. Please arrive early. FREE TICKETS will be distributed via email to the first 100 people to RSVP. Back-up reservations will also be accepted.

Beverley Danusis is a successful entrepreneur, the founder and CCO of AboutWisdom.com and a captivating public speaker. In this presentation, you will learn how to honor, appreciate and trust your inner goddess wisdom. You will leave the day with a fresh sense of empowerment – knowing you were goddess born! Visit our website: http://www.aboutwisdom.com to find out more about the presenter.

For your FREE TICKET and to reserve your seat, please contact our office: 260.423.3655 or email us: info@aboutwisdom.com. The PBS Special, "Empowered Living" is set to air in August. The Parthenon will be closed for all other purposes during the filming.

The Parthenon 2600 West End Avenue, Nashville, TN 37203

To awaken your inner wisdom goddess means living daily from your heart while acknowledging your truth, genuine beauty and innate feminine gifts. You will walk away from this presentation with empowerment tools that surpass all others.

 One of the most critical issues facing women and girls in society today is a lack of self-acceptance. Many women work hard to be successful, only to find themselves lacking the fulfillment that is supposed to accompany it. Others find that the struggle to maintain the success they've earned makes them wonder if it were worth achieving it. Many give up in their pursuit of happiness altogether. This troubling dilemma is widespread, prevalent among women in both big cities and small towns alike.

One can easily see that the side effects of this issue are growing. The number of young girls and women experiencing self-esteem issues and poor self-image is reaching epidemic proportions. Our society has created a beauty image too ideal to achieve, and many women and girls, in an effort to emulate it, suffer with depression, abuse, addictions and eating disorders. They experience relationship and communication issues. Some stay in an abusive relationships and battle feelings of fear and powerlessness. It is common for women to believe this is the only way to be successful, beautiful, and happy. Most females have never been taught how to accept who they are, and many have never learned how an authentic female should look, act, and feel.

Our nation spends trillions of dollars trying to control the ills of society. Six times more money is spent housing a prisoner than educating a child. Yet domestic violence, drug abuse, teen suicide, and gang activity continue to exist, in spite of all of our efforts. Why?

Worldwide, we still lack the answers to empower our children to be happier and healthier than previous generations. Much of what is taught and not taught at an early age has had an impressionable impact on young girls, lasting into adulthood. In most societies, women are the primary care givers and teachers of children.

"Empowered Living; Embracing the Goddesses Within" program offers viewers effective tools to tap into their own personal power or wisdom and teaches how to pass this knowledge onto their children. This PBS Special focuses on developing a daily practice of self-empowerment, therefore empowered living.

This content replaces the outdated "princess syndrome" of the false beauty image for females, which still exist in our culture, regardless of our education. A fresh paradigm, the wise goddess, meaning self-empowerment through self-acceptance, replaces the powerless, dependent princess. Women are beginning to embrace their goddess power and let go of the old worn out princess motif… yet not enough women know about this empowering trend. This is where our presentation opens the door to potentially millions.

The "goddess woman" is a recently embraced trend in various markets from Nike goddess wear, perfumes, clothing, jewelry, art, Gillette razors, goddess oriented decorations, skin care, and aromatherapy, hair products by Avon, fitness products, to name a few.

Many businesses have keyed in on the strength behind the use of goddess names. Avon, for example, titles their monthly sales letter "Athena" after the Greek Goddess. The "Athena Award" is recognition given internationally, to women, for leadership in their local community. Other businesses such as Goddess Facility Supplies and ArtemisPress Goddess Gear Shop are growing trends in goddess marketing. Google the word "goddess" and one instantly finds millions of sites using the word goddess or one of the goddess' names for brand identity.

If you are interested in attending this filming and changing your life, please contact us at 260.423.3655 or info@aboutwisdom.com to reserve your ticket today. We only have 100 available, so don't miss out!

The featured personality for this program is Beverley Danusis. A sexually abused child and a physically abused spouse, (in her first marriage), Beverley came to the crossroad of life where choices were difficult.  With two young children and no job, she took the road to empowerment. On her journey she came off dependence of welfare to become a successful sales representative. Within a decade she was a corporate officer to one of the top cosmetic companies in the country and "Business Woman" of the year in Los Angeles. She left the corporate arena to pursue a passion to teach "Empowered LivingTM". Beverley's mission has allowed her to speak to audiences in over a dozen countries.  She has appeared on television and radio. Her award-winning book, "Sophia and the Seven Goddesses: A Journey of Self-Acceptance" has received both the Creative Child Magazine Award and the prestigious Dove Foundation "Family-Approved" Seal.  Beverley's presentation discusses the seven goddess attributes of "Empowered LivingTM".  Using her dynamic and fun personality, she will show how individuals can tap the goddess attributes they were born with, to live an empowered life.

Beverley Danusis is AboutWisdom.com.

The Filtering Consciousness

I was reminded of the filtering consciousness as I wrote a critique this week.  I owe everything I know about it to my mentor and friend Julie Brickman.  She was the first person to point it out to me in my novel.  Up until then, I'd always felt that something just didn't "sound" quite right in my work.  It was a little off and I could never identify why.  I had good dialogue, understood how to write scenes, knew how to write great descriptions.  But something separated my work from sounding publishable.

In the course of my MFA studies, I had the great good fortune to take part in an experimental novel workshop, the first of its kind.  The standard cornerstone of a brief residency MFA program is the workshop.  10 or so students gather for 2 hours a day to discuss the work of the members of the workshop.  The work is sent in ahead of time, and everyone reads it and critiques it and then discusses it in class.

Since each person only gets one hour of time devoted to their writing, the only thing that you can get critiqued is a short story or essay of 25 pages or less.  You submit a chapter of a novel at your own peril, because it is so difficult to critique it apart from the rest of the piece.  So, if you submit chapter five, someone might say, "I was really curious about Frank's backstory" but you've already written that backstory in chapter three.  Or if you submit chapter one, someone might say, "I think this and this is going to happen" and you are sitting there thinking that the story goes in a completely different direction.

For these reasons, people writing novels have a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to workshopping.  Thus was the novel workshop born.  It quickly became renamed the Novel Goddess Workshop, because, well, the six of us in it were goddesses, that's all there is to it.  The idea was that instead of 10 participants, there would be only 5, and everyone in the workshop had to commit to reading 5 whole novel manuscripts.  It was a pretty labor intensive couple of months, especially since most of us had been madly finishing our novels up until the very last minute.

But to say the workshop was a huge success was to indulge in understatement.  Led by the afore- mentioned Julie Brickman, it was far and away the best workshop I had in my 2 years of studying for my MFA and some of the best critiquing I've had ever.  Not only that, but all of us in the group bonded for life.  We call ourselves the Novel Goddesses and have managed to have one full goddess reunion a couple years ago on Dauphin Island in Alabama.  Several of us met last January at AWP, and that same group will be presenting a panel at next year's AWP conference in Chicago.  Three of the goddesses live on the west coast, and since I come to LA, I get to see Deidre and Julie fairly often.  Linda teaches in my program in Nashville, so I'll get to see her in just a few weeks, and I'll see Katy and Maryann next February in Chicago (and Maryann's book, Base Ten, will just have been published, the same book we critiqued in the workshop).

So all that is a very long digression about how I learned to identify the filtering consciousness.  It was in the Novel Goddess Workshop that Julie pointed it out to me.  The proverbial lightbulb moment ensued.  Oh, that's what makes my work sound clunky and amateurish!

Perhaps you are wondering what this wondrous thing is, and I will tell you.   It is when everything that you write is preceded with I saw or I heard or I smelled.  Or, if writing in third person, she saw, she listened, she smelled.  For instance, you might write something like "She smelled the jasmine abloom all around in a blaze of white and green."  (Do not pay attention to the dreadfulness of the writing, its off the top of my head.)  Once you remove the filtering consciousness it is less laden:  The jasmine bloomed all around her in a blaze of white and green."

Or, "I saw the ragtag army marching toward me, with their hair matted and mouths open with thirst."  How much better it reads when you remove the F.C.:  The ragtag armed marched with their hair matted and mouths open with thirst."

The filtering consciousness puts a screen between you and the reader.  Its one more barricade the reader must negotiate to enter the page with your prose on it.  You want to make it as easy as possible for the reader to do this, by removing as many obstacles as possible.

So if your work somehow just doesn't quite sound right to you, look at your manuscript for the filtering consciousness and if you find it, edit it out.  Your work will be stronger and leaner and read better for it.