Memoir, a 7-step Formula

One sweeping difference between autobiography and memoir is that the former is often an intriguing record of the journey of the extraordinary person (Shirley MacLane, Barack Obama, Isadora Duncan) and of the ordinary, or commonplace, parts of the life they might have lived, bringing our heroes down to our size. We like to know the human side of our Giants. Conversely, memoir has come to signify the extraordinary life circumstances of us ordinary folk. The skill required to craft that memoir resides in all of us, no matter how commonplace, we think our lives. If you feel you have a story to tell, you do. That’s a start

How to Produce Joy

FREE NOW! A workshop with writer, archetypal psychologist Howard Teich, Ph.D, author of Solar Light, Lunar Light How the myth of Psyche and Eros tells us how to produce joy 1–6 p.m. September 22, 2012 San Francisco Zen Conference Center, 308 Page St. SF, (near Laguna)

Book review: Awakening, Kate Chopin

No one has adequately explained then, why Madame Bovary’s name (which appeared in 1856) rolls off tongues easily today. Not so that of Mrs P, whose disdain for marriage and explicit reluctance to give herself to her children were too close to reality. Some things had best remain in the shadows even in fiction.

Flaubert’s Mme Bovary has adulterous affairs at a level that makes Edna’s discreet dalliance seem negligible (by today’s standards). Although, played out with different details, both adulteresses, ultimately overwhelmed by despair, submit to forms of self destruction.

Book Review: Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick

what I learned from Fierce Attachments. It has much more to do with Gornick the writer than Gornick the daughter. In the following passage, which comes on page 175 near the end of the book, I feel a surge of exaltation. Yes! This narrator triumphs and thrives despite all; how resilient we are, when we find our craft and art.

Perchance to Dream, writer’s wisdom

The dollar is now the yardstick of cultural authority, and an organ like TIME, which not long ago aspired to shape the national taste, now serves mainly to reflect it. Jonathan Franzen.

Writings from Prison

“Here in Prison” is a collaboration of writings from various inmates all over the United States sent to me by Joel Fox, inmate at Folsom Prison, whose Buddhist meditation practice I help support through letter writing. Find more info on SF Zen Center Prison Correspondence project here.

The Em Dash Paradox

Ever identified with a symbol of punctuation? The em dash is obsolete—since we went to computers. But raise your arms at your side if you keep it alive.

How to find a competent editor

15. A good editor should first consider your voice, structure, and the proverbial “narrative arc.”
16. The small stuff in #13 IS important.
17. But, your first concern is that an editor have a form of professional “empathy” for your work.
18. You gather this by listening to what the editor reads/writes back to you about your work.
19. You don’t want to be friends with your editor.
20. You want something more brutally meaningful.

Writing is writing, fiction or non

We are all weavers of our destiny. We are all reading our life as its plot, theme, and larger story unfolds before us. Or, we might say, taking in the woof and warp of the tapestry as it falls into place. Some of us are just more aware of the loom and the materials at hand.

Writing As Refuge – workshop overview

3. Process from the inside out: Brief chat on blocks & obstacles (acute & chronic) to writing process, real & perceived (or imagined). I’ll share a bit on my work to break through (using meditation, art therapy) and point to Tolstoy, Hemingway, Woolf, Styron, and other luminaries who all had it. Can you name writing’s Public Enemy No. 1? 4. From the outside in: We’ll read a couple of short pieces, one on the magic & mystique of writing (how it lets our hidden self/material float to the surface); and a second short essay that exemplifies how the deeply personal telegraphs or unpacks the universal.

How is writing like drawing?

Writing is drawing that’s been untied and retied. But he likes it as Drawing is writing that’s been untied and retied.I like both. Food for thought.

Writing Workshop 2012

See more details under Events, to the right:

Writer’s Intensive Workshop

A full day (8 hours) of writing instruction in a very small group (limited to six participants).
You’ll learn everything from unlocking the writer within, the six key elements of winning creative non-fiction (or personal essays)to understanding the all-important narrative arc, how to shape it, how to cultivate your voice (or voices!) and the delicate art of self-editing. You will write, write, write, and leave inspired.

Francis Ford Coppola on Writing

Coppola says, “I’m convinced there is a hormone in the blood of young writers that makes them hate their own writing.”
The one thing all of my students needed, no matter how skilled they were, was encouragement to keep on with their writing. Having come through the mill of self-doubt, self-criticism, and other self-destructive resistance, I knew how to give the honest support they needed. Writing can be lonely. It can be frightening. In fact, it brings up the whole prism of emotions. But there is nothing like the satisfaction of pulling out the story we know is in us. It is no less art, no less grand and magnificent than Michelangelo’s pulling his David from the block of cararra marble.

Trick & Treat

You never know who you will run into in New Jersey. That’s Dancin’ Will with me. When we met on a transatlantic cruise from New York to Lisbon in 1998 I had no idea we both had Jersey Shore connections. You’ll get my drift. Aka Bill Rodgers, Will was a social host on that cruise and I was on a assignment for VIA Magazine. So I stepped all over his toes. He still remembers it. Buddy Morrow (then 80 years old then) and the Tommy Dorsey Big Band played on the high seas for us.

Captive Backpacker Suffers Helsinki Syndrome

I was taken prisoner for six nights and seven days by a Sierra Club Local from southern California. I am now suffering from Helsinki Syndrome. I fell in love with my captors.

They marched me up tall mountains, some more than 11,000 feet above sea level. They led me into an isolated northeast corner of Yosemite National Park. They did not need to blindfold me for the sun was blinding at those dizzying heights. My vision was filled with blue sky so deep it had the loft of velvet. Scintillating, light-reflecting lakes with diamonds bouncing off the surface finished (Finnish-ed )the job. For I was a captive audience. They didn’t need to lure me by appealing to other senses, say, like filling the air with a fragrance so divine – of pine and vanilla of wood baking in sun. But they did.

Protected: A Lesson in Botanicals

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

Rock & Wood Art of Sierra Nevada

It’s catnip for the muse of a writer to get lost in this level of life, sans mots. An artist acquaintance introduced me to wabi sabi (see below) and it inspired me to see with new eyes. Every writer needs new eyes, oh say once a year. My annual trip to the magnificent Sierra Nevada Mountain Range always renews me from the inside out.

Dharma Dispatch from New Jersey Shore

After all, Divine Inspiration, which we say is where the Bible came from, is merely, the brilliant child of Divine Discontent.

My summer reading: Trollope authorial intrusionist

This hot, hot summer, being back in New Jersey, the soil of my birth and early breeding, evokes memories of how I loved to read in this season, away from the pressures of other school subjects. I wish I could peel off a long list of books, like in the old days. But I’m only […]