writing

Submissions Open for 2015 Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham

It begins!

I am pleased to announce that Marty and I are now accepting submissions for the 2015 Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham show! I know you have stories to share, and I’d love to hear them all. Please consider submitting or passing along the information to your book clubs, neighborhood groups, church groups and school pages or lists.  We are looking for diverse voices to share their stories, and remember you do not need to be a mother or a woman to submit.  The submission deadline is January 31, 2015. You can find more information here, and if you’re curious about what the show is about, check out the videos from the 2014 show.

If you are outside of NC, I encourage you to find a city close to you and submit.  There are shows in 39 cities this year.  I was delighted that Arch Mama was in the St. Louis show last year, and I’d love for you to participate!

Whirlwind

Somehow, in this whirlwind of a year, the Listen to Your Mother season has come and gone. Raleigh-Durham held 2 shows last week, and they were both sold out and amazing. I can’t believe it is over. It felt like we had just gotten started and that we were building the show, meeting the wonderful women who comprised our cast and conducting the first nervous reading. I took a breath, closed my eyes for a second and months passed while I wasn’t looking. But both shows were amazing. The cast and audience were electric both nights. I can’t wait to do it again next year.

*** 

The two weeks leading up to Listen to Your Mother, I thought a lot about storytelling and what it meant to be a storyteller as I prepared for various media appearances (doesn’t that sound grand LOL). I don’t consider myself a storyteller.  As I have said before, I wasn’t the creative writing type of English major; more the analytical, critical type. I dissected stories. I analyzed stories. I did not tell stories. Even doing theater, the stories I shared on stage were not my stories but merely my interpretation of them. Call me a conduit maybe.

I’ve never thought of myself as someone with something to say which is a little absurd given that I have been blogging for roughly 6 years. But I consider my ramblings and musings to be simply that…ramblings and musings. Surely not storytelling. The bards who spread Beowulf were storytellers. The Native Americans who shared myths around fires and ceremonies were storytellers.  I’m just a woman rapidly approaching middle age in North Carolina with an Internet connection. That’s not a storyteller.

But as my 2014 cast mate and new friend Joy commented on Friday in our Facebook group:

People become the stories they tell about themselves. Rather than having to write at a certain quantity or quality to call ourselves writers, it is through telling the story of us being writers that we call ourselves to the page.

Isn’t that so true? And when I think about it, I’ve been telling stories even when I haven’t been using words.  I morphed from English major to web developer, finding enjoyment in coding and databases. I told people that when I coded, I was using language to create pictures and stories, something that I was unable to do otherwise.  While I code rarely now, I think the same can be said for what I do with data. I say I play with data, but what I’m really doing is figuring out what story the data is telling. It isn’t words being shared in a great hall, but it is story telling nonetheless.

***

Our cast is amazing. Last year’s cast was amazing. I truly consider myself privileged to know these people. I got LTYM last year, but this year I think I truly got it. I have a background in theater, so sometimes I forget how nerve-wracking it can be to be on stage. But it is, especially when you aren’t shielded by someone else’s words but exposed by your own. I am in awe of these women and their bravery as they shared their stories. And how as they shared their stories, they heard the gasps of recognition, laughter, sobs, and thunderous applause.  Listen to Your Mother is important because it gives average, normal people a microphone. We aren’t celebrities or elite. We just are, trying to get through each day as it comesThe power is in the epiphany, the “me too” moment. The empathy. The catharsis. That is its gift.

We are a week out from the final show. I sort of picture it like the final scene in Ocean’s 11 in which each member sort of fades away after coming together to do something amazing. It hurts not to see these women every day. But I also love how the camaraderie continues. Writing groups are being scheduled. And we are planning to get together.  Also, TWO of our cast members had their pieces published in the Huffington Post. How amazing is that? I am SO proud of them and so proud that I am part of something that enables such opportunities.

Bravo, ladies. The second Raleigh-Durham show was amazing, as you all are.

What’s So Amazing About Really Deep Thoughts?

I can’t seem to write lately. I couldn’t put something together for National Infertility Awareness Week. I wanted to write something for PAIL’s most recent theme because believe me, I have lots of things to say, but I worked on a post for days and was never able to make it coherent.  I have several half-started posts in draft status. I guess this is what writer’s block looks like?

Maybe it’s that I am incapable of deep thought right now.  My brain seems flighty and moody right now. I have two new books in my iBooks and an honest-to-god tangible book that I checked out from the library on my nightstand, and I can’t bring myself to start them. Instead I waste time on Buzzfeed or Twitter.

I don’t think I’m the only one in my household suffering from Flighty Brain Syndrome. Jimmy and I have given up our weekly declarations that we WILL start Game of Thrones finally. We settle for repeats of space shows (there’s some weird shit in the universe) or even an episode of Starkey’s Monarchy (we’re on Henry II and Beckett). Or an episode of Coupling when we’re particularly brain dead (three words: “Lesbian Spank Inferno.” That episode is gold).

Maybe my brain has been trained to cool off this time of year thanks to 17 years of school on a traditional calendar. Muscle memory and all that.

Today starts Daniel’s last week as a 3-year-old. One week from today he’ll be 4. Mind. Blown (apparently that isn’t difficult right now).  We’re having his first kiddie party next weekend, and I’m thinking about garbage truck cakes and herding sugar-fueled preschoolers.

And we’re going to the beach for a week at the end of June. I think all 3 of us are counting down the days.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe my brain is on vacation already.

 

 

 

Great Writing Requires Only Dedication?

I’m a big fan of The Rumpus. If you follow me on Twitter and the stuff I tweet in the wee hours of the morning when I’m in denial that I need to get up and get ready, you probably know this.  I take it as a compliment that a few people have said they enjoy and appreciate the links I tweet.  I’m a mad tweeter and enjoy sharing the interesting articles I find.

The Rumpus is one of my favorite sites for its eclectic articles and points of view. There is a decidedly big-city mindset that is a little foreign to my tiny NC experience.  I signed up for the email notification of new content (please, everyone enable email notification for your content.  Please.) and I like how the editor-in-chief Stephen Elliott doesn’t just link the new stuff but provides explication and reaction to some of the stuff linked.  Last weekend, a lot of the email was taken up by the reaction to the NYT article on Lindsay Lohan’s behavior in The Canyons, a low-budget film with high pedigree based on its actors, director, producers and writers.

The article’s author had been on set during the 3 weeks of filming, and the article is jaw-dropping.  Elliott wrote a long comment in the weekend comment notification about his thoughts on the piece and talent:

There was another article, based on the NYT article, an essay really in Jezebel. It’s supposed to be a takedown of Lindsay, which seems like a soft target. And yet Jezebel gets most everything wrong. In particular, this statement: You don’t have to be a genius to be a working actress, but to be a working actress, you have to be able to recognize that you’re paid to say other people’s words and express other people’s thoughts, not your own.
 
Actually, to be a great actor you probably do need to be genius, and to be a working actor you probably have to be pretty close to a great actor, unless you have some other special skill. Classes don’t hurt, I’m sure, and dedication, but in truth acting is the one art that clearly requires talent. By that, I mean I’ve never met a natural writer, a talented writer, someone who could just sit down and start writing brilliant prose. If you were to teach a writing class or lead a workshop you would never know who was actually going to develop into a good writer ten years down the line. Almost certainly not who you thought. With writing, what we think of as talent is really just the urge and/or dedication to write everyday. Most anyone who writes everyday will develop into a very good writer eventually. It’s more a question of where you put your energy.

Acting isn’t like that. Some people just have something. And you do have to be smart to be a good actor. You have to be able to interpret a character, as well as inhabit them. You can’t play a character you don’t understand. A really good actor will know the character better than the writer or the director, and always show you something you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. An actor that only does what you tell them, trying to follow instructions like a robot, isn’t worth anything. Further, they don’t trust you, and they’re uncomfortable, and they don’t feel safe. No director wants that

I was surprised that Elliott believes that writing talent can be reduced to urge and/or dedication.  Good writers, amazing writers always had something in their writing that set them apart from the rest.  Yes, of course, they likely took classes to hone the skill of writing and improve it and of course, dedication to writing every day will improve the technique of writing.  However, I do not believe that writing every day or taking a writing class will grow a great writer from a mediocre one.

I tutored a lot of students while I was in college and have read a lot of great, mediocre and downright appalling writing.  It’s even evident in the fan fiction sites I frequent: there is something that sets apart talented writers from less-talented.  It’s more than just a well-crafted sentence and good grammar.  It’s a world view.  It’s the ability to harness a thought and idea and put words to it, to make the words bend to your will.  Perhaps if I were a better, more talented writer, I could better express what I mean!  The bottom line is that it is clear to me that talented writers have something that no class can teach and no amount of time can create.

Conversely, while I agree that there is a natural talent that separates great actors from competent or mediocre actors, I’ve seldom seen any actor who could harness that talent instantly and well without some sort of training and practice.  After all, isn’t that what a director and rehearsals are?  Isn’t the director somewhat analogous to the teacher in the writing class?  Aren’t rehearsals like writing every day?

To me, great acting and writing both require effort and talent. You can be competent through effort alone, but greatness requires talent.

What do you think of Elliott’s opinion? Are there any arts that require less talent than others?  What do you think is required to make a great writer vs a competent one?

What Makes a Writer?

Happy Friday!  I’m guest posting at Erin’s site today on writing.  Each Friday, Erin opens up her blog for bloggers to share their story of their writing roots.  I’ve wanted to participate for a while, but I struggled over what to write.  Writing roots?  What would those be?  I’ve struggled over whether to call myself a writer since I’ve admitted I have no plans to write a book.  What makes a writer?

If you have a moment, I’d love it if you’d pop over to read: Me??? A Writer?

On Food and Blogging

A few weeks ago I ran across this post by Jamie Schler, “You are What You Eat: a Food Blogger’s Dilemma,” in which she expressed her disdain for the rise of food blogs that pass off meals made with packaged or canned ingredients instead of with fresh ingredients as homemade, unique and most damning of all, worth emulation.  She’s appalled that food blogging has become about big business with stats and cookbook deals dictating what food is created, resulting in shock value being valued over genuine, creative cooking.  She longs for the good old days of food blogging:

Food blogging, for many of us, began as a way to record and share favorite recipes and connect with other like-minded souls, maybe even learning something about new ingredients, cuisines or technique along the way

To Schler, food blogging has become Sandra Lee instead of Julia Child.

Then, this morning I read a post by Adam Roberts that questions whether food blogs are over.  The huge number and variety of food blogs indicate that food blogging is hardly dying out.  However, the real question he considers is whether it’s all been done.

What’s gone, as far as I can see, is a sense of discovery, a sense of danger. People start food blogs now to recreate what others have already created; very few food blogs feel new because they aren’t new. They’re doing what’s been done before, albeit with different recipes

Let me be clear: this blog is not a food blog.  I take all photos with my iPhone, and I’m lucky if the picture isn’t blurry or my thumb isn’t in the picture.  I like to cook and share recipes, but I’m not a foodie.  I could write a separate post on the elitist attitude and condescension dripping from Schler’s post (and maybe I will).  What struck me as I read both pieces is how their thoughts on food blogging could be applied to blogging in general.  When the first bloggers hit “publish” several years ago, it was somewhat radical, especially for those who became “mommy bloggers.”  Innermost thoughts, the challenges of the day, even mundane issues laid bare not in a locked diary that belonged to the person or in a dusty autobiography that was at best a one-to-one relationship but now available to anyone, anywhere and at any time. A one-to-many relationship.

It’s 2012 and now we jockey for ad revenue, sponsorships and above all, readers.  We take SEO classes and obsess over headings and keywords.  We see sleep issues, breastfeeding issues, PPD diagnoses, and illness or controversy propel bloggers from obscurity to popularity seemingly overnight.   This post isn’t a diatribe against anyone who monetizes his or her blog; it’s more of a question of whether there is room for everyone in the blogosphere.  Is there room for my mundane existence?

Schler writes:

Is it our responsibility to create content and recipes with integrity and thoughtfulness and not simply out of the desire to draw more traffic to our blog?

And Roberts:

Let’s all pledge to take more chances, to think outside the box to usher in a new era of food blogging: one less concerned about S.E.O. and one more concerned with surprising and delighting the food-blog reading public

I’m guilty.  I’m going to Tweet the link to this post because as much as I truly like the act of pouring out my addled brain onto this blog and the clarity and reflection it provides me, it is nice knowing that someone out there is reading it. I’m a unique snow flake too.

Where is the line between writing something real but perhaps not widely read and writing something crafted to obtain readers?  On the eve of Scary Mommy’s book release, will there ever be another Scary Mommy?  Or what will the next Scary Mommy look like? What will the blogosphere look like in a few years?  Does it help if you have a niche?

I don’t have the answers.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about blogging lately, and I welcome your input.

Au Revoir, NaBloPoMo

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu

Today’s the last day of NaBloPoMo.  I’m glad.  It has been a long 30 days of posting.  The weekday posts weren’t so bad, but the weekends I struggled for both time and topics.  Chasing Daniel around didn’t leave much mental dexterity for thinking of posts and by the time I finally had a moment to blog, my brain was fried.  The weekends were when I confess my posts were weakest and occasionally phoned in.

But I did it! I posted every day.  I’m very proud of that accomplishment.  I really regretted not blogging more  over the last few years, and I missed having an outlet for my thoughts.  Once the end of grad school was in sight, I looked forward to blogging again, but I wondered about what to post.  For whom was I blogging?  What was I posting?  I think this challenge helped me answer those questions.

I write to express myself.  I wrote fairy tales as a child and bad short stories in my angsty youth, but I never considered myself a writer, nor was it something I aspired to be.  Yet, I feel compelled to write.  I think best on the page (or screen in this case).  Writing helps me clarify my thoughts and opinions.  I have no desire to write a novel or even be published (well, I do have some scholarly ambitions but I don’t consider that the same thing).  I write to bring order to my chaotic brain and when my brain becomes infinitely looped on some problem, I must write it out.  I’m so glad I’ve been able to return to blogging. I missed it.

I absolutely make no claims that my life and thoughts are more profound than anyone else’s.  I thank all of you who came along for the NaBloPoMo adventure, and I took the challenge seriously.  I learned that I could write every day for an entire month.  Sometimes I overflowed with potential posts; other days were as barren as a desert.  Many thanks as well to J and Daniel for supporting this endeavor.  J rolled his eyes a few times, but many evenings, he was telling me to go post.

And thank you to Katie for participating with me!  I didn’t comment on every post you wrote, but I read every one, and having a buddy participate definitely kept me honest.  How could I not when you pretty much threw down the gauntlet? LOL

I think my favorite post was this one.

I’m curious.  Which post over the last 30 days did you enjoy the most or what did you learn about me that you didn’t know?

 

 

NaBloPoMo: Call Me Crazy

NaBloPoMo 2011

I decided today that I’m going to participate in NaBloPoMo.  Huh?  NaBloPoMo stands for National Blog Posting Month, a challenge to post something every day in November to celebrate writing and blogging.  Why not?  After all, now that I’ve finished graduate school, I clearly have copious amounts of free time on my hands.  I could clean my house or run upstairs to use the treadmill or even -gasp- read a book (or at least a magazine), but no.  I’ve decided to blog!

And even better, I recruited my bloggy partner-in-crime Katie to participate!  Hopefully we will be able to keep each other motivated and blogging.

So dear reader(s?), please grant me your patience during this challenge.  Happily there are daily writing prompts, so I will not be reduced-hopefully-to posting over and over:

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

‘Cause writing’s hard even when you aren’t stuck in a desolate  hotel in the middle of winter with Shelley Duvall.