Write With Me Study Hall, Monday, October 31, 2016: Use Your Imagination! 

What would you look like if you were a witch? How would your life work? Imagination is what makes us writers, grammar is what makes us intelligible, and structure is a toy to set our minds afire. 


I am not a witch nor have I studied Wicca (though I have friends who are and do.) Nevertheless, I feel I can perform magic. Not only on the page, but in real life.

Magic to my mind is what happens when we make connections, when a spark flies from me to you, when empathy causes us to save that spider, or impulse makes us leap to do the thing that terrifies us. I perform real magic when I can make a reader understand someone else’s state of being, realize a new value, or even feel alertly alive for a spell. 

In that second, we are at one with something larger than ourselves. We grow, pop! into a new incarnation. Even if you can’t wiggle your nose and force your house to clean itself, you can reach for the larger moment, flicker something new into life.


Writing is an amazing thing.

Today I’m going to get back in touch with my novel, which I’ve had to neglect as I traveled during the last week. I’m going to lay hands on it, and, in between dashing to the store for candy and answering the door for trick-or-treaters, I’m going to let that spark fly from my fingertips. Try it. You may glimpse a new world entirely and share it with us all. 

Happy Hallowe’en. As always, I ask that you leave me a note to let me know you were here. 

Write With Me! Study Hall, Monday, May 30, 2016: You’re Elected 

So what are your Memorial Day plans? Will you be grilling? Parading? Visiting a gravesite? 


Whatever your plans, I hope you make time also for some wool-gathering, some relaxing, and some work on your writing, as well. 

After all, if the writers don’t stop to smell the flowers . . .  

Check out those blooms! (Blooms?) Photo by Anna Smith

. . . if we don’t notice and chronicle the details . . .  

Catch all the action! Photo by Anna Smith

. . . who will? 
Today I’m trying to finish a short story for an anthology by Romani women writers that I’m quite excited about. I need to deepen the point of view with some internal bits and underscore the main idea with more description. 

What are you working on? 

Learning is Everything

 

From the Pinterest Blog. by Murray Library, Words for Readers

Sometimes my childhood was tough, marked by poverty, one alcoholic parent, and one who was at times cruel. But my father did one thing for me for which I’ll always be grateful to him: Every Saturday morning he took me to the library. From the time I was a toddler, I would tag along with him.

By age eight I had read every book in the children’s section of our smallish county library (Some multiple times, of course, because Louisa May Alcott and some others were my lifeline for so long.) That fact and my father’s request led the librarian to let me into the adult stacks. What a halcyon moment. I remember with clarity sitting on the floor at the end of a stack with two books that had called to me from the shelves. On my lap, Margot Fonteyn leapt into Swan Lake en pointe, inside a volume about ballerinas. I had never seen anything so lovely, and I stared at her for a long time. On the next page, Maria Tallchief, Cherokee like my great-grandmother, spun in the most exquisite pose. My fingers traced the impossibly tense, yet supple, arc of her spine.

The other book was about something wholly new to me: poetry! The Collected Works of Emily Dickinson thrilled me to chills. Here was someone who saw the world much as I did, even at eight. Minute, endless details of loveliness, heartache, and joy. I wanted to memorize every word, and I very nearly did. That year, I was given the honor of helping the principal put together the spring bulletin board near the front door of our school. “What do you think we should do with it, Glenda?” (Blessings on adults who ask children what they think, rather than constantly direct them.) The words tumbled from my mouth almost before I myself caught their meaning:

There is no Frigate like a Book

To take us Lands away

Nor any Coursers like a Page

Of prancing Poetry –

This Traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of Toll –

How frugal is the Chariot

That bears the Human Soul –

–Emily Dickinson

Saturday morning still doesn’t feel right unless I head to the Library. Although I’m away from home, I know where the local institution is. I think I’ll amble over there now.

Many thanks to Sophie Maier and Rachel the tech and all my friends at the Louisville Free Library’s Iroquois Branch for a lovely time at my book talk last Saturday.

Glenda at Louisville’s Iroquois Library

Pandering? Yes, I’m Aware. No, I do not give a Damn What the Old White Men Think, and I Never Have. Welcome to the Outpost. 

Claire’s Essay

What am I talking about? This essay, above, by Claire Vay Watkins, in Tin House, which is the topic du jour in literature. And good for her. In it, she admits that she has spent her writing life trying to get the attention of the Old White Men who generally run the journals, MFA programs, and critical outlets that determine who receives attention as a writer. Who, for that matter, is even considered a writer, as opposed to A Girl. (Or, I would add, An Old Feminist.) We should always be thinking about it. Because it’s not just the white men in the literary community. It’s also the white women. I can’t count the hours I’ve spent worrying and wondering how I can open The Rumpus up further to diverse voices. (If you have thoughts, please share them with me.) She has been writing to OWM, she discovers, and not to women, or the rural poor, of people of colors, or other constituencies.

The scales having fallen from her eyes after years of being dismissed by the aforementioned OWM, we should burn the system down, she suggests. And about time. Perhaps now there are enough famous women writers to scorch it good.

It is interesting to me that in this apocalyptic vision, she does not acknowledge the feminist presses or editors who have for years been building an alternate system of presses, journals, and anthologies.

When I began writing, there were only the handful of women writers deemed good enough to be in anthologies edited by men–women such as Katherine Anne Porter, Emily Dickinson, and a very few others–most of whom were given a mere mention in lit classes, and a very few brave women who wrote for women and were taught then mostly in women’s studies classes–Marge Piercy, Grace Paley, Adrienne Rich, for example.

I started first Wild Dove Studio & Press in 1990, and then Jane’s Stories Press Foundation in 2000, with a few feminist friends, in order to bring more attention to women writers. A few of the women we published early have gone on to receive some attention from the larger lit world that includes Claire’s Old White Men: Gayle Brandeis, Yolanda Nieves, among others. And some, whom I greatly admire, are women like the poet Alice Friman, who lives comfortably in that territory policed by OWM, but still responds to and writes work that speaks especially to women as well. And then there are women like my mentor, Christine Swanberg, who writes and speaks to people who interest her wherever and whomever they may be: aging hippies, people of faith, fellow and sister travellers, some eight books of well-received poetry published through what Christine calls a “dance with the [male] editors,” a dance she has tried to teach me, but which I have failed to learn.

At both Wild Dove and Jane’s Stories, we deliberately set out to publish women of color, and we have done so consistently. It has not been hard. In my box today, is also a letter from Marisa Siegel, the somewhat new editor of The Daily Rumpus, a journal begun by Stephen Elliott, a man whose sexist assumptions are called out with bravado by Watkins in the essay that prompted this posting. Siegel notes of the subject of Watkins’ essay, “We should always be thinking about it. Because it’s not just the white men in the literary community. It’s also the white women. I can’t count the hours I’ve spent worrying and wondering how I can open The Rumpus up further to diverse voices. (If you have thoughts, please share them with me.)”

I have thoughts, Marisa, and I offer them here:

Include people of color, members of the physically-challenged community, people of various sexual orientations and identifications, and any other diverse voices on your board. Keep a list of those whose work catches your eye in other publications, and ask them personally to submit work to you. Most of all, listen. Listen. Read publications from, to those communities. Send them your calls for submissions.

Recently, I had the experience of being asked personally to submit work to Drunken Boat, an online publication I’ve long admired, by the special edition editor, Tiffany De Vos. I was most impressed that she had done her research and found the handful of Romani-American writers working today, and asked each personally to submit. The result was the first-ever literary collection of Romani voices in the U.S. That, Marisa, is how you do it.

Affirmative action in any field is not hard. However, having been an academic administrator serving on search committees and an editor on both women-only and wide open publications, I can tell you that it is a process that is easily subverted by those who resent giving up their privileges. It is a process that must be guarded fiercely and defended loudly. It must become the mission of all.

Watkins urges us to tell the truth. So here goes, Claire. For all the years I have been trying to promote women’s voices in literature, I have been dismissed repeatedly by OWM (Rick Campbell, are you listening?) but I have also been dismissed, overlooked, snubbed, turned down with disdain, and otherwise dissed repeatedly by female lit professors and MFA students. One professor whom I published and promoted in a reading did not even bother to come over to the Other Words conference table where I was promoting my recently published novel to say hello. Nor did she come to the session where I spoke. I certainly doubt that she bought or read my novel. Instead, she stuck with her academic crowd and read to applause by the OWM. Two others whom I also published did not bother to write blurbs for my book, one excusing herself by saying it must be “somewhere” in the stack of books on her table. (Many others did, and I am most grateful to them.)

So, this warning, Claire: You’re asking for women to stick together and promote each other. You’re asking for women to call out violations of the affirmative action process. You’re asking women to call out men who may determine their tenure, their acceptance, the review of their own next book. You’re asking for the feminist presses and journals to become obsolete in order to help create One Fair System for all.

My novel was published by a quietly fierce feminist at Twisted Road Publications, Joan Leggitt, who is interested in voices that have been marginalized, male or female. I can’t foresee a time when there will be no need for editors with vision who seek out those on the fringe who have plenty to say and can say it well. No matter how fair the system, there will be voices from the outskirts calling for the boundaries to be extended.

You are asking for folks in academia to stop patrolling the boundaries and to start listening all the way to the edge of the Known Universe. Wow, what a world that would be. Count me in. I have spent years listening for you from the outpost.

Sports, Metaphors, and the Dixie Chicks

My husband and I have a private joke that he can move any conversation to the topic of sports with one sentence. He probably thinks I can do the same with politics, but is much too nice to say it.  

 However, what my dearheart excels at is understanding metaphor, whether it’s the visual references in painting or the much bigger picture of how this civilization of ours functions. Going to an art museum with him is heaven; so is sitting around with a couple of glasses of wine and chewing the fat. The fact that I refuse to watch sports with him probably makes me less than his dream date, but, then, I’m good at producing game day food. 

One of his insights lately was finding this marvelous writer who is a former sports journalists, and, boy, does she have some thing to say, and she does it with clarity and gusto. Here’s a quote from one of her essays about why we need more women who speak up and out in popular music:

“We can’t force bravery and truth, but we need to try to get more of it out there. When we do great things, we want people to know about it to inspire others – even if it is just one other person. Shouldn’t we feel the same about the shitty stuff? Shouldn’t we want people to know about it to save someone else – even if it is just one person? Come back, Dixie Chicks.”

So now that I have managed that trifecta of sports, writing, and the Dixie Chicks and you’ve read the quote, you want to read it, don’t you? Here’s the link:

https://mollyyanity.wordpress.com/2015/04/11/more-womens-voices-a-plea-for-a-dixie-chicks-comeback/

Write With Me! Study Hall, Monday, August 3, 2015

Have you been feeling a bit punchy lately? 

Me, too! 
Know what will cure that? 

Getting something down on paper!
It’s not a bad idea to write out whatever is bothering you. On the page, you can push, pull, manipulate, erase, and sometimes solve problems. 
But even if you’re Pollyanna today, I promise if you’ll feel better if you set a writing goal and strive to reach it today. You’re bound to make some progress, and you’ll have us all cheering you on! 
Please leave a comment below, because, you know, cheerleading our way is a mutual endeavor. Good luck, and hallelujah! (A tip: Don’t use as many exclamation points in your writing as I just did. Editors frown on that.) see you later. 
 

WRITE WITH ME! Study Hall, Monday, May 25, 2015

Unknown-1Hey there! Hope you’re set and readyimage to write this morning–or whenever you can schedule it today. You know that saying from Eleanor Roosevelt–“a woman is like a tea bag, you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water”? Well, you could say the same thing about writers. So the laundry is piled up, the landlord is at the door, the kids are screaming, and your favorite soap is on TV. Tough titties! (I always liked that saying–it reminds me of Julianne Moore and her Viking bustiere in–oh, wait, I digress, and this posting is about NOT digressing!) So throw in a load, slide a post it under the door to the landlord, sit the kids down with popcorn and a movie, and TIVO that soap Opera–then sit down and write! You can do it!

And you can hold me to it, too. I’ll be traveling today, but you can bet I’ll be looking for Wi-Fi spots throughout the day, where I can stop, check in with you in the comments section, below, and write for a bit before the Yorkie and I get back in the road. I’m on a deadline for a lit mag submission, so I’ll be working in my short story, entitled “Clemmie’s Bouquet.”

Happy trails to you!

Love, Glenda

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