What I'm Looking At

Comment

What I'm Looking At

Natalie Goldberg introduces the prompt I'm looking at or the variation what's in front of you in every one of her books on writing. Practicing this skill - writing what's visually around you - sets yourself up to use unique, specific detail in your prose. I keep this prompt in my back pocket and use it several times a week, particularly when I've scheduled myself time to write but feel ungrounded.

Thursday, 6:20 AM, for example.  My head feels detached from my body. I am in my car. It is running. When I left the house, stars still blinked in the sky. I start to paint with words the way the barista is preparing to open the coffee shop on Newport Avenue in the darkness, his broad shouldered silhouette moving back and forth along the bar, the only light a fat Edison bulb in a square wooden lamp.

I see evidence of this prompt in use by authors I admire. Whether they are conscious of it or not, I don't know. Case in point:

An excerpt from Terry Tempest Williams' When Women Were Birds:

I am in jail because I was speeding, driving under a suspended license.

I am in jail because I didn't have the money to pay the fine. 

I am in jail because one night can't be that bad. 

I am in jail because part of me thinks I deserve to be.

INSIDE

Three sets of doors open and close behind me, then lock shut. I enter the women's pod, where twelve prisoners like myself are dressed in orange. It is a crowded room, with seven metal bunk beds; a toilet, sink, and shower; and four bolted-down tables with attached chairs that swing out from under them. The walls are cinder blocks painted white, with no windows, only fluorescent lights. The floor is covered with shiny linoleum squares.

-

Seems as though TTW asked for a pen and paper in her jail cell. Practice what I'm looking at // what's in front of me wherever you find yourself: car, prison, or otherwise. 

 

Photo by Robert Hickerson on Unsplash

Comment

Pamela Royes to Join Fall Memoir Writing Class

Comment

Pamela Royes to Join Fall Memoir Writing Class

We study works of literature in every class I teach. Why? The careful examination of a book influences our own writing. "We breathe the inspiration of the author," says Natalie Goldberg about this process. Sensory detail, unique punctuation, thoughtful incorporation of research  - we absorb all of this through a deep study of quality writing. 

In October, students in the memoir writing class I'll teach this fall will share this type of deep study of the memoir Temperance Creek with the author herself. On October 12, Pamela Royes will read from her book. I'll provide writing prompts in response to the readings. We'll then write for ten minutes in response to each of the prompts. There'll also be time for a Q&A with Royes.

Comment

Writing Begets Writing

Comment

Writing Begets Writing

On nights when I jot a few ideas down in a notebook or listen to a Moth podcast before heading to sleep, I wake up the next morning with a writing frame of mind. Words form quickly and I face less resistance to write.

The feeling spills over into my day. I record a line of conversation I hear at a cafe. I note the empty wire shelves at my local hardware store, a sure sign of the culmination of summer and an image I want to weave into a poem that's slowly forming.

Writing begets writing. Do more of what cultivates writing in your life. Shed what doesn't.

 

Photo by Fabio C. on Unsplash

Comment

Cultivating a Writing Practice

Cultivating a Writing Practice

Do you have a yearning to write but don't know where to start? Or maybe you already write but have trouble sticking with it? This workshop will help you gain the necessary tools to cultivate a consistent writing practice in your life.

Memoir Writing

Memoir Writing

This fall, find inspiration and structure in a class devoted to the practice of writing memoir.

Avoid the Temptation

Comment

Avoid the Temptation

Sometimes when I write I get this feeling that I know where I'm going. There's a momentum to tie things up in a bow. A pull toward closure or an answer. If I keep down this path, the piece would read like a Hollywood Blockbuster: predictable, formulaic. Spoon fed, boring.

Comment

NaNoWriMo Reading and Open Mic

Comment

NaNoWriMo Reading and Open Mic

Share an excerpt of what you wrote during NaNoWriMo in a critique-free, celebratory environment or join us simply to listen to words writers in Central Oregon penned during the month of November as they tackled the goal of writing 50,000 words of a novel.

Comment

On Getting Out of Your Own Way

Comment

On Getting Out of Your Own Way

Natalie Goldberg calls it monkey mind. Steven Pressfield labels it resistance. Elizabeth Gilbert describes it as fear. Regardless of the name, the concept is the same: it's the thing that stands in the way for so many of us wanting to accomplish a writing goal.

Comment

What I Believe In

Comment

What I Believe In

I've never bore witness to a more challenging political climate than the one our country is experiencing right now. The months in the lead up to the Iraq war comes a close second, where I marched in protest of the war with millions of people through the streets of London in the city's largest political demonstration in history. 

It's times like these where taking stock of what we believe is vital. Turn off the TV, the radio, put down your phone. Get quiet. Pull out a notebook and a fast writing pen. Here's your prompt: what I believe in. You don't have to address political issues or candidates. Tell me what you believe at your core. Ten minutes. Go. 

Comment