The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘creative nonfiction

Around this time last year, I was published in the beautiful book A Letter to My Mom! It is a tribute to the women who shape us into the people we become.

My love letter to my courageous mother is next to letters from Suze Orman, Dr. Phil McGraw, Melissa Rivers, Lisa Ling, Dr. Jennifer Arnold and many other amazing sons and daughters. In this third installment of the A Letter to My series…(following A Letter to My Dog and A Letter to My Cat), over sixty contributors share letters that chronicle the love, gratitude, silliness, fun and even conflict that define mother and child relationships. I am so honored to be part of this collection.

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My writing teacher, Marjorie Hudson (author of Accidental Birds of the Carolinas) encourages students to ‘find their territory’, to explore the kinds of unique themes and challenges that only they can write about.

The relationship with my mother is definitely my territory. In 2013, I started exploring a snippet of my mother’s life which involved a great act of courage that changed the course of our lives. Since that time, I have continued thinking about the intersection of my life and hers. I am constantly surveying that rich and fertile ground. My mother is no longer living, so writing about her is one way that I can keep her memory alive.

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When I saw the call for ‘A Letter to My Mom’, I decided to submit my very personal story. The editor and creator of the A Letter to My series, Lisa Erspamer and her team were amazing. They treated my narrative (and I assume all the others), with great care, respect and unabashed enthusiasm.

A Letter to My Mom is so inspiring and the layout of the book is beautiful. Each entry is accompanied by photos. If you’re looking for a great gift for Mother’s Day, this is it. You and your mom will laugh and cry while reading it.

Find out more about the book here.

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Affirmations-366 Days#5: My creative self knows the rants of my inner comparer, critic, and evaluator and helps me to show up anyway.

For new readers, here’s why I’m committing to writing affirmations during the next 366 days.

Affirmations-366Days#3-I celebrate every writing accomplishment, no matter how small.

 

This affirmation is inspired by a workshop that I attended, where I discovered the power of a making a ‘writing accomplishments’ list.

I remember anxiety creeping over me in Marjorie Hudson’s ‘Strategies for the Writing Life’ workshop when she cheerfully asked the group to name and claim our writing ‘accomplishments’ so far. People immediately raised their hands and asked questions like: Do you mean publication credits? How far back can we start our list? Does a personalized rejection letter count? What if I can’t think of anything?

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She calmly explained that we could count anything and everything that has happened in our writing lives that we believe strengthened or encouraged us. This could include the time our teacher in the third grade chose to read our essay in front of the class to submitting an op-ed to getting a poem published in a literary journal. Our list could include helpful feedback we received from an editor or agent (even if they passed on the book), or reassuring words from a published writer. Most of us undertook the task with a kind of grim determination. And, I felt that I was bound to have a short and uninteresting list.

After about ten minutes, she asked us to read from our lists. The mood in the room softened as people shared. As it turns out until we were asked to reflect on the shape of our writing lives, most of us had either forgotten or discounted many of the positive things that had shown up. Several people did mention publication as an aspect of their accomplishments, but much of it included specific moments of encouragement expressed by peers, teachers and other published writers. Often words of encouragement allowed us to keep going in the face of high self-doubt and flat out fear. We also celebrated the fact that many of us had completed various types of writing projects and with some additional strategic effort, some might eventually find their way into publication. My list included the over 50 journals I have amassed, over my life, that are stuffed with ideas, dream fragments, stories, and chapters of novels. Hearing the lists of the other writers uplifted and inspired me.

Since that workshop in the spring of 2011, I have often gone back to the list in my notebook as well as the longer ‘accomplishments’ list that I keep on my computer. Some of the writers in that workshop posted their list in their writing space for daily inspiration.

It is easy to forget or minimize the ways in which the writing life is sustained. A list is evidence of one’s deep intentions that we can turn toward during moments of skepticism about our progress.

The beginning of the year is a great time to start a writing accomplishments list, if you don’t have one. Or, you can review and wrap up your list from 2015. Remember to be generous in thinking about what counts!

 

 

Affirmations-366Days#2: I claim my creative gifts even in the face of envy, doubt and fatigue.

For new readers, here’s why I’m committing to writing affirmations during the next 366 days.

Monday will mark the Winter Solstice, ushering many of us into the winter season. Winter is an ideal time for you to take stock of the light and dark aspects of your creativity.

So much of creating is about cultivating the willingness to explore the unknown, uncharted and mysterious places of the imaginative psyche. Often it feels as if we are in the dark while creating.

We can use the cycle of the season to go inward. During winter, you can review your creative accomplishments of the year and plant dream seeds for the future. As you turn into the muck of your own fertile landscape, you mirror the outward cycle of the earth.

 

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The prompts below can support your creative practice during winter:

Three new ways that my creativity expressed itself this year were…

What continues to interest me about my creative practice is…

I took the most risk this year in creating…

The enticing new project that wants to be born in 2016 is…

The project that needs more incubating time is…

The project that needs to be transformed, or even let go is…

One successful way that I kept my inner critic at bay this year was…

Harnessing support for my creative life during the winter season looks like…

A fear or worry about my creative life that I could release into the light is…

The three things I tend to say over and over again about my creative projects are… 

 

As another source of inspiration I have included is a link to ‘Wake Up Your Magic’ coach Susan Guild’s ‘Tele-Share’ where she invited myself and writer Wendy Fedan to talk about how to deepen and grow one’s creativity practice. We called it a Creativity Bash! We recorded it last year at this time and covered the following topics:

-Discover how to take your creativity to the next level

-Learn your creative cycles

-Understand what “following the energy” means to take action on your creative projects i.e., following “the Divine breadcrumbs”

-Uncover your mood blockers

-Pay attention to your body’s physical and reactions to pain and strain

-Live following the nudges to your creative dreams

This call was fun and magical.  Enjoy!

Powerful. Dynamic. Tender. Truth-teller. In my first few interactions with Dr. Laurie Cannady, all these words went through my mind. We were suitemates this August at The Room of Her Own Foundation writing residency. We have several overlapping interests including academe, the health and well-being of African American girls and women and creative writing. Throughout the residency, we would stay up late into the night talking about books and life. I felt lucky that I got to spend so much time with her. I was thrilled to discover that Laurie’s new memoir Crave: Sojourn of a Hungry Soul was being published this year. I shared with her my observation that there are too few memoirs written by women of color. I believe it is vital that women of color write about the context of our lives. When she read, during her allotted three minutes provided for each participant, the audience was entranced by the rhythm and power of her words. It was an unforgettable reading, marked by a standing ovation.

Dr. Cannady has published an array of articles and essays on poverty in America, community and domestic violence, and women’s issues. She has also spoken against sexual assault in the military at West Point. Her new memoir, Crave: Sojourn of a Hungry Soul debuts in November with Etruscan Press. Dr. Cannady has as MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

I’m delighted to welcome Laurie Cannady to The Practice of Creativity.

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-Tell us about your new book Crave: Sojourn of a Hungry Soul. What inspired this book?

Crave: Sojourn of a Hungry Soul is a coming-of-age memoir that chronicles a young girl’s journey through abuse and impoverishment. The effusive narration descends into the depths of personal and sexual degradation, perpetual hunger for food, safety and survival. While moving through gritty exposés of poverty, abuse, and starvation, Crave renders a continuing search for sustenance that simply will not die.

-What is your biggest hope for Crave as it meets readers?

My hope is that it will resonate with those who, like myself, have had to journey through one difficult situation after another, those who don’t always feel like they have a tight enough grasp on hope, but they work toward a healing anyway because they know there is a way out of the mess.

-While you were writing Crave, were there authors that you mined for inspiration?cannady03-210

I read so many books while crafting Crave. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls served as a constant source of inspiration. I especially focused on the way in which her narrative moved across space and time. Rigoberto Gonzalez’s Butterfly Boy made me brave as I told my story and the stories of those who shared life with me. His honesty kept me honest and he demonstrated the skill it takes to weave a narrative that includes the voices of family members and friends. I revisited several times Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, studying his voice and the way in which he depicted the tragedies he and his family faced. His lyric voice made some of the most painful scenes palatable.

– How do you handle the moments when you have to write a painful scene?

Oftentimes, I’ll put on music, songs that remind me of the scene I’m writing. The process of writing painful scenes is especially meditative for me. I try to place myself back in that situation so that I can write from the POV of who I was then, not as the woman I am now. (That comes during the revision process.) I usually have to be alone and I need silence. During really tough scenes, I ask my husband to check in on me in about an hour or so, just to make sure I’m not going too far and too deep. There have been times that I just needed him to hold me after the writing. His embrace reminds me that I’m not in that situation anymore and I am in a safe place. There were some scenes where that writing seeped into my waking world or into my dreams. For that reason, I have people in my life with whom I can share my fears and sadness. Much like a child, “it takes a village” to raise a memoir!

-What’s next to your bed (or in your Kindle)? What are you reading now?

Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn. While writing memoir, I think it’s important to practice self-care. Full Catastrophe Living not only reminds me of that, but it also gives me the tools to do so.

-What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Write a page every day, no matter what, and don’t be afraid to allow your narrative to reveal things to you. When I first began writing memoir, I thought I had to write everything, as accurately as I could remember, to some self-imposed end. It took years to realize that my narrative had its own end and its own way in which it wanted to be relayed. So, writing a page a day was a relief. I allowed the scenes to unfold as they pleased and once that writing was done, I was able to shape all that I had written into Crave.

 

Laurie Jean Cannady is a professor of English at Lock Haven University, where she spends much of her time encouraging students to realize their true potential. She is a consummate champion of women’s issues, veterans’ issues, and issues affecting underprivileged youth. Cannady resides in central Pennsylvania with Chico Cannady and their three children.

Find out more about Laurie Cannady here.

Checkout Crave’s amazing book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFKPiUSQqBY#action=share

 

 

Camille Armantrout was born in 1954 on the East Coast, first born and only girl followed by five little brothers, which is where she got her sense of humor. She began keeping journals and corresponding with pen pals in grade school and has traveled the world with her soul mate, Bob.

Like so many who live in Chatham County, N.C, she is passionate about local farming and food cultures, sustainability and building community. I’ve been a friend of Camille’s, for many years, and a fan of her blog: ‘Plastic Farm Animals’ that threads together community news, personal reflection and travel stories. She and Bob host an annual ‘Hoppin’ John’ potluck party on New Year’s Day. They are greats host and I look forward to this event every year. This year at the party, I held in my hands the recent fruit of Camille’s labor, a co-authored book, Two Brauds Abroad: A Departure from Life as We Know It. Camille and her co-author Stephanie De La Garza document the maladies, epiphanies and tragedies of their collective wisdom gleaned from traveling the world and writing to each other about their discoveries. They loved the challenges of living abroad and inspire readers to go on their own adventures. Although I knew Camille blogged, I had no idea that her passion for writing was deep in her bones. I had to invite her here to learn more.

I am delighted to welcome Camille Armantrout to ‘The Practice of Creativity’.

 

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Tell us about your new book, Two Brauds Abroad: A Departure from Life as We Know It. Why did you want to write this book?

My year and a half in Africa was epic. When I returned to the U.S. everyone was eager to hear about the trip, but would quickly become confused when I tried to sum up my experiences. Inevitably, I would end the attempt with “I could write a book…” and so I did.

My co-author Stephanie and I had discussed writing a travel book a few times. While I was in Ghana, she was experiencing her own travel adventure in Central America, having sold her house, cars and nearly everything else to move abroad. We thought our stories would inspire others to follow their dreams.

Stephanie came up with the title and I liked the alliteration. She chose the alternative spelling of braud, a word Urban Dictionary defines as “Fearless female; an adventurous, daring or independent woman.”

How did you get bitten by the ‘writing bug’? Did you always wish to become an author?

The writing bug bit me early on. My father was a writer and I began keeping a journal in grade school. I don’t think there’s been a day of my life when I didn’t write something. In the back of my mind, I always thought I would one day transition from writer to author, and now I’ve gone and done it.

What was your relationship with your co-author Stephanie before this book? What did you learn about each other in the process of writing Two Brauds Abroad?

Stephanie and I are longtime email buddies. We met in Nicaragua ten years ago when she came to stay at the lodge my husband, Bob and I were managing. We enjoyed each other’s company and have been corresponding ever since. Over the years, we have shared all aspects of our lives and know each other well.

Stephanie and Camille (right)

Stephanie and Camille (right)

Interestingly, we are two very different people. I’ve been married for twenty years. Stephanie is sixteen years my junior and still playing the dating game. I’m a vegetarian and Steph dislikes pretty much all vegetables, she’s more willing to take risks than I am, I’m more of a morning person than she is and she’s an only child while I come from a large family.

As we plunged into our project, we were happy to find that we have similar work ethics and that our skill sets dovetailed nicely. I submerged myself in editing as she launched a comprehensive marketing plan. Stephanie discovered that I’m a perfectionist and I found out she has a compulsive, “Let’s do!” streak.

The second half of the book is about how someone can transform his or her self into a world traveler. Where does this person start?

Planning begins with a financial safety net. Decide how big your cushion needs to be and either start saving or begin liquidating assets. Next, check out the possibilities via the Caretaker Gazette, Help Exchange, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (Wwoof) or similar resources. Pick a location and start reading up on the culture and climate.

It’s worth noting that our transformation tips are not limited to world travel. You can reinvent yourself right here at home with a career or other lifestyle change using the same tools we offer in part II of our book.

What’s on your bookshelf, next to your bed (or in your Kindle)? What are you reading right now?

I am reading George Monbiot’s Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life, Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells and have just finished Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean.

What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Pay attention to your writing patterns. If you discover, as I did, that your words flow in the morning, clear your am calendar to take advantage of that creative burst. Keep pen and paper handy at all times, in your pocket or purse, on your bedside table, and in the car.

 

Camille Armantrout has lived and worked all over the world. She is usually traveling with her co-conspirator and husband, Bob. Camille has worked in kitchens, on construction sites, driven taxi and groomed race track thoroughbreds. She bakes for fun, trains horses, and writes about the world as she sees it, here.

Check out Two Brauds Abroad on Amazon!

 


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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