Posts Tagged ‘She Writes’
Posted July 6, 2015on:
This has been a good week for celebrating women artists; both their individual and collective achievements.
Not having a community of supportive peers and not seeing yourself represented in artistic expression is something many creative women face*. She Writes and Misty Copeland remind us of the importance of community, perseverance and staying true to one’s vision, even in the face of bias.
Six years ago, writer and visionary Kamy Wicoff began She Writes (with Deborah Siegel), as an online home for women writers to understand “the rapidly changing, head-spinningly complex world of publishing.” They felt that “women writers in particular–needed a place to come together to share what they were learning, be inspired, and gather information about the craft and the business of writing.” As she has said recently, they “created what they most needed.” They began with 40 members and now have 26,000 enthusiastic members around the world. They are the largest community of women writers online. Both emerging and well-established writers find She Writes to be a thriving and significant hub.
During the past six years, Kamy and her team have worked hard to demystify publishing and empower women to value their words and develop confidence in taking those words into the publishing marketplace. She Writes has grown up alongside the increasing acknowledgement by many that there are gender equality issues in contemporary literary culture (see VIDA: Women in Literary Arts for research and history).
Membership to SW is free. I discovered it almost four years ago and have found it to be a treasure trove of resources, intelligent discussion and incredible writerly support. On SW, you can blog, network and join over 360 groups representing every aspect of writing and publishing imaginable including ‘Mothers Write!’ ‘Funny Women’, ‘Authors of Interracial/Multicultural Romance and Fiction’, ‘Literary Fiction Writers v. 2.0’, ‘Google Analytics’, ‘Prompt Monster’, ‘You Go Girl Poetry’, etc. I’m a member of the groups ‘Blooming Late’ (women who started writing seriously after the age of 40) and ‘What Did You Blog About Today?’.
Kamy and her amazing team has also recently ventured into publishing and created She Writes Press. Their mission is to elevate the words and stories of women and offer a new model of publishing. Check them out!
Keep up the great work, She Writes!
African American ballet dancer Misty Copeland was recently promoted to principal ballerina at American Ballet Theatre. A historic accomplishment and long overdue. Copeland persevered. This recent honor speaks to her extraordinary personal accomplishment, but also her courage in calling attention to the unspoken biases about body size, stereotyping and race that have shaped the world of American ballet.
Only nine years ago, I remember clipping and ruminating on the article “Where Are All the Black Swans?” in the New York Times. The article highlights how class and race bias show up in the ballet world, from early schooling to professional opportunities. It is very hard to accomplish something creative if you can’t envision it and envision someone who looks like you succeeding at it. Misty Copeland’s dedication to the craft of ballet and her own vision will have ripple effects for many aspiring, young female dancers, especially girls from underrepresented groups.
Photo of Misty Copeland: Henry Leutwyler
Today is the last day of April and the last day of my celebration of National Poetry Month. I want to thank all the writers who enthusiastically joined in this celebration by submitting poems and reflecting on poetry’s imprint in their hearts. I hope that you have enjoyed meeting them during the last few weeks. I am now making space for more poetry in my life, both to write it and read it. Today, Lynne Favreau, delivers up a poem about a special friend that many of us knew through the online community of She Writes.
Captain Candace, Flight 102, Cleared for Landing
Some patients find courage in the fight
battling back the body’s bedevilment.
Imagining the mutations and invaders to overcome;
recruiting natural defenses along with a battalion
of pharmacological soldiers to advance,
urged to the front lines by IV and portals.
Others seek peace through inner portals,
beckoning the spirits to join the fight.
They summon prayers to arrest the advance,
sing their appeals hoping for the bedevilment
of attacking carcinomas. The insidious battalion-
proliferating replicants, to be solemnly overcome.
Somewhere between, she and I overcome.
We laugh at collapsed veins and clogged portals.
Words we wield into a battalion
distressing some who fear the fight;
our irreverence be their bedevilment,
yet humor sustains us while we advance.
It is clear our paths diverge when symptoms advance
beyond an earlier prognosis. We are overcome.
For one, continuing treatment leads to nothing but bedevilment.
Once eliminated, the possibilities close portals.
We’re armed with resignation, the fight
called for mercy and dispersal of the battalions.
Cries widespread across the battalions
of friends; my liege, I beg we advance,
to stage a final muster but not fight.
Rather a trove of love and peace overcome
to take comfort in a last hurrah. Portals
closed, we reflect on our bedevilment.
The inevitable outcome, to our bedevilment-
cancer that can not be over run by battalions
of drugs, nor breached through vital portals.
We will respect though regret its advance
and shepherd you home, not overcome
by grief but joy in the remembered fight.
Your legacy of words will advance
and gives this writer courage to overcome,
in your name, in this fight.
Author’s Reflection: I belong to the wonderfully supportive online writer’s community, She Writes. One of my first relationships to bloom there was between Candace Coghill and myself since we were both undergoing chemotherapy and shared a similar sense of humor about the whole thing. I completed treatment Jan 4, 2012, and remain cancer free. Candace passed away, Sept 12, 2012.
I’ve been writing since my first college class — English Comp 101 in 2011. I was thirty-five, and had spent a lifetime, up until then, believing I couldn’t put two words together. Since then, I’ve graduated from Union Institute and University-Montpelier VT with a B.A. in Writing and Literature. I am mainly a novelist, but like to challenge myself by writing short stories, the occasional esoteric poem, and overly-long ranty blog post only the most loyal of souls brave to read.
I know newly minted novelist, Olga Godim from the ‘Blooming Late’ group on She Writes. ‘Blooming Late’ is a support group for women who started their writing seriously after age 40 and have hopes still of a long and illustrious career in writing. We are a lively, opinionated and supportive online community of over three hundred members. In celebration of National Poetry Month, Olga tried her hand translating poems from Russian into English. She found this work both fun and daunting.
The first poem is a translation of a humorous song from a Russian
children’s movie based on the story of Pinocchio. Unfortunately, I
don’t remember the name of the Russian poet who wrote it. It’s an
ultimate conman’s chant.
As long as misers yearn for gold,
Your luck will permanently hold.
When coins gleam,
The greedy dream
And do what they are told.
As long as fools remain around,
Your opportunities abound.
You spin a tale
They slave for you spellbound.
As long as braggarts multiply,
Your fortune grows on the sly.
Laugh in your sleeve
And squeeze the wretches dry.
The second poem is a translation of an aria from the French opera
“Faust” by Charles Gounod. It debuted in Paris in 1859. The story is
based on a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but I never read it in
the original German; only heard the aria in Russian. I guess, my
translation is ‘second-hand’ or even ‘third-hand’, as someone else had
already translated it from German to French, and then from French to
Russian. I’m not sure how close to the original my version is.
Probably not at all.
In the times of the heroes, people prayed for the gold.
Nations fought in the terrible wars for the gold.
Blood was spilled for the gold,
Cities razed for the gold.
Golden monster devoured the innocent world.
In the times of progress, people pray for the gold.
Voices rise in the glorious hymns for the gold.
Honor breached for the gold,
Love betrayed for the gold.
Everything can be bought, everything can be sold.
Author Reflection: In both poems I tried to keep
to the meter and rhyme scheme of the originals. As I never wrote
poetry before, not even in my youth, this was a very interesting
exercise for me. The result is not a great poetry but an attempt to
transfer the feel of the poems from one language to another.
I’m a writer and journalist from Vancouver, Canada. My articles
appear regularly in local newspapers. My short fiction credits include
multiple short stories, published in magazines, and a novel Lost and
Found in Russia.
We all need encouragement and support for our writing lives. And, the beginning of the year invites us to try out new ideas. Here is a list of strategies that have bolstered my writing life. May they support and inspire you.
1) Plan a Submission Party
In my first writing group, more than fifteen years ago, I learned about the power of holding at least one ‘submission party’ during the year. A submission party meant that we planned a date and we all brought our polished manuscripts, manila envelopes, our bundle of SASEs (self-addressed stamped envelopes –yes, back in those days you had to send manuscripts via snail mail and with a SASE!), and food and drink to someone’s house. We helped each other write query letters, find new markets to submit work, develop submission charts, and triple check final copies of stories. And, the best part of all, we’d each leave with several stuffed packets ready to mail to magazine and anthology editors and contest judges. These parties uplifted us and took the fear, dread and challenge out of submitting. And, they helped us get a batch of stories into the mail at one time.
At your next writers’ group meeting, suggest hosting a submission party during the first quarter of the year. And, if you’re not in a group (Well, you should be! When focused friendly people come together to support each other, they can produce incredible results!), then ask a writing buddy, if he or she would be interested in executing this idea on a smaller scale.
Reading your work in front of an audience is an invaluable experience for a writer. We can see when people lean toward us, laugh (one hopes at the appropriate places), and get a sense of how our words affect others. Readings help us to become comfortable with our work no matter what the reaction. We meet new friends and learn about the work of other writers. I did three readings last year (two of which I helped to create). In most places there are many opportunities to read your work in public—open mics organized by writing groups, in bookstores and cafes, writing conferences, and informal gatherings with friends. Practice, practice and practice some more.
How many readings did you participate in during 2012? Shoot to double this number in 2013.
3) Volunteer to Support and Serve a Published Writer That You Know
I have been privileged to accompany one of my writing teachers, Marjorie Hudson, to several speaking events and workshops. I learned invaluable things watching a working writer deal with the public aspect of a writing life: speaking, promoting, coaching, and book signing.
Writers always need more support. If you have a friend or an acquaintance who has recently published a book, offer to help them promote it in some way. If you don’t know any published writers, this is a great way to connect with a local writer whose work that you admire.
Be a personal assistant, or driver, for a day. If they are scheduled to give readings, see if you can help carry books, set up a display, sell books, and assist with small tasks that would make their life easier. You can learn a lot from watching how other writers handle being in the public eye.
4) Strive for 99 Rejections
Years ago, Marjorie Hudson, shifted my perspective on submitting one’s work and coping with rejection. She declared that as part of claiming the mantle of a writer, one should strive to gather at least 99 rejections. I sat in the workshop feeling pretty smug thinking that surely with all the years that I have been trying to get published I reached that number, no problem. Later, when I reviewed my submission file, I was shocked to realize that I wasn’t even half way close to 99 rejections! This revelation spurred me on submit my work, in a serious and organized way.
I love Chris Offutt’s essay, ‘The Eleventh Draft’, where he discusses how he dealt with the fear of rejection:
“The notion of submitting anything to a magazine filled me with terror. A stranger would read my precious words, judge them deficient, and reject them, which meant I was worthless. A poet friend was so astonished by my inaction that he shamed me into sending stories out. My goal, however, was not publication, which was still too scary a thought. My goal was a hundred rejections a year.
I mailed my stories in multiple submissions and waited eagerly for their return, which they promptly did. Each rejection brought me that much closer to my goal—a cause for celebration, rather than depression. Eventually disaster struck. The Coe Review published my first story in spring 1990. The magazine was in the small industrial town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with a circulation that barely surpassed the city limits. The payment was one copy of the magazine, and the editor spelled my name wrong. Nevertheless, I felt valid in every way—I was no longer a hillbilly with a pencil full of dreams. I was a real live writer.”
The common suggestion is for writers to have at least five pieces submitted at any given time.
Are you close to 99 rejections? Every time you receive one, think of it as a step forward in your writing apprenticeship. (BTW, holding a submissions party, regularly, can help you send out more material faster.)
5) Create Some Writing Affirmations
An affirmation is a short, simple, positive declarative phrase that as Eric Maisel says, in Coaching The Artist Within, “you say to yourself because you want to think a certain way…or because you want to aim yourself in a positive direction.” Writers can benefit from using affirmations as our inner critics, judges, and evaluators are often uninvited guests during our writing sessions.
A decade ago, I made a tape recording of me saying writing affirmations. I was living in California, on a post-doctoral fellowship, not a member of any writing group, and accumulating rejections at rate that made me gnash my teeth daily. At that point in my life the inner critic often got the best of me. I needed something to remind me of my basic goodness, as a human being, and encourage me as a writer.
Listening back to them now, it’s clear that I don’t have that same inner wobbly feeling about claiming writing as a love, devotion, craft and profession. Nor do I have the same fears. But those early affirmations (i.e. I am a writer!), spoken with conviction definitely built a bridge from there to here.
Writing, speaking and even recording affirmations creates a powerful state of mind. Here are some to get you started.
6) Commitment Publicly to a Writing Goal and Ask for Accountability
As a coach, I know that to make long lasting positive changes, we need structure and accountability. Over the past year, I’ve seen many writers use their virtual networks (as well as face to face ones) to get support in meeting an important writing goal. Editor, author advocate and She Writes publisher, Brooke Warner publicly announced her intention of finishing a book by a certain date. She also asked for support to help keep her accountable while writing and this request yielded wonders!
What’s one writing goal you’d consider announcing publicly and asking for accountability?
7) Buy a New Subscription to a Writing Magazine and/or Literary Journal
Where do you learn about the field of publishing? How do you find out about new writers? We do this in many ways, through blogs, friends, librarians and visits to bookstores. However, writing magazines and literary journals can also play a key role in our professional development. You’ve probably been thinking about treating yourself to new subscription to a writing magazine or literary journal for some time. Do it! When I finish this post, I’m off to subscribe to Poets and Writers.
Spring presents writers with a perfect time to reassess, reorganize and rededicate ourselves to the projects that we most want to bring into the world. Spring fuels us with the energy to tackle physical spaces (and states of mind) that no longer serve us. Over the next several posts, I’ll explore the role of spring cleaning for your writing life. I also asked writer friends for their thoughts and will share their nuggets of wisdom. I posed this question to them: What is one thing that you’re doing, giving away, rearranging, reassessing, reorganizing, etc., to support your writing life?
The ONLY thing unique I have been doing for spring is rearranging my writing nook. (It’s a small indentation that has a desk with shelves all the way up the wall above it across from my bed in my bedroom. I have to write on my laptop sitting on my bed due to my disability.) I have been saving my son’s schoolwork there as well, but have found that it sits there making me feel guilty that I am not putting it into albums, scrapbooks etc., while I am trying to write. So I am moving all his stuff to a place all by itself AWAY from the nook, so I can take ONE day this summer to go through it and file everything where it belongs. It’s been so distracting to have something OTHER than my writing materials in my writing nook. It’s amazing how all that other stuff hanging out in one’s writing area (reminding you of all the other projects waiting for you), can make you feel bad about writing!
So spring is about making my writing space EXCLUSIVELY about writing and not a multitasking space. It’s already made me feel more focused that I have given my writing its own place, making it a real priority.
Jennie Kohl Austin, a writer who also describes herself as a “fiercely determined mom, artist, researcher, lover, and motorcycle enthusiast” shared:
I chose to rework my writing work space as a part of my spring routine this year. I separated my writing work space from my regular computer area so that I could define the state of “being a writer.” Laptop, markers and notepads, nice lighting, and my most inspiring books make for a soothing space that not only honors my process, but also lets my family know I’m working. The best part is how it doesn’t gather unrelated clutter, so I’m always ready to work!
Samantha and Jennie’s insights remind us how important it is to periodically reassess our writing space. Go and look at your writing space. What’s the state of it? Do you feel as sense of ease when you look at it? Is it crammed with stuff that belongs in other rooms of your house? If you live with other people, is this space known as your special writing area?
Have you even claimed some special place yet, or are you waiting for permission from someone else? If you’re struggling with this, see my post on claiming creative space.
It’s important to not get overwhelmed during spring cleaning. Many people decide they will devote a day to a spring cleaning project and then realize that they’re cranky after two hours and that the task requires at least two days. Start small and reward yourself often. Why not take from now until the official start of summer to spring clean? You could choose one project each week. I suggest working in 15-30 minute intervals so there’s less chance of getting frustrated and overwhelmed. I enjoy using an online stopwatch.
Survey your space and make a quick list of what you feel needs your attention most. The questions below are not exhaustive, but a good place to start.
-Do you need to organize and sort out your paper files?
-Would it be useful to create an index for your piles of journals?
-When was the last time you did a backup of your computer files? Do you need to delete or add programs?
-Do you need to release some writing books? Welcome others?
-Do you need to physically clean your computer?
-Do you have too much or too little of something in your space?
-Do you need more or less shelf space?
-Are there big physical jobs you’d like to do (i.e. paint)?
Once you have your list you can break each item down into specific tasks.
I’d love to hear from you about your process of spring cleaning and your writing life. Any please feel free to share any tips!
I’m delighted to welcome writer and She Writes friend Nadine Feldman in the ‘Love Your Creative Self’ series to share her wisdom. I’ve included a prompt question based on her reflection.
TEA WITH A FRIEND
My best friend is my writing practice. Each morning, before I get out of bed, I write three pages in a journal, a trick I learned from Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way. In these private pages, I describe my dreams, my fears, and my pettiness. Nothing is off limits, because the page doesn’t mind. When I tell my troubles to the page, it doesn’t try to fix or change me. It just listens. The muddied waters of my brain start to clear, and then the conversation changes. I could do this… What if…? I could solve my problem by…
Once I have bared my soul, I am free to work on my “real” writing, just as we often feel freer after sorting things out with friends. The conversation changes. We’re having tea and gossiping about imaginary people. We speculate about their motives, cry when they are sad, or laugh when they say something fun or interesting. Sometimes they surprise us and take the story in an unexpected direction.
Ever have one of those days when you’re on the outs with a friend, or you just don’t know how to say what you mean? Friends sometimes abandon us, and some days the page wants to stay blank and unresponsive. If we write enough of I don’t know what to write, though, something comes. Yes, we may get the silent treatment for a while, but it passes. We forgive, we are forgiven, and the words return.
Life intervenes. Financial or health pressures mount, someone we love dies, or a family member disappoints. Overwhelmed at time with these dramas, we may say, “How can I possibly write today?” Yet how can we not? If we see our writing as our best friend, we will turn toward it, again and again, in good times and bad – and it will sustain us. We gather our computer, curl up with a hot cup of tea, and begin.
Nadine Galinsky Feldman is the author of The Foreign Language of Friends (a novel) and When a Grandchild Dies: What to Do, What to Say, How to Cope. She also edited the award-winning Patchwork & Ornament: A Woman’s Journey of Life, Love, and Art by Jeanette Feldman. She loves gardening, hiking, travel, and yoga. She can be found on her blog at http://nadinefeldman.com/
Prompt: What are the ways we can befriend our creative work, so that as Nadine says “we will turn toward it, again and again” even when our lives feel busy and out of sorts?
For some of us it might be as direct as reminding ourselves daily that our creative work matters and then acting accordingly. For others it might mean claiming a home space to paint, quilt or write. For others it might mean learning more effective ways to calm the critical voices in our head that act as saboteurs.
What’s one new way you can befriend your creative work this week?
Photo Credit: Suzanna Leigh