Posts Tagged ‘Women’
I’m sharing more about the magic of the AROHO writing retreat that happened almost one month ago. In the afternoons during the AROHO writing retreat, participants got to hear various writers discuss and riff off of the touchstone books thematically guiding the retreat: Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior. The Woman Warrior at its core is about mother and daughter relationships and secrets. The presenters provided insights, read creative work, shared scholarly essays, tributes and everything in between when talking about these two texts. One of the speakers was Tania Pryputniewicz, a poet, who also writes a lot about motherhood and the creative process. She shared with us an incredibly powerful exercise designed to help us reflect on the nature of the secrets our mothers kept and secrets we’ve kept from them. I am re-blogging her wonderful post where she elaborates on her relationship to The Woman Warrior and shares this exercise in full. She is also calling for guests posts based on her exercise.
Mothers and Daughters: Secret Catharsis in Woman Warrior (and a Secret Door Writing Exercise for You)
“You must not tell anyone,” my mother said, “what I am about to tell you.” So opens Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, from the first section of the book, titled, “No Name Woman.” So begins the re-telling of a family secret, where the story of the No Name Aunt moves out to haunt a much wider audience of mothers and daughters. The irony is not lost on us that the narrator, at the outset, in sentence one, is engaged in the act of disobeying her mother.
Many of us would agree that mother/daughter relationships are at one time or another fraught with complicated emotional, psychological narratives and emotional withholdings. But these same complications often come with hidden gifts.
read the full post here
A Room of Her Own’s nonprofit mission is: To inspire, fund, and champion works of art and literature by women. They host one of only about five or so writing residencies, in the country, exclusively for women.
It is a competitive residency and I am thrilled that I was accepted. There will be over 100 women writers attending (emerging writers to well established authors like Janet Fitch and Tayari Jones!), and I will get to take master classes and workshops with a range of amazing writers including Elizabeth L. Silver, Mary Johnson and Cynthia Leitich Smith. We will also spend our evenings discussing the retreat theme ‘Writing Against the Current’ which is a focus on Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando and Maxine Hong Kingston’s novel, Woman Warrior–and Kingston will be there in residence!
Another honor is that I will also be a ‘studio leader’ presenting a one hour version of my popular workshop: ‘Tone Your Creative Core: 5 Secrets for Artists’. This workshop offers strategies in areas where most creative people struggle: time, abundance and prosperity, feeling worthy to create and goal-setting. I’m delighted to explore these issues with women writers.
Writing residencies are structured in various ways. Some provide room, board and solitude, offering uninterrupted time to write with no other requirements. Others, like AROHO are much more interactive, including: providing intensive workshops (sharing and critiquing other participants’ work), hosting nightly receptions and readings, offering craft lectures, and encouraging networking and collaboration. I’ve known writers who have attended each type of residency. We often think the hardest part is getting accepted to one, but this isn’t the whole picture.
I’ve spent the last few months preparing for this incredible opportunity and have noticed that although there are a number of wonderful posts about why one should apply to a writing residency (see Jennifer Chen’s musings), and where to apply for one (here’s a great list from ‘The Write Life’), there is almost no discussion about preparing for the residency and making the most of it while there. Besides of course, to write.
Making the most of one’s residency means giving some thought to hidden challenges.
I’ve seen writers come back from a residency deflated because they had set unrealistic writing goals. Most folks are exhausted by the time they get to attend a writing residency. They’ve been juggling work, family responsibilities, community commitments, etc., often at a frenzied place. It can take a few days, during the residency, to decompress and reconnect to deep creative work. I’ve also known writers whose inner critics got the best of them and consequently didn’t get as much writing done. Or they got so intimidated by the other writers and instructors that they weren’t able to make enduring connections or contacts.
Here’s my five tips for making the most of a residency:
Make Your Goals Inspiring, Not Exhausting
Setting unclear or overly ambitious goals during a residency can lead to a big letdown. Writing residencies are also about allowing inspiration and spontaneity, so being flexible with goals can allow for more enjoyment as the writing process unfolds.
For most of the week, I’ll be taking a master class on ‘Emerging Heroes: Diversity in Young Adult Fiction’ with Cynthia Leitich Smith. I know little about writing young adult fiction and am super excited about stretching myself as a writer. Consequently, given the intensity of learning a new field, getting and giving feedback on others’ writing and the possibility having to work on prompts that Cynthia may assign outside of the workshop, I’m keeping my writing goals modest. From the schedule, it looks like I’ll have a daily 2-3 hours of individual writing time. I’m shooting for 10-20 pages a day of writing. That feels doable. I’ll also allow myself to create fresh material as well as work on current projects.
Give Yourself Permission to Embody Being the Writer of Your Dreams
Writing residencies present an opportunity to practice being a writer in public. Often aspiring writers write behind closed doors and without many opportunities to get publicly affirmed about their writing efforts. This is the time to revel in one’s writing identity. I’m going to take every opportunity to walk, dress and act like I am the writer of my dreams. I’m wrapping myself in an inner shawl of ‘deservingness’. I am holding the intention to attend every nightly reception and meet a few new people. I also hope to meet newly published authors that I’ll want to invite for an author interview for the blog.
Do an Inner Critic Check
Visual artist, Beverly McIver once said at a professional development workshop for artists, “Feeling worthy is a learned behavior.” Inner critics can make themselves known during a residency and derail us. In various posts, I’ve discussed some of the more common inner critics including the comparer, the pusher, the judger, the imposter, the procrastinator and the perfectionist. Inner critics inspire fear, judgement, dread and envy toward our writing selves and writing lives. Spending some time addressing inner critics (and assigning them new jobs where possible), before and during the residency can help quiet draining mental chatter and quell anxiety.
Polish Your Social Media Profile
Social media is often where people will find you first. I’m hoping to make strong connections while I’m at AROHO. I’ve already started to look up some of the people in my master class and have enjoyed learning about them through their social media sites. In the past month, I’ve spent some time updating my bio across my social media sites and beefing up my author Facebook page. You never know when someone is going to look up after making a connection, so it’s important that they can find you. A that what they find out about you inspires and draws them in.
Practice Communicating about Your Work
What is your work like? What are you working on? These are the essential questions to consider when talking about one’s work. Do you have an elevator pitch? Many writers (and artists in general) tend to avoid communicating about their work or freeze up when they do talk about their work. Given the time and emotional investment we have made for our creative pursuits, communicating about it is necessary and part of the creative process. I’ve been practicing my brief elevator pitch and look forward to using it.
Here’s great advice on elevator pitches from the Artist’s Tools Handbook from Creative Capital:
In theater, a rule of thumb is that, for every minute of stage time in a play, you need an hour of rehearsal time–and that’s when the script is already written. So think about spending at least an hour on this. Don’t just repeat your pitch 60 times; it’s more a measure of how long you should concentrate to get something good.
If you have tips to share about your experience at a residency and how you made the most of it, I’d love to hear them.
Photo credit: “Ghost Ranch redrock cliffs, clouds” by Larry Lamsa
Happy Mother’s Day!
Themes about mothering and specifically the relationship between mothers and daughters tend to find their way into my creative work. Several of the stories, in the short story collection I am polishing, deeply explore the continuum of mothering relationships (e.g. biological moms, grandmothers, godmothers, aunties, etc.).
In my recent non-fiction work, I celebrate the courageous spirit of my mother in the just released A Letter to My Mom.
In fiction, I love reading about mothering relationships that are a bit off balance, unusual or difficult. There are some mother characters that have stayed with me long after I put the book down.
I’m thinking of the complex figure of ‘Elphaba’ in Gregory Maguire’s brilliant retelling of the Wicked Witch of Oz story in Wicked. Elphaba didn’t want to be a mother and for most of the book denies that she is responsible for Liir, a young boy. She is an absent, wayward and troubled mother. Although the second book, Son of a Witch, confirms that Liir is indeed Elphaba’s son, I appreciate how Maguire challenges ideas about the ability to mother as innate and easy.
In Beauty, Sheri Tepper’s stunning mythic novel, the main character Beauty is half fairy and half human and is the important player in an elaborate effort to save humankind (although she does not know this at the beginning of the novel).
Beauty is on a quest to find her mother (a fairy) who abandoned her when she was a baby. The novel begins in the 15th century and her journey propels Beauty through multiple time periods including the 20th century. Through Beauty’s quest, Tepper is able to have Beauty experience and shape key ‘fairy tales’ including Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White. When Beauty finally finds her mother, she must confront her mother’s divided sympathies. This book takes up questions of loyalty, love and abandonment.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver tackles the question of: How do different people view an unusual event in nature? Is it a disaster? Is it a miracle? Is it a sign of life out of balance? Kingsolver explores these questions through the prisms of class, region, science, love, loyalty and family.
Kingsolver’s main character, Dellarobia Turnbow, is someone who has been let down in many parts of her life. She got pregnant young, married the wrong guy, is tolerated by her in-laws, doesn’t like church and is constantly overwhelmed as a housewife and mother. The novel opens as she is about to take a drastic step to escape her unfulfilled life when she comes face to face with an experience that will shape and redefine her in unimaginable ways. This book provides some of the best descriptions of the physical and emotional labor of raising small children and how that often allows little time for self-introspection. I also love how trust and rapport develop between Dellarobia and her mother-in-law, Hester, who begins as an unsympathetic character.
Do mother figures and/or themes about mothering show up in your creative work? If so, how? What are some of your favorite mother figures in fiction?
Posted May 4, 2015on:
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’.
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.
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!