The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘women’s creativity

I’m so excited to share this cover reveal of Feminine Rising! It’s a new collection coming out next spring that will feature essays on what being gendered female in this culture has meant to some writers. The editors are Andrea Fekete and Lara Lillibridge. My essay, “The Poison Our Grandmothers and Mothers Drank” is being republished in it which first appeared in the literary journal Trivia: Voices of Feminism. I’m thrilled to be a part of this collection and you’ll be hearing more about it over the next few months!

A bit of backstory: During Fall 2010, local writers were invited to visit the Joyful Jewel, a gallery in Pittsboro, North Carolina and see which piece of art inspired them to write.  My piece was inspired by Sharon Blessum’s photograph “Medicine Women.” In the photograph, there are four small iridescent torsos of mannequins with names like Copper Shaman, Shaman of the Heart Chakra, Shaman of the 7th Chakra, and Water Shaman. Some of the torsos have feathers sprouting from the backs of their necks and others showcase big chunky necklaces.

In December, the Joyful Jewel hosted “Visions and Voices” where writers were asked to read what they wrote after their visit and the corresponding artists were asked to display their objects and say a few words about the art-making process.

I first read my piece at the “Visions and Voices” event and then three years later it was published in Trivia. I really love this piece so I continued looking for reprint opportunities. I submitted it to Andrea and Lara in 2016 and it was accepted right away. The editors found a publisher and now this essay will have a new home in spring 2019!


Pavarti Tyler is an adored writer and publisher. Under the moniker P.K. Tyler, she writes speculative fiction and other genre bending fiction. She’s published works as Pavarti K. Tyler and had projects appear on the USA TODAY Bestseller’s List. She also created Fighting Monkey Press.

IndieReader has said this about Pavarti: “Tyler is essentially the indie scene’s Margaret Atwood; she incorporates sci-fi elements into her novels, which deal with topics such as spirituality, gender, sexuality and power dynamics.”


I know Pavarti because I’m one of the 22 authors in her recent Uncommon Origins: A Collection of Gods, Monsters, Nature and Science anthology published through Fighting Monkey Press. This is the second UnCommon anthology that she has published, beginning with UnCommon Bodies. She is currently reviewing manuscripts for UnCommon Minds.



Not only was I delighted to have my work accepted for UnCommon Origins, I was thrilled to become part of Pavarti’s community of writers. Leading up to the launch for UnCommon Origins, Pavarti mentored and supported us in learning about marketing, branding, and finding audiences that would love our work. I learned so much! I also got to interact with authors involved in UnCommon Origins and authors from UnCommon Bodies and other projects that Pavarti has brought to fruition. She’s nurtured a group of writers who are incredibly generous and supportive of each other. As I noted in an earlier post, the launch for UnCommon Origins was incredibly successful and continues to trend on Amazon. Pavarti knows both art and the marketplace.


I recently discovered one of her other series: Mosaics: A Collection of Independent Women. This collection is ambitious in scope and features a diverse group of self-identified women writing about intersectionality (e.g. how social categories of race, class, sexuality, nationality, etc. come together simultaneously to shape both privilege and power). Pavarti has recently released the second Mosiacs collection with its multi-faceted look at the history and culture surrounding femininity: “If gender is a construct, this anthology is the house it built. Look through its many rooms, some bright and airy, some terrifying– with monsters lurking in the shadows.” This work offers readers poetry, essays and fiction, showcasing voices that don’t often get represented.

Profits from both collections are donated to the Pixel Project to end Violence Against Women.

I’ve written about intersectional theory, practice and methods as a scholar, so I was especially interested in this project. Mosaics is timely given the ongoing VIDA: Women in Literary Arts conversations about gender equity and the We Need Diverse Books movement.

I wanted to know more about Mosaics and Pavarti’s writing career. I’m delighted to welcome Pavarti Tyler to The Practice of Creativity.

 -Tell us about the Mosaics collections. What inspired them?

Mosaics was a project conceived by Kim Wells.  We decided to work together because our politics and philosophies are so in line.  Both books were filled with stories the two of us hand selected for inclusion and that we believed brought something special not only to the literary world, but also contributed to the conversation about sex and gender. There has been so much controversy and misunderstanding about feminism and equality lately, we felt it was important to give voice to a wide variety of women and experiences on how gender intersects with issues of race, sex, and ability.  In the end, we had so many amazing submissions we weren’t able to put together just one collection and had to expand the scope to two books.  It was a tremendous amount of work, but work I’m exceptionally proud of as both an author and publisher.

– You’ve edited several anthologies over the past few years. What do you enjoy about being an editor? How was editing Mosaics different than your other anthologies (i.e. UnCommon Bodies)?uncommonbodies

I’m actually not an editor.  I’m lucky I’m able to spell my own name right most days. In all these projects I’ve worked as curator, coordinator, and publisher (and often marketer).  I love the chance to bring together new voices and curate selections that stand up as individual works, but which also add something to the greater whole when seen in context of the collection.

-You manage to pack a lot into your day! You are a blogger, writer, editor and publisher. How do these activities feed each other and you?

I’m not sure if this question makes me want to laugh or cry.  I do pack a lot into my days and I’m exhausted most of the time, but everything I do is done out of love and passion.  A passion for language, for story, for the fundamental belief that it’s essential to the human condition to share experiences. Of everything, blogging is the one thing I don’t do consistently, only when something strikes my fancy or inspiration, but I do try to put up something every few weeks.  While it’s not my primary passion, it’s a great way for me to connect with readers in a direct and personal way.

-Is there a story behind the name of your publishing imprint—Fighting Monkey Press?

Yes.  My husband and our friends were ridiculous creatures when we met.  I called the group of them my monkeys because of their penchant for climbing walls and jumping over things on rollerblades.  They were also all on the fencing team.  So when it came time to name my company, Fighting Monkey just made sense.

-Do you consider yourself a discovery writer (also known as a pantser) or outliner? Or do those categories not apply?

I plot, but I’m not a micro plotter.  I use a 5 act structure and outline the basics of where I’m going and then beat plot a few chapters ahead of where I am before writing.  The essential part of this for me though is the willingness to just delete it all if the characters take me in another direction.  They usually know the story better than I do so I follow their lead.  So I’m a plotter who sometimes gets swept away by my pants.

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

Shut up.  I know that sounds harsh, but there are only 2 rules for writing: 1 – Shut Up 2 – Write.  If you can get past the first one, I believe everyone has a story to tell.  So silence your inner critic, stop talking about the things you want to do, stop posting on Facebook about writing, just shut up and write.


Pavarti Tyler attended Smith College and graduated with a degree in Theatre. She lived in New York, where she worked as a Dramaturge, Assistant Director and Production Manager on productions both on and off-Broadway. Later, Pavarti went to work in the finance industry for several international law firms. Now located in Baltimore Maryland, she lives with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not penning science fiction books and other speculative fiction novels, she twists her mind by writing horror and erotica. Find out more about her here.


You’re in for a special treat today. I’ve asked friend and AROHO writing buddy, Li Yun Alvarado to share her wisdom about the power of what she calls ‘low stakes daily writing’. Her guidelines are so doable, practical and fun, you’ll want to try them right away.

When we met at AROHO this August, we bonded over the delights and dilemmas of navigating both an academic and creative writing life. As a recent PhD, Li Yun is doing just that with incredible insight and aplomb.

I’m delighted to welcome Li Yun Alvarado to The Practice of Creativity.

Li Yun Alvarado is the author of Words or Water (forthcoming) and Nuyorico, CA. A poet and scholar, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in New Madrid; Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education; The Acentos Review; and PMS Poemmemoirstory among others. In 2012, her work received an honorable mention for The Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. She is currently the Senior Poetry Editor for Kweli Journal and is an alumna of VONA/Voices Writing Workshop and AROHO. She holds a BA in Spanish and sociology from Yale University and an MA and PhD in English from Fordham University. Li Yun is a native New Yorker living in Long Beach, California who takes frequent trips to Salinas, Puerto Rico to visit la familia. You can learn more about Li Yun and her work on Facebook and at


“The Art of Low Stakes Daily Writing”

In October 2014, my dissertation committee and I settled in on a defense date: April 17, 2015. Finally, a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel that had been three years of research and writing appeared. There exists a line between ABD (all but dissertation) and PhD that remains a moving target until that defense date is set, but with the date on the calendar, the idea of “after my dissertation” went from an abstraction to a quickly approaching reality.


I knew I wanted “after” to include a shift toward prioritizing my creative work. I had never abandoned creative projects entirely, but while dissertating, I focused on concrete creative projects with short term deadlines. For example, creating my wedding website on Weebly and self-publishing my chapbook Nuyorico, CA were two of my creative outlets in 2013.

Still, I longed for a time when my creative writing projects could once again take center stage. As the end of my graduate student life approached, I imagined what shape my writing life might take.

~          ~          ~

I have often heard writers advise: “Write every day.”

In response, I’d often think:

“Yeah right. Easy for you to say famous / published / award-winning author.”

Or, the less snarky:

“That just doesn’t work for me.”


“I don’t have the discipline.”

What I learned while writing a dissertation was that academics toss around that same advice. If not “write every day,” they at least encourage, “write regularly” and “schedule your writing time.”

Even comic Jerry Seinfeld famously developed a daily writing strategy that involves crossing out the dates of a calendar in red and focusing on not breaking the chain of red Xs by writing every day.

The summer prior to my defense, eager to finish by the following May, I committed to a regular writing practice for the first time. Inspired by Joan Bolker’s advice in Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day, I worked from 7am – 9am every Monday through Friday that summer. Before breakfast, or e-mail, or Facebook, or anything else, I wrote. Something. Anything.

After two 45 minute writing cycles (or four 20 minute pomodoros), I ate breakfast then completed a few more writing sessions or called it quits depending on the day.

Did I really write every weekday all summer long? Probably not. OK, definitely not, but I wrote on more days than I didn’t. And I. Got. It. Done: full drafts of each chapter before I began teaching that fall.


~          ~          ~


Writing my dissertation gave me an unexpected gift: a regular writing practice.

I finally knew I was capable of developing a writing practice, but I also knew that the upcoming deadline (graduating by May 15) had fueled my discipline that summer.

For my life beyond the dissertation, I wanted to develop a writing practice that worked even when—especially when—there was no deadline. A way to feed my creative self that also gave me that satisfaction of accumulation that only comes from writing every day.

There were several considerations I took into account as I decided what kind of daily practice to begin:

* I decided the best way to transition from dissertating to writing creatively was to begin a new writing practice in January, three months before the defense.

* I also knew I wanted my daily writing to be a sliver of joy each day as opposed to a burden—something my dissertating days inevitably were at times.

* Finally, the poetic fatigue I experienced at the end of an April 30/30 poetry challenge in 2009 suggested that the unmanageable pace of “one poem a day” wouldn’t work for me, so that approach was out.

With all that in mind, I settled on what I call “Low Stakes Daily Writing.” I began on January 1st, 2015 and wrote (almost) every day in 2015!

Here are the Low Stakes Daily Writing guidelines I settled on:


  1. Find a Fun Low Stakes Daily Writing Notebook

This step isn’t mandatory, but it supports the idea of a daily practice that is joyful or fun. My daily writing notebook actually found me. In a novelty store in Vegas on New Year’s Eve last year, my husband handed me a black 5 x 7 notebook saying, “This is for you.” On the cover? In gold stylized cursive letters, the words: “My F*cking Brilliant Ideas.”


  1. Write at Least Once A Day

Simple: Write. Something. Anything. Every. Single. Day.

This “write anything” approach was in part inspired by Bolker, who insists, “Write anything, because writing is writing” (94) and “Writing is writing and if you can’t write your dissertation just continue writing—anything — to keep your muscles in shape, and to keep you from getting phobic” (94).


  1. No Guilt Allowed

Miss a day? Write twice the next day. Try not to skip more than one day which should be easy because ANY writing in your notebook counts.


  1. No Notebook? No Problem.

If the urge to write hits when I’m sans notebook, I write elsewhere then copy that entry back into my notebook later. My iPhone notepad is full of Low Stakes Daily Writing.


  1. Low Stakes Daily Writing: One Piece of a Larger Writing Life

My Low Stakes Daily Writing was not the only writing I did on most days, but it was the only writing I had to do every day.


~          ~          ~


People are sometimes skeptical of my approach. They find it hard to believe that anything goes. That’s when I show them one of my favorite examples:



money money

money money

money money money

I was worried about money, so I wrote about money. With my worry on the page, I could let it go for the night and go to sleep.


“At least,” I consoled myself, “I wrote today.”

Similarly, at the end of last semester, I wrote:









That’s it. That counts. I’m not brilliant, or inspired, or awake enough every day to write something meaningful, and with Low Stakes Daily Writing I don’t have to be. Each day I connect with the page. Each day I promise a few moments—however brief—to my writing. To myself.

Other kinds of Low Stakes Daily Writing include:

– An automatic response to an article, blog post, book, poem, image, etc

– A list of words that come up while playing a word association with friends or family

– A letter

– A poem draft

– A list of words or phrases I hear on TV or in a movie

– A meditation on a current problem

– A stream of consciousness free-write


As you can see, the product doesn’t matter as much as the process. The act of sitting with the page is the point.

Low Stakes Daily Writing is low pressure and sometimes that is all I need to make room for something magical to come through. With the room to write crap (guilt-free), I can write first drafts and not worry about whether or not they’re any good — they’re not supposed to be good in here. This is my take on Anne Lamott’s “Shitty First Draft” approach to writing. I produce a lot. Then I sift through, find hidden gems, and craft them into something worth sharing later on.

And then there are those thrilling nights when the writing comes so easily, so powerfully, so spot on that I know, even as I’m writing, that I have one of those rare not-so-hidden gems on my hands. On those nights I lay my head down especially grateful for this daily practice.

The next day, I return to the page and I write something new.


~          ~          ~

Here’s what I’ve gained after a year of Low Stakes Daily Writing:


  1. I have two and a quarter journals filled with writing to sift through for the seeds of new work.


  1. I created a ritual. I write every day, usually right before bed. It is such a part of my routine that as I get into bed my husband will often ask, “Have you written today?” (I’ll keep him!)


  1. Amidst all the random reflections, I have some solid first drafts that I otherwise might not have written.


  1. A new publication. A poem that began as a draft in my Low Stakes Daily Writing journal was recently accepted for publication in New Madrid. That is the fastest I have taken a poem from draft to publication. The speed at which this particular poem found a home might be a fluke, but I suspect that if I hadn’t been in the practice of writing every day, I might not have written that poem at all. Therein lies the magic of writing every day: I created space for what might not have otherwise come through to emerge.


  1. But most importantly, I connected with my creative self, honoring who I am as poet and writer, every single day of 2015!


As you enter 2016, I hope you’ll consider joining me with your own take on a Low Stakes Daily Writing practice. Happy New Year! And Happy Writing!

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.


-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:



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

Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

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

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