Ch-ch-ch-changes, and a New Writing Series

photo by Justin Davanzo: with Liz Kalloch in Portland

photo by Justin Davanzo: with Liz Kalloch in Portland

Hello hello!

So many exciting things happening over here--I wanted to tell you all about them and also let you know if there's something you need to do (there might be) to keep reading all the good things I have to share. Read on!

Instead of an intermittent blogging format, I'm going to start sharing writing pieces in clusters, as curated series that will rotate every 4-6 weeks. You may notice when visiting my website that the Journal tab is gone and the Writing tab will take its place. Some of this writing will be new, some will be encore pieces from my journey, as with the new series, Pioneers. (Go read it!)

Other writing has been going out to the inboxes of those who are subscribed to receive updates from me, including stories and resources for the off-map journey. If you haven't been receiving my latest series on Voice (featuring the Finding Your Voice course), then you'll want to subscribe below so you don't miss a thing. 

Next week I'll have one more update about where I'm writing, but for now I want to say if you're reading via RSS you may want to click through to the site and subscribe to the inbox delivery so you don't miss out. This page will no longer be used for my writing main page.

I hope you enjoy the seasonal writing series, and in other news:

Novelist Diana Spechler on Retrospective

I was thrilled to interview Diana Spechler for the Retrospective podcast. Diana is the author of the novels Skinny and Who by Fire, and the truth is: I just plain like her. We met through storytelling here in New York, and last fall had the pleasure of sharing a Moth GrandSLAM stage.

In this episode of Retrospective, Diana talks about:

  • fiction, nonfiction, and where your secrets come out
  • dealing with being seen during a very personal book release
  • "punch and get out" --lessons learned from storytelling
  • keeping ego untangled from the creative process, and
  • wrestling projects into submission.

 

 

Listen here, or subscribe to Retrospective in iTunes. You can find previous episodes here.

Diana Spechler is the author of the novels Who By Fire (Harper Perennial, 2008) and Skinny (Harper Perennial, 2011). She has written for the New York TimesGQ; O, The Oprah MagazineCNN Living; EsquireNew YorkParis ReviewSelf;Details; the Wall Street JournalSalonSlate;NerveSouthern ReviewGlimmer Train Stories; and elsewhere. She is also a four-time Moth StorySLAM winner and has been featured on NPR. She received her MFA degree from the University of Montana and was a Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University and the writer-in-residence at Portsmouth Abbey School. A 2012-2013 LABA Fellow, she teaches writing in New York City and for Stanford University's Online Writer's Studio.

Amelia Shares Her New Book

Transient

In this summer edition audio interview, we hear from Amelia (age 8), the author and illustrator of "Love Never Comes Without War", which was published as part of her third grade curriculum. (Not available for sale.) Amelia reads an excerpt from her new work, gives her advice on writing and more.

On Serving Two Vocations

I can't remember in which of the tens of Madeleine L'Engle books I read in my twenties she wrote about her work as a writer and mother as serving two vocations, but the phrase has been seldom from my mind these last weeks and months. When the religious speak of vocation, they are pointing to something distinctive from occupation, something with an element of calling to it, something with a layer of devotion that goes beyond punching a clock.

For instance, no parent I know thinks of that role as an occupation. It's a role so constant that it blurs the line betweeen a state of being and a state of doing. A parent does not cease to be a parent after the children go to bed--one sleeps lightly and snaps awake at the sound of children in the night. Nor does one cease to be a parent after the children are grown with separate residences of their own. Just ask my mother how often I still call to say, "Do you think this meat is still good?" or "I think I'm getting sick."

So it is, too, with being artists, writers, creatives of all kinds. One doesn't cease to see the world with a certain studious eye, even after leaving the studio for the day. I can't even slip out for an afternoon "off" at the cinema without noticing and admiring the edits, the acting performances that are so true I feel something in my gut, the lines of dialogue that change the way I see the world forever, or the cinematography that takes my breath away. I also think many creatives have a sense of being chosen by, rather than solely choosing their work. If it were just about occupation, I'd be a barista, or maybe punch in for some company with sweet benefits. There's a way I feel pursued by this work, like I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I left it undone.

When I walk down the street and there is a small hand inside each of my own, it's like I drop down into a deep well. I can get lost in being with the girls, in our quiet rhythm, in the simple joys of steaming morning milk and washing dishes with the record player spinning and the twinkle lights all aglow. It's like a country I could live in forever.

The same is true when I lose myself in my work. Time stretches or races or simply ceases to be. I feel like there's nowhere else I'd rather be, nothing else I'd rather be doing. When I'm serving one vocation or the other, I sink down deep into the well and I am the rope, I am the bucket, and then I am the water. It feels like bliss. It feels like joy.

But here's the catch--it's not easy to serve two vocations at once. I can't go so deep down that I can no longer see the sky. I have to remember to look at the clock at least once before it is three o'clock and my little ones are waiting for my face to appear in the crowd, for my embrace and our conversations about the day on the walk home. And I can't get so comfortable with my cozy little family that I don't get out to shows or back on stage, or back to the studio projects that have been waiting to be finished.

I am still a beginner in this dance of two vocations. Maybe it's like my friends who are from one country but now live in another--both places hold a piece of their hearts, and they are always longing, even while they are always home.

What Silence Can Mean

My closest friends know that silence is something that can really mess with my mind. My default inner dialogue goes something like this:

I blew it. Something happened and now they've decided we're not friends anymore. Or they just can't take it (me) any longer. But actually saying so is too awkward or uncomfortable, so they are just going to ignore my email and hope I'm not too dull to get the point.

Or with people to whom I submit some work:

I'm probably such a colossal disappointment to them that I've left them speechless with dismay. They thought I could deliver something that I clearly cannot and they cannot find a graceful way out.

There's enough dysfunction here that we could spend the whole day untangling it, but all one really needs to know is that I come by this honestly. More and more I'm bringing my awareness to this unhelpful pattern and I'm learning to talk myself through other possibilities for silence, like this:

Maybe their phones died and they are still sleeping and they haven't had a chance to check email yet. Maybe they are sick, or had an accident. Maybe one of them got hit by a bus on the way home from work yesterday and they both spent the night in the hospital where everyone knows cell phone reception sucks.

Or:

Maybe she had a death in the family or she was suddenly sacked from her job and doesn't have access to that email address anymore. Maybe she's having a personal crisis or transition and a few months from now when she finally comes up for air and the dust settles she will remember me and drop me a line again.

I am not making this up--I have literally said these things out loud to my husband in all seriousness. And I have to report, this is tremendous progress for me.

This is what is on my mind this morning when I think of my quietness in this space. For someone who's so sensitive to silence, I think, you sure throw your share around without much regard.

But silence can mean many things, I am learning. Silence can come when something is being born, when something is mending, when the timing hasn't quite lined up. Sometimes there is nothing to say, or the words are on strike until that timing thing is resolved. It is with words as with everything--there is a time to give and a time to receive, a time to make things and a time to rest. A time for the words to go one place and a time to go to another.

I am quiet these days because I am working so steadily on good things to share with you. I am receiving final deliveries and setting up web pages, celebrating with friends, and making a short behind-the-scenes film that is perhaps the most fun of all. I am waiting, which is so hard for me, for the timing to line up, waiting for the time to give.

But know in the meantime that all is well. All is quite well.

Watching the Trees

Central Park, Horizon PerfektI'd scan this if my handwriting were in any way legible today.  Anyway, here's an excerpt from my journal:

I wonder why it's so hard to write these days.  Is it the permanence of the way it commits you to a certain or particular expression of your reality?

Maybe it's the way it forces me to line up my thoughts as if with Captain von Trapp's whistle, when they would rather frolic by the water in clothes made of curtains.

At any rate, I keep trying to write insomuch as it feels good for me, just like the walk in today's heat was keeping my joints moving this morning.  I have to keep a certain amount of flow.

Maybe I'm just writing to fill up this damn journal once and for all.

David Whyte says all there is to do is to explore the nature of our exile.

Well, these days I am still and quiet, even though I feel like my soul is carrying great weights over long miles. Everything begins with our own soul work, our own transformation, and mine is taking a lot of juice these days.  It takes untold patience and trust and discipline to hold myself still, as I feel I must do right now.

It's so tempting to stay skimming the surface, looking busy and maybe even flashy.  But too much surface-skimming leads to thin work and thin living.  Doing a lot of work counts for little if we're not doing the right work--the work that is centered and grounded in our core.

And my core is easy to disregard.

I'm watching the trees for guidance about being still.  Their roots plunge deep, they flower and fruit and add another ring to their girth, so quietly and slowly that they appear to be doing nothing at all.

And yet, they have grown so tall.  So strong.  Rooted firmly so they can stand through wind and storms.