Monday, June 10, 2013

Stories I Heard When I Went Home

Hello all, I finally pushed publish on my book Stories I Heard When I Went Home for My Grandmother's Funeral. I was weirdly hesitant. There are some stories (many) stories based on an Iowa childhood, some based on a Montana adulthood, a California.... My hesitancy is all about family members reading my stories and expressing concerns around privacy. There is also some embarrassing sexuality in there. So I have to remember that all stories are fictional when you write them down. No, I really get that. The past is in the past. This is one person's point of view. Liberties were taken in the making of these stories, but it really does become fiction once you write it down.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Okay, I went to a short two-night class at Foothills College on Photoshop. The instructor made it painless and fun--Janet Davis. You can see her artwork at janet-davis.com. She used to be a kindergarten teacher so she knew how to reach me. Personal writing has begun to nudge forward. I finished two rough drafts of two short stories--I'd been working on them, stuck, for six months. I went back to work with Jane Anne Staw, who is a wonderful writing teacher. See her blog at . She is also the autor of Unstuck, a great resource for those of us who get there and no longer want to be "there." The two stories I'm working on--"Kissing Game" and "For Keeps." As for writing practice, hard to do when you have a 13 year old and 21 year old interrupting you all the time. Del is talking to me about "heated yoga" at Yoga for the People on Shattuck and Baker in Berkeley. I want to go take hot yoga. I like being hot. Okay, truly, writing practice--gave up the shed/studio to my husband--cleaned out all my stuff. (Okay I lied, I kept the loft for meditation: ie. Buddha, Ghanesh, candles, Living Sober, and a small mediation bowl and striker.) I can't write out there. All I do is putter and clutter. I am writing at the huge dining room table--got up early to have privacy, which didn't work. Does it sound like I'm complaining? I think it's back to Starbucks in Rodeo. If you see me typing away, leave me alone. Well, say hi, but then walk away after three minutes. Friends know to do this because I've told them this. Looking for the next story. I want maybe one more for this collection titled--, I'm leaving that blank for now. I've seen too many of my titles show up elsewhere. Personal items: the cats are still here as are the dogs and the chickens. No new pets, thank God. I'm back.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Floating and Writing

I finally took the time to take my free float at the flotation center in Oakland and it was fabulous. I really thought it was going to be a waste of time. One of those experiences you endure for the sake of experience. My daughter gave me a gift certificate to float for Christmas in order to help me with my fibromyalgia. I couldn't imagine how floating in a tank of salt water was going to benefit my pain, except to be relieved from it for maybe an hour, and besides the pain seems to be pretty much under control with gentle medication and lots of sleep. But the experts said that floating was worth four hours of deep sleep. Okay, so I drove down there last night in the rain and on the accident-prone highway. It took me almost an hour and half to get there, usually a 30-45 minute drive and by the time I got there, stress had climbed up into my right shoulder big-time. However, and I don't want to bore you with the process, google it and find out if you're interested, I did find out that floating on magnesium sulfate, salt, and warmed water in a sensory deprivation tank helped me relax and feel utterly blissful.

While in there, I began to imagine and remember events, people, rooms, details from my childhood that I hadn't thought about in years. Babysitting for the Barrs while I was in fifth grade, jumping on the trampoline in their basement(I know, what a strange and surreal place to put a trampoline.), -playing with Theresa and Scott in their oil and gas-stained garage. And then later, meeting their estranged father when I was in high school. He was a good-looking, part-Indian, guitar playing,smoking and drinking kind of guy.

Today, I can't help but wonder why those images popped into my head at that particular time. There was no connection to the rain outside, the actual float chamber, the artwork in the front part of the Cotton Mills Studio. I'm still not sure, but I do know these memories were recalled with such vividness that they deserve a second look in terms of story. I strongly suggest that you try out a new adventure. Make that writer's date with yourself to do something unexpected. You may surprise yourself.

Monday, January 16, 2012

ReJuvenation

Well,it is the year 2012 and I look at the date I last posted:May, 2011. I know why that date is significant. Without going into too much detail, I had some pretty bad work issues arise, not of my own making. Those issues took all summer to resolve; then there was the hangover impact from September until about December. I only say this because looking back I can see why I haven't been writing, why I haven't felt like writing. I told myself that not writing was a choice. Friends told me that I should write about the issues (journal. That sounded awful. Who wants to write about conflict, personal or professional, while you are in the middle of it. That said, and however, things have gradually changed. A shift toward the better. So I think New Years falls at just the right time. We need that calendar date to help us look back, to bring an end to what was and find ways to filter out the chaos. Pretty dramatic, I know.

So I encourage all of you to go ahead, make those resolutions to start writing again. Go out and visit the lit scene in SF and the bay area. I went to two really solid readings this week and my mind is on fire. I'm not a great reviewer of these things--too many adjectives and adverbs needed, but I will say that the Porchlight Reading Series and East Bay on the Brain are alive and kicking. I ran into several friends and colleagues at the EBOB thing and they asked if Porchlight was still happening. Many had never been. Having fallen off the wagon of hay for six or more months, I tended to think that these events were getting a little passe', tired, a been-there-done-that sort of thing for newer writers to feel the sparkle. But I was so impressed by readers at BBOB, by the quality and engagement of the work, that I had to compliment. I also ran into the editor of The Farallon Review, Tim Foley, an he graciously gave me a copy of issue 3 to read. Wow. I couldn't put it down, way to go Farallon writers. Lewis Buzbee, Ken Rodgers, David Booth--all writers I know, but haven't read in a while. Just terrific. Then I read the piece by Sarah Rose Horowitz called "Flat Daddy" and just fell in love with that sad story. I'm still reading the magazine, so that's where I have to stop. Like I said, I'm not a reviewer. That said, if you are stuck, you can't write, you don't want to journal, go out and watch some other writers read, relax and enjoy your life. Somehow writing finds its way back to you. Hemingway was wrong, writing is not like bleeding. Writing is the healing that comes after a long illness. So dramatic!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Menopause Reset

I don't know what the title of this post is. I only know I haven't blogged for a long time. The problem is that I don't know if anyone reads this, but does that matter? The real issue is that a blog keeps me current, in the current, in touch with others. So what is going on in your writing life? I am teaching a very inexpensive *30 bucks through DZANC on April 9th. I have about 3 or 4 former students/ friends signed up so far. I'd like to get about 8-10 people. It's from 10=2 or whatever on a Saturday at my house. Of course, if you know anything about me, you know you can't be allergic to cats or dogs or acacia when you come out to my place b/c I have 2 cats, 2 dogs, and 2 feral/tamed kittens*age 4 months*. That's just a public service announcement. I also have a large house, yard, garden, deck, and open basement, living room. So if you're thinking about taking the class==take it b/c we are going to write for four hours and have tea/wine and talk about our writing. I'll bring some of my favorite writing exercises for both poetry and esp. fiction, but any of them can be used for nonfiction.

Okay, enough about that. I'm loving my creative writing class--RAW Writing at that WRitng SAlon. Fun and I'm getting a lot of personal writing ideas. That's what it's all about.

What am I reading? Menopause Reset--a diet book that's good for those of who the pounds are sneaking up on. There's nothing new in this book except that there's always hope. Set new goals and exercise regularly. Check your nightime eating habits. All the stuff we already know. However, the book did get me back on track in terms of looking at my daily exercise. My dog Casey loves it that I'm back to my daily or every other day walks. She gets so excited when she sees I'm wearing my exercise clothes and the rolley tennis shoes.

So,this blog is getting too personal. Checking out. Hope you'll let me know if you read this. Over and out. JJ

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Readings and Such

I've been having a great time over the holidays, catching up with old friends and making new...just like the song says to do, which is why I think we've named two of the kittens Silver and Goldie. The other kitten is a black/calico named Phoebe Bear, after a great great great relative, and b/c her paws are black like a bears. So, you can see what I'm consumed by right now. My daughter Jackey and I caught three "feral" kittens up at the high school, along with their mother (currently named Noelle). They are living in my writing studio so that I can have a reason to turn the heat on and go out there. They're so much fun. Momma cat is a little too wild, but she's well-fed. We're sending them to fix our ferals in January and then, I don't know. Mom will go back in the wild once she gets fixed and the kitties? Anyone want a beautiful gray and white or a gold or a black/calico kitty?

As for writing, publishing, and readings: I had a wonderful reading in November at Books and Bookshelves reading for Switchback. That story is near and dear to my heart--"If It Hasn't Already"--a story about those of us living in the suburbs, our children, and how we're dealing with the war. It's a collage story. Still so grateful to Crab Orchard Review for publishing my story "Goat Herder."

I went to a wonderful reading last night, seeing an old friend Ken Rodgers read from his new poetry book Passenger Pigeons. I can't wait to dig in. Ken and his wife Betty are producing a documentary about one of the worst battles in the Vietnam War. It's on-line at Bravotheproject.com, if you're interested or want to get a heads up on this soon to be great indie film. Ken talked about interviewing many people from the war and the effects of war on these individuals. I think it's a wonderful and compassionate project--a story that needs telling and retelling.

Went to a terrific b-day party at Alia Volz's place and met a lot of writers there. Great party and great to be in the mix. Check out the Portuguese Writer's Reading Series...more on this later.

I'm hoping to read friend's and colleague's books over the break and to continue with my little self-publishing gig of an older collection of my short stories. This is for personal reasons only. I'd like to get copies into the hands of friends and family. A student of mine gave me a book about Asberger's Syndrome that I want to dig into and want to read Some Things That Meant the World to Me by Josh Mohr, a fellow teacher from the Writing Salon.

I had a great time teaching the Raw Writing class this go-round at the salon and am looking forward to helping people generate writing in the next series of classes (March for my class). I also attended a meditation/solstice/writing retreat at Clara Rosemarda's place in Santa Rosa. It was possibly the best thing I had done for myself in a long time, braving the rain to honor my commitments to my own writing. I encourage you to find Clara on Facebook and take one of her classes. She's amazing and it's worth the commute.

And now, I'm finally done X-mas shopping, sort of. My teenager Del went with me this year and picked out most of her own gifts. That was the best shopping trip ever. I get so much anxiety about getting the right gift. I hate being unoriginal or wasting my time with gifts people are going to take back. So, it's time to turn back to writing and reading good books. I appreciate those of you who have time to go on to Goodreads.com and register the books you read. I am still reading that first short story collection of Anthony Doerr's and hoping to read Cutting for Stone--my sister said it was great. Clara Rosemarda said that the new Jonathan Franzen novel Freedom was pretty damn good, so I'm going to download that onto my Nook. I wanted to wait, like friend Andy Dugas said to do, until all the hype died down, but I appreciated Clara's opinion of this bestseller.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Literary Death Match

Well, LDM was a hoot (what an old word, but owls are in right now). I read "Manx" and went over by about 30 seconds. They decided to super-soak me, despite my pathetic attempt for mercy by crying "Pneumonia." I did just recover from whooping cough, but they were unswerving in their desire to soak somebody. I went dressed for it--tank top and jeans. The thing is, I hate, hate, hate people who go over the time limit. I had it timed at 6 minutes and 30 seconds. The problem was, people were laughing. It's a funny story. They read it on Liar's League. Go listen to it. It was 12 minutes on there. I pared it down to the essentials. I think the judge Russell Blackwood just wanted to shoot that watergun. Afterward, Matt Stewart convinced me to take his cap gun (a prop) and shoot Russell when he went into the women's bathroom. I took some convincing, but hey, it felt good. Really good. He got capped four times. Thanks, Matt, for the loan of your weapon and catching it on your cell phone, you-tube. See it here,

http://www.youtube.com/duderedman#p/a/u/0/iGC8Ux4CdRo

Other news, because I really have been sick and probably should not have done the reading at LDM, I asked Jane at the Writing Salon to allow me to cancel my upcoming five week class. I'm so grateful to her for understanding. I have to get ready for the new school year at Hercules High School and it's a hard time to get a class going. I basically do a little more each day. So sorry to the people who had already signed on. I'm hoping to teach a five-week class in the fall that is strictly writing, no revision. Something that I think is sorely needed in the academic world. I see so many stuck writers, people who get jammed up b/c of poor workshop attitudes and too much criticism too soon.

If you want a great website to read about writing inhibitions, read Jane Anne Staw's writershomecompanion.com. I'm her biggest fan. She's helped me edit many of my stories and she's a thoughtful, caring mentor. She helped me get "Goat Herder" into shape, which is out now in the beautiful new Crab Orchard Review. I can't wait to find time to sit down and read the whole issue. Thanks to friends who purchased a copy from me.

As for recent books, still reading the Pushcart Prizes and the Dzanc's Best of the Web. Almost done with both. It's interesting to compare the type and style of stories in each. A good writing / reading endeavor for those of you who are short story writers. Read both and see what you think is the difference or the same. I think there's quite a bit more flash and surreal work on the internet than in the print mags. By the way, internet magazines can nominate for Pushcarts, but the work still rarely makes it in there. Thanks to Dzanc for giving us the opportunity to see what they think is working on-line.