Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hello and Goodbye

Hello everyone. I realized that I asked each and everyone of you to write an intro and include a picture and I never really did that. For those of you who don't know, my name is Katherine Jenkins, but most call me Kathy. I just turned 40 this year. I was born in Bellevue, Washington. I've been writing since I was 10 years old when I received a Little Twin Stars diary from my mom for Christmas....that was 1979. Since then, I have a diary for almost every year of my life. Writing was survival for me for a very long time. Whenever I had a problem or a question or an idea or whatever, I'd write in my journal. My journal was my friend. In high school, I won Outstanding Journalist of the Year and continued to write for the newspaper in college and published some of my poetry back then. I've always been afraid to share my writing, so I've kept it in closets all these years. In January 2009, I decided to come out of the closet and I created my blog, Lessons from the Monk I Married. Yes, I married a former Korean Buddhist monk.

Namaste!-Biking on Lopez Island in Washington State July 4th 2009

My story is a little unusual, so sometimes it's hard for me to tell....but I feel compelled to tell that story and that journey. Several chapters of my book Lessons from the Monk I Married, appear on my blog. So if you are wondering how I ended up in Korea and married to a monk, you can read about it here http://www.lessonsfromthemonkimarried.blogspot.com/. After living in Asia for 10 years, Korea for 8 and Japan for 2, I moved back to the United States with my husband in 2006. I teach ESL at a local community college and my husband is a yoga teacher in the Seattle area. I spend my days surrounded by people from every corner of the globe. In my classes, which just finished this quarter, I had students from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Korea, Japan, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Somoa, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico, Congo, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Cambodia, Russia, Ukraine....well the list really goes on..

I feel, in this life, I want to expand, share, open and understand people from all different walks of life. While I love to create and expand, I also find a need to retreat and gain energy. The world moves so fast these days and I feel a necessity to unplug and stop at times. Tomorrow I will be gone for 10 days of silent meditation.........but please, carry on with your conversations here...I think it is sooo wonderful and I'm so happy to meet all of you here. We really do have a fantastic group of authors. I look forward to catching up on all the reading on this blog when I get back on December 20th. Peace to you all, Kathy

Creating Space for Writing

You're busy right? We all are, so let's get on with it.

Let's consider the possibility for getting some writing done and work/life balance (if such a thing exists). It's one of my favourite subjects. And I'm guessing it's one of yours. You're here right?

Ok let's get down to the nitty gritty. This won't take up alot of your time.

Let's say that you have a partner, +/- children, a career, a job, a mortgage, extended family, friends and other interests , but you want to get some writing done. What you need is some head space. Here's how to create it.

Give yourself permission to create the space you need. If you are like me everyone else comes first. What I'm asking you to do is put yourself first for 4 nights. This is difficult but it is not impossible.

List all possible escape destinations. I go to stay at my parents condo when they are overseas, to destinations within one hours drive of my home, to seaside holiday villas in the middle of winter (it's cheaper), or on planned retreats with other writers.

Plan to go away for at least 4 nights. I take 7 because I know it takes me 48 hours to get into the state of flow. This is when I become so absorbed in my writing that nothing else matters. I know this because I journal while I am away.

Plan your project before you go. One month out, commit to a project. Then gather the resources you need to work on it. Write a plan, and write about what you want to write. If you are going away with other writers meet and discuss plans. It will help you to commit.

Pack all the things you need for writing. Think about your comfort as the first priority. If you are heading off to a cabin you will need a comfortable chair, slippers, you're favourite cup, a printer, extension leads, music etc.

Pack all the things you need for you: good food, fine wine, yoga mat, runners, dvd's, chocolate.

Invite others who need writing space (that would be most writers!). Structure your time and during breaks talk about your writing. Ask for help, edit a piece of their work and have them edit yours. I usually brainstorm headings with other writers. The results can be hilarious, but I always come away with great headings.

Journal regularly during your writing retreat. Write about what you are writing about, how you are feeling, your goals and ideas. Set goals for each day. Before you pack up to come home plan your next retreat.

Finally, don't be reluctant to plan your writing time. The structure is important. It will make you excited about getting some writing done.

G'day from Australia

Thank you Katherine for inviting me to contribute to Writers Rising. Now for a summary of me:

I live just outside Brisbane in Queensland, Australia with my husband and our dog. I've wanted to write since I was six years old and in the last two years I've dedicated most of my time to doing just that. I'm also a gluttonous bibliophile and spend whatever spare time (and cash) collecting books on every topic you can imagine. I've published one short story and am currently writing a novel, but my pride and joy at the moment is my new online journal called Diversity Writers Network, where I will showcase writing (and writers) from across the globe in an effort to celebrate and promote human diversity and tolerance. Diversity has always been an important concept and topic in my life, but I believe that despite our differences we all have similarities that are fundamental to being human. It is to those sensitivities I hope to appeal.
I have my own blog, but I feel it is important to get involved collaboratively with other writers, so I'm pleased to be involved in Writers Rising. We can learn much from each other. I look forward to contributing to as well as reading from this blog.

Sharon Egan

Keeping the Pipes From Freezing

An old bit of folk wisdom I picked up somewhere advises that one keep a slow drip of hot water running through all the faucets in the house during a major freeze. That way, the theory goes, standing water expanding as ice won't cause the pipes to crack and flood your basement. I don't know if this bit of folkloric advice is true or not, but I follow it as if it were. Writing is a little bit like that. You expect that things going on down in the basement are liable to take care of themselves. However, without at least a warm trickle of expression, your internal pipes may freeze...crack...and burst.

I am one of those poor writers cursed with the memory of a few sublime experiences while laboring at my craft; this hampers our ability to partake of ordinary writing, the variety that we writers refer to as "The Work". It is prosaic, unexciting, and necessary. If you are only willing to write when you are on fire and phrases pour out of you like wine, then your catalog will not be long.

This morning, for instance, I had amassed for myself such a great number of chores to do and errands to run - some of a critical nature - that I stood on the brink of not writing at all. Then, the demon Resistance changed tactics and tried to show me the towering prose I had been allowed to transmit during exalted, altered states, and then pointed to a prophecy of what my writing today would be like - just a bunch of tired, trite cliches that would be of no use to anyone. Next, the demon Resistance throws up another barrier by attacking me physically: Often when I am approaching The Work, I feel a powerful, soporific drowsiness steal over me, unbearably intense, that will make me literally fall asleep at the keyboard. Recognizing all of these opposing forces as simply the current I have to swim against to make the daily effort to create, I'm able to float to the surface and ride the current forward. In this, there are equal parts effort and surrender. If I'm going to move forward I have to surrender to the current and let it take me where it wants to go.

It doesn't have to be some kind of finished product with a beginning, middle, or end. It doesn't have to be marketable, or even readable. What matters is that you do it. Everything else follows after that - the surrender to the process is why you are doing this at all, not because someone's going to congratulate you or compliment you or pay you. You will find that the less you write, the less you will be able to write. And even if you are diligent and write every day, you will have days on which you feel as if you're just beginning all over again. Accept that too. Strive for it. A beginner is not burdened with assumptions or wishes (as much). Just do The Work, and if you work diligently, you will eventually find that it is feeding something deep within you - something deeper than your ego. And once that benefit presents itself, you will find that it has a tendency to spread outwards towards others.

It Doesn't Matter....

Yes kiddies, that is me. Yes kiddies, that is General Peter Pace. I was a mother who wore combat boots, so I know a little bit about not accepting failure as an option. There is a beautiful story behind this image. General Pace was my first commander when I once upon a time lived in Miami, Florida for seven years. Like the rest of the nation, I bought into the idea of what we were doing was right at the time. I, like the rest of the world, scoffed at Richard Gere's cautionary words about us plunging head long into this costly war. The irony of being a flower child in military uniform is another story,

General Pace was making his final rounds, touring all of the units he had once commanded in his career before his retirement in 2007. I was always a fan of his speeches, because he kept them human, so I determined to sit as close to the front as possible. He had served for 40 years, and remembered every name of each Marine that had lost their life under his command when he was a young lieutenant. The emotion of serving in a hated conflict and carrying the survivor's burdens for all of those years touched the very core of the audience. I never forgot his speeches, and when he left us to serve up at the Pentagon after 9/11, I told everyone, 'He's going to be our next Chairman of the JCS'. Less than 3 years later, he was the first Marine posted to the position.

How this picture came to be, was actually a funny story. General Pace had just finished speaking and held up a coin, his personal one as an incentive to the person that would ask him his first question. I didn't just raise my hand, I jumped out of my seat. I don't do that for every one, but this was a man I had greatly venerated. I approached the General and whispered something in his ear and the audience gasped as I pushed away the microphone. Somehow the salut was lost and instead he pressed his coin into my hand and we broke into smiles.

Admidst the emotion of the moment, I had almost forgotten to ask my question, until I was reminded by the General. My question, was two words, "What's next?" Those words have been like a boomerang for me, as I finally took off my uniform a few months later.
I fell into my writing as if I had a brain fever. I was not able to control myself. I realized I had to go and do this and forsake a life of perceived security. I have been fortunate to meet Jim Haynes, an incredible ex-patriate author who resides in Paris. I have never sat down to read his biography, but I smiled when I felt like I saw my words in his biography. Synchronicity is wonderful when you see it. I idealized what I thought my life supposed to be, when under the surface, I also knew that I was not following my heart. I was following the illusions of the day.

I have to admit, that looking back, had I known some of the struggles I would be going through, I wonder, if I would have had the courage to make the journey, and at times, the courage to continue. I have great respect for all of the writers on this blog. It does take a certain amount of courage to refine your work. This crazy dream was planted within me at a very young age, but it was always to write about life, and not fiction. It is hard to tell people without sounding self-important about the amazing journey that I have been on. Sometimes I embed my work in poetry. A wonderful poetess, Lena Vanelslander, from Ghent Belgium decided to write with me during this past summer. I just simply said, we publish it, and that is all there is to it. No second-guessing, no doubts, and just create. That was the heart of this project that evolved into "Quills of Fire". The official release date is 10 January 2010. It sounds simple, doesn't it? Really, my friends, it is. You sit down, and you write, edit, and just do it because you believe.
One of my favorite pieces, from this anthology was inspired by an artist, a friend of mine who I frequently correspond with over the past few years. It is my pleasure to share it with you. A footnote...to leave you with.

Ode to the Unknown of Art

Oh craftsman, the night is spent
Yet the canvas is still wet
Wet with your blood and sweat
Painted before you
are your nightmares and dreams
Those silent prayers and screams

And still, the insanity of creation goes on...

The wordsmith with tools of the new and old
A quill and an inkwell
A cursor that flashes a dare
Create to create
For is it foolishness to covet to be great?

When all is said and done
Isn’t all of creation condemned to die?
Oh we, who spurn to be immortalized
through our works be it in song, verse...
the prose upon a stage...

The charade that is life in an actor’s gaze.

The fortunate ones...the despised...
Who become a shred of what they were
as fame becomes their guise.

Whether known for a moment, a decade or for centuries...
we all become the unknown of art
to become the dust of another...

Far flung...in the vault of morbid histories...
just to say we bled, we sweat, and cried untold tears.
For the human hand yields the power to destroy or create.
Who will look upon our works in the span of time?

To be remembered and not known...
for art is the measure of a society.
A power to love...to portray,
perhaps display what we would like to see.

However, do not see this as a futility.
For eternity is not how to measure art...
for truly it is all unknown art that is rendered
and what lasts...is only but for a moment.

Marilyn Campiz