Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Literary Circus in Asheville, North Carolina

Look at those beauties! Writers, all of us. We've become a "thing." An Asheville creative collective of women who write and perform. Of all the ways I could expend energy, this has become one of the most fun and uplifting because we're redefining what it means to be successful writers in a commercial, hypercritical literary culture.

Not that we don't care about quality. We do. We're each interested in improving our work. For Randi Janelle (far left, purple hair) that means cultivating a creative life and mind, channelling, being happy, teaching yoga, and performing. For Alli Marshall (second from left, striped scarf, closed eyes), this means writing every day at dawn because she loves it, working with other artists to make new art, leading a local writing group, and memorizing poems...because, well, shouldn't you? For Nina Hart (middle, abracadabra hand), her work has evolved into a full-time career as a writing and creativity coach. Watch out for Nina--she can spot negative self-speak before the paint is dry on your faux mea culpa, and she may give you a sock monkey to stay positive.

Photo by Adam MacMillan
As for the last gal on the far right (in turquoise and impossible scarf), she's still figuring it out. She's more about flying by the seat of her pants, playing it fast and loose, scribbling a poem, pecking away at a novel, writing a public letter that uses the word pu**y (the cat, silly!) about 25 times (yes, I read it at the Fringe Festival. No video!). She loves playing with words, publishing a few other than her own, and maybe someday, a few of her thoughts strung together will see the light in an eager audience's eyes.

We came together to take the downer out of being unknowns. With financial rewards and wide recognition seemingly out of reach, we decided to make our goals less about admiration/acclaim and more about pushing the boundaries, airing our creative voices, and enjoying the writing more. A year into this experiment, it's going well. We've had four successful events (with public participation), and we're planning to publish a zine later this year. The fun may just be starting. Hula-hooping encouraged. Bring your sock monkeys.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Maybe Stuck Means Something Else

Okay. I'll admit it. I'm stuck. Not writing much of anything these days that would fall under the category "creative." Oh, I did write a nice little one-liner poem a few mornings ago: "Tiny mouse, the end of your nose is just the beginning." It has potential.

Flipping through my journal tonight, I ran across a notation from last June, when I felt the same malaise. By the way, journals are good for seeing your patterns of thought.

"I haven't written in months. It's almost like I've lost the will to write. Not the will to live, just the will to write anything creative. This is not a sad place. It is just a place. Like a dead space that Moses may have created when he parted the Red Sea." (Funny, this close to Easter and I think, Charlton Heston. I was thinking this a year ago, too.)

"I think of that scene in the movie when people walk down into the sea next to two solid masses of walls of water. Many were scared, but they did it and walked into the void. I guess I'm there, trusting it's the right place to be right now, not knowing how long I'll be in this strange void.

"I don't really have the desire to write on any of my projects. They are just unfinished pieces. Some are done, and some aren't, and I really couldn't care less either way. I've let go of the guilt of being non-productive."

Today, same. No shift. Just stasis. Non-productive dry sea bed.

Except, tiny mouse.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Art and Hope

Cynicism must be a gene buried deep in the cerebral DNA. That tiny nodule has a pretty good hold on my outlook. How much of our condition is nature versus nurture? I look at my kids and think: Jeez, they turned out so much differently than each other, and yet they essentially had the same environment.

I'm seeing the world change. I wonder if the '60s felt like this, a similar kind of sweeping tide of impossible politics and public distaste. My parents were not protestors. My dad was too old to go to Vietnam, and my mother was busy with two little kids. Domesticity occupied them. Not that they weren't smart and didn't have opinions, just other obligations took up their time.

Asheville protest, Jan 2017
There's a collective call among my friend base to get off our duffs and do something. My plug-in goes right to the news feeds, the ones that legitimately offer objective reporting. I hear you laughing. Objective? Right, you say. But the notion floating around from on high that credible journalism doesn't exist is false. Good reporting is still out there, and the cretins who suggest that all journalists are not worth a dogpile is itself a dogpile. Facts are still verifiable. Eye witness accounts matter. Seeking the input of many sources to put news together is fundamental. Be skeptical of what you read, but be smart. Read broadly. Understand the law. The law may be our only buoy in this sea change.

Our freedom to speak and to do it in public with a poster board may look and feel whiny, but I'm glad we have the right to whine. Let's whine with all our hearts.

Last month, at the Asheville Fringe Festival, I heard protest poetry. Art becomes a tool for the political. Weave a few words into a piece, and suddenly the writer becomes an activist, a visionary, a hope-giver. In a larger sense, isn't the art of great people or the great art of unknown people what we remember? A powerful phrase? Or a compelling photograph that changes public opinion? Or a novel that raises the hair on our perspective? An unforgettable speech? Or maybe just a poster.