Friday, July 19, 2019

Friday Feedback With Lori Landau: Play With Your Art and Other Downward Dog Epiphanies




"How do flowers experience life? 

What do humans have in common with birds, or water or grass? 

How does the body carry and interpret 
consciousness?"

These questions opened the draft blog post of my guest host, my amazing friend Lori Landau.  The rest of the post is coming to you, soon, below.


But first a bit about Lori. 

Her poetry, essays and articles have been published in books, magazines, and online, and she has shown her art in a variety of venues in the tri-state area. 
My full of love and light friend. . . 

In addition, she's a certified yoga and meditation teacher, and offers experiential writing workshops that are deeply inspired 
by her connection to poetry, spirit, and elemental materials like water, earth, branch and stone. 

She's also currently an MFA candidate in Interdisciplinary Arts, and is working on a book about contemplative creativity.

Whew!!!

I have known Lori since we were young (young) adults, have always admired her art and poetry, and have even featured her at least a few times, like here, on my blog

But with all that said, she's never hosted Friday Feedback before. 

Then, a few weeks ago, we were out to dinner with my family. My husband, who is a beautiful singer, was lamenting how he doesn't really sing very much any more. He gave her a bunch of lame reasons that made me sad. I backed away from the conversation, it being one he and I have had before. 

Then Lori asked him, "When was the last time you just enjoyed it all? Played with your music? Had fun with your craft?"

The question was so pure and simple and perfect (and different than anything I would have come up with to say to him), it got me thinking how wonderful it might be if she pursued the thought a little bit more here. With me, her and YOU.

So without further ado, and springing off from her above three questions that opened this post, here she is. Lori Landau:

Daily Drawing Practice
Rilke advised the young poet to “live the questions.” I read that line when I was seventeen, the same year that I had my first poem published (in Seventeen magazine). From an early age I experienced life as a series of mysteries and the questions themselves have become a part of my cellular being, and my creative practice which is writing and making art. 

I have written poems, essays and made art since I was a teen. (Including trading poems with Gae, who wrote gloriously even before she graduated high school). In my attempt to be the best I can be, I have studied art, writing, yoga, meditation, Buddhism, and countless other things all in an attempt to learn as much as I could about myself and my crafts, and still I struggled. 

I was the quintessential, perfectionist procrastinator, better at distracting myself or making myself wrong than actually sitting down to do what I loved.

I was the quintessential, perfectionist procrastinator, better at distracting myself or making myself wrong than actually sitting down to do what I loved.
That is, until I realized that in trying to be perfect, I was going about it all wrong. I was losing out on what I loved best about making art and writing: the process of discovery.  
Daily Drawing Practice

That’s when I began to apply all of those meditation lessons and downward dog epiphanies to my writing. I realized, if I want to write and make art without all the pressure I was putting on myself, I would have to make it fun. 

Remember fun? 

It’s hard to allow ourselves to cultivate a sense of play in our culture which puts a high value on productivity.

My tutelary spirits. . . have all given me ideas for how to put the emphasis on process rather than product. 

But my best work happens when I can get out of my own way and just do what I love. Making my art and writing fun means getting curious about myself, and about the craft of writing and art. I study how other writers and artists create, by regularly reading the work of my tutelary spirits. John Cage, Jenny Saville, William Kentridge, Lao Tze, Ryokan, David Hume, Martin Heidegger, Anselm Keifer, Bell Hooks, Yoko Ono, John Berger, Twyla Tharp, Mary Oliver, Walt Whitman, have all given me ideas for how to put the emphasis on process rather than product. 

Now, I bring a sense of exploration to my own practices. I am deeply fascinated with how elements like chance and intuition affect the creative process. Focusing on that fascination means allowing myself to try things without an expectation for a fantastic outcome. 

I have found that allowing myself to just enjoy what I am doing yields much better results than over-efforting.


For instance, if I want to draw a portrait and don’t like the way it is coming out, I try drawing it with my left hand (I’m a righty) in order to unleash the intuitive mind. If I can’t come up with a brilliant poem or paragraph, (yes, I do still struggle with perfectionism sometimes), I set a timer and “free write” for 15 minutes. I have found that allowing myself to just enjoy what I am doing yields much better results than over-efforting.

One practice that really works for me is to make a drawing or write a poem as soon as I wake up. I make it a daily ritual to “gift” myself 20 minutes to draw or write while drinking my first cup of coffee. Admittedly that was harder when my kids were little, so eventually I figured out how to find little pockets of time to draw, such as when I sat in the car on the pick-up line at school. 

A large part of my practice is wandering, literally and figuratively. I let myself daydream, I carry a journal everywhere I go and write ideas down when I have them, and I get myself outside as much as I can. I believe we mirror nature, so I find it helpful to get as close to the trees and water as possible. The more I see myself through the lens of a larger world, the more connected I feel to myself and that world, and the easier it is to create. 

For me, finding a sense of fun also requires slowing down. My practices allow me to question myself. I regularly tune in to figure out what my subtle body is asking for. Sometimes all I need is a deep, full breath to get going. Other times I have to discipline myself to stick to my intention and creative routine before I get to the fun part. Finding the fun in any kind of creative practice is itself a practice that like anything else, gets easier over time. 

Can you remember when you just purely 
loved writing? 
How can you change the way you think about writing so you can bring a sense of wonder and enjoyment to what you do?

Daily Drawing Practice
Can you remember when you just purely loved writing? How can you change the way you think about writing so you can bring a sense of wonder and enjoyment to what you do? Today I’d be so curious to read a passage that was fun for you to write. Maybe you can try something new. If you usually write fiction, try your hand at a poem or a free write about something you love. No matter what you choose to share (or not), bringing a sense of play to your writing will free up your imagination. You might even surprise yourself.

The passage I’d like to share with you here is a living example of a piece of work that was really hard for me, until I allowed myself to just have fun with what I was writing. It’s an excerpt from a book that I am working on about consciousness and creativity. It is a book of poems, artwork and critical writing.  
I’ll be checking in all day to read your excerpts and comment. I always find it an inspiration to see what others are working on.

 And, remember, if you're not familiar with the RULES please read them there first!

---- 

“The unpredictable arithmetic of being human means that at any moment something can be added, subtracted, multiplied or divided from us. That’s why the great sages teach us to cultivate practices that help us let go of our attachments and find the middle way. The middle way allows us some flexibility, and the ability to be intimately “present.”

In viewing our endless balancing act as opportunity, we can step out of our conditioned perspective that tension in relationship is a problem. In doing so, we create a small space between emotion and reaction, and in that space we can empower ourselves to make choices that serve both ourselves and the other. 

Being willing to co-exist in the moment-to-moment fluctuations of relationship creates openings through which we can more deeply experience how intricately we are tied to everything and everyone else. All of the things that exist as form, the body, with its blood, bone, veins, the natural world consisting of trees, grasses, clouds, water, soil, stone shapes us. Form is what makes essence visible. 

----- 
           

To connect further with Lori, you can follow her at @LoriElleLandau on Instagram, where she often posts her drawings, or a small slice of life. You may also email her at Jesart@aol.com

Friday, July 12, 2019

Friday Feedback with my BVFE Amy Fellner Dominy: Writing as Your Best Self


Happy Friday, all,

If you've been to Friday Feedback summers past (or are a fan of great realistic YA, MG, AND adorable laugh out loud picture books), you are no stranger to my Best Virtual Friend Ever (okay, okay, we are also friends in real life but we took on the title before we ever met!), Amy Fellner Dominy.

I love Amy's writing and stories, and I have learned so much from her over the years. So without a big unnecessary lead in from me, just know you are in awesome hands today.

Heeeere's Amy:



-->

I’ve been trying to write like someone else since I was twelve. 


That’s when I wrote my first novel, Thomas and the Tunnelworms. It was a direct rip off of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. Dahl wrote widely inventive tales with oddball characters and a wacky humor that I loved and absolutely could not replicate. 


You’d think I would learn, right? But no. 


As I grew older, I fell in love with Tolkien and tried to write epic fantasy. 


Epic fail. 


I fell in awe with the world building of sci fi and dystopian novels. I read Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series and decided to create my own universe with beautiful maps and topography. 


I can’t even read a map. 


There were also attempts at poetic, lyrical writing over the years. Countless times when I would set down a literary novel and pick up my laptop trying to channel beauty through my short, stubby fingers. (Including, by the way, every time I read one of Gae’s novels.)


No go. 


A few years ago, I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and decided that I, too, could write twisty plots that would make reader’s gasp in shock. 


Turns out, not so much. 


Mysteries and spy thrillers were also attempted with the same results.


I finally came to my senses this year and I owe it to Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing.  The descriptions of the setting are so beautiful I wanted to craft something one tenth as perfect. 


And it hit me that I never would. Writing descriptive passages has never come easy for me—no matter how much I’ve worked on it over the years. So why was I spending so much energy and time over the years trying to match the strengths of other authors—and failing. Maybe what I needed to do was to figure out what I’m good at.


The truth is we all have strengths and weaknesses. The trick is figuring out what they are and building on our writing strengths while minimizing our weaknesses. 


Here’s what I discovered about me:


Weaknesses (Things I struggle to write): World building. Lyrical writing. Poetry. Intricate plots. Large casts. Fantasies. Descriptions. 


Strengths (Things I like to write): Contemporary stories. Realistic fiction. Teen stories. The emotional, inner musings of characters. Dialogue. Humor. Romance. Small casts. 


So, what if I wrote a book and focused on my strengths? I could write about the inner world of a few characters and their conflicts. I could sprinkle in a few laughs and a few kisses. I could have a ton of dialogue and never tell you what a single sunset looked like. 


And that’s exactly what I did with Announcing Trouble, my newest book that hits shelves on August 5th.  It was the most fun I’ve had writing in a very long time. Announcing Trouble is a contemporary teen story full of romance, humor and heart. And along with teen books, I’m also writing funny picture books that are all dialogue. 


Finally, I’m measuring up to the highest ideal of them all: My best self. 




Now it’s your turn to ask yourself the same questions. What do you most like to write? Where do your strengths lie? Here’s a simple way to help you figure out the answer:

When you look through your WIP, what is your favorite scene and why? 


It just might reflect a strength of yours. 


Today, I’d love you to share that passage with the rest of us. Also, tell us why it’s your favorite—why was it fun to write? Is there a truth in there you can build upon in your own writing? 
We all admire other authors and that’s a great thing. But it’s when we allow our own unique strengths and voice to shine that we do our best work. 



So here’s the scene I’d like to share with you. It’s a passage from Announcing Trouble.  First a little about the book: 


I may know everything there is to know about baseball, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Or like him. Garrett Reeves: sidelined player and the embodiment of everything I’ve learned to hate about baseball. He’s gorgeous, he’s cocky, he’s laser-focused on getting back in the game, no matter the cost.

When he convinces me to call games alongside him, our chemistry heats up the booth. We’re good together, whether I want to admit it or not. I’m finding that I like baseball again, but even worse, I’m liking Garrett. A lot.

But when he has to decide between our future and a new shot at his dreams, I know baseball will win out every time. 


Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book has tons of hilarious banter, lots of sexual tension, and a hero who will throw a wild pitch right at your heart. 

 (And, Amy won't say it, so I will! Please preorder Announcing Trouble and/or check out all of Amy's other wonderful books!!)


And now, here's my scene for feedback (if you're not familiar with the RULES please read them there first!):


“We can win this thing, Walters. I mean, how can we lose? I’m charming and insightful, and you understand the nuances of the game. Plus, you’re a girl.” 
I blink in disbelief. “That’s what I bring to this team? I’m a girl.” 
“It’s a bonus. Sets us apart. How many others will have a girl who knows her shit the way you do?” His head tilts as he studies me. “Especially one who’s so pretty.” 
My jaw drops. “Am I supposed to be flattered? Because that’s incredibly sexist, not to mention patronizing and...” 
“Demeaning?” he adds helpfully.
  He laughs. “It’s just an observation. Right now our camera is fixed on the field, but there might be opportunity for video, too. And you have nice eyes. Except when you frown and you get these weird slash marks between your eyes.” He points. “Yeah. Like those. I love the vintage tees, but your sandals are hideous. We’ll cut those out of our publicity photo.” 
“Publicity photo?”

“We need to submit it with our game tape.”

It’s all I can do not to scream. “There is going to be no game tape. I’m not saying yes.”

“Because I don’t like your sandals?”

“Leave my sandals out of this!”

“That’s my point exactly.” His eyes gleam. “See, we’re already in agreement.”


Looking forward to reading your excerpts in the comments!

- Amy (and gae)

p.s. If you’re interested in reading more, the first chapter is available on my website: amy@amydominy.com. You’ll find it HERE. I’m also starting a monthly newsletter with giveaways, excerpts and book news. If you’d to sign up, let me know in your comments. My mailing list isn’t quite set up yet, but I can add you myself.    
Thanks so much to Gae for hosting me today. And thanks to you all for taking time to read this. I hope you’ll share an excerpt, too! I’ll be checking in all day and I’d love to read what you’re working on.  

Friday, June 28, 2019

Friday Feedback: A New Shiny Cover Reveal



Forgive the late posting. This was not the blog post I originally planned today. I wrote a whole 'nother one, then, as they say in THE PULL OF GRAVITY, the best laid plans got in the way.

Okay, maybe they said that somewhere else first before my debut YA. :)

Anyway, not the post I was planning, but we did the official JACK KEROUAC IS DEAD TO ME cover reveal yesterday unexpectedly, so I'm bumping everything to share that here. Now.

Isn't it pretty?!?!

If you want to read the official COVER REVEAL BLOG POST (and why Kelly Hager of KellyVision was the perfect host), you may do so HERE . . . and to read more about the book or preorder (those are good for writers!!!), you may do so here: https://www.amazon.com/Jack-Kerouac-Dead-Me-Novel/dp/125031223X, (although the BEST place to preorder is via your local indie and/or brick and mortar.

Or, heck, preorder through one of my favorite indies -- and endeavors -- THE BRAIN LAIR BOOKSTORE <--- p="" there.="">
Anyway, I'm excited about this book I started nearly a decade ago (!!!) and hope you all love it when it arrives on shelves everywhere in April 2020.

Now, without further ado, FRIDAY FEEDBACK. If you haven't been here before, please take a moment to read THE RULES.

My share is a moment in my continuing WIP ("Work in Progress") which right now appears to be adult literary fiction. It is completely unedited or reread. A true first "Vomit Draft." Last week we met Paul at "Twenty Three Years Later." For the moment, this is the first time we meet June.




Twenty years later.
June

June Sobel sits at the living room window, across from the piano, and stares out at the patchy lawn. She’s not thinking about the small lump her OBGYN found in her breast yesterday morning, or about the biopsy she has to go in for next week. She’s thinking about Gabriel and the time he explained chord progressions to her, a moment that comes back to her lately, again and again.
“Since there are only so many chord progressions to choose from,” he’d told her, “you can’t protect them, or accuse other people of stealing them.” 
He’d been sitting at the piano, then, absentmindedly fiddling with the last two high-pitched keys, to the point where she’d lost her patience, annoyed at the repetition. It was a Saturday morning and she was enjoying her tea, and it infuriated her the way he’d do that, play nothing at all, or worse, something aggravating just to get on her nerves. After all those lessons, he was more than capable of playing something beautiful.



----

See you in the comments!

- gae

Friday, June 21, 2019

Friday Feedback: Will this Be Your Summer to Fly? (and. . . the Rules).


One of the perks of sticking with it?
getting to meet and hang with some of your own personal heroes!
Here, with the truly awesome human, Chris Crutcher.


"I've always wanted to write a book."

You've been saying this for years.

Or, better yet, you started a book years ago, but never found the wherewithal to finish.

So, what exactly are you waiting for??

Oh right:

              The right moment.

              Enough time.

              Proof you can really get it done.

Proof it won't suck.

Proof you don't suck.

Proof you won't have wasted all that time.



Yeah, forgive me for laughing, but . . . good luck with that.

Because no matter how long you wait (AND if you're me -- and most the writers I know -- it won't matter how long you actually are published for,) you are never going to have ANY of those occur.

Not time.

Not proof.

Not really.

At least not without YOU drilling opposite messages into your head. Here they are:

The time is now.

THIS
is the right moment.

There will NEVER be more time than there is now.

There will NEVER BE enough time.

Ever.

And, there is absolutely no proof you can get it done. Like, zero. Well, except for the empirical fact that you have hands that type, presumably a laptop (or writers notebook, or very long scroll of toilet paper), a brain that works (most days), and a pen. Therefore nothing but YOU is stopping you.

You're welcome.

But seriously. Very few of us have the luxury to just start out as writers (or ever do nothing other than write to support ourselves). The first complete manuscript I ever wrote took me five years. When I started it, I had a colicky, impossible toddler, a baby in my tummy, and worked from home as a lawyer writing per diem motion papers and representing a few of my own clients on the side.

By the time I finished the manuscript, I had a six year old, a four year old, and was working three-quarters time running my own law practice. Oh, and p.s. that book never sold. Never saw the light of day. Nor did the one I wrote after it.

ALL my writing during those years took place from 10 pm - 3 am, and, yeah, some mornings I was very very tired.

Here's something else, with a fifth and sixth book coming out in 2020 from major publishers, I STILL don't know if I can do it again. I still don't know if I'm wasting my time. If I have anything to say that's worthy of all the effort and revision and rejection. So that most days, surfing the internet and ordering clothes from Free People is way easier than butt-in-chair to see what -- if anything -- comes out of me.

And, then, somehow, I do it. I write that page.
That sentence.
That scene.

The one that makes my heart race, that comes up out of me from who knows where (though, once in a while, I have an idea...)?

The one that sends me chasing after the next sentence, after the characters, and, eventually, the whole of their story waiting to unfold.

And I let them march forward (knowing I can change it all later if I want to), let the characters take up enough words, enough moments in my head, that they start to occupy this space that's less thought and more magic. And just a tiny bit of promise. I allow them the space to come alive and remind me that THEY have something to say.



I have NO idea if this is the right place to start, but it's
A place to start, which is better than not ever starting at all. 


I focus not on the book/story at first, but the small moments, the characters, and hope they will be enough to bring me back a second day and sustain me.

So, for now, STOP worrying about the big picture, and march forward with the small.

STOP asking if you have the time, and make (take) it.

START somewhere.

And once you do, don't turn back. Not now. Later you'll know whether that was the right ultimate starting spot, but right now, if you are typing, it is.

And STOP asking if your words will be good enough, and just write them.

You can change them later. I promise. And you will.

But there is nothing to make pretty if you never write it at all.

Having said that, welcome to Friday Feedback! And, hey, guess what? I'm in your shoes. Working on something new and I'm not quite sure what it is. The working title is EDGES and you've seen a few glimpses above. In a minute, I'm going to share an excerpt with you from the opening for your feedback (because that's how this works). Then, you do the same in the comments.

If you are a first time participant, before you get started, please read -- and abide by -- the rules!!!

But first, in case you've gotten here, and you still don't know how it works:

How it works. Easy peasy:

Every week, I -- or one of my awesome guest authors -- will share a tiny bit of writing wisdom followed by an excerpt of our own ROUGH, UNPUBLISHED writing for your feedback. In return, we offer you the same opportunity: to share a brief excerpt in the comments for feedback from us -- AND from other campers!). 

See? Simple.

Now, HERE ARE THE RULES: 

1. The Feedback should always be given in this order:

  • WHAT WORKS (and why)?;
  • WHAT MIGHT NOT BE WORKING if anything (and why)?; and
  • ARE YOU COMPELLED TO KEEP READING?

Please note the order of those. Here at Friday Feedback, our first goal is to be encouraging. We highlight the gems in one another's writing before we offer up constructive criticism. If you launch in with constructive criticism, I will hunt you down and fine you. Okay, well, I will hunt you down and scold you. :) 

2. The excerpts should not exceed three (3) paragraphs, if long, five (5) paragraphs if mostly dialogue or otherwise short. This rule holds even if I, or my guest authors, post a longer excerpt. If you put up more than the requested length, we do not promise to read beyond the stated limits. And PLEASE DON'T MAKE US CLICK ON A LINK TO READ YOUR EXCERPT ELSEWHERE!!! If you're having trouble posting, feel free to email me at g.polisner@gmail.com

You may post excerpts through Saturday and I will check in, but I do not require my guest authors to read past close of business Friday. 

3. We ask you to remember that this is just for illustrative and enjoyment purposes. There is only so much we can realistically glean from a brief excerpt out of context. Friday Feedback is intended to be instructional and inspiring, but please know our feedback out of context of a full work must always be taken as merely that. Your job here is to take in the information as you will. Keep what you like. Toss what you don't. In the end, you are the boss of your own writing.

4. You may be the recipient of one of my patented "Superspeed Flash Edits."

Okay, fine, they're not patented, whatever. Sometimes, if your excerpt lends itself to me doing one of these, I will do so: namely, zip through your piece editing for passive voice (where not intended) unneeded words, wrong punctuation, repetition, etc.

I will NOT edit your own unique voice or substantive writing. This is an exercise intended to demonstrate how revision/clean up/intentional writing can truly make our voices pop and shine. And this is almost always SECOND DRAFT STUFF -- the stuff of REVISION -- when you are sharing first draft stuff, and so, again, is merely intended to make you aware of potential tics and such that take away from your own beautiful work, so you can get on that stuff DOWN THE ROAD.

If you do NOT want to be the recipient of a Superspeed Flash Edit for any reason, please message me at g.polisner@gmail.com and I'll remember not to edit you, or even say so right in the comments. :) 

5. To elaborate on one of the points above. . . I know many of you work summers and may not find time to post your excerpt until late Friday evening. I do not ask any of my guest authors to return Saturday, but some of them are willing. I will often return Saturday morning to give stragglers feedback. Please don't post beyond that. Please note that Friday Feedback takes a lot of work if the comments are busy, and my, and my guest authors', time is offered to you for free as a source of inspiration and encouragement. If you participate here, please order my newest title, IN SIGHT OF STARS, or any of my other titles if they appeal more to you, and when possible, please order the newest title of my guest authors. If you are unable to purchase copies, it is almost as good to reach out to your local library and ask them to order it in if they don't have it already! 


And, now, without further ado (because that was already a LOT of ado), here's the current very opening of EDGES. Believe you me, I'm nearly as nervous as you are to share, especially since it's not my usual comfort zone of YA. But, too bad for me. So, here it goes:




Twenty-three Years Later.
Paul

Paul Sobel stares at the ceiling thinking about some damned bird, as he has been doing for -- well, how many hours has it been now?
He lifts his wrist out of habit to check, but of course he stopped wearing a watch ages ago. God forbid he didn’t give in and learn to use that damned cell phone for everything, like everyone else does. Time. Internet. Weather. Texting, for God’s sake. Texting. All forms of human contact. A damned slave to some metal and glass box filled with pixels, helpless to function when you suddenly find you don’t have one on you.
Well, honestly, then, he has no idea what time it is.
It could be 8 pm. It could be midnight. Hell, it could be 2 am.
His stomach growls, and he wonders vaguely, again, how many messages are piled up on his cell phone where he left it on the kitchen counter when he headed down.
Down to the freezer to get some ice cream.
If June were here, none of this would have happened.
But the bird? The bird? What was that thing called again? Maybe it’s the loss of blood affecting his memory, or the pain in his low back and right shoulder, now replaced with a tingling nothingness. Or maybe it’s simply hunger and lack of movement. He’s barely eaten since yesterday.
A Casserole! No, no, of course not. That’s not it. That’s food. This was a huge emu or ostrich type thing that looked even more vicious and prehistoric.
A Cassoulet. Hah, no! Food, again. Some sort of pork and bean dish?
He laughs out loud at this, so hard he begins to cry. Stupid old pansy-ass is flat out crying, his whole upper body wracked with sobs.

---------
xox gae (see you in the comments!!)