Reflections, reveries, rantings, ravings and ruminations on writing, the writing life, and the San Francisco Writing Salon. Also miscellaneous news and announcements about Writing Salon classes and events.
The Writing Salon has been in San Francisco since 1999, but we didn't expand to Berkeley until four years ago. I found the location for our Berkeley classroom while poking around on Craig's List. As I scrolled along looking at this and that, a photo of Strawberry Creek Design Center popped up, and I thought "What a lovely old brick building. I wonder what goes on there." Plus, I liked the name and wondered why it was called Strawberry Creek. So I followed the link, then followed a gut feeling that I should explore further.
One of my dear Round Robin participants, Sally, just sent me the link to this YouTube video. She deemed it a get well "gift," after having read my recent laments about suffering from a bad cold.
I have always loved thinking about (pondering, wondering about, grappling with) "the creative process." Elizabeth Gilbert's talk gave me yet another way to do this. Delightful!
This is a re-post of a post from April 2005. I've been re-visiting the beginnings of this blog, which has led to some revisions and deletions. (I love revising, by the way.) It's an illuminating process, this going back after almost four years of blogging, albeit with some rather large gaps when I drifted away). In any case, I see that I mused a lot:
My friend Ms. K and I were talking yesterday, and she was telling me about her 98-year-old grandmother who just went through a serious illness. Everyone thought she was going to die. She didn’t but is now confined to a wheelchair, and her physical capabilities are greatly diminished. Her mind, however, is still sharp.
Today I stumbled upon and enjoyed this essay by writer Anne Bernays, in the New York Times archive of their "Writers on Writing" column. It's about how she became a writing teacher — a profession, she quickly discovered, that was entirely different from that of being a writer.
I hope a few students will read it and gain a deeper appreciation of (or at least think twice about) the fact that teaching is an art form, too. But I guess no one can fully understand this unless they've been a teacher. It's like trying to tell someone how hard (or rewarding) parenting can be. You have no idea until you become a parent yourself, and then WHAM! You get it.
Here are some photos of cheerful students arriving for last Saturday's travel writing workshop in Berkeley, taught by Lisa Alpine (standing).
I wish I had a more colorful way to embroider this post...an anecdote about travel writing, perhaps. But to tell you the truth, I have a doozy of a cold. Phlegm rules. My literary capacities are tanking. I need a major stimulus package, one that is strong in both size and scope (a vat of chicken soup, more lemons and honey, way more TLC, echinacea, hot baths, sleep, quiet...)! And I need it NOW. :-)
This just in from our SF poetry teacher, Julie Bruck:
I just got this rather startling notice (this reading might well bestir me from my lair!), and though I'd pass it on.
Please join Parthenon West in welcoming one of Europe's leading poets in a rare Bay Area appearance
Tomaz Salamun Monday, February 9, 2009 7:30PM Free and open to the public
University of San Francisco Lone Mountain 100 2130 Fulton Street Directions: http://www.usfca.edu/online/gen_info/directions.html www.tomazsalamun.com www.parthenonwestreview.com
Tomaz Salamun is the author or more than 30 books, including many collections of poetry published in English: The Selected Poems of Tomaz Salamun, (Ecco Press, 1998); The Shepherd, the Hunter (Pedernal, 1992); The Four Questions of Melancholy (White Pine, 1997); Feast (Harcourt, 2000); Poker (Ugly Duckling, 2003); Row! (Arc, 2006); The Book for My Brother (Harcourt, 2006); Woods and Chalices (Harcourt, 2008); and There's the Hand and There's the Arid Chair (Counterpath, due Feb. 2009). Salamun lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and is married to the painter Metka Krasovec.
Salamun is "one of Europe's great philosophical wonders." -- Jorie Graham
For more information contact Parthenon West co-editor David Holler, [email protected]
So far, no students have responded. I don't think it's because no one wants to. I just think probably not very many people have clicked on that link. Or if they have, they're too rushed and busy to take the time to stop and write about their own writing life (or at least they THINK they are too busy).
Or it could be that I need to work on improving the website design, try to find a better way to present this page so that more people would notice it and participate. Alas, my time allotted for website design creativity is minimal.
So...if you are reading this post, why not send something in right now?
I don't go to many literary readings because, contrary to what others imagine my "Writing Salon Mistress" lifestyle to be like (filled with sexy literary events, interactions with other writers, and of course plenty of time to sit alone in the cozy Writing Salon loft doing my own writing...), it is actually pretty much like any other small business owner's life. What I do on a daily basis is the same as what the owner of any "service business" does. I deal with ungodly amounts of paperwork, people management (clients, teachers), phone calls, emails, bills, marketing, advertising, PR, bills (oh, did I say that already?) . . . and let us not forget janitorial. Someone has to sweep, mop and clean the classroom toilets, right? Someone has to go buy more toilet paper, paper towels, sugar, coffee, half and half.
So no, I don't get out much to hobnob with the literati. But last night I did manage to make it out to hear Robin Romm read from her memoir, The Mercy Papers. Once there, I didn't socialize or network. I sat down and listened to Robin read, took a few photos, and then stood in a line in order to say a quick hello to Robin, who once taught here. Then without further ado, I left. It had been a long work day.
I'm glad I mustered the energy to go, though, because I admire Robin's work and want to support her. Part of what I admire about this book is its raw honesty. That, and Robin has a real way with words:
I hang up and my father walks around the corner.
"Who was that?"
"Barb," I say. "She says it's not the double fentanyl dose, it's that she gave Mom a second Atavan before she left because Mom seemed anxious. She just forgot to mention it." I know my eyes are wide and my nostrils wide open. I am about to go flinging out of my skin. This doesn't seem like a difficult thing to do, to fling out of one's skin. Why people are not always flinging in and out of their skin is a mystery to me! "Are you anxious? Because maybe she can bring over a vat of morphine for the whole family!" My dad's face goes grim for a moment. He seems disturbed.
Robin did a short Q & A session after she read. The writer/teacher in me perked up for that. I love hearing how a thing gets written. Fascinating, always and forever!
The other day I received an email from one of my former personal essay class students. She periodically sends me little notes about this or that, which warm my heart because, well, they feel more like written notes instead of emails; somehow she gives them more of a personal, intimate tone. I feel like I've received a handwritten note on a card. Hard to explain.
This one was short and a bit raw. But honest in a way that I very much appreciate and am touched by.
Jane, I hope this note finds you well. Although several of us from the writing group continue to meet, only Felicia is really working on a project. Bonnie had neck surgery and I am derailed as David's Parkinson's grows worse. We all persevere, nonetheless.
I want to tell you about a wonderful, very slim memoir I read recently. Abigail Thomas is the author of "A Three Dog Life," written about her life after her husband suffered a traumatic brain injury. She is very skilled at conveying her feelings. I think your students might find lots worthwhile in the book .
Best Regards, Jackie
I told myself to look up this book, but then I tell myself to do so many things that I never get around to doing.
This morning I remembered that former WS teacher Robin Romm is in San Francisco today, to give a reading this evening for her new memoir, The Mercy Papers, which I wrote about here a couple of posts ago (scroll down!). I decided to go to Amazon.com to see if I could find an excerpt from the book. There was no excerpt available, but when I decided to read the reviews, the first one that came up was by none other than Abigail Thomas, author of the book that Jackie mentioned, above!
"I love this passionate and beautifully written memoir, The Mercy Papers. Every sentence rings with furious love and loss."-- Abigail Thomas, author of A Three Dog Life
I was doing my usual teeter-tottering about whether or not to drag myself out of the house to attend a reading that, even though I wanted to attend it, would require EFFORT. Driving. Finding a parking spot. Making myself presentable before leaving the house. Excuses excuses.
But now I think I'll go. And I may even splurge and buy BOTH these books! Not via Amazon, which I do shop at, I admit, but at an independent bookseller's. That would be a good thing, to support not only Robin, but Books, Inc. too.
Last plug for Robin: Books Inc., Opera Plaza, 7 p.m. tonight
Yesterday afternoon I met with my new group of Round Robin participants. This morning I woke up remembering several things that I enjoyed about our get-together, but one moment in particular. That moment was when I asked everyone to take five minutes and find out more about the person sitting next to them. Seven pairs of people paused, turned (some eagerly, others with obvious trepidation but still willing) to face the stranger next to them...and in the span of second, the room went from awkward silence to an animated, chattering cacophony of human voices.
It was unexpected music to my ears. Why unexpected, I don't know, because of course I have asked people to do this before, many times, in many classes. And yet it was. I guess I just forget, between times, how that sound FEELS. Such a warm, rich vibration filled the room. It's was as simple and as profound as that.
It made me think again about the value of community. People need other people. Writers need other writers. It's good to shut down our computers and get out of the house every now and again. Good to be the social creatures that we are . . . yes, even us solitary writer types.
Not that I'm not screaming PARTY! PARTY! PARTY!. The Round Robin is all about disciplining oneself to buckle down and get some writing done. I'm just saying that the sound of the mingling, intertwining, vibrant voices at yesterday's Round Robin meeting was a five-minute moment of perfection. For me.