Kathrin’s student Maureen Egan has rescheduled her talk about the healing qualities of art making. A painter and writer, Egan has recently published a book, The Light From Here: A Brest Cancer Story, that includes both.
She will tell her 10-year journey into art on Saturday, February 25, at 4 pm at the Camden Public Library’s Picker Room, with a snow date of Sunday, the 26th at 3pm. (Note that time for the snow date is one hour earlier. The library will post on its website in case of snow cancellation.)
Dagney Ernest from the Camden Herald recently profiled Egan in the art’s section. Here’s the link to her story:
Vahan Zanoyan, whose novel I edited this summer, has just published The Sacred Sands. The book received a great review (excerpted below) by Charles Remington on Readers' Favorite (https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/the-sacred-sands). If you are interested in the Middle East, this is a terrific and informative novel that is a must-read!
Check out his two other books, also available for purchase on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Sands-novel-Vahan-Zanoyan/dp/0998392405/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
Readers’ Favorite Review (excerpt) of The Sacred Sands - Review by Charles Remington (Five Stars)
“The scope of this novel is breathtaking - there are so many thought-provoking instances, enlightening observations and astute analyses that it is difficult to know where to begin. Let me say this right away, you will enjoy reading this book as a simple thriller. The Secret Sands is very well written with an intriguing plot that will keep you hooked to the very end. What you will also gain from the book is a clear analysis of the problems in the Middle East, the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism and the way that we in the West view the region, from the pen of someone who has a deep understanding of this area. Vahan Zanoyan is a consummate storyteller and has managed to present an incredibly complex subject in a clear, erudite, and most certainly entertaining way. I urge you to read this book - it is the most accomplished novel I have read this year and I can thoroughly recommend it.”
I attended a webinar, in late 2016 taught by a former client from my days teaching in NYC. She has become a renowned coach and communicator. I was struck by something Victoria asked and I’d like you all to consider an answer to the questions she posed.
What is the through line to your story (we’ve talked about this). That is, what is the force that drives the story? What is the passion that drives you to tell the story?
What is your noble intention in writing the story or any story? I know this sounds Buddhist, and it probably is, but it’s a good and basic question. And, yes, I do want you to take yourself seriously as an artist in the world.
What is the nobility behind your work?
What do you want the audience (reader) to know, do and feel after they have heard or read your story?
These are interesting questions and might help you gain a new perspective on your work. You could ask, as well, the noble intention of the narrator of your story or stories.
I am aware that we all experience bouts of insecurity and doubt, and maybe we’re afraid of being critiqued. But one of the most noticeable characteristics of the accomplished and, pardon the expression, famous people I’ve known in my life is humility. And the second characteristic is wonder and curiosity. If you, as writers and creators, can remember that you are serving the audience, not your own ego, then you will be able to slow down, bow to the work you are creating, and get better and better as artists.
To learn more about Victoria, watch her TEDx talk or sign up for one of her webinars: http://www.victorialabalme.com/tedx-talk-risk-forward/
“The problem is, too many writers today are afraid to be still.”
So says Silas House, the author of four novels, several plays and a creative non-fiction book. Writing in the Opinionator column of The New York Times, House maintains that many of us writers talk about writing, attend conferences, write and cartoon on FB, rather than write.
How do we write as we lead our busy lives? We learn to be still in our heads or House says “to achieve the sort of stillness that allows our senses to become heightened.” Or, as House says quoting Joyce Dyer “seeing like an animal.”
As a writer, when I am stuck in a line at Rite Aid, I challenge myself to come up with the color of the scarf on the lady in front of me, sky blue, the color of the ocean as a thunder storm comes on, the blue of Paul Newman’s eyes? Or is it periwinkle? Turquoise? I am still in my mind. And, serendipitously, I am not writhing with impatience as the line crawls along.
I remember waiting, more than once, for a cross-town bus on 67th and Lexington in New York City. All the other passengers were stepping forward, looking left for the bus, and then returning to the standing position – when is that bus going to arrive? Instead of copying this native practice, I would switch into my writer’s mind and decided to create an image/moment (as Jack Grapes would call it), in my mind. How would I describe The Armory in front of me? What is the light and what are the sounds of this moment. Smells? The costume on the others around me? And their characteristics? I do not write this down. I’m keeping still and engaging in an exercise that keeps me alive as a writer.
I invite all of you to do this. Transform washing the dishes into a writing exercise. How would your main character behave in this exact moment? While driving to the market, who do you see along the way? How are they dressed? What can you tell about these characters by the way they move?
Silas House reiterates all of this, and in a more specific way, in his piece. Check it out. House concludes, the age-old truth that we all know somewhere inside of us: “There is no way to learn how to do this except by simply doing it. We must use every moment we can to think about the piece of writing at hand, to see the world through the point of view of our characters, to learn everything we can that serves the writing….It must be the way we live our lives.”
Exercise: Listen to the rhythm and tone of people talking in elevators, at the table next to you in a café. At the dinner table. Overhear stories. Listen to accents and new words. Every time you hear a new word, look it up, put it in a sentence. And, if in a café, bring out the journal and start writing down what you hear. And, if you are working on a character, imagine him with you at your table. What would he say about that strange looking bum in the corner?
This exercise has as many possibilities as there are moments in our day.
Friends in New York City (not to mention those in LA) look at me like I’m crazy when I say I love being in Maine at this time of year. “But it gets dark at 4 PM and it’s freezing cold.” Yes, I agree, that’s true, but I kind of like that. My friends shake their heads and walk away thinking I’ve gone round the bend. But, no, I’m in my right mind. I do like this turning in. I like the shutting down. It feels to me as if the Earth is encircling itself with its own arms and settling down for a long winter’s nap. Well deserved I might add. After all, the Earth has been going full tilt for six months.
Maybe it’s my Celtic blood that attracts me to this time of year. In the Celtic year, the months between Samhaim (Halloween/All Soul’s Day/The Day of the Dead) to Beltane (May first) are considered the dark months. The Celts believe that, in the turning of the seasons, death always precedes rebirth. The Celtic day begins at sundown, and the Celtic year begins at the year’s death or Samhaim.
Here in Maine, we gather by the fire, or the wood stove, lift a glass and tell stories. We craft, whether it be stories or curtains or sweaters or wooden loons, or pots, or beer. We sink into the mysteries.
Do we seek visions in the firelight, in the smoke, or in a bowl of water – visions of our true love, visions that inspire hope, or visions that help us to identify our path in life more clearly? Let’s align ourselves with the Creative Mysteries of life, death and rebirth.
Let’s invoke the Gods for help in our creative projects. Let’s perform the Sacred Rituals and sing life into being. Let’s plant the seeds for our rebirth, focus our minds, and reconnect.
If you are interested in reading more about our Celtic ancestors, here’s a link: https://www.circlesanctuary.org/index.php/celebrating-the-seasons/celebrating-samhain
Reflect upon your present blessings, of which
every man has plenty;
not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
It’s a good idea as a writer to step back from your narrative, dialogue, description and make a comment about life. We all long for wisdom – we want to be set right or awakened or turned up side down, if only for a moment, and we are happy to find tidbits of wisdom tossed into a work of fiction. Let’s take a tip or two from the Greeks:
The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves.
Sophocles Oedipus Rex
We know this, don’t we, but isn’t it helpful to be reminded of in the middle of an extraordinary play. This thought becomes part of our take-away from the evening, consciously or unconsciously.
Unwanted favors gain no gratitude.
Oedipus at Colonus.
How often do we imagine we are helping someone when in fact we are just bothering them? I call this part of me Lady Bountiful, the part of me that gets thrills from playing the wealthy benefactor, often, it turns out, to people who are not interested in my help. Sophocles, yes Sophocles, can jolt me to awareness about this.
Philosophy tossed into the middle of the narrative stops the reader and gives us pause. Abraham Verghese, in his novel Cutting for Stone, offers this thought: “It was a sacred object. But for a four-year old, everything is sacred and ordinary.” We stop to think, is this true for me. Does my child treat everything as sacred. Should I?
Commenting on his wife’s remark, late in life, that she hates him, the narrator of John Updike’s “My Father’s Tears,” says this: “As well as love one another, we hate one another and even ourselves.” I read this and stop and think. I suddenly feel melancholic, hating to think this might be true of all marriages, of all relationships. The narrator has snagged my attention and won’t let go.
Hope is the deep orientation of the human soul that can be held at the darkest times.
Havel knows what he is talking about, having been involved in the Polish fight for freedom.
Exercise: Take a look at your work. Do you stop to impart wisdom from time to time? Choose a piece you are writing, or simply begin a piece in your journal. Half way through, stop and ask yourself, what am I trying to say here? What can I say to stop my reader short, to make her pause and reflect.