field notes (2.26.16)

You guys, we lost a gem of a woman, writer, truth-teller this week: “Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” – Harper Lee

Reading: SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo (amazing) and THE SELECTED LETTERS OF WILLA CATHER edited by Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout for the second time, but this go-around I own my copy so I can write in it all I want (wheeeeee!)

Cannot get enough of lemongrass and wintergreen oils during this last full, grey, dull week of that soul-sucking month called February

Replenished the colored pencil supplies: Prismacolor is where it is at

Updated my business cards!

Reminding myself to give my essays my very best love, attention, effort because they are teaching me so much. And because I enjoy puzzling over them so much. And because I am creating clips and stories and ideas I can be proud of. (It is a delight to be spending my time and energy writing instead of trying to place my essays.) And it is so much fun.

Went to the Talley Gallery to see Stefan Markov’s exhibit. When I sat down in the gallery, slowly and quietly studying his work, a headache that I’d been hauling around all day just slipped away. Ah, the power of art.

Questions I’m pondering regarding my next writing project: What is the main character supposed to learn? How can structure best support the story? What is the initial taste/urge/compulsion/idea that made me want to write this story? Which scene represent the core of the story I’m trying to tell?

field notes (2.19.16)

Reading: ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr, PAPER TOWNS by John Green and SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo

Attended the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra concert on Valentine’s Day and it left me wondering, again & still, what it is about live music that is so enlivening. Or, hey, even why recorded music is amazing. Fine. I’ll say it. Music is lighting my soul on fire lately.

The Iowa Summer Writing Festival is still accepting participants. I am trying to decide if I will be amongst them.

I came across a course description in the newest Loft Literary Center catalog whose concept is ringing in my ears: “Virginia Woolf wrote that almost all of her writing (including nonfiction) began with a scene, a moment from the past that called out to her because it represented the story she wanted to tell.” How’s that for a drop of mercury? It’s got me recalibrating, for sure.

And finally, from Kathleen Norris in THE CLOISTER WALK, “Credentials measure what is quantifiable, they represent results. A call on the other hand, is pure process; it cannot be measured, quantified, or controlled by institutions. People who are called tend to violate the rules in annoying ways.”

And also from Kathleen Norris, in the same book, “Our idol of the autonomous individual is a sham; the truth is we expect everyone to be the same and dismiss as elitist those who are working through a call to any genuine vocation.” Amen and amen. Feeling this one right now.

 

field notes (2.12.16)

My latest essay, “Winter’s Wisdom” was published this week.

I’m prepping for my long-awaited, upcoming visit to the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota. I searched the extensive finding aid this week and submitted my requests.

Obsessing over structure in writing: in picture books, essays and novels, especially.

Attended the opening of Sleeping Giant: The Iron Range of Minnesota by Vance Gellert at the Watermark Art Center.

Pretty sure that I could happily spend my life handing out full-size chocolate bars to everyone I meet.

Working on a few essays this week for next month’s column. I’ve been holding on to the draft of one essay for years, just waiting for the right time. I revisited it this week and was stunned to discover how much reworking it needs. I guess it’s a sign that I’m growing and changing (hopefully for the better!) as a writer.

 

field notes (2.5.16)

Loving this quotation from author Tracy Winfield Holczer: “…a book is the answer to a question you want answered, not a question you already have the answer to. And in my mad scrabble to come up with this story, I believe I’ve been leaning heavily on what I think I know instead of throwing my whole self into the unknown.”

Craving big blocks of time to write. This week has offered two or three hours at a time and I’m really craving a nice four to six hour block of time to drop down into thinking and writing.

My article, “Not Another Critique Group” was published in the 2016 winter edition of the digital edition of the SCBWI Bulletin. (No link because it’s password protected, but I’ll do my best to get a copy posted.)

Enjoying a new practice: cranking up the music and dancing with my kids in the kitchen each day.

Reading COLLECTED STORIES by Willa Cather and a whole lot of books about smallpox whose titles I’m not going to share.

Making a big push on my picture-book biography. It is front and center on my plate, though sometimes that means ignoring it and letting my subconscious mind doing it’s thing (or at least I hope!)