Tag Archives: Writing

Too pissed to write…

I just may be. Yes, I’m writing this to get some of these feelings, these big emotions out, but I’m well aware of how I can’t actually get to the page to write creatively. To work on the stories, give voice to the characters I’ve committed to but now I have to ask them to wait. Stand by.

I’m pissed. Life can be truly shitty. For so many of us. For so many.  For the people who are oppressed, those hated because of gender, race, religion and who they love.  I’m pissed for those who fear the world outside their windows and those who fear the monsters in their homes. I am pissed that this country is a shit storm of powerful men exerting their hate on others through legislature or lack thereof.

I’m pissed that the ebb and flow of feeling helpless and rising to the fight is thrashing my poor mind and body around so much so, I’m close to losing my way on the waves.

I’m pissed that the emotion of anger has its root in fear and pain. And that maybe I’m pissed first because I can’t bare to feel the pain down below the surface of my brown skin and I know that’s a false belief because I can still feel it. Saying it isn’t so isn’t truth.

I’m pissed that grief is a mutherfucker. I’m pissed that my mother is dead. And my dear friend died this week. And children are scared. And women are crying. And I can’t eat chocolate the way my heart craves because my full and ill body system is exhausted from just trying to carry me through the day, through the dark times.

I’m pissed that my anger is keeping me from the page because real life is raging so much louder than their stories and try as I might, I can’t find my way out of this world into the other.

I’m pissed that I’m still pissed. And feel like I have been for years. For centuries.

Loving True Crime…?

I put a question mark on that because it’s weird. I know. I don’t ‘lovelove’ true crime, like it’s a good thing. Not at all.  I ‘love’ writing stories about crime, though.  In them I can make the women the victor. I can take down the bad guy. I can create suspense that’s entertaining. I hope. Above all else, don’t bore, right?

It’s difficult to write good crime stories.  But that’s my goal.  I often joke that I wish I could write a romcom because they’re light and about love. Ya know, a woman who doesn’t believe in love anymore or thinks they missed theirs but then the very cute and maybe annoying dude they work with, or are forced to work with, or sells them bagels by day but works as a God-sent guardian for runaway youth or has a dream of opening a diner and she just happen to be the inspiration for him, ya know, with all her quirky but sexy ways… If I was to write this story they’d stumble across a dead body on their first date, he’d be implicated somehow and she would have to solve the crime but quickly because there’s another dead body. And this time it’s a child. There’d be an amazing show of gunshots and racing through dank and dirty alleys that smell like old piss and dying dreams. And there’d be blood splatter when the chick would catch the guy, who happens to run that same organization for runaway youth but does heinous shit to kids cuz he’s working out his own ish. But our lead could give a fuck. She’s taking him down and if that same cute guy still wants to screw then she’d be down for that, too, when she says so.  And then… And then… our lead would get a commendation for bravery which she’s too humble to accept. She goes for street tacos and a cold beer instead.

Hmm…not a romcom, huh?

When I started writing I used to keep a folder of true crime stories that could be inspiration at some point. This made for some interesting looks and conversations if anyone caught what I was printing at the office. I work from home now where I can wrap myself in my mother’s blanket before I read the crime news.

These days I save articles online. Interesting enough, I don’t watch a lot of true crime shows or documentaries.  Hmmm…I’m gonna change that. That’s a creative writing goal I’m adding to 2019.

So, if you love true crime, too…what are you favorites?  Which ones are unique and well-told stories.

Hit me up with your suggestions.

And Write On!

 

 

A Storyteller’s Lazy Susan

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You know what a lazy susan is, right? Aside from this nagging question of why do folks think Susan is so lazy, I find myself coming back to a visual of one when I think about the stories I’m telling. The stories I’m writing. The ones that have space in my head. Some of them.

Years ago I had the pleasure of hearing the brilliant, award-winning playwright, Susan-Lori Parks, speak at a bookstore in St. Paul, MN.  She was so great. I’m just gonna take a second and sigh here.

I was a very new playwright working in theatre administration but filling my days with plays and workshops and soaking up everything I could from the more successful than I.  Which was pretty much everyone in my theatre world!  lol!  But to hear her speak was a thrill.

She told us that her plays, the projects she’s writing at any one time are kept on a lazy susan of sorts in her mind. I am completely paraphrasing this so there is no direct quote from her. She explained, though, how she would spin that lazy susan when she got ready to write and where it stopped, there would be the story she worked on. I think this was the part of her talk where she was sharing process. Some writers take one story and only one at a time, while others, like me and Susan, have multiple ones. (notice how that reads like we’re friends, me and Susan. We’re not but ya know… )

Since then I have learned the value of following the sage advice of having more than one story, one project, one script, one book, at a time because if the question from some producer, agent, publisher, director, investor is “What else you got?” then you have to give them something.  Shrugging and saying “Can I get back to you in a month…” doesn’t fly.

So some mornings, it’s the lazy susan that comes to mind when I sit down at the page. Which story is calling for me to “come on in, the water’s warm” or which character is demanding to be heard, to be seen.  Or which story is a murky fog on the page aching for some light to cut through.

This the curiosity of being storyteller.

Of course, this means there’s a lot of voices in my head and sometimes I look and feel a bit dizzy but it’s a good kind. A writer’s kind.  So, don’t worry about me. I’m really okay.

The love of a story prompt

I gave myself a goal this holiday. For the month that I am spending in MN with my family. That goal was to continue honing my prose writing chops by writing short stories.

I have a novel in works out to beta-readers so I’m sitting on starting revisions or the second book of that trilogy. (I CAN’T WAIT!!! And yes, imagine that in my best Oprah-esque voice) And I have all these characters sorta milling around in my head.

Okay, some of them are more demanding of their stories than others. They’re mostly cops. Female cops in gritty cities or small towns. Badass chicks who have to hunt down some evil POS and do right by the badge they hold dearly. Some are women fighting for their families, for their lives. For the world that may be kicking them in their asses but it’s the world they’re committed to save. So, I guess the image of them milling around, sipping tea and watching holiday baking shows in the afternoon doesn’t really fit them. (actually that’s me when the work is done…lol!)

I needed a way to get these stories to the page so I put the word out to my online writing friends- incredibly talented women who are so far ahead of me in the prose fiction journey, accomplished novelists and authors who have had stories published online in the top journals and in beautiful collections, just all around inspiring, talented storytellers. I found some sites that have prompts to jumpstart a story. And I’ve started popping in on an incredible writing session with book mentor, Ericka Lutz http://erickalutz.com. 

In her sessions, writers would gather in zoom room for a timed writing session. She’d give us prompts if we wanted them or needed them. Set a timer and we’d go. Aside from seeing these other writers at their computer, intense looks on their faces, sipping tea or staring off, however they were creating their magic on the page, I was seeing that they were doing it like me. One word at a time.

These prompts, though! They were like lightening in a bottle. BOOM! I had a line of dialogue that gave me a direction to take my undercover Native cop, Carla Killingbear, to the alley to confirm the dead girl was the missing girl. She and her partners disagree on how swiftly they had to move on a suspect she developing a relationship with but had no concrete evidence. Yet. This story, Skye Isles, will be a longer work of fiction. O MY GOD!! Another novel??! YUP YUP! I’m excited and so is Carla Killingbear. I didn’t even know she was waiting to tell her story until I got the prompt. Joy. Joy. Joy!

The next prompt I used in another session was a place. Ericka said country store and I immediately saw Becky’s. A dusty place Off The Highway in New Mexico. And I saw Stella, a young Native girl, in old guy Coozer’s truck as he raved about how much he loved Becky and that she would be able to help Stella get her car fixed that died on the highway. Stella was on her way to California, on a grief healing journey after her mother’s death. What they didn’t know was who else was in that country store and the murder that was going to happen. BOOM! I WAS SO HAPPY! That prompt opened up a whole new story world with these incredible characters! A short story that moves with intrigue and suspense. More Joy, Joy, Joy!

If you’d like to connect with Ericka, you can find her on Facebook at Spark the Second Fire https://www.facebook.com/groups/sparkfire/.

If you have other links to writing prompts, let me know!

Write On!

A Toast! to….toast? Hell yeah. 1/365

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Cynthia Newman Martin has a beautiful blog with “1 true thing” per day. For the year. Amazing. Everyday she writes something. A word, a paragraph, longer essays and observations. It’s telling and poignant and it gets the creative juices flowing, which as I stated yesterday, I want coming daily to Toast to do for me.

This morning I woke at 4 am (yes, nasty habit) and thought about this post and what I should write about and sure as shit, my critic popped in (she must have been waiting bedside, eager to fuck with me before I even opened my eyes).  She shot down every idea I had about what to write about.  She even said that I had nothing of value to say and that’s when I said “hold up.”  That’s not true.

Whatever my thoughts are are valuable. My opinion does matter. What I love or wish for or need or am hurt by, whatever it is that I feel I need to say is valuable. Damnit.

And I remembered that Toast is a blog designed to celebrate, to point out what is good and give it light. Even if it comes from a place of pain and confusion, to Toast! it is to acknowledge it’s goodness in my life.  So there, take that, critic bitch.

So what do I Toast! today? Friends- I’m floating on the joy of two mornings this weekend with old friends. Family- we got a wedding happening NEXT SATURDAY and that’s all about family, for sure. Film- my livelihood. My work. The industry that I’m trying to etch out a place for me.  Politics- women ROAR! Sex. Youth. Children. The weather. Minnesota. Los Angeles. Belize?!  (future travel idea) There are plenty of things in the world to celebrate and that doesn’t mean they require a bigass parade or huge fanfare.  I can, you can, Toast! the smaller things that bring joy, or comfort or just make you smile.

So today I am Toasting…toast.

Yup. I have a deep love for toast.  An addiction, probably. Thick grainy bread. Jams. Honey. Avocado, Bacon, Tomatoes, Nut butters, margarine and cinnamon. The list is long with what you can do with toast but for sure, I gain comfort (and a soothing tummy) when I pour a mug of hot tea and have myself a slice of toast.

Toast.  Peace.  This is day 1/365

Toast! to 10 Things Art Does For My Soul

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I’ve been stating to people lately “I”m so grateful I’m an artist.” Which is comes much later than that first statement, “I am an artist.” – which I had to give a lot of thought and contemplation years ago when I did that mid-30’s change of life thing and started writing. But once I embraced that and began to build a life around honoring my writing, I still didn’t feel the gratitude of having this calling. Even when I attended school, working towards my MFA’s, which I know statistically for a COC of a certain age (Chick of Color at 40-something…hee hee) puts me a  small percentage of all people in this country earning degrees at that level, I still didn’t really fully feel the gratitude.

It’s now been 14 years since I started writing. Playwriting, prose, and now screenplays, I’m a storyteller and this is just a short list of what Art Does For My Soul:

1. Art feeds my imagination. Like a child playing make-believe, I get to imagine worlds, people, scenarios, winning wars and creating joy.
2. Art helps me figure shit out. I can give my characters my flaws, my insecurities, my anger, my hurt and let them figure it out on their journey so I can live a life in reality in peace.
3. Art gives me a vital purpose. This is a calling. It is. Just as we all need doctors who love to heal, lawyers who believe justly in the law, teachers who love a student’s mind, I’ve been really blessed to hear this calling, I love writing and knowing what I”m suppose to contribute to this world.
4. Art teaches me about who I want to be. The layers of my complex characters show me what I want to change in myself and what needs nurturing.
5. Art has created a community. For as much as writing is an individual act, in my head, at the page, for the amount of time I spend in my robe with tea by my window in the mornings, I also have an incredible community of writers, filmmakers, poets, novelists, journalists, painters, designers, musicians…the list is long of the creative minds in my life.
6. Art simmers down the prickly past. When old wounds burst open, or an old fear grips onto my heart, hijacking my day, art gives me a way to work it out. I write letters, draw, paint, fill journal pages with stickers and swirls of crayon marks. I write stories of badass women who kick the shit out of the bad guys while they heal their own pains.
7. Art lets me be selfish, in a healthy way. I’m a caregiver. Loyal to a fault and that hasn’t been a healthy trait. Extreme caregiving was about seeking approval and intense need. My art makes me explore what’s happening in my head, what’s making my heart ache, what’s bringing me joy. And helps me balance what’s self-care and what’s for everyone else.
8. Art means daydreaming’s cool! I never got in big trouble in school as a little girl for daydreaming in class. I was a pretty good student. But I do remember times being told to pay attention. I remember being asked where my head was and the shame of that. I never told anyone what I dream of- about my mom, about my family not being so damn poor, about being someone special and important. One of the hardest thing for me when I was a little girl was admitting I even had dreams. How dare I, right?
9. Art sustains my family. Art brought my husband into my life. We met as members of the same theatre company and our friendship grew out of working together with kids, telling stories over beer. And years later, when my daughter chose art school for her education and SFAI chose her, we couldn’t have been prouder. Art is woven into the foundation that holds my family together. And that same art has made us all better for our extended families. And now art, making films, has created Through the Wilderness, LLC, our film company.
10. ART IS PLAY! In this photo the lamp illuminates the little girl spirit who hangs out on my desk in the mornings, waiting for me to show up and play.

I am so grateful for being an artist. So today’s Toast! is to Art And What It Does To My Soul.

What does art do for yours?

Peace

Toast! to Inspiration!

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about what I’ve Toasted, so sitting down to share with you, Inspiration is the what I’ve been thinking about and here’s why.

This spring as Peter and I have been gearing up for our first Through the Wilderness, LLC production- a short action film about a Native American cop who is forced to deal with her feelings around miscarriage, motherhood, and justice when a dying hooker leaves her baby in her garage (btw, I LOVE this story but that’s a different posting) – I find myself attempting to develop a business mind while watching for the obstacle to my creative work that I fear this business mind will create.

I get that might not happen and perhaps this is just the work of my critic taking advantage of the change in my life to whisper more shit in my ear. I get that.  Yet, the reality is, the time I spend researching to understand…franchise taxes, accounting practices and deal memos and marketing strategies, is all time that I’m not writing.  And let’s be clear, before all this other business in my life, getting to the page to just write was hard enough to begin with. Sometimes.

But before I can go to the page, I need to be inspired, so what is that and where is it?

I’m at my messy desk, in my robe, blanket wrapped around my feet- yes, this is the glamourous life, and I ask myself where is that inspiration.  I look to books next to me. The Quran, Jon Kabat-Zinn Full Catastrophe Living, Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, my bills to be paid, my bowl of nail polishes, crayons and greeting cards, The Ten Indian Commandments on my wall, my empty bowl that held oatmeal and berries, my now cold cup of green tea. Then I hear the birds outside. The hummingbird that flutters to my window and peeks in at me in the mornings has arrived. Outside my window beyond the bush, I see the new bistro size patio table and chairs, the big bright yellow and white umbrella, the expansion of my office. Then my mind travels outside our gate and down the street. The sky soft blue (yes, under the LA smoggy haze but stay with me here…smog is an inspiration, too, different post, different story), the palm trees create a landscape so different than home in MN, which I now see in my mind, the big oaks, the flat farmland alongside the highway to my mom’s, the tall cedars along the North Shore,  all so different than…awww…there it is- the places I’ve traveled this year, the people I’ve seen, the voices and languages, songs and food. O yes, the food. But there’s more that inspires me.

The last couple months have been filled with great joys and opportunities. Celebrations, one after another rolled through my life.  In May my daughter, Bird, graduated from college in San Francisco. Family met us in Santa Cruz for beach time, for little girl laughter and salt water taffy on the boardwalk. And in San Francisco, a beautiful city filled with rolling hills and tall skinny houses hugging at the shoulders, I had early morning moments on bagel runs for the family packed into the hotel suites. And in those mornings, with the sun on my face, feeling grateful for love and support, I felt inspiration, too. I did.

I listened to speakers at SFAI send the graduates out into the world with advice. Some was good. Most was daunting, but I saw fresh and slightly frightened young faces eager to run out and show us their world. And at the gallery, I saw my amazing Bird beaming in front of her painting, revealing to us, her family, what she learned about herself at school. And I was inspired by the depth of her creativity, by the young woman she’s become.

For her graduation gift, we took her to Tokyo. Yes- we are able to travel like that. A blessing beyond our wildest dreams.  While there, oh, the sounds and smells. I was often overwhelmed but yet, I had moments of sheer joy, moments of  being deeply awe-struck by beauty, like in Kamakura, the tiny beach village where the huge statute of Buddha lives.

While there, we walked to the shore. And standing on the “other side of the Pacific” while Peter waded into the water, I looked to my daughter and nearly fell over with love and admiration. The three of us inspires me. Our family in MN and across the country inspires me. Our journey that got us from the the tiny, poor little places we lived in while Bird was a baby, to that moment on the Japanese beach, inspires me. Yes. the memories will keep inspiring me, will keep my creativity alive.

So, the Toast! is to Inspiration whether it’s from the photos on the desk, a song on Spotify, the wee bird at the window, or a breeze that invokes a memory, inspiration is all around me.  And my wish for you is to be inspired by what’s in your life, what’s in your heart, what’s in your memories.

Peace.