Tag: Blogging

One of the great gifts given to regional writers is access to other regional writers of substance – not only of talent but friendship with that special spice which is the understanding that comes only writer-to-writer. Yesterday I enjoyed the day-long Sinclair Lewis Writer’s Conference in the company of one such talent, Julie Jo Larson – MStorian and road-trip pal of excellence.

JulieJo Larson and M E Fuller

JulieJo Larson and M E Fuller

We hit the road at 6:30 a.m., neither one of us thrilled with the early October black-out and fog morning. We arrived at the Sauk Centre High School in plenty of time to register and down cups of coffee before the first event of the day. The conference opened to a panel discussion with questions offered by the event organizer, Jim Umhoefer, fielded to an impressive panel represented by Faith Sullivan (Keynote Speaker), Judith Guest (author and screenwriter), Lorna Landvik (author and comedian), and Erik Hane (literary agent and editor).

Each attendee had the opportunity to learn from the professionals in one-hour sessions:

  • Writing a Screenplay – Judith Guest
  • Honor Your Imagination and Find the Fun in Writing – Lorna Landvik
  • Keys to a Strong Book Proposal – Erick Hane

Breaks were short and learning was intense with interesting questions and discussions between participants and guest presenters. JulieJo and I were ready for the conference reception at 4:30 in the Palmer House Pub. We later ate in the dining room then hiked up to our rooms on the third floor of the hotel, fully prepared for a night’s sleep interrupted by whatever bumps in the night at the haunted historic Palmer House. I slept soundly, thank you, but Julie Jo did have a visitor who chose her bedding as a better place for the bathmat to reside.

The Palmer House, Sauk Centre, MN

The Palmer House, Sauk Centre, MN

Featured Speakers

Faith Sullivan – the author of Repent Lanny Merkel (1981), Watchdog (1982), Mrs. Demming  and the Mythical Beast (1986), The Empress of One (1997), The Cape Ann (1988), What a Woman Must Do (2002), Gardenias (2005), Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse (2015).

Judith Guest – author of Ordinary People (1976), Errands (1996),  Second Heaven (1982),  Killing Time in St. Cloud (1988), The Mythic Family: An Essay (1988), Ice walk (2001), and The Tarnished Eye (2004).

Lorna Landvik – author of Patty Jane’s House of Curl (1995), Your Oasis on Flame Lake (1997), The Tall Pine Polka (1999), Welcome to the Great Mysterious (2000), Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons (2003), Oh My Stars (2005), The View From Mount Joy (2007), Tis the Season (2008), Mayor of the Universe (2012), Best to Laugh (2014), Once in a Blue Moon Lodge (2017).

Erik Hane – Literary Agent with Red Sofa Literary Agency, Editor, and Writer. Print Run is a podcast created and hosted by Laura Zats and Erik Hane.

The Conference

For twenty-eight years, the Sinclair Lewis Writers’ Conference has helped aspiring writers of all levels and genres better understand their craft. Through lectures, workshops and social events, this annual conference provides learning and encouragement from the best minds in the industry.

Sinclair Lewis, the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, was born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, in 1885. Although he was proud of his Midwestern roots, he traveled widely and was interested in many different aspects of American society, from business and medicine to religion and small-town life. His concern with issues involving women, race, and the powerless in society make his work still vital and pertinent today.

As Sheldon Norman Grebstein wrote, Lewis “was the conscience of his generation and he could well serve as the conscience of our own. His analysis of the America of the 1920s holds true for the America of today. His prophecies have become our truths and his fears our most crucial problems.”

Sinclair Lewis was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Main Street and Babbitt and won the award for Arrowsmith (although he turned it down). He was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He died in Rome in 1951. His cremated remains are buried in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.

The Palmer House Hotel

When you stay at The Palmer House, choose from a room tucked away in the recesses of the hotel or directly above the Original Main Street where you can observe the hustle and bustle of small-town life. The spacious lobby is perfect for whiling away the hours reading & visiting. The distinct photography scattered throughout the hotel, restaurant and lobby tell the tale of Sinclair Lewis and his night clerk duties, as well as the story of the town. The Palmer House Hotel was at the center of Sinclair Lewis’ boyhood home, and the Original Main Street, of Sauk Centre, at 500 Sinclair Lewis Avenue, Sauk Centre, MN.

The Sinclair Lewis 2017 Writers Conference is made possible by the financial sponsorship of the following organizations: The Stearns History Museum, Minnesota National Bank of Sauk Centre, First State Bank of Sauk Centre, Central Minnesota Federal Credit Union, Stearns Electric Association, and the Sinclair Lewis Foundation. This activity is also made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Central MN Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. Private donors include Pat Hanauer, Dick and Pat Lewis and Dave and Linda Simpkins. Sauk Centre Community Education is a co-sponsor of the event.

I’m looking forward to the North Shore Readers and Writers Festival , November 2-5 in Grand Marais, MN, featuring authors and book professionals: Erik Anderson, Mary Casanova, Sharon Chmielarz, Tim Cochrane, Lily Coyle, Staci Drouillard, Katie Dublinski, Chris Fischbach, Peter Geye, Diane Glancy, William Green, Emily Hamilton, Patricia Hampl, Erin Hart, William Kent Krueger, Julie Landsman, Lise Lunge-Larsen, Shoshanna Matney, Ann Regan, Kathryn Savage, Sun Yung Shin, Nina Simonowicz, Moheb Soliman, Faith Sullivan, Bart Sutter, Kari Vick, and Kao Kalia Yang.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

 

 

 

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I’ve abandoned my posts recently – okay, it wasn’t that funny – for good reasons. The garden vegetables needed to be harvested and processed and packaged and frozen for deep winter consumption. Home-grown veggie lasagna with eggplant noodles tastes like sunshine on a dark and frigid January night. Pans and pans of lasagna and squash gratin were prepared, cooled, tasted, tasted some more, then flash frozen. And I’m not done yet. No.

Now come the winter squash bakes and apple cakes, sauce, and crisp. And the pumpkins – not just for carving – are better in pie and cake and pudding. And then the gardens have to be put to bed.

Pumpkin

In this year of learning about being a full-time creative, my intended work-a-day schedule has been blown over and over. I may not go to an employer’s office any longer, but the household demands continue to fight me for time and attention. How can we ever find the time to do our creative work when there is so much else to be done, that has to be done?

Do the work when the work needs to be done.

I suspended writing for the summer to prepare work for the Arts off 84 art crawl on Labor Day weekend. I discovered that I missed sketching and drawing and painting and that I love it as much as I do love writing. This past year, painting had its season during the summer months. The upcoming year will find a few hours each week – maybe even every few days – set aside to plan and prep and start the next collection of paintings.

Worried Boy and Kitten

But I also have self-imposed deadlines to meet. My first novel, “Saving the Ghost,” was sent out into the world as a finished work in search of an agent. It received the attention of a small press and an agent – which in itself for a first work is an achievement. The agent provided feedback which let me know that the book is not quite where it needs to be. Thanks to the Five Wings Arts Council and the McKnight Foundation, I’ve received a 2017 Artist Project Grant, to go back into editing and revision. I also have a second novel in the works. Both projects need to be off my desk by April 30, 2018.

blankpage-pen

And that’s how getting things done works. If I hadn’t picked the tomatoes and squash at the right time and done the work to turn them into meals at the right time, all my soil prep and seed planting and garden tending would have been wasted effort. I love my writing and my painting as much or more as I do my homemade marinara sauce. I won’t waste my creative efforts by wondering when I might find the time to do the work when the work needs to be done.

NEWS!

You can read my latest flash fiction piece, “Abel March,”  in Talking Stick 26.

The Talking Stick is a Minnesota literary journal published by the Jackpine Writers’ Bloc. Produced entirely by Minnesota writers for Minnesota writers since the beginning in 1995.

Buy it now from Jackpine Writers’ Bloc or on Amazon

 

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Hi, everyone. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that writing a novel is a new enterprise for me. I’ve always written stories and poems and ad copy. I’ve never attempted anything like assembling words into a flow for a reader of a novel. It’s hard work.

I see people all day long, launching their 2nd and 3rd and more in a series – mostly romance and dystopia – and self-publishing on Amazon. They’ve got giveaway programs running and pleas out for reviews. I have trouble believing that there can be much value to this material, and yet, this is exactly how Andy Weir published “The Martian.” http://www.npr.org/2015/09/27/443192327/sandstorms-explosions-potatoes-oh-my-martian-takes-its-science-seriously It’s being done right and well, but I am not that writer, not yet.

Going into this, I knew I had a strong story but to create a novel from a good idea requires some talent, dedication, education, and great editing. I received a grant from the Five Wings Arts Council, my regional arts support organization, for an online class with Mary Carroll Moore on how to write a novel. I also received money for a first draft edit. This past May I began to send the book – finished as I thought it to be – out to agents and publishers. I wanted the validation of acceptance by a traditional channel.

I got lucky. I was right. The story is strong. The writing is good. But I lost out on a deal with an agent because I still don’t know how to write a novel. I’ve taken a lot of classes and workshops. I’ve been dedicated. I’ve done a good job as far as that goes. But there was something missing.

I know I need a new editor. I know I need to work a little harder. I know I’ll have to ask for more funds to complete this book. As of tomorrow, I’m diving in with an application for a writing residency and an application for editing help and a little more education tied to networking.

Turns out, writing a novel is as much work as any job I’ve ever done. It is the most satisfying and exciting work I’ve ever done. I believe in my story. My writer community believes in me. It’s a new day to learn a new way to get this book done and in your hands via traditional agent or publisher.

The new editor I will be working with has given me these notes – followed by 6.75 pages of all the work I’ll need to do.

Let me begin right off the bat with yet another testimonial to the power of this book. The soul, the heart—it’s strong. These are some of the realest and most compelling characters I’ve ever met. That, by far, is your strongest talent as a writer. And on top of it, you’ve created an emotional journey for these characters that is fraught with pain, yet it leads us toward healing. It’s one of the most universal human stories, with the power to change the reader’s life—even if it’s quite difficult to face this particular topic of sexual and physical abuse.

As I keep saying, our goal is to make sure the story’s bones and muscle and flesh are as strong as its soul. So let’s dive into how we might do that.

I’m going to start again, again. Follow along for weekly updates. But you’ll have to wait until October. I have a lot of reading to catch up on in September.

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Welcome back! Yes, you’re right, I skipped a week. Sometimes life doesn’t fit my schedule. Sometimes I’m just along for the ride. I try my best to keep to what I promise. I try hard. I usually succeed.

After a week of recovery from Cirenaica which included organizing my workshop notes, followed by a week of fireworks and birthday candles and setting up for a new round of paintings, I’m back on task. Well, I’m back on task as much as my summer distractions allow. Squash is growing, tomatoes are showing up, and banana peppers scream, “Pick me! Pick me!” Flower baskets beg for water.

petunias2

 

The dog wants out to laze in the sun then wants in because the flies and mosquitoes are driving her crazy.

It seems a long time since I’ve devoted myself to my sketchbook. I’ve been preoccupied with the first novel and now writing the second, while still editing and revising the first. But I have to sketch because I cannot paint until I sketch.

Sketching

Sketching finds the feeling that feeds my wrist and fingers and brushes to make the paintings I want to produce. This year I’m concentrating on mixed media, stylized images that express comfort and love. I want to make things that make other people smile and feel good.

And more… I’ll see how far I get this week and what catches my interest.

2Sketches

See you back here next Sunday (or some day during the week). Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

 

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Early on in this series we looked at our intention to create art and asked the question, “How serious am I?” The deeper I get into my own work, the more serious I am, the more driven, the more confused I am about the quality of my work. I’m talking about writing and how I’ve learned that there is a “best” way to tell a story. I’ve learned that I’m prone to leave out some important things – best ways to deliver characters and scenes – and I’m struggling to understand how to recognize and fix the problems.

I just heard myself saying to myself, “Maybe you’ve taken on too much with this book.” Maybe I have. Maybe I can’t learn the things I need to know to do this story justice. Maybe… and then I stopped. I reminded myself that I want to tell this story, this particular story because I believe it’s important. And I reminded myself that two years ago I didn’t know enough to know to ask the questions I’m asking now.

My intention has been clear from the beginning. I want this. I want this enough to work this hard at learning the craft. I’ve learned to ignore some input and some teachings and to embrace others. I’ve done virtually nothing but learn and practice and learn and practice. I tell myself, “This isn’t math. You can do it!”

So this week I’m going to take you back to the second week topic and ask you to review your intention to create. Are you any further along than you were six months ago? Does it matter to you?

How Serious Are You?

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being I’m all in!, where are you as we start this week and is it where you want to be?  Where you imagined yourself to be?

Pick Your Battles.

Everything we do that we do well requires some time and effort. Time and energy can be the two strongest forces working against us as we age. Can we ignore our obstacles? By this time in life, I think we’ve all come to realize that the adage, pick your battles, has real meaning.

I’ve always been a nap taker. On the days that I did not allow myself the luxury of an afternoon snooze, I felt restless and less focused. Rather than fight my nature, I succumbed and am much happier and more productive for giving in.

My husband listens patiently to my babblings about what I’m writing or what I’m painting. He’s supportive but not engaged in my enthusiasm. I had to seek out other creatives who would share my excitement. Rather than fight with my husband over my disappointments, I accept what he offers and appreciate him for who he is.

I have friends who are challenged by mobility and other health-related issues. They’ve had to accept their physical limitations but that doesn’t mean restrictions on their creative dreams. Tools at hand, inspiring videos and a willingness to embrace the freedoms a creative spirit affords, keeps the artist alive and busy finding new ways to accommodate first the artist, then the limitations.

Finding the time to work.

I found that I accomplished the most writing in the early morning. Fresh from sleep and dreams, I hit the computer keyboard and pound out the words. After about an hour, I have to take a break and walk around a little, feed the dog, have some coffee or tea. So I learned to set alarms on my phone to reflect my way of working.

I officially start work at 9 o’clock in the morning. I may be up at 4 or 5 and been writing and musing and planning. But by 8 a.m., I need to be showered and dressed and prepared for work as if I had an office to get to. It took me six months of retirement to realize that I work best with a schedule. So I created one. By following a schedule I found my level of commitment to the work was rewarded with pages written and paintings painted and boundless satisfaction and self-appreciation!

I also realized that not every day is a work day. Somedays I found I could not focus or settle down into the routine. I knew I was missing the element of pressure to achieve so I began working with deadlines. I entered art shows and writing competitions that came with a finish-by date. That gave me the extra nudge I needed to keep me going.

Deadlines and schedules may not be what work for you. I seem to get the most joy out of accomplishment. Many people find their joy in the process. Watch yourself, see how you work, notice what makes you feel good about what you’re doing and how you do it. Then establish working rules that fit you and allow you to get the most creative enjoyment.

Tips for the week:

  • Pay attention to distractions. What pulls you away from your art?
  • Take note of your personal work style. When are you the most productive?
  • Consider your workspace. Does it fit with your working style?
  • Make notes about the obstacles and challenges you find. How can you put your artist self first, before accommodating limitations or restrictions?
  • Keep sketching
  • Try a timed writing off of one of your sticky note thoughts from last week. Get a pad of paper, position yourself in a comfy spot, set a timer for 5 minutes and write without lifting pen from paper.

Keep building your bank of sticky note ideas.

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I’ve heard a lot of frustration from writers and artists about time – how can a working, mom or dad, or anyone, find time for creative writing and art?  Having just taken a course in time management from Springboard for the Arts, offered at my local library, I can say that a time audit will help you find that time.

Participants were asked to keep track of what they did for 24 hours in each of seven days. After each activity, we were asked to note if the time was Alpha, Beta, or Art time. Alpha is any time spent on art related activities and Art itself. Beta is time not spent on art or art related activities. There can be overlaps.

At the end of the week, it’s easy to see how much time is actually spent producing art. That may be only 20% of your time in a week. The time audit will document how your intentions to work are interrupted and will be useful in creating a space in each week that is devoted to your creative work. Following is a repeat of steps you can take to make creative time a priority:

Focus.

Focus is the key to making time to do the work. You may need to focus first on all the reasons why you are dragged away from the work you start. Keep a sticky-note pad handy and make note of each time you’re interrupted.

  1. How many times were you interrupted by someone else?
  2. How many times were you interrupted by your phone?
  3. How many times were your thoughts interrupted by (fill in the blanks)
    1. ______________________________________
    2. ______________________________________
    3. ______________________________________
    4. What else?

By Wednesday, after taking notes on interruptions, it’s easy to see why we can never find a decent amount of time to grow as an artist or writer. Now it’s time to focus on solutions. Review your sticky-notes and write on each one a possible solution to the problem. Example: Phone interrupts. Turn off the phone during work time.

Set Limits.

If you were on the job, you would not be allowed to entertain all the distractions you do allow when you are on your own time. Understanding how to set limits will be key to making the time you need to deeply focus on your creative work.

You have your notes in hand that illustrate how many distractions you allow. You’ve made notes on possible solutions. Now is the time to implement the solutions by setting limits.

Limit your workspace – keep distractions outside of your workspace, even if that means closing the door or wearing noise-cancelling headphones. Your workspace must become sacred space – yours – where important work is done and others are not allowed to intrude during work hours.

Limit your time – allow yourself enough time to get into deep focus and produce work, but don’t take so much time that everything else goes to the wayside and becomes an excuse for not getting back to work the next day. Make a schedule.

The most compelling distraction is the one that opens the gate for all others to flood in and overwhelm your best intentions. What is that one thing that overwhelms your artistic practice? Faith in yourself to do this work.

 Have faith.

You’ve made the decision to explore your creative self. Don’t judge your successes and failures. Judge only these things:

  1. Adequate workspace
  2. Adequate work time without interruptions
  3. Whether or not you did anything with the workspace and time you created.

The lack of belief in the work and you as the creative spirit will undermine every effort you make or think you want to make.

This entire process is about YOU and no one else. Only you can make the time and make that time what you want.

Prompt for the week. 

  • Keep those sticky-notes handy so you can keep track of your interruptions and plan for solutions to distractions.
  • Create a cheat-sheet using your distractions/solutions notes and post it above your work area where you can see it for quick reference.
  • Make sure other members of your household who feel to interrupt, refer to the cheat-sheet before breaking your focus.
  • Post your work day schedule for them to see.

Next week’s topic: Steps to publishing a story.  

See you back here next Sunday night! Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

 

 

 

 

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ghr-cube

What are the differences between a crafter, a craftsman, a fine artist, and all the degrees in between?

Some will argue that a craft has a utilitarian purpose such as a crocheted afghan or a ceramic plate. Some will say that fine art has no utilitarian purpose and that is the sole rule they follow when drawing a distinction between the two. I say it’s really up to you!

Anyone who thinks that a tulip in a hand-thrown vase only represents usefulness as in the vase supporting the flowers and the water to refresh them has never taken a photo of or painted a still life. All possibilities lie in the imagination of the audience.

I will say that a crafter is more likely to produce products with a more homespun appeal. A craftsman may be considered one who is a master of the crafting of… a Maple table or a massive woodcut – both utilitarian and appealing to an artistic aesthetic. A fine artist may excel in traditional oil portraiture while a contemporary counterpart may make stunning street art.

Art is art. A song. A painting. A knit shawl. A fabric pitchfork. You decide.

Creative prompt.
See if you can make distinctions between craft and art – in writing or in painting or maybe in a quilt!

Next week’s topic:  The short story

See you back here next Sunday night! Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

#amwriting #writing #blogging #art #artist

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It’s late! And there’s your prompt. What is late? Late for what? Or wait – is it latte?

Write it. Paint it. Scribble on a wall. #amwriting #ampainting http://mefuller.com

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The most beautiful word in your world.

Write it. Paint it. Scribble on a wall.

#amwriting #ampainting http://mefuller.com

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I’ve been complaining loudly for months about how hard it’s been to write my first novel. I’d worked on the story, off and on, for a few years. In June of 2015, I applied for a grant from my regional arts council – Five Wings – to help me finish the book. With those funds, I took a class on how to write a novel (I had no idea how to structure the story to fill 90,000 words) and hired an editor to help me polish the first draft.

On March 5, 2017, I finished the novel and sent it out to beta readers for comments. For the next few weeks, I can let this project go.

I hate the book now. I don’t even know what it says anymore. I don’t like its words. The beauty of the inspired words was destroyed for me in the endless edits.

I didn’t feel that way when I was creating. I felt that way when I was editing and re-writing. The passion for the work went out of me and it became drudgery. I understand now, why so many great writers were depressed drunks! To face the beast that’s coming after embracing the beauty of the inspiration – well, it’s too much. I had no desire left to write another book.

Maybe if I’d been an English language major in college and had a degree in literature, the work wouldn’t have been so tedious. I don’t know, but I suspect that even the most learned and capable author has moments of despair and grief as the inspired concept is reduced to the mechanics and fine points of the finished product.

But yesterday, I was reawakened to the beauty of words. I remembered why I wrote the book. I felt the story I meant to tell. The happiness of enthusiasm for telling a story stood up inside of me, then sat by my side, held my hand, and shared a listening ear, as a young man, a spoken word poet, performed.

Yes!

The young man, Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre, is smart, sensitive, and clear in his message. He wears his heart for the work on his sleeve. He tells stories of being human while the audience nods in agreement. Yes! We can relate. We feel united. We’ve been so divided. I hear an unexpressed collective sigh of relief.

But it’s all just in me, in my own mind, I suppose. I didn’t know how hungry I was to hear a poet release me, like a butterfly captured in a jar, release me back into a lush garden, back into the beauty of words.

http://www.guante.info/p/spoken-word-videos.html

Guante performed at the Brainerd Public Library with support from the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library Brown Bag Book Events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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