Month: March 2019

Hand-crafted Writing

Got a book to write, or any sort of new writing project for that matter, but don’t know how to get started? As a preliminary step, I recommend reading Lewis H. Lapham’s short essay in AARP The Magazine (February/March 2019). Mr. Lapham is a former editor of Harper’s Magazine, the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly, an author of numerous books, and, in this essay, a distinguished elder offering sage advice about basic principles of writing.

Pay no attention to the cheesy promotional title attached at the top: “Lewis Lapham Tells You How to Write a Book.” He does no such thing. What he actually does is far better. He teaches you how to fish: bait the writing hook, get the hook in the water, learn the patience of the practice, and come to love that practice – necessary steps in the development of your writing project.

Twice in the course of his discussion, Lapham mentions the benefits of using pen and paper for initial writing and regular practice. For those of you raised on computers and cell phones, this might seem akin to extolling the virtues of washing your clothes by hand in a nearby creek. The idea here is not subtraction of modern convenience (impossible, in any case, if you want to publish), but rather re-addition of the best tools available. Good news: these tools can be purchased for next to nothing.

This is not to say that you can’t generate pages of consistently fresh imagery while staring at your laptop screen with your fingers tapping freely on the keys. Certainly such miracles do occur. It seems to me, however, that relying on that method for all writing puts the writer at a practical and tactile disadvantage, especially for first drafts.

As Lapham puts it: “The shaping of words on paper brings them to life in the sound of a voice.” There is something about hand-crafting characters on a page with a pen that allows the creative expression to stay more closely connected to the body, to its voice, perhaps even to the spirit generating the resonance of that voice.

Think of what your computer’s writing program is called: a word processor. So formal sounding, so industrial. The computer is an amazing tool for treating, arranging, adapting, adjusting, perfecting – for processing – your words. But for generating them, there’s nothing like the old-school approach.

Write-ins: 20 March & 23 March

Drop-in gatherings for no-excuse writing.

Join us for a 90-minute stretch of focused writing in the company of familiar faces and perhaps a nosh or beverage.

We’ll keep the first hour dedicated to pens on paper, so bring your notebook/laptop and whatever writing project is on your front burner. Not working on anything specific right now? No problem. We’ll have a few prompts and writing ideas to get you rolling on something new.

For those who wish to share your work or your writing process, let’s discuss! We’ll lift the silence for the last half hour.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019
6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
City Council
233 Broad St., Nevada City, Calif.

Saturday, 23 March 2019
10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Brew Bakers
209 W. Main St., Grass Valley, Calif.

March Words about Town

Literary goings on in and around Nevada County this month:

Creative Writing

Drop-in creative writing

Wednesdays, 3:00 – 4:00 pm
ej gallery
408 Broad Street
Nevada City, Calif. 95959

Local poet and literary editor Iven Lourie hosts creative writing sessions inspired by art.

Local Author Readings

Read, Sign, Sell Author Event

Wednesday, March 13, 6:30 pm
Open Book
671 Maltman Drive
Grass Valley, Calif. 95959

Six Sierra Writers read from their work for ten minutes.

Short Story Readings

Tim O’Connor’s Readers Theater presents the Best American Short Stories of 1920–1929

Sunday, March 31, 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Miner’s Foundry
325 Spring Street
Nevada City, Calif. 95959

Featuring authors Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Ring Lardner, and Sherwood Anderson. Read by local actors, directed by Gaylie Bell-Stewart. $10

Going to any events? Let us know!
Have more writerly announcements to share? Please do!

Old Scraps, New Stories

I’m a recycler. If I can re-use, repurpose, or rework, I will.

This is especially true with paper. Perhaps it’s due to the influence of my WWII-generation family members, who repurposed materials as a matter of course, or of my witnessing too many old black walnut trees die or be cut down, or simply of my appreciating the value of ink and paper from student days when I had to choose between groceries and school supplies.

The paper in my collection ranges from 3×5 note cards with storyboarded scenes from screenplays that have never seen the light of day, to notebooks filled with research for a turn-of-the-century sports biopic, to proof pages of work-for-hire projects about pirates or fairies or the moon. If I can reprint on the back side, great. If I can reuse the blank sides of notecards for another round of storyboarding, super. And if I can redraw new characters or new stories inspired by old research – golden.

These esoteric scraps have stories of their own. And many have stories yet to come. For my birthday this year, I received new evidence of this fact, in the form of a year-long collage class. In just the first few weeks, I’ve come to an even deeper way of looking at paper, of reusing it, and of celebrating these random bits that I can translate into completely new forms. My creations are strange mash-ups of mixed media. These scraps might be water-damaged photocopies of western landscapes or cut-out shapes from an old paperback of Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls or ripped pages from last year’s calendar.

Dream Catcher. Mixed media collage of fish-print wrapping paper, magazine scraps, water-damaged photocopied image, paperback book page, coin wrapper, envelope, and colored pencil. Monique Peterson, 2019.

The process has already informed my writing. In all the work there is a similar thread: story. As I place random scraps together to see what evolves, I still seek an entry and an exit for the eye – and so it is with writing. A single image, though two-dimensional, can still convey a past, a present, and a future; a sense of tension or drama; an atmosphere; an attitude. Even as I craft compositions from my scraps of paper, the images offer up characters, places, and stories that I’d like to develop further.

Suddenly, a fun scrap class has turned itself on its head for me and become an incubator for new stories. Definitely golden.

In the spirit of small bits leading to big ideas, we’ve been crafting Writing Snacks for the month of March. We’ve designed this series of quick random writing explorations as a way to break down barriers toward developing new ideas as well as to build up a practice for regular creative engagement. We invite you to see for yourself what a few scraps can do for the imagination. Click here to indulge in Writing Snacks and see what evolves.

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