Tag Archives: inspiration

Happiness and Freedom

Credit: antelligent | Morguefile.com

Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learn to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.

Epictetus, 55 – 135

The Thing is to Love Life

The thing is

to love life, to love it even

when you have no stomach for it,

and everything you’ve held dear

crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,

your throat filled with the silt of it…

Then you hold life like a face

between your palms, a plain face,

no charming smile, no violet eyes,

and you say, yes, I will take you

I will love you again.

Credit: Lufra | morguefile.com

Ellen Bass

When It’s All a Pile of Sh* * *

Has it happened to you?  You’ve worked hard and with good heart all day.  Your manuscript seems to be going well.  Before you step away, you go back to reread your day’s output, and you’re satisfied.  More than satisfied, maybe.  You are really pleased.  Your words sing.  You can feel their music deep in your belly.

You wake the next morning.  Sunrise, breakfast, birds scrabbling at the feeder. You return to your work with the same good heart that carried you through the day before.  Before you can write the next line, though, before you can imagine the next word, you do what you do every morning.  You pause to reread the newest pages, to get back into the rhythm of the piece.

But . . . surprise!  Those pages have mutated during the night!  How could you have been pleased with this?  Only now can you see clearly.  It’s all a pile of sh***!

Credit: Alvimann | morguefile.com

Even after all these years of writing, all these years of publishing, I still find myself upended from time to time when in the midst of working on a manuscript.

In the early stages of my career, I often made a mistake that contributed to that kind of upending.  When I finished writing for the day, I would set the pages next to my typewriter—yes, it was a typewriter then, by today’s standards an instrument only slightly more advanced than a quill pen—I would set the pages next to my typewriter and move into the demands of my evening.  Making supper, checking homework, baths and pajamas and night-time stories.

Throughout the evening, though, I would find myself detouring through my study.  (It wasn’t much of a detour.  My study was a convenient passageway for everyone in the family to everyplace else in the house, but that’s another story.)  And truth be told, the detour didn’t occur just once or twice.  I detoured again and again through the evening.  Every time I passed my typewriter and that newly minted stack of pages, I paused, picked them up, and read them.  That’s rather nice, I would say to myself. And you did it!

Then I’d return to the demands of house and children, content.

You can guess what happened the next morning when I sat down to my work.  I would pick up those same pages, read them in preparation for climbing back into my story, and find that they were dead, flat, terrible . . . a pile of sh**!  It was as though I had sucked all the life out of them the evening before.

The solution to that one was easy.  I learned not to peek at my new work again until the next time I’m ready to work.  That way the pages stay fresh.

So I no longer read and reread my work in progress when I’m not working on it.  But even without that, my perception of it can change radically from day to day.  That has been especially true with my memoir.  Some days when I go back to read I can say, quite objectively, “This works.”  And some days I sit down at the computer, pull up the manuscript . . . and want to throw up.

I don’t like anything I see.  My language, my form, my topics.  Especially I don’t like the person I’m writing about!

Solution?  Perhaps I should read some self-help books on building self-esteem.  But I have so many other more important books I want to read.  And I’m not sure self-esteem is a permanent commodity, anyway.

I could take my emotional temperature, make sure it registers high-regard, before I allow myself access to the manuscript.  But how easily that could turn into an excuse for not writing anything at all!

Or perhaps I should simply remind myself that my father was right, that it is absolutely disgusting to talk about myself this way.  That would be an easy way to decide to discard months, years of work.  But truth be told, part of my reason for writing the memoir was to undo some of my father’s truths.

So instead I do, day after day, what most of us do.  I keep muddling through.  I’ve discovered, after all, that my disdain for my writing or for my story’s main character isn’t usually permanent.

Or when the yuck factor is especially strong I set the whole thing aside in favor of walking the dog.  Or having lunch with a friend.  Or writing a blog.  Then I come back to it later.

Most of these solutions work pretty well, but sometimes I still find myself wondering.

Am I the only one?  Does anyone else wake up on a sunny morning and find work that was perfectly fine the day before has turned into a pile of sh**?

The Odds Against Us

…the odds against us are endless,

Credit: jppi | morguefile.com

our chances of being alive together
statistically nonexistent;
still we have made it, alive in a time
when rationalists in square hats
and hatless Jehovah’s Witnesses
agree that it is almost over,
alive with our lively children
who – but for endless if’s –
might have missed out on being alive
together with marvels and follies
and longings and lies and wishes
and error and humor and mercy
and journeys and voices and faces
and colors and summers and mornings
and knowledge and tears and chance.

 –  Lisel Mueller

LoonSong, Once Again

“Magical!”  It’s what the participants said last fall about the first ever LoonSong Writers’ Retreat set in the stunning wilderness of northern Minnesota.

“The best writing retreat I’ve ever been on!”

“Intimate and yet expansive.”

“My soul sings.”

And it’s going to happen once again, September 7th through the 11th,  2017.  Faculty—and oh, what a faculty!—and participants will gather on the shores of pristine Elbow Lake, so far north in Minnesota as to almost be in Canada, for stimulating lectures and panel discussions, writing prompts and workshops, readings and one-one-one agent, editor and marketing consultations.

Last year the retreat filled early.  This year more than half the spots were gobbled up in the first hours registration was open.  But there are still places.  If you are a children’s or young-adult writer at any stage of your career, just-beginning or been-going-for-a-long-time-and-in-need-of-rejuvenation, this retreat is for you.

We writers work in such deep isolation, we need one another.  Here’s your opportunity to learn, to refresh, to make connections, to get fired up again.

The 2017 faculty?  M.T. Anderson, Gary Schmidt, Eric Rohmann, Candace Fleming.  Can you think of a more stellar cast?  Faye Bender from The Book Group will be there as agent. Jordan Brown, Executive Editor with Walden Pond Press and Balzer+Bray at HarperCollins Children’s Books will be our editor. Vicki and Steve Palmquist of Winding Oak will offer advice as marketing consultants.  And more.

Elbow Lake Lodge Credit: Loonsong.org

Elbow Lake Lodge where we meet is rustic, comfortable, beautiful.  The food, served by the Ojibway Tribe, is outstanding.  Besides time to write, to share, to listen there will be opportunity for kayaking, paddle boat rides, bonfires.  You can even swim if you are the hearty sort!

You can fly either into Duluth or into Minneapolis/St. Paul and there are multiple ways—including a shuttle provided by LoonSong—to reach the resort from there.

This retreat is the dream child of Debby Dahl Edwardson, graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts, author of many highly regard books and finalist for the National Book Award.  Growing up, Debby spent her summers on Elbow Lake, and the place inspires her still.  She has always wanted to bring other writers here to share the inspiration, and after a lot of dreaming—and a lot of work—LoonSong is it.

LoonSong is sponsored by Vermont College of Fine Arts, and if you’re interested, you’ll have an opportunity to learn about VCFA’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, the first program of its kind and the most highly regarded in the country.

But LoonSong isn’t just an introduction to another program.  It is its own place, its own opportunity, its own magic.  Check us out.  You’ll love every minute, and you’ll return home filled to the brim!

Credit: Edwardson | Loonsong.org

All the information you need is available at www.loonsong.org.

I’ll be there, too.  I hope to see you!