|As parents of a high school junior, our mailbox is overflowing with college brochures. All the universities and colleges mention quality teaching as an asset. There is usually a photo of a science class, with a student using a complicated, expensive tool, like a micropipette or laser, while the professor smiles nearby. Images of non-science classes frequently show the instructor with his hands out, emphasizing an active teaching style, and upward turned palms, suggesting an openness to student input.There are always many photos of attractive students. The teenager’s hometown is always listed, along with fairly predictable quotes about how friendly the college is, and how the school helped them find their passion and vocation. Words like EXCELLENCE, QUALITY, CREATIVE, and SUSTAINABLE are often written in all caps, and different colored fonts. [Read More...]|
|We are delighted to welcome a previous member of Write On Mamas, Tamar McLachlan, who moved to live in Italy and now runs luxury stays in the beautiful countryside in Piemonte as well as writing and bringing up a family. She also spends time in Paris and this lovely blog is all about the differences cooking in France compared to the United States.I have climbed mountains, snow-camped at high altitude, hung by a rope from precarious heights, backpacked through wilderness, and traveled through over twenty-nine countries and none of it has been as draining as full days and nights with my baby daughter. Moving from California to Paris with a baby was a piece of cake compared to nine months of sleep deprivation.
Last night I made an attempt to cook dinner. In the USA, throwing “MacNcheese” together suffices for cooking. Here, my French friends cook three course meals every night. And they don’t buy the pastry either, they make it (I could barely even find the ready made stuff in the store). One friend serves her eight-month-old daughter three courses as well. My French neighbor serves her baby a starter (veggie), an entrée (protein or cereal) and a dessert (yogurt with fruit puree). Let’s not even mention the fact that Petite would not sit through three servings of anything, preferring to eat her fill and then be released from her prison of the high chair as soon as possible. I mix iron-fortified-baby cerea lor yogurt with one of the prune, apple or blueberry purees I buy from the expensive organic health store next door. Petite lets me know she’s finished by screaming at the top of her lungs and squirming to get out of her chair. You’d think she’s sitting on red hot fire pokers. [Read More...]
|Many of my writing friends like writing prompts. But for me, it’s like ascending the big slide at the deep end of the pool with the writing prompt like a negligible buddy who gives you a little shove before you are quite ready. The problem with me is that I usually don’t want to go in that public chlorine-infested pool, having my sights set on some remote lagoon that I only know how to access and that takes four days to find, and involves the acquisition of blisters and sunburn. And, as for the slide, I am afraid of heights. Very adolescent I know. You can’t tell me what to write screams my unconscious, rather consciously, as I pull a burr from my socks and swat at a fleet of mosquitoes.
So many writing prompts launch the writer into fantastic circumstances where feats of imagination are necessary based on some smarter-than-thou prompter. Plus a little competition is implied when we go to read them aloud. I resist this too. Let’s face it, this is the prompter’s story and they are challenging us to finish their work while they just wander the forest dropping seeds. I’ve got my own seeds, man. So this is a call to arms. We’re writers, let’s write our own prompts, shall we? Let’s plumb our own disturbed psyches. Let’s plant our own seeds. [Read More...]
|It was a tough summer for my parents. At the tender age of eight, I had picked up some colorful vocabulary at day camp. I routinely wowed them in the kitchen with four-letter epithets, only to have my mouth washed out with soap by my dad. I can still taste the base, bubbly overtones of Ivory soap mixed with chocolate chip cookie dough, the Dial-and-orange juice combination, the Irish Spring with SpaghettiOs.
One day, after camp, I requested a second helping of ice cream. My mother told me no, and I called her an asshole. In her frustration, she began to cry. I saw the immediate impact of the pain I had caused her as she left the room sobbing. It was the last time I swore at her. [Read More...]
|We are delighted to welcome Tarja Settles to Write On Mamas, who is the sister of Keija Parssinen – our speaker on Sunday (see our Events page for more details).
A while back, the Wall Street Journal wrote this great article about the writing process of famous authors. I’m not famous, but I do put words together (and train tracks and meals and the numbers 1, 2, 3 in a very loud voice). Do I have a process? You bet. In fact, I have a lot in common with the authors interviewed.
Like Orhan Pamuk, I realize that inspiration can strike anywhere. I don’t need post-its or journals because the faucet of genius runs through the sieve of my brain, which is locked up tighter than a steel drum made out of mesh. In fact, I see Pamuk’s process and raise him one better: I also free-wheel with plot and story structure. Because it takes daring and bravado to dump out a sack of rice and then put it back together in the shape of Venus de Milo. [Read More...]
|When I went on a writing retreat two weeks ago, my son Sebastian—the amateur military historian—jokingly questioned why I was retreating from my writing. It made me stop and consider the funny ways in which our language often conveys contradictory meanings.
I could have called it a writing advance, since I did accomplish a great deal during the four-day retreat at Faith’s Lodge in northern Wisconsin. But a writing advance makes it sound like something else (something that I would love to get for the book I am currently writing). [Read More...]
|In January and February, a few of us participated in Kate Hopper’s online workshop. As usual, it was very inspiring. Not only was it wonderful to read other members’ writing, but it kickstarted all of us into writing every week, even when we didn’t have time to write! We thought we would share one exercise that Kate set and what Mary Allison Tierney wrote in response.
Exercise: Three Scenes
|Every February, independent booksellers from across the county meet at the Winter Institute, an educational event for independent booksellers coordinated by the American Booksellers Association. Bookstores are allotted three spots and if you get to go, you consider yourself lucky. Copperfield’s Books sent me this year to the 10th annual event in Asheville, North Carolina and my head is still churning with great ideas. [Read More...]|
|Recently, I spent a few days at an informal writing retreat with a great group of fellow writing mamas. Armed with laptops and notebooks, we abandoned our families and descended on Mount Madonna Center-–an idyllic 322-acre property in the hills outside Watsonville in Santa Cruz County–to hang with deer and some folks participating in a tantric yoga workshop. (Bet my husband wishes I’d signed up for that one!) Perched above Monterey Bay and surrounded by a forest of redwoods, it was the perfect place to escape the distractions of everyday life, get some serious writing done, and bond with other writers.Mount Madonna offers a variety of workshops and retreats, including personal retreats you can tailor to your needs. The center is also a nice spot for a low-key, affordable family getaway for outdoorsy types. I know a certain 12-year-old who’d have a blast swimming in the small lake, soaring on the secret swing in the woods, and chasing the wild turkeys that roam the grounds. Guess I’ll have to go back with her one day. [Read More...]|
|The bathroom is alive with the sound of music at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I hear my five-year-old daughter’s voice coming from the bathroom attached to our master bedroom. The house is dark and she is standing in front of a mirror singing “My Favorite Things” as if she were Julie Andrews herself. I assume she has chosen this spot for the acoustics. She seems oblivious to the fact that the rest of us are still sleeping. [Read More...]|