My son, Tom, has always been a bit of a handful. Never one to follow the crowd, he ploughs his own very muddy and individual furrow. But especially, when it comes to school, he has been a complete pain in the arse. It started at the age of four years old when he screamed the place down when I left him at a lovely Montessori nursery school. The kind teacher told me when I picked him up that he stopped crying immediately after I drove away, but that didn’t help my guilt-wracked morning. When he started kindergarten, the teacher was forever taking me to one side with the dreaded words, “Could we have a quick word about your son, please?” And I would be told, in no uncertain terms that it was really not acceptable to throw things around the room and disrupt the class. [Read More...]
|I got lost driving to O’Hanlon for the April Write In. Not too lost. But I relaxed into the wrong lane coming from the East Bay and before I knew it, I was headed to Sacramento instead of toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Still stuck in the 20th century, driving with neither a car equipped with GPS nor a cell phone equipped with smartness, I backtracked the way I’d come and when I finally got on the right highway, I was a full half an hour later than I’d planned.
Why do I travel all this way from Oakland just to go write? I fumed, as I gunned the car across the Richmond Bridge.
I could have just stayed home and trekked up the street to the library.
Just before the Mill Valley exit, I saw plumes of smoke high in the sky, like a little gray cloud that lost its way.
Oh, great. An accident. Now I’ll really be late. [Read More...]
|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...]|