The Promise of Connection

You know my four words? The ones I use to describe the writing process? Commit, Discover, Create, Connect–those words? This week has been rich with the fourth word. I’ve connected with more writers and readers than I can count without boring you. And this morning I’m off to a workshop with Columbine Poets in Denver that will add to the list and then to a reading at Book Bar this evening. I just counted up my connections and it seems that I meet other writers at least twenty times in any given month. There are poets, memoirists, technical writers, science writers, novelists, beginners and professionals. There’s a pheromone that draws writers together.

Connection is in the air. Sitting with my cli-fi writing partner yesterday it turned out that the five women sitting along the back wall of the Brewing Market at Basemar in Boulder were connected by twin threads of science and writing: we two writers of climate fiction, an environmentalist, a science professor and a middle school teacher who has her students write regularly. Within minutes ideas were flying and contact info was shared. How did it happen that we five were in the right place at the same place at the same time? Fate, good luck, predestination? Any or all of these.

If you carry the image of writers as lonely depressives in cold garrets, rethink it. G0 out into the wider world, let your writing show, flash that notebook, show off your laptop, keep business cards handy. Strike up conversations. You’ll honor your commitment to BE a writer, even in public.

READ FOR EQUALITY

Check out The Colorado Independent

Not Your Grandmother’s Poetry Reading

How to build an audience for poetry: combine words with song, with percussion, with a delivery that goes beyond the traditional solitary poet at the mic reading original work. Stir in familiar and fresh music. Read interpretively, dare to be political, personal, confrontational and/or confessional. Last night a performance group called The Readers’ Lab did just that. The troupe performs with and under the direction of SETH, a well-known Denver performer, poet and novelist. Included are Cathy Casper, Cyndeth Allison, Dave Greenwald, James (the man of) Steele, Kathleen Cain, Pandora Wilson, and Rob Taylor.

Much of the performance was created by the performers, who, according to the program notes, “help and guide each other in exploring and experimenting with expanding their vocal delivery and enhancing spoken word by adding music, theatrics and interweaving multiple poems and voices.”

This is not a poetry reading in which one performer is the feature, not a sales pitch for a new book. It’s not about individual ego or advancement. This in itself is refreshing. There were selections from writers whom you might recognize: Donovan, Stanley Kunitz, Carl Jung, Terry Tempest Williams. (Because there was no cost of admission, no one’s copyright was violated.) The cover art on the program was by Kit Hedman of Hedman Photography, another collaboration. And it’s exactly that inclusive reach that makes this group unusual.

Now, instead of the familiar academic or coffee house venue, choose a setting like the Denver Puppet Theater where hundreds of marionettes hang on the walls, plush hand puppets are available for fondling, and huge, gorgeous Chinese dragons over arch the performance area. The entrance to the theater is through Zook’s Coffee and Ice Cream serving good food and drink. Believe it or not, there is ample on-street parking.

If you don’t have access to appearances by The Readers’ Lab, get busy and create a similar group. It’s important, although not easy, because this requires some risk-taking and regular collaboration and rehearsal. (FMI visit www.wagingart.com)

 

How Do You Say . . .

The English language has a vast vocabulary, more than anyone–well, me–can fully comprehend. Do we need a dozen words to describe shoes? Yes, if we have a dozen pairs–heels, loafers, sneakers, stilettos, slippers, boots, etc. This variety lets us be specific. I know that I have to wear shoes today to visit the museum, but I won’t wear slippers, boots, or stilettos. (The last because I don’t own any.) The weather is not right for sandals, flip-flops, or ski boots. I’ll wear my tie shoes that are not quite sneakers, not exactly anything but comfortable. I don’t need at the moment to be more precise.

As a writer, though, I value precision. And then there’s the matter of how a character speaks. Word choice defines his/her attitude, ethnicity, economic class, age, gender, all revealed by diction.

Play this game with one of your characters, a fictional person or a family figure in your memoir: the scene is a restaurant (diner, pizza parlor, white linen?) and the character is female. She excuses herself to use the ladies’ room, powder room, toilet, bathroom, restroom, or potty. Maybe she goes to the little girls’ room or the loo. And there’s a range of less polite names for this interruption in her dinner/supper/lunch/luncheon/bite to eat.

If good writing is about the exact word in exactly the right place, we have to pay attention to these choices. You’ll occasionally use that big red book of synonyms. And your character will remain in character, unless she’s trying to impress a date with her gritty language or her delicate sensibilities.

Woman on the Move

Unknown

The Maine Coast

I’ve wrapped up many of the things on my to-do list and on Wednesday I fly east for three weeks. My luggage is packed with the usual things–clothes, books, a couple of writing projects. What will be left behind in Colorado? My Colorado family and friends, my dog, computer, car, reading chair and favorite coffee cup. Important things that spell home, although I still say that going back to Maine is going home. I am, as I’ve always been, a woman on the move.

What goes with me as I travel are my five senses, my ability to move through space, my voice and my attention to language. I travel with the habit of writing every morning to clear away dead leaves and try to see clearly to the watery bottom of my mind. As I write I travel down the page, an early stroll from sleep to awareness. To noticing what I notice, as Ginsberg put it.

I’ll notice people in airports, on buses, on the sidewalks of Portland. I’ll pay close attention to my son, my daughter-in-law, grand dogs, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. I’ll inhale the sweet smell of horses and I’ll taste the best seafood in the world right next to the water it comes from. My ears will relish the accents of New England and hope we never lose them. If I seem distant from this blog, it will be that I’m recharging that awareness, rebuilding myself from the roots up. I’ll certainly be back here in July. Until then, be safe, be well, know joy.

Marco Pierre White, Wow!

 

 

If you don’t already, you should know about this man. He was the youngest chef to have received three coveted Michelin stars. He is the chef who gave them back. I would not want to work for this man, and fortunately, my plebeian cooking skills–oatmeal and salad–guarantee that I won’t ever do that. Besides, White has left the kitchen. After a blazing career as the enfant terrible of British cuisine, he’s apparently devoting his time to restaurant development and ownership, books, hunting, smoking, and riding in a chauffeur-driven Land Rover. Good. Because in the kitchen he was hellishly demanding. This self-proclaimed adrenalin-nicotine-caffeine addict made life as miserable for his staff as other head chefs had made his life miserable during his apprenticeships. From what I’ve read about celebrity chefs, this bullying and anger are main ingredients is fine cuisine.

Imagine working in a hot, crowded kitchen preparing up to 100 meals a night. Might tempt anyone to put his/her head in the oven. Imagine the unquestioning obedience demanded and the perfection expected. In a hot, crowded kitchen among armed combatants, sharp knives, fire, with other angry, hungry , sweaty chefs parboiling in the culinary hell that is common, if we believe White’s book, The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness, and the making of a great chef. Anthony Bourdain, in his Kitchen Confidential, shows us a similar history. So the connection between violence, anger and rampant egotism and what we call good food is common. As a teenager, I waited on tables in a little place in Greenville, RI, and feared the cook. He was fat, sweaty and ill-tempered. I didn’t know I in the midst of culinary tradition. I just knew I wanted out and never wanted to cook if that’s what it takes. But, excuse me, I’m now going to scramble a couple of eggs and be glad that I don’t have to worry about my sous chef getting his uniform cut to shreds if he mentions the heat in the kitchen. Do add this book to your food lit list, though. It’s an education in high culture, sort of.