I didn’t get a free write done this week but did attend the launch party for the 2017 Till Chapbook. This local organization supports writers, builds community and hosts a writing residency at Smoke Farm each summer. Last June I attended the residency and spent several days reading books on craft, floating down the Stillaguamish River, attending workshops by the likes of the Jane Wong and Claudia Castro Luna, ate homemade fare by our fabulous chef and wrote, among other things, my first published poem Instead, which you can find in the 2017 Till Chapbook. I’m grateful for the talented writers I met and enjoyed hearing several of them read their work at the release party this week. Here’s to Till and the writerly community they cultivate.
I was at the Write on the Sound Writers’ Conference all weekend, so wasn’t able to prepare a Narrative Medicine Monday post for today. I’ve been reflecting, among other worthy writerly thoughts, about how I attended WOTS last October, just one year ago, as my first ever writing conference. At that time I gingerly entered each room, compressing myself into an imposter, sure that I would be discovered as a fraud. I imagined my fellow attendees, accomplished published authors thinking, “What are you doing here?” The entire writing world, culture, was foreign to me. I struggled to fit pumping in between conference sessions, even nursed a four month old baby in the car briefly while my family was passing through town. I’m now done with the harried, urgent stage of pumping; have retired my trusty Medela Freestyle and all its various plastic components for good. It’s remarkable to me that it’s only been one year. In those twelve months I have developed detailed writing goals, including a complete nonfiction book proposal, a regular blog and platform plan and have my eye on contests, training programs and retreats and residencies to further my work and aspirations as a writer.
I’m currently taking an online poetry class, which is stretching my every writing muscle. I’m back to basics, learning about sound and syntax, metaphors and consonance, iambic pentameter and anaphora. Both my poetry class and one of the weekend conference sessions highlighted this poem by Robert Hayden: “Those Winter Sundays.” As a mother myself, entering middle age, reflecting on much of my perceptions and misconstrued moments of my youth, this poem spoke to me this week. Try reading it out loud and note the tools Hayden uses to portray his father and his perception of his father, both in his youth and looking back as an adult. What speaks to you in a poem? Have you tried reading poetry out loud? I’m grateful to be learning more about poetry this fall and hope to share more with you in the coming months.
Looking for some great summer reading? The 9 Lives: A Life in 10 Minutes Anthology makes for an entertaining beach or bedtime read. This collection of creative nonfiction stand-alone pieces is authored by writers (including yours truly!) from all over the world. You can pick up your own copy from Chop Suey Books online here and “advance through the ages and stages of life, from birth to death, from our first breath to our last.” Don’t miss my essay “Fired,” written about one of my last moments with my beloved grandpa Gar.
I’m at a long weekend writing retreat so, ironically, won’t be posting a free write today. The space is lovely, set on a converted farm. I’m looking forward to writing workshops, long stretches of sitting in silence and conversation with the best kind of people. May your weekend be filled with the same.
I first heard about the EPIC Group Writers at an annual writing conference held in Edmonds, Washington called Write on the Sound. EPIC hosts classes and gatherings for writers and I’ve attended a few of their excellent weekly writer groups. I’m so pleased to announce my piece “Upside Down” won Honorable Mention in the prose category of their 2017 Writing Contest.
This essay, about my first pregnancy, subsequent c-section and early complications following my daughter’s birth, is especially meaningful to me. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my foray into regular writing coincided with me becoming a mother. There’s a clarity the chaos of motherhood brings. My time, attention, emotions are pressured; the refining aspects of motherhood bring into focus what is important. Writing as a vocation and creative outlet has emerged as a clear necessity. I’m grateful for the revealing nature of the disruption. Ultimately, that’s what “Upside Down” is about.
Many thanks to EPIC Writers for honoring this piece and also for the support and service they provide to the local writing community.
I’m thrilled to announce my essay “Fired” appears in a new book, Nine Lives: A Life in Ten Minutes Anthology, forthcoming from Chop Suey Books Books in June. Valley Haggard, of Life in 10 Minutes, is the mastermind and editor behind this exciting project. I can’t wait to get my hands on this compilation! You can purchase your own copy of Nine Lives, which is made up of short essays that follow the “ages and stages of life” online on June 14 from Chop Suey Books.
My piece that appears in this book highlights a moment I shared with my grandpa “Gar” during the last days of his life. In honor of Narrative Medicine Monday and this short personal piece, today’s writing prompt will focus on hospice.
Writing Prompt: Have you spent time with someone on hospice or near the end of their life? What do you remember the most? What have you forgotten? If you’re a medical provider, how does caring for someone as a medical professional compare with caring for a loved one at the end of life? If the experience was overwhelming, try focusing on the details: a glance, a thought, a smell, an item, a phrase. Write for 10 minutes.
After receiving a particularly disappointing rejection for a writing residency I had high hopes for, I sent out a flurry of submissions and applications a few weeks ago. In the literary world of slow responses and recurrent rejection, I’m always grateful and pleasantly surprised to get an encouraging nod: an acceptance!
I’m excited my essay “Skinnamarink” goes live on Tribe Magazine today. Tribe speaks to all things motherhood and is a vibrant community created by the unstoppable Kristin Helms. I wrote this particular essay last year while taking Kate Hopper‘s wonderful “Motherhood & Words” online writing course. More recently, I took a Creative Nonfiction online course on writing a nonfiction book proposal headed by the superb Waverly Fitzgerald. Before taking the class I had no idea how much was involved in getting a book published. I mean, no idea. It’s a process, people. I have a whole new respect for every published author and look at each book on my shelf in an entirely new light!
As I’ve delved more into the literary and publishing world, I’m understanding the need to both trust in and defend an artistic vision, as well as develop a porous enough thick skin to harness the critique and wisdom of others to hone that art to its full potential. I intend to keep working on my current manuscript until it can find a home for publication and be worthy to be read by others. It’s important to me that it be a final product I can be proud of, whether it takes many more months, years or even decades to finish. I want it to inspire more work as I’m already developing two more book ideas. And although I’m piling up rejections as any persistent writer will (apparently I crave professions that feed into the imposter syndrome), I’ll savor the acceptances as the jewels they are.
Many thanks to Tribe for featuring my post today!
Starting the year off sharing some great news! I recently received in the mail the Fall 2016 Edition of OUHSC’s Blood and Thunder Journal, which includes two of my essays. I’ve had several pieces published in online journals but there is a special kind of excitement that comes from seeing your name in print on a tangible page. I’m humbled that two of my favorite shorts “Expectant” and “Burst” found a home in this narrative medicine collection.
“Expectant” chronicles the very first delivery I witnessed. Obstetrics was a revelation to me as a young medical student, especially never having had children myself. I was in awe of the entire process and this short essay reveals my own insecurities as I was christened into the world of medicine.
“Burst” is about my first continuity delivery in residency training: a pregnancy meant to be followed throughout all nine months to completion. I was a new physician and had much to learn about the unpredictable nature of obstetrics.
One of my writing goals for 2017 is to make significant progress on a book-length collection of narrative medicine essays. I’m starting the year off taking Creative Nonfiction’s online course “Writing Your Nonfiction Book Proposal”. Finding time to edit and submit my work has been a continual challenge but writing classes provide encouragement and structure to make the time, harness the energy and muster the gumption to keep at it. I’m eager to let go of the draining and perfectionist tendencies of 2016 and write on in 2017. Holding a palpable culmination of my writing efforts is an encouraging way to embark on a new year and I’m grateful.
Each Friday I’ll post an Instagram photo and a short piece based on a free write inspired by that photo. Consider using the photo as a prompt for your own free write and link back here. I’d love to see what you come up with!
I used to practice right before heading to my piano teacher’s house. She lived next door so that provided me a few extra minutes of practice time. Japanese-American and of petite stature and serious countenance, she was superficially strict, but in a forgiving kind of way. She never seemed to notice that I didn’t practice throughout the week, that I only put my time in with the keys immediately before this test with the teacher. To me it seemed the most efficient process: the finger muscle memory of the those notes stored only for the short term. It was unlikely that it would get lost in the quick walk across our front lawn and hers.
I liked playing piano; the black dots and tiny flags translated into an appealing melody, not like the screechy tentative sounds coming from a beginner’s violin. The piano was straightforward and predictable in a way that the rest of my preteen life wasn’t. I just wasn’t dedicated to it like I should have been. Maybe if my piano teacher had called me out, seen through my farce, I would have been shamed into actually practicing, truly investing my time and honing this musical skill.
Skimming over the hours of work required to really learn a piece meant epic failure when it came to recitals. I’d practice right before, clad in my starchy white tights and flowered boat neck dress. I’d pump out the notes, willing them to be seared into my brain synapses, if only to avoid recital stage humiliation. The added irritant of anxiety though introduced a potent variable, making my short term memory less reliable. This led to many awkward moments sitting on the stage, staring down at the rented baby grand, my fingers touching the keys but not connecting to my cerebral cortex other than to signal a panicked fight or flight response, my palms slick with the sweat of shame. I’d bow my head with a silent curse: why hadn’t I practiced more? Usually, over the few years I took piano lessons, I could muddle through; at least passably finish the piece I was playing.
Eventually I entered high school and stopped taking piano lessons. Academics and a slew of other anxiety-producing extra curriculars took over. I’m considering taking lessons again now, with my five-year-old daughter. I wonder if, at this seasoned stage of life, I’ll be compelled to practice more. Sometimes now I’ll just sit at the piano, my piano. But nothing will come back; no notes recalled, no melodies linger. I feel that the music is buried just beyond my reach, deep in the grey matter, ready for dedication, a commitment to take hold. Maybe it will. But I suspect only if I take the time to practice.