Tag Archives: San Diego Writers Ink

Reading Together

Books

One of the greatest pleasures of a good book is sharing it with friends. We analyze plot twists and compare notes on our favorite characters. We ponder what made the author choose a detail to highlight or direction to follow. We examine our own lives and the choices we’ve made, whether they were similar or in opposition to how the characters behave. Our discussions can be love fests or debates, but either way, they increase the joy of the reading experience.

Imagine the possibilities when an entire city reads a book together.

In my area, we have One Book, One San Diego, a community reading program led by KPBS and the San Diego Public Library. This week I had the privilege of attending the kickoff event for the 2013 program.

I sat at a table with book-loving friends, new and old, from Adventures by the Book, KPBS, a Little Free LibrarySan Diego Writers, Ink and Write Out Loud.  Together, we learned about this year’s selection process and listened to publishers present their recommendations for our One Book. I suspect we were all thinking the same thing. There are so many great books and not enough time to read them all.

In the past, the Advisory Committee has chosen a few books and the community voted on the selection for that year. This year, to increase involvement, we all have the chance to nominate our favorite books. The committee will choose our One Book based on those recommendations.

From the KPBS web site…

Book Criteria for One Book, One San Diego Selections:

1. Story (fiction or nonfiction) is of high literary quality, is significant and compelling, and has a strong narrative and well-developed characters.
2. Themes resonate with local and/or global communities.
3. Inspires discussion, conversations, and action.
4. Available in paperback and hardcover.
5. Author is alive.
6. Should have professional reviews (the book is currently in print and available in large quantities).
7. Suitable for high school study and up (and for people of all backgrounds).

If you live in San Diego County and you have a favorite book that meets those criteria, nominate it today! Nominations are open through March 31st and forms are available online and at all San Diego Public Library locations. The 2013 One Book, One San Diego selection will be announced in May.

If you live elsewhere, your city might have a community reading program, too. Or you could participate in a national reading program like The Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts. They select several books every year and many cities around the country hold literary events related to those books. In San Diego, Write Out Loud will present events based on Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 during the month of April.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing information about the One Book, One San Diego selection process with my book clubs and reading friends, encouraging them to participate, and deciding which of my favorite books I want to nominate.

Do you have a favorite book that you think your whole city should read?

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Filed under Authors, Books, Friendship, novels, Reading

Writing Every Day

This spring I’ve been working steadily on my novel and also on eradicating the weeds in my garden, but I don’t feel that I’ve made enough progress on either task. The weeds are green, so if I look from a distance, they’re barely noticeable. The lack of words on the page is harder to ignore.  I have a lot of control over my schedule, so why can’t I find more time to write?

One of the biggest reasons I get stalled is the fear that my work isn’t good enough. When I’m feeling that way, I’d rather do almost anything than work on my current project. (Even scrubbing the shower or cleaning the oven seems appealing.) There are plenty of writing tasks that don’t involve actual writing, so it’s easy to accomplish something during my writing sessions without adding to my page count, but at the end of the day, I can’t deny that I’ve wasted precious time.

I’ve heard the same thought echoed by so many writers and it helps to know that I’m not alone. I still need to fix the problem, though, so I went looking for advice from one of my favorite writing teachers.

I bought a copy of Midge Raymond’s new book, Everyday Writing: Tips and prompts to fit your regularly scheduled life, and I signed up for her class at San Diego Writers, Ink. Both were filled with practical advice.

This small but mighty book fits perfectly in the pocket of my netbook sleeve, so no matter where I write, I’ll be able to take it along for inspiration and a variety of helpful writing suggestions.

The first half of the book is a series of short chapters centered on making the most of your writing time, like How to write when you’re not really writing and How to meet your writing goals.

The second half is packed with prompts for every occasion. Most involve writing, but some simply provoke thought so that the time you spend waiting (like standing in the security line at the airport or sitting in the dentist’s chair) can enrich your future writing sessions.

The class was just as beneficial as the book with advice tailored to each student’s situation and exercises that encouraged us to reflect on our own writing time. Two of the exercises we did were particularly enlightening for me.

We wrote out detailed descriptions of our daily schedules and I discovered that I don’t have as much control over my time as I thought. Many of my responsibilities are scheduled during the morning, my most productive time of day, and unfortunately, I can’t move those activities. So although I have the time I need to write, my free hours are often in the afternoon when I’m less alert.

Midge suggested that I make those afternoon writing sessions more stimulating by creating rituals around that time, like brewing a favorite flavor of tea to drink while I write. She also suggested rewarding myself with a treat and I love having an excuse to eat a piece of chocolate at the end of my work time.

Another useful exercise was to write descriptions of a good writing session, a mediocre one and a bad one. By comparing the elements of each, I could see clearly what works for me and what doesn’t. I know that I absolutely must start with a pen in my hand and do a quick warm-up prompt to get my brain in gear. I also realized that my internal editor is still sabotaging me. I’m going to try tuning her out by shutting off the monitor while I draft a scene. I’ll find more typos when I go back in to edit, but those are much easier to fix than a blank page.

I’ve taken great classes from Midge Raymond on topics ranging from setting the scene to editing a manuscript. This latest class was equally invaluable. If you have the opportunity to work with her, don’t hesitate. And if you’re not lucky enough to be able to learn from her in person, Everyday Writing is a great substitute. Treat yourself today.

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Filed under Books, Writing

Writing About Love

Valentine’s Day can pass virtually unnoticed at our house. Sometimes my husband brings home chocolate and I give him a handmade card. I wish I had a talent for verse so I could write him a poem, but I can usually only come up with verses that begin

Roses are red…

I guess we’re just not romantic people. Still, when I read about the Valentine Essay contest at San Diego Writer’s, Ink, I thought I would write a story about our wedding or the day we met. I sat down at the computer to work, but that’s not what appeared on the page. The love story I wrote turned out to be about Lola.

Surprised? I knew you wouldn’t be.

Bruce didn’t mind. He knows he’s my true valentine, whether we remember the day or not. And he was as thrilled as I was when I called him at work to tell him that my essay Live, Love, Fetch had won second place in the contest. That’s (almost) better than chocolate.

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Filed under Dogs, Lola, Writing

A Lonely Writer

When I tell people that I write, that working on a novel is my only job, they often ask, “Don’t you get bored?”

Absolutely not.

I have no shortage of things to do.  Unfortunately, many of them have nothing to do with my writing.  It can be much easier to clean the house from top to bottom than to sit at my desk and figure out how to fix the scene that’s not working.  (Sometimes I can figure out how to fix the scene while vacuuming, but not always.)  Writing is hard work, but for me, it’s never boring.

What I think people really mean when they ask if I get bored is, “Don’t you get lonely?”

Yes.  Every day.

Writing is a solitary activity and I often miss the companionship of coworkers.  Maybe it wasn’t smart to move to a city where I knew no one and isolate myself at home with my characters.

I made friends with neighbors, with other students in my modern dance class.  I joined a couple of book clubs.  I found a place to volunteer once a week.  But still, I worked at home alone with no colleagues.

Then I discovered San Diego Writers, Ink.  It’s a tremendous resource for writers looking for classes, workshops, salons, writing groups and more.  I’ve met so many other writers, published and un-published in novels, non-fiction, short stories, poetry and essays.

I met a writer who moved to my neighborhood and we started a small writing circle that meets twice a month.  We share our work, our struggles and our successes and we offer one another support and encouragement.

I found She Writes online and met more writers in the virtual world.  It’s a diverse and extensive community of writers who are delighted to share what they’ve learned about writing and publishing.

Now, I have colleagues, other writers who understand that bored and lonely are two different things.  Now, when I’m at home writing by myself, I don’t feel quite so alone.

If you’ve found or created a writing group, what’s your story?  Or have you found other ways of dealing with the isolation of writing?

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Filed under Writing, Writing Groups