Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Back to Crow

Picture by Nick Shere

Crow. Crows are a big part of my novel and a cue to my writing life. When I see one or hear their distinctive myriad sounds I am reminded of the book that's waiting for me. It's time to return to my characters who are all restlessly waiting, tapping feet, or shivering in the dark where I've abandoned them in my own fear. It gets scary writing. The content is scary. The act of working in a longer form, the novel form is terrifying. I'm at the point of no return. I either get back in there and start working again or I run away.

Success or failure. They are both paradoxical mirror images for me. Opposite yet the same. Good and bad.I can't tell you which is better. Failure is what is known, what was predicted, what is safe. Success is dangerous. Breaking all the rules laid down for me before I was born. Using my voice, my hands and my words to write truth even if its fiction. It rings true because it's born from my experience and my own imagination. Speaking anything true, even if it was lies that rang true was breaking the biggest rule of all.

Speaking truth meant dying. I think it can feel like that for many of us even if we weren't actively threatened with death if we ever told. Nothing in the world says to us, particularly women, tell us your story. Read us your words. We want to hear what you have to say. Nothing in the world tells us we can be writers. There is no room for us to stretch the rules for what a woman should write.

We are looked at as verbal scrap bookers. Women write in journals or write books that are not "important". We break through a million no's and deaf ears when we start putting our screaming truths, our loud imaginings on the page. We take our own space in the writing world which doesn't have room for us.We demand it in our loud stompy boots and stiletto heels or squeaky high top shoes or sneaky bare feet.

Failure is tempting and sweet even in it's sadness. Success is pure terror and the unknown. I'm still figuring out what it means- success. For now, success is showing up to the page. Success is taking what we want, need, hunger for as our own food as if it was our right because it is. It's time. Time to break back into my book even with my cowardice and fear. It's time to get back in there with a pen in hand or fingers on the keyboard and write even if it feels like slogging through sticky mud or going under in quicksand like in the Tarzan movies of old. And if it feels awful and lonely and terrifying I take comfort in the others who are doing the same. Showing up to the page with their terror tucked in tightly in the jaw bone, teeth clenched but determined. Doing it anyway.

It feels impossible and wrong and all the different kinds of fear, all the flavors but it's time. That will be my success. If I name it maybe I will fear it less. If I say this is what success looks like, maybe I won't sabotage my own work to stay in the safe, known, flat lands. The company of other writers even if they are far away writing in places I can't see is what helps. I can hear the echo of keyboards clattering at a great distance, I can feel the imprint of pen on paper in another city or time zone.

Success looks like writing, doing the work. Success feels like community to me, whether you are up close and personal or far away. I am reaching out to you whether I know you or not and inviting you in. I'll write today. Write with me.

What does success look like or feel like to you? How do you measure it? 

Friday, September 21, 2012

By mysticmorning 
What comes next?

This is a closed door/open door time. I'm building my scaffolding in free spaces, in my imagination, with nothing on paper, no spaces for workshops has been rented. I'm starting where I'm at- owing two more payments to Amherst Writers and Artists and fundraising to make those payments. I'm sending out a daily writing practice each morning with poems and prompts to other writers. My daughter's donation allowed me to purchase a domain name. I need one more and the funds to get a web host. I'm going to start on-line, offering direct and specific writing coaching, daily writing practice and help for writers who want to establish or deepen a regular writing practice, work on generating and completing projects and breaking through blocks to the actual work and play of writing.

I'm working on my website, a new blog and collecting the daily writing practice and prompts for a longer project. I want a place online where people's prompt responses can be posted. I want a place where there can be an on-line writing community and on-line classes. Live, in person workshops, will have to wait until I find affordable space to rent or until I make enough money to front a deposit.

I feel a bit like I'm trying to build a house in the sky. What I have that I didn't have before is group of people who are writing and sharing that writing with me. What I have is this amazing gift of these writer's words that are strong and tell stories, these words that forever change me when I read them. Words that lodge themselves inside, along my rib cage, close to my beating heart that is racing with fear in the vast uncertainty that is claiming this writing life for my own, and declaring my intention to share it with others. What I have is even more strong support and encouragement and appreciation of what I am doing right now, without a website or a workshop space, with just the space of my own email account.

If you are interested in checking out what I'm doing you can email me at and see what the daily writing practice is about. I'm taking donations for this writing, prompting, that comes to your email box every day for the next two months. Then I have to look at some sort of money exchange for this work though I will always have ways for you to get these services on a sliding scale or by scholarship or other energy exchanges.

What I have most of all is gratitude, to all who have donated, to everyone who has given me support, encouragement and their words. What I have most of all, always, are these good people in my corner.

If you want to donate you can find a donate button on the top of this blog or go to my chipin page directly by hitting this link: ReneeAWAtraining. Thank you for all that you do, in your own work, life, dreaming, writing and art. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

After The Training

 Westminster Retreat in Alamo was a beautiful setting, with hiking trails, deer, wild turkeys, wild blackberries and a sense of quiet wherever I went. It was a good place to be. There were days in triple digit weather and we were challenged by the heat but got to ease into an ice cold swimming pool at night, before dinner. The food was amazing, the staff was wonderful and the teaching was amazing.
 The best thing for me about this training was being with this community of writing women who came from different regions, cultural backgrounds, class and sexual identities and bridged all of those differences with a kind and generous intent. I would have liked to see more diversity, people of color, men, and more of us without college degrees but the differences we did have were apparent and I was surprised by how I was seen and accepted. I am poor, fat, did not finish college and I'm very loudly Queer. I expected some push back, or to feel invisible. That was not my experience.

Our mutual acceptance and encouragement to succeed was tremendously helpful. The conversations we had, on trails, at dinner or headed to bed after a long day were about writing, about the power of writing and about wondering how we could take this work and learning back, what would we do with it? Who might we reach?

I have been working with this method for a decade now with Jen Cross and that method has sunk into my bones, it's a part of me now. What I learned at the workshop were things I hadn't considered before, different styles of facilitating and most of all, to trust that I can do this work well. That is a kind of gift without measure. I discovered my own emerging style as we led practice groups. I learned that I hold a generous space for writers and their work, that I have a kind approach and that I can't seem to stop offering profanity as some part of my feedback when someone's work cracks me open. (I'm working on that)

I learned, as I always do when Jen Cross presents her work with trauma survivors and writing about sex, that this work can be done with anyone who is willing to at least sit in the chair.That night  I looked at that room of women, the difference in ages and what I assumed would be a vast difference in comfort around writing about sex and thought- how will this work??? What happened that night was simply amazing. By the end of the evening, almost everyone had shared a fierce piece of writing about sex and there was such a richness and beauty to the writing and an almost giddy feeling in the room when we were done. There were tears and there was laughter. There was power in that room.

I learned this: Assume Nothing.

I learned that there are so many people who are engaged in the creative, and trying to find a way to do that important work and still put food on the table and pay the light bill. There are so many of us hungry for writing and art and the life affirming, healing work of creation.

I will never forget the endless generosity that brought me to this place: each dollar given that was a sacrifice made on my behalf, each word of encouragement, every kind thought shared brought me this gift that I will use for the rest of my life. I will never forget that first night, ten years ago, when I walked into Jen's writing group For Queer Survivors of Sexual Trauma, awash in a flood of PTSD sweat soaked flashbacks, and how gently she welcomed me in, how she held a generous space for me and my fellow writers and how my pen flew over the pages. I'll never forget the spark of power that filled up that small room that was born with the rise of all of our voices, our words, the act of reclaiming and declaring our own desire. That was the beginning. That was my life changing. This is another beginning. This is my life changing. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It's the night before the AWA training. I'm full of anxiety/anticipation and gratitude all at once. I'm feeling this stretching feeling again. Making room for all of this gratitude, making room for your help, making room for each and every kind and supportive word.

I learned early to not want things. Not even secretly. It never turned out well. Loving things we had was also dangerous. Like our dogs. For a long time not wanting things worked for me just fine. Once I got out, I worked hard at what jobs I had and if that wasn't enough, I worked more jobs. I never thought about my secret ideas about writing. My yearning was buried underneath working, taking care of my children and trying to heal from old traumas.

But I did write. Sometimes years would go by between the bouts writing, but I did write. I wrote poetry and song lyrics and later, in a good creative writing class, short stories. I still never thought I could be a writer- even though I was. That is what is so fine about this AWA method. A core principle is that everyone has a unique and creative voice, everyone is a writer. From the beginning or from right now. Anyone who has every told anyone a story- is a writer. We all have creative genius.

I finally realized that writing keeps me even. Without the words hitting the page I am not well. Not well in my body or in my mind. It's a dis- ease. It's only when I'm actively writing that the way my brain works makes sense. My hands feel like they belong to the rest of this body. Words make this body belong to me. Sharing those words, sharing writing space is healing and has given me amazing, life long gifts that I share with the other people in my life. Writing makes me sane, un-breaks me- gives myself back to me. A way to get clear no matter how chaotic things are in my life or in my head.

I'm going to pack now and get ready to go tomorrow. I'm going to nebulize soon because my lungs are unhappy which makes me nervous about staying in a place that may have scents or chemicals I am allergic to. But I'm going, no matter what. And I want this- for myself and for what I believe I can share with you. And that wanting, that determination to go no matter what is thanks to each of you who has offered money, time, shared my links and given me encouraging words. Amazing words.

I've never has so much affirmation in my life. So much that I don't know how to hold it exactly, it makes my hands shake. But this is the kind of gift that lasts forever, that makes more room for giving in return and starts a chain reaction that touches- we don't know- we can't know how many people are touched by kindness.

Thank you.
I'll see you on the flip side.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Dreaming bigger and half way there

I've been dreaming big for awhile now and I'm starting to dream bigger. I'm thinking about my dreams and all of our dreams. I'm thinking about how when one of us stretches into who we are, we help others stretch too. How it's a kind of circle that expands and breathes and always has room for more of us in it. The circle has room for all of us; day dreamers, activists, healers, artists, writers. Today I'm feeling like it's actually possible. This life I've thought about as a myth but wanted since I was six years old- the life of a writer, is possible. If it's possible for me it's possible for all of us. As it becomes more possible for me I am determined to help make it possible for all of us. I am shifting and shifting and shifting more. More words on the page, more room in my life, more material in my dreams, more belief in myself, in my community, in you.

It is thanks to you, all this shifting and hopeful, joyous noise in my own head. I'm so amazed by the support and kindness of the people around me. My partner called me today to tell me that a donation came in today that puts me at the 48% of my goal. Yesterday I was getting anxious about being able to raise the funds to meet my payment plan for July. Today I feel hopeful again and it's because of my donors and supporters and every single encouraging word.

A year ago I researched this AWA training and stopped thinking about it.  I just knew I couldn't afford it. This year, thanks to the support of the people in my corner,thanks to my fellow writers in Dive-Deep I have up-ended my thinking about what is possible, about my writing and what I can do with it. For the past several years I wrote a novel once a year for nanowrimo and then let them sit there untouched. Today I have made significant progress on my novel and have several other writing projects at work. This change was caused by a tipping point hit in the company of supportive writers who not only told me I could do it but expected me to do it. To become my best creative self. Thanks to that support I was able to ask for yours and you are giving it. Amazing.

Today, writing is the most important thing I do and everyone who knows me knows it. Today I know that asking for help is okay, that my community enthusiastically supports me and believes that I will be a good writing facilitator. I know that my writing voice is important and appreciated. I call myself a writer, not in hopes that it will be true one day, but because I am. And that calls for big thanks. I imagine a world where everyone, regardless of class or educational level or race or gender or sexual orientation, gets to be their own best, creative self. A world where there is more art, music, and writing, more crafting with wood or metal, more fire breathing, more dancing. Each time people support me, I am hopeful for the rest of us.

So I am sitting with this deep gratitude and terror- because it's scary to be believed in. It's scary to get close to what you want to do, to who you truly are. It's scary to imagine failing, and to imagine success. And you all are holding up a mirror that shows me a writer who writes and a writer who helps other writers write. In turn, I feel that failure is not an option. Big thanks, big terror- they go hand in hand and that's not a bad thing. Some fear keeps me wide awake and present. Fear keeps me going forward. Fear is just more material to write from and to write through. Thank you. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Big Brave

I am so grateful tonight for this community I am a part of. Of writers and artists, of survivors and healers and fighters and grateful for the big brave that happens when we step forward into what calls to us. Art, writing, performance, speaking, singing, laughing, healing- all of it. All of us.

I love the opportunities I get to come together with other writers and write- largely in Writing Ourselves Whole Workshops with Jen Cross. I love that feeling of sitting in a circle,with our pens and notebooks, or laptops ready, how we wait poised for the prompt and then we begin. We write together, the room hushes down into scribbling and keyboard tapping, sighs and occasional laughs when something strikes us as it writes itself out onto the page. I so adore that feeling. The energy in the room grows and grows and then there is reading, witnessing, deep listening and such respectful and joyful responses to the writing we hear read to us. If you haven't had the experience I highly recommend checking out the different flavors of workshops Jen offers. It's just one of the best things I've ever done, ever. 

This is amazing work, joyous fun and I always leave with words humming in my head. The words I've written, the words I've heard shared out around the room and I am always ready to write more. The next day after a workshop is often filled with writing. Some of the best writing comes from something begun in a workshop write, or in the immediate days after.

The big brave is showing up to write, alone or in a circle. At a workshop or with a friend. You can write with others long distance, in letters, over Skype or instant message, writing together, sharing what you've written and offering feedback. Or you can just write in silence, doing the work in company but not sharing. It's all good. It's all important. It all works.

Sometimes it's big work, sometimes it's hard wrung, sweat stained words that leave a physical groove in the page from gripping the pen so hard and that's good too. I'm never sorry for risking- even when it feels raw or hard or naked if I'm working with difficult material. Sometimes it takes awhile to recover from that kind of wide open, no holds barred writing- for me if it's most challenging if it's non-fiction or fiction that is part of my life- storied into something else but still true enough to make my teeth hurt. That kind of writing requires the big brave. The leap of faith and the ability to stand up to the aftermath of over exposure- the feeling of being skinned and peeled back and wide open with no winter coat, on an icy day. And it's worth it, always.

The harder the writing is, the juicier it is. The scarier it is- the more meat to chew on; the richer the words. I'm grateful to have these opportunities to dive into the scary writing, to have company in the process. Grateful to all of you who have supported my fundraising for the AWA training in July. Because I got accepted and that is both tremendously exciting and terrifying. This will take some big brave too. I've asked for your help to get there and you are donating, you are supporting me and encouraging me. And the gift of that knocks me down and cracks my chest open. It's big and kind and generous and it's something to stand up to. To accept and say thank you and know I will take the next steps to helping build more safe, challenging spaces where we can write and make art in community. Feeling scared and grateful and wide open and ready. Feeling big, feeling brave.

Thank you. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

When I realized I had people in my corner...

It came in a short write on a beautiful Sunday with the writers of Dive Deep. It came organically, in the process of the writing. It came to me as truth and I was amazed when I read it out loud, when I heard it hit the room.
 I have people in my corner, fighting for me, cheering me on. And that is why I so love this writing method, this process, where we get a prompt (I don't remember what this one was- I only know I grabbed the word scatter)and we write. Then we read (if we want to) and we hear what was strong, what stayed for people, what folks liked. 

The process is like magic and even though the piece below is raw and unedited I see lines I will use for something, I see things I know are absolutely true. This has happened over and over for me- I learn things I didn't understand were true until that exact moment of wild scribbling, and they are big truths,like this one- an important truth that changed everything for me. 

Excerpt- Dive Deep write May 2012

I am scattered, the house is scattered, the dishes are piled up to the god-damned sky. No-one cleans but me most days and I am not cleaning, I am writing.

Scattered- the cat off my keyboard, papers flying underneath my worn out fingers, my thoughts scatter up to touch on crows, touch on this demanding, healing, sexual, trauma writing and the hard on, hard wring words I write about it every day.

Scattered, lists and to-dos, frantic phone calls from my family in crisis, cranky children yelling in the back, neighbors who blast their music all night, neighbors who want to talk to me when I take my notebook outside, wearing my headphones, my back to them.

Crazy people on the buses crazy thoughts filling my head and no room can be made until I write; it’s like a fucked up tetris game in there and it fills up faster than I can scribble.

Scatter my love 6 hours away if she drives the truck fast enough, my past which pokes into my dreams like a bully because I am daring to take this body back for myself, daring to chase out the persistent ghosts, scatter their moldy sticky leavings.

Because I choose to say this is mine
This mind, body, belly, desire-
Desire- my desire I say it again.

This is a battle that’s raged in my head forever.
A tug of war but the dead child-eaters will lose because I have people in my corner, offering words, offering a clean well lit place to work, offering me a moment to dream of a time when I might have a little square of floor to call my own with a solid red oak door with a hand lettered sign on it that reads: 
Do Not Disturb. Rabid Writer at Work.