I’ve carved out a few days to write – away from Richmond and my family – hanging out on the Eastern Shore … just me, the dogs, limited access to wifi, and spotty cell reception.
I’m restless … that’s usually the case on the first day I’m here alone with a project. I can feel momentum building … I’m hoping that an explosion of words, phrases, sentences that make sense will follow. Right now, ideas and connections are bouncing around just at the edge of articulation.
Solitude is good for this stage of writing – allows stuff to perk without having to explain my not-yet-formed ideas. Of course, I’ve also been fantasizing about a new career direction in solar panel installation and I took a nap after an early lunch of leftover quiche.
Since yesterday I’ve read most of one book, and skimmed two others. Matthew Crawford’s book Shop Class as Soul Craft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work is one I’d like to share with everyone I know … as well as future students. Seems apt reading for someone finishing a doctorate.
His analysis about the value of skilled manual work is useful as I try to parse out the general sense I got from the farm life oral histories I’ve collected about the intrinsic reward in knowing how to do things. People don’t usually state it directly … but knowing soil and microclimates, plowing straight rows without GPS systems, growing quality vegetables, being self-sufficient … a grounded pride in knowing how to do stuff comes through in the interviews. That’s what my fourth chapter is about, among other things.
Now I can add writing a blog entry to my list of moodling activities. All part of the process … luckily I’ve done enough writing to recognize it for what it is – a priming of the pump, so to speak. Either that, or I’m using the dissertation as an excuse to run away from home for a few days.
I’m doing a presentation for my Reading Comics class on From Hell – a book written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Eddie Campbell. It’s a graphic novel retelling of the Jack the Ripper story. My cohort is a fiction writer and wanted to present on Moore’s work so my part of the assignment is to research and talk about Eddie Campbell and his work.
I got the good end of this arrangement. Campbell is a very cool comic book artist – originally Scottish, but now lives in Australia – and I like his independent work much better than From Hell … at least what I can find piecemeal published along with interviews. He’s published too many to list here. Three I’d like to track down are Bacchus, The Fate of the Artist, and The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard.
Even better … he blogs, regularly … here’s the link:
Eddie Campbell’s blog
Books as repositories of knowledge and magic – people still travel thousands of miles to Ireland to see the Book of Kells. I suspect there is no way a picture of a page from this book can do its materiality justice. Even here it’s incredibly beautiful.
I’m working on a slide show for a bookmaking workshop at the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts. Teaching a unit is a requirement for my bookmaking seminar, but I’m also having fun putting it together.
Meanwhile, Google is going to make thousands of books available on any web browser. NY Times article: Google Sparks E Reader Fight with Kindle
Are the days of physical books as numbered as the days of a wet darkroom for photography? I think that’s when the artists move in … art books and art photography made by artists and photographers using non-digital technology, because quickly anything non-digital is becoming arcane.
How many media is that? a radio podcast of an interview with a musician about his published book. Now that’s mixed media.
I enjoyed this interview on Studio 360. Stewart Copeland was drummer with The Police, but has also garnered quite a few awards as a film composer, and he grew up in Beirut, the son of a CIA spy (although he didn’t learn that until he was in college).
Also worth listening to this week – a piece on Disney music.
Taught a writing immersion workshop at the Visual Arts Center this past weekend. Mostly, we sat at different places around a large conference room table and wrote for the better part of six hours. Whenever someone needed a new start – I pulled out another prompt or fiction-writing prompt. In between we talked – mostly about the writing life. I wouldn’t mind offering this class every month or every other month. It’s the sort of structure that would help anyone working on a sustained project who needs or wants the support.
My afterlife play is revised and off to the Firehouse Theatre Playwriting Contest. Tomorrow I do another interview for the oral history project. I plan to launch an Eastern Shore Stories blog next Thursday, with excerpts and photographs from the project.
Everyone thinks I’m off for the summer. Doesn’t feel like it to me – but it’s all work I enjoy. Can’t ask for more than that.
Questions at the end of the Playing with Words workshop … so familiar, but I’m thinking now of what I didn’t say … that work is the cure for doubt. I write because writing is what I do. And the outcome – publishing or getting it out into the world in some way – is impossible to control. Collecting rejections seems to be part of the process.
I do believe that it’s important for me to send the work out into the world, if only to clear space on my desk and psychic space in my head. So I find deadlines for submissions and treat them like assignments. I’d like to be more businesslike about it – have a set amount of work floating out there all the time – but with school that’s been hard.
The best cure I’ve found for the paralyzing doubt and snipe-y inner critic that emerge viciously when I’ve just slipped work into a mail slot to go out … the best antidote is to have other work to turn to. So I send out a set of three to five poems and then turn to the next deadline and work on that.
I teach another writing workshop in two weeks at the Visual Arts Center – an all-day writing immersion workshop. I need to remember to address the danger of sharing unfinished work … the risk of sharing work early. It is possible to talk away a writing idea. Or to abort it with feedback received too early. Best to let work gestate in darkness and silence, like a seed. Share work when it’s ripe, but not before. That’ll be a very important concept to float around at the all-day writing immersion workshop.
I’m teaching two creative writing workshops at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond in June – both designed to help writers generate ideas and to give them time to work. I designed them to be stand-alone workshops or a two-part series, depending on what a writer wants to do. Beginners welcome. Here’s the information:
PLAYING WITH WORDS
In this one-day workshop we explore writing all literary genres, mixing and matching fiction, poetry, and non-fiction as we see fit (or unfit!) Expect lots of prompts, free-writing and playful exercises designed to encourage the free flow of language and ideas. This supportive workshop is designed for writers and artists of any experience level.
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
ALL-DAY WRITING IMMERSION
Want to write, but have a hard time finding the time? This one-day immersion workshop is for you. In the morning, expect lots of prompts and starter exercises – adaptable for all genres. In the afternoon, each participant will choose one promising writing “start” to develop and spend the rest of the workshop writing. There will be the opportunity to share with the group at the end of the day. Writers of every experience level welcome.
June 27 (this is a change)
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
I finished a video called Film on Water Thursday, just in time to priority mail it to Vermont for a submissions call at Great River Arts.
I haven’t worked much with shooting and editing video since my days as video producer at Cox Cable Tidewater and Virginia Power in the late ’80’s. I used to study television and films then – a friend used to say, “you watch television the way most men watch football.” I even spent a year in VCU’s film / photography MFA program making super-8 films that have since been lost in the great basement flood of Tropical Storm Gaston.
As I edited, I noticed that I was picking up smaller details as I went. For example – how the patterns on the back of the girl’s sweater dissolved into the grasses in the marsh in the following shot. I started the project with linear ideas – the stuff of essay or documentary – but as I went along I became more fascinated with imagery and sound. The ideas about baptism and amphibious theories of human evolution are still floating around in the piece, but not in an overt way.
I decided to make the only sound in Film on Water wild sound I picked up while shooting. It includes a child’s unplanned humming and singing – some slight dialogue, but mostly there’s the sound of water and waves.
I will eventually post the video on my website and put a link on this blog, but I don’t want to hurt my chances for gallery exhibition by showing it here first. As soon as I know I can post it – I will. Stay tuned!