Guess what?

So many people walk around this earth with no idea
how to communicate their gifts to the world.

But you, dear writer, have already found your language.
Now it’s simply time to trust YOUR voice.

With love and total belief in you,
Marni Freedman

Welcome to The Feisty Writer!

Ummm, what is it exactly…

A New Blog for Feisty Writers Everywhere

What does it mean to be a feisty writer? Is it for me?

Well…

  • Are you ready to take your career into your own hands?
  • Are you looking for ways to improve your craft without being bored out of your mind?
  • Are you looking for new techniques that will actually get you to the page?
  • Are you seeking a writer-tested-and-approved method to complete your novel, memoir, screenplay, or play?
  • Are you a severe procrastinator with a fierce inner critic?

 

Guess what?

We are your tribe.

Summer Dreaming

Writers from the San Diego Memoir Showcase 2018
Laura Engel with the writers and producers from the 2018 San Diego Memoir Showcase.

San Diego Memoir Showcase

I’m in my home office getting ready to hit ‘submit’ on the computer screen. Submitting my work for our local Memoir Showcase is as scary for me today as it was that first time I submitted work in June of 2017. At that time my memoir was simply an outline, a dream. 

The Pain

I have weeded through several scenes saved in my documents, trimmed and edited a few and now decided on the ones to submit. But there are other scenes I read through and ponder. Here is the scene that, while writing it, I often had to stop typing and go outside to stare at the sky. Huge gulping sobs came from deep inside of me as I trembled on my patio. I was inconsolable. I had written about the birth of my first son in the sweltering heat of New Orleans in 1967. Remembering that night, alone and petrified, knowing I would have to leave my baby there was overwhelming. Writing it was excruciating. My heart ached for that young girl.

A New Perspective

Another scene makes me cringe while reading it.  This scene with my ex-husband on a miserable hot steamy night in Mississippi brought me to my knees when I first wrote it. I remember unchecked tears streaming down my face as I tapped away at my keyboard, my shoulders feeling as if someone was beating on them. His angry face still as real today as it was on that night over fifty years ago. A black fury overcame me as I pushed away from my desk. How dare he treat me like that? I questioned all these years later. I wanted to hug that sad young woman who thought this was to be her life forever.

The Bliss

Ah, and here is the scene when I meet my beloved second husband.  Once again, the day was in late summer. The sun is hot, my sons are there racing for soccer balls, and my life is about to change in ways I would never have been able to predict. I love this scene and remember as I typed it how my heartbeat reliving those first words, those first moments that would result in love so beyond reason that it would knock to me to my knees and take me to heights I had never dreamed. I rewrote that scene over and over and loved my husband more with each revised piece. I wanted to tell that young woman ‘you are thinking with your heart, and it is the smartest thing you will ever do.’

Finding the Humor

Another scene makes me laugh out loud. Me, in my thirties, flying across the Coronado bridge in my yellow Volkswagen bug stuffed to the brim with our five kids along with towels and beach toys for a day at the beach. As I typed, I remembered the wind in our hair as we sailed over the bridge singing at the top of our lungs along with the Bee Gees’ “Stayin Alive.” I can feel the golden sun burning my shoulders as I l sit in my bikini on an old quilt surrounded by my ocean wet giggling kids.  I see my children gobbling sandy sandwiches and cookies, all talking at once. Tears for what once was run down my cheeks. Oh, to have one of those days again. That summer was my halcyon summer, and I didn’t even know it. 

Reliving Memories

Okay, time to stop reminiscing, reading through my writing, living again as that young and sometimes fearless woman. I could sit here and do that for days. After all, there are seventy summers and countless tiny scenes that, patched together, make as colorful a quilt as any glorious midsummer sunset I have ever seen.

As I write memories, I relive them. I feel the sun. I feel the love, the sadness, the joy. The heft of my newborn sons in my arms, my Grammy’s fleeting kiss on my cheek, the chilly indifference from my mother, my crippling fear of my ex-husband crawl through me again. 

  I smell the scents of summer, my sons’ wet hair, Coppertone, freshly mowed grass, chicken sizzling on the grill. I bite into the first peach of the summer again, taste the salt of my lover’s skin, sip sun tea. I hear the crash of waves at the beach, my sons’ young voices calling “Mom,” our dog barking, my Daddy’s voice, my beloved husband whispering he’ll “love me forever” the first time. 

Submit

I marvel at the gift of writing those memories. Time does stand still, if for a short spell, because when I write it, I relive it. Is that not the best gift of all? I will continue writing my story as there are many more summers to revisit, some wretched, but most splendid.

Okay, here goes. I click on submit. Good luck to me and good luck to all the writers who submitted.

The author, Laural L. Engel

Laura L. Engel’s Bio

Recently retired after 35 years as a regional sales representative for a national title insurance company, Laura left the corporate world and plunged headlong into writing her memoir in 2017. She has completed the Memoir Writing Certificate Program with Master Writing Coach Marni Freedman and currently serves as President of the San Diego Memoir Writers Association. She has won a place in the San Diego Memoir Showcase twice with scenes from her memoir. Her scene, “Secret Son,” was published in the anthology, Shaking The Tree: Brazen. Short.Memoir, in 2018. Along with SDMWA, Laura is also a member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, Thought Leaders Who Write in San Diego, and San Diego Writers, Ink. Recently Laura was interviewed by Dani Shapiro for her Family Secrets Podcast.

Laura’s memoir in progress is You’ll Forget This Ever Happened.: The Story of a Mother’s Love and Secret She Never Forgot. For more information, please visit Laura’s website and listen to her Dani Shapiro podcast by clicking here.

You can follow Laura on Facebook at Laura l. Engel Author and on Instagram at @storytellerlaura

Leaning on Your Beloveds: Breaking Through Writer’s Block with Tarot Centos

The cover of a book of poems called America, We Call Your Name, Poems of Resistance and Resilience.

Writing Centos

Let’s say you, writer, are at a loss for words. Some life event has completely stunned you into silence. This happened to me the day after the 2016 election results were announced when my hopes for witnessing a female candidate win the Presidency were dashed. Unable to write my own poems, I created a class, “Election Blues: The Gift of Agency in Poetry,” during which we took up writing centos.

What Is a Cento?

A cento is a poem comprised solely of a group of lines, each borrowed from a different writer. The idea is that you borrow the lines and leave the words largely intact, in order, within the line, but the expectation is that you will rearrange the lines themselves into order in line with your focus.

My First Step

Here’s what I did: I grabbed volumes within arm’s reach off my bookshelf. They were by women writers (with the exception of William Carlos Williams) I admire and love from across time as well as contemporary writers. Working with the cento form, I drew on the strength and power of their words to “get back home” and find my passion again. My dozen or so books were authored by:

  • Emily Dickinson
  • Joy Harjo
  • Bhanu Kapil
  • Maxine Hong Kingston
  • Audre Lord
  • Malinda Markham
  • Colleen J. McElroy
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Kay Ryan
  • Joan Swift
  • Ruth Thompson
  • William Carlos Williams

Adding Tarot Principles to the Writing Process

As a longtime tarot reader, it also occurred to me that I could apply tarot-reading principles to my cento writing process. When you read tarot cards, you focus on a question of the heart, shuffle the cards and choose cards blind (meaning the cards remain face down while you are choosing so the images are hidden until you begin the reading).

The Drafting Process

So when drafting my centos, I used my stack of books by other writers as my working tarot deck. For my project, I focused on five individuals: The female candidate vying for election (Hillary Clinton), the sitting President Barack Obama, the First Lady Michelle Obama, the incoming Republican candidate, and the incoming First Lady. Focusing on one person at a time, I put my hand on my heart and paid attention to the mix of emotions I was feeling. Each time I allowed the book in my hand to fall open and let my eye fall on a line, mimicking the process of selecting facedown tarot cards. Once I had copied down my lines, one from each volume for each person, I brought my poet self to bear on rearranging the lines into a meaningful order that best reflected my various states of love, gratitude, fear, and concern.

Looking for Synchronicity

Having worked with the tarot for so long, I was prepared for synchronicity—and indeed I found it in the five centos. Each randomly selected group of lines provided an accurate mirror for my sensibility. Of course, you can argue that any random group of lines can be made to mean one thing in one context and something entirely different in another, but this didn’t stop me from trying the form and enjoying the inadvertent “reading.”

Poetry, like tarot, works powerfully by association and context. When we plug in a question for a tarot reading or we plug in a person as the focus for a cento, the associations boomerang back to that central question or person, inviting us to look deeper. And more importantly, the process of leaning on our beloveds (other writers, in this case) and the process of asking, seeking and playing gets the pen moving across the page, nudging us to create again.

Writing Your Own Tarot Centos

1) Start by choosing a dilemma, question, dream, or desire you have for which you’d like to consult the oracle of poetry through the work of other writers.

2) Gather up your “oracle books” off your shelf. You may wish to add a randomizing quality to your “deck” by choosing every 3rd book on your shelf or even doing so in the library or bookstore. I focused my “deck” by choosing mostly women writers, a very specific group. Your stack of books can be as diverse or as singularly focused as you wish.

3) Put your hand to heart and go over your question/person in your mind’s eye as you point the arrow of your inquiry. Take one book at a time and either randomly select lines or use some kind of organizing principle (3rd line on every other page). You decide how long or short you want your resulting cento to be, and copy each selected line from each author onto your page.

4) Read over your entire group of lines. Have fun…rearrange them in the order that makes sense to you.

*Keep track of your line attributions to give each writer credit.

Here are links to MP3s of three of the centos from the series of five.

An Iris for Hillary MP3

An Iris for Hillary

*An Iris for Hillary was published in America We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2018) https://www.sixteenrivers.org/authors/our-anthology/

Open Letter to Donald Trump MP3

Open Letter to Donald Trump

A Thank You Letter to Barack Obama MP3

A Thank You Letter to Barack Obama

About Tania

Tania Pryputniewicz, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, is the author of November Butterfly (Saddle Road Press, 2014). Recent poems appeared in the anthology America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience and NILVX: A Book of Magic (Tarot Series). Her poetry chapbook, Berkeley Postcard, was a finalist for the Comstock Writers Group Chapbook Contest in 2018. The poem, “Two Gardens,” from Berkeley Postcard is forthcoming in Rockvale Review and won Tania a residency in Tennessee at the Rockvale Writers’ Colony. She teaches poetry at San Diego Writers, Ink and she’d be delighted if you walked into her workshop with a cento of your own to share. Tania lives in Coronado with her husband, three children, blue-eyed Husky, and one formerly feral cat named Luna. She blogs at Tarot for Two and can be found online at www.taniapryputniewicz.com.

*This Tarot Cento exercise is sample chapter from Tania’s Heart’s Compass Tarot and Writing workbook forthcoming from Saddle Road Press; it was also shared with students attending The Bold Poet: Finding Your Muse workshop at the inaugural 2019 San Diego Writer’s Festival.

The Drop-In Technique

A stack of rocks in a cairn

About the Drop-In Technique: A Guided Meditation To Access Your Life Experience 

For years of teaching memoir classes, we needed a way for writers to bring their true life experiences to the page as if the reader was a fly on the wall—in the moment with them. Yet, at the same time, if it was a difficult life experience, we wanted the writer to access memories without feeling overwhelmed.
We tried many techniques and finally found success with a guided meditation that helps the writer visualize their life as a timeline they can drop into at any moment, yet feel a sense of protection from the raw emotions the writer may have experienced during the time they first lived through the experience.

,
It’s been a powerful tool I have used for years. Usually, I read the meditation out loud and then allow for time for free writing in class. No tool has been met with more excitement and success and many had asked if I would record it. However, making a recording never felt right until I met Kimberly. She is a writer, healer, and yoga instructor and has a natural gift when it comes to guided meditations. Kimberly took the drop-in technique, added in music and made it her own. Please give yourself the gift of taking some time out to drop into a guided meditation. I would love to hear your thoughts about your experience. Enjoy!

Drop-In Technique for Memoir Writers

Warmly,

Marni

A photo of Kimberly Joy

Kimberly Joy writes to share messages that uplift and inspire. Her pieces encourage and provide new ways of perceiving the world and life’s experiences. Her background as a Physical Therapist, Restorative Yoga Teacher, and Guided Meditation Specialist gives her a deep understanding of the mind-body connection. She loves to share this wisdom in hopes of assisting others on their journeys of health, healing, and inner peace. You can find more of her writing at MessagesfromJoy.org

Music Credit: Christopher Lloyd Clarke

Photo Credit: Kimberly Joy and Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash

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