I’m thrilled to learn that a piece I wrote, “The Road She Rode On,” will be included in the very first Shut Up and Write Zine! It will be published in early 2018 and there will be a reading in the San Francisco area that I hope to participate in.
I’m especially thrilled because Shut Up and Write, a Meetup group that gathers at various spaces around the country for writers to get words down on paper or screen, with a brief check-in for some loose community and accountability and then semi-quiet focused time. For me, working alongside others working is a big boost. It’s like stepping into a swimming pool of people already walking in a circle, getting a current going, and then I step into the current and walk more easily, too. (Yes, sometimes my writing time is not more productive than walking in a circle, but at least it exercises the creativity muscles!) The noise and company somehow helps me settle. It doesn’t work for every phase of writing or every phase of thought, but sometimes it is just the ticket.
My favorite Shut Up and Write group meets at Mo’Joe’s Cafe in Berkeley on Saturdays. We rotate hosting — I host once every month or two — and the host facilitates a brief check-in about every two hours between 10 and 4. Six hours! So much writing gets done, even if I space out or chat for some of that time. Many Saturdays I’ve thought to myself, if I save the time of driving to and from Berkeley and I am not caught up in conversation at lunch and I save the 10-minutes of the check-ins through the day, I’ll write so much more — but I don’t. At home, there is the laundry, the cat, the homework to grade, and so much more. At SUAW I’d feel embarrassed to spend my time on Facebook (and while I should feel that same shame at home, it doesn’t kick in until 45 minutes have disappeared). I set a goal each two hours and I aim to reach it. While I don’t make it to SUAW every week, I keep that appointment more often than I keep my own penciled-in appointments to write by myself. Structure and company helps me write. Plus, it was at SUAW that I heard from Art Klepchukov about the zine and got encouragement to submit. Even better, he’s in the zine with me! Writing community rocks!
Now a couple words about the piece…. it has lived in several forms before now! It started as a writing exercise in sound poetry in workshop with Leslie Kirk Campbell, one of my first writing teachers in the Bay Area and now a much-appreciated friend, at the Ripe Fruit School of Writing. Later, it became the start of a chapter in my novel-in-progress, and there it lived for a number of years. I remember reading it at the student reading at the Napa Valley Writers Conference in 2011 and a fellow student who honestly didn’t think much of the chapter I had workshopped came up to me with such glee in his face, encouraging me to write the rest of the novel in this same voice and rhythm. I don’t know that I could sustain that voice for 300 pages, but he was right that there something alive in this one page of the book, and I went back and took a bellows to the rest of the chapter. Last year, in my nth revision to the book, I pulled this section and even the character it describes. Kill your darlings, for real. I then began reworking it as a prose poem, what I think it was at the start, and knowing it had to find a home somewhere, I sent it to the SUAW zine. I had worked on the piece both as prose and poetry, as chapter and stand-alone, sitting at the burnt-orange cafes in Mo’Joe’s with my fellow word nerds. I’m so happy to share it with more of the Shut Up and Write community through the zine.