Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Writing, Meditation, and Movement Workshop: POSTPONED

POSTPONED UNTIL FALL- STAY TUNED!



Awareness: A Bodily Exploration through Writing, Meditation, and Movement

with Anne Liu Kellor, Amy Selena Reynolds, and Alycia Scott Zollinger


When: Saturday, July 9th and 16th from 12:30 – 3:50 p.m.

Where: University Heights Center; Seattle; WA
Cost: $100 
partial scholarship available

To register: contact alkellor@gmail.com; send in a check or pay via Paypal below class description and bios.

In this two-part, co-facilitated workshop, we will seek to build awareness around our minds, hearts, and bodies within a supportive environment.

In Week One: Writing and Meditation, Amy and Anne will introduce us to mindfulness meditation techniques, paired with writing exercises that explore our bodies and our senses.

In Week Two: Writing and Movement, Anne will guide us deeper into writing about our body of stored emotions and feelings, drawing inspiration from poems by Nayyirah Waheed, while Alycia will lead us in experimenting with what happens when we speak, stretch, and move our bodies through our words.

Together we will aim to discover how these different contemplative mediums can inform and feed each other, and to gain trust in our own unique ways of experiencing our bodies and the world. No writing, meditation, or movement experience is necessary. Just come with an open mind and a desire to express and explore in a safe, inclusive space.


Co-Facilitator Bios:

Anne Liu Kellor is a Seattle-based writer, mother, and teacher of creative nonfiction. She has taught workshops to people of all ages since 2006. Her work has appeared in publications such as the anthology Waking Up American- Coming of Age Biculturally (Seal Press), The Los Angeles Review, Vela Magazine, and Literary Mama, and she has received grants or residencies from Hedgebrook, 4Culture, Hypatia-in-the-Woods, and Jack Straw Productions. Anne’s memoir manuscript, SEARCHING FOR THE HEART RADICAL, traces her migrations between America, China, and Tibet during her twenties. To learn more, go to: www.heartradical.blogspot.com

Amy Selena Reynolds is a contemplative artist, a hospice volunteer, and a soon-to-be interfaith minister. Amy has practiced insight meditation for many years and enjoys creating rituals; building labyrinths; making collages, drawings, and sculptures; and studying spiritual teachings across traditions. She loves walking on the beach and in the woods, sharing simple mindfulness practices, and inspiring creativity in others. Born and raised in Seattle, she now lives on the Oregon Coast with her partner and cats.


Alycia Scott Zollinger  is Seattle-based healer, educator, performer and movement facilitator. She has performed around the globe as a solo artist and as a member of multi-lingual collectives dedicated to social justice and the pursuit of sincerity. Her classes embody a spirit of direct compassion and support to move more deeply into understanding, nourishing, and empowering the cellular pulses within our experiences. She weaves her backgrounds in dance, yoga, ritual and Butoh into dynamic offerings to provoke personal engagement, dynamic thinking, and authentic movement. Alycia has been dancing since birth, is a Certified Yoga Teacher, and is currently in the process of becoming certified at the Seattle School of Body-Psychotherapy. is a healer, educator, performer and movement facilitator. To learn more, go to: www.visionpreserve.com


Alycia Scott Zollinger and son

Anne Liu Kellor and Amy Selena Reynolds

Monday, March 14, 2016

Traveling State of Mind

Traveling through the vastness of China and the Tibetan plateau, many years ago. 


In my twenties and early thirties, I was a wanderer, moving in between states and countries and homes each year; doing stints for college or jobs in Minnesota, Alaska, Montana, and Washington; taking road trips down the coast and into the Southwest; and backpacking for many months through China, Tibet, and Southeast Asia. My email handle was “wandering girl,” and I wrote long letters to friends back home to keep me feeling connected to my extended tribe, and to the full range of my voice in English. I stayed in China the longest—for almost three years, two of which I lived with my Chinese partner—but ultimately I grew lonely and hungry for deeper friendships and greater community. I knew I could not put down roots in China, and I was tired of always leaving and saying goodbye.

Back in the States, I stayed in my parents’ basement for a month or two, before taking on extended house- and pet-sitting gigs, finding ways to live cheaply in order to preserve my meager savings and thus my time—to travel and to write. I thought I would go back to China, maybe in a year or so; I thought my life and work would be forever be tied now to speaking Chinese or translating in between cultures—but I was wrong. Eventually, I fell in love with an American and started putting down roots again in the Pacific Northwest. Each year, the idea of living a peripatetic life or working internationally receded. Maybe I could just travel back to China, I conceded, but not go back and live. Yet now that I own a home, have a young son, and am about to embark upon a home addition and loan, even boarding a plane for a vacation feels like a distant dream.

So, in some ways, it feels strange to offer a travel writing class just as I’m preparing to put down roots in Seattle in a newly committed way. But on the other hand, as I look back on and write about my twenties in my memoir, SEARCHING FOR THE HEART RADICAL, I am constantly reliving those early years of freedom, confusion, loneliness, and self-discovery in new ways. I see my former bravery, as well as my foolishness. I see my unarticulated neediness, as well as my independence. And I realize what I loved the most about the wandering lifestyle: the ability to see things through fresh eyes; to see my life as an open canvas; to stay open to the many paths that a day’s exploration might take. 


It is true that the older you get, the more doors close behind you. You no longer have all the time in the world to imagine that you will master three language, ride the Trans-Siberian express, or become an investigative journalist. A narrowing window of time, energy, and money forces you to reduce your focus and hone in on what you most want and need-- not all of these glittering yet distracting detours, but the heart of your path which remains the same. And there is a beauty in this narrowing focus, a distillation of how your twists and turns have brought you here: to face and embrace what is.


The other day I took the bus downtown to find a permitting office for a walk-in appointment. The trip there and back took me three hours, only 20 minutes of which was spent talking to someone at the office. But I enjoyed the opportunity to sit back on public transportation and be a traveler again—watching, listening, observing. Seeing a cross-section of young and old; black, Asian, and white; homeless and well-to-do; everyone in their own world, going somewhere to accomplish something, furthering the narrative of their individual stories. I enjoyed walking up and down the steep blustery streets of downtown Seattle, exchanging eye contact or a few words with strangers. I enjoyed this brief respite from the desk at home, where I do the majority of my work now, because it reminded me in part of the open-minded state of being that I once inhabited and learned through traveling—the ability to walk through the world and see all the moving parts, or to hop on a bus and not be certain where it will let me off, yet to trust that my own two feet plus asking for help from strangers will get me where I need to go. I do have a cell phone, an ability to call or google for help, which I never had while traveling abroad—so, in some ways, I’m more “protected” from uncertainty now. Yet in other ways, this sense of safety is an illusion, for I know that randomness could intervene at any moment, whether great beauty or tragedy, and that I am always dependent on others. Always, just a small porous part of this moving, shifting whole.



I like to think that traveling taught me to see the world like this. And that it’s important for me to keep accessing this “traveling state of mind,” even when it feels like I’m in a stage of life that is stationary and settled. I like to remember how to walk out my front door and through my familiar neighborhood with all of my senses alert: curious, open, and willing to be transformed.



To learn more about my Travel Writing as Pilgrimage workshop or to register, visit the 2016 Workshops Tab or click here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Early Bird Rate extended for Heart Beat: Writing as a Spiritual Practice!

Some writing needs to stay private, and some writing needs to come out into the open. You will know when you are ready!


I'm excited to announce that you can still register for my class at the reduced rate until the end of the week! I spent much of winter break reading and becoming inspired by many of the texts I plan to share with you. This includes poems by Joy Harjo, quotes from Cheryl Strayed, dense lyrical flash nonfiction by Brenda Miller, and meditative research-fueled meanderings from Rebecca Solnit. I also want to share breathtaking and brave personal essays by Lauren Slater and Kelly Sundberg, both who explore struggling relationships in their work.

If you haven't taken a generative workshop with me before, here's a taste of what it will look/feel like. We will take the time to get to know each other and build trust. We will avoid judgement or naming our writing as "good" or "bad". We will gather with the intension to explore, to take risks, to stay open to the unknown of what will come when you practice putting pen to page without stopping, without editing. We will write together from prompts that are inspired by themes or elements of craft reflected in the readings. I will ask for volunteers to share, and together we will walk that line between daring to write stuff that we feel we can't possibly share yet, and investigating what might happen if we do. 


When we discuss the readings, we will pay attention to things like language, details, point of view, structure, and the balance between showing and telling. We will limit our discussions of the topic of the essay, or otherwise digressing into conversations not related to the writing. This is not a craft or lecture based class, but you will come away learning about craft through the practice of closely reading and discussing texts. This is a workshop designed to help you dig into the stories and themes that you most need to write about. To help you establish a weekly or daily writing practice, if that is your goal. And to help you connect with others who are exploring this same path.


Writing as a spiritual practice. What does that mean? It just means that writing can be an anchor in an otherwise chaotic world and mind. Writing can be a way to connect the logical, ordering and analyizing left side of your brain, with the wild, feeling, and imagining right side of your brain-- a synthesizing, harmonizing connection. Writing can ground you, help you understand why you feel the way you do, what moves you, obsesses you, inspires you, scares you. Writing can be a place to come home to, again and again and again, even in the midst of uncertainty. Writing to me is a form of meditation, first and foremost, a practice, a process. Sure, it is also an artform and a craft, but before we worry about editing, the best writing must come from a place of honesty, from a willingness to be vulnerable and naked on the page, and from a fire for truth and for naming what you have not been able to articulate before. 


Intrigued? Come join us, or write me if you are not yet sure if it is a good fit for you. All are welcome. Details below.  



When: Thursdays, February 4 – March 24, 2016; 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Where: University Heights Center; Seattle, WA
Cost: $230 by 1/9; $250 after 1/9; Early Bird Extended! 
Includes hand-outs, access to writing resources, and individual support for your writing goals. Partial scholarship may be available for those in need.
To register: Email Anne @ alkellor@gmail.com to confirm space; then go to Paypal link below or pay by mail.
Pay here:



Tuition

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Heart Beat: Writing As A Spiritual Practice



New Upcoming Workshop!

Thursdays, 10-12; February 4 - March 24, 2016


Do you long to write, yet struggle to establish a consistent practice?
Do you want to tap into the heart of you most personal and meaningful stories? 
Could you benefit from writing within a supportive and engaging community?

In this eight-week workshop, we will write and share from prompts that allow us to delve into the depths of our memories, stories, and reflections. Each week we will also read essays, quotes, and poems from inspiring writers such as Mary Karr (The Art of Memoir), Cheryl Strayed (Brave Enough), Brenda Miller (Who You Will Become), Rebecca Solnit (The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness) and Joy Harjo (Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings), and discuss the process and craft of writing creative nonfiction. All are welcome.

When: Thursdays, February 4 – March 24, 2016; 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Where: University Heights Center; Seattle, WA
Cost: $230 by 1/4; $250 after 1/4;
Includes hand-outs, access to writing resources, and individual support for your writing goals. Partial scholarship may be available for those in need.
To register: Email Anne @ alkellor@gmail.com to confirm space; then go to Paypal link below or pay by mail.
Pay here:


Tuition

Monday, August 31, 2015

Fall Workshops I'm Teaching

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Mind in Motion: Reading and Writing Contemporary Essays with Anne Liu Kellor
Hugo House
6 Saturdays, September 26 -October 31
10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Conversational. Lyrical. Paradoxical. Political. Quirky. Passionate. Intelligent. Compassionate. In this workshop we will read and discuss the works of popular essayists such as Rebecca Solnit, Megan Stielstra, Roxanne Gay, Charles D’Ambrosio, and Leslie Jamison. Each week we will examine the diverse range of voices, styles, ideas, and structures present in this dynamic form, as well as free-write from in-class prompts designed to help us explore our own questions, contradictions, and meandering paths of the mind.
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CANCELLED-- Many Voices, Many Selves: Exploring Point of View in Creative Nonfiction with Anne Liu Kellor
Writers' Workshoppe _ Port Townsend, WA Saturday, November 7th from 10-4, with a one-hour lunch break; $80_
Each of us possesses many layers and inhabits many personas. In this workshop, we will examine our personas, and write from many point of views (1st, 2nd, 3rd person; past and present tense, "hermit crab" form, etc). We will discuss how doing so changes our relationship to the material, as well as look at excerpts from innovative memoir writers such as Abigail Thomas, Brenda Miller, and Nick Flynn to inspire us in this form. Come prepared to connect to yourself and to others as you tap into some of your most essential material.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

One Full Scholarship Available for Renaming the Spiritual Workshop

Spring is definitely here, and I am getting excited about my upcoming workshop at the Hugo House. "Renaming the Spiritual" will run for six weeks on Tuesday mornings starting in May. I just learned that a very generous friend and former student wants to offer someone who can't afford the workshop a partial SCHOLARSHIP to attend! I've decided to follow her lead, and offer up the rest of the fee which means that YOU could receive a full ride to join us in writing about spirituality, whatever that word means to you. This is a $245 value. 

If you would like to be considered for this spot, please email me (alkellor@gmail.com) and let me know briefly why you are interested in the workshop. I will let folks know next week who got the spot, and post here too when it's been taken. Visit the 2015 Workshops link above to learn more. Thanks! And may the sun keep softening your heart.

P.S. Please also let me know if you want me to add you to my newsletter. Because I'm not tech savvy, I have yet to add a badge to this blog for you to do so yourself, but someday I'll figure that out.

Monday, February 16, 2015

To Care for Your Own Beating Heart



My son was sick all week. A high fever that lasted for days. Little appetite. A deep cough. It wasn’t terrible. We spent most days alternating between cartoons, books, naps, and toys. He was calmer than usual, we (mostly) didn’t have our usual power struggles. I felt concern and sweet tenderness towards him, taking his temperature under his arm, measuring out small cups of syrupy pink medicine, offering juice and Popsicles like small salves for his (my) feverish soul. I was concerned, but never alarmed. Then finally he started to get better. And although he is still tired and coughing from a deep troubling place, I have faith in his health again and can move on and tend to myself.



The timing couldn’t have been better: two days alone on a sunny holiday weekend, after a week where I had to cancel all of my plans and where very little got checked off the list that I usually rely on to make myself feel better. Thankfully, I did not have any major deadlines that couldn’t be put off. But perhaps this is always the case. Maybe there is always nothing that can’t be put on hold when you are needed to care for your child. If only we prioritized our own health and healing in the same way.



Usually, when I have a weekend alone (gifted by my husband whisking our child away somewhere else), I write. I write for pleasure and healing, but it is also my Work. I tackle the list of pieces to be edited, publishers to query, or lessons to plan. Occasionally, I have enough time and mental space to begin a new piece. And at the end of the weekend, I rattle off my accomplishments: look at how much I got done in a couple days! More than I usually accomplish in many weeks, or even months, of piecing together little chunks of childfree time during the week.



But this weekend, I was tired. Physically tired after caring for my son. And emotionally and spiritually tired after a hard week/month/year. So I gave myself permission to relax. To not tackle the big new piece to be edited if I didn’t feel like it. To not tackle the newsletter to be written. To not even leave the house to enjoy the sunshine if I didn’t feel like it. Mostly, just to be home in my little nest of retreat. To take in deep conscious breaths several different times throughout the day. To listen to my old soundtrack of contemplative music that has been recently liberated from the stored away stacks of c.d.s and uploaded into our computer: Yungchen Llamo, Ali Farka Toure, Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, Ayub Ogada, Ali Akbar Khan. Bring it. Music that lights up forgotten pathways in my chest, neurons, memories of yearning, inner deep resources, and tears.



This weekend I’ve also been reading. Sitting at the window seat in the sun, staring out at the mossy yard. Sitting where Frank used to sit, the man and my friend who left me this cabin. Frank, who knew more than most people in the world about what was important. About not striving for great wealth or achievement, but enjoying what you have. About appreciating the freedom to be home, with your books and your squirrels and a pot of tea. About appreciating what you have.



This weekend I’ve read from: Pema Chodron’s Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears; Emily Kendal Frey’s The Grief Performance; and Brenda Miller and Holly Hughe’s The Pen and the Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World. There were more books I wanted to get to, but this is what surfaced. And this was enough. A few chapters at a time, no hurry, take it in, scribble a note or two, an idea, a phrase.



This weekend I’ve also been preparing my body, mind, and heart for Ovum Siahl, a butoh-inspired offering that Matthew and I will be a part of. Neither of us have danced butoh for many, many years. I really only studied it for a semester at Evergreen, then danced occasionally in my bedroom in the months that followed. Danced to express some kind of essential longing and pain. Pain, informed by love. Longing informed by breath, by fire, by rage, by prayer, by need.



Some essential seed of this dance, its core, has been stored in my body for over a decade. In hibernation. I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever dance it again. Butoh seemed far away from my current list of priorities. Writing and publishing were up near the top. Exercise, therapy, planning date nights, confirming childcare, teaching workshops, updating bios, social networking, planning play dates, assessing marketability and employability, and many other things such as buying a new refrigerator occupied my mind instead.



But somewhere in between exercise and therapy this thing called Butoh has slipped back into my consciousness, unconsciousness. Somewhere in between “I need to find a new Zumba class” and “I need to prioritize my relationships, set boundaries, find my bottom line, express my feelings,” Butoh has reappeared. Just three rehearsals, one performance/offering, a scattering of hours. Manageable. But, of course, it has to enter in deeper. It can’t just be a few hours and then I’ll be on my way. There is a glorious timing to these things. To Matthew and I dancing Butoh together. To Matthew and I doing something creative and new, yet old, and slightly scary and WTF?! together.



It feels right. We have both become too removed from our own essential longing. Our pull, that pulled us together. Our need to express in deep and meaningful ways besides our most familiar paths: writing for me, fishing for him. Which are both keys to our sanity and passions in life, but which we do separate from each other. So here, now, is a gift to finally share Butoh together. A dance we both were trained in and gravitated to, a dance we have both witnessed in others and professed to love, but never danced together. Isn’t that strange? How do two people share something yet never really share it?



So here we are, here I am. A total beginner. My body weighing more than it has in years, not having exercised beyond an occasional walk for over a year. My core weak, my body stiff, my range of movement untended. Here I am, about to perform? It’s best not to think of it as a performance. Think: offering. Think: take my soft and trampled body. I will give you what I have. Here. You appeared, and I am listening. Here. I will do this because we both said, Yes.



This is what I have done this weekend: I have read dharma books and poetry; I have listened to old music; I have lit candles and donned white and danced, a little. I have fed myself and showered and done a load of laundry. I have still taken care of a few tasks I owe to others, yes emails because I’m responsible like that, but mostly I have gifted myself this weekend to be slow, to be receptive, to be dumb. To not accomplish anything that great, not even to “take advantage of the great weather.” To just be here and enjoy the quiet of my usually not-so-quiet home. To enjoy waking up slowly with the cat at my side. To enjoy paying attention to my breath and to drinking enough water. To take care of myself and my heart in a slow, measured way. My heart who has been neglected for too long. Forced to have just a quick cry, before turning to greet my son. Or just a quick conversation that brings up all kinds of layers of shit, but that you don’t have time to fully process because life and dinner and dishes and bedtime simply must go on.



Oh, my heart. I am tending to you now. I am loving you. My sweet and tender heart. You are mine. I know you. I feel you. I accept you. I massage you and your needs. I honor you and your pain. I touch you and will your layers of resistance to slowly dissolve away. I am here, you are here, I am here, you are here. Feed me, I will feed you. Love me, I will love you.



You must ask for what you really want.



All of this moment. All of this breath. All of this beauty, in here, out there. I want to stay with it all. I want to not be afraid to show you my tears. I will wait for you to meet me here. I have been waiting a long time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

On Publishing, Rejection, and Finding Literary Community in the Digital Age


Recently, I had six out of seven pieces I sent out last spring accepted at literary magazines. If you know that prior to this I’d only published around six essays over a span of twelve years, then you can guess how thrilled I am. I’ve had my reasons for publishing so little-- namely taking a long hiatus from sending stuff out. But I’ve also heard it said that for every acceptance you garner, you will receive about 20 rejections-- and my track record up until now definitely supports this ratio. In fact, I submitted one of my recently published pieces, “Awareness,” 21 times before it finally found its home!



About ten years ago, I first started submitting to literary journals in earnest while in grad school. I’d send out a piece to about five different places, then wait, and wait… for mostly rejection. Some of my pieces might make it to the final round of consideration, meaning the journal might have it for almost a year before I finally received an encouraging yet discouraging note, this came close, but sorry.



These near-acceptances taught me that my work couldn’t be terrible, and so I kept trying. But eventually, I got tired of all the striving and rejection. I’d been calling myself a writer for years, yet hardly anyone had ever read my work! It was time to change gears-- not give up, but just try a different approach. This post is my attempt to retrace the path I’ve taken, and to share what I’ve learned along the way. If you, like me, are tired of rejection or don’t know where to begin submitting, here are a few ideas to consider:



  1. Start a Blog (or contribute guest posts to friends’ blogs):



During my first years of motherhood I stopped submitting to journals, and instead started blogging, which in turn revitalized me as a writer. Blogging was a way to put myself out there-- my voice, my thoughts, my identity as a writer-- and to garner immediate responses from friends and acquaintances, mostly through Facebook. My readership was small, but it was nevertheless exciting to see it grow.



Blogging also helped me to let go of my perfectionist tendencies. The “hey, I just wrote this off the top of my head” format helped me to let go of the idea that everything I wrote needed to be perfect or profound before sharing it. And I didn’t worry much about long lapses between posts or how my blog could reach more people, because blogging wasn’t a social networking strategy for me; it was a lifeline, a much needed outlet to connect my private world to the world outside my home. Blogging was how I ultimately “came out” to the world as a writer, despite my many previous years of toiling on essays and a manuscript, with only a few trusted readers along the way.



  1. Make More Connections in the Literary World



Many writers are introverts. Before I moved to Seattle in 2008, I lived in a cabin on 50 acres and plenty of days went by where I didn’t talk to anyone besides my husband and our cat. We had dial-up, but still no cell phone. I signed up for Facebook before I really understood what it was, then ignored it until people started ‘friending’ me and before long I became intrigued and addicted.



Now, it is easy to criticize the shortcomings of online communities and addictions, so putting that conversation aside for now, I will say that, for me, Facebook has connected me to so many writers in the Pacific Northwest that I seriously doubt I otherwise would’ve managed to connect with in person. And what I’ve found is that most writers want to be supportive of each other and are hungry for connection to other literary souls, whether they are emerging or established writers.



Of course, it’s even better to cultivate live, in-person relationships. But as a busy person who typically does not go out much to readings, parties, or bars, I’ll take an online friendship to nothing. From a publishing perspective, these connections have given me access to more posts about journals, contests, and calls for submissions. And ultimately, these online connections also just give me a livelier, more intelligent newsfeed and a sense of belonging to a greater literary community that I’ve long craved. Plus, I am much more likely to approach someone in person if we’ve already connected online.



  1. Do Your Research-- and Use the Internet!



People have long given me the advice: read and know the aesthetic of the journals you are submitting to. But I confess, I have not always followed it. I’ve been impatient. I didn’t want to go through the long (and expensive, to me) process of ordering, then waiting, then reading all those journals. And frankly, I didn’t even like much of the writing in “those” journals. But I also wasn’t that keen on publishing in online journals because they weren’t as highly regarded back then. And, naturally, I wanted to publish in respected places-- not the “highest tier”; I knew better than to submit to the New Yorker right off the bat (well, actually, I considered it at first, silly novice). But I figured my work at least deserved to be in the “middle tier” journals.



Here’s what I know now: do not hoard your work. Of course, don’t give it away willy nilly to the first taker; still be selective and look for journals that are pleasing to your eye and full of other work that you are drawn to read! Yet at the same time, be brutally honest to yourself about the quality of your work, the level of competition, and where your work might realistically find a home. (And trust that you will continue to write more stuff that is even better!)



The good news is, there are SO many more high quality online journals out there now, which makes is so much easier to do your research. It doesn’t take long to scan through a few pieces online and get a sense of whether you resonate with a journal’s aesthetic; you could scan through ten in an hour, which is very different than mailing in $10 to ten different journals and waiting several weeks for each to arrive. Plus, there is no longer the same stigma against publishing online as there used to be. Actually, I prefer to publish oline now because then I can share my work with more people. And since most journals have been shifting to an online submission process as well, it is that much easier now to submit.



  1. Know Your Audience and Target Online or Smaller Niches



How do you find your ideal audience, much less any audience at all?



  • It might mean seizing upon opportunities to submit to anthologies or themed issues of journals that are focused on a specific topic that you already have a perfect piece for (or that inspires you to write one anew), for your competition will be greatly narrowed. Look in the back of Poets and Writers magazine for their “calls for submissions,” or go to http://www.newpages.com/classifieds/calls-for-submissions to start perusing possibilities.
  • It might also mean writing shorter, web-friendly pieces in the 500-1000 word range (as opposed to the twenty-page double-spaced, MFA low-residency friendly pieces I gravitated towards for years). For online publishing, about 4,000-5,000 words is the maximum that most sites take, although there are exceptions.
  • And finally, for me, it meant targeting journals that were actively publishing women and/or people of color. Is it a coincidence that almost all of the pieces I’ve recently had accepted were through journals who are committed to publishing women or “diverse voices”?  I think not. While this will not stop me from submitting my work to other “higher tiered journals” (which ultimately publish far fewer women and people of color, as documented by the Vida count, but which might count more on one’s book deal-seeking resume), I also realize know that I want to keep seeking out journals who are committed to women’s voices and cultural diversity. After all, these are the kinds of voices and stories I am most drawn to read as well. Here is a great round-up of journals that actively seek out diverse voices.

  
Who might your ideal audience be? Are you hoping to reach other queer readers, other spiritually-minded readers, other mothers, other animal lovers, other world travelers, other naturalists? There are magazines and journals out there for just about everyone.


Most of all, remember that when it comes to publishing and succeeding as a writer, persistence and patience are everything!!! And lots of rejection does not equal failure. What it may mean is:

·         You need to keep getting feedback and editing your work

·         You’re not submitting to the right places

·         You’re not submitting to enough places or enough times; for example, if an editor says, no thank you but please submit to us again, Do it! Don’t delay; they mean what they say.

·         Or, in some cases, it might not yet be your time yet. Maybe you are not ready to go so public, or maybe your writing is not ready. Maybe you just don’t have the time to commit. In any case, if you know that writing is a path that you love and cannot live without: keep writing. Maybe forget about submitting for a while-- yes, maybe even for years. Be patient. True, it’s satisfying to publish, especially after toiling for so long, but ultimately, for me the greatest satisfaction comes in doing the work itself, not in proving to the world that I am indeed a “real” writer because I’ve published. (Don’t you hate that insinuation?)



Trust that when your work is ready, and when you are ready, you will find your audience, however large or small.


Recent publications include:

- "Learning to Speak" in Duende
- "Open Receptivity" in Literary Mama
- "Sky Burial" in Blue Lyra Review
- "Awareness" in Vela Magazine
- "Merging" in Raven Chronicles

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My Writing Process and Writers Who Inspire Me


Xin, the character for heart-mind in Chinese (also, the heart radical)

Many of us writers love to talk and think about our writing process. I am happy to take part in the “Writing Process Blog Tour," which I first saw circulating several months ago. Friend and fellow Seattle writer, Kelly Martineau, invited me to participate, and I encourage you to read her post about her how she approaches crafting her lyrical creative nonfiction pieces, many of which deal with the shadow side of motherhood. Here’s my contribution to the conversation, and at the end I’ll introduce the three writers whom I’ve invited to carry it forward.



1) What am I working on?



Too much. Not enough. Mostly, over the last couple years I’ve been editing and writing a few crucial “bookend” pieces for my manuscript, SEARCHING FOR THE HEART RADICAL: A MEMOIR, which follows my search for language, love, and belonging as I migrate between China and America in my twenties. I’ve been working on this memoir for something like ten years, or maybe my whole life. Now, I’ve been searching for an agent since this winter, and am determined to get this book out into the world “soon,” whether that means I get an agent and book deal, or self-publish, an option I still haven’t ruled out.

            In the meantime, I’ve got this other manuscript on hold, working title: ARTIFACTS OF LONGING, which explores my relationship to my present-day home, a wooded cabin in Seattle, which I inherited from my old neighbor friend, Frank, in 2006. Frank was a merchant marine, a collector of old things, and an avid reader. His wife, Els, was a poet, a frustrated wife, a feminist and philosopher. Both were dear friends to my family, to children (thought they had none of their own), and to nature. After moving into their home in 2008, I discovered thousands of letters written between them during the thirty-some years that Frank was at sea for over half the year, along with journals, slides, and other artifacts.

            As I continue to learn more about their lives, I am simultaneously sinking deeper into my own role as a mother, a wife, an artist, and a feminist. As such, this book will weave together my evolving relationship to my own longing, creativity, marriage, familial relationships, and understanding of home, alongside my inquiry into the private lives of Els and Frank that I’ve been privileged to witness, posthumously, and interpret anew.

            With all that said, you’d think I’d be madly scribbling away each day, yet the real bulk of my “work” still rests in the care of my son. I have about ten hours a week to myself, maybe half of which goes towards my own writing on a good week, even if that writing is just a few scribbled lines in my journal. Chores, bills, teaching writing, and editing others’ work takes up the rest. I’m not complaining though. I’m really happy to feel this full with meaningful work, and the older my son gets, the more time I keep stealing back to feed my creative passions.



2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?



I write a combination of memoir and personal essays that lean towards the lyrical side. Love, longing, home, connection, and compassion are big reoccuring themes of mine. While I don’t feel that I am a particularly bold groundbreaker or risk taker when it comes to my subject matter or style of creative nonfiction, I suppose others might call my voice earnest, open, and intimate. I strive for honesty, for transparency and vulnerability in my writing; I seek to keep coming out of hiding, to push myself to say the things that I am afraid to say or to reveal, however bold or safe these confessions may appear to others. Increasingly, I am drawn towards lyricism and brevity, even though my essays and blog posts are more often long than not (case in point, this post). On that contradictory note, I feel like a lot of my work involves some layer of paradox. I’m often noticing the in-between spaces, the lack of one clear right or wrong, the way we are all products of our own environments, histories, and prejudices.



3) Why do I write what I do?



Growing up bilingual and biracial (half Chinese and half Caucasian), I am keenly attuned to issues of identity and perspective; I frequently feel like a shapeshifter, negotiating a territory in between hiding and coming out, aware of all the things that I’m not saying or exposing as I listen to the world around me. This might be related to conversations on race, or conversations about God and spirituality, both of which are topics for me that I am simultaneously eager and hesitant to engage in. But definitely, always, listening for and to.

            The more simple answer would be to say that I write what I do because I have to. I’ve kept a journal for most of my life, and called myself a writer for nearly 20 years. I am married to the process of recording my thoughts and emotions, of charting the opening and constricting tides of my heart. I am also, undoubtedly, a nonfiction writer and reader, drawn to the intimacy, insight, and connection that happens through storytelling with the least amount of distance between the reader and writer. I enjoy writing that invites you in, exposes our own collective vulnerability, fear, and beauty on the page. I’m thinking of recent memoirs by Lidia Yuknavitch and Cheryl Strayed; or the lyrical, activist-fueled work of Terry Tempest Williams and Rebecca Solnit. These are my current writer-heros, and it’s an amazing gift of our mixed blessing of technology that as their “friend” on Facebook, I am now actively engaged with their thoughts and their voices almost every day. The bravery of other writers and activists fuels me, teaches me, reminds me that I still have so much potential to grow and to evolve into a kinder, more compassionate and courageous human being.



4) How does my writing process work?



Free-writing is my friend. Natalie Goldberg was my earliest and most influential writing mentor. My advice to myself and to others: Write regularly, as much as you can. Write openly and stream of consciously; banish the editor from early drafts. Write a lot, then cut away. Put it all out there, interrogate yourself, follow tangents, be open to the process, to the places where a piece might surprise you. Be open to finding the new beginning in your ending. Be open to cutting two-thirds of a piece, or maybe even everything but one paragraph. Trust, be patient, love the process. Edit, edit, and edit some more. Be patient. Let go of the ego’s striving for more praise and acclaim. Life and writing are not a race. Your time will come. Trust the process. Trust whatever it is you need to do or to write, right now. The goal is authenticity; to find the work, the stories, and the form through which you can express your core in the most real way.

            For many years, I used to free-write every morning religiously, with tea or coffee at my side. Now, it happens in spurts, once or twice a week if I’m lucky, whether in my journal or sometimes, when I’m feeling a little more focused or starved for communication (i.e. for an audience), then as a blog post. Becoming a mother-writer (vs. just a writer) has taught me a LOT about priorities, letting go, and pushing onward. Having conviction in your vision and goals, but also allowing for surprise and for what needs to be-- for the fact that you are not, and will never be, in complete control of your life or your creative work. There’s that paradox again.

            Through my free-writing, I search for those images, memories, questions, or lines that call to me intuitively, that ask me to take pause and to probe, interrogate, and write more. When I find that central imagery, or scene, line, or detail, I hone in there; I start over; I re-focus. I ask: what am I really writing about here, beneath the surface story? Intuition plays a big role, but so does lots and lots of drafts and editing. Letting go of “your babies,” letting go of anything that gives off the slightest hint of falseness. When I get to those more developed stages, reading my work out loud is the ultimate litmus test for me. Or imagining reading it to an audience. If I grow bored or if I don’t feel the words in my gut, more than likely they are ones I can do without. 
          Ultimately, I’m writing to understand, to uncover, to praise, and to mourn. Speaking from the heart, however cliché that may sound, matters more to me than anything in writing. Because we all are starved for real connection.



Now, I am delighted to introduce the following three writers:



First off, Khadijah Queen is a poet whom I first met while getting my MFA at Antioch University Los Angeles. Khadijah curates the Courting Risk reading series which I’ve been honored to participate in, and continues to amaze and inspire me with all she accomplishes. Her essay, "Mothering Solo," is one example of her brilliant mind and voice. 

Bio:
Khadijah Queen is the author of two books of poetry: Conduit (Black Goat/Akashic 2008) and Black Peculiar, which won the 2010 Noemi Press book award. Individual poems appear widely, and her latest chapbook is I'm So Fine: A List of Famous Men and What I Had On, available for download from Sibling Rivalry Press. Read more at khadijahqueen.com.


Second, I have the pleasure to introduce Seattle-based writer and performance artist, Natasha Marin, who awes and inspires me with her continual passion for art-making, whether through collaborative, multimedia projects, or for her continual willingness to initiate provocative and honest dialogues around race, community, creativity, and vulnerability.



Bio:
Natasha Marin is a poet, a mother, a black woman in America just trying to keep on keeping on. More than a decade beyond graduate school, she still finds people and ideas fascinating. She hosts Miko Kuro's Midnight Tea (www.mikokuro.com) and is the co-founder of SPoCS (Seattle People of Color Salon). She has received grants and awards for her efforts in making poetry more accessible through interactive art events that engage the community. Her first full-length collection, MILK, an exploration of breastfeeding in the Digital Age, and is available at www.milkebook.com.



Last but not least, Olympia writer,Patty Kinney, inspires me with her candid, vulnerable, often funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and always compassionate writing about subjects such as her family, mental illness, and so much more. 

Bio:

Patty Kinney is the recipient of Crab Creek Review’s 2013 “Editors’ Choice Award” for her poem, “How To Talk To Your Schizophrenic Child” which is also currently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Patty has no idea how or when one finds out if they have won this prize? She believes her full-length poetry manuscript, Fertility Is A Found Object may have been “finished” last week. She continues to poem full-time while working on one of many memoirs - Don’t Encourage Her. Kinney, a Seattle-born, native-Olympian adoptee and US Army veteran, embraces mothering six sons, bipolarness, a good Russian Tea Cake and the yellow ranunculus. She also holds an MFA, meets the gaze of most panhandlers she comes across - desiring to one day tell their stories.


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