Note One: Writing Tips from Our Teachers
From E. B. Boyd (Freelance Writing in Business & Tech, 1 session March 14)
Every journalist finds it hard to get started on the writing part of our job. Most of us stare at the blank page (or Word doc, or CMS window) and pull out our hair trying to figure out what to write. One trick is to begin writing as if you're penning an email to a friend. I picture someone specific and then start writing: “So there’s this company that’s doing this really interesting thing, which is probably going to be super huge, and it works like this….” I don’t worry about the quality of the writing. Most of it eventually gets tossed. The point isn’t to figure out the specific words for your story. It’s to unlock your brain. To free it up so ideas can start flowing. “As long as your hands are moving, your brain will eventually start to engage,” says Josh Seiden, an interaction designer who writes a blog on design. This exercise gets your fingers moving. And once your fingers start moving, the shape of your story soon follows. At which point, you’ll put aside the email and start writing your piece for real.
Note Two: Our Latest Favorite Book on Writing
From Susan Ito (Family Trouble: The Hazards & Rewards of Writing About Family, 6 sessions beginning Feb 19)
In preparation for my upcoming Family Trouble class, I’ve been reading the anthology by the same name, edited by Joy Castro. Many writers mine their own family’s history for material, in fiction as well as memoir. Sometimes sharing these family stories can be liberating, and at other times it can come at a steep emotional price. Who has the right to privacy? Who has the right to express their own experience and truth as they know it? How do relatives respond when they see themselves on the page? It’s not always easy to predict or imagine. These issues are grappled with honestly in this inspiring, moving and sobering collection.
Note Three: What We’re Reading Now
From Maw Shein Win (The Accidental Find: Looking for Poetry in Unexpected Places)
Whenever I need a serious dose of inspiration, one of the first websites I visit is UbuWeb. Founded by poet Kenneth Goldsmith in 1996, UbuWeb is an invaluable resource for avant-garde writing, music, dance, film, video, and sound. The site features Top Ten selections by various artists, visual poetry, as well as a radio station. The incredibly rich film and video section has helped me generate ideas for new poems and prose pieces. CatSynth (www.catsynth.com), another unique and inspiring blog, is based on Amanda Chaudhary’s obsessions with electronic music and cats, but moves beyond those initial points of departure in many unexpected ways. (Full disclosure: Amanda and I have a musical duo called Pitta of the Mind that combines poetry with electronic music.) Beyond images of cats with musical instruments sent from readers around the world, the site features reviews and impressions about art and music in the Bay Area, New York, and elsewhere. It also includes photography focused on the urban landscape and articles about city streets and large highways. By revealing surprising connections, sites like these provide inspiration for composition (literary or musical) beyond the words and images on the page.
Note Four: Winter Classes & Workshops