Friday, November 16, 2012

More than beautiful.

I have been focusing a lot more on my Community Advisory Board lately, trying to make it work. I think it's always going to be tricky to coordinate unpaid volunteers, even when their interests have something at stake. 

To try to drum up more interest, I decided to hold a meeting in person. (Until now, we had done everything over Facebook.) Coordinating schedules was impossible, so I just decided to hold an open office hour-style meeting at a coffee shop with whomever could come. Although it was small, the meeting ended up far exceeding my expectations. I left with a long list of incredible story ideas and tips. 

This taught me a lesson: that sometimes things happen the way they're supposed to, and if you stop fighting it and roll with it, it can sometimes lead to unexpected blessings. 

Another success: 

Today, I published another story that came from my board, a profile of a really interesting poet, Michelle Naka Pierce. Because she's a poetry teacher, she offered me a really unique challenge: to take the words from the article I wrote about her, cut them up and draw them out of a hat, placing them randomly on a page to create a poem -- the same words, but in a different form. 

Um, awesome. 

It turned out to be much harder than I expected. I started overthinking it and wanted it to make more sense, be more concrete. I only used some of the words (maybe 60 percent) from the first (Word document) page of the story, but I did stick true to her instructions. 

Pierce says: "Poetry is more than beautiful. It can be gritty and have edges. It can be complicated."

Although I am not in love with my final poem, I enjoyed the principles behind the homework: realizing that words can be anything. They have no limits. And when you think you are done with writing something, you can always shuffle it around and turn it into something completely different. It is never done. As a journalist, I rarely practice free, unstructured writing. Shaking up my brain and process a bit felt good. I helped me think differently about my other stories that week.

As Pierce says: 

"One of the important pieces around writing is reading, especially outside of poetry. Read a newspaper, read a science book, read about architecture, get outside yourself. Get outside your immediate base of knowledge and even your immediate base of interest. That often triggers some kind of project, something outside you that can actually help you quite a bit. Writing, for me, is about learning, too. It's not just about transcribing what I think. It's about exploring. It's about thinking. Writing is thinking."


When unstable borders float about 
Something living demolished work boundaries, 
Stereotypical writing. 
We work. 
Floating buildings. 

My profession seemed to
Color me something. 
I half wrote down these journals -- 
How borders blurred, 
What interested questions triggered
Something particular. 
Someone walked into the room, 
Very interested. 

Distant powerful colors returned. 
Murals connected. 
The candle, a moon. 

I read lots of stars, 
occupy poetry, 
question teachers, 
research celestial music. 

The text books changed, 
Quite interdisciplinary.
The element.
What a class. 


Another writing challenge that Pierce posed to me appeared in my article:

How can people experiment with some of these concepts at home?
In many of my classes, I start with a 10-minute free-write. It's a transitional space, a contemplative gesture. You get to let go of anything that came before.
My second book I wrote in those 10 minutes with my students over the course of a year.

I have tried to keep this up since our interview. Here is my first entry. Wee! My brain feels like it's stretching. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

10 minutes a day

Could she find it again? Where did she put it?
She hid it in a box, or a sock, or wedged it inside a book, she thinks. It's got to be in some closet, or under a cushion, or maybe it fell off the hanger and is wadded up under some old clothes.
She can't remember, though. She can barely remember what it looks and feels and sounds like, and as she tears through her house, she wonders if she even knows exactly what she is looking for.
Oh, God, she hopes she didn't sell it for some extra cash during one of those financially tight months. Fear swells in her throat, as she rips her attic apart and comes up empty-handed. It's gone. No! She wouldn't have sold something so important to her.
But then again, if it were so important, how did she lose it in the first place? And for so long.
It must be here. But where? Everything around her is a disaster now, and she is exhausted. In anger and frustration, she opens her mouth and chokes out a deep sob.
It finds her. 
Oh, there is her voice.  

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