All posts by Margaret

Crafting & Conversation Event at Backstory Books & Yarn

Hi y’all.

backstory books yarn outside view pdxIt may seem like I’ve done a disappearing act, but there have been a couple big posts over on my personal development blog, Taste Life Twice, and feverish activity on the editing and event fronts, here in Portland!

 

 

 

Next up is something unique, for a unique bookstore:

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Backstory Books and Yarn is a wee shop in SE Portland. Its owner, Amanda, pours a lot of love into every detail, from organization to stock to display to features, and knows her biz down to the brass tacks! (if I’m not mixing metaphors too much there)

Although I do love to mix and match my metaphors.

And also love aiming for assonance

But back to business

Since Amanda at Backstory had such a fun unique twist on her offerings, I wanted to offer a complementary twist for my event there (twists, spinning, yarn–get it?):

Not just a reading-and-signing, but a coming-together of community to talk about what the community knows: knitting and weaving.

My character Muirne, in The Keening, is a keen weaver. She takes it as a matter of course, as one did in 1822 Scotland, that a wife and mother would know the quickest way to clean raw wool from a neighbor’s flock, the brightest dyes from nature to set color, and the best way to make a social event or a teaching lesson out of spinning and weaving chores.

So for our talk, I am inviting all the crafters to fill me on the modern equivalent of such tips and tricks. Have you ever been to a milling frolic in Nova Scotia? Have you ever visited Pendleton Mills for a tour? Have you used a drop spindle and learned the knack and timing of spinning after long, patient practice?

I bow down.

Please come on down to contribute to the conversation: Saturday, 3/25, 2-3:30. Your presence and knowledge is greatly appreciated.

Also, Scottish baking treats to be provided.

Can’t miss an opportunity like that, can I!

RSVP on Facebook event page so I’ll know how much to bring. 🙂

 

Images via Backstory Books & Yarn my Instagram feed.

Literary Marketing Workshop for Authors!

UPDATED TIME: Sunday, April 2, 2-4 PM

Guess what, Aspiring Authors?

wear all the hats graphic

(Those who are on the newsletter list already heard, but here’s the general announcement:)

Cal and I are starting a series of workshops focused on the various roles an indie author has to fill in today’s publishing world.

First up is the big bear we all love to hate: Marketing

Wear All The Hats: Literary Marketing Workshop

We both have years of experience reading blogs, talking to other authors, attending panels, and experimenting with our and others’ books. Trust us: nothing is guaranteed, but there are definitely ways to improve your chances of being discovered by the readers who will love your book.

We welcome unpublished, self-published, traditionally published; straight, cis, queer; black, white, multicultural; American, international; any religion and no religion; if you’ve got a story that needs to see the light of day, you are welcome!

bearing an untold story inside you maya angelou quote

We are charging $20 per workshop, payable to either of us, or the bookshop: Another Read Through ($25 at the door, so register this week!).

Sign up through ART, then let your friends know about this opportunity on the Facebook event page! Thanks for your help spreading the word. 🙂

Workshops to follow will touch on topics of Writing, Editing, Publishing, and Bookselling. Get in now, get some new ideas, and meet your fellow Portland-local authors!

 

Images via Facebook & Surveymonkey

Time to Celebrate the Ploughman Poet

January 25 is Burns Day.

Robert Burns

What’s that, you ask?

It is the birthday of Robert Burns, widely considered to be Scotland’s national poet. He lived from 1759 to 1796, leading a short life full of struggle, defiance, humility, lust, and heartbrokenness.

He wrote poems and songs, collected folk songs from across Scotland, satirized great figures of the day, wooed many a woman to his bed, and called for radical parliamentary reform when that movement was pushing forward in 1792-4.

robert burns highland mary painting

Burns developed this radical zeal starting with his poor childhood as a tenant farming family in Ayrshire. His poor health–a heart ailment and then a rheumatic condition–no doubt came from poor living conditions as his family struggled to survive.

His best-known poem around the world is Auld Lyne Syne, which no one understands, but everyone sings anyway, in a drunken haze on New Year’s Eve.

bagpiper auld lang syne

His next-most famous poem is To A Mouse, or in the lowland Scots dialect, Tae A Moose, because it is where Steinbeck took the phrase for his book, Of Mice And Men.

Two more famous folk songs trace their lineage back to Burns: Scots Wha Hae and A Man’s A Man. The first was a rabble-rousing call to national pride after a Scottish popular reform leader, Thomas Muir, was transported for sedition.

(You might substitute deported for transported to bring it up-to-date)

The second song was composed a couple years later, when he could see the persecution had succeeded, and the fight for reform had to go underground. Its words are stubbornly hopeful for a brotherhood of equality:

It’s comin’ yet for a’ that, / That Man to Man the warld o’er / Shall brithers be for a’ that.

Furthermore, when the Scottish Parliament was recently reconvened for the first time since 1707, this was the song that was sung. So moving.

When Burns died in 1796, the Romantic movement took up his poems as anthems in Scotland and beyond. In the early 1800s, a curious tradition started: the Burns Supper, where people got together to remember the poet, and generally have a good time.

Each Burns Supper has its own flavor, but generally you must:

  1. eat haggis (and Address it, to be sure!)
  2. drink whisky
  3. read Burns’ poetry

I am lucky to be connected to a Gaelic study group here in Portland, and we are celebrating Burns’ legacy as lover, fighter, champion of the poor, and speaker of Truth this weekend.

The haggis…is in the bag.

Celebrate with us and read up on this fascinating figure of Scottish history who predates The Keening by a couple decades only…

 

Images via Annemarielatour, JackiKellum, & Singingthesonginmyheart

Solitude vs. Loneliness, and Productivity

I was thinking the other day of the highs and lows of loneliness and connectedness in my life.

And then I was thinking of the highs and lows of productivity in my life.

plot of sin and cos curves

And then I was trying to think of how they intersected.

(not my strong suit, spatial relations)

But before I can explain my analysis of this relationship for the benefit of all you writers out there, I feel compelled to highlight the difference between loneliness and solitude.

paul tillich quote loneliness solitude

I enjoy a lot of solitude in my life right now. I work outside the home one day a week, maybe two. I live alone (well, now there are two cats, as of two weeks ago–yes, we are all three still alive). I live on a tight budget because revenue is currently at a trickle, which means not a lot of going out for meals and drinks with friends.

As an introvert, I love looking out at heaps and bunches and gobs of alone time such as this. As a social human, I do manage to stick a pin in, here and there, for Gaelic, karaoke, coffee, etc. but I do enjoy structuring my own time.

Mornings have a certain rhythm.

Chores don’t feel so onerous when they are break from intellectual work.

I SO enjoy not having to worry about another person’s comfort in my space.

introverts often alone rarely lonely

But in between these yawning stretches of satisfaction and comfort, I sometimes miss having someone to talk to, to hand me a mug of tea, to drive me somewhere, to change the light bulb. You know, share the responsibility of being an adult in the modern world. Key word: share.

Another key word: witness.

That is loneliness. And it only gets worse when you try to reach out for a connection–what the Gottmans call a bid for connection–and are met with flakiness (I’ll drop by) or dismissal (I can’t right now).

In terms of how this interacts with my writing life, I think that solitude clearly allows for work to be assessed, scheduled, and accomplished, if not quickly, at least when the projects are ripe creatively.

But loneliness? It builds a wall around the writer and makes the vision go blurry and the creative impulse go slack. We may write a world into being in order to feel connected, but eventually we’ll realize we need the real thing.

Characters can’t give you a hug. Neither can they laugh at you with that sparkle in their eyes that makes you feel part of a tribe.

When I think about the times when I am most writing-productive, it is when there is a clear goal, a flexible strategy, a loose and diverse community, and a finish line in sight. You know what I’m talking about, right??

NaNoWriMo! I’ve written four out of my five novel-length drafts during NaNo. Not that they came out perfect, but they came out. It has proven to be a good annual challenge for me, so I intend to keep using it. You may have a similar retreat time every year, or a weekend ritual, or a great critique group.

Think about how your ritual is or isn’t working. Ask yourself if solitude or loneliness might be playing a part.

Try giving yourself some more solitude. And if the mean reds start to get you down, reach out! Play in some snow! Dial a friend! Sing a song! Host a potluck! Attend a bookstore reading!

When you settle back down, you’ll feel all right. And the work will get done.

 

Image via Univ. of GeorgiaPinterest, & Pinterest

Decluttering for Writers

Being a writer has nothing to do with one’s personal style, and there have been plenty of hoarder-style, as well as many minimalist, writers over the centuries.

Recently I saw this meme on Face Book, & laughed:
japanese method declutter humor

It made me think about decluttering, always a popular subject in the new year, and also a subject near & dear to my heart.

Marie Kondo jokes aside, it also made me think about how I could declutter in my capacity as a Writer.

With Language

The obvious culprit to attack is extraneous words. A writer is always called to be their first editor, and that requires the detachment to incise words that smother one’s voice or ideas.

Are you just starting an edit? Are you dragging your feet keeping up with your editing schedule? (Me! Me!) Here’s what I’m telling myself, which sometimes works:

I have the bones. I know what happens now. It’s just about keeping that clear image and structure in mind, and letting go of whatever events, descriptions, words, and thoughts that don’t support that structure.

Let. It. Go.

With Ideas

Another big category for writers is their ideas. Often asked where they get their ideas, from sci-fi to literary to suspense, I’d bet most writers are befuddled.

What do you mean, where do my ideas come from? Ideas and inspiration are everywhere, in the air we breathe!

But perhaps in your work schedule as a writer, you find it difficult to pursue all these ideas. They don’t easily fall into sequence like a Mary Poppins musical number, and you may be paralyzed by too much choice, or uncertainty as to which are the ‘best’ ideas.

So, here’s my mantra on this one: open all those tabs of half-begun stories, or assemble all those notebook pages on your bed. Concentrate on each idea in turn, and simply feel which one is most ready to open up.

Perhaps the mutant plant adventure seemed good when zombies were in full swing, but now there’s no more plot coming.

Maybe you pick up the scrap of paper about the investigation of a trainwreck, and then a woman in black leaps to the snow in the foreground. Suggestions of the stark family issues in Home drift in, and the woman now has a son. And he’s somehow involved with the conductor, who just died…

When it feels like you’ve got a tug on the line, go with that one. Declutter the other scraps into a file, for another time.

With Tools

Ughhh, yesss. What tools do you use as a Writer?

Scrivener? Evernote? Google Drive? Dropbox? Spiral notebooks? Rhyming dictionary? Thesaurus? A drawerful of special pens?

Which ones did you use in the past week? Month? Year?

Having so many things around you is a beguiling crutch, but perhaps it also contributes to that inertia you fight against whenever you sit down to write. (Or stand up)

For me, it is the proliferation of documents, scattered across physical and digital platforms, that makes me feel disorganized and like I can’t get a handle on my ideas and where I should focus.

I can either set up a regular time to scan all of these crevices, or establish a new system and try to stick to it. I’m trying the latter with my sales-tracking, so I think the reminders to scan will suffice for now…as long as I have good accountability buddies.

No mantra on this one yet, then. Maybe you have one to suggest?

 

Images via Pinterest