I’m currently working on several new titles to be published by my imprint, Dancing Words Press. Upcoming titles include an embellished historical nonfiction, Wild Blood: Horse Thieves and Whores, about my renegade birth parents and their Gold Rush roots. On a completely different track, my next anthology Dance Life will be a collection of wild stories about dancing around the globe blended with the body-wisdom I’ve gleaned from twenty years of teaching dance as an ecstatic and healing art form.
Note to the Aspiring Writer
(from the epilogue in Wild Life)
I try to look normal, but I am a writer, and we are a convoluted breed. I liken my writing process to mud wrestling. I sweat, get ugly, and slump too long at the keyboard. I routinely ignore my family and friends. With my unkempt hair and fuzzy bathrobe the only props missing are an ashy cigarette dangling from the corner of my mouth and a highball glass with bourbon sloshing onto my manuscript.
Writing is like ballet. A ballerina looks like she’s levitating, but look at her feet and they’re bleeding. — Barbara Kingsolver
When the words that spill out are finally wrestled into the storyline, I am ecstatic. Maybe those words are an absolutely accurate description of a blazing sunset. Maybe they’re telling of a moment of truth when I hear the river’s scream and yawl, and I point my kayak toward the hypnotic invitation of peaked rapids.
Mood-enhancing endorphins are released when a writer delves deep into an experience and returns with her verbal quarry—the perfectly constructed story where every word has auditioned for the page.
At least, it feels that way to me.
And then I take a shower.
Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. — Franz Kafka
This is the advice Cheryl Strayed, the author of “Wild”, gave at a writing workshop I attended. Yes, I still have “beginner’s mind” and take writing workshops—not just teach them.
There is no finish line stating “greatness” for the writer. And I have faced the valleys of sloth and criticism. Rejection? I know rejection and its smirky face.
Several decades ago I took a workshop with a well-known author who teaches the craft of writing. She invited students to bring in a story to read. I read my story and afterward, there was a moment of silence.
“That sucks!” the teacher finally pronounced. Permission thus granted, the other students dove on me like jackals. “I’ve been to Bali and it’s not like that at all!” “Why is it so happy and everything is so pretty?”
I walked out in shock.
That evening my self-doubt transformed into anger. My Bali story wasn’t that bad! Certainly, it was better than many of the other pieces read and none of the other students got their heads chewed off.
“Oh, yeah?” I thought, and I printed it out and sent it to the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle travel section.
A few days later Don George, the editor, called me. He loved it and its happy, sensual tone. It appeared that same month on the front page of the Sunday travel section.
Don inadvertently launched my travel writing career just as I was about to abort the mission. I also give credit to that writing instructor, and have thought to personally thank her when next I see her waiting in line at the Fairfax post office. I would tap her shoulder and say, “Thank you for kick-starting my career (in the ass). I’d probably still be working on that story today if my hackles hadn’t risen!”
And we would laugh. At least I would.
I make up my own mind about [the work] – how good or bad or indifferent it is. After that, critics can write what they please. I have already settled it for myself so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free. — Georgia O’Keeffe
Advice to you, dear reader: view rejection and frustration as the matador’s cape. The matador’s sword will pierce you. After, think about it. Do you really want to be a writer? If so, stand up and dust yourself off. Stamp and paw and snort and charge again until you knock that matador off his feet with your stunning words.
Did you know having a baby can turn you into a writer?
Read my interview in NFAA:
Nonfiction Author Association: “How did you come to do what you’re doing today?”
Lisa: Thirty-two years ago, I started a community newspaper in Fairfax, CA. I was craving a rag that focused on what I found interesting in our region: artists, characters, hikes, gardening, history, politics.
I had a baby when I was 29 and realized I had to stay home occasionally, so what work could I do when I finally put my backpack/suitcase down? I had just sold my import company, Dreamweaver Imports, in San Francisco. It was time to write about my travel adventures—not just live them—so I’d nurse Galen in front of the keyboard and work on my stories. It was a great challenge to discipline myself to construct well-written sentences that would weave into a story worthy of the printed page. As you know from “Wild Life”, I didn’t stop traveling when I had a baby; I just didn’t go for one-to-two-year vagabonding journeys. And I would take him with me. Galen’s first big adventure was when he was 8 months old and I hauled him off to the Imilchil Berber betrothal faire in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. That story, “Two Muhammads” is in Wild Life: Travel Adventures of a Worldly Woman and Vignettes and Postcards of Morocco.
There is a lot more to the interview regarding inspiration and a writer’s behavior but I wanted to share a photo of my “baby” now. Galen is 33-years-old, an avid vagabonder, and director/boss of a sustainable farming community on the Big Island. The plate of food is from his cafe at the local farmers’ market. All the recipes are made with wild or organically grown produce from his land against Green Mountain. Tumeric/ginger fried coconut anyone?
Free Article Archives on Scribd:
Modern Day Explorers on the Shamanic Path
An interview with Tom Pinkson who is adept in the ways of plant medicines and an initiated Huichol shaman dedicated to the “shamanic path.”