Welcome to part 2 of my Summer Writing Colony series. You can read Part 1 here. Make this year's staycation count! Today we will look at how you can bathe in wisdom from at least one brilliant speaker every day, even without a cent in your pocket.
National Public Radio
In my area of National Public Radio, we access an amazing weekly series of writer interviews called City Arts and Lectures. I have listened to and been inspired by writers in my car, at home, live streaming on the treadmill at the Y. But that's not the only writer-friendly program. Just today, Forum has a talk about letters between two poets. What's in your area?
The New York Times
The online New York Times has an Opinionator blog series called "Draft," essays on craft by exceptional writers. You can access the New York Times up to ten page views per month without paying. (I do support public radio and subscribe to news and writing outlets whenever I have the finances to do so.)
TED Talks and YouTube writer profiles
The online Technology, Entertainment and Design conference covers about a zillion topics. Did you know that TED has a series of talks exclusively about writing? Meanwhile YouTube has interviews with writers and poets, biographers and history detectives, and sometimes you can watch them read their work. Find the writers you love and admire and learn from them!
Even Writers' Digest is on YouTube. What else can you find?
Your Public Library
Bring home classic writing craft books, immerse yourself in a biography about a favorite writer, or find CDs where writers and poets read their own work. OMG, Audiobooks!
Help yourself write your book by checking out a few books on your subject matter. Live with them for a couple of weeks. You will get a deeper dive than online searching. And make an effort to let random chance happen. Make yourself WALK THE STACKS. Your serendipitous find may be just around the corner.
Local Author Events
You can learn so much about what the author wrote, how she or he wrote it, and more. You also do a service by attending, as any author would prefer to look at a group of living bodies rather than empty seats. And you never know who you will meet or what ideas will capture your mind.
While you can freely attend, try if you can to bring cash for the author's book.
Look up web sites for independent bookstores in your town. Barnes and Noble bookstores also have excellent author events. And check out any universities and community colleges in your area-- they often schedule visiting writer series.
This week's assignment: Get thee to a literary event/reading/viewing and tell me about it. Then, schedule in more events for the rest of your Summer Colony stay.
As the young woman cut my hair she told me about a wedding she had attended the past weekend near Russian River.
“The bride and groom weren’t the type to hire a reception hall. And they had just a little money to spend. There were maybe sixteen of us from all over the country—ALL over. And we brought tents and equipment, and it was potluck. Because everyone knew they had to feed themselves, we ended up with more than enough delicious food.
“Then a friend of the couple’s married them under the trees. He had gotten ordained. It was a pretty wedding to watch, although we kept the dress informal. And then we just had a good time enjoying each other’s company for three days, hikes, and the river, and sitting by the fire toasting marshmallows at night.”
That's a California wedding that John Muir would have liked.
Greetings from my Summer Writing Colony. I love it here, and I am getting stuff done and surprising myself. Won’t you join me? It’s free, and you can attend from exactly where you are. It doesn’t matter whether your job or family can spare you—you can join!
Let me explain. There I was, salivating over writing workshops, conferences, and colonies listed in Poets and Writers and The Writer’s Chronicle. But this summer I don’t really have cash to attend, nor can I get away from family responsibilities, or add another flight onto my schedule.
Then I saw a line from one of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project calendars:
“Put yourself in Creativity Boot Camp: Tackle a project in an intense, concentrated way, and push yourself to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.”
I returned to my magazines with new eyes. If I could design my own retreat, what exactly would it look like? Soon I was cutting and pasting ads until I had created my ideal Summer Writing Colony poster. “Weekly Intensives,” I promised myself, in an atmosphere that would be “Supportive, Yet Demanding.”
Most of my energy in this colony session will go into reading, writing, and completing supportive, yet demanding weekly assignments. But I will also experience literary field trips, arts and crafts sessions, lectures from brilliant guest speakers, and daily meditation and soul guidance. And this place happens to feature delicious food and fun physical workouts. It’s kind of a spa retreat and writing boot camp all rolled into one. At home.
Over the next six or seven weeks I’ll break down the menu so you can implement YOUR OWN writing colony schedule as an honorary member.
Your assignment for this week: Buy or borrow a writing magazine that inspires you. Read your writing source this week and take notes about what you want to do on your next four to six weekly intensives.
See if you can do some cutting, taping, and designs to create your OWN poster of intention for this summer—or make one online on Pinterest. What do you want to accomplish this summer? What does your ideal retreat look like? Let me know!
I found this ebullient young man in the 1900 edition of University of California, Berkeley's Blue and Gold yearbook. It seemed right to post him on this first day of the World Cup in Brazil.
I'm studying this time period for my new book, as-yet publicly unnamed.
Beast might be a good name.
There I was, in the California Room leafing through the yearbook when I stumbled across evidence that my Great-Uncle Ernst had been secretary and treasurer of the Chess Club that year. They had trounced Stanford. He was likely a sophomore.
That year (according to Richard Schwartz’ wonderful book, Berkeley 1900), the Berkeley campus was pretty much a vast field with only a couple of buildings. The extremely wealthy philanthropist, Mrs. Phoebe Hearst, was deep in planning sessions with a celebrated French architect to lay out the campus.
I am a grateful UCB alumna. When I attended in the early 1980s, I had no idea that my ancestors had been there before me. I ate Top Dog wieners and bought used Signet editions of Shakespeare at Mo’s Books, biked to The Cheese Board, and dodged shady characters on Telegraph Avenue.
But the Berkeley and Oakland back then still had a number of oaks, dairy farms, quail, and goats; somehow I see goats in my vision of Great Uncle Ernst getting to class.
When you officiate at a wedding, carry a handkerchief. It should be soft, with no scratchy embellishments. It should be small enough to hide in your sleeves or notebook. You might even consider carrying one to the wedding rehearsal.
Consider that the bride has (usually) just spent hours having her makeup carefully applied. Yes, it is romantic when tears come to her eyes; that means she is fully engaged in the process of the wedding, and something has moved her deeply. At the same time, she does not want her mascara running down her cheeks, nor does she want her nose to run. Help her retain her maximum photographic advantage. Whip out your hanky and let her delicately blot the tears away.
During my dozen years of officiating, I have also used that hanky to swish away enthusiastic bees from a bride's fresh-flower headdress, and to help a bride mop away the "glow" from marrying on a hundred-plus degree summer day.
The groom is just as likely to tear up. He often has a nicely folded handkerchief in his breast pocket, but yours is more convenient while he reads his vow.
Make sure you are not emotionally invested in the handkerchief, because in the ensuing chaos after the ceremony, it won't make its way back to you.
I remember performing a wedding in a white-towered tent surrounded by a blooming lavender field. The bride had thoughtfully placed a table piled with vintage floral hankies at the entrance to the tent. Alas, there was no sign specifying that guests were able to choose and have one, and so most of those hankies went unused that day. It must have taken a lot of work to assemble that lovely heap of cotton wisps; I hope the couple later made something like a hankie quilt with them.
Here are some thoughts about weddings, writing, and the world. Enjoy.