Read what you have written in Austin

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One of our Workshop Writers, Erin Machniak, read some workshop writing of hers at an open mic this weekend, here in Austin. While we enjoyed hearing her writing read out loud — a piece based upon “These the things my mother taught me; these are the things my mother did not teach me — the mic’s organizers passed out a guide to open mic readings in the Austin area.

Austin Open MicsHere’s the handout, with readings nearly every day of the week. Some are populated by poets, others take any type of fiction. Five minutes is a good time limit for your reading. That’s going to be something on the order of 400 words. You need to read a little slower than you think — well, maybe a lot slower if you’re in a rush when you read. When all that we have is the sound of words, it helps to deliver them slow enough that we can paint pictures of what we’re hearing.

Of course, reading aloud is a feature of Workshop meetings. It’s optional, for the writing we’ve just created together. But for people like Erin who read, they receive the immediate response from other writers: only the positive response of what we remembered, what stayed with us, what was alive and working in the writing. Just-written stories deserve this gentle treatment. As I say, if you cannot identify what’s working in your writing, then you’ve got no business rooting out what is not working.

Erin’s writing will appear in our forthcoming anthology, Small Packages. Coming soon in Austin, on Amazon, and elsewhere.

Our holiday schedule starts with a class shift, discounts

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Workshop writers who enjoy our weekly classes, evenings and mornings, have a revised schedule for the coming weeks.

OnĀ November 19, our regular Tuesday night shifts to Wednesday evening November 20 — for one week only. See you at 7PM on November 20. Contact me if you’d like to sample a class for free.

No Tuesday or Wednesday classes November 26-27. It’s the Turkey Day week. Enjoy the time with your friends and family. Or go get that pumpkin spice that you only buy once a year for that pie.

Our first Weekend Day Retreat is December 6-8, Friday through Sunday. Just $250 for three days of writing, relaxation (steam shower, optional massages, Saturday night entertainment) and a catered supper on Saturday. Enjoy writing in the daylight with prompts, exercises, even arts and crafts. A couple of spaces left…

Regular class times on December 3-4, December 10-11, December 17-18 — all Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Then our usual two-week Holiday Hiatus, Christmas and New Year’s weeks. We’re back for the regular schedule in January.

Get your Class Card for the coming year. One free class per card purchased until the end of the year.

 

Writing as Your Self Help

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One of my groups at the Writer’s Workshop builds memoirs, and its members have been hard at work being vulnerable, fierce and flawed while they tell stories about themselves. It’s a challenging assignment to use creative nonfiction to write a memoir — these stories usually have pain and loss to go along with lessons and laughter.

self-helpThis kind of writing can help you help yourself. Yes, self-help, that phrase that’s been denigrated since it first appeared well over a decade ago. Of course, you still see Self Help on the bookshelf signs at Barnes & Noble or our local Bookpeople. But for some of our writers, finding self-help practice inside of a memoir group has been surprising.

It’s surprising to me to think that writing about yourself would not be helpful — or even the most rewarding result of creating a memoir. One of my early Workshop students recently expressed a common feeling: Writing is Hard. As we shared about this on her Facebook feed, a friend noted that the therapy of writing is one of the biggest prizes to be earned from the effort.

Writing is ultimately therapeutic – getting it clear on paper means getting it celar in your head, which means getting it clear in your heart sometimes.

So working on memoir, or any heartfelt writing, has the potential to be much more than comparison of narration vs. scene, or how to construct an elegant transition, or how many of your paragraphs get to be one-sentence grafs. (Tip: if there’s more than one single-sentence graf on your manuscript page, you may be undercutting every one of them after the first one. Sports columnists rely hard on the single-sentence paragraph. Even the prize-winning ones.)

The connection: The sports columns are creative non-fiction, just like a memoir. But the subject of memoirs is yourself and your heart, where the battles are conflicts between friends and family — so we want to read about struggles overcome, not just gamesmanship. Memoir is writing that will become therapeutic with enough practice and honesty. Making a memoir can produce self-help, with a gentle group to spread courage.

Tweeting on Twitter leads to writing, writers

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I got lucky in being led to Twitter. A client already had a Facebook habit, so I joined his social network. Twitter took off while I was getting agile with Facebook, and before I knew it I was hooked on both.

Lucky for me, there’s a way to feed both of these networks at the same time. When I post to my Twitter feed — you can follow me at @ronseybold — it will update my Facebook news feed at the same time. Facebook has a program to help you set this up.

The Twitter experience leads to other writers and industry advice on craft and business. Mashable.com has a wonderful summary of “100+ of the Best Authors on Twitter.” Then there are agents and readers like AAKnopf, operated by the New York publisher.
The person Tweeting at Knopf advises

Go behind the covers with Knopf jacket designer @mendelsund in this @Omnivoracious interview: http://ow.ly/JwwX

That last bit is a shortened Web address, commonplace in the Twitter-sphere. Writer’s Digest has a fine summary of some of the terms and techniques in Twitter use in its cheat sheet. Among their bits of advice on becoming someone who Tweets on Twitter:

  1. Use your real name if possible. Make it easy for people you know or meet to find you on Twitter.
  2. Add a profile picture. Preferably this will be a picture of you. People connect better with other people, not cartoons, book covers, logos, etc.
  3. Link to a website. Hopefully, you have a blog or website you can link to in your profile. If you don’t have a website or blog, do that. Now. And then, link to it from your Twitter profile.
  4. Write your bio. Make this memorable in some way. You don’t have to be funny or cute, but more power to you if you can do this and still make it relevant to who you are.
  5. Tweet regularly. It doesn’t matter if you have only two followers (and one is your mom); you still need to tweet daily (or nearly daily) for Twitter to be effective. And remember: If you don’t have anything original to add, you can always RT something funny or useful from someone else.

Then there’s the matter of following lists. To track a collection of Tweeters writing about books, sign in to Twitter on its Web site and head to twitter.com/tweet09/books

The life of a writer can be isolated and solitary. In fact, that’s the best way to compose and refine your work. But you want connection with a community, too. If you can’t make it to a workshop, manuscript group or a writing group meeting, Twitter can keep you connected.