Category: The Process of Writing

April 21, 2017

I have been editing a nonfiction manuscript that I wrote before the death of my mother. I just recently took it up again after more than a decade. I began with some optimism and ease, expecting quick completion. (I was eager to move on to new ideas for another project.)

However, as I found myself in the midst of unresolved emotions, my efforts slowed down. Difficulties seemed to arise out of nowhere as judgments threatened. I wished I had never begun. I had to remind myself as a student and teacher of yoga, this situation, most likely, was the perfect opportunity for growth.

Deciding not to reside in emotional turmoil, I rededicated myself to be the neutral witness. I set aside my desire to rework the last chapter, returned to the beginning and am happy, for now on page 16, to pursue ongoing resolution.

April 23, 2017

I have been contemplating the concept that objectivity is not neutral as an extension of my recent return to neutral attention. Still, there is more. I have also been remembering things.

After reading poetry (on a university radio station) with a friend and fellow poet, my friend said to me: “Unfortunately, no one will know what a great writer you are until after you are dead.” This happened in the 1980’s. I also remember a barely concealed sneer by the radio interviewer regarding “women poets writing about their cats.”

Why did he ask us to come on his show? Had he not “read” our proposed selections ahead of time? Having written on the death of our family cat as a metaphor for something else, unfortunately, I allowed this experience to have a dampening effect on my writing life.

Now I write, because it is the song I have to offer. And every once in a while, I am reminded how women have not come as far as we sometimes like to think we have.

Gudrun Mouw (c)

Journal Entry The Process of Writing

German CountrysideI told Gudrun I would do a guest post for her this week. She deserves a rest. I had her read her novel one last time in January, to approve the copyedits. At least a dozen writers and literary types have read From Ashes Into Light in the last year and a half as it has been prepared for publication, and there was still one typo that no one had caught. Thanks Gudrun! It was the old i before e except after c, and it almost got through.

Gudrun has read over her forthcoming novel more times that she cares to count. She has always been a thorough editor, first in grad school (English Literature at San Jose State), then as a college English instructor (during the Vietnam Draft days, her classes were packed with men!), as columnist, and as a poet. She says she has always enjoyed the revision process.

When she is writing, Gudrun likes to get out of the way of her work. Meaning, she let’s what wants to come through come through, suspending any judgment or criticism.  Then when it’s time to revise, Gudrun’s emphasis is how it sounds either reading it aloud or in her head. She uses poetic techniques to shape the effect of her passages, deleting or rewriting until the music of the writing appears. People often comment her work has a strong emotional impact and this might be part of the reason.

Of course, From Ashes Into Light required a lot of research too. As a former librarian, Gudrun was not afraid of the library at the University of California at Santa Barbara which provided a lot of the information about World War II and the time of the Spanish Conquest of California. She spent long hours there and lots of photocopying. Then there was the research trip to Czech Republic, the former East Germany, Germany, and Austria. Gudrun got to spend time with some her cousins and visit in person some of the places her characters visit in the book: Salzburg, Magdeburg, the Bodensee, Dachau.

There’s three weeks left until the publication date, and it’s a twilight time. After one and half years for me, and over 20 years for Gudrun, it’s hard to believe it’s almost here. It’s strange working on something for so long that is only going to take two or three days for folks to read. It’s ephemeral. But like other works of art, the reverberations can last a lifetime.

Thanks for tuning in to Gudrun’s Blog. She will be back, probably in two weeks. She’s working on a few guest posts for her blog tour. Gudrun’s blog tour is starting February 22nd, which just means she and her book will be featured on many different blogs as a way of letting people know about her book. There will be reviews of her book, interviews with Gudrun, and a few guest blog posts written by Gudrun for other blogs. Links to this activity will appear here, or on Raincloud Press’ website.

Forthcoming Work The Process of Writing

It has been an interesting process, looking for a genre that best describes my novel, From Ashes Into Light. Nothing seemed to quite fit the three-lives-one-soul, spiritual journey that this work of fiction depicts.

Learning about the Visionary Fiction category was a feeling of relief. I very much look forward to connecting with other like-minded writers and writings that step outside the boundaries of ordinary experience.

Gudrun

 

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The Process of Writing

The publisher of Raincloud Press recently sent me a review of my poetry book, Wife of the House, saying she thought I might “enjoy it.” The review had been posted on LibraryThing, a website for librarians.

I was pleased by a thoughtful and erudite discussion of poetry in general and also appreciated the reference to Wife of the House as “spiritual writing” and what the reviewer called “the backdrop of second-wave feminism.” I was intrigued and more fully understood, perhaps for the first time, why the book did not find an audience earlier.

The broad perspective and historical overview the reviewer exhibited in her piece was not available when I first tried to publish my collection. Decades ago, I read from another manuscript called Frozen Souls at an UC Santa Barbara event. A playwright contacted me afterwards, asked to read my entire manuscript and spoke to me about turning it into a play. Frozen Souls is a collection of poems that tell the story of two people, a girl and a man. The voice of the girl grows into a woman, and the male voice remains that of a mature man.

The playwright wished to change the male character into a woman for the play. At the time, I had already formulated a direction which the LibraryThing reviewer called “different from the culture of feminism rooted in the Friedan era.” I had chosen, which the reviewer correctly pointed out, to explore “feminist and metaphysical themes” in order to find a healing path that does not exclude anyone.

As a result, the Frozen Souls project did not move forward. I regretted this, on occasion, thinking, perhaps, I was getting it wrong and that I was out of step with the times. The current review gives me renewed faith that spiritual growth and the evolution of feminist consciousness do not need to be antagonistic issues. Put another way, and as Sri Swami Satchidananda repeated many times, “Paths are Many, Truth is One.”

 

 

(Frozen Souls is a collection of poetry scheduled for publication in 2016)

The Process of Writing

lightfiltersNovember 25, 2014

Late morning light filters through green oak leaves that throw a hue on the walls inspiring me towards a pale yellow paint I have yet to bring to the room.

Inspiration and manifestation are two different ends of the spectrum. Where is that barely turquoise accent wall I’ve been wanting? Where is the completed manuscript about my teacher, Dear Gurudev?

And how is it, by the way, whenever I write about my teacher, the early drafts seem to need so much help. In general, I realize, I’m a many-drafts type of writer.

At an author’s luncheon, I once heard someone, sitting across the table, say, “I never do more than 3 drafts.” How lucky she is, I remember thinking, to be able to do that. I never could do just 3 drafts, I wish I had that gift.

There are exceptions: A writer’s journal has few corrections. Perhaps, that’s why it is a mirror-to-the-soul type of thing.

Ideas percolate, but something stands in the way. Several shelves and piles of projects wait to end.

November 27, 2014

The journal is a bits and pieces medium, or at times it is the process of remembered videos around Thanksgiving holidays gone by, especially those before the passing of my parents. We are alone this year.

Perhaps, there is a new story needing to be born, even with old ones not finished. Circumstances change one’s priorities, sometimes, like that recent Gallery visit, seeing beautiful bowls with crows that sit on the rims.
The Love of Crow

It was a long time ago, but I still vividly remember a fearless creature, its beak seemed to point me in a fierce direction. I was hesitant. I had been writing for a contest and had arrived at a stopping point punctuated by insecurity about my writing being too stark. Compelling with a bold, steady gaze, he looked down at me from a wall next to the beach where I had gone to discover additional inspiration.beachinspiration

It seemed I heard him with words I could understand and which quickly manifested on the page like a gift straight from universal consciousness. I was able to finish the piece I had been working on, and that crow helped me win “The Dream” contest.

Today, I also remember the saying, “Eat crow.” I understand that to mean needing to do penance after having been proven wrong about something. Ah, I realize, the crow made me eat crow.

I think of recent writing work, classes, Thanksgiving, an event that will soon to require extensive preparations. I lean back in my chair and see a point of light with no discernible source.

The light comes from a pink quartz crystal. The rest of the room is in shadow, except for afternoon sunlight visible a distance down the hall–a different color light, more yellow, through a tall, west-facing window in the dining room. The warm patches on white wall fade, but light from the rose quartz still calls out to me.

Beyond the English garden building, the bamboo fence shines so strongly that it reminds me of a soon-to-appear-sunset. Time to start dinner.

When I sit down again, I have missed the sunset. It has turned very dark outside the sliding glass door–the color of crow.

Inside, the rose quartz still shines. This has happened before. I sat in in the dark, several weeks ago, and light came out of the pink quartz glowing as from an unknowable source. I remember feeling uplifted.

darkandlight

This time, I do a test. I turn off the kitchen light, then the hall light which I had turned on during the food preparations. Nothing happens until the hall light goes off. The quartz, shaped in a circle, glows around its circumference and then goes dark. Crow.

The play of opposites. Door of mystery. A willingness to be amazed, to be curious and, at the same time, not to know.

The Process of Writing

SunsetPaintedCavePoets such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and Emily Dickinson have appealed to me for the metaphysical nature of their work, their innovative use of language and spirit of independence. I admire in Sylvia Plath’s poetry what has been called her “control of intolerable pain.”

Theodore Roethke’s grandfather was a Prussian, as was my maternal grandfather. I was born in the home of my grandparents in East Prussia, and when I met the poet Kenneth Rexroth in the 1970s, he said that my poetry was very “Prussian.” At the time, I didn’t get what he meant by that. However, when I review Roethke’s work, I am still drawn, as I was from the first, by his wry approach to nature as a great clarifying force.

Discovering the mystical poets such  as Kabir and Rumi was very exciting for me. They both have the quality of being refreshingly irreverent and, at the same time, intensely spiritual. I find that these mystical poets’ ability to describe the strange and awesome world of ecstasy to be a continuing source of inspirations.

The Process of Writing