The Normal Magic of a Place (on the Antioch School)

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Peter breaks through (from Peter and Wendy, by J.M. Barrie; illustration by Lucie Mabel Attwell)

In perusing the Antioch School’s website this evening, I noticed that a piece I wrote awhile ago about the importance of story had been posted there. The memory of that time provided uplift for me just now, so thought I’d share it here.

Uplift is nice.

 

Escape into Weird Fiction

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Yellow Springs area readers: If you need some Weird Fiction to temporarily escape this Weird Reality, just take a walk downtown and purchase a copy of  Year’s Best Weird Fiction vol. 3 at Dark Star Books! There are 3 copies for sale, so act quickly! (Yes, this post is self-serving because I have a story between those covers, but the other stories are seriously FABULOUS.)
 

Letter to a young friend

I wrote a note today to a 6th grade friend who made calls for the Hillary Clinton campaign, and thought I’d post it here.

Dear E.,

Thank you for the brave work you did in calling strangers and encouraging them to vote for Hillary Clinton. Even though she didn’t win the election, I hope you know that your work matters and it was not in vain! I keep learning in different ways that every time we stand up, we give permission to others to stand up, too. It is a burden to be an every day leader (as you are) but it is is so incredibly important to harness our voices and our courage, and to stand up and speak. You never know who you reached the other day with your calls, whose ready heart you have inspired to action. We have so much work to do. But with sisterhood, we can do it.

You are an inspiration!

Love, Rebecca

 

Follow the leader

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Today, when U.S. voters have the chance to choose a president who has had to “follow” backwards in high heels for her entire career (or maybe her entire life), I consider how it will be if the follower becomes the leader…

Short story accepted!

I’m thrilled to announce that my short story “Curb Day” was accepted for Shadows and Tall Trees 7, forthcoming from Undertow Publications. It’s particularly exciting to me because, as I blogged here, in writing this piece, I adapted a process from Lynda Barry‘s process…and it was such fun to dig through compost from last spring’s embryonic essay about junk week and turn it into a story. I’m grateful to Michael Kelly at Undertow for accepting the results. Shadows and Tall Trees 7 will be available in March 2017.

Weird day (official)

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(When I woke up, I knew today felt weird…now I recall why.)
It’s the official release day for Year’s Best Weird Fiction, vol. 3. Thanks again to Michael Kelly and Simon Strantzas for including my story in this shimmering anthology! Check it out here.

Year’s Best Weird Fiction, volume 3 now available!

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Celebrate Weird!

When the actual world isn’t weird enough…this anthology might be. Year’s Best Weird Fiction volume 3 is now available (and it’s lovely)! Still, again, eternally grateful that my story (“Rabbit, Cat, Girl”) was chosen for this anthology. For more information, go to Undertow Publications.

A song I am praying for Hillary Clinton.

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I sing this song often. I sing it in my circle. When I sing it, it is sometimes a balm, sometimes a war cry, sometimes a dirge for some part of myself, or a blessing, or an encouragement for someone who needs to remember what is waiting inside her, and has been, all along.

It goes something like this:

My sister, pick up your power. 

My sister, claim your voice.

Remember those gone before us.

And pray for those yet to come.

Today I am singing it for Hillary Clinton: May she pick up her power, claim her voice, remember those gone before us, and pray for those yet to come.

May she plant her feet firmly in the ground, feeling the connection to Mother Earth.

May she feel the strength of the ancestors in her bones.

May she sing the songs of peace and protection that are in her to sing.

May she access all her selves, and even discover new ones: mother, warrior, peacemaker, human.

writing from typing, typing from writing, etc.

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Day 2 at Omega (how to make faces)

After writing the short story I blogged about here, I tried another Lynda Barry-inspired approach. Looking at a problematic paragraph in my almost-finished novel (a reader had noticed some point of view shifts and was pulled out of the story), rather than my usual method (just working on the paragraph by pruning where I could, or cutting it, or moving it) I thought I’d try handwriting it (double-spacing with extra lines like Lynda Barry had us do) to see what would happen. When I felt like speeding up, I slowed down the making of shapes and focused on the curves of the cursive.  By doing that, I was able to get outside the oppressive overmind that usually does this level of editing in my work, and realized where the shifts happened in the paragraph, what I needed to omit. The white space between lines was crucial. Turns out the second part of the problematic paragraph is maybe a better fit for my “new” novel (which I have barely started) but at any rate, it was a great procedure! I don’t think I would have noticed, had I not used this approach, with the slow handwriting, and the extra spaces in between lines. (In WRITING THE UNTHINKABLE at Omega, Lynda Barry said that sometimes all you need is some white space.) Then I retyped the newly cleaved passages from the handwriting, and pasted the parts I was keeping back into their respective novel files.

Retyping was important: though many of the sentences had not changed much, it felt like changing the linens. It refreshed the writing.

So cool! In this back and forth between handwriting and typing and handwriting, I’ve met a sort of wall of water where there are two separate worlds, but this process is a portal between them. And it goes both ways! Freaking magical.

(Thank you, Professor Andretti!)

A useful process from Lynda Barry

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Writing the Unthinkable, Omega Institute, 2016

Since attending WRITING THE UNTHINKABLE with Lynda Barry at Omega Institute in July, I’ve used a process Lynda (aka Professor Andretti) described for writing her amazing novel, Cruddy. I adapted the steps a bit to write a short story. My process was:

DRAFT 1: Write the first draft by hand—not with ink and brush (as she when drafting Cruddy), but with a black Flair. Using lined paper, I double-spaced lines. (This is important: skip a line in the composition book, as if your hand is double-spacing).

(I started this story from a very messy prompt/embryo I did last spring about taking stuff to the curb for junk day. We have this junk week thing in our town every year, where you can take just about anything to the curb and either another resident will harvest it or the trash collectors will take it. The essay was what I started with, literally writing the words I had typed up onto the paper, longhand, but veered from the essay totally so it ended up as fiction. Really, I’m dealing with some of my (internal) baggage in this essay-turned-story and so using this ‘junk’ was both cathartic and creative.)

DRAFT 2: Re-copy draft 1 by hand without taking anything out (!) but slowing down and adding things where needed. (This is really important: you must copy everything you wrote in the first draft. You can add as much as you like, but you are not removing anything. When I tried it, it began to feel like I was not cutting myself to shards, but instead just acknowledging that some of the junk—every word!—had a reason to be there, at this stage. Doing this worked against the constant self-critique I usually feel when writing. I wasn’t finding flaws and rooting them out, I was just re-copying words in slow, deliberate shapes with a pen. In fact, as Professor Andretti recommended, when my brain started to go faster than my hand, I deliberately

s l   o   w   e   d                        d   o   w   n

and focussed on making the shapes with my pen on the paper.)

DRAFT 3: Type up. On a typewriter. Professor Andretti used an actual typewriter for Cruddy, because you can only go forward (pretty much) on a typewriter whereas on a keyboard and screen you can go both ways (this ‘just keep moving forward’ idea is an extension of steps 1 and 2 above, i.e. not cutting down but building up, keeping momentum going.) I did this step on word processor because my typewriter needs a new ribbon—but before I used the word processor, I turned off the (judgmental!) automatic spell/grammar check as you type feature. If you try nothing else from my post, try this. It’s totally liberating! I knew I’d eventually do a manual spell check, so I just didn’t worry about it at this point. And I am maybe never turning that sucker back on. Like double-spacing my handwriting, excusing The Judge allows more oxygen in the room of my writing, lets me breathe. Ah! Doesn’t that feel better? Yes.)

DRAFT 4: Here is where Professor Andretti would finally type it up on a computer. Once I had the draft on the computer (see step 3), I did a spell check, and then printed it. It still needed work, but a lot of what came through in the process was evocative and strong writing. What came through most of all was the character’s voice. I believe that using this technique allowed her enough oxygen to tell her story.

It was a great and illuminating process. It felt good instead of pressured. (It was actually much more fun than usual writing.)

I’m happy to have spent those several weeks using some of the techniques I learned from Professor Andretti…and living in the not knowing/not fiction/not non-fiction/what the hell is an image/”search for underpants, eee*” zone…and I got a story out of it!

* This is a reference to a song Lynda Barry would sing in the morning at our workshop. I much prefer her/our version to the South Park version—we all sang along with her—but if you want to hear the song, go here.

To learn more about Lynda Barry, go to her Tumblr page.