Summer in Words

Writing Conference


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Time is Running out

Summer in Words Writing Conference 2013

Cannon Beach shorelineYou don’t want to miss the stellar line up of professionals and bestselling authors. There are only 6 places left so if you’re planning on registering, please do so soon. Expect craft workshops that you can immediately put to use and inspiration that will propel you to your next steps. If you’re staying at the Hallmark Inn & Resort, make your reservation by May 20th to receive the group rate.
Hallmark Inn: 1-888-448-4449

This year’s theme: Deep as the Ocean

Keynote Speaker: Jonathon Evison

For information contact jessicamorrell(at)spiritone(dot)com.


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An Interview with Monica Drake

Monica Drake by Bellen DrakeI contacted Monica Drake soon after her well-received novel The Stud Book was published. Her first book, Clown Girl, is a satirical comedy about a main character struggling to achieve her dreams. The Stud Book  portrays the middle age woes of four females who are friends since childhood living in Portland, Oregon. One reviewer says it’s about the messiness of life; that makes sense since it includes questions about how and when humans and animals reproduce. (hence all the rabbits on the book cover)  She’ll be teaching workshops on Friday and Saturday at Summer in Words. You can find her talking more about the writing life here. 

Q: Could you tell us a bit about The Stud Book, how it came into being, how the ideas first took hold?

A: There are two elements working together. A long time ago, I was young and held an internship at the Oregon Zoo. I spent hours there, watching animals, with a clipboard, recording animal behavior. At the time, the zoo had three infant Asian elephants. One of them was Rama, who is still there now. After that internship I went to London and then did other things, and didn’t get back up to the zoo much for twenty years, until I had a baby of my own. Then I took my infant to the zoo, the way all mother’s do, and that elephant, Rama, was still there. Now he’s grown up. I was back, watching him. I wish I could say he remembered me, that I was his beloved babysitter, but really I was just one more face in the roaming crowd to pass his enclosure. But after that, I spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to bring babies into the world. I thought about infant Asian elephants, and human babies, and all the endangered animals, and how much we, humans, can be essentially an invasive species, moving into areas and taking over. I had to find a way to consider my own conflicting emotions when it comes to the question of population and living anything close to a sustainable life on a fragile, crowded planet.
And then I looked for the comedy.

Q: I know you schedule writing around a busy schedule—how did you write this book in small increments at time, yet still create a unified whole?

A: I wrote two pieces as stories first. One, “Mr. Slips,” later became a chapter for a character named Ben. I wrote it for an event at Hugo House in Seattle. Then later I wrote “Georige’s Big Break,” which is part of the character Georgie’s storyline. So the first two pieces were designed to stand-alone and fit together as parts of a larger puzzle. From there I moved to sections that held interest for me, the parts I was ready to puzzle out. With limited writing time in any given day, I spend my time putting down the parts I’m most drawn to.

studbookQ: Could you describe your version of ‘dangerous writing’?

A: Perhaps it has to do with a relationship to audience–I’m not always writing to soothe or placate, but to move ideas around, taking risks with content, sometimes taking opposing sides, laying down idea-driven challenges, and drawing new paradigms that perhaps challenge established ruts or roles in contemporary culture, ways we’re taught to envision the lives of men and women.

Q: What challenges do you face when you write?

A: A tendency to procrastinate is always a challenge. And for all I can tell I might have adult ADD, but I do okay, wrestling my brain, putting my words on the page. And then there are external challenges–time, money, childcare, making time for other people. But on the best days, I can settle in to work, and keep moving the work forward. I have no problem in terms of ideas, thoughts, inspiration or writer’s block. There’s always more to work on, more than I’ll ever finish, it seems.

Q: What is your best advice for writers in 12 words or less?

A: Empathy.
Move into the world of your character’s your ideas.

Q: Sushi or pasta?

A: Everything in the right time and place! I’ve actually had both today. Mmmmm….

Q: When you are not writing what is your time occupied with?

A: Writing takes up all the time one might give it, ever expanding really. Beyond that, I’m busy teaching, taking my daughter to her events, hanging out with her, and with my husband, reading, and taking very long walks with the dog.

A: What books are on your night stand?

The nightstand is small and the pile is overflowing. There’s always something by Chelsea Cain, and I’m about to re-read Dora: A Headcase, by Lidia Yuknavitch. I also have amazing new work by Stephen Graham Jones I’m lucky to get to read before it is even in print–how cool is that?–and then the new longer story (or novella) by Joy Williams, just published as single on Byliner. I’ve just finished the graphic novel Calling Dr. Laura, by Nicole Georges, too. All good stuff.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: Onward! I have another novel in progress, a few essays in mind, a short story I’m drafting. More of the same and then more again!
Thanks for asking.


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Q & A with Lauren Kessler

Prolific author ImageLauren Kessler sent me this interview from the Ouky Douky on Hermonova Street in Prague before she boarded the night train. She’ll be teaching two workshops on Friday, June 21. To follow more of Lauren’s European adventure and her fascinating exploration of aging and anti-aging find her here.

Q: You’ve been working on an anti-aging research/writing project that is the basis for your new book Counter  Clockwise My year of hypnosis, hormones, dark chocolate, and other adventures in the world of anti-aging. Can you tell us about it,how it came about and if it was fun?

 

A: Let me answer the last question first:  It was fun.  A lot of fun.  The most fun I’ve had researching and writing a book.  But those who know something of my other work –my book about attempting to survive my daughter’s snarky passage into teen-dom, a book about the life lived by those with Alzheimer’s – will know that my notion of “fun” might be skewed.  I suppose anyone who thinks that going in for a muscle biopsy is “fun” – and I did – is suspect.

 

How did the book come about?  Like all of my more recent work, it came from two places: the personal and the journalistic.  As a midlife woman living in a culture that values the young, I am confronted every day with messages (subtle and not so) about how young is good and old is bad.  It’s made me think hard about what age means, which led me to the science of aging, which led me to the enormous difference between a person’s chronological age (birthday) and biological age (the actual age of the body).  I am basically fascinated with the human body in general.  When I read that scientists now believe that perhaps as much as 70 percent of biological aging is within our control, I was hooked.  I wanted to try to exert that kind of control over my own aging.  I wanted to delve into the science, immerse myself in that fascinating research world, but make it alive (and funny) but using myself as a guide.  Or, in this case, a guinea pig.

 

Q: Could you give us a list of your books?

 

A: My Teenage Werewolf: A Mother, A Daughter, a Journey through the Thicket of Adolescence; Dancing with Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer’s (the paperback was published just under the subtitle); Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family; Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley, the Spy Who Ushered in the McCarthy Era; The Happy Bottom Riding Club: The Life and Times of Pancho Barnes; Full Court Press: A Season in the Life of a Woman’s Basketball Team; After All These Years: Sixties Ideals in a Different World.  I also wrote a book about the history of alternative journalism and co-wrote a health book with my husband, a science writer.  

 

Q: What are the chief advantages of guinea pig writing or immersion journalism that you practice?

 

A: For me, it’s a way of connecting directly with the reader.  I am a stand-in for the reader. I am you if you were crazy enough to do this, or had the time to check this out.  I am saying:  Follow me.  Together we’ll go exploring and make some sense of this – whatever “this” is. In writing this way, in using myself this way, I am hoping to invite the reader into the material, to make it accessible and personal and, I think, meaningful.  And I hope entertaining.

 

Q: Would you describe your approach as bad ass?

 

A: Well, I’m no Anthony Bourdain, but I do like to push myself, to test myself.  I want to explore…not fearlessly exactly… but with energy and excitement and an edge. I want and need to find out for myself, to put myself in the thick of things.  And I’ve got this, I guess, attitude.  This Oh yeah?  Really? Attitude.  And a skewed sense of humor. A dark-ish sense of humor.

 

Q: What challenges do you face when you write?

 

A: During the act of writing itself – which, incidentally, I adore, I live for – I face all the usual challenges:  time, focus, discipline, the way life conspires to rob me of the aforementioned.  The way I self-sabotage to rob myself of the aforementioned. There is always and forever the challenge to make something I am fascinated with fascinating to others, to entertain while informing, to wear the research lightly, to tell a good tale.  These are good challenges, welcome challenges, challenges within my control.  It’s the other challenges that are so difficult:  Persuading my agent, who needs to persuade an editor, that this idea I have, this (to me) endlessly fascinating idea I have, is commercially viable.  Breaking through to readers in a very very crowded and increasingly uncontrolled marketplace.  That is the tough stuff.

  Q: You’ve been working on an anti-aging research/writing project that is the basis for your new book Counter  Clockwise My year of hypnosis, hormones, dark chocolate, and other adventures in the world of anti-aging. Can you tell us about it,how it came about and if it was fun?

 

Q: What is your best advice for writers in 12 words or less?

 

A: It’s only a problem if you don’t admit it’s a problem.  (You owe me a word.)

 

Q: When you are not writing what is your time occupied with?

 

A: Laundry.  Well, actually not so much any more.  A few years ago, when all three of my children were still at home (only one is now), I was pretty much a fulltime laundress, part-time everything else.  Now:  Working out with the Sweat Chicas, my bad-ass exercise buddies; chicken wrangling (from 6 to zero hens depending on the appetite and ingenuity of resident raccoons); traveling; cooking; teaching narrative nonfiction in Portland. (The University of Oregon has a new program, and I’m its director.)

 

Q: What books are on your night stand?

 

A: I’m in Prague right now so I feel compelled to read Kafka.  As the long suffering mother of a 21st century teen, it’s great to read a guy who had such intense father issues.  

 

Q: What’s next for you?

 

A: I’ve got three ideas I’m noodling right now, reading, thinking, lots of thinking, walking around with the ideas in my head, letting them expand, contract, just roll around.  I am interested in, well, everything, so it takes a while to sort through and decide. Writing a book is a serious three year commitment for me.  I don’t take it lightly.