It seems to this author that the writing life grows ever more complex, even if you live on the edge of the world in the middle of nowhere, like me.
Not too long ago, I resented the chores attached to website design and maintenance, book publicity and tours, interviews and essays, ink-buying and paper jams. These details piled up like cicada skeletons in a Kentucky field and so did my anxiety because they kept me from focusing full-time on my writing.
Maybe it's because I've settled into a happy marriage or with age comes a jolly throwing up of the hands (acceptance, not acquiescence, is a wonderful thing) but even amid the complexity of this still young century, I've learned that if you approach the attendant sidebars of a writer's life with a light heart, the entire process becomes less burdensome, something akin to celebration.
On this windswept sandbar, amid the insects' evensong, I find myself embracing my fine new life, both the work and the play.
Here's what I've been up to:
How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly flew the coop to NYC and will be published by Grand Central Publishing in May 2010.
I’m in the early days of a new novel. Working title? Euphrates in Paradise.
My writing workshops are running full-tilt, with two new conferences scheduled for the fall. Writing Below Sea Level: Full Immersion Workshops for Serious Writers will hold three-day conferences in beautiful, historic Cedar Key, Florida on October 1-4 and again on November 5-8. As always, we’re dedicated to offering critique-intensive workshops in a nurturing environment (not lecture hall seminars with 200 people listening to me go blah blah blah. We aim to stay small: six students in fiction, six students in creative non-fiction. In addition to manuscript critiques, participants will take part in writing and publishing colloquies, enjoy evening studio sessions where they read from their work, and are led in a book-in-common discussion by Appalachian State Professor Emeritus Eileen Burt Carbia. I’ll lead the fiction group and Zilpha Underwood, a top-notch magazine and newspaper editor with twenty-five years of experience, will lead our creative non-fiction workshop. Cedar Key remains a vibrant fishing village, rich in heritage and natural splendor. I think it will be a great place to gather and immerse the muse (we'll try not to drown her). The application deadline for both conferences is July 15 (yep, that soon!). For more details, check out the WBSL website.
My latest teaching venture is one that I am extremely proud to be a part of:The Afghan Women’s Writing Project. Founded by novelist Masha Hamilton, the project “reaches out to talented and generous women author/teachers here in the United States and engages them, on a volunteer, rotating basis, to teach Afghan women online from Afghanistan.” The Afghan women’s stories are searing, important, and the telling of them is not without risk. As stated on the website, "Masha first visited the country in 2004, and was awed and inspired by the resolute courage of the women she met. When she returned, she saw doors were closing and life was again becoming more difficult, especially for women. She began to fear we could lose access to the voices of Afghan women if we didn’t act soon. The Afghan Women’s Writing Project is aimed at allowing Afghan women to have a direct voice in the world, not filtered through male relatives or members of the media. Many of these Afghan women have to make extreme efforts to gain computer access in order to submit their writings, in English, to the project." Read them online.
Speaking of teaching, my writers in the Remembering Blue Novel Writing Group (four writers complete polished novels over a two-year period: that's the plan) are absolutely rocking it. Terri Chastain, Darlyn Finch, Glenda Bailey-Mershon, and Brad Kuhn are writing from the soul, the intellect, and some other place that is indefinable. I am in the process of posting their bios and links to some of their sites on WBSL.Their info and more will be posted by mid-June. In the meantime, try Googling them.
I’ve taken up fishing. On my first time out in many years, I caught a B I G redfish on a six-pound test. Took me 45 minutes. It didn’t help that Mr. Shark decided to get involved.
Speaking of sharks, I’ve recently nabbed a sand shark and a hammerhead. Wanna go swimming?
My good friend and super duper wedding cinematographer, Paul Yoon, is enjoying huge success with his first collection of stories. Once the Shore is an astonishing debut by a deeply gifted writer. He also happens to be the boyfriend of one of my favorite people on the planet, Laura van den Berg, who has her own first collection coming out in October. It's wonderful title? What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us.
Erin Trauth interviewed me for the literary magazine Saw Palm. Read it here. An essay I wrote for Southern Accents about my county seat, Apalachicola, and the area's shape-shifting oystermen will appear in the July/August edition. Finally, the thoroughly fabulous Ted Hoffman interviews me in the equally fabulous Carpe Articulum Literary Review in their upcoming issue (out later this month, I believe).
I've been thinking a lot recently about which is worse: a poet who many moons ago tried to use his influence and power to coerce a coed into sex or a colleague who, years later, desirous of popping him out of his new appointment in an effort to make it hers, became a world class anonymous snitch and then lied about it. What do you think?
For those of you who don’t already know, I am WIRED. Join me in witty and banal banter, political and social outrage, and a fantabulous exercise in turning productive time into idle hours: FaceBook, Red Room, Twitter (I really don’t get it), and MySpace (which, I’ve all but abandoned for FaceBook).
Well, there are fish to catch, dogs to pet, a husband to feed, a house to keep, books to write, novels to read. Come to think of it, Paul’s short story collection would be a fine way to herald in the summer.