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“I don’t sit around waiting for passion to strike me. I keep working steadily, because I believe it is our privilege as humans to keep making things. Most of all, I keep working because I trust that creativity is always trying to find me, even when I have lost sight of it.”
Dear Women Writer—
Is writer’s block real? Wikipedia describes the block as a “non-medical condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author is either unable to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown.” The condition was first described in 1947 by Austrian psychoanalyst who believed the block was caused by “oral masochism and mothers that bottle fed”. More plausible causes of writer’s block— according to the author of a book called Conceptual Blockbusting— are “the fear of taking a risk, ‘chaos’ in the pre-writing stage, judging versus generating ideas, an inability to incubate ideas, or a lack of motivation.”
Many famous authors and musicians have struggled with this disorder. The story goes that Herman Melville quit writing novels a few years after writing Moby Dick. And who could blame him? Moby Dick’s author might have suffered the same feelings of post-publication doom that Elizabeth Gilbert did after the enormous success of Eat. Pray. Love. If you can do nothing else to recharge your batteries, listen to Gilbert’s remarkable TED Talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius.”
Writer’s block often visits us in the summer, when we expect downtime will inspire us to produce new work (or refresh the old stuff). But we find ourselves delaying our writing time, reluctant to approach the page. This writer knows she is blocked when she suddenly decides to clean out closets and drawers—an activity that is completely out of character. Yet, she finds herself telling stories to herself as she sorts through items she hasn’t viewed for years! Perhaps, these distractions are useful, after all.
We’re planning a way to help you begin a new season of writing. Join Women Who Write for a writing retreat we’re calling, Spring into Summer: A Retreat to Renew Your Writing Life, on Saturday, June 3. Between 9 AM and 5 PM, we’ll immerse ourselves in conversation, writing time, solitary wandering, and a reading by participants. Here, you will reboot, renew, and energize your creative self for those upcoming lazy hazy days of summer. Register here—
As writers, we all experience the lack of confidence that leads us to pursue other activities. Some of us clean closets, toilets, escape to a book, go for walks. These digressions are also part of the writing life. Anne Lamott believes writer’s block “suggests that you are constipated or stuck, when the truth is that you’re empty.” This statement is oddly comforting. All we need to do is find creative ways to fill our empty tanks.
Here are a few ideas from a writing teacher I know—
- Develop a mantra for your writing life. “I am enough,” or “Make a beautiful mess,” for example.
- Build accountability into your writing life. Create or join a writing group. Prepare a story for poem or a literary journal or blog.
- Make your writing a place you visit each day. Create a special folder or upload your work to a platform, like Scrivener or ProWritingAid.
- When you feel incapable of writing, create a word bank. Write verbs about your day or verbs that would be typical of a character, narrator, or speaker.
- If you cannot make your words appear on the page, write them elsewhere—a text, an email, or a post, for example. These qualify as writing!
- Mind mapping is suggested as another potential solution to writer’s block (according to Wikipedia). “The technique involves writing a stream of consciousness on a horizontal piece of paper and connecting any similar or linked thoughts.”
- Borrow a line from a poem or a song lyric and make it the first line.
- Begin with an object. Describe. Deepen. Reflect.
- Locate organic writing prompts in your daily life—eavesdrop, observe, take photos, write down a word you love (and write into it).
- Read. Read. Read.
- Don’t wait to be inspired. Write to be inspired!
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Our monthly meeting is Tuesday, May 9 beginning 6:30 PM in-person only at St. Matthews Library, 3940 Grandview Ave. Louisville, Kentucky 40207. We are pausing hybrid meetings until the leaders can determine if we can afford and operate the technological equipment and manage meetings smoothly. We want hybrid meetings that work well for all participants. We will resume hybrid meetings in July.
Our June meeting will be our in-person retreat on June 3. Our plan is to reintroduce a hybrid meeting in July. We want the experience to work well for everyone!
At our monthly meeting, we’ll ask you to share news of your writing and reading lives. After our initial conversation, we’ll peer critique works-in-progress, using a strength-based approach and offering specific helpful revision suggestions. These are developmental critiques, not grammar or proofreading.
Persons interested in receiving peer critiques on May 9, please bring 7 printed copies of the manuscript you want us to critique. We’ll follow your writing as you read it aloud. No more than 1300 words for prose or two pages of poems. If the prose piece you’d like to critique is longer than 1300 words, please bring an excerpt or ask for a writing partner who would like to exchange manuscripts.
Again, our writing retreat is June 3, 9 AM through 5 PM. This is a wonderful opportunity to manage writers block while growing your relationships with fellow scribes. Cost will be $50 for members/ $75 for nonmembers. WWW will provide beverages and snacks. A box lunch is an optional extra ($10).
We will accept a maximum of 15 registrants. Consider registering today. If you wish to reserve your space with a check, email email@example.com, and we’ll send you the address.(If cost is prohibitive, please email Megan at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Kentucky Foundation for Women has announced it will no longer use Hopscotch House for retreats. We are so grateful to KFW for the countless number of retreats we’ve been able to host there. We have our memories and many photos! We encourage all women writers to familiarize themselves with KFW. Sign up for their excellent newsletter, “The Hot Flash,” and consider applying for one of their grants.
Here is their mission statement—
“The mission of the Kentucky Foundation for Women is to promote positive social change by supporting varied feminist expression in the arts. When women and girls advance, so does Kentucky. Our vision is a transformed society where all people are free to embrace their full potential, where artmaking and creativity are central to individual and community lives, and where the diversity and complexity of our stories are valued and celebrated”
Photo by Juan Rumimpunu on UnSplash
THE WRITING PROMPT
“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”
In the craft essay, “No Ideas but in (Beautiful) Things,” in Brevitymag.com, Jody Keisner discusses the importance of objects as portal to story. “The small happenings explored in ‘Beautiful Things’ are often mundane and deceivingly simple, yet they become exceptional [when the writer places] a unique focal point on an object or a thing—a relief for writers who worry that their lives are too ordinary.” Read the essay here
Prompt—As you go about your day (or while you are washing the dishes), consider objects in your surroundings or in your memory. Make a list of several objects, then choose one to write about. You might begin with the mind mapping technique, in which you write (or draw) the object on a horizontal piece of lined paper, then surround your object with related words or phrases.
Describe. Deepen. Reflect. As you write, you are likely to begin to think more deeply about the significance of the object to you or someone else. As novelist Flannery O’Connor famously said, “The longer you look at an object, the more of the world you see in it.”
Don’t judge yourself or what you produce. Make a beautiful mess!
Photo by Mark McGregor on Unsplash
WE WANT TO SUPPORT YOUR WRITING LIFE!
Links, newsletters, and books we love!
Janet likes learning from Marion Roach Smith, especially the QWERTY podcast where she interviews folks who’ve just published memoirs. She also enjoys Jane Friedman’s newsletter where she posts links to articles by other nonfiction writers and teachers.
Megan likes the Tiffany Yates Martin Foxprint Editorial newsletter and website. Martin also leads some great classes. Also recommended is the Gotham Writers monthly newsletter. They have regular contests for all genres. Gotham has a new online journal called Razor. They are affiliated with the Zoetrope journal.
Janet loves the book, The Science of Storytelling: Why Stories Make Us Human and How to Tell Them Better by Will Storr. He uses neuroscience to describe how the human brain constructs the world we experience as reality, and then he shows how to write in ways that fully engage our readers’ story-loving brains.
Kim is reading two books she loves—You Could Make This Place Beautiful a memoir by poet Maggie Smith, whose gorgeous prose brings the reader into Smith’s life before, during, and after divorce. A series of flash stories move back and forth thorough time. Kim also loves Why Fish Don’t Exist, Lulu Miller’s “story of science and struggle, of heartbreak and chaos told in an intimate quirky voice.” Hard to classify this one!
We want to know our members’ favorite websites and books. Send us your favorite(s) to Irene at email@example.com so she can post them on Facebook! And send us links that you love for posting as well!
All members are invited to submit to the Women Who Write web blog! We accept personal essays, poetry, fiction, memoir. No more than 2,000 words please! We’ll read your work in advance and offer revision suggestions if needed. Publishing on our blog will expand your writing platform since you can share the blog link on social networks. And you’ll help WWW show off the variety of talents within our writing community! Browse our web blog now! http://womenwhowrite.com/our-blog/. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your story, poem, or essay—the one you’ve written or the one you want to write!
Submit a story to Landslide Lit(erary) on Medium.com, a publication edited by two WWW members. We will provide developmental and editorial suggestions. Here are the submission guidelines.
Brevitymag.com accepts submissions for its zine and its blog. Become acquainted with this favorite creative nonfiction literary zine. Consider submitting a flash story and/or check out their amazing craft essays!
HerStry literary essay/memoir blog seeks to empower women through their writing. They offer $20 for published work—both general and themed. The next theme is ‘Faith, Submissions due by end of May. Find out more here!
Poets and Writers has an extensive list of literary magazines to which you can submit. Learn more here.
New Feathers’ Anthology is new online literary journal publishing fiction, nonfiction, and art. Submissions for the summer issue are due between June 1 through July 1.
N+1 literary journal accepts new fiction, drama, personal essays, criticism, and translation on a rolling basis. Find out more here.
Gionsko Literary Journal. Gionsko means, “to perceive, understand, realize, come to know; knowledge that has an inception, a progress, an attainment. The recognition of truth from experience.” Accepting short fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, social justice, literary insights. Learn more here.
Sky Island Journal is online journal that publishes emerging and established writers. Prefers flash fiction and creative nonfiction (less than 1,000 words) and poetry. Rolling submissions. Inquire here.
About Place Journal “addresses the causes of spirit, earth, and society; to protect the earth; and to build a more just and interconnected world.” Their next issue is about rivers. Currently accepting submissions of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art about rivers! Deadline April 15. Learn more here.
Halfway Down the Stairs publishes quarterly themed issues of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and book reviews. The June 2023 issue will be themed Resistance. Deadline for submissions is May 1, 2023. Learn more here
Consider writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul. Some upcoming themes— The Power of Positive Thinking, Angels, Dogs, Cats, and Make Me Laugh! Learn more here
Consider submitting to this online magazine of personal essays—Dorothy Parker’s Ashes has as its tag line, “Brazen words by witty dames. Everything true. More or less.” https://www.dorothyparkersashes.com/the-writing-life
Consider submitting to this new literary magazine, Third Street Review, accepting all prose, poetry, and visual art. They like experimental, flash, and innovative forms but will publish more traditional pieces as well. https://www.thirdstreetwriters.org/
Thimble Literary is “based on the belief that poetry is like armor. Like a thimble, it may be small and seem insignificant, but it will protect us when we are most vulnerable.” The online journal publishes quarterly. Find out more here!
Maudlin House publishes fiction, short fiction, and poetry, as well as columns and book reviews. The online literary mag describes itself as “a bridge between new form fiction and experimental lit that takes on mainstream pop culture through the lens of 21st-century indie art” https://maudlinhouse.net/about/
The Fictional Café is a unique literary venue inviting fiction and poetry. This international platform does require membership (looks like it’s free) to submit. They describe themselves as a Coffee Club, and their editors and staff as baristas. Here is their invitation— “Want to submit a short story or poetry? A chapter from a novel-in-progress?”
The Persimmon Tree’s mission is to “bring the creativity and talent of women over sixty to a wide audience of readers of all ages.” They are “looking for work that reveals rich experience and a variety of perspectives.”
The Blue Mountain Review publishes poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, on a rolling basis, for publication in this quarterly print journal. “Blue Mountain Review is a Southern publication, but it draws no boundaries or borders on that interpretation. It seeks pieces that boldly create something new.”
Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers publishes prose that “treats motherhood as a subject worthy of literature.” This online journal is now part of Creative Nonfiction journal. Find out how to submit here.
The Keeping Room is an online magazine for women writers, poets, and artists, interested in “Women’s Wisdom, Lessons Learned, Self-care, Bodies, Relationships, and Community.” Find out how to submit here.
The Quartet Journal features poetry by women fifty and over. Find out how to submit here.
SUPPORT OUR WRITING COMMUNITY!
Become a member (or re-member)—As a community, WWW strives to nurture your writing life. We hope you choose to join or renew as a member and participate in our monthly meetings, author talks, retreats, and workshops. Our membership chair will notify persons when they are due to renew. Regular annual membership is $50. Student annual membership is $25. Membership entitles you to discounts on workshops and retreats.
Attend our monthly member meetings on the second Tuesday of each month for a brief program, peer critiques and conversations about the writing life. Not currently a member? You can attend two meetings before deciding to join.
Visit our web page WomenWhoWrite.com. Also, visit our Facebook Page and stay awhile—@womenwhowriteky. Don’t forget to like us and follow us. Answer polls. See video interviews of WWW meetings with visiting writers.
Participate! Members, please send us links to your published writing. We will include these links on our Facebook page!
Members, please email email@example.com with your comments, requests, or suggestions.
We wish you a joyful writing life.
Be safe. Be strong. Be peace.
Love your writing life!
The Leadership Team
Kim, Megan, Alisa, Janet, Irene, Ashley, and Katie