May 24, 2013: On the way…
I am one day away from a self-imposed writing retreat to our Mt Carroll, IL house (it’s up for sale, by the way, in case you are looking for your own retreat) that will start with a writing weekend with two of my best writing buddies, Gail and Jana. (I just noticed that I have written the word “writing” three times in that sentence. I guess I want to remind myself that this retreat must be about the writing.) Anyway, once my buds have gone, I will need to be my own inspiration for a while. No internet in the house, no television or other distractions. Lots of neighbors close by with whom I enjoy raising a glass now and again, but I will have to use that glass-raising as my reward for a good day’s work.
The semester has just finished, and as always, at the end of it, I remind my students not to give in to the temptation to put the writing off. You know how it is at the end of a school year; the first thing you want to do is sleep (okay, maybe the first thing you want to do is drink, but after that, you really do need to catch up on all the sleep you have missed.) The last thing you want to do is anything that feels remotely like homework. So you save the writing for the next day. And then the next day, and the next. And before you know, the summer has passed and you have–indeed–forgotten to write. (This procrastination action is not limited to students, by the way. Teachers. Parents. Single guys and gals. Anyone who thinks that they will have more time to accomplish what the really want to in the summer when the days are longer and the breezes are warmer can be caught in the trap of “I’ll get to it tomorrow.”)
So want a little nudge? How about a writing getaway for yourself? As it happens, I will be teaching four workshops of various lengths and purpose this summer, and I would love to have you join me.
First: Journal & Sketchbook at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts in beautiful Mineral Point, Wisconsin. June 8 & 9, 2013.
I co-teach this class with visual artist Philip Hartigan, and we gear the class toward writers and artists of all levels. Activities will help you use visual note taking, writing, and expressive mark making to help you record memories, observations, imaginings, stories, and visual narratives. This pairing and interplay of text and image is a time-honored artistic tradition, practiced by writers and artists from Mark Twain to Henri Matisse to Jean-Michel Basquiat, and is useful for all manner of creative expression.
Participants may sign up for either one or both days—for a weekend of writing and drawing and creative practices. New activities will be undertaken each day.
Second: Interlochen College of Creative Arts Writers Retreat in gorgeous and green Interlochen, Michigan. June 17 – 20, 2013.
My fiction workshop for this retreat is already full to capacity, but there is still room in Memoir (Anne-Marie Oomen,) Poetry (James Arthur,) and Writing for Children and Young Adults (Louise Hawes.)
Second-and-a-half: Blogging for Artists and Writers. Interlochen, Michigan. June 21, 2013.
Third: Journal & Sketchbook: Florence. July 4 – August 2, 2013.
This is a big one, folks. This college-level, study abroad course offered by the Fiction Writing Department of Columbia College Chicago is also open to interested participants who are not currently Columbia College Chicago students. A month in Italy drawing and writing? Yes please. (Co-taught with Philip Hartigan.)
Fourth: Creating Story: A Fiction Writing Workshop at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts. Mineral Point, Wisconsin. August 10 & 11.
Always wanted to write that short story? Eager to keep at that novel? Know you have a story to tell, but haven’t quite figured out how? Creating Story is for you. Drawing on memory, imagination, and observation in order to create fictional work, this two-day workshop is designed for writers at all levels. Activities will help you develop new work and reconsider work-in-progress, and will assure that you have new pages written by the time you leave the beautiful confines of Shake Rag Alley. Fiction writers of all genres are welcome, as are memoir writers who are eager to explore the fictional possibilities of their life stories.
So, hey, yeah it is summer. Have a good one. But don’t forget to write.
→My Shake Rag Alley workshops offer discounts to writing group members. Contact me through my templeofair account at gmail if you want details. Interlochen Writers Retreat offers discounts to members of Michigan Writers. And you don’t have to be a resident of Michigan to be a Michigan Writer. Hope to see you this summer. And as always, thanks for reading! -PMc←
May 23, 2013: I thought they were elegant.
May 21, 2013: It glowed.
Harrumph. Mondays. What’s to look forward to? Hey, how about a new series dedicated to brief conversations with writers of all genres, at all stages of their careers? Yes! How cool would that be? Very cool.
So welcome to THE WRITER’S HANDFUL. In this new series, a writer will answer five questions anyway they want to. The questions will stay the same each time. The writers will be different. And I will post the interviews on Mondays.
Mondays + Writers = finally something to look forward to.
Week four of The Writer’s Handful features Tony Romano, a much celebrated and well-loved Chicago author. His books are set in Chicago, in neighborhoods that will be familiar not just to their inhabitants, but to anyone who knows what it means to be part of a neighborhood. And Tony’s spot-on depiction of the dynamics of family, of faith, of community in his novel, When the World Was Young, will engage and entrance you. Kirkus Reviews says of this book, “A low-key, compelling look at family love and betrayal set against an old-style immigrant drama.”
Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?
I did write today. For the past two weeks, I’ve been in a solid groove. Minutes after waking, I drive or ride my bicycle to Panera, have a bowl of oatmeal or bagel and coffee, then edit a few pages from the previous day’s writing, leading me up to where I left off, then begin writing with purple pen in my Mead notebook, one without the coils because I’m a lefty and the coils aggravate. I’m finishing up a novel, which typically ramps up my efforts, but I don’t remember a time when I’ve been so driven and productive. Given that, I’m afraid to alter anything right now. I’d rather just have a bowl of cereal at home, but I’m afraid that if I linger around at home too long, I’ll start checking emails and sweeping out the garage and painting the bathroom and then skip writing altogether for the day.
What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?
I remember the first poem I wrote for school. Maybe 4th grade? Four lines. A-A-B-B. I actually remember the lines, though I’ll spare you. The teacher planted a fat red A at the top. I’ve been lucky to have teachers who have encouraged my writing. I also remember the first story I wrote that was not a school assignment. I think I was in 7th or 8th grade. I typed the story on the back of index cards, fully intending to write an entire collection. I don’t know if I wrote more than just the one. But I’m happy to report that I am in possession of that awful story.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling. I’ve never read any of her work and could not find her most recent, which got excellent reviews. So I figured I’d find one of her earlier books, which is why I read The Uncoupling, which is full of wit and wisdom. The middle is a little predictable, but the end is earned and satisfying. I also just finished the most recent bio of Bruce Springsteen, which is also excellent. I regularly review books on my site:tonyromanoauthor.com.
What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)
Best advice. Don’t listen to anyone. I’m not sure if anyone actually ever said this to me. I know I typically dole out this advice to students. Springsteen echoes this sentiment in a speech he gave recently in Austin, TX. After nagging his son to stop playing that goddamn guitar when he was young, and after seeing where that guitar-playing led, his father was fond of saying, “I’ll never tell anyone ever again what to do.” (I’m paraphrasing.)
If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…
My writing would be the dog in the corner who notices everything but won’t bark. Every so often the dog will howl or nip at you so that you’ll remember to pet him.
→Thanks, dear Tony, for being part of The Writer’s Handful. Looking forward to reading the next novel. See you at Panera! And thanks, all, for reading. – PMc←