Have a Great Summer ~ And Don’t Forget to Write!

IS-1dlujp8qcxrh9I 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 IMAG0339the 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.

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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.) main-entrance-sign

Second-and-a-half: Blogging for Artists and Writers. Interlochen, Michigan. June 21, 2013.

The brilliant artist and writer Philip Hartigan will be teaching a one-day workshop on New headshotbuilding and maintaining your own blog.

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. 75498_221057628035837_387282161_n(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.

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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←

Driving The Dream ~ Katey Schultz’s View From the Keyboard

Okay, so I know you all have had this dream: chuck most everything and then pack up your car with a few scraps of clothes, lots of books, journals, a gross of your favorite pens, gallons of water, a bottle of whiskey and your laptop. Then take off. Drive. Dream. Write.

There are not many of us who would have the cojones to actually live this sort of life, though, so it brings me great pleasure to introduce you to someone who does. Katey Schultz is a writer I had the opportunity to meet at the Interlochen Writers’ Retreat this past summer, and have been following cyberly ever since. Now you gotta meet this woman. Let me introduce you:

Katey: Not too long after the Great Recession earned its name, I finished grad school and faced a market saturated with MFA graduates. About the time my student loans kicked in, I was laid off from my part-time job slinging coffee and decided the only sane thing for a partially-not-sane writer to do was hit the road. For three years. Today I’m 23 months into that 36-month journey and my view from the keyboard happens to be the Shenandoah Valley in Amherst, VA, where I’m a Fellow at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Last month, my view from the keyboard was of parched Texas Hill Country, packs of wild boars, and a herd of 46 bison. Before that, I’d been holed up in a warehouse with a painter in Houston. Before that, nestled along the banks of Green Lake in Northern Michigan. Before that? Eastern Oregon…All of which is to say, my view from the keyboard that conjures any semblance of my current writing reality is something like the map I created using Google Maps. The letters mark residencies and fellowships I’ve traveled to since January 2010, driving most places with the exception of Alaska. I suppose it’s also fair to say my view from the keyboard includes my 1989 Volvo Station Wagon, affectionately known as THE CLAW, which has magical powers beyond metaphorical description.

Traveling and moving as much as I do provides me with immense food for thought and exciting possibilities for place-based writing. I tend to process publicly, using The Writing Life Blog as my sketchpad and then later incorporating what I learn about place into my fiction as I feel inspired. For over half of the journey so far, I’ve been reading, studying, interviewing, and writing for my current fiction manuscript titled FLASHES OF WAR. This collection is 29 stories told from the perspectives of characters in and around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. To relax from the intensity of war-themed work, I explore my surroundings and blog about it. These two forms of writing seem to balance each other successfully. Mix in a little cardiovascular exercise, singing in the car, some wine with friends, and daily supplements of chocolate and you’ve pretty much got my recipe for the writing life.

Here’s a sample of my war stories, recently published by War, Literature, & the Arts. The link goes to the contributor page and from there click on Katey Schultz for a free download.

With regard to life on the road, here was a particularly popular recent blog post that demonstrates how place inspires my nonfiction. It’s posts like these that I feel certain will grow into longer essays someday.

Last but not least, here’s a sample of the reality of life on the road: learning to wear my business cap and market myself as a writer. I live on roughly $12,000 per year earned from teaching and fellowship stipends, plus a little from freelancing. I offer free content on my blog but have learned that in order to buy gas I need to have money and money can come from all kinds of services. I edit for three magazines (here’s my favorite one), teach students by correspondence, and most recently came up with Monthly Fiction, an affordable, fun way to keep writing, stay connected, and eke out a living. In fact, in true business cap fashion, if you sign up because you found the link on this blog, email me (katey.schultz[at]gmail.com) with the words PATTY ANN in the message and I’ll send you a free zine just for signing up.

Meantime, here’s an excerpt from the first short story in Monthly Fiction:

“Amplitude” by Katey Schultz

That time? We hiked along Pinch Ridge to the apex and climbed the radio tower at dusk. Ben didn’t know the way, even though these mountains belonged to him as much as they belonged to me. Two creeks south along the ridge, his mom’s trailer squatted on a cinderblock foundation—a Carolina Country doublewide the color of spent Levi’s and just about as worn. I lived with my parents at the base of Pinch Ridge. A stone-faced house with a white porch and fancy roof; something the Baptists might have cornered in on if it weren’t for the fact of property and bloodlines.

Ben’s mom worked nights at the sewing factory and he started junior year at the high school the same year I was supposed to graduate. He worked evenings bagging groceries at Hughes Market where it was my job to unlock the tobacco case anytime somebody wanted a pack of Camels. A month before, Ben’s kid brother overdosed on crystal and he missed a week of pay. The paper ran the story. Everyone in town said Patrick convulsed for hours in the ER, rattling the hospital bed like the rapture. “Some trouble, that kid,” my old geometry teacher said to his wife the day after the obituary ran. He stood at the checkout counter, talking as if nobody cared. “Hush now,” his wife said, touching his forearm. “Think of the mother.”

Two hours uphill and another half mile along the ridge, we came to a mowed patch of mountaintop and heavy fencing around the radio tower. “Don’t you want to climb it?” I said, shoving Ben a step toward the guard fence. The radio tower loomed a hundred feet above us. He shoved me back and that’s when I curled my fingertips around his belt buckle and pulled him in for a kiss.

Ben pushed me off of him. “Why’d you do that?”

“Shut up,” I said, reaching for him again. It was our first kiss and I was sick of waiting. He kissed me back this time, mouth sweet and salty as ketchup. I liked his soft cheeks and pointy Adam’s apple, earlobes like little shrimp tails just waiting to be sucked. He mashed my breasts around and I leaned my back into the fence. He wasn’t very good…

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Okay, friends–you heard it here: Katey Schultz will send you a free zine if you email her and sign up for her Monthly Fiction (details above.) And don’t forget to check out her blog, The Writing Life. Drive carefully, Katey; drive on.  -PMc←

Oh, Interlochen, I Miss You So ~ A Brief Summary of a Writers’ Retreat

How could it possibly have gone by so fast? Interlochen College of Creative Arts Writers’ Retreat of 2011 was four days full of writers reading, talking, writing, eating, imbibing, walking, sharing, sleeping (just a little,) listening, and yes, drawing.

We are back at our house in Mt. Carroll, IL, and are happy for our own bed, our two crazy cats, our full-size refrigerator, our own cooker (as the British, Philip’s people, call it.) What I am missing, though, is so much. Of course, the trees. The beautiful smells of Northern Michigan, the lakes that are small and great. The creative aura that is Interlochen Center for the Arts.

I find myself thinking back to moments and people;

  • Ava and Philip with their heads down over their work on the reduction linocut print for the dedication of the Mallory-Towsley Building.
  • Dinner with Matt and Angela, their delightful children making us laugh and marvel.
  • Walking along Diamond Park Road and into the collection of houses near the lake, amidst the wetlands–a path I ran daily during my residency at Interlochen in 2001. A place that appears in my stories.
  • Meeting, talking with, and hearing the fine, fine work of my fellow faculty: Fleda Brown, Tony Ardizzone, Katey Schultz, and of course, Anne-Marie Oomen. (Oh yeah, and Philip, too.)
  • Annie finding her way in the poetry workshop.
  • Linda showing her chops as a real writer.
  • Jo Anne’s kind face and beautiful drawings, her collections of memories about travels and places important to her.
  • Joan lighting up like one of her own students as she made new discoveries.
  • Lindsey doing what she always does, writing her way toward understanding, and doing it so well.
  • Lynn celebrating her birthday with ballet turns, new drawings, a new section of work-in-progress, and plastic rings and cupcakes. (Oh, and two dead mice!)
  • Viki surprising me deeply and delightfully, despite my having known her for–could it be?–nearly two decades now.
  • Ferdy taking the risk and reading his work off his phone.
  • Theresa, Lindsay, John, Terry, leaving me lost in their worlds after their readings.
  • Lucricia and Sam, such a dear couple, each following their dreams and holding hands on the way.
  • Opera on the lakefront in the dark.
  • And Gail, dear Gail, on the other side of the wall, putting up with Philip’s high jinx and giving comfort and camaraderie just by being there. (And her writing!)
  • John and Meredith making the trek to hear us read and to hang for a while after.
  • Selling and signing books. Felt a little like Sally Field: “You like me! You really like me!”
  • Talking blogs with Kristen, whose own is both beautiful and mouthwatering.
  • Rachel making me feel as though my stories can move even the toughest of customers, and hearing her own affecting novel-in-progress.
  • Sharkie.
  • A hug from Delp, whom I adore.
  • An escape the weekend before the retreat (pre-retreat retreat) with Philip to Empire, watching the great lake roll toward the shore, eating marvelous food and watching junk tv and…well, you get the picture.
  • Dinner with a crowd of excited new friends at the conclusion of the week.
  • And perhaps most of all, dinner before it all started with Anne-Marie and David, two of the world’s best people (no hyperbole here) who are such a joy to be with. Anne-Marie has shown me so much about how to live a writing life of meaning, and David is evidence of how to live the rest of your life, too, with warmth and compassion, with generosity and good deeds. What a couple!
Yes, I’m gushing. And there is likely more to gush about. But for now, that’s what you get. If you don’t believe me, then you should see for yourself. It’s an annual thing.
Sharkita holding court at the dinner table. Everyone likes a big fish story.

Another Note From Interlochen

The Sound of the Trees

By Robert Frost

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.

Interlochen College of Creative Arts Writers’ Retreat, June 20 -24, 2011. -PMc←