Monday, October 31, 2011

Who Needs Memoir When We Have Facebook?

Last month Facebook introduced Timeline, a new profile design that attempts to create the story of your life, starting from the moment you were born. It essentially turns the social media site into a mini memoir machine:

Of course mini-memoirs like this video and the examples on the info page are really just a form of PR developed in support of each of our personal brands. These aren't stories that try to make sense of the painful or incomprehensible parts of life. There is no divorce, miscarriage, death here -- only the awesome things that we're doing with all our awesome, photogenic friends.

But as the social web continues to be integrated into our lives, it becomes more difficult to keep the messier, more complicated parts of actual life separate from our online stories.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Write Wherever/Whenever? Yes, You SCan!

The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn't behave that way you would never do anything.
                                                     -John Irving

The picture to the right shows my writing desk. Made of solid wood and topped with a plate of glass, this desk sits next to a window overlooking trees and a nice view of the Ford Parkway Tower. Each one of the desk’s drawers is crammed with writing utensils, paper, items of inspiration to help me compose. I have a comfy chair and a cushy couch if the desk isn’t doing it (or, more likely, is covered with papers). There’s also the Hamline Bush Library, with its variety of tables, carrel desks, and overstuffed chairs. Any one of these would make a good writing spot and you might think I get most of my pages written at these places.

Except you’d be wrong. Most of my writing happens at work.

Before you contact my boss to get me in trouble (or steal my job), I should tell you what I do. I work in an office as an administrative assistant, and after I’ve set out the coffee, checked the electronic documents, alphabetized the filing, and typed any dictations in my inbox, my duty is to scan each file from the prior year onto a database and then shred the file. I really like my job but I like the scanning part of my job the least of any task. It basically entails making sure each page goes through the scanner smoothly, the office equivalent of watching paint dry. But it gives me lots of time to think. And thinking, for me, equals writing.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Early Bird: Grabbing the Words Before Sunrise

If I could, I would write only when I’m inspired, when the sun hits the walls of my office at just the right angle, when I’m alone in a silent house, have finished off my cup of French press coffee and read a little poetry to put me in the mood. I would look out my oversized window at the ducks skating over the pond and the poplars swaying in the wind, lean back in my chair, close my eyes and wait until that perfect idea, that perfect word, entered my head. I would write it down and keep going. I would build up steam as the hours flew by, losing myself completely until it hit me that morning has become afternoon.

Oh, the dreams we dream.

Fact is, there’s no pond outside my window, no swaying poplars or cute little ducks. All I can see is the dirty gray vinyl of my neighbor’s garage ten feet away, which blocks out most of the light. There’s no coffee, just me and my morning breath. And if I waited until I was inspired to write, I wouldn’t be writing at all, because that only seems to happen when I’m washing dishes or brushing my son’s teeth and there is no paper or computer in sight.

Most of my writing happens before 6:30 a.m. This is not because I’m a morning person. Far from it. But the fact is, I have a three-year-old and other commitments taking up most of my day, and early mornings are usually quiet and they’re my only guaranteed times to write. I wear my pajamas and slippers. Sometimes I brush my teeth. I am not a morning person, but I have found that in the morning at least I have my subconscious going for me, my half-awake dream state.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hamline's Colloquium Chock Full of Good Advice

A little over a week ago, recent graduates of the newly renamed Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University presented words of wisdom and advice for new and current students about their capstone projects during the 24th Annual Colloquium.  
Addie Zierman, who wrote a memoir, How to Talk Evangelical, spoke about the difficulties of publishing CNF as an unknown author.  Her book was picked up pretty quickly by an agent, but multiple publishers passed on the basis that she didn’t have a web presence or “platform.”  Addie explained that the publishers told her they really liked the book but were wary about publishing her work.  Her agent suggested she develop her platform--via blogging, twitter, and other social networks--before moving further into the publishing phase.  Although I found this somewhat disheartening--shouldn’t a writer's work stand on its own?--I’m glad I learned this before I finish my own creative nonfiction book and attempt to publish it.