Claim Your Story

Writing Conference, Ashland, Oregon

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From Mary Ruefel on the comfort of language

statue covering face“I have flipped through books, reading hundreds of opening and closing lines, across ages, across cultures, across aesthetic schools, and I have discovered that first lines are remarkably similar, even repeated, and that last lines are remarkably similar, even repeated. Of course in all cases they remain remarkably distinct, because the words belong to completely different poems. And I began to realize, reading these first and last lines, that they are not only the first and last lines of the lifelong sentence we each speak but also the first and last lines of the long piece of language delivered to us by others, by those we listen to. And in the best of all possible lives, that beginning and that end are the same: in poem after poem I encountered words that mark the first something made out of language that we hear as children repeated night after night, like a refrain:  I love you. I am here with you. Don’t be afraid. Go to sleep now. And I encountered words that mark the last something made out of language that we hope to hear on earth:  I love you. You are not alone. Don’t be afraid. Go to sleep now.

But it is growing damp and I must go in. Memory’s fog is rising. Among Emily Dickinson’s last words (in a letter). A woman whom everyone thought of as shut-in, homebound, cloistered, spoke as if she had been out, exploring the earth, her whole life, and it was finally time to go in. And it was.”
~ Mary Ruefle
Madness, Rack, and Honey

You can find more Mary Ruefle (one of my favorite poets) here

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Midge Raymond to teach at Claim Your Story

MidgeRaymond-photoOur day is going to begin with a  writing prompt and then Midge Raymond will teach the first workshop. I’m so looking forward to it because I’m always juggling multiple projects and deadlines.

Everyday Writing: Making Time for Creativity Busy writers often struggle to fit writing into their regularly scheduled lives. In this hand’s-on workshop, you’ll learn invaluable tips for how to fit various aspects of your writing into every day—from how to hone your powers of observation to how to keep your projects moving forward even when you’re short on time. We’ll spend part of the workshop addressing your biggest obstacles to creativity, and then we’ll work on strategies for overcoming these obstacles. We’ll also do a sampling of writing prompts that reinforce new tips on fitting in writing time; these prompts will teach you how to think like a writer, even if you’re not able to sit down to write every day. Participants will leave the workshop with customized writing schedules and inspiration for how to best fit writing and creativity into their lives. Bring a laptop or notebook for in-class writing.

You can find Midge here.

And learn more about Midge here

Three Facts About Midge:

  1. I have no sense of direction.
  2. I eat dark chocolate daily.
  3. I’m a cat person.

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File under I for Inspiration….

But it is the dark emptiness contained
in every next moment that seems to me
the most singularly glorious gift,
that void which one is free to fill
with processions of men bearing burning
cedar knots or with parades of blue horses,
belled and ribboned and stepping sideways,
with tumbling white-faced mimes or companies
of black-robed choristers; to fill simply
with hammered silver teapots or kiln-dried
crockery, tangerine and almond custards,
polonaises, polkas, whittling sticks, wailing
walls; that space large enough to hold all
invented blasphemies and pieties, 10,000
definitions of god and more, never fully
filled, never.
 – Pattiann Rogers
from The Greatest Grandeur

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Robert Arellano Keynote speaker at Claim Your Story II on April 12

“Writing Your Edge” will challenge you to raise the stakes in your own creative life. Robert Arellano leads an exploration on the ‘state of the story’ at its cutting edge—and asks you to consider where your writing might benefit from visiting the uncharted boundaries. Selections from recent ‘breakout’ narratives will face off against timeless examples of literary innovation—including a few surprising classics from close to home in Oregon. Writing metafiction, creative nonfiction, or pulp originals like noir; building inner conflict, intensifying struggle, rendering atmosphere ravishing and raising the stakes—whether you’re discovering new territory in genre literature or rewriting the rules of the sentence, Arellano will offer pointers for where to go out dancing on the edge of narrative experimentation.

Robert Arellano earned bachelor’s and graduate degrees at the Brown University Program in Creative Writing, where he also taught fiction workshops for 10 years as a visiting lecturer. His stories have been published in Tin House, The Believer and The Village Voice and selected for recent anthologies like New Jersey Noir, edited by Joyce Carol Oates, and The Brown Reader. He is the author of six novels, most recently Curse the Names and the 2010 Edgar Allan Poe Award-finalist Havana Lunar. He is a 2014 Oregon Literary Fellow and Professor of Creative Writing at Southern Oregon University.


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A meaningful life

I’ve met, taught, and corresponded with thousands of writers over the years and witnessed that no matter what we do for our day jobs, writing is our true work. It is the work of our hearts; it provides the scaffolding for our days as Annie Dillard professes, and shapes our understanding of the world.  Self-help gurus espouse how we are all meant to work at what best suits us, drawing on our natural talents and abilities as self expression and to contribute to the world. This work, when we find it and do it — even if only as a hobby or amateur dabbling at first — is a key to real happiness, self-expression, or living a meaningful life.

 Of course this earnest talk and wisdom about vocation has been around for a long time. But this I know about writing: it’s honest and legal and fun. It’s taken me years, but I’m at peace with what I do for a living and it’s also taken me years to develop a practice so that I write until there was an answering silence within. I’ve found solace in writing the way a child finds solace in his mother’s arms, a painter finds solace while working on a canvas, a cellist while playing an echoing concerto.

I’ve learned that if I sit here often enough, with patience and humility and willingness, then force Imagemy mind into a quiet place– and trust me, that’s not easy–the work will get done. The ideas will emerge, the metaphors will be apt, the music of language will take over. And it’s simple really, I’m happy when I’m writing, when I’m stirring the alchemy of words.

 If you’ve followed my work you know that I believe that writing brings meaning to life. People unlock truths with words,  dream and live stories. And in writing these truths and stories   you explore your bruised or open heart, examine beliefs, understand your past, and come to grips with what it means to be human in our times and throughout history. So writing has great value for the self since it involves analysis, thoughtfulness and creativity. In writing you are evoking all the senses and making concrete the fleeting. Writing taps our deepest feelings, helps us face our mistakes and regrets, nightmares and heartbreaks, and is a means to return all the gifts we’ve been given.

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“Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so that we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered? Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love? We still and always want waking. We should amass half dressed in long lines like tribesmen and shake gourds at each other, to wake up; instead we watch television and miss the show.”
 – Annie Dillardanniedillard