Mentorship

On releasing expectations

On releasing expectations

I’m trying to travel light next week for Vortext, a lovely writer’s salon hosted by Hedgebrook and the Whidbey Institute on an island just outside Seattle. I drew the Hanged Man this week as I started packing in earnest, an apt reminder to approach the task with — wait for it — non-attachment. I’m always afraid I’ll forget something I need!

On a deeper level, the card is an invitation to enter this writing retreat without placing too much pressure on that time, rare as such a getaway is for me. Not that there isn’t opportunity in the everyday to do some kind of writing — I’m passionate about supporting other writers in cultivating windows, large and small, for their practice — but three days devoted solely to that work is something to be relished.

On re-visioning our truth

On re-visioning our truth

The biggest challenge for me in writing memoir is that my view of the past is constantly being rewritten by the present.

As soon as I think I know what an essay is really about, life has a way of introducing new circumstances that make me reconsider my perspective. The truth the story is meant to illuminate is suddenly no longer true. Not the who, what, where, and when — though those do sometimes prove inaccurate when memory and research are laid side by side. It’s the why that refuses to stay put, always wandering onto the page with an invisible asterisk attached. The implied footnotes are the conditions, the qualifications that allow this truth to remain, for now.

On working with creative feedback

On working with creative feedback

I thrive on structure in my creative work. But it’s also the most vulnerable spot in my creative process.

Preparing to write my thesis for my MFA made this painfully clear. When I convened the meeting with my thesis committee to vet my proposal, I thought I had a decent outline of the chapters I would write, even if underneath it all, I wasn’t ready to write a full book. The subject was family history, the narrative through-line of the memoir a recent medical diagnosis, the questions pertaining to the former woven into the story of the latter. It was a sound project, and my advisor was just as on board with it as I was.

Within the first ten minutes of the meeting, the outline went out the window.