Guest post by Robin Hemley
“Immersion writing engages the writer in the here and now in a journalistic sense, shaping and creating a story happening in the present while unabashedly lugging along all that baggage that makes up the writer’s personality: his or her memories, culture, and opinions.” — from A Field Guide for Immersion Writing: Memoir, Journalism, and Travel
I’ve published several different types of nonfiction over my career: travel writing, investigative journalism, and a memoir about the life of my sister Nola, a diagnosed schizophrenic. But in 2006, I had the idea to write a more active kind of memoir, with a storyline that hinged not only on the past but also on the present.
Saturday, March 24th, 2012
I’m going out on a limb here — but a sturdy one — to say it’s almost impossible not to love The Artist, the French homage to silent pictures that snapped up five well-deserved Oscars on Sunday: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, as well as awards for costume design and original score. Having previously received many other honours, it’s now officially the most awarded French film in history. (See also the New York Times review by A.O. Scott.)
Written and directed by filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist is the tale of star-crossed actors in the dying days of silent film. Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a cinema idol with an irresistible grin but a fading career and a rocky marriage. His sidekick, onscreen and off, is a clever Jack Russell terrier named Uggie. Bérénice Bejo plays the aptly named Peppy Miller, a young chorus girl and aspiring actress who kick-starts her career by giving George a casual kiss on the cheek that makes the pages of Variety.
Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
Award-winning Canadian novelist William Deverell was a featured speaker at my Namaste Gardens Writing & Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica last month. Against a backdrop of lush foliage, cascading flowers and startling blue pool, and with the occasional curious tropical bird or butterfly pausing to watch, he shared with retreat participants and visiting writers from the capital city of San Jose his thoughts on “A Writer’s Life.” Here are 10 tips gleaned from his presentation.
1. Write what you dream of writing — not what others want you to write.
Though he aspired to be a writer even as a teen — he read us a few angst-ridden journal entries to prove it — and worked for many years as a journalist and later a lawyer, he was thirty-nine years old before he finally took a sabbatical plunge into novel writing. He describes the writer’s block he suffered, even during the early days of his sabbatical, as “pathological.”
He eventually recognized that he’d been hampered by his father’s high literary standards, fearing he’d disappoint if he didn’t write a “serious novel.” His father was a journalist and a reader of classics who suffered from unfulfilled literary aspirations. Bill says his own fear of failure began in his teens, prevented him from writing for decades, and even “drove him” to the law. (“I never wanted to be a lawyer,” he says.)
Thursday, February 9th, 2012
Sandra, a resident of Costa Rica, was guest speaker at my Namaste Gardens Writing & Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica, January 2012. This essay is based on her presentation.
I’ve known I wanted to be a writer ever since I wrote a two-page autobiography at the age of nine. This received lavish praise, of course, but what was interesting about it was that it didn’t start with “I was born, etc.,” but instead with a true story about how my father narrowly escaped death off Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion. I was very impressed by the fact that had he died, I wouldn’t be alive. It made me feel important that my little self was connected to something as large as a World War. Because, of course, I was totally ignorant of any of those writerly devices that we read books or go to writers’ workshops to learn about. The Opening Line. How to Engage the Reader. Show, Don’t Tell. And a host of others. But it’s not the craft I want to write about here, it’s what informs the craft — the Heart of writing, if you will.
Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
“It’s part of the artist’s job: to see and sense things that other people are just too busy to notice.”
Author, columnist and songwriter/musician Dave Bidini‘s memoir On a Cold Road: Tales of Adventure in Canadian Rock (read an excerpt here) was recently chosen as one of five finalists for CBC’s Canada Reads: True Stories 2012 competition. The other contenders are Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat, The Game by Ken Dryden, The Tiger by John Vaillant, and Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre. Debates begin February 2012.
In Spring 2011, Dave was guest author for my course Memories into Story: Introduction to Life Writing, offered online through University of Toronto SCS in partnership with the New York Times Knowledge Network. Following is an edited version of my students’ interview with him, part of a collaborative assignment. Thank you to my Spring 2011 group for these intriguing questions.
Tuesday, November 29th, 2011
Guest Post by Susan Siddeley
I love writing: fashioning sentences, crafting a tale, getting feedback. A nightmare for me is to be stranded in a queue with no pen or paper, where nothing is moving, yet life suddenly makes sense.
Backing sixpenny notebooks with brown paper and scribbling about blackbirds, bluebells, and earwigs when I was eight was the start of a lifelong urge to write. The need to explain and collect — partly lest I forget — became a driving force. Later, this meant striving for the English teacher’s approval, turning the loss of three gloves and two boyfriends in as many days into comedy and noting how dads only became animated talking about big ends and gaskets.
Friday, November 4th, 2011