Tag Archives: creative writing

a writing retreat

i’m terribly, terribly behind in expressing my gratitude to some of the wonderful acknowledgments i have received in the last year. let me start making a little dent by telling you about joanna young’s ideal writing weekend competition. the guidelines were

tell us about the ingredients of your ideal writing weekend. that might be a weekend you’ve already enjoyed, one that you’ve got planned, or one that you’re hoping to take part in, some day.

you might talk about how this relates to the writing process: getting past writer’s block, finding the right words, tapping into your muse.

joanna honoured me greatly by awarding the first prize to my four part entry (1, 2, 3, 4).

if someone asked me what my favourite post from last year was, it would be that series. it was so inspiring! i’d love to make a workshop like that happen one of these days. thank you so much for this project, laura!

here are the books i bought with the gift certificate:

  • master chan sheng yen “footprints in the snow: the autobiography of a chinese buddhist monk”
  • lucien stryk, takashi ikemoto “zen poems of china and japan: the crane’s bill”
  • sandra jackson-opoku “the river where blood is born”
  • nell irvin painter “creating black americans: african-american history and its meanings, 1619 to the present”
  • francis levy “erotomania: a romance”

footprints in the snow i immediately snatched up, and enjoyed very much. the african-american history textbook is my current “leaf around in it when you have a few minutes” book, and i’m thinking of taking the zen poems with me to hawaii when we fly there on friday.

by the way, the history book shows how fast things move. although it was published in 2007, it only had one tiny little mention of barack obama – he’s nothing but one among the short list of african-american governors. amazing, huh?

all five books were recommended by fellow bloggers: breeni books, buddhist torrents, daily buddhism, and gwyneth bolton.

the second place winner was shari smothers with this piece on my ideal writing weekend. the judge liked the structured and practical nature of this post

in the third place was jasmin tragas with a futuristic piece: 48 hours, 5000 words and 12 cubes of ice. “a fun, slightly wacky entry”

more entries:

  1. dawn goldberg at write well me who dreams about being “wrapped in the mountains’ arms as i write.”
  2. brad shorr at word sell: what’s your ideal writing weekend?. “it starts with stimulating conversation. i’m not much good at drawing inspiration from nature.” (interesting how different we all are, isn’t it?)
  3. lillie amann at a writer’s words, an editor’s eye whose entry involves going to a casino
  4. jasmin tragas from wonderwebby: 48 hours, 5000 words and 12 cubes of ice, who is using a combination of voice recognition, typing and a slightly manic hand waving gesture with her lifewriter.
  5. alina popescu from words of a broken mirror.  she talks about a time in march when it was still snowing in the mountains. “we were staying at this cozy little hotel and being alone in my room felt amazing”
  6. finally, there was keith andrews at comic book day with comic book retreat: “comic books are an outlet for me. writing is an outlet for me. what a wonderful respite i will have when i step away from everything, and read and write for just a single weekend.”

wordy ramblings on world philosophy day

once again i’m incapacitated by an awful cold. however, today is world philosophy day, so i just have to throw my thoughts into the mix. because, you know, the world, and especially the world of philosophy, would be so very much impoverished without my snot-nosed words of wisdom.

so here’s a few chatty bits, laced, of course, with NaNoWriMoness. please arrange them in the logical, chaotic, pre-determined or random order of your choosing.

last year i met up with one of my old philosophy profs who i hold in high esteem for a number of reasons, one of them being that he had a wonderful way of facilitating classes. i took philosophy 101 with him, at a community college, so you can imagine that there were all kinds of, um, “interesting” people attending, with lots of wild, wonderful and often extremely woolly ideas, which they spat out with gusto. this prof had the lovely ability of patiently listening to the most hair-raising drivel, picking out from it the one little sentence that made sense and then exclaiming enthusiastically: “fabulous idea, mr. borschthead! now let’s investigate this a little further” – and then bringing the class back on track.

at any rate, at our little get-together for a coffee at starbucks last year i told him of my dream/idea/hope of writing my PhD thesis in novel form. the poor guy was aghast. novels, he snorted, have nothing to do with either science or philosophy. my attempts at pointing at dostoevsky, proust and camus were met with disdain. simple minded stuff, totally unthought-through.

on the other hand, another philosophy prof with whom i had a series of absolutely delightful thought exchanges, was a catalyst in my writing my book of poetry. he, too, was not overly conversant with the convoluted thought patterns of creative forms of writing (why are poetry and prose called creative, by the way? are philosophic, scientific or business forms of writing, to name just a few, uncreative?) … where was i … ah, yes, not conversant with poetic thoughts – but he was curious about it and encouraged me to “translate” my poetry, which then became the theme for my tea table book.

by the way, both of them let me play with my papers. i wrote one in the form of a play, and another as a letter from leibniz to freud. i’m still very grateful they indulged me. they weren’t my most brilliant philosophical spewings but boy, was it fun.

and of course i’m not exactly the first person to think about the connection between literature and philosophy. the good people from the university of tampere in finland (those europeans, ey?) have put together a whole bunch of links for philosophy of literature. this leads to interesting books like between philosophy and poetry

between philosophy and poetry examines the complex and controversial relation that has informed literary theory since ancient times: the difference between philosophy and poetry. the book explores three specific areas: the practice of writing with respect to orality; the interpretive modes of poetic and philosophical discourse as self-narration and historical understanding; how rhythm marks the differential spaces in poetry and philosophy.

the book brings together some of the most prominent international scholars in the fields of philosophy and literature to examine the differences between orality and writing, the signs and traces of gender in writing, the historical dimension of the tension between philosophical and poetic language, and the future possibility of a musical thinking that would go beyond the opposition between philosophy and poetry.

in the final instance, rhythm is the force to be reckoned with and is the essential element in an understanding of philosophy and poetry. rhythm in effect provides a musical ethics of philosophy, for musical thinking goes beyond the metaphysical opposition between philosophy and poetry and sets the frame for post-philosophical practice.

as well as this mouth-watering journal of philosophy and literature

philosophy and literature challenges the cant and pretensions of academic priesthoods by publishing an assortment of lively, wide-ranging essays, notes, and reviews that are written in clear, jargon-free prose. in his regular column, editor denis dutton targets the fashions and inanities of contemporary intellectual life.

definitely sounds like something to check out.

then there’s “archives of nonsensuous similarities”: poetic exploration and extension of philosophical thought in charles bernstein’s shadowtime,” which contains these ponderings:

fault no lease
add thump whimsy
a sash onto

here bernstein undertakes a phonetic transposition to demonstrate the notion of ‘similarity’. simply put, ‘fault no lease’ picks up the vowel sounds of ‘walk slowly’ (/o:/, /ou/, /i:/) as bernstein mirrors the phonetic cluster with different linguistic units. ‘over’ and ‘aver’ as well as ‘the’ and ‘a’ (/É™/) also share the same sounds. the punning also works visually, particularly in the second lines: ‘jump’ and ‘thump’. to reiterate one of benjamin’s statements: ‘if words meaning the same thing in different languages are arranged about the signifier as their center, we have to inquire how they all […] are similar to the signified in the center’.

now i have never taken a course in philosophy and literature so i am sure – and i’m not saying this tongue-in-cheek – that there are precious joys in this niche of philosophy that i have never tasted and therefore am in no position to judge their scrumptuousness.

having said this, i find hard to imagine the usefulness of taking this lovely piece of nonsense or dada poetry or whatever pigeonhole you want to put it into, and throw it on the operating table for such crass vivisection. undertakes a phonetic transposition to demonstrate? poets among my dear readers, how often do you do that? how often do you put pen to paper and say, hm, i think this morning i’ll do me some phonetic clustering with different linguistic units?

is this why my old philosophy prof rolled his eyes when i said i wanted to write a novel for my PhD?

hey, how’d this post get so long?

writing about madrid


the following is an experiment in writing … remember i said i wanted to do more creative writing?

madrid …

when i think of madrid, a place i have never been, i think of – seriousness. the seriousness of beautiful women hidden behind black lace hidden behind fans in soft hands that have never worked a plough or stoked a fire, hidden behind windows hidden behind intricately woven grates hidden behind gardens tucked away discreetly in a side-street, away from the noise and sun of the plaza where the men gather and smoke cigars.

madrid? i think of spain. every city in spain is madrid to me. the barcelona in colm toibin’s the south, i thought it was madrid. where katherine proctor hides her melancholy away in one of those cheap madrid hotels (or was it a pension?) until she joins her life to an anarchist painter, to keep her in the south for many years, where she finds pain and more pain. and also finds herself as an artist.

when i hear “madrid” i think of federico garcia lorca, poet, dramatist, painter, pianist, and composer who, like katherine’s anarchist, fought injustice and fascists and who also did not survive the fight. and yet, lorca was not from madrid, he was from granada in the province (or as they call it, the “autonomous community”) of andalusia.

the word “madrid” makes me think of picasso working away feverishly, mistreating all the women who adore him (for some reason i always put the two together). i remember once seeing a picture of him, bald and old, and i drew in my breath, he just looked so damn sexy. madrid, as far as i know, was not picasso’s place either. malaga, barcelona, paris, and other places – yes; but madrid, other than going to school there, was not a significant place for him.

i know i knew of madrid when i was a little girl, at least by the time i was five. perhaps to me back then “madrid” meant “a place, any place, in spain’ it’s where serious people live” – and i was never really able to move beyond that image.

so what’s this experiment? well, this is another paid review post (for hotels in madrid, in this case). while i was looking through my folder at reviewme.com, it occurred to me that i can use the topics as writing prompts; i can turn these reviews into creative writing assigments! (maybe a bit like improgging, what do you think, hayley?) so whether i write about hotels, frogs or pea soup – i can always come up with something!

(image by trebol azul)

(this post was included in the just write blog carnival)