Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chronicles of Weymouth - Part One: "Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli"

Weymouth Chronicles

My reflections on the writing residency at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities

Days 1-3

“Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli

I love that line from “The Godfather,” and it seems that it sums up the way my fellow writers and I pack to go to Weymouth. It’s not a matter that we bring too much stuff, it’s a matter of WHAT we bring. Granted, the environment here is so wonderfully casual, but I find that my clothes and toiletries make up a scant ¼ of what I bring. The rest? Books. Books on writing, copies of Writer’s Digest, notes about places to submit things, books of notes that I’ve taken for future books, printed out copies of books that I want to edit. And of course, the laptop and printer. I'd forget a washcloth before I'd forget that (in fact, I did ).

Also---though I rarely buy books at retail price---I always have one impulse buy of a book at the Country Bookstore, an independent bookstore here. Sometimes it’s a writing journal or bookplates. It’s my little treat for myself and a way to support local businesses [this is an AWESOME bookstore --support your local bookstores!!!!]

Below: the gorgeous view from my bedroom window of the Weymouth grounds.

ASIDE—if anyone is interested, this time that book is “The Reader” which was made into a movie with Kate Winslet. I didn’t want to see the movie before I read the book. I confess, it was the back of the book jacket that intrigued me; a teenager is rescued by a woman twice his age, and they become lovers. Then she disappears. The next time he sees her, she’s on trial for a terrible crime. It’s hard for me to say what really pulled me into that story (all “Mrs. Robinson” comments aside) but it was simply a fascinating read. Be forewarned, it is also kind of dark , but a very, very compelling story [and to my friends who may be more easily offended than I—the first part of the book has some R-rated material].

One day when I was here with my writer friends, we discussed how ironic it was that for female writers, (well, at least for the three of us) “over packing for Weymouthdidn’t mean 8 pairs of shoes, but rather 8 books stuffed into a duffel bag. We were perfectly content to arrive with no makeup, only one “dressy” outfit (in case an opportunity for a “first lady function” arose) and yet we would have to make an Office Depot run if we didn’t arrive with our favorite type of pen. (As any writer can tell you, we are very obsessive compulsive when it comes to the type of pens we deem "favorites." These are the ones we hide in our desk drawer and don't let anyone borrow. For the record, mine is the Pilot Precise V7--NO BALL POINT PENS. )

The things that were “important” took on a new meaning. It was then that I joked, “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” I don’t know if it made sense in that context, (it’s been a long time since I’ve seen “The Godfather”) but my friends were nice enough to laugh.

The site administrators here (and at every residency I’ve been to, including Wildacres) have been more than kind and absolutely wonderful and professional. There is no TV at Weymouth, and while I mainly use my TV at home for “white noise,” it is so nice to be able to train myself to be comfortable with silence. But to be comfortable with silence, you have to be comfortable with yourself…which is maybe why we have to have so much noise in our lives.

I’ve scattered some pics of Weymouth around my blog. If there’s something that needs explanation, I'll place a cutline.

And speaking of cutlines... below is a photograph of the house from the back. My window is the second from the right. It's one of the two lights you see burning in the window. >>>>>>>>>

“Things I’m working on…aka the big cannoli

* I’m trying to get a group of short stories together for a fiction collection---but those are notoriously hard to sell. It’s easier to get them all published in different literary magazines and then get a collection (or so I’m told)

* I’ve already proofed (with thanks to my cool daddy friend) a short story and sent it off for the Doris Betts Fiction Prize. (Doris was my creative writing prof at UNC by the way, and she is amazing!) It is so much easier to get editing done here when a million things do not conspire to get in your way.

* I need to do some nitty-gritty stuff (update my website, send out some writing PRS, call places about book signings.

* I wrote (and am now rewriting) a short short “flash fiction” story for a magazine. Flash fiction is a genre (or maybe form is the better word) I’m relatively new to it, so I cant’ tell if I’m any good at it or not. To fit the theme of the magazine (which is “glass rooster”) I needed to write a story no more than 300 words with a glass rooster. Some writers finds that this stifles their creativity, but I think it actually kind of stretches my writing muscles---like running the 100 meter dash when you’re used to running cross country. In the end, trying new things is almost always good. My cool daddy writing buddies from ECU are going to exchange manuscripts with me (shout out to Will and Stuart)

* Finish the book proposal for my non fiction book---and send some query letters out to agents.

* I’d like to get a lest a few more chapters done in novel #3…but it’s nowhere near the querying stage right now….

* And then of course, one category that I simply call “being open to the universe”---at the risk of it sounding “New Age” this just means if we open ourselves up to the unexpected, I think it helps opening up the channels for God to show us new things. As CS Lewis so eloquently put it, “Our problem with God is not that we expect too much, but that we expect too little---we are like a child making mudpies in the slum because we cannot comprehend a holiday at the beach.”

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