Monthly Archives: June 2011

our plagues

red ribbon on Twin Peaks to commemorate this 30th year of fighting AIDSAh — there’s the blue morning sky!

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What I meant, yesterday, by it adds up, is that I’ve got at least 100 pages of usable material — and I’m not even through all the backlog yet. 100 pages of writing that will work for these couple of book projects; that doesn’t include the writing that could be worked for creative submissions, poems or short fictions.

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Last night we watched part of Angels in America, the movie — just part one. I am trying to remember that time, late 80s, when everyone was going to die from having sex. Sex became something even more important to avoid. In the 80s I was living in Omaha. Gays had AIDS. People who went to the hospital got AIDS. I lived in Omaha, where no one got AIDS. I didn’t know anyone who was sick — it was on all the magazines, on tv, and of course, les taught us about it. What do I want to say about all this? It seemed removed. It seemed like something that would happen to me. It seemed necessary, having to pay so much attention to sex; we did it all the time. For a long time After, after I broke contact with him, I thought it was a wonder that we didn’t get sick, me and my sister, given that he was having sex with both of us and mom & who knows who else?

AIDS was this defining cultural event for my generation — we already knew to wear condoms because teen pregnancy had already been a big deal. AIDS seemed far away but lurking, too. Possible. Vague. I figured I was in the clear, first because I thought I was straight, then because I was having sex with women. After I went off to college, I got tested regularly. I’m sure I got tested first because I wanted to have sex with some boyfriend,  so we could stop using condoms. Then I went every 6 months for a long time after that. I was fooling around with bi boys — they could get it; that was the story. Bi boys– those were the ones bringing AIDS to the gay male & straight women communities. That’s what the fear and panic was. Biphobia gone ballistic. Did les ever get tested? Why, of all people couldn’t he have died of it?

People were wearing gloves to touch their children in the hospital, they were platsticking up. In college, I participated in safer sex trainings, teaching us how to have hotter sex using plastic wrap, dental dams, condoms. We needed to wrap it up. I didn’t learn about AIDS up close and persoal, just third and fourth-hand. Someone at school maybe got it, maybe killed himself after he was diagnosed. Even in the early 90s, it was a terrible death sentence.

It’s still seen as a gay disease, even thoiugh, the world over, it’s mostly heterosexual acting-and-appearing people who have it now. Regan, the Right Wing, the conservatives — they branded AIDS completely as that fag sickness. Why am I writing about this? I want to remember  — it was just another thing to be afraid of when it came to sex. There was nothing I wasn’t afraid of about sex. Still, that feeling and fear lifts up and around me, it’s present in my body, in my desire, around the longing for dirtiness, for mess; skin-to-skin became a fetish. I’m lost in this. What did les say about AIDS? He’d use it against us, then tell us we had nothing to worry about. That was his way. There was Ryan White, he was normal — not gay. There was how I expected, somewhere underneath, that all my gay male college friends would die. None of them did — we were all protected, isolated. How did that happen? Were we all too scared to get risky?

It feels like a long time ago, and something so far away. When did things shift? In the late 90s? I never knew anyone on the cocktail, didn’t watch anyone die of the disease. Just read about and with those who did. That wasn’t the holocaust I was a part of — I was part of the other one, the one that sang Take Back The Night songs, the one that railed in the night and in small therapy groups holding stuffed animals. I was a part of that epidemic instead. I appreciated having the safer sex community to escape to — we could get angry without shame, could proudly proclaim sex as possible and ours, could talk about safety and latex boundaries, though we didn’t always talk about other boundaries. This wasn’t incest. This was something people gathered in huge numbers to shout about, marched on Washington for, died-in for, demanded change around. People didn’t do that about incest, even though incest and rape killed people, too, and affected almost everyone I knew in one way or another. This was my plague.

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There’s more in here. What do you remember? Where were you during the first part of the AIDS crisis? Where were your characters? Take 10 or 15 minutes and write it out — write the parts you don’t tell all the time, what you were afraid of, what you were proud of, who you loved then, and why.

Thank you for the layers of your survival, for your standing up for others, for your words.

it adds up

graffiti -- mosaic sunflowerBack to the regular schedule today — good morning out there!

Today the clouds are bulbous and full of pink. What’s the sky like outside your window?

The forecast is for 56 degrees in San Francisco today. I talk to Kathleen in Atlanta, where it’s been in the 90s with tremendous humidity. What can we say about summer except hello?

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I’ve updated the calendar page with the Fall & Winter workshop schedules — let me know if you want to be on the waiting list for those groups!

The upcoming Declaring Our Erotic workshops will be open to everyone — folks of all genders & sexual orientations! I’m considering doing the same with my Winter 2012 Write Whole workshops — opening it up to all survivors of sexual trauma, regardless of sex or gender. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

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I have to get in the shower soon. Yesterday, I spent a couple hours going back through my blog, and read that line quite a few times. I’m gathering up material for a couple of book projects and one article — and I realized just how much writing I’ve got in here. In spite of the days of frustration, in spite of often feeling like I don’t have enough time to write anything, it turns out that in just the year or so that I’ve been blogging approximately 5 days a week, even just for a few minutes, I’ve generated a lot of usable writing.

10 minutes every day for 30 days adds up — for 6 months, adds up. For a year? Yes. Start now. Just keep writing. I know it’s not enough in this moment — but the moments coalesce, and you’re building something, even if, in these 10 minutes, it doesn’t feel like you are.

Take a few minutes right now, and jot down a list of things you want to write about — questions or memories or stories you’re working on, or wishing you were working on. Write the list at the back of your notebook, or in a note on your phone, or into a new document on your computer.

Then let one of those topics choose you, and just devote 10 minutes to it today. Let the words flow. Start with, “What I really want to say about ____ is…”  — don’t stop to edit or process the right place to begin. Editing comes later. Just generate the material.

I’m grateful for you today. I’m grateful for your presence, your process, the creation that you are — and for your words, too, yes, always.

what matters most

graffiti -- tampon with angel wings and a haloGood morning, grey & rainy — happy Summer-in-the-Bay-Area. It looks like a good day to get some inside work done, like maybe book proposals.

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One of the things I love about being closer to San Francisco now is being able to get 89.5 KPOO on the radio again. Tuesday mornings with JJ on the Radio & old-school soul music makes me feel like I’m home, reminds me of being in my little studio back near the Panhandle, the first apartment I ever lived in on my own, trying to figure out who I was going to be… (Please note: I’m still trying to figure out who I’m going to be — )

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Last night, or early this morning, I dreamed about being home, back in Omaha. My sister was there, too, and so was he. We were at that house on 57th St, we had to clean, we wanted to get out before he got home, but once we left to go to some appointment over near 60th and Dodge, we still had to contact him to pick us up. My sister still knew how to contact him. She didn’t remember anything in the city, though — we had to get something to eat, and we were in some building that looked down over the area. A Schlotzsky’s had moved into the space where some fancy restaurant used to be there on Dodge — I said, Look, Schlotzsky’s! Remember them? Sandwiches? We’d first gone to Schlotzsky’s during visitations with dad, way back when. She didn’t remember them, wasn’t interested. I touched her head, smoothed her hair, like maybe a mother would.

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This is maybe a morning of non sequiturs, though it also feels like a morning to dive deep into something and live there for awhile. Outside, it’s actually raining. That’s so rare here in the Bay Area, at least outside of rainy season. Usually we just get very very thick fog, fog so thick it drips and droops.

This morning I’d like to be wandering through the Haight with my notebook, my scarf and small gloves. I’d like to order a large cup of strong French Roast decaf that comes in a big wide mug, then go settle into a corner, open my notebook and write while watching the city people go by. KPOO could be on  the walkman, coming through my headphones. Let’s go back a few years now. Let’s cream the words out onto the page. Let’s make them, let them be, chewy, dense, unstrainable. Let’s let our morning get filled with the joy of arms moving, words thrilling through our fingers, new understandings emerging from the page.

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I’m a bit astounded and so very grateful to everyone who has donated so that I will be able to attend the Tomales Bay Workshops this fall — it’s been less than a week, and already we’re more than a third of the way there, almost half-way! Let me tell you a secret — this is the first writing workshop I’ve applied to, the first writing-related program I’ve done since college. Thanks to you all, I was able to put down the deposit.

16 years ago, I was lying on the rough carpeting in the tiny office that was all mine as the Tech Support person for ValleyNet ISP. The blinds were pulled and the door was locked. I hid out in there a lot. I was sobbing after finishing the last page of Bastard out of Carolina.

Now, finally, I’m going to get to work on my own story with the author who helped me do that work, get to that place of release and transformation.

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We used this prompt last night at the Write Whole workshop –we created short lists of body parts, and then prepended the phrase What maters most is, leaving us with a bunch of declarative statements we’d have to make some sense of: What matters most is a hand. We took 20 minutes for our write — you could do anywhere from 10-20, if you’d like!

Here’s my write in response to this prompt:

What matters most is this blood, 27 years of bleeding, the dark red funk, that iron rush — would it have filled a bathtub yet if we’d left it to its own, this body’s own, devices? Let’s say we squeezed out 27 years of obs and Always pads, wrung out the jeans and skirts and underpants stained, collected the remnants left in toilets or run down the shower drain? If I looked back at my human biology book, I’m sure I could do the math: some number of tablespoons every month multiplied by 12 months by 27 years probably doesn’t equal an Olympic-sized swimming pool but it did equal sheer power once upon a time

For years in my adolescence I was irregular, never knowing when I was going to bleed, couldn’t read any signs, just went from zero to stained my new white painter’s pants damnit, and in the middle of band practice too. I felt inept not being regular, wrong, like I was out of sync with nature, the earth, the moon. Women were supposed to all be connected, in rhythm, at ease with their tides. But here I was, could go a month with no blood, six weeks, then trickle then wham — I didn’t get regular til he put me on the pill at 16.

But let’s pay attention to the wisdom in these bodies — he stayed away when she was bleeding, didn’t want the smell to stain his hands or fingers (or moustache, I’m sorry) and so he would leave her be when she ran rust red into cotton, when she lay dormant with cramps — and because it could happen at any time, it was an excuse at any time. Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters — this was not a dumb body. This body knew wreckage was the only way to survive.

What matters most is the blood pooling, caught and captured, inside the panties of half the women at work or on the bus, the women you pass by on King street, the tidy tourists, the natty hipsters, the fancy Marina girls, all of us walking around clotted and clogged for a week out of every month because we want to pretend like we’re normal, like we’re boys, I mean — boys who don’t bleed. Can you envision this city, these stained sidewalks laced with blood that didn’t pour out of a wound, if women could bleed freely? Go back to all that clean blood — let’s not get into HazMat reality right now, let’s consider a society where women didn’t have to pretend like we weren’t women, where each of us could have our bodies and acknowledge just what was going on in those bodies — if we could make te monthly blood visible, maybe too we make the fibro pain visible, the cramps visible, the not-bleeding visible, the hormones cycling visible — maybe our reality gets pinched back out of the hands of people who would turn it into farce and joke. Maybe all that good red fertilizes our parks, tears open asphalt and concrete, drizzles trails down all kinds of legs and we are ok with our peculiar humanness — we are ok with the truth of our stains, our release, our relinquishing, the deep way our bodies know how to cleanse.

Thank you for the ways you honor what matters most to you, to those you love, even in deep and quite and unspoken ways. Thank you always for your writing and your words.

how do you know you’ve committed?

graffiti of big, multicolored flower mandala with eye at the centerHello & good Monday — how is your Monday-ing so far?

(No post this morning ‘cuz we me and the pup took too much time practicing ‘heel’ on our walk — or at least practicing, ‘Don’t yank mama’s arm out of the socket, please.” )

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Have I mentioned how much I’m liking the online Reclaiming Our Erotic Story workshop? Though the workshop itself is different from the in-person version, the engagement/connection among writers is still strong, and the writing is still absolutely rocking my socks. Wow.

I hope to get to offer another online writing group soon.

I feel wildly fortunate about the amazing writers I’ve been able to work with over the last 9 years, and, too, for the stories/poems/tellings/rants/scenes/fantasies/revelations that have found their way to words — some of which have also found their way to print, into the world in various publishing formats.

We, together, make this creation possible for one another, y’all. Thank you for that.

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How do you know you’ve committed?

How do you know you’re doing what you said you were meant to do?

When you feel sick and terrified. When you take a step bigger than you think your legs, your body, can handle. When you are awake nights, wondering how to make it through, regretting that you gave up the safe, normal life, and

hearing yourself voice that regret, it’s when you take a deep breath and say to yourself:

I asked for this. This is what I wanted.

It’s feeling the anxiety begin to dissipate, molecularity, glacially.

It’s when you notice that you’ve been able to sleep, and that the nausea has slipped from your belly, when you look forward to your day and find that the new normal has come to take its shape around you.

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Thank you for all the space you make for others to change, and how you gently hold a little of that space open for yourself, sometimes, too. Thank you for your presence, your desire, your words.

proud that she got us here

graffiti from Gay Youth Galway -- Big rainbow "OUT" with the words "No to homophobic bullying!"Happy Friday! Here where I am, it’s blue & green outside the windows, sunshine pushing into everything, lettuces quietly growing like gangbusters, puppy curled in a fed-n-satisfied-n-sleepy ball. The carpet is in desperate need of vacuuming, and the puppy toys are gathered up and tossed on top of the fire box. What’s it look like where you are?

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Just spent about 25 or 30 minutes typing more of that first journal entry from 1993, and am paying attention to what happens in my body as I do so. I got very cold, and my fingers would go from being able to type quickly & accurately to slipping and stumbling all over the place. But this entry is from right after I broke contact, or rather, right at the beginning. He called me constantly, trying to get me back ‘in.’ It’s hard to just type the words, just be with that voice, that 21-year-old self, who is still stuck in the perpetrator’s language, trying to argue her way out of his boxes with his words and persuasions, still thinking that if she’s able to do so well enough, he’ll let her off the hook. I want to respond to her, clarify as I’m typing, say it out loud: that was all bullshit, Jen! You didn’t have to think that way!

Of course I know it now. The blessing of all these journals is that I get to see, again, when I started to shift in my thinking, when I began to get free in my head. This entry is the beginning of that. It was one of the first times I’d written down (and not destroyed, or sent to him) what he was doing to me, and that it wasn’t ok with me). This entry is a revolution, quietly sitting there in black ink in an unlined Artists Sketch Book. I am proud of us, of then-Jen and me, now, for doing it, for both taking the steps and writing about them. She got me started. I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing now without her. As hard as it is to read her words, and how she/we/I thought then, that ever-present tangle of cognitive dissonance, I won’t change them. They’re ours.

I’m grateful for this record, for the opportunity to be, again, with that voice, that self, this written memory.

I’m going to take a long shower after I post this, and leave more transcribing for another day. It’s heavy work, that reading & typing, moving those words through my body again, from paper to eyes to brain to nerve impulse to fingers: I want to take good care of me as I do this. Take the transcribing in small bites, drink lots of water, stretch, play with the dog, wash it through & clean.

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It’s Pride weekend here in SF.

Today’s the Trans March– are you gonna be there?

Tomorrow’s the Dyke March, and Sunday’s the big Pride festival (which I wish were still called the Gay Freedom Day Parade – I like that so much better).

Have fun, if you’re going to be partying, and stay safe, ok? You deserve it! Keep an eye on your friends, watch one another’s backs — let’s act like we matter, like it matters that we’re safe.

So much going on, for so many of us — and lots of folks still feel overwhelmed, left out, deep loss and shame.

What does pride mean for you? Maybe let that be your write this morning — and you don’t have to be queer-identified to write about Pride, of course! I don’t just mean pride as big gay celebration, but pride as a concept related to your whole self. What does it mean to feel pride? What about yourself/your work/your relationships/your communities brings you pride? What would bring you pride if it were manifested? Take 15 minutes (set a timer), settle in with your notebook and coffee, and dive in. If you’re going out into queer community this weekend, what do you hope for with respect to pride? Let it all down onto the page. “Pride is…” or “I’m/She’s/He’s/Ze’s/We’re proud of…”

I’m proud of you, of him & her, of all of us. I’m proud of how high we fly, how we stay grounded, too, even through all the voices that tell us Never & You Can’t & Forget about it. I’m grateful for how you remember and fly anyway. I’m grateful for your words.

is protection safety?

stencil graffiti: the night conceals the world / but reveals the universesix forty-two means I need to be in the shower in 10 minutes. 8, really.

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Small and fun erotic reading circle last night — I love getting that monthly connection with the center for sex and culture! Next ERC’s on July 27th, 7:30pm.

Also! I am asking for your help in raising funds so that I can attend the upcoming Tomales Bay Workshop (I was accepted into Dorothy Allison’s workshop, which is a dream come true: http://jenstomalesbayworkshop.chipin.com/the-tomales-bay-workshop

And! I am loving my online Reclaiming Our Erotic Story workshop, and am learning much that I can use during my next online venture!

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Here’s what I’m thinking about today:

what does protection mean to you? or safety? are they related?

yesterday, she asked me about protection, about knowing that people have my back, about letting someone have my back.

I said that when someone says they’re going to protect me, that’s when I get nervous, given that it’s never been the case — and most of the time, when someone was supposed to protect me, their protection was a spectacular failure, or required some specific and terrible payment in return.

This makes these things difficult: being in community, being a deep ally, allowing others to be ally themselves to me. True friendship means exchange, means trust, means not just saying, I’ll be there for you, means also, I’ll let you be there for me.

So we worked with this idea. It’s still jangling around inside me.

What about for you? 10 minutes (or 15) and begin with either, “This is what protection means…” or “This is what I want protection to mean…” (or she, or you, or they want protection to mean…)

Thank you for the ways you stretch, bend, open the places that have learned only closed. Thank you for your grace and always for your words.

old stories, new readings

stencil graffiti of pink unicorn!

I like that I searched for 'graffiti strength,' and this was one of the results...

Good morning!

I want to tell you about the fog this morning, how the top layer glowed pink in the rising sun, how it seemed to be surrounding us, me & the pup, hugging the shoulders of all the mountains but somehow not covering us. The foghorns have been a thick accompaniment all night, watching over us, watching over something. We walked up the hill, through the trees, by all the morning birds, past the field swallow with her iridescent wings, feeding her babies under the eaves of the neighbor woman’s house, the house with the enormous garden that reminds me of my mother’s garden every single day. The cool is a balm this morning. It’s amazing how quickly we acclimate.

No deer today, but I did find a tiny hawk’s feather, stuck in the grass up by the old church. I picked it up, carried it in the hand that I use to carry Sophie’s treats. It felt like a treat for me, something to pay attention to.

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a quick prompt this morning: give me the view from your kitchen window. If you don’t have a kitchen window, write what you’d like to see if you had one, or give me a window from another place you (or your character) have lived. This is about scene-setting, about landscape, about location. 10 minutes — and include one person, even if you can’t see them as you’re writing.

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I have had a project I wanted to begin for years, that of transcribing material from all of my journals. I started journaling with intent in 1993, right before I broke contact with my mother & stepfather after telling my stepfather I wouldn’t ‘have sex’ with him anymore. I was 21. He and my mother cut me off, financially & emotionally, shunning me from the family, because I was making ‘fear choices.’

I want to get back into this record I’ve created of the transformations of the last 18 years, and am wondering about including bits and pieces here.

The first one I’ve got this morning is from 1993, beginning 11/26. On the inside cover I wrote, ‘Memories for Survival & Living…” I can’t remember if this is before or after I withdrew from school. Maybe there’ll be a record. I couldn’t afford to pay for it anymore. I ended up withdrawing halfway through my senior, and it took me me nearly three years to finish the last two quarters.

Here’s the first couple of pages (a bit of explicit talk about sexual abuse — please be easy with you):

I just bought this book today & I want to fill it with memories of my second father — or maybe with memories of fathers in general — I don’t know what it means to live with a father who is ‘normal.’ Maybe that’s for the best — maybe that’s shaped who I am. That’s certain — I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if I hadn’t had the experiences I’ve had. I have all kinds of self-confidence now, but what about my self-respect? I have none… I have no ability to stand up for who I am and who I want to be.

He has, too many times, talked me out of my concerns and fears and talked me out of saying, ‘No. I’m uncomfortable here.’ He’s told me that I’m just scared, giving in to what Neal wanted me to do, giving into boyfriends, just being resistant or problematic. He has asked me to forget/reconstruct the past with regards to him … but not with regards to Neal. he was the first to point out to me times when I was giving Neal a break in my own mind. He has asked me to have his child, to fuck my own children, to lie to my mother and sister and other lovers and to myself. He tells me to be true to myself, and then he tells me to pie to myself — to reconstruct my own history so that I can be happier with it — perhaps so he can be happier with itis there any question why I feel like I’m going crazy?

(Note: Neal is my biological Dad, the man I refer to as Dad now — at the time, my stepfather was Dad, and my Dad was Neal.)

This morning I have compassion for that girl, that 21-year old sitting in a New Hampshire cafe, hiding from the room with the telephone ringing constantly, the man on the other end trying endlessly to hold on to his control over her. And I’m grateful to her — she got us here. She started us on this road. She made an incredible choice. She stepped away.

Thanks for the ways you’re compassionate with all the layers of your old selves, for the ways you recognize the power of their choices, even if you’d make a different choice now. Thank you for your resilience, your generosity, your words.

enter the mess

graffiti: summer hat, pink & yellow with a blue ribbon & flowerWe try things and try things, we find out what works for this moment, this timeframe, and then when it stops working, we try something else. Sometimes we spin for awhile, trying to figure out what changed: why isn’t it working anymore? But eventually –don’t we?– we relent, and let the change in.

Good Tuesday morning! This morning, Sophie and I walked down to the water, we saw a great blue heron drifting overhead, and she saw her first calling seagull, lifted her ears to the sound, got distracted then by the thud of the small bay waves hitting the seawall. As of last Saturday, she’s been with us a month. What changes we’ve all been through — and here’s this new life that’s pushed her warm face into both our hearts.

Today’s the first official day of summer, summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere — how are you going to mark this day?

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Last night was the second meeting of the Summer ’11 Write Whole workshop. We met at the LGBT Center just for this one session, because our regular space was otherwise occupied. I led my first writing workshop at the LGBT Center, back in 2002, and so I get nostalgic whenever I enter the building, I remember those women and their patience with me, faith in me, while I was trying to figure out how to lead a writing workshop. We claimed space in those concrete-block rooms and let our erotic writing sing and spin and sorrow and celebrate and dance. Hard to believe I was just 30. Hard to believe it’s been 9 years.

Here’s one of the prompts from last night — I offered these three fragments as starting places:

- To write is to enter the mess… (Aja Couchois Duncan)

-I feel less alone when I tell… (Eileen Myles)

- Years ago, she stopped…

(Choose one of these, or more than one, or notice which one is choosing you, and let that be your starting place — finish the sentence, and keep going. If you get stuck, you can begin again with the same fragment, or choose another one. You might also change the fragment in some way, adding the word ‘not’ or changing a pronoun, for instance. Let yourself write for 15 minutes, and follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go!)

This is what I wrote in response to this prompt (we had 20 minutes):

To write is to enter the mess, is to spill out all your syllables, is to devil all the precious eggs everyone else is carefully walking around upon. Writing opens the vein, lets in air and lets out pus, lets me breathe again, I mean, breathe with gills & webbed toes, breathe against the tide that’s coming, breathe through the mountains of fear I live within. To write is to enter the fuse, set electricity from my lips, ride open every agate and gate, close the circuits, let sparks fly, to write is to see what I forgot I was thinking, is to be unstable, grammatically incorrect, metaphorically questionable, raging through and without machines. To write is to pass the words forward, to dance around old truth, to hunger with pen and ink, to kill him over and over, he who is only saved by the unmentionings, the unsaying, the not speaking, to write is to put my blood to his lips and say, now there is what a real woman tastes like. To write is to understand I have enough blood to give. To write is to tell about his tiny dick, grey pubes — these details are not evil in and of themselves, but when I write, I set his truths to paper, I make them flat and 2-dimensional, I make his monsterliness just plain old boring patriarchal misogynist bullshit. Show the underside of one more regular old child molester, I lift up th rock he turned himself into hen he lay upon me and reveal the white grasses, tiny bugs, balled-up rolly-pollies, ants, beetles with shiny stained wings, all the life still making a way down here. Down here. To write is to go down, in, it’s the only metaphor I trust, to emerge with handfuls of something I smear on the page — I don’t stop to read, reflect, reinterpret, just stain what was empty, secrete all over the silented, and move on with more handfuls. To write is to mix up the wheat paste and poster the neighborhoods of my insides with noise & mess, to blur all the boundaries, remove, muddy the sharp crease between good girl office worker regular wage earner and the dirty girl who stands on a stage with the words of sex falling out of her mouth — to write is to lose track of identities, loose the tense muscles around neck, shoulder wings, belly, coccyx, thighs — is to set vowels, variables, into those muscles, transcribe a new calculus, slope new languagings for ease to ride itself on. This is what writing does. It marks up what we work so hard to make clear, it pulls tight all the lines it’s cast forth within us — knotting together past present future, allowing for no difference, allotting space and time for the true, brilliant catastrophe we were meant to be. Our skin, this singular organ, contains every possibility we ever laced with might have been and the writing sets all that possibling free, lets it step ginger or fierce into the world, lets us learn our own new all the way over again.

Keep writing, ok? Thanks for the way you trust what is unclear in you, the way you love what’s unresolved. Thank you for your words.

saturday nights in 1987

pen & ink drawing of a young woman in hot pants kneeling down next to brick wall

click the image to see more of Friend Called Five's drawings!

When the puppy is sick at 4am, the parents don’t get up early to blog, unfortunately –

(she seems to be better now — whew!)

However, here’s a write from this weekend’s Writing the Flood workshop. We had a great time and got some powerful writing done!

(Mark your calendars: the next Writing the Flood will be on July 23.)

Our first write on Saturday was this: describe what Saturday nights looked like when you or your character were in high school…

We took 7 minutes for this introductory exercise, but you might want to set your timer for 10 or 15.

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Here’s my response to this prompt:

She didn’t go out with friends, no girls banging up in beat up cars, crashing against or through her front door, filled with giggles and Jean Naté and lust — she wasn’t out roaming the Midwest city streets with a pack of old friends, not even double-dates were allowed. This is what it means to be under lock & key. She swept the floor, stood under the shower, all too aware of his awareness. If she was dating somebody — and this was the best reason to be dating somebody — she could go out. A boyfriend unlocked the front door, up to and until the moment that it became clear (if it did) that she and this boy weren’t going to have sex — then the door locked again.

Going to dances meant going with her younger sister, most often. So Saturday nights in 1987 might look like hot shower and wash out the long hair that fell to just above her butt, scrape off all other unwanted hair, smooth on lotion, act like it’s perfume, and stand in front of the mirror with the radio playing Top 40 on Sweet 98 while you set your hair up in bendy rollers, paste on your makeup, pull on a too tight purple Lycra dress and slip into the flats that you can dance in. Get into the car with your baby sister, two years younger, act like you’re both ok. Hope someone at the all-ages dance will be cute and from a different school; hope to forget about your stepfather while out on the dance floor.

Thanks for the tender way you hold your memories — thanks for the power in them. Thanks for your words.

when do we let our dreams come true?

stencil graffiti, all green capital letters: Stop. Look upGood Friday morning! Here’s a longing for you, a hello from young lettuces, strawberry plants, new eggplant leaves, tall mint and basil, furry borage leaves, tiny, reaching arugula. No owls or deer on our walk this morning, though we did meet a couple of dogs, and at least one of them we didn’t bark at, so that’s some progress.

Last night I dreamed that my home, our home, was a homebase for a good friend (who, in this real life, just recently moved far away) — she was a world traveler who would come back and stay with us whenever she came through town. She had her own key, could let herself in, and I met her in the bathroom, when she was showering, and I was filled with this kind of deep joy to find that she’d come back. It was a sense that what we had was enough to share.

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Getting all prepped for tomorrow’s Writing the Flood! This is a fun monthly workshop, where you can join with fantastic community and dive into and play with your own writing. We have several spaces still open if you’d like to join us!

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This morning I’m thinking about what it’s like when you have a strong sense of your own presence, and an awareness that others don’t share that sense.

Sophie is teaching me about my presence. She listens when I’m here, as in, all the way in the moment with her. She doesn’t listen when I’m not here with her, when I’m giving commands from just my head or from just my frustration or ego. Then she’s gone, because I’m gone.

I thought about how often, in crowds, I disappear as far as others are concerned — people will walk directly in front of me without any acknowledgment, no sense or idea that they have just nearly interacted with another human. I have spent lifetimes feeling like a ghost. Who am I ghosting? Who’s ghost am I?

I think it’s this: when we give up our dreams, we become, at least in part, those dreams’ ghosts. The dreams don’t evaporate from the world. We carry always what passions lie in us unfulfilled, what desires festered in our bellies and hearts, what possibilities we turned inside out (in order to be practical) instead of following to their true ends.

Yesterday I talked with her about my lifelong dream to write books, and sat with the feeling that old dream manifests still in my body. Felt the longing and sorrow and fear. How to turn back and let the dream come to fruition?

What we pay attention to is what we care about, what we love and revere. I notice what I’ve been attending to all these long years that I haven’t been actively working to write/edit the books I want to publish. It’s been 32 years since we first knew what we wanted to do when we grew up, the 6 year-old in me says. We were going to be an author. How long do we have to wait?

Do we finish growing up when we let our dreams come true?

Yes, we got turned away from that desire. Yes, someone actively shamed us until we turned our heads another direction. Yes (I put my face in the cold water of it): we aren’t in that situation anymore. Could it be time to look back and let the dream (that old driving force, the place I felt I betrayed) come back home to us?

Today I have a writing project I need to finish and will send my book proposal out to another publisher.

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Are you working with a character who has some unfinished/unrealized dreams? Where do those dreams live inside them? What about you? Where do your unlived dreams reside? Take 10 minutes, begin with the phrase, “My (his/her/your/hir) dreams live…” — complete the sentence however you’re most drawn to, then follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you for your fidelities, your presence with and to and for what really matters to you, the way you have let your dreams become deep inner fires, and the ways that you let those fires blaze up again when it’s safe to do so. Thank you, yes, for your words.