Tag Archives: Backroad Melodies

Writer’s Conference Fever

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Quick blog this morning, as I’m getting ready to head to LA Valley College for the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference, which begins today and runs through Sunday (and still time to register at the door, starting at Noon today, BTW).

la writers conference

Writers Conference are amazing events – and I’ve told every aspiring and active writer I know to attend at least one, if not one per year. Why? Because after spending so much time writing in the loneliness of your home office, you get to mingle with kindred spirits. Everyone’s in the same boat, and the energy level is through the roof when we get together to compare struggles, triumphs, titles, voices and techniques. Secondly, the variety of helpful workshops, presentations and panels is tremendous. At this particular conference, non-fiction and fiction is fully covered, along with screenwriting and television writing (why not? Hollywood is just down the road).

For instance, I’m sitting on four panels, with plenty of variety. Today, I’ll be in on the Memoir Writing panel. On Saturday, it’s off to the Ghostwriting panel, then a pair of all-important Editing panels – Revising and Editing manuscripts on Saturday, and Rewriting on Sunday. (Revising and Rewriting are two entirely different processes, though all too often, we tend to blend the two). Will post my outlines from the Memoir and Ghostwriting panels on this blog next week.

The other reason writer’s conferences are so important is that we find out the latest happenings in the publishing Low Res Cover Backroadsindustry from the literary agents and editors on hand. Right now, if you’re thinking of publishing – or moving into other genres – it pays major dividends to be current on traditional and digital publishing events. Things continue to change so rapidly. I’m particularly interested in the concept of “hybrid authors”, since I am one, publishing works in both traditional houses and through collaborative partnerships, such as my work with Tuscany Global, which is putting out my poetry/essay book “Backroad Melodies” next week, and Vol. 1 of “Best of the Word Journeys Blogs” next month.

If you’re not coming up to LA, and you’re serious about your writing, please make sure to sign up NOW for the Southern California Writers Conference, which takes place Sept. 20-22 in Newport Beach, Calif. This is one of the hottest conferences in the nation for book contracts.

Losing my religion_cover_low resMeantime, time to hit the road. Oh yeah, before I go: be sure to stop by Amazon.com and pick up the hot new novel that hits the shelves today, “Losing My Religion” by Jide Familoni. This is one of the best novels I’ve ever worked with, a great story of a man trying to live in one lifestyle and culture while retaining the core traditions of another.

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Nature’s Half Acre: The Experience

The Sierra foothills lit up with sunshine and the warm scent of pine needles as one of my Ananda College of Living Wisdom creative writing students, Kevin Davis, and I walked down a grass, kitkitdizze and manzanita-covered hill to practice one of my favorite writing sessions — “Nature’s Half Acre.”

When I first gave this exercise in 2002 at Riverstone Ranch in New Mexico’s Hondo Valley, all I could think about was the award-winning Disney documentary I watched in elementary school, Nature’s Half Acre, which celebrated the volume of life in a small space. I joined the retreatants for the exercise, which for me became a trip down history lane, as we were sitting on the very place where Billy the Kid took refuge as his pursuers tracked him. This resulted in the poem suite, “Riverstone Runes,” which was published in my book Shades of Green.

Fast-forward almost nine years. I asked Kevin to pick any place in these prodigious pine, manzanita and oak woods, draw a visual circle 30 feet in diameter around him, and shut off everything beyond that point. Then tune into the place, listen to it, enter its world — in which, according to scientists, thousands of different living beings and organisms dwell. For the next 50 minutes, his world would consist entirely of what he observed, perceived, felt, thought, heard and sensed inside the circle — and the poetic or storytelling voages on which those observations and perceptions took him.

I moved to a place of my own, amidst a circle of old pines and oaks that were felled by a vicious snow and windstorm that laid siege to the Sierra late last November. Beyond my circle, I could see the cords of neatly stacked firewood outside the house of my friend and huge literary influence, the poet Gary Snyder.  But the session pertained to what stood within my 30-foot circle.

I saw old fallen pines and oaks. Ten of them. Moss started to grow on some; others truly looked like bodies that had given up the ghost. Butterflies, gopher holes and bobcat tracks occupied space, as did a small colony of busy ants, while the old denizens of Inimin Forest ground cover, kitkitdizze, poison oak and wild meadow grass, flourished around me. Some of the old tree bark, rough and knuckled, peeled back to reveal a soft, tender interior, made to nurture — an apt metaphor for the way we build shells around our hearts.

Next, I imagined the stories these trees could tell; some had been around since the Maidu Indians lived on this ground, which, like all of Mother Earth, they considered sacred. I thought of the countless storms, fires, intrusions by Gold Rushers and timber cutters, the saving grace of naturalist John Muir and, more recently, Gary Snyder, and the people atop the hill, whose meditations on divine love and peace cast a deeper serenity on an already serene land. What stories! What wisdom! I came up with a name for the poems I furiously wrote: “Council of Fallen Trees.”

Then I noticed the seedlings, none more than three feet tall. I counted them: ten.  Eight pines, two oaks. Exactly the same count as the fallen trees. Once again, nature saw fit to replenish herself, to restart her particular Shiva cycle — creator, preserver, destroyer. The trees rise. They live for centuries. The weakest then fall, usually in a deep snowstorm or harsh windstorm.

When I looked down, I’d written eight pages of poems and vignettes. In 50 minutes. Where did the time go? I walked over to Kevin, who not only wrote out the atmosphere of his 30-foot circle, but also created a wonderful tale that tapped into the age-old promise of the pioneer — just one more hill, just one more hill…

To me, this is the essence of writing — to go to a quiet place, draw an imaginary circle of any diameter, shut off the entire world beyond that circle, and commune with pen, paper, the senses, mind, heart and soul.

And now, I will polish up “Council of Fallen Trees.” It will appear in Backroad Melodies, my next poetry and essay collection.

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The Write Time Contest: Where Good Writing Is Rewarded

To order The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life

Welcome to the most unique writing contest you will ever enter—one whose subject and content is entirely up to you!

In this contest, you have 366 different topics and approaches from which to choose…

Welcome to the first annual Write Time contest.

Here’s how it works: My book, The Write Time, contains 366 different writing exercises – one for each day of the year. Get the book and choose two exercises: one right up your alley, which serves your strong suit; and one that pertains to a genre, or style of writing, in which you ordinarily don’t work. Write out the exercise, and stick to the word count that it specifies, but write about something that impassions you and brings out your very best. Go for complete excellence. Push yourself. Surprise yourself.

When finished, put your name, address, phone number and email atop the entries, and email them to me at bob@wordjourneys.com. Also let me know how The Write Time is working for you.

There is no entry fee. Obviously, it will help that you have a copy of The Write Time in order to choose the exercises – and to practice new, original material on a daily basis!

Your entries will be juried by two independent judges and myself. We will award a total of seven cash prizes: A $200 GRAND PRIZE for the best combination of two pieces (they must be separate subjects); First, second and third for the best individual entries; and three Honorable Mentions.

The prize breakdown:

Grand Prize (Combination of Two Entries): $200
First Place, Individual Entry: $100
Second Place, Individual Entry: $80
Third Place, Individual Entry: $60
Honorable Mentions (3): $20

In addition to the cash prizes, all winning entries and Honorable Mentions will be published on this blog, and publicized on www.wordjourneys.com and The Write Stuff, the monthly Word Journeys letter distributed monthly to literary agents, publishers, editors, media and more than 2,000 other subscribers. I will also publish the Grand Prize and First Place entries as “special guest” pieces in my next poetry-essay collection, Backroad Melodies, which will be released as part of the NEW Word Journeys Poetry Series in Fall 2010.

The contest opens TODAY. The entry deadline is April 15, 2010. Winners will be announced – and prizes awarded – on May 15.

I look forward to seeing your entries – and to hearing how The Write Time is working out for you!

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