Thursday, January 21, 2010

Promoting your work and yourself!

I found this recent blog rant VERY interesting.  It's an NYU professor's assessment of possible reasons why his male students are getting ahead more than his equally talented and hard-working female students.

You can tell this subject is a bit of a lightning rod by looking at the comments.  The hundreds of comments.  Some of them angry, some of them offensive, some of them offended.  You may be offended yourself already, just thinking about what he *might* have said.

I think he has a good point -- that promoting yourself, and being brave enough to try things when you know you will fail at least some of the time (fail badly and fail publicly) is required for getting ahead.

His article reminded me, actually, of that odd little book called "The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People."  It's not my usual sort of reading -- but I did read it, ten or twelve years ago, and I was glad I did.  It framed the world for me in a different way than I'd seen the world before.  Now, I don't wear that pair of glasses all the time.  I don't need to.  But it's helpful to have them in my drawer, at those moments when I'm trying to figure out what I can do to get where I want to get.

Soapstone - 15 JAN 2010 - The Mouse Addendum

Stay tuned here for more details about my exciting ride back to the world after my two-week residency at Soapstone!  Coming soon...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Soapstone - 14 JAN 2010

So.  This is it.  My last day here at Soapstone.  I leave tomorrow morning.

I'm struggling not to mourn my loss before I even leave.  (I hate it when I do that!)  Really, though, all I feel is joy.

I woke up this morning and looked out at the river a while.

I came downstairs and made some coffee, and built a fire.

I wrote up in the cube, looking down at the water and the woods.

What have I written, while I've been here?  Well...  I have sixty pages, now, of "The Year I Don't Remember."  They're still in pretty messy shape.  This play is deeply personal, and I don't really think I'm ready to do more with it yet.  The other play I've been working on is called "Magellanica," and focusing on it has exploded all my previous notions; I think it's going to be bigger, bolder and more exciting (to work on, at least!) than I ever imagined.  It's going to be FUN.  I discovered the heart of the play here, and began to listen to its music, and to get a notion of its trajectory.

Words aren't the only thing I've found in these woods, though.  I feel like I've found myself again, in a way.

The world gets so busy sometimes.  All telephones and traffic.  Much as I've enjoyed living in Los Angeles, it has a whole lot of both.  I had gotten very tired.  The concrete is overwhelming.  Sometimes I had trouble hearing myself think.

A. and I had dinner together tonight.  After two weeks of silence (she had wanted her time here to be one of silent meditation and writing), it was lovely to talk over our experience here.  We both agreed that it took almost a week for us to settle in -- to use a term from Madeleine L'Engle's writing, to really deepen.  It was only then that the writing really began to flow.

I have rested here.  Does it make me sound crazy if I say it helped me remember how to breathe?  I have walked amongst the trees and let their strength and solidity make me feel stronger, and more solidly rooted in this earth.  I have lifted my face to the rain, and feel refreshed.

I have written.

I am happy.

Thank you to all the people who have created Soapstone, and who let me come here to live and work for two wonderful weeks.  It has been a great gift.  I will cherish the memory of it forever.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Soapstone - 13 JAN 2010

Lots of weather today at Soapstone!

Looking up through the skylight at the stormy weather.

I imagine one of the particular joys of a mid-winter residency here is how cozy the cabin seems when the wind is roaring through the trees, and the rain is pounding down, and the river is rushing past, high and fast and brown and wild.

Raindrops on the window, trees and river behind -- 
an accidentally artful shot.

I heard something this morning, before I was up out of bed, that sounded like a tree falling, and I think it might have been.  I watched a tree go down the river this afternoon.

Wild weather!  Reminds me of Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time," which starts on such a night...

Working up in the Cube on my play.

Nothing so exciting happened here today, except (hopefully!) in the pages I was working on.  I wrote through the day, polishing off my pot of coffee one cup at a time in front of the fire as I scribbled.  I'm beginning to have a much fuller sense of this Antarctica play -- who the characters are, what they love, what they're obsessed with, what music they listen to, what they want from this journey they're on.  The early stages of writing a new play, when you're fully engaged, are so exciting!  It's the Age of Discovery in miniature, everything unmapped, everything possible, all adventure and derring do!

Leaves and rain on the patio.

I may be influenced in this post by the new book I've just begun, "The Surgeon's Mate," by Patrick O'Brian.  I've also started a book called "Life on the Ice," by Roff Smith -- a journalist from New Hampshire who relocates to Australia, then decides he MUST go to Antarctica.  The first chapter is a delightful setting of the stage.  (I think of so many things in play terms now...)

Soapstone Creek -- fast and high today, in the stormy weather.

River, running fast.

Luckily, the rain paused, briefly, at four o'clock.  It must have known I needed to get some wood in, which I did.  Then I walked through the woods.  Water dripped from ferns and tree limbs.  I looked for my little deer, but didn't see her.  I stood by the river and watched it roar.  There's a place where a little island splits the creek in two, where you can watch the water cut apart, and then converge; tonight, there is no island, but just water rushing, rushing, rushing right over the top, and a few logs and limbs that have gotten themselves stuck in the shallows.  Everything smells moist and green out there, mossy and muddy.  My boots squish in the mud as I walk.  I'm awfully glad I brought boots, so I could tromp around in the woods.

Looking up at the rain as it falls through the trees.

Boots!  Standing on a mossy, leaf-covered stump near the river.

Darkness falling over the woods...

I came back in when twilight had settled into proper darkness.  I could see A's light on, over in the Water Studio -- a warm glow -- and smoke coming out her chimney.  I fed my fire and made a cup of tea, then returned to the cube to work some more.

It's raining again.  Maybe it's time to go downstairs and make some supper.  Work by the fire a while.

Cozy and safe and warm.

Cozy little fire in the stove.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Soapstone - 12 JAN 2010

Very stormy last night.  The rain pelted down on the roof and windows and rattled the trees and walls of the little cabin.  Nature is definitely closer here.  You don't have to find her, she'll find you...

I wrote a good bit today, read the first chapter of a new book on Antarctica ("Life on the Ice," by Roff Smith -- great so far!), and drove into town briefly.  I had to stop at the Post Office in Nehalem, and then decided to drive around a little.  I ended up picking up a few groceries in Mohler, stopping at the Nehalem Valley Winery across the road and buying a couple bottles of wine (from a fellow whose other job is cooking for NASCAR drivers, interestingly enough), and finding the elusive town of Manzanita at last.  H Street was the key, not the city of Mohler, as I had previously suspected.  The 101 does a little dipsy doodle, right there in the middle of Nehalem, and the signage is a bit confusing.  Or I'm just confused.  But at any rate, it was easy enough once I figured it out.  (A warning to you, fellow traveller: the order of streets in Nehalem is D Street, followed by C Street, followed by B Street, followed by H Street, where their one traffic light is.  Just go with it.  Follow H Street up past the Post Office, over the hill, and you'll find yourself on the 101 again, or still, and with the opportunity to go north to Manzanita if you so desire.)

I pan-fried my fish fillets tonight for dinner, after breading them with something called "Pride of the West."  A most excellent meal, and it will make another for tomorrow.  I've really been enjoying my Garibaldi seafood!  The crab legs were divine...

I leave on Friday.  It seems impossible that two weeks has already passed here.  It's been wonderful, and I'm feeling very good -- rested and energized, and high on the play I'm working on, and full of ideas.  But so very soon, I'll have to be back in the world...

It's all right, though.  I have written.  I have rested up.  I have refocused myself, here in the green and verdant Nehalem Valley. 

When the time comes, I'll be ready.

I miss my cat...

Mist meets clouds over the hills near Nehalem on this very rainy day.

Green and verdant pastures.

A tree farm near Mohler.  One of these might be yours next Christmas...

Manzanita!  I found you at last.  This is the main street,
which turns right at the end, where you can see the ocean.
The Cloud and Leaf Bookstore was calling my name,
but I resisted.  Maybe Thursday?

Person walking dog on the rainy (but beautiful) Manzanita beach.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Soapstone - 11 JAN 2010

A writing heavy day today, but I did take a walk around the grounds of Soapstone.  Here are some pictures.

I also spotted what I *think* was a Belted Kingfisher out the window.  He swooped in a showy manner down over the creek, making a strident sort of sound, then perched on a near branch.  He had a white belly, and what looked like a white, tufted head.  The field guide to birds on the bookshelf here has not only its usual contents, but also little notes from previous Soapstone residents who have noted when and where they sighted specific kinds of birds.  Belted Kingfishers have apparently been sighted here before...

Big tree fell into the water.

Funny little green ferns.

Trees and stump converge.

Big, pretty lichen.  (Is it a lichen?)

I call this one "FernGate."

Fresh deer scat.

Glass bottle floating in the little streamlet
that feeds into Soapstone Creek.

A Hobbit Tunnel.

Gaping maw of Tree.

Still Life:  Deer Head on Stump with Stick.

Little red berries.

A profusion of Ferns.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Soapstone - 10 JAN 2010

All the men of Nehalem were fly fishing today.  I happened upon them on my way to Umbrella Falls.

My Soapstone information packet is full of all kinds of useful tips -- everything from where the compost goes to how to start a fire in a wood stove to where to find a dictionary if you need one.  It also has suggested walks and hikes in the immediate area and beyond.  One of the listings was for something called Umbrella Falls, just a mile or so down the road, near the Fish Hatchery.  It looked like the perfect walkabout for today.

I quickly ate my breakfast and drank my coffee and read my pages from "Steering the Craft" -- which today were all about Point of View and Narrative Voice.  LeGuin gives some excellent examples on this sometimes challenging subject, her own and also bits from Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin," Dickens' "Bleak House," and Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings."

It was a timely subject for my walk.  I'm messing about with Point of View in both of the plays I'm working on, and it was good to hear her thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of each variation.  "The Year I Don't Remember" is in Limited Third Person with an Unreliable Narrator.  (As in the film "Memento," the character is aware of her own unreliability, and wrestling with it.  I am beginning to believe that "Magellanica" is in serial Limited Third Person, or maybe Omnicient...  I have a crazy, international bunch of characters, and I think they're all going to end up weighing in on what's happening before I'm done.

You may be thinking, "I didn't think playwrights got to *have* Point of View and Narrative Voice."  But we do.  Sometimes our plays are what we think of as "traditional," where things happen up there on stage and we peek in at them through the invisible "fourth wall" of the room.  My plays "Infinite Black Suitcase" and "Heads" were like this.  But older plays and newer plays often have characters commenting on the action as it unfolds.  The Greeks had their chorus, Shakespeare had his soliloquies, and nowadays, all manner of people talk to the audience from the stage, or even climb down amongst the innocent audience members to give them a poke and a prod.  Nothing is safe anymore!  (Durst I say good theater shouldn't be?)

Well, I've gotten off track.  Back to all the men of Nehalem.

I took off on my walk, wearing the bright orange vest that Soapstone thoughtfully provides, so I wouldn't get run over.  (There's not a lot of edge to the road around here, and I don't want to be like poor Stephen King, hit by a car while innocently walking along.)

A few cars passed by, going fast along the highway and probably wondering what the heck I was doing out on the side of the road.  There aren't a lot of walkers along this stretch.  I tried to look un-distressed, so nobody would feel like they needed to stop, and shot some pictures as I walked along.

When I walked across the bridge over the Nehalem River, I was surprised to see a bunch of fly-fishermen down below, up to their thighs in the chilly winter waters.  When I reached the Fish Hatchery, the parking lot was full of pick-ups.  There were men pulling on their boots and jackets, men arranging their gear, and men tail-gating!  Yes, they were tail-gating, right there in the parking lot of the Fish Hatchery, little hibachis burning cozily while the fellas turned plump hot dogs over with their fingers.  A white-haired angler was sitting in a lawn chair in the bed of his pick-up, holding court.  It was all very convivial.  Who knew that on a sunny Sunday in Nehalem, this is what I'd find?

I walked down to the Hatchery, and watched the little fish leap and scurry around in their ponds.  Then I set out for Umbrella Falls.

Now, it's not a *long* walk.  You can practically see the falls from the Hatchery.  But it's beautiful.  The water cascades down over a big black rock, and underneath it were a whole bunch more fly fishermen.  I took a picture of the falls, trying not to be too conspicuous (with my girlness, in this clearly masculine domain, and in my bright orange vest).

Then I meandered along the meandering path along the river.  I passed more fishermen.  And more.  Maybe forty or fifty guys!  The river (and path) bends around such that when you come out on the other side, you're back at the Hatchery where you started.  They have a special platform there for elderly, disabled and young anglers, and it was full of guys too.

Timing is everything.  Just as I arrived at the platform, one of the fellas was bringing in a fish.  It was a beauty -- maybe two feet long.  It wriggled in the air as he reeled it in.  He bonked the fish on the head (which appeared to be standard procedure), then kindly let me take a picture of it.  He said it was really good fishing out there today.

I walked back, contemplating narrative voice and serendipity and the peaceful happiness of fly fishermen.  Then I hauled some wood, ate some crab legs, fed my fire and settled in to write for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Soapstone - 9 JAN 2010 - Beach Day!

I don't mind getting lost. Which is a good thing, really, since I do it with some regularity.

When I woke up this morning, the sun was shining bright, bright, bright and I decided that I MUST go walk on a beach. Though Soapstone is on the Oregon coast, it's not actually ON the Oregon coast -- it's inland, and woodsy, and wonderful.  But today I craved ocean.

I was heading for Manzanita, which is slightly north of here, on the 101, but for the second time (and despite having printed out directions), I was unable to figure out how to get north of Nehalem. I ended up, after several interesting turns through the very scenic countryside, going south on the 101. So I decided to go with that. It was a beautiful day for a drive.

I hummed along the highway, which twists and turns through small towns that have built up along the water. I drove through Wheeler and Rockaway Beach. I passed Lytle Lake, which was still as glass, and lovely, and well-stocked with fish according to my Oregon Coast brochure.

I ended up stopping at the Barview Jetty County Park, just because I had to use the restroom and it looked like a likely spot to have one. It was gorgeous! I mean the park, not the restroom.  The unassuming sign on the highway didn't do it justice.

There are camp sites available there, which I drove past on my way to their very impressive jetty, which is overseen by a lifeguard in a tall tower. Even from the parking lot, you couldn't tell there was a lovely beach that stretched out from the jetty as far as you could see, but I found it (after I found the restroom) with the help of a nice ranger.  She even gave me a map!

I walked along the jetty a bit, then down the beach a bit, then circled back.  I passed two women who were feeding the seagulls. One of them told me she does this every day, and it's got so they recognize her car, and stalk her. I passed a fisherman, and an interesting driftwood contraption (replete with hat) that someone had built, and several people with dogs, and a couple who like Oregon State a LOT and were wearing matching windbreakers. It was so lovely not to have anywhere I had to be!

After my walk, I was beginning to get hungry, so I forged on, continuing south along the 101. I stopped in at a Myrtlewood shop in Garibaldi, because it caught my eye. I bought a few postcards and trinkets, and asked for a recommendation for where to find seafood. The woman working there sent me to the right place -- the Fishermen's Korner Restaurant, where I had their famous fish and chips, and the Garibaldi Cannery next door, where I bought some seafood to bring back to the cabin with me. I could see the boat the fish came in on, docked right outside.

By the time I finished my purchase, it was time to get on the road, if I was going to make it back by dark. (Between the twisty roads and the infrequency of road signs out here and my getting lost thing, I thought it wise to get back by dark.

I drove back up the 101, then turned off where I thought I was supposed to, thus discovering an entirely new town (Mohler!) and possibly figuring out where I'd gone wrong earlier, which had caused me to lose the entire north coast.

I soon stumbled upon Highway 53.  Once I saw the sign for the fish hatchery, I knew I was on the right track.  And the names of the small roads are starting to look familiar, now.  

I made it back by five, cleaned the little window on my wood stove, and started up a fire.  Made a cup of ginger tea.

Now it's time for dinner -- brown rice, and crab legs straight from Garibaldi!  Tomorrow -- more writing. Driving around and walking by the ocean, I think I had some good notions, including a whole musical back-drop to my play that I scribbled on a note card in the restaurant and need to explore...

It was a wonderful day.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Soapstone - 8 JAN 2010

Short blog tonight, as I had a good writing day today and I'm just about out of steam!

Started out with coffee and my LeGuin exercise from "Steering the Craft." I am really, really enjoying these exercises. Today's was all about person (as in first, or omniscient) and tense (as in present, or past). Despite the fact that I am writing plays almost exclusively at the moment, (which isn't as concerned with person and tense as prose writing is), today's exercise pushed me to play with language in a way I haven't before, or at least not in a long time. Not in that way. She's a good teacher!

I'm trying to use the play I'm working on here at Soapstone as the subject of my morning writing exercises whenever possible. It's funny what you can find out about your characters when you're noodling around with something else...

The play I'm working on here is called "The Year I Don't Remember." I have about sixty very messy pages, now that I've formatted them. A lot yet to do, and I'm not even sure it's a viable play yet. When do you know if you're doing something worth doing? Hmm... I suspect that that sort of thinking could drive a person mad. Better just to work hard, and not overthink.

I'm also working on my play about a merry band of scientists, and spent a good bit of today trying to make sure my Norwegian sounded like a Norwegian and clarifying the trajectory of Part One before I go on to the next scene. On the positive side, I think my Russian sounds like a Russian...

I made myself a nice little frittata for dinner (the easiest supper ever for a single person that actually looks like real food when you're done and doesn't come in a can and uses up whatever you have left over in the fridge). Then I cleaned out the bathroom and hallway cupboards. (I did the kitchen the other night.) This is one of the entirely optional service suggestions in my Soapstone packet, and I figured that since it's a bit too wet out to clip branches around the path, I'd clean in here instead. Plus I had excess energy today. For some reason, I'm a bundle of energy today! The cupboards *did* need some attention, and I enjoyed puttering, listening to music on my I-Pod.

I'm almost done reading the first Harry Potter book. I've been doing that in between times, and it's been lovely. I knew from watching the films that I'd like the books, but haven't had time to concentrate on fiction for way too long. I read a lot, but mostly nonfiction (background stuff for my plays), a little poetry, and the occasional Dick Francis novel. Harry Potter is delightful fantasy. So fully imagined! So much fun with words! I loved this sort of book growing up (L'Engle's Time Trilogy, Tolkien's Trilogy of the Ring, Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, Alexander's Prydain series, all that), and I love this now. I'm just sorry I didn't borrow the second book from my Dad before I came!

Well. I guess that wasn't a short post after all. (Bundle of energy today, I'm telling you!) It's time to head up to my little loft bed and get some shut-eye. I can't wait to write some more tomorrow.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Soapstone - 7 JAN 2010

Today is the 7th of January, which means that for all intents and purposes, I'm halfway through my time here at Soapstone. What have I been up to?
  • writing
  • reading
  • sleeping
  • walking in the woods
  • feeding the fire
  • hauling wood
  • re-organizing the communal kitchen cabinets
  • watching the river
  • backing up to the stove and thinking
  • doing morning writing exercises
  • drinking lots of coffee
What haven't I been doing?
  • talking (much)
  • getting up early (hallelujah!)
  • going to work
  • watching the clock
  • seeing the news
  • putting on make-up
  • feeling late or behind
  • stressing out
I'm glad that this writing residency is two weeks long, because the first week was a lot about just re-centering myself, re-focusing and resting. Writing, but also thinking about my characters and what they're up to and what they want. I don't want to spend *too* much time thinking about my plays (writing is a verb!), but it's nice to have a little time, while walking in the woods, to ponder what it is I'm on about.

One more week.

One more week.

Make it count.