Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

A Break from Navel Gazing

on September 10, 2013

I’m conscious of the fact that this blog, by it’s nature, is a vehicle for self-exploration.  I write it because I hope that someone out there can relate to what I’m going through and be encouraged, or inspired – or even just relieved that they’re not as totally confused about life as I am.

However, I feel the need to take a break from the navel gazing to talk about some of the cool people, books and resources I’ve found as I’ve begun to explore life as a writer.

Over Labor Day weekend I attended the Decatur Book Festival (@dbookfestival), which has become the largest festival of its kind in the U.S.   It’s an amazing event that draws authors and poets and bibliophiles from all over the world.  Over the two days of the festival there are dozens of panel discussions and workshops on a wide rage of topics.  It’s free.  There were 75,000 people there this year.

The first session I chose was about writing memoir and intimacy.  It was led by two authors, Beth Kephart (@bethkephart) and Stacey D’Erasmo.  Beth (I call her “Beth” now, because I’ve met her) has written several memoirs and novels and teaches a class on memoir writing.  Her new book is called “Handling the Truth; on the writing of memoir”, which I purchased and had her sign.  I’m so very glad I found it before I got too much further into the writing of my second book, because it contains a wealth of good advice and information for anyone interested in the genre.  In the back of the book she lists a number of memoirs that she recommends budding memoirists read, and I’m working my way through a couple of them now.

I also attended a packed session featuring the best-selling authors Kathy Reichs and Karin Slaughter.  They were funny, inspiring, and amazingly normal.

The last session I went to was the launch of the 2013 edition of the yearly anthology “The Best American Poetry”.   On the stage were this year’s guest editor who chose the 75 poems included in the book, the series editor, and four of the featured poets.  They took turns reading poems from the book; the first time, they read their own, and the second time they read someone else’s poem.  It was a wonderful experience, especially for me since my interest in poetry goes back almost three whole weeks (it reminds me of when I turned 20 years old and suddenly liked yellow squash, when I had never liked it before).  I bought the anthology and have thoroughly enjoyed it.

That’s the literary end of things.  I have also happily discovered Kristen Lamb (@kristenlambtx) who is an expert at harnessing the power of social media for authors.   She’s written books, she blogs, and she’s started a networking and support group for writers she calls “WANA” (for “We Are Not Alone”).   Her new book “Rise of the Machines:  Human Authors in a Digital World” is essential reading for any author who wants to find an audience for their work.   She is funny and down-to-earth, and I strongly recommend that all aspiring writers listen to what she has to say.

Finally, and probably most importantly, on the recommendation of a friend I read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield.  It’s a short book; not that many pages, and some of the “chapters” are one or two paragraphs long.  Even though it’s a quick read it is the most important book I’ve read in the last few weeks.  I won’t try to describe it, but I will say that if you feel you are being called to do something and you have not answered the call for all of the reasons that we tend to think of as “practical”, you need to read this book.  It isn’t just for artists; the principles apply to anyone who has a heart’s desire to bring something new into being, whether that’s a business or a novel or a painting.  The enemy here is our own resistance to following our hearts, and the enemy is strong.

I’m not saying that the books and authors and resources I’ve found are for everyone, but I have certainly been challenged and inspired by them.  I think everyone should go looking for ways to stretch themselves from time to time.  It isn’t comfortable; some of what I’ve been reading has made me extremely nervous.  But you can’t grow if you don’t step out of your comfort zone, and there is so much out there to explore!  I’ll leave you with a quote from the Dalai Lama that Pressfield uses to open his book:  “The enemy is a very good teacher.”

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