Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

Scene Writing Workshop and Feedback Session

In Classes, Craft on September 23, 2010 at 9:11 pm

With Jordan E. Rosenfeld and Amy McElroy

Friday, October 29, 2010


BookSmart. 80 E 2nd Street. Morgan Hill.

Cost: $85

 In this workshop we’ll explore the crucial key to captivating readers—the scene and all its facets—to build a vivid, engaging piece of writing, whether fiction or non-fiction.  Students will also workshop a piece of writing in class. Come prepared to do some brief in-class writing, as well as to read your work for group feedback. We will take a working lunch, so either bring lunch or purchase it from BookSmart’s tasty deli counter, serving soups, hot dogs and chili.

 Participants may bring any piece of their own writing, but will only read 2 pages in-class for feedback from the group, including the instructors.


 Jordan E. Rosenfeld is author of the writing guides Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, and Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life, with Rebecca Lawton. She freelance writes, edits and teaches. Learn more at:

Amy McElroy is a freelance writer, editor, and writing coach.  Most recently, she aired a series of personal essays on the NPR-affiliate KUSP in Santa Cruz.  Her formal training and experience as a writing coach began more than 20 years ago at Hollins University.  After some years as a practicing attorney, Amy is now continuing her work as a writing coach at Gavilan College.

 Workshop Tentative Schedule:

10:30-10:45 Introductions

10:45 to 11:30- Instruction

12:00-12:15 Break to get lunch

12:30-2:15  Workshop with feedback.

2:15-2:30 Questions, class survey

For questions or registration, email:

jordanwritelife (at) gmail (dot) com or amyjmcelroy( at) verizon (dot) net

Going Fallow

In Craft, Musings on September 22, 2010 at 10:38 pm

It happens. Despite all my best intentions, despite baby ideas crowding out the corners of my subconscious, sometimes I just don’t write. I write in my head, in my dreams, even in conversation, but the words just don’t make it to the page. And I feel ashamed. Like “not a real writer” when this goes on, even though I know that the time will come when the urge to write will be like the running of the bulls inside me and nothing will be able to stand in its path. Whole drafts get written when I feel like that. In between, there is doubt, there is asking questions about my purpose and my talent, and wondering if perhaps sticking to teaching is not the best path after all.

I like to think that every writer needs this downtime between projects, so when I feel this way I avoid reading interviews with people like T.C. Boyle and Jodi Picoult who never take a day off, who don’t believe in slacking or fallow time. During these times I pretend those people don’t exist. During these times I acknowledge that maybe there is something in the very chill of Fall that’s shaking summer out of our hair that is responsible for my urge to go downward, inward, away. The light disspates, the blooming things shrivel up, nature herself demands a contraction. Is it strange that my muse might also hibernate?

So that’s where I am now, inside a contraction, in the root vegetable of my creative self, waiting for the transition to settle, after which I can crawl out into the mulch, inhale the tangy earth-scent of this time of year, crunch around in the dried leaves that will coat my lawn in about two minutes, and see what dark creatures I’ve brought up from underground with me this time.


In Business of Writing, Musings on September 15, 2010 at 10:06 pm

In my mind I keep seeing this image: a tough, wiry dog hanging several feet off the ground by a rope that it holds clutched between its teeth. It carries its own body weight. It wiggles in circles, hanging on by the power of its jaw. What does it want? What is its goal? To win, to pull down the rope and the tree it hangs from with sheer insistence? I don’t know, but after the image the word “dogged,”  pops into my mind, particularly the definition that means tenacious, persistent. For lately I have been thinking I am nothing if not dogged. And that to be dogged is both a virtue and a vice, depending on when and where. (The other meaning, is of course, stubborn)

I have been dogged in creating a career from the ground up, one that involves a piecemeal and patchwork process of seeking out sources and pitching dreams to the future, that requires a kind of juggling that, at times, feels like flaming swords rather than writing, teaching and editing. I always tell those who’ve asked advice that the only secret I know to any kind of success is to throw yourself at your goal, and once you are even remotely near it, to hang on and be a rabid creature of persistence.

But I am also dogged in pursuit of people, of ideas for novels. I’ve lived in a “new” town for four years now, but for some reason I feel as though I only just arrived. Maybe this is partly a waking up process that comes with my son suddenly not being a baby who needs me at every turn anymore. But it may just as well be that I have caught the scent of life lived with all of the other roles that come besides mother. A foreign, intoxicating scent of things done at night of literary or cultural merit. Things that inflate me with the same vigor as reading books with a flashlight in my bed did as a child.

And now that I have no college campus or workplace to facilitate an easy way to meet other people I’ve become a bloodhound of likeminded souls. And once I lock on, it’s very difficult to free me. Like that dog hanging from his rope I am determined to get to know some new people, and in the process I know that I must come off like a big, goofy mutt who knocks you over upon first meeting and then rudely sniffs your pants.

But better that than the one that stands growling behind a fence and never comes out, never brushes up against the things he wants.

You say nosy, I say curious

In Musings on September 8, 2010 at 4:56 pm

All my life I have been fascinated by people. When I meet someone new, I want to know…everything. My writer’s curiosity knows no bounds. I want to understand the complex tangling of factors that have gone in to shaping the person I sit and have conversation with. It is not something I can control. But I have wondered lately if what I call curiosity looks like nosiness to some.  Is it because my parents were not very good at keeping their secrets from me? Is it because I feel safer if I know what might be coming? I honestly can’t say. But I don’t want to sit and talk about the quotidian details. I do it when that’s all a person will offer, but it sucks a little something out of my soul. Don’t we all spend enough time partially knowing most of the people in our lives anyway?

It brings up the issue of privacy–of shame and fear of being rejected. If you don’t reveal yourself, are you somehow safer from being cut off, rejected, disapproved? It’s true that there are people who will cut you off when they hit something they do not like, can’t understand, or don’t align with. And yes, there are people with beliefs so vastly different from mine that it can become difficult, even impossible, to connect. But I still feel the searching urge, the need to understand, the desire to forgive. When I was young I thought I would become a psychologist. But then I realized I am good at understanding people, but not so good at helping them to understand themselves. What I want is to understand them on the page, employ them in worlds or stories I build.

But the next time you find me asking probing questions, just know my intentions are good.

Artistic Community

In Musings on September 5, 2010 at 5:31 pm

I recently came to the stunning realization that not all of us have the same level of social needs (okay, I learned this a long time ago, but the lesson always comes home anew). When I moved from my rich, full community in the north bay area more than four years ago to a town in the south bay where I knew not one person, and worked by myself from home, the impact of loneliness and disconnection was overwhelming. I hadn’t realized how precious and crucial my physical community of writing friends and colleagues was until I didn’t have it at my disposal any longer. Other people I knew were okay with being a stranger in a strange land, but for me it was like asking me to live in a land of permanent night.

I also learned that getting to know a community, making friends, is not as easy as being a social person. I didn’t feel I could just go befriending the people behind the store counters where I shopped down town (not at first, at least). I couldn’t stop someone in an aisle at a supermarket and tell them they looked like someone I wanted to know. Introducing myself to strangers is, for this relative social butterfly, actually a kind of embarassing experience akin to adolescent dating (Will you be my friend?). The only way I knew to make contact was to get a job outside my home office, even though I didn’t “need” to.  I took a job in the local bookstore, which also happened to be in walking distance from where we lived. And it was a good start. I at least knew people who could refer me to a good restaurant or a mechanic. People who would listen to me talk.

But it still took awhile. I’ve lived in my “new” town almost four and a half years. In that time we’ve gone on to have a child–our 2 year old son–which involved another period of isolation due to the exhaustion of having a baby who was not a good sleeper. And now that he is two, and not so dependent solely on me, I’m suddenly feeling an almost zealous need to get out and create a sense of community again. When we lived in Petaluma I was lucky to be in a hotspot of writerly activity. There was literary culture everywhere, and hundreds of likeminded people to fill it.  I know it’s here too.

But I feel as though if I want it, I’m going to have to build it, this time. One small connection at a time.

What are your thoughts on an artistic community? Do you have one? Want one? Have you built one?