What Falls into Place

 

The little publication that could. I was delighted to learn that an essay from the Fall 2017 Issue of Thread was recognized by the discerning editors at Best American Essays this year. Richard Holinger’s “The Art of Passivity” earned a spot as a notable in this year’s edition, a coveted list that acknowledges excellence in essay. Kudos to Richard  – and Thread  – for this second recognition in BAE! Randy Osborne’s “Seaside Bohemia” was selected as a notable in the series’ 2016 edition.

 

 

 

 

A memoir makes its way. The journey to publish my memoir continues. I was over the moon to find an agent in June and now I am learning a great many things about the state of publishing. These are challenging times for the memoir. Editors are saying the loveliest things about the manuscript, accolades that you would think could sell a book, but if one isn’t a well-known writer or celebrity, the memoir is a tough sell, they say. My advisors are telling me to buckle up and prepare for a wait as long as a year. I am working on cultivating patience!

 

Coaching café. My writing clients are working on such interesting projects! An MFA grad, who is also a hospice nurse, is working on collection of personal essays. A university professor and elementary school teacher are working on memoirs. A psychotherapist is working on a professional article and a personal essay. And a performer/educator is completing a professional presentation reflecting her life’s mission. Watching their words find their way onto the page is my life’s joy.

 

 

 A taste of personal narrative. My October workshop is currently full, but there are more opportunities to dip your toe into personal narrative in November. Check out this four-week introduction to personal narrative at Ice House Gallery. Monday nights, 6:15 – 8:15 pm. And take a look at this theme-based afternoon on “Writing Wrongs” at the CG Jung Center. Saturday, November 10. 1-4 pm.

 

 

Mark your calendar! Save the date!

Thread celebrates it’s fifth birthday in 2019 and we are celebrating with a night of storytelling with some of Chicago’s finest tellers at the Skokie Theatre.

Thursday, May 2, 2019
7:30 – 9:30 pm

Keep up with the latest updates on Facebook or by subscribing.

Tickets on sale March 2019.

 

Photos courtesy of Ellen Blum Barish, healthymond, rawpixel, Agency Olloweb and Skokie Theatre.

 

Why Hire a Writing Coach?

Years ago, I hired a closet declutterer to help me organize my office shelves.  And just last summer, I found someone to teach me how to set up a spreadsheet for business accounting.

None of these tasks came naturally to me. Neither did throwing a Frisbee, following a recipe or figuring out the tip for a restaurant bill!

But with guidance, I learned how. And I got better at them.

Writing isn’t any different. Finding that perfect opening sentence, riveting middle or satisfying ending doesn’t always come naturally. Some of us get stuck at the start. Some lose our way, midstream. Many of us can lose perspective  – and our confidence – in the whole project because we are just too close to the material.

That’s where an experienced, patient and tender-hearted writing coach can make a difference.

Maybe you are pursuing a degree and your academic writing assignments are taking far longer than you think they should. You need help organizing your thoughts and getting them onto the page.

Maybe you are good at your job, but your co-workers are not responding to your emails and reports as you would like. You know these could be better summarized, less wordy and more to the point.

Maybe you’ve been writing personal essays and you are ready to run them by a thoughtful reader. You want feedback from someone who can provide you with concrete suggestions about how to make them better. You want more feedback than what you feel you are getting with your critique group.

Or maybe you are looking to explore your creativity, to experience what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls the flow, doing something for its own sake.

 To get your toes in the water, consider registering for one of my writing workshops this fall.

Three hours of coaching can jump start you on a project or help you complete one already underway.

For a ready-to-go project, – take a look at my one-month, three-month and one-year programs.

Shake your life up just a bit. Make something by hand.

What if writing – whether it’s for fun, publication, a business or school assignment – could open you up in a different way?

What if writing could lead you to personal discovery?

 

For more information, hop over to my website or send me an email.

 

On Not Writing

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I’m about halfway through my inhale year  – twelve months with no writing outside of periodic blog posts and social media updates – and I thought I would let you know how it’s going.

Quick recap:  In January, I made the bold – and perhaps bizarre – decision to take a year away from writing so that I could concentrate on my writing workshops, private writing clients, submissions to my literary publication Thread, and other aspects of my professional life. (You can read my EBB & Flow post on the subject here.)

I can’t say I am recommending it just yet, but these past six months have been interesting, to say the least.

Right from the get-go I noticed that I had more available time. It was a bittersweet reminder of how lost I can get in a writing project, to be so full of concentration so as not to sense the hours passing was a confirmation of how much I love working in the form.

I wondered about the frequency of thoughts-that-become-stories. Would they slow to part time? Vanish completely? Neither. They are as active as they’ve always been. Which is very. I’ve since started a long and colorful list of ideas on my cell phone to address in my exhale year. My writerly approach to the world, even when I’m not writing, seemingly has stayed intact.

Third, and by far the most challenging during this year without writing, was that something was missing. That some essential part of me, something that separated me from others and made me feel unique,  was either in a deep sleep or … gone. I didn’t feel like I was fully present. Now that I’ve identified myself as a writer – which in itself took many decades (see my essay on this subject here) – I seem to very attached to the label, making me feel a bit anchorless without it.

Which strikes me as not such a good thing.

So I’m looking at the rest of this strange, self-imposed experiment as an opportunity to mull on two profound questions of artistic identity:

Who am I if I’m not writing?

And,

Do I feel like a writer even when I’m not getting my work published or telling a story on stage?

At the end of the year, I promise to let you know how it all turns out.

Maybe I can help save you from squandering a perfectly good year. Or perhaps this hiatus, in combination with some personal discovery, will be well worth sharing.

Photo by Ellen Blum Barish. Copyright 2016.

 

 

 

 

Summer Isn’t Just for Reading

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Photo by Ellen Blum Barish

With its flood of light, summer may be time to read, but for those of us who like to write, it is, most definitively, writing season. Time to curl up on your favorite armchair with your laptop on your knees or sprawl on a café table with a Sharpie and a yellow legal pad. Pick your position and your tools. Read something well written. Add a well-selected prompt. Claim 20 minutes (30 if you can!) Mix in a deadline, some friendly feedback and you have, most definitively, impetus to write.

If you are looking to rouse slackened writing muscles or just keep them from atrophying, let me help facilitate. I’m teaching two writing workshops this summer – a six-week Tuesday evening workshop and an eight-week Wednesday afternoon workshop to accommodate all schedules.

Identify the stories that are circling around you, stalking you, or taunting you to write them, and transform them into personal essays, memoir, or even short fiction in my Tuesday evening workshop titled “Find Your Story” at StoryStudio Chicago beginning on June 4th.

If you can’t get enough of personal essays, then consider my Wednesday afternoon workshop at New Trier Extension that starts June 5. In this eight-week workshop, “A Close Look at Personal Essay,” we’ll read essays that fall into themes and write our own based on our discussions. You can find the online catalogue here (go to page 38 for the workshop description and details), and fill out the online form or register by phone at (847) 446-6600.

It’s easy to keep that picture of yourself writing in your head. This summer, commit to taking it from your imagination to the page. Feel free to email me with questions or if you’d like me to direct to one of my former or ongoing students. You can learn more about my background and teaching style here.

Or, if you’re thinking you’d rather do this without a group – one-to-one –  I’m scheduling private coaching sessions this summer utilizing my workshop readings and assignments so you can join in from the comfort of home via screen or phone receiver.

May the words you read this summer be your own!