Category Archives: A Place For Writers To Share

Welcome sisters and brothers in words. Here is a place for inspiration and sharing. I invite you to find haven here. yrs. Laura

Haven from Home

Even when you live in the wilds of Montana, life is life, and life is busy. So what might be one person’s creative haven, could very well be another’s Grand Central Station. To that end, during this time of my Long Ago: Community series, I have sought haven at a little cabin up near the Canadian border. No heat. No running water. No electricity. No cell phone service. Outhouse. Mountain Lion paw prints on the porch upon arrival. Hip high snow. Miles from a neighbor this time of year.

I thought I’d give my readers some visuals. This is what happens when you realize you bet wrong on how much drinking water you needed. Enjoy!
yrs.
Laura

Snow tete a tete

Wok fried snow

Snuggled snow by the wood stove

“There are certainly times when my own everyday life seems to retreat so the life of the story can take me over. That is why a writer often needs space and time, so that he or she can abandon ordinary life and “live” with the characters.”

–Margaret Mahy

7 Comments

Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, Haven Newsletter, My Posts, Retreats

Haven Writing Series 2013

This is the season of writing for me.  Dormancy.

Being in the “mind of winter,” as Wallace Stevens says.

That means that this is the time for my Haven Blog Writing Series.  I love that I have this platform and I want to share it with you.

Last year the theme was Breaking Points.  It was an honor to watch as many people found haven with one another through story sharing– from their most scary and painful, raw and real places.  Heart in hand, good, bad, and ugly.  Thank you to those brave participants.

This year, the subject is:  LONG AGO:  Community.

I’ve shared my essay called “Filling Station” in the blog post below and on Huffington Post 50.  I would love for you to share a fond memory:  of community connection just where you least expected it.  A time when you felt profoundly part of the collective We.  A time when a random act of kindness stopped you in your tracks and reminded you what it is to feel true gratitude.

For the next weeks, I will choose a story to feature for a few days on These Here Hills, depending on how many submissions I receive and their content.  You will have a chance to respond to the comments that may come in, and I will be monitoring from the background, as I focus on book-writing in this most sacred time of my writing year.  In other words, These Here Hills are yours for the month of January.  And I will link your pieces to my cyber presence to help share your work, so please include your links to blog/website etc.

To that end, within this series, I will be running a contest.  The winner of the Long Ago:  Community series will receive a scholarship to a future Haven Writing Retreat in Montana of your choice.

Please keep submissions under 1500 words and send them to Laura@Lauramunsonauthor.com.  I will run this series through January and possibly through mid-February.

Look back, find photos, wax nostalgic, know that you are safe, and share share share.

As with my retreats…I’ll have your back at These Here Hills.

Happy 2013!

Yrs.

Laura

4 Comments

Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My Posts

The Next Big Thing

Wherever you are in your life of self-expression…come to Montana and WRITE!

Last week, my writer friend Susan Pohlman tagged me to participate in the Next Big Thing online event.  Answering questions that might shed a light on the writing life is one of the things that makes my heart sing, so I was happy and honored to participate. The Next Big Thing is a way for authors and bloggers to share the news about their most exciting upcoming projects.  Susan is the author of  the memoir Halfway to Each Other, an inspiring book about how she and her husband saved their marriage when it was in near ruin, by leaving life as they’d known it behind, and creating a new life with their family in Italy.   She blogs here.

So here’s my attempt at answering these questions about my current writing journey:

What is the working title of your book?

I have never been good at naming things, my children included. My publisher chose the title for my memoir, This Is Not The Story You Think It Is, which on her part was a stroke of genius, but from my end has gifted me a fairly decent bout with carpal tunnel. In other words, my next book’s title is going to be a four letter word. For now it’s called NAME THIS BOOK:  A Love Story.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I have wanted to write a love story from the beginning, and when I say beginning, I mean fourth grade. But since I have a personal moratorium on writing sunset and sex scenes, it’s been a challenge. Also, people tend to die in my books, and you really can’t compete with Shakespeare in that regard. I’ve written many unpublished and un-submitted novels, and my only published book oddly enough, is a memoir. As much as I love the creative non-fiction voice, my true love is fiction. I think it’s because of the way you can play on the page with story, characters, narrative drive, empathy. I love crawling into characters and situations I haven’t known, and seeing what it’s like to breathe that ozone. And who doesn’t want to breathe a love story? The inherent problem is, however (and there’s always an inherent problem), that in every story there must be a conflict. And so yes…maybe somebody needs to die. We’ll see. I’m on page 348 and I can’t figure out the ending. Right now they’re standing in a labyrinth in Mexico, where they’ve been since early August and my writing retreats began and my writing practice flew out the window for, yes, better ozone.  At least for awhle.  Sometimes it’s nice to give back and not just be this head floating around on the blank page in this dark office in Montana…

What genre does your book fall under?
Literary Fiction.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It’s not finished, but generally, it takes me about six months. And then another year or so to get the final draft. That was before I was a published author, however. Now, with all that is suggested/required cyberly speaking and in other avenues of the career track (speaking, teaching, leading retreats, etc.) I am finding myself out of a practice which has religiously yielded 5-8 pages daily for my entire adult life. In other words, if you were to sit where I sit at this writing, and look over your right shoulder, you’d see a lavender couch with four stacks of paper peeking out from its nether regions. And if you looked closer, you’d see that they are covered in the dirt from a wet, free-range Montana black lab, sprinkled with mouse turds. It’s nothing short of depressing. I try not to look. I keep telling myself that I have a date with winter. But then again, I told myself I had a date with summer too. And fall. Deep sigh. I’m going to place my money on winter being an exceptional lover.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh, that’s easy. Javier Bardem and Julia Roberts. Except for someone else I know already got them. So…I dunno. Maybe Edward Norton and Scarlett Johansen. Just not Owen Wilson. Please God. Not Owen Wilson. I don’t know what Woody Allen possibly saw in him.

For what it’s worth, I doubt a production company would take on a movie with over fifty locations… Unless they could make the SAT equation: Italy is to Greece as Turkey is to the South of France and Morocco and Central Park and London and Paris and Nantucket and the San Juan Islands and Big Sur and Montana and southeast Asia and Cumberland Island, Georgia and… Takers?  Steven?  James?  George?  Woody?  OK fine:  Owen?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
My book chronicles two lovers from the ages of fifteen through fifty, from both their points-of-view, as they meet all over the world at critical stages of their lives.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I have a great agent and we have not attempted a book deal prior to completion of the book. I have every confidence that she will kick some New York butt once it’s ready to go and I hope that she’ll land another book deal for me, preferably with my amazing editor at Putnam, the great and powerful Amy Einhorn, esq.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Well, I’m slightly terrified by this because I haven’t read The Notebook, haven’t seen the movie, and wouldn’t want to sign up for either of the above. It’s not my kind of writing. And yet, I was describing my book to my teenaged daughter, and she said, “Mom, it sounds like The Notebook.” I haven’t read a lot of love stories, really. I think I’d call my favorite book, Dalva, a love story. And Legends of the Fall, both by my favorite author, Jim Harrison. I like an edge on a love story. And I think that’s why my characters are stuck in a labyrinth in Mexico…they don’t want to go to the edge and find a parachute. They just want to free fall and I don’t want to go all Thelma and Louise at the end. You kinda can’t top that, you know? I think they need a carrier pigeon or the Wizard of Oz’s hot air balloon or something. Anyone have any ideas? No letter openers or poison ink or cyanide, please. But also…no picnics or on-your-knees confessionals. Can you feel my pain?

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
If I told you that, I might end up in the Hudson River in cement boots. Suffice it to say, a girl can dream, can’t she? Suffice it to say that sometimes when real life is delivering you lemons, a novel can be an exceptional lemonade stand and if it’s YOUR lemonade stand…well then you get first licks. And if you’re in your mid-forties, that might involve vodka. Probably not the answer you were looking for.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
In many ways, this book reads like a travel log, and I’ve had fantasies about writing an accompanying travel book. I have kids at home still, so that’s not probably in the cards. But I think the novel could serve as one in and of itself, without totally exploiting the special places in which these characters meet– all near and dear to my heart.

I also think that to follow a plot outside of the mundane travails of a typical life, that finds two people in different times of their life, in different places, in different forms of physical, emotional, and spiritual being…is disorienting enough to trigger an openness to that which exists between life’s general compass…like energy and negative space and quantum leaps and things that you don’t really get a grasp on from the 9 to 5 of regular living. Or something like that. In short, the suspension of time begets the suspension of disbelief. I like being the reader who experiences this, and I like being the writer who creates it.

And now I would like to pass the torch to writers I love and who have inspired me.  We are all sisters in words.  And so it goes.

 

Priscilla Warner co-authored the NYT bestseller The Faith Club, then toured the country for three years, speaking to interfaith groups from Boise to Boston. In the skies above Oklahoma, she read about Tibetan monks who meditated so effectively that neuroscientists were studying their brains, and vowed to find her inner monk. Learning to Breathe – My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life became an instant bestseller after Priscilla’s appearance on The Today Show. She’s written for MORE Magazine, Huffington Post and Psychology Today and is currently working on a memoir about her mother, making jewelry and blogging/bragging about her new puppy at PriscillaWarnerBooks.com
Links: The Faith Club  Learning to Breathe  Today Show  Priscilla Warner Books 

Beverly Willett had her life reinvented for her ten years ago when her husband of 20 years walked out and served her with divorce papers. One day she was a happy, ex-NYC-entertainment attorney turned stay-at-home mom; the next she found herself in divorce court battling to save her family. After her unwanted divorce was final, she wanted to let other families know about the pitfalls of divorce.  Nora Ephron at Huffington Post Divorce asked her to write for their launch, and her blogs there and at The Daily Beast and Salon began to go virile. Last year, she partnered to form a volunteer divorce reform organization called the Coalition for Divorce Reform. Beverly is represented by The Bent Agency and is at work on a memoir, blogging for HuffPost, the CDR and her own blog, and has some other projects up her sleeve.

Katherine Jenkins is the author of Lessons from the Monk I Married, about her 15-year journey with her husband, a former Korean Buddhist monk. Her book received great reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Beliefnet, Wisdom a la Carte, Lonely Planet Travel Guides, and Shambhala Sun, which called it “…travel writing at its best.” The book is part memoir, part spiritual guide, part travelogue and was nominated for a Pacific Northwest Book Award. Katherine also blogs daily lessons and tidbits about life at http://www.lessonsfromthemonkimarried.blogspot.com She lives in Seattle with her husband Yoon, a popular yoga teacher and owner of Yoon’s Yoga Bliss in the Seattle area. Katherine and Yoon have conducted yoga/writing retreats nationally and internationally. Their next retreat will be in Kona, Hawaii, March 20-26. Limited space is available, so please e-mail info@yoonsyogabliss.com to inquire about this retreat and to secure your spot.

4 Comments

Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My Posts

Writing Retreats: manna

For more writing retreat information click here:

When I first dreamed about leading writing retreats, I wasn’t sure exactly why I wanted that role. I’ve been a writer all my adult life and probably into my childhood and adolescence. Teaching wasn’t something that attracted me. Though, when I look at the trajectory of my life, I see now that I have consistently put myself in the position of wanting to share what I am working to understand. It’s not necessarily that I think I know something that others don’t. It’s that I think I know the way to some things, especially when it comes to the writing life. That’s what my writing retreats are all about.

Walking Lightly Ranch, Montana

Sitka Center for the Arts-- Oregon Coast

I’ve lead five now. People come from all over to take this stand for their writing, no matter where they are in their writing journey. Paris, Australia, Hawaii, Florida, New York, Boston, North Carolina, Washington, California, Chicago etc.  Some of them have books in progress.  Some of them have books in them that they are hungry to write.  Afraid to write.  Some have never written anything beyond their Christmas letter.  But all of them are in a place of wanting growth in their lives.

Walking Lightly Ranch-- Montana

I am not a life coach nor a therapist. My strength comes from years of trying to find the intersection of heart and mind and craft that is writing.  I have found how to get to that place, and re-visit it as my central practice.  My way of life.  And sometimes my way tolife.  I know how to keep it sacred.  I know how to get there even when my mind tells me it’s dangerous ground.

Tulum, Mexico-- Radiant Retreat

Workshop: "How to Get Out of Your Way on the Page"

Writing class-- Tulum, Mexico

I know how to stand there anyway. Kneel there if I have to.  Lie supine…prostrate if need be.  I also know how to jump up and down there in delight.

All that said…I care about being a guide for people.  To help them find their own intersection of heart and craft and mind that is writing. So, I have developed a three day retreat that brings you into the place of simultaneous inspiration…and discomfort…that we all feel when we are in the act of creating.  I have designed exercises that stretch the mind and challenge you to bare yourself to your greatest depths, both privately on the page, and witnessed by the group in support and safety.

Over the course of the retreat, there is plenty of laughter. And crying, too.  Breakthroughs happen just when people least expect them. At my last retreat, on the first day, one of the women announced, “I hate writing.”  By the end of the retreat, she had an idea for a book, the structure to expedite it, a title, a first sentence, and a glow in her eyes that I know means she will write it.

That’s what I’m there for. To help you put your finger on the pulse of what it is that you want to create on the page.  One of my retreaters arrived as a memoirist.  She left realizing she’s a poet.  Another had a well-developed manuscript that she’d been working on for years.  After reading aloud from the prompt I’d given her that day, experiencing the group’s glowing response to a new, vibrant, wildly alive voice…she took her manuscript, and threw it in the camp fire.  “That’s the voice we want in your book,” we told her.  And in that moment, she knew she had full possession of that voice. She was out of her way.

As the retreat progresses, each time I’ve seen an arc occur.  People start off high.  Then they free fall into their fears.  And then they land safely…and soar again to new heights.  One group is co-writing an anthology to publish.  Another has created an online writing group in which they give each other weekly prompts, based on the work we’ve done together.

Another has planned a reunion next fall and challenged themselves to spend the year working on their writing project, whether it’s a book, a collection of poems, essays, short stories. The writing life is solitary.  It can be lonely and it can be daunting.

The power of sharing your work with other people, in a safe setting, with a nurturing leader is vast.

On my last retreat, after everybody left, I lay on the dock at the Walking Lightly Ranch here in Montana. I put my finger in the lake and thought of each person I’ve worked with over the course of the last year—in Tulum, Mexico, the Oregon Coast, Montana…and I sent out a ripple for each one, watching as it moved in larger rings across the lake.  That is what I know happens when a person takes a stand for themselves: it ripples.  It can even change the world.

It is my deep and profound honor to be able to help facilitate this sort of experience for people. I will be leading these retreats throughout the year in Montana.  In addition to morning and evening writing class I offer one-on-one sessions with me, and a full edit of your pre-submitted work.  Then, to balance the creative process with your physical being, depending on the season, I offer guided hiking,cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and year-round equine therapy, as well as yoga.  All this is set deep in the woods of northwest Montana, on 400 acres, surrounded by state land, at the Walking Lightly Ranch which delivers food and spirit in a way that just plain stuns me.

I welcome and encourage you to take this stand for your writing, wherever you are on the page.  I will post my upcoming retreats on my website, and look forward to hearing from you at Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com.

Yrs.

Laura

Laura’s work changing the Suffering Artist paradigm into Empowered Artist is going to reshape the world. If she has to do it one writer at a time, she will.
–Cindy Webb Montana

Laura Munson was a master at bringing out my voice, and the voices of all my fellow writers. Her retreat was one of the most empowering experiences of my life. I learned about writing, but I also learned about myself in ways that were unexpected. In addition, we all formed an amazing bond with each other! The totality of the place, the people, the work and the food was priceless.
–Wendy Hill Westwood, MA

The retreat was a perfect balance of comfort and fear. Laura Munson creates a safe place for writers of every level to uncover their true voice, sometimes for the first time. Witnessing it was as close to a miracle as I’ve ever come.
–Lynn Trudell Ithaca, New York

Laura’s retreat re-ignited my creative spirit. Her intuitive guidance, along with imaginative writing exercises, group readings and individual feedback, helped me re-focus and re-energize. I am more committed than ever to my craft.
–Mary Novaria Los Angeles, CA

Laura Munson can help you breakthrough writing blocks, make your writing sing and pull those stories out of you and she does. I left Montana inspired and on fire to write.
–Erika Putnam Boise, Idaho

The universe is always sending out messages-songs and stories that need to be told and heard. A retreat with Laura Munson and the wonderful crew at the Walking Lightly Ranch tunes that channel in loud and clear. Run there with your heart wide open. Receive. Be forever blessed.
–Dixie B. Sarasota, FL

Laura Munson transformed my attitude toward writing – from thinking that no one would be interested in my story to feeling rejuvenated with confidence and desire to complete it. The peaceful setting of Walking Lightly Ranch and three days of sharing with the other incredibly different yet like-minded and funny women filled me with inspiration and motivation, and gifted me with 9 new friends of the heart and written word.
– Christie Boston, MA

Metamorphosis

they gathered needing
that thrill of discovery
eleven women strong
rule keepers, rule breakers
beautiful, courageous
adventurous women
then it begins to fall away

fears, anxieties surface
fooling with words
becomes painfully intense
the act of writing cathartic
and then it begins to make sense

eleven powerful women
broken open, sharing from their depths,
caring for each other
from their souls,
then they begin to return to wholeness

vulnerable, brave, wondrously made
women forming a community
of seekers
of writers
of poets
of companions on the journey
accepting their gifts
their communal connection,
with open hands and hearts
then and only then
does it all begin
to come together

Jan Myhre September 2012

Here’s a blog post about my Montana retreat

4 Comments

Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My Posts

Journal a life.

I have always had a journal– back to 4th grade (see the pink patent leather with the lock and the word PRIVATE). The early ones are about boys and best friends. The middle ones are about being afraid to die and being afraid to live and being afraid in general– mostly of myself. Oh, and also about boys. And God. And the more recent ones are all written from the hot cramped cabins of airplanes. I’m a claustrophobe who hates to fly– the one pretending she’s blithely involved in the NYT crossword puzzle, but who is in reality, sitting there begging the heavens for smooth skies and a safe landing. To the tune of: Please don’t let anything scary happen. Please don’t let anything scary happen. And I travel a lot. So if anyone ever reads my journals from the last ten or so years of my life, they will put me in the annals of crazytown. Each entry is written as if the plane’s going down and I need to say just…one…last…thing about life and what it is to be human and mortal.

I’ve kept them all. But I’ve never re-read them. I’m too afraid to see that I haven’t changed or learned anything. Or am still complaining about THAT thing which I should have figured out how to get over years ago. I’m too afraid to see the broken record that is me. Or too sad to see big dreams unrealized. Or remember all the years I spent suffering for something that actually DOES come my way– good, bad, or indifferent.

I’m not sure what purpose the journal serves. I just know that it is my lover, best friend, confidant, safe house. I can feel them in the box in my writing room closet, sitting there with all my history and hysteria; I can hear the many voices of me and feel the pulse that drives them to want to write my story in those private pages. I love them. Even when I don’t love myself.

The other day, for some reason…I missed them. So I braved it and took them out, spread them on the staircase and ran my hands over them. Each of them like long lost loved ones with whom, upon first sight, you pick up exactly where you left off. I was suddenly hungry for my earlier selves, and dared myself to dig in. A summer in Spain looked like a good place to start. I took that Asian silk wrapped journal from a head shop in my childhood town (back when there were head shops), and opened it in the middle. Read the words, “If God is so good then…” and slammed the book closed. Couldn’t do it. Italy–that was a good year. I opened that journal, covered in marbleized Italian paper. “I hate Americans. All they care about is…” Slammed that one shut too. Maybe one from sixth grade instead. “I’m in my treehouse hiding.” Nope. Instead I decided to just lay my hands on them and thank the words that I needed to spring…knowing that they somehow needed to spring and believing they helped…and took a picture.

In that moment, I have never been more certain that the past is the past, and is meant to be left behind. It was a powerful exercise. It reminded me that I have spent a lot of my life in deep thought, moving around a pen to the tune of my emotions in a little book that lives somewhere close. Until it is full. And then it goes into a box in a closet for safe keeping. I’m proud of that. That’s where all those words belong. In a box.

I think someday, if and when I’m an old woman, maybe I might be brave enough to go back and see who I’ve been all these years. Until then, I write in my journals where I am free to be exactly who I am without anyone’s judgement but my own. Maybe that nails it: when I am writing in my journal, I am not a self-critic. I am not crafting story. I can be my most despicable and dreamy self. And who wants to re-visit that? Not me. Not yet.

I invite you to do the same. Collect all your journals and spread them out. Bask in them for a bit. Read some if you must. And put them back from whence they came. Send me the photo.

16 Comments

Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My Posts

The Glamorous Life of the Author

Novel in progress

It’s been a while since I’ve joined you over in These Here Hills. I’ve missed this terrain. However, like most writers I know, time for doing our primary work, if in fact book writing is just that, becomes rare. I re-booted my priorities this summer and will probably do so into the winter, as I try to finish the novel I’m working on and lead my writing workshops and retreats. I’ll send notes from that terrain as I go.

In the mean time, just in case anyone thinks that the writing life is glamorous…here’s the current state of my novel:

On my office floor
Warped and wrinkled from bath-tub editing
And now wet and dirty from a naughty black lab
I figured I’d leave it blurry too, since that’s what it looks like to me without my reading glasses these days
And since I like to edit in the bath-tub, it’s a bit of a foggy mess. Any advice on that one?

5 Comments

Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My Posts

Writing as Passion and as Architecture.

After my last blog post spouting writing advice, and the appreciative responses I got…I am inspired to share another bit of writing advice I have recently given in hopes that it might help writers out there.  Or anyone who wants to express themselves creatively.

Recently a new friend asked me if I thought a person could have a blog and write about their passions and thoughts and life without being a “real writer.” She’s concerned that her words don’t always come out on the page the way she’d like.  Still she is compelled to write and wanted to know what I had to say about it. My knee-jerk reaction to this sort of question is usually an across-the-board YES! Express yourself! Who cares if it’s not perfect! But my response to her sort of surprised me. In hopes that I do not discourage ANYONE out there who loves to write to get those words down…here’s what a bit of a different side of me had to say:

We could talk and talk about this subject. I guess I agree with Francine Prose: “A well-made sentence transcends time and genre.” I suppose it depends on whether or not you want to attempt to acheive that. Regardless, I think that we need to honor our readers: if the reader is going to invest the time and money and potential emotional energy into our writing, we need to be architects and find that intersection of heart and mind and craft that is writing. I go back and re-read Strunk and White yearly (“The Elements of Style”) just to make sure I haven’t gone off course. I had a bear of an English teacher in high school who would give us an F if we used the passive tense “the dog was walked by me” vs. “I walked the dog.” He docked us big time for what he called “Bombast” and “Deadwood” —extra words, flourish, adverbs etc. I learned early on how to build a sentence without really knowing it was happening and I am most grateful for that.

That said, who cares about a well-built sentence if it’s not alive? If you can’t feel its pulse or hear it sing? That’s what I try to help people with on my writing retreats. I really care about this. For me, it comes down to timing and word play. And authority. And compassion. And responsibility. And intention. When I’m in the hands of a writer who has those things in spades, I am in heaven. And that’s where I want my readers to be. Tall order, but it’s my life’s passion.

It’s the Devil’s-advocate (and I realize, sort of obnoxious) question I ask of my singer/songwriter friend who can’t read music but considers himself a professional musician.  ”Are you really a professional if you don’t know the language of your art?”

He counters with the old “Jagger can’t read music. Most famous rock stars, in fact, can’t read music.” He argues that he does know the language of his art. And it’s true– the language of his music is deep and beautiful. But there is something stubborn in me that wants to insist that language is not language if it can’t be written down, and when it’s written down there are certain rights and wrongs that make it a language that can be spoken long after he’s dead and by people in other countries and cultures.

Even if he gets someone else to write it down for him, wouldn’t it serve him to be able to read music found in an archive somewhere from hundreds of years ago? Don’t we have some sort of responsibility to keep languages alive? I fear this with script. They’re not teaching it in schools as much any more. How are the next generations going to be able to read the letters and documents of our Founding Fathers, for instance? And for that matter, is our language going to turn into: “R U probs going 2 the dance?”

My singer/songwriter friend says he’s not interested in that— he doesn’t need to be Bach. Sometimes he wins me over. But the truth is…maybe there’s something in me that…well, wants to be Bach. LOL.

In any case, art is made to inspire its perceiver to laugh and play and heal and grieve and know they’re not alone. (and its creator too.) So…who really cares at the end of the day about the precision of the language. It’s all about expression. And it helps us to make sense of this beautiful and heartbreaking planet. So do what you do on the page, and if you want to become more of an architect, go back to Strunk and White. If not, just try to sing your song.

p.s.  I’m well-aware that I write in in-complete sentences from time to time and sometimes a lot.  But at least I know I’m doing it.  We can play with language, afterall…

8 Comments

Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My Posts

To a Young Writer

I was recently asked to write down some writing advice to a young person who loves to write and needs some guidance. There’s practically nothing I’d rather do. Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” largely shaped who I am as a writer and a person today. The following is what came out of me. Please feel free to share it with anyone– young, or old, or in-between who needs a little help in this category. Writing ain’t for sissies, and we need a little hand-holding/nudge every-so-often. yrs. Laura

Write what you HAVE to write.

Don’t give up.

Write and write and write.

And write.

Don’t believe in writer’s block.

Don’t worry about getting published.

When you think you’ve gone deep enough, go deeper. And then go deeper.

Think of yourself as an archaeologist and you want to crack the case on the cavewoman.

What did she worry about? What did she do to find comfort?

Tell people, “I am a writer.”

Hold your head up high when they look confused, and even judgmental.

Allow yourself to be misunderstood in life and on the page.

Believe in yourself.

Only you can tell your story the way you can tell it.

When you sit down to write: get butterflies in your stomach. Feel like it’s a snow day.

Always believe that you have something to say.

Always know that you have nothing to say.

Say it anyway.

Be brave.

Be kind to yourself.

Believe. Receive. It’s all happening.

All you have to do is show up.

4 Comments

Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My Posts

A Look Into Self-publishing

People have asked me over and over why I’ve written so many books and never considered self-publishing.  I think the answer was really just this:  I was chicken.  Sure, I said I was attached to the idea of traditional publishing.  I wanted that status.  That support.  That level of editing and publicity.  That “institutional” backing and affiliation.  Eventually, I got all that in spades.  It was an embarassment of riches, really and I am so grateful to the great Amy Einhorn at Putnam and the wonderful publicity and marketing team at Penguin.   I love my agent and I treat her better than I do most of my best friends.  I like the feeling of people being For me and these people were just that.  They believed in my book and my message.  But every-so-often I wonder what would happen if I slapped one of my novels on Amazon and flew solo.  I admire people who take that tack.  But I admit to still being a chicken.

I have a friend who is NOT a chicken and we have had some interesting conversations about self-publishing.  I’d like to share our question and answer with you.  Feel free to ask her about her experience.  She has written a beautiful book, and I’m happy to introduce you to my friend, Brigetta Schwaiger.

Book Description:

Anna Broxton’s marriage to the top Tommy John surgeon in the West and their idyllic ranch life in the Flathead Valley of Montana makes most women envy her. That is, until one simple moment changes her family forever.

Unable to bear the presence of her once adored husband, she abandons her life and finds “her nowhere” a small organic farm on the Southern tip of Sweden. There, she tills the soil, plants seeds, learns to pickle cucumbers, and fights her attraction to a younger man.

Her unlikely friendships with two unique women awaken her to suffering other than her own and help her face her part in the tragedy. She returns home to find her husband has found his own nowhere and must fight for whatever love remains in the gaps of their shattered family.

“Her Nowhere” is a tearjerker about relationships and what they can survive—if we let them. It is appropriate for book club discussion about our own unique tragedies, how we respond to them, how they shape us, humanitarianism, organic farming, and the imperfection of motherhood.

Why did you decide to self publish?

I always wanted to write a novel, but there was some fear in me associated with that dream. So, for many years I just didn’t do it. I thought it would be too hard to get it published so I just didn’t invest the time. For me, it was freeing to choose to write regardless if there would be any recognition or possiblility of publication or any monetary compensation. I wanted to write it because life is just a vapor so why not choose your dreams while you can.

When I finished and let a couple of family members and friends read it, they were very responsive and loved the story. I began the process of researching agents, contructing perfect query letters, sending them, waiting for responses and it became a full time job. I have four children and honestly, it seemed like a waste of my time. Like I was parading myself when perhaps nobody was even watching.

So, I tucked my novel away in the corner of my desktop and left it alone for a few years. One day, I was inspired to come back to it and re-read and edit once again. I found that I loved the story and knew it should be shared. I started researching ebook publishing. I realized it was something I could control and I’d been hearing that even when a big house picked up your work, you ended up doing most of the promotion anyway.  It was a way to get my book off of my desktop and offer it to whoever might want to read it. Simple as that.

 

How did your move to Montana from California inspire your writing?

That’s such a good question because it had everything to do with my writing. I always say Montana gave me the space I needed to write and create. In California (and I love my home state and my peeps there) it was just crowded, squished, noisy. And I never realized how it adds unknown stress until I moved to Montana. It also helped that I didn’t know a soul here when we first moved. My characters in Her Nowhere were my first companions in Montana.

What was the process like logistically?

I won’t lie. It’s a lot of work and you have to be committed to editing, finding good readers to edit, researching best ways to create covers, learning how to format your text, then checking and double checking. Mostly its a lot of researching online and learning from others who have done it. There is help out there, but you have to take the time to find it, read it, and apply.

What has the response been so far?

It has been incredible. My sister’s friend read it and said- “It’s my favorite book of all time. I want a signed hard copy. If it was in print, I would give it to everyone I know. It is so healing with all the loss I’ve had in my life.”  And I thought- That’s my hope. So if it’s just for her, just for one, then that’s enough.

An Amazon review from Sue Keating said, “Anyone who was lost and found will relate to this novel. Well written and plot driven, Anna is lost, found and redeemed. A global book that affirms that giving is the best way to receive.”

Another reader stayed up until three in the morning reading it on the cracked screen of her  iPhone. Love that! People are telling me that once they start it, they can’t put it down. But, I also get some complaints about puffy eyes the next day. Or readers looking like they’ve been beat up. It’s a real tear jerker. Within the first two days it was in the top fifteen in the Paid Kindle Drama Category and at one point was number one on the Hot New Releases in Dramas.

What have you learned so far?  What advice would you give a writer who is at the beginning of the self-publishing process.

If a writer knows self-publishing is for them, they should read through Kindle Direct Publishing’s information first. Become familiar with formatting on .doc, which converts easily to the Kindle. If you format it right the first time, it can save you a lot time. I’d also tell them to look through the covers on Amazon and pay attention to the images that catch their eye. A good cover is very important.  I’m a photographer and have enough experience on Photoshop that I was able to create my own, but you may want to hire someone if you don’t have those skills.  And make sure you edit, edit, edit, then upload it and read it through on your ebook device to search for weird formatting issues and typos. Also, have a few close friends read it on their ebook device too. Then, you can make any corrections needed before you start publicizing. There are many self-published books with a ton of grammatical errors and typos. You don’t want to be one of those.

How much time do you find yourself doing promotion—Facebook, Twitter, website, mailings, blogging, etc.?

It is time consuming, but I haven’t kept track because I practically live on Facebook and Twitter and on the blogs already. I am co-owner of a New Media Company called FlyGirls Media (www.FlyGirlsMedia.com) and we run social media campaigns and workshops for clients. So, this part comes naturally to me. I started in social media with a mom blog I’ve written for over three years now. I recently took a six month break, but I missed it so I’m back at it. You can find me at www.TransparentMama.Blogspot.com.

Have you been able to land any media on your own?  Have you (or are you considering) hiring a publicist?

I won’t hire a publicist. I will focus on promoting through social media, Facebook Ads, and my good friends who will introduce me to the readers of their blogs. I am also taking advantage of the KDP Select program. It is a program through Kindle Direct Publishing that allows you five free promotional days over a 90 day period. The catch is that you have to be exclusively with them for 90 days and you become part of their lending library. My first promotional day on Amazon is this Saturday (5.18.12). My book will be offered for free that entire day and hopefully gain some valuable exposure.

Talk to me about this oft dreaded word “Platform” that the publishing world now basically requires before they’ll take a risk on an unknown writer.  Do you think you need that platform with self-publishing?

That remains to be seen. I don’t know. It’s such a hard thing because fiction writers are often holed up writing alone so it’s difficult to develop a platform before anyone has seen their work. I’m hoping this first book will show its worth and THAT will give me a platform.

Thank you, Brigetta!  See you on the baseball fields and best of luck to you!

Bio:

Brigetta is a writer, photographer, blogger, and co-owner of FlyGirls Media, LLC. She has four baseball loving energetic sons and somewhere in a paper pile there is documentation showing she graduated with a degree in English from UCLA.

She studied in Sweden and Europe and after living in Los Angeles most of her life, packed a U-haul with her husband and carted her family off to the amazing town of Whitefish, Montana.

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My Posts

Montana Writing Retreat Registration is Open!

 

Glacier National Park

Montana Writing Retreat

 

With New York Times and international
best-selling author…
Laura Munson

September 26-30, 2012 (sold out)

September 19-23 2012 (still some spots left…)

I will be leading regular retreats in Montana in 2013, however at a higher cost, so this is a special offer.  I have a lot of interested people and so if you want to come, act fast!

I have called Whitefish, Montana home for twenty years.  I have written books here, mothered here, and wandered around in this deep wilderness on foot, horse, skis, kayak, canoe, river-raft, dogsled etc.  Montana has been my best teacher, especially for my writing, and I want to share it with you.  Like no other place I’ve been, Montana gets under your skin and stays there even when you are far away.  Its terrain, sometimes rugged and daunting, sometimes soft and beckoning, sometimes just plain heartbreaking…is that of the written word. 

What We Will Do:

Days:

We will spend three days in intensive small group sessions exploring craft and voice through various writing exercises, one-on-one workshop sessions with Laura, and private writing time.  There will also be opportunities to do yoga, go on guided silent meditation walks on the gorgeous 400 + acres of the Walking Lightly Ranch, and take equine therapy classes nearby.

Evenings:

Evenings will include student and instructor readings, visits from guest writers to share about the writing life, and fantastic meals overlooking the beauty of the woods of Montana.

Food:  All food is vegan, largely grown on property or locally grown, and lovingly prepared on-site by skilled chefs.  *We can accommodate special dietary needs.  And yes, coffee and wine are permitted (favorite question so far) !

Accommodations:  Each person will have a private room in the main lodge or in the guest lodge.  Each has a private full bathroom.

Cost:  The cost is $1,800 which will cover the conference, three daily meals including dinner on the night of arrival and breakfast on the day of departure, rooms, and sponsored evening wine hour.  This price does not include transportation.  

Application:  My retreats are limited to ten participants to ensure proper attention to your work, and are open to all ranges of writers, whether you are in the process of writing a book, have a book idea, or just love to write and want to explore self-expression on the page.  I do have an informal application process which helps to set your intention about why you want to join me on the retreat, and helps me to know what you hope to gain from it.  Simply send a statement of purpose, as well as a writing sample (no longer than 1200 words) to laura@lauramunsonauthor.com.  In your statement of purpose, please tell me about your goals for this workshop and for your writing life, and provide me with any other information about yourself that you feel is important.

Where We Are Located: 

Set in the northwest corner of Montana, The Flathead Valley, is my favorite part of the state– with Glacier National Park just 20 miles away, the 30 mile long mountain-flanked Flathead Lake at its base, and our Whitefish ski
resort at its top.  This is the still-pristine land of lakes, rivers, foothills and Rocky Mountains, charming little towns, and most important:  open space.  I know of no place like it left in the lower 48.  You might want to consider coming early and/or staying after the retreat to experience the magnificent Flathead Valley and explore.

The Walking Lightly Ranch is a ten minute drive from Whitefish, set deep in the woods on a lovely lake, with an organic garden, gorgeous yoga pavilion, and walking paths throughout.  It is a place of serenity and inspiration truly unique in our busy world.

Getting Here:  Flights: Delta, United, Alaska, American, and Allegiant go in and out of Glacier International Airport in Kalispell, with non-stops from San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, Las Vegas, and
Minneapolis.  You might find cheaper flights in and out of Missoula (2 1/2 hour drive), Spokane (4 hr. drive), or Calgary (5 hr. drive).  Rental cars are available at the airport.  Taxis run $40.00 each way to the ranch.  Train:
Amtrak goes in and out of Whitefish.

For more information about my writing and my retreats, go to my website.    

Montana and I await your spirit and words…          

2 Comments

Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My Posts, Retreats