Tag Archives: Bill Kenower

What to keep. What to give away.

booksOwnership.  Protection.  Chest-your-cards.  Stand guard.  These are words I wouldn’t normally place on my writing.  I’ve never worried that someone would steal my ideas.  I’ve never worried about copyrighting my words.  I’ve simply written with the baseline belief that we are all in this lifetime together, and there is simply no possible way that I can write like someone else or that they can write like me.  Even if we tried.  In the memoir I published, I could have easily thought, “Why even bother to submit it, never mind write it in the first place.  The entry-point is a marital crisis.  Who cares.  It’s been done a million times.  The subject is as worn as my cowboy boots.”  But I don’t think that way.  I know that each one of us has a completely unique voice.  I watch this being proven every time I lead a Haven Writing Retreat.  I give a prompt to a group of ten people (myself included) and off we go.  When the timer rings, we read.  And every time, I stand in awe as ten voices go in ten totally different directions off of the same launch pad.  It’s miraculous, the human mind, when it is mixed with heart language.

That said, I was deeply moved by something my writer friend Bill Kenower wrote on his blog recently.  He is a true author advocate via his Author Magazine and Author 2 Author radio show, and thusly does a lot of musing upon what makes writers tick.  His words:  “When an author gives away her story, she remembers that just as what had seemed like hers now belongs to everyone, what had also appeared to belong to others now belongs to her. There is always enough, because everything that matters already belongs to everyone.”   This is the definition of abundant thinking.  The opposite end of the spectrum which might lead one to guard themselves as a writer or as a reader. 

Writers mine their lives, whether in fiction or non-fiction.  Even with journalism where opinions belong in invisible ink, you can bet that writer is still feeling the person they’re interviewing or the scene they are reporting.  Life offers stories and writers hold up the mirror to remind us that we’re all in this together.  Sometimes however, as Bill points out, that act of holding up the mirror feels so intimate, that writers choose to leave the world alone to sit on the front stoop and just watch it all going by without a lot of fuss.  To lie naked in bed on a summer morning, staring out the window at the breeze in the trees– each of us in our own rooms to hold up our own mirrors should we choose.

As writers, we’re grateful for the stories the world serves up, but perhaps in the end, to Bill’s point, some of those stories as we perceive them, belong to us.  (Just as many of the world’s stories belong to the world.)  It’s true that I have written fourteen books.  Actually, fifteen and a half now.  And it’s true that I have only submitted a handful of them for publication.  Many of them are exercises in learning.  Some of them are pretty good.  But not all of them feel like they want to make the voyage outside of my office closet in Montana where they have been minding their own business and keeping me company from time to time—maybe more like standing as gatekeepers—for decades.  They are reminders that I do this thing called writing.  That I show up for it, open that vein and bleed til the end.  Having readers does not necessarily make it more real.  Or more complete.

That may sound crazy.  Why would someone spend so much time creating a world made of words, pouring her heart into characters whose voices may never be heard?  Well I’ll tell you exactly why:  if a writer is holding up a mirror, she needs a mirror to hold up in the first place.  And creating that mirror takes just about everything I’ve got.  And sometimes…that mirror is best turned upon myself.

Thank you, Bill, for helping me to feel better about my closet, then, of gatekeepers.  They are stalwart, true, and for now…mute to everybody but me.  Hopefully the books I am writing now will take a different voyage.  But whether or not they do, I know that I will have been better for writing them. 

Here is Bill’s blog post:

My friend Laura Munson recently published an article in The Week about her choice to step back from a familial leaning toward hoarding. It’s a funny and touching piece in which she describes a frank conversation with her daughter about the habit to keep everything from a 50-year-old pair of socks to bottles that can someday be reused as vases. I don’t believe it gives too much away to tell you that the article ends with Laura and her daughter taking a long overdue trip to Goodwill to give away all that had been stored in crawl spaces, closets, and forgotten corners of her garage.

The piece deals with physical things, of course, but it reminded me of another story she had told me years before. Laura is the author of This Is Not the Story You Think It Is, a memoir she published after having written and not published fourteen novels. In one of our many interviews, she confessed that she didn’t even submit all the novels she wrote. She worked and worked on them, loved them, and then kept them to herself.

This is a more common impulse for a creative person than you might think. Eventually, every writer learns that the story doesn’t really belong to her. The moment another person reads our story, they make it their own, using their own imaginations to complete the scenes we painted with only a few strokes. Moreover, it is the reader feeling the heroine’s fear and loss and love and joy. What is more personal to us than what we feel? It doesn’t matter that what we feel grows from a story someone else wrote: that experience is ours, and so that story is ours as well.

Which is why an author gives away every story he or she writes. You may get paid, but you are still giving it away, casting it from the nest to a world where anyone who wants it can make it their own. In this way, we are all Communists of the heart. When an author gives away her story, she remembers that just as what had seemed like hers now belongs to everyone, what had also appeared to belong to others now belongs to her. There is always enough, because everything that matters already belongs to everyone.

 

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Inspiration Ain’t for Sissies!

Come with me on an adventure of a lifetime!

Haven Retreats in Montana: email me:  laura@lauramunsonauthor.com
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What inspires you?  I bet you can make a long list.  I know I can.  At the top I’d put things like:  My kids, Montana, horses, really great writing, people who sing and play music, people who can speak more than one language, really great home-made bread.  Try it.  It’s a nice exercise, much like keeping a gratitude journal.  I have a friend who daily keeps a gratitude journal.  Just lists the things she’s grateful for—no qualifying or comparing or justifying.  Just wide-open THANKS!  In fact, add her to the list of things that inspire me:  people who keep gratitude journals.

But what most of us don’t think about or even realize…is that we actually, quite possibly, have inspired someone elseNah…we scoff and sniff.  Me?  Inspire somebody?  That’s the way I fly, at least— in a pinch, I go into self-degradation.  Even when someone tells me flat out that I have inspired them, my brain resists it.  It’s something I wrote that inspired them.  It’s my Haven retreats that inspired them.  Not me.  It’s like when people compliment me on my kids’ achievements.  “It’s not me,” I always say.  “It’s them!”  But I’d like to give you a personal challenge here.  Think of the things that you have created in your life.  I’m not asking your ego to explode, I’m merely trying to help you claim what is yours so you can make more of it to spread around.  Think of the traditions you have started or carried on.  The things that you have started from scratch, whatever they might be:  cookies, a fund drive, chicken soup, a letter to a loved one, a thoughtful gift, a verbal vote of confidence to someone you believe in, the way you put flowers in the windowsill or the fact that you picked up trash on the street when no one was looking.  Well, take heart.  People notice your good efforts and are, indeed, inspired by them, whether or not you meant them to be inspiring.  You are not invisible.  Your heart language speaks fluently in the country of humanity. 

There is a writer named Bill Kenower who I met through the labyrinth of the writing life.  He is a brother in words and heart and has compiled a collection of essays about writing that yes, INSPIRE me.  Here’s his story.  As you read it, I encourage you to ask yourself, “What can I create that will inspire others?”  Because just by doing what you are already doing, just by being who you are already being…you are helping to make the world a better place.  So take in a deep breath, and give yourself permission to be inspiring.

Yrs.

Laura

Share Alike, by Bill Kenower

I have just published a collection of short essays called Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion, and you could say the book might not exist were it not for Laura Munson. The story of how Laura and I met is a story of social media. There I was on Facebook one afternoon when I noticed someone had posted a piece from the New York Times. I rarely read such things when they’re shared on Facebook, but for some reason I decided to read this one.

When I finished this essay about a woman in Montana who used her years of accumulated wisdom from the experience of writing and being rejected and writing and being rejected to weather a marital storm, I thought, “She’s one of my people.” I am editor-in-chief of Author, an online magazine that focuses on the intersection of creativity and spirituality. One of my primary functions is to conduct video and audio interviews with authors, and I knew immediately I should interview Laura.

It was a great interview, and Laura and I stayed on the phone after I had stopped recording and continued talking about suffering and happiness and doing the things you love. Yes, I thought again, she’s one of my people. Another of my functions at Author is to write a daily column – a blog if you must – which Laura stumbled on shortly after our conversation. I soon received an email from her that began with this sentence: “You inspire me!”

I did not understand until that moment that this was all I wanted to do in the world – inspire people. It was all I wanted because it was all I was searching for in the world itself, those songs, books, movies, stories, and people that inspired me, that turned my attention toward a steady voice that, despite any evidence to the contrary, forever said, “Do what you love. You cannot fail.” It was this voice that had guided me to Laura, the same as it had guided my to E. E. Cummings and Bob Dylan and Beethoven and the woman I married.

Laura and her story are inspiring, but there is something holy about being inspired that can compel one to deify those who do the inspiring. Growing up, I had no church or temple to attend, and so my sermons were stories, poems, and songs. It was there that I was reminded again and again why life was worth living, and why meaning always lay patiently beneath the noise of suffering. This seemed like a sacred job—reminding people why life was worth living—a job for which one must be anointed.

Which is exactly what Laura did, though accidentally. It’s silly, I know, but because she had inspired so many people, because her piece in the New York Times and her book had reached and helped so many souls, and because I had apparently inspired her—if only long enough to write that one sentence—and since she was one of my people and so not a deity, this job now seemed entirely doable.

A year later Laura was in Seattle and we met face-to-face for the first time. It was a bit like meeting a sister from which I had become separated at birth. She was full of excitement for writing and traveling and living, and over a bottle wine she told me, “Bill, you have to get paid for these essays.”

“But how?” I asked.

She laughed. “By publishing them in a book!”

“Oh, right,” I said.

So now they’re a book. Of course there were other people who helped as well, who said, “Bill, you really ought to collect these into a book,” which to me is the story of the inherent generosity of writing, writers, and life itself. Here is Laura now sharing this space with me, as she has shared it with you, her readers, these past months while she toils on her new novel. True generosity always teaches us the lie of sacrifice. If you share what you love and what you value – like a story, or wisdom, or a joke, or a kiss – nothing is sacrificed. Rather, you have increased the value of the world, which is only measurable in love. So share and share alike, you readers, you writers, you lovers. Share everything you wish there was more of, and as fast as you can say, “Thank you” there will be.

William Kenower is the author of Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion, and is the Editor-in-Chief of Author magazine, an online magazine for writers and dedicated readers. He writes a popular daily blog for the magazine about the intersection of writing and our daily lives, and has interviewed hundreds of writers of every genre. He also hosts the online radio program Author2Author where every week he and a different guest discuss the books we write and the lives we lead. To learn more about William, go to williamkenower.com.

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Hard Frost. Slow Dance. (For Author Magazine)

I am pleased to be regularly contributing to Author Magazine online. Here’s a piece about wintertime and the muse….

This is the time of year when the muse is hungry. Starved by a summer in Montana where the physical world bullies you to come out into it and join the dance that leads with mountains, and twirls with rivers, and rests in lakes—a spent tango. And we find ourselves in fall. The physical dance over. Time to go home in the dark. There is a lot of darkness now.

This morning was the first hard frost. I could see it on the roof by moonshadow, silver and glinting off shingles. It was confirmed by the first light over the ridge… to read more click here

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Author Magazine and the Wonderful Bill Kenower.

So, as many of you may know, I took a personal day in Seattle on Sunday on my way back home from doing readings in San Francisco. You can see the visuals here.
I met with Bill Kenower for an impromptu lunch in Pike Place Market and Bill wrote about it in his gem of an online magazine called Author. If you’re a writer, this magazine is a lifeline of heart language. Also, check out his video I posted a few months ago. What Bill has to say is not just for writers…

Here’s what he wrote.

Bellybutton And All by Bill Kenower
Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Laura Munson this weekend, and the author of This is Not the Story You Think it Is gave me some astute advice, most notably: Everyone has a bellybutton. This is apropos to Laura because she had spent twenty years writing – and not selling – fourteen novels before authoring her breakout bestselling memoir. Like a lot of writers, those twenty years in the publishing wilderness were spent squinting at that distant spec of light called “success.”

Or so she thought. Because now, by a writer’s definition, she is a success. That is, she got a good advance, she found herself on Good Morning America, and she is being asked to speak all over the country. Success, right? But soon after we’d met she stopped me as if we could not take another step or speak another word until she had shared the following: “Bill, I got it,” she declared. ”There is no such thing as success!”

To some people this is defeat. To Laura, and to me, this is pure victory. First, because of the sudden attention she and her book have attracted, Laura now finds herself in some fairly distinguished company – at least by literary standards. And all these Great Writers she is getting to meet do indeed have bellybuttons, just as you do. Secondly, she is still Laura. She is who she always has been and hopefully always will be.

There is nothing in the world wrong with wanting to sell your work, or have lots of readers, or make plenty of money. Except none of those things, as you have often heard, will make you happy – but what you may not have heard is that to think they will actually draws you away from the very source of your happiness.

To place your would-be happiness out on the horizon is to condemn yourself to wanting and wandering. So romantic to glimpse it and yearn for it, but happiness can only be postponed for so long before life reveals this yearning for what it actually is: fear. Fear that this, this life we stand in now at this moment, bellybutton and all, is actually all that life ever is or was. Fear that it should be more. And it will be more – at the exact moment you accept that life has always been more than wanting, and that success is not some destination but the grace to allow through what you have always known.

Go Bill!

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