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Writing Wednesday: Are Writers Right or Left Brained?

16 Apr

brain_resultvia sommer+sommer

Years ago, I read somewhere that right-brained people are more likely to put their right shoe on first. Since being right-brained is associated with creativity, naturally I began telling myself to put my right shoe on first whenever I left the house.

How left-brained of me!

Using facts — instead of intuiting — is a left-brain trait. My very attempt at subverting my instinct proved just how left-brained I am.

When I came across “Right-brained? Left-brained? Take the brain test!” on sommer+sommer, I had to take it. I’ve always been told I’m “creative” and have been interested in the arts, but I also take things very literally and sometimes veer toward the anal retentive. Perhaps that’s why I’m an editor. My left-brain tendencies to follow rules and look at parts can shine in a right-brained creative field that I enjoy.

I think the same holds true for writers. We tend to think of writers as being right-brained thinkers. Writers embrace fantasy, curiosity, chaos, and intuition. But writing takes a great deal of left-brained work.

Language itself is a left-brain trait. Nonfiction writers in particular deal in research and details, also left-brain traits. Fiction authors and poets also consider rules and details, even if they choose to subvert them. I think of the New York School poets in particular when it comes to writing rules, for their very creative writing experiments were in fact formulaic. For instance, Bernadette Mayer‘s “Writing Experiments“:

  • Make a pattern of repetitions.
  • Explore the possibilities of lists, puzzles, riddles, dictionaries,
    almanacs, etc. Consult the thesaurus where categories for the word "word"
    include: word as news, word as message, word as information, word as story,
    word as order or command, word as vocable, word as instruction, promise,
    vow, contract.
  • Structure a poem or prose writing according to city streets, miles, walks, drives. For example: Take a fourteen-block walk, writing one line per block to create a sonnet; choose a city street familiar to you, walk it, make notes and use them to create a work; take a long walk with a group of writers, observe, make notes and create works, then compare them; take a long walk or drive-write one line or sentence per mile. Variations on this.

Forced creativity! I love it!!

Having a successful writing career also take a great deal of left-brained work. As mentioned in Burning Furiously Beautiful, Jack Kerouac kept a running tally of the number of words he wrote each day. He also kept meticulous records of his work. Writers who seek to be published often create writing schedules and work regardless of whether the “muse” inspires them or not, they have to think analytically about the best market for their work, and they must keep notes on when and where they send work out to literary journals. There’s a lot of business in writing, as there is in many creative endeavors.

So what did the brain test reveal to me?

Congratulations
You use your brain equally.

It said I’m 59% left brained and 41% right brained.

You can take the test here. What did you get?

Find more Writing Wednesday entries here.

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die”

10 Apr

ShelleyPortrait of Shelley by Alfred Clint (1819)

When you think Beat Generation do you also think Romanticism? No?? Don’t get tripped up by the overuse of the word “neon” and other supposed markers of so-called Beat poetry. Think more about their shared notions of colloquial language, intuition over reason, and spontaneity. Beat poetry is a natural evolution of Romantic poetry. (Caveat: “Beat Generation” and “Romanticism” are convenient labels, but the people associated with them wouldn’t identify themselves as being “members” of any sort of “movement.”)

I’ve written before about Beat poet Gregory Corso’s connection to one of my personal favorite poets, John Keats. Even more than Keats, though, Corso professed an admiration for Percy Bysshe Shelley. Corso is actually buried across from Shelley. While Allen Ginsberg (read last week’s post on Ginsberg’s Blake vision here)  is known for littering his poetry with the names of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, Corso wrote of Shelley in “I Am 25” and “I Held a Shelley Manuscript.” I love, love, love the language he uses in those poems and can relate to the theme of idolizing other poets who have gone before one’s time.

When thinking about possible poems to share with you for National Poetry Month, I decided on Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die” not just because of Gregory Corso’s love for Shelley but because it reminded me of the themes I’d found myself wonderfully entrenched in while recently reading Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, a book the Beats also read—themes of memory and love and music and flowers. (Swoon, swoon, swoon.) Like Corso’s “I Held a Shelley Manuscript,” Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die” sensually touches on what remains after death.

Without further ado, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die”:

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap’d for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

What’s your favorite poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley?

Writing Wednesday: Keep In Touch with Your Alumni Network

9 Apr

bookclub1

One of the best decisions I ever made was attending Scripps College. I accepted their offer of enrollment sight unseen. I had never even been in California before arriving a few days before orientation!

I made so many great friends — and I’m STILL making new friends because of Scripps.

A few years after graduating, I began attending the New York chapter of the Scripps alumnae book club. At the time, I didn’t know a single person who attended the book club. None of them were from my graduating year. In fact, it was only after I’d been attending for over a year that someone I’d actually known when I was attending Scripps as an undergrad began attending book club and we reconnected. What’s great about the alumnae book club is that I’ve met so many new smart women, some around my age, some much older, and some much younger.

These women from my book club have been so supportive of me. As I posted a while back, they selected the book I coauthored with Paul Maher Jr., Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” for their January 2014 read and invited me to speak about the book.

The college even posted a photo on the Scripps College facebook page of a group of alumnae from the book club holding Burning Furiously Beautiful!

Even before the book club reading, the Scripps College Alumnae Association posted about the book’s publication on facebook.

I haven’t been supported just online, though. In the Winter 2014 issue, Scripps Magazine featured me (see page 40) in their regular column “ManuScripps” about Scripps authors.

It’s not just Scripps, though. The New School, where I received my MFA, has also supported me. Every week during the academic year, the Creative Writing program emails a newsletter of students’ and alumni’s publications. It’s sent through email to those who attend or have attended the graduate program so I don’t have links to share with you (though the New School Writing is on Twitter!), but they have generously announced my publications.

Does it sound like I’m bragging? Well, I am. I went to a GREAT undergraduate college and a GREAT MFA. I feel so supported by the community I had while I was attending and also by the new community I’ve made back here on the East Coast.

But I’m not any more special than you. YOUR college would love to hear from you. Colleges love to brag about the success of their former students because it makes them look great too.

They’re also always looking for stories to fill the pages of their newsletters. Don’t expect them to keep tabs on you and know about your every publication, though. Many people who work on these publications are interns, work-study students, or volunteers who don’t have time to track you down and see what you’ve been up to. You have to tell them! They want to brag about you, but they have to know how first.

What to send to your alumni network:

Do the hard work for them by sending your alumni publication full details of your latest story any time you get something new published. That means: your full name (perhaps maiden name if you got married), your graduating year, the title of the piece, what type of piece it was, who published it, when it was published, and a link to the story (if applicable).

It’s not just about you

Be sure to give back, though. Class participation counts when it comes to fundraising campaigns, so even if you can’t give a lot, just by giving you’re contributing to the college’s efforts. If you’re a starving artist, there are other ways to give back too, such as submitting free articles for the alumni magazine, meeting with prospective students in your town, fostering a sense of community amongst alumni by congratulating individuals on their achievements, participating in regional alumni events, informing your alma mater about internships and job openings at your place of business, and mentoring recent grads. Cheesy as it may sound, it’s actually a real ego boost to be able to help others. Real success is being good enough at what you do to help others become better at what they want to do.

You may also like:::

“We’ll Keep at It, Anyway,” Responds Author to DBW Report That Most Authors Make Less than $1000/Year

2 Apr

dbwslidevia Mediabsitro

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond of the excellent writing and publishing blog People Who Write gave a compelling response to Mediabistro’s depressing “Most Authors Make Less Than $1,000 a Year: DBW” post:

We’ll keep at it, anyway….

Yes! Yes, we will. Nana, a friend of mine whom I met through a writing group, goes on to give good reason why we’ll continue to write. Not only that, she suggests that even established authors sometimes step away from their fame to publish under a pseudonym because it’s not about the money.

Even so, as Nana says:

But money would be very nice, and we have no shame in saying so.

What I took away from Nana’s post, though, is that even successful authors are not necessarily making their money from their writing:

And we can’t even hate on E.L. James because, yeah, we want to introduce a companion wine to sip as you read our novel or watch the film that’s been adapted from our bestselling book. J.K. Rowling, Robert Galbraith, whatever your name is, we see you and we want to be you one day, extending our novels into theme parks, selling our homes for $3.6 million and raising $250,000 for charity for a first edition copy of our wildly successful book.

In other words, marketing tie-ins like companion wines and theme parks pad their wallets. I’ve always known this, but it got me thinking:

What would be the perfect tie-in for Burning Furiously Beautiful?

I’m open to suggestions!

Writing Wednesday: Oxford Comma for the Win!

26 Mar

,

 

Remember a while back when I posted about the story about Kerouac and Burroughs getting into a duel over the Oxford comma—or more so my reaction to that story?

Well, I just came across two recent articles fighting for this little bit of punctuation.

For up this Buzzfeed article that argues—quite humorously and convincingly—about the necessity of the Oxford comma.

Second, this Tin House article provides historical context to the Oxford Style Guide.

Yes, I’m a firm believer in the Oxford comma—or as it was called when I did my editing certification at NYU, the series comma. The Beats may be all about “open punctuation,” meaning very little punctuation, but I’m old school. I like a heavy dose of commas.

 

How do you feel about the Oxford or series comma? Am I a total nerd for even thinking about this??

I’m Leading a Free Writing Worshop Tonight

24 Mar

writers

From the website:::

March 24, 2014. 7-9pm. Stephanie will lead a writers workshop with Nana and Maurice at the Redeemer Offices, 1359 Broadway, 4th Floor, Main Conference Room. Admission is free. Please bring 1-2 pages of your writing for critique.

See you there!

#AmtrakResidency Politics Makes Me Laugh

19 Mar

Amtrak-01-800x482-235x141

During my lunchtime reads, this headline, via Poets & Writers, made me laugh:

“Republicans Denounce Amtrak Residency”

The link round-up led to The Atlantic’s article “Shocker: Conservative Republicans Hate the Amtrak Writer Residency.

I’m not one to blog politics, but I will talk copywriting: these two headlines grabbed my attention and made me actually laugh out loud. It sounded like an Onion article! I kind of love the fact that they’re so outlandish and made me think about politics and the media.

Are some Republicans seriously against writers getting to use a seat that would’ve otherwise gone empty on a train? Of all the things going on in the world, is Amtrak’s residency really worth the political hubbub? Did the “liberal media” exaggerate and twist what Republican senators actually said? Are the senators’ concerns that the taxpaying public has subsidized Amtrak services with $1.5 billion and yet are giving away free tickets legitimate? Should the government help fund writers and those in the arts as a means toward furthering our cultural heritage?

When the Amtrak Writers Residency was announced a few weeks ago, friends came out of the wood works to urge me to apply. After all, writing and being on the road is my literary jam.

Then the official application was released. Thousands of people applied. And, I started hearing murmurs about the fine print.

No matter what your politics are and your stance on copyright, Amtrak’s certainly made headlines. Someone in their marketing department is doing something right!

Speed Networking with Eventsy

18 Mar

eventsy logo

Read any career advice book, and one thing is clear: getting the job of your dreams is all about who you know. The key to success, as you’ve heard countless times before, is networking, networking, networking.

But what if the mere mention of networking sends shivers down your spine as you conjure up memories of limp handshakes and boring conversations? What if the idea of trying to infiltrate a circle of insiders at a cocktail party sounds more difficult than actually giving the keynote speech at your company?

Then Eventsy’s Speed Networking events are for you! Eventsy is changing the way you look at networking. Through “interactive events with a purpose,” New York’s comprehensive social networking club is making it easy and fun to make worthwhile connections.

Last week I attended the first-ever Speed Networking event hosted by Eventsy, and I can honestly tell you that I walked away having made some of the most genuine connections I’ve ever made at a networking event. Let me say upfront that I was invited to cover the event. I therefore did not go into it all geared up to network and pitch myself and my writing, but rather to observe. The gonzo journalist side of me kicked in, though, and I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to try my hand at networking.

The first part of the night was open, free-form networking, and I felt like I often do at networking cocktail events: awkward. There’s nothing easy about walking up to strangers and trying to insert yourself into a conversation they’re already having. It feels like you’re interrupting a private, impassioned conversation for no good reason other than to have someone—anyone—to talk to so you’re not standing by yourself like an idiot. Fortunately, I overheard a woman nervously tell the event hosts that she was also attending solo, so I quickly introduced myself. It gave us both an immediate connection, and we worked the buddy system throughout the evening, occasionally checking in on each other even after we’d braved our way into other conversations. Even though this part of the evening was the most nerve-racking to my introverted self, it was actually the point where I made a valuable connection with someone I did not end up meeting during the more formal speed networking portion of the evening. Lessons learned:

  • Warm up to networking by reaching out to others who have come alone or are on the outskirts of a conversation. Networking ability does not necessarily indicate position at a company.
  • Use the buddy system. Once you’ve met one person, you can take turns introducing each other to new people. This makes introductions much more natural.
  • Fake it ’til you make it. Just because you don’t feel like a natural at networking doesn’t mean you can’t do it or that others will even notice.
  • Talk to everyone and really get to know them. The valuable connection I made was with someone whom I at first thought had no bearing at all on my career objectives, and it was only at the very tail end of our conversation that we both realized we could potentially meet each other’s needs for an aspect of our businesses that we weren’t there pitching.

 The main course of the Eventsy networking event was the speed networking. I’d done speed networking three times before, and I joked with one of the other attendees that although it had never landed me a job before I had gotten a relationship out of it once. Hey, you can make all sorts of connections through speed networking! I really like the format of speed networking. If you’ve never done it before, let me quickly explain how it was done at Eventsy: Half of us lined up on one side and the other half lined up across from us so that each of us were facing one other person. Then we were given five minutes to talk to each other.

Most people use this time to give their “elevator pitch”—their spiel on what they do or their pitch for what they could do, told in the time it would take to ride with someone from the ground floor to the executive suite in an office building. We weren’t given any formal instructions on giving our elevator pitch or what we should say during these five minutes, so it was pretty informal but in a good way. It felt like a real conversation in which we talked about what we did, why we came to the Eventsy Networking Event, what we were hoping to achieve from it, and how we could help each other. Seriously, that last question was key because it got to the crux of how the event could benefit us much more than a summary of our work experience would. Lessons here:

  • Listen more than you talk. Ask questions to find out not just what someone does day-to-day but what they are hoping to do next and why they are networking. Maybe they can fill an opening at your company, which even if it’s not in your department is still an asset.
  • Keep the focus on the other person, but in the back of your mind think about yourself so that when it comes time to talk about yourself you can tailor your skills to their needs. It’s easier to get a job—whether it’s a full-time position or freelance work—if you do the hard work of establishing how you can help solve their needs through what you do.

Most of us were not even remotely in the same field. I met bankers, real-estate brokers, lawyers, photographers, fashion designers, and job hunters. If this sounds like it would result in a bunch of futile connections, think again:

  • If you’ve been following my blog for a while now, you know that I regularly attend publishing cocktail parties and readings. I love attending those events, but guess what? They’re saturated with people who have the same skill sets as me. At Eventsy Speed Networking event, I was the only writer and editor, which meant that if anyone there was looking for a writer or editor I might be the only one they now know, making me the top—okay, only—candidate.  Diversification is key.
  • As Maria Pardalis—Eventy’s founder—said, maybe the person you’re talking to has nothing to do with your industry, but maybe her roommate just so happens to be in your field. Your network is larger than your immediate circle.
  • Our lives are about more than just the minutiae of our daily jobs. We need all kinds of people in our lives to help us achieve our dreams. If we want to manage our income, we need to know financial advisers. If we want a roof over our head, it helps to know a good broker. If we give readings, we might need to hire a photographer to take photos of our events. And, of course we could all use a fashion designer in our lives to help us look our best, whether we’re headed to our next networking event, a job interview, or accepting the Pulitzer Prize.

Ready to try your hand at networking? Check out these upcoming Eventsy events:

Tomorrow (3/19/14): Monthly Young Professionals Networking Happy Hour Event

Come network and mingle at Eventsy’s Monthly Young Professionals Business Networking Happy Hour Events at NYC hotspot the Sky Room!

Meet other Young Professionals at the city’s highest rooftop lounge and get transported to a high energy oasis with amazing 360 degree views of Manhattan.

All guests will enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres and $5 drink specials all night long.  Bring your business cards for a chance to win several fabulous prizes.

DJ Erika Hamilton will also be onsite spinning the night away!

Event is FREE and open to all so if you have any friends who are interested invite them along.

Don’t forget to bring your business cards, as always, Eventsy will be giving away some fabulous prizes!

FMI and registration here.

March 31, 2014: New York City Job Fair

Eventsy Members looking for new employment opportunities are invited to attend the New York Job Fair.

Dozen’s of local hiring companies will be meeting with attendees one-on-one at the New York Job Fair on March 31st, 2014.  Please ensure you bring hard copies of your resumes, business cards and dress in professional attire.

REMEMBER – always dress for the job you wish to attain!

To receive the complete company list and register for the fair Click HERE

Meet face-to-face with local recruiters in your area. Attendance is FREE for all job seekers!

FMI and registration here.

April 17, 2014: Monthly NYC Professinals Networking Happy Hour Event

Come network, mingle and meet new people at Eventsy’s Monthly NYC Professionals Business Networking Happy Hour at NYC hotspot the Sky Room!

Meet other NYC Professionals at the city’s highest rooftop lounge and get transported to a high energy oasis with amazing 360 degree views of Manhattan.  All guests will enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres and Happy Hour pricing with $5 beers and $7 mixed drinks.

Bring your business cards for a chance to win several fabulous prizes.

DJ Erika Hamilton will also be onsite spinning the night away!
Event is FREE and open to all so if you have any friends who are interested invite them along.

Don’t forget your BUSINESS CARDS!

FMI and registration here.

April 29, 2014: Eventy’s Monthly Speed Networking Event

Join other NYC Professionals for our exciting and extremely beneficial Monthly Speed Networking Events!

In today’s fast-paced world, networking is critical whether you are an intern or a CEO. You will make over 30 new business connections during our fun Speed Networking session and during the unstructured networking happy hour time which will take place throughout the evening.

Tuesday, April 29
Public House NYC
140 East 41st Street – NYC

6pm to 6:30pm – Registration & Reception
6:30pm to 6:45pm – Introductions
6:45pm to 8:00pm – Speed Networking Sessions
8:00pm to 9:00pm – Follow-up Conversations & Cocktails (Optional)

Admission: $10.00

Complimentary Hors d’Oeuvres & Drink Specials

$4 Domestic Draft Beer: Budweiser, Bud Light, Shock Top, Brooklyn Lager
$5 House Wine: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot
$6 Well Mixed Drinks

Seating is Very Limited – Register Now to Guarantee Your Spot!
Business Cards are Essential!

Speed Networking is a new and fresh way to quickly build your business and contact list in a time efficient matter.

What is Speed Networking?

Speed Networking is a fun and highly effective mechanism for generating new business contacts in a small period of time. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, young in your career or experienced – you will enjoy meeting people in this type of format. Eventsy is a firm believer in putting people face-to-face to facilitate direct conversation.

Each participant will have the opportunity for over 16 face-to-face sessions with other like-minded NYC professionals. After the end of each session, participants will quickly alternate their seating arrangements to pair up with their next networking opportunity. This process will continue until all participants have interacted with each other.

In just a few minutes, participants will share business cards, history and offer new contacts with valuable information about their business and/or profession. After the official Speed Networking sessions are over, participants are encouraged to continue networking throughout the evening.

FMI and registration here.

You can also find other fun social events organized through Eventsy here. As Pardalis said, bring your business cards everywhere. You never know who you’re going to meet!

“One’s Life Were Like a Museum”

10 Mar

proust

“[O]ne’s life were like a museum in which all the portraits from one period have a family look about them, a single tonality….”

~Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust, translated by Lydia Davis

Also Proust-related:

Writing Wednesday: Reliving Those Awkward MFA Days

5 Mar

“This was a missed opportunity.”

Haha. Enjoy.