Posts Tagged ‘the practice of reading’

Circles 3 PaperCamera2014-12-24-16-26-07

Listen In Circles, Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2014, photos © 2014 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I am reading a book of essays that Gail gave me on the different ways that artists make a living. Their studios, how they obtain money, do they have day jobs. It’s good to read because it reminds me of all the ways that artists and writers make their art and writing work with the rest of their lives. It’s humbling. And it teaches me not to give up. I’ve been experimenting with doing nothing really, nothing but practice. I keep up my haiku practice. I do some writing practice but not every day. I do no specific art, no photography, no writing. I want to see how it makes me feel inside to give these things up. It’s a long break, a hiatus from identifying as an artist. It’s good to take a break sometimes. What I am noticing is that it relieves a lot of pressure. Pressure to be something else, to be doing something else besides living day to day. It does relieve pressure. But it hasn’t brought me peace. I look to another day, a small room of my own. Maybe that’s dreaming an unrealistic dream. I don’t know. All I have is this moment. This one moment. In this moment, I end a writing practice and move on.

-from a Writing Practice with No Topic, November 30th, 2014


When I feel lost, I go back to what I know. Back to my practices. Back to Beginner’s Mind. I am rereading Everyday Sacred by Sue Bender. She writes and sketches her journey with the begging bowl. The image of the bowl became the image of the book. The empty bowl, waiting to be filled.

Stories move in circles. They don’t go in straight lines. So it helps if you listen in circles. There are stories inside stories and stories between stories, and finding your way through them is as easy and as hard as finding your way home. And part of the finding is the getting lost. And when you’re lost, you start to look around and to listen.

-quote by Deena Metzger from Everyday Sacred by Sue Bender

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, January 2nd, 2015

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In honor of Women’s History Month, the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, NM, in partnership with local arts organizations, artists, writers, and businesses has organized a month-long celebration: Women & Creativity 2010. All over the city, you can attend workshops, exhibits, panels, and many other fun activities. Case in point:

creativity + the artist

Seeds: The Spirit of Women Writers

6 p.m. March 11 at National Hispanic Cultural Center
1701 Fourth St. SW, Salon Ortega

A featured event in the Women & Creativity series

Join us for an invigorating evening of readings from women writers featuring poet Kathleen Driskell, whose collection of poems, Seed Across Snow, was on the Poetry Foundation’s best seller list twice in 2009; Lisa Lenard-Cook, author of Dissonance and Coyote Morning, as well as The Mind of Your Story; Carolyn Flynn, award-winning literary fiction and creative nonfiction writer, as well as author of numerous books and editor of the Albuquerque Journal’s SAGE magazine; and yours truly (aka ybonesy, Roma Arellano), writer, artist and co-founder of this wonderful writing and art community blog.

Santa Fe poet laureate and organizer of Women & Creativity, Valerie Martinez, will kick off the evening with an introduction and reading.

The theme of the panel will be the interrelatedness of the arts — other forms of art as inspiration for writing. Admission is free.

If you are in Albuquerque or the surrounding area, please join us!

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In a cultural moment when we are hearing nothing but bad news, we have reassuring evidence that the dumbing down of our culture is not inevitable.

~Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts

Good news from the National Endowment for the Arts. According to a report it released today, “Reading on the Rise: A New Chapter in American Literacy,” fiction reading increased for adults for the first time after a quarter-century of decline.

A New York Times article about the report stated that for the first time since 1982, which is when the US Census Bureau started collecting data on public participation in the arts,

…the proportion of adults 18 and older who said they had read at least one novel, short story, poem or play in the previous 12 months has risen.

Wooo-hooo! People are reading again.

Fiction accounts for the new growth in adult readers (unfortunately, reading of poetry and drama specifically has continued to decline) and online book reading has gone up (something I personally can’t get into). Also up is reading among younger adults (ages 18-24) and Hispanics. ¡Viva!

Mr. Gioia attributed the increase in part to programs the NEA has underwritten, such as the “Big Read,” which is a library partnership to encourage communities to champion particular books, like The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

He also attributed the increase to things like Oprah Winfrey’s book club and the phenomenon of young adult fiction like Harry Potter or the Twilight Series. (I read the first five Harry Potter books out loud to my daughters and then got hooked and had to finish up the last two on my own.)

Not to put too much of the credit on our shoulders, but I think blogs that encourage reading (see our post “Book Talk – Do You Let Yourself Read” as one of many examples, and “The World According To Mr. Schminda (et al.)” for a list of about 100 must-read classics) have also played a small but vital role. Just peruse some of the links on our blogroll and you’ll see several fellow bloggers reviewing classic works of fiction or otherwise touting books and reading. And these are just a handful of the thousands of literary-minded blogs that have cropped up over the past couple of years.

I know I’m doing my part in countering the dumbing down of America. Right now, I’m reading the first Stephenie Meyers book in the Twilight series outloud to my youngest (one could argue it’s not exactly high literature nor age-appropriate for a nine-year-old, but hey, it took us more than three months to finish The Hobbit last year, and already in four nights we’re one-fourth of the way through Twilight).

Then on my own, I’m reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. (And yes, it is hard to switch between a 17-year-old in Forks, Oregon Washington who’s falling in love with a vampire versus a pair of Jewish escapists/cartoonists in 1930s Prague and Brooklyn.)

What about you? What book or books are you reading in this new year, and have you consumed more fiction of late than in the past? If so, what has compelled you read more?

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Do You Let Yourself Read?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Do You Let Yourself Read?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I had a voicemail from one of my writing friends yesterday. She said she was frustrated because she wasn’t giving herself time to read. Last year, she had structured it in:  made a reading list, read the Classics over Summer, devoured books to feed the hunger — to be close to other writers.

This year, it was hard to give herself space.

I was relieved to get her call. I had the same thought process rushing through my head. I set aside one day a week (read — 5 hours) to work on my creative writing projects:  to map out chapters, daydream, doodle, jot down ideas; to transcribe recordings from last June for my memoir; to scribble thoughts, future writing topics — to stare out the window and daydream.

I’m listening to Anne Lamott’s Word By Word in the car, to and from work (books on tape (CD) are the greatest!). She says every writer, every creative person, needs time to just sit and stare out the window.

You have to slow down and create space in your life for ideas to surface. Staring out the window can be productive for a writer.

Last year I was religious about giving myself time. I had the structure of a year long Writing Intensive with Natalie Goldberg to guide me. She assigned books to us, great literature to read. I read so many good books over the last two years.

What’s going on now?

   Do You Let Yourself Read?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Do You Let Yourself Read?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Do You Let Yourself Read?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Do You Let Yourself Read?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Yesterday, during the 5 hours set aside for writing, I wouldn’t give myself the time. I tried staring out the window through the ash and oaks, listening to crows and the pretty pretty, pretty of cardinals, daydreaming about my projects. I felt guilty.

I thought of everything I had do around the house:  give Kiev fresh water in her dish, make the unraveled bed, go through upcoming bills, slip in a load of laundry. I played tennis with Mr. StripeyPants on the bed. I fiddled with my hair. I took a long, hot shower. Still — no reading, no writing.

(Monkey Mind anyone?)

It took me a while to figure it out. What I really wanted to be doing was reading. Writers need to read other writers. People who have gone through the distracted pain, unspent joy, and daily soul-searching required to write a book.

I’ve started reading three books over the last month. I’m in the middle of Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend From Far Away, Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street, and a book of Best American Essays – 1999. Not one of them have I finished.

Finally, late in the afternoon, I said, “Forget this!” (the language was not as kind), and settled in on the couch with Sinclair Lewis and Main Street. It felt so good to let myself read. I wandered the muddy streets of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, met Dr. Will Kennicott, and got lost in Carol Milford’s head.

Do you let yourself read?

  • WHAT:  What are you reading? And I’m not just talking about magazines, the New York Times, or MSN online. I’m talking books. Tell me what books you’re reading.
  • WHERE:  Where do you read? Propped up in bed, stretched out on the couch, in the tub, out on the porch swing?
  • WHEN:  When do you read — late at night, early in the morning?
  • HOW:  How do you read? Do you slow down and savor every word?
  • WHY:  Why do you like reading. What inspires you to pick up a book?

Reading is good for the Spirit. I come from a family of readers. My mother read a lot when we were growing up. When we didn’t know the answer to something, she encouraged us to head down the hallway and grab one of the black Collier’s encyclopedias from the corner bookcase.

Did your parents read to you when you were a child? Who taught you how to form words? It is not only writers who should read — everyone should pick up a good book.

If you’re reading, let’s talk books. Tell me the what, why, when, where, and how. If you’re not reading, tell me why. Why is it the last thing on your list?

    Writers' Hands VIII, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Writers' Hands VIII, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Writers' Hands VIII, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

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