The Rosefire Writing Circle Continues

One of the unintended consequences of the pandemic has been to welcome writers from far away to the Rosefire Writing Circle, a place for writers of all ages and abilities to write in community and with support.

I started the Rosefire Writing Circle because I know how lonely writing can be, and also how even the smallest amount of encouragement is as necessary as breath.

As a writer, I benefited from writing circles early in my career, most notably when I was a new mother and looked forward to every Tuesday evening, where I could write with others. This first circle of women, mostly older than me, was exemplary for being leaderless. Those who hosted the group lived in tidy, childfree homes. It was worth going just to experience such domestic order. But we also took turns providing prompts to which we wrote.

My words were so bottled up back then, that I scrawled thousand word essays in twenty-minute sprints, essays that I polished before submitting to the local paper, where they started appearing in print.

In 1995, I paid up front for a ten-week workshop that met weekly for three hours at a stretch. It’s where I wrote thousands of pages of what I then whittled down into a three-hundred page novel. I joined a similar group closer to home, where I started a different book, Into the Wilderness. Published in 2010, it’s now out of print, but the ebook is still available online.

At the beginning of this century, I spent more time driving, not writing – and not just driving my active kids. I traveled to libraries, hospitals and prisons to discuss literature and teach writing. One year, I put 30,000 miles on a car without leaving Vermont. I was doing this right up until March 12, 2020, when I gave my last public lecture before the pandemic shut such gatherings down. By then, I had a wonderful group of writers joining me at the Rosefire Writing Circle every Friday afternoon.

In 2016, I designed RWC to be more flexible than the workshops I’d attended: No upfront payment, no weekly commitment. It took some adjustments, but with the help of participants over the past five years, we’ve developed a writing circle where people come when they can and pay what they can afford.

Before the pandemic, we were meeting in-person on Friday afternoons. As a result of the pandemic, we moved the Rosefire Writing Circle online.

People grumbled, “It’s not the same.”

No, it’s not.

We have better attendance. On Zoom, we have no weather cancellations for snow or ice, and we’re all eager to break the isolation of pandemic living to come together and write. And thanks to videoconferencing, people from away are able to join us from different locations and time zones.

The Friday group, all vaccinated, is currently meeting in person again. Encouraged by one participant’s published memoir, some others have started book-length projects. Others just come and write. The virtual group continues to meet on-line most Monday afternoons. And there’s room for any writer of any ability who wants to try writing to a prompt in a supportive group.

Learn more about Writing Circles. If this sounds like something you’d like to try, you are welcome to join us. To learn how, contact me.

Whether you come write with us or not, I wish you may find the exact words to convey your precise meaning and thrive in good health.

Deborah.

Deborah Lee Luskin

Deborah Lee Luskin is currently writing a book about learning to hunt deer.

Writing in Community With Support

Writing During a Pandemic

Writing can be lonely even in ordinary times, so it’s important to find Community and Support.

Find a Writing Buddy

This can be as simple as finding a writing buddy and setting aside a time when you are both going to write. You can do this in person with someone in your household or pod, or you can write together while connected electronically by video or phone. You don’t even have to be in the same place, same time zone or electronically tethered. What you do need is a buddy and a commitment. A little bit of accountability can connect and support you as you dive into your words.

Form a Writing Pod

You can create or find group with writing friends or colleagues: Set a time to meet via a conferencing app, then check-in, set a timer, write, and check out. I’ve been lucky to join a group in San Francisco. The group started with weekly three-hour in-person sessions with snacks. Since the pandemic, the group meets twice a week on-line, which is how I’m able to write with this extraordinary group.

We have a few minutes of chitchat before we each say what we’re going to work on. Then we write for seventy-five minutes, take a fifteen minute break, and repeat. We all turn off our microphones while we’re writing, but remain connected by the vibes of community and support.

I’ve told some of my students about this model for writing in community and support, and they’ve started what they call “Writing Club,” when they get together electronically and write.

A Lifetime of Writing With Others

I’ve been writing with community and support since I was a new mother. I had three children, two jobs and no time, putting me at risk for losing my voice and sense of self. Thankfully, I found a group of mostly older women who met weekly for automatic journal writing. Whoever hosted the meeting provided hot water, herbal tea and prompts. We’d write for ten minutes, read our new work and do it again. It was during these sessions that I wrote my first editorial columns that appeared in the local newspaper. 

Next, I enrolled in a writing workshop based on the Amherst Writers and Artists Method. This workshop required both a ten-week commitment and a hefty fee. I started a novel, writing scenes at these workshops; in time, the community and support sustained me write during the week. When I finished that novel, I started another, which was published.

Circles of Community and Support

I’ve also been teaching writing since 1980, first to college freshmen, and then gifted children, elders and inmates. In 2016, I taught a grant-funded memoir class at my local library. When it ended, I started a writing circle for people who live in my rural community, a place where people come when they can and pay what they can afford.

In the Rosefire Writing Circle, I create a safe space and provide prompts for timed writing exercises designed to prime the creative pump. Participants focus and fly, letting loose the unknown in the wonder of words. We immediately read this new work, bearing witness to the strange and wonderful stories that emerge using a positive response practice that engenders a synergy, where participants invariably write more, write better, and write with greater confidence.

You Don’t Have to Write Alone

You don’t have to write alone – at least not all the time. And it’s quite likely that you will write more and write with great joy when you write with community and support.  

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, speaker and educator. Learn more at www.deborahleeluskin.com

I Hope You Are Writing

I hope this post finds you as well as can be under the present circumstances of pandemic, political and social unrest, and economic challenges. And despite all this, I hope you are writing.

Vermont Almanac

Cover Art of Vermont Almanac 1

I have been so engrossed in learning to hunt whitetail deer and drafting the story, Learning to Hunt, that I’ve not written much else, not here, and not on my blog. But my essay November appears in the inaugural edition of Vermont Almanac, a lovely anthology about all things Vermont that’s just been published, and I wanted to let you know.

Published by For the Land Publishing, the Almanac is organized by month and is filled with stories, information, illustrations and photography about life in Vermont, where we are connected to the land by weather, agriculture, forests, the rural economy, and each other. Vermont Almanac is especially about the people of this land: the farmers, loggers, conservationists, homesteaders, scientists, hunters, poets and writers “who are preserving and pioneering a rural way of life” according to a land ethic that “combines economic vitality with environmental stewardship and the values of rural life.”

For those of you writing placed-based stories, this is an essential resource, showing some of the different ways writers can find inspiration in a place, its people, and the synergy between them. I hope you will check it out.

And keep writing.

Deborah Lee Luskin

Deborah Lee Luskin lives, writes and hunts in southern Vermont. She blogs at Living in Place, and leads the Rosefire Writing Circles and the Rosefire Revision Circle for writers who want community and support. Learn more.

The Courage to Ask

To be able to ask for what we need, ask for what we want takes courage—and it’s also a skill. Please join me for a free/fundraiser class taught by Alexandra Franzen called The Courage to Ask. 

In this class, Alex is going to help us all develop the skill to ask for what we need and want, which will make it easier for us to find the courage to do it. 

The Courage to Ask is a fundraiser class for CrisisTextLine.org, an organization that helps people in crisis through text messaging. 75% of the people who text them are under 25 years old and each text is answered by a human being who is trained to help the texter navigate from a moment of crisis to a space of calm. 

I don’t text a lot, but I think about all the people in my life who use text as their first form of communication and I’m glad this organization exists. Especially in this time of COVID-19, when people are more isolated than ever, I’m glad there are people trained to handle these kinds of situations. All you have to do is text 741741 from anywhere in the US to be connected to a trained crisis counselor and start a conversation. 

If, in this time of COVID-19, you can’t donate to this cause, you can still join the class. It’s free. Here are all the details about where and when. 

I hope to see you there. 

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Diane MacKinnon, MD, is a Master Certified Life Coach who used to work as a Family Physician. She’s passionate about writing and journaling and is (still!) working on her first book, a self-help book for medical peeps. You can find her at her website, www.dianemackinnon.com.

Writing to Inspire Change

As writers, we need to be able to write about difficult topics and to inspire our audience to take action. In these difficult times, especially after the murder of George Floyd, we need this skill even more. We need to be able to write clearly about our emotions, our reactions, and our vision. 

Alexandra Franzen, a writer and copywriter who I think is brilliant, as well as open-hearted, has designed a writing class for our times. It’s a fundraiser class for Black Lives Matter, so give what you can, or let her know you can’t at this time, and take the class. 

Here’s the link to How to Inspire People to Listen, Care, Take Action, and Change the World. The class will take place on June 10, 2020, at 5 PM EST. You can watch the live-stream video (60 minutes) or watch the recording later. There’s also a workbook you can download. 

Alexandra is going to cover: 

  • 3 ways to make your writing stronger and inspire people to listen, care, and act.
  • What you can learn from some of the world’s most powerful speeches, essays, TED talks, and how to apply these same techniques to your own writing.
  • Why anger is a totally valid emotion, and how to express anger in a way that ignites people to take positive action.
  • How you can inspire change right now, regardless of your platform, and whether you are speaking to one person, a board room, or thousands of fans online.

I hope you’ll join me on Wednesday at Alexandra’s class. Together we can continue to make the world a better place through our words, our actions, and our hearts. 

***

Diane MacKinnon, MD, is a Master Certified Life Coach who used to work as a Family Physician. She’s passionate about writing and journaling and is (still!) working on her first book, a self-help book for medical peeps. You can find her at her website, www.dianemackinnon.com.

Writing & Hunting at Living in Place

Hi Readers,

Posting Writing & Hunting at Living in Place this morning reminded me of all the years I wrote about my writing life at Live to Write, Write to Live, so I’ve come over to say hello.

I hope your writing lives are going well, that you are creating imaginary worlds with vivid words and explaining our real world in accurate detail.

Humans are a narrative species. Stories help us make sense of the world. We need good storytellers. Storytelling is important work. Know that and keep writing!

Wishing you the right word that says what you mean,

~Deborah.

Deborah Lee Luskin blogged regularly about the business and craft of writing here at Live to Write, Write to Live, from 2011 to 2018. She’s the author of the award-winning love story, Into the WildernessShe lives, writes, teaches, edits, gardens, cooks and hunts in southern Vermont.

Know How You Respond to Expectations

In Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) she has found that people have one of four different tendencies when it comes to creating and/or breaking habits. I’ve written about habits before in this blog, but I’ve recently discovered this new book and I’ve used the information I’ve learned in the book to get more writing done.

The book addresses the question, “How do you respond to expectations?”

There are internal expectations (I want to start running again, I want to eat healthier) and external expectations (this report is due to my boss by Friday, my talk is Tuesday, so I have to print my handouts by Monday) and some of us do well with either and some of us have trouble with both. 

After figuring out which tendency describes you—take this short quiz here to find out—you can use this information to get more writing done!

After taking the quiz, I know I’m an Obliger. I respond well to external expectations but have a hard time upholding my own internal expectations. That translates to me being very reliable to others but not so reliable to myself. 

  • If I say I’ll make a pot of soup for the potluck, I will make that pot of soup no matter what. 
  • If I tell myself I’ll write for an hour after supper, I will let almost any other request, event, or circumstance derail that commitment. 

Rather than beat myself up about my tendency to bail on myself (I’ve done enough of that over the years,) I’m using the information in Ms. Rubin’s book to create external expectations related to my internal goals. 

I want to finish a first draft of my book, so I found an accountability partner. He and I are both working on nonfiction books and we make commitments to each other and meet every two weeks to keep the momentum going. 

I want to write every weekday, so I’ve joined multiple online productivity groups. We meet on Zoom, check in for 5 minutes, say what we’re going to do (= create an external expectation,) then we work silently together. 

If I was a Questioner (another of the 4 tendencies) I’d figure out ways to make the things I want to do make sense. Questioners ask, “Why should I do this?” and will only do things they believe are worth doing. 

Check out The Four Tendencies and see if it can help you get more writing done. 

Diane MacKinnon, MD, is a Master Certified Life Coach who used to work as a Family Physician. She’s passionate about writing and journaling and is (still!) working on her first book, a self-help book for medical peeps. You can find her at her website, www.dianemackinnon.com.

Reads that Help Writers

What do writers read?

Anything and everything, right? Novels, memoir, how-to—but also magazine articles, cereal boxes, and comics. 

Anything we read can help us improve our craft. Speaking of craft, there are books on the craft of writing that I read over and over through the years—books such as Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott, and The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. 

Newer books that I find myself returning to are Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative, by Austin Kleon and Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

In my opinion, any book can help us improve our craft. The first time I read a novel, I usually read it as a reader: I get lost in the story. But I often reread books: more accurately, I re-listen. My son likes to listen to stories over and over, so often I drive around listening to the same story three times in a row. If the story doesn’t captivate me on the second or third time through—some middle-grade books do, but some don’t—I find myself listening as a writer: trying to figure out how the writer created the effect they did. Then I’m as fascinated—or more fascinated—than I was the first time I heard the book. 

It also shows me how important it is to read my own work aloud. Or, even better, to have someone else read it aloud so I can hear it—what works, what doesn’t work. Hearing my piece read to me sometimes makes the weaknesses obvious. If not, my reader often points them out!

One tool (it’s not a book, it’s a journal) that’s really helped my writing, my productivity, and my business: The Ship It Journal, by Seth Godin. You can buy a 5-pack on Amazon, but you can also get the PDF for free from Seth Godin’s blog. As Seth says in the post with the download, it won’t work if you don’t fill it out! 

What’s the most helpful book or tool you’ve found for your writing life?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, is a Master Certified Life Coach who used to work as a Family Physician. She’s passionate about writing and journaling and is (still!) working on her first book, a self-help book for medical peeps. You can find her at her website, www.dianemackinnon.com.

Ask for What You Need

This past weekend I was with a friend of mine who’s also a writer. I told her I wanted to start working with a writing partner. We’ve been in the same critique groups before and we’ve always worked well together, so I asked her if she wanted to start working together again. 

She told me she couldn’t commit to that right now. 

The very next day this same friend texted me to say that a past writing partner had contacted her and was looking for a writing partner and wanted to know if she was available. She wasn’t but wanted to know if I was. 

I was!

She told him about me and vice versa. I don’t know yet what will come of this, but the moral of the story is: ask for what you need. 

Tell people what you want. 

Put it out there. 

You never know what will happen. 

Barbara Sher’s famous book, Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want, offers this same advice. 

Just the act of telling another person what you want—or 7 people, as Ms. Sher recommends—has magic in it. 

My friend wasn’t ready to become my writing partner, but the act of expressing my wish—out loud, in the world, to another person—changed the energy of my wish. It stopped being an internal circle, going around and around in my mind (where I’d been thinking about it for months) and created a forward momentum.

My friend said “no,” (for now) but the Universe didn’t. It started looking around on my behalf. 

You don’t have to believe me. (This is how I explain such things to myself.)

But try it. 

If you are looking for a beta-reader, ask the people you know who read and talk about
books if they will read your work. Tell the others, too—the people in your life who like movies over books, for example—because they may know someone who’s always looking for a good read. 

If you’d like to work with a critique group, tell people you’d like to work with a critique group. Create a flyer starting a critique group and post it at your local library.

If you want more dedicated writing time, say that—out loud—to the people in your life. Your partner may respond with, “Why don’t I take the kids to karate on Saturday mornings so you can write?” (We can dream, right?)

Or something much more indirect may happen: Your co-worker will ask you to carpool and at the same time asks for silence so when it’s not your turn to drive, you get 45 minutes of uninterrupted writing time twice that day. 

It takes courage to ask for what you need, what you want. Someone may say “no.” 

But if you don’t ask, the answer is already “no.” 

Ask. Put it out there. 

Take advantage of the magic.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, is a Master Certified Life Coach who used to work as a Family Physician. She’s passionate about writing and journaling and is (still!) working on her first book, a self-help book for medical peeps. You can find her at her website, www.dianemackinnon.com.