Nature Writing Class: Week 1

mebysavie This past week, I began an online nature-writing class with a fellow science writer I met at the May 2010 Writing Away Retreat, Wendee Holtcamp. Our first week’s assignment: start a nature journal in which to record observations about a specific location.

This seemed fun to me—but a little old hat. I mean, as a writer, I do this already, right? I practice noticing details such as smells, sounds, colors and textures, the mood a place evokes in me.

But—because I’m the kind of person who does every exercise in a class (and most of those exercises in writing books, too)—I picked my spot and christened a new notebook. Besides, did I mention that it sounded like fun? I had an officially sanctioned half hour to sit outside and absorb nature.

The spot: the wooden slat lounge chair by my front door.

The time: late afternoon, on a cool, cloudy May day

I sat without writing for ten minutes (as instructed—I even used a timer) and just…observed. I breathed. I noticed the moisture in the air, scanned for manmade sounds and then let those sounds fade into the background.

nestAnd then I wrote. And wrote. And discovered all sorts of wonderful details about this place, mere inches from my front door, that I thought I knew—including three birds’ nests, one abandoned, one occupied, and one still a work-in-progress.

It was wonderful.

It made me think:

  • …How much detail can I capture about a place by paying attention that I miss if I’m not wearing my observation hat.
  • …How valuable those details will be for my writing, if I ever need to write about my yard, or the birds I observed, or the garden, or even another like it.
  • …How I’ve visited other places and then, later, decided to write about them…only to discover that I can’t remember the details as well as I thought I would.

I want this practice of nature journaling to become a habit—and I’ll start collecting notebooks of setting detail to bring my writing to life, whether I’m working on nonfiction or fiction.

:) Cheryl

PS: If you’re interested in delving more deeply into the art of nature writing, check out Wendee’s class. It’s so jam-packed full of information, market analyses, and writing resources, it’s worth the cost even if you *don’t* do the assignments. I’d recommend doing the assignments, though. They’re a blast!

Inspiration from bestselling author Jodi Thomas

I had the opportunity to hear bestselling author Jodi Thomas speak at the 2010 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. I have to tell you, that lady is a bundle of fire and comfort rolled up together—the perfect combo to kick your writing butt into gear.

She encouraged us to reclaim the “I can do anything” attitude we had when we were toddlers. Want to be a writer? Here’s a recap of what it takes:

  1. What do you want to do in life? Set your goals and start working toward them.
  2. Always tell people about your goals.
  3. Be honest with yourself. Or, as she explains it “Never walk anywhere you wouldn’t go in your Sunday shoes.”
  4. Never defend your writing.
  5. Have a deadline? DELIVER.
  6. Always believe in yourself.
  7. Never stop growing.

The ultimate secret of being a wrier? A writer WRITES.

If you ever get the chance to hear Jodi Thomas speak, do. She’s funny, wise, and inspirational. Or join her at the Writer’s Academy for intensive work on your craft.

Favorite Jodi quote : Are you a wishbone, a jaw bone, or a back bone?

I’d like to be a backbone.

:) Cheryl

How I write blog posts

IMG_0681 Blogging inspiration seems to be feast or famine for me. It seeks like if I sit down thinking “I have to write something to post today,” my blogging brain remains empty. If, however, it’s past midnight, I have to get up early the next day, and I’m supposed to be sleeping, suddenly I have five million ideas that MUST BE WRITTEN DOWN RIGHT AWAY OR THEY WILL BE LOST FOREVER!

Just thought I’d share.

:) Cheryl

PS: Anyone else out there love Spring? I guess nature supports the feast/famine ideology, because right now I’m reveling in a feast of flowers. It’s heavenly….

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Wolf Whistle Update

Picture 129

When I was about seven, everyone in the world knew how to whistle besides me. Seriously. My whole first grade class, my friends, never mind my father who could summon us kids from the farthest corners of our 100-acre farm with his piercing “whee-oo-wheet!” (That’s tech-speak for his distinctive whistle.)

Whistling was the bane of my existence. I puckered and practiced every day for absolutely EVER.

And when, finally and miraculously, I learned to whistle, I continued to practice every spare moment—and since I had to walk half a mile to the bus stop, I had plenty of time to perfect my pucker. I learned to whistle every song in every musical I knew. I whistled piano concertos (hard, because it’s difficult to choose a single note melody line) and flute pieces (better, because the flute plays only a single note at a time, but the range can be tricky), and all my choir pieces.

I became a really, really good whistler. Not that there’s a lot of call for expert whistlers (ooh—wouldn’t that make an excellent character quirk?) although I was psyched when I learned that someone whistled part of a Billy Joel piece.

But I digress.

The point it: I got really, really good and, miraculously, everyone else in my life forgot how to whistle. Suddenly, I was the only one I knew who whistled. I was a surprise to the hordes of non-whistlers. An anomaly.

You might think there’s a lesson coming about perceptions versus reality, or how kids can be self-conscious or some thing. There’s not.

I just wanted to point out that, now that I’m adult, the scenario is repeating itself with respect to the wolf whistle (you know, two fingers in the mouth, piercing, turns heads.) Although I’m working on it, I’m still unable to accomplish this whistle while apparently everyone around me can. Amazing, isn’t it?

Go figure. :) Cheryl