Archive for the ‘Artists and Visionaries’ Category


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Orientation was scheduled for 9am this day and I actually got up on my own at about 6:30am (which is amazing considering that would be 3:30 home time *gah*). The day was proving to be a hot one again and after my shower, I put up my hair Mrs. Olsen-style (okay, how many remember the old coffee ads with Mrs. Olsen and her braids?). The braid-bun I had tried the previous day stayed up mostly, but I was constantly fussing with hairpins. I hoped the new do would be less fussy.

The day’s orientations (program, library, and computer lab) were all pretty standard which was difficult from a ‘stay awake’ POV. I could tell the trip was starting to catch up with me. The library tour in the afternoon was the most challenging and found me asking the most obscure questions about the databases we would have access to (are there RSS feeds for these databases? Do the PDFs come over with bookmarks and the ability to highlight text?). Work questions really and I later let DH know we could now spy…errr…review other digital libraries and see how our DL interfaces stood in comparison.

The most exciting part of the day was meeting faculty – I had lunch with Marion Dane Bauer, Martine Leavitt and Ellen Howard. Delightful people and all very capable. Marion has been with the program from the start and she very much embodies all the goals and aspirations of the program – part passion for children, part discipline for craft and overall enthusiastic for creativity. I’m not sure that I asked the right ‘interview’ questions. Mostly I wanted to know about each of them, get a feel for their energies and creative focii. I’m pretty sure I’d do well under any of their mentorship.

After the library tour, we had the official welcome to the program and our first look at the entire student body. What a wonderful group! I could tell very much that it was a bonded group and us 1st semester folk were all a bit overwhelmed by all the support and camaraderie we were witnessing. Sharon Darrow, the faculty chair, gave a wonderful speech congratulating us all on being part of the new Vermont College of Fine Arts, an independent arts center. Later, the Firsts got together with the all the faculty and we introduced ourselves. I wish they’d given us a heads up on creating an elevator speech for ourselves. I found mine morphing with each introduction. I think I hit it pretty well by faculty intros, though, getting out not just my name and location, but also my day job and hopes for projects.

After dinner we had our pix taken (oh! I think I forgot to mention that I took pix of our class the other night. I have to wait until I get home before I post it as I left my cables at home) and listened to Thomas Christopher Green tell the story of how a few folks got the crazy idea to go independent a couple of years ago, didn’t realize how naive they were and took on every challenge that came their way with a Can Do attitude. I understand from later conversations that TUI has had a difficult relationship with the VC program, looking more at numbers and money than on quality of experience and craft. Everyone is hopeful that a full arts program can be long-standing and I think that given the success of the programs thus far, they will achieve and exceed their goals in quick measure.


Sharon Darrow distilled the story-making process into two questions – What is? and What if? – I like the What is, part of the equation since often the ‘hero in his natural state’ is overlooked in a lot of craft books. She also reassured us that the stories we need to write, the skills we need to write it, and the support we need to get through the process will all be there for us – Go for it! Ultimately, as so many others have said, she urged us to Trust the Process.

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Got up moderately late – 11 local time, but 7 Pacific. Not bad for having not gone to be until 3am local. I was glad I’d packed for the night, but was sorry I didn’t have fresh clothes to change into. It’s such a small thing for me usually, but with the heat the way it was, I felt sticky and gross changing into my traveling clothes even after taking a shower.

I was due to meet my cohort at 1pm and I felt the need for new clothes and the few things I couldn’t pack in my carry-on. I made the classic stress mistakes over and over that morning – bought clothes at the first boutique I could find (some on sale, though) and they were really /bright/ tourist colors. Colors I love to wear, but then I felt /really/ conspicuous walking around with the ‘natives’ in their muted colors. The flip flops I bought hurt my feet and kept slipping off, but at $15, I know I can’t just toss them (that and they’re darned cute with the pink and the beads).

I wandered in search of distilled water for the CPAP and suncreen (maybe a hat too and hairpins and oh, while I’m at it, some body soap – only Dial soap at the guesthouse). I passed a few indy bookstores (three in a one block radius which I think totally rocks) plus cute boutiques and kids shops. The town reminds me a bit of a cross between Moscow, ID and Crawford, NE. Small, yet cultural, yet rural, yet quirky.

I found the Ben and Jerry’s (still haven’t visited) and it looks like in lieu of Starbucks, the New England Culinary Institute is in full gear with a restaurant, a bakery and I think a deli. There’s also a really cool bead shop on the corner (drool) and a nifty little metaphysical shop around and down the corner. I felt really good walking into that shop. Reminded me of our old shop, back in the day, except a little smaller and a little better selection of books.

Lunch with the cohort was fab – being able to finally put faces to names on the ‘net. It was mostly ‘net forum folks (which makes sense, since we really didn’t have a way to get to the others) but that was 12 of the 27 souls in our class. We made the first of a series of introductions over the last few days (goodness, I wasn’t warned I needed an elevator speech!) and overall, a really nice group of people. We talked mostly about travel adventures and the heat and how nervous and anxious we all were.

After lunch, I opted out of window shopping and went home for a nap. A couple of hours later I walked up the hill, which isn’t bad – a 20 min walk is all. It’s a bit like walking from our old ‘A’ street house in Moscow to the top of the hill where the classrooms start in earnest at UI. Dinner was an adventure into the past – dorm food! Although the food was quite a bit better than when I was at WSU…but still definitely food service type food.

After dinner some of us hung out in the lounge (the only AC room on the first floor) and played a game called Snatch. It was fun just hanging out trying to find cool words among the letters thrown and gathered on the table. I’m finding myself painfully shy and I’m learning to accept that’s who I am. But I did play, which was fun, even if I wasn’t very gregarious.

Then came a meeting with the grad assistants and more introductions. What struck me the most about the meeting was how often they talked about going past comfort zones and crashing at some point in the middle. I’m definitely not looking forward to that and will be doing all I can to avoid or ease through it without a big crying jag. I’m too far away from home to manage that by myself even with the supportive staff. Perhaps I’m being too cautious, but I know how bad it can get for me and that’s just not a space I want to visit over this residency.

So, who did I meet? Dawn, Sarah, Matt, Lee, Simon, Linda, Mikki, Blessy (who I’d met in Bellevue last Spring at conference), Kari, Robin, Katie, Maha, and Lindsay. Lindsay was the one I introduced to the others at the icebreaker that night and my deep dark secret I told her is that I’d been married 19 years and had distrusted my future husband on first sight. This amused her greatly.

The upside to the evening was definitely the arrival of my luggage and the helpful Katie and Robin who drove me back to my guesthouse with it. We missed B&J’s which closed moment before we arrived. I did manage to get Skype to work and it was really sweet to see my family before completely crashing.

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Still busily reading for school this summer, but recently received some cool news.

Sheila Bender is one of those writers I’ve read off and on for years, mostly for her sound advice on the process of writing. I discovered A Year in the Life soon after the birth of my second child and it influenced the final edit of my MA thesis. Through her passion for poetry and essay, Sheila transmits a sense of capability and honor to the young writer – she believes that if a person wishes to write, then they have what it takes to not only begin but to succeed.

I was excited to read earlier this year about her essay contest and sent three pieces off in short measure. I was overjoyed to hear from her a few weeks later – Becoming a Woman of Color had won first prize!

“Becoming” is a piece that my close readers have enjoyed, but one that never seemed to quite fit the journals to which I submitted it. The form is a non-traditional essay written second person, and the piece was often criticized in workshop because of this. Male readers didn’t feel comfortable being asked to read from a woman’s point of view, folk-not-of-color didn’t want to inhabit the ambivalent space between privilege and prejudice. I tried changing it several times to make it more ‘accessible’ only to return to the voice of it’s original.

Sheila writes:

“Becoming a Woman of Color” by Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor offers a satisfying and moving read. A lyric essay in structure, it is built in sections that each begin with a command: Imagine, Remember, Picture. The symmetry between beginning and ending the essay with the word imagine and the repeated commands of remember and picture sandwiched between the opening and closing of the essay carry both writer and reader through a rewarding emotional journey.

I am /so/ grateful that she responded so positively to the piece and grateful that she chose it as the winning entry for her contest. She and her co-publisher Kurt VanderSluis have published Becoming a Woman of Color in her online journal http://writingitreal.com/.

As part of my prize, Sheila looked over one of the other two essays I submitted. She gave me a very frank assessment which showed I still have far to go with my work. There were technical difficulties to the piece but what was most helpful to me was that she contrasted that piece with “Becoming.” I learned that when I trust my voice, instead of trying to make a piece into what I think others will respond to, I do /much/ better. It’s something I’ve read time and again in books on writing and something I’ve heard time and again from veteran writers.

The difference with Sheila, though, is that she /showed/ me what that meant for my own writing and as any writer will tell you Show Don’t Tell is the first and last rule of good writing and good critique.

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Pagdiriwang Words Expressed
(click image to embiggen)

Less than a month before the Pagdiriwang event!

Writers Workshop Co-chairs Maria Batayola, Robert Francis Flor and Dale Tiffany have put together a terrific program, and promoted it incredibly well. I’m very excited to read, but even more excited to hear the work of all the fabulous pinay writers featured:

Melissa Nolledo
Nancy Calos-Nakano
Angela Martinez-Dy
Donna Miscolta
Tess Uriza Holthe
Toni Bajado
Marianne Villanueva
Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor

The place to be:

Words Expressed: Filipina Women Writers Workshop

Saturday, June 7, 2008
Noon-4:00 pm
Seattle Center, Centerhouse Theater


(Aside – I’m very grateful to note that being at this event does not mean I’ll miss my daughter’s ballet recital on June 8 as I had previously thought!)

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Here be a list of authors I’d like to study and emulate. This will be an ongoing list, updated periodically.

Lawrence Yep

Eve Bunting

Jane Yolen

Charles DeLint

Neil Gaiman

Harold and the Purple Crayon series

Moonbear series

Christopher Paul Curtis

Tony Robles

Growing Up Filipino I and II

Kate DeCamillo

Paul Gobel

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Came home late tonight after working all day, taking the family out for dinner and catching the First Friday Concert by Swil Kanim.

Swil is a musician, storyteller, and philosopher who’s name is Richard Marshall but who /is/ Swil Kanim – Works for the People. 

I’ve seen Swil perform off an on for years, ever since seeing him in the Business of Fancydancing and finding out he played not only locally, but monthly at a local coffeeshop. He plays for free and liberates his CDs for free, and folks donate what they can, when they can to help he and his wife keep being who they are – artists and ardent supporters of human beings. 

I always learn something from Swil, even if the set pieces are the similar. I learn about how to be a better artist, be a more excellent person, live with failure, and live with passion. Tonight, I learned about the importance of collaboration between artists, how we need to encourage each other to honor our gifts, support each other, give each other a safe place to be the artists we are. I also offered my own gift to him, offered my experience as a writer to get one of his stories made into a children’s picture book. It might be in the works already, but it was important for me to connect and offer what I had after he had given so much of who he was to me and to others. 

That’s the medicine of Swil Kanim, the ability to create connections, heart to heart and keep that going, performance after performance. To witness to gift giving and gift receiving, and call our attention to it so we can all be grateful together. 

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