Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 14 Blog-off: Cary Tennis

Another day, another blog post. That’s because my writing group is self-publishing an anthology of our own work and we’re raising funds to make it happen. The Blog-off is my clever and not-so-subtle-way of saying “Hey! Read this! And then click here so we can write more just like it!”

Today’s blog post is about Cary Tennis. A year and a half ago someone said to me, “My friend is starting a new writing workshop on Tuesday nights. I think you’ll like it. You should go.”

So I went.

I’m still going.

By day Cary Tennis (February speaker for the Write On, Mamas) writes an advice column for (ten years and counting).  By night, he helps writers craft their stories, using Pat Schneider’s Amherst’s Writers and Artists’ Method.

Here’s how it works:

We sit in a circle in Cary’s living room. At 7:05, he shuts the curtain; it’s time to begin.

In the most calming soothing voice, the voice one uses to encourage a child to get back on her bicycle after a fall, Cary reads “The Five Essential Affirmations.”

“These affirmations rest on a definition of personhood that is nonhierarchical, and a definition of writing as an art form available to all persons,” he says, quoting from Pat’s book.

He continues:

1. Everyone has a strong, unique voice.
2. Everyone is born with creative genius.
3. Writing as an art form belongs to all people, regardless of economic class or educational level.
4. The teaching of craft can be done without damage to a writer’s original voice or artistic self-esteem.
5. A writer is someone who writes.

Then he closes his eyes and breathes deeply, as if he smells something sweet and wonderful, right there in his own living room. When he exhales, he reads the “Five Essential Practices”—guidelines to how we respond to our work, to others’ work.

And then we write for three hours.

Tuesday has become a sacred space that I have carved out for myself as a writer. Pixie dust gets sprinkled in the room and stories I didn’t even know I had inside me get written. (Some of them have even gone on to be published online at Fiction365—pretty much the way they were typed out during the workshop.)

I’m so grateful for what this workshop has given me. It’s more than confidence. It’s trust. Trust that I can just keep typing and sometimes something worth keeping will get pounded out. Trust that I can cut something that doesn’t work and it’ll help me find something that will work. Trust that if I keep writing, Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and beyond, then I will keep writing. The art, the craft—it starts with the act of writing. 

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