Tuesday, February 10, 2009

UCLA Writers' Workshop

No, I haven't been slacking off. I've been writing, writing, writing all this past weekend -- Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday -- at the UCLA Extension Writers' Workshop. It was exhausting but worth it. I got a lot of good feedback on my memoir and my pitch letter, and I met some wonderful and talented writers in the process.

Barbara Abercrombie, the instructor, asked us to do several 5-minute writing exercises. Here are a few samples. The titles in bold were the assigned topics.

Okay, maybe it’s a habit or maybe an obsession. But, it doesn’t matter. I do it. I do it everyday. When the radio alarm starts playing some piece of classical music I get up in the dark – not even stopping to think maybe I’ll sleep in this morning – and turn off the alarm, go into the bathroom, turn on the light, and begin to get ready to go to the gym. I never lay out my gym clothes the night before. No. I move back into the bedroom and slowly open the armoire doors and pull open the drawers to get my socks, sports bra, tights. Then I gently close the doors so I won’t wake my husband. Then I go back into the bathroom and get dressed. Every morning it’s the same thing – get up, get my clothes, get dressed, wash up, and I’m out the door.

What Stays the Same in My Life
No matter what I do, what I say, Bob loves me. The look of love I see in his blue eyes when he takes my face in his hands is a constant. We’ve been through so much together in our 38-year old marriage – illnesses, deaths, good economic times, bad economic times, and certainly times when his scientific mind and my creative mind don’t see eye to eye. His tastes and mine don’t always jive, his needs don’t coincide with mine, and yet his love for me is always there. I can rely on it. I cherish it. And I know I must preserve it.

What I Believe
I believe that I can accomplish anything that I want – I think a bold statement for someone who grew up in the 1940s and 50s. I got a college degree despite my dad’s insistence that girls need only secretarial training in preparation for marriage. I got a divorce in the mid 60s – not fazed by being called the Black Sheep of the family for going through it – when I realized I had a better chance of happiness without my then husband than with him. I changed my career from technical writer, programmer, realtor, development director, and proposal manager whenever it was necessary for my lifestyle or it was time to learn something new. And, I made space in my life for creativity – early on as a painter and later as a writer. I love to mentor young women and encourage them to follow their dreams. For I believe women – especially now when equality between men and women is must – can compete on the same level as their male peers. They only need the confidence and fortitude to believe in themselves. I believe in yes I can. Yes we can.

Where My Memoir Takes Place
Paul’s room was small and dark. He kept his shades closed so he couldn’t look out to the yard. His double-size bed was pushed over to the wall and instead of using the new bedspread I had bought for him when he came back home to live, he coved his bed with the black comforter I gave him when he went to college. He had a big overstuffed brown chair in there though I don’t think he sat in it very much. Instead he’d lie on his bed or sit cross legged on the floor – his back up against the bed. He also liked to be in his closet. He composed music in there. He had his electronic keyboards, speakers, drum machine all in his closet. Plus, his collection of vinyl jazz records and books – all in alphabetical order on the shelves. When we first moved into our home I had a carpenter put up a wall of shelves in the closet. And through the years the contents on those shelves changed – from Dr. Seuss and Richard Scary books and legos to dungeon and dragon figures and games and miniature trains to adult books that included the complete works of Henry Miller and biographies of Miles Davis and John Lennon.

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