20 Jan

The Portacle

Posted in Brain Boot Camp, DIY MFA, Inspiration, Writing

As of last weekend, our house has been slowly disappearing into boxes all around us.  We still have another three weeks until we move, but because I’ll be busy with conferences the next few weekends, we’ve had to get a jump start on the packing.  Perhaps the hardest part about the move has been parting with all my writing books/supplies/knick-knacks (even if just for a few weeks).  This is where the Portacle comes in.

Portacle = Portable + ORACLE.

As some of you may recall, the ORACLE (along with my special writing space) is where I keep my miscellaneous writing ideas, prompts and exercises.  But alas, my beautiful workspace and containers of treasure are slowly disappearing into boxes and I’ve had to ask the tough question: which parts of my workspace can I absolutely NOT live without for the next three weeks?

Here’s my list:

For Writing

  • Journal (unlined)
  • Stickers
  • mini Image File (a couple of postcards tucked into the journal)
  • Who/What/When/Where/Why/How question cards
  • Small velvet drawstring baggie containing dice, worry stone and beaded charm

For Reading

  • Kindle
  • Amazon gift card (Christmas gift – to be used only in literary emergencies… like if I run out of things to read between now and February)
  • The Iliad (Fagles translation) for some light reading or to cure insomnia, not sure which

For Teaching

  • The Art of the Short Story (the textbook for the class I’m teaching)
  • Strunk & White (duh)
  • Ordinary Genius by Kim Addonizio
  • Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
  • Good Poems by Garrison Keillor
  • Two books on craft (one poetry, one fiction)
  • Graphic Novel version of Pride and Prejudice (because I can’t survive without at least one version of my favorite book)

I can’t tell you how much it has pained me to store away my books.  On Writing (Stephen King).  Writing Down the Bones (Natalie Goldberg).  Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott).  I mean, it’s almost like taking your friends and squashing them into boxes.  It’ll be three whole weeks (or longer) before I see any of their shiny, smiling covers again.

But hubby put his foot down and said I had to pack the books.  Either that, or the movers wouldn’t take them and I was going to have to move the books to the new place all by myself.  (I hate it when he makes sense and sounds reasonable.)

Still.  All these empty bookshelves make me feel so darn lonely.

Guess what I’m unpacking first when we get there!  🙂


18 Jan

Gabi’s Sooper Seekrit Method for Writing a First Draft

Posted in DIY MFA, Inspiration, Process, Writing

Step 1: Wake up at 3:42AM with an idea.  Decide not to write it down because your notebook is in the other room and if you go get it, you’ll be too awake to fall asleep again and then you’ll have insomnia.  Convince yourself that it’s OK to go back to sleep without writing the idea down because you’ll remember it in the morning.

Step 2: Don’t remember it in the morning.  Remember just enough to know that you lost a superbly awesome idea.  Beat your head against the wall.

Step 3: Never fear.  Said idea will come back to you at another, even more inopportune moment, like in the shower.  This time you’ll be ready with a notebook.  Write it down.

Step 4: Spend precisely 12.667 days obsessing over how awesome said idea is and how you can’t wait to write it.  (Number of days may vary depending on the awesomeness quotient of the idea.)

Step 5: Sit down in a frenzy and write exactly 613 words (give or take), exploring said idea.  Read it over.  Decide that you’re the worst writer ever and you’ll never be able to capture such an awesome idea on paper.  Beat your head against the wall.  Again.

Step 6: Read a novel or two, or twelve.  Obsess about how amazing those books are and how unbelievably sucky your writing is and how you might as well do something else with your life, like collecting rare edible fungi.

Step 7: Have a good cry.

Step 8: Read what you wrote again and find one moment, one turn of phrase that’s not completely awful.  Decide you’re not utterly hopeless (just 99% hopeless).  Try again.

Step 9: Fall in love with a character.  Start seeing the world through her eyes and realize you kind of like living in her head.  Decide you’ll stay a while.

Step 10: Stop obsessing about the idea and start obsessing about your character.  Make long character bios for her and all her family and friends (even if her family and friends have nothing to do with the story in the first place).  Write outlines, mind maps, charts, whatever it takes to keep your ideas straight.  Sleep with your notebook under your pillow.

Step 11: Practice some stealth writing.  Hide in a dark corner of a coffee shop and write.  Jot down ideas while riding the subway.  Talk to yourself.  Listen to the voices in your head.  Write down everything and don’t look back.

Step 12: Repeat Step 11 and keep moving forward until you get to the end of the story.  When you hit a wall, remind yourself why you fell in love with this character and this story in the first place.  When all else fails, ask your muse to send you strength to carry on.

Step 13: Carry on.

This post is part of the “What’s Your Process?” Blogfest, hosted by Shallee McArthur.


23 Nov

Finding Treasure

Posted in Exhibits, Inspiration, Writing

One of my favorite things to do in LA is to visit the La Brea Tar Pits.

For those of you who haven’t been there, they’re these gigantic pits of sticky mud where all these prehistoric mammals got stuck, perished, and now people have excavated the bones.  The prehistoric skeletons are on display at the museum and it’s incredible.  I thought the NYC Natural History museum’s dinosaur wing was impressive but the La Brea Tar Pits definitely win when it comes sheer volume of prehistoric treasure.

My favorite part?  There is an entire hallway wall lined top-to-bottom with Dire Wolf skulls.  Yes, that’s right.  Prehistoric wolf skulls.  Hundreds of them.  Amazing.

And what blows my mind is this: who would’ve thought that a pit full of sticky mud would yield so many incredible treasures?

But it did.

Which brings me to the point of this post.  Right now I’m in the middle of editing and my manuscript is about ten notches lower than a pit of sticky mud.  Seriously.  It makes the La Brea Tar Pits look like a shiny swimming pool.  And there are moments when I start to wonder, is it possible that there’s anything of value hidden under all this muck?

That’s when I try to remember the tar pits.  The hundreds of wolf skulls.  After all, if scientists could pull out all that treasure from a pit of sticky mud, surely I can find one tiny redeemable thing in my mess of a manuscript.  And thinking that makes me feel better.

Where will you find treasure today?

Speaking of finding treasures, it’s about time I announce the winner of the most recent contest and share some treasure!  Turns out I didn’t make it to 200 so I’ll be drawing one winner.  But stay tuned: there will be more contests to come in the future.

And the winner of the Road to 200 Contest is…

Catherine Lavoie
Catherine, please send me an email: iggingabi[at]gmail[dot]com to claim your prize!  Can’t wait to read your pages.
I’d also like to say a special thank you to everyone who entered the contest.  You guys are the best!


06 Nov

Ruby Slippers

Posted in Inspiration

Once in a while, life just turns blah on you.  Situations get toxic.  Your writing doesn’t cooperate.  Work just isn’t as interesting as it used to be.  Blah.

Those are moments when you need ruby slippers.  I don’t mean literal ruby slippers like in The Wizard of Oz (though someday I will own a pair of these babies all my very own).  What I mean is, you need give yourself something decadent and luxurious, even it’s it’s tiny.  Something that tells you: “I’m pampering myself for a change.  I’m being nice to me today, because I deserve it.”  Ruby slippers can mean different things to different people.

For me these little luxuries include:

  • Wearing glittery lip gloss
  • A sparkly bookmark, preferably pink
  • Brewing a pot of coconut vanilla tea
  • Lavender hand lotion

How do you like to pamper yourself when life gets you down?  What are your Ruby Slippers?


Iggi & Gabi - All rights reserved © 2010-2011

I am a HowJoyful Design by Joy Kelley