By Jen Marlowe

Kony2012, Mike Daisey and the Politics of Art, Truth and Complexity

I have a half-dozen or so of my short films on youtube and vimeo. The most “popular,” uploaded ten months ago, has been viewed 90,593 times.

The Kony2012 film, released last month, has over 84 million hits.

I spent much of the month venting in fury about the Kony2012 film/campaign and the Invisible Children organization that produced it. It oversimplified the very complex reality in Eastern and Central Africa. It offered misleading and highly sensationalized information. It proscribed militaristic policies that could potentially put thousands of civilians at severe risk. A white, male American was foregrounded as the story’s hero (along with his pre-school aged son) while the very real, very important work of reconstruction and peace-building that Ugandans themselves have been doing for years was entirely ignored. It suggested that Americans sharing videos on Facebook and purchasing bracelets was all it took to catch an indicted war criminal—and by doing so, they would also become heroes. It was self-serving and narcissistic.   Read more

By Ellen McLaughlin

What My Woodstove Has Taught Me About Writing

When you’re starting from a cold stove, lay the fire according to the principles that have lasted over the centuries, namely:

Clear the way for the new

It helps to start clean when you’re dealing with cold ashes rather than live embers. The knowledge that you’ve made fires in the past is comforting, but that doesn’t mean you have to lay new ideas on top of the cold residue of old ones. The memories of finished work, whether it was successful or not, just aren’t particularly helpful. That work is behind you, it has already served its purpose and you may be grateful to it but often the memory of that past writing keeps you from trying something new and challenging yourself, just as those dead ashes only muffle and obscure what you need to do right now, which is to start. Transcend your fear of the unknown. Let the past go. Shovel it out and clear it away before you begin.   Read more

By Madeline Ostrander

To Tell the Truth

I find it hard to tell the truth. Which is not to say that I am in the habit of lying. I am a nonfiction writer and a journalist. It’s my job to tell the truth. But each time I set words down, I realize I am wrestling with more than one truth.

It is partly a trouble of writing about activists and underdogs and do-gooders, my specialty. These are people who have so often had their stories stolen from them— mangled, distorted, or transformed by media or politicians or Hollywood. They are trying to change the story that other people know about them. And you have to hold both their truth and the other truths—the truths of their adversaries, detractors, and peers—in your mind as you write.   Read more

By Sarita Sarvate

The Berkeley Circle

Writers are solitary people. Their work, by definition, requires long hours of uncertain toil. A writer can sit at her desk, pondering words and sentences forever, guessing at the results, wondering if the newest draft is better or worse than the one before, sometimes tossing out version 6.7 and reverting back to version 1.1.

Unlike science or engineering or finance, writing is amorphous, with infinite possibilities, with no clear rules as to what makes a great book, although people have tried.

So how do writers produce great works in total isolation?   Read more

By Anastacia Tolbert

Please Don’t Wait!

And so it begins this New Year like a new tune I haven’t heard before. Like a book whose pages outnumber my minds capacity, whose pages make me want to skip ahead and see what’s next. (Perhaps a chapter about coming back to the states for the summer??)

Be mindful. This is what I keep telling myself. Mindful of what I am thinking. Mindful of what I am doing. For instance: I am trying to focus on the fact that I am typing this blog, not what’s for dinner, not who has what extracurricular activities this afternoon and what CNN.com says is going on in the world—and entertainment section. Be mindful that I am typing my heart out to whoever will read it. Be mindful. And I am… my mind is full of countless thoughts. Focus. I tell myself to focus on the purpose of this month’s blog. Pre-funeral expressions of love.   Read more

By Brenda Miller

The Yoga of Writing

The first time I went on a writing retreat, I had no idea what I was doing. And get this: I went for two months! I arrived at Hedgebrook on Whidbey Island, in the winter of ’94, with my clunky Mac Classic in tow, a box of books, a sack full of travel journals, and lots of big ideas about writing.

I soon found out, rather painfully, that big ideas about writing often lead you nowhere. Those big ideas sit in the middle of the room, daring you to write something good. Something good and something long. They glower at you. They grumble and complain. They make you hungry just an hour after breakfast. They give you a whopping headache. They make you look at the clock and wonder if anyone would notice if you just headed home, say, 7 weeks early.   Read more

By Lois Bertram

Snapshot of a Miracle

 I told Vito as he gave a very young Clarisa and me an overview of the grounds, “I knew my selection was probably a mistake but I was coming anyway.”  Then when I walked into my cottage, Owl, I knew I was home.  One chair, one desk, one cup, one bowl, one plate in a charming intimate space heated by a small wood burning stove.  When I took off my shoes, it wasn’t about housekeeping but treading on consecrated ground. I wondered whose feet had walked these worn pine floors before me.   Read more

By April Dammann

THE FRANKLIN VILLA – A HOLLYWOOD HAVEN

This first blog entry could be filed under “One Writer’s Beginnings” – not to be confused with the wonderful Eudora Welty’s memoirs. My roots aren’t Southern, and my oeuvre is not as grand.  Still… I think others are as interested as I am in how, where and why a writer finds inspiration.

During my senior year at Hollywood High School in 1964, my family lived in an apartment complex called The Franklin Villa. It was ordinary in every way, squeezed between other similar buildings on busy Franklin Avenue, just two blocks from Hollywood Boulevard. There was a swimming pool with cracked concrete in the middle of sixteen units occupied by singles, marrieds and families. The tenants were mostly down-and-outers, trying for Hollywood careers. In a way I was one of them, beginning my writing life within those faded green stucco walls.   Read more

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