Voice II Class–Practicalities and holy callings


Many students have asked for a continuation of the voice class, and after much thought, I have fashioned a syllabus that will build on the foundation we use in Voice I.    Using the same format of small, intimate groups, timed exercises, and discussion, we will discuss the passions, ideas, and compulsions we want to express in writing, as well as the practicalities of finding times, fitting ourselves to the right markets and learning to shape voice to style.  As with the other classes, there are scholarships available.

Prerequisite: Voice I or my permission.

Cost: $225
Length: 6 weeks
Class limit: 8

2008 start dates:  March 11; October 22
Email me to hold your place.

Week One–Holy Callings

Week Two–Genres and connection

Week Three–Seminal events


Week Four–Practicalities

Week Five–Path

Week Six–Pulling it all together

Girls in the Basement

12 week online class designed to nurture writers and help create circles of support
Email me to reserve a space

 No classes scheduled until next spring, 2009.

“If you don’t write your books, they might not ever get written.” Madeline l’Engle.

There are a great many how-to-write courses and many great teachers of how to write a novel. This is not one of them. The Care and Feeding of the Girls in the Basement is meant to help inspire and encourage you, to help you learn (or remember) how to nurture your creative spirit. It’s a chance to renew your joy, tap into the original delight you once felt for writing, and make a powerful commitment to yourself and your writing. We’ll draw from several texts, including The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron; Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarrissa Pinkola Estes, and Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, among others.


For several years, I wrote a column by this name for Novelist’s Ink, the newsletter of a group of published commercial novelists. It’s a working group, with a number of writers who’ve been producing novels for decades, and it seemed to me that the newsletter offered plenty of business and writing advice, but there wasn’t much attention given to the idea of how to take care of the vulnerable, more delicate creative of the personality. I’m writing my last column this month, and have developed the material into a 12-week class.


The class will be conducted online via email and chat. Each Monday morning, I’ll send out the week’s lessons and exercises to the group. In addition, we will meet three times during the course in a chat room, to gather and ask questions, talk about the week’s lessons. Unlike my voice classes, you’ll be doing your work privately, and we’ll use the email loop to discuss whatever comes up, rather than posting lots of material.


Each week will include lecture material posted via email, discussion, and 2 hour chat time. There will also be recommended readings (most available online and all available through your library—a list will be distributed at the start of class). Occasionally, I’ll post a link to an audio. You will need to do the exercises and should plan to take an hour-long artist date each week. There is no grade, of course, so how fully you participate is up to you.

The care and feeding of the body
Artist’s Dates and how they work
Making your sacred space

The Good Girl Syndrome
Setting boundaries and creating a safe zone
Learning to play
Building an altar

Keep the drama on the page
Methods to recognize false drama and get rid of it


Working with fear
Countering victimhood
Finding symbols of your own

WEEK FIVE–Abundance
Abundance—what it is and what it isn’t
If I have all I want, won’t someone else suffer?
Suffering as a secret virtue

WEEK SIX– Scar Clan
Scar Clan and Descansos, working with sorrow and anger
The good luck/bad luck game


WEEK SEVEN—Belonging
The odd woman out
Finding your tribe

Dreams and ambition as a road map
Drama and jealousy as road block
Passion as a calling

Power corrupts…or does it?
Getting over fears about power
When you get what you want and it’s not what you thought

All you are is love
Writing as an offering and a joy
Accepting love, accepting play

You have everything you need
If you don’t write your books, they might not ever get written
Play as the rule of thumb


 TWO FULL SCHOLARSHIPS WILL BE OFFERED. I’ll draw two names from a hat a week before class begins.

Email me  if you’d like to be considered, or to nominate someone else you think would benefit and can’t swing the fees. Put "scholarship" in the subject line and specify which class you’d like to be considered for.

Voice I Class


A six-week writing intensive designed to help writers understand voice as a whole, and to understand the elements that make her own voice unique.

The exercises are mostly timed writings, and are designed to build, week by week, to help you see what you have to offer the world with your work. Are you a funny ethnic writers with a thread of poignance? A serious historical novelist with roots deep in a particular time?  What influenced you to become a writer and what do you want to get from it?  Who taught you to speak, and what have you read and loved?  These are all elements of the writer’s voice.

The class runs from Tuesday to Tuesday, and is comprised of lecture, exercises and discussion. Due to the reading and writing requirement, class size is limited to 8.  A 20% discount is offered for groups of five or more, and there is one scholarship available for each segment.  To be considered, email me with "scholarship" in the subject line and specify which class and date you want to be considered for.

Questions? Email me.

COST: $225
DATES:  October 1, 2008 (to give us time to finish before the holidays begin)   

Voice II will begin on October 22



What is voice, exactly?
Childhood and cultural influences


Becoming Aware: ourselves and our places
Voice vs. Style


Other influences: other writers, stories, genres.

Individual truth and emotional honestly; why writing is scary sometimes, even if you’re making it up and the heroine is a princess for heaven’s sake


Check in: how does it feel? Discussion.
More on influences and exercises on how to see them, see yourself, see others, pick out a voice
Illustrating the differences.


Exercises designed to show individual voice and quests.

Two part exercise designed to illustrate each individual voice. Reading, side by side posts.


Pulling it all together. A worksheet and discussion to help each writer answer lingering questions, put all her ideas in one place, and have a chance to display her own work.

How to be a fabulous 80 year old

Melanie Scott, an Australian writer who finaled twice in the Golden Hearts this year, posted something terrific to our voice class yesterday and I asked her to post it to her blog.   

One of the exercises we do is to picture your 80th birthday party and
how you want it to be and what your 80 year old self would tell you to
do. Which all the fabulously talented gals in my course have duly done
and I was trying to come up with some comments but really, they all
sounded fantastic, and all our 80 year old selves are brilliant and
wise and I really want to get to go to some of those parties, so all I
could come up with was this, which is my distillation of what everyone
said and a reminder of what we have to do if we want to live to be
grand old broads at 80. And with apologies to SARK, who’s ‘How to be’ posters are fabulous and kind of inspired me.


Check it out–it’s luscious.   And if you want to have some fun, try the exercise:

In a timed writing (ten minutes, pen to the page, write fast, no editing)  imagine you are at your 80th birthday party.  What are you wearing? Who is there? What’s going on in your life?   Now, let your 80 year old self give the self you are now some advice.  What will she say to you? 

This is not just for writers, by the way.  Readers can have fun with it, too.  Our 80 year old self is the one who has a lot of answers for how to live our lives today.   Have fun with it, and let me know if you did it.


Playing with the girls in the basement

A new book is brewing.   Rather dramatically at times, as will sometimes happen.  My office is scattered with magazines and new CDs and paintbrushes.  I’ve scotch-taped a bunch of photos to the closet door while I’m letting it all brew.   To the outside view, this doesn’t much look like work, honestly, and I can fall prey to the "just get busy" syndrome that can be so devastating to an idea that’s winding its way through my imagination, sending out runners of silk to anchor itself here, there, all sorts of odd places.  This makes me think of the first trimester of pregnancy, when you’re so tired and when you close your eyes for three minutes, you fall into that other world, the dreamer world, and it’s hard to tell which is the real world.  There’s a lot going on below the surface.  Hidden.  Quiet.  Gossamer.

This very morning, I was thinking, "I guess I should make a
chart or something. So I have a plot. So I know what I’m doing."
And the Girls in the Basement, who’ve been playing Keb Mo really loud, and cutting things out to glue on the walls, and ordering
CDs like Sonny and Terry  and Marc Broussard and getting SO excited about the storm map on the
wall and practicing their accents, looked up and said, "Plan? We don’t need a
plan.  WE know what we’re doing.  If you know, you’ll fuck it up, so just
mind your own business."
So I went for a walk with the dogs and listened to Lucinda Williams and
smelled biscuits baking and remembered a really cool bit of woman-magic that always has intrigued me, and figured out the hero’s name, and there is a big southern thread to this book, which has been missing from my books over the past few years.  Suddenly, it’s just there again.   Maybe I am pining for my grandmother, or for my late mother-in-law.  They both passed in the autumn, two years and three years ago, and I wish I could have a chat with them.   Or maybe, the girls want to play with other material, taste new things.  Maybe I have no idea where books come from or why, but my job is to say, "Oooh, this one seems like it will be fun."
And I remind myself to play.  Just play.

The reassuring natural world

Yesterday, I walked to the YMCA for a yoga class.  There is a park system that loops through the entirety of the subdivision, connecting play parks with grassy sidewalks in a network that is miles and miles and miles long (and people still jog on the street…not sure I get that).  It was an excellent yoga class; it always seems to me that yoga nets about 10x what it should, and I was in a softly blissed state as I walked home.  I happened to glimpse a blue jay flashing through the trees, and stopped to admire him, taking it as a nice little gift from the universe–"here, have a visit with your favorite bird",   and saw there was a pair of them.  And then I saw their baby who had been shoved out of the nest and was none too happy about it.  Parent one nudged him along and the baby squawked, fluttered his wings and protested–"I can’t, I can’t!"–before lifting off maybe a foot and slamming into the fence. 

I watched him for twenty minutes or so, following behind at a respectful distance, which wasn’t all thatBabyjay
much, maybe four feet.  I was prepared to chase away a predatory cat or raven, but wouldn’t have interfered in any other way.  He panted in the shade, then made another try, flapping his wings until he nearly captured the low hanging branch of a pine.  And missed. 

That’s when I left him to the business of learning to fly.  But what a lovely gift for the girls in the basement–all those fluttering feathers; those flashing sapphires and turquoises and grays; all that effort and metaphor, the reassurance that baby birds, small and defenseless and vulnerable as they are, do mostly manage to figure it out, launch themselves and grow up into big blue jays. 


Orienteering1Orienteering orange, that is.  I completed an orange course at Frisco on Sunday.  It took me three hours, which is hilarious, but I don’t care.  I couldn’t find control #5 but I was absolutely not going back until I located it, and finally I did.

And what does that have to do with the writing life, you ask (as well you might)?  Plenty.

Orienteering for those who have not been following along, is a sport that teaches map reading.  I know, I know, it sounds dull.  The reality is much more interesting, and highly rewarding.  It’s highly empowering to use a map to navigate to a position deep in the woods and locate a particular position at the top of a hill or behind a boulder or at the top of –my favorite orienteering word–a reentrant. I felt ten feet tall when I finished that course.  I have a skinned shin and sunburned shoulders, but it’s all mine, that finish.  I was alone in the woods with a map and a compass and I found the flags. All of them.  Every last bloody one.  With no help from anyone.   

CR, naturally, did two courses while I did one and was sitting there, changed into his regular clothes and worrying about me by the time I returned. (I think he took firsts in both courses.)   But he’s a master, and a natural endurance athlete.  I am only an enthusiastic participant. 

There is a lot of endurance and patience (stubbornness) required to complete an orienteering course, or a book.  It’s all in your head, too, thinking you know something that may or may not be true.  There are always those spots when you could give up, and feel frustrated. 

But mainly, the link to the writing life here is that I love being outdoors in the mountains, or on a beach, hiking and moving and seeing and feeling the air.  I am happier there than almost anywhere, which feeds my love of putting things in words.  It’s also a great balancing activity, which all writers must have. We live too much in our heads if we’re not careful.  Being outdoors puts me in my body and in the world.   It feeds the well, which is so very, very important if we are to continue to have new details to feed the work. 

You don’t have to be an outdoor girl to have passions.  Maybe you like going to the symphony and you’re happier there than almost anywhere.  Or on a cruise ship.  Or at Nordstroms.   What do you love to do? What puts you in your body and into the world? 

Desktop wanderings

I’ve had the luxury of time to read some of my favorite blogs.  Here are two you really must check out:

A Wandering Woman Writes From Spain, subtitled: A little voice told me to quit eht big city corporate gig and wander off to Spain.  I listened and these are my adventures.   

Her blog is filled with little tidbits of beauty, including photographs like this one, which just took my breath away:

Another place I like to visit is not far at all from Christopher Robin’s mum in Kent, a gentle-spirited blogger who has a wonderful eye:

Anke:Royal Tunbridge Wells  subtitled: A day away from Tunbridge Wells is a day wasted.   He, too, posts the most wonderful photos of his place.  This is one that speaks to me of The Green Man:


That should spell you a little if you’re stuck at work this fabulous May morning.   Enjoy.

News bites


I’ll be attending the New England Chapter’s highly regarded conference this weekend, teaching a two hour voice workshop.  There will be a booksigning, too, and I’ll have copies of both Barbara Samuel and Ruth Wind titles.

NEC Book Fair for Literacy
Saturday, March 31, 2007
4:00-6:00 pm
Crowne Plaza Hotel
Route 9
Natick, Massachusetts

NEW BOOK OUTDesisrescue_2

Desi’s Rescue, by Ruth Wind, is now available.  This is the second in the Sisters of the  Mountain series for Romantic Suspense, and it features wolves, mountain hot springs, and a sexy New Zealander with green eyes. 

Read more about it.


A few spots are left in the Girls in the Basement class that begins May 7. 


April 14, Los Angeles area
Orange County RWA
Topic: "Layering in Lusciousness"