One of us lives on the east coast. One of us lives on the west.

One of us lives in a rural community. One of us lives in a city.

Both of us wander. Both of us witness. Both of us write.

This is a record of what we find.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Celebrating our Blog-O-Versary!

In celebration of our two-year blog-o-versary, Tam and I wish to express our deep gratitude for the many gifts that blogging together at Kissing The Earth has given us. We’ve been looking back over the past two years and wanted to recount some aspects of our landscapes that we are especially grateful for. We’ve agreed to limit it to seven each (hard to do!) for the days of the week, for the seven liberal arts, for the seven wonders of the world and one more reason that will be made clear at the end!

Here are seven things in my urban San Francisco landscape that I am grateful for:

Crissy Field with its dramatic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Bill Dan’s on-going creation of gravity defying temporal rock sculptures, the wide grassy space to kick the soccer ball for my Sheltie, Emma while sipping a hot chocolate from the Warming Hut (because even in the summer, especially in the summer, it’s cold down there!)

The Filbert Steps, home of the famous wild parrots of Telegraph Hill, leading down, down, down through the lovely Grace Marchant gardens, to Levi Plaza with its wonderfully wet granite walk-through fountain. Or up, up, up to Coit Tower with it’s brightly painted WPA murals and 360-degree views.

City Lights Bookstore, home of the Beats, half a block from The Language Of Birds light installation of flying books and the three story mural featuring Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Herb Caen and Emperor Norton, in the midst of North Beach’s vital cafĂ© society where modern day Beats still gather to read from Howl on Sunday afternoons.

Fort Mason with its Readers Bookstore, Italian Museum, world famous Greens Restaurant, Cowell Theater, Blue Bear School of Music, SFMOMA Artists Gallery, (where you can rent beautiful paintings for a reasonable monthly charge), Long Now Museum (with the Rosetta Project which is archiving all documented human languages), and San Francisco Children’s Art Center.

Grace Cathedral’s labyrinths—walking the inside labyrinth when the organist is rehearsing and the sun is low on the horizon, so it casts dancing lights through the stained glass windows, or outside after dark with the trees in Huntington Park cheery with Christmas lights.

Golden Gate Park with The DeYoung Museum, Academy of Science, Japanese Tea Gardens covered in pink cherry blossoms in March, Opera in The Park, The Shakespeare Gardens, (and the soft serve ice cream truck with flavors like Saffron, Meyer Lemon/Thyme and Blood Orange—yum!) Stow Lake and the Great Blue Herons who return every Spring to nest in the Pines.

My lovely and amazing blog partner Tam, friend of my heart and soul. And our incredible writing community that stretches across the country and across the blog-o-sphere and with special thanks to our dear friend Sarah Wones Tomp who blogs with Suzanne Santillan at Writing On The Sidewalk for nominating us for the One Lovely Blog Award!

And from Tam: My list of seven things I am grateful for:

Watching the world turn from pitch black to orangey-blue as I run on the river trail at sunrise

Digging and planting and watering with my kids and—lo and behold—eating our very own cucumbers and tomatoes for the first time ever

 Fresh fox tracks in the snow

The scent and shade and soft of the pine
needles on the stonewall section of the Mud Pond trail

The spicy sweet smell of the essential oil my yoga teacher, Diane, puts in my palms, as we do shavasana at the end of class in her beautiful upstairs studio full of windows and plants and light

All five of us (my family) reading books or writing papers or relaxing in the living room with the chug chug chug sound of the pellet stove and the beat beat beat sound of our hearts

And I am grateful for Sharry, my blog mate, writing mate, soul mate, dear friend; and for the rest of my writing friends—you all make this wild wonderful process worth it; for all of you new blog friends who have chosen to share this part of the process with us, and to Writing on the Sidewalk for nominating Kissing the Earth for the One Lovely Blog Award.  Sharry and I are grateful, yes, and honored to be nominated.  Thank you Sarah and Suzanne!

We're delighted to pass on the One Lovely Blog Award by nominating a few of the blogs we love. (Again, it’s so hard to choose!) Here are three of our favorites:

The Rules of Accepting the One Lovely Blog Award
1. Link back to the person who nominated you.
2. Post the award photo in your post.
3. Share 7 facts about yourself.
4. Nominate a few other bloggers.

Take Good Care,
Sharry and Tam

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

On behalf of both Sharry and myself, 
I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving or simply a Happy November 22nd. 
(A day late. Yes.  But not any less heartfelt. Oh no.) 

We are grateful to you 
on this day (and on all days) 
for reading our blog, 
for offering your words of support and curiosity, 
and for being with us on this journey of walking wide-eyed on the earth.  

Sharry and me

More soon.  

Gratefully yours, 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Landscape of Revision

A few weeks ago, after finishing another draft of my work in progress, I found myself once more at the edge of the forest, resisting the next leg of a seemingly unending journey, unsure of what kinds of confidence-gobbling monsters were waiting for me. Sometimes the landscape of revision smells too strongly of fear.

 But after spending last weekend with six like-minded Bay Area writers at a novel revision retreat workshop led by Darcy Pattison, I am now looking forward to the terrain.

I have to admit that I went into the workshop with my doubts—would I really hear anything new? I was ready to clench my jaw and roll my eyes when asked for the twelve-hundredth time; what does your character want? What stands in her way? What does she try and fail and try and fail and try and fail to do to get what she wants? (Isn’t it obvious? She wants…you know, love, happiness, the same thing we all want. Life gets in the way. Right?)

But Darcy didn’t ask these questions. Instead, she led us through a systematic and uncompromising process—a series of steps I’d never taken. An unexpected revision landscape, new and different from any I had walked before.

She wisely started out telling us what to expect in the learning curve department, describing the stages of learning as: unconscious incompetence (you don’t know and you don't know you don’t know) conscious incompetence (you know you don’t know) conscious competence (you know and you know you know) and then the ultimate goal which is unconscious competence (you know but you don’t know that you know because the skills and knowledge are automatic and at work in your subconscious.)

Well. That’s different. And hearing it, we all knew it was true.

The next eye-opening step was to analyze our shrunken manuscripts—we had all followed directions and arrived with our 250+ page novels shrunken down to 30 pages through reducing the type face and in some cases, dividing it into two columns per page. From there we went to work with brightly colored markers tracking narrative arc, macro and micro plotting, emotional arc over the entire story and by scene, and dialogue.  Standing back and taking in this map of our stories revealed some surprising unconscious incompetence—in other words, the places that needed work. Now we knew what we didn’t know. But never fear; Darcy reminded us that the first step to fixing something is figuring out what needed fixing.

Besides strategies for strengthening plot and developing scenes, her method offers many new and powerful tools for deepening and texturing. One tool involves using word connotations to add depth. Word connotations help you make word choices that reinforce the story and deepen meaning.  Darcy suggests having word banks and regularly depositing words that fit your story. They will be invaluable when you start considering narrative patterning and progressions.

Wait, what? I cannot explain here what it took us the whole weekend to understand but for any writer looking for a fresh and useful way to revise, I highly recommend going to Darcy’s wonderful website to see what she has to say about these tools and more. Then buy her workbook and use it. Or better yet, gather a group of like-minded writers and have Darcy come for a weekend writer’s retreat.

The landscape of revision is a rocky one. But with a goodie bag, a compass and a readable map, the crossing doesn’t look so bad.

Take Good Care,


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ask The Passengers and Ask The Landscape

I just finished reading Ask The Passengers by A. S. King. (Yeah, her name spells asking. I love that.) In it, Astrid explores questions about herself, her friends, her family, her life, and her blossoming sexuality. She also has love. Lots of it. And because she can't seem to find a pathway from herself to the people on the ground around her--those aforementioned friends and family--she sends her abundance of love up to the passengers in the planes she sees in the sky. She lies on the picnic table outside of her house, gazes up into the wide sky, seeks and finds those planes and, in its purest and most free form, she gives her love to the people inside them. Strangers. Strangers just happening to pass by at those particular moments. Strangers with their own lives, their own families and friends...with their own complicated, deep, frightening, and liberating love.

It will be no surprise to learn that I am madly in love with this gesture. With this idea. With this structure that A. S. King has chosen. (For she gives those love-given passengers one-time monologues within the novel. We get to see snapshots of these strangers, who are then not strangers. We get to witness the connections that they make with Astrid, even though they don't know it.  We get to see how her love just might make a difference in their lives, in their loves, in those moments when the thread between the giver and the receiver is in contact with both. Kind of stunning.)

We all struggle with feelings we can't decipher. We all struggle to find ways to express the feelings we do manage to identify. I also think we tend to spend time looking inward and very close to home as we sift and problem solve and make decisions about those feelings. Or I know I do anyway. And sometimes that is a good process.  A very good one.  But sometimes it falls short. And here is what Ask The Passengers made me think: In those falling-short moments, what if we engaged in a process like Astrid's? What if we sifted and problem solved and made those decisions in the context of the wide sky? The open field? The dense, chattering forest? The vast ocean? What if we asked the landscape to help us find and express our feelings? And what I mean by this is what if we recognized that the world is full of people, creatures, plants, and life that is both so similar to and so different from us, all at the same time. If we seek answers out in the world we just might find strangers, in whatever form, who can help us. And in our simply seeking, in that humble process, we will most definitely begin to help ourselves... and we just might help those strangers--who are then not strangers--too.