Hi. I'm Jenna McGuiggan.
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#OneMomentMemoirs

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Thursday
Jan222015

It's Tomorrow! One-Moment Memoirs Writing Workshop


Life can feel like a blur when we're busy living it. Likewise, the stories from our life can feel blurry or overwhelming when we try to write them. I created the One-Moment Memoirs writing workshop to give you a process to cut through the clutter and focus on your stories, moment by moment. The live workshop is happening tomorrow (January 24), Noon-3pm (EST).

 And if you can't make it live, no problem: Everyone who registers will receive a recording of the calls. 

(UPDATE JAN. 25: The call recordings are now available. If you register now, you will receive all class materials, the recordings, and access to the online class community, which will remain open until Feb. 21.) 

I love the above quote from Annie Dillard. It reminds me that days add up to a life, which encourages me to make time for what matters to me. One of the things that matters deeply to me is writing, but I often struggle to make time for it. I can't control everything about my days, but I can consciously choose to come back to the page again and again. I can create a writing practice and do my best to stick with it. I can capture the moments of my days, and the days of my life, in words. I invite you to do the same: Make time (tomorrow or another day) to write. Make time dive into the stories of your life. Make time to tell them. 

About One-Moment Memoirs

January 24, 2015
Noon - 3:00pm (EST)
(a recording will be available after the live class) 

If I could give you one thing to help you tell the stories of your life, it would be the unique step-by-step process that I share in this class.

One-Moment Memoirs (OMM) is a series of writing exercises designed to help you discover and write the stories of your life. This hands-on workshop will help you take a relaxed, yet focused, approach to telling life's big and small stories in bite-sized pieces. 

In this hands-on class, you'll be guided through an easy step-by-step writing exercise that is designed to help you discover your life's "writable moments" so that you can start writing immediately.

All of the course details and registration for OMM are over here. I would be delighted if you joined us. 

What People Are Saying About OMM...

"This was so much fun! The writing prompts in OMM helped me to come up with new angles on stories I've been wanting to tell but haven't quite known where to begin. I'm excited and inspired to go write now, for sure. " (Liz Lamoreux

* * * 

"I am not a writer, but I do have a story. Jenna uses simple prompts that speak to the ordinary person who wants to warm up their story journey. I always seem to be tense when I first sit down to write, but using the prompts and Jenna's encouragement, I could feel myself opening, and the words began to flow. That is what I love about Jenna and how she shares her knowledge. OMM is a happy way to get back to your story." (Kelly Barton, artist)

* * * 

"All my life, I've wanted to write, but I was either too confused about where to start or too frustrated after just a few paragraphs. The process you teach in OMM has enabled me to move past the confusion and the frustration. For the first time in my life, I feel like I can tell my story. This process is amazing! Thank you so much for this!" (James S.)

 

Monday
Jan192015

How to (not) be alone with your writing

A few months ago I posted a list of ways "to be alone with your writing," meaning ways to overcome resistance, including  turning off distractions, making friends with your fear, and shifting your mindset from writing as a challenge to writing as a gift.

It can be hard to be alone with your writing. We writers know the potential terror of the blank page. We know how maddening it can be to stay with a story when we don't know where it's going or how we're going to get it there. We know the temptation to stop writing, to avoid it, to busy ourselves otherwise and elsewhere. But we also know that if we can just stick with it, there are good things to be had.

Today, let's talk about another way to "be alone" with your writing. I call this one:

How to NOT be alone with your writing

1) Co-working 

Last week, I had an appointment with a local writer friend. We met at the library, found a quiet spot near the windows, exchanged a few bits of conversation, and then sat side-by-side in silence for several hours, writing. I wokred on an assay I'd started writing -- and then abandoned -- last January

There was nothing inherently special about the library or the day of the writing date. So why did I get back to an unfinished essay that I'd let languish for 12 months? Because I made a commitment to show up, and I didn't want to let my friend down. Because my friend was writing, so I felt positive peer pressure to do the same. Because I was outside of my normal environment, which made the moment seem important, and I wanted to honor that by doing what I said I was going to do.

(Note that you don't have to have local creative friends to do this. You could have writing dates via Skype, the phone, or with beginning and ending check-ins via email or text messages.)

2) Collaboration

When I created Lanterns: A Gathering of Stories, the whole process was rooted in collaboration, from the six women who contributed words and images to the anthology; to the colleagues who helped me figure out the logistics of creating, printing, and shipping a 50-page book in just five weeks; to my friends and family who held my hand and talked me off the emotional ledge multiple times as I tackled this new kind of project. In so many ways, we do much of our creative work on our own, but we don't have to go it alone. Creative collaboration can take many different forms. Think about who you can collaborate with to create something new or to help you see your vision through to completion. 

3) Community

Being part of a writing community connects you to like-minded people and also exposes you to new ideas. Having a creative community (online or in-person, local or long-distance) can help you to fill your creative well and inspire you. It can be a place to commiserate with others when the going gets rough, to celebrate with others when the going gets good, and to cheer each other on. If you're a writer (or you want to be a writer), being part of a writing community connects you to other writers, to what's happening in the world of writing, and to the writer inside of yourself.  

4) Classes

Taking a writing class or workshop can be one of the best ways to not be alone with your writing (so that you can be alone with your writing). In a class, whether it's online or in-person, you can connect with other writers, which gives you a writing community and the potential for collaboration and co-working. You'll learn new writing techniques or practice familiar ones, which gets you out of your old internal monologue of "I can't write" or "I never make time to write." Being part of a class can spark connections -- with other writers, other ideas, and within your own writing. Learning can light up your work at any stage of your writing life. One of the reasons that I love to teach writing classes and workshops is that sharing what I'v learned always leads to new learning and inspiration.

5) Commitment  & Connection

Each of the ideas I've listed above comes back to commitment and connection. I wish I were better at keeping the commitments I make to myself alone. I wish I didn't need external deadlines or motivating circumstances to be "disciplined." (Actually, I dislike the word "discipline" and much prefer the word "enthusiasm.") But the truth is that I do need those things to write. I could waste time railing against that, or I could create a writing life that works for me. Yes, writing is usually a solitary act. As a writer who also works from home, I can turn into a bit of a hermit when I'm not careful. Reaching out to stay connected and committed is one of the best things I can do for my creative work. 


Don't be alone with your writing. Join me for these upcoming online writing classes. (Each class can be taken on its own, but they also build upon one another. You can sign up for two and get the third free.)

One-Moment Memoirs (January 24*)
Tell the stories of your life, moment by moment.

Some experiences beg us to write about them, but we often feel overwhelmed when trying to capture the whole story at once. In OMM, you'll work through a series of writing exercises designed to help you discover and write the stories of your life moment by moment. This live, virtual workshop will help you take a relaxed, yet focused, approach to telling life's big and small stories in bite-sized pieces. Learn more and register.  (*a recording of the live class will be available)

 

Write into the Heart of Your Story (February 1-28)
Learn writing techniques to create meaningful, memorable stories.

This class teaches you proven writing techniques to strengthen your writing and improve your stories. Write into the Heart of Your Story gives you a treasure trove of writing tools to write with more depth, clarity, and power so that your work connects with readers. Learn more and register. 

The Writing Life: Rituals, Rhythms, & Practices (March 15 - April 11)
Create a writing life you love.

When you understand your unique creative process, you'll be more relaxed, more prolific, and more consistent in your writing practice. You'll also have much more fun! You'll experiment with your creative process, examine writing as a process of discovery, and practice living the writing life you crave. Learn more and register.

 

Thursday
Jan152015

What is a "One-Moment Memoir"? 


What is a one-moment memoir?

It's that moment when you're washing dishes, and you see your own hand holding a little metal bouquet of silverware, and for a second you think it's your mother's hand. 

It's that moment when you hear the loud summer buzz of cicadas, and a line of poetry floats into your mind, begging you to capture it for later.

It's that moment when the watermelon you're washing in the kitchen sink whispers "carpe diem" to you.

It's that moment before the kiss, before the phone rings, before the car crash

It's that moment when you fall asleep on the floor with your lover during a rainshower and years later you wonder if you dreamt the whole thing: the rain, the nap, the lover – all of it. 

It's that moment when the sun slants just so, or the clock ticks too loudly, or you hear church bells ringing on the wind.

One-moment memoirs are those moments big and small, those moments that matter, those moments that you want to live inside of, or make sense of, or share with others. 

Our lives are made of moments.

Even the huge, earth-shattering events are composed of individual moments. And sometimes a seemingly small, quiet moment sticks with us for our whole life because it was infused with something deeper, something more.

Sometimes we understand and can articulate that meaning, and sometimes we can only see its importance in our peripheral vision.

Writing deeply into one moment can help us to find the meaning within it – and to convey that meaning to others. 

This is the kind of writing I love to do. This is why I write essays and blog posts and flash nonfiction. This is why I write the stories of my life, one day at a time, one moment at a time, sometimes one breath at a time.

And this is why I created the One-Moment Memoirs Writing Workshop, to help you write the stories of your life, moment by moment. 

Capturing the significance and intricacies of our life in words, and committing that to the page can be a daunting task, I know. It can feel overwhelming to decide what to reveal and what to conceal, which details to include and which to leave out. It can be hard to convey the depth and breadth of our life stories so that our experiences connect with our readers. 

I want my writing to resonate with others. I want people to read my stories and feel a spark, a recognition, a sense of surprise or a sense of "me too." I want to make art from the matter of my life. I want my words to reach into your heart, your mind, the center of your being.

And I want you to do the same with your words, your stories

Is this grandiose? No. Or yes. I don't know, and I don't really care. If you love art and music and books and films.... If you create art or music or books or films... Then you know what I'm talking about. We engage with with art because it reaches us or wakes us up or soothes us or simply makes us feel alive and well. And I think we create art of all kinds for the same reasons: to wake up, to soothe, to feel alive and well. As artists and writers, we want those things for ourselves, and we want them for the people who engage with our work. 

One-Moment Memoirs is for you if...

...you need a new way "in" to your stories.

...you want to write but are afraid/lost/overwhelmed.

...you love to write but want to try something new.

...you want to make sense of your life in words.

...you want to share your life stories with others.

...you want to find a way to write with more ease and more joy.  

So I'm asking you: What stories do you have to tell? About the family that you love. About the places that you've been. About the things that you've lost. About the secrets that you keep. About the experiences that make you laugh, make you cry, make you say "hmm...." What are the stories of your life? You can write them, moment by moment. And it will be fun and messy and enlightening and good. It's going to be so good. Will you join us? 

The live, virtual class happens on Saturday, January 24.
>>We'll set aside three hours together to learn and write and amaze ourselves and ask and answer questions.
>>We'll gather by conference call from anywhere in the world. (I'll have in-country call-in numbers for you, don't worry.)
>>You'll get a recording of the call to keep, so you can listen to it again (or for the first time if you can't make the live call).
>>I'll walk you through a series of fun, accessible, and surprisingly effective writing exercises.
>>You'll have a glorious hour of personal writing time to dive into one of the stories you've uncovered during the class.
>>We'll have a private online community to support each other.
>>You'll get a workbook with worksheets, resources, and inspiration.
>>You'll be able to choose to receive (kind, constructive) feedback on your writing (but only if you want).  
>>We'll play with words, ideas, stories, and possibilities.
>>We'll realize that writing can be fun and exciting.
>>We'll practice being brave.
>>We'll practice being in charge of which stories we tell.
>>We'll practice listening and letting that Something Else (call it The Muse or what you will) guide the way.
>>We'll make art from the stories of our lives.

Registration is open.
I would be thrilled if you joined me.
I think you'll be thrilled, too.

Class Registration:

Add Editorial Feedback?:

p.s. A note about the registration options: Want to go even deeper and wider with your stories? You can sign up for the Three Class Bundle, which gives you 3 writing classes for the price of 2: One-Moment Memoirs (January 24); Write into the Heart of Your Story (Feb. 1-28); and The Writing Life: Rituals, Rhythms, & Practices (March 15 - April 11). All of the classes can stand alone, but they also work together and build upon each other. Also, if you want feedback on your writing, you can add that to your registration. 

(psst...I like to give you options, and I like to let you keep your options open. If you register for OMM now and then decide you want to add the feedback or upgrade to the bundle, you'll be able to do that later. No worries. )

Friday
Jan092015

Share the Love Interview: Kira Elliott

I love my clients and students. I love that I get to work with other writers and creatives. I love being a writer, editor, coach, and facilitator. I love sharing what I've learned about writing through many years of trial and error, study, and practice. That word "sharing" is key to how I view my role. I often like to say that I'm a "sharer" not a "teacher." Even though I do teach writing classes and workshop, something about the term "teacher" doesn't quite feel right to me.

Maybe my resistance to the title "teacher" is a holdover from my brief undergraduate stint as an education major -- first elementary ed., and then English ed. Truth is, I wanted to be a straight-up English major, but some influential and well-meaning adults in my life had me afraid to pursue that path. They said, "An English major? You'll never get a job with that degree!" By the end of my freshman year, it was painfully clear to me that being in a classroom full of kids or teenagers just wasn't my calling. Thankfully, by that time, I had met other influential and well-meaning adults who said, "An English major? Oh, you can do anything with that degree!" Emboldened, I promptly dropped the "ed" and high-tailed it into the English Lit program. So maybe this whole "sharer" vs. "teacher" thing is semantics, but semantics ("the meaning of words and phrases in a particular context") are pretty damn important to a writer and English major.

But I digress....

The point is that I love working with writers and creative people as a coach, mentor, editor, and sharer. My clients are smart and funny and talented, and chock-full of heart. So I thought I'd share some of them with you in a new series I'm calling "Share the Love Interviews." 

People often wonder what it's like to work with a writing coach or editor. In this interview, I asked my client Kira Elliott some questions about what it's been like to work with me. She has been part of my writing apprenticeship program for about two years now, and I'm honored to call her a client, a colleague, and a friend. Her answers to my questions have me blushing. Seriously, I may be her writing coach, but I did not coach her on these answers. But she said such nice things that I'm thinking I should hire her as my marketing & PR person! (What's that saying about the apprentice becoming the master?)

And yes, she calls me a "teacher" a few times. Semantics or not, I'll take it as a true compliment. 

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Kira Elliott, a writer, teacher, and community developer living in the Detroit area. She is an Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) Affiliate, certified to lead workshops in the AWA method as described in Writing Alone & With Others by Pat Schneider (Oxford University Press). Kira holds a BFA in ceramics and printmaking from Wayne State University. She finds inspiration in paying attention to the present moment, teaching creative writing, and being outside among the trees. Kira blogs at www.kiraelliott.com

Here is our email interview.

Jenna: What do you know about writing now that you didn’t know a year ago?

Kira: I think the biggest thing I know about writing now that I didn't know a year ago is the difference between the story and the situation. The first essay I wrote for you almost two years ago was flat, muddled and hard to follow. I was telling a story, but I didn’t know why I was telling it. You gave me tools, resources and feedback so I could learn how to create scenes that were part of the larger story. 

I have also learned so much about grammar and craft. I was always intimated by these things, but working with you, I've learned how to use grammar as a tool to clarify and mold what I am trying to say. There are so many moving parts when writing and editing. I know now that I am going to make a huge mess, be lost, be confused, and have doubt -- but if I keep working at it, things smooth out and start to come together. I also know it is getting easier for me to apply craft to my work. 

J: What have been the best parts of working with a writing coach? 

K: You know I think you're the perfect writing coach for me. I have dyslexia, and growing up I was told I was dumb and could never be a writer. I have large gaps in my education due to fear of English classes and teachers. Writing was always fraught with humiliation and shame. That said, you're a patient and wise teacher with a big heart. Aside from being a great editor, you know just the right thing to say and are able to zero in on my resistance. I like that you're clear, direct and that I always get constructive feedback on the content and the craft of my work.

In the almost two years we've been working together, I have moved beyond my comfort zones. I just submitted a flash non-fiction piece to a literary journal. Last May I attended the Creative Nonfiction Writers conference and participated in a writing workshop. I never would have done these things without your gentle encouragement. 

In a nutshell, working with you makes me want to write more, not less. To me that is the litmus test of a good teacher.

J: Do you have any writing quirks or pet peeves?

K: I sometimes draft new material directly on the computer, but my writing is fresher when I draft new material by hand in a cheap, spiral, wide-ruled notebook, skipping every other line using a cheap ball point pen. I then will dictate my writing into a Word document using Dragon Dictate. Something about this process of writing by hand and then reading the work out loud feels satisfying and empowering, kind of like all the pieces of a puzzle clicking together. From there I can edit, which normally goes on for days and days. 

J: Care to share three books that you adore? 

K: Naming just three is almost impossible, but today I will say:

  • Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life by Abigail Thomas
  • When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
  • The Cloud and The Leaf by Mary Oliver

J: Tell us about the writing projects you're working on now.  

K: Aside from my blog, where I share my photography and thoughts about creativity, mindfulness and my somewhat messy life, I am working on two main projects. 

One is a collection of vignettes about growing up with a mentally ill mother. Even though I have over 15,000 words written, I say this is maybe in the toddler stage. You've been guiding me through the work, giving me feedback and helping me think through the sticky points. There are a lot of sticky points. 

I have also created creative writing workshops based on the Amherst Writers and Artist Method as taught by Pat Schneider in her book Writing Alone and With Others. The gift of owning my identity as a writer came from over 7 years of participating in an AWA workshop, and it profoundly changed my life. It was the first time I read my writing out loud and received feedback. It is because of the AWA method that I was able to muster the courage to start working with you and expand my writing craft. Working with you has given me the courage to feel confident that I can help others find their creative writing voice too. My creative writing workshops and retreats are offered online and in person. You can find more information here.

J: Thank you so much, Kira! 

** ** ** 

Be sure to check out Kira's upcoming AWA writing workshop and read her blog

If you're interested in working with me, or have any questions about taking one of my upcoming online writing classes, receiving editorial feedback on your work, or signing up for a writing apprenticeship, please let me know (in the comments below or by contacting me). 

Wednesday
Dec312014

Free Daily Prompts for #OneMomentMemoirs (play along!)

Let's capture the stories of our lives moment by moment with a month-long "write-along" on social media. 

To celebrate the launch of "One-Moment Memoirs" (happening as a live, virtual workshop in January), I created a list of prompts for a January write-along/photo-challenge/moment-catching.

Join me on social media in using these prompts to capture a moment of your day in words, with an image, or both!

Remember to use the hashtag #onemomentmemoirs so we can find each other!

And if you're playing along, feel free to leave a link to your blog or social media profile in the comments below. 

You can find me capturing moments in words & images on my personal Facebook page, my Facebook author page, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

(If you've followed my ongoing #verbalsnapshots collection, this #onemomentmemoirs write-along will be similar.) 


Registration is open for the One-Moment Memoirs (OMM) workshop.

In this hands-on class, you'll be guided through an easy step-by-step writing exercise that is designed to help you discover your life's "writable moments" so that you can start writing immediately. This unique process is fun, accessible, and amazingly effective.

OMM empowers you to find your stories, to dig into their details, metaphors, and meanings, and to start writing them with ease.

If I could give you one thing to help you write the stories from your life, it would be the process I share in this class.