Hi. I'm Jenna McGuiggan.
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Monday
Nov022015

The Writers Guild opens November 9

 

Time flies when you're having fun. It also flies when you're deep in the throes of launching a new project that you've been dreaming about for years. In my last post, I announced that The Word Cellar Writers Guild was coming soon. And now "soon" is almost here! The virtual doors open one week from today on Monday, November 9. (Which, let me tell you, feels oh-so-very-soon when I look at the final items on my to do list.) 

The Word Cellar Writers Guild is an online membership site that focuses on three key aspects of the writing life: creativity, craft, and community.

Here are some of the ways we'll do that: 

Writing Modules

Each month we'll explore a specific writing-related theme with a learning module. Monthly themes will be related to a writing craft issue, a specific genre of writing, or an aspect of living the writing life. Think of the modules as monthly e-courses, or mini-master classes. You'll be free to work through these modules at your own pace, and once a module is published on the site, it will always be available. 

Resource Library

The Resource Library will hold oodles of good things, such as writing prompts, book recommendations, author interviews, and other bits & bobs to inspire you. The library is already stocked with some great interviews, including conversations with Brené Brown, Marianne Elliott, Sue William Silverman, and others. We'll be adding interviews with writers and other creatives as we go, and I'd love to hear who you'd like me to interview. Leave a comment below or email me {jennifer[at]thewordcellar[dot]com} and let me know if you have a favorite writer/maker/artist that you'd like to hear from.

Community Forums

The Guild has its own private Community Forums where we can get to know each other, ask question, share answers, and generally geek out over all things writing. When I envisioned this community, I knew I wanted to be able to have conversations and connections in a beautiful, password-protected space, without the need to turn to social media. (Goodness knows I love me some social media as much as the next person. But I wanted to create an online space dedicated to writing, without the distractions of online quizzes and adorable kitten videos. Because, really, who can resist those quizzes or kittens?)

Other Goodies

>There will be so many other great things happening in The Guild. I'll be hosting regular live, virtual events, such as small group chats, author readings, craft Q&As, and shared writing studio time.

>We'll also have a book club/book read-along every few months. Stay tuned for the announcement of the first book selection. (I'm also open to suggestions for this, so send me a note if there's something you'd like to read, and I'll add it to the list of possibilities.)

>And then there's this, which I'm so very happy about: real, live writer care packages delivered by postal mail! When you register, you'll have the option to add four beautifully-curated care packages to your membership. (Think: Books, writing goodies, and treats to delight and inspire you. I’m personally selecting each item in these packages, and I’m ridiculously excited to send them to you.) 

I can't wait to throw open the virtual doors and invite you in. If you'd like to receive a special reminder email when The Writers Guild opens on November 9, please add your name over here. 

Wednesday
Sep302015

The Word Cellar Writers Guild (coming soon!)

For the last few years, I've been dreaming of a beautiful online space where we writerly types come together to learn, to share, and to grow.

A place where we can go as deep and as  w i d e  with our writing as we dare.

An online destination that feels like the best bookstore + library + café + book club + writing retreat wrapped up in a virtual home.

A membership group for writers who crave more creativity, more community, and a deeper understanding of the craft of writing.

I've been dreaming and working and planning and scheming for awhile now. And I'm so excited to tell you that it's almost here: The Word Cellar Writers Guild

Nearly all the writers I know (from the newbies to the pros) want to write more pages, to have more joy in the process, and to create deeper connections with other writers.

I want those things, too. So I created The Writers Guild to bring us all together to get more of what we want in our writing lives. And it's going to be so good. I'm buzzing away behind the scenes to get it ready for you. 

What will happen in the The Writers Guild? Here's a list of what members will receive:  

  • Monthly Mini-Master Classes
  • Supportive Community
  • Small Group Chats
  • Live Q&As 
  • Feedback Workshops
  • Prompts & Exercises
  • Inspiring Guests
  • Resource Library
  • Book Read-Alongs
  • Exclusive Discounts
  • Surprises Goodies

During the last five years of teaching online classes, I've met hundreds of you (virtually and in-person). Some of you have met each other. Now it's time to connect the dots and all come together in one beautiful writing community

This dream community has literally been years in the making. Now it's really happening, and I am inviting you to come along. (Because honestly, it won't be the same without you.) The doors will open this fall, and I'd love to send you an invitation when they do.

Many more details are coming soon, so please sign up here for your invitation

Thank you for being part of my extended writing community. I can't wait to gather with you in this newest incarnation of The Word Cellar!

Monday
Aug312015

Super Full, Sturgeon Moon (an everyday essay) 

You sit and watch the moon rise, a crisp circle of light in a cool blue sky. It's a Friday night at the end of August, and though the forecast predicts some 90-degree days next week, this feels like a fall Friday night, ripe for woodsmoke and high school football.

Dark birds swoop by in flightlines, ready for their treetop beds. The three or four bats that patrol this swatch of suburbia flap and flutter about overhead. The moon goes higher and your fingers and toes get colder. It's time to go inside, but who can leave the night air when there's such a super moon to watch? This month it's the Full Sturgeon, a serious sounding fish, to be sure. 

You want to describe the moon as a hole punch in a blue paper sky. You want to think of it as nature's Bat Signal, calling all nocturnal superheros to action. You wish you lived near a large body of water so you could see the tide fill and spill its basin of earth with this extra moon urge. You feel something sloshing inside of you, a micro-tide of one.

You can smell a backyard fire and wish you had thought to rub two sticks together, to put match to paper, or at least put on a pair of long pants. This moon musing: a cold blaze, a reflection of fire. 

Thursday
Jul302015

Interview on "In Her Room" Podcast

I'm on a podcast!

Did you know that the word "podcast" comes from iPod + broadcast?!

Yeah, I know it's kind of obvious, but I swear I just realized this connection a few months ago. I always knew the "pod" part was from iPod, but somehow I didn't realize that "podcast" rhymes with "broadcast" and is like a radio broadcast without the radio part! (I sound really old right now, don't I?)

(For an artist who trades is words, a.k.a. a writer, I can be embarrassingly charmingly dense about colloquialisms, idioms, and such wordplay thingamajigs. Ask me sometime what I thought was meant by the prhase: "It's as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.")

But now, not only do I understand the term podcast, I'm on a real, live podcast! (Well, it's not live, because it's recorded, but the recording was made of a live conversation. Again with the semantics.) 

So, about this podcast I'm on: "In Her Room" is a listener-supported podcast featuring meaningful conversation with women writers from around the world, hosted by Sara Blackthorne. I had the pleasure of talking with Sara for episode #21

We chat about a lot of things, including how writing helps us make sense of the world on multiple levels, and why graduate school was a good fit for my writing path when I shifted my mindset from "I'm not good enough" to "How can I get better?"

I also talk a wee bit about my newest (and most exciting) online project yet: an online writing community called The Word Cellar Writing Guild. (The Guild has been a long time in the making, and you'll be hearing much more about it in the coming weeks! I'll be using all the exclamation marks for this one!!!) 

You can listen to "In Her Room" on its website, or find it on Soundcloud, Stitcher Radio, and iTunes. I'm delighted to be in such good company with other women writers who have been interviewed for the show, including Sue William Silverman, Liz Lamoreux, Maya Stein, Alisha Somer, Esme Weijun Wang, and so many more.  

(Also, can I just tell you how much I love to combine podcasts & housework these days? I use a set of wireless headphones so I can listen as I wash dishes, do laundry, or sort the mail. I love podcasts in general, but I used to find it difficult to sit down and listen to one if I wasn't in the car. I felt antsy, as though I were wasting time somehow, even though I don't feel that way when I sit down to read, and great podcasts are just as soul-nourishing as books. Housework also can feel like a waste of time: a necessary task, but shouldn't I be reading or writing instead? So the podcast + housework combo allows me to restore order to my little domestic universe and feed my mind and creative spirit at the same time. I know I'm not the only one who does this, but it felt like a revelation when I finally got on board. As you can see, I'm good for having obvious revelations and everyday epiphanies. It keeps daily life interesting.)

Please join Sara and me over on In Her Room.  

Thursday
Jul092015

The Sound Is Its Own Thing

Six summers ago, in the span of a few weeks, I realized three long-standing dreams: 1) I started graduate school; 2) I visited the Pacific Northwest for the first time; and 3) I started writing a book. 

I didn't know I was writing a book at the time. All I knew was that I had to write something to turn in to my advisor in a few weeks. I also knew that I wanted to incorporate more sensory detail and texture into my writing. So since I was sitting in a vacation home on Puget Sound, I wrote about what I saw, smelled, heard, tasted, and felt there. That little nature sketch led me to writing other sketches about seascapes around the world. 

Initially, I thought I'd collect these little prose sketches and self-publish them as a chapbook (similar in style to Lanterns). But when I put the essays together, I realized that something was missing. They were beautiful, but they seemed to lack heart.

Many pages and revisions and conversations with my advisors later, I realized that these essays weren't just about landscapes and oceans. What I was trying to do, without knowing it, was to write about spirituality, the topography of belief, and the longing for belonging in all its many forms. 

Slowly, slowly, a book was being born. 

That book is still taking shape, ever so slowly. (Too slowly if you ask me, but that's a topic for another time.)

What I want to celebrate today is the publication of that very first essay I wrote six years ago on Puget Sound -- and the serendipitous timing of its publication.

Last month, while I was back in the Pacific Northwest, my essay "The Sound Is Its Own Thing" was published in Flycatcher, a literary journal that explores what it means "to be native to this earth and its particular places." It publishes work that "engages the themes of empathy, ecology, and belonging, or that struggles with a lack of the same." Sounds like a good place for my work, no?

Here's an excerpt from the beginning of my essay: 

Floating in one of the southern fingers of Puget Sound, Harstine Island is like no other place I've been. It looks like the woods, but it smells like the sea. I come from the landlocked southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, all rolling hills and woodlands. I spent childhood vacations breathing in the salt air of a New Jersey barrier island. Here on Harstine, it's as though the two landscapes of my youth have been smashed together into one beautiful, interlacing juxtaposition. {keep reading}

This isn't the first time I've had one of my essays published. But this is the first one from the book to be published in full. I love that the first to be published is also the first that I wrote. And I love that I was back in the Pacific Northwest when it happened. 

The essays from my manuscript are some of the nearest and dearest to my heart, both for their subject matter and for the way writing (and rewriting) them have made me a better writer. They are true labors of love. I hope you'll read "The Sound Is Its Own Thing" and check out Flycatcher no. 5, Juneteenth, which is dedicated to the memory of those killed in the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Thank you to Flycatcher's editors, particularly founding editor Chris Martin, for their insightful feedback and for giving my work a home.