Thursday, January 26, 2017

Why do YOU write?

I thought it would be fun, and hopefully helpful to other writers, to ask my Writers' Wings clients about how they came to writing and their process.

Launching this new Q&A feature...Carol Harada!

WW: When did you start writing? Was there something or someone that sparked your desire to write?

CH: My first ‘teacher’ was Natalie Goldberg. Writing Down the Bones inspired me to actually sit down, open the spigot, and let words come. Her way of inspiring generative writing gave a lot of permission to write from the inside out, which I discovered is how I create.

WW: What is your favorite form of writing and why?

CH: I’ve always admired the rich slice-of-life moments that the best short story writers capture. That is my form, as well as a novel-in-progress. I have been working on short shorts and short stories for the last few years, because they teach me about completion. Imagine the overwhelm when I realized years ago that one set of characters was definitely showing up for a novel, probably two novels.

WW: Do you have techniques that help to inspire you to write?

CH: Prompt-inspired timed writing works well for me, alone or with others. Writing with lovely colleagues in my writing workshop is a must; being held and seen and heard in community is so nourishing. Same with getting feedback from my manuscript group. Sometimes I jump back in to revise the day after receiving comments from that group.

Daydreaming on the bus or out in nature or washing the dishes invites my characters to come hang out and give me clues as to what’s next.

WW: Who are your favorite writers and what have they taught you?

CH: Louise Erdrich conveys a vast rooted world, generations of Ojibwe families with their loves and feuds and ancestral stories that continue to play out. I appreciate her depth of humanity in the characters and the challenges they face. I love her incredible sense of humor, often born out of loss.

Alice Walker brings me into an expansive, loving world with women of color often as the focus. She highlights injustice and human responses to it without being dogmatic. She has taught me about the natural integration of writing with the writer’s life, art and politics, and people and nature.

Maxine Hong Kingston was so important to me as a Japanese American girl growing up in white suburbia, cut off from Asian community. Her work reminded me of the necessity of a whole community to pass on culture. She shows what can change and what remains through generations of Americanization. Although her work is often about Chinese Americans, there is a thread of Asian identity that I needed to access in a personal way. She taught me that Asian American women can have a voice and big impact. I admire her for integrating peace work with the arts in her writing circles for veterans.

Andrew Sean Greer, Michael Chabon, Michael Ondaatje, Armistead Maupin, Whitney Otto, Jeanette Winterson, and so many others are important voices for me. Jane Hirshfield, Billy Collins, and Ellen Bass are some of my favorite poets.

WW: Do you begin at the beginning, middle or end of your work?

CH: I begin without a plan or an outline. Instead I follow the characters who show up with the prompts and do a timed writing. That raw piece is often the beginning of a longer piece. After manuscript feedback, that section might fit better in the middle.

WW: Do you write longhand first, directly onto a device or do voice recording?

CH: When I first began eons ago, I would write directly on my electric typewriter (!?!). I used up a lot of correction tape. I have always used pen and notebook too, which connects heart and hand in a different way and helps me just write without editing. Revisions are often done on laptop.

For blog and newsletter writing I write directly on laptop.

WW: Are you part of a writing group or class that supports you? Is this something you would advise for another writer?

CH: Since 2008, I’ve been part of the Laguna Writers community in San Francisco. Chris DeLorenzo, our warm and welcoming facilitator, leads weekly writing workshops and seasonal retreats. I have developed my voice in this group and could not have done it without my fellow writers.

Many friendships, manuscript groups, readings and self-published journals have grown out of our community. Some of us have become published writers (thanks to Writer’s Wings) and have participated in local reading series.

I highly recommend other writers to find a suitable group or writing partner. Writing can be lonely and isolating. It’s wonderful to be in a resonant field of writers generating work. Manuscript feedback requires other people you trust for support to make your work shine.

WW: How did you know it was time to share your writing publicly?

CH: I always wanted to connect with people through words and images. I found I really like reading my stories to friends and live audiences and hope to do more of that. As I start to get published, I look forward to more connecting with others.

Learning to generate, revise, and complete stories came through my manuscript group. With their help, I get a clear visceral sense of when stories are done. Years ago, some of us in the community had finished pieces and wanted to investigate literary journals and submit. Writers’ Wings came along at the right time to help a bunch of us get published.

WW: Is your writing a form of activism? If so, in what way and what issues activate you to write?

CH: I wouldn’t say my writing is activist. It’s definitely part of my spiritual practice of finding belonging in this world. My characters tend to have something to do with creativity or healing and coming back to life after loss.

WW: Who is the greatest support in your writing and how does that impact your ability to write?

CH: Laguna Writers, Writer’s Wings, special friends and family. Those in the greater literary community who have chosen to publish my work. They all have helped me claim my voice as a writer and keep going.

WW: Is there any advice you can offer beginning writers?

CH: It takes a while to find your voice, and very hard to do in isolation. Find your people, a partner or group to write with in community. Find those who can give feedback on your raw writing that highlights what is working. You’ll learn where your strengths land with an audience. Save the critical feedback for a manuscript group and revision.

By continuing to show up to the page – whether you are a daily practice person or a sporadic mad spree writer – you will get better. By reading and listening to other good writers you will get better. By sharing your work with other good writers and noting what resonates with them, you will get better.

It helps me to consider writing a mindfulness practice, something I have done and will do for a long time as an integrated part of my life. My novel characters are patient and wait for me to live enough to be able to write the next part of their stories. A friend of mine is working her novel with an editor on a specific timeline. If you need that kind of structure and guidance, find it. But if you are a more organic process person, just find your own rhythm and keep showing up to your life and the blank page.

WW: Thanks Carol!

Carol Harada is a healing practitioner at Deep River Healing and a member of Laguna Writers community in San Francisco. She incorporates awareness of healing and creative processes into her short stories and novel-in-progress. Carol’s work has been published in Quail Bell Magazine; Gravel; Fickle Muses; Still Point Arts Quarterly; The Saturday Evening Post; Bryant Literary Review; FlashFlood Journal; Lake: a Collection of Voices, volumes 4, 5, and 6; and Birdland Journal. She has read at the esteemed literary series Why There Are Words and Bay Area Generations. Some excerpts of her novels-in-progress are available at 

My Blog List

  • This is a draft test. When I get a great story idea I can compose on my phone. Here I am.
  • Please go to Issues in the menu to see what’s on offer in our Change issue!
  • Lying on her back and doing her shoulder extensions, slowly raising her arms above her head until the back of her hands graze the sheepskin rug, Delia imag...
  • Perhaps you have found yourself called to cross a boundary and move into an area that’s uncomfortable, terra incognito for you. Speaking out or standing up...
  • Here are some tips on what to do before approaching a published writer with questions about how to get your book published.
  • If you write or want to write, the North Bay Writers Groups workshop is for you. Writers of all skill levels, ages, or genres are welcome. Whether your goa...
  • All things are impermanent They arise, and they pass away. To live in harmony with this truth brings great happiness. - a Pali chant
  • *What are the crucial linchpin moments in your novel and how can you keep a reader turning the pages?* John Fox gives fiction writing tips in this interv...
  • The intoxicating fragrance of peppermint tea bags, fresh from the box.