As the ball dropped on the despicable 2020, and 2021 hoisted itself up to its new, exalted place, I resolved to say YES to new opportunities that presented themselves. So, I leaned in and signed up for multiple classes, communities, and new ventures that spanned the first quarter of the year. Did I kind of overdo it? Also Yes, but I regret nothing!
Here are some highlights of what I’ve been up to, with a spark of wisdom from each. Because, what’s the point of a learning opportunity if you don’t learn from it?
A sampling of classes I signed up for & some stuff I learned:
“Writing the Other” 4-week workshop: How do we write sensitively about people who are different from us? I really appreciated the fun and accepting guidance of our intrepid instructors, Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford, who said, “You might not get it exactly right the first time, but do your best anyway.” I learned from comparing and contrasting pairs of photographs of different people that we’re wired to spot differences before similarities. (And lots more, of course, but trying for concise here.)
*Takeaway: It’s important to take that second look to find the similarities!
Craft Class weekly with Elizabeth Stark: Learning: My best writing output comes in measured 7-10 minute spurts in this class. I wish I could duplicate that in my hours-long writing sessions!
*Takeaway: set a timer.
Mindful Author Accelerator and Brilliant Writers Community: a panoply of writing information, mindfulness, goal setting, visioning, coaching, critiquing, mindful meditation, and hands-on prompt writing.
*Takeaway: Focus on one project at a time and one moment at at time.
Monday and Wednesday morning meditations: I do these as walking meditations and bundle them with walking the dog so that I am chanting “Shalom” with Rabbi Lavey on Mondays and I am “going into the breathing body” with Albert Flynn DeSilver on Wednesdays. The intention of meditation is to get into your body and be present to the moment. A dog is accomplished at that, so Ruby (a.k.a. my canine guest blogger) is a helpful companion.
*Takeaway: Nothing makes you feel more humble, utilitarian, and in body than having to pick up dog poop and dispose of it while seeking enlightenment. Or, if there’s no garbage receptacle nearby, having to carry your shit with you—so apropos!
Body Dynamics lessons with Stephanie Herman: I have no ACL’s in my knees and that affects my knees, back and whole body. While some of my other classes help me find balance in my work, these lessons help me find much-needed balance in my body. Hallelujah!
*Takeaway: Connect brain with body to activate muscles and move mindfully. I discovered whole muscle groups I didn’t even know about from the inside out. Hello, Deep Six external hip rotators! Not just Gluteus Maximus and Medius for me anymore!
30-Day Yoga Challenge with Adriene: After I realized how over-scheduled I was, I needed something to relax, so I added this to the mix.
*Takeaway: Completed the challenge in a mere 54 days! It’s all about balance.
Stuff I Helped Put Together or Taught
Teen Talk Sex-Ed Blog-Writing Internship
I was asked to be “Resident Writer” and help develop this Health Connected internship. It was so rewarding working with this thoughtful group of teens. Things have changed a lot since I was a teenager when Sex-Ed consisted of my mom handing me a “Growing Up and Liking It” pamphlet focusing on pre-teen girls talking excitedly about getting their periods. I also remember my aunt telling me I wouldn’t need to know any more until I got married.
*One takeaway: I really didn’t fully grasp the whole pronoun thing (she/her, they/them) until the gut punch of one of our brave teens writing, “Every time someone doesn’t acknowledge my preferred pronouns, I feel like a little piece of me is crumbling away.” Then I remembered that for all of fourth and fifth grade, I went by the nickname “Arthur,” and I felt a lot closer to them.
For California Writers Club (CWC) San Francisco Peninsula Branch:
–Inclusion, Confusion & Authenticity in Writing Panel Discussion: How do you write characters and stories that are outside – sometimes far outside – your lived experience?
*One takeaway: This is a big issue and a bigger discussion than just one night! But here’s one idea: expand your community and get to know more people.
–Writers Helping Writers: I gave a presentation on Push & Pull: Bringing Your Strongest Story Elements Forward to edit your own work: Bonus: I finally learned to screen share and do a Google slide deck!
*Takeaway: This was fun and a good (virtual) crowd. I should do this more! And a good refresher for myself because this is exactly what I need to do for my own work.
–Story Café: As Community Readings Coordinator, I’m still coordinating this partnership between the CWC and the San Mateo County Libraries to supply a steady stream of stories to this virtual recorded reading series.
*Takeaway: A new video every week! (Mine are here and here.)
–Fault Zone Anthology: As one of the editors, I reviewed all the short stories submitted for upcoming Fault Zone anthology (Volume 10–coming in December.)
*Takeaway: As always, stories are gold mines. I’m pleased to still be a part of this series I founded with my CWC partners twelve years ago, even though it’s a lot of work.
And More Exciting Stuff:
Biking! I traded in my old mountain bike for a sleek new road bike and joined a Bike Club and Saturday long-distance training rides. So far in 2021 I’ve completed 35 rides, logged 750 miles, and ridden up 25,000 feet of hills with some great views. Which sounds impressive until you compare it with my husband’s stats, but let’s not burst my bubble here. We all start from where we are.
Swimming! I became a year-round outdoor swimmer instead of just a fair-weather summer swimmer. Not that I dove into the San Francisco Bay with the Polar Bear club or anything like that. But I donned my suit when the temperature was as low as 54 degrees and swam laps through the warm and welcoming 86 degree water of the PJCC’s outdoor pool (which thankfully has stayed open by appointment for most of the pandemic.)
Editing! I restarted my freelance editing business! Let me know if you need help with your project.
Novel Writing! And last but not least, I’m in the process of overhauling my “finished” novel and getting it ready to send out again. You might have heard that one before, but this time’s the charm! I’ve learned a lot from all my classes (see above.)
You’ve Almost Made It to the End…
This run-down does not even include my three book clubs, monthly critique group, Shut Up & Write group, etc. But, it’s time to wrap this up and get back to the well-underway second quarter of 2021, with its own host of new and ongoing activities and things to learn. And time to sign up for my next 30-day yoga challenge!
How’s your 2021 going? Have you tried anything new? I’ve seen some of you bird-watching, bread-baking, gardening, taking cool flower photos, hiking, puppy-raising, and more. As we start to make our way out of this pandemic, and our worlds expand again, let’s not forget all that’s available in every moment. Here’s to it all!