Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Resolving to Write, Spousal Support, and That Slaw

We're having a blizzard again. Life is picturesque.
Last night, sixteen writers gathered in the conference room of the Homer Library for a "Resolve to Write" event, under the aegis of the literary organization 49 Writers and the Friends of the Homer Library.
As usual when a group of writers gets together, there was a feeling of camaraderie and of "being with one's tribe," as well as a sense of bumping up against intense ambitions germane to one's own. Some of us were present for the event last year, and so were able to check in on how successful we had been with our resolutions, and there were new faces too. And we all knew writers not present at the event. I'd say writers are a sustainable resource in Homer!

We were in a space of mutual witnessing, of hearing and being heard. Some of us had books at the publishers' in New York, in their final phase of editing. Some had bold resolutions to get a whole body of work published, or to submit work to publishers every week. Some of us had just applied to MFA programs; some of us had just commenced MFA programs. Some wanted to get better at using social media to promote our work, others sought advice on how to avoid the distractions of the internet. We discussed problems of potential audience--how to choose it, how to allow it to choose you--and of preferring to read a genre other than one's chosen writing genre. We shared suggestions for online sources of inspiration (including, ironically, on how to get off the internet), and recommendations of journals to read and subscribe to. We laughed, often.

As you probably noticed from the picture above, Phil was one of the attendees! He confessed to writing mostly for fun, and mostly letters to friends. He enjoyed copious brownies, and didn't say much else the rest of the evening. He says he came because he's nosy!--really, he was there to be supportive, mostly of me (and to see what kinds of people I get to hang out with), but also of the community and the library.

We haven't been doing that much together lately, because I've been so very busy, and because Phil's regular outdoor adventures are ambitious undertakings demanding more time and energy than I can spare right now. It was an interesting change of pace to spend an evening together, along with a group of variously familiar and unfamiliar people, and to compare notes afterwards about what we thought about what was said.

More troubling to me, though, was Phil's reaction to my own stated "resolution" this year. Funny how when your spouse comes into your "home turf" that's totally separate from the relationship, he feels dismayed at things you think are reasonable and normal.

I noted that although I absolutely regard myself as a writer first and foremost, and feel very "seen" and supported in my various writing groups within the community, there are a few people who regard me as a "wannabe" rather than a bona fide writer. And I stated my desire to banish the possibility of that perception by doing whatever it takes, in terms of submitting and generally putting myself out there.

After the meeting, Phil expressed deep concern at this statement of mine. His worry was that I'd shifted my focus from the internal satisfaction of doing the best I can as a writer to the external badges and trophies of recognition.

I understand his concern, but I don't believe that's what I've done. If there are people who don't recognize me as a writer, then there's something amiss with how I'm projecting my intention out into the world. So to me, getting the whole picture, internal and external, on track, is part and parcel of doing the best job I can. As my inspirational friend Erin pointed out to me last night, submitting our work is another aspect of literary citizenship. And of course, it could also be true, as Phil pointed out, that those who won't acknowledge me as a writer have a problem with their perception. Still, it shows me that I could do more.

I'm grateful to live in a town that fosters this kind of group energy, that features such an inspirational cast of writers to whom I can look up, and I'm honored to help facilitate the creative energy wherever and however I can.

Some more from our picturesque day--snow filigree on a deceased thyme plant...
...and the broom of winter.
Now for that Thai 'slaw recipe I promised in my previous post. It really is so simple, if you have the right ingredients.
1/2 head green cabbage, sliced fine (best with a mandolin) 
1 large carrot, grated
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
cilantro--as much as you like, roughly chopped

For the Sauce:
2 tablespoons deseeded tamarind, soaked in water for 30 minutes beforehand
2 dates, pitted and soaked along with the tamarind
1 teaspoon miso + 1 teaspoon sea salt (if you like tamari, can do 2-3 tablespoons tamari)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or coconut vinegar
1 teaspoon red Thai chilli paste (the kind that's an amalgam of lemongrass, galangal, ginger, and garlic. I'd rather make my own, but haven't been able to buy galangal, or, except rarely, lemongrass, in town.)
2 teaspoons lime juice (lemon works also)
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil (It really is worth it to use the extra virgin rather than the expeller pressed for this recipe: the coconut fragrance of the extra virgin gives the whole palate of the dish a wonderful lightness.