Monday, January 19, 2015

To Workshop or Not to Workshop -- That is the Question

It's a beautiful Martin Luther King Day and from my perch at my desk I can see people biking along the bike path. I am finding that an office makes me feel more legitimate than writing at home in my pajamas. 

Today I want to talk about some ideas I have about workshopping and getting feedback from others. In our workshop at Beyond Baroque inVenice, I came up with an idea: I asked each participant how finished they thought their piece was -- on a scale of one to ten. A one meant that had just ripped it fresh from the printer and it had barely cooled. A ten meant that they had done multiple drafts and they felt it was polished and ready for publication. As we went around the room that evening, everyone said where they thought their work fell on that scale.

Trust me, there was a point to it all. I think each writer has his or her own optimal number when it comes to when to get feedback. I noticed that most of the people in our workshop bring in twos or threes. I think this allows you to be more flexible in receiving feedback. I, myself, tend to bring sevens when I workshop. This can be detrimental in that I may have already worked so hard on the story, I’m not terribly enthusiastic about receiving criticism. I should, perhaps, force myself to bring in a three, even a four, so I don’t feel like the piece is set in stone.

Once we started to use this device, it became part of the common language of the group. Someone, would come in and say, “this is two,” a short hand way of saying, “this is fresh, don’t judge me too harshly.” As someone said in our group the other day (and I paraphrase): if something is a little sapling, you want to make sure no one stomps on it and kills it.

These nascent ideas, the fruit of our inner selves, are delicate things and, as much as writers benefit from criticism, they also profit from nurturing. You can get as much out of seeing what you are doing right as from being told what you are doing wrong. The parts of a piece that shine are just as important, if not more so, then the lines that land with thud.  

So, whatever you are doing on this holiday, I encourage you (writers and non-writers alike) to go out and praise someone for a particularly good turn of phrase – or for anything else that strikes your fancy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Second Day -- Risk and Writing

This is a glorious spot and, from my office in the Marion Davies Guest House, I am looking out onto an orange and yellow sunset over the Pacific. They are going to have trouble ousting me from this place. I want this residency to last forever. Each room here has the original tiled bathrooms and although you can't use them for anything remotely bathroom-like, I think it might be a lark to take a nap in the tub or write while sitting on the vintage toilet. If you come over to see these bathrooms, you'll understand.

The short story event last night was outstanding. Thank you to everyone who shed their inhibitions and got up to read. I had some audience feedback and people were very impressed. Being a writer -- one who wants to share your writing with others -- subjects you to a lot of judgement. You write a piece and bring it to a workshop -- JUDGED. You send it out for publication -- JUDGED. If you are lucky enough to get an agent, don't worry -- you'll be JUDGED. And if you're even luckier and get a book deal, even your editor will, no doubt, suggest changes. Learning what to listen to and what to ignore is part of the process. I have had to learn to put on a thick and scaly skin. I fear being judged more than almost any other thing. Last night I may have looked like I was accustomed to reading a story that had only been seen by a few people and had no publication to give it inherent credibility, but, I can assure you, this was not the case. Still, I got out there, just like you got out there. It's a risk, but I've found that my life is always better when I take them. Congratulations to all of you who took the risk with me. And for you who couldn't care less what other people think -- I applaud you, too. Maybe you can impart your secret to the rest of us.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The 250 Word a Day Challenge

On Tuesday, I start my residency at the Annenberg Community Beach House. Blogging is, apparently, part of the gig. I haven’t done much blogging so, at first, I thought: what on earth am I going to write about. Most of my daily excitement takes place between my ears. I was also reticent because of my tendency not to share anything I've written unless I’ve gone over it at least sixty-seven times. I don’t think that’s going to work for a blog since the idea is to get something out there for someone to click on and read while sipping a latte.

So, what does a nascent, fraidy-cat blogger write about? And then it hit me. I’d write about writing. Duh! I live, breathe, and eat writing. Such a life may not sound too exciting, but it has its moments. The romance, murder, betrayal, humor, and heartbreak happens when I sit down in front of a blank page (if I'm lucky).

Recently, in our fiction workshop at Beyond Baroque in Venice on Monday nights, I set out the 250 word a day challenge. We were each going to do 250 words a day for a month. That's not much. Only about a page. Infinitely do-able. The only criteria was that it be fiction. The minimum word count was 250, but if you got on a roll, then the sky was the limit. The pieces that resulted were energetic and inspired. We all had a sense of community and fed off the energy of the combined effort. It worked so well, and we loved it so much that I am offering the 250 word a day challenge to everyone who reads this. We will begin on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 and continue until Tuesday, February 10, 2015. I will be blogging about my progress, and you should feel free to email me about yours at All those, who complete the challenge, can get together when it’s over and celebrate the experience. (I’d say -- my treat, but that depends on how many people succeed.)

I look forward to seeing everyone on Tuesday night at The Evening of the Short Story where I will work up the courage to read from a work in progress. A rollicking discussion to follow. We will also have about forty-five minutes of open-mike time. Short fiction only. (Five minutes or less.) We will all be sizzling with literary fervor. (At the very least, we'll have a good time.)
There are still two spots open for the fiction tutorial which will begin as a group on Saturday -- Valentine's day at 11:00 AM --  and continue individually after that during my office hours at any time that is convenient for each participant. All you have to do it email me at the address listed above.
I look forward to this opportunity and am delighted to be the writer in residence this winter.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Beach House welcomes incoming Writer in Residence, Laurie Horowitz!

Welcome Laurie Horowitz, the sixth Annenberg Community Beach House Writer-in-Residence!

She will be working from an office in the Marion Davies Guest House from January 13 to February 17, 2015. The Beach House will present two literary events hosted by Horowitz as part of the Beach=Culture series, and she will lead an ongoing free writing tutorial class throughout the six weeks. These sessions will be open to six participants who would like assistance in moving a piece of writing forward. The content of the meetings will be based on the needs of each writer, and participants will meet with her individually and as a group during her office hours. If interested please email for information.

All visitors can also take advantage of her expertise during her open office hours, on Saturdays and Mondays from 11am-1pm. The public is welcome to ask questions about her work, her experience of the Residency, or to ask for literary advice (inquire at Guest Services for directions.) She will also be chronicling her progress on the Beach House Resident blog. For more information, call Guest Services at 310-458-4904 or visit the Beach House website.

Laurie Horowitz is a Santa Monica writer who began her career as a lawyer in Boston, where she worked at Horowitz & Horowitz with her father in the town where she grew up. After practicing divorce law for five years, she ran away from home, traveling west like so many hopefuls before her. Before long, she became an assistant in the book department of Creative Artists Agency (CAA), where she remained for eleven years, selling creative properties to the film industry. Eventually the desire to devote her time to writing eventually won out. She had her first short story published in 1990 in Playgirl Magazine, and her next story, Alice’s Geometry, was published by New York City College's Fiction magazine (Vol.18, #1). 

When Laurie left CAA, she went to work on a novel with the intention of using Jane Austen’s Persuasion to teach her about structuring a book. The result of that exercise was The Family Fortune, published by William Morrow, which Meg Ryan optioned for a film. After the book, she wrote a movie for Lifetime called Abducted. She also provides consulting and editorial services in connection with literary and film projects. Laurie officiates at the Monday night Beyond Baroque fiction workshop in Venice, a volunteer opportunity that has enriched her life tenfold and taught her how much she enjoys teaching and offering back to the community. She believes that good writing is good writing in any genre and, though her last book was a comedy of manners, she now working on a mystery novel tentatively titled Hemlock Gorge. She hopes it, too, will have a comedic tone, and will be spending her tenure as ACBH 2015 Writer-in-Residence to complete it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

Like water for justice...

Tomorrow is the big day - sharing what we have been working on and continuing to learn -but outside of the small collective of CONTRA-TIEMPO artists I've used for this specific residency - and bring in community members, people who are interested in being in conversation with in the work.... I don't think most folks coming know quite what they are in for -but I am putting it out there - that we have a willing group of people who are open to explore and therefore leave inspired and transformed! Sat 3-5 and Sun 5-7 -come to both! 

Today I had another day of exploring, thinking, creating, watching video - Jeremiah and I worked together on a solo that felt like it physicalized moving pain, hopelessness and being blocked in - transforming this into a space where we are 'here' and recognized as being... a space where we feel in control and alive and free... It is the experience of the Caliban character - the slave, the native, the betrayed -  in someway it is like existing in two spaces simultaneously - a space where you are fighting for your life constantly and a space where you are looking upon this fight in disbelief...  finding how to smooth the edges and find your own space... the owning of yourself and your experience... some beautiful and disturbing movement came out of it -I'm excited to share it with an audience. 

Last night in thinking about the passing of September 11th, I started remembering where I was that morning - in NYC - I actually saw the second tower be hit with what looked like from my vantage point on my roof in Brooklyn - a missile. It was a scary day and I am still affected each year that passes in remembering the feeling of not knowing where my husband was - thinking he was in the subway under the towers  - not being able to contact family and the fear of possible loss - the not knowing - and then that shift in the way I saw the world after those events. It then got me remembering Katrina -that happened a few years later right around the exact same time - late August into early Sept  - and the incredible aftermath and lack of action that devastated the trust of a nation - that again for me was a major moment of growing up and realizing that things weren't always as they seemed - I got the importance of seeking out the truth in order to fight for justice... I went back and forth btw sharing this video on my blog -but in creating a work about race and water - if feels like it isn't possible to not remember Katrina - and how important it is to remember it as it actually happened...  - although posted later - this video was taken almost exactly 9 years ago today.

I share this to create a context -that I am not claiming to solve any major national, societal or world issue through this piece or through my work - all I can do is hope to touch on something that moves someone -that sparks conversation - that makes it more realistic to push back - that gives space for alternate ways of thinking and questioning. All I hope to do is create art that is in conversation with the world around me - to participate in a discourse for a more just tomorrow... that's all I want really - and dance is my medium - it is what I love to do - it is how I think about the world - in movement quality - 

Here is another few 'work videos from the week' to give a little flavor of what you might see on Sat/Sun!

                                      Isis/Jeremiah - like water for justice 


Jeremiah - we need we need 



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Trusting the flow...

Ahh! Today was such a pleasure - I've been in a vacuum - of my own mind, body and this vast space - grappling with these big questions:

What does it mean to make work about race? Who am I in this conversation? Where do I come from and why does it matter so much to me? What experience, privilege, oppression, opinions do I bring to the table? How is another murder of a young black man killing a piece of all of us? When does it become enough? What will it take to really 'break'?  Who are we as individuals in this ‘play’ and how do we use our character/our role to move this conversation to a new space? To a different space? Or is it about existing and being in this space - and no longer denying that this space begins?

I have been working with sabela - our sound designer - being in conversation with other folks about the work -but today I finally had the opportunity to put some of the ideas on bodies. Isis, Sarah and Jeremiah showed up at 10am and we worked straight until 3pm - moving, talking, sharing, feeling embodying struggle and fluidity - collapse and recovery - in this amazing space together. The time flew by - I could have kept working for hours! sabela sent me a track the night before that I took and connected to the movement idea I had - and it worked well - still feels very open and sparse but is moving in the right direction. I keep needing to remind myself that this is the beginning of a process and to be open. My personality is that I love to set/plan and solidify -but I am doing my best to enjoy this unknown -the exploration of it all... knowing that if I am open and accept this process - great things will continue to come. 


In thinking through how the participants on Saturday (3pm-5pm) and Sunday (5pm-7pm) will be working with us on this - I've decided it will be like a journey: we will start by the beach house and talk a bit about the piece and where we are in the process - then move them around the fountain/falling water wall where we will do a section of movement we've been working on, then into the splash pad and back to the chair installation. Then after the  'performing' element  - I will guide the participants through a participatory part - the audience will move with us - we will 'practice' then 'perform'  all as a group - then we will all move into the sand and sea room and hold a council - this council will be a space where participants can share around some of the themes/ideas we are grappling with- we will pose questions and people will share their own unique perspectives, stories and experiences. After the council if it feels appropriate (depending on the crowd we have - I know for our regular CONTRA-TIEMPO community this would be fine) we will all run to the ocean (possibly repeating some of the movement work we were doing) at the ocean for a final cleansing - completing and punctuating the experience. 

If you are planning and able to come:

- make sure you show up with comfortable clothes on 
- bring sun block/hat/sun glasses etc
- be prepared to be wet (you don't have to but you can be more free in your movement and participation if you are willing
- be ready to share yourselves, to learn something from someone else, to be fully involved in the work!  
- remember it is two hours - committing to the entire two hours will make a difference for us all. Think of it more as a workshop than a performance - there will be no passive audience members involved here! 

I will be working with Isis and Jeremiah on a duet this Wed 10-3pm so feel free if you want to stop by to check out the process - and then Friday I will continue working in the space.
Saturday we will also all be in the space at 12 noon.