Scribbling a River

No Telling

Table at the Cox Creative Center

The Great Bear Writing Project made its yearly trek to Little Rock yesterday. An all-day writing marathon, a gaggle of teachers, and damn near perfect weather – it doesn’t get much better than this.

We met at the River Market, then then headed out with notebooks on the ready to wander and scribble. I’ve written about these marathons here before – the County Line Barn Sale marathon and the Harmony Grove/El Dorado marathon are two on-the-road examples. Last year’s Little Rock marathon was a little bittersweet, as our local Micheal Jackson street mime found himself a little lost. Sadly, he wasn’t there this year.

During the Great Bear Writing Project summer institute, we always head to the River Market District in Little Rock. On one small stretch of road, writers can walk and scribble from the Bill Clinton Library to the Capitol (if they’re ambitious). In between there are art galleries, museums, shops, food, crazy southern people, and a river runs through it. Literally.

I spent my time scribbling on the edge of the Arkansas River and in the Cox Creative Center – the water because I’ve always suffered from River Rapture, and the CCC because because they have thousands of cheap books in the basement. And because John Malkovich sat there. Once. I’ll post some of these pieces as soon as I can make out my handwriting.

The day ended in the basement at the Flying Saucer, a local joint known for interesting beer and waitresses who need to cover themselves. I love it in that basement. It’s dank and dark, full of couches and pool tables. Why there’s even an honest-to-God functioning cigarette machine down there. Ah, memories…

The basement is where we meet back up and take turns reading the day’s scribbling out loud. With their backs to the pool tables, these school teachers threw down some serious writing. Earlier in the day, my compadre Stephanie said marathon writing works because we’ve given ourselves permission to do it. She’s right about that. A little permission and these Arkansas teachers wrote fearlessly.

This is why I live for our writing marathons. If I ever win the lottery, I’ll give myself permission to throw one of these every single day of my life.

(Update: Debra Hale-Shelton at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wrote a lovely piece on our writing marathon. The Great Bear Writing Project enjoyed having her along for the ride.)

Now I Lay Me Down

No Telling

This is where I should be right now. It’s calling to me, promising to erase a wicked week of bad scheduling and Thing That Went Wrong. I must deny the bed, though, at least a little longer. I’m a few hundred words behind on NaNoWriMo and those unwritten words won’t let me relax.

The story, you see, is riding piggy-back with me through every waking moment of my life now. This is how it happens, and this is, in fact, a good thing. It’s whole reason I love the ridiculous goal of 50.000 words in 30 days – complete immersion.

I forgot that the living part of life likes to kick me in the ass every now and then, though. I just shake my head.

Fine, then. I’m going to finish out this scene, catch up on the word count, and go do it all over again tomorrow. I plan to spent the better part of the day with a whole gaggle of National Writing Project teachers sipping coffee, scribbling, and moseying through the little shops and flea markets at Pickles Gap. I believe they have a petting zoo there as well.

Southern psychiatry: Pet some goats, buy some junk, scribble a story, and eat homemade fudge. By late tomorrow afternoon, I should be cured.

The Scribbling Women of Harmony Grove

No Telling

I’m just now cooling off from a whirl-wind workshop week at the South Central Service Cooperative where I’ve had the pleasure to work with some of the finest teaching women the South knows how to produce. We wrote, shared student stories and lesson plans, fanned the 100-degree heat, and ate like dainty field-hands.

And the writing…the picture above is the cover of the hastily put-together anthology of the week’s mad scribbling. I’ve always said that teachers writing together is a modern-day version of the old quilting bee. We circle the cloth, rock the needles, offer recipes and advice, and join the stories of our lives with perfect corners and skillful stitching. It’s true, and this anthology is the quilt we made together in the Harmony Grove Auditorium. Never mind that our nimble fingers were on laptop computers instead of muslin, at the end of the day we carried the words home. It’s the Sisterhood of the Traveling Stories.

And those pictures on the cover? Stephanie gave a fabulous workshop on writing our school-child pasts. The teachers brought pictures of themselves as children and wrote rich memories from childhoods spent in the South Arkansas pines. In the Fall, they’ll share these stories with their students. More importantly, they’ll share themselves as writers with the young writers in their classrooms.

Meet the ladies…

Special thanks to Sonya Russell, Debbie Fleming, and everyone at the South Central Service Cooperative in Camden, AR for their expertise, attention to the smallest detail, and gracious hospitality.

Scribbling up a Storm in Harmony Grove

No Telling

I’m here in Harmony Grove, AR this week with Stephanie giving a week-long series of writing workshops and having the time of my life.

Everyone set up their own blogs today, so we’re frantically blogging and commenting before the lunch break. Technology being what it is – sometimes unfriendly and occasionally misbehaving – we’ve still managed a room full of teachers freshly publishing online.

I’m taking pictures and soon there will be a whole host of scribbling and such to show you exactly what it is we’ve accomplished this week. Stay tuned, y’all.