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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Exclusive Interview with A Bonafide Restless Writer

Some of you may have heard about Couchsurfing, a social network created to connect travelers with locals in the areas where they are traveling. It's a beautiful concept and I encourage you all to check it out! I have been participating in CS since 2007, mainly as a traveler, and I recently decided to open my home to couchsurfers coming through Tampa. My first surfer, Eagle Gamma, is an adventurer extraordinaire. He's spent the last 3 years of his life on his bike saddle, traveling all over Canada, the United States, and Mexico.  Not only is he a rider, but he's a great WRITER too! You can check out his blog here and this really cool interactive map of all the places he's biked!

How long have you been restless?
I have been restless my whole life. When I was a child, I liked to wander, a habit that I’ve carried with me to this very moment.

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing since I learned to write at a young age which I forget the number. I have been writing consistently since I was a young child.

What sorts of things do you like to write about?
I like to write about the universe, imaginary universes, selves, and also anything and everything in between.

Eagle's Travels
What projects have you completed on the road?
I’ve completed an account of the astrophysical research happening at top locations around the world intermixed with my own outlandish adventures (Astrotripping: A Cosmic Journey, forthcoming). I’ve also completed an interactive work of science fiction which readers can play with and edit themselves, PhaseQ . And most recently I wrote a children’s adventure originally in Spanish and recently translated into English called El Burrito que Queria Volar. As well as several articles on the subject of astronomy.

How does being in motion factor into your writing process?                  
That’s a great question. The most immediate way is that I actually consider writing to be fundamentally a kind of motion so when I'm moving I am writing and the act of later putting those words to paper is almost an afterthought. So I consider the movement itself is actually the original source of stories and ideas and characters and I then translate that motion into a more conventional written word format. More specifically, while physically moving, I often consciously and subconsciously conceive of story elements and much of the inspiration comes from the environments thru which I move. Sometimes I daydream about a story while in motion and sometimes I think through the mechanics of the story. And sometimes I think about something else or nothing at all and let the story develop on its own.

So are you always working while riding your bike?
No, I think its important to take time off for a lot of reasons that can include safety, enjoyment, efficiency and other activities.

Why is the bicycle your preferred method of moving through the world?
A lot of reasons. I love bicycles. Bicycles are fun, efficient, good exercise, good for the environment, good for cultural travel and they help to form community.  Also they’re really cool and they can go anywhere. Being exposed to the world, you’re forced to experience it directly. You're thrust into the same space, forced to breath the same air. You basically have to interact immediately with the places and people instead of a car or plane where you’re shooting through obliviously to the location.

What are the challenges of being a restless writer?
There are many. The first challenge is to be a restless writer in the first place. It takes immense courage, effort and logistic prowess to be able to move around constantly and write. Psychologically, its extremely difficult because so much of life is rapidly changing all the time. lacking any type of solid or stable foundation, it becomes an extreme challenge to write consistently while living life on the road.

Given these challenges, why do you choose to live in this way?
Because, first and foremost, I love the freedom and joy and novel experiences and interactions with so many different people of so many different cultures. A lot of the things I get to do in the course of this life fulfill my lifelong dreams of exploring the world and writing about it and living an adventure.
The Riding Writer at Work!
What projects do you have coming up next?
My big project extends my existing Worlds O Wisdom project, adding a new world development concept that involves life itself. It’s educational and fun and revolutionary. Stay posted on these developments!

Anything else you want to add?
Really to me it’s a kind of liberation to go through these processes that constitute living as a restless writer. While I realize its much of a personal quest, I also believe that more generally its extremely valuable for people to each pursue their own quest and that whatever yours is, you give it a shot. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Wild Women and their Wild Words

Last weekend, I got the chance to be in the presence of two women wordsmiths that I greatly admire.

On Friday, I went to see Ani DiFranco play a show in Orlando. I’ve seen her perform before, a few years ago, but I’ll jump at the chance to see her play any day of the year. She’s got a stage presence that’s electric, and everything about her shouts “POWER!

Midway through the show, she says, “You didn’t know you walked into a radical feminist poetry night, did ya?” And then she gave one of her great laughs. But it took her saying it to make me realize that this is poetry, and she is one of our generation’s greatest troubadours.

On Saturday, I spent the afternoon in a yoga studio with Jen Pastiloff and 40 other women. Wielding journals and yoga mats, we took off on a three-hour journey, stopping in the middle of a plank to pick up our pen and write furiously for a few minutes. And then it was back to sun salutations.

Photo Credit
Ani DiFranco has been making and sharing her music since the 90’s. She started her own record label, Righteous Babe, at the age of 18, she’s put out over 20 albums and she’s not stopping any time soon.

Jen Pastiloff is the creator of an online magazine, TheManifest-Station, and she’s amassed a cult following on social media. She’s published many pieces of honest writing all over the web, and she’s in the process of writing a book for teenage girls.

I recently read this interview with Isabelle Allende, a writer that I admire very much. In it, she says, “There is no message. I think that fiction should not be trying to give messages. Just tell a story. Some people connect with a story and may find between the lines something that might be useful to him or her, but that's not the intention of the author, I think. At least not mine.”

Ani and Jen definitely have a message and they use their writing to share it. Ani speaks the truth about fossil fuels, racial politics, gun violence, climate change, violence against women, homophobia, poverty, reproductive rights, among other social issues. She uses her songs to encourage people to vote and think deeply about the democrazy we are a part of.

Jen and I after her workshop
Jen uses her writing, her workshops, and her magazine to give women back their voice. She insists that no topic is taboo; keeping secrets is the seed of dysfunction, and telling your truth is the way to freedom. 
Maybe that’s the difference between fiction and nonfiction. Both have messages to share with their readers, but nonfiction is more transparent about it.

Either way, I am grateful for the  work that these women use the written word to undo patriarchy and restore balance—emotional, social, ecological, spiritual—on this crazy beautiful planet we all share.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The End/Beginning Effect: Returning to the Writing Desk

I’ve survived week one of a new semester. I feel like I’m standing on the rim of a canyon, looking into the great wide empty divide. Critical responses, book reviews, peer feedback letters, blog posts, novel chapters, short stories, essays, magazine pitches—all of this work lies before me, and my head is spinning.  

Photo Credit

In contra dancing, when you get to the end of the line, you wait out a round before getting back into the dance. (Dancers are free to spend this wait time however they like—swinging their partner is always encouraged!)  When you start up again, the dance moves are all the same but you’re moving in the opposite direction. For a few rounds, dancers can dazed and feel out of sorts; we call this the end effect.

I’ve been sitting out of the writing dance for the past few weeks. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been doing other writerly-related activities: reading lots, editing and polishing existing pieces, sending and receiving feedback from fellow writers, and pitching to magazines.

But mainly, I’ve been laughing with my sister, giggling with baby cousins, smiling at the sky from the tops of mountains. I’ve been taking long hikes and staying up too late in packed bars jiving to brass music. I’ve been dreaming.

In Venice (LV!) with the baby sister! 

At Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
Cutie cousins!
Treme Brass Brand, NOLA
I have to remind myself that this is normal. I actually do know how to write, even if I haven’t done it in a while. It’s like I’m looking at a faucet and willing it to turn on. The minute I put some energy in that direction, the water’s going to gush out.

But for now, I’m taking it slow. making lists. Journaling. Getting my hand used to the grip of the pencil. I’m readying my space, clearing off my desk, throwing away papers and organizing stacks of magazines and books. I’m sitting at my desk, reacquainting myself with the view outside my window, counting cardinals, adjusting the height of my swivel chair. This is the pre-show, the sound check.

From where I stand, looking into that great divide, I know I’m going to have to fly and soar and make some magic happen to get to the other side. I’m going to get a ton of writing done this semester, and it’s a beautiful feeling to be on the brink of that wild creative ride, in that teetering cart at the top of the rollercoaster. 
The Task-Master

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Criss-Crossing Artistic Boundaries

Hello friends and happy new year! I hope that this coming year is a healthful, joyful, and abundant one for all of you.
The path of life is windy and breathtakingly beautiful
A new year brings the opportunity to reassess our lives, dream up new goals, and realign our path to meet those goals. Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my creative journey. I am very grateful for this opportunity to further my writing, and I hope to keep doing so in 2016. But the more I associate with the word “artist,” the more I realize that there’s a lot more to my artistic expression than the written word.

Lots of artist dabble in other art forms. In an interview I heard recently with writer Maggie Nelson, she talks about the dance world she inhabited for a long time in New York City. And it is no secret that my friend, the jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant, makes visual art aside from creating breathtaking music. In fact, her gorgeous artwork decorates all of her CD covers! This makes me wonder what other artists cross between art worlds, because I am sure there are many.

Dance is something that has been in my blood since forever – since before my mother put me in dance classes at the age of seven, and long after I got too cool for costumes and dress rehearsals. Sometime around high school, my hobby switched from dance to photography when I started learning to develop photographs in the darkroom under the mentorship of one of my favorite people, Ms. Colette Stemple. Moving back to Miami in 2012 rekindled my love for dance as I started attending salsa socials and Vixen dance classes several times a week. At USF, I dance at least two or three nights a week – anytime I get the chance, basically – and I always squeeze in a dance class or salsa night anytime I’m in Miami. All the while, I’ve never stopped taking (a million and one) photographs everywhere I go.

View from Angel's Landing, Zion National Park

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this except to say that I want to honor these other forms of artistic expression in this new year. As fate would have it, two of my photographs have been accepted for The Fourth River’s climate change issue forthcoming this spring. Not to mention, I'll be taking a visual narrative class this spring with graphic novelist and fellow Miamian, Jared Rosellรณ! So I will certainly be dabbling in visual art, whether I want to or not :)

On the dance front, it looks like I’ll have the chance to get the group fitness training at my university’s gym that will allow me to teach my very own dance classes! This would mean shadowing a favorite teacher and coming up with my own dance routines – something I haven’t done since I was a little girl dancing around my bedroom!

I don’t want my writing life to get watered down by any means – I hope to have a second (or third?!) completed draft of my novel by the end of 2016 as well as several more polished personal essays. But I am looking forward to the ways leaning into these other art forms might enhance or at least influence my writing practice.

Every now and then, I think about this amazing young woman (video below) and her "Creative Compulsive Disorder." Whatever it is you're making, it can never be a bad thing to create!