Monthly Archives: January 2015

Book Review: The Orchardist, by Amanda Coplin

Such patience. Such diligence. Such sweet fruit.

In her debut novel, The Orchardist, Amanda Coplin offers us the wonderfully patient and diligent William Talmadge. He finds himself orphaned–his mother dead and his sister disappeared–in the Pacific Northwest. Carefully and tenderly, Talmadge builds an orchard filled with apples and apricots and more. The love he might have offered his mother and sister, or a wife, is poured into his land and all that grows there.

It is not, then, too much surprise that he reacts to the arrival of two dirty, pregnant young girls with the same patience and keen eye he applies to his trees, nor is it a surprise that he tends to them with the same diligence–observing them and trying to read what will allow them to grow in the best way possible. But people are not so simple as plants, for Talmadge at any rate, and what follows from this is a story of endurance and tenderness in the face of great pain and abuse, of the crafting of a family out of the most unlikely circumstances. Coplin walks the reader through the story the way Talmadge walks the orchard–guiding us through all the possibilities for new growth as well as the dangers or fallow seasons and storms. Each of the characters, including the land itself, grow and ripen and age in their own right time. The novel is beautiful in its language, its characterization and in its pacing. I’m not sure how I missed it when it released in 2012. I’m so glad I found it now.

For more details on Coplin and The Orchardist, visit http://amandacoplin.com

http://www.amazon.com/Orchardist-Novel-Amanda-Coplin/dp/0062188518/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1422634781&sr=1-1&keywords=the+orchardist

 

Mindfulness, Writing and Letting Go of Expectation

In my post with the  link to my TED talk on Letting Go of Expectation (https://heathergmarshall.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/tedx-greenville-what-to-expect-when-you-stop-expecting/), I wrote that I’d connect the concept of releasing expectation tofoggy woods for blog mindfulness and writing. I think that writing requires both the letting go of expectation and mindfulness.

When we come to the page, we must clear the space of expectations. That could mean shedding the expectations that the writing be good enough, long enough, or any other kind of demand our critical brain might make. It also means that we let go of any expectation of where the writing will go. We might think that the plot has to turn in a certain way, or try to insist that the story go in a particular direction. Clearing the space allows us to remain open to possibilities we hadn’t considered. It’s about always being curious.

Once we clear the space, we can then be fully mindful, allowing ourselves to drop fully into the moment we’re exploring. We can do what poet Cathy Smith Bowers (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/cathy-smith-bowers) calls, “writing into the mystery.” In a class at Queens University of Charlotte, I heard her explain that she starts with an abiding image — this could be any visual that has hung with you (it doesn’t have to be a work of art by any stretch) — and writes into the mystery. So we’re curious and fully immersed in what we’re writing.

Clearing the space, dropping in and being fully mindful as we write helps open places we hadn’t even known existed. It brings a richness to the writing, both as an experience of the process and for the reader. It’s a way to begin. It’s also a way to open up and explore stuck places in our stories and novels.

The next time you sit down at the page, clear the space or expectation — there’s just you and the pen and the page. Whatever comes is enough. Start with an image or a sound or whatever resonates, drop in, stay present, let it flow.

Mindful Flow Writing

Middle of the week–mid-flow–seems like the right time to write the first post about Mindful Flow Writing.

This spring, I’ll be offering a series of Mindful Flow Writing workshops, so I’m starting to post here about what Mindful Flow Writing is, offering insights into my own practice as well as ideas for yours, for use whether you are interested in journal prompts, creative nonfiction, fiction or poetry.

To help me define Mindful Flow Writing, I turned to my trusty Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press, Fifth Edition), which offers the following:

Mindful/adjective:  “taking heed or care; being conscious or aware” (Vol. 2, p.1782 )

river for flowFlow/noun: “any continuous movement resembling the flow of a river” (Vol. 1, p. 989)

Writing/noun: “the action, process or practice of writing” (Vol. 2., p. 3683)

Simply put, these, combined offer the opportunity to put pen to paper and to bring our full awareness to the moment on the page and flow along at whatever pace seems right in that moment. Easy to say. Harder to do. Having a practice of mindfulness in daily life helps. Teaching and taking mindful flow yoga classes has also helped me to develop these skills, and to recognize that it’s all a practice, and that some days the flow seems smoother than others. Neither of those is a requirement, though. Start wherever you are.

Today, when you sit down to write, notice whether you allow the flow to happen. If something blocks it, what is it? No judgement here, just open curiosity. Whatever it is, just notice it, then let it go. Move the pen again. Keep going.

Happy 2015

bird in snow

Happy New Year. I hope your 2015 is off to a fabulous start, and, like this little bird, you are managing to thrive in whatever the elements toss out to you.

As is typical for this time of year, I’m seeing lots of new faces in my yoga classes, as well as those of my regular students, some of whom are back after not being able to find the time for yoga over the holiday season. It’s a lovely feeling, having all that positive energy in the room, from people either re-invigorating their practice or coming to it freshly.

I’m doing the same thing with my writing and workshops, and with the blog–reinvigorating after struggling to take the time. The work-in-progress, a novel, is well underway; I’m looking forward to readings and workshops, starting this coming week; and I’ll be connecting the blog to a series of workshops that will be starting in the spring.

Here’s what’s already on the schedule:

January 21st: I’ll be reading from The Thorn Tree at a Daughters of the British Empire meeting in Greenville, SC. Please message me here if you’re interested in having me read at your book club or any other group you think might be interested.

Starting on February 3rd, I’ll be teaching a four-week fiction workshop. All levels of writers are welcome. Details here, with link to register below:

Fiction: Heather Marshall

Heather MarshallWhether you are working on short story, flash fiction, or novel, this four-week workshop will offer tools and feedback for improving your writing. Each week, we’ll focus on a craft element, write to a prompt based on that element and offer each other feedback. Participants can bring an existing story or chapter to work on or come with blank pages to fill. All levels are welcome.

Class dates: Tuesdays, February 3rd, 10th, 24th and March 3rd from 7 to 9 PM. Coldwell Banker Caine, 111 Williams Street, Greenville.

http://www.emrys.org/blog/writing-room-2015/

March 21st: Spring Equinox. The perfect afternoon for a writing workshop that helps participants get to the heart of what inspires them and how to use that to further their goals and realize their dreams. Writing to the Heart will take place at Greenville Yoga. Details and link to sign up in a future post.

April: a lunch and learn, a writing workshop for English as a Second Language Teachers, the beginning of the Mindful Flow Writing monthly workshops. More details on all of those in future posts.

TEDx Greenville: What to Expect When You Stop Expecting

At long last, I’m getting around to posting a link to my TEDx talk about letting go of expectations. This is a concept I’ve been working with for several years, primarily since I decided to search for my natural family. I believe it contributed to a successful reunion with both my natural parents and many members of my natural family. And it has positively impacted my other relationships as well. This TED talk is a bit shorter than the sermon, which you can read under the Published Writing tab.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to begin posting about mindfulness, which connects with letting go of expectation, and about how mindfulness connects with my writing practice.