Get Over Yourself (Please): Letter from a Writing Teacher

Dear Class,

Thank you for the last ten weeks. You have all worked hard writing and rewriting and editing your own work and your fellow writers’ works, all the while growing in knowledge and experience, which was evidenced in your writing, which has been better and better every week.

I look forward to publishing our Let’s Write! class anthology, our collection of this class’s unique and original memoirs of which I am very proud.

Since I’ve already extensively shared with you my gratitude and appreciation for your patience with me for the duration of our longer-than-usual class due to my inopportune accident, let me jump right in here with what’s rambling through my mind.

Sometimes I think people take themselves a little too seriously (or a lot). “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (from the Holy Bible, Galatians 4:16)

Yes. If you want to clear a room or empty your life, tell the truth. And you could say this is the story of my life, both personal and professional. People say, “Val, you’re so real,” but then when I am “real” (in other words, honest), they hate me for it and call me names and run away.

But here’s the thing of which I’m really guilty. I’m going to really clear the room, now, maybe empty myself of all students/clients, present and prospective, “because I tell you the truth.” Here goes: It’s not my clients/students for whom I work (they just pay the bill), it’s their writing.

My concern is not for the poet, it’s for her poetry and its effect on those for whom it’s meant. And therein lies the problem. God gives us a gift with which He expects to use us to reach others, whether that gift be music, public speaking, sewing, writing, carpentry, or any other number of specialties.

So when all the while, a writer is concerned more about him- or herself than the writing, all I’m thinking about is will anyone ever read this out there somewhere? Paperback? eBook? blog post?  Will any of those ever happen so the memoirs, stories, essays, poetry so full of wisdom and experience ever be allowed to live? I try.

Writers Who Got Over Themselves for the Sake of the Writing:

I practically begged student Gayle Peebles to write a book because the potential from an essay she’d tentatively started in class was overwhelming. She fortunately took the bait, and I got to help her give life to the story wanting to be told and appreciated by all who read it. The result, Best Friends Worlds Apart is a real classic book, receiving high accolades from the judges at Writers Digest in 2017 when Gayle entered it in an eBook contest, and enjoyed by many here in the United States and in Russia.

I cajoled Lily Allyson Liu, a lovely Taiwanese-American lady who was afraid her English wasn’t good enough (It was, with a bit of editing.) into writing her memoir about falling in love with a man involved at the time in a regrettable gay relationship. The result, a touching little 60-page paperback and eBook Lily called A Rhythmic and Melodious Friendship: A Memoir because one thing they had in common was a strong love and knowledge of classical music. It was a true story being written even as it was being lived by her (and him). 

It wasn’t easy, but I coerced Shirley Ann Moore into writing the family story of her mother, a Wiyot Indian, after she had submitted a three-page essay about herself growing up with her mom. Then I convinced Shirley into including a brief history of the Wiyot tribe, complete with a map of the tribe’s home of northern California. Shirley named the memoir A Lick and A Promise: Remembering Mom, Descendant of a Wiyot Tribe. The title came from Shirley’s mom’s favorite line about how she’d clean the kitchen when in a hurry, with “a lick and a promise”. Shirley included a family recipe at the end of each chapter of her book, a delightful aspect readers appreciated.

Like Gayle, Shirley, after the classes ended, began to come weekly to my studio for private sessions with me. Also like Gayle, Shirley would bring family photographs she’d collected which we painstakingly labeled and scanned into my computer to be part of the history her characters were unraveling for her, little by little, in the book Shirley never believed could happen.

Shirley’s favorite line was, “Do you really think I have a book here?” (Gayle had asked the same question early on.) “Of course, you do,” I’d say. “How can you not see it?” I’m truly shocked and often frustrated when students seem blind and deaf to their own stories trying to be told.

Alix had already written about three hundred poems and had posted them online to a poetry website when he saw a Let’s Write! ad in a local paper. He asked if I could help him put his poems together into a book, editing if and when necessary. It took time collecting, reading, and editing, and it’s a book of which I’m very proud and honored to have been a part of getting into publication. Alix called the collection Transcendental Highway after the title of one of the poems contained therein. As we put it together, we would both cry as we read through some of the 150 poems he’d chosen to include in this volume. Then he cried when the book was finished and the published paperback (with a beautiful photo of his son on the cover) was in his hand.

These are everyday people who show up in my classes and private sessions and are open to their own writing (and my suggestions), and with some egging on and a lot of encouragement, come to realize their story has to be shared, has to see light, and that it is very doable. The stories want to be told. These authors come to realize they don’t own their words. They have to be put together and allowed to express the life they already have, for the sake of others.

It’s That One.

Will it be a best seller read by millions? Probably not, but then it’s well known that many best sellers are such because their rich authors purchase copies of their own books in the thousands and millions thereby pushing their book into best-seller status based on the number of books sold. There are all kinds of tricks in this trade.

But that’s not the point. Maybe ten people will read the story, poem, essay. Maybe fifty, maybe a hundred. But it’s just that one in whom I’m interested. It’s that one who is really touched by what they read, what you wrote, that story that brought them to tears or made them laugh out loud. It’s for that one potential reader that the writing had to see daylight. It’s what writing is for, to be read, the way art has to be seen.

Parents, Let Your Children Go!

Dear Writer, Let your children (writings) go free so they can be read by others. If not a book, learn how to do a blog. Sometimes you will get feedback of readers’ appreciation of your writing. But lots of time you won’t, but that doesn’t mean somebody didn’t read it and it was just what he or she needed just when it showed up.

Don’t be a helicopter parent. Like our real children, we don’t own our works of art or creations of craft; we just bring them into the world. As they mature and become complete (ready for publication) we can’t hold on to them but must send them out into the world so to affect those they touch. That’s what writing is for.

I always pray that those who’ve been given a gift by God, will not only use it, but let others benefit by it as well. The writer’s gift of writing is what I work for. The writer is just the venue (and the one paying the bill). The writer is the vehicle through which the writing (story, memoir, poem—in other words, the message) is passed on to those who read it. That’s why writers need to put their fragile egos aside so others can read what God has given them to say, to write.

And if I can help you write, edit, publish it, I’m thrilled and honored. That’s what I do. I help give life to stories that need to be shared. We do it together. And how delighted I am when one of you decides it’s worth the work, and you’re all in, for working on your writing so it can be at its best (the way we clean and dress up our children before we present them to others), with the goal of letting them go out into the world to be appreciated for their gifts by others.

As I’ve said, but can’t say enough, it’s frustrating when people of true talent lock away their art and craft (manuscripts, artwork, whatever they create) and stubbornly fight this kind of encouragement, even seem to resent it.

So There You Have It.

Here’s the point: I’m delighted with students invested in their writing wholeheartedly (like the no-fear, non-ego writers listed above did) because that makes my job of helping clients bring their writing to professional publication standard so much easier and more enjoyable. It can get old to constantly try to convince writers their stories, memoirs, essays, poems are worth publishing, whether as a book or blog posts (or both) when I know from years of professional experience and education that it’s true.

When writers don’t want to do the work and prefer, instead, to argue in defense of their egos (fears) constantly (though they don’t seem to realize that that’s what they’re doing), these fears and unteachable egos get in the way. Then I get the extra job of wasting time and energy (and Writer’s money) placating Writer, so Writing can continue in its best direction in order to come alive on the page. Therefore, the essence of my message to you today, Dear Writer, is as follows:

Dear Writers,

  • Get out of your writing’s way!
  • Stop placating your egos (fears) and feelings.
  • Go ahead and cry if you have to.
  • Stop trying to own the story/poem/essay/memoir; stop trying to keep it locked away, in a drawer, digital file, or inside yourself—What are you afraid of?
  • Realize the writing has a life of its own.
  • It doesn’t belong to you.
  • Its life is not your life.
  • Let it live its own life.
  • Let it go free.
  • Don’t be a helicopter parent to your writing.
  • It will do just fine out there.
  • Trust God.
  • He’s the one who gave you the gift in the first place, for the purpose of your giving it away.
  • Give your gift away.

Thank you for listening. Warm wishes for your writing life ahead.

Your caring teacher,

Valerie Serrano

New Writing Studio for Let’s Write!

Let’s Write! Announcement of New Writing Studio

 625 Cherry Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

(between Mendocino Ave. and Humboldt)

Hi! This is to let you know that Let’s Write! Creative Writing Services is opening a new studio inside a little house-turned-office-building on Cherry Street.

There’s even a comfy-cozy waiting room and 2 friendly receptionists! :- )

My first day will be Dec 10, 2018.

So if you’re working on a writing project, or want to, now’s the time to take the plunge and give your writing the attention it deserves!

For now, I’m offering 1-hour private sessions, but later may also introduce small groups.       (My next general class will start March 2019 at the Finley Community Center.)

BLOGGING:

I’m also now offering basic blog setup and instruction for those of you who want to write online for others to read without having to publish a book.

PRICING:

Click here to enjoy a $15 discount when you pay in advance on LetsWrite.com for 4 sessions at $145 (instead of $160 at the regular fee of $40/session).

EASY TO FIND ME:

The address is well marked at 625 Cherry Street between Mendocino Ave. and Humboldt, in Santa Rosa.

 If you see “Hubbs Law”, you’re in the right place. (I’ll soon get a sign that meets the permit requirements for the Historic District)

PARKING:

Parking is behind the building to your left as you come in the driveway (not to the right, please), with 2 disabled spots, if you have a placard.

If there’s no space available in the back, please park on the street (two-hour parking) and enjoy a lovely, short walk up historic Cherry Street.  :- )

CONTACT ME:

Write me at valser27@gmail.com with your writing plans and ideas.

Or comment here and I’ll respond promptly.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Be well and Let’s Write! :- )

Val

 

 

Day One of Writing/Editing Class

8-28-18– Well, everything went smoothly for Day One of our writing/editing class.

We have a nice group and I’m hoping I didn’t scare anyone away!

Three keywords from the two hours of discussions today:

1 ** FOCUS. Necessary if you have a lot you want to write about and feel frozen, overwhelmed, and don’t know where to start.  Don’t give up.  Choose one particular element of your story and start with that, then relax and give the writing room. It will flow out from there, and your direction will start to present itself.

Focus is also important if you have several stories which you’ve already finished (though still rough drafts) or almost finished.  For the purpose of this class, I’d recommend you choose the one you prefer and begin to read it through, looking for places that need strengthening in one way or another.

2** CHALLENGE. We talked about what a challenge it is, and hard work, to do true writing and rewriting which includes self-editing, which can be painful.  As you read through your own work, the parts that need editing will start to jump out.  And when you’ve read it through, read it through again…and again. :- )  People hate when I say that.

It reminds me of when my mother Libby was teaching sewing or crocheting. She told me, “The thing they hate me for the most is when I say, ‘Rip it out.’”   Right.  Well, I’m not trying to be popular (good thing, you say), but try not to hate me.  I’m just passing on what I’ve learned from all the classic writers before me.

3** MEMOIR A poem a student (Adrienne) wrote for her mother will fit well as part of a memoir anthology because it reflects the writer’s feelings for her mother at the time she wrote it.  Memoir is “softer” than autobiography in that it doesn’t need dates or exact anything.  It can be about impressions, feelings, and outcomes with regard to the events being described.

Memoir is not your life story, though it can be part of someone else’s through your eyes. Memoir is about an event (remember Focus) that changed you and/or your life somehow—you’ll tell us how.

With memoir you should use your own name, though you can change the names of others who appear, if you wish.  If you do, you’d want to note that in an introduction at the beginning of the piece (or book, if book-length). Otherwise, you can write it as a novel “based on a true story”.

(We’ll be discussing memoir at length next Tuesday)

Well, I’ll leave it at that for now. We talked about lots of other things, too, but these are some of the notable points to remember.

Take care and happy writing! :- )

New Class 8-28-18 through 11-6-18

“Writing is revision” — I think it was Hemingway who said that, and that’s what my latest writing class is about.  Rewriting is what separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls in the world of writing. Ask any author, though lots of writers moan a lot when I remind them of this.  They’d prefer to write something, set it aside, then write something else.  :- )

I’m happy to say I am starting a 10-week Let’s Write! writing/editing class at the Finley Community Center in Santa Rosa, CA, Tuesday 8/28/18 through 11/6/18 (with a week off in between), 2 to 4 pm.  Registration will be open until Sept 4th as a courtesy of the Finley Center, since they had the class times listed incorrectly for about a month.

It will be a departure from my usual classes and more advanced in that in the other classes I taught writing and edited the students’ work; but in this class, I will focus on teaching the art of editing, with the students editing their own work at home in between classes, using what they’ve learned, and hopefully saved in their notes, during each of the 2-hour classes.

While in class, students will pair up and edit each other’s work each week, and I myself will take turns in each group throughout the 10 weeks for hands-on direct editing of their projects.

When we’re finished, those who wish to will submit their manuscripts for publication to a Let’s Write! Anthology (main title is yet to be determined). Then, as editor, if the piece is publication-ready without too much editing necessary on my part, I will include it in the anthology.  Of course, each writer keeps all rights to his or her own work and remains free to publish it whenever they like.

And even if a piece is deemed not publication-ready, or if the student decides he or she would rather not publish, the 10 weeks will still be invaluable time spent, gathering experience editing their own work, which a real writer must learn to do.  

Even if a writer hires a professional editor such as myself to fine-tune his work, a manuscript which needs editing on too basic a level will either be denied, or the writer will be charged a much higher fee than normal. So this is an important and necessary skill for every writer to learn and, as with piano lessons or baseball, practice makes perfect.  :- )

 

 

Easy to Pay for Local or Online Editing or Writing Instruction

 

 

 

 

Easy Payment for Local or Online Writing Instruction or Editing

• Just click on your credit card below, or PayPal, to pay in advance for writing instruction or editing, with the focus on your project or the help to start one, whether fiction or nonfiction. • I also offer manuscript formatting and self-publishing assistance. • Initial FREE consultation of a sample of your work, up to 3 pages. • $40 for each hour of online edit/critique OR local (Santa Rosa area) private sessions. • 100% satisfaction guaranteed.

$40.00

 

Let’s Write!

We all have a story to tell, whether short fiction, memoir, novel, or poetry.

Come for some instruction and gentle, encouraging guidance (and a healthy dose of humor) as you create your work of art, whether you plan to publish or not, with a private individual online consultation/editing session.

I think you’ll find my rates more than reasonable and my comments and ideas worth a lot more than I charge, given my years of experience and education in writing, and self-publishing.  (Please check out my clients’ Testimonials).  I’m happy to pass on to you all I’ve learned from others from whom I’ve labored to learn!

I promise you won’t be disappointed, or 100% of your money will be refunded.

For information on how to get started leave a comment or write me at valser27@gmail.com.

I’ll get back to you promptly.

Your journey of expressing yourself starts here!

~ Don’t miss it! :- )