Tag Archives: writing events

It’s a Summertime Thing! Writing Workshops and More

Summertime is a time for reading at the beach, feet tucked into warm sand, sun glasses on, contemplating the crisp rush of salty waves. Maybe it’s sitting in the shade of an old oak tree with a sweaty glass of iced tea tilted in the uneven grass at your side—notebook in hand, ready to write. Click to see more reasons why summer is the best time to be a brilliant writer.

Summertime is a time for road trips and writing workshops! Speaking of which, I’ll be teaching on the West Coast Esalen June 12-17, East Coast at the Omega Institute July 15-17, and Colorado’s Shambhala Mountain Center, August 25-29, for some incredible writing and mindfulness workshops this summer. Find all the details HERE.

In addition, I have been working hard editing my new book Writing as a Path to Awakening and it’s coming along beautifully. I can’t tell you too much at this point other than how excited I am to be working with Sounds True, who has published many of the greatest spiritual teachers and thinkers of our time including Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield, Adyashanti, Brené Brown, Eckart Tolle, and so many others.

I will say that the structure of the book revolves around the seasons and just this week I was writing into “summer” and I couldn’t resist playing one of my favorite songs that gets me in the mood for summer every time: “Summertime Thing” by Chuck Prophet. Look it up on YouTube, and crank it up loud! Chuck is a great writer. . .

That summer heat has got me feelin lazy
air is warm and the sky is hazy
People gettin down, gettin crazy
People gettin down, gettin stupid, gettin crazy

Hey, it’s a summertime thing
Summertime thing

Go ask your dad for the keys to the Honda
and can your sister come along, how could she not wanna?
Put the Beach Boys on, wanna hear “Help Me Rhonda”
Awe put the beach Boys on, I wanna hear “Help Me Rhonda”

Hey, it’s a summertime thing
A summertime thing

Roll down the sides, we’ll drive to the delta
Take off our clothes and jump into the river
Ain’t nobody around
Ain’t nobody gonna see us
Take off your clothes jump into the river

Hey, it’s a summertime thing
it’s a summertime thing

© Chuck Prophet/New West Records

Remember, our inspiration as writers comes from every art form, every kind of writer, from anything we open our hearts and minds to. What’s your “Summertime Thing”, your story, poem, or scene that drops you into the heart of summer? Shoot us an email or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter and let me know.

I hope to see you LIVE this summer at Esalen, Omega or Shambhala!

Happy summertime writing!

How We Transform Our Writing and Our Lives

Sometimes in order to write, or create any art, it helps to simply get out of our own way— out of our heads, that is -and into our bodies. I recently came from a weekend of teaching at The Sedona Yoga Festival where I spoke before hundreds of people about vulnerability, language, and writing from the body.

This is how we transform our writing AND our lives. Here’s a simple exercise you can try from the comfort of your home:

1. Step away from your writing desk, couch, favorite chair or wherever you usually write and stand up in a quiet place where you won’t be distracted or interrupted.

2. Take your shoes off and simply stand in place with your feet shoulder width apart and let your hands rest easily at your sides. Bend your knees slightly and feel into your center of gravity. Breathe into this center right below your navel.

3. Begin to rise up of your feet and bounce or jump lightly in place while shaking your arms and taking deep quick breaths in through your nose and exhaling vigorously through your mouth. Take ten of these deep breaths and long exhalations while actively shaking and bouncing.

(If you feel at all dizzy during this process simply stop the breathing exercise and sit down slowly.)

4. On the eleventh exhale close your eyes and come to stillness. And then breathe normally, feeling the energy moving through your body.

Go straight into a freewrite or focused writing practice based on the topic you were working on and write without stopping for a minimum of ten minutes. Notice any changes in your over-all energy, insight, or general creativity. Repeat throughout the day to keep your energy, vitality, and creativity flowing.

For more tips on writing, writing from the body, incredible mindfulness practices, and how to dramatically improve your writing, I hope you will join me for an extraordinary weekend workshop OR retreat at the amazing:

(California) ESALEN INSTITUTE June 12-17
(New York) the OMEGA INSTITUTE July 15-17
(Colorado) SHAMBHALA MOUNTAIN August 25-29
(Vancouver, Canada) or HOLLYHOCK Oct 1-2, 2016

Click HERE to register for any of these events.

3 Crucial Ways to Become a Best Selling Author

In more than twenty years of writing, publishing, and teaching there are 3 crucial things I’ve noticed about successful, best selling authors that took them from amateur scribbler to published professional.

1. We get clear on why we are doing this writing thing in the first place. What drives us? What is our purpose for expressing ourselves with words, as opposed to say, photography, painting, dance, or music? How is our passion sparked and sustained? Clarity is essential.

2. We have a different relationship to practice. We practice every day or at the very least, every other day. Our practice is our life; it is what we do. Sure, the voices of doubt, frustration, and fear are there, but they are shoved to the back of the bus. The difference is, we hunker down turn up the volume on our purpose and passion, and write straight through the noise. We are willing to write crap, knowing the brilliant insights lie in the commitment to practice and process over time. NOT so much by “trying to figure it out,” or “think it through” in the moment and then bailing. We have to write through the fears and doubts, hesitancy and judgments into the fresh insights, without thinking. We keep reaching beyond the limits of our abilities, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word.

3. We surround ourselves with greatness, and we study it. In writing this means we read. We read a lot, we read deeply, and diversely outside and inside of our genre. We alternate back and forth between reading practice and writing practice. This means we attend readings and events with successful, best selling authors, staying motivated inspired, and perpetually learning.

SPEAKING OF WHICH. . .We hope YOU will join us for a motivating and inspiring day with legendary American writer, Dave Eggers, for a day-long writing workshop, reading, Q&A, and discussion. May 7, 2016 in Napa California. This is your opportunity to change YOUR relationship to practice! For more details, click here.

Write Your Way Around The Bay! Fall 2015

Write Your Way Around The Bay! Fall 2015

The autumn season is a wonderful time to visit the Bay Area. Festivals and harvests abound, the smell of apples permeates the markets, and the weather is almost always sunny but never too hot. My fingers itch to get to the keyboard and turn these autumn delights into poems.

Other writers must feel the same way, because autumn is a wonderful time to write your way around the Bay! This year you’ll find a truly remarkable writing event during each month of autumn, each one located in a different town in the Bay Area. If you didn’t already have an excuse to visit the Bay Area this fall, here are four more reasons below:

September: The Writing for Change Conference

The leaves are changing and so will hearts, minds, and lives at The Writing for Change Conference in San Francisco. On September 12th, writers, publishers, editors, and agents will be participating in this daylong conference in order to turn ideas into published words that will initiate change in the environment, technology, politics, human rights, and more.

The motto for this conference is “The event that shows you how your ideas can change the world.” Attendees will spend the day in workshops, listening to keynote speakers, and making connections that will take their writing to publication. If you’re looking to have your writing make a difference, this is the conference for you! Plus, you’ll be in San Francisco for the best weather the city has all year.

September: Petaluma Poetry Walk

Petaluma combines two of my favorite things on September 20th: walking and poetry. The 20th annual walk will showcase dozens of poets, including Phyllis Meshulam, Nellie Wong, Beatriz Lagos, Rob Greene, Lucille Lang Day, and many more. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through historic Petaluma and pop in to hear some poetry along the way. The event is free and open to all.

October: Litquake

Get ready to shake things up at Litquake this October! From October 9-17, writers and readers can attend literary events and workshops hosted at various venues in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Festival visitors come from as far away as Australia and Europe; it’s the perfect festival for encountering both local and international writers. Meet authors, attend readings and workshops, participate in lit crawls, and join in on the creative fun!

November: Elizabeth Gilbert LIVE in Napa

A tried and true way to become a successful writer is to learn from the best! This November 7th, writers have the opportunity to learn tricks of the trade from best selling author of Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert. Attendees will enjoy an inspirational talk, writing workshops, a Q&A session, gourmet lunch, wine reception, book signing, and more at the Meritage Resort in Napa, California. Plus, a percentage of proceeds will benefit Bay Area Writers in the Schools Programs. Learn more here at Liz Gilbert LIVE!

Whether it’s a festival, poetry walk, lit crawl, or workshop there is something for every type of writer in the Bay Area this fall. I’ll be attending all these events and more, hopefully while sipping a hot cup of apple cider and enjoying the beautiful autumn weather. Hope to see you there!

**Photo credit: “”A tree in autumn season”” by Arivumathi – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Mindfulness and Writing as a Path to Awakening

Mindfulness and Writing as a Path to Awakening

Mindfulness meditation is perhaps one of the best gems a writer can have in their creative treasure box. Being aware of life and the world around you will shine light onto your ideas and bring insight into your concepts. Great writers tend to think outside the box, but brilliant writers have no box at all. Mindfulness meditation creates conditions for this by providing a space for solitude, self-reflection, and awareness.

Writing itself is a path to awakening. It is a process of utilizing the practice of writing toward further self-awareness, increased emotional intelligence, and overall expansion of consciousness. Writing as a path to awakening is a journey into creativity and exploring one’s sociological, emotional, psychological, and spiritual story for the primary purpose of insight, understanding, further clarifying, and ultimately transcending any limitations it may inspire due to over-identification.

Many of the greatest spiritual teachers from around the world were, and are, writers. From Sappho and Rumi to Pema Chodron, Thomas Merton, Jack Kornfield, and the Dalai Lama — the written word has the power not only to inspire, but also to awaken the very best in the human heart.

There are two easy ways to start incorporating mindfulness and writing as a path to awakening into your daily life. With both of these exercises, get into a space of quiet meditation first by sitting down and taking at least 30 consecutive deep breaths and turning off all distractions.

1. Mindfulness while journaling

Keeping a journal offers many benefits, and one of these is the ability to be mindful on paper about the contents of your daily life. Think about any recent interactions with people and write down the emotions that come up. Jot down descriptive words or any colors that come to mind. Your journal is a space to explore how you felt about a myriad of things, from the argument you had with your spouse that morning to why you like the smell of apples at the farmer’s market.

Being mindful while journaling will allow you to look at aspects of your life from new angles. It will unlock emotions around certain things that you maybe never even knew you even had. Best of all, mindfulness while journaling can help you resolve conflicts and look at situations with renewed gratitude and empathy.

2. Stream of consciousness

Once you have taken your deep breaths and feel as close to having an empty mind as possible, take a pen or pencil and write without stopping for about ten minutes. Don’t pause to think about what you’re writing and don’t take any breaks.

When you’ve finished, look at your writing and underline phrases or words that repeat. Highlight any parts where your handwriting had a dramatic change. Ask yourself what these things represented for you, which themes were present and why, how different parts made you feel, and if any new ideas or insights arose.

You can take this type of writing to the next level by focusing on a mantra or key word or phrase while you are doing the deep breaths before the writing. Try setting an intention and see if that shows up as you jot down your stream of consciousness.

If you’d like to learn more about Writing as a Path to Awakening, there are several workshops throughout the year at different meditation centers. The next one is coming up soon from July 15, 2016 – July 17, 2016. More details here: Writing as a Path to Awakening

In the presence of a master: writing prompts from Cheryl Strayed

I have experienced a lot of amazing things as a writer, teacher, and performer. Years ago I read at Modern Times Book Store in the Mission District of San Francisco with the legendary Beat poet Michael McCluer, who from the back of the room made throat-cutting gestures as I finished my last poem. I was mortified. Was I dragging aimlessly on—cutting into his precious time? He came up to me afterward leaned in casually and said, “I liked the one about the butterflies.” I read poems in Paris with the brilliant New York School poet Alice Notley at a bookstore in the Marais called “The Red Wheelbarrow” after a poem by one of my favorite poets of all time, William Carlos Williams. I was so nervous I thought I’d pass out and have to be carried off in a red wheelbarrow, but Alice put me at ease, being so emotionally astute and radiant in her reading, the whole store was beaming.

When I was sworn in as the very first Poet Laureate of my county, I read an extraordinary  poem by one of our fourth grade CPITS students named Caroline who wrote about Turquoise laughter and whispering in a dragonfly’s ear, about a poet weaving her story on a loom of sawdust. We were floored. In the presence of a true master at age eleven. The Board of Supervisors were on the verge of tears Caroline brought so much joy and peace to an otherwise acrimonious and opinion-grinding county agenda.

And here I am in March of 2015  finding myself in Maui Hawaii teaching with one of America’s truly magnificent, clear-minded, intelligent and generous-of-spirit writers and teachers, Cheryl Strayed. It’s such a pleasure to be in the presence of a creative writer who is so genuine, so authentic, so in touch with the reality of truth with a capital T. Which by the way, comes from being fully committed to your craft, from surrendering to the process again and again. Cheryl Strayed is truly fearless in the face of self doubt, criticism, shame, judgment—never reckless, always clear of heart and mind enough to keep writing. There is a necessary wisdom that shines through in her reading and teaching which emanates as a gift—encouraging, allowing, and even anticipating our own. You get the sense you are on a collaborative journey of discovery together. There’s no sense of superiority no air of her strutting around thinking “I’ve got it and you don’t.”

As I was reviewing some of the writing prompts Cheryl shared with us a couple years ago and some new ones recently in Maui, it became evident to me that writing prompts are fairly dependent on context and presence. Sure you can run with them on your own, pulled from a blog or website, but for them to really inspire, for them to thoroughly bleed into you and push you deep into the page, it helps to actually be there with the teacher. And by there I mean in the presence of a master writer and teacher. So if you’ve been thinking about going to a reading or taking a workshop from a master teacher like Michael, Alice, or Cheryl, do it. Don’t hesitate, no excuses, go for it. Take the plunge, your writing and heart will shine from the experience.

Would you like to join me on my next writing retreat? We’ll be in the presence of another creative writing master, Elizabeth Gilbert. Sign up here: LizGilbertEvent.com

Great Writing Prompts. Thank you Cheryl Strayed!

On June 1, 2013 best-selling author of Wild, Tiny, Beautiful Things, and the novel Torch, Cheryl Strayed came to the Petaluma Sheraton for a day titled “Writing, Truth, & Community”–produced by yours truly and The Owl Press. This was the largest event we have put on and thanks to our volunteers, my assistant–Ali Degolia, and the Sheraton staff, things went very smoothly!! The event consisted of a full day writing workshop, craft talk, reading, and book signing! The feedback has been amazing! Thanks to all who filled out the survey, sent me an email or posted to Facebook! It was an extraordinary day, and Cheryl was charming, insightful, inspiring, funny, and extremely generous with her knowledge and experience.

Cheryl mentioned a number of writing prompts and promised to share them with the group! And so here they are! Enjoy! May you be inspired to be willing to “break your own heart” and go forth to “write like a motherfucker!!”

With gratitude and all best wishes, Albert (& Cheryl)

Writing Prompts from Cheryl Strayed

(The “you” can be you or a fictional character)

Write about a time when you’d dressed inappropriately for the occasion.

Write a few pages in which you obsess over something meaningless.

Write about something/someone being born.

Write about something you can’t deny.

Write about what you have too much of.

Write about when you knew you were in trouble.

Write about something you don’t exactly remember.

What about what you used to know how to do.

Write a long apology.

Write about a secret being revealed.

Write about all the secrets that have been kept from you.

Write about a gift that was not well received.

Write a long thank you letter.

Write about something you are certain of.

Write about having no fun at all.

Write about when you knew something was over (or had begun).

Write about someone you forgot.

Write about a question you wished you’d asked.

Write about something that was too small/too big.

Write about what you’d planned to do.

Write about something that doesn’t get better.

For more writing tips, check out the upcoming online course Brilliant Writer: The Master Class for Successful Writers