UCLA extension writers’ program

I spent Feb 9-12th in LA for a craft and courage writing class taught by Barbara Abercombrie at the UCLA extension Writers Program. She and the twelve people in the class took me and “my writing” I will say with confidence,  to another level. I am not shy to say it was for me more about the courage than the craft. Which I might think for many is a major hurdle. We often, undeservedly, call it a hobby.

writer-studio-signBarbara hit the nail on the head for me.”Coin or stamp collecting is a hobby, writing is a calling” And this isn’t to get all dramatic but writing can be almost this secret that you keep to yourself.  I’m not sure where it falls in the realm of passions such as gardening or cooking. Do we call those hobbies? Is meditation a hobby? Do we choose not to validate writing if it doesn’t earn money? Maybe it’s because writing is something we (I) can spend a fair amount of time on and there is no basket of greens and strawberries or a meal on the table as proof of my labors. Writing doesn’t often produce a tangible thing- at least not something you want to share. Maybe writing along with the meditation is increasing my gray matter!

Cue blog. I’m bumping up its priority in my life once again.

This is me before the first day of class. One day soon I will update my profile photo from seven years ago. I treated myself to a little hotel, The Hilgard House in walking distance of the UCLA extension center in Westwood. I don’t look much different- hair has grown out and is up here. Laugh lines have deepened (a good thing).  Maybe a little wider in the middle but my legs and tush are holding up pretty good. Well my tush is starting to head a little south but nothing a tight pair of jeans can’t hold in place.

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I felt a little like this the first day…ohhh noooo

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But after only a day with this wise, funny, honest lady, I was raring to go.  She read quotes and writing prompts each day. We were encouraged but not required to read our work-fiction and non-fiction alike. She read more quotes to us and we talked about craft and writing habits. About making writing a priority and a daily habit. A guest speaker, Monica Holloway, author of “Driving with Dead People” and “Cowboy and Wills” came and shared her inspiring story of her writing life and how it took a new direction after her first class with Barbara.

Thanks Barbara!

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So for the first time, outside of online classes, where I didn’t have to speak out loud and the only reference to my face was an online photo (likely dated), I shared what I wrote. The initial panic, thin voice and sweaty pre-menopausal hands, yielded rather quickly to shoulders relaxed with a hand going up to share first. I almost had to hold back because I actually started to really like it and to appreciate the feedback.

Granted, this was a very open, accepting, non-judgy group. But I’m grateful at this point in life to know that I don’t need to stick around any group of people who are not!

I spent four days in a classroom with windows that looked out on the rooftops of Westwood.

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One day on lunch, I strolled through the farmers market. Probably year round in these parts.

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I drank turmeric shots every morning at Pressed Juicery– just around the corner from my hotel and the class.

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Met new friends and ate poke (Hawaiin raw fish) literally everyday. Sweetfin Poke started in Santa Monica. Salmon poke post coming soon…

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And in the evenings, I put my fingers to the keyboard and kept on writing. AND I took part in the writers’ program instagram contest where I WON! I won a free class (can’t wait) and some other goodies coming by post. They are building their following and would love to have you join @writersprogram – you’ll find inspiring quotes as well as info on programs and events.

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Will leave UCLA extension #writersstudio17 with motivation, focus, new writing friends, mentor and a jumpstart on my writing. Own it! @writersprogram#writersstudio  #uclawritingextension#writers #writemore thank you Barbara! @barbaraabercrombie

I would highly recommend this four day studio program and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about my experience there.

Cheers!

wendy

 

#Womensmarch Orcas Island

I started to write a post on spaghetti squash, feta and sausage but had a hard time wrapping my head around food after such a monumental weekend. #womensmarch

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I haven’t done any blog reading the last three days and haven’t taken a pulse of blogs and politics. At least with the food and garden bloggers I follow. I’m sure there are countless political blog posts and I will be honest in saying I don’t follow many… ok – any. I read NYTimes online and I try to stay informed. And a visit to my Dad, who lives in a cabin on our property where MSNBC runs virtually 24/7, provides a strong dose of information.

With an activist for a mother, I sometimes never knew as a child which came first for her.  (mom on right)

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As an adult now, I can say,  it was being a mother… classic 70’s here.

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I felt guilty wanting her attention when I thought there were so many who needed it more. People with horrible housing conditions and little in the way of human rights or dignity.  I didn’t eat a grape till I was probably 18.

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I appreciate the passion, emotion and burning motivation that moved her to act, to speak out and to march.

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I am not an activist, yet I feel things deeply. I cried when Trump was elected and feel pain for the state of our country and the division that has become so apparent. And I have fought the gloom, doom and foreboding momentum since the first week of November. I have often wondered why that strong, activist spirit did not pass through to me in my DNA.

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I want to understand how we each choose to respond to this crisis and others- whether it’s to join a march in the capital, the nearest big city, or how we might find our place in a smaller circle of our smaller community or even in our own garden sending meditation and prayer out into the universe. How do each of us respond in our own way? Or not at all?

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I felt honored to  meet my community members at the park in town and we walked down our side walks sans police escorts or blockades. Some carried signs, many wore pink hats and accessories and I think we all carried the women (and men and sons) out in the world in our thoughts and in our hearts. And I do thank god hundreds of thousands of women, men, sons and daughters did show up all across the world.

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The news will be harder to read each day with the sense of life as we know it unraveling. I want to hold on to my smile, my optimism and stay informed at the same time. This will certainly be a challenge. And who out there coming across this little speck of a blog in a big universe sits on the other side of the fence?

Thank you Orcas Island for giving me a place to show up.

orcas-womens-march(photo by Jay)

writing at wendyellenthomas.com

I often hesitate when asked to go outside of my normal blog routine. My days are often so filled that making another commitment to something, albeit not too difficult and even fun, I still quaver. But how could I pass up a chance to participate in this little tour that taps into how we go about this whole blog thing. I’ve enjoyed reading the process of other’s and felt inspired to articulate mine. Deliciously Nell over at I need a feed invited my to participate. You can look forward to hearing from Karista at Karista’s Kitchen next week. And it simply goes like this:

  • Acknowledge the person that involved you in the blog tour, giving a link to their blog.
  • Answer the 4 questions below about your writing process
  1. What are you working on?
  2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
  3. Why do you write what you do?
  4. How does your writing process work?
  • Then select three other people to invite to take part in the tour. And link to their blogs in your post as well. Post dates are each Monday so we get to read one or more stories every week that give a little more depth in how each of us write. Miraculously my post will schedule on time for the 16th (barely) and I would love to see the blogger(s) I ask to follow up on the 23rd. I’ll cross my fingers.

1. What are you working on?

I am often working on many things all at once. I cook virtually everyday and dream of how I’d like to instagram, tweet, and post daily because I really believe in my cooking, not to sound big headed, but I do it well and would like to share it more often. But due to the fact that I also run my bricks and mortar shop, Chez Chloe, love to have some time with my family, like to take a few yoga classes, maintain a 2500 square foot garden and have as of yesterday, added livestock to the mix, I don’t post everyday. I’m happy to get a couple posts out per month. And you know what? That’s ok. That’s what works. I love blogging and don’t want to give it up. That much I know and want to continue to work on it. I have a not so secret desire to write fiction. That desire manifests through random classes I take online to stories I start and rarely finish. The desire also ebbs and flows and hasn’t taken strong enough hold to pin my bum to the chair and finish something. The writing in between my recipes has also provided somewhat of an outlet.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Does it differ? I suppose so. Is the sound of my voice different from yours? Do I articulate and punctuate the beginning and ending of my sentences different from you? Of course. I suppose the topic being primarily recipes and gardening is sort of a food genre… I would like to imagine that how I relate this redundant topic to you might strike you in its own sometimes familiar or sometimes obtuse way… Like this little baby frizz hair on the sides of my forehead that extends from my hairline and almost meets up with my eyebrows. That makes me unique. Ever since day one I think. It’s interesting when I study other cooking blogs that inspire me. I don’t want to copy them but in order to learn and find your own voice and photo skills you often emulate them. The trick is not only allowing your own style to bubble to the surface, but recognizing and grabbing hold of it for dear life!

3.Why do you write what you do?

I don’t really choose what I write per se. I’m not a novelist. Inspired by food and life, I create dialog to wrap around photos and recipes. I greatly enjoy humor and I can’t help but let that seep into my writing because that’s who I am. I find myself talking to you, a reader, as if you were pulling up a wooden stool to sit at my kitchen counter and have a cup of coffee or a jasmine green tea with a drizzle of honey. I hope to inspire a few people amongst the vastness of the web- share some thoughts, advice and all purpose good will.

4.How does your writing process work?

I take photos all the time like many I’m sure. Most frequently with my iphone and often with my Nikon D80. I’ll cruise through them every week or two and pull out a segment that I want to share. I’ll offer a recipe or at least a few broad strokes of a meal in hopes of inspiring you. I look for the most pleasing pics and work in what’s often happening currently in our lives. Though I like to hang out a little of our laundry for the public, I don’t get too personal. I do enjoy good response from readers when I have the time to really focus on a planned post. I pull out the props, maybe even the tripod and it’s a recipe that’s not just our weekly menu. I’ll even take the time to submit photos to Food Gawker, Tastespotting, Stumble Upon, etc. These efforts do garnish the ‘hits’. But rarely do I make the time for that. So my process centers more around the photos and going from there. I imagine it’s like that with many bloggers. Although, I also think we all enjoy writing as well. You can’t just stick a bunch of photos up right?

So that’s me.

Now I’m going to pass you on to a talented lady, Karista, over at Karista’s Kitchen.

She’s a food Writing, farm loving Chef.  Capturing everyday moments with extraordinary food. ~Life Happens Around the Table

I look forward to her responses myself.

And here is our latest adventure… livestock! Meet Dinah

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Morning walk on the Detmold countryside

A few rambling thoughts today…

The views from the path I took yesterday leaving O’s work place left me contemplating life and the natural beauty I’m fortunate to experience. This was literally two minutes from the door to his band room. Detmold is a small city in North Rhine -Westphalia, whose history dates back to the late 700’s. And no, I didn’t forget the 1 in front of the 7. If you divided Germany into four parts, Detmold lies just under Bielefeld in the middle of the upper left corner. Standing tall just outside of town is Hermann the German, “a monument commemerating the Cherusci war chief Hermann or Arminius and the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in which the Germanic tribes under Arminius recorded a decisive victory in 9 AD over three Roman legions under Varus.” There’s your history lesson for the day.. month..year.

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Plate to Page 2012 Somerset

Plate to Page Writing and Photograpy Workshop

Meare Court Farm, Somerset UK

 Three days in Somerset with the Plate to Page team and participants, left me brimming with renewed inspiration, knowledge, resources and friendships. The workshop, run by Meeta, Ilva, Jamie & Jeanne provided a wealth of information. To learn from women,who not only continually strive to master their crafts, but have also chosen to teach, share and mentor, was a gift… not to mention a lot of fun!

An idyllic setting, located just outside of Taunton in Somerset, provided an inspiring undertone for writing and photography.  A large stone house accommodated fourteen lovely women and one brave man! Sharing rooms and bathrooms evoked an immediate feeling of community. After one first quiet meal, the ice broke and friendships quickly ensued.

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What motivates us?

What motivates us?

My alarm went off this morning at 7am (very reasonable). Today I sprang out of bed excited about ideas generated last night before closing my eyes. I’ll back up… before turning the light out, I day dreamed (or before sleep dreamed), of clever food blog names, struggling to discover something original. This is no small feat in this overflowing, or one might say saturated, depending on how you look at it, blog age. I held my arm in the air, waited for smart phone to find service and patiently waited for the answer to load each time I checked availability on a domain name. We have our internet on auto shut off 9pm- 7.30am for our ahmmm… teenager. But last night I just couldn’t wait till 7.30am. I came up with sugar and sauerkraut, trying to reflect food and the fact I live in Germany. Please don’t tell me if you think it’s ridiculous because I still like it and it’s available. Well, ok tell me because I haven’t paid 12.99/yr for it yet…and there’s still time to keep me from wasting my $. So as I was saying…I was motivated to jump out of bed today because I was excited about an idea. [SUCCESS/EGO]

                                                       Here from Pyschology Today:

“Motivation is literally the desire to do things. It’s the difference between waking up before dawn to pound the pavement and lazing around the house all day. It’s the crucial element in setting and attaining goals—and research shows you can influence your own levels of motivation and self-control. So figure out what you want, power through the pain period, and start being who you want to be.”
 Sign me up! The who I want to be part… not the lazing around the house                                all day (well maybe some days)
  

The next thing I was motivated to do was take my pooch out despite constant wet rain and umbrella buckling wind. Why? 1) I want him to feel good/relieved 2) I didn’t and don’t ever want to clean up pee and poo. Who does? [NEED BASED]

I then was motivated to go to the gym. Out of sheer desire? Unfortunately not. Because I know it’s good for me? Sort of. Because I’ve gained 10 pounds since moving to Germany and barely fit in my bra or pants? Getting there. (I still love my body and am grateful for my health and mobility…[forced smile]). I could always buy new clothes- but I don’t love shopping for things i cannot eat and society leads me to believe I should be thin… and fit… for my health. [SOCIETY] The biggest reason? Because after trudging through horrible class taught by a woman whose neck would look stunning with my low resistance blue exercise band tightly wrapped around it, especially after she traded her easy resistance blue one for my medium resistance red one IN THE MIDDLE of class, feigning concern and handing me humiliation, “nur noch sechzhen” (only 16 more) she shrieked as I squatted next to my bench shamefully avoiding eye contact. Because after all that, I knew I would experience a sense of accomplishment. And because best of all, afterwards, I knew I would have coffee with a friend who would have shared aforementioned  hour of torture. [SOCIAL]    And let’s face it. Has anyone ever ever thought after working out. “God that was a stupid idea.” No. Period. (Note to self… blog post on german gym class:-)

And today I was motivated to write this post on motivation. [CREATIVITY] Actually, due more to the fact I’ve thought about it a lot lately. We are trying to figure out how to motivate Alice (fake name to protect identity- even though so far only friends and family actually read this and know my daughter’s real name – I’m planning for the future and you might not have known she loves the name Alice). Right… I’m trying to figure out how to motivate Alice to get out of bed in the morning. But frankly it’s damn hard. I can’t say I was particularly motivated in 8th grade to get out of my warm cocoon five mornings a week to knock elbows with other awkward 13yr olds. I decided money wasn’t a particularly healthy option and would get expensive for the next 4 and 1/2 years. Now I work with persuasion and pleading, not always met with success. [UNKNOWN] Feel free to give advice.

Now throw in the motivation to eat when hungry… [PHYSICAL NEED] eat when I want [NO PHYSICAL NEED] eat when I’m sad or bored [ NO PHYSICAL NEED]. And the other bodily functions I won’t go into detail about even though I do crave a good discussion on said matter now and again. I was after all a nutrition major and we love what and how it goes in and what and how it goes out. (yet another future post.)

We’ve covered in one day all but security in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. There could very well be a part II to this post. But I can’t commit to that….(will have to see if mood strikes)

Coming soon to your area…..

Iron Maiden

I recently took up a new hobby. Ironing. I thought about bridge but it seemed awfully social. Ironing you say? What’s the point? Are you crazy?…  Really. Try it. It’s like a free meditation class and provides instant gratification. Granted most normal working or sane folk probably can’t be bothered. But if you have the time it provides a sense of satisfaction and order to one’s life. Not to mention my husband loves and appreciates it. Oh stop rolling your eyes.

I set up in our tiled hallway with a cheap board in front of me, wondering if it too should be replaced, now that I have a new, moderately expensive, blue, steam sensor iron by Siemens. Will my new iron be offended passing over this stumpy, girth lacking wafer of a board? Would I be that much more efficient if I spent another 75 euro on a new plank? One always needs the right equipment.  Wrinkled t-shirts, undershirts, dishtowels, sheets and pillowcases, awaiting their creaseless destiny are piled on the short IKEA side table. The one with 4 conspicuous drill holes on top, relegated to the hall, unseen by visitors, punished for being wrongly fastened together. It now has a purpose. I take each piece of clothing, drape it or lay it on the board and together with the hunk of metal, we work magic. Do you know why gap outlet t-shirts are so cheap? You would if you ever ironed one with the seams that don’t match up. Ever tried ironing viscose pretending to be cotton? Can’t be done. It’s like sliding on glue at a 180° (yes that’s a straight line). Don’t run your hot iron over rubber/plastic team numbers or appliques- you can guess why. I’ve also found an excellent way to iron sheets. Email me for more info (I won’t hold my breath). This is also  a gorgeous time to indulge in the new series Once Upon A Time. O’s  music stand turned flat serves as a platform for my laptop. Streaming and steaming. Sweet. And the opportunity presents itself every week.

I didn’t come up with this ironing idea all on my own. It was one morning whilst having coffee with a friend who told me she irons everything except underwear and jeans. Feeling like an underachiever, I thought I’d have a go at it. Besides my mother would be so proud I thought. Not really, she thinks it’s a phase because I’m a newlywed…. Maybe during the first marriage… But now it’s serious business and I will do it forever. Ok. Lastly, it’s probably not burning as many calories as some sports or other housework for that matter, but I’m standing and my hands are full of something besides food for an hour , so that counts for something.

Here’s my new tool.

MCSA034537_TB26130_def.epsWho Can Argue?

Nanowrimo

Nanowrimo

Where did November go anyway? I made a good start the first 2 weeks and hit about 20K words and then seriously petered out when I let myself make excuses about the rest of my life taking the front seat. My writing was trailing behind the car at a slow jog. But it’s okay. It’s 20K words more than I’ve ever written on one piece.

I’m taking some time now to evaluate the direction of my story, add and subtract a little and then hit it again. I think it’s important to get this first story out on paper just to 1) know I can , and 2) have something to refer to when I’m reading the how to’s so I can see what I’ve learned so far, and 3) have something to put under the false bottom of my desk drawer.

New paths at 40+ aka Late bloomers

I have been reading about ‘late bloomers’ for a little confidence booster. Here’s a few examples of what a few well-known people were doing at 30.

  1. Sylvester Stallone, deli counter attendant.
  2. Andrea Bocelli, lawyer.
  3. Martha Stewart, stockbroker.
  4. Julia Child, government spy.
  5. James Joyce, singing.
  6. Colonel Sanders, tons of blue-collar jobs.
  7. Michael Jordan, baseball player
  8. Rodney Dangerfield, aluminum siding salesman.
  9. Harrison Ford, carpenter

You can read more about these 30 yr olds in the wrong career here.   

And even more inspiring…Late Bloomers After 50

  1. Colonel Harland Sanders – started the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise at age 65.
  2. Grandma Moses – began painting at 76, after arthritis forced her to give up embroidery. She continued painting until 101.
  3. Julia Child – became a chef after many years as a secret intelligence officer. She was 49 when her first book was published, 51 when her TV program “The French Chef” first aired.
  4. Ray Kroc – went from being a salesman to opening the first McDonalds at age 52.
  5. Raymond Chandler – became a bookkeeper after an unsuccessful career in journalism. Published his first book, The Big Sleep, at the age of 51.
  6. Sister Marion Irvine – started running at age 47, when she was overweight and smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day. Went on to qualify for the Olympic marathon trials at age 54.
  7. Marjorie Stoneman Douglas – began her environmental work when in her 60s. Started her long fight to protect the Everglades at age 78, which she continued until she was 100.
  8. Laura Ingalls Wilder – published the first book in the “Little House on the Prairie” series at 65.
  9. Wallace Stevens – changed his career from insurance salesman to poet in his 50s.
  10. Maya Angelou – was in her 60s when her poetry and books became popular.
  11. Alfred Hitchcock – directed his best films between the ages of 54 and 61.
  12. Susan Boyle – achieved worldwide recognition for her singing talent at age 48 (almost 50). **

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