Laura Rink

Writer

JANUARY, A MONTH TOO SHORT AND TOO LONG

January bears the burden of high expectations: A New Year! Resolutions! Winter projects! If last month I was tired, this month, the winter holidays behind me now, I felt ready to be productive—I will get so much done this month! And yet this month has flown by—is it really the 24th already?—and I have not gotten so much done. The too-long part of January isn’t an abundance of time for projects, but the endless dark and cold days. In Bellingham, we experienced negative temperatures for the first time in the twenty-six years we have lived here. I’m not a fan. Though comparatively it was interesting to experience twenty-three degrees as a comfortable temperature.

Work: In 2022, I set a goal to have my Armenian family manuscript completed and of publishable quality by my sixtieth birthday in February 2025. That goal felt reasonable and doable then. I set many intermediate goals. I moved those goalposts a few times. I have made progress but not as much as I’d hoped. Hence the high expectations for this January. And now I’m here, with only thirteen months left until I turn sixty. I’m not moving the goalposts this time, but I have altered the goal: a complete draft of decent quality, probably not ready for publication but ready for an editor, a fresh set of discerning eyes. To that end, I hope January, and February, continue to provide the perfect weather—dark, damp, and cold—to stay inside and write.

Do you set short- and long-term goals for your various projects? Any tips for helping to meet those goals? How do you feel about moving the goalposts or altering the goal itself?

Wonder: Last month I read Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. “Wintering” doesn’t just occur in the winter but any time when illness, a major life event, a failure, or a period of transition sidelines you from your regular routine. Wintering may arrive slowly or suddenly, and can be painful and lonely. Most assuredly wintering is inevitable. “life is, by nature, uncontrollable. . . . we should stop trying to finalise our comfort and security somehow, and instead find a radical acceptance of the endless, unpredictable change that is the very essence of this life.” Fighting this fundamental truth brings on only more suffering.

What do I do when winter finds me? Recognize it for what it is: a change of season, temporary. Treat myself kindly: walk outside or stay inside and watch the birds at the feeder. Sleep in, nap, and go to bed early. Try to honor what I need in this particular season.

What helps you get through a wintering and/or this literal cold dark season? In what ways, if any, do you change your daily routine? What books help sustain you this time of year?

Window: Single digit temperatures I can do without but it isn’t winter, to me, if we don’t get at least one snowfall to brighten the day and settle a hush over the world. My love of snow isn’t shared by all, and I understand the hardships snow poses to those who must go out into it or get stuck, against their wishes, at home. Still the snow possesses a touch of the magical, and transports me to a world seen anew, if only for a few days.

 

WORK, AND WALKING AWAY

I restarted my blog in May and with December’s blog, I’ve met my goal of blogging at least once a month. I almost didn’t reach that goal. I’m tired and considered not blogging this month. I’m tired and considered just posting a picture captioned with Happy Holidays! But that didn’t feel right, or good.

I’m tired. And I wanted to write a blog this month.

I’m tired because of the low light this time of year, because I don’t get outside and exercise enough, because I don’t often sleep well. I’m tired because the state of our planet and our humanity is exhausting.

I wanted to write a blog this month, and I wasn’t sure what to say.

In talking with two writer friends about whether I would write this blog, about being tired, about what was happening with my writing lately, I discovered I not only had something to say, I had enough energy to do so. Receiving their empathy gave me that energy.

Last week I worked on cutting down an essay from 317 words to 250 or less, which is the word limit for a dream publication, Riverteeth’s “Beautiful Things.” I was stuck around 300 words. I spent two hours seeking a smaller shape for the piece and I couldn’t find it. Perhaps I needed to look for a journal with a higher word count, but that was not the solution I wanted. I was disappointed and I walked away.

Later that day something drew me back to that short essay. I focused on the central essence of the story, the push that made me want to write about this moment to begin with, and I stayed with that moment and I wrote a complete essay that is currently at 248 words. I am, I told myself, a f*@#ing rock star. Tired and walking away from the work. Tired and returning to the work.

Here’s to writer friends, and here’s to you sharing this writing journey with me. Thank you and Happy Holidays.

WORK ALWAYS

September’s blog was all windows, October’s wonder, so it follows that this month’s will be about the work, the ongoing writer’s work. The fulfilling and frustrating act of creating art. Though, as I seek more equanimity in all aspects of my life, my mindset regarding this work has been evolving. Less high-highs and low-lows, more acceptance of process, as in the work won’t always go smoothly and that’s okay.

Where I am in the drafting process of my Armenian family book: The manuscript is currently about 50,000 words, 177 pages. My goal is around 80,000 words. Much of the manuscript isn’t fleshed out or fully developed. I have several other Word docs, totaling around 20,000 words, with material waiting to be incorporated into the manuscript. I’m trying to establish, again and again as the story evolves, a solid spine around which to build the body of the book. I have to know what kind of story I’m constructing in order to know what belongs in this book, and as that story keeps shifting, so does what remains, what must be added, and what is deleted. I’ve probably written 80,000 words a few times over in my search for this story, which is, at least for me, a necessary part of the process in creating this book.

How would you describe where you are with your current creative project?

Continue reading

Wonder, All The Time

Wonder When We’ll Give Peace A Chance

 

Ukraine and Russia.

Israel and Palestine.

Armenia & Artsakh and Azerbaijan & Turkey.

 

Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, . . . United States.

 

How to replace hate with empathy?

How to halt bombs and advancing armies by other than the same?

How to transform greed into generosity, or at least moderation?

 

I wonder.

Windows, All The Way Around

September brought two local end-of-summer camping trips and while my writing work continued albeit at a much slower pace and there was much to wonder, this blog is all about what was outside the windows of the trailer, plus a welcome-home view.

Kayak Point: A new campground for us in a forest on a bluff overlooking the Salish Sea. Just down the road from the campground is a disc golf resort and we had two days of throwing fun. I highly recommend the putting course for all levels of disc golfers. Besides being free, the par-two course has water features which add ambience and an occasional disc bath. Back at camp, we hiked a short steep trail down to the beach, where the salmon were jumping, continuously. I laughed at the joyous sight of the frolicking fish, while a local fisherman lamented that he’d have better luck shoving an empty boat out amid all that jumping than he was having fishing from shore. I attributed the salmon jumping to all their energy surging them toward their spawning grounds, perhaps in the nearby Stillaguamish River. A quick internet search added two additional reasons. According to Tlingit culture, the jumping is to better see their surroundings, a geographical orientation. The jumping may also be to dislodge sea lice. Great, now I know that such a creature as sea lice exists.

Forest View

Water View

Continue reading

Work, Wonder, and Windows

Work: Have you heard the term micro prose? I recently took a class from Darien Hsu Gee, a fellow Rainier Writing Workshop alum, in which she illuminated the benefits of writing micro prose: pieces of 300 words or less. She is passionate about this form, and offered much practical advice and inspiration. The writing process she outlined included writing a first draft in ten minutes and then revising in two ten-minute sessions. The short timeframes makes this a flexible and doable practice. For me, this form will be a way to get difficult material down on the page in short bursts. For more information on micro prose, and free prompts, visit Darien’s website Writer-ish.com.

Tech update: On my website, the “subscribe to blog via email” is now available on mobile devices. After the blog post, scroll past the comment section, and at the very bottom is a place to put in your email and subscribe to my blog. Please let me know if that is not the case. I’m pleased that I figured this out on my own, though not thrilled at the number of hours I spent on it when I just needed to add a widget, which was obvious in hindsight and took mere minutes.

Continue reading

Work, Wonder, and Windows

Work: Traveling along the Oregon coast for two weeks this month took me out of my usual writing and exercise routines. (For more on the latter, check out this blog post.) Most mornings, I had to choose whether to write or exercise. Road trips require more sitting, so I often picked moving my body over writing. Once at my family reunion, being with my extended family was the priority. Little progress was made on my book during these two weeks and that was okay.

How do you balance the immobility of writing and moving your body? Do you try to write on vacation? Do you purposefully take writing breaks?

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Continue reading

Work, Wonder, and Windows

Welcome to my blog. First time here? Check out May’s blog for info on my intentions for this space.

Work: Last October while reading Judith Kitchen’s The Circus Train, a novella-length essay in fragments about, to name a few, mortality, Samuel Beckett, and memory, I came across this line: “I like the phrase ‘time on your hands’ when you can actively hold it and feel its weight.” In that moment I was transported back thirty years to an experience that altered my perception of time. I grabbed a pen and a notebook, and wrote the first draft of “Twenty Seconds,” an essay out in the current issue of Two Hawks Quarterly.

What does the phrase “time on your hands” make you think about?

Continue reading

Work, Wonder, and Windows

June 2023

Welcome to my blog. First time here? Check out last month’s blog for info on my intentions for this space.

Work: I’ve started on the next draft of my book, my untitled Armenian family memoir. The last draft I refused to begin with page one—I was sick of page one. I was sick of the beginning that might not even be the beginning, in the end. I picked a pivotal section on page 43 and sailed forth from there. Last week I landed on page 191 with new insights for global revisions, my main goal for that draft. I’ve returned to the beginning, and those new insights are helping me see what belongs here and what decidedly does not, and the fate of the rest of the beginning is uncertain at this point. As a person, I prefer the familiar, the known, the certain. As a writer, I’ve found the only way forward, for me, is to make peace with losing sight of the shore and trust that new lands will appear, eventually, on the horizon.

A helpful resource to take along on the drafting journey: Seven Drafts by Allison K Williams.

How do you tackle your drafts? Always from the beginning? Or do you jump around?

Continue reading

Work, Wonder, and Windows

May 2023

One of my motivations to write is connecting with others, and that connection can’t begin until the work goes out into the world. As I am currently writing a book, it’s a long slog before that engagement can begin. So I’ve decided to reboot, revive, and recommit to my blog.

This blog will be loosely organized in three categories: Work, Wonder, and Windows. What I am up to with my writing; wonderings inspired by books, podcasts, articles, essays, anything really; and what I’m seeing out my window on my borrowed piece of the planet between the Salish Sea and the Cascade Mountains.

Work: I’m expanding my MFA creative nonfiction thesis into a book-length work about my relationships with my Armenian grandmother and her two sisters, and the silence surrounding their life in Turkey and how they survived the Armenian Genocide. I’ve published two essays related to this work: “Geraniums” at Complete Sentence and “Tante Silvia’s Flinch Cards” at The Keepthings.

Continue reading

LOOK WITH YOUR EYES

Look with your eyes, not your hands

My mother said in gift shops, antique stores, the five and dime

 

Now, in my mask and gloves, I peer at

Avocados and apples, grapefruit and lemons

 

Using my eyes to discern

Firmness, ripeness, compatibility

 

Wondering if the underside of the apple holds a bruise,

If the grapefruit will be more rind than flesh

 

Touching is a commitment—

You are now mine, for better or for worse

REMEMBER YOUR TRAINING

When, not if, you get tossed out of your boat in a rapid on a river, don’t panic. Hang onto the boat if you can, and with or without the boat, assume the floating lounge chair position: feet up, knees bent, and head back. Ride out the rapid and then, in calmer water, make your way over to the river’s edge.

I know this advice—my extended family has been rafting the Rogue River in inflatable kayaks for almost forty years. I email this advice as a safety reminder every two years in July right before the family gathers at Indian Mary Campground in Southern Oregon for seven days of game-playing, socializing, and floating down the river. I don’t know whether anyone reads my email but my be-prepared mentality compels me to send it.

Continue reading

Chuckanut Writers Conference

From the opening address by Sonora Jah—The Writer in Uncertain Times—to the closing address by Omar El Akkad—Lies of Our Own Making: The Obligations of Literature in a Politically Fractured Age—my hometown writing conference contained immense ideas, blood-pumping inspiration, and a plethora of practical advice. The impressive faculty shared their stories, their hard-earned knowledge, and their passion for writing.

Village Books and Whatcom Community College have made the Chuckanut Writers Conference happen for nine years. For various reasons, I was unable to attend until this year. Logistically, this was an easy choice for me: the venue is eight miles away so I didn’t need to procure lodging—though Bellingham has ample choices for out-of-towners. I got to hang out with my local writing tribe and compare notes on sessions. Village Books set up a mini-store with the faculty’s books—an easy temptation I gave into both days and now have four new books on my nightstand.

Continue reading

SHOTPOUCH

A wash of pink spreads across the lavender sky. The apple orchard grays into view. Soon Shotpouch Creek will surface, rippled in white. But first something new: bits of darkness darting through the air. It’s too early for the robins that will dot the meadow feeling out worms or the kinglets that will flitter in the willows along the creek. The winged darkness flies at the floor-to-ceiling windows and disappears soundlessly. Bats. A dozen visible and then poof—gone. One flies toward me and then melts away. Another scrabbles against the glass for half a second before slipping under the flashing over the sliding glass door. They pour through the dim morning light and secure themselves for sleep.

Continue reading

I WRITE MEMOIR, PART I

In the third grade, I read The Little House in the Big Woods series of books. You could write about your own life—what a revelation! I wanted to do that. But also, a disappointment—my life wasn’t as interesting as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s. Mine was a normal life. Two parents and two sisters, a house on a cul-de-sac, school a half-mile walk away.

Continue reading

OUT OF MY BUBBLE

In my Red Wheelbarrow Writers guest blog, Resist: Ignorance, I discussed reading books to help deepen my understanding of and empathy for other people. Still working on that list, still glad I’m doing so. But reading a book is not the same as speaking with a person. Along came The Bellingham Herald’s “Outside the Bubble Dinner” sponsored by Whatcom Community Foundation’s Project Neighborly. The idea was to get matched up with a person outside your bubble and share a meal and some conversation. In order to apply for one of the five dinners, I first had to take a Bubble Test (You can too!) so organizers would know where my bubble fell on the spectrum. Then I filled out a short questionnaire.

Continue reading

HUMMINGBIRD WINTER

Upon returning home, from a road trip, in the middle of November, I saw a hummingbird dart out of the large rhody in the backyard to the nearby feeder, a little sugar-water still in it, hover and drink, and then dart back into the rhody. A hummingbird in November—a novelty to me. This one had bright red over its head and neck, a male Anna’s hummingbird. I immediately boiled water and poured a cup over a quarter cup of sugar, stirred until the sugar dissolved and then let it cool.

Continue reading

« Older posts

© 2024 Laura Rink

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑