Archive for the ‘The Art of Writing’ Category

  • THE WRITING PROCESS-what I remember what I don’t

    Date: 2021.02.20 | Category: Assignments, Poetry, Septuagenarian, The Art of Writing | Response: 0

    The Writing Process-What I Remember; What I Don’t

     

    A student once said to me that she appreciated me telling the class to keep everything.  Keep each and every draft of your writing, your manuscript.  Did I say that?

     

    Actually, I save nothing.  Okay, next to nothing.  When did I start letting go? It’s not about keeping what brings me joy.  My writing isn’t joyful.  Although, someone once said it had sass.

     

    I have always decluttered.  Every two or three months I purge-this includes not only things, but sometimes, people (sometimes they purge me).  But since the Pandemic, actually even before, I started a momentous purge—maybe it was when I turned 70 and knew any day now could be my last and why make my children go through my things, things they wouldn’t want.  Even worse, if they, without paying any attention to who I was, threw them out without a nod or a recognition.

     

    My office files are fairly pristine.  Sorted, labeled, shelved:  insurance, taxes, car, condo, publications—mine and those of my friends.  Yet, as the piles of my essays and poems thin, I am heart struck to notice a journey of words that repeat, that sail forth, that bring me to my writing/life today at the age of 73.

     

    I have a book forthcoming. March 2021, LHP:  Septuagenarian: love is what happens when I die. Now that’s a scary title if not understood as a metaphor.  The mock-up of the cover has the sub-title in small font size.  What does that mean?  Are we afraid of death?  Actually, the title came from a poem within the manuscript and it stuck, the line in the title, not the poem.  It’s a metaphor.  Clarissa Pinkola Estés said What must I give more death to today, in order to generate more life? I say, what must I let go of to generate love, be love, give love, get love.

     

    As I fumble through boxes of what I have not yet been able to discard, I discover a few poems that haven’t yet found their way to the trash.  One poem in particular, but there are others, starts out like this:

     

    “I woke up knowing I was dead.  The first thing I’ve been sure of all my life.  The marks stretched, some visible and some invisible.  Stretched past cardboard boxes.  None of them empty,  Each box filled with an arm or a leg.”

     

    The two-page poem contain boxes each labeled by a decade. It ends with:  “This was love.  She had finally gotten what she wanted.  But she was no longer who she was. She didn’t recognize herself….”

     

    The poem was dated October 15, 1999.  Only three years after I earned an MFA. There are hand-written revisions.  There is a short version printed in red.  A note says Vulva Riot.  There is a chorus that reads:  “Stretch marks, mark time, highway marks, passing marks, remarks, earmarks, market, marker, question marks, magic markers, grave markers, stretch marks.”

     

    Sometimes we don’t know why we say things, do things, save things—write things.  But there is significance to our actions.  I am glad I saved this poem. If I had come across it earlier, it would be in my book.  It would be the Introduction, the Foreword.  I am going to edit the poem.  This poem will not be discarded.  There are no rules I told my students.  Save all your drafts or don’t.  Discard everything so future generations won’t be bothered, or save what has been your life line and hope someone will embrace it.

     

    WRITING EXERCISE:  choose a word, such as mark and explore it and all related words by sound, by meaning, or both.  Create a chorus/a short verse.  Let it be the pattern that emerges.  How do you fill the empty spaces in-between?  Are they boxes marked by decades such as:

     

    “One box, marked 1953-1963, contained Hostess Cup Cakes.  Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup.  Barbie dolls.  Captain, May I.  Sorry.  Sugar and Spice.  Axel and His Dog. Captain Kangaroo. Nancy Drew. Bobbsey Twins.  The Little Engine That Could.  Pop Beads,  Roller Skates.  Crinolines. Hula Hoops.  Red Rover.  Pony Tails.  Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. Kool Aide. “Go Tell Aunt Rhody the Ol’ Gray Goose Is Dead”. The Salvation Army Book Store on Nicollet Island. Government Surplus.  A metal Grocery Cart.  Trading Cards.  Air Raid Drills.  Standish Elementary School.  Woolworths. Wonder Bread.”

     

    I probably did tell the student to save all of her writing.  I probably meant it.  Much of my writing, my former life was left behind when I made, yet another relationship move.  This one sudden.  Sometimes things aren’t saved because we can’t take them with us.  But sometimes, a book authored and signed by you to another poet will show up on a Google search and you know not everything is lost, it just might have found a new home.

     

    Sherry Quan Lee

    February 18, 2021

  • MIDWEST MIXED WRITING WORKSHOP

    Date: 2019.03.27 | Category: Events, The Art of Writing, Workshops | Response: 0

    Here, We Are Writing Workshop with Sherry Quan Lee:  April 13 1-4pm at Eastside Community Co-op

    “The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete.  They make one story become the only story.”

    — Chimamanda Adichie’s, “The Danger of a single story,” TED Talk, 2009.

    Storytelling.  It’s monkey mind.  It’s conversation.  It’s crafting our lives by crafting our words.  It’s claiming the past and imagining the future with no rules of craft or politics except the ones we, individually, choose, the ones that work for us.  Stories that save our lives and enter our world like angels flapping their wings, creating music, something like jazz. Our goal is to break silence and invisibility by reading, writing, contemplating, and conversing; and, to imagine a future by breaking through barriers that have shut us out and shut us up-that have tried to define us. We will look within and without–and shout out, bringing our mixed race stories of intersectional identity to the surface. We will embrace our stories in all of their complexity in order to understand and challenge social or cultural obstacles to loving who we are.  We will look in a mirror and see beauty, strength wit, and wisdom.  We will look at each other and see the same. Participants will summon the past, witness the present, and invoke the future using literature, historical records, photographs, maps, and memorabilia to remember, reveal, confront, embrace, and document their stories.  – Sherry Quan Lee

    Read Sherry’s Community Spotlight https://www.midwestmixed.com/community/midwest-mixed-community-spotlight-sherry-quan-lee )

  • Oh So Wild and Oh So Beautiful

    Date: 2018.12.27 | Category: The Art of Writing | Response: 0

    What’s it like to be seventy?  2018, for me, was a year of introspection.  Check out my thoughts on Midwest Mixed:

    https://www.midwestmixed.com/community/midwest-mixed-community-spotlight-sherry-quan-lee

     

  • HOW I DEFY A SINGLE STORY AND ADD TO THE SWELL OF STORIES THAT DEFY STEREOTYPES

    Date: 2018.09.08 | Category: How Dare We! Write a multicultural creative writing discourse, The Art of Writing | Response: 0

    HOW I DEFY A SINGLE STORY AND ADD

    TO THE SWELL OF STORIES THAT DEFY STEREOTYPES

    -IN THE MIX-

    How much simmering does it take for you to write a poem, a story, a blog post, or even a tweet or a response to a FB post?  How much anxiety?  How much shame?

    Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk, 2009, “The Danger of a single story,” states:  “The consequence of a single story is this: it robs people of dignity.  It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”

    As a MFA student in a Creative Writing program, I often felt suffocated and angry because I felt there was only a single story being perpetuated: of what you needed to learn to be a writer, what you needed to write to be a writer, who you needed to be to be a writer, and who you needed to embrace (not contentiously disagree with).

    “The consequence of a single story is this: it robs people of dignity.”  The story when I attended graduate school was not inclusive.  It didn’t include my story.  It offered shame.  I was told “they didn’t teach me how to write.”  Perhaps not, but I wrote, and I graduated with a 4.0.  Yet, I experienced that my story was a thorn in the single story.

    As writers, we all have our particular story(ies).  In How Dare We! Write a multicultural creative writing discourse, LHP, 2017, we can read 24 particular stories.  These stories defy a single story; they embrace difference and for some of us, similarity.

    My story as a writer is that I don’t write every day, I may not write in a month or even a year.  I don’t write to be a writer.  I didn’t go to graduate school to be a writer; I went to prove to myself I was smart enough to earn a graduate degree.  What I write has more to do with finding myself, understanding myself/my mixed identity-and when I write is when I write, period.  And I didn’t go to graduate school to become a teacher.  I became a teacher because someone gave me an opportunity to be one and I accepted because I needed the paycheck.  I wasn’t a particularly good teacher, just like I’m not a particularly good writer-but I persisted: 1) because I needed the money, and 2) because, apparently, I was born to tell the truth, whether it served me well or not. But persistence doesn’t define pace, and for me, persistence, didn’t mean I was or am prolific.

    I am not one story.  My story is not a true story unless it envelops race, class, gender, sexuality, age, ability, etc.  My story wanders in and out of time and situations.  Currently my story is a story of aging.  It’s one of contemplation, of consideration.  I have written a few poems; poems that I didn’t write because I had to which is always the reason I have written in the past-out of urgency.  And I am writing a picture book, a gift to my grandson (and his parents) who is nonverbal and was diagnosed with autism at an early age.  I am imagining, by observing, what he might have to say to grandmas, to parents, and to caretakers.  I don’t have to write this book, I want to.

    My story is many stories; it could never be just one story.  And my many stories are just a drop in the swell of other writers’ stories.   I pray for dignity, not shame, for all of us who write whether every day, or whenever; who are published or not-who want to be or couldn’t care less; who are expert grammarians, or like me not so much; and who have not only the heart and determination, but the words and a way to articulate them to engage purposefully in social media-again, I’m not so skilled or articulate-or brave.  It’s all okay.

    Adichie says “stories matter.” I’d like to add, your story as a writer matters.  I remember being told a writer should take risks, not be a copy-cat, that to be unique is what really counts.  There might be some truth in that, depending on what your goals as a writer are/or are not, but maybe it’s not about taking risks, but just embracing who you are.

    I think I’ve written this story before.  Sometimes I have to remind myself.

     

    What is your story as a writer?  Feel free to share in comments.

     

    Sherry Quan Lee, September 8, 2018

Artist Statement

Sherry Quan Lee approaches writing as a community resource and as culturally based art of an ordinary everyday practical aesthetic. Lee is a Community Instructor at Metropolitan State University (Intro to Creative Writing, Advanced Creative Writing), and has taught at Intermedia Arts, and the Loft Literary Center. She is the author of A Little Mixed Up, Guild Press, 1982 (second printing), Chinese Blackbird, a memoir in verse, published 2002 by the Asian American Renaissance, republished 2008 by Loving Healing Press, and How to Write a Suicide Note: serial essays that saved a woman’s life, Loving Healing Press, 2008.

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SEPTUAGENARIAN

Septuagenarian by Sherry Quan Lee

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY

Goodreads Book Giveaway

How Dare We! Write by Sherry Quan Lee

How Dare We! Write

by Sherry Quan Lee

Giveaway ends June 09, 2021.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

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HOW DARE WE! WRITE

LOVE IMAGINED

Love Imagined book by Sherry Quan Lee

CHINESE BLACKBIRD

Chinese Blackbird Book by Sherry Quan Lee

HOW TO WRITE A SUICIDE NOTE

How to Write a Suicide Note by Sherry Quan Lee

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