Jo Stafford Sang at My Wedding

“Today, celebrate three songs that are significant to you. For your twist, write for fifteen minutes without stopping — and build a writing habit.”

Oh, all right, might as well stop complaining about these Do-Not-Edit twists. Nobody’s listening.

Fifteen Minutes:

I can’t think of three songs that are significant to me. I can think of the four that were played/sung at my wedding; they’re significant, I suppose. But I’ve written about them elsewhere. What’s significant is that I chose two and the groom chose two, and our choices differed so widely.

My hand stopped. This is hard to do on a computer: it’s too easy to go back and fix things, choose another word. Even when you’re trying not to. Cursive is easier.

Anyway, David supplied recordings of “A-You’re Adorable” and “La Vie en Rose” (Jo Stafford). We opened with the Adorable song, and that set the tone for the entire day. Emily Post ran up the aisle and out the door in disbelief. But the guests visibly relaxed, and that was a good thing. No tension, no worries. Even the bride had a good time. After she saw the caterer’s van parked in front of the fellowship hall.

My songs were “Simple Gifts” and “The Prayer Perfect.” My gift to myself was a trained soprano to sing them.

***

Saturday morning I’ll spend two hours writing as Natalie Goldberg prescribes. David and I belong to a practice group called 15 Minutes of Fame. We write/read/write/read, etc. We’ve done it for years–I met him in another practice group–and I enjoy it. But we don’t publish our work. Well, we do, if we want, on our blog, but we clean them up a bit first.

And I never write on computer in practice. Cursive is faster. If schools stop teaching cursive, how will students ever be able to scrawl a note? Or write in a margin? Or practice writing their names in different styles? Educators need to think.

***

 

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I wonder what happened to…

My predictions at the end of that last post were right on. Last Saturday’s 15 Minutes of Fame writing practice did have more energy, more wordplay, more laughter, and more fun.

It also had more people. Twelve. That’s 12: double the average attendance for the past year.

I didn’t predict that.

Normally we all sit around one table. Saturday we had to set up two folding tables and push all three together. Even then, every place was filled.

There were so many writers, I was shy when it was my turn to read.

No one was new. The “extra” six were just members who hadn’t attended lately, or who’d been there when someone else was absent. Our “average” comprises an ever-shifting population.

There are any number of reasons FMOF doesn’t recognize perfect attendance. We have families, other engagements, other lives outside writing practice. Sometimes we have the flu.

Nobody calls roll. We do, however, say things like, “Has anybody heard from Liz?” “I wonder what’s happened to Pat.” “Donna ought to be back from Colorado by now. I wonder why she hasn’t been here.”

And then, when a crowd shows up, it’s like a class reunion, minus the checks for weight, hair loss, and career status. There are gasps–“Look who’s here!”–and quick catching up. Last Saturday, David passed out DVDs he’d made of Sunday’s reading at Borderlands Community of Poets.

And then we got down to business: “How long should we write this time?”

No matter how many, or how few, sit around that table, it’s always about the writing.

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To my readers: You are always invited to join us for writing practice at 15 Minutes of Fame. We do timed writings and read (on a voluntary basis) what we’ve written. We don’t criticize or critique. We’re not professional writers or professional poets. We just like to write. And if you’ll join us, we’ll be more than happy to find a place for you at the table. ~ Kathy

You can find more info on 15 Minutes of Fame available at our blog.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Two Saturday mornings a month, when reasonable people are still in bed, David and I sit around a table with five or six other like-minded individuals and practice writing.

We do timed writings–ten minutes, twelve minutes, the magic fifteen, sometimes even twenty–and then read aloud what we’ve written.

Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read.

We follow principles set forth in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. David supplies prompts for those who need a jumpstart. Subjects are neither prescribed nor forbidden.

Some of us write from life. Some write fiction. Some write poetry. David writes in a genre that can only be called “off-the-wall.” Everything we write is creative.

We do that for two hours.

Why?

Friendships. Fluency. Fun.

We see the people we write with only four hours a month, but we know them, in some ways, as well as–perhaps better than–some members of our own families. Their stories tell us who they are.

And there’s something about being with them, playing with words, playing off one another’s words, that creates energy–parallel energies, if you will–that affects our minds and our hands. We become more fluent. We become better writers.

As for fun–what can I say? We laugh a lot. When David, the temporary facilitator, looks at his watch and announces it’s time to leave, I’m always surprised. And disappointed. Those are the shortest two hours of my week.

Now here’s where we get personal. Our group is called Fifteen Minutes of Fame. It’s free and open to the public. New members are welcome.

If you live in or near Austin, Texas, you’re invited to join us. Bring pen and paper and just show up on the third floor of BookPeople Independent Bookstore, 603 N. Lamar Boulevard (corner of 6th St. and Lamar), on the first and third Saturdays of the month. We write from 10:00 a.m. to noon.

If you’re visiting Austin, you’re welcome to visit us as well.

And if you ever attended an Austin writing practice group called Writing From the Heart, you’ll feel right at home with us. Fifteen Minutes of Fame originated as Writing from the Heart. It’s been in existence for fifteen consecutive years. The name is different, but the process is just the same.

For more information, including 2010 meeting dates, check out our blog, Fifteen Minutes of Fame. If you have  questions, send an e-mail to the address listed on the FoF blog, or leave a comment there or at the end of this post.