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Girls of St. Andrew’s Priory Make Connections

Posted by JEAN TOYAMA
Wednesday, February 09, 2011 11:57 PM


There’s nothing like being appreciated and being told you’re inspirational. That’s music to anyone’s ears, especially a writer’s. After all, writing is communicating —making connections. That’s what renshi is all about: contacting, connecting, and collaborating. And appreciation and inspiration are acts of connection. So I thank you all for writing, even if it may have been your teacher’s suggestion. It’s still appreciated. And I am sharing your appreciation with my fellow poets, Ann, Christy and Juliet.
Now I’d like to respond to the questions and comments that were made.

Aly wanted advice for the person who is “not the writing type of person” who still wants to write. My suggestion is that you write to yourself first. After all, this can be a way to connect with our own thoughts and feelings. And it’s private. No prying eyes, no judgment. Just a bridge to yourself. When you find a sentence or thought that sounds interesting to you, you can use it as a first line of something, experiment with the words and see what comes of it. Sometimes you can’t know what you think or feel until you write it down. Maybe that’s why people keep journals.

Emalani wrote something that I thought was wonderful. She wrote: “I felt like the poems were teaching me things about life.” Music to my teacher ears. Words are our connections to life. When we use words, we are writing (talking) about life. OK, OK, this is self-evident. But this is renshi: Writing renshi is not just about writing, it’s about being human. When we write renshi or anything, we are writing about life, what we see, what we feel, what we think, what we imagine.

You’re growing up now, life is exciting, wonderful, sad, hard, confusing but most of all life is new, new to you. And writing about it can help you understand it.

My sister’s mother-in-law said to me some years ago, “Ningen ni natta.” I was a little disturbed. This means “you’ve become human.” I thought I already was human, after all, I was passed the age of 50! After thinking about it, I understood. Life is the process of growing up, becoming human. I guess it took me a long time (to become human). (Writing also means to become philosophical.)

Lanisa pointed out that she can’t write to deadlines; she “works solely on impulse.” I don’t know, my first writings were required work , homework, and I am compulsive about that kind of deadline. But when there are no deadlines, I find all kinds of excuses NOT to write. Even when I am in the midst of a sentence, I can find some excuse to move away, go to the refrigerator, turn on the tv, read a book. This is not good to me. I have to think of my writing as something I must do, an obligation; otherwise, I wouldn’t do it. So you are lucky, you have an impulse to write. (I exaggerate, sometimes, I have the impulse.)

Shinigami asked for tips on writing renshi: Like the Nike motto: Just do it! And if you are not the starter, you are lucky, you have the starting point, the last line of the poem ahead of yours. Think of all the things that that last line suggests to you. Write them down. Then choose. Forge ahead. Don’t think about the judgment of others. Push on.

Snoopy808 said, “I need to have the perfect first sentence, or the story gets nowhere!!!!” Ohhhh, you’re making it very hard on yourself. You want perfection from the start (first sentence). How often is the first try perfect? The first throw, the first plié, the first tap, the first note on the violin? The only suggestion I can make is to seek perfection (if it exists) at the end of the effort, not the beginning. You can always change the first line. I keep on thinking about Ha Jin, the writer, who says he writes something at least 35 times before he’s satisfied. I’m too lazy to go that far, but that number gives me hope. I always have more rewrites before me.

Britney wants “suggestions on how to pull in readers with the first sentence of any piece of writing.” I still remember Miss Case, my eleventh grade English teacher, saying, “The first sentence has to grab the attention of your reader to make her want to continue reading,” or something like that. Learn from other writers, read how they start their stories. “Safety Man is all shriveled and puckered inside his zippered nylon carrying tote....” “Sheryl woke in the middle of the night and she could hear the macaw talking to himself...” These are just two starting sentences of stories by Dan Chaon. What do they do? They make me curious. I want to find out more.

So I think I’ve addressed all the questions you asked. If not, ask again.

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