News for December 2017

Keeping the Faith – Tarot for Writers

I have been thinking a lot about the artists’ vision. I spent four days at the CraftBoston holiday fair with my partner, a ceramic artist, surrounded by incredibly beautiful handmade objects. Every artist had a different vision. Some found their collectors more immediately than others. What makes one “better” than another? Why do we even ask that question? Of course we artists/writers want to make a living through our art, if at all possible, so we fall back on financial measurements. Who sold the most things? Whose prices were the highest? Who hit the bestseller list this week? Who got a agent? A book deal? But is that outside, external measurement of our worth really the right way to assess ourselves, or is it eroding our vision?

So the question I am pondering, especially in a world where the outside measurements have seemed a bit capricious and capitalistic of late, is:

How do we keep the faith?

I have been pulling a single tarot card to answer my questions, and this week, the card that came up is the Six of Rivers.

In the Shining Tribe, this is a card of pleasure. The figure, floating along in the river – which signifies emotion, the unconscious, creativity, dreams and stories – is hiding their face, content to be solitary. Embrace of another, embrace of the world…these are images for other cards. This answer to our question is a reminder that faith is personal, individual, that it starts and must endure within ourselves.

An anecdote, if I may, borrowed from the life of another writer who reached out to me because something wonderful had happened: an agent was interested in her work. Did I have advice? I thought about my own journey through agents, as I have had more than one. I thought, not about who the agents were or what they had to offer (or not just, because of course all that comes into play) but who I was – a different someone – each time I had to go out a find a new publishing partner. Over decades, I have moved beyond the “You really like me!” excitement, and past the “What do I say, what do I do, can I tell them that I sent my book out to others at the same time? (of course you did, you can’t wait on one stranger for months)” conundrum that has echoes of that first crush when you were a kid, when you were sure there was something magic to the exact sentence structure of what you might say to the unfathomable mystery that was the person you were crushing on, or the timing of your response. I have come to a place in my life where honesty, humanity, and above all gratitude, are evident, and they start in the self. In the personal gut that says I know my artistic voice, what it sounds like, and what I need to say in the world, and now what I need – and what I have the right to – is to take my time and find the right partner, who shares my dream and sees that vision clearly.

The Six of Rivers comes as a perfect confirmation of this conversation. The answer then to the question of how we keep the faith?

Be true to your passion

Trust your voice; go back to what moves you. Trust yourself and your worth. If you try to create the fad or the book you think will sell, you are putting your faith in other people and things, and what they think has value. If you follow your passion, your audience will find you.

A writing exercise to go with the tarot card? This one is simple. Write this sentence:

“What she/they (pick the pronoun that suits you of course) didn’t say, what they couldn’t say no matter how hard and fast the words collected in their mouth, was this:” then fill in the blank.

You might find this person is a character you are working with, or a persona. Or maybe it is someone new, or yourself. It may relate to a project you are working on, to crystallize the central urgencies you already know, or to give you insight into something you care about. Or it it may remind you of how your own passions are already infusing your creative work.

Wishing you inspiration and passion!

*In this feature, I’m working with The Shining Tribe Tarot: Awakening the Universal Spirit, created by renowned Tarot scholar Rachel Pollack, who taught me that the Tarot “is a vehicle to remind yourself of what you already know.” If you want to know more about the deck and its images, or have your own Tarot practice, here are the links.

**P.S. If you are interested in more Tarot, I am doing a tarot workshop at the Pele’s Fire writing retreat this year.  More info at the link or on my website. We have one cabin left, due to a cancelation!

(Originally published on shewrites.com)

Share
Posted: December 31st, 2017
Categories: Random Thoughts, Tarot for Writers
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Acknowledging My Community

Last week I finished my first pass page proofs for Shadow Child, my new novel coming out in May. I started it in the year 2000.

Jacket for Shadow Child by Rahna Reiko RizzutoHolding those pages in my hands, with their elegant design and their printing marks, I was amazed at how much effort has gone into the creation of this book, effort from people at the publishing house with whom I have become deeply connected and others I have never met. After almost two decades, my book has a face – the jacket I have attached here is brand new and just posted by Grand Central – and it’s a face that, as gorgeous and perfect as it is, is also one I could never have dreamed of. The birth of this book is much like the birth of a child, in that you imagine what your child will look like, but the person who was created in some magical and mysterious way from your DNA is both instantly recognizable and utterly unfamiliar.

It is taking a publishing village to get Shadow Child out into the world. At Goddard, when we write, we might imagine that we are done once the final draft is ready to send out into the world. This is not true. The draft that will be published, which had already been read in various stages by friends, writer friends, agents and editors, was so thoroughly…engaged with…by my brilliant editor that on some pages there were so many comments I literally had to take a deep breath, close the document and come back to it a different day.

As wonderful as my pre-publishing experience has been, we hit a snafu the other day when I turned in my acknowledgements and was told that they had only saved three extra pages for them, never expecting that I might need…eight.

I couldn’t cut the names of the people I interviewed, around fifty, even if my story changed and I didn’t use the material, and even if some of them have already passed on. I couldn’t cut the people who helped. I held onto the list of books that served as resources and inspiration because my novel is partly historical and the reader might want to know what really happened. Some of the decisions I made about how to use that history, what to identify, where to let go of fact in my quest for a greater truth – I felt that context was essential to include. And more than all of that, I could not cut my community.

Over two decades, the community around this book is vast, and I know that, as much as I tried to list my many supporters, by name and affiliation, there are perhaps an equal number of people who have not been named. This is because my brain is old, but also because the people who made a difference are not always the ones who read the whole manuscript or gave me feedback. They are my friends, my colleagues, the people I spent time with. They are my students who, in asking questions about their own work, sparked an answer to a problem I was having in my book for me. They are fellow travelers, Pele’s Fire writers who create an electric buzz of brainstorming around them wherever they go; listeners who insist that the passage I read cannot be cut, even if I have to reshape the novel to keep it there, or who remember a scene from six years before; friends whose comments on a piece of art we saw together, or a movie, crystalized an idea in my brain. We don’t always know where our ideas come from, or how they shift and change. There is a time when it is just us, and our muse. But there is a far longer time when we are writers in the world, and the others around us are collaborators and inspiration whether they know it or not.

I offered to drop my bio to accommodate the acknowledgements. They refused. They offered to compromise the internal design. I refused. We were able to move a few things around, and I got ruthless with my sentence structure to gain some pages, and so far, it looks like the acknowledgements are going to fit. They won’t be as long as a book two decades in the making requires, with apologies to anyone whose name I have forgotten.

My advice to you who are still writing? Jot down those names, make a note of the passing conversations. Seek out your community and cherish it. Never forget you are a writer in the world.

Share
Posted: December 12th, 2017
Categories: Goddard, Hedgebrook, Shadow Child, The Writing Life
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.