The story of a year

Jan 28, 2011
Photo by: Lucinda Ziesing

As the New Year begins, I like to work with my students to summarize their "writing year" and to look forward to the coming year. Here's the invitation to the workshop.

I am putting together a four hour workshop closing out 2010 and working on intentions for 2011. It's a way to look at what we have accomplished, as writers, in 2010 and to form a picture of where we intend to go with our work in 2011. What's transformative about this work is the discovery of how much we have accomplished in the previous year. What's exciting about it is the focus on where we want to go. The clearer we are, the quicker we get there.

I asked the students to go through their 2010 calendars, week by week, and put together a story of their year. Below is Nat Goodale's response to this assignment. You will see that he uses several different voices in this piece (read it aloud and you'll experience the change in rhythm).




by Nat Goodale

Review last year? You have got to be kidding. That is so yesterday, and today is so filled up with email attachments of manuscripts to agents, who has the time?

But maybe I would not be here, today, if it wasn’t for yesterday. Who knew?

I am an organizer. I plot and plan and scheme. I use a 22-inch by 17-inch desk calendar with 2-1/4 by 3-inch blocks for days. I have a quiver of Sharpie accent highlighters and a double wild turkey whisky-on-the-rocks glass I stole from Darby’s restaurant in Belfast (that’s OK, I know the owner, Jerry) that I use for my pens – Uniball Signo 207 micros that lay down a line so fine I can scribe a treatise on a thumb print.

Meetings are lit in neon yellow, investments in orange, boat yard in blue and writings in pink (Why do I have to be Mr. Pink? I want to be Mr. Black! Shut up!). This exercise should be a piece of cake kaleidoscope.

Pink lines run horizontally through the last three weeks of January, the working days, not the weekends (I have young kids). It is to set the tone for the year, serious attention to this writing thing. In that vein, digging deep down the mine shaft, plunging into the black depths into the cavity of infinite lost world; but, I digress. In that vein, on the little block that is smack dab in the middle of the calendar on the 13th, a Wednesday (366 days ago), $425 to Kathrin Seitz, writing class 1/28 through 3/18, 64 Bayview Street, Camden. And they’re off!

(Also had a backup generator installed; belt and suspenders kind of guy)

February: Who said, in the movies, “Work, work, work, work?” (Mel Brooks in "Blazing Saddles"). Every Thursday morning we went deep into this method writing abyss, finding voices and being thoroughly entertained while we explored our self-expression angst. What a dynamic bunch of writers rock stars!

Who cannot let go. We sign up again and go deeper. But the tool chest floor joist is brimming with newly discovered techniques, becoming well oiled with repeated use. Our efforts are being published, for heaven’s sake, in the paper, for people to read and criticize. We are out there.

S H U T  U P !

"No Room for Error" comes out on March 3. We are instructed, encouraged, pushed to dare to believe in ourselves. We begin to smile. We learn to read our work slowly, without panic, and to modulate our voice and to look at our audience. We are performing, for God’s sake! I hear from an uncle in Ohio that he likes my writing. How cool is that?

"Jack" comes out in May, in Village Soup, and then a foreshadowing "Eating Disorder" in June.

All the while, I work through the week, 10 to two, on "Vacationland," plugging away with Donny and Shelly and increasing coastal tensions.

We are serial learners and sign up for more group think, encouragement, production and perspective. Kathrin is a dynamic catalyst and cheerleader.

Oh Lord, Harrah Lord. We work on a publication, a kind of Chap Book on steroids, and come out with, drum roll please, "A Box of Chocolates," a compilation of short works and enticers for the longer books. My first publication. My brother-in-law and his aunt each buy one for $10. Am I a published, professional author? Easy now. Not so fast.

Over the summer we meet on the mountain with Marilyn and work our works with each other, an honest, kind and enlightening give and take.

My Uncle Gom comes into the mix, he the true professional, who has shown up and written for decades, without accolades, with stacks of rejection letters, but showing up, nonetheless. He contributes to the readings.

Time is ticking. I have a deadline of Sept. 15 to finish the first draft of "Vacationland." Then I travel. Village Soup publishes chapters 25 and 35 in August and early September. I finish the first draft. Houses burn, dogs die and fishermen are wrapped in chain. I travel and buy a house in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Home the end of October, the Republicans win the U.S. House and the whole of Augusta, a local bookstore leaves a message wondering when "Vacationland" is coming out. Chapter 34 comes out in Village Soup in December.

Kathrin and Rich and Lynda conspire to inspire, and they succeed. There is no underestimating the power of proper direction, encouragement, steady persuasion and specific expectations. I have confidence in my voice, and I love to explore and twist the written word. I am accountable.

2010 was a defining year for me. I produced my first finished product, not sold in any store, but available from the author at I completed the first draft of my third book.

2011 has started with a whoosh of promise and enthusiasm. I have nailed down the initial marketing/promotion efforts with two websites on the donkey. I am exploring publishing options and want to begin selling my books by the beginning of the summer.

Screenplay anyone? Movie rights?

Boy, is this fun!


Yes this is great fun!! Nat brought his piece into class and read it. And then I asked the class to respond, in a 10-minute writing exercise, to four questions. These questions come from a workshop taught by Gail Larsen. These questions, in an indirect way, help us to locate our core values. I have included three questions and three answers below:

1. What delights you and brings you alive? I added a quote that Larsen uses: "You must remember one thing. The world was made to be free in. Give up all other worlds except the one to which you belong. Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you." — David Whyte

Here is Lucinda Ziesing's response to that question.


I am staring out a plate glass window.

It’s the day before my birthday.

I can’t see through.

I am blinded by expectations.

I can’t see through the window.

My binoculars are turned around

Looking into my mind, a sand storm of chatter.


I will surely die in there looking to be good enough

to the one who never was good enough for himself.


I stand at the plate glass window.


I see through it now,

towards the islands in Penobscot Bay, LaSalle, Mark, Saddle.

Their edges glowing in afternoon light, skirted in glory.

Islands floating in steel cold ink.

I see the world as it is.

The miraculous beauty that there is at every moment.

What delights me is this beauty.

What beautifies me is humor.

The sudden abandonment of the terror of hurry.

What delights me is standing in a birch grove the day after a blizzard.

Freshly fallen snow.

Brightly white.

It’s a visitation of seraphims.

And on my birthday!




What breaks your heart? Rumi said "Break my heart, oh break it again, so I can love even more again." Leonard Cohen says: "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

Here is Lucinda Ziesing's response to the question.


Cirrhosis of the liver tucks you into a wrestled bed wet with regret.

I know you could not stop meeting the impersonator behind the barn.

She told you she was your muse and would be smooth going down.

The pints, the bottles, the magnums, the shots.

You believed her.

That’s what breaks my heart.

You turned away and when you turned back, you had a smile to melt or a blade to cut.

Which one would be at the door?

What tore my heart was crawling across your concertina wire.

What breaks my heart is the violence against women.

The bully’s control of tenderness.

What breaks my heart are Obama’s words asking us if we can make our country be what Christian Taylor Green would be proud of.


Lucinda Ziesing is a an actress, writer, producer and teacher. Her most recent screenplay Strike is a true story based on the lives of her great grandparents who moved West with dreams...American dreams.




And, finally, this question. What does healing look like? Larsen says: "The pain will push us until the vision pulls." In Proverbs, we are told: When there is no vision, the people perish. To change the world, it is time to tell a better story.

Here is Josh Grodzkin's response to the question:


Heeling is Healing

Heeling is — with the reefs in, not out, and the wind's blowing out,

and the sideboard's over and the spray more than in your face,

drenching your body and getting your boots wet,

and you're wondering if you'll slip or fall over.

That's heeling.

Are you going to die?


That's heeling.

Now what is healing? They are so different.

Much of life is healing if you're lucky.

Healing is to forgive. To release. To move on because you want to.

Healing is to let go.

Healing is being happy to say goodbye and to look for the next day to be a gift.

Healing is to forgive.

Healing is to stop laying blame.

Healing is to stop playing the game.

Healing is to believe in yourself and your gift.

Healing is letting go of your ego and not giving a damn.

Healing is liking who I am.

Healing is having a spring in your step.

Healing is being one with faith and care.

Healing is having the nerve to dare.

Healing is not being afraid of the dark.

Healing is giving up being stark.

Healing is a path to walk.

Healing is a view to hold.

Healing is a gift of gold.

Healing is my long lost friend who i see from time to time.

Healing is heeling.

It's living life on the edge and not being afraid to fall into the drink.

Believing that you'll pop up no matter what you think.





I would like to invite you, the reader, to ask yourselves the above questions. Ponder them and then sit down and write your answer. You will be amazed at your response. If you’d like, send them to me at

I will be starting a Level One Method Writing Class in February as well as a Masters Class. For more information, email me at the above email address or call me at my designated call-in hours, 7 to 9 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Thank you.




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