Writing Your Heart Out – remotely

Kafka Castle Enchanted Mesa

In nine out of the upcoming 12 months, I won’t be able to host my Writing Your Heart Out writing workshops in NYC. I’ll be on the road.  I’ve been preparing for this by offering my workshop both in person and remotely, via appear.in, the online conferencing app. The only difference in the upcoming months will be cutting out of the in-person version. There’ll be no welcome hugs, but there will be feedback, laughs and support—and community.

I have been falling asleep to visions of myself, with my computer, at various places around the country– spare rooms of friends, national parks, and hotel rooms. I’m sharing my new writing with my friends, and working with them on their writing projects.  I love the idea of being in a novel location, going about my usual business. What kind of stories will I write sitting on a mesa, the southwestern wind blowing in my hair? What kind of energy comes into a story provoked by the scent of pinon trees, or the sunset in a sandstone canyon?

I’ve always loved reading in the great outdoors. There’s something marvelous about the contrast between the world in the book and the world you’re sitting in. I read much of Kafka’s The Castle while nestled between two enormous rocks at the foot of Enchanted Mesa, at the Acoma Indian Pueblo in New Mexico. The hot blue sky and stark white rocks seemed the perfect setting for K’s sense of alienation.  The mesa loomed over me as I read, and I listened to the whisper of small lizards crawling between the rocks– relished the scent of sage and pinon, baking in the hot New Mexico sun. I occasionally put down my book and watched the shadows shift on the 400-foot-high rock face as the sun tracked across the sky.  I contemplated the stone steps etched into the side of the rock, worn soft and unusable by the years of erosion.  At one point, many years ago, Acoma Pueblo was on top of the mesa.

Legend has it that one afternoon a severe thunderstorm washed away the “stone ladder”, leaving only sheer rock faces all the way around the butte. It is said that three old women and a young boy had been left in the village, but they could not get down, nor could anyone else get back to the village. A giant thunderbird swooped down and scooped up the four and carried them to the valley floor.

The surrealism of K’s situation and the spell cast by the magical mesa seemed perfectly in sync that day. They still do. When I read Kafka, no matter how bleak his story feels, to me it is set in cerulean sky and white rock, cool sand, and sagebrush.

I hope to find some of that magical contrast in my upcoming remote workshops.  I’ll miss the cozy company around the six-foot table in my NYC loft. But out on the road, laptop empowered, I’ll feel the warm energy from my friends and colleagues through the computer screen– and just beyond it, the shock and power of the new, the unexpected.

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