What the last 18 months has taught me about my craft by Ona Marae
I graduated from the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Writing Academy in 2016, at the Washington, DC convention. It was a time of questions. The massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando had been a month before. Extra consideration went into security for a large gathering of lesbians and other WLW writers in a publicly accessible location. It was a good convention and meeting with my classmates for the first time was lovely, but I was aware of my surroundings and the cultural context of the time.
Since then, I believe classes at the academy have gotten larger in numbers, but I imagine that they are very much the same. Or, at least most things were until COVID hit. In many ways that brought society crashing to a halt. And yet, my writing process did not take a hit, and this was partially due to the Academy times I had experienced. Now my class didn’t meet face to face on zoom, but we had met online on a different platform for nearly a year, hearing each other’s voices and sharing feedback about our writing. So, when we locked down in March of 2020, I simply turned my writing to using that same functionality of online writing. I currently have three people I write with online, different days at different times. I relied more heavily on that platform after COVID hit, and ZOOM! My writing took off again after an initial stall.
The platform Zoom has reshaped the world. While it is possible to do video meetings on Facebook, Google Hangouts and Google Meets, among others, I would venture a guess that most of us have done more Zoom than any of the rest. However we may do our virtual connecting, it is the ease of connecting virtually and feeling comfortable with it of which I am speaking. I would never have imagined this in the early part of 2015, before I began the Writing academy. My class had members in Canada, New Zealand, and the US, so what was a necessary function for class, in fact, prepared me for a pandemic.
But there are other ways my writing has changed through the pandemic. I think I am more patient with my writing now. There were different times, especially early on in 2020, when I wasn’t able to write at all or only able to journal in my “Pandemic Paragraphs” file. The patience I have learned through waiting (to be able to see friends in person again, for example) has helped me with the patience I have needed for when a piece of writing needed just a bit more…something.
And much as we learned new things in lockdown, be that puzzles or card games, I am more creative now at searching through my personal repertoire. I have books on craft and also the internet, for example, when I am looking to sharpen a new skill or hone an old one. I don’t have to go outside myself for everything. There are somethings we do need to step outside for, but there are often enough internal resources that I can turn to my old notes from the Writing Academy or Elizabeth Sims’, There Is a Book in You, and do just fine!
And when we do need to step outside ourselves for craft help, the plethora on online classes has been helpful. Be it Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop in Denver or the Downtown Writing Center in Syracuse (A program of the Central New York YMCA), not to mention the GCLS online offerings or Finn’s online classes in various locations, I have been able to access incredible teaching without putting on my shoes.
Finally, seeing the world in a different way has brought new creativity to my writing. In observing one tiny moment with my 15-year-old mentee, I found a short story within me, about an older woman and a young girl and the connection they found over popsicles and ponytails. In a matter of months, I wrote and published this short story, partially I believe because the focus had been sharpened through the limitations of experience outside that tiny connection. What I would have totally missed during pre-covid times, or relegated to lesser meaning, became something very powerful! While this has been a difficult time in many, many ways for most of us, I hope some of my experiences with writing through different eyes will inspire you. And I will stick in one last word here. If you haven’t felt the power of a year of meeting virtually with WLW writers around the world to develop writing, as well as writing friendships, I highly recommend it. It taught me things that kept me balanced this last year and a half, not the least of which is I don’t dislike virtual meetings as much as I thought I did! Wishing you the best in your writing! Salud!
Ona Marae is a writer in a long line of creative women. She lives in Denver, Colorado, near her beloved Rocky Mountains, where she and her fiancé spend as much time as possible. She writes fiction (including novels and short stories), creative non-fiction (including articles and essays) and poetry. She began writing in high school, publishing in the lesbian newspapers in Denver in the 1990’s, and then focusing on short stories and creative non-fiction essays.
Her topics are as far ranging as spirituality, domestic violence, and disability rights activism. She is a lesbian and deals with many LGBT themes, but her work is not limited to that genre. She does, however, love reading or writing a good Lesbian Romance. This is her first full-length novel. She tries to live every day considering Mary Oliver’s question “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with this one wild and precious life?” She challenges you to do the same.
Some of her work has been featured in Written Dreams (Brisk Press: 2018), 25 for 25: An Anthology Of Works By 25 Outstanding Contemporary LGBT Authors And Those They Inspired (Lambda Literary Foundation ebook:2013), Letters to my Bully (Glover Lane Press:2012); Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching (McFarland:2012); Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages (All Things That Matter Press, 2009), Best Date Ever: True Stories That Celebrate Lesbian Relationships (Alyson, 2007); Hot Flashes 2: More Sexy Little Stories & Poems (Left Coast Writers, 2007); and others.