Anne de Graaf's blog: International-Intrigue-Injustice

30 June 2008

Anne Lamott–Author of “Grace (Eventually)”

Filed under: Words by Others,Write on — annedegraaf @ 1:27 pm

Because my friend is dying, I threw a dinner party on Saturday. It’s Anne Lamott’s fault. I heard her tell a hilarious story about coming alongside a friend who had cancer, and how the two of them decided it all sucked so bad, there was nothing left to do but throw a dinner party. But her sick friend didn’t have any matching napkins, so this made everything even worse . . . and even better.

So I sent out invitations, roughly quoting Anne, “When a friend is dying, throw a party with non-matching napkins.” And my friend and her cool daughters, my daughter and her cool boyfriend, and my friend with the cool baby and husband, all came. The bbq didn’t work. It rained that morning. My daughter’s boyfriend turned pasty white after having to blow up a giant orca that floated around flirting with the giant crocoldile that assumed “take me I’m yours” positions in our postage-stamp sized pool.

But I cooked up a storm and made margaritas that knocked the socks of us all. We told stories and laughed, got serious, laughed some more, toasted the absent loved ones, and told more stories.

“Who’s Anne Lamott? What was that quote all about on the invitations?”

“She’s a writer from San Francisco who taught me courage. Totally.”

Here’s Anne Lamott in person. I know the clip is 57 minutes, but you can ration yourself and watch 5 minutes at a time. Every single second is worth listening to.

Writing Tip #5–All Write!

We’re in a community of artist children. The sort-of playschool of the world. And although we may create alone, behind drawn blinds, how much richer and braver and deeper our art becomes when we allow others to comfort and challenge us. Writer’s block? Stomach in knots? Get out the clay, wash the brushes, open the file and show up for a half hour. Then, watch this video!

23 June 2008

So This is What I Think. . . .

In the strange place I find myself these days, with a husband on a Russian ship halfway between Africa and Brazil, a friend halfway between heaven and earth, and a book halfway in my heart and on the screen, I’m wondering where am I????(Yael Naim: “New Soul”)

18 June 2008

Bosnia Memory

Several readers have emailed me lately, wanting to know what I’m working on. At the moment that would be my novel for smart teens and 20-somethings: a murder mystery about stolen art and diamonds from WWII, ending up in Bosnia in 1995.

Here’s a video of the sort of images floating around me as I write. I visited Srebrenica and other places in Bosnia to research this book and interviewed young people, teachers, aid workers and child psychologists.

17 June 2008

A Friend of Mine is Dying

Filed under: Thin and Thick Places,Write on — annedegraaf @ 12:58 pm

I read somewhere that there are two things that make time stop: when your baby turns one week old, and waiting for a friend to die. I’m waiting now. I know that for the rest of my life, the summer of ’08 will be the summer I waited for a best friend to die. She’s at home now, not in pain, battling to stay awake as floods of people visit to say their goodbyes. She is too well loved.

And the days have taken on a heaviness that grinds them to a halt. Stopped time is not such a bad thing. It is a gift, really. I catch myself wondering how it must feel to be the dove swaying in the redwood of my front garden. I squint my eyes and see the sky in reflecting water on the beach and dislocate, so that I seem to swim in the sky and sea at once.

I am very present. I count the days, each one a gift. I practice this present/presence and find it calms me. The shouts of fear dim and I can focus. On her eyes. Her husband’s words. Her children’s questions.

Writing Tip #2 refers to a stillness exercise. This is very simply closing your eyes for 5 minutes and counting slowly with each intake of breath 1-10, then 10-1. It releases the editor in us and lets the genie of creativity out of the bottle. The trick is to keep the editor (“I can’t write. I don’t know what to write. It’s no good. I’ll never get it published . . . blah, blah, blah”) occupied, so that the artist child in us can create with reckless abandon.

Funny, this season of waiting. I have rarely written as surprisingly. I know a stillness as I, with time, stop still.

Writing Tip #4–Write Away!
Close your eyes. Imagine the sound of your fingers tapping on the keyboard. See yourself typing away. Remember the last time you finished something and got it out the door. Be very present. What do you hear? Now keep your eyes closed and touch-type away. (If you have to peek, focus just on the keyboard, not on the screen.)

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