Offering The Creative Collective To Artists, Writers, and Creatives

the-creative-collective-coverYesterday, out of a strong desire to create a “safe space” for creatives to share ideas, prompts, strategies, and inspirations, I created a new Facebook group called The Creative Collective.

Here, writers, artists, and all creatives now have the opportunity to share and be inspired to rediscover and strengthen their creativity. Nothing is being sold or pitched here; this is purely for imagination stimulation.

If you would like to join us on Facebook (it’s free and open to the public), go HERE.

The Story Had To Be Told: On Writing The Christmas Rose

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday, I published my short story, The Christmas Rose. It’s been less than 24 hours since I shared it with my readers, and I wanted to answer a few questions about why I wrote it.

Q: The story is pretty long — almost 8,000 words. Most people aren’t reading pieces that take more than a few minutes to read. Why didn’t you cut it down to under 5,000 words?

A. It is one of the longer shorts that I’ve written. Most are around 3,000 words. I’ve been trained well by the competitions and requirements of the print journals where I submit most of my work. I knew this piece was going directly to the web and to an eBook format, so I worried less about the length.

There’s another reason, though. First and foremost, the story had to be told, and I couldn’t hold any part of it back to fit a generic reader’s tolerance for a sustained reading. In other words, it doesn’t fit into the criteria of a social media read (that’s one of the reasons why I created a PDF of the manuscript so readers could download it and read it at their leisure).

Q: Aren’t you afraid that it won’t get more widely distributed then? It seems like the length is a real roadblock to it taking off.

A: Then so be it. I know the formula of what makes things go “viral” in today’s fast-paced world. Maybe this is an “anti-viral” piece. I’ve stopped caring about that. I’m going to be 50 years old in a few months, and I have a lot of stories to share before I go. I’ve stopped worrying about what works in this immediate world. If my story is 50 words or 500,000 words long, then that’s what it is. I’ll let my present and future readers decide what they want to do with it.

Q: How long were you working on this story?

A: Not terribly long at all. The basic premise came to me about 3 weeks ago that “believing” in something, like Christmas or Santa Claus, is not just for kids. We have a responsibility to continue our efforts to believe in our power to change the world — whether that is the “world” in our local town or community, or an entire nation or nations.

In the middle of writing the piece, we took a trip down to 34th Street to look at the lights in Hamden in Baltimore City. We never made it because a flash mob shut the streets down as they sung “Silent Night.” I thought that was the greatest thing to happen. Shut everything down with music. Stop driving by the world and take a few minutes to celebrate the beauty with friends and strangers alike. Wonderful stuff.

Here’s the video that was released from that special night:

After I wrote the first draft, I knew there was very little I wanted to revise. It’s a Christmas story, all right, but it’s so much more about what we can do for others. Our nation is in a stressful place right now. We can focus on the pain, or we can focus on acts of kindness for all that can begin a genuine and long-lasting healing.

Q: Is any of it real?

A: None of it and all of it. Luther’s Village is a micro version of historic Lutherville; Hunter’s Valley is Hunt Valley. Emily Starling is an extension of the kind elders I knew in my neighborhood in Loch Raven and Towson who gave so selflessly to others.

Q: What about the Christmas Rose?

A: The Christmas rose itself (Helleborus niger) is not very “rose-traditional” looking. And, more importantly, it is poisonous. I loved the story behind the flower, but using this exact plant for my story just wouldn’t work. The hybridization of flowers happens all the time; it is not unrealistic to believe that Emily was able to create a hybrid that would be safe and offer a nice fragrance.

I think planting and giving flowers is the greatest gift we can give to others, both for now and for the future. I’ve always enjoyed the stories about the hope flowers bring. It doesn’t take much to bring a little color and hope to others, does it?

Q: How can I read “The Christmas Rose”?

A: You can read it online HERE.

You can also download the eBook (PDF) to enjoy on your phone or tablet: Christmas Rose Story.

Thanks, readers, for reading and, possibly, sharing my story of The Christmas Rose with others. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

as always………………………….rvw

stock-footage-loop-able-christmas-snow-globe-snowflake-with-snowfall-on-blue-background

Why I Wrote — And Published — Cold Rock

I am a writer, photographer, educator, and speaker. But more than any of those things individually or together, I am a strong advocate for all of us to accept the challenges we face daily and do our best to live an inspiring and fulfilling life.

I wrote and published Cold Rock because I believe in sharing this desire to live fully with as many people as I can. Everything about my writing, teaching, photography, and workshopping is meant to inspire others to recognize the beauty in living in the present; it is imperative that we embrace our individuality and be confident with who we are.

This is my latest book, first published in December 2011 as a print book. It quickly became an inspired reading shared across the country. I am really excited to release it as an eBook and share it with an even larger audience. It’s available on Amazon here, and I priced it as low as I possibly could (it’s just $2.99) to give everybody an opportunity to read it.

Many of the subjects in Cold Rock deal with really tough issues — bullying, sex abuse, depression and even suicide. I wrote about these topics because they are out there — not exclusively in the churches, or in our neighborhoods, or in our schools. They are in all of these places, and so many more. We need to have the courage to stand up to these atrocities, help those in need, and find the strength within ourselves to believe in Love, to believe in each other, to believe in living an inspired and fulfilling life.

It wasn’t easy to write about these topics, and I don’t mean to single out any single group (such as religious leaders) or mental illness (such as depression); rather, these are representatives of the larger issues we face every day. They are in our past, and they often reveal themselves in our present; we need to do our best to combat them with strength, self-confidence, and love.

Some of the incidents in Cold Rock did happen to me, on various levels. It was especially hard to write about them, but the driving force in me to do so was to open the door for others to do the same: find the courage, confront the obstacles and the atrocities, and live a fulfilling and loving life.

Many of the things I do today support this mission. I run a nonprofit group called LinesofLove.org, which is an outreach program for teens and young adults struggling with anxiety and depression.

Smash365.com is one of my latest projects. It is a culmination of decades of research and writing in spirituality and living life fully. My creative partner, Cara Moulds, and I write daily creativity prompts to help others just like you and me SMASH our fears and live inspired lives. Our prompts are challenging, but they are also free. And they always will be. We hope they provide individuals the chance to experience their journey through life with passion and happiness.

Finally, there’s MarylandVoices.com, an ever-transforming journal of literary advocacy focused on publishing cutting-edge creative nonfiction that tackles taboo issues like the ones I confront in Cold Rock. I encourage you strongly to get involved at your local level and advocate for fairness, equality, and social justice.

I received my MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College, and I am available for speaking engagements and workshops in writing (specializing in journaling and writing memoir), photography, publishing, and inspired living. Follow me daily at rusvw.net/blog, and feel free to contact me directly at rusvw13@gmail.com.

I believe in you. I believe in the power of Love. I believe we all have a chance to make the choices that will change this world. Contact me. Let’s get started on making a difference within ourselves first, and then with the rest of our communities in general.

Rus

Drive It Back: A Smash365 Response

In response to the 11/30/11 Smash365 prompt: Imagination.

Think back to younger days when imagination ruled your day. Did you abandon your imagination for more “grown-up” ideas and responsibilities? Grant yourself the space to be imaginative today and write on the following topic: While driving to a relative’s house, you notice that, with each turn, you go back further in time. What period in time is it when you reach your destination? What is the significance of being in this place, at this time?

“Have you lost your way, Son?”

My hands are gripped tightly around the wheel of my ’68 Ford Falcon, a wreck of a car I call Deuce, as I stare out the windshield at the old, aquamarine blue paint fading on the hood.

I dare not look left at the officer, or any farther along the street I’m on, Littlewood Road, where I grew up.

Or, is it “growing” up? I’m not sure anymore.

“Son, I asked you a question. Are you ok?”

I am afraid to move in fear of what might happen next. I am absolutely positive that, not 25 minutes ago, I was in my house in Towson, saying goodbye to my wife and three children, before heading to teach for the day.

Now I am 16 again, here on Littlewood, in the car that barely got me from red light to red light along Joppa Road in the early 1980s.

“Son?”

I turn to face the officer, and he sees something in my eyes he does not like. He takes a step back from the car, rests his right hand on his revolver, and speaks in a different tone — this time with a little less concern for me and a lot more for himself.

“Son, I need you to exit your vehicle slowly, but immediately. Do you understand me?”

I try to move, but my legs — they just won’t work.

“Off- Officer,” I stutter. “What- what year is it?”

The officer begins walking backward toward his car, his shadow thrown in front of him every time the single red cherry light pulses from the top of his car. The shadow is long, ever-growing, as he reaches the door of his police car.

He grabs the handset of his radio and tries to muffle his voice, but I hear every word.

“613 to Dispatch. I need a backup here at Littlewood and Joppa.”

I wave at the cop with my left arm, “Officer, you don’t understand.”

“You keep those hands on that wheel, son.”

He unbuckles the strap on his holster and grips the handle of his service pistol.

“Really, Officer. I can explain.”

But I know I cannot. How can I explain to him that, not twenty minutes ago, I was 46 years old, living in Towson with my family, and heading to school like I’ve done every day for the last 25 years?

. . . .To be continued? Most likely! ~rvw

 

Story Seeds, no. 1: Exit Interview

The last 24 hours have been rich with dreams, the dead, and the dying. This happens to me a great deal when I am writing more than usual. I don’t know if this is because the juices are flowing a little more feverishly, or if it’s because I usually eat more ice cream when I write. Either way, the dreams come, and I listen to them. For they are often the seeds of pieces that end up in print.

First: SK is a wonderful friend who is a playwright. We meet maybe once a month to discuss each other’s writing successes, failures, and in-process pieces.

Second: C is was a colleague at my school until she landed a better gig at another high school. But before she left, she turned me on to this article in Writer’s Digest that talks about collaborative writing, where two writers of different genres/styles hook up to write one book/play/whatever.

Third: I had this dream last night about. . . .

The serendipity of her handing me this article and the idea for “Exit Interview,” along with a meeting to be held soon with SK is all too much for me to question. I’m flowing with it, Friends. It’s that good.

When “Exit Interview” popped into my mind, it did so on a stage. I actually saw the characters performing it, complete with audience and selective lighting for maximum effect. And so, my first instinct was to call SK and say, hey, I’ve got an idea for a play that I think you might like to write.

But then I thought, maybe I should just write the story and give it to him to write the stage adaptation.

Duh. If I exert the effort to draft a copy for him to write the play, I might as well take it just a little more seriously and take it through the full writing process and generate a publishable work that I can shop around, and he can take that copy and do an adaptation for the stage.

Voila. We both win. 🙂

So, I’m on schedule to write 1,000 words every day on this draft through 30 June (I don’t anticipate it being any more than 7,000 words) and then see what I have to work with. SK and I will meet, probably, by the end of the first week in July, and I’ll pitch it to him then, if he doesn’t read all about it here first.

(er–SK, should you do just that, please leave a brief comment that lets me know you are indeed sneaking a peak)

🙂

What’s it about, you ask?

Bottom line is this:

Man is going though his exit interview. He is warm, the questions seem ambiguous at best, and he can’t wait to just get the hell out of there. The questions begin to get personal, and in his answers, he begins reflecting back at some of the pivotal moments in his life spent with others. These scenes play as flashbacks, and each time they come back to the exit interview, the lead character is getting weaker, and weaker, stung by the decisions that he made that were made for what he now considers the wrong reasons. When he gets up to leave, the interviewer asks the final question: how do you want to be remembered? The lead sits back down, confused by the question. The interviewer asks the question a second time, and when the lead gives him a blank look, he clarifies his question, which brings us to the real present, and which also brings us to the shocking realization that….

Now, now. Did you really think I would give it all away? You can probably guess the ending (or maybe not all of it entirely), but wouldn’t you rather wait to read it here?

I’ll post my thousand-word vomit drafts here daily, but just a word of caution: they are called vomit drafts for a reason. There’s a good chance that much of what you read will be changed. This process is used to get the first draft down in print. I then have something to work with, mold, edit, change, sculpt, paint, make it shine. It’s the sure-fire way to taking a piece to publication, because it’s one thing to talk about writing your story; it’s another thing entirely to talk about polishing a story you’ve already finished writing.