Sunday, January 16, 2011

TravelingSardineClass Explained

Simply enough, it’s the way an international flight feels these days. You hunch your shoulders and poke your elbows into your sides to keep from spilling out of your space. Your knees are jammed against the seat back ahead of you even before its occupant flings it backward without giving notice, grinding your thighbones into the their sockets. There is not much that is fun about flying anymore, but there are rewards at the other end of each flight that keep me reaching out to grasp them.

Essoyes (Ess-wha).
... I saw it online: "Writing from the Heart ... in the Heart of France." I wanted to do it "someday." Last fall, I decided that "someday" was NOW! ... On Oct. 11, I headed for France to the small village of Essoyes that had nourished, among others, Renoir.

We spent a week, we five women and our talented instructor, Janet Hulstrand (, immersing ourselves in French ambiance and writing from the heart.

Here’s an abbreviated version of our final homework assignment.

What do you want to take home?

I think, as I said in computerese in an earlier class discussion, I have "refreshed my page." I’ve written all my life, sometimes with more intensity than others. I’m past wanting to write as an economic imperative; I want to do it for the joy of writing, as I did as a kid, and pick my times and places to share.

Not to say that it will never happen again, but I’m in a place/period/whatever "beyond angst." I’ve gotten over it. I want to write clearly, economically, seeking the exact word or turn of phrase to pinpoint an idea. I want to do so with good humor. I adore dropping in a word or phrase that takes a beat to two to sink in to the reader before eliciting a smile or laughter.

Being in this place and with these people -- Essoyes and writers -- has refreshed my page. It’s made me want to reclaim the joy on a continuing basis.

What do you want to safeguard/nourish/protect?

I want to carve out the time to write. So much of what feels "busy" to me are fascinating distractions, but distractions nonetheless. They distract me from guarding my health and managing my time. They leave me with fractured leftovers of time, not clean, pure periods that allow for the concentration and clarity required to write. I must raise this in priority, to give it its due.

What do you promise yourself to do as follow-up to the work you’ve done here?
Resolve, resolve, resolve. I have no real barriers except myself to writing. Even while I carve out the niche in time, I need to clear out space, reducing the clutter I easily manage to bury myself in. I need to read completely our texts, to profit from their inspiration and their practical suggestions, to help me stay on track. I need to maintain the relationship with my fellow writers from this workshop, with inspiration from their wildly different personalities and background, yet their similarity in commitment. I will find a trusted friend who can read my stuff and give me safe commentary.

Worth every crammed minute in the sardine can.
See you tomorrow.


  1. I wish I had your talent for writing. Clear, concise, to the point is what my writing has become of necessity... so dear sister, you write the beautiful words for us all.

  2. Congrats on your new blog!! I look forward to reading about all your wonderful adventures!

  3. Thanks, Sister and Lisa! Lisa, you realize, of course, that I don't spend every day on an airplane adventure. :)

  4. Great stuff, Lee! And I am enjoying gazing out the window at the clouds.

  5. Welcome, Lucy. Thanks for becoming a follower. It's fun to have followers, so those who are following, please join.

  6. This is WAY cool, Lee! Love your exciting visual presentation, and of course the writing is wonderful too. Thank you for your kind words, I am SO GLAD you came to Essoyes to write from the heart!

    And now I'm going to tweet your blog! Are you ready for that?!?!

    Janet Hulstrand

  7. I can see that Janet is a truly inspiring teacher and that Essoyes is a beautiful place in which to hone one's craft. The desserts look pretty good too!