Friday, March 30, 2012

Inspiration from Anene Tressler - Get it On the Page

Last Saturday, award-winning writer Anene Tressler dazzled me with her wisdom and inspired me with her words. Anene was the guest speaker at the 10th anniversary celebration of Saturday Writers. Her talk was informative, witty, wise -- and enthusiastic.

Although she has reason to be proud, Anene's talk was not about her own book or her accomplishments.  In fact, she was modest about them. Her novel Dancing with Gravity was published by Blank Slate Press in 2011 and has won numerous awards. I haven't read her novel yet, but I have a copy of it and can't wait to get started.

Anene's enthusiasm and her love for writing were obvious, and she shared a wealth of information about writing and research resources. She also spoke eloquently about why we write. To paraphrase: "We come to writing to be surprised and to know we are not alone in the world."

As an example of the beauty and condensed language of words, she read the breathtaking poem "After Years" which was written by former United States Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser.

Along with her words of inspiration, she brought a bag of writing books as visual aids. I already have several of her recommended books, but two new to me that I want to check out are The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and What Is by Lynda Barry. Anene's exercise tapped memories in me I had long forgotten, but I plan to expand into an essay.

Here's the exercise Anene used from Lynda Barry's book. You might be suprised with what memories it evokes.

* Pretend you are in a car from your past.
* Write the name of the car that has come to you.
* Where are you?
* Are you in or out of the car?
* If ou are inside, which seat are you in?
* What are you doing?
* If you are out of the car, what part of it are you facing?
* What time of day or night is it?
* Who else is with you?
* Why are you there?
* What season?
* How old are you?
* What is in front of you?
* What is to your left?
* What is to your right?
* What is behind you?
* What is above your head?
* What is below your feet?

Now: Beginning with the words "I am," write where you are and what is happening in the car image that has come to you.

It was a fun and revealing exercise; a few brave participants (not me) read what they'd written.

The other day I told my sister about the exercise. What was weird is that she and I both came up with similar images of the mid-1950s being in the back seat of our 1947 green Chevy riding down Natural Bridge Road returning home to St. Louis after visiting our cousins in the "country" -- in Berkeley, MO. My sister and I are sixteen months apart, so our memories were similar. We were on the same road, but with slightly different scenarios.

Back to Anene's presentation. The main take-away I remember from her presentation is: "Get it on the page." What's in your mind might be clear to you but not to your reader, so be clear when you write! And, if it isn't written down, it's not there.

To sum it up: writing is about clarity and discovery. So, take time to discover and write clearly, but most of all, make sure you get it on the page.


  1. Good post, Donna! Thanks for sharing. I love that "car" exercise. :)

    (I did two posts on Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" awhile back on my blog, if you want to check them out -

  2. Barry Lane calls it the "Down Draft." Get it DOWN. Worry about revising later, in the "Up Draft," when you fix it UP.

    1. Hi Sioux,
      Down Draft and Up Draft. I like those terms.

  3. Yes, we need to get it down before we forget!

  4. I was sorry that I needed to leave before this presentation. Thanks for summing it up!

    Critter Alley

  5. Hi Janet,
    That is so true.

    Hi Pat,
    It was good to see you on Saturday. So sorry you had to leave before Anene's talk.

  6. Neat story about how you and your sister came up with such similar memories! Sounds like a wonderful presentation!

  7. Very interesting blog today...I am familar with J. Cameron. Will have to check out L Barry though....

  8. I love Lynda Barry's book, What It Is, which I'm assuming where that exercise came from (didn't check out the links, as I have Barry's book). And The Artist's Way is excellent too - I'm rereading it now as a matter of fact. Yes, getting it on the page...

  9. Inspirational post, Donna! I have a note by my desk that says, Write it down; make it happen, which is sort of like "GET IT ON THE PAGE". Btw--LOVE Ted Kooser's poetry and his book on the craft of poetry. Thanks for introducing Lynda to us. I'll check her out. Happy Poetry Month to you!

  10. Hi Tammy,
    It was a weird coincidence.

    Hi Claudia,
    Thanks. Both books sound great!

    Hi Lynn,
    Where have I been? So many of my writing friends are familiar with Lynda's book. I need to check it out.

    Hi Clara,
    Thanks. I like "write it down, make it happen." And Happy Poetry Month to you too!



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