Category Archives: Len Leatherwood

August 1 – Why I Love Story Circle Network

by Len Leatherwood

Story Circle Network Founder and President Susan Wittig Albert leads an award ceremony

I have just returned from the “Stories from the Heart IX” writing conference in Austin, where I had the honor of spending time in the company of the most open, honest, loving and wise women I’ve had the occasion to meet in a very long time. I don’t even know quite how to put these feelings I have into words because they are so visceral.  Let me see if I can share a few glimpses of my time there, just to give you a sense of what I mean.

I arrived at a dinner for the Story Circle Network board the night before the first day of the conference and there I was seeing these women I only “talk” to mainly on the Internet. I felt shy for just an instant, then spotted my beloved Pat Bean, who has been in my e-circle writing group since I joined SCN ten years ago.  (The e-circles are small groups where we share our writing online.) Pat was wearing her usual tie-dye tee-shirt and the minute she saw me, she stood up and held her arms wide open.

The Author and her friends at dinner.

The next day, I presented my pre-conference workshop on Flash Fiction/Flash Memoir and found myself surrounded with women who were all there for the exact same reason I was there: to figure out how to be a better writer. In my presentation, I read them one of my student’s nationally award-winning essays, and as I read, I watched as every woman in that room was moved, some to tears. I was so pleased to see that my student’s writing had touched them; I was just sorry she wasn’t there to witness that reaction for herself.

Luncheon Keynote Speaker Bird Mejia shares the power of wild women!

Linda Joy Myers, our opening keynote speaker spoke about the power of women breaking their silence and telling their personal truths. She was humble, self-disclosing, real. Bird Mejia, our Sunday lunch keynote speaker, emphasized the importance of embracing who we are and sharing that pride with women of all ages. She brushed out her beautiful curled hair to show us the power of the “wild” woman when her locks extended full and wide into a glorious fan that framed her entire head. Jeanne Guy, the incoming SCN president, made us all laugh with her ever-present sense of humor and perfectly timed quips. The Sarton winners and finalists awed us with their beautiful words when they did a noon-time reading of excerpts of their books in historical, contemporary, and young adult fiction; memoir as well as biography.

Incoming President Jeanne Guy is supported with a friend on each side!

The workshop presenters offered insight and advice on a whole host of topics, ranging from writing about your mother without guilt to using the Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment for character development to creating space for writing to publishing through CreateSpace to developing and facilitating a writing-from-life workshop and more and more and more. On Saturday night, there was an open mic where conference attendees could read their work. In between, there were countless conversations about writing, life and each other. The entire weekend could be summed up with these words: love, kindness, generosity, openness, connection, sisterhood, learning, and hugs.

Dear women friends, please join Story Circle Network!  This is an organization that can use YOU and your unique gifts, whatever they are. I believe you will find this group exemplifies women helping women at its best. You will not be sorry. You might even find – as I have – your life changed forever through this experience.

Len Leatherwood: Program Coordinator for SCN’s Online Classes, has been teaching writing privately to students in Beverly Hills for the past 17 years. She has received numerous state and national teaching awards from the Scholastic Artists and Writers Contest. She is a published writer of ‘flash’ fiction/memoir. A longer version of this post appears on Len’s daily blog: 20 Minutes a Day.

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May 31 – Fiction vs. Memoir: Finally I Made The Choice

by Len Leatherwood

canstockphoto16227556-danr13 (c) Can Stock Photo / danr13

 

After a huge cry this morning, I feel better.

I have spent the past five days immersed in one of the toughest/saddest times of my life – moving to LA in 1994 to be near my brother who was about to go into active AIDS just at the point when the life-saving protease inhibitors were first introduced. (My oldest brother had died of AIDS just 3 years before.) My husband, three kids and I came after my brother offered me a job in his laser surgery center so that I could run his business when he and his partner got sick and we could be near him as he died. If that weren’t bad enough, he also had a “loving” boyfriend who had targeted him for his money. I wish I could say it all went smoothly. It didn’t. The result was an emotion-ridden roller coaster ride that forced me to grow up and understand that tough love is sometimes the only love that makes sense.

Robert had the opportunity to choose life over death with the help of those coveted protease inhibitors. In truth, Robert chose death. In the book, I had him do one thing differently, which helped him to see why and how he could choose life. In both real life and fiction, my brother and I made peace with each other and were deeply bonded as a result of this experience.

I went with fiction for lots of reasons, primary among them being that the predatory boyfriend is still alive and would sue me in a second. However, I also wanted the freedom of fiction and to have the chance to “re-imagine” what life could have been if my brother had made a different choice. Plus, John Rechy, my writing mentor, with whom I workshopped this book for five years in a Masterclass, is well-known for calling all of his books fiction even when some mirror his life fairly closely, and he strongly encouraged me to go this route.

I read through every volume that I have produced over these past 18 years of trying to wrestle with this subject – five major drafts most of which were memoirs – and finally concluded that my decision to factionalize this book was indeed the right choice for me.

Alas, I worked 18 hours a day on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday and then stayed up almost 24 hours on Tuesday so I could finish the editing.

Is it perfect? No. I woke up in the middle of the night and realized I’d forgotten a scene that must be included. I also have a few scribbled notes regarding details I need to make sure are right. In addition, the pacing might have a bump or two and the ending might need one more run through. However, am I finally going to be able to put this baby to bed so I can move on? I believe so.

I am tired, but also happy and relieved. Hooray.

Len Leatherwood: Program Coordinator for SCN’s Online Classes, has been teaching writing privately to students in Beverly Hills for the past 17 years. She has received numerous state and national teaching awards from the Scholastic Artists and Writers Contest. She is a daily blogger at 20 Minutes a Day, as well as a published writer of ‘flash’ fiction/memoir.