Occupy Wall Street: a spiritual movement?

The other day I visited Occupy Wall Street in Zucotti “Park,” essentially a paved strip one block long between tall buildings. What struck me first was how dense it is. Little bubble tents are close-packed, with narrow aisles here and there so you can thread your way through. Almost all the square footage is taken up by these tents and by various organizational/ administrative booths: the “Think Tank” where seminars and lectures are held, the Library (writers, note: lots of real books), Information, Community Affairs, and Legal. A large hand-lettered sign listed a full schedule of activities for the day:[…]

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Social media & inspiration: Google+ or minus?

In a race to beat the other Stephanie Goldens out there, I got myself an invite to Google+, and secured possession of—my name.  A real coup, right? I haven’t learned yet how to use Google+, but once I do, it’ll be a big boost to my career… right? Not according to computer scientist Jaron Lanier, who says social media just reduce everyone to little more than the database fields they fill in to create their profile. In his manifesto You Are Not a Gadget, he attacks two notions popular among his community of techies: the “wisdom of the crowd,” which[…]

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The 99¢ store: what’s a book worth these days?

When I put my out-of-print book Slaying the Mermaid: Women and the Culture of Sacrifice on Kindle, I had to decide how much to charge. Amazon limited me to charging $9.99 if I wanted the higher royalty, 70%. So I thought, I’ll underprice it a bit to make it more attractive, and listed it for $8.99. Turns out that was way overpriced. Fierce pricing debates rage among indie authors on blogs and the Kindle online forums. Many charge 99¢—the lowest Amazon allows. One theory is that people will take a chance on anything for 99¢, so you start there to[…]

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Tech warrior II: online sample

Amazon is amazing. They don’t miss a beat. I just discovered that I can post a link to an online free sample of Slaying the Mermaid that people can read in their browser—no special software needed. You can read the entire first chapter; just scroll past the title and copyright pages.  Makes me feel like a techie. All you other writers, take note. Much opportunity for publicizing your ebook via the KindleBoards forums (where I learned about this online sample link). I just finished figuring out the html code for including both book cover and a tag line in my[…]

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Tech warrior: putting a book on Kindle

Slaying the Mermaid: Women and the Culture of Sacrifice is now an ebook offered through Amazon. A triumph, for I did it all myself. Years in print publishing had worn deep grooves in my brain, so it took some effort to wrap my mind around the basic ebook concepts: No pages. No fancy fonts for display type. No artful white space before and after chapter titles and subheads (but enough space and sufficient variation in font size so the reader knows that a new section is beginning). No index! On the bright side, endnote reference numbers are links. Click and[…]

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Writer as flypaper

Have you noticed that when you’re deeply involved in something, you turn into a magnet for anything related to it? I once interviewed Kay Gardner, a musician and composer of healing music (sadly, she died in 2002), who told me that during a time when she was intensively exploring the physical effects of sound—teaching experimental workshops and reading extensively—all sorts of information found her. “People sent me books and articles. Books would fall off shelves. A book would be handed to me through a crowd—just a disembodied hand like one of the aces in the tarot deck.” In that state[…]

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Reborn from the ashes

Writing Craft & Practice has a new look, and a new life. I was hacked—some enterprising soul inserted stealth links to sellers of Viagra and Adderall at the bottoms of my pages, and Google didn’t approve. No use trying to clean it up since I had to update my software anyway. So all but a few of the old posts are gone (though all are still up on Facebook). And the focus has changed slightly, as my preoccupations shifted to include more ways that the inspirational aspect of writing intersects with skill and experience.

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The sky of mind: vast like space

Buddhist meditators practice experiencing the mind as a vast, clear sky, through which thoughts, feeings, and all other experiences pass like clouds, appearing and then vanishing in an open space of awareness that’s not limited to the inside of the head. (Meditation teacher Jack Kornfield describes this practice here.) Wassily Kandinsky’s painting Blue Sky combines that image of the mind as vast open sky with an experience I’ve had when writing at a very deep level. Part of the conceptual work for my books about homeless women and about self-sacrifice was simply discovering what they were actually about. I came across[…]

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What’s the “practice” of writing?

I practice yoga, and I practice meditation. And I also “practice” writing. I like this concept, because it connects skill and inspiration. I’ll begin with skill. One authority defines practice as “systematic training by multiple repetitions.” Other sources emphasize frequency, skill, instruction, discipline, and “artful management.” (Here is a thought-provoking collection of definitions.) My practice of insight meditation shapes my thinking about writing as a practice. In meditation, you train your mind to stay focused by systematically returning over and over to your breath. You need instruction to learn how to do this. There is an art to choosing the[…]

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