Dispatches from the staying-in-touch department ...
Will the pig run again?
I've written before about my occasional life in pipeline inspection — an association that inspired an entire novel — and had been looking forward to getting out there again in the spring, after the usual wintertime slowdown. Well, maybe, but also looking like probably not. The company for which I did work recently shuttered, and there's an industrywide slowdown, so I may be on the obsolescence end of progress (or regress).
I can't say I'm particularly heartbroken. Pipelines are a destructive, invasive way of delivering extractive sources of energy, and for the future of the planet, it's high time we develop alternatives that are well within our grasp but beyond our political will. On the other hand, there's a practical consideration: We already have the damn things, and we're using them. The job I did was essential to the safety end of matters. Let's hope that continues until we can pull those things out of the ground and return the land to those from whom it was stolen.
I will miss the travel to exotic (read: remote) locales and the chance to meet people in their natural habitat. But that can be enjoined in other ways, obviously.
I recently did something I should have done a long, long time ago: I joined the Authors Guild.
So here's where I cop to self-interest: I began to consider the possibility earlier this year when, quite apart from any involvement from me, my former agency descended into founder-vs.-founder contretemps and my meager royalties from long-ago books started showing up late or not at all. My former agent, also caught in the crossfire as her old shop melted down, was a champion and an ardent defender of my rights, it should be pointed out, and she got my situation squared away, for which I'm eternally grateful. But it occurred to me—again, when my self-interest was compromised, an entirely human condition that I'm trying to rise above—that in this whole solitary business, you have to grab a little solidarity where you can get it and stand strong with those who do what you do.
I'm also reminded of something wise I once heard said by A.W. Gray, a well-regarded crime novelist but better known to me as the father of my boyhood best friend: "The people who need unions the most are those who don't have them."
What are you doing this winter?
Also from the land of something I should have done long ago: I'm hosting an eight-week intensive writing workshop in January and February called Writing from Memory. The basic idea, one I ganked from Larry Watson when he articulated it in a way that brought it into sharp relief, is that whether you're writing fiction or memoir/essay, memories can be fuel for the creative process.
Here's what Watson said in an interview with Montana Quarterly: “I write from memory, not observation. Yet my memories are formed by observations, and then memory and imagination distort those observations into something useful for fiction and something that’s also truthful in its own way.”
So with that as a jumping-off point, we're going to convene a small group—six people—and delve into the idea with craft talk, exercises, group workshopping, and one-on-one attention. Details below and here at my still-developing workshop page.
Eventually, I'd like to be able to offer a range of workshops: two or three multiweek options annually, like this one, plus a handful of one-day, focused craft sessions. I'm excited, I'm nervous, I'm even feeling a little imposter syndrome, but I've done this before and I know the magic that can come from a group of writers working together and supporting each other.
Want to join us? Sign up here. Scarily—and gratifyingly—the slots are going fast.
Craig Lancaster is an author, an editor, a publication designer, a layabout, a largely frustrated Dallas Mavericks fan, an eater of breakfast, a dreamer of dreams, a husband, a brother, a son, an uncle. And most of all, a man who values a T-shirt.