Thursday, March 19, 2015

Essays and Opportunities

I came across an excellent essay in The American Scholar's online newsletter. The essay explores the difference between confessing and confiding and the opening blurb says: "Knowing the difference between the two can elevate an essay from therapy to art." Emily Fox Gordon is the author of the essay, "Confessing and Confiding."  Click here for the link. Somewhere in the essay she points out that confessional writing is always about power, whereas writing to speak a confidence is a relationship that inspires equality and is without the perceived influence of power. A most interesting and thorough discussion about these approaches to writing and well worth the time to read and consider these avenues and techniques of expression that may change the quality and dynamic of writing autobiography or memoir.

I've just agreed to two months' writing in Monterey for May and June. Immediately my mind swirls with the potential of what work I will address. Rarely has there been a time when I did not have some projects in mind and this time, as always, I have several. Therein lies the dilemma. How will the writing projects play out so that I can sink into the story, or the essays, and not spend the months plundering through false starts. How can I come out of this time with a substantial body of work to show for the opportunity to be in solitude and write in a wonderful setting?  How do we pick our best ideas? This is the mark of the seasoned writer, the confident writer who isn't afraid to plant the flag in the ground and say "Here is where I plant my feet!"  And then to make the best of the choice, enrich it, dream it into being, allow it to take on the flavor of its creator. And, most of all, to not watch the clock ticking away the days and weeks. How lucky can a girl get to have this chance to try and figure these things out?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Wake into the joy of doing

On the lake, ripples of scooters dipping down to the foliage below. The persistent enterprise of nature. What if birds grew despondent and refused to search and denigrated flying, ceased to sing, or explore the land around them? The writer caught with nothing. The painter in her pause. The blank slate remaining blank. Will things become interesting again? Will the muscles of the brain find their way into the creative urge? Is there something worth doing? The absorption in email is destroying the creative push for many of us. One hour per day. Half-hour morning. Half-hour evening. Must we know everything? Be quick about it and stop dallying. Get to purpose. One book, one story, one verse, one poet, one theme at a time. At a time. Life waste is debilitating. Come out of the drowse. Wake into the joy of doing. Exercise the mind.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


From a journal entry:

It's about the doing, fulfilling the action. Must see that age is not a deterrent. Money is not a deterrent. Do you believe in yourself? Do you believe you have the strength and fortitude to fail? Are you prepared to fail at your art and have you the patience to take it at the pace it must be followed in spite of the fact that you could die half way through.

Steve Jobs quote: ". . . the crazy ones  . . . those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."

"If you want to build a ship, don't teach them to collect wood . . . teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."  
                                              Antoine de Saint-Exuperey

Book Reading  with 
Mary Frances Carney   Saturday, April 18th, 3:00 p.m.
Orca Books, Olympia

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


 Book Reading  with 
Mary Frances Carney

Saturday, April 18th, 3:00 p.m.

509 4th Ave Olympia 

Irish Catholic Brooklyn in the 50’s in the shadow of Ebbets Field and the Dodgers. Inspired by Irish mythology, the characters resonate with humor, wisdom,
foolhardiness, and compassion.

The Devotional Mind and Writing

The question of what "devotion" is and how it functions in us is something I've often thought about.  The devotional mind is a route to the Dharma and a route to the fulfillment of almost any undertaking. I wonder if "devotion" is another word for "wholeheartedness." We often think that devotion means the doing of prayer or we hear the word as devotions, that is, the litany of prayer. But the mind of devotion has a wider field rather than its simply being about prayer. Of course, we could say that everything is prayer, and I could agree with that under certain circumstances. Violence is not prayer. War is not prayer. Meanness is not prayer. Selfishness is not prayer.

So, I'm using devotion in the sense of how we do our lives and how we express passion, love, and the goodness of daily life. This includes each ones particular expression in vocation, the arts, ones work, ones calling. Today I'm narrowing this down to the writer and writing and how the devotional mind leads the writer toward the doing and uncovering of expression. I think of devotion as the wide circle that encompasses discipline, non-resistance, joy in doing, focus, concentration, research, and all the parts that make up the work of a writer. 

A person can want to write, but if the devotional mind has not been awakened, the want is purely a dream, an illusion. What we actually do is what counts. A writer writes. The devotional mind is the mind that heals us and helps us find the right activity that gives meaning to our lives. The devotional mind is the gateway to the richness of the soul. If we ask ourselves, "What is it that I must do in this life?" and fervently search ourselves for an answer, this is the devotional mind at work in the activity of awakening us to the action that our lives are calling us to do. If we do not respond, we wither. Withering is the opposite of devotion. Withering is the absence of spring and the absence of response to life's callings. Devotion is the mind that nurtures us and helps us see that what we've been running from is what we long for the most. Devotion helps us to manifest the body of activity and the pathway to find what we love doing. Devotion breaks down resistance and supplies the impetus to take up the writing tool and write.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Few Useful Blogs for Writers

I don't write alone. That is to say, I pull encouragement from the world around me and I value listening to the voices of other writers. I want to recommend a few blogs that have been helpful for the advice and encouragement they give to writers and the writing process. Blogs are a free and lively way to pick up strategies for writing and editing, marketing your published work, and keeping connected with working communities. The writers life is a solitary one and touching base now and then with other writers and artists improves the psyche and lifts the spirit and helps to convince you to keep at it—you are not alone.

One of my favorites is Brain Pickings which arrives in your mailbox on Sunday mornings. I used to receive a paper copy of the New York Times and my Sunday morning was spent climbing through the paper with my coffee and enjoying the exhilaration of the NY ambiance. Brain Pickings is my new Sunday morning read that covers philosophy, sociology, literature, spirituality and just plain great thinking. The blog is written by Maria Popova who has written for Wired UK, the Atlantic, The NY Times, and Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab. It's a marvelous and award-winning blog.

Another great blog for writers is called "Writing Wednesdays." You can sign up at Steven for this blog that is filled with encouragement and a continuing reminder of techniques for establishing plot, characters, scenes, etc.  Pressfield works with another writer, Shawn Coyne, who does an excellent weekly blog which can be accessed at his website Both of these blogs give serious guidance to both professional and fledgling writers, and both of these guys are terrific teachers.

A Parish Near Ebbets Field

Monday, March 2, 2015

Celebrating Brooklyn

It's difficult as an author carrying two names: Mary Frances Carney and Eido Frances Carney, my Zen priest name. I'm clear about both, but the internet and online social media become quite confusing and require in some areas that you only use one name. I do agree that it would seem a bit odd to put out A Parish Near Ebbets Field in my Dharma name, even though I'm one person. But this book is not a Dharma book.

I wrote the book several years before going to Japan, touching my origins in Brooklyn and celebrating the background of Irish Catholic Brooklyn in the 1950s. The characters in the book are still close to me and the book carries a sense of endearment about them even with their character flaws, their antics, the misunderstandings that occur as the story unfolds. Publishing it is the completion of an item on my bucket list. I still have many more and I'm not finished yet.

The book is plot driven, so the pages turn quickly.  It's a good read and takes you to a time and place that has now vanished. Ebbets Field is gone, the neighborhoods around it have changed, but Brooklyn remains Brooklyn and can never be forgotten. Anyone from Brooklyn owns a piece of it and will always find a way to celebrate this city which is considered one of the five boroughs with its own flavors and personality. If Brooklyn were an independent city, it would rank as the 4th largest city in the US, after New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

So while we're at it, here's my writing as Eido Frances Carney, telling the story of the priest-poet Ryokan and my own experiences in following his path through training in Japan. One person, many threads. This book is published through Temple Ground Press.

I'll use this blog to talk a little about creative process, this and that, things that strike me that are interesting or useful about art and literature and the process of invention. I also paint and try to hold together these two arts however difficult it might be sometime. When I'm writing, I can't imagine painting, and when words get too close, I discover myself taking an aside to be silent in the work of painting. It might have been more useful in my life to have attended to just one, but many writers also paint and are quite good at both while only recognized in the one field of writing. One thing I will have to say is that writing takes up less space than painting which makes an awful clutter.

Here are several links:
A Parish Near Ebbets Field

Kakurenbo Or the Whereabouts of Zen Priest Ryokan