Tag Archives: Amalia Gladhart

Come Play in My Sandbox Writing Retreat 2014

Come Play in My Sandbox Retreat 2014

Come Play in My Sandbox Retreat 2014

You know that phrase from the movie Field of Dreams, “Build it and they will come”? Well, that’s what happened this past weekend. I sent out an email to my clients a few months ago, vetting interest in a client retreat. There was a resounding “Yes!” Although everyone couldn’t make it, this past weekend I hosted a 3 day party for some of my very talented, very smart, very funny clients. I haven’t laughed so much in quite a long time. I also haven’t sat around talking writing for 3 days with such talented writers. Maybe ever.

And I learned so much this weekend! First of all, I confirmed something that I kind of already knew: I’m a very lucky agent. I also learned that Manhattans are to be stirred 100 times, not shaken; and that it’s really ok to call gin & olive juice shaken with ice & garnished with olives a “Martini,” even if there’s no vermouth to be found. I learned some 18th century Caribbean history. I learned that in Alabama it is still a criminal offense to sell sex toys. I learned that keeping a flip chart  and some markers in the same room as 9 sassy writers is asking for trouble (and is a sure-fire way to laugh until I cry). I learned the most effective way to lure my wavy/curly hair to the curly side. And I learned a lot about how different people’s writing process goes.

One of my clients has to write, even just a little, every day. It feels like a need, like breathing or eating, and unfathomable that it could be any other way for anyone. One of my clients saves it all up for times when there’s uninterrupted, childless, day-job-less time, taking a week here and there, or a whole month in the summer, to do nothing, nothing, nothing but write… until the offspring return. Another client writes from 9-5, Monday – Friday. After all, it’s a job. Yet another client has worked out a day-job work week of just 4 days, and does nothing but write on that 5th day. And then there are variations of all of these ways, and sneaking writing in to busy lives full of other commitments. Is there a right way? Does one way indicate more commitment and drive? Is one person more of a writer than the others? I think not.

We discussed storyboarding picture books. We discussed manuscripts that spawn manuscripts that spawn manuscripts. We discussed whether you need to know the end of your story when you start. We discussed how to be on Facebook yet hide from your relatives and high school classmates. We discussed what it means to be called a Pirate, whether it can be just a mindset or needs to include the act of piracy (i.e. stealing things). We workshopped works in progress, giving and getting criticism. We showed and telled. And we shared  finished work, just for the fuck of it. We played with a new way of goal setting, working backwards from the future. We ate a lot. We drank some. We took an already funny “plot device,” made it into a joke, and then beat it like a dead horse the whole weekend. We barely stopped laughing.

My clients thanked me over and over for hosting this retreat, but I can’t stop feeling like I’m the lucky one. Besides having a great weekend, besides laughing my ass off, besides feeling their admiration, I feel so honored to be entrusted with the task of getting their work published. They all know how committed I am to achieving that goal, and how I’m busting my butt to get the job done. But it sure was nice to take a weekend off and just hang out with these fine folk.





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Random Acts of Writing: Amalia Gladhart versus the Breadbox

imagesIn honor of NaNoWriMo, I’m spending the month of November offering you all some writing prompts! Here’s the game: A few times each week I’ll post a picture and a setup. Your task is to write 500 words or less. That’s about a page (single spaced). If you want, you can email me what you come up with (linda dot p dot epstein at gmail dot com) with “writing prompt” in the subject line and I’ll pick a few to post on the blog. Please don’t submit your writing in the comments section, I’m not posting them there. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, for the next few days I’m posting some of my clients’ writing on a picture/setup I challenged them with. Run with it, if you’d like!

images 5.15.23 PMHere’s one from Amalia Gladhart. The task was: Two people are walking in the woods and come across this object. Write a scene where they use the object. You can use dialogue, but it should be <50% of the writing. 500 words or less.

Her mother had stolen the breadbox in a backhanded stab at revenge against the antique dealer who had cleaned out most of the attics in town with far-fetched claims about charity auctions and the spiritual benefits of giving up worldly goods. Now the breadbox–dented (worse than she remembered) but still shiny, still with that definitive black lettering perfectly legible–was lodged between the roots of the oak tree Caroline had always considered her personal property, her refuge, sheltered as it was behind old Mr. Warwick’s unbroken string of NO TRESPASSING signs and barbed wire, a barrier no one but Caroline had been willing to cross until Sarah moved in down the street and shyly offered to join her on an afternoon walk. Caroline was glad of the company. She loved the shadows, the falling leaves, but the woods could be too quiet, sometimes, when she was on her own. Caroline hadn’t known Sarah long, but she needed a friend.

The box’s label faced the trunk. Even the thin sheen of green–algae? moss?–spreading over the lid did little to dim the turquoise glow of that enameled prize. Caroline wouldn’t touch it, but Sarah picked it up. “What is it?” 

“It’s a breadbox. Says so right on the other side–turn it over.” Sarah did so, traced the clean, modern lines of the letters. Caroline said, “My mother planned to put my father’s ashes in it, or else the cat’s, whoever died first. She planned to sell it back to old Mr. Warwick, full.” Sarah dropped the box back on the ground, hard.

The lid didn’t budge in the fall. Caroline added, “She was happy enough to use it in the meantime. She had this whole theory about how homemade bread didn’t mold like store-bought, how you shouldn’t store it in the fridge.”

Sarah picked the box back up, tugged at the lid that had evidently rusted shut, turned it over to look at the bottom, as if there might be a trap door. Caroline felt compelled to explain, “She never did put ashes in it. That was years ago. I don’t know how it got out here.”

Her mother had been so proud of that box when she brought it home, had bragged about holding it behind her back and then tucking it under her coat and sidling out of the shop. It was hard to see how the antiques business had been as wildly and wrongly enriching as she claimed it had been, but old Mr. Warwick had the biggest house around, the only one with property attached, and Caroline’s mother died expecting that jackpot just around the corner–the lottery ticket, the first edition bought at a garage sale for a quarter, the priceless heirloom discovered in a closet. 

Sarah shrugged. “It’s a sign,” she said, tucking the box under her arm. “A welcome sign.” She returned to the path, walking quickly. Caroline was a little out of breath by the time she caught up.

Gladhart_Amalia-2-200x300Amalia Gladhart is Professor of Spanish at the University of Oregon. Also a translator, Gladhart has published translations of two novels by Ecuadorian Alicia Yánez Cossío, THE POTBELLIED VIRGIN and BEYOND THE ISLANDS, and TRAFALGAR, by Angélica Gorodischer. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in The Iowa Review, Stone Canoe, Bellingham Review, Seneca Review, and she won the 2011 Burnside Review fiction chapbook contest as well as honorable mention in the 2012 Glimmer Train very short fiction contest.

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Guest Post: Frugal Writer

That’s right, it’s another guest post! This time written by client Amalia Gladhart. I’ll continue to recline on my chaise, eating bonbons and drinking champagne while my clients keep this blog thing going for me…

Amalia has published translations of two novels by Ecuadorian Alicia Yánez Cossío, THE POTBELLIED VIRGIN and BEYOND THE ISLANDS and is completing a translation of TRAFALGAR, by Angélica Gorodischer. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in The Iowa Review, Stone Canoe, Bellingham Review, Seneca Review, and she just won the 2011 Burnside Review fiction chapbook contest with “Detours,” a series of linked prose poems/flash fictions as well as honorable mention in the 2012 Glimmer Train very short fiction contest. Amalia blogs at Se enseña aquí? Translation, writing, study abroad.

I’m a frugal writer. I save scraps. I collect. I can be hard-nosed when a manuscript needs cutting, but that’s largely because I don’t really give anything up: I save all the good bits in another file. I like to think of this frugality as a reflection of tenacious optimism or perseverance, though it may be self-delusion.
But sometimes, in a later project, I find a way to use those bits–a turn of phrase, a chunk of dialogue, a marvelous paragraph about a character’s odd hobby that clashed in its first home.

Maybe this is why, in visual arts, I’m often drawn to collage or assemblage. I like thinking about how things are framed, how perspective changes meaning. I like the reconfigured, the recycled, the rescued.

Maybe it’s just a high-toned excuse for eavesdropping on buses and sidewalks, in museums and grocery stores. It’s certainly why I don’t travel with ear buds–I need to listen to the scraps of conversation, the traffic, even the awful elevator music that reminds me of that swoon-worthy song we all loved way back when.

Certain lines and images have been with me for a long time, waiting. I won’t shoehorn them in just anywhere, but I don’t abandon them. I tinker, I nudge, I build a new scaffold and test out the old beams. Something old, something new, something borrowed. . .  Most of us don’t invent too many words, so we’re always making something new out of slightly used materials. A writer is never entirely building from scratch. And there’s always that next project, beckoning.

Are you a word hoarder or a deck clearer?


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