Winter 2022 Edition
WINTERTIME… and the living is creative. The following Winter Issue Intro and creative update from ever-kinetic Sands Hall, MillValleyLit contributor. Sands creative achievements include author, playwright, director, musician, teacher, and workshop leader at Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.
Dear Writers and Readers—
What a launch into the New Year! On Boxing Day, Nevada County (CA) was visited by an enormous snowstorm, reminding us that there’s a reason it’s called Nevada: The snow was deep and wet and very heavy, and resulted in massive numbers of downed trees. They crashed through roofs, they tumbled onto cars, they fell across roads and highways, creating a massive snarl of blockages and outages. In my case a falling tree yanked my powerline right out of the pole; a branch dropping on my roof further complicated things. I was without power for eleven days. I have a well that depends on electricity, and at first it was kind of fun heating snow to flush toilets and wash dishes, but when the snow melted, the lugging of water became a lot less delightful.
Grateful for friends who offered showers (bliss), heat, light, meals, Scrabble games, love. And thank goodness for the library, where many of us found warmth and outlets and Internet. I burned a lot of candles, and was inordinately happy to have a headlamp.
It has been gratifying to hear from a number of you how glad you are to receive the news I send; thank you! And of course let me know if you’d like to be removed from this list.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Mag Dimond on her fascinating podcast, BOWING TO ELEPHANTS. We had a marvelous, wide-ranging talk about constructed belief systems, organized religion, and finding your true purpose.
We also talked about my memoir and what I learned during my time inside the Church of Scientology; why I love teaching; and why, if I could invite anyone in the world, dead or alive, to a dinner party, Mary Magdalene would be at the top of the list.
In a week, I’ll be launching into rehearsals for the lovely play, TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS. I read a lot of scripts before selecting this one, as I wanted a celebration of being human, in all its sad, funny, terrifying, delightful, and ultimately resilient ways. This play, based on Cheryl Strayed’s book about her journey as the anonymous advice columnist, Dear Sugar, touches all those points and many more. We have assembled a terrific cast and crew and I’m looking forward more than I can say to once again creating live theatre. Produced by Sierra Stages, it will open—if all goes well in the Covid world (this is an ensemble play and one infection would jeopardize the entire production, so we’re vaxed and masked and careful)—March 4 at the historic Nevada Theatre, in Nevada City.
What with directing TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS in January and February, as well as a staged reading of my play FAIR USE in Boise in the middle of March, I’m taking a break from teaching until April. (FAIR USE wades into the controversy regarding Wallace Stegner’s “borrowing” from the life and writing of Mary Hallock Foote as he composed his novel, ANGLE OF REPOSE; it performs 3/19. Let me know if you’ll be in Boise and I’d be delighted to send info!) So while I won’t be teaching for a bit, I have two openings for coaching clients. Send an email if you’d like more information about that
And May 14-21 I’ll be Writer in Residence for a beguiling idea: The Writers Salon. This is a writing retreat in a gorgeous part of the Sierra, during which the participants—limited to six—focus on their writing projects, gathering each evening for craft talks and dinner and sharing of writing. See details here.
Applications are now OPEN for Community of Writers, deadline 3/28: Poetry (June 18-25) and Fiction/Nonfiction/Memoir (July 18-25). Unless things go awry, we’ll be IN PERSON this summer! If you’re not already on the COW’s mailing list you can do that here. In addition to receiving info about the Summer Workshops, you’ll be the first to hear about their many online opportunities.
Speaking of: Starting January 20, for six weeks, a marvelous opportunity for every kind of writer: THE SHORT COURSE: Reading Milosz, taught by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Hass. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The 2022 Sierra Writers Conference takes place February 10-12. Due to Omicron, it’s moved online, so no matter where you are, if you have internet, you’ll have access to the speakers and workshops. This year’s theme is STORIES MATTER: Reimagining Past and Future; the focus is on speculative fiction—and what fiction isn’t full of speculation?! The Conference also offers critique workshops. Space is limited, but you can apply to work with a specific person. For more info, and to register, visit the website.
I have had an astounding dance with many fine novels in the last few months, including Lauren Groff’s MATRIX, Brian Doyle’s MINK RIVER, a rereading of A.S. Byatt’s POSSESSION (which I first read—consumed—in 1991!), Anthony Doerr’s CLOUD CUCKOO LAND, and Zehn Joukhader’s MAP OF SALT AND STARS. I’m not adding adjectives—each of these is magnificent in many different ways.
Finally I’m including the link to a short video of a project in which I was lucky enough to be invited to participate. BACKSTORY takes the title of a well-known play and asks writers and actors to play with it, sometimes providing actual backstory for one of the characters. Recently the title was TWELFTH NIGHT, and I was asked to explore Olivia. I had so much mischievous fun and I think especially those of you who know the play will too. You can see all of the “takes” on Twelfth Night, plus dozens of other Backstories (Subscribe!) produced by the Victory Theatre Center, here.
Sending you my very best, and my hope that this year brings health, peace, and every kind of joy and satisfaction, including in our writing.