Wednesday, July 9, 2014

An American Anniversary

It was on this day in 1997 that, without consciously knowing what I was doing, I left my native Canada and launched into a new adventure in a new country. To mark my 17th anniversary in the U.S., here's an abridged version of how I chronicled that experience in Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir.

"Sioux Narrows Provincial Park sits on one of the thousands of picturesque inlets that comprise Lake of the Woods, a vast lake system that straddles the Ontario-Minnesota border west of Thunder Bay. In the summer its shores are lushly green, and haunting loon calls from mid-lake usher in its otherwise-silent dewy mornings. That’s what I woke to on the morning of July 9, 1997 — unknowingly, my last as a Canadian resident.

"After scribbling a few postcards, I broke camp and drove five minutes south into town to mail the cards. My plan was to return to Transcanada Highway and the Winnipeg Folk Festival, which was to open a few days later. Once again my car had its own plan. Without fully realizing what I was doing, I turned right instead of left out of the parking lot. My new direction was south — toward Minnesota, the United States and, unbeknownst to me, my new country.

"The signal from CBC Radio, my constant companion on this open-ended road odyssey, was still strong as I crossed the border at Baudette. But as I continued southwest toward Bemidji, it grew weaker and weaker then stuttered into solid static.

"Canada was gone.

"In that moment, I knew that I was, too — for good."

© Mark David Gerson, from Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir

It would be nearly a decade before I set foot in Canada again. Through those ten years I would call three U.S. states home, would marry, become a father and divorce, and would launch another open-ended road odyssey, this one lasting 30 months instead of the three that ultimately initiated my life in America.

Read more about the many acts of surrender that have comprised my journey in Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir, available on most Amazon sites, from other online booksellers and from all major ebook-sellers. And read more excerpts on the book's Facebook page.


"A dynamic read for the creative spirit within each of us. Positive inspiration at its best."

"A book that has the power to awaken, empower and inspire anyone who reads it."
– Melissa Shawn, Austin, Texas

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Renewing the Past, Stepping into the Future

These are the final hours for the original edition of my award-winning first book for writers, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write. By the end of the day (perhaps even by the time you read this), a new, expanded edition – complete with new cover – will have superseded it.

Just as I had mixed feelings earlier this year when I let The MoonQuest's original cover go in favor of its current updated look, it's with a certain ambivalence that I bid a grateful farewell to the original edition of The Voice of the Muse.

The MoonQuest and The Voice of the Muse were my first two published books, my first two literary babies. But they – and I – have grown up and matured in the years since their original release. It's now time for that maturity to be reflected in their public face.


The MoonQuest's cover – like its StarQuest and SunQuest sequels – now better reflects the dark, dystopian reality of the worlds in which they are set. It's a world where the story's colored horses are not the fairy tale-like creatures they appear, at first glance, to be on the original MoonQuest cover. Magical they may be, but Rykka and Ta'ar are also sentient beings of immense power – for good, fortunately!

In all other ways, except for an inside-the-book redesign and the inclusion of a long-requested guide to the pronunciation of the story's sometimes-challenging names, The MoonQuest is unchanged.

The same cannot be said for the new edition of The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write.

The cover, of course, is a radical departure. Gone is the Muse figure so evocatively designed by Richard Crookes, even as, on the new cover, the Muse's ocean of stories remains – Malibu's El Matador Beach, in this instance. Replacing the Muse on the new cover is a current photo of me, not for any egotistical reasons but as a way of empowering myself to more clearly take ownership of the book and its sometimes radical concepts and to match the look, tone and feel of my other books for writers.

But there have been changes inside the book as the well. The Voice of the Muse is now 20 percent longer and, I hope, 20 percent more effective!

What has changed?

  • I have expanded the section on craft, "Breathing Light and Life into Your Writing," with two new, full-length meditations to help you deepen your explorations and expressions of character and setting.
  • I have added a new section to help you cope with something all writers dread but must inevitably face (“On Rejection”). 
  • I have expanded what to me is one of the most important sections of the book, “Living Your Creativity,” to help you more effectively apply your passion for creativity to the rest of your life.
  • I have remedied my only regret about the original edition by inserting a chapter on how reading makes you a better writer...and a better person.
  • Finally, I have expanded many of the exercises, updated the technology references and made a host of other minor and not-so-minor tweaks to the rest of the text.
It has been quite the journey, reexperiencing a book I had not read cover-to-cover since proofing the final first-edition galleys nearly seven years ago. In revisiting it, I was reminded that its first words were originally intended not for you, but for me.
I didn’t set out to write this book. It crept up on me when I wasn’t looking, when I didn’t know I was writing it. Many of the essays in this volume began as journal entries, self-motivating vignettes penned during a time when I needed inspiration.  
I need that inspiration again today, as I launch into a new novel – my first since The SunQuest and a radical departure from my fantasy trilogy.

The Voice of the Muse wasn't the only one of my books I have reread over the past six months. Rather, it was the last of them. Since December, I have reread all three Q'ntana novels, my Acts of Surrender memoir, Writer's Block Unblocked and The Book of Messages. (My other two books, Organic Screenwriting and From Memory to Memoir, were written and published during that same period.) It has been an instructive, not always comfortable exercise – sort of like watching your life flash before your eyes, but via the written word!

The Voice of the Muse, however, is the only one of my books that I have altered, and I didn't do it lightly.

A book is a photograph in time, an expression of who the author was when he or she wrote it. His life, her world view, his thoughts, her philosophies, his prejudices, her quirks – they are all captured in a fixed, freeze-frame moment. Authors change and grow; the words, paragraphs and pages of their books cannot.

Perhaps they should not. In one sense, revisiting and updating a six-year-old book  as I have done with The Voice of the Muse – is like Photoshopping an old picture to make its subject appear fresh and contemporary. Wouldn’t it be better to leave the old book alone and write a new one that better represents who I am today?

That was my initial thought as I began to reread the book. In that moment, releasing a new edition felt almost fraudulent, as though I would be manipulating history.

Yet the more I read, the more I realized that The Voice of the Muse has grown with the times. Somehow, it has not only remained relevant over the years but has grown even more relevant.

In a world where public schools are being stripped of their arts programs and creativity is continually devalued in favor of “utility,” it has never been more important to rekindle passion, foster intuition and encourage self-expression. The Voice of the Muse still does all that and remains, to my astonishment, as cutting edge as ever.

At a personal level, this Voice of the Muse reunion of mine has been more than the step back in time I expected it to be. As I have read and reread the book in preparation for this expanded edition, I have discovered new depth and meaning in its words, words that, as I already pointed out, were originally intended for me. Apparently, they still are.

I suggest in all my books for writers that our books, screenplays and other writing projects are sentient entities with minds and imperatives of their own. This latest experience with The Voice of the Muse has once again proven that to be true.

I'm gratified to have been given the gift of its words, not once but twice. And I'm excited to be sharing this new edition with you!


  • The new paperback edition of The Voice of the Muse is propagating through Amazon's websites and search engines right now – a curious process that produces strange glitches and odd hiccups, so be patient! (If it's not currently showing on my Amazon author page, alongside all my other titles, it's a temporary anomaly that will soon correct itself. You can get around it by using this direct link.) Over the next weeks and months, the new, expanded paperback will also be available through other online booksellers and by special order from your neighborhood bricks-and-mortar store.
  • At this writing, a few discounted copies of the original Voice of the Muse paperback are still available on Amazon.com. If you want one of them, don't wait. Unsold copies will be withdrawn from sale by week's end. You'll find them through this link.
  • The new Kindle edition is currently available, and your purchase of the new paperback edition on Amazon will get you a Kindle copy for only US$1.99 through Amazon's Kindle Match program.)
  • The new Kobo, Nook and iBook editions will be available in the next days.
  • The Voice of the Muse Companion, my recording of meditations that are included in all my books for writers, continues to be available (with its original cover, for now) as an MP3 download on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and CD Baby. The original 2-CD album is also sold on Amazon.com.

Photo by Mark David Gerson: El Matador Beach, Malibu, CA, where the new Voice of the Muse cover image was shot by photographer Kathleen Messmer. Visit my gallery website to browse or buy this and more of my photos and artwork.

• Let's Be Friends! Please look me up on Facebook, Twitter and/or Google+.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Mark David Gerson: A Writer's Life IV




This is a slightly edited version of an interview that Sandy S. Bazinet conducted with me a few months back. Read the full, original post on her blog






What motivates you to write and how did you get started?

I like to joke that my muse tricked me into writing and, in a sense, that’s true. In public school and through most of university, I did everything I could to avoid anything creative, including writing. I opted for math and science courses and steered clear of any non-mandatory courses that involved self-expression.

But my muse had other plans, as I write about in more detail in my memoir, Acts of Surrender: A Writer’s Memoir. Starting in my final years of high school, when I was somehow pushed into taking on responsibility for the publicity for two musical theater productions (and had, of course, to write press releases and other promotional material) and carrying on through my first two post-college jobs (in public relations), I was slowly, subtly and unconsciously transformed into the writer I never thought I wanted to be. When I quit that second job after five years, it was to freelance full-time as a self-taught writer and editor. Still, it would take another dozen years before I moved from a teller of others’ stories as a newspaper, magazine, government and corporate writer to a teller of my own stories, as a novelist.

What I have discovered in the interim is that I can’t not write. I can’t not write any more than I can’t not breathe. I have no need of external motivation. It’s a call I can’t ignore (even on those days when I might prefer to). And it’s a call that I know is heard by others, which is why I titled my second book, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write.

What’s most rewarding about writing?

I have two complementary answers to that question. First, writing from a place of total surrender to the work opens me to parts of myself and parts of the world that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to touch. While that’s not always a comfortable journey, it’s always a transformational one and it’s always rewarding. Second, it’s rewarding to know that the work I produce from that way of creating inspires others to do likewise.

What’s your favorite genre and why?

It’s not so much that I have a favorite genre. It’s more that I am drawn to a particular kind of story, regardless of genre — be it in a book, on a stage or in a movie theater: stories that are life-affirming, stories that offer hope, stories that empower, stories that inspire. Those are the kinds of stories I seek to create as well as consume.

Where do your characters come from?

My characters don’t have to “come” from anywhere because, in a sense, they already exist. These are not fictional characters I’m writing about. To me, they are real people — as real as I am. My job as writer is to be their chronicler and biographer, listening for their voices and their stories and setting those to the page for others to read.

Who is an author who inspires you and why?

It’s difficult to single out any one author as an inspiration. But if I must, it would be Madeleine L’Engle. L’Engle is best known for her young adult Wrinkle in Time books, which I didn’t discover until I was in my early 30s — during a time for me of powerful spiritual and creative awakening. But Madeleine L’Engle also wrote several novels for adults, as well as a series of memoirs. All Madeleine L’Engle’s books and stories are infused with the qualities I referred to in my earlier answer: They are life-affirming, empowering, inspirational and hopeful. It’s those qualities — in both L’Engle’s books and her life — that continue to inspire me, not only in my books and my life, but in the ways I teach and coach.

What are you writing now?

I thought I would be taking a well-deserved breather after having completed two new books for writers and having written them back to back – From Memory to Memoir: Writing the Stories of Your Life and Organic Screenwriting: Writing for Film, Naturally.

But because I can't not be writing for long, I have just started my fourth novel! Also, one of these days soon I will return to the stage-musical adaptations of my Q’ntana Trilogy of fantasy stories, The MoonQuest, The StarQuest and The SunQuest, that I began last fall.

What kind of book would you like to be known for?

Be it through my novels, screenplays, stage plays, memoir or books for writers, I would hope to be known for work that inspires, motivates and empowers, for work that encourages people to reignite their passion and creative potential, for work that gives people the courage to believe in themselves and in their creative power.

What has writing taught you about yourself?

My answer to this question is very much linked to my answer to your previous question. That’s because I would wish for my writing to do all the things for others that it continues to do for me. Writing has rekindled a passion for creativity buried so deeply that I didn’t even know it was there. Writing has taught me to believe in my creative potential. Writing has taught me to believe in myself.

How has your life experience influenced your writing?

I would like to answer this question with a story. Again, I tell this story in more detail in Acts of Surrender, but here’s the capsule version…

It was March 28, 1994 and I was leading a writing workshop in Toronto. After I guided participants into a writing exercise, a little voice — the voice of my muse — urged me to do the same exercise myself. I never write during a class I’m teaching, but the call that evening was so insistent that I didn’t dare ignore it. What came out of me in the next twenty minutes would be the opening scene of the first draft of a novel I knew nothing about, a novel that would reveal itself to me in the months of writing ahead as The MoonQuest.

I wrote that first draft in the third person, thinking it was just a story — a story that spoke to me powerfully…but still just a story. Then, a few days before I completed that first draft, I woke up knowing that when it was time to write The MoonQuest’s second draft, I would have to do it in the first person. I also knew why: This fantasy tale set in a make-believe place and in a mythical time where stories were banned and storytellers put to death was my story. Yes, it was told through the metaphor of fantasy, but it was still a very personal story. I knew, too, that I would have to own it and own that fact about it if I were to give it the life it deserved. In one way or another, all my subsequent books have also been distillations of my life experiences.

Another story…

I spent most of my youth and early adult years being creatively blocked. It took a lot courage and some outside help to free me of those blocks. It also took The MoonQuest  Yet, as painful and challenging as those blocks were, they would ultimately feed all my work in the years ahead: all my writing as well as all my teaching. In short, there is no way to separate my creative life from the rest of my life, which is why the 13 “rules” for writing that I include in some of my books are almost identical to the 13 “rules” for living that I have also written about. Why do I put “rules” in quotation marks? Because the first rule in both cases is that there are no rules…not in creativity and not in life!

What encouraging advice can you offer new writers?

This is advice for all writers, not just new writers: Trust your story and trust that your story knows itself better than you do…than you ever will. Trust, too, the chaos of creativity and the magic of creativity. Trust your own creative process. Trust your intuition. Trust yourself.

Where can readers find your books and learn more about you and your work?

All nine of my books are available in both paperback and ebook editions from Amazon and many other major online booksellers and ebook-sellers. My recording of guided meditations for writers is on Amazon.com on CD or as an MP3 download; MP3 versions are also sold on iTunes, Google Play and CD Baby.

For more about me, visit my new website or look me up on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Bibliography

  • Organic Screenwriting: Writing for Film, Naturally
  • Writer’s Block Unblocked: Seven Surefire Ways to Free Up Your Writing and Creative Flow
  • From Memory to Memoir: Writing the Stories of Your Life
  • The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write
  • The Voice of the Muse Companion: Guided Meditations for Writers (recording)
  • Acts of Surrender: A Writer’s Memoir
  • The Book of Messages: Writings Inspired by Melchizedek
  • The Q’ntana Trilogy: The MoonQuest, The StarQuest, The SunQuest

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What's That Muse of Mine Up To??

I was on author/radio host Karen Vaughan's radio show a few weeks ago when Karen asked me whether I had any plans to write another novel. At the time, my latest book (Organic Screenwriting) had only just come out and the idea of any new book was far from my mind. "Sure, if inspiration strikes," I replied aloud, adding under my breath, "some time in the future."

That exchange flashed briefly through my mind yesterday when I was updating some of the answers to the Q&A that writer Sandy S. Bazinet did with me on her blog this past spring. (I will be posting the updated version of that interview here on my blog next week.) One of Sandy's questions was "What are you working on right now?" At the time of the original interview, I said that I was just finishing From Memory to Memoir: Writing the Stories of Your Life. Yesterday, with both that book and Organic Screenwriting completed and published, I rewrote my answer to say that I was "taking a well-deserved break after having written two books back-to-back."

That, I thought, was that.

It wasn't.

Earlier today, I was chatting with a friend about our trip to L.A. next week and found myself mentioning that I was pretty sure that I had at least one more novel in me. I knew nothing about this next novel, I added, nor did I have any immediate plans to do anything to find out.

The words had barely left my mouth when I heard the voice of my Muse as clear and insistent as ever: "The time for a new novel is NOW," it insisted, "or, at least, next week. Start it when you're in L.A."

Start it next week? When I'm in L.A.? Are you crazy!!?

Even as my mind launched a volley of objections, I knew – with that some knowingness that has guided my life and creative life for nearly three decades – that my Muse was right. It is time.

I know nothing about this next novel I'm to write. But launching into it from that formless void out of which all creation emerges is how I have always written. And launching into it from L.A., the city which my heart keeps pulling me toward (even as New Mexico seems reluctant to let me go!), also feels perfect.

Of my nine published books, three completed screenplays and three stage-musicals-in-progress, only four of those projects have not originated in New Mexico. (I started The MoonQuest book when I was living in Toronto and The Voice of the MuseThe Book of Messages and The StarQuest when I was living in Sedona)

As I continue to set my sights on a full-time return to Los Angeles, it's interesting that I am to birth my next book in the city I hope soon to again call home.

Meantime, even before this afternoon's revelation, I had not felt called to make much in the way of plans for my L.A. sojourn. Even the sole Facebook friend I had hoped to meet in person (he lives close to where I'll be staying) will be uncharacteristically out-of-town during the precise dates I will be in his neighborhood! I will see my daughter, of course. I will go on some photography outings, undoubtedly. And there are a few meetings I will need to attend.

But I know now that none of those is the real reason I'm going to Los Angeles. I am going to birth a new book and – who knows? – perhaps a new life.


QUICK MDG LINKS

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mark David Gerson's New Book for Screenwriters "Revolutionizes" Writing for Film

Creativity Catalyst Mark David Gerson applies his award-winning, story-freeing techniques
to the rule-bound world of screenwriting in Organic Screenwriting: Writing for Film, Naturally


“You don’t need to obsess about rules and structure to write an effective, compelling screenplay,” insists creativity catalyst Mark David Gerson

Gerson, creator of The Q’ntana Trilogy of fantasy films and novels, award-winning author of four books for writers, and long-time writing coach and workshop facilitator, takes on Hollywood’s screenwriting orthodoxy in his newest book, Organic Screenwriting: Writing for Film Naturally.

The book, published last month in paperback and ebook, decries the emphasis that too many screenwriting books and classes place on outlines, structure and what Gerson calls “story engineering.”

“Writing for film doesn’t have to feel like an engineered exercise in story-building,” Gerson writes in Organic Screenwriting. “It can be a story-freeing adventure, not unlike those undertaken by explorers of old…a journey of discovery that retains all the magic, spontaneity and awe of childhood make-believe.”

According to Gerson, writing on what he calls the “Muse Stream” eliminates the need for the exhaustive preplanning so commonly set out as the only professional way to write screenplays. “When you write on the Muse Stream and are in tune with your characters, story and script, your screenplay’s acts, plot points and beats occur naturally and intuitively. They don’t need to be planned, plotted, engineered or graphed.”

Gerson first advanced his “Muse Stream” approach to writing in his landmark 2008 book, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write. He describes it as an “unstructured, uncensored, right-brain outpouring” that has proven effective for all forms of writing — from drama to dissertations…and screenplays.

In Organic Screenwriting, Gerson offers many examples of how he applied the Muse Stream to his three Q’ntana screenplays. He also provides practical techniques, powerful exercises and a generous helping of inspiration to help novice and seasoned screenwriters alike get their stories onto the page without struggle.

“I wrote Organic Screenwriting,” Gerson explains, “because it was the book I wished had been available when I was starting out with my first screenplay.” 

Acclaimed writer/director Luke Yankee (Diva Dish, Conversations on Craft) has welcomed Organic Screenwriting as the book that finally frees writers from “the mire of ‘how to get it right’ for Hollywood” and, instead, “gives us permission to do what we set out do in the first place: tell stories from our hearts.”

In addition to Organic Screenwriting, The Voice of the Muse and his three Q’ntana novels, Mark David Gerson has written From Memory to Memoir: Writing the Stories of Your Life, Writer’s Block Unblocked: Seven Surefire Ways to Free Up Your Writing and Creative Flow, Acts of Surrender: A Writer’s Memoir and The Book of Messages: Writings Inspired by Melchizedek. All his books are available in paperback and ebook from major online booksellers.

Gerson’s Q’ntana Trilogy of feature films is slated to go into production in 2015 with its first installment, The MoonQuest.


QUICK LINKS

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Celebrating the Open Heart that Was Maya Angelou

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
 Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

"What stories are you carrying inside you that are yearning to be freed onto the page? What stories are you carrying inside that, once freed onto the page, will also free you? Whatever they are, write one of them. Now. Write that story, your story, and feel the gift of healing freedom that all creative acts inspire."
From Memory to Memoir: Writing the Stories of Your Life

• For help telling your stories, browse through the other posts on this blog, visit www.youtube.com/markdavidgerson and www.facebook.com/calltowrite, and check out my books for writersmy books for writers.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Write the Stories of Your Life!

To celebrate the launch of my newest book, here's an excerpt, from From Memory to Memoir: Writing the Stories of Your Life

Your Story, Your Life
What you have lived is unique. What you have learned through your years of living is beyond price. And the value of all you share through your words, and of all the ways you awaken and grow through your words, is incalculable. 
"You are a storyteller — not because you are unusual (though your experiences may well be), but because we are all storytellers. We each carry an infinite potential for self-expression-through-story that, if we open to it, can reshape our lives and the lives of others in ways we cannot begin to imagine.

"In a sense, we are also all memoirists. From the moment the first caveman returned from a day’s hunting and grunted his experiences to his mates over the cooking fire, we have been not only telling stories, but telling our story. From the moment of our first newborn gurgle, we have been communicating something of our brief life. From the moment the first diary entry reflected back on days, months or years past, we have been unconsciously crafting memoir.

"Yet writing a memoir involves more than reciting dates, facts and what-happened-next’s. A memoir is an intimate journey into what underlies those dates, facts and occurrences.

"A memoir is also not autobiography. Autobiographies are vast and encyclopedic. Even should it span your life from conception until last week, a memoir is both more subjective and less comprehensive than any autobiography. Like an Impressionist painting, it includes more shade and texture than detail, more personality than panorama.

"Nor is a memoir simply a published journal. While it may draw on your journals and may even quote from them, a memoir is more focused and less self-indulgent. It’s a story built, however unconsciously, around a theme. It’s a story that transforms the personal into the universal. It’s a recounting of your experiences that transcends your experiences. It’s a story designed to be shared.

"Perhaps you have come to this book willingly — in order to leave a legacy for your children or grandchildren. Perhaps you hope to communicate your story to a larger audience — to strangers, as well as to family and friends. Or perhaps you come to this memoir-writing journey, as I did to mine, reluctantly, doubtfully, skeptically. Perhaps you don’t believe you have stories worth sharing, stories that others would want to read, stories with the potential to inspire. Of course you do. We all do.

"Here’s the thing: What you have lived is unique. What you have learned through your years of living is beyond price. And the value of all you share through your words, and of all the ways you awaken and grow through your words, is incalculable.

"It’s true for you. It’s true for me. It’s true for everyone.

"It doesn’t matter whether you are eager or resistant, overflowing with anecdotes or unsure where to find yours. Whoever you are, whatever your experiences, whatever your perceived writing ability, From Memory to Memoir will connect you with the stories you remember and, perhaps even more important, with the stories you have forgotten...with the stories you are keen to tell and, perhaps even more powerfully, with the stories you are reluctant to reveal. It will serve up the inspiration guaranteed to get you writing and keep you writing, the tools and techniques guaranteed to help you craft a rich, compelling narrative, and the support guaranteed to sustain you from the initial word of your book’s first draft to the final word of its ultimate draft.

"That’s why you are here. That’s why I am here.

"So what are you waiting for? Turn the page and join me on this adventure of a lifetime...this journey into the experience of your own creativity as, together, we write the stories of your life."


Get your copy of From Memory to Memoir today --
 on most Amazon sites and in Kindle, iBook, Kobo and Nook stores worldwide



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Twenty Years After...

When the first words of a story I knew nothing about pushed themselves out of me on March 28, 1994, I couldn't know that those handwritten scratchings on a yellow notepad would birth not only my first book, The MoonQuest, but a writing career I couldn't then begin to imagine. I couldn't imagine it because although I had been teaching writing for nearly two years, I still hadn't moved fully past the creative blocks and denials that I had lived with for as far back as I could remember.

In my school years, I actively avoided all courses or activities that involved art, writing or any other creative pursuit. As the gawky bespectacled kid who was always chosen last for school or summer camp teams, I couldn't replace them with sports or athletics. Instead, I turned inward and, following my mother's example, read voraciously. In school, I focused my course selection on subjects like math that offered only one right answer. That way, I minimized the dangers of not only being wrong but of being judged harshly for having been wrong. 

But my tricksterish Muse always had other plans for me. Starting in my final years of high school, when I was somehow pushed into taking on responsibility for the publicity for two musical theater productions (and had, of course, to write press releases and other promotional material) and carrying on through my first two post-college jobs (in public relations), I was slowly, subtly and unconsciously transformed into the writer I never thought I wanted to be. When I quit that second job after five years, it was to freelance full-time as a self-taught writer and editor. Still, it would take another dozen years and the birth of The MoonQuest before I was able to move from a teller of others’ stories as a newspaper, magazine, government and corporate writer to a teller of my own stories, as a novelist.

Today, as I reflect back on that March evening two decades ago and on what, for me, remains one of the most transformative moments of my life, I am astonished by all that my Muse has managed to push through me and by all that I have managed to surrender to.

Over the past 20 years, I have
I am not only astonished, I am also profoundly grateful -- to all those who contributed to my creative awakening and to the many of you who have supported me in so many ways since. I am grateful as well for the three decades of fear-, doubt- and judgment-filled creative drought that preceded The MoonQuest. As painful and challenging as those blocks and years were, they would ultimately fuel all the creative work that has followed: all my writing as well as all my teaching. They would fuel all my life choices too.

You see, there is no way I can separate my creative life from the rest of my life, which is why my creative and spiritual awakenings occurred simultaneously and why the 13 “rules” for writing that I include in my books for writers are almost identical to the 13 “rules” for living that I have written about in Writer's Block Unblocked and elsewhere. The first rule in both cases is that there are no rules…not in creativity and not in life. It's that "rule," along with my certainty that my stories are smarter than I am, that has made all those creative projects possible.

And so when the 28th rolls around in a few days, I'll be raising a glass to toast The MoonQuest and to everyone and everything in my life that made it possible. It's been quite a journey!


To honor The MoonQuest's 20th birthday this week, here is the story of its birth, excerpted from Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir....

Birth of a Book
 An excerpt from 
Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir

Much of my journaling over the years has been a stream-of-consciousness free-flow, similar to the Muse Stream technique I encourage in The Voice of the Muse and in my writing workshops. Rather than a diary-like reflection on the day’s events, it has been a way to get past the limiting thoughts of my mind and enter into that inner place of infinite wisdom where both powerful stories and unexpected insights arise. One of those insights showed up in my journal within days of my return from Nova Nada as I found myself writing, “It’s time to stop journaling.”

Time to stop journaling?

My journal had been my best and only friend through my first two months in Nova Scotia. The thought of letting it go terrified me. I may not have been using the word “surrender” yet, but I was committed to the concept. I would do my best to follow my highest inspiration, however inscrutable.

That day, I set my journal aside. I would record no emotions, experiences, dreams or meditations. Nor would I seek guidance from the blank page. Instead, bundled up against the wintry bluster off Pubnico Harbour, I walked and walked and walked. When I wasn’t walking, I curled up in a chair and read or meditated. I was bored and, with no writing outlet, tense.

Nine months earlier, my moving boxes still stacked against the walls of my Rowland Street flat, I had hosted a writing workshop in my living room. Present were the six PC&W students who had asked to continue with me in a series of private classes. That morning, I had devised an exercise based on Courtney Davis’s Celtic Tarot. The deck had so seduced me a few days earlier in Toronto’s Omega Centre bookstore that I couldn’t not buy it, even as I failed to understand the impulse. Now, I did. I would have each student draw, closed-eyed, one of the major arcana cards. Then with their eyes open to the chosen card, I would lead them through a guided visualization into writing.

I rarely write during a workshop that I’m facilitating. Instead, I watch the participants, hold space for them and remain available to them. This March 28 class would be different. Once the six women were engrossed in their writing, some inner imperative insisted that I also pick a card. I reached into the deck and pulled The Chariot. Without full awareness of what I was doing, I then picked up my pen, pulled my yellow-paged notepad toward me and began to write. What emerged, after a rambling preamble, was the tale of an odd-looking man in an odd-looking coach. Pulling the coach were horses as oddly colored as those on the Tarot card. That scene would become the opening of the first draft of a novel I knew nothing about.

Next morning, I picked up the story where I had left off and, most mornings for the next few months, I continued writing. It was a challenge to my controlling self, who bridled at the journey into the unknown that each word represented. So stressful was the process that after a few days I forced myself to write in bed before getting up. I figured that if writing was the first thing I did, I wouldn’t spend the rest of my day trying to avoid it. I also wrote longhand. It wasn’t that I believed handwriting to be superior. Rather, years of freelance writing — crafting other people’s stories to other people’s deadlines — had forged an uneasy association with desks and keyboards. It was easier for me to be creative as far as possible from my computer. My penmanship being as poor as it was, though, I resolved to type up each day’s output as I went along.

By the time I left for my exploratory trip to Nova Scotia, I had written a hundred pages of this still-untitled fantasy tale. When I returned to Toronto two weeks later, my focus had shifted from the story I was writing to the story I was living and to the upheaval being stirred up by my accelerating cross-country move.

It was now mid-December. I had not opened my journal for a week and, although I went to bed earlier and earlier, my days felt endlessly long. One afternoon after I returned from my walk, I had a sudden urge to dig out my fantasy manuscript, buried as deeply in a box as it had been from my thoughts. I dusted it off and placed it on a corner of my kitchen table. I didn’t dare open it. It sat next to me through a dinner, a breakfast and a lunch. It sat there, both seductively and accusingly, daring me to pick it up and read it. A dozen times through those twenty-four hours, I reached for the stack of pages then pulled my hand back. I was afraid to touch it, afraid that the manuscript wasn’t any good, afraid that I had outgrown it and would have to abandon it.

After lunch that second day, I gingerly carried it into the living room. Although I was certain it would be unreadable, I set a pen and notepad next to me...just in case it wasn’t. Two hours later, barely aware of what I was doing, I picked up pad and pen and began to write, continuing as effortlessly as though I had stopped for five minutes not five months. What I realized as I dove back into the story was that I hadn’t outgrown it. Rather, it had been so far ahead of me that I had needed those five months of life experience in order to be able to catch up with it and carry on. Three months and three hundred additional pages later, the first draft was finished — a year to the day after the Toronto class that had birthed it. And it finally had a title: The MoonQuest.

Excerpt from Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir -- © 2013, 2014 Mark David Gerson

Acts of Surrender and all my books are now available in paperback on most Amazon sites and as ebooks in Kindle, iBook, Kobo and Nook stores worldwide. 
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You have probably noticed that I am not posting to this blog as often as I once did. That's because for me, as for many, social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have made it easier to connect with online friends with even more immediacy than a blog can.

And while I will continue to post here, I encourage you to link up with me elsewhere too -- not only because it will be easier for you to keep up with me. It will also be easier, in some instances, for me to keep up with you!

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Watching My Life Flash Before My Eyes

Unlike with The MoonQuest and The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, I didn't cry when I held my first printed copy of Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir on Thursday. But I was emotional, even if I wasn't at first sure why. Then, this insightful comment from a wise friend revealed what I had failed to see on my own. "I just realized," he said, "how much of your work hasn't yet made it the tangible or physical plane."

It's true: Before Thursday, only two of my seven books had found their way into paperback and none more recently than five years ago with the publication of The Voice of the Muse. Holding the print edition of Acts of Surrender was powerful evidence for me of a revolutionary shift into the physical from what had previously been strictly etheric in my life. No wonder I was emotional!

The journey to that shift began a few weeks ago when I felt a sudden, urgent and incompressible imperative to get my remaining five ebook-only editions into printalong with an updated version of The MoonQuest. Through that process, work that existed only electronically has started to become manifest in my physical world -- and with mind-spinning speed: At this rate, all my ebooks will boast paperback editions by the end of January.

I'd like to think that the "manifestation exercise" I'm experiencing right now with my books is a staging ground for what's waiting for me in 2014. I'd like to think that it's a sort of dress rehearsal...that with 2014, many of my long-held dreams will finally begin to take physical form.

It is said that just before we die, our lives flash before our eyes. We can also experience some version of that "replay" when we are about to die into a new phase of our lives. Is that what's happening to me on the cusp of a new year, as my current republishing venture forces me to relive many of my lives by rereading all my books?

As a memoir, Acts of Surrender is an obvious blast from my various pasts. But my Q'ntana fantasy trilogy, two writing books and Book of Messages are just as autobiographical, if not quite so obviously. To my surprise, they remain as personally relevant to me as I revisit them today as they were when I originally wrote them. That includes The MoonQuest, which is four months to the day away from celebrating the 20th anniversary of its (conscious) conception.

Of course, I can't know what 2014 will bring. So, for now, even as I ponder the metaphorical meaning of this unexpected publishing enterprise, I continue to surrender to it by rereading all my work and by making minor content tweaks and creating new covers for the new editions.

The first fruits of this flurry of publishing activity showed up on Thursday with the new paperback edition of Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir -- available right now by clicking on this link and coming to Amazon stores worldwide by the end of next week (a great portal into the new year for me!). Writer's Block Unblocked will follow soon after, with all three Q'ntana books and The Book of Messages following soon after that. (All my titles, of course, continue to be available as ebooks in the Kindle, Nook, iBook and Kobo stores.)

Meantime, I can't get this quote from Acts of Surrender out of my head -- and not just because I read and reread it multiple times over the past few weeks...

"My life, as you will discover, has been rocky, on-the-edge and unconventional. It has been scary, disrupted and a distant remove from what most people still cling to as 'security.' 

"It has also been creative, exhilarating, passion-filled, vibrant, exciting, adventurous and enriching. It has pushed me beyond the boundaries of what I believe and what I believe I want, and it has propelled me beyond the frontiers of the conventionally possible. 

"In every moment, it steers me on a course that I could never consciously chart for myself. In every breath, it reminds me that the story knows best -- the story I'm living as much as the story I'm writing."

Yes, the story knows best. All I can do, in this and every moment -- to the best of my imperfect ability -- is to trust that.

• Get  the paperback edition of Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir today at https://www.createspace.com/4535620. Get the ebook edition in the Kindle, iBook, Nook and Kobo stores. You can also check your local Amazon store late next week for the book, and keep checking it through January for paperback editions of all my books.

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