“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”
― Vincent Van Gogh
Spring 2023 From Heart to Paper Writing Workshop Live!
Classes: 9 Saturday Mornings Location: West Contra Costa Adult Education Alvarado School 5625 Sutter Ave Richmond, CA 94804
Dates: April 15, 2023 —June 24, 2023*
Time: 10:00AM to 12:00PM Pacific Time
Margaret C. Murray has been leading From Heart to Paper Writing Workshops for over a decade. A professional author and teacher, Margaret is presently preparing her most recent novel, Deer Xing, for publication. She is also the publisher of Writewords Press.
To read what her students say about the workshop, seeTestamonials.
Read more about Margaret C. Murray’s From Heart to Paper Writing Workshop below.
Enchanted by stories? Looking for poetry, drama, biographies, and non-fiction? Yearning to read your next good book? Addicted to the magic and artistry possible with words? Fascinated by small press possibilities? Excited to talk with others who feel the same?
If your answer is “Yes” to any of the above, consider coming to the outstanding Bay Area Book Festival that takes place on Saturday, May 7th, and Sunday, 8th from 11AM to 5PM at Martin Luther King park in downtown Berkeley, CA.
At the festival, there’s so much for you to explore, including book readings by incredible authors from around the world, state-of-the art discussions and fascinating panels. Click Bay Book Festival for all the details.
BAY AREA BOOK FESTIVAL
Saturday, May 7th & Sunday,May 8th
11AM – 5PM
Martin Luther King Civic Center Park
2151 Martin Luther King Jr Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
At the Festival you will find me, Margaret C. Murray, under the canopy of Booth #36, Thoth Writers Collective, by the Main Stage in the Park.
What is the Thoth Writers Collective? We are a group of six writers across two continents, from Spain to California, who collaborate via Zoom, email, etc., to encourage one another and improve our writing which spans interpersonal and gender dilemmas, global conflicts and myth. We take our name from Thoth, the ibis-headed god who introduced writing to the ancient Egyptians. Below is a short bio of each of us.
Jan Alexander, based in New York, writes both fiction and non-fiction that reflects how globalism and technology are changing everything, in good ways and bad. Her books include Ms. Ming’s Guide to Civilization (novel, Regal Publishers 2020); Getting to Lamma (novel); Bad Girls of the Silver Screen (with Lottie Da; nonfiction). See more at https://www.janalexander.com/portfolio-category/books/
Geoffrey Fox, based in Spain and New York, is the author of the novels Rabble! A Story of the Paris Commune (2021) and A Gift for the Sultan (2008), translated into Turkish as BirCihan, Iki Sultan (Nokta Istanbul, 2012) and the short-story collection Welcome to My Contri (1988; augmented e-book 2017). His best-selling sociological work is Hispanic Nation: Culture, Politics and the Constructing of Identity (University of Arizona Press, 1997). See https://geoffreyfox.com/
Karla Huebner is a novelist and professor of art history at Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, and author of Magnetic Woman: Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic (art history, University of Pittsburgh Press), In Search of the Magic Theater (novel, Regal House 2022) and other works. See https://www.karlahuebner.com/
Dirk van Nouhuys writes novels, short stories, experimental forms, and occasionally verse. He has a BA from the Stanford creative writing program and was a minor pioneer of what later became the internet. He has published a book on Macintosh applications, and a translation of two Flemish novels, The Danger and The Enemy. He publishes fiction regularly in literary and other magazines. See http://www.wandd.com/Site/Publications.html
As for myself, I am the author of novels Sundagger.net, Dreamers, Spiral and Pillow Prayers. I’m also the publisher of Writewords Press, and teacher of From Heart to Paper Writing Workshops. Presently I am fine-tuning my upcoming novel, Deer Xing. You can read more about me here.
Valley of the Gods, Cedar Mesa, Bears Ears National Park
Pictographs, Petroglyphs and Potsherds are the clues to hidden treasure in pure daylight at two National Parks in the American Southwest.
Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Parks are located in the Four Corners area of the Southwest: Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. Bears Ears, the largest park in the United States at 1.9 million acres, was designated a National Monument (Park) by President Obama in 2017 after thirty Native American tribes, including the Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Zuni, Paiute, and Apache, advocated for its protection as a sacred site.
The pre-puebloan people known as the Anasazi disappeared from this land by the 13th century, leaving behind their petroglyphs, pictographs and potsherds, a mysterious gift to explore.
“This place is a part of the history of all the Native peoples in this region. It’s like a book for us, and when many tribes have a chapter in this book, it tells us a lot about why we are the way we are. But it’s also part of the history of the peoples of the United States and the world.”—Jim Enote, Pueblo of Zuni
Bears Ears (1.9 million acres, designated by Obama, 2017) and Grand Staircase Escalante (designated by Clinton, 1996) contains 4,000 years of Native American culture.
In Grand Staircase Escalante National Park are buried the richest deposit of dinosaur bones in the world, with fossils 75 million years old. So far twenty-five new species of dinosaurs have been discovered.
There was danger that these precious parks would be destroyed to make National Park land ripe for “development”, i.e., private mining, fracking, conglomerate agriculture, and industrial off-road recreation. Anextremely rare dig of dinosaur fossils was looted before development could be stopped.
I wrote my novels of the ancient Southwestafter traveling to the Four Corners, amazed to realize that here in the American desert was over 100,000 sites of Native American archeology. Click on the YouTube video “Stones of Chaco Canyon” and feel the magic that led me to write Sundagger.net and Spiral.
Click the Paypal button below to order Sundagger.net and Spiral.
Solstice Celebration sign lit up outside the Richmond Library
The Winter Solstice — a time to honor the promise of rebirth in the dead of winter, the ancient legacy of prayer and hope in the face of the unknown darkness, the sun returning, and the power of Nature.
I’m inviting you to join me at the interactive Zoom Winter Solstice Celebration hosted by the Richmond Public Library, Richmond, CA on December 21, 2020, the day of the Winter Solstice.
I’ll be welcoming this darkest time of the year with music, art, drumming and a book reading. I’ll share astronomy and history, focusing on the Chaco Puebloans known as the Anasazi, the ancient Native Americans of the Southwest who constructed massive buildings aligned with the heavens.
In honor of the Winter Solstice I’m offering a Special 2 for 1 Solstice Bundle of my Anasazi companion novels Sundagger.net and Spiral for a limited time. Buy one and you’ll receive the second book FREE.
Buy the bundle! Two novels for the price of one. SAVE 50%!
+ for just $17.00*
See you on the Solstice! —Margaret
* Offer good through December 31, 2020. Tax and mailing costs not included.
In this time of California fires, the Coronavirus quarantine and Trump, I’m desperate for revelation. When my son, Chris, lends me his voluminous biography of our 18th President, Ulysses S. Grant, written by Ron Chernow, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Hamilton and Washington, I open it and begin to read. Why not?
I get no further than the very first page when I realize I’m hooked, eager to learn what’s in the 1073 pages remaining. It’s a bygone era, true, a vastly different life, yet familiar too. Reading about this American president I vaguely recognize from my high school history class, I’m surprised, excited even, to see that here’s someone, strangely enough, I can identify with now. Someone I wish I knew.
Historical textbooks have portrayed Ulysses S. Grant’s terms in office as marked by rampant corruption presided over by a president who spoke only on occasion, had an alcohol problem, little charisma, and was simple-mindedly loyal to duplicitous “friends” in politics. Reading GRANT however, I discover a singular, sensitive man born in the Midwest of pioneer stock, the “son of an incorruptible small-town braggart” and a silent, beloved mother, an expert horseman, a failure at business while brilliant at military maneuvers, who resigned from the army in disgrace. A foe of slavery.
The very first sentence introduces me to Grant who has just left the office of the Presidency. It seems Ex-President Grant is unlike so many other presidents who rushed to publish their memoirs as soon as they departed the White House. No, two-time President Ulysses S. Grant, High Military Commander of the Union Army, who defeated the renown Confederate General Robert E Lee to win the Civil War for Abraham Lincoln, “refused to trumpet his accomplishments in print” and was, in fact, too modest and unpretentious. As Chernow describes it, Grant was a hero in spite of himself. He hated boasting about himself and his wartime accomplishments.
In the middle paragraph, Chernow fast-forwards to 1883 in post-Civil War New York City, where Grant, no longer president, has a crippling accident getting out of a taxi on a snowy night and ends up being a lifelong invalid with “excruciating pain” and the “agonizing onset of pleurisy coupled with severe rheumatism.”
And still on Page 1, Chernow hints at the financial success Grant longed for finally being realized at the end of his life. Ex-president Grant has partnered with a young brash swindler, Ferdinand Ward, and imagines himself a millionaire who will be able to at last provide support for Julia after he’s gone. But then . . .and then . . .while. . .after.
Deep into it now, I experience a small, unassuming man who never wanted to go to West Point, who could fall asleep in the middle of a battle and wake up refreshed, and who had the love and loyalty of the huge Union Army of Lincoln. Who Frederick Douglass called, “the protector of my race.” Grant who sought freedom and justice for newly emancipated slaves both as Commander in Chief and later as President, fighting carpetbaggers and the newly formed Ku Klux Klan. There’s been recent controversy around Julia who grew up in a slave state, in a family with slaves, and Grant keeping one slave, William, for a year, which led to Grant’s statue being toppled in San Francisco. But, as I discover on p. 106, “when it came within his power, Grant . . . filed papers, to “hereby manumit, emancipate and set free said William from slavery forever.”
It was revelatory and comfortingly satisfying to me to learn intimate details of this far-sighted, faithful, loving husband and father whose lifelong love affair was with his four children and his wife, Julia, a fascinating, vivacious woman in her own right, who flourished even at the very end of what became his torturous life.
GRANT, a cliff hanger. And it all happens in fascinating detail, written in pristine language. Somehow it became my life too, embodying my wish for a real president. Now. For the time being, I’ll settle in with Ron Chernow’s GRANT, imagining the man behind the book. And I’ll vote for the next president on November 3rd. So much for wishing.
“A flower is never opened with a hammer.” — motto of From Heart to Paper Writing Workshops
I have been teaching From Heart to Paper Writing Workshops for over seven years here in the San Francisco East Bay and begin each session with this motto.
You’d think I’d be tired of it by now, considering it old and worn out. Yet each time I say “A flower is never opened with a hammer”, I feel the power of the words, the exquisite truth of flowers, and the awe of seeing a flower open. I feel my heart leap with possibility— for myself and for my students who are like flowers too.
Writing workshops are upcoming in Winter and Spring, 2020.
Would you like to know more about From Heart to Paper Writing Workshops? Do you want to register? Please click here.
I picked up Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles because of the intriguing title. The cover shows a photo of a woman on a horse photographed from behind, her long black hair flying. I wondered if this was a Native American story. Perhaps a fantasy adventure? In the first pages I discover these “enemy women” were mainly white and poor, living in the southeastern Ozarks of Missouri during the American Civil War.
I couldn’t put the book down because of Adele Colley, eighteen years old and first person narrator. A Huck Finn type character, Adele speaks her mind, is eager to know her future. She shuns domesticity, knows she’ll likely be imprisoned by marriage, and worried it might be to the wrong man.
Adele’s father gives her a dun horse she names Whiskey, of mixed straw color, grey and gold with black legs, tail and mane. Whiskey is Adele’s beloved familiar, her best friend and true companion. Adele’s mother died of the fever five years before and her brother, with his withered arm, has fled to the hills to avoid being arrested and shot as the Federal Militia arrest Southern men they consider to be “weeds in the garden of humanity” and punish anyone with Southern sympathies.
Even though the Colley’s are officially “non-partisan”, with regard to the North and South, her father, a justice of the peace, is arrested by the Militia as Adele and her two little sisters watch. The Militia then set their house on fire, burning everything, even food and valuables, and beat her father up before taking him off along with Whiskey, who looks back at Adele as he is led away.
It’s hard to read Enemy Women and pass it off as “just a story” because author Paulette Jiles prefaces each chapter with factual, primary source documents from the Civil War era, thus magnifying the power (and horror) of Adele’s story. I experience every woman’s grief during the American Civil War as if it were happening now, in present time, and not a just as a subject of history. Are we all still stereotyped as “enemy women” now?
This book deserves the five stars I gave it on Goodreads.
From Heart to Paper Writing Workshop Four sessions: Monday evenings: 6:30PM – 8:30PM Dates: 7/8/19 – 7/29/19 Find out more. To Register, click on the Writing is Easy button.
Plus a 5-Day Intensive
From Heart to Paper Intensive Writing Workshop Five sessions: Two Monday & Wednesday evenings: 6:30PM – 8:30PM plus one Saturday morning: 10AM – 12PM Dates: 8/5/19 – 8/17/19
Find out more. To Register, click on the Writing is Easy button.
Click here for recent From Heart to Paper workshoptestimonials.
Expressing yourself in words is a wonder and a joy.
“life looks forward death looks back life looks forward death looks back life looks . .”
I was planning a trip to Mexico during the week of the festival Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead to see my friend, Rose, when a small bookstore in San Miguel de Allende, whom I had contacted, offered to host a book event for me. Great! I chose Art, Sacrifice & Prayer for the event title because these are such powerful themes in Hispanic Indigenous Mexican culture and so much part of the Day of the Dead.
Preparing for my trip, I go over selections from my novels to read. I expect to read from my new novel, Pillow Prayers. But what about my previous Southwest novels of magic realism, Sundagger.net and Spiral, with characters who could have been ancestors of the families and tourists who celebrate Dia de los Muertos in San Miguel de Allende?
I thought of the time, the spring of 1999, when I went car camping to the ancient ruins of the Four Corners, which had been a dream of mine from childhood. My boyfriend drove his car, so all the way across Northern California, Nevada, and Utah I was free to write, taking voluminous notes about the astounding landscape I saw outside my window.
We drove through the technicolor desert of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments, 4,000 years of Native American culture one archeologist called “an outdoor laboratory of our history on earth”. I saw not just potsherds, petroglyphs and pictographs but also the world’s richest deposit of dinosaur bones, fossils 75 million years old, including 25 species of newly discovered dinosaurs. Who left such mysterious art behind? What sacrifices were made to create it? Was this religious art? What did it mean to the artists?
At every historical site of these ancestral Puebloan people,named ‘Anasazi’ (enemy ancestors) by the Navajo, I scribbled in my notebook. My mind was racing with images for my next novel.
We reached Chaco Culture National World Heritage Site in New Mexico, the land sacred to the Pueblo tribes. I saw the Great House, Pueblo Bonito, the largest ruin in North America, five stories high with 600 rooms and 300 kivas, bigger than the Roman Coliseum. It had been built along the axis of the rising sun at the equinoxes. Archeo Astronomy it is called, the study of language in the architecture, building in relation to the stars.
The circular kivas with their foot drums, benches, pottery, and stone-lined vaults below ground, fascinated me.
I learned of the sun dagger phenomenon on Fajada Butte that I could see from the campground, jutting out of the flat desert canyon. On only one day a year, the summer solstice, the sun pierces a carved spiral hidden at the top of this butte. Who carved this timepiece, matching art and stone to the heavens? What did it mean?
Climbing the North Mesa, I stopped by a lopsided tiny house without a roof sinking into the sand. The entrance way suggested a crooked smile while the two window openings peered across time at me with heavy-lidded eyes. A sad-faced house, yet sweet. I imagined a story of sacrifice, art and prayer. Thus Sundagger.net began, a story of one family, two worlds, many lifetimes.
Back home in California, I worked from voluminous notes describing the remains of corn husks, blankets made of turkey feathers and dog hair, silver frogs on jewelry, pottery with parrot images, and much more.
A few years later I wrote the prequel, Spiral. I took another trip, this time by myself, following the same journey I had my characters in Spiral take, traveling North to Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado. I camped beneath the farthest outlier of the Chaco Culture, where an exact, but much smaller replica of Pueblo Bonito was built in 1084 AD and then abandoned soon after. Why? How?
Today, preparing for my reading in San Miguel de Allende, I skim books, marking scenes that show my characters struggling with desire, making art, sacrificing for their dreams, inspired by their prayers. Here’s what I’ve come up with for now.
In Sundagger.net, Sara, a single mother, comes to an Oakland sweat lodge after 9/11 to pray for her missing son, but sees an ancient, shocking vision instead.
In Spiral, Willow abandons her sacred pots in Chaco Canyon to take her son Little Hawk on a dangerous journey where he discovers a circle of skeletons in a tower.
In Pillow Prayers, Love Ruined, Love Found, After the Summer of Love, street artist Ruth finds a place to paint in a zen pillow stitchery in San Francisco, befriending skeptical grad student, Lonnie and the stitchery owner, Beth, maneuvering toward tragedy.
Art, Sacrifice & Prayer
Monday, November 5, 2018. 4:00 – 6:00 pm
GARRISON & GARRISON BOOKS
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato