Method Writing SF
Sept 17, 2013

Creating Community.

Living a Life in the Arts.

-Alexandra Kostoulas

So, your work life isn't exactly conducive to your art. Few of your friends understand your desire and passion for self-expression. Should you go it alone, whiling away your memoirs in a dark room while chugging a bottle of port, a candle dwindling by your side? Should you be that guy at work who is always kvetching in the lunchroom about how nobody understands your literary genius? Should you hide out in some indie bookstore, running your fingers up and down the spines of books by real authors, too timid to call yourself a writer? Or should you join a group of like-minded people who are all on a similar path-and roll up your sleeves and get to work?  I say the latter.


The world is an uncertain place--especially now. Nothing is a guarantee. Living a life of an artist can be frightening for those of us who love art. Some of us even hold art and writing in such high regard, that we don't think that we are worthy of being called "artists" or dare we say it: "Writers."


Many of us have a secret passion and desire to do something creative, but we are afraid to begin. This is true for seasoned writers. There is always a fear of moving into new territory. That's why people-even professional writers sometimes-fossilize.


Most of us are afraid of failing--of looking foolish.  But, silently, we yearn. As artists, poets and storytellers, we are all faced with a dual terror. First, the terror of the blank page looms large in front of us, and second, we worry that when we do pour out our heart and soul, what if nobody hears us and we are left at the end of the day climbing the escalator up from the BART hermetically sealed in the cocoon of our earbuds, gazing at the indifferent high rises of downtown. We fear being like Mersault staring in existential bewilderment at an impartial city that is exactly the same after we wrote our masterpiece as before it.


Why while away in isolation and fear?

Find a group of other like-minded artists and join it. Whether it's an MFA program, a writing workshop like the one I teach, or an art partner, you are doing something for your art if you get out there and connect.


In 2012, Third Sector Research Center's Angus McCabe wrote an article for the Guardian called "The importance of Grassroots Community Arts Groups in Big Society."  The report was based on a study he participated on in the UK that looked at everyday people getting together to organize around arts. Their findings were interesting. First he discovered that arts organizations were good for individuals, groups, and whole communities. For individuals of all ages, there were many benefits. For participants there was an increase in health and wellbeing, as the groups were important in making new friends and new connections. Grassroots arts groups also "promoted health and resiliency in times of crisis." For some, they became "a route to employment for future careers in creative industries."  For groups, grassroots arts organizations were a way to create and maintain identity in the larger society. For communities, these organizations helped to support local economies. I saw this first hand while I was in the tiny village of Houdetsi on the island of Crete this summer to visit the Labyrinth workshop, where musicians gather from around the world to study the eastern scale-based modal music that ranges from Greece through Western China. The workshop itself created a micro economy that the whole town benefited from the man who was growing his own grapes for local raki and feeding people a help-yourself feast of stuffed zucchini flowers and bell peppers that his wife prepared each day so the musicians could be strong and relaxed for the next day in the workshop.


So, if you've been dreaming about writing and don't know where to begin, your first step might be to consider joining a group.  A private writing workshop, like Jack Grapes METHOD WRITING program (the class I teach), a critique group, a major or an MFA program in Creative Writing are all good places to look to get yourself going again on your project, and hey, you might even have fun while doing it!  


Also, local literary events, which I've included at the end of this newsletter also provide fertile ground for new ideas and connections with other like-minded souls. Feel good about yourself if you are already doing one of these things. If you are in an MFA program and find yourself blocked when you have to turn in pages, consider joining a workshop like mine that helps you generate new material, that lets you be raw on the page. Take part in the community. That's one of the benefits of being part of such a vibrant arts and literary scene like the Bay Area. The more you expand yourself, the better.



Learn More

Excerpts from the Spring 2013 Method Writing Workshop
The Huntress
-Yvonne Campbell 

I earned my living panhandling

Sitting cross-legged, my bowl at my feet, fake Indian calling out untouchable.  I was an untouchable.


My dirty hair generating the right amount of pity, oh she could be so pretty with some cleaning up. I didn't want to clean up; I didn't want to be pretty.  No, I was fast, swift and clever.  And if some motherfucker tried to mess with me, I'd run, run faster than anyone around.


I was a runner ...


Water was free though, I'd some water and chlorophyll lifted from Whole Foods.

100% young barley grass, young wheat grass, brown rice and kelp.


There was a creek; we had found it, set it free, liberated it.

The way I ran, Olympic run and athlete trained.

Don't want no entanglements.

I was unencumbered.


There wasn't anything in the Whole Foods dumpster,

I might have to kill something

Roast it over a fire

After all, I had to save myself.

I was on a mission.


I was scared, real scared and horse hungry

I mean I didn't want to let down the dudes

But I was fucking knee wobbly scared shitless

I didn't want to do it

But I was the one, the fastest runner,

I could run fucking faster than anyone else on earth,

Yeah, no shit.


I ran up and down Mt. Davidson, before dawn, before the light ruined everything.

Up and down tramping through eucalyptus groves.

I could like the salt out of the air and turn it into ammo.

I am fucking scared, but this is big and I got to do it

I have to stay on track.

Yup on track, like when training, I remember training waking up early, pre dawn


No one was awake, everyone else nodded out, scarcevile, not there, yeah like I said just me alone on the track, making sure the door didn't catch, slipping out like a bandit

I was a bandit

I didn't belong in my own kin, my own kind, I was my own kind

I didn't believe in all that bloodline, shit, I man what did I have in common with those slumbering fools?

I was going to run the living daylights out of the day, and win big, win big, more than those pea brains would every know

All I would have to was slip inside the lab with one swift movement


New babies, newly in vitro transhumanized babies

The beautiful genome babies

It was beyond the previous reaches of the human DNA

ME23too analyzed, full genetic panel

Distilled from the elite

Some googlized CEO hierarchy, you know they are a different breed

Not like us, ordinary folk

Hum, hum the machines jolting me to concentrate

Lab coat, hair pulled back, doing my best scientist impersonation,

I had watched her, feet faintly padding down the hall, voice like a cool Macbeth dagger, sure in its knowledge, thick bladed irony, brewed below the diaphragm, noemenculture correct


Light like the predawn raids

No one could escape the hum of the machines

The lab was privately owned

Act like one of them, the one who knew, elitist like all knowing, open the latch,

Let the chicks out...grab one...

Oh what the fuck?

Want to get out of here

Fuck, run, like hell and press into the wind

I was trained, I was trained to do this, and I would do it,

I could do it and I would get the hell out of here.


There's all this & more in the workshop...


Jack Grapes METHOD WRITING Program


Dates & Times:

Class 1: Tuesdays Sept 17-November 12 (We skip the week of Oct 15 for Litquake) 

Class is full 

Class 2: Wednesdays Sept 18-November 13  (We skip the week of Oct 16 for Litquake) 


Still a few seats open.


Course Fees:

Tuition is still $395. 


New Location of Classes:

The Emerald Tablet  

80 Fresno Street 

San Francisco, CA  94133


Final Class Reading: Free and open to the public Sunday Afternoon, November 17 

at the Emerald Tablet


How to sign up? Just email me and say you want to sign up. 


Local Literary Events

Thurs. Sept. 19 2013 7pm

InsideStorytime THE RECKONING

Glass Door Gallery in San Francisco, California

245 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, California 9413


Fri. Sept. 20, 2013 7pm

Get Lit - Get Lucky!

Verdi Club

2424 Mariposa St, San Francisco, California 94110


Sat. Sept. 21, 2013 8pm 

An Evening of Poetry and Prose

Readings by 4 Bay Area Writers to Benefit Dalit Youth in India

Hosted by Maw Shein Win @ The San Francisco Buddhist Center

37 Bartlett Street, near 21st and Valencia

$5 to $30 donation requested


Sun. Sept. 22, 2013 2pm

Quiet Lightning + City Lights

Help us celebrate City Lights Booksellers & Publishers' 60th year with a special Quiet Lightning in Jack Kerouac Alley!

Jack Kerouac Alley

San Francisco, California 94133


Weds. Sept 25, 2013. 7:30 pm 

** Like Me/Unlike Me: Re-Imagining Women in Fiction **

 Pegasus Books

2349 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA


Fri. Sept. 27, 7:30pm

Under the Influence Round 7

The Emerald Tablet

80 Fresno Street, San Francisco, CA 94113


Sat. Sept 28, 2013 7pm 

Backyards: Poets for Local Change 2013-

as part of the world-wide reading 100 000 Poets for Change

Frank Bette Center for the Arts, 1601 Paru St., Alameda, California 94501



Fri Oct. 11 2013 7pm



Z Space San Francisco, CA


Did you know that The Emerald Tablet home of Jack Grapes METHOD WRITING in SF has cool arts and literary events happening all the time? Find out about more the Emerald Tablet.


Life is painful. It has thorns, like the stem of a rose. Culture and art are the roses that bloom on the stem. The flower is yourself, and your humanity. Art is the liberation of the humanity inside yourself.
--Daisaku Ikeda 



Why not go out on a limb. That's where all the good fruit is.

--Mark Twain



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