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Classes With Deena Metzger

Wednesday Night Writing Class, Creative Writing Mentoring and Manuscript Consultations with award-winning writer Deena Metzger.

Writing classes, creative writing mentoring and manuscript consultations are among the many ways to work with Deena Metzger in 2013, either in person or by telephone or via Skype.

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Winner of a 2012 PEN-Oakland Josephine Miles National Literary Award for her latest novel, La Negra y Blanca, Deena says, “Everyone has a story and it calls to be known and written. It is at the very center of our lives. It is our heart story and it can guide us. It arises from the imagination, a real place, like a council that holds all the voices, including our ancestors and descendants.”

Wednesday Night Experienced Writer Group
First Wednesday night aft the new moon. 7 to 10:30 pm.

Possibly a few openings for seasoned writers, contemplating or working on a project, who are devoted to the word and are interested in further exploring and developing their creative lives and voice for the sake of soul, intelligence and literature. Commitment to the ethics of heart, truthfulness and the myriad forms of beauty.

On-going. January through June. September (or October) through December. Fee.

Application required. Inquire via Danelia Wild for details.
Email: dwild4deena(at)ca(dot)rr(dot)com.

Creative Writing Mentoring and Manuscript Consultations
By Appointment

Please inquire for scheduling and fees.

Deena Metzger’s website

For information or to apply

Additional information, please contact Deena Metzger’s assistant, Danelia Wild at 310-815-1060.

Hot Off The Press

My friend Deena Metzger has won the 2012 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles National Literary Award for Fiction!

You may know Deena from some of her previous work, which includes: Feral; Ruin and Beauty: New and Selected Poems; From Grief Into Vision; A Council; Doors: A fiction for Jazz Horn; The Other Hand; Tree: A Sabbath Among the Ruins; The Woman Who Slept With Men to Take the War Out of Them; and Writing For Your Life.

Read more about the book at: Hand to Hand Publishing.
Read more about the award at PEN Oakland

Do you ever lie?

Excerpt from Feral by Deena Metzger

Do You Ever Lie?

The woman settled back again against the tree but more carefully this time. Careful, that is, about what was in her mind. And this led her to wonder what in fact was in her mind. Was there anything in her mind that belonged to her? Or was everything in her mind something she had gathered or been given by others? Was there anything in her mind about the girl and what they were doing there together that was her own thought? Was her mind her own or did it belong to others?

It was a May afternoon. She was sitting under a tree. The girl had clearly decided there was nothing better to do. At this point, she almost faltered again by thinking of how the girl had brought her to this extremity. For it was extremity. Sitting in the damp of someone else’s piss was not extremity; she’d suffered many inconveniences and discomforts for others’ sakes over the years. But sitting at the base of a tree with no intention of doing anything else, this was for her an extremity.

And what was in her mind that was her own? That she wanted the girl to come down. To come down to her. To come down to her for her sake. For her own sake. She wanted the girl to come down for her own sake because she wanted to be with the girl. Yes, the girl had appeared at the right time. She had come exactly at the time the woman was considering becoming an animal.

“That’s better,” the girl said.

“How do you know? Why do you presume to know what I’m thinking?” the woman shouted into the leaves with as much wonder as irritation.

“I don’t know exactly what you’re thinking, only if you’re thinking about me, about yourself or about something else. Sometimes I know more, sometimes I know the shape of your thinking. You were thinking about you. You were thinking about changing shapes. You were thinking about being a shapeshifter.” The girl’s tone had shifted to the murmur of kindly musing. Revealing herself as she was considering the woman. For the briefest moment, the woman could see the girl clearly. Girl, leaves, branches, sky, clouds were all distinct. The girl was not deliberately obfuscating the situation.

“You want to be someone else. You want to be like me.”

Was this indeed true? Had the woman dared such a thought? Was she,
herself, considering that such activities might be for her?

The girl laughed. “I just made that up. I don’t ever really know what you’re thinking.”

“I think you do know what I’m thinking.”

“I don’t know a lot about thinking. It shifts too fast. Thinking doesn’t have any substance to it. Do you know what I mean?”

“Do you ever lie?” The woman believed that the girl would answer this
question truthfully and she thought she needed to know the answer.

“No.”

What did the girl mean by such a no? The girl’s answer implied that the question was unthinkable but not on moral grounds. To lie would be, the woman assumed the girl meant, unnatural, but the girl would not use such categories. The woman did use such categories and was constantly
concerned with trying to discern the natural from the unnatural.

“You are going to give me a headache if you keep thinking so much. Your thoughts are like splatter shots, you follow one line and then you have to follow another. It’s so arbitrary. You’ve got a brain,” the girl said, “like a Jackson Pollack painting.”

Then the woman remembered that among other things, the girl was a
painter. And wasn’t really a girl, only appeared so. Because of the delicacy
of her bones and the openness of her face, her innocence. But she was far
from innocent. Because she couldn’t dissemble. Wouldn’t dissemble. She
appeared like a child because of her honesty. “I mean I don’t ever really
know for sure, what you are thinking.”

The woman could not discern whether the girl didn’t have the capacity to decipher her thoughts or whether her thoughts were confused and so were indecipherable.

“What I am thinking or what anyone is thinking?” the woman asked.

“What you are thinking.”

“But I need to know just this,” the woman tried to cajole a truthful answer, “would you ever say anything that was not true?”

“Do you mean like rabbits or doves making distress sounds away from their nests in order to distract the crows? That’s not lying.”

“What is it?”

“It’s what they do. What small animals do.”

She was, herself, very much a small animal, in that moment.

“What’s a lie, then? Is a lie doing what you don’t do? Are you a … ?” the woman didn’t know what word to follow with. “Are you someone who lies or someone who doesn’t lie? And if you’re someone who lies, is it lying
when you lie?”

“Do you think I would lie to you?”

The girl had nailed her. She didn’t want to know if the girl lied, she didn’t so much want to know the girl’s nature, she wanted to know if the girl would lie to her. She wanted to know if they were having a relationship. If the girl cared that she, that she in particular, was sitting under the sycamore, waiting.

“Yes, of course I think that.” Now the girl was forcing her to be truthful.

“Am I right?”

“I don’t lie.”

‘Why not?”

“I never have to.”

“Are you lying? The question was a triumph, but the woman couldn’t maintain it and found herself asking immediately, “Would you like some juice? Or cookies?”

The girl did not answer and her silence was inevitable. It wasn’t like the woman to resort to such pat maternal questions. The woman no longer knew whether the words that came out of her mouth were the result of her will or whether she had become some puppet, some marionette operated by a master puppeteer from a remote distance. How like the girl it would be to put words in her mouth and then jeer at them or take umbrage and retreat.

“Aren’t you ready to come down?”

MORE from FERAL by Deena Metzger

Feral by Deena Metzger

Feral a novel by Deena Metzger. (2011, Hand to Hand Publishing). Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A story that takes you into and out of your self is a good story. This is such a story. One of the best I’ve read in years. “The girl postulated an entire universe by her mere existence.” Is an apt description of Feral. Within seconds of the opening, it becomes apparent that one has stepped into a familiar, yet alternate landscape. There is no preamble, pretense or long description of the journey upon which you are embarking. It has an immediacy and aliveness that take hold upon first sight.

Deena Metzger’s story about the connection between a woman, who is later called Owl Woman and a girl, who is at times known as Azul, blurs distinctions between who is saving who and looks intimately at the way we define and see our selves. In one moment of clarity, the woman realizes, “She was wrapped completely in the shimmer of her own mind.” It is these illusions and myths of what is real that Ms. Metzger explores and plays with so exquisitely that readers immediately lose themselves within the story. The woman wonders, “Was there anything in her mind that belonged to her? Or was everything in her mind something she had gathered or been given by others?” The girl can sense the woman’s mind chatter and says, “It’s such a burden, all your knowing. It makes me tired.”

The author uses words, timing and nuance like none other. An example of this brilliance is seen in the following. “Feral was the word she used to explain the girl and what the girl was doing to her. Feral. It was efficient. Feral. Again. Good.” Language is a thing. It has power, meaning and weight. It appears that there is not a word in this novel that is written without mindful intention. “She recognized that she had always sought out those who would challenge her and open the door to new ways of living.” That is what this story does for readers. It challenges us to re-consider what we tell ourselves about the life we live and what living authentically demands of our attention and time.

Everything in Feral is alive and asks us to be real. It is a beautifully told story, which blurs the lines between nonfiction and fiction. The girl tells the woman, who has been trying to counsel or “help” her that, “I don’t want to know your secrets. And I certainly don’t think I can fix anything. I just want you to be real.”

Could it be that there is no distinction between species and the differences we create within our tribes of being to describe another are illusions we have constructed to give us a sense of control and righteousness? Is it possible that we are all teachers and students in symbiotic relationships with one another, such as the characters referred to as “woman” and “girl” are in Feral?

One of the themes that runs through the story like an underground river, which can be heard, but not always seen, are questions about our shared responsibility to one another and the planet. The woman realizes that the girl has experienced and is aware of a great amount of suffering and tells her that she doesn’t have to hold on to it, but the girl says, “Someone has to carry it?” Does she? Does some “one”? Does anyone have to carry “it” or do we all carry it? Could it be that carrying suffering creates more suffering? Are there times when we’ve convinced ourselves that suffering is the only way we can stay connected with the past (people and events) and use it as a means to avoid the present and take responsibility for what exists now in front of our face? Do we have the courage and animal instincts to open our eyes and not turn away from what is real or painful?

Reading Feral wakes you up. It provides a sense of being more alive, aware and connected than you were before you embarked. With the inner strength of a well-grounded counselor, writer, naturalist and human who includes all life in her being, it is told with integrity, grit and wisdom.

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