Former Hoboken resident and author Barbara Worton was tired from restless nights and the inability to shut down those inner voices nagging at her. She longed for a way to get some shuteye. Out of that frustration, the idea of "writing herself to sleep" was born.
Her book, Bedtime Stories: The short, long, and tall tales of a sleepwriter, is not only a beautiful collection of short stories, but an aid for anyone who suffers from sleepless nights.
Bedtime Stories was published by Great Little Books and was released last month. The author will share some of her secrets and her perfect little gems of a story on Friday, Nov. 2 at Symposia Bookstores in Hoboken when she reads from her collection at 7 p.m. In addition, Worton will sign copies of her book and explain her sleepwriting process.
Write away worries
Like many of us, Worton struggles to create a balance between everyday demands and the need to do something creative. She became inspired by the book, The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron and Mark Byron, which explains a useful writing exercise that entails writing non-stop for three pages and not editing the work until one is finished.
Although the book suggested writing in the morning, Worton began writing at night.
In her book, she says, "I write my pages at night. I start each story with the first word or sentence that pops into my head and let my mind unravel and my body wind down. The daily buzz of doing things other people want me to do grows quiet. By the time I've reached my third page of writing, I put down my pen and journal, and I'm tuned down enough to fall into a deep and restorative sleep."
According to Worton, she's been sleepwriting since 1991 and has many notebooks filled with her sleepwriting.
"It really does take you into a dream state," said Worton during a recent phone interview. "You just have to be able to surrender. It's hard to turn off the day, and when you are under stress your subconscious doesn't want to give in, because you are afraid to lose control."
She added that on the nights when she is most tired it is most beneficial. "You are literally at your dream by the time you get to the end," said Worton.
Cows, pickles, and dreams
The stories in her book, about 50 in all, were all taken from the notebooks that she wrote in before bed. While some of the stories are similar to "flash fiction" (really short stories or character sketches), others are more lyrical like "One Salty Tale."
The opening lines have a rhythmic quality: "Five baby pickles all in a row. Dill mini gherkins dancing heel to toe. One step forward. Two steps back. All of these gherkins dancing tap, tap, tap."
Worton begins and ends with same phrase and continues the beat throughout the vignette, which is sensory experience for the reader as she describes pickles tasting of lemonade, and soaking in brine.
The whimsical "Orlando" tells the tale of a group of talking cows trying to retire to Florida.
The melancholy "If Only" muses on lost chances and time gone by. The narrator, a middle-aged woman, watches a young man soar across a pothole on a bike land unscathed on the pavement. She wishes that she "could go out and buy the courage to ride a bike in the city, never mind sail over potholes." These and the other stories in the collection tell in broad strokes emotional truths that often get buried in daily life. Yet in a few deft sentences Worton reminds the reader that a good imagination can expand one's reality.
From advertising to writing
Before penning her bedtime stories, Worton spent a dozen years working in advertising and spent years polishing her craft. Her first job out of college was as an editorial assistant for various publishing houses. While working in publishing, she was promoted to associate editor and also worked as a ghostwriter.
In 1991, she began working as a freelance writer full-time. In addition to her latest book, Worton has had her stories published in many magazines and co-wrote the play If I'm Talking, Why Aren't You Listening? with Linda Jenkins. The play was performed in Manhattan, New Jersey, and Boston in 1991 to 1992. According to Worton, she plans to publish another collection of sleep writing in December of 2008. It will include submissions of other writers' sleepwriting.
"What I'm trying to do actually is to get people who are doing this," said Worton. "Part of my objective is to create a community of writers."
Worton said that often a solution to a problem will appear after sleep-writing it.
"If I'm working on assignment and I'm really stuck," said Worton. "I find that the solution to the problem pops into my head."
For more information about the technique, visit: www.greatlittlebooksllc.com.
Barbara Worton will read from Bedtime Stories: The short, long, and tall tales of a sleepwriter on Friday, Nov. 2 at Symposia Bookstores in Hoboken.
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