Archive for November 2016

Do You Have Time to be Reasonable?

by Dawn Groves

Most of the writers I meet are genuine, pie-in-the-sky optimists. They believe that a best-seller lurks in their subconscious minds, waiting to catapult them into glory. I’ve been a member of this club since I started writing in the sixth grade. Each article I write is a stepping stone toward my personal “50 Shades of Grey” success story, except my book will be good.

Well, recently I’ve noticed a subtle shift in my optimism. It has grown more—for lack of a better word–reasonable. There’s less urgency, more comfort with moderation.

Hmmm.

Charting Life as a Writer

Four months ago I surfed into a website called Wait But Why. It’s a playful, practical take on productivity and time management. One of the authors, Tim Urban, wrote an excellent post containing three different charts that depict a 90-year lifespan in years, months, and weeks, respectively. There’s a big laminated version the Weeks chart on sale for 20 bucks.

dgroves1

Urban suggests using the chart to diagram life accomplishments. Shaded blocks represent periods of time that can be dotted with notable events and experiences. The example here is one of several displayed on his website.

It was a cool idea. I eventually ordered the blank chart, unrolled it as soon as it arrived, then promptly went into overwhelm and stashed it in the closet.

That was four weeks before election day.

The morning after the election in a pique of god-knows-what, I fished the chart out of the closet, grabbed a couple of highlighters and started dragging long lines of color left to right. I used blue for the weeks in the past and switched to green for the weeks in the future.

Below is the result I generated. The green ribbon is my working future. I ran out of ink on row 70 but at that age I’d like to be playing and living on—guess what?—proceeds from my best seller.

dgroves2As I toyed with the 70-year line of demarcation, the ribbon of green started looking mighty thin.

There’s Always More Time to Write

In my 20’s and 30’s, I gave myself plenty of time to write the grand book of books. Other things took precedence. When I hit the 40’s I shifted into motherhood and wrote very little. In my 50’s I started working again on a part time basis and did a lot of kayaking with my husband.

Then at age 57 my mate decided to start a new relationship with someone across the country. I jumped back into a variety of working gigs. It was tough but there was always that potential best seller giving me hope.

This year I’m 62. When I’m not avoiding and procrastinating, my top priorities are paying the bills, trying to get fit, and supporting my two daughters. I live a reasonable, proactive lifestyle. People think I’m doing fine.

There’s NOT Always More Time to Write

The chart was a cold shower.

Urban understood this kind of response. “It kind of feels like our lives are made up of a countless number of weeks,” he writes. “But there they are [on the chart -ed] —fully countable—staring you in the face.”

It was too much. I stood up, flipped the chart over, grabbed my car keys, and drove to my first experience of a marijuana shop.

Yesterday I was ready to face the chart again so I moved it back into the living room next to the piano and the kettle bells. I’m looking at it right now. My reasonable optimism whispers how there’s plenty of time to make money and enjoy life. I just need to be more realistic about what’s possible.

Reasonable Thinking, Reasonable Results

I put a lot of things on my bucket list and writing that damn best-seller is numero uno. But now my hope is fading. I’ve seen the green ribbon. I’ve heard the voice of reason and it makes good sense.

It’s like I’m in a real-life adaptation of the classic two-wolves parable. Here’s my version:

There are two hungry optimistic wolves living in my back yard. One wolf is a young, reasonable new tenant. An accountant. The other wolf has been with me since the 6th grade. She’s demanding and wild, forever howling at the moon, eyes filled with stars.

Which wolf should I feed?

Author’s Bio: 

dawn-205x266-einblauDawn Groves is a Bellingham author who teaches writing and WordPress at Whatcom Community College. 

www.dawngroves.com

Images used with permission from WaitButWhy.com

The Art of Silencing

by Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor

“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” – Blaise Pascal, 1656

For poetry month in 2015, I decided to do a series of redaction poems. My writing practice felt dry and uninspired, and my time was limited by a full-time college teaching position, academic leadership responsibilities, and the usual tasks of a wife and mom of two teens. I lacked the discipline I thought would be required to find and craft words into readable poems on a daily basis. As a teacher of composition, however, I already had my editor’s skills in the forefront. It seemed natural to take existing prose pieces and redact words to create poems.

The plan was simple: find a random passage from a book plucked from a shelf wherever I found myself. At home, cookbooks and gardening manuals were likely targets. At my college office, style manuals and books on culture were the norm. At the tutoring center, books on science and math dominated the shelves. Every book was fair game and the only criterion for choosing a passage was whether a word on the page caught my attention. Passages had to be at least five lines long and readable.

originalmuskeg

Once I found a passage, I copied the page, enlarging the text for readability. Then I took out my favorite Sharpie pen and went to work. I allowed myself to redact as many words as I wanted but required myself to leave at least one word per line. As the month went on, I found myself particularly attracted to active verbs and vibrant nouns. The practice became a game for me to find and keep the best, most interesting words. In the end, I would review the poem by reading it out loud and redact those few remaining words I thought unnecessary. More than once, I regretted the haste of my Sharpie that obliterated a word I would have rather kept. I resisted the urge to start over. The poems were trulyexercises of creativity, experimentation, and surrender.

redactedmuskeg

I posted pictures of the poems on my FB page and didn’t think I would do much with them after the end of Poetry Month. In early summer, though, a call for poetry submissions crossed my email and I wanted to participate. The familiar dread of not having the time or creativity to write new work came over me – then I remembered my redaction poems. I reviewed several, chose a few, combined a couple, and edited them further.

redactedreasoningtogether

To my delight, one poem titled ‘muskeg’, a combination of two redactions, was accepted to the anthology Noisy Water: Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington.

muskeg

exposed and scrubby,

proceed north along the wide

coastal landscape covered

with peatlands.

Travel to Prince Rupert,

thread your way, stunted and gnarled,

to large pools of yellow pondweeds snaking

between thick forest of bog laurel and

common juniper in the humid,

subdued slopes of considerable steepness.

Seek muskeg to the west like the Queen, or

Hecate, or Alexander. Find the continuous

Tangle, diverse and mixing with Indian

Hellebore and partridgefoot.

 

Misapprehension of place, sense of proportion

Lost. A way of seeing predicated on balance.

Move from sight to insight. Create a vision,

an understanding of place.

Creation began a story older than this place,

these steps, that bramble tangle water churn.

Interpretation alone is fitting,

looking away from the light

that is God.

Redaction poems are similar to found poems in that they reflect the idea that art can be found in the most mundane, unexpected places. Redactions, however, seek to show that a silencing has occurred; if you look closely enough, the missing can be found again. Although my poems began as redactions, they became found poems in the final edits because the redactions are not visible. Ultimately, the poems I wrote in 2015 reflect my own continuing conversation about silences, something of deep concern in this post-2016 election time. People like me are in fear of being silenced in subtle and violent ways. We fear our histories will be blotted out with black marks of denial and revision. This is one way to look at the future.

The possibility redactions represent culturally, though, is the sense of what was hidden has been revealed. Things overlooked and unseen are voiced because the noise of the expected is silenced. Ideas can find new connections, much like we allies and advocates can find each other to work for a better world despite the shadow that rises before us.

Author’s Bio:

rebeccamabanglo-mayor_garywadeRebecca Mabanglo-Mayor’s non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction have appeared in print and online in several journals and anthologies including Kuwento: Small Things, and Noisy Water: Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington. Her poetry chapbook Pause Mid-Flight was released in 2010 and her memoir of identity and motherhood titled Long Way ‘Round is in development.

What Excites Me About Writing

by Dick Little

Words!

All those words. I love `em, list `em, hoard them. Steal them. Don’t you?

I think they’re why I write, when it comes down to it. Especially when all that plot, character, story arc stuff eludes me.

Words are the pretty candies in a story, the chocolates on the pillow* where so often I lay my brain.

Sometimes they start rolling around in my head and won’t let me fall asleep at night — “floating into my head on the wings of darkness,” as friend Nancy Adair wrote. Some mornings, when I sit down to my computer, I’m like a little kid opening his first box of crayons — the big one with all those pointy colors lined up in rows.

Phrases, figures of speech, metaphors, similes — the currants in the warm scone, the oysters in the stew — they jump unbidden onto the page, and I shake my head. How’d that happen!

“Words, words, words! I’m so sick of words!” said Eliza Doolittle to Freddy Eynsford-Hill (“Show Me,” My Fair Lady, Lerner & Lowe). Not me. Words are but playthings, possibly dating to the time in my twenties when a boss to whom I’d handed a memo for his review told me I was “quite the word merchant.” (Ahem.)

There are those fabulous opening lines — from Ishmael, to the winter of our discontent, to Aureliano Buendia facing a firing squad. (A dark and stormy night, maybe not so much.)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree….”

Wouldn’t you give your best shiny black and gold Mont Blanc knock-off to have written those lines?

Also, words set to music:

“… and it was grand just to stand with his hand holding mine…” “The Trolley Song,” Meet Me in St. Louis, Martin and Blane.

“…flying too high with some guy in the sky is my idea of nothing to do.” “I Get A Kick Out of You,” Anything Goes, the inimitable Cole Porter.

“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.” (Cue the tears.)

Prolix, verbose, articulate, loquacious, eloquent, lucid (I unabashedly confess to consulting a Thesaurus), call me what you will. But oh, the delicious fun of sorting through all those curious parts of speech, like so many jigsaw puzzle pieces spread out on the card table in the rec room. Adverbs (use sparsely), nouns (which get to name themselves), adjectives (that tell you what I want you to think of those nouns), prepositions (the salt and pepper and bouquet garni), pronouns (ho-hum), and most of all, verbs that do the heavy lifting. No, I haven’t forgotten articles and conjunctions; try writing a sentence without them!

There are words we love (frisson, porcine, saunter, quotidian, pixilated); ones we hate (it, feel, like, very, trump). We each have a list, don’t we?

There are words we have to look up (e.g., apophasis, n. — rhetorical device bringing up a subject by denying it should be brought up; e.g., “I won’t even mention so-and-so”; frequently ad hominem.) Also, pretty much one puzzler per paragraph in any David Foster Wallace piece.

I’ve been known to make up words: vape, v.t. — a portmanteau combining “vapid” and “gape, meaning to sit and stare mindlessly; c.f., stoned on a downtown street corner.

So fellow writers, when in despair in my otherwise solitary, agoraphobic, navel-gazing, wool-gathering, low self-esteem writerly pursuit, haply I think on thee, O Lexicon, or pick up my copy of Anna Karenina.

It’s gotten me past many a bad plot block.

*Note to You-Know-Who, I did cop to being a thief.

dick-little-truck-orcasAuthor’s Bio:  Dick Little is a retired attorney and government lobbyist who’s lived in the Pacific Northwest for over thirty-five years. His work has been published in the Santa Fe Writers Project, the Seattle Times, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; recently, also, in the 2016 Summer Solstice issue of Cirque, and in the upcoming issue of Clover. He has published a collection of short stories, “Postcards from the Road.” A novel, “City Haul,” is being reviewed for publication, and another collection of travel stories is in the works. Other work can be found at “The Write Stuff,” http://pepys2000.blogspot.com.