Tag Archive for writers

The Beauty of the Hermaphroditic Snail

by Betty Scott

Surrounded by political rancor, I found myself wishing Superman would swoop in and solve global chaos. Instead I read up on Gastropods and Mollusks. One night I dreamt about … oh Hail to the Chief … Super Snail!  

Snails weigh mere grams. An average adult male moves one millimeter per second. They cannot hear. Their sense of smell is their most important organ. Touch is vital too, especially in mating. Male and female snails produce sperm and eggs. After mating … drum roll please …both give birth, excellent for survival, which began for them in the Cambrian age, 540 to 585 million years ago. (Snail-world.com)

Yet despite their accomplishments and intriguing calcium carbonate shells, snails have been mocked. They’ve been turned into a symbol of laziness. In Christian culture, of sloth. We must travel back to the Greek poet Hesiod to find snails given significance. As time keepers and metaphysical mentors. When they climb stocks, it is time to harvest. (Wikipedia)

With all our human concerns in a life-feeds-on-life world, I still find solace knowing that scientists are researching Mollusks. They’ve discovered the remarkable adaptability of Gastropods. If we listen, scientists will mentor us, too, about bio-diversity and symbiotic relationships: nature’s beautiful formulas. About snails, they tell us, despite their sexual prowess, snails are endangered. Like people, moving toward peace at a snail’s pace beneath the drum-rolling urgency of global chaos and climate change.

Snails speak softly. They don’t carry big sticks. Yet imagine Super Snail with a billboard-sized sign. It reads: Be wise. Live symbiotically by design.

On my snail days, when I wake slow and sluggish, I’m consoled by millions of common citizens world-wide who rise to their feet to march and plead for clean air, land and seas. Time is humanity’s hollow-ringed habitat, the shell on our backs. Left uncorrupted, science and nature … with symbiotic dignity, bring Earth’s needs for peace to light.

Here is the poem, written several years ago, that began my exploration into forgiveness.

Stirrings and Stews

Once betrayed
we stew. We live
a slow simmer.

So this prayer
is for
you and me.

May we remember
stirrings are good
for stews
and people.

One morning
may we wake

no longer angry
at anyone
not even ourselves.

Then on our snail days
slow and sluggish
may we know

snails are garden
pests to some
and to others, escargot.

Poetry often challenges popular uses of words. It’s one way to bring us toward accepting
greater abilities beyond personal gains and losses, likes and dislikes. I’ll conclude these thoughts
with a more recent poem which first appeared on the Cave Moon Press blog. Musician  JP
Falcon Grady often joins me to sing the italicized words.

An Earth Year Blessing

No man a salt shaker
No woman a sugar bowl

To pour, use up
Put out to pantry.

No more darting of eyes
Or senator sneers

When Mama’s Boys pilgrim
To Great Mama’s pastures.

To dance … step by step
With maternal wisdoms,

Tango and waltz
Arms and heads in precision.

Each foot-path a grace
Restoring Earth’s faith,

Mama’s troupes swaying
Singing and praying:

Single Mama, Widowed Mama
Holy sustainer of lives
May we be a blessing to you,
 
May your people tend, Dear Mama,
Your people tend to you. 

 Author’s Bio:   Betty Scott’s writing adventures as a poet and essayist began when she was employed at The Wenatchee World. She taught college students for twenty years before retiring into her daily writing life. She enjoys editing her daughter’s novels as well as poetry and essays written by colleagues. She is currently writing a third collection of poems and a book of essays. Her collection Central Heating: Poems that Celebrate Love, Loss and Planet Earth, will be published by Cave Moon Press in 2018.

Burn ~ Part 2 (cont. from last week’s part 1): Refusal

by Nancy Grayum

I see withholding as a practice, a way of living lightly, spending small, taking time to think and feel, pacing ourselves. Progressive refusal, increasingly tweaking our resistance to the culture of waste and greed, can create meaningful outcomes.

Divestment from funds that support environmental or social abuse is easy to accomplish, but it can be difficult for people to let go of potential financial gain.  If investing in mutual funds, then we select “socially responsible” and read the fine print.

No banks or investment corporations use my money now. I’ve used only our local credit union, not the for-profit banks, for 50 years. A credit union is a cooperative non-profit, with an elected board that exists to benefit local community members. Bank-initiated legislation constantly threatens the non-profit status of credit unions. Even with strong resistance from members, the banks creep in: WECU sold our mortgage. Their Visa is actually Citibank. I pay the charges quite immediately so Citibank gets zero interest, but the usurers get a take from my vendors, who in turn charge me.

It’s this type of close examination of my own assumptions and habits that leads me to seek and share more ways to resist dependence on an abusive system.

I won’t vote for a candidate who accepts corporate contributions. Thousands of alliances have formed since Senator Bernie Sanders set the example and proved the power of common people during his presidential campaign. As these groups coalesce I will support them in the interest of social justice, education and a compassionate society.

Since the 1970’s everyone in our family has attended to efforts to decrease personal use of fossil fuels. These days I walk and use public transit to schools, markets, libraries and offices, but we also use a gas-powered car.

We support local farms and economies by purchasing locally-sourced fresh food. We avoid buying things that had to be transported by ship, plane, or trucks. But we can’t grow lemons or avocados here; there is still privilege in our purchasing habits.

We recycle and re-use. We also agonize over the omnipresent plastic that is woven through our personal culture like the DNA of living organisms. We could do better.

I resist by protecting my mind. I refuse to watch or listen to propaganda aka advertising aka network programming, so I don’t feed the gaping maw of corporate athletic, retail, political, or pharmaceutical America. There’s been no TV at home since I dialed up the internet in the 20th Century, but still the headlines from around the world swim in our ether whether we want to know about them or not. I’ve always been disinterested in “the news” in a rather snooty way, and continue my lifelong quest for meaningful journalism, verified sources with integrity, and without snarly hi-amp attitude. I wi-fi-couch surf national and international headlines but find other ways to read those topics in depth for free. Breitbart is free. (Opposition research.)

Oh yes, Yes!  magazine makes my list, along with other ad-free print and online sources of news and people in our multiple cultures that interest and inspire me: The Sun, Orion, Crosscut and Northwest Citizen, ACLU, Sierra Club, Northwest Treaty Tribes, Jay Taber’s Salish Sea Maritime blog and Jen Briney’s Congressional Dish podcast. Then I try to budget my stress hormones and let my thoughts compost sans odeur.

While I aim to stay healthy and fully available to family and friends, I now take the time to write postcards to our members of Congress every week–one topic per missive. I sign petitions, forward the urgent emails, then unsubscribe from the flood of solicitous promotions that result from my clicks. I make protest signs, and after years away, show up at protests. I pray that all people and all creatures may experience kindness and compassion.

Quiet time, retreat, solitude are like the exhale after a frightened gasp. Post-traumatic stress after November 2016 made me sick for three months. I seek renewal. Wendell Berry, in the last line of his poem The Peace of Wild Things, says it for me:

For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

We were burned this past winter and the flames are intensifying. But we are still breathing. The deliciously saturated clouds are still floating above, the rhodies are blooming at our front door, and we didn’t use the gas fireplace today. We can’t change our cultural entrapment with the flick of a switch, but we can keep the wicked wizards’ feet to the fire while we continue our own slow burn.

Author’s Bio: Nancy Grayum grew up in the rain-blessed forests and on the salty shores of Washington State, usually seeking the right path, or some divergence. She taught in public schools during the 1970’s, did a stint as a self-employed copy editor, then had a long career in classroom technology support at WWU. As a recovering technical writer she enjoys writing poetry and creative non-fiction, and is a volunteer with Whatcom Land Trust. She lives in Bellingham with her husband Gene Riddell  and their dog, Mr. Black.

Resist! A Premonition

by Carol McMillan

Do you remember what you felt the week before the 2016 presidential election? As an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter, I still nursed some anger at the Democratic National Committee and the media, feeling they hadn’t given him the coverage they’d given Hillary Clinton, but, still, we were about to elect the first woman president. An historic moment! A glass ceiling hung poised above us all, waiting to be massively shattered. I remember watching the CBS pundits, running their predictive pointers across a red, blue, and purple map of the country, explaining all the possibilities that might be foreseen if this state went red or another went blue. His final words had been “Only a miracle could turn enough states red for a Republican victory.” Hillary’s landslide was assured; even the most unfavorable polls said so.

I joined my friends in planning parties to celebrate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s election as the first woman president of the United States of America. Three of us had even reserved a cabin on Orcas Island for our women’s victory weekend. Champagne, chocolate, beach walks, and companionship beckoned from our future.

I just want to take this moment to apologize for what happened next. It was my fault. Yes, honestly, it was all my fault! Let me explain.

On the night of November 5th, three days before the presidential election, I went to sleep in a familiar universe. I turned the heat down to sixty-two, took my evening vitamins, flossed my teeth, puffed my pillows, and snuggled down under my comforter. The cat jumped onto my bed as I turned out the light, curling his body into its usual position against my legs. Sleep came easily.

Three hours later I awoke from a soul-freezing nightmare. In my detailed and vivid dream, I sat at a long utilitarian table in an institutional green room. A group of us were awaiting the first deliveries of ballots that we could begin counting. A friend came rushing in from outside, visibly upset. “More Republican ballots are coming in than Democratic!”

Not believing her for a minute, I hurried out to the loading docks where ballots were arriving in large, flat white bags of heavy plastic, sorted by party. My stomach suddenly filled with icy lead, freezing me in place, as I realized that she was correct: more Republican votes were pouring into that small-town vote-counting place than Democratic.

The terror I felt jolted me into instant consciousness. The dream made no sense; everyone knew Hillary would win, but the vivid dream felt precognitively real. I feared that it foretold an unforeseen slip into an alternative universe, previously unknown and somehow malevolent.

For the next three days, I did everything possible to dispel the outcome predicted by that dream. How could I re-route the Universe, steer it away from that terrifying course? The man who originally seemed only to be a bad campaign joke, could not possibly take over the governance of my country! Everyone else seemed to continue as usual, confident of Hillary’s victory, unaware of the bifurcation of universes that I feared lay just ahead.

On the afternoon of the election, I felt even more certain that my dream had been an inexplicable premonition. Frantically, I pulled up every irrational superstition I could think of in an attempt to derail an unimaginable future.

If I wear different shoes this won’t come true.

If I don’t go to Leah’s to watch the returns this won’t come true.

If I don’t bring the bottle of my favorite port to her house this won’t come true.

History may record that the Earth changed course because

I did wear the shoes and

I did go to Leah’s and

I did bring the port.

Undoubtedly, the election of the forty-fifth president was entirely my fault: I had been warned. Megalomania has not been one of my usual faults but it continues to lurk here just below my consciousness.

This morning, as my first waking sensation, an inky sense of wrongness creeps into my consciousness. Reaching to snuggle my cat, I seek to retreat. If something so malevolent lurks in the waking world I will choose sleep. But my efforts defy me; consciousness is sending out a tentacle, ensnaring my thoughts, sucking them out into dawn. The man who ran a campaign based on anger and bigotry, despite everyone’s predictions to the contrary, has been elected president, and it is my fault.

So, I write this as an apology. My only sustaining consolation is that my friends have fallen into this alternative universe with me. If you are willing to forgive me, we will lock arms and wrestle this cosmic alligator back onto an appropriate track. Anyone know where to find a wormhole we might use to reboot reality?

Author’s Bio: CAROL MCMILLAN, until the past few years, had mostly published in academic journals. But moving to Bellingham has brought her poetry and memoir writing out of the closet; she has now been published in several anthologies. Carol is the author of one book, White Water, Red Walls, chronicling in poetry, photographs, and paintings her rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. She is currently working on a memoir of her experiences during the 1960’s in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Before the Edit

by Virginia Herrick                                         

For authors, editing pays. It pays in getting your message across, in the capacity to capture your readers’ attention, and in efficiency, time, and money. An unedited manuscript is generally something only a mother could love. And, yep, in this case you, Author Dearest, are “Mom.”

So … what is editing? Many writers when they first approach an editor may not be certain about what kind of help they need. Editing is not a monolithic unit of work, like attaching widgets on an assembly line. Write … edit … cover art … SPROING! Out comes a book! Uh … no.

In fact, about the only time you aren’t editing is that first flush of creative outpouring (or jaw-clenching determination, if the muse does not smile). After that, you’re editing. The first edits, of course, are the author’s own. Otherwise known as the “second (or third, or fourth, or …) draft.”

Dos and Don’ts of writing the first draft of your novel

Do … keep writing. Crafting and re-crafting that gorgeous first chapter is well worthwhile … after you’ve finished the first draft of your book.

Don’t … wordsmith a lot. Later, you can fix your grammar and punctuation, or ponder just the right simile. For now, get the story down.

Do … spend time getting to know your characters, even if it means writing something you know doesn’t belong in the book.

Don’t … agonize over that scene that just isn’t working. Skip it. Make a note to yourself about the plot points that need to be accomplished and move on.

In nonfiction, with obvious exceptions, the same applies. Make your outline, sure. But relax if you need to write things as you get the information and interviews, and organize later.

Now, say you’ve finished that first draft … and it’s full of pedestrian writing, disjointed storytelling, head-hopping and stream-of-consciousness reflections on irrelevant background material … Celebrate! A first draft is a massive achievement!

And … welcome to editing. Read over your manuscript, noting problem areas and tweaking language as you go. Fix everything you possibly can before you look for an editor. The better your manuscript, the less expensive the professional edit! Fix that scene you skipped, make sure your character’s motivations and development are coherent, and polish, polish, polish the dialogue. For nonfiction authors, the focus will be organizing your material, improving your narrative voice, and making sure you have all the information you need, no more, and in the right order!

Next step is a beta read. The more volunteers you have, the better. This is the place for your mom, your best friend, that guy down the street who will read anything as long as it’s (Fill In Your Genre Here), members of your writers group who owe you favors, etc. Take their responses, fix the ones that make your book better, ignore the rest, and repeat as needed. NOW you’re ready for The Editor!

 

vhAbout Virginia

Virginia has been making up stories for fun since she was a skinny, shy kid with straight hair down to her waist. She’s now less shy, less skinny, and has shorter hair. However, she still loves fantasy novels, other novels, other books, the beach, the woods, animals, birds of prey, and thinking, writing, and talking about how to make the world better.

Most of her waking hours, Virginia is reading and writing: emails, blog posts, news, social media, magazine articles, book reviews, and – oh, yeah! – stories! Often when she’s reading and writing, she has a dog at her feet and a cat cruising back and forth between her and her monitor and/or book. This is not convenient. It is not efficient. But it is the way she rolls.

She has been a babysitter, secretary, hair stylist, pet groomer, lobbyist, newspaper reporter, and newspaper editor. Now she edits and reviews books and short stories, and writes poems, short stories and as-yet-unpublished novels. (Stay tuned!) Several years ago, Virginia fostered more than fifty cats and kittens over a period of three summers and is very proud that she only kept one! Her two mostly-grown kids help around the house without being asked. It’s weird.

A member of the Bellingham Friends (Quaker) Meeting in Washington state, Virginia lives with her sometime-sailor husband, Mark, cats named Sinbad and Mercury, and a miniature schnauzer named Espy. She would foster more kittens, but Mercury says no. Sinbad and Espy would totally be cool with it.

“Roadmap to Writing Your Book”: Six Months of Classes

The Red Wheelbarrow Writers and Village Books present a new six-month writing program, “Roadmap to Writing Your Book,” to be held at the Village Inn in Fairhaven once a month. In these monthly workshops, you’ll learn about creating “SMART” goals, benchmarks, and schedules for your writing that will help you get your writing done at last. Find out how to make sure your project goals are reachable and reasonable, and then learn how to organize your writing time so that you can get to work.

Through the months ahead, writers who enroll in this six month program will participate in classes and group coaching sessions each month, taught by Red Wheelbarrow faculty members Laura Kalpakian, Cami Ostman, Nancy Adair, and Deb Currier. Sessions will focus on building the skills and habits you need in order to be successful at making significant progress on your narrative project by the end of 2013 (both fiction writers and narrative nonfiction writers are welcome). Classes will take place the third Thursday of each month from 6-9pm in the conference room at the Fairhaven Village Inn, 1200 10th Street, Bellingham, WA 98225. Tuition is $399 and includes a copy of Priscilla Long’s book, The Writer’s Portable  Mentor. Registration is available at the main counter at Village Books, 1200 11th Street.

 

Class schedule:

May: How Do You Write?: Working with Your Myers/Briggs Profile to Create Optimal Work Habits and The Six Traits of Good Writing. This is a three-hour seminar which will start you off on the right foot. Content focuses on helping you know yourself as a writer and directing you to keep an eye on the general aspects of good writing while producing manuscript.

June: Narrative arc in book-length fiction and nonfiction. Instruction and group coaching.

July: Character development. Instruction and group coaching.

August: Writing effective dialogue. Instruction and group coaching.

September: Manuscript revision. A three-hour workshop with writing prompts that will teach you how to have an eye for structural revision.

October: Reading in public. Instruction and practice to help you get ready for your author reading.

November: Author reading at Village Books. Choose a portion of your work to read to an audience at Village Books.

 

For more information, contact Cami at clostman@live.com