Self-Portrait of a stunt woman

vivienWhat do you do when you find out you’ve got a little bit of Hollywood in the family? You write a poem about it!

By the picture you might think I’m suggesting I’m related to the talented and beautiful Vivien Leigh…..well, not quite! Through my beloved late grandmother, Wilma Dare Hash Thomas, I’m a distant cousin of Addie Hash Warp, the woman who doubled for Vivien Leigh in that famous staircase tumble in Gone with the Wind.

Unfortunately, I never met Addie (who passed away in 2008) but she was a renowned equestrienne who also doubled for Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet, among other movie roles. In Addie’s own words, “I was black and blue for a while. But I knew how to fall.”

In honor of Addie (and of course Vivien), I wrote a poem “Self-Portrait of Stunt Double for Vivien Leigh Falling Down the Stairs in Gone with the Wind” that appears in Turnpike Magazine, Issue No. 4.   Here I focus on the jitters I imagine must face all stunt people, no matter how experienced they are, when faced with the daunting task of falling down a long staircase AND filling in for a star. Can you imagine? As for me, I’m a chicken who’s only been on a horse once in her life.

Turnpike also kindly published my poem “Ode to the Goddess of Missing Tools,” which is a comic tribute to my husband and all the tools that mysteriously slip through the cracks of our house. There’s a little bit of magic at work here, I’m sure.

The fun of a “self-portrait” style poem is that you can imagine yourself as anyone, famous or not, and write from their point of view. It’s a terrific form of escapism and creativity. So….if you’ve always been fascinated by someone and would like to walk (or fall!) in their shoes, give this prompt a try today.

 

 

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Let’s go to Graceland!

What are you doing on Saturday? Why not go to Graceland and join some modern day pilgrims on a trip to the holy shrine of Elvis?

WHAT: Celebrated writer and teacher Ruth Moose will read from Going to Graceland

WHERE:
McIntyre’s Fine Books, Fearrington Village

WHEN:
Saturday, March 2 at 2 p.m.

Fresh out from St. Andrew’s Press, Going to Graceland is structured on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with a twist. From the tale of a lady wrestler to one of a hairstylist-turned-cat burglar, these 22 stories promise to be every bit as ribald and scintillating as those of the famous fourteenth-century bard.

Going to Graceland is the fifth short-story collection by North Carolina author Ruth Moose. She’s also written several poetry collections (The Librarian is my personal favorite) and is the author of an award-winning series of “cozy” mysteries such as Doing it at the Dew and Wedding Bell Blues.

Hope to see you there! I’ll be in the front row and the first in line to buy my very own copy!

 

 

Nudge the season with poetry!

As spring makes a tentative showing — with heavy rains and early leaves on the plum tree — it’s a perfect time to celebrate by writing. And what better way to nudge the new season than with a little poetry!

Interested? If so, I hope you’ll join me for a special weekday workshop at The Joyful Jewel in charming downtown Pittsboro on March 15.

Jump Start Your Poetic Inspiration on Friday, March 15 from 9:30 – 12:30.
You can find inspiration for poetry everywhere— from reading newspapers and periodicals to mining your daily life and memory. We’ll improvise on sample poems written by other poets and participate in wildly creative exercises meant to spark your own imagination. Not only will you end up with three new poems of your own, you’ll leave with a never-ending inventory of ideas that can be used for not just poetry but short stories, essays, and more. We might even pen a poem in time for the annual Vision and Voice celebration the very next month!

To register: Seats are limited so I encourage you to reserve your space today. To register, call The Joyful Jewel, 833-2775, 10:30am-5:30pm Monday through Saturday or Sunday 12pm-4pm. Cost: $50.

AM poster Jumpstart Your Poetic InspirationAbout me: I draw my inspiration from the ancient Uwharries of Randolph County, where I wake to the arpeggio of the pileated woodpecker. When I’m not musing on a metaphor, I’m either brewing raspberry jam or poking around an abandoned cemetery. My poetry and prose have recently appeared in Ginger Collect, Okay Donkey, Pinesong, Gyroscope Review, and Naugatuck River Review. New poems are forthcoming in Turnpike, The Phoenix and The Red Clay Review. My work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and I’m a two-time recipient of the Doris Betts Fiction Prize.

Enhance your writing with cherries

cherries.jpgJust today I learned that my flash fiction “Aunt Zelia’s Untested Wild Cherry Love Potion” earned honorable mention in the Fall 2018 Women on Writing Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest!

In this tale of “love gone wrong-maybe gone right-with a little magic”  I tried my best to infuse the language with highly sensuous details. It helps that the story includes cherries, my favorite fruit.

When you want to enhance your own writing with lush details from all five senses, try to include references to things that already inspire you. And when you need to add emotional tension, draw from circumstances that stir up your own angst. It’s easy for me to write about young love because I remember those times so vividly and it’s cathartic (at least now!) to return to that highly charged state of passion and bewilderment.

It’s a little early for fruit, but my fledgling cherry trees are getting ready to unfurl new leaves, which hopefully bodes well for this year’s crop. As they fortify themselves, I’ve been planning an exciting lineup of new workshops this spring and summer. With offerings from poetry to flash essays, I’m hoping you’ll find something to stoke your own imagination. Each workshop is designed to help you cull sensory details from your own lives.

Friday, March 15 from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Jumpstart Your Poetic Imagination at The Joyful Jewel in downtown Pittsboro, N.C. You can find inspiration for poetry everywhere—from the news to artwork to your daily life and memory. We’ll study sample poems and then participate in fun exercises meant to spark your own imagination. Not only will you end up with three new poems of your own, you’ll leave with an inventory of ideas for future works. You may even pen a poem inspired by the stimulating art work on display in The Joyful Jewel and participate in the Visions and Voices Reading on April 14! To register, call The Joyful Jewel, 833-2775, 10:30am-5:30pm Monday through Saturday or Sunday 12pm-4pm. Cost: $50.

Saturday, April 13 from 9.a.m – 3 p.m. – Flash Fiction Bootcamp II. Think you don’t have time to write? Anybody has time for flash fiction, and by the end of this workshop, you’ll have five finished stories. (This workshop is a continuation of the popular Flash Fiction Bootcamp I) but is open to new as well as returning students and features entirely new prompts and readings. Atten-hut! Central Carolina Community College Creative Writing Program in Pittsboro, N.C. Register here. or by calling (919) 545-8044. Cost $50.

Friday, July 12 from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Flash Fiction Bootcamp I. The Joyful Jewel in downtown Pittsboro, N.C. Think you don’t have time to write? Anybody has time for flash fiction, and by the end of this abbreviated workshop, you’ll have at least two finished stories. Bring your favorite writing gear (notebook and pen/pencil or laptop) and get ready for new prompts, new inspiration, and instant feedback. Atten-hut! To register, call The Joyful Jewel, 833-2775, 10:30am-5:30pm Monday through Saturday or Sunday 12pm-4pm. Cost: $50.

Friday, July 26 from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Flash Creative Nonfiction and Essay. The Joyful Jewel in downtown Pittsboro, N.C. Interested in turning your life experiences into flash memoirs or short essays? Explore this exciting  new creative form that brings your experiences to life in a variety of dynamic formats. By the end of this workshop, you’ll have two finished short essays. To register, call The Joyful Jewel, 833-2775, 10:30am-5:30pm Monday through Saturday or Sunday 12pm-4pm. Cost: $50.

Keep checking my events page as I add to this list throughout the season with even more workshops. In the meantime, surround yourself with the things that inspire you the most. Life is short so go ahead and pluck that cherry off the top of your sundae!

 

How to End a Short Story

apple pie

The ending of a story should be like a slice of apple pie after a meal — giving the reader something to savor and remember long after the story concludes.

At the beginning of every new year, writers tend to think about beginnings–new resolutions, new inspiration and new directions. But as I started new work this month–particularly a story that recently bewildered me–I found myself struggling with endings.

Why are endings so hard? To help, I studied the final sentences of stories I admire.

“She walked up the stairs, tearing the note into tiny pieces that fluttered behind her like confetti.” Laurie Colwin, from “Children, Dogs, and Desperate Women.”

“I still seem to be holding that wisp of iridescence, not knowing exactly where to fit it, while she runs with her hoop ever faster around me and finally dissolves among the slender shadows cast on the graveled path by the interlaced arches of its low looped fence.” Vladimir Nabokov, “First Love.”

“But the pear tree was as lonely as ever and as full of flowers and as still.” Katherine Mansfield, “Bliss.”

“She sat for a while longer, then pulled the curtains back and the day came in. Hers was the ghost the night had brought, in her own image as she once had been.” William Trevor, “Sitting with the Dead.”

I also studied the words of some of my favorite writing teachers. Some say you should return to the beginning of your story and pick up a loose thread there to knot at the end. Others believe you should end on a strong image. John Dufresne, in his wonderful book The Lie That Tells A Truth says this is not the time to give us a moral or a message. “We only need the problem resolved.” And later: “End your story on your best, or second best, line. Don’t write past it. This is the line that echoes in our mind when the story is over.”

Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, in their endlessly inspirational book What If, give a great exercise for endings. “Write one sentence for a story that is in its fourth or fifth draft. Then revise the story to heighten and illuminate this final meaning.”

As challenging as it can be, there is nothing like the inherent joy in writing stories–whether it’s that first sentence or even the title. And this makes the struggle worth it. Sometimes the very thing that’s holding us back IS the solution. One of my favorite philosophers, Marcus Aurelius, said it best: “The impediment to action advances the action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

In my situation, it became very simple. The ending of my story troubled me because I hadn’t gotten the beginning or the middle right. So I had to backtrack a little bit. But when I followed the crumb trail of my original conception–what the story was REALLY about, I found my way home and then, and only then, resolved my story. And then I treated myself to a huge chunk of apple pie!

We’ll be doing a number of writing workshops very soon, where we’ll talk more about endings and everything in between. Stay tuned for the details, but in the meantime, I hope you’ll plan to join me in April for round two of our very popular flash fiction workshops.

Saturday, April 13 – Flash Fiction Boot Camp II Workshop. Central Carolina Community College Creative Writing Program in Pittsboro, N.C. Register here.

How to behave at a holiday party

Ever go to a pabeerty and feel like you don’t quite belong? Not sure about where to sit? Is that a cheese ball or a centerpiece? Is it edible? And what do you talk about when you find yourself balancing a glass of punch with strangers?

Now, imagine that you used to be a a blue orchard bee….a praying mantis….or even a monarch butterfly.  It’s even more befuddling.

Holiday Party Etiquette for Insects Recently Transformed Into People,” a flash fiction up today at one of my favorite literary magazines, Okay Donkey, was inspired by my own shyness and angst at holiday parties. The story bloomed when I discovered a link on Reddit for a support group for former insects and an article on etiquette in Southern Living. I’m so honored that the donkey — himself a fan of “the odd, the off-kilter, and the just plain weird”– made a space for this little story.

Writers actually relish writing about things that make them feel uncomfortable. It’s cathartic and oddly, it can also be easier. Your emotions are already stirred up and accessible, ripe for the picking. For fun, try your hand at turning a real-life situation into speculative fiction. And if you were an insect, what kind would you be?