Celebrate National Poetry Month!

“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance,” said poet Carl Sandburg, North Carolina’s own adopted son. And thanks to Carl’s own creative genius, can you look at the little feet of a cat without thinking of fog? I know I can’t.

How will you celebrate a month-long tribute to the cherished art of poetry? As Lu Chi advises in The Art of Writing, I plan to “draw sustenance from masterpieces of the past.” I’m re-reading some of my favorite poets as well as questing to discover new ones. My go-to source for my daily poetry addiction is Poetry Daily and Rattle.

For more inspirational poetry, check out the website for The Gyroscope Review, which is running a daily interview with a poet published by them in the past. It’s a wonderful series that gives you a peek into the minds and work habits of poets at practice.

And today, for April 8, I’m honored to be the featured poet.

 

 

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Flash Fiction Isn’t Just a Flash in the Pan!

The short-short story has been around for decades but flash fiction (prose works between 500 and 1,000 words or less) is all the rage these days. And for good reason.

For the reader, the benefits are numerous. It’s immediate, accessible, and offers a variety of voices in one setting. For the writer, the benefits are also myriad. It offers the chance to experiment and the opportunity to do something with the fragments of other ideas that may not work for a poem, novel or traditional short story. This doesn’t make it any easier, however. The less words you use, the more carefully you must choose them for maximum impact. And while you don’t need to resolve all loose ends in a piece, you still need to produce a satisfying story for your reader.

For me, flash fiction is just plain fun! It’s been an effective and rewarding outlet for my quirky sense of humor. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with forms such as memos, emails, online chat dialogues, blogs, even shopping lists. The sky’s the limit!

Because the pieces take up less room, publishers are able to publish multiple authors. This means that there are so many more outlets for writers to get published. All major literary magazines are seeking flash fiction these days, and just as in poetry, you can submit multiple pieces for consideration.

I’ve had the joy of taking several workshops on flash fiction by celebrated author Ruth Moose through the Central Carolina Community College Creative Writing Program. She does a terrific job of choosing pieces for inspiration and then asking us to put pen to paper. So you end up with a solid start and an immediate audience—your fellow classmates!

These lessons have paid off for me and my friends, who have had several pieces accepted for publication. And just yesterday, I’m proud to say that my own piece, “All-Inclusive Vacation for Pessimists,” just appeared in Issue 7 of Brilliant Flash Fiction, a British online publication. (To read it, scroll down the page to about halfway through. Look for the picture of a beach at sunset!)

I hope to read this piece at the CCCC Open Mic at the library on the CCCC Pittsboro campus on October 23 at 6:30 p.m. This is yet another benefit. Flash fiction is perfect for open mics because more people have the chance to share their works. And this is why I think flash fiction is here to stay!

Hope to see you on October 23!

Vision & Voice Poetry Project!

Ashley_vision1Ashley_vision2Yesterday, Sunday, April 26, I had the honor of reading a poem at the 4th Annual Vision & Voice Poetry Project at the Joyful Jewel in Pittsboro, a local art gallery specializing in original arts and crafts. Once every year, they open their doors to local poets who, in the style of poetry known as Ekphrasis, write a poem inspired by a piece of art. I chose as my inspiration the beautiful photograph of a snowy egret by Gerald Dukes (kindly held by local artist. D.G. Chandler). If you like, you may read my poem here.

Ashley_vision_3

Pictured above is the poet Candace Falloon reading a poem inspired by proprietor Mariah Wheeler’s (also pictured) lovely work of mixed media titled The Muse Calls.

A number of other local poets read, including Mary Barnard, Judith Fisher, Tim Keim, Judith Stanton, Patty Cole and Judy Hogan, who emceed the event. In addition to Mariah, we took our inspiration from a bevy of talented artists including D.G. Chandler, Jerry Fowler, Orlan Johnson, Jacquelyn Lowry, Kate Ladd, Marilyn Penrod, Stacy Lewis, Sharon Blessum, Gerald Dukes, just to name a few. Our subjects of inspiration ranged from the expected (paintings, photography and sculpture) to the more esoteric (dream catchers, jewelry, scarves, even a peppermill!) Poets Ruth Moose, Bonnie Korta, and Sheridan Bushnell couldn’t attend but other poets happily read their work so their voices could also be heard.

If you missed the event, no worries! There’s still time to order a limited edition copy of the poems and images of the art that inspired them for just $35. To do so, contact Mariah at mariah.joyfuljewel@gmail.com. Need a special gift for Mother’s Day? Stop by the Joyful Jewel today — there’s something for every woman in your life, I promise!

In fact, I just bought a pair of earrings for a friend for a birthday present who told me that she absolutely loves them and will treasure them every day!

Carolina Woman!

Carolina Woman

Local contests are a great way to share your work….and win prizes! My writing group member Linda Johnson and I both earned Honorable Mentions in the 2015 Carolina Woman Writing Contest. Matching pajama-size T-shirts!

Linda won for her short story “Birthday Cake” (penned in a fiction class led by Ruth Moose) and I won for my poem “Ode to My Ironing Board” (written in a class led by Ralph Earle). Both classes were held through the Creative Writing Program at Central Carolina Community College’s Pittsboro campus. We also learned that a CCCC workshop leader, Tara Lynne Groth, won for her story “Money Changes Everything.” All pieces will published by CW in an upcoming issue. Pittsboro represented very well at Carolina Woman this year!

On a related note, and since April is National Poetry Month, I had to point out that today would have been the 115th birthday of another writer, novelist, short story writer, and poet Vladimir Nabokov. I didn’t know he also wrote poetry until my friend Mary located “The Poem” — a piece written by him for one of  just two collections penned in his prolific career. As with his other work, “The Poem” is poignant, evocative and lush with language and imagery that would make any writer envious. I couldn’t find an online link so unfortunately (or fortunately!), you’ll have to do like me and order a copy of his collections.

More coming soon!

Poetry Workshop Just Two Weeks Away!

If you could see my dining room table, you’d think I’m a hoarder. The primary function of such a table should be eating but for weeks now, it’s become a planning station for the upcoming workshop I’m leading on Saturday, March 14 at the Pittsboro campus of Central Carolina Community Collegebluebird-2: Jumpstart Your Poetic Imagination. Scraps of paper, dog-eared books, and notebooks cover the surface, and frankly, I’d be ashamed for you to see it. That’s why instead I’ve posted a picture of a male bluebird in flight against the snow, caught by my husband on Thursday.

In spite of the clutter, I certainly feel like a bird in flight. I’ve been having the time of my life! I’ve been selecting poems by others to inspire us, and I’ll be honest, I’ve had to make some tough decisions. But I think I’m done. All poems are contemporary in nature, and go back as far as Emily Dickinson and Ezra Pound but some were published as recently as 2014.

From sad to joyous to humorous, these poems cover the seemingly simple fabric of life–from eating fruit to reading the news to observing backyard birds. But as we’ll see, these experiences are merely the lens through which we experience life’s complexities–love, death, loneliness, and hope, just to name a few.

The exercises are what I’m working on now and it is my hope with these that participants will understand (or deepen) what I’ve come to know–how the act of reading and writing poetry can help you feel more connected to the outer world. We’ll focus on imagery, have fun with random phrases, and stoke our imagination by making up stories about ourselves. Most importantly, and this is my greatest hope, we’ll have FUN!

I’ll close with a quote. While I’m not familiar with the writer, her words are timeless and set the stage beautifully for our workshop:

“Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind.” ~Catherine Drinker Bowen, Atlantic, December 1957

Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday, March 14.  If you’ve not signed up, whaaat? It’s okay, it’s not too late. You can easily register today online or by calling 919-545-8044, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. M – F.

How to See a Ghost

Having just returned from an amazing trip to Ireland with my father, I can report that this beautiful gem of an island is indeed haunted. Haunted with ghosts you don’t need to see to know that they are there. As the victim of countless sieges, plunders, and atrocities—from the Vikings to the Anglo-Normans to the forces of Cromwell—in Ireland the ruins of fortifications abound. It is home to more than 3,500 castles in varying stages of decline. There are also thousands of abbeys and churches, many of them now in shambles, but even some of these ended up being fortified, with castellated presbyteries, towers, and stone wall enclosures.

As a writer, I prefer the ruins to the structures that have been shorn up and refurbished because these gently worn skeletons leave plenty of room for the imagination. Especially under a moody sky that will drop a gentle mist of rain to be shortly followed by sunshine, which reflects back on the dewy grass, hence the nickname, The Emerald Isle.

We spent 3 nights in Dublin but I have to say that my favorite part of the trip was the four days we spent in the counties of Kilkenny and Tipperary.

jerpoint

We spent 3 nights in a bed and breakfast in Thomastown in County Kilkenny directly across from the ruins of Jerpoint Abbey.

The B & B itself was situated by a stream and the ruins of a 13th century mill and the view to the Abbey (from the front yard, left) was spectacular.

Originally founded as a 12th-century Cistercian abbey, what you see today came from the 15th and 16th centuries, although there are many examples of beautiful stone carvings from the earlier period, especially the cloister garden.

In Ireland I had many wonderful adventures, from the people we met to yes, the history, that inspired the writer in me. I look forward to sharing these with you in the coming weeks.

I came back from Ireland to learn that my poem, ironically enough, “How to See a Ghost” won second place in the 2014 INDY Week’s annual poetry contest. The ghost in this poem was not inspired by Ireland, but fair warning, I expect many more poems to follow. Since falling in love with poetry late last year, I can’t help wondering just what have I missed out on all these years…

I’ll read “How to See a Ghost” with Jeffrey Beam, the judge, and the other winners on May 6 at 7 p.m. at a special reading at Letters Bookstore in Durham. Hope to see you there!

 

Voices From The Porch is Available for Pre-Order Now!

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What better way to enjoy the gentle end of summer than to spend the afternoon daydreaming on the porch? Well, I can think of something even better. Sitting on the porch while reading stories, essays, and poems inspired by the porch.

Not too long ago, I learned that my short story, “His Name Is Roscoe,” had been accepted for publication by Main Street Rag for a special anthology featuring porch-themed tales. While it won’t be available until Spring 2014, you can be prepared for next year’s porch season by ordering an advance copy now.

Hint: And it’s also on sale for just $9.50! This book will feature the work of many other N.C. writers, so I hope that you’ll help us all by ordering your copy today.

Order Voices from the Porch now.

Naked and Hungry Goes to Siler City!

raleighstreetWant to escape the summer heat? Fighting boredom? Why not join us at the Local Author Showcase  next Saturday, July 27, in Siler City from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. You might meet a new friend and pick up a new summer read!

Hosted by Paperbacks Plus, this event will bring together 16 local authors for a meet and greet and light refreshments. I’ll be there, promoting Naked and Hungry, and hanging out with many mutual friends. We’d love to see you!

Address:
Raleigh Street Gallery
120 W. Raleigh Street, Siler City NC 27344

Happy Mutts Day!

Today, in honor of Shorty McMullen, the irascible mutt who helps save the day in Naked and Hungry and Born Again, Dead Again, we celebrate a day just for the non-pedigreed dogs of the world. And it’s about time. July 31 is NOT the day for your impeccable pekingese or Maltese. It’s not a day for your regal Afghan hound  or even the Presidential pooch, Bo the Portuguese water dog. It is not a day for dogs named Fifi or Duke.

Today is a day for all those dogs named Lucky, Sooner, or Bubba. It’s for those dogs with a DNA profile as random as the seashells that wash up on the beach. No one know for sure, but Shorty may have some German Shepherd, a splash of Dalmatian and even a smattering of Chihuahua in his genetic profile. Regardless, he’s undeniably a special dog. At times, he’s grumpy and willful. He’s also naughty and prone to outright disobedience. But he seems to have a sixth sense for when his “owner” (and I use this term most loosely) needs him the most. So we have to ask…are our mutts as random as we think?

There’s plenty of mayhem ahead in Born Again, Dead Again and to be sure, Shorty will be right back in the thick of things. He’s also up to plenty of mischief himself, involving the nice girl next door, a beautiful poodle named Miss Angelique!

If you have a mutt or know a mutt, take a few moments to scratch his ears or to toss him a treat. Tell her how grateful you are that she is in the world. And remind yourself that what makes all dogs so special is the fact that they don’t care where we came from; they just love us for who we are.

Knaked and Hungry Goes to Knoxville!

In celebration of our upcoming (Saturday, July 28) visit to Union Avenue Books in Knoxville, Tenn., we’re changing up the spelling of Knaked and Hungry in homage to this friendly and literary city.

I’m looking forward to a return visit to Knoxville and the charming Union Avenue Books, an independent bookstore located downtown. Is Knoxville ready for an invasion by H.T. and gang? I sure hope so. Knoxville, named for Revolutionary War general Henry Knox, is associated with many writers, including James Agee and Cormac McCarthy.

Read more.

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