Tag Archives: creative writing

Bring back the hand mixer….and the thank you!

mixerI recently inherited a host of kitchen gadgets from my beloved Grandma Wilma. They seemed like virtual antiques–a box grater, handheld lemon juicer, and, of all things, her First National Bank apron! But what surprises me is how often I end up using these “old” things and how practical they seem now.

Like my hand mixer. I love my pricey stand mixer with the planetary action as much as anybody, and I count myself very fortunate to have it. But when I need to mix up just a simple batch of mashed potatoes, I’m much more likely to use this old standby. It’s so convenient and far more lightweight.

A meditation on kitchen gadgets led to me muse on the other things that we should bring back. Next on my list: the common courtesy of a ‘thank you.’

Earlier today I retweeted a killer essay, Dating After Divorce, Which One Would You Choose? (Rebellious Magazine) by good friend Joy Wright. Although I didn’t expect it, she immediately thanked me, and I was touched. You see, and I know I’m not alone, but I’ve done much more for other people and received far less. Not even an acknowledgment. Seriously.

Yeah, yeah, I know people are busy, busy, busy. I’ve pledged that excuse myself. And I’m sure that I’m past due on a few sincere thank yous myself. Guilty! So whaddya say? Could we bring back the simple thank you? Maybe even a handwritten note sent by mail (perish the thought!).

The time has never been better. Study after study shows that in spite of the many connections we make on social media, and the whirl of activities in our lives, people in modern society are lonelier than ever.

So let’s bring back not just the hand mixer, but the thank you note, phone calls, and the act of leaving actual messages and returning them! Maybe even the potluck and the sock hop. Okay, maybe not the sock hop. (I’m showing my age, and even I’m not ready for another dose of that awkward adolescence.)

Lest I forget, I do THANK YOU for reading this.

Gratefully yours,
Ashley

 

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A Day of Poetry at Weymouth

Ashley-podiumBefore the deluge today, we enjoyed a wonderful day of poetry at the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities in lovely Southern Pines. The N.C. Poetry Society held its annual awards day, and I was honored to join both old and new friends to read “Eulogy of a Northern Red Oak,” a finalist for the Poet Laureate Award.

“Eulogy” will be one of the poems in my forthcoming collection to be published by the kind and generous Finishing Line Press in Georgetown, Kentucky. After much deliberation, and a conferral with reviewers and friends, my chapbook of 30 poems is now titled “Waiting for the Wood Thrush.” This title makes the most sense, given the book’s strong focus on nature as well as love.

In addition to hearing my fellow poets read, another highlight of the day was the dedication of Pinesong to my friend and celebrated author Ruth Moose. She was regaled for her unwavering support of the poetry community, her love of stories, and, of all things, the exclamation mark! Here’s extra just for Ruth!!!!!

The exclamation mark is both joy and urgency, delight and a bit of fright, a paradox unto itself.  It underscores the words of W.H. Auden, recently shared by a friend. The revered poet’s definition of poetry? “The clear expression of mixed feelings.”

 

What makes a successful writer?

flowers.jpgIn this particular order….

1- Love of language

2 – Internal burning desire to write, write, write….no matter what’s going on in their lives

3 – Abiding curiosity (obsession!) for the human experience

4 – Significant body of work to draw from so there’s always something in circulation — plenty of pieces to submit and re-submit when the times are tough.

What do you think? Am I missing something? It’s entirely possible!

Flash fiction takes a direct shot

“Going at such a pace as I do, I must make the most direct shots at my object…no more pause than is needed to put my pen in the ink.” ~ Virginia Woolfclassroomshot

The above quote, shared at my Central Carolina Community College workshop last Saturday, does more than express the intensity of flash fiction; it also illustrates how quickly the time passed!

Our Flash Fiction Bootcamp II did indeed end far too quickly! In fact, we were still writing when the security guard at Central Carolina Community College came around and politely tapped her watch. But me and the seven devotees (eight if you count my trusty assistant, husband Johnpaul) of creative writing could have kept writing for hours….

We opened with an inspirational reading of Liz Wride’s terrific flash, Painted, published April 11 on Milk Candy Review.  For our first prompt, we riffed on her evocative first line (“They passed a law that everyone had to…..”) as a spark for our own stories. The results were both pithy and magical, ranging from “be kind to each other” or “own a Komodo dragon.” So much fun! Thank you Liz!

Other prompts included writing a flash from a favorite pet’s point of view and taking a cue from the Twilight Zone. One of our students shared a link to the opening narration so you can try this prompt on your own. We also played around with the French technique known as “N + 7″ which involves writing a couple of sentences and substituting nouns with every seventh you find in the dictionary after the original. This mode is particularly helpful when you find yourself stuck in a rut on a story. A new world can be just one word away.

The comments I received were far more than I deserved but very welcome, and the students kindly gave permission for their inclusion on this blog. “This was my first writing class,” said Mary T. “The encouragement received from Ashley was priceless and spurred me to write even more.”

“Ashley Memory is a great teacher – positive, affirming, inspiring. Love the quotes, writing tips, book recommendations.” Jeannie D’Aurora

And from Anne K., a veteran of the program, who is working toward her certificate in Creative Writing, a unique offering of the college:  “Ashley’s classes always provide a terrific combination of practical information, positive encouragement and hands-on experiences. She is both a talented teacher and writer and students get the benefit of both in her classes.”

As a departure from the norm, for my next CCCC workshop, we’ll tackle a cousin of flash fiction. On Saturday, September 21, 2019 at 9 a.m., we’ll explore the exciting world of flash essays. We’ll also talk about ways to expand short memoir-style pieces into longer formats, taking cues from Susan Shapiro’s The Byline Bible.

Hope to see you in September, but in the meantime keep writing and delighting!

 

“Pfull” House at Pfeiffer and WOW!

phoenix2Last night I had the pleasure of reading my poem “I Like My Bagel Toasted” at the special launch celebration of The Phoenix at Pfeiffer University, and it was a blast. First off, it’s a rarity to see more than 20 people at a literary event but at this wonderful occasion, there was at least 100–a “pfull” house by anybody’s standards! And anytime I get to see my friend Ruth Moose (and Pfeiffer alumna!) is always a special occasion.

Wonderful food, a great mixture of art (poems, stories, essays and photography!) and fabulous music made for an entertaining evening. The editors, staff, and advisors did a terrific job of making all attendees and authors feel appreciated.

bagelHats off to the editors who read and considered the nearly 1,000 submissions they received for this issue! My “bagel” and I were indeed lucky to be included. It’s taken a lot of courage to write about my multiple sclerosis so this has been a big step for me.

All in all, the day itself couldn’t have been more perfect. The weather alone was magnificent, sunny and dry with a gentle breeze. Amazing. And not only did my little bare-rooted Mara des Bois strawberry plants arrive from the nursery, I found out I won first place in the WOW Q2 Essay Contest for “How to Chop an Onion Without Crying.”

Isn’t it funny how life turns out? We writers work so hard, day in, day out, and the rewards are mostly internal–the joy you get from finding just the right word, putting your words to paper and sharing what you write with family and friends. But once in a while, the world surprises you with a little recognition and how sweet it is!

Wishing you strawberries, onions, bagels (and more) as you plow ahead and make your own writing dreams come true.

 

Flash Fiction Bootcamp II Coming Soon!

IMG_20190402_121354815_HDRIt’s snowing in the Uwharries today, on the second day of April no less! Big sloppy flakes drifting down like tiny snow angels. Or, according to my husband, who sees “Dick Tracy snowflakes with big black lines around them.”

 

Whatever you see, these little bits of wintry precipitation (mixed with sleet) are a bit of a surprise this spring. They’re coating the surface of our bamboo like a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.  No yard work today after all. Instead, I’m dreaming ahead to Saturday, April 13, when I’ll lead round 2 of our Flash Fiction Bootcamp at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro.

I’m especially excited about this class because we’ll have a special guest! My son Dashiel, named for a writer himself (minus one “l” in the name) will be visiting from New York and sitting at the table with us. It will be fun to see what stories he conjures up, based on the singular experience of living in the “Big City.”

Our prompts this time will be brand new and guaranteed to fire your imagination. From writing from a dog’s (or cat, to be fair) point of view to using the innovative N + 7 French method of writing a couple of sentences and replacing every noun with the seventh in a dictionary, these story starters may just be the creative nudge you need for that latent story swimming around in your head. And as usual, I’ll also share a collection of my favorite litmags and contests so that those who wish to revise and see their work in print may pursue these avenues on their own.

For more information, and how to register, see below. In the meantime, cuddle up with a mug of hot chocolate, a good book, and a notebook of your own…..

Saturday, April 13 from 9.a.m – 3 p.m. – Flash Fiction Bootcamp II Workshop. 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.