Seeking a Refuge from the Cold? Write!

Got cold weather blues? Anxious about the holidays? Or are you just in a rut? If you’re like Baby Dog, you might just needbaby to surround yourself with your own creature comforts. In her case, it’s a nest of cushy autumn leaves. Can you find her?

For you, have you considered taking advantage of the comforts offered by writing? According to writer Edna Ferber, who wrote in her 1963 autobiography: “Life can’t ever really defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer’s lover until death – fascinating, cruel, lavish, warm, cold, treacherous, constant.”

So why not embrace life by signing up for a creative writing course at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro? We’re offering a wide range of opportunities in Spring 2018 that are sure to lift your spirits!

In fact, I’ll be leading a one-day workshop on Saturday, March 3 on flash fiction. Flash fiction is irresistible; a joy for both reader and writer. Opportunities are better than ever, with a virtual explosion of contests and publications specializing in the form. Read some of the best, experiment a little, and leave the class with a complete “kit” of your own for future inspiration.

CCCC offers many other valuable classes and workshops this spring–including a workshop to help writers achieve publication led by recent novelist Michele Berger. I also recommend you consider the weekly course offered by the celebrated poet Mary Barnard titled “Write to Heal.”

For the complete list of offerings, and to sign up, visit the CCCC website.

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The Way the Rain Works

Ralph and Ashley

Photo credit: Mary Barnard

 

Here I am posing with award-winning poet Ralph Earle, who kindly autographed a copy of his book,  The Way the Rain Works. To the folks gathered at the Central Carolina Community College Creative Writing Program’s Open Mic Friday night, he treated us all to a few sample poems.

the way the rain works

If you haven’t yet read The Way the Rain Works, you should do yourself a favor and order it today from Sable Books. The individual poems weave a powerful and poignant story about the slow dissolution of a family. There is great sadness, yes, but there are also touches of humor (“The Insulating Properties of Trees” and “Sweater Weather”, for example).

The primary landscape, North Carolina, is familiar but at the same time, new again, through Ralph’s intellect and imagination. In “The Mill Dam at Bynum” he writes: “In the summer I wander the overgrown farm road / like Whitman, mad and undisguised, observing / how broad the river grows there, how poised.”  I am not the only one who will never think of the Bynum mill dam in the same way again!

There are many other gems, from “The Flight Back Home” to “The Sea and Sand Did This” to the title poem itself. For me, the best way to summarize my own personal experience with this book is in the concluding lines of “Snow Falling Silently”: “No matter how often / we start the story / differently, it ends / the same: water flows,/ Night grows old./ Snow falls in the silence.”

A number of other writers regaled us into the evening at the Open Mic, with diverse poems and tales of deviled eggs, dancing queens, fathers, birdsong, crisper drawers, and much, much more. A huge thanks to the members of the Board (in addition to Ralph) who organized the evening: Maggie Zwilling, Kim Overcash, Judith Stanton, Michele Berger, and Mary Barnard (who doubled as poet AND photographer for the event).

If you missed it, no worries. Stay tuned because we’ll do it again in the fall!

A Very Poetic Walk in the Woods

Sunday, May 3, was one of those days simply made for poetry. Blue skies, dazzling sunshine, and a walk through land virtually untouched by humans. A Carolina day free from humidity is truly a gift!

Our writing group was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit with Robin and her husband Wayne, a walking encyclopedia of history and natural science, especially forestry. They are the stewards of one of the dwindling parcels of land not yet affected by the growing development in Chatham County.

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Wood sprites, fairies, or poets? What do you think?

Their land includes a natural spring, Landrum’s Creek (home to river otters!), and New World trees rarely seen in subdivisions these days: beech, ash, red oak and hickory. Here we are posing in front of an estimated 250-year-old mockernut hickory tree (identified, of course, by Wayne).

Nature walks, a ritual prescribed by Susan Wooldridge in her book Poem Crazy, are like oxygen to poets. Susan recommends regularly immersing yourself in nature and learning the names of flora and fauna. While we didn’t get lucky enough to see an otter (be still my heart…can you imagine?), we did spot a skink, a hawk, butterflies, centipedes, woodpeckers, and the one thing that makes you dread warmer weather: ticks! But even these pesky little creatures have earned their place. Hummm….a poem about ticks, now there’s a subject rarely touched.

Robin was an especially thoughtful hostess, as she and Wayne had thought ahead and plunked down a brand new picnic table right in the middle of the clearing. This was a perfect spot for pita chips, hummus, ginger ale, and what else? Strawberry shortcake!

IMG_20150503_112334505_HDRHere is Wayne, our intrepid field guide, who is enjoying his own well-deserved plate of cake. We are so grateful to him for his willingness to lead us through the woods and answer our endless list of questions? Is this a maple? Why is this bark so rough? Can we drink from that spring? I’ll give his answer to the last question, mine, out of due diligence. Sure, he said, if you’re used to all those microbes in your system. That was enough for me!

Shortcake was certainly in order given our group’s recent accomplishments. We found out that Carolina Crimes: 19 Tales of Love, Lust, and Longing, which includes a story (“Happy Pills”) by our writing group member Linda Johnson was nominated for a 2015 Anthony Award. This anthology was edited by local writer and editor Karen Pullen and includes tales from other acclaimed writers such as Ruth Moose, one of our group’s favorite writing teachers at CCCC.

And….just in time for Mother’s Day, we also learned that another member, Michele Berger, had a piece of her writing selected for a national anthology: A Letter to My Mom: A Tribute to Our Very First Loves. In this beautiful book, Michele shares her own heartfelt message to her mother in a collection of personally-crafted letters written by people from all walks of life, including celebrities (Dr. Phil, Suze Orman, and Mariel Hemingway, just to name a few!). Read more about Michele’s experience on her own blog. What I love about this book is that it represents just a fraction of a community of people who want to express their love and admiration for their mothers. In fact, you can even share your own letter on their website.

Whether it’s walking in the woods or celebrating your own mother, I hope that you will find your own inspiration in your own space and that the writing flows as freely as it does in Landrum Creek!

Happy National Poetry Month!

As if we needed a reason to celebrate Emily Dickinson or William Blake, did you know that April is National Poetry Month? The occasion has inspired me to re-read some of my favorites. This includes classics such as “She Walks in Beauty” (Byron), “Ode to A Nightingale” (Keats), “Song” by Christina Rossetti, and lesser-known but equally poignant pieces such as To be A Slave to Intensity” (Kabir) and “Nothing” by James Fenton.

As a favor to my dear friend and writing colleague Michele Berger, I even agreed to draft a poem myself for consideration for her excellent blog, The Practice of Creativity. I am definitely no poet but she is a true friend, and in that spirit, she kindly published it. Rather brilliantly, she is celebrating this month by posting a series of poems by guest poets (who are much more talented than me, I will add!). Although I adore poetry, I find this sparest of literary forms to be more than a little intimidating. But there’s a definite connection between poetry and prose, and as we’ve discussed in my writing group, any prose writer (especially me) would benefit from entering and fully exploring this medium.

Lately, I’ve been concentrating my limited literary energies on writing short stories, which will always be my first love. And last week I was honored to learn that a recent story, “Once in a Blue Moon,” was named first honorable mention in the 2013 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Contest sponsored by the N.C. Writers’ Network. This is a victory I share with all of you who have encouraged me as well as the five wonderful women or “belles-des-lettres” in my writing group. Michele herself just scooped up third place in Carolina Woman’s Annual Writing Contest for her speculative short story titled “Urban Wendy” which is published in the April issue! Go Pittsboro writers!

Interview by Creativity Expert Michele Berger

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by new friend, creativity muse, and fellow writer Michele Berger on her blog, The Practice of Creativity. Her thought-provoking questions inspired me to think more deeply about the journey of writing. And her generous praise (although undeserved!) reinforced yet another joy of the writing life—the wonderful people you meet along the way.

I just hope she takes me up on my offer to make her crepes one day! For more, read For the Love of Crepes and Crime.

This week will be a busy but good one. Tomorrow, I’ll wake up early with a panel discussion on website creation at the N.C. Writers’ Network Fall Conference and on Thursday, I’ll speak to the High Country Writers at their monthly meeting.

Somehow, I hope to sneak in two more indulgences: Mystery and Manners, a book of essays by Flannery and the latest Southern Living, which features one of the best collections of Thanksgiving recipes I’ve ever seen. Food and books, what could be better than that?

Here’s to the weekend; hope yours is a good one!