Monday, May 9, 2022

It's Happening!


The "tenth" anniversary celebration of PoetryBridge is happening! 

PoetryBridge, a monthly reading series in West Seattle hosting two featured readers and open mic, had a 10th Anniversary celebration scheduled for March 2020. Eight of the poets and writers who had been featured during the first decade of PoetryBridge were invited to read. 

When the coronavirus hit, the party was cancelled. Leopoldo Sequel, self-proclaimed "Chief Provocateur inciting suspected poets, storytellers and other word-artists to commit the act of sharing their art," graciously moved into the cyper world of Zoom and YouTube, keeping PoetryBridge active and thriving throughout the pandemic.

Last spring, the "10th" Anniversary was rescheduled as a live reading, but a COVID surge caused a second postponement. So here we are, two years later, in May 2022. I hope you can join us for an in-person reading this Wednesday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this 12-year-old community event!

Please contact Leopoldo at info@poetrybridge.net to get your name on the guest list. Not in the Seattle area? The event will also be live streamed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-ByNL3oW80.

PoetryBridge Anniversary Reading
C & P Coffee House
5612 California Ave. Seattle
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Friday, March 18, 2022

It Didn't Work (For Me)

The practice of keeping two journals I explored in my last post– one for personal writing, the other for works in progress – didn’t work for me. Two journals just created two problems.

First, I don’t want to carry two notebooks around with me. I usually carry a notebook stashed in backpack or purse wherever I go. Always when travelling, even cycling or backpacking. A recent trip to visit family in California and explore Joshua Tree National Park showed me the absolute flaw in my experiment. I travel light and rarely check luggage. An extra notebook was one too many.

The second problem, more important than a simple space issue, is that I am uncomfortable with what for me feels like a clumsy separation of personal and public writing. As a memoirist, and even when writing fiction or the infrequent poem, my mind and my pen flow freely between the personal and the current work-in-progress. I found having two notebooks stymied rather than supported my creative process. 

I’m currently working on a memoir of the COVID years. The working structure is in the form of letters to my grandson. As I write morning pages in a personal notebook, I may think of something I want to tell Jack, but I stop myself because I in the “wrong” notebook. By the time I get to the “right” notebook, I forget whatever it was I wanted to capture. The muse is gone.


But if I return to my one notebook protocol, what will I do with all those lovely, gifted notebooks I planned to use for my morning pages? Simple solution – I’ll use them for ALL my writing, mixed up and messy like it’s always been. I will set aside my compulsion for steno pads and use the wonderful variety of notebooks stashed away in that desk drawer.

And The Artist’s Way group with monthly zoom meetings led by an on-line writer friend? Unfortunately, the schedule doesn't work for me. The meetings are at a time when I’m giving Jack his afternoon snack or we’re heading out on an adventure – with a notebook tucked in my backpack just in case there’s a free moment to scribble.

What works best for you? Are you a multiple notebook or a one-at-a-time writer? 

Monday, February 7, 2022

Pages Waiting for Words

Because I write, it is not uncommon to receive blank books as gifts. These books come in a wonderful variety of shapes, sizes, and decorative styles. Despite using assorted blank books in my early years, since beginning my first memoir two decades ago, I have used steno pads. I buy them in bulk from my local office supply store and use them for all my writing. 

This past holiday season, I was gifted two lovely blank books. As I went to add them to the unused collection, I hesitated. At a holiday book club gathering, a dear friend presented a blank book to each member suggesting we write moments of joy during this difficult pandemic, something I readily agreed to do. As I fingered the texture of the cover and admired the floral line drawing adorning it, I could not stuff it into that tight drawer.

The same month a writer-friend on the opposite coast invited folks to join her in a year-long Artist’s Way workshop. I'd read Julia Cameron’s book early in my writing career, but I'd completed the 12-week program alone. I was curious about taking a 12-month zoom journey with this distant friend, and I decided to write my “morning pages” in the beautiful floral book. Within seven weeks, the pages were full of joy and anger, dreams and disappointments.

After filling the final page, I returned to the desk drawer and extracted a stack of blank books. I will use them for personal writing, for “morning pages” whether I write in the morning or evening, whether I write daily or less-than-daily. I will journal in these thoughtful gifts just as I will continue writing first drafts of my public writing on the pale green pages of steno pads. It will be interesting to see where this leads me.

Do you keep a journal? Do you write longhand? What kind of notebook do you prefer? 

Perhaps you’re wondering how to organize those journals into memoir. Or perhaps, you have a story you’re struggling to get on the page. If so, and if you’re in the Seattle area, I invite you to join a one-day memoir class I’ll be teaching at Hugo House.

To learn more and register, CLICK HERE.  

For information on scholarships, CLICK HERE.  

Monday, January 17, 2022

Silence and Reflection

2021 has ended. The pandemic has not. The group reading to celebrate the 10th anniversary of PoetryBridge at C&P Coffeehouse originally scheduled in 2020 and cancelled because of COVID, rescheduled and cancelled again in 2021, was on my calendar for January 12, 2022. Then Omicron surfaced and the 12th anniversary was also cancelled.

These are the times we are living. Times demanding difficult decisions and flexibility. While we never know what will come next in life, the current reality is unique in that it is a shared event with no clear parameters. Risk-tolerance varies from person to person as does the need to return to a sense of normalcy. But what will the new normal look like?

So, what to do? I continue to read and write, walk and cycle. I juggle my need for solitude and creativity with the joy and exhaustion of caring for an active nineteen-month-old grandson. A little boy who stands before a large houseplant, the heavy iron fireplace screen, a stack of Grandma’s books, hand extended, eyes twinkling, waiting for me to say “No!” before reaching for the object he knows he is not to touch. I’m learning to silently remove him from temptation. When he grabs my hair, I swallow my screech – he loves loud noises! – unravel my hair from his small fingers and walk away.

I’ve been thinking about solitude as I read May Sarton. Perhaps the need for solitude grows as we get older. Or maybe it’s self-awareness that grows with age. Solitude is a choice which should not be confused with isolation or loneliness. In Journal of a Solitude, Sarton writes “I must not forget that, for me, being with people or even with one beloved person for any length of time without solitude is even worse [than the challenge of maintaining balance in solitude.] I lose my center. I feel dispersed, scattered, in pieces.” I understand this. I share these feelings.

My daughter had a wonderful primary school teacher who established a regular practice of “Silence and Reflection.” He usually took the children outdoors. Journals in hand, they each chose a place to sit at a distance from one another to write or draw or daydream. And while there was no true solitude, there was silence. For my girl, this was at times boring but always settling. Perhaps I need, perhaps we all need, time each day for silence and reflection in our overly loud, overly screen-dominated, overly stressed world.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Did I Cheat?

November is NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to jump start a novel by writing 50,000 words in a single month. That’s a load of words!

I cheated. Well, I didn’t actually sign up, so maybe I can’t really be accused of cheating. But still… 

I reached the 50,000-word goal earlier this week. But they weren’t all “new” words. And I’m not working on a novel. 

I began a pandemic diary early last year – a desktop file where I wrote to untangle the insanity of 2020: from Trump to COVID, social justice to global warming, unemployment to homelessness. And on a personal level, my unplanned retirement and the birth of my grandson.

In late October 2020 when my daughter’s family leave ended, I began caring for my grandson a few days each week, and an odd thing happened. I began addressing my daily journal entries to my grandson. I began calling the file Pandemic Baby. I began thinking of it as a new memoir project.

A year of letters to Jack accumulated by the time NaNoWriMo 2021 rolled around. It seemed the perfect challenge: Could I shape these ramblings into a draft memoir? To answer that question, I cheated. I began cutting and pasting, rewriting and, yes, writing some “new” words as well. The manuscript is far from a finished first draft, but it’s a start. The challenge got me this far.

What about you? Do you have a memoir you’ve been wanting to get on the page? Perhaps for publication or perhaps for family? Do you need a challenge to get you started or instruction to keep you going?

I’m excited to be teaching a one-day memoir class on March 14, 2022 at Hugo House in Seattle. Perhaps that’s the challenge you need to breathe life into your project. If so, I look forward to seeing you in class. 

Registration opens soon. CLICK HERE for course description and registration information.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Personal Freedom or Selfish Ignorance?

"Coronavirus children" by https://www.vperemen.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

My family and I have been among the fortunate during these nineteen months of the coronavirus and emerging variants, a pandemic with a death toll now exceeding that of the Spanish Flu despite the easy availability of multiple, free, effective vaccines. I look out my front window to the fenced yard, imagining a small fortress, protection against the disease and mayhem of our world. Am I choosing ignorance, denying the realities of this horrible pandemic, of devastating global warming, of homelessness, of warfare driven by greed and manipulated by religion? Or, am I simply struggling for sanity?

We live behind a vine-laden fence in relative ease, privileged not only by good health, food on our table, and a solid roof overhead, but also by family. Becoming a grandmother and caring for my pandemic-born grandson has been a source of pure pleasure during these dreadful times. Yet, my words flounder as my anger festers.

I began a post a while back announcing two upcoming in-person readings. Both events were originally scheduled for early 2020. Both were events where I looked forward to sharing from my latest memoir, The Ex-Mexican Wives Club, published in late 2019. Both events were cancelled with the outbreak of COVID. So I was pleased, joyous actually, to be invited to participate in these events when they were re-scheduled for the second week of September 2021. Then the Delta variant hit and both events were once again cancelled. Cancelling made sense, it was the right thing to do. Still, I felt the dark tentacles of anger, fear, and hopelessness tighten around me. I do not believe I am alone with these feelings.

My anger builds as far too many put self before community in empty arguments favoring personal freedom. With children dying, vaccinated adults getting sick, hospitals overflowing, schools and businesses shutting down once again, we must put the well-being of local communities, our country and the world above all else. As I hold my young grandson in my arms, I cannot comprehend putting selfish interpretations of personal freedom above the life of any child.

We have a medical solution. Deaths and variants rest in the hands of anti-vaccers.  


Monday, July 5, 2021

Antiracist Grandma = Antiracist Grandson

Breathe, July 2021, Artwork by Tania L. Abramson

I'm happy to share a recent essay titled Antiracist Grandma = Antiracist Grandson published in the online journal, Breathe.

"Breathe makes a difference by rallying dissent against racially discriminatory policies through the publication of artworks, poetry, and essays to counter the protracted disavowals and lethargy that allow racial coercion to persist." 

This mission appeals to my sense of justice while offering an opportunity to use creative expression to combat feelings of helplessness, and yes, perhaps lethargy, in the face of social injustice. I invite you to explore the journal and consider submitting your own written or visual work.

Last month the submission invitation included the follow theme: “What has changed? What remains the same? How have you changed? What have you done differently?" I was intrigued. I wrote. I submitted. I am grateful to the editorial staff - Tania Abramson, Paul Abramson, and Leopoldo Segue - for publishing my work:  

Antiracist Grandma = Antiracist Grandson

My grandson is a year old this month. A privileged white male born to the cacophony of social justice marchers below his parents’ hospital window in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood during the worst pandemic since 1918 and the most divisive federal government in U.S. history.

I am a white woman in her mid-sixties. Spurred by the murder of George Floyd, I embarked on a journey of personal education and became deeply engrossed in social justice reading, devouring the works of Michelle Alexander, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ibram X. Kendi, Kiese Laymon, Wesley Lowery, Ijeoma Oluo, Mychal Denzel Smith, William Still, Isabel Wilkerson, and others. I read to make sense of the growing violence in our streets and growing discord on the college campus where I had taught for decades. I thought I had a decent understanding of the history of racial injustice and the roots of police violence against people of color in my country. I was wrong.

Read more ...