In my poetry class, we shook off the dust last week by writing acrostics. It's not usually a source of great literature, but it's fun. You might want to try this at your next gathering. Write a word vertically, then come up with lines that start with each letter. Colors, feelings, foods and animals seem to work especially well. For example:
D og bites.
G ive you
M iranda Butterman
A lways wore a
G reen lacy hat
E ven on those
N ights when it
T hundered and rained.
A ddled or optimistic?
Try your name:
S ome folks
U se mouthwash.
S ome folks
A lways have
N asty breath.
S urely you can
U se this silly
Or, to get a little arty, we also did Haikus. The formula: three lines, the first one with five syllables, the second with seven syllables, the third with five. Technically, these Asian-inspired poemlets should speak of the seasons, and the third line should draw a conclusion from the first two, but when writing for fun, just try to do the syllables and see what comes out.
Canada geese squawk.
Vee formation in the sky
pierces winter's clouds.
Winter night falls hard.
Inky curtain crashing down.
House lights flicker on.
Try it. You don't have to be a poet. Humor is welcome. Send me your favorites at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll put them online next month.
Chico and Annie
Well, it's just Annie now. On a very sad day last month, I took Chico to the Willamette Humane Society in Salem. He had been an angel for the previous 24 hours, and I loved him so much. But we had no choice. He walked in and put his massive paws on the counter as if to say, "Hi, I'm Chico, and I'm here." All too soon, a worker took him away, leaving me to finish the paperwork and stifle my tears until I got outside. It's a good shelter, where most animals are adopted. Those who stay get lots of walks and playtime with shelter volunteers. I believe he will be loved and well cared for. But as with giving up a child for adoption, I will probably never know what happened to my dog.
Annie misses his company. She follows me everywhere and places all 60-plus pounds of herself in my lap when I sit down to watch TV. We walk and talk and play "stick" in the yard. She's a good friend. We both miss our mates so we cling to each other.
Some human friends just installed a "doggy door" so that Annie can go in and out. I'm afraid she's going to eat it. It's made out of her favorite foods, plastic and vinyl. But so far, she's afraid of it and would rather stand out in the rain than go near "that thing."
Well, I could just rerun last month's entry here. Same upcoming publications, working on the same book, writing the same blogs. I did finish my so-called "pink draft" for my Childless by Marriage book. Now I'm fine-tuning and looking for pieces to publish on their own.
I have been teaching a creative writing class at Chemeketa Community College in Salem. It's a ridiculously long commute, but CCC is a great school, and I've been very impressed with my students, good writers every one. I won't be at CCC next term, but I'm always available to work with folks online. See my Writer Aid page for details.
Oregon Coast Writing News
Books as Art? Three of my books are among more than 100 on display this month in the Upstairs Gallery at the Newport Visual Arts Center in Nye Beach. The show is called "The Published Word: Literary Art of Lincoln County". One thing the Oregon coast has plenty of, besides rain, is writers. The show is already open, but our official reception is this Friday, Feb. 4, from 4 to 7 p.m. Many of the writers will read from their books Feb. 10, 11 and 12. I'm on for Friday night between 7 and 8:30 p.m. Come on down. The exhibit, which runs through Feb. 27, is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. By the time you read this, the February meeting will probably be over, but the Oregon Coast branch of Willamette Writers enjoyed a workshop Feb. 2 with journalist/novelist Naseem Rakha, author of The Crying Tree. At our next meeting, March 2, Ariel Gore will present a workshop on nonfiction. We meet the first Tuesdays of the month at 7 p.m. at the Newport Library at the corner of Olive and Nye streets. Admission is free, no reservations needed. Writers on the Edge, fresh off its success with its Fisher Poets on the Edge weekend, returns to the Nye Beach Writers Series Feb. 20 with Portland writer Marc Acito. I have heard him speak several times before, and he is fabulous. His debut novel, How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater, won the Oregon Book Awards' Ken Kesey Award for the Novel. He also co-wrote the hit play "Holidazed" with Cynthia Whitcomb and has been a columnist, radio commentator and opera singer. His presentations generally include some laughs, some tears and some music. The festivities begin at 7 p.m. at the Newport Visual Arts Center. Admission is $5. An open mic follows Acito's talk.
Bang the Keys by Jill Dearman, Alpha Books, 2009. For any aspiring writer who is diddling around trying to get started or trying to figure out which of many projects to do, this is the book. By the end of my first reading session, I had chosen one project to focus on and set a deadline with a clear schedule of when I would work on it. Dearman does not mess around. In her book and her workshops, she pushes students to get started and keep going until the work is finished. With a firm but friendly tone, she gives information, advice and exercises designed to cut through all the gunk in which writers get stuck. Because much of the material is aimed at fiction writers, they will find this book the most helpful, but any kind of writer will appreciate Dearman's strong hand pulling them out of whatever is keeping them from doing the work. When I was Elena by Ellen Urbani Hiltebrand, The Permanent Press, 2006. This book is primarily memoir, but Urbani has taken an unusual path in that she laces her memories of her two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala with first-person stories told by seven of the women she met there. It's a gripping book, not likely to recruit many women to do what she did. As a white woman, red-haired and barely over 100 pounds, she faces daily threats to her life and her beliefs. Forced to surrender her possessions, her privacy and her pride, she struggles through life in several Guatemalan villages, serving primarily as a teacher, trying to make the next generation's lives a little better. Her fellow volunteers did not believe she would last more than a month. In the end, she was one of the few who completed her commitment. Despite many harsh experiences, she treasures the friendships she made with the Guatemalan women she describes here. She admits she fictionalized parts of the women's stories because she could not tell them otherwise. Critics may be disagree, but for me, her technique makes a compelling book, and I don't care how it's categorized.
Urbani was a guest speaker for our coast Willamette Writers chapter last year, and she spent the night at my house. Having read her book, I am amazed and honored to know her.
Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose About Alzheimer's Disease, edited by Holly J. Hughes, Kent State University Press, 2009. This book about every stage of Alzheimer's, from discovery to death, includes considerably more poetry than prose. One might expect it to be grim, but it offers many amazing moments, joys and laughs amid the tears, finding God within someone who cannot speak or dress herself. In her poem "Where We Have Come," Susan Ludvigson offers this beautiful thought: "How can it be? At the same time/that something releases/something like god/enters her". Hughes' "The Bath," in which the demented mother refuses to be bathed by her daughter, is so real and touching. These writers, some well-known, some not, turn the lead weights of this disease into jewels. For anyone who is dealing with AD, take these poems and essays as comfort, like chocolate or a warm bubble bath.
That's all for now. It's raining, but the bulbs are coming up, and the hydrangeas are beginning to bud. Happy Presidents Day and Valentine's Day to all, and happy birthday to Jessie and everyone else who is celebrating this month. Please send prayers for my cousin Tom, who suffered a major stroke last month. Remember my husband Fred, who is at Timberwood Court memory care center in Albany, OR. This is a tough time for lots of people, but we'll get through it. Have faith.
All contents copyright 2010, Sue Fagalde Lick,
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