Sestina, Little Thumbelina

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Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” ~ Bernice Johnson Reagon 

 I can’t believe what I am about to say, but I guess stranger things have been known to happen.  The poetry I have been writing  has been more fun then I ever expected. Telling a story using elliptical language is a challenge and thought provoking trying to make all the elements fit together. 

Who would have ever thought I’d find prose and poetry enjoyable? It was my greatest fear in taking a creative writing course. However,  I have come to enjoy the stimulation of the mind and the creativity that it demands.   

Our teacher said, “You will be glad we started the course with poetry.” I didn’t believe it. I thought to myself, “Let’s just take the poison first, and get it done and over with.”  She said not a word about things like sestina, haiku or pantoum, probably fearing she’d scare the bejesus out of the entire class, before we even got started. 

This weekend’s assignment was to work on a sestina. I couldn’t have defined it until now. Here is the definition of this form of writing. “a lyrical fixed form consisting of six 6-line usually unrhymed stanzas in which the end words of the first stanza recur as end words of the following five stanzas in a successively rotating order and as the middle and end words of the three verses of the concluding tercet.” 

I can hear you now “Huh? I don’t get it. What is a tercet?” That’s your assignment. I’m too busy working on mine to explain it. 

 I’ll admit, when you know what you want to say but can’t put your fingers on just the right word to add engaging “sounds, color and flavor” to the composition, it’s frustrating. But I like dancing with words; it’s fulfilling to write when you get all jazzed up and arrange a piece you are satisfied with. I guess that is what poetry it is about; the art of putting a spin on words to make the reader do a ballet with the text.

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Common Community Through Art and Culture

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“In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you ever noticed how artists flock together and build common community?

People find kinship in their writing, painting, poetry, music, filmmaking, knitting,the performing arts and so forth. You know how it goes. Everyone in the group speaks the same language. 

The Colorado Creative Industries has worked to identify communities where art contributes greatly to the overall culture,  enhancing the lives of local citizens and tourists.  

Telluride has been designated as a one of five prospective Creative Districts in Colorado. Forty-four towns and cities were under consideration. The goal of the Colorado Creative Industries is to bolster the artistic community by providing consulting and technical assistance and an $8,000 grant to help grow the community as an economic driver through art. 

During the winter, outstanding skiing is the impetus behind visiting this “box canyon” with stunning and dramatic scenery, but in summer it is all about art festivals. Each weekend from May to September people flock to the area for two film festivals, music concerts and gatherings of playwrite/screenwriters. There is also a Cajun weekend, chamber music, yoga and bike races,  and more. 

There is even a Compassion Festival held in Telluride, which I was not aware of until I picked up some tourist literature. This event brings in academia from different parts of the country who lecture on the benefits that compassion brings to overall health, well-being and stress reduction. Cultural differences in compassion is also part of the discussion. It is held in collaboration between the Telluride Institute http://bit.ly/U87yzg and Stanford University’s Center for Compassion & Altruism Research & Education (CCARE). Interesting! Please visit this link to read more about it.http://bit.ly/QVb8Kn

Congratulations, Telluride! When I was in the area recently I was impressed with your charming Victorian homes, art galleries, retail spaces, historic hotels, the amazing scenery and the emcompassing flavor of the artistic community. It was fun visiting. I’ll be back!

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Do the Thing that you Fear the Most

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You’ve heard them all – time and time again….”Do the thing that makes you most uncomfortable, do the thing that bothers you the most, step out of the box for self-growth, do the thing that you most don’t want to do.” 

Well, I just did it. I signed up for a course in creative writing . It is something I’ve kind of, sort of, wanted to do but kept backing away from it. No more procrastination or excuses, this time I am going to tackle it! 

Over the past few years, I have stepped out of the box a lot, only to find self-satisfaction in my accomplishments. I’ve learned to read out loud to a writers group in voice that is not my own (or is it?), I started blogging and have written 900+ postings (only to find out that I have lots of readers and I love writing it), I am getting comfortable with public speaking (which I used to shy away from). With each one of these things, opportunities have come my way that I would not have otherwise had if I hadn’t done the thing I feared the most.

  So, rather than think “How much worse can it get?” I am approaching this writing course with the attitude of how much better can it get?” 

All set now, I have talked myself into seeking personal fulfillment in  the creative writing process. It is the next right thing to do.

You know what scares me the most? It’s not the teacher; it’s being asked to write poetry. On second thought, I’ll bet that requirement is in Creative Writing 2. I will escape it. Dear God, please have my back on that one….. I am shaking.

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Finding Fulfillment East to West

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“We all soon had a change of mind, back to the Mountains we rode, with our maps.” ~ Alice Bradshaw Butler

I recently stopped by the Dorchester County Library in Cambridge, Maryland. I entered into the M. Virginia Webb Memorial Maryland Room to revisit the work of author Alice Bradshaw Butler. On my last trip to the Eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, I discovered this poet’s book called “Reflections.” I wanted to explore it some more.

This writers’ life seems to mirror mine in many ways. She, too, was an East Coast gal whose life changes eventually brought her west. Alice Bradshaw Butler was born and bred on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She was educated at Towson State Teachers College (now referred to as Towson University); in the town of my native roots. In 1909 she left her life in Maryland, traveled and settled in the Western plains of Montana.

I’ve gotten got a strong sense that we would be kindred spirits, were she alive today. She seemed to find fulfilling things in both the East and the West. I find myself having conflicted feelings about  which part of the country I like best.  Our own shared personal values, life travels and travails can be summed up in many of her poem’s titles. Here are just a few, all written by Alice Bradshaw Butler:

  • Life Full of Wondrous Things
  • Walking beside Sandy Shore
  • Crossroads (Presence of  God during Difficult Days)
  • My Island Home
  • Gold in them thar Hills
  • Let’s Walk this Land
  • I am So Glad I am a Christian
  • Westward Bound
  • A Different Road
  • A Paradise for a Hunter
  • The Woodland Glen

I returned to this author’s book because I found community with the author, our shared interests and her likeable writing style. As an independent publisher, have you properly identified your market and are you reaching it from east to west through innovative methods of marketing and promotion in a digital world? If not, consult with a company that specializes in e-commerce and e-marketing for independent publishers. They will help you and your book become more visible on the world-wide-web.

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Spring Poetry

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It is always the simple things that change our lives. This is how God does things.” ~ Donald Miller 

Although warm weather has not yet arrived here in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, http://bit.ly/O9KMI there was a renewal of spirit, on Saturday evening, inside the United Methodist Church http://bit.ly/lAT08q  . The Yampa Valley Singers presented an event that was the very definition of poetry “an imaginative awareness of experience expressed through meaning, sound and rhythmic language choices so as to evoke an emotional response.” 

The beautifully poetic production, Spring Awakening, was produced and directed by the talented, Marie Carmichael. It was an orchestration of all things fulfilling  –  a multi-media production of art through the compilation of inspiring photographic images, magnificent music and even a little dance between flames up and down the center aisle of the church. Although indoors, the lovers light and lively interplay was interpreted in my mind, to a dance in a garden-like setting between flowering blossoms of spring. 

The musical arrangement of Time to Say Goodbye brought a little tear to my eye but it was quickly forgotten as the Yampa Valley Singers launched into tunes from my favorite form of art – musical theatre. A lively Broadway Medley of some of the most well-known songs of stage productions, such as Oklahoma, the Sound of Music, Carousel, the King and I, State Fair and South Pacific brought a huge smile to my face.  I was delighted and charmed by two precious little children singing Do-Ri- Me,  too!

There are so many ways people can bring light into their own lives during this season of rebirth. The most celebrated writers in history have put their interpretation of this season into the literary form of poetry. To read a collection of 114 poems about spring from Robert Frost, William Shakespeare, Katherine Mansfield, Henry Van Dyke, Carl Sandburg, Emily Dickinson and more, please visit http://bit.ly/li8miV

Thank you, Marie Carmichael and the Yampa Valley Singers http://bit.ly/jph2do for ushering in spring. My spirit has been rejuvenated, in earnest, by your inspirational interpretation of art and culture. As for the warm weather, bring it on Lord, bring it on. We are ready and prepared for the arrival and we will be extremely grateful, too!

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Books as “Calling Cards”

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Ink surrounds me all  the time, on my bed sheets recorded in rhyme, quills ‘ever scribbling in my head….” ~ Terry Guillemets 

Do you know what I like about authors? You don’t have to ask them to become a “friend”, to “like” you, or become their fan before you have a chance to learn all about them. You can also meet-up with them at anytime. http://bit.ly/7EpmRj.  They leave their “calling cards” on bookshelves, in retail stores, in libraries, in schools and all over the place. Authors “calling cards” can be found on the world-wide web, too.

 Pick up a publication of any author and you will shortly know whether you like their style and whether you share interests with them or not. Fulfill your curiosity about an author, their personality traits and who they keep company with, just by reading their “calling card.” 

  • A fiction writer is apt to be an animated or dramatic kind of person, crafty, dreamy, playful, skillful and probably creative, too.
  • You know from a “calling card” of a mystery writer that challenges, suspense, danger, spooks and sleuths bring out the best in them.
  •  A sense of no nonsense, organization of time and place, facts and references are what “non-fiction” writers are all about.
  • Introspection, concern with one’s own relationship to others and self-importance is what you might find when you meet-up with the scribe of a biography.
  • A poet’s “calling card” often reflects a person who has had unusual experiences, is a divergent and innovative thinker and demonstrates skill in the use of prosaic language. 

What kind of “calling card” do you have in mind of creating? Where will you put your calling card to be discovered by others who want to learn more about you as an author?

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Connecting with your Creativity

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“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” ~ Edward deBono 

Abraham Maslow, founder of humanistic psychology said that “creativity is a characteristic given to all human beings at birth.” How many of us tap into our innate gift of creativity as we go about our daily life?  For those who work in careers involving the Arts, using one’s own God-given creativity is naturally incorporated into every day life. For others, it takes consciously finding ways to live life inspired. All of us have a different interpretation of what living an inspired life means. 

In essence, Maslow’s theory says that once our psychological needs for safety, love and affection and esteem are satisfied, then we as human beings are freed to travel down the path of toward self-actualization. We can begin fulfilling our need to create and do what it is we were born to do, if our basic needs have been met. For more information on the Maslow theory, please visit http://bit.ly/X2iQX

If you are a person whose career does not involve the Arts, March is Crafting Month, and it is the perfect time to explore new ways of incorporating more creativity into your life for personal fulfillment. Craft a unique and creative piece of Art through the written word. Writing poetry, essays, old-fashioned love letters, short stories, haiku or full length books will get your imagination and your brain working in innovative ways. There is no cost to that and anyone in this age of independent publishing can be a published author!  Join a local writing group, to enjoy the camaraderie of others whose spirits also soar when putting pen to paper. 

Let March be the month to rebuild your life creatively.Find  a new hobby and live a life inspired. It will provide you with hours of entertainment and personal satisfaction, too.

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