Riverfront Playhouse Presents ‘Talking With’

Would you like a chance to study speech patterns in a controlled language lab?

Then come out to the Riverfront Playhouse on October 18, 19, or 20 for Talking With, by Jane Martin.

Talking With

From the website for the performance:

The play is composed of eleven ten-minute monologues, each featuring a different woman who talks about her life.

Tickets may be purchased in advance at http://www.artstheatre.org/ .

 

 

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Poetry Lessons…and Healing

The program for last Saturday’s Writers Forum meeting was how to Jump Start Your Writing With Poetry. WF member and published author Linda Boyden shared with the group some techniques she has learned for writing poetry that also give us great tools for other types of writing as well.

One of those techniques was called writing a Sensory Poem.

The first step in writing a sensory poem is to pick a topic. Then you brainstorm words and phrases for that topic from each of the five senses. For instance, suppose you pick the topic A Winter Day. You would brainstorm words and phrases that describe sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings that you would associate with a winter day. When you have collected a good number of words, grab a few from that list and shape them into a poem.

The beautiful thing about these techniques is that the rules are few. “How many words do you need to write write down from your brainstorm?” Enough to give yourself a good selection of words to choose for your poem. Some people might write ten words and then see a poem in them. Some people might write thirty or forty words and still have to play around with them like letter tiles on a Scrabble rack to find a poem. “Do you have to use all of the words that you brainstorm?” Only if you want to. That might be a fun challenge, but don’t feel like you have to. “Can I only use words from my list?” No, the words on the list are the bricks you will use to build your poem. You still need mortar to connect them and make them solid, right?

Don’t feel like you should be obligated to spending a lot of time on this, either. Think quickly and write, and then move on. This is, after all, intended to jump start your other writing projects. Once you have your creativity flowing with a poem, hopefully it will be easier for you to move onto your other writing projects with a fresh dose of creativity. It works for me!

Here is a poem that was written at the program by WF member Carolyn Faubel. Carolyn drew upon intense images from the devastating Carr Fire. Writing poetry about the disaster might be one way to help ourselves heal.

 

The Carr Fire

By Carolyn Faubel

9/8/18

 

Perfect black leaves are floating down into my back yard,

A strange snow of destruction.

Gentle and persistent, ashfall is silent,

Unless you count the dogs howling as fire trucks and police cars go screaming by.

 

Stinking yellow smoke moves from piney campfire to burning plastic,

And other smells that must not be named.

Everywhere, sharp unforgiving branches spray out, their protection

Blasted off by the monster’s breath.

 

From the dun dry fallen leaves, a soft

Sooty fragment of upholstery fabric

The size of a moth

Balances delicately.

When I pick it up, the light shows through the thin weave of

Carbonized black thread.

And when I stroke the tufts of

Black velvet,

It crumbles and disappears in the breeze.

Was it your couch?

I am sorry.

 

If you attended the program and would like to share your poetry from the poetry program, or even if you would like to try the exercise now and write a new poem, please send them to Writers Forum at writersforumeditor@gmail.com for posting in the future.

Thanks!

 

 

Talking Shop: Louise DeSalvo

The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections of Time, Craft, and Creativity

A Review by George T. Parker

slow writing

 

Writing well is a process that can take a long time. Sometimes we can forget how long it really takes, and we get impatient with the process. We want it done it done now.

Louise DeSalvo not  only gives us permission in The Art of Slow Writing  to take our time in our writing projects, but she convincingly demonstrates that taking  a long time is normal in creating this art we call writing.

Louise previously published seventeen books including several memoirs, a study of Virginia Woolf, and the critically acclaimed Writing as a Way of Healing.

The Art of Slow Writing is divided into five parts: Getting Ready to Write; A Writer’s Apprenticeship; Challenges and Successes; Writers at Rest; and Building a Book, and Finishing a Book. Each section is filled with a sea of examples of writers and the processes they used to create their works. If nothing else from this book, I was inspired to pursue works by some of the writers detailed in this book—both writers I knew, and writers of whom I’d never heard.

But DeSalvo does give us more in her book. Much more. She says in her introduction:

“I write about that major challenge affecting all writers: our need to slow down to understand the writing process so we can do our best work. I’m inviting you on a journey to think about how to work at writing day by day…It’s about how to think about working at writing and slowing down our process so we can become self-reflective writers so we can find our own way.”

One of the things that Slow Writing does is help us to see that early drafts are not the final version of any of our works. Louise tells us about a writer she regularly invites to speak to her memoir writing class.

“Harrison arrived in class with a stack of manuscripts—ten drafts of The Mother Knot that she composed from autumn 2002 through summer 2003. She began the work as a long essay; she realized she was writing a book in the seventh draft. Seeing that pile of drafts was an important learning experience for my students. As one said, “I realized that if it took Harrison that many drafts, it’d take me that long, too.’ “

A critical point on the subject of early drafts: “Because Harrison knows she’ll work through many drafts, she gives herself permission to write badly at first.” (Emphasis added.)

Everybody writes badly at first. It’s through revision and editing that any of us get better. This can be a hard concept to accept when you want to go from a blank page to a published book in a year. Slow writing. Small steps.

A sampling of the fifty-five of Louise’s chapter headings describe the Slow Writing process: Finding Our Own Rhythm; A Writer’s Mise en Place; Walking and Inspiration; Apprenticeship; Process Journal; Patience, Humility, and Respect; Learning How to Learn; Labor and Management; Game Plan; No Excuses; A Writer’s Notebook; Radical Work Takes Time; Failure in the Middle; Creative Problem Solving; Rejection Letters; Hailstorms; Practice Deciding; What Worked and Why; Dreaming and Daydreaming; Why I’m a Writer Who Cooks; Slow Reading; What’s in Your Drawer?; How Long Does it Take; Turning Pages into Books; Writing Partners; The Toughest Choice; The Finish Line.

(For the curious, mise en place is a cooking term for ingredients that are prepared ahead of the actual dish preparation. When you have all of your ingredients diced, measured, and organized into little dishes ready to toss into the pan when you start to cook, you have mise en place. Writers can do the same sort of preparation before they even sit down to write. It helps!)

Louise writes in short but packed chapters. Even years after reading this book, I find myself picking it up frequently as a refresher and encouragement to my own writing. I hope it can be the same inspiration to you. This is the type of book that will make you  want to mark up and write notes in the margins.

slow writing clip

 

Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity can be found at our local Barnes & Noble. Kindle and Nook copies are also available.


What books on writing have helped you learn your craft? We would love to hear from you. You could share some short answers on our Facebook page, or you could write a review of your favorite writing books to share on the blog. Send your reviews to writersforumeditor@gmail.com .

I look forward to hearing from you all!

George is a fish farmer by day, and a word wrangler by night (and weekends). He has been working on a memoir of his life in the California Conservation Corps and Backcountry trail crews since…well…for a long time. After last NaNoWriMo, it is 50,000 words closer to completion and the end is in sight. You can see some of this project at http://grinningdwarf.com/ .  He is crazy enough to try and simultaneously write a blog on the CCC at https://ccchardcorps.wordpress.com/ . George has been the Writers Forum newsletter editor since 2015.

Talking Shop: Stephen King

 Book Review: On Writing

By George T. Parker

 

I had a problem a few years ago.

I came home from town with a book on writing. Another book on writing.

Patsy said, “Do you think it would help if you spent more time writing instead of reading about writing all the time?”

She had a point.

I cut down on the amount of writing book purchases I made and sat down to write. It helped. I’ve been writing a lot more ever since.

However, there is substantial value in reading books about writing. Writing is a craft in which natural talent can only take most of us so far. Stephen King, in his book On Writing, said:

“…while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.”

We read books on writing to improve our craft. We look for good advice from more experienced people with the goal of improving our own writing. I believe that I can write better now because of many things I learned from those writing books through the years.

I would like to pass on to you some of the best writing books that I discovered along my writing life. Some books are far better than others as far as passing on the craft. Maybe I can point somebody in a good direction to make the most of their limited reading time and book budget.

And with that, I would like to start off with the book I’ve already quoted, Stephen King’s On Writing.

On Writing

On Writing is a fascinating book because even though it is filled with nuts and bolts information on writing, it is also probably the closest thing we will ever have to a memoir by Stephen King. King opens On Writing by complimenting Mary Karr’s fantastic memory of her childhood in Liar’s Club, and then contrasts her detailed memories with his much more vague and spotty recollections. The first section of the book then becomes King’s short 90-page memoir of his early years, through the writing of Misery. Along the way, King shares what influenced him to write and about his early writing days. We learn about his grade-school days ‘underground’ self-published newsletter, complete with mimeographing process and marketing to his friends. We see his high school and college days. We see King in his first teaching job, writing Carrie crammed into the ‘laundry closet’ with a typewriter balanced carefully on his knees because that’s the only space he had available to write. We get to see a master learning the rudimentary tools of his trade.

Then King moves on to the second section of the book, The Toolbox. King builds the metaphor on his grandpa’s carpenter toolbox. Grandpa’s toolbox was not a Craftsman of-the-shelf model. Grandpa built it himself. Grandpa had a tool for every job. Every tool had its unique place in the toolbox. Grandpa’s toolbox was also heavy. A person could build muscle just by carrying it. King suggests “that to write to the best of your abilities, it behooves you to construct your own toolbox and then build enough muscle to carry it with you. Then instead of looking at a hard job and getting discouraged, you will perhaps seize the correct tool and get immediately to work.”

King says that his grandpa’s toolbox “had three levels,” but he thinks “yours should have at least four.” He says that “common tools go on top,” such as vocabulary and grammar. Under the top layer, go “elements of style,” and we learn the value King sees in Strunk and White’s marvelous little book. King goes on to outline what he thinks a writer should have in each layer of your toolbox.

The last part of the book is a lengthy postscript. King had started the rough draft of On Writing when he was hit by a van while he was walking down a country road one day. The postscript talks about the accident and the aftermath, and about how picking the pen up for On Writing again helped his recovery.

On Writing is a valuable writing book by one of our time’s premier authors. Whether you like his books or not, King has millions of published words to his credit, which gives him a unique perspective on what makes writing and story work. This one is definitely worth a look.


What books on writing have helped you learn your craft? We would love to hear from you. You could share some short answers on our Facebook page, or you could write a review of your favorite writing books to share on the blog. Send your reviews to writersforumeditor@gmail.com .

I look forward to hearing from you all!

 

George is a fish farmer by day, and a word wrangler by night (and weekends). He has been working on a memoir of his life in the California Conservation Corps and Backcountry trail crews since…well…for a long time. It is now 50,000 words closer to completion and the end is in sight. You can see some of this project at http://grinningdwarf.com/ .  He is crazy enough to try and simultaneously write a blog on the CCC at https://ccchardcorps.wordpress.com/ . George has been the Writers Forum newsletter editor since 2015.

 

End of Summer Events

Writers Forum has one more month of our summer break. Meetings will resume on September 8 for Linda Boyden’s Jump Start Your Writing with Poetry presentation.

In the meantime, you can tickle your creative itch by attending any of several other events in the last half of August.

The Outsiders

Currently running at the Riverfront Playhouse is a production of The Outsiders, based upon the coming-of-age novel by S.E. Hinton. There has also been a movie version based upon the book starring…well…the Brat Pack of the early 1980s.

The show runs for the remaining weekends in August. Tickets are $20 for evening shows, $15 for matinee shows, and $25 for closing night. You can buy your tickets at the door, or purchase them early here. Riverfront Playhouse is at 1629 East Cypress Avenue, Redding, CA.

 


 

 

Spoken Word Night

BL1

Spoken Word Night at The Bohemian Art Loft meets next Monday, August 20. Come and read from your works to a live audience. Several Writers Forum members regularly participate. This is another opportunity to share our work beyond Writers Forum’s own semi-annual Read Around. Even if you don’t think you have anything to share, those who do love an audience!

The Bohemian Art Loft is at 3304B Bechelli Lane, Redding, CA.

Admission is free, but donations are welcome to cover the costs of the free refreshments.

 


 

Out of Our Father’s House

Also in August, The Center for Spiritual Living in Redding will host a stage production of Out of Our Father’s House: A Historic DocuDrama.

“This moving play is drawn from the diaries, journals and letters of six different women.They are seen as they grow up, marry, bear children and face being ostracized. Out of Our Fathers’ House is taken entirely from the diaries, journals and letters of the 18th,19th and 20th century women portrayed. Told through monologues created from the actual writings of the women, this play is designed as a hypothetical conversation between these ladies who lived at various times over a period of almost two hundred years. In spite of the differences in their eras, these women are united through the common challenges of their efforts to grow “out of their father’s house.””

The show opens on Friday, August 24 at 7 PM. The show will run Friday and Saturday at 7 PM for two weeks, closing on September 1. Saturday matinee shows will be at 2 PM. Admission is $15. Call (530)221-4849 for tickets. The Center for Spiritual Living is at 1905 Hartnell Avenue, Redding, CA.

 

Member Monday: Recycling, by Dale Angel

This week’s surprisingly poignant Member Monday contribution is from Dale Angel. Dale remains a crowd favorite at the semi-annual Read Arounds, and has become something of Redding’s Erma Bombeck.

dale-angel

There’s a consistent recycling program going on in my back yard. It runs on its own power. It makes me feel good when I volunteer piles of beautiful dead leaves, weeds that have served us all by holding the earth together, garden debris, useful kitchen peels, coffee grounds, cantaloupe rinds. It doesn’t need my assistance…but I get to help…like a bee that brings a small drop of flower juice to the hive…a gift he shares with us. He’s contributing to something bigger than himself.

My back yard is a small world. I walk on the violets, mint, oregano, and whatever else is hiding among the weeds. I have lots of weeds. The unrestrained strawberries produce delightful little flowers that turn to berries, then returns back to the earth for another recycling season. Undemanding little laborers work quietly under my feet preparing and repairing to make us happy for next year’s surprises.

The pear tree is parading its treasure at this time of year, knowing as soon as it gives birth and yields its beautiful golden fruit, it will drop its leaves that return to nourish the earth that allows it to live here. It pays its rent.

It can be interrupted by adversity. If death interferes with its ability to be productive, a new tenant will move in. A consistent recycling program keeps our earth alive. Most all life are producers in some way. I’m not sure that humanity is all that faithful to build. A closer look in our backyards is a good place to begin practicing appreciation on our part.

When I visit the dark corner of my yard with little sun, there are always white impatients greeting me. This is unearned beauty. They flower, if not for me, then for the angels.

Soon the earth will move a bit and you will find their spent life returning to nourish our place in the Universe. Every time I pile leftovers of plant life from a wild summer, placing the pine needles to keep the white Azaleas happy, I’m paying my rent, because in the spring, my son will visit. Although he’s asleep in the earth, his gift of them to me…as they flower, he revisits.

When we close our eyes to sleep, it’s comforting, quietly moving life is replenishing our home without disturbing a dew drop.



 

If you would like to contribute an original piece to Writers Forum for posting on the blog, please submit to writersforumeditor@gmail.com .  Please note ‘Submission’ in the subject line. All submissions are considered, but shorter pieces of 500-1500 words are preferred. We will consider all original works–poetry, short fiction and nonfiction, essays, humor, and memoir. We would also love to run your short pieces on writing as well. Share your writing insights with us. Thanks!