An Embarrassment of Riches: Inspiration from Folk Tales, Mythology and Dreams

by Jennifer Kemnitz

How to thoroughly intrigue and hook the reader? With so much literary content literally at one’s fingertips in this technological age, the question has never been more relevant for a writer. The many approaches to this, no matter the form or genre, include compelling voice, character, diction and cadence. I would like to explore one particular resource: the folk and fairy tale genre is a veritable well of ideas just waiting to be tapped, a repository of storytelling know-how since time immemorial.

No evidence shows that these tales began geared for children, though so many of their dark elements became smoothed away later, especially in film. The tales were to entertain and amaze people of all ages, and illustrate the truth of life – life as experienced, if not realistically. Their most magical, fascinating elements derive from the language of dreams or from myths that likely no longer served a religious purpose by the time of the tales’ inception. Just as myths were first mined to create these tales, studying folk tale motifs and structural elements can now be a practical tool in writing new stories, poetry and creative nonfiction.

Two of the poems that I presented in the VoiceCatcher reading at Multnomah County Central Library, in March 2015, had their genesis from dream elements (including “Under the Sign of the Water Bearer”), and the third was riffing off a myth or legend. One of my main objectives in the last few years has been to write modern folk tales, or at least some hybrid form blended with contemporary fiction. For me, it is harder than it looks to write in the dream space these tales require, but the effects are well worth it and render a memorable story.

Just what is happening in both folk and fairy tales to create their magical effects? The magic has much to do with the symbology of dreams, so take the time and attention to write down your most interesting dreams and study why they have so much psychic power. Dreams make intuitive sense to the dreamer and to those who study dreams enough to recognize broad themes, but they first appear full of non sequiturs as far as the logical mind can puzzle out.

In the next article in this series, we will look at this subject in greater depth. In the meantime, here are tips to get you in the right headspace:

  • Jot down interesting dreams or dream elements. The more attention I pay to my dreams, the better I remember them in the days following. If you have not focused much on your dreams before, you might be surprised at what you discover about the psychological meaning of your dream just in the act of writing it down. You may be able to use these elements as magical motifs in your writing.
  • Look out the window or go to a cafe and begin to translate what you are seeing and hearing into dream language or significance. What might happen next if it were all a dream? What could happen? And what might it all seem or come to mean? Begin to blend the waking and dream worlds a bit. From here, a fairy or folk tale could develop.

Jennifer KemnitzJennifer Kemnitz is an herbalist-poet who lives and writes in Portland. She is a great defender of plant life, and can be roused at any moment to an impassioned discussion of its innate intelligence. Jennifer has been published previously in VoiceCatcher and anthologized by Poetry on the Lake and The Poetry Box. Her work is forthcoming from We’Moon and the Kerf.

 

How I Came to Love the Semicolon

by Margie Lee

The email from VoiceCatcher said my poem “Silence” was accepted for its winter issue. I was ecstatic. Then I read, “Could you please clean up the punctuation?”

I have always been lousy at punctuation. When I was in high school, my papers had more red ink than black. I was using too many commas or too few. I could handle the colon, but the semicolon frightened me. When in doubt, I used dashes. Sometimes I got two grades: A for content and D for mechanics. I laughed it off. Anyone could do spelling and punctuation. I was interested in ideas.

In college I was saved by majoring in science. Geology majors are not required to do much writing. By grad school, no one seemed to care. The computer had spelling and grammar check. Many years later I joined a poetry group. Surprised at my lack of punctuation skills, one member of the group said, “You have some phrases capitalized and some not. If you don’t want to use capitals, fine. But at least be consistent.” I laughed a little uncomfortably and made an excuse.

I blamed my seventh grade English teacher. Miss H. was what they called athletic (not a compliment in the early ’60s). She wore practical oxfords with anklets and had a short, boyish bob. Around her neck, a pearl clasp held her cardigan over her bony shoulders like a cape. Her sport was tennis, and she was known to be good at it. I seldom did any homework. I sat in the back of the classroom, and when she called on me, it was “MAR GEE,” with a hard G. I never corrected her, because she had such authority. I thought maybe she used the correct pronunciation.

“Mar Gee, go to the board and diagram number four.”

Moments later I was at the board drawing lines and words when I heard her shrill voice.

“MAR GEE, what is the subordinate clause modifying?” she said, striding across the linoleum, her Popeye-thick forearms slamming the eraser onto the board, dust flying into the air. It might have been hormonal –  I was 12 going on 13 – but I had a headache every Thursday in her class.

One week she was at a tennis match, and our substitute read Robert Frost’s “A Road Not Taken” to us. I was so happy, I smiled, I relaxed, I was fascinated. Our assignment to write about the poem thrilled me. I wrote effortlessly, putting down ideas as fast as I could.

What finally galvanized me into doing something about my punctuation was when I sent a poem to a small press journal, and the editor wrote me that he didn’t even read my work because of errors. Other editors said things even less flattering. I looked forward to a general form letter.

Humbled and motivated, I embarked on a rapid, accelerated punctuation improvement program. I went to Powell’s and bought a truckload of books on grammar: Grammar Made Easy, Punctuation in 30 Days, Elements of Style …. When my grammar did not improve after buying the books, I mentioned this to a friend, and she said, “Well, did you read them?” I had to admit I had not opened them. I stopped sending out writing for a long time.

But I liked VoiceCatcher and thought it might be worth the risk. I sent in three poems, and one was accepted. But there was the punctuation issue. I wanted this to work out, but I knew my weaknesses. If someone without legs could make it to the finals of “Dancing with the Stars,” maybe I could get published.

I wrote to my poetry group colleagues to ask if they could please help me. One of the members was vacationing, and the other said she would get to it in a few days. A few days seemed too long, so I decided to give it a try. But one stanza in “Silence” baffled me. It had three ideas and I did not know how to connect the thoughts. Dashes seemed too strong, commas too subtle. Just for fun, I tried the semicolon. The dot over the comma, the semicolon that breaks the thought into a little pause, not huge, but not soft: just enough. I placed it and fell head over heels in love with punctuation. And it worked. Like a song, my poem needed that subtle dynamic and now, I could hear the music.

 

Margie LeeMargie Lee is a writer and artist living with her writer husband and two cats in SW Portland, Oregon. She exhibits her art work locally. She will be in a group show, “Figuration,” at Mel’s Frame Shop in Portland, from May through July 19, 2015 – showing her paintings done in acrylic. Margie writes about family and Pacific Northwest nature, and loves to combine writing and art. She teaches art part-time at the Rose Schnitzer Tower and is head of the artists group at St. James Lutheran Church.

Healthy Mind, Healthy Spirit – Limitless Possibilities

Why it Pays to Learn to Hold the Pickle Jar with Your Elbow
by Kari Pederson

Sometimes life forces me to practice what I preach. I hate that!

Recently I broke a bone in my hand. My first response to this unwelcome diagnosis was to burst into tears. My second action was to eat a candy bar and half a bag of potato chips. In my defense, the doctor did say I should eat something before taking the ibuprofen.

Later that day, however, my positive psychology training kicked in, and I remembered I had control over how I move through this experience. I am not talking about being a Pollyanna and finding the silver lining in a broken bone, but I do have the perfect opportunity to practice a growth mindset.

The concept of growth mindset comes out of research done by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. Her studies suggest that people either approach learning from a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

If you have a fixed mindset, you tend to believe that your talents, personality and intelligence level are fixed or pretty much permanent. For example, if you are not very good at drawing or algebra, those skills will elude you all your life.

When you establish a growth mindset, you understand that talents and abilities can be developed through effort, persistence and quality instruction. Not that everyone can expect to win the Nobel Prize, but you can get smarter or more accomplished if you work at it.

Why does your mindset matter? In the case of my broken bone, having a growth mindset will help me see opportunities to gain from the experience instead of just being miserable. Now I know just how much fun it is to hold the pickle jar in the crook of my elbow. As an artist, your fixed or growth mindset can affect your levels of success and perseverance.

People with a fixed mindset tend to judge their work harshly and rely on kudos from others to determine if their efforts were successful. A fixed mindset can also keep you from exhibiting your work because you see failure as a negative and accurate reflection of your capabilities.

An artist with a growth mindset knows mistakes can be a tremendous learning tool and skills can improve over time. People with a growth mindset tend to persevere and keep making improvements to their art despite setbacks or undesirable outcomes. Challenges become welcome learning opportunities instead of obstacles.

The good news is that anyone can cultivate a growth mindset or support others to do the same. Consider adding some of these approaches to your artistic toolbox.

  • Realize you choose your viewpoint of every circumstance or challenge. If I believe I will never get better at throwing clay pots, then that is exactly what will happen.
  • Celebrate your learning, progress or effort rather than the outcome. I can be proud I got all my vitamins in the pillbox rather then focus on the fact I dumped them out trying to snap the lid.
  • Judge your unsatisfactory outcomes as “not yet: rather than as failure. The rejection email I received from my last query letter simply means I have not yet been invited to write for that publication.
  • Look at skill building as a long-term experiment. What can I Iearn from this mistake or how can I grow my skills? Take a project that needs some work and deliberately try to improve it. View so-called failures as a way to pinpoint the techniques you still need to work on.
  • Praise effort and persistence, not just the end result. When a friend suffers a crisis of confidence or your child is trying to master watercolors, celebrate the effort, not the finished product. “Wow, you put a lot of effort into getting that piece just how you wanted it.”

Remember, too, that persistence and difficulty often help you grow your abilities and are separate from your potential. Sometime we confuse being gifted or successful with the process being effortless.

My hand will heal nicely and life will go on as before. Meanwhile, I have a golden opportunity to learn as much as I can from the experience and practice a beneficial growth mindset. Perhaps I will even get brave enough to paint holding the brush in my toes. What skill are you willing to grow this month?

For more information on fixed and growth mindsets, explore Carol Dweck’s books Mindset: The Psychology of Success and Mindset: How you can fulfill your potential.

 

Kari Pederson Age 6

Kari Pederson
Age 6

Kari Pederson, MSW, LCSW, is a writer, clinical social worker and wellness coach who has worked with children and adults for over 25 years. An avid student of positive psychology, she loves helping people live their best lives. Kari is a new writer to VoiceCatcher’s community website and thrilled to be part of its mission. This is the third installment in her series, Healthy Spirit – Limitless Possibilities.

 

The Knotty and Nice of Indie Publishing

Platforms – Part 2 of 2
by Theresa Snyder

Audio Creation Exchange (ACX) is the audio book arm of Amazon. They seem to be “the only kid on the block.” Everyone uses them because they make it so darn easy. When you are the writer, formatter, publisher and marketer, it is good to take it easy when you can.

With this site, you set up an account and post a few manuscript pages you think would give a good example of the voice you would like to hear read your work. You can request male or female, kind of accent, character voices, and so forth.

ACX has a stable of narrators. If one or more have interest in your piece, they do a recording of it and send to you. You listen and choose. The lovely thing about this is that once you make your decision and have a 4×4 cover design made, you are out of the picture. The narrator uploads his or her work and posts it for you.

The royalties stay with you. You can pay the narrator in full for his time, or you can share royalties and pay nothing up front; just share the sales when they come through. It has been seamless for me.

The younger generation often uses public transportation. They listen to podcasts and other types of broadcasts on their devices. This is a good way to get them on board with my work.

Now, to formatting. Let’s get the easy ones out of the way first.

There is a program called Scrivner, a writing program written by someone who writes books. It is available online at Literature and Latte. Once you use it, you will never use Word again.

Scrivner is inexpensive and a treasure for writers worldwide. Buy it and don’t be afraid of it. Watch the tutorial and keep the online manual handy.

I swear Scrivner could cook you breakfast if you knew how to program it. What it can do readily for you is format in MOBI (for Amazon), in ePub and Word (for Google Play) and a number of other formats, such as PDF.

As I noted in a previous column, CreateSpace is a stroll through the park. You pick a size for your book, you download that template, and you fill it with your book.

At first, I cleared out all the formatting and then reformatted it in the template. I found out I did not have to do that, provided I was careful. The template is a Word document. If you turn on the formatting so you can see it, you will be able to place your document, neat as a pin. I even made an auto table of contents for my books, so I didn’t have to do it manually.

Once you have uploaded CreateSpace, it gives you a great online page-by-page preview of your book. I not only look at that, and sometimes spot a mistake, but I also order a paper proof and review it before I actually hit the “go” button. I find I catch more of the minor mistakes when I look at the work in hard copy.

Now to the tough formatting. I found Smashwords’ formatting instructions daunting. The downloaded manual is huge and starts by suggesting, “If you think this is too much, here is a list of folks who will format for you.”

After reading the first 20 pages of their approximately 70-page manual, I opted to have eLaunch format my book for a flat fee of approximately $40 (and eLaunch guarantees you will get into Smashwords’ Premium Catalog, which is where you want to be).

One last note on posting your book. Each of the platforms asks if you want to show 20 percent of your book for review by the potential buyer. Do this, but at the same time be aware that if your book is a novella with a title page, dedication, table of contents and maybe a prologue, this may be all the possible buyer will see.

I suggest you consider posting 1,000 words on your blog, along with the link to the book. Then, in addition to promoting the link to the actual “buy” page with a teaser, you can also have a second blurb of about 1,000 words on your blog, with a juicy piece to tantalize and tempt.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading and wish you the best of luck. To wish good luck in theater, performers are told to “break a leg.” I think in writing we should say, “Rip up the page!”

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VoiceCatcher thanks Theresa Snyder for contributing her column
on self-publishing to the community.

Theresa, we appreciate your vast knowledge, and your
willingness to share your resources and expertise so generously.
VoiceCatcher editors

Theresa SnyderTheresa Snyder is a multi-genre writer with an internationally read blog. She grew up on a diet of black-and-white, sci-fi films like Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still. She is a voracious reader and her character-driven writing is influenced by the early works of Anne McCaffrey, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard. This is the eighth and final installment of her column for VoiceCatcher on self-publishing, The Knotty and Nice of Indie Publishing.

Catch These Voices and Visions

May 14 ReadingTonight! VoiceCatcher Reading! Meet contributors to VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions:

Thursday, May 14, 2015, 7:00–9:00 p.m.
The Waypost
3120 N. Williams Ave.
Portland, OR 97227

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See VoiceCatcher Margie Lee’s art on display at Mel’s Frame Shop, 1007 SW Morrison, Portland, OR 97205. Her show “Figuration” is on display May 19 –July 18, 2015.

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Polish your skills as a presenter and public reader through the Toastmasters program. Unique among Toastmasters clubs, the local Thrill of the Quill club caters to writers. This club meets the first Saturday of each month. All are welcome to attend.

Thrill of the Quill Toastmasters Club
Saturday, June 6, 2015,  9:30–11:00 a.m.
Courtyard Village 4555 NE 66th Ave.
Vancouver, WA 98661
360-606-9306

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Claudia F. Savage

Claudia F. Savage

Catch John and Claudia F. Savage’s poetry and music duo, THrum. At this album release and performance, the Bosch Institute from Nashville will join in. Enjoy original, memorized poetry; gorgeous composed and improvised music, and delicious beer.

The Creative Music Guild’s Outset Series
Wednesday, May 20, 2015, 8:00–10:00 p.m.
Turn, Turn, Turn
8 NE Killingsworth Ave.
Portland, OR 97211

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Savage Poetics offers a periodic salon with special guests to help students deepen their poetry practice. VoiceCatcher Claudia F. Savage hosts workshop presenter Thandiwe Shiphrah:

Presence, Improv & Writing for Performance
Thursday, May 21, 2015, 6:30–9:30 p.m., $45
TaborSpace’s Classroom
5441 SE Belmont St.
Portland, OR 97215

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Annie LighthartVoiceCatcher Annie Lighthart, most recently of the Winter 2015 issue, continues her readings in June. Annie published her poetry collection Iron String with Oregon’s Airlie Press. She earned an MFA in Poetry from Vermont College, and has taught at Boston College. She teaches poetry workshops through Mountain Writers; her next workshop is June 2015.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 7:00 p.m.
Milwaukie Poetry Series reading
Pond House at the Ledding Library
2215 SE Harrison St.
Milwaukie, OR 97222

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015
VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions – Reading
Milepost 5
850 NE 81st Ave.
Portland, OR 97213
Doors open at 7:00 p.m., reading begins 7:30 p.m.

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Sarah FaganVoiceCatcher’s art editor and contributor Sarah Fagan is teaming up with other artists and businesses in Portland this summer. They will offer budding artists half-day, themed camps in Portland. For more information see: Treasure Island: A Pirate and Explorers Camp, ages 5–7, July 20–24, and Pioneer Camp for Girls, ages 8–11, Aug. 10–14, 2015.

Click here for the calendar of readings from VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions.

Click here for the contact form to let us know of other offerings you or other VoiceCatcher members are making in the community!

Join Us Thursday, May 14, 2015

May 14 Reading

Click here for the flyer (PDF) for this event, for your sharing and posting.

Thank you, Waypost, for hosting this event, as well as presenting art by VoiceCatcher contributors Michelle Latham and Kelly Neidig during the month of May.

Learn more about our authors and artists here.

About Our Readers and Artists: May 14, 2015 VoiceCatcher Event

All are invited to hear these contributors to VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015
7:00–9:00 p.m.
The Waypost
3120 N. Williams Ave.
Portland, OR 97227

Sarah BorstenSarah Borsten is enrolled in the 2014-15 Poetry Certificate Program at the Independent Publishing Resource Center in Portland. Her poetry has appeared in The Roanoke Review, Cross Currents, and The Pregnant Moon Review. Her work will appear in VoiceCatcher’s Summer 2015 issue.

Heather DurhamHeather Durham is a restoration ecologist and naturalist currently pursuing an MFA in creative nonfiction through the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. A city dweller with the soul of a hermit, she can often be found in the wild places in and around Portland with a journal, a field guide and a pair of binoculars –  head cocked, listening to the birds.

Nancy FlynnNancy Flynn grew up on the Susquehanna River in northeastern Pennsylvania. She spent many years on a downtown creek in Ithaca, New York, and now lives in NE Portland near the mighty Columbia. She attended Oberlin College, Cornell University, and has a master’s in English from SUNY/Binghamton. Her writing has received an Oregon Literary Fellowship and the James Jones First Novel Fellowship. Poetry chapbooks include The Hours of Us (2007) and Eternity a Coal’s Throw (2012); her book-length collection, Every Door Recklessly Ajar, will be published by Cayuga Lake Books in spring 2015. Her work will appear in VoiceCatcher’s Summer 2015 issue. A complete list of her publications is on her website.

Allegra HeidelindeAllegra Heidelinde, the eldest, but shortest(!) of three sisters, grew up in Taos, New Mexico. A precocious reader, she gobbled up fairy tales to stay one step ahead of the big bad wolf. Her early love of story taught her the power of words and imagination. Love and creativity are her guiding beacons.

Emily RansdellEmily Ransdell holds an MFA in poetry and is a past recipient of an Academy of American Poets award. Her poems have been published in CutBank, Poetry Northwest, and The North Coast Squid. A resident of Camas, Washington, Emily recently left a 30-year career in corporate marketing to write full time. Her work will appear in VoiceCatcher’s Summer 2015 issue. She sends thanks to Brenda Shaughnessy for the loan of the poem title, My Water Children.

Jackie Shannon-HollisJackie Shannon-Hollis’s work has appeared in journals including The Sun, High Desert Journal, Inkwell and Slice Magazine. She is a native Oregonian, born and raised surrounded by wheat on the dry, east side of the state – now thriving in the cedars and wet on the west side. Her  essay in the VoiceCatcher Winter 2015 issue is part of a memoir in progress.

When you visit the Waypost, check out the artwork by VoiceCatcher Winter 2015 issue’s contributors Michelle Iris Latham and Kelly Neidig, on display through the end of May 2015:

Sibling2 by Michelle Latham

Sibling 2 by Michelle Iris Latham

Michelle Iris Latham is a visual artist residing in Portland, Oregon. By day she makes signs; by night she can be found experimenting in a variety of media, including printmaking, ink and watercolor. The “Siblings” is an ongoing set of illustrations based on found photographs. Michelle collects and references them as a way of exploring two concepts. The first is the desire to group things together and infer their similarities – in this case, this step is short-handed through the titling – in order to see them as a unit. And then, looking at them together, the next step is to begin to see their differences. She hopes that the images will convey different personalities and stories to each viewer.

Stratum by Kelly Neidig

Stratum by Kelly Neidig

Kelly Neidig lives and works in Portland, Oregon, creating vibrant abstract landscapes. Her process is meditative and peaceful, slowly building up layers of paint. Her paintings refer to the overall feeling of place without focusing on details. The playful colors become an element that creates a feeling of nostalgia. This allows viewers to call on their memories of place and connect with the painting based on their experiences. Kelly’s work has been included in collections of the Swedish Hospital in Seattle, WA; the Westin Hotel in Cincinnati, OH; and the U.S. Embassy in Doha, Qatar. Her work has also been featured in Traditional Home Magazine and on the TV shows Portlandia and Graceland.

Click here for the flyer for this event, for your own sharing and posting.

VoiceCatcher thanks the Waypost for hosting this event.

May Prompt: Becoming Unconscious

By Carrie Conner

What The Subconscious is to every other man,
in its creative aspect becomes, for writers, The Muse.
– Ray Bradbury

Who can forget the chilling scene in the movie The Shining, when Wendy flips through reams of paper to discover her husband’s novel contains the endless repetition of one innocent adage, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

It turns out, Jack was right. Like those epiphanies that come to us in the shower, the most creative ideas emerge when we silence the conscious “thinker.”

Albert Einstein had some of his greatest flashes of inspiration while playing the piano. Suzanne Collins conjured The Hunger Games while channel surfing in bed. The plot for Misery sprang from a nightmare Steven King had while flying on the Concord.

When we work at trying to solve a problem, we automatically default to the conscious mind. However, the conscious mind only registers what we experience in the present moment – the chair we are sitting on, the bee bumping against the window or a rumbling belly.

Accessing the subconscious or unconscious is like striking the creative gold mine. The subconscious is our brain’s Girl Friday. Our thoughts, feelings, ideas and dreams might be found filed away in the vast storehouse of the subconscious. The problem is, the subconscious mind has the ultimate form of job security, as it is the only one who knows the filing system.

“Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different,” opined William James (brother of novelist Henry James), the American philosopher and psychologist who first coined the phrase “stream of consciousness.”

To sneak by the gatekeeper of the conscious we have to do essentially nothing – nothing that grabs the attention of the brain’s command center, that is. Tapping into the unconscious is that feeling of freedom we find when we are “in the zone.” Time, to-do lists and our surroundings disappear in this space. To the subconscious mind, they do not exist.

Stream of consciousness writing is one of the best ways to coax the subconscious out of hiding.

Technically, stream of consciousness is a literary device used by poets and novelists at the beginning of the 20th century to put readers inside the heads of their characters –  authors William Faulkner (As I Lay Dying), Virginia Wolf (Mrs. Dalloway), and James Joyce (Ulysses), to name a few.

Contemporary writers such as Jonathan Safran Foer (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) and Jack Kerouac (On the Road) use stream of consciousness to create raw, intimate character portraits and story plots.

We are going to use a looser definition of the term stream of consciousness. Let’s call it an unedited, free-flow of thought with no rules.

Grab a pen and paper (there is something about the physicalness of writing by hand that is not as linear as typing on a keyboard). Now, think about what you or your character wants more than anything in this world. Let yourself feel the sharp edges of wanting with every cell in your body. Set a timer for 20 minutes and start writing as fast as you can. Writing faster than your conscious mind can catch on helps keep your inner editor at bay. Do not worry about punctuation, grammar or capitalizing. Do not cross out anything. Do not worry if you think none of it makes sense or if you go off topic. Just keep writing. If the timer goes off and you are on a roll, keep writing. You can even keep writing until you run out of words.

When you are done, read it aloud. Circle or highlight the words, sentences or patterns you like. If you are working on fiction or non-fiction, turn it into dialogue by adding some he/she saids. You may find your character with insight or motivation you never dreamed of. If you are writing poetry, pick from the gems of your subconscious.

The more we play at writing, the more eager our subconscious will be to come out and play with us.

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity,” said, Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. ”The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.”

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An Invitation from VoiceCatcher
Willing to share what this prompt inspires you to write? Each month we might publish some responses to the VoiceCatcher prompts. Contact us to submit the writing the prompt elicits from you.

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 Carrie ConnerA friend once asked Carrie Conner why she writes. “Because I have to,” she said. “You mean like publish or perish?” he asked. “No,” she said, “It’s more like … breathing.” Carrie has spent 20 years as a staff and features journalist and freelance copywriter for a variety of publications and companies. One day, while interviewing an emerging novelist about her new book release, she realized she was done writing about other people’s accomplishments. She is currently putting together a yet-untitled collection of short stories and a screenplay.

Leave the Dishes: Making Art While Raising Children

Reclaim Artistic Space Through Memorization
by Claudia F. Savage

Writers are often a quiet, introspective group. We mull. We ponder. We say things like, “I can’t come over; I need time to gather my energy.” When you have children, though, especially when they are young, constant need can take over quiet introspection. Nothing like two hours of “water, water, blanket, blanket, mama, mama, mama” for making your child’s nap time become a mama necessity, too.

Getting your own artistic thoughts to arise in this din is ridiculously difficult. Even if you somehow, magically, still have a regular time you write, writing is not just about sitting down at the page. You need all the steps leading up to that moment: reading books, observing, thinking about your characters, engaging the backyard dogwood starting to bloom.

So, how do you preserve mental space for your work? For me, since the birth of my daughter, it has been about memorization. Memorization helps me hold onto my own language for more than a minute. It has become the only way I can quiet the 2-year-old’s burgeoning vocabulary lodging in my head. It is easier than you think. Here is what I recommend:

Pick Some Short Pieces That Have Strong Meter
I can still remember some of the poetry I memorized as a child, partially because of its strong meter, like this familiar Yeats, from “The Wild Swans at Coole”:

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky …

In your own work, it helps to start memorizing poetic pieces that have strong meter to cut through the exhaustion of parenthood. A piece that is only two or three stanzas long works well and will feel more manageable than a piece you adore that is several pages. Of course, if all you write are longer pieces (or, if you are a fiction writer) pick a small section of the piece to commit to memory. It helps if you feel really proud of the piece. This is no time for humility. Memorize work that you will like thinking about during the weeks to come. These lines, as you lie in bed, sleep-deprived and cranky, will help you remember why you make art.

Devote Time Each Week to Memorizing
I remember theater kids running around even in high school reciting their lines. I have found the easiest way to memorize is to pick a stanza and repeat it to yourself. Maybe you think it has been years since you memorized anything, but I guarantee you do it all the time. I’m sure there is a favorite recipe you put together without looking at a cookbook because you have done it dozens of times. Or, somehow you remember that new extra-long password for your computer at work. Memorizing your work requires the same skills of repetition and practice. The added joy is that you are internalizing your work into your body. Take 10 minutes at the beginning of each weekday-writing session and pick a piece you feel strongly about. Each day, read the same six lines out loud to yourself. That weekend, try to say those lines to yourself while brushing your teeth or once you get into bed. Then, the next week, pick the next stanza to work on and add to the memorized one, reciting the lines you know and reading the ones you do not. Build a house of words in your mind, week by week, foundation to roof.

Recite to Your Child
The best part of memorizing your work might be this last step. Recite the pieces you have memorized to your children. Remember that they have no way of knowing if you memorized all of it or if you recite it correctly. They only know that the tone of your voice has changed from daily corrections and affirmations to something entirely different. It is something that is not about them, but comes only from you. For a few minutes, they get to share in your language, your creation. You do not have to make it into a formal mama concert requiring your children to sit on the couch while you stand and recite in front of them. (Although, a poet friend of mine has a regular “poetry reciting night” once a month at her house where all the members of the family participate.) You can just start reciting something while your children are walking through the park with you. Recite a piece to them while you are in the car together going to the store. Recite something during bath time. Have a poem sneak up on them while they are eating a snack. Have their favorite doll “recite” it.

Hearing memorized poems has become a favorite activity for my girl. She regularly says, “Poems! Poems!” when we are doing the dishes. I often have to stop scrubbing and ask, “You want mama to recite some poems?” “Yes, mama poems!” Maybe it is the fact that my voice softens as I slowly remember the words or their rhythm, but, for now, I have a very small, very enthusiastic fan of my work. She’s two. Her name is River.

 

Claudia F. SavageClaudia F. Savage has been a chef for people recovering from illness, a book editor, and a teacher of poetry to young women in Appalachia, ranchers in Colorado, and urbanites in Portland. Her first book, The Limited Visibility of Bees, was named a finalist for the New Issues Press Poetry Prize. Her poetry and interview credits include CutBank, Nimrod, The Denver Quarterly, VoiceCatcher, Iron Horse, The Buddhist Poetry Review, and Bookslut. Her published chapbook is called The Last One Eaten: A Maligned Vegetable’s History. Savage is a member of the poetry/music duo, THrum, whose album is forthcoming in spring 2015. This article continues her series for VoiceCatcher, Leave the Dishes: Making Art While Raising Children.

Catch These Voices and Visions

Trista Cornelius

Trista Cornelius

This Saturday! The Compose Creative Writing Conference includes offerings by VoiceCatchers Trista CorneliusSusan Pesznecker and Joanna Rose. Conference workshops are just $5 each and include fiction, poetry, playwriting, memoir, comics, songwriting, creative nonfiction, digital storytelling and publishing.

Saturday, May 2, 2015, 9:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Clackamas Community College
Oregon City Campus, Roger Rook Hall

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Poeming PigeonsVoiceCatcher poet and journal designer Shawn Aveningo of The Poetry Box®  proudly announces the release of Poeming Pigeons – Poems about Birds. In this curated, international anthology, you will discover stories that make you wonder, cry, laugh, cringe and inspire – all through poems about birds.The book launch celebration includes VoiceCatcher poets: Annie Lighthart, Christa Kaainoa, Jennifer Kemnitz, Linda Strever, ‘M’, Pattie Palmer-Baker, Shawn Aveningo and Tricia Knoll.

Monday, May 4, 2015, 7:00–9:00 p.m.
Ford Food & Drink
2505 SE 11th Ave. (at Division)
Portland, OR  97202

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Liz PratoVoiceCatcher Liz Prato reads from Baby’s on Fire (Press 53), her debut collection of short fiction, featuring 12 stories set in the West. Prato’s strong female protagonists are trying to find their way in the world as the ties of intimacy are damaged and broken.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Powell’s City of Books on Burnside
1005 W. Burnside
Portland, OR 97209

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Gypsy Martin

Gypsy Martin

Catch VoiceCatchers Christi Krug, Mary Mandeville and Gypsy Martin in the cast of:

Listen To Your Mother
Thursday, May 7, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Alberta Rose Theater
3000 NE Alberta Street
Portland, OR 97211
Minors OK when accompanied by a parent or guardian
Doors open at 6:30, $15 General Admission

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Polish your skills as a presenter and public reader through the Toastmasters program. Unique among Toastmasters clubs, the local Thrill of the Quill club caters to writers. This club usually meets the first Saturday of each month, but the second one in May 2015. All are welcome to attend.

Thrill of the Quill Toastmasters Club
Saturday, May 9, 2015,  9:30 a.m.
Courtyard Village 4555 NE 66th Ave.
Vancouver, WA 98661
360-606-9306

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Claudia F. SavageSavage Poetics presents a 6-week, Sunday afternoon poetry workshop run by Claudia F. Savage. Claudia is a columnist and editor for VoiceCatcher. Her poetry appeared in the Summer 2014 issue.

A Poet’s Rhythm
Sundays, May 10–June 14, 2015,  1:30–3:30 p.m. $240
TaborSpace’s Classroom
5441 SE Belmont St.
Portland, OR 97215

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VoiceCatcher Reading Meet and hear authors from the Winter 2015 issue of VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions:

Thursday, May 14, 2015, 7:00–9:00 p.m.
The Waypost
3120 N. Williams Ave.
Portland, OR 97227

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Catch John and Claudia F. Savage’s poetry and music duo, THrum. At this album release and performance, the Bosch Institute from Nashville will join in. Enjoy original, memorized poetry; gorgeous composed and improvised music, and delicious beer.

The Creative Music Guild’s Outset Series
Wednesday, May 20, 2015, 8:00–10:00 p.m.
Turn, Turn, Turn
8 NE Killingsworth Ave.
Portland, OR 97211

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Savage Poetics offers a periodic salon with special guests to help students deepen their poetry practice. VoiceCatcher Claudia F. Savage hosts workshop presenter Thandiwe Shiphrah:

Presence, Improv & Writing for Performance
Thursday, May 21, 2015, 6:30–9:30 p.m., $45
TaborSpace’s Classroom
5441 SE Belmont St.
Portland, OR 97215

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Annie LighthartVoiceCatcher Annie Lighthart, most recently of the Winter 2015 issue, continues her readings in June. Annie published her poetry collection Iron String with Oregon’s Airlie Press. She earned an MFA in Poetry from Vermont College, and has taught at Boston College. She teaches poetry workshops through Mountain Writers; her next workshop is June 2015.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 7:00 p.m.
Milwaukie Poetry Series reading
Pond House at the Ledding Library
2215 SE Harrison St.
Milwaukie, OR 97222

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Sarah FaganVoiceCatcher’s art editor and contributor Sarah Fagan is teaming up with other artists and businesses in Portland this summer. They will offer budding artists half-day, themed camps in Portland. For more information see: Treasure Island: A Pirate and Explorers Camp, ages 5–7, July 20–24, and Pioneer Camp for Girls, ages 8–11, Aug. 10–14, 2015.

Click here for the calendar of readings from VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions.

Click here for the contact form to let us know of other offerings you or other VoiceCatcher members are making in the community!