VoiceCatcher Announces 2014 “Best of the Net” Nominations

The editors of the Summer 2013 and Winter 2014 issues of VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions are proud to announce the nominees for the 2014 “Best of the Net” prize. According to Sundress Publications, the publisher of an annual anthology of winners,

This project continues to promote the diverse and growing collection of voices who are publishing their work online, a venue that continues to see less respect from such yearly anthologies as the Pushcart and Best American series. This anthology serves to bring greater respect to an innovative and continually expanding medium in the same medium in which it is published.

VoiceCatcher is honored to be represented by the following authors:




Top row: Tiah Lindner Raphael, Annie Lighthart, Wendy Thompson, Pat West, Willa Schneberg Bottom row: Maggie Chula, Anne Gudger, B.E. Scully, Jessica Zisa, Laura Stanfill

Top row: Tiah Lindner Raphael, Annie Lighthart, Wendy Thompson, Pat West, Willa Schneberg
Bottom row: Maggie Chula, Anne Gudger, B.E. Scully, Jessica Zisa, Laura Stanfill



What’s On Your Bookshelf?

“What’s On Your Bookshelf” shares VoiceCatcher community members’ favorite books. Contact the editors to share your top recommendations for writers’ craft and reference books, as well as inspirational books for writers or artists. Include any comments to recommend the books to our readers. We could feature your bookshelf on this website!    –The Editors 

Featured Bookshelf: Theresa Snyder’s

The name of this post is misleading. The books listed below are never on my bookshelf. They sit at my elbow on my desk for quick reference. Hope you find the list helpful.  –Theresa Synder

Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, 2nd Ed., by Linda N. Edelstein, Ph.D
Noted psychologist and author Dr. Linda Edelstein takes you beyond generic personality types and into the depths of the human psyche where you’re sure to find the resources you need to make your characters stand out from the crowd. From sex to schizophrenia: everything you need to develop your characters.

The Emotion Thesaurus, A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
When showing characters’ feeling, we often grab onto the first idea that comes to mind, and our characters end up smiling, shrugging, nodding, and frowning far too much. This book gives your imagination an emotional boost! Establish the tone of your scene: anger, love, aggression, etc. Look it up in the book. There you will find 75 emotion entries that list body language, thoughts and visceral responses to each. There are also suggestions for each emotion that cover a range of intensity, from mild to extreme.

Rand McNally Quick Reference World Atlas
I like this edition because it is paperback and very thin. Believe it or not, I use it for character names. I write a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and the names of distant and foreign rivers, mountain ranges and lakes have all made their way into my twelve novels. Many times I will translate them and find that they are appropriate to the character, for instance when I found “Azur” meant fire and I needed a name for a fire demon.

The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook, by Sherrilyn Kenyon
This book not only gives you more than 20,000 first and last names, and their meanings, from around the world, it also includes special advice for choosing historical, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and action names with valuable instructions for naming your settings. Frankly, I cannot write about characters until they have a name – something that will always translate into writer’s block if not attended to promptly.

Wicked Words: A Treasury of Curses, Insults, Put-Downs, and Other Formerly Unprintable Terms from Anglo-Saxon Times to the Present, by Hugh Rawson
The title say it all and if you don’t want to say the word “f – – k” then this is the book for you. You can find a word from olden days that only a historical scholar would know and use it instead in your science fiction or fantasy. This book traces the origins, use and abuse of words we love to hate. It ranges widely, including personal insults, ethnic slurs, political attacks, plus a great collection of odd and interesting facts – fascinating excursion into social history and the idiosyncrasies of our language.

The Gregg Reference Manual, by William A. Sabin
I found this book during a past life in law. It is the cornerstone on the proper use of:
punctuation major and minor marks, capitalization, numbers, abbreviations, plurals and possessives, spelling, compound words, word division, grammar, usage, editing, proofreading and filing, letters and memos, reports and manuscripts, notes and bibliographies, tables, other business documents, forms of address, and glossaries of grammatical terms and computer terms.

These are the books I keep at hand on the corner of my desk or stacked by my chair. I hope you find them helpful. May the muse bless your brain and bring the words to your fingertips.

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.

Hurricanes, Bridges and Creativity: A Conversation with Cindy Williams Gutiérrez

by Carolyn Martin

When Cindy Williams Gutiérrez says she lives in the hinterlands of Oregon City, she’s not kidding. Her Hattan Road address takes me around a winding back road bordered by farms, nurseries and grazing land up to a hillside home graced with apple trees, rose gardens and a spectacular view of Mt. Hood. It’s “country” at its best as we sit on her back porch to chat about her literary accomplishments in 2014: a new poetry collection, a play in honor of William Stafford’s 100th birthday, and a short story anthologized by Forest Avenue Press.

Cindy tells me, “I grew up in Brownsville, Texas – the land of hurricanes. I believe in lulls – and then comes the storm.” And this year has stirred up a number of creative hurricanes for Cindy, moving past any lulls.

claims of small bonesFirst of all, Arizona State University’s Bilingual Press just released Cindy’s poetry collection, the small claim of bones. Part of the Hispanic Research Center, the press has a mission to promote and preserve Latino/a literature, and Cindy says she is proud that she is now part of that canon.

When I asked about the collection’s title, she introduces me to the word “proem.” “That’s a prologue poem,” Cindy says, and quotes the seminal line: “my past lodges/ in my marrow.”

In the marrow of her past and in the pages of this well-researched, deeply personal book lie her father, mother, Aztec poet-kings and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz – a 17th century poet-nun. Cindy explains that the kings of Mexico (Tenochtitlan) were always poets and Sor Juana, who lived in colonial Mexico (New Spain), was the first feminist of the Americas. Writing 250 years before Virginia Woof ever dreamt of a room of her own, Sor Juana lived and wrote in a convent cell. She entered the religious life precisely because it afforded her an opportunity to write.

Cindy shaped her collection into three sections: “The Gift,” a call/response between Aztec royalty and her father; “The Scattering,” a call/response between Sor Juana and the Mexican matriarchy of her mother’s family; and the “Epilogue” where Cindy’s English poem “If I Were a Nahua Poet” includes Spanish and Nahuatl.

Cindy explains “code switching”: weaving emotionally evocative words from one language with another. “That’s the way people spoke in my Texas hometown which lies on the Mexican border,” she says, so she uses Spanish and Nahuatl words throughout her English poems to enrich them.

Based on Cindy’s MFA thesis at the Stonecoast Program at the University of Southern Maine, the small claim of bones will naturally find its place among the prestigious voices of Latina poets. The prayer found in “If I Were a Nahua Poet” is nothing short of prophetic: “Let my voice join the ancients/To swell the sky with a thousand plumes of light.”

From poet to playwright
Words That BurnCindy’s second creative storm produced Words That Burn: A Dramatization of World War II Experiences of William Stafford, Lawson Inada, and Guy Gabaldón in Their Own Words.

Three years ago, Kim Stafford invited her to be part of the committee planning his father’s 100th birthday celebration. At the time, Cindy said, “I had been going to schools teaching the work of Oregon Poets Laureate William Stafford and Lawson Inada because I am passionate that students learn about Oregon’s literary legacy. The question that kept emerging was, ‘What can we learn about this legacy from two men who spent time in camps during World War II: Stafford for what he believed in; Inada for what others believed about him?’”

That question became central to the creation of Words That Burn. Cindy first presented her idea for a play about Stafford and Inada to Los Porteños, Portland’s Latino writers’ collective. At the time, member Frank Delgado was writing about his own father’s wartime experience and told Cindy about a Marine named Guy Gabaldón, a Chicano from East L.A. where Frank and his father grew up.

Gabaldón lived with a Japanese-American family, joined the marines in World War II, and, ironically, served in the Pacific theater. There he became known as the “Pied Piper of Saipan” because he single-handedly captured – and ultimately saved the lives of – 1,500 Japanese soldiers and civilians.

“As a playwright,” Cindy says, “I was mesmerized by such a compelling character. Gabaldón felt it was his duty to serve his country, but he found a different way of doing it.”

Gabaldón’s choice to serve in the war provided tension with Stafford’s pacifism, but his heroic saving of lives added an almost ideological affinity. And then there was the obvious Japanese connection with Lawson Inada.

"Words That Burn" features (from left to right): Paul Susi as Lawson Inada,  Todd Van Voris as William Stafford, and Anthony Green as Guy Gabaldon. Photography by Russell J. Young.

Words That Burn features (from left to right): Paul Susi as Lawson Inada, Todd Van Voris as William Stafford, and Anthony Green as Guy Gabaldon. Photography by Russell J. Young.

“What ensues,” Cindy describes, “is the powerful clash of wartime experiences of a 4-year-old Japanese-American internee (Inada), an 18-year-old maverick Marine (Gabaldón), and a 28-year-old pacifist in a Civilian Public Service camp (Stafford).”

Cindy’s co–producer, Joaquin Lopez, played the key role in applying for and receiving numerous grants to support the production. As for a director, Cindy says her first choice was easy: Gemma Whelan, the founding Artistic Director of Corrib Theatre, a Portland company dedicated to presenting the very best in contemporary Irish theater. Since Words That Burn is a blend of poetry and monologues, Cindy thought, “No one is better at storytelling than the Irish.”

When I asked Cindy what was most satisfying experience about this project, she didn’t hesitate: “Building bridges in the community. My intent is to focus on generating community dialogue that span politics, cultures, and generations. It’s not just about the show but also the series of community events surrounding it, as well as the relationships we have built with 20 sponsors and five marketing partners.”  Here is a list of performances and free community events.

That’s what I would expect from a woman who grew up in Brownsville, Texas, a town connected to Mexico by bridges; whose father worked on the bridge in Immigration; and who now lives in a city of bridges. Bridges clearly are in her marrow!

From poet and playwright to short story writer
This year Cindy discovered she is also a short story writer. “Tessa’s Drought” just appeared in The Night, and the Rain, and the River, a collection of short stories edited by Liz Prato and published by Laura Stanfill’s Forest Avenue Press. Hers is a tenderly rendered story that’s obviously crafted by a poet. “It’s a beautiful book,” Cindy says, “and I’m thrilled to be in it.”

What’s next for Cindy? Teaching a Delve Seminar in early 2015 called “In Search of Mysticism and Duende: Yeats and Lorca as Poet Dramatists” about her literary guiding lights.

“It’s been a crazy year,” Cindy concedes, laughing her inimitable laugh. And all of us are richer because she has creatively tamed hurricanes and built bridges.


Cindy WIlliams Gutierrez poetCindy Williams Gutiérrez is a poet-dramatist who draws inspiration from the silent and silenced voices of history and herstory. Poems and reviews have appeared in many publications including Borderlands, CALYX, Harvard’s Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, UNAM’s Periódico de poesía, Portland Review, Rain Taxi and VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions. She has performed her Aztec-inspired poetry at the AWP conference and at colleges and museums through Humanities Washington. Her verse play A Dialogue of Flower & Song was featured in the 2012 GEMELA Conference. Cindy teaches poetry to adults as well as to K-12 youth through the Portland Art Museum, the Right Brain Initiative, and Writers in the Schools.

Carolyn MartinCarolyn Martin is blissfully retired in the hinterlands of Clackamas County and currently serves as VoiceCatcher’s president of the board of directors.



September Prompt: The Committee of Sleep

by Carrie Conner

It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved
in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.
   – John Steinbeck

When I was going through my divorce I had repeating dreams of driving speeding cars, usually in the dark, sometimes on ice, while being able to see only as far as the headlights allowed. No matter how wild and out of control the ride, the dreams always ended with me safely parking the car. I’d wake up feeling peaceful – knowing I was going to make it.

It’s easy to dismiss dreams as “day residue” – an involuntary playback of events and feelings we have already experienced. While there’s some truth to this theory, science also proves there are entire portions of our brain that come alive only when we sleep. If we learn to tap into our nocturnal inspiration we can unleash an infinite supply of creative and problem-solving abilities.

Countless artists, writers, musicians, film makers and even scientists have admitted to translating their dreams into creative works:

• Director Christopher Nolan took the inspiration for his 2010 psychological thriller Inception from his own lucid dreams.
• Nightmares spawned Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and most works by Stephen King.
• Jack Karouac wrote the Book of Dreams based entirely on his own dreams.
• Otto Loewi won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1963 after dreams led to his discoveries in concepts of the sympathetic nervous system.
• Paul McCartney, Brandon Flowers of The Killers, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, and Jack White all have musical dreams.

The problem with dreams is that for most of us, they’re out of our control. Dr. Deirdre Barrett, in her book The Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists and Athletes use Dreams for Creative Problem Solving – and How You Can Too (Crown, 2001), compiles a mountain of evidence revealing how dreams not only show us where we’ve been, but where we can go and how to get there.

In an “How Can You Control Your Dreams?,” an interview published in Scientific American, the Harvard University professor tells us how we can manipulate our dream worlds for maximum creativity and problem solving. Barrett said,

That we can control our own dreams is quite true and really much more so than people seem to know or realize. Although any kind of problem can make a breakthrough in a dream, the two categories that really crop up a lot are things where the solution benefits from being represented visually, because the dreams are so vivid in their visual-spatial imagery, and when you’re stuck because the conventional wisdom is just plain wrong.

Use Barrett’s advice and let your dreams solve any writing problems or create a new path for a work of fiction, nonfiction or poetry:

1. Before bed, think of the problem or a project you’re working on.
2. If it lends itself to an image, hold it in your mind and let it be the last thing in your mind before falling asleep.
3. If possible, assemble something on your bedside table that makes or relates to an image of the problem (it could even be blank pieces of paper).
4. When you wake up, lie in bed with your eyes closed. Don’t do anything else.
5. If you don’t recall the dream immediately see if you recall a particular feeling – this may allow the whole dream to flood back.
6. Write down everything you remember.

See what your subconscious comes up with while the self-editor slumbers. Maybe you’ll decide to do all your writing in your sleep. As Salvador Dali said, “One day it will have to be admitted that what we have christened ‘reality’ is an even greater illusion than the world of dreams.”

*  *  *

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.


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’s currently putting together a yet-untitled collection of short stories and a screenplay.

Shapes of Place, Shaped by Place: A Conversation with Roya Motamedi

by Yolanda Wysocki

Roya Motamedi, the featured artist in the Summer 2014 Issue of VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices and visions, comes from a rich cultural background. Her Afghani father was an archeologist, her Japanese mother an art historian. Archaeological sites in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan valley — the land of giant Buddhas — were her “playground.” In 1979, before the coup d’état, her family moved to Kamakura, Japan — the town where Zen Buddhism started; her father stayed in Afghanistan.

Yolanda Wysocki: What role do you think art plays in culture?
Roya Motamedi:  It’s very interesting how in some ways art is so insignificant; it doesn’t bring income, but it feeds the soul. Without it we are empty inside. The culture gives birth to art but art turns around and feeds the heart and soul of the culture, of individuals. It becomes part of the rhythm, richness of life, of the earth. On so many levels it wakes you up, alerts you to the moment, and makes you smile. I think of the culture that is not allowed to paint or create; you feel death inside you even though you are alive.

YW: And I assume that is why you paint?
RM: Yes, it definitely feeds me; it’s the only place I make sense. I truly love it. I go to my messy studio and I get really excited. I am never not excited to be there. It’s like a meditation, like a journal, like turning a stone and seeing how the light hits today, within me, within this place. It’s a safe place.

April 19, 2012 by Roya Motamedi

“April 19, 2012″ by Roya Motamedi

YW: Would you feel as satisfied if you didn’t show your art?
RM: There is something in me that needs to show it. Sometimes I go to a museum and question my relevance, but because of the way I was raised, I see color differently than a person who has been disciplined in only one culture, so I feel I have a small but valid voice. I know what I had – the country I lost – doesn’t exist anymore, so I have to be strong, and have a voice and show for them.

YW: With such a rich cultural heritage, you state your painting is beyond language and culture. Will you say more about that?
RM: Culture has a boundary, and I don’t fit in any boundaries. Paintings are beyond the restrictions of culture … so people can enter into them; they can communicate beyond cultures. Abstract art is a language, another doorway for a new paradigm.

YW: Yet your art is so much about place.
RM: Yes, like writing letters. I relate to the place where I am now, and write letters from that place. When we lived in Mexico for two years, the light, the life reminded me of my time in Afghanistan. I hope my paintings are like sending letters home, stopping time, capturing moments, the feeling of them.

YW: Do you ever go back to Afghanistan?
RM: No, it would take me years to process all the sadness. What I had doesn’t exist anymore; it would be like going to a burned house. I feel like someday I should write about my life. I know a place that is no longer; I should save it.

YW: What would you write about?
RM: Watching my grandmother cook, the light, the way the door hit the frame whenever I went in, the echo; the quiet of the museum that I walked within with my father, on weekends; the archaeological sites I went to with my mom and brother. The Buddha’s head was my height; I wasn’t sure why I only saw his head. It was beautiful and I related to it as a person, from a child’s perspective.

YW: You have many sense memories.
RM: Yes, because I lost it all, I put it in a box, all these memories.

YW: How does that come through your paintings?
RM: I think it’s emotion. I translate these into the emotion of color: shapes and juxtaposing color. I first started painting blocks of the city and myself in relation to color in New York; they became so ingrained that it became the structure of my paintings: I am feeling this — I may be a red dot — and this is how I feel next to this color.

YW: I imagine you have a specific memory that comes with an emotion and from that you allow a painting to come through.
RM: Yes. For example, if the feeling of walking around Bamiyan is the feeling I bring to my studio, the colors of the murals of Bamiyan are very much in my paintings. When I did the blue and white paintings, it was surprising how Japanese they were, like my grandmother’s kimono. I don’t intentionally do it. It doesn’t work if I try to think it and make it happen; it comes through.

Blue and White Series March 14, 2014 (a) by Roya Motamedi

“Blue and White Series March 14, 2014 (a)” by Roya Motamedi

Blue and White Series March 14, 2014 (b) by Roya Motamedi

“Blue and White Series March 14, 2014 (b)” by Roya Motamedi

In my last show, I was processing the choice my father made to stay in Afghanistan. It’s always been a question, why did he choose to stay? A tear, the rain healing, healing the sadness. It’s like making sense of my life through paintings, but also a kind of letter to him, too.

Painting is a relationship. I have a conversation with my painting, and rather than doing too much, sometimes I go to my studio and just watch the painting. I listen and watch and wait. It takes 6-7 months for a painting to develop from beginning to end. I cannot map out what I’m going to do. If I do too much I am not allowing that other dimension to happen; I’m killing it.

Paul Guston said,

When you’re in the studio painting, there are a lot of people in there with you. Your teachers, friends, painters from history, critics … and one by one, if you’re really painting, they walk out. And if you’re really painting, you walk out.

That’s what I want, to be affected by the relationship, to become one with it. I become so much part of it that it influences me.

YW: What is your favorite painting, one you may never sell?
RM: One of Brooklyn, I  felt strong there, I felt myself, like I belonged. I keep it to remind myself.


Roya Motamedi with daughter MinaRoya Motamedi has been living in Portland with her husband and daughter Mina for six years, drawn by the Japanese immersion school. She also chose Portland because it is beautiful and more possible to live here than in New York, where they had been living. Roya started taking painting classes at Guilford College, NC, where she earned her BA in oil painting. She won first prize in the student art show in 1992. She is represented by the Blackfish Gallery in Portland.

Yolanda WysockiYolanda Wysocki works as a life/transformation coach. Her background has been in counseling and social services for over 25 years. She went back to school for a second bachelor’s degree when she was 51 years old. Seven years and three schools later, she completed her art degree, a lifelong dream.

What’s On Your Bookshelf?

“What’s On Your Bookshelf” shares VoiceCatcher community members’ favorite books. Contact the editors to share your top recommendations for writers’ craft and reference books, as well as inspirational books for writers or artists. Include any comments to recommend the books to our readers. We could feature your bookshelf on this website!    –The Editors 

Featured Bookshelf: Barbara E. Berger’s
Recommended books on the craft of writing and developing as a writer or other artist:

The AP Stylebook Online 
The Associated Press’ stylebook seems to be on its way to becoming the standard outside of academia, despite any of our personal preferences. In fact, it is the basis for VoiceCatcher’s style. And sure, you can get a print copy of the AP guide, but it won’t automatically update itself during the year like this one.   Barbara

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron
This is a practical how-to guide on tapping into your creative self and developing it. Truly the seminal work on the subject; the one that popularized ‘morning pages.’ Barbara

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Lifeby Anne Lamott
Another essential for any writer who might, once in awhile, feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. That is, all of us?  Barbara

The Compulsion to Create: Women Writers and Their Demon Lovers, by Susan Kavaler-Adler, PhD
Insight into the lives of six famous women writers by the founder of the Object Relations Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis – a lover of literature and well-published author in her own right.  Barbara

The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White
The classic that is as useful today as it was when first published in 1918. Clear, succinct, accessible; it models what it recommends.  Barbara

Writing Alone and With Others, by Pat Schneider
You will find many writers groups using Pat’s method for inspiring writing while giving nurturing feedback and support. Her workshops changed my writing life. Barbara


Barbara  E. BergerBarbara E. Berger is a Portland-based writer, editor and photographer. She specializes in government, business and other creative writing. Barbara serves as this site’s managing editor.

Artlessness Breeds Art: Introducing Koka Filipovic

By Barbara E. Berger

Collage artist Koka Filipovic layers found objects and cut paper in a process that is as meditative as the product.

Sarah Fagan, guest art editor, VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices and visions, Summer 2014 issue

Gazing at the landscape of North Plains, Oregon, through her living room’s picture windows, Koka Filipovic rearranges her face and limbs into a liquid, serene repose. She is deeply inspired by nature and shares that special heart place with us through her art. Our Summer 2014  issue of VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & vision introduced Koka to our community with two multi-media collages from her garden series: Garden Gate and Purple Shade in the Garden.

Koka’s life and art present an authentic, seamless, organic whole. Like the artist herself, the creations charm with elegant simplicity and balance that reveal depth, complexity and intelligence upon closer observation; they fascinate in this way.

With that closer observation, I can detect a sliver of the exotic – a sometimes-crispness to her speech; an unconscious, confident note in her carriage – adding to Koka’s personal charm. Her roots in Zagreb, Croatia (formerly Yugoslavia), with a youthful exposure to art – including day trips across the Adriatic Sea to museums in Italy – inform her humility and straightforwardness today with a deeper and worldly foundation.

Koka had pencil in hand even in her early teens – drafting interior room layouts, sketching fashions or designing fabrics “the old-fashioned way, with ink,” she recalls. She developed her own look, inspired by the 1920s, the ancient Greek, or harlequins. “I was always playing with ideas, designing something, playing with scraps of paper.“ She designed shoes and purses, including detailed measurements.

“Back then, the Zagreb retail stores were limited. It was cheaper to have a local cobbler make fashionable shoes from scratch from my own designs than to travel to London to buy a ready-made pair.” By 1973, she was living in Portland, Oregon with her husband – a Portland State University student she met during his studies in Zagreb – and their son, but she still sewed many of her own clothes to get exactly what she wanted.

Twenty-five years later, Koka joined her second husband, Robert Theiss, in the countryside outside of Eugene – where nature and a creek running through her property provided solace and inspired her to create fine art. Robert, a master artisan of custom-made wood furniture himself, asked her if it wasn’t time to exit her career as an interior designer and devote herself to art-making. “If not now, when will you get to it?”

She became a full-time artist; but, she did not share her work with others until just a few years ago. Then, each gallery and juried show she applied to immediately signed her on, to only her surprise. “Soon, people would approach me first, and ask me to show.” Moving back to the Portland area in 2009, she repeated the experience and again found warm reception with new local galleries.

She learned that there is no point in trying to second guess what galleries want; that won’t work. “Your joy is what attracts people; that joy is what people want in art.”
Nature is what brings Koka joy, and nature is the basis for her art. Her process is intentionally meditative rather than intellectual. She allows projects to percolate organically.
“I’m always working on a number of projects at the same time, sometimes a dozen different ones,” explains Koka. She collects elements for each project in a tray: plastic, bamboo or, mostly, wooden office trays from Goodwill.

Each starts with a description of what the project will be: maybe a collage, a framed piece of art, a commercial stationery line, or part of her journal offerings. Her gratitude and travel journals are adorned with pieces of art and include inspirational quotes. She’ll collect pebbles, leaves, fabrics, color palettes she’s attracted to, and add sketches. She seldom scans information electronically, preferring to handle the originals. “I want the texture in my hands. It’s more alive then, I’m more inspired if it’s 3-D. It’s more spontaneous for me.”

Nature Jewels by Koka Filipovic.

Nature Jewels by Koka Filipovic. Mixed-media collage of real, natural leaves, 18K gold leaf, oil pastel, hand-made paper, and glass.

Koka’s 3-D collages are greater than the sum of their parts, which often are natural substances that she personally collects in the field. She sorts through her finds, selecting and preserving natural treasures with the care of a perfectionist. Koka will collect hundreds of leaves to find one or two that are worthy of a place in her art. She uses the finest papers, museum-quality glass, and frames custom-made by her husband. Her shadow box techniques float the elements and create layers and depth in her work.

To arrange the elements, Koka listens to them. “How do they want to be arranged? What needs to be added? How will they be balanced?” She spreads pressed leaves, other parts on a table. “They tell me the story of how to put them together: what colors to use, thcomposition, the movement, everything. The story evolves.” Koka waits until things are just right and does not hurry them. She works without a predetermined deadline, allowing the projects to marinate over time in their trays.

Trinity by Koka Filipovic. Mixed-media collage of real, natural leaves, 18K gold leaf, oil pastel, hand-made paper.

Trinity by Koka Filipovic. Mixed-media collage of real, natural leaves, 18K gold leaf, oil pastel, hand-made paper.

Koka says she is not trying to make any political, social, or even gender statement. It’s more about her connection with nature. “My pieces are often about an intimate presence in the moment. I’m looking for a balance or serenity, for the feeling I get from being in nature. It’s personal, and can be vulnerable because they will show where I was – or wasn’t – when I was creating the piece. It’s not about technique, or the spiritual. It’s about coming from wherever art comes from for the individual.”

“I’m looking for the balance,” Koka explains, “between male and female, between heart and mind. How do I come to the peaceful, centered place? Nature helps me to breathe, helps me to look at things from that place, the place that does not require any of those. You can sit by a creek, or ocean or a tree and take a deep breath and think ‘Who am I’? What do I want? What do I want to focus on, literally and technically?”

I have seen people respond to Koka and her art with respect, appreciation and a quiet reverence. Her authentic self – with its joy and serenity – finds expression in her art, and attracts the hearts of others. Ironically, her artlessness is what creates her best art, as she sits by the creek in the woods, listening quietly to hear direction from her elements.


Koka FilipovicKosjenka “Koka” Filipovic is a member of the board of directors of the Valley Art Association, Forest Grove, Oregon. She founded the RoseSprings Center art gallery in Hillsboro, Oregon, which she curated for the last four years. You can view her art in upcoming events listed on the Sanctuary Designs website.


Barbara  E. BergerBarbara E. Berger is a Portland-based writer, editor and photographer. She specializes in government, business and other creative writing. Barbara serves as this site’s managing editor.

Writer’s Craft: Dotting Your Ts and Crossing Your Eyes

Proper Punctuation Versus Writing Down the Rabbit Hole
by Trista Cornelius

I once heard a writer say that he begins writing his books with one perfect sentence and lets it lead to the next perfect sentence until his books are finished. As a writing instructor, however, I always urged students to ignore grammar concerns until the end of their first or second draft, after all of their main ideas had been developed and put into place.

When do grammar rules and “correctness” matter in the writing process? Should first drafts be wild and free, or should you craft one sentence at a time letting subject-verb combinations direct your story?

Susan DeFreitas, whose book Pyrophitic will be available at the end of July, observes, “different processes have different effects.”

When Susan has a straightforward plot in mind, she focuses on making interesting sentences “one right after the other.” She says this process takes longer to draft but not as long to revise because it’s less about “following a line of thought down the rabbit hole, over the hill and through the woods” and more about steadily laying bricks that follow her story’s blueprint.

Susan most often writes sloppy first drafts and writes by hand to keep herself from editing. She then types the handwritten draft, assesses what she has written, and “only after the content is squared away” does she allow herself to “monkey with the language.”

Cari Luna, author of The Revolution of Every Day, says that, due to her professional experience as a copy editor, she writes rather clean first drafts by force of habit. She doesn’t worry about grammar until the polishing stage.

In Cari’s opinion, focusing on grammar too early in the drafting process can undermine creativity. “It’s too easy to focus on the nitpicky little details rather than the harder questions that need addressing in an early draft. Fixing grammar becomes a form of procrastination, allowing yourself to feel like you’re actually working on your writing.”

Sometimes it’s easier to look up the exact, right word than it is to figure out what comes next in your story. Then again, sometimes the exact, right word reveals what ought to come next.

Laura Stanfill, founder of Forest Avenue Press, echoes Cari’s point. “I’d definitely encourage new writers to keep with the story they’re telling and to avoid the impulse to check whether they’re doing it right, especially if checking means going online and getting lost in distractions.” However, she also noted there are times when correctness not only doesn’t matter but would not be the best choice.

In A Simplified Map of the Real World, Laura and Stevan Allred argue about whether “a mistake on the part of the character would come across as voice or come across as – gasp – a proofreading mistake.” In this instance, “one misogynistic character thought of all the local homesteads as being owned by the man of the family. So the Hallocks’ farm, in that character’s perspective, was owned only by Mr. Hallock, not Mrs. Hallock, so on the page it was Hallock’s, not Hallocks’. Can you show misogyny by where you place an apostrophe?”

This is an example of what so many English teachers say: “You can break the rules once you know the rules.” Obviously, Laura and Steven know the rules well and they’re using them to reveal the bias of a character.

This perceptive use of the possessive apostrophe is something I’d wait to figure out until my first draft was finished. I’d highlight the text in a different color to mark it for later. Otherwise, I might get stuck in the paragraph where the misogynistic character is first mentioned and stay there for hours or even weeks, pondering punctuation rather than working out the key scenes of my story.

Nicole Rosevear, a short-story writer and teacher, says she fixes little things like misspellings as she drafts because they’re easy for her to manage. The bigger-picture mistakes, however, such as unintentionally shifting point of view mid-draft, do not cause her to pause and start editing. These are “signs that the story and I are still figuring each other out, and since I generally don’t know the bigger-world things about the story in the first draft, I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with letting the big messy bits sit there until I figure out in another draft or two which direction is the right one for that story.”

Monique Babin, an English instructor, makes a fascinating point: Letting your draft be messy might be a sign of confidence. When she first started writing, she did not trust herself to leave something messy that she could fine-tune later. Learning to let the process be messy is something she’s developed with experience, and she believes her writing is much better for it.

I think the best advice is to save editing for a later draft. Get your ideas on the screen or page first, adjust the big things such as structure; then start fine-tuning. If for no other reason, this saves you time. Should you decide to delete a paragraph, a page, or an entire chapter while revising, there’s no point in having spent time correcting spelling, punctuation, verb tense, et cetera.

So, maybe the moral of this story is: Know thyself. If, due to procrastination or insecurity, you find yourself editing as you write, start freewriting sloppy first drafts. Try to write swiftly enough to outrun your internal editor. Be too quick for her to catch up with you and undermine your confidence. Know you can return later to tidy up.

On the other hand, if you’ve daydreamed about your story so thoroughly you know the entire structure, then crafting one perfect sentence at a time and pausing to get the words, tone, and punctuation exactly right will not cause you to forget what point is next.

* * *

Punctuation have you perplexed? Seeking wise counsel on how to be grammatically correct? Send your questions for Trista to the VoiceCatcher website editors. If she selects your question to answer in a future column, you may receive a bonus: a free copy of a VoiceCatcher print anthology!


Trista CorneliusTrista Cornelius writes VoiceCatcher’s bimonthly column, “Dotting Your Ts and Crossing Your Eyes,” about the writer’s craft. This is the second article in her series about proofreading. Trista is currently on a leave of absence from Clackamas Community College where she has been teaching writing, literature and food studies. Follow her writing, reading and eating adventures here.

Meet the Editors Who Will Shape the Winter 2015 Issue of VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions!

With the opening of the submission window on September 1, 2014, VoiceCatcher is proud to announce the editors who will read and select prose, poetry and art for the next issue. They are eager to receive your work and appreciate submissions that follow the guidelines, some of which have changed since the last edition.

The journal appears on Duotrope and Poets & Writers, and editors nominate for the annual Pushcart Prize. The first five issues have already attracted almost 20,000 first-time visitors.

The Winter 2015 Editorial Team

Burky Achilles, Poetry Co-Editor
Burky, a poet appearing in the Summer 2014 journal issue, is on sabbatical from her fitness coaching business. She began a spontaneous eruption of poetry in January 2014 following the deaths of her mother and mother-in-law in 2013. Burky was raised on the south shore of Kauai and received her Masters in Writing in Fiction from Portland State University in 2002. In 2000 she was awarded a Literary Arts Fellowship and honored to be a Summer Fishtrap Fellow. Her non-fiction has appeared in the Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul series.

Shawn Aveningo, Journal Designer and Administrator
A poet first appearing in the Summer 2014 issue, Shawn is a globally published poet whose work has appeared in more than 60 literary journals and anthologies, as well as four solo collections. When she’s not using the right side of her brain to write poetry for her patrons of ThePoetryBox™, she enjoys donning her geek hat to create custom websites. She’s a proud mother of three and recently moved to the Portland area to share in the creative life with her best friend and soul-mate.  Find her at The Red Shoe Poet.

Kris Demien, Young Voices Editor
Kris returns to VoiceCatcher in this position. She has been known to go as far as free-falling 10,000 feet from a perfectly fine airplane to encourage a student to conquer the fear of making a speech. She is as likely to be found on an outdoor adventure with her grandkids as she is behind a keyboard. Her life-long fascination with story has inspired her search for new ones told by others wherever she goes. When home alone, she finds the stories she created for herself along the way.

Sarah FaganSarah Fagan, Art Editor
Returning as art editor for her second issue, Sarah received a BA in Fine Arts and English Literature from Stonehill College in North Easton, Massachusetts. She worked as an editor for a New England arts magazine before relocating to Portland, Oregon in 2009. Here she decided to concentrate on making her own artwork by attending a certificate program at the Oregon College of Art and Craft where she studied bookbinding and painting. In Portland, Sarah has developed a curriculum of arts classes that she teaches to children at schools, libraries and other venues. When not teaching, she is painting – her forté is the contemporary still life. Visit her website here.

Michelle FredetteMichelle Fredette, Prose Co-Editor
Michelle returns for her second stint as prose co-editor. She discovered literary journals during high school, sitting on the floor of her mom’s cube at Writer’s Digest. Since then, she’s been able to indulge her love for literary magazines, and short fiction in particular, as a reader for Ploughshares and Black Warrior Review, and as fiction editor for Oxford Magazine and New Orleans Review. Her writing includes short stories and the occasional non-fiction piece. She attends the Pinewood Table writing group where she chips away at a novel about the roller derby.

Carolyn Martin, Ph.D., Managing Editor 
Carolyn is finishing her fifth year as VoiceCatcher’s president of the board of directors, and this is her fifth stint as the journal’s managing editor. She is blissfully retired in Clackamas, Oregon, where she gardens, writes, and plays with creative colleagues. She is also an award-winning poet whose work has appeared in publications such as StirringNaugatuck River Review, Persimmon Tree, Ekphrastia Gone Wild and Becoming: What Makes a Woman.

Tiah Lindner Raphael, Poetry Co-Editor
Tiah served as a guest prose co-editor for the Summer 2014 issue and is now using her poetic talents in the role of poetry co-editor. Born and raised amid the fields of dry land wheat territory, Tiah credits the landscape of rural eastern Oregon for instilling in her a great love for the timeworn, the forgotten and the haunted. When Tiah isn’t working as a professional writer and corporate communicator, she enjoys obscure-plant cultivation for her garden, portrait photography and anything that is handmade, homegrown or vintage. Her poetry has appeared in CutBank Literary Magazine, the Winter 2014 issue of VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions, the anthology Forty Years of CutBank, and Just Now: Twenty New Portland Poets. Visit her online at Passage House.

Pattie Palmer-Baker, Poetry Co-Editor
A guest poetry co-editor for the Summer 2014 issue, Pattie’s back on the poetry team for this edition. An artist as well as a poet, she enhances her artwork with poetry in calligraphic form. Because so many people respond more strongly to the words than the images, she recently participated in workshops taught by several local well-known poets. To her surprise, she soon discovered her motivation to write poems surpassed her desire to create visual artwork. Recently, she started submitting her poems to journals and her work has appeared in Analeka, VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions, and Elohi Gadugi. Her poem “50,000 Bumblebees Die” is part of the “Unnatural Acts” exhibit at Artists’ Milepost Gallery 5. She has earned a 2014 Pushcart nomination from VoiceCatcher.

Helen Sinoradzki, Ph.D., Prose Co-Editor
After serving as copy line editor for two issues, Helen is taking on the role of prose co-editor. She moved to Portland 15 years ago and plans to stay for the rest of her life. She has been a bookseller at various independent bookstores for 20 years. Before that, she taught English at Ithaca College and the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos, and worked as a technical writer at Los Alamos National Laboratory. With the help of the amazing writers at Pinewood Table, she completed a memoir, Thursday’s Child, and is searching for a publisher. She has published narrative nonfiction and short stories, most recently in the print edition of Crack the Spine.

Cindy Stewart-Rinier, Poetry Co-Editor
A poetry co-editor for the Winter 2014 edition, Cindy returns to the poetry team for this issue. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. Her poetry has appeared in publications such as CALYX, The Smoking Poet, Crab Creek Review, Ascent and VoiceCatcher. Her work has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize: in 2011 by Crab Creek Review and in 2013 by VoiceCatcher. A pre-kindergarten teacher by day, she also teaches evening poetry writing workshops for the Mountain Writers Series, of which she is a board member. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her younger son, her husband of 31 years, and a bandy-legged pit bull..