Posted in General Interest

WRITING FROM OUR PERSONAL SACRED SPACE, Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen (1932-19960 Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian
Henri Nouwen (1932-1960) Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian

Writing is a process in which we discover what lives in us. The writing itself reveals to us what is alive in us. The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know. Thus, writing requires a real act of trust. We have to say to ourselves: ‘I do not yet know what I carry in my heart, but I trust that it will emerge as I write.’ Writing is like giving away the few loaves and fishes one has, trusting that they will multiply in the giving. Once we dare to ‘give away’ on paper the few thoughts that come to us, we start discovering how much is hidden underneath these thoughts and gradually come in touch with our own riches. ‪#‎HenriNouwen‬ REFLECTIONS ON THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION (unpublished) www.henrinouwen.org

My cousin, Father Daniel Sormani C.S.Sp., shared this quotation with me on Facebook. It is from the Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian, Henri Nouwen. I very much agree with Father Nouwen on this matter of writing, its meaning, source and value in our lives.

Suggested reading: My cousin Dan’s article: What Have We Done That People Can Pick Up Weapons and Kill? This article was also featured in our Waging Peace Collection in The BeZine.

Photo credit ~ by Frank Hamilton under CC BY-SA 2.o license

– Jamie Dedes

Posted in General Interest, Jamie Dedes, poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry

A Madwoman, A Madonna, A Medusa

640px-Medusa_by_Carvaggio-1What’s it to me?
A knotted and nasty old poet of introverted time
wearing five-dollar sweats
dressing in black on black,
silver earrings tinkling softly in the winter breeze
What’s it to me? …

A Madwoman, A Madonna, A Medusa
Traipsing neighborhood streets, city parks, country lanes
Nibbling on sharp yellow cheese and glossy red apples
Sitting down on some wayward curb to sigh in wonder at
noisy birds, children, wizened old men, whiskered grandmothers
Dogs walking their humans by the side of the road
Feral cats scratching a living of pigeon stuffed with stale bread

Muttering, muttering, whispering, watching, writing
Writing long poems and short about what it was to be us
through clocked days trapped in pointless, punctilious youth
Enjoying now the wild, gnarly randomness of life
and the music of our dusty blue souls jingling as we walk …
What’s it to me? What’s it to this so lately untamable me?

© 2013, poem and photographs, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; “Medusa” is in the public domain

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity, to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded and host The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another – no matter our tribe – in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.”

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

Posted in Culture/History, Essay, General Interest, Liz Rice-Sosne, poem, Writing

A Culture of Blame

Memorial Day in the USA has come and gone.  I have been thinking a great deal about veterans of war recently.  This is probably due to the really awful press about the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (Veterans’ Administration or VA)  and Ray Shinseki.  As many know he holds the the post that oversees the VA  The proverbial “they want his head on a platter” underscores the culture of blame in this country – and perhaps worldwide.   I know nothing about Mr. Shinseki, but I do know that there is enough blame to go around.  The change of one man at the top will not right wrongs.

man-pointing-silhouetteThinking about this tragic situation with the VA made me think about the fact that we live in a “culture of blame” in this country.  Watching the news makes it appear that it comes naturally to wish to affix blame immediately for any problem that is discovered among us.  I know it well not just because I have seen it over and over but because I have lived it.  I was raised in a culture of blame.  I know what it feels like to be blamed at a young age for mistakes or problems that may or may not have been caused by me.  I ask myself, why do we do that?  When a problem is discovered anywhere, that problem should be carefully reviewed.  Facts should be gathered.  Then they should be weighed to determine how and where the problem originates.  Pros and cons ought be carefully determined and then decisions made that fix the problem with a solution that makes the entire situation better.  Instead of affixing blame we should fix the problem sooner and faster.  We would then waste less time and make needed changes more quickly.

When I ask myself, “why do we live in a culture of blame?”  I do not have the answer.  Is it a result of the need to be the best and the brightest?  For surely we can be none of those things while we make mistakes.  Is that why we need to make those mistakes belong to another?  That question makes me think back to the time when both my mother and my father stated to me that there are two places in life: “first and last,” with nothing in between.  This was an especially difficult view as they entered their children into competitions during all months of the year.  It is of course a farcical view of life and one that is not true.  This view of life does not allow for mistakes to be made while one is growing up.  And what are the mistakes made along life’s pathway?  They are merely moments of growth.  Without the mistakes that we make, we would not grow, we would not mature and we would not be able to reach our dreams.  Personal mistakes when carefully reviewed and nurtured help us to develop empathy for others.  Empathy is one of the most important of emotions to develop for empathy is the place of caring (for others).

9780226094991I spent two to three years at the VA as a volunteer in 2007 and 8.  At that time I was developing my masters project while there.  I was creating a booklet on creative writing for veterans.  Oddly, due to the bad behavior of the one under whom I served (at the VA) this booklet did not come about.  Instead I was to be responsible for bringing in and overseeing an event.  Upon retrospect, this change was a very good thing.  This event brought to the VA an expert author on creative writing with veterans.  He had spent time in both Iraq and Afghanistan leading writing workshops for veterans  I learned a great deal from him.  My initial desire had been to work with young veterans returning from our most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Andrew Carroll edited Operation Homecoming.  This book supported by the National Endowment for the Arts is a collection of writings by service men and women at war.  I recommend it to all.  In my opinion we live in these modern times too far removed from our wars.  And they are our wars.  Those who serve are doing so in the name of freedom whether or not we agree with the current war.  The old adage “war is hell” is very true.  If we (the citizens ) are far removed from war, we will confuse the war with the warrior.  We blame the warrior for the war, then we forget that warrior upon their return home.

While at the VA I worked primarily with those who had been to Vietnam or those who had served during that time.  Not all had seen combat.  As a result of war many were not able to engage life fully.  Writing gave them a way to do that.  Writing about your war experiences allows some of the pressure that you experience to dissipate. By sharing your feelings on paper and then sharing them with a class of like minded people,  some of the pressure is released.  That is a healing moment.  It is something that works for any situation, not just war.  I was able to see much of the good that the VA does.  And although my thesis was changed, I had the opportunity to work with someone who truly loved and cared for her patients.  While at the VA I wrote the following poem.

An Observation

at this table
this quiet place
where they write
this flat surface
where poetry
spills
for the hungry ones
those
who wish to leave
their wars
behind
where recidivism
is high
where
eyes are glazed
stares penetrating
where
nothing is
given away
not even longing
empty bodies
hollowed
angered 
in a
fog
they write

– Liz Rice-Sosne 

© 2014, essay, poem, and portrait below, Liz Rice-Sosne, All rights reserved; illustration “Man Pointing” courtesy of George Hodan, Public Domain Photographs.net; bookcover art, University of Chicago Press, All rights reserved

unnamed-2LIZ RICE-SOSNE a.k.a. Raven Spirit (noh where), perhaps the oldest friend to Bardo, is the newest member of The Bardo Group Core Team. She is also our new Voices for Peace project outreach coordinator and our go-to person for all things related to haiku.  She says she “writes for no reason at all. It is simply a pleasure.” Blogging, mostly poetry, has produced many friends for whom she has a great appreciation. Liz is an experienced blogger, photographer and a trained shaman. We think her middle name should be “adventure.”

Posted in Poems/Poetry, Victoria C Slotto

Write in the Moment

What a gift it is–those moments when I remember to notice life in detail. To stop and watch the diamonds scattered across the grass in early morning hours, to catch the sun, back-lighting the soft white fuzz of my dogs or breath in the scents of earth and jasmine in our garden. I wish that I could learn to be aware in each and every moment–that I could learn to silence the mindless conversations I have with myself, to let go of fears about the future or regrets about the past, to ignore gnawing worries about what others think.

 

Photo: David Slotto
Photo: David Slotto

An exercise I’ve used before that has been the source of many poems is this: at the end of every day (or even as the day progresses) jot down, in detail, some things that you notice. I usually try to create a list of ten. Here’s an example:

1. In the West, large white clouds hang heavy on the mountains. Someone has painted their underbellies with a wash of Payne’s gray.
2. Sparky lies curled at my feet, head erect like a Sphinx, but his eyes are at half-mast.
3. A hummingbird perches on the feeder outside my window. I think he’s in love with his reflection.

What are you noticing today? Is there a poem waiting for you to bring it forth?

– Victoria C. Slotto

© 2014, essay, Victoria C. Slotto, All rights reserved; © 2014, photograph, David Slotto, All rights reserved

2940013445222_p0_v1_s260x42034ff816cd604d91d26b52d7daf7e8417VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~ is an accomplished writer and poet. Winter is Past, published by Lucky Bat Books in 2012, is Victoria’s first novel. A second novel is in process. On Amazon and hot-off-the-press nonfiction is Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage Dementia. Victoria’s ebooks (poetry and nonfiction) are free to Amazon Prime Members. Link HERE for Victoria’s Amazon page.

Editorial note: Congratulations, Victoria, on that the long awaited publication of print copies of Jacaranda Rain, Collected Poems, 2012, Beautifully done.

Writers’ Fourth Wednesday prompt is hosted by Victoria from January through October. Victoria’s next Fourth Wednesday writers’ prompt will post at 12:01 a.m. PST on May 28. Please join us. Mister Linky will remain open for seventy-two hours so that you can link your response to this blog.If you find Mister Linky too combersom to use, please feel free to leave your link in the comments section on Wednesday. Victoria and Jamie will read and comment and we hope you will read each other’s work as well, comment and encourage. 

Posted in Victoria C Slotto, Writing

Writer, READ!

Photo: NPR.org
Photo: NPR.org

Every writer knows the importance of reading and the impact it has on our own skills. Because I write literary fiction and poetry, I gravitate towards the same in my reading choices. However, I’ve discovered that it’s critical to pay attention to what is going on in life at the moment and plunge into different genres to achieve some sort of balance.

Here’s an example. A few years ago, I began to read the novel “Still Alice,” by Lisa Genova. Beautifully written and intense, it’s the fictional story of a brilliant woman’s descent into dementia. The reading group I attend here in the desert was to discuss it at its next meeting. However,I knew I didn’t have the psychic energy to continue. Although I had worked with dementia my entire nursing career and have,myself, written a flash fiction piece from the first person point of view of a woman with dementia, I was at the time immersed in dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer’s–my now 93-year-old mother. I simply couldn’t bear the sadness.

Since then, I have read the book two times; I took it to my Reno book club and led the discussion. I recommend it to many since it puts you in the mind of the person who has dementia as she progresses through the disease. (The author is a neuroscientist with keen insight into the subject.)

Now I enjoy reading the classics,trying to uncover what it is that makes them so timeless. In between, I’ll download something mindless–a good mystery or, rarely, a romance. It’s important to read great writing to enhance our own skills, but even when it’s less than stellar–isn’t it fun to critique?

One of the downsides of writing has, indeed, become the tendency to evaluate writing instead of simply enjoying the experience. But, read on, take note of style winners and losers and learn!

Happy writing. Enjoy the process.

© 2014, poem, Victoria C.Slotto, All rights reserved

2940013445222_p0_v1_s260x42034ff816cd604d91d26b52d7daf7e8417VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~ is an accomplished writer and poet. Winter is Past, published by Lucky Bat Books in 2012, is Victoria’s first novel. A second novel is in process. On Amazon and hot-off-the-press nonfiction is Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage Dementia. Victoria’s ebooks (poetry and nonfiction) are free to Amazon Prime Members. Link HERE for Victoria’s Amazon page.

Editorial note: Congratulations, Victoria, on that the long awaited publication of print copies of Jacaranda Rain, Collected Poems, 2012, Beautifully done.

Writers’ Fourth Wednesday is hosted by Victoria from January through October. Tomorrow Victoria’s Fourth Wednesday writers’ prompt will post at 12:01 a.m. PST. Please join us. Mister Linky will remain open for seventy-two hours so that you can link your response to this blog. Victoria and Jamie will read and comment and we hope you will read one-anothers’ work as well, comment and encourage. 

Posted in Victoria C. Slotto, Writers' Fourth Wednesday

HEADS UP: Writers’ Fourth Wednesday is tomorrow …

Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer's Expo March 2012
Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer’s Expo March 2012

Poet, novelist and writing coach, Victoria C. Slotto is host. The prompt is about writing with color and it will go up at 12:01 a.m. PST on this blog. We hope you link in your own work – you have seventy-two hours to do so – and share it with us and that you will visit and support other participants.

Photo credit ~ Victoria Slotto, All rights reserved

Posted in Victoria C Slotto, Writers' Fourth Wednesday, Writing

WRITERS’ FOURTH WEDNESDAY ~ Common Sense(s)

I am a visual, hands-on learner. My husband is more auditory. If I’m sitting through a lecture, I need to take notes in order to incorporate the key points being delivered. David will just sit, listen and absorb. It’s disconcerting to both of us when he starts discussing things such as the stock market or how to improve my golf swing and I don’t follow…(and it’s hard to take notes when you’re already in bed.)

People do differ in their favored modes of sensory perception. You may want to touch or taste, while your friend will associate sounds, colors or aromas with a place or event. That’s why it’s important to evaluate descriptions in terms of the senses. Make sure you haven’t just focused on those things that speak to you.

Photo: morethanbranding.com
Photo: morethanbranding.com

Last Thursday at dVerse Poets’ Pub, I offered a prompt, asking those who wished to participate to really pay attention to an object, to dissect it with their senses, to let it tell a story or tease out a long forgotten memory.

Here’s what I suggested:

You could begin by enlisting the help of your senses. How does it smell, taste, feel to touch? Describe what you see or hear. Does it make you feel a certain way or engage a memory? Where did you find it? Give some environmental details if appropriate. Are there any verbs that pop into mind when you see this thing?

Go ahead, take it a step further. Is it possible that this artifact can be used metaphorically? Does that stale bread remind you of a relationship, or the gravel beneath your bare feet the pain you find along life’s journey? Does it, perhaps, remind you of someone or something in your own life? Personify it, if you like.

I’d like to share with you some examples from the opening chapter of my novel, The Sin of His Father. The protagonist is at the deathbed of his mother. Here’s how I’ve tried to incorporate the senses:

Sight: “The dim light threw his mother’s profile into an eerie silhouette. It was as though someone had let the air out of a grotesque balloon–the parody of an Irish washer woman paraded down Columbus Drive in downtown Chicago on St. Paddy’s day…”

Taste: “…the taste of bitter coffee he’d sipped a few hours earlier crept up his esophagus and caused him to gag.”

Hearing: “Ellen’s roommate breathed slowly before turning in her sleep. That was the only sound Matt heard, aside from his mother’s raspy breathing, the bubbles of the oxygen humidifier and the gentle hiss of the gas escaping around the small prongs sticking in her nose.”

Touch: “He fondled the smooth bowl of the pipe that waited for his attention in the pocket of his jacket and longed to step outside to indulge his habit.”

Smell: “His mother’s fetid breath stroked his cheek. He wanted to flee the close air of the room and take off into the night.”

Attention to sensory descriptions throughout the process of rewriting is an excellent way to enrich your manuscript. Perhaps you will select a key scene from one of your stories or a poem and rewrite it, utilizing as many senses as you can. Or write a new paragraph or poem that focuses on sensory detail. Check out the post at dVerse if you like for some samples of poetry, including Neruda, Keats and myself.

Photo: thepaleodiet.com
Photo: thepaleodiet.com

To Participate as a Group:

  • Write your poem or short prose and post it on your blog or website.
  • Access Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post and add your name and the direct URL to your post.
  • Visit others, if you are able, and see what they came up with. Reading each other’s work is, for me, a great way to learn.

Above all, have fun, enjoy the process.

I look forward to reading your work. Victoria

Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer's Expo March 2012
Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer’s Expo March 2012

2940013445222_p0_v1_s260x420VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~ is an accomplished writer and poet. Winter is Past, published by Lucky Bat Books in 2012, is Victoria’s first novel. A second novel is in process. On Amazon and hot-off-the-press nonfiction is Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage Dementia. Victoria’s ebooks (poetry and nonfiction) are free to Amazon Prime Members. Link HERE for Victoria’s Amazon page.

Editorial note: Congratulations, Victoria, on that the long awaited publication of print copies of Jacaranda Rain, Collected Poems, 2012, Beautifully done.

Writers’ Fourth Wednesday is hosted by Victoria from January through October and always posts at 7 p.m. PST.

Posted in Victoria C Slotto, Writing

Writing Critique Groups

Photo: inspirewriters.com
Photo: inspirewriters.com

Since the first writing conference I attended (2004, I believe) I have been involved in writing critique groups. It was for that conference that my work was first accepted for work-shopping and I was sure that I had arrived. A published author led the two-day process and there were about nine of us who submitted work to the other members of the group for critique. It became a turning point for me as a writer. I came to accept the fact that my novel was not quite as brilliant as I perceived it to be.

A few of us from that group went on to meet on a regular basis. Since then I’ve participated in several other critique groups. Here are a few things I’ve learned that have been helpful (in my opinion and from my hands-on experience).

  • Don’t submit your work before you’ve finished the first draft. It is important for you to have a clear idea of your story line before opening it to critique.
  • As a group, decide on guidelines at your first meeting. How many members will you have? Will you submit your writing before the meeting? Will you read work aloud at the meeting? How many manuscripts/how many pages will you discuss?
  • Be sure to balance your positive and negative feedback. Your goal is to build up one another, not destroy. One time a fellow-writer told me, “I would never read this novel.” That discouraged me to the point that I gave up working on it for a few months until I figured out that she was trying to tell me that the prologue was a turn-off.
  • Give specific advice. For example, instead of saying “This moves too slowly,” try something like “Consider using active verbs instead of passive voice,” or “That long sentence drags down the narrative–maybe if you wrote that paragraph in a few clipped phrases it would be more suspenseful.” Avoid general statements such as, “That just doesn’t work.”
  • Learn to listen to suggestions without trying to defend yourself. One group that I have been a part of had set the rule of “silence” until all critiques had been given. But take good notes while you listen. I bring a copy of my manuscript and jot down helpful advice in the columns.
  • Understand the differences between genres. If you write literary fiction, for example, don’t expect the same complexity of characters from your friend who writes sci-fi. And visa versa.
  • Don’t revise immediately after your meeting, except for grammatical and spelling errors. Definitely do not make significant plot changes. Remember, your story is YOUR story.
  • At the same time, be open to suggestion. My writing has been much enriched by plot twists or questions posed by members of my critique groups. Ask clarifying questions if needed.
  • There is a time for critique and a time to write. Understand what works best for you and realize that your needs change at different points in the writing process.
  • And finally, be grateful to your fellow writers. It was through this process that I have met some of my dearest friends. Don’t forget to celebrate one another’s successes!

Happy writing. Enjoy the process.

Image: teazurs.blogspot.com
Image: teazurs.blogspot.com
Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer's Expo March 2012
Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer’s Expo March 2012

2940013445222_p0_v1_s260x420VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~ is an accomplished writer and poet. Winter is Past, published by Lucky Bat Books in 2012, is Victoria’s first novel. A second novel is in process. On Amazon and hot-off-the-press nonfiction is Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage Dementia. Victoria’s ebooks (poetry and nonfiction) are free to Amazon Prime Members. Link HERE for Victoria’s Amazon page.

Editorial note: Congratulations, Victoria, on that the long awaited publication of print copies of Jacaranda Rain, Collected Poems, 2012, Beautifully done.

Victoria hosts Writers’ Fourth Wednesday – a challenge to writers and poets –  from January through October each year. The event always posts at 7 p.m. PST. The next Writers’ Fourth Wednesday is scheduled for February 26. Please join us.

Posted in General Interest, Naomi Baltuck, Photo Essay, Photography/Photographer

Another Man’s Shoes

I’ve always told my kids it’s nice to share, but not everything.  Bea was asthmatic, and every cold she caught seemed to morph into pneumonia. Since pre-school, they’d had it drilled into their heads not to drink from someone else’s cup.  And, of course, when you’re traveling, don’t drink the water!

Years ago, while traveling in Italy

…we had a long train ride from Naples….

https://i2.wp.com/i1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/nbaltuck/Pirate%202013/Italy/1cd5c4ef-9448-47ae-9966-eb5d6f2e909a_zps5bbc941c.jpg

…to La Spezia.


We were delighted to have a compartment to ourselves.  The kids sketched and I knitted, while Thom read aloud to us from the YA novel, Donata, Daughter of Venice.

When the train stopped in Rome…

…a middle-aged couple came in, lugging bags, suitcases, groceries, and a 2 liter water bottle.  I smiled politely, and we scooted over to make room, but I was privately disappointed to have to share our quiet space.  They stowed their stuff, Thom tucked away our read-aloud, and I determined to catch up on my travel journal.

The man introduced himself as Giorgio, and his wife as Leah.  Giorgio spoke very good English, but it was different.  It sounded to me like he was speaking English with an Italian-Australian accent, an unexpected blend of cultures.  As we left behind Rome Giorgio told us he was born in Italy, but lived in Australia. Their daughter studied in Pisa, had met someone, and now they were returning to the Old Country to attend her wedding to a nice Italian boy.  Then Giorgio kindly offered us a drink of water from his bottle…which I politely refused.  We couldn’t afford to get sick while on vacation.

“Please,” insisted Giorgio, perhaps assuming my reluctance was due to shyness.  He filled six little paper cups with water, one for each of us.  I took the cup, wishing there was a potted plant I could discreetly pour my little helping of hospitality into.  Cups in hand, both kids watched intently, to take their cue from the Queen Mum of The Land of Do Not Share.  I lifted the cup to my lips.  Yes, and then I sipped, ignoring everything I knew about contagion, as well as the shocked stares of my children, and the smarty pants expression on my husband’s face.

Giorgio shared much more than water.  As the train rattled along, he told us, step by step, how to cook his favorite Italian dishes.  He told us we really couldn’t leave Italy not knowing how to make our own tomato sauce, or white cream sauce, or garlic sauce.

“Brown, but don’t burn the garlic,” he said.  He dictated recipe after recipe, and I wrote it all down in my journal.  Canneloni, parmigiana eggplant, chicken breast filet.  “It is not difficult!” he assured me.  Leah nodded in solemn agreement.

We passed a field of sunflowers.  With tears in his eyes, he pointed and said, “Itsa beautifulla!”

I heard that heartfelt expression many times on our train ride.  When we passed farms, olive groves, or little villages, his eyes would mist up.  Overwhelmed, he shook his head and said again, “Itsa beautifulla!”

“You must miss Italy,” I said.  “Why did your parents leave?”  Giorgio said his family wanted to escape the pain and aftermath of post-war Italy…

…for a new life in Australia.  He said Italians made up the one of the largest minorities in Australia.  Like the Irish, who came to build the railroad in America, Italians provided cheap labor in a rapidly developing country.  Just as the Irish faced discrimination, and were confronted with “No Irish Need Apply,” the Italians were told, “If you don’t like it, go back to Italy.”

Giorgio was a teenager, wanting desperately to fit in.  Money was tight, but his father must’ve understood, because he bought him handsome new cream-colored shoes and matching trousers.  To show off his new shoes, Giorgio and his brother walked out on the town.   A gang of boys started following.  They laughed at the shoes, tossed ethnic slurs, kicked dirt on the brothers and the prized shoes.  Devastated, Giorgio went home.  In his backyard, he took a knife and shredded the shoes beyond repair.  His father couldn’t understand, but Leah did.

Giorgio was seventeen and Leah was fourteen.  Both were born in Italy, the children of Italian immigrants to Australia. Once they found each other, they never looked back.  Well, hardly ever.  In time, Australians came to respect Italians as hard workers, and recognized the contribution they made to the country, much as we now celebrate Irish-Americans, at least on St. Patrick’s Day.

When Giorgio and Leah got off the train in Pisa…

…we felt we were saying goodbye to friends.  We finally had the compartment to ourselves, but we didn’t whip out our read-aloud book.  We needed time to think about Giorgio and Leah, and the story we had been privileged to share.

Of course, Thom and the kids teased me about sharing a cup with total strangers.  But you’ll never know what you’re missing if you aren’t willing to share a compartment on a train, accept a drink of water from a stranger’s paper cup, or walk a mile in another man’s shoes.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Posted in Contributing Writer, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, General Interest, Karen Fayeth, memoir, Poets/Writers, Writing

Inspiration Takes Flight

Editorial note and reminder: In two weeks, Wednesday, October 23, at 7 p.m. we will host a second writing challenge (Writer’s Fourth Wednesday) featuring Victoria C. Slotto, novelist and poet. The subject of this next challenge-yourself exercise is stream-of-consciousness. So writers read on, enjoy, write and mark your calendars for next week’s event. Mr Linky, which enables you to share your work with everyone, will remain open for seventy-two hours. Victoria and Jamie will visit all participants to read and comment.

Here an accomplished story-teller, Karen Fayeth (pronounced “faith” by the way), shares her experience of inspiration, story, and the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction competition.  

Each year I enjoy participating in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest. The challenge is to write a 1,000 word story over the course of one weekend.

But there’s more! The approximately 700 participants are divided up into groups and each group is given a genre, location and an object. All three must be incorporated in the resulting story. The tale must truly be in the genre, the majority of the story must take place in the location and the object must show up at some point.

It’s always amazing to see the wide array of stories that come from the same genesis. This assignment of genre, location and object can either be entirely freeing, allowing the writer a head start to leap from, or it can be incredibly constraining. It all depends on what genre, location and object gets assigned.

For the first round of the 2013 contest, I was assigned the romance genre. Bleah. Not my favorite but not awful. The location was a haunted house. Hmm. Possibilities abound, but not really for a romance? Hmm. Ok. And my object was marshmallows.

That was my place to start. Over the course of many of these contests I find the judges tend to like if you use the location and object in unique ways, so I always try to think of a twist or a different facet to use in my story.

I was quite busy over this first weekend of competition, doing some work for my employer and taking care of personal business, so there I found myself Sunday morning with nary a word written and a deadline of 9pm that night.

I opened the windows to my studio and let the light pour in. I felt the breeze through the screens and sat down at my computer to make magic.

Magic. Ha! There I sat looking at the curser on my computer screen, willing the magic to begin. It blinked. I blinked.

No magic was happening.

So I subscribed to the “just write something” theory and got started. I began typing words and thoughts and a character sketch. It was going. The magic was not quite lifting off, but it was certainly gaining speed.

That is when something caught my eye outside of the window. A little splash of orange on that first day of Autumn.

I was surprised to see a Monarch butterfly resting on the bush just to the side of the building where I live.

I rushed to get my camera, attached the longest lens I have, popped the screen out of my window, and began taking photographs.

I’m sure glad I did.

Photo Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth

This gorgeous lone Monarch Butterfly was hanging out in the warm sun, using the ol’ proboscis to drink some nectar and gathering pollen on spindly legs. You know, general butterfly business.

As I watched, a couple of bees were highly displeased at the presence of the butterfly and kept strafing him (I say him but I looked up Monarch butterflies online and I think this might actually be a female, but I’m not sure).

These bees were executing deep aggressive fly-bys that only caused the butterfly to flap his wings a bit but stay put. The bees were quite persistent. They dive-bombed and I kept snapping away. I have some crazy action shots that I’m still editing.

After a while, the butterfly flew off and I downloaded and looked through my photos, very pleased with the results.

Then I sat back in my chair and smiled. After the visit from Mr. (Ms?) Butterfly, I felt totally motivated and completely creative. I turned back to my story and banged out about 1,300 words in one sitting.

Then I set the story aside and let it percolate while my husband and I went to explore a local street fair.

When we came back I had fresh eyes and gave the story a hard edit. I managed to pare it down to 999 words and submitted it about 45 minutes before the deadline.

Man-oh-man, hitting send on that story sure felt good.

I owe an awesome creative surge to a visit from a pretty orange butterfly on the first day of Autumn.

© 2013, essay and photo, Karen Fayeth, All rights reserved

webheadshotKaren Fayeth ~ is one of our regular writers. She is our tech manager, site co-administrator along with Jamie and Terri, and fiction and creative nonfiction editor. She blogs at Oh Fair New Mexico. Born with the writer’s eye and the heart of a story-teller, Karen Fayeth’s work is colored by the Mexican, Native American, and Western influences of her roots in rural New Mexico complemented by a growing urban aesthetic. Karen now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. When she’s not spinning a tale, she works as a senior executive for a science and technology research organization.

Karen has won awards for her writing, photography, and art. Recent publication credits include a series of three features in New Mexico magazine, an essay in the online magazine Wild Violet, and a short story in Foliate Oak. Her story “What Leibniz Never Learned” will appear in the Fall edition of The Storyteller.

Posted in Beauty, General Interest, Guest Writer, Imen Benyoub, Poems/Poetry, Poets/Writers

A Heart Without Borders

A Heart Without Borders was originally published in On the Plum Tree and is shared here with the permission of author, Imen Benyoub, and publisher, Niamh Clune.

“Algerian, Imen Benyoub is a poet I have long admired. She writes with such feeling and movement. There is something veiled about her poems that entices you to want to dive into an underlying mystery.” Niamh Clune, Ph.D.  (On the Plum Tree), creator of Plum Tree Books

Editorial Note: We are pleased to welcome Niamh Clune and Imen Benyoub to the Bardo community of readers and contributors.  Niamh has joined us as one of the Core Team members and Imen as a guest writer. As a member of the Core Team, Niamh’s prophetic and mystical writing and art will regularly grace our pages and our hope is that Imen will share more of her work with us as well.  Here Imen tells us of her love of poetry and her admiration for one of the poets of the more recent Palestinian diaspora, Nathalie Handal.

***

Nathalie Handal, Palestinian-American poet
Nathalie Handal, Palestinian-American poet and playwright

When I write, I surrender.

Surrender my senses to a delicious chaos – my soul to reach a deeper abyss and my heart to travel outside its borders.

It is the freedom that comes with writing that made me live through my pen and left me endlessly caught between worlds and words.

It is the freedom that sent Nathalie Handal on a journey from New York to Andalucia – full of colours, textures, and fragrant with history, to recreate the journey of her favourite poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, in reverse, and reconnect with her Mediterranean Eastern roots.

I was confused about what to call a woman whose soul stretches across four continents, a woman with many identites and many homes. But after reading “Poet in Andalucia,” I realized she is a woman who does not recognize borders. Like a gypsy, she moves, collects memories, scents, music, visions of landscapes and secret longings and fuses them into poems.

Nathalie Handal, a poet, playwright, translator and editor was born to Palestinian parents from Bethelehem. She travelled extensively through the United States, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Like Mahmoud Darwish and many exiled Palestinian poets, she tries to give a new meaning and shape to the word “home,” and Andalucia with the richness and the complexity of its cultural and religious heritage reminds her of her own country, where Muslims, Christians and Jews live together in harmony and peace. Drowning in nostalgia for a beautiful yet sad past, Handal tries to revive traditions of Andalusian poets, along with the spirit of Lorca who inspires her work.

Her poems drip with sensuality and longing, woven in English, Arabic, French and Spanish, languages she grew up speaking as a result of her displacement, a special feature that gave her work a multi-layered depth and musicality.

Along with “Poet in Andalucia,” Handal published “The Lives Of Rain,” “The Neverfield” and “Love And Strange Horses.” She won numerous awards and she lectures worldwide.

Nathalie Handal is a universal poet; her poetry is a mirror to her lifestyle as a beautiful nomad in search for an identity. Her voice is honest and passionate, where the East embraces the West in a beautiful harmony.

– Imen Benyoub

© 2013, essay, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved

IMEN BENYOUB – As indicated by Namh Clune in the introductory statement, Imen is a talented poet in her own right, hence this video that provides a sample. The poem is Imen’s. It is read by Eabha Rose (theartre  of words). The music is by Trian Kayhatu (band camp).

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry, Writing

Beathless Between Language and Myth

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Here I am, caught between language and myth …
the principles of grammar written on my tongue by the wind,

the alphabet strung like seed-pearls around my willing neck.
Each day I take to the quarries, hard mining for the sweetly lyrical,

blistered from digging in hot sands and lifting stone for parables.
The very walls that bound my heart are fairly breached by the

gentle solace of poems spun on a spiritual quest, on toiling
though the hill country of my youthful and once indomitable

dreams. Like dandelion fluff, I blow them into history and write
as though poetry is the only nourishment.  Perhaps it is.

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved, 
Photo credit ~ courtesy of morgueFile

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

Posted in Essay, memoir, Naomi Baltuck

Mom Always Said…

Hope for the best, expect the worst, and try not to be disappointed.   My mother’s life philosophy was actually pretty upbeat for a kid whose family lost everything during The Great Depression, including her father, who died of Brain Fever when she was only eight.  Grandma Rhea supported her children by sewing and taking in wash.  My mom shared a bed with Grandma, so they could rent out her room to make ends meet.  But they didn’t always quite make it.  In the freezing Detroit winters, they nailed blankets over the windows because they couldn’t afford coal to heat the house.

Their only book was the family bible.  But Mom found a copy of Alice in Wonderland in a box of textbooks left by a renter.  She read it cover to cover.  As soon as she finished, she turned back to the first page and started over.  She had discovered her passion and her escape–in books.

Mom was the first in her family to attend college, working her way through by reading to blind students.  A person of quiet, if impractical passions, Mom passed on normal school and secretarial school to study Classical Greek and Latin, French, German, and Russian.  Italian, too, but she said that hardly counted.  “After Latin,” Mom said, “Italian is a snap.”

I remember going home from college to visit one weekend.  There were index cards by Mom’s reading chair, on the kitchen windowsill, on the nightstand by her bed.  They had strange writing on them.

“It’s Greek,” she explained.  “Passages from The Iliad, by Homer.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I’m memorizing it,” she said.

“But why?”

“For fun, dear.  After I’ve memorized The Iliad, I’m going to memorize The Odyssey.”

As a young college grad, she had never shown any interest in men, and was still living at home while working for the War Department.  Grandma planned on having a spinster daughter to keep her company in her old age, unaware that Mom had already promised herself she would move out and find a place of her own by her 25th birthday, if she hadn’t gotten married by then.   Mom just hadn’t met her intellectual equal.  Then Harry Baltuck came along.

He was handsome, funny, brilliant; every woman in the office had her eye on him.  But he had eyes only for Mom.  She was so nervous on their first date that she threw up in his car.  Actually, she threw up every time they went out.  “But he kept coming back,” she said, laughing.

He was intrigued, and not just because she was determined to remain a virgin until her wedding night.  It was a very quick courtship.

His proposal wasn’t exactly story book.  “Well, what if we made it legal?” he asked.

“Would you wear a ring?” she countered.  And the rest is family history.

They traveled many peaks and valleys in their time.  They had seven children and eighteen years together.  She was still young when widowed, and Mom received several proposals from Daddy’s friends and army buddies; some decent and well-intended, others not so much.  But Mom didn’t take anyone up on his offer.  She never remarried, or even dated.  Books, once again, became her passion and her escape.

In 1989, I sat at her bedside as she lay dying of cancer.  It had been a long hard battle.  Mom looked up and caught her breath.  “Harry,” she whispered.

“What did you say, Mom?” I asked.

“Harry!”  She pointed toward the door, but I saw nothing there.

“Mom, do you see someone?”

“It’s Harry,” she said, nodding.  “He’s standing right there.”

Was it the delusion of a dying woman?  Or the love of her life, who had been patiently waiting for twenty-five years to take her home?

Let’s hope for the best.  Just like Mom always said, you have to hope for the best.

All images and words c2012 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51MC3SKEF0L._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV.

Naomi also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Posted in Essay, Naomi Baltuck

Today (we are all survivors)

We are all survivors, of our personal histories, our family lines, and of the human race.  Since the dawn of time, think of the families ended abruptly by a bullet, a spear, a club, a predator, illness, by accident and even by someone’s own hand.

Today is the anniversary of D-Day, the Normandy invasion in 1944.  It was the day my Uncle Lewis was launched onto the Normandy beaches into a cruel war.  I think it no coincidence that today is also the anniversary of my father’s death in 1965.

The day before he died, while his kids ran and laughed and played in the yard, my father planted a walnut tree—just a stick of a sapling–by the side of the house.  Did he know what he was going to do?  Did he plant that tree as his own memorial?

I hope not, because someone else is living in that little house in Detroit, and my Dad’s walnut tree is long gone, cut down in its prime.  This I know, because I drive past each time I go back to visit my Aunt Loena.   So these words must serve as a memorial to a World War II vet who came home without his little brother and best friend.  That was the sin his mother never forgave him for, the sin he could he never quite forgive himself for either.

My army buddy, Jack Oliver, attended boot camp with Uncle Lewis.  He helped me understand that my father was as much a victim of the war as my uncle.  When the War Department tallies the casualties, it counts the dead, the wounded, the missing in action.  But no one ever takes into account the broken hearts and broken families left by the wayside in the wake of war.  If they did, perhaps they would stop sending our children off to fight and die.

But today is a day a of forgiveness, a day of understanding, a day to be thankful that life goes on.  It is a day of sorrow, but most of all, today is a day to love.

– Naomi Baltuck

© 2012, essay and photographs, Naomi Baltuck, All rights reserved

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi410xuqmD74L._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Posted in Culture/History, Essay, Naomi Baltuck, Photography/Photographer

Remembering Uncle Lewis, A Memorial Day Story

One of my earliest memories is of dinner at Grandma Rose’s house.  Her towels, furniture, and closets smelled of mothballs; she even stored her silverware in mothballs.  Mostly, though, I recall standing on Grandma’s couch to study the framed collage of black and white photographs on her wall.  I recognized my father, but knew the other boy in the pictures only by name, and by heart.

Uncle Lewis was my father’s only sibling, younger than my dad by ten years.  We never met, and Daddy never spoke of him.  But they were best friends.  In one picture Lewis was laughing, having been surprised on the toilet by my father with his camera.  The brothers teased Grandma too.  Lewis would yell, “Harry, stop hitting me!”  Grandma would rush in, and scold my father for picking on his brother.  Undaunted, they’d laugh and repeat, until Grandma caught on.

Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lewis was drafted into the infantry, a shy studious eighteen year old who had never kissed a girl.  My father joined up as an officer.  He pulled a few strings to get Lewis transferred into the 30th ‘Old Hickory’ Division, so the brothers could cross the Atlantic on the same ship.  Lewis wrote letters and post cards home, often addressed to their dog ‘Peanuts.’

“Hey, Peanuts, tell Pa to eat his spinach!”   From the ship he wrote, “Harry and his buddies sneaked me into their cabin.  They gave me chocolate and let me play with their puppy.  Don’t tell anyone, or we’ll all catch it.  They smuggled the pup on board, and officers shouldn’t fraternize with enlisted men…”

While serving in Africa, Italy, England, France, and Germany, Harry was safely behind the front lines.  But Lewis was sent to Normandy two days after the D-Day invasion.  He fought in the hedgerows of France, and in Holland.  “The Dutch ran into the streets and passed out everything from soup to nuts.  As we marched out of there in the middle of the night, you could hear the clink of cognac, whiskey, and wine bottles in the guys’ jackets, amidst all the cursing and the roar of the Jerrys’ planes overhead.”  

To his parents Lewis wrote, “Dear Ma and Pa, today I saw General Eisenhower drive by.”  Or, “Kronk said the war can’t last.  It just can’t.  And he said it with such an angelic look on his face, I believe him!”

But to my father he wrote, “You should see the bruise from where a bullet passed through my shirt, Brub.  It was a close call.”  Or, “They took Julian away.  It’s so lonely here, Brub.  He’s the reason I wouldn’t take that promotion to sergeant.  We dug in together, took care of each other when things got rough.  I don’t know how bad he’s hurt; I just hope he makes it, and escapes this Hell.  Pray for me, Brub. Pray for me.”

On September 20, 1944, the day before his company attacked the Siegfried Line, Staff Sergeant Lewis Baltuck was killed by the blast of a shell.  Twenty years old, he had hardly begun to live.  He was survived by his parents, his dog Peanuts, and his brother Harry.  He never had the time or the opportunity to fall in love and marry.  He left no children to mourn for him—only the Bronze Star and the bronzed baby booties Grandma kept on her bookshelf until the day she died, more than forty years after her son’s death.

Harry married, had seven children, and built his own little house in Detroit.  But for the rest of his life he suffered acutely from the unspeakable burden of depression and Survivor’s Guilt.  When Grandpa Max died, my father became the sole caretaker of his widowed mother.  There was no one to share that burden with, to joke with or jolly her along.  Worst of all, crazed with grief, Grandma Rose blamed Harry for Lewis’s death.

I envied those kids who grew up with cousins to play with, and uncles who cared about them.  Uncle Lewis would’ve been that kind of uncle, and my father would have been a different man, without that black cloud to live under.  When Daddy died in 1965, we lost our connection to my father’s extended family, and our ties to our paternal cultural heritage were nearly lost as well.  But it does no good to dwell on the past or to speculate on what might have been.

Uncle Lewis was right about one thing.  War is Hell.  The price it exacts is impossible to tally, and can never be repaid.  When a soldier is killed, one heart stops beating, but many more are broken.  The wounds inflicted upon whole families are so deep that the scars can still be felt after generations.

I swear my uncle’s little bronze baby booties will never end up on the bargain shelf at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, like so many others I have seen there.  How sad to think that such precious keepsakes might be tossed into the giveaway because no one remembers or cares about the one whose little feet filled them.

I attended the 60th reunion of the Old Hickory Division in Nashville in search of someone who knew my uncle.  I met only one man who remembered him…“a quiet man who didn’t say much, but when he did speak, he was always worth listening to.”

I tell my children that story, and many other stories about their Great Uncle Lewis.  I am confident he will be cherished and remembered, not just for his tragic death, but for his joyful life.

copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppiNAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Posted in Essay

Reflections, In Honor of Mother’s Day


Once, when we were running late, I was waiting impatiently to lift my little boy Eli into his car seat, while he studied a bug on the driveway.  “Hurry up!” I said.  “We’re going to be late.”

Puzzled, my little boy looked up at me and said, “Mommy, why are you using that tone of voice?”

Such a grownup expression from the mouth of the babe!  And it took my breath away.

“You’re right, honey,” I told him. “It’s not the end of the world if we’re late to pre-school, and it wouldn’t be your fault, if we were.”

Eli and I had a good look at the bug, while I quietly reflected upon what kind of parent I wanted to be.  Which memory of me would I want my kids to look back on and remember me by?  My mother once told me, “The best friends you’ll ever have are the ones you raise yourself.”  Bless her!  Bless them!  Bless us all!

I love that tee shirt that says, “Please let me be the person my dog thinks I am.”   But I aspire always to be the person my kids think I am.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppiNAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Posted in Essay, Karen Fayeth

On Tenacity

mymettles

ON TENACITY

by

Karen Fayeth (Oh Fair New Mexico)

Earlier this week I received the results of a competition I had entered, and for which I held out great hope. It was related to my writing and even an honorable mention would have been a huge step forward for me.

While entering I knew it was a long shot, but I really believed I had a chance.

Predictably, when the results were announced I was nowhere in the list, and yes, this got me a little down.

That’s the trouble, sometimes, with having hope. A burgeoning flower bud of belief can so easily get ravaged by insatiable locusts (over dramatic metaphor alert!!!).

When one is a rather sensitive artist type, it’s hard not to feel steamrolled at such times. Then again, what separates the doers from the dilettantes is tenacity.

So after feeling mopey for several days I am starting to rally. In defeat my resolve becomes just that much stronger.
For almost two years I have been using a really wonderful service that forces me to submit writing to literary journals every quarter. They are strict taskmasters and they keep me focused.

Once every three months I send out about thirty submissions, of which most of them are rejected. This means piles and piles of both email and snail mail arrive at my door just to say “you are not a good fit.”

Amazing how something like two hundred rejections can really make a girl immune to the woes. It’s like a pair of ill-fitting shoes. At first it hurts, then it makes a really painful blister, then finally a callus forms. The thin skin has toughened to endure the scraping.

Like that.

This morning I was thinking back to about seven years ago, back before The Good Man and I had married, and he was living in San Francisco’s North Beach. A really cool new art store had opened on Columbus Ave. near his place and I was just beginning my foray into the visual arts. Visual arts were a big departure from writing, which had dominated my creative juices for so long.
I loved everything about the art store and bought quite a few supplies there. One day they had posters up announcing an auction. Customers were invited to submit art works and the store would display them and then at the end of the month, the store auctioned them off for charity.

Great! I was on board. I created an item to give to the auction and when The Good Man turned in my piece for me, he was asked to put a starting bid. Because he loves me and encourages my work, he put the amount of $50 as a starting price instead of starting at zero as most other artists were doing.

Later, when we walked into the store to see my stuff on display, my piece was at the very, very back of the store among the tools and shelves where they stretch canvas. My work was clearly more amateur than the rest of the offerings and it stood out as the only one using the photographic medium, but ok. It was on display which was a huge rush.

When the auction was finished, they called to ask me to come pick up my work. The rather arrogant and sniffly clerk informed me bluntly that my piece was the ONLY one that hadn’t sold (meanwhile, he gave us a flyer so we could attend his exhibit of butt ugly paintings at a local small gallery).

I was, of course, embarrassed beyond belief, humiliated and totally crushed. Being judged by a more experienced (and in my mind, more talented) artist just about did me in.

Just thinking about it still gives me shudders of embarrassment. This morning in the wake of my recent defeat I thought again about this experience. I recalled today that among all the donated pieces, my work was the only one that listed a starting bid.

All others put in a starting bid of $0, and they all sold. Snotty clerk said they didn’t have a lot of bids and bidders. All of this means that at the end of the auction, someone could have thrown $5 at a piece of artwork and would have won.

Today I understand that instead of being sheepish about that whole thing, I should be proud. I may not have sold my work but I valued my art enough to put a price on it.

Which is stronger? Valuing my own work and not selling it at that auction, or giving it away for free, thus saying the value of my work is nothing?

I know which one I choose. Today I have straightened my spine and I feel a little better.

In defeat, my mettle is being tempered, and that only makes me stronger.

© 2013, essay, Karen Fayeth, All rights reserved. Photo by Claudia Akers.
Photo credit ~ Forge, ScienceGuide

webheadshotKAREN FAYETH ~ is one of our regular contributing writers. She is our new tech manager, site co-administrator along with Jamie and Terri, and fiction and creative nonfiction editor. She blogs at Oh Fair New Mexico. Born with the writer’s eye and the heart of a story-teller, Karen Fayeth’s work is colored by the Mexican, Native American, and Western influences of her roots in rural New Mexico complemented by a growing urban aesthetic. Karen now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. When she’s not spinning a tale, she works as a senior executive for science and technology research organization.

Karen has won awards for her writing, photography, and art. Recent publication credits include a series of three features in New Mexico magazine and an essay with the online magazine Wild Violet.  Her latest short story will be published in the May edition of Foliate Oak. Karen’s photography is garnering considerable attention, but her proudest moment was having her “Bromance” (Aubry Huff and Pat Burrell) photo featured on Intentional Talk hosted by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar on MLB TV. She’s a Giant’s fan.

Posted in Essay, Jamie Dedes

Roger Ebert “…online, everybody speaks at the same speed.”

ROGER EBERT (1942-2013)

film critic, screenwriter, Pulitzer Prize for Criticism

Ebert at the Conference on World Affairs in September 2002,

shortly after his cancer diagnosis

THE WISDOM AND COURAGE OF ROGER EBERT

This following piece on Roger Ebert was originally written for our Perspectives on Cancer series in 2011. I don’t know how well known Roger Ebert is outside of the United States; and while he is best know and appreciated as a journalist and film critic, I feel his inspiring response to catastrophic illness makes him a true hero and role model for anyone anywhere. Earlier this week the Chicago Sun Times announced Roger Ebert’s death from cancer.

Roger Eberts cancer and treatments took away his jawbone, his ability to speak, and even his ability to eat and drink. He continued writing right to the end, said that when he wrote he was just like his old self, and he wrote his last tweet two days before his death. Of his life online, he said:

 Now we live in the age of the Internet, which seems to be creating a form of global consciousness. And because of it, I can communicate as well as I ever could. We are born into a box of time and space. We use words and communication to break out of it and to reach out to others.

For me, the Internet began as a useful tool and now has become something I rely on for my actual daily existence. I cannot speak; I can only type so fast. Computer voices are sometimes not very sophisticated, but with my computer, I can communicate more widely than ever before. I feel as if my blog, my email, Twitter and Facebook have given me a substitute for everyday conversation. They aren’t an improvement, but they’re the best I can do. They give me a way to speak. Not everybody has the patience of my wife, Chaz… But online, everybody speaks at the same speed.” Roger Ebert

Born in Urbana, Illinois to parents of modest means who wanted a better life for him then they had, Ebert’s affinity for writing and film were encouraged. He went to Urbana High School, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is known for his film column in the Chicago Sun-Times (1967 – April 4, 2013), his film guide books, and for the television programs he did in collaboration with Gene Siskel and later Richard Roeper. Ebert struggled with alcoholism. He is married to a trial attorney, Charlie “Chaz” Hammel Smith, now Chaz Ebert and VP of Ebert Company. 

In 2002, Ebert was diagnosed with salivary cancer. He received radiation treatments and multiple surgeries that effected his speech. In 2006, more cancer was found in his jaw bone. He was rushed to the hospital when his carotid artery burst and he “came within a breath of death.”  The jaw bone was removed. Between one thing and another, he suffered through excessive bleeding, loss of muscle mass, deformity, a jaw prosthetic, and the loss of his voice. In the TED Award video below, he informs us of his – among other things – experiments with different voices.

I have always admired Roger Ebert as a writer, film critic, and the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Since he has been living with cancer and then the fallout from cancer, I have come to admire Roger Ebert, the man. He has shown himself to be a world-class role model and a first class human being. As you will see, through it all, he has retained his sense of humor. Write on Roger

ROGER EBERT: Remaking My Voice

Photo credits ~ Ebert at the 2004 Savaanah Film Festival by Rebert under GNU Free Documentation License and Lillian Boutte and Roger Ebert by Jon Hurd under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Both photos via Wikipedia.

Video upload to YouTube by 

Belated addition to this post 12:22 a.m.: I just found this lovely essay by Roger Ebert entitled, “I do not fear death …” on Salon’s site. Link to it HERE.

ge-officeJamie Dedes ~  My mother lived with cancer of one sort or another for forty years. She was diagnosed with cancer the first time at thirty-six.  She was pregnant with me, her second and last child. She had a radical mastectomy and radiation treatments while pregnant. Ultimately, she went three rounds with breast cancer, one with thyroid cancer, and died at seventy-six of breast and colon cancer. I pray everyday for cures. Advancements in medicine and technology give us hope. I’m also encouraged to see that we are doing more with lifestyle and nutrition (antiangiogenic foods), both prophylactically and for healing and remission, and with the soft technologies of prayer, guided visualization, energy medicine, meditation, music and art.

Posted in General Interest, Jamie Dedes

WHILE I WAS GONE …

“And it occurred to me that there is no such thing as blogging. There is no such thing as a blogger. Blogging is just writing — writing using a particularly efficient type of publishing technology.” Simon Dumenco, writer/blogger with Advertising Age

BACK TO THE BLOG

by

Jamie Dedes

Well, I’m back and with me my partners, Ann and Rob, and all of the wonderful writers and poets who have contributed and will continue to contribute to the richness of this blog. (Thank you!) Short story: I’ve been “occupying” or at least boycotting my former Internet Service Provider for poor customer service and for billing for services not rendered. This isn’t done in the spirit of meanness or revenge, but in the search for honesty and ethic and justice, though I will go to war if need be to get the billing corrected.  Meanwhile, after much research, I found new provider that has – according to online reviews and polling of friends – a better ethic and more reliability. One can only hope …

Most immediately, I plan to catch-up with our readers. I look forward to finding out what I missed in your blogs – your lives, your wisdom and joy, your art – over the past month. There is always the richness of spiritual practice, family, friends, books, music, and shows. Still, a vacuum was created during the month I was off-line. For your concerned email notes and for your comments here: thank you!

I have many fine submissions to organize for publication. Some require work before they can be published. I’m not sure how fast they’ll go up, but you won’t be disappointed when they do. Stay tuned …

 See you in the Blogosphere!

and, from all of us to each of you, thank you for reading and commenting here.

Jamie