Why writers need community

It’s well established that writing is a solitary art form. It takes discipline and focus to forgo the social events and TV shows in order to slowly compose and polish a poem or short story or essay. And there are lots of books and blogs and, probably, TED Talks about how to make that happen. I mean, there’s an entire month — November — dedicated to writing a novel in 30 days.

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Beat writers at a cafe in New York City. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

But what’s equally important to the writer’s life — and this is less-often discussed — is community. I’ve spoken about this, recently, to creative writing students at my alma mater and a writing/marketing class, and was met both times blank stares and skepticism and protest. And I get it. We’re all too busy and meeting new people is weird and we’re comfortable with our own writing voice/style/process and don’t need outside input. Only, the thing is, we really do. Here’s why: Continue reading

THE SHORTEST DAYS

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“October black birds and cornfields” by Linda Storm

Because I am so happy for you and the life you made
beautiful from the scraps of what we were given. What

we thought were scraps but maybe was our precious
inheritance. I can see it, the guy on Antiques Roadshow —

the blond twin — saying, “This is a national
treasure,” and opening a forged metal box of red maple

leaves, tart apples, snow sky, the calls of Canada geese
winging in formation. Getting the hell out of there. That place Continue reading

Danger comes easy

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The best beer I ever drank was a Sol tallboy
from a styrofoam cooler in a neighborhood park
in Merida. It was Carnival in Mexico
but that particular block party could have been simply
someone’s birthday. Still, a teenage boy
sold me the can, ice cold, almost

frozen. There was a parade that day — floats
for hours blasting pop music. Drag queens
in tall wigs and short skirts threw kisses
like candy. You wouldn’t think there’d be
so many queens in Mexico, or maybe it’s no
surprise. And ordinary, too, how the police Continue reading

By a hare

A retelling of an Asian rabbit myth, excerpted from a longer poetry cycle on which I’m working. 

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1830s-era French natural history print

Black-naped hare, meadow creature, keeps his language
secret. No one around here speaks rabbit. When the beggar
asked for alms, the monkey gathered fruit, the otter brought fish
and the jackel stole a pot of milk. The rabbit only knew
how to harvest grass, so it threw itself on the cooking fire.

But the beggar transformed himself into Sakra, ruler of the Devas
and rewarded the rabbit for his selflessness by placing him
on the moon. It was better than death by immolation,
but it was far away, and cold at night, and there was no grass
at all. And no one spoke rabbit there, either.

The squirrel knows but isn’t telling (micro fiction)

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Photo from society19.com

There’s a house on Kimberly Avenue. There are many houses, but this one in particular is the kind of house that exudes style and dignity and the kind of manicured calm that comes from proximity to wealth. The whole street is like that — wide and well-maintained with grand old shade trees casting cool green over sidewalk and tended lawn.

No one is ever tending this particular lawn. Landscaping crews piloting tractor-sized mowers are for the nouveau riche; the truly wealthy have yards maintained by elves who show up, soundlessly, after midnight, and pluck every clover and sorrel by hand so nothing remains but a uniform blanket of St. Augustine sod. Continue reading

Collaborative chapbook

Last week I was part of an art show/performance that was the end result of an 11-day collaborative challenge. The Center for Craft, Creativity and Design selected 11 artists (a combination of writers, crafters and visual artists) to team up and create work based on the CCCD’s exhibition, The Good Making of Good Things: Craft Horizon’s Magazine, 1941-1979.

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I was paired with weaver Danielle Burke who’s focus in Appalachian coverlets. We were both inspired by a February, 1974 issue of Craft Horizons in which writers were tasked with creating prose around the art of long-dead makers whose works had outlived any knowledge of the ancient artists who made the work. Continue reading

Weekly reading 3

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• “Reclaiming Our Roots: The Story of Tamishan” by Melissa Henry in The Urban News: “The stories of how these African Muslims had succeeded in preserving key elements of culture, some even convincing their owners to set them free and allow them to return to their native lands, amazed and inspired me.”

• London-based spoken word artist Kate Tempest performing on World Cafe. Holy crap. Continue reading