Thursday, March 30, 2017

Experiment #11

What wisdom is found in a wine cork! As I opened my current favorite wine this evening, I was delighted to discover that it feels the same way about writing as I do. In these lonely days I will take camaraderie wherever I can find it.

I wrote a lot of poetry as a teenager. It was my safe haven but it also was my undoing in a lot of ways. I recently came across a sampling of my work from those years and it is nothing if not marked by angst and tragedy. Because of this, I spent a good deal of my adulthood avoiding poetry. Rather than cathartic, I judged it to be borne out of the parts of myself I would prefer to forget. But the truth is that writing poetry is a healing work. There is something about giving voice to the parts of ourselves that are angry or hurt or selfish. Acknowledging them does not give them power over us as much as the opportunity to be heard and released. I would love to someday be in a place where my poetry does not solely take on the more melancholy parts of my psyche, but until then, I suppose my job is to allow it to move through me in whatever way it chooses.

This week's experiment was to attempt to write a poem given specific forms. I love writing poetry within the context of a predetermined structure. It brings order to the otherwise chaotic thoughts inside my brain. It is challenging and intellectual as well as intuitive. I am always excited to see the finished product because it is as much a surprise to me as anyone else.

Here is my first attempt at a terza rima (*hint* I stole my favorite line from the poem Night that I posted earlier this week. It's not plagiarism if you write it yourself, right?):

My Mind is a Dangerous Neighborhood

My mind is a dangerous neighborhood
It is best not to navigate alone
The thieves and the thugs are up to no good

The well-kept gardens are now overgrown
Choked by thistle and invaded by weeds
I cannot escape the seeds I have sown

I am found wandering where contempt breeds
Even the sweetest of sentiments sours
It is best to not find where that road leads

Safe passage is found within daylight hours
But at night nothing appears as it should
In darkness even strong men will cower

Forsake this prison if only I could
My mind is a dangerous neighborhood

I am also posting a villanelle that I wrote within the last year. I submitted it to the Moorpark Review, but it was passed over. I am extremely thankful, however, that my second submission, aptly entitled Reasons I Drink was selected for publication!

Beyond the Wall

Beyond the wall
Vine-choked in a sea of green
Brick by brick built tall

I hear my lover’s call
Ears strained though planted where I lean
Beyond the wall

Do not climb heights from whence to fall
Knowledge is a smokescreen
Brick by brick built tall

Shaded in shadows, made small
Hidden among what remains unseen
Beyond the wall

Blinded eyes refuse the downfall
Envisioning elaborate dreams
Brick by brick built tall

Laughter is an echo, only dry tears to bawl
Imprisoned in the in between
Beyond the wall

Brick by brick built tall

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Word Count Wednesday

What am I currently working on?
Well, thank the Lord, it appears I have finally been freed from the muzzle of writer's block. I haven't had a ton of time to write this week but I did get a chance to work on the poems I posted as well as my (very) short story.

Word Count: 590 (not 1000, but I'll take it!)

Unfortunately my creative writing time has been eaten into this week because I have been working on a letter to someone I care about and it is not an easy one to compose. What is it about confrontation that turns even the most eloquent of speakers into a bumbling mess? Having to write this letter has been a good refining exercise for my creative process, though. In attempting to convey my message clearly, I'm having to consider word choice, revision of drafts, and general paring down of ideas.

Word Count (so far): 1008

How do I feel about the process?
Relieved! I'm glad to be writing again even if it's not all for fun. I hope to return to some of my narrative work soon.

What am I currently reading?
My daughter and I went to the public library last week so I'm reading all sorts of Children's Stories. Some new favorites (for the children at least) have been the Walter the Farting Dog series and the Jedi Academy books. I'm also reading 20 Master Plots and Through Women's Eyes for my history class.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

100 (ish) word story

In class yesterday, we did a brief experiment on a (very) short story. We had just about 5 minutes or so to let a words or phrase spark a story that would convey some sort of thought or emotion for the reader. This is my very rough draft using the first word I saw on a random book page: KISS

They stared at each other. Their faces only inches apart now, breath intermixing in the space between them. 

It was a bad idea. 

They both knew it. But rationality had long disappeared from their minds and been replaced by the singular thought that nothing else mattered in this moment except closing the gap. They were magnets. Fighting the constant and invisible force urging them together had been exhausting. It was time to surrender. 

Word Count: 73
Meh. But a fun exercise none the less!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Grief and Poems

As I've alluded to in previous posts, this year has been one marked with a lot of personal grief, some accidentally imposed and some of my own making. The thing about grief is that it is not a respecter of circumstance. It cares little how you came to find yourself on its doorstep. It knows your mere presence means it is now in control. If you were not a victim before, grief bends you to its will and at least for a time, your life is no longer your own.

Sometimes grief shows up in paralysis and you only know you are alive because somehow you are still breathing. 

Sometimes it appears in panic and nights become prolonged stretches of terror. 

Sometimes grief feels insurmountable and you are physically dehydrated from the seemingly unending outpouring of tears. 

Sometimes it is a torrent of anger and you fear the rage rattling the hinges of your cage.

Sometimes grief is quiet and you find yourself the absence of everything. 

And sometimes, not often, it is gracious, allowing bits of hope in unexpected moments to share the doorstep with you. 

A few of these moments showed up for me this weekend. 'Showed up' is a nice term. It was more like 'jolted me out of bed in the middle of each night' but at least they didn't come empty handed. For someone beginning to wonder if I was ever going to write anything again, it was a welcome relief. These three poems are the humble gifts grief left on the doorstep.


Tortured souls do not sleep
They wander lonely hours through the darkened alleyways inside their heads
Twisting, turning, searching…never finding
My mind is a dangerous neighborhood

Rest escapes the weary traveler
Seeking refuge inside the panic rooms of two and three a.m.
Asking, calling, hoping…never hearing
My solitude is a deafening silence

Dreams haunt the darkness
Float like ghosts among the shadows of conscious thought
Stirring, frightening, watching…never ceasing
My fear is a constant companion


           He spoke in silences
Intentionally placed pauses
Everything he couldn’t say
or do
or be

                                               I heard every absence
Unreturned promises
Heaviness born out of

                                                I filled the empty spaces
The fog of unrelenting hope
Ears ringing with the
sounds of
my own voice

                                                His voice struck dumb
Muted by cowardice
The dissonance of warring
heart and

                                                I refuse to listen
Self-imposed deafness
Ignoring the reverberations
of his truth
and his lies


You have fifteen minutes to break down.
Use your seconds well
If tears shall etch new pathways
Dry them where they fell

You have twelve minutes to disappear
Where can you possibly go?
The walls are caving as we speak
Upon your crumpled mess below

You have nine minutes left to grieve
The clock is ticking down
The noises that are escaping now
Soon will make no sound

You have six minutes in which to sink
Before you come up for air
The pain will feel impossible
Though there is so still much to bear

You have three minutes left to feel
Final countdown has begun
Take a breath, wipe your face
And return yourself to numb

You have one minute to pull it together
Not a moment more
The unforgiving clock stops dead
When the children walk through the door

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Word Count Wednesday and Experiment #6

What am I currently working on? 
I don't know. A little bit of a lot of things but I still seem to be under the curse of zero decent content. For the sake of posterity and hopefully a helpful hint or two on where to go from here, I'll post a bit of what I've started for Experiment #6 The world is exactly like ours except...

In my story, everyone has an imaginary friend and they are assigned to fulfill some sort of purpose in each person's life. They will stay with a person until they have fulfilled that purpose (help develop self-esteem, be a friend to the lonely, provide comfort through a period of grief, etc.) My protagonist, Peter, has an imaginary friend, Evangelo, but they do not actually have anything in common. Peter finds him annoying. That's about as far as I've gotten. I'm thinking short story so feel free to make some suggestions. I'm praying that something will break me out of this terrible writer's block!

Word Count: 408

I don’t remember the exact moment when Evangelo came into my life. I guess I just kinda figured he’d always been there. At least as far back as I could remember. It wasn’t as if Evangelo was particularly annoying or anything. He was just kind of like the kid you’re forced to hang out with because your parents are friends, though given the opportunity to choose, you would probably pick just about anyone else to play with over him. We seemed to have nothing in common. Of all the imaginary friends I could’ve been paired up with, why did I have Evangelo?
My brother Reggie really loved his imaginary buddy, Gander. Those two never seemed to run out of things to say. Well, Reggie didn’t. I’ve never actually heard Gander speak. They spent hours talking about the latest video games or how to get to the next level on Death Star 5. They never fought or seemed to get sick of each other. In fact, when Gander had to go visit his mother over Christmas, Reggie missed him so much he cried. They were inseparable for two weeks after he returned.
Sometimes I wished Evangelo would take a vacation, but I don’t even know if he has a mother.
“You two will figure it out,” my mother told me as I complained, yet again, about how uncomfortable I felt with Evangelo hanging around. “Just give it time.”
“Mom, I could give it all the time in the world but it won’t change the fact that he’s a mouth-breather. Can you imagine how creepy it is to be trying to fall asleep and hearing ‘heh-heh-heh’ coming from the dark corner of the room? Besides that, he’s weird. He never says anything, even when I ask him a question. It’s like living with a stalker following me around. Except that he’s not even a good one.”
“Peter, keep your voice down! Evangelo could hear you and how do you think that would make him feel?”
“How would I know, Mom?” The sarcasm dripping from my words, “He won’t tell me.”
“Well, you may not like it but there’s nothing we can do except wait it out. Every imaginary friend has a purpose. He wouldn’t be here if you didn’t need him for something. It’s not always clear why they come until after they have done their job. Just keep trying new things. You’re a smart kid. The answers will come.”

How do I feel about the process? 
In a word? FRUSTRATED. I feel like I'm having good ideas and no skill to follow through. Maybe I'm too much in my head about it. I get a little bit done and then all creativity and motivation dries up. I guess I just have to continue to push forward.

What am I currently reading?
I just finished Stephen King's On Writing and am thankful that it was required reading for this course. I gleaned a lot of really valuable bits of information from its pages. I also started the 20 Master Plots book. I was assigned the experiment on Decension. I had an idea about writing about what happens we we choose to do the thing we know that we shouldn't. I really relate to that struggle to 'make the right choice' in light of the more tempting option and I think there is a lot to explore creatively for someone who goes against their own better judgement and inevitably have to pay the piper for their decision. Maybe when I am no longer mentally paralyzed, I'll actually post something.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Writer's Block (a haiku)

blank thoughts, blank white page
opportunity brings death
to inspiration 

Just when I’m presented with a significant stretch of uninterrupted time in which to write and create, the unthinkable has happened...I’ve fallen victim to a paralyzing case of writer's block. Opportunity, it seems, is an opportunist, lying in wait, the thief of creative thought and motivation. Hours of the past week have been spent in front of the screen and the page, yet they have netted very little in terms of actual literary substance. Eventually able to eke out a paragraph, I revisit it only to discover it is complete and utter codswallop. The haiku above is the only complete written work I've been able to formulate, and it, in and of itself, is nothing to write home about.

If I’ve learned anything this week, it’s that inspiration seems makes itself known to me in the busyness of a typical day… the feeding, shuffling and raising of kids, household maintenance and the running of errands, the attending to studies, supervision of homework, making of dinner, bath times, bedtimes, on and on and on. On days like these, phrases and ideas appear as lightning bugs on a summer night, points of illumination momentarily materializing and ripe for the capture. Given the unstructured luxury of spring break, however, and I find myself staring down the dark depths of a well of words that has run dry. Oh well, maybe next week…

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Infinitely Precious Things and Word Count Wednesday

When you're younger and a relationship is ending, there is a cleanness to the break. No doubt it's painful, devastating even, but there is a clear divide between together and separate. Conversely, when you've built a life over 15 years with a person and introduced other, more vulnerable lives and shared responsibilities, no such clear distinction exists. Life feels messy and scary and relentless, sad, confusing and practical. We are a loving family but former lovers. We are cordial but not confidants. We are parents but not partners. Our past is a well-worn shoe but the path ahead is masked in mystery.

I took some time away this past weekend and had about 30+ hours to myself...a rare event for a mother of two young children. It was a mixed bag of emotions; a dichotomy of independence and loneliness, freedom and bondage. My entire adult life has been a shared experience. Personal space does not exist for a stay at home parent. Even if you lock the bathroom door, chances are a kid is waiting for you on the other side, ear to the tile floor, peering under the door. So this weekend was a lesson in solitude. I woke up alone, ran the beachside boardwalk alone, ate in a sushi bar alone, wandered the shops alone. It was...lonely. But it was also holy. You see, the years I've spent surrounded by other people have not necessarily been less lonely, just more occupied. I felt seen but unknown. Consumed but not satisfied.

I read a quote in one of the cute boutiques that line Main St. in Ventura. "Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you." -Oscar Wilde (emphasis added) There has been a lot of loss in this season, but there has been so much gain. The loneliness I felt this weekend was a more pure form of loneliness than what I've felt in the past. It was a loneliness born out of a physical actuality of being alone, and not the more personal isolation that comes with feeling misunderstood or unknown. In the past year, I have discovered so very many infinitely precious things about myself that are very much worth the price that requires more physical alone-ness in a place where I am not as lonely.

What am I currently working on?
I've started working on a narrative piece that has more of a topical blog-post tone with supporting history thrown in. It's something between a narrative essay and a journal entry. It's not finished yet but I may post it when it's done.

Word Count: 853

How do I feel about the process?
Good, but I wish I was dedicating more time to it. I really want to get back to my narrative story now that I've received feedback, but haven't found the time or made it a huge priority. Hopefully the break from classes next week will allow for that.

What am I currently reading? 
I am feverishly trying to catch up on On Writing, while squirreling away as many of King's helpful writing hints as possible.
I also spent most of the weekend reading this great blog series called Blue Babies Pink. It is a personal narrative by a Christian man named Brett Trapp and his journey as a gay man in a life that doesn't allow for the truth of who he is. I am a HUGE fan of when people share their personal journeys openly. Brett has a unique perspective because he bridges the gap between two often opposing subcultures. He does not speak with an agenda in mind, but merely shares his journey. It's a powerful testimony that I think does a lot to silence those who are stuck in the way they believe things should be rather than the way that they actually are. It wasn't a short read...44 installments...but if you are into that kind of transparency, I'd highly recommend it.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Word Count Wednesday

What am I currently working on?
Unfortunately, a whole lotta nada. This week has really gotten away from me and I haven't felt motivated or inspired to write. I do have plans to write this weekend and I hope to continue the narrative that I share in my previous post.
Word Count: 0 😩

What am I currently reading?
Since I happened to have sole control of the remote this week, I opted to binge watch Lena Dunham's Girls after the kids went to sleep rather than read anything. Again, not making many strides in this department either. I will say, however, that the level of storytelling and character development is inspiring to the creative process so all is not lost!

How do I feel about the process?
Meh. I'm tired this week, but hearing my classmates read their narratives and unique ideas is always inspiring. I carry around a notebook to, in theory, capture ideas that come up throughout the day to day, but I need to be better about using it. You never know when the next spark of creative genius may hit!