Books & Coffee CityScape!

abstract-illustration-of-a-tree-with-lots-of-leaves_zkplR7U__LSo, just a reminder to those of you who are interested in the Cityscape Challenge, join us! I’m thrilled that some of my new friends have shared some amazing scenes from their home towns like Safira who’s displayed the giant trees and crystal pools of Indonesia and my diy friend who’s snagged a lovely little gazebo in her hometown where she likes to sip coffee and read books! That’s my kind of spot! So what does your spot look like and what does it mean to you? How does it feed your soul? Leave a comment and put a link to your blog or social media so we can see it too! And check out my friends’ pages, they’re pretty awesome!

SignatureMed

Irene Latham: Live Your Poem!

Well, April is National Poetry Month so we should be writing poetry! I know what you’re thinking, “I can’t write poetry!” I used to think the same thing. But the more I learn about this beautiful art, the more I think, well, maybe…

I had the pleasure of meeting the most delightful poet a couple of weeks ago, her name is Irene Latham. Irene has written two award-winning novels for children, Leaving Gee’s Bend and Don’t Feed the Boy and she has a slew of poetry collections that have earned her a small mountain of metals.  They are colorful and happy collections of poetic phrases.  I admire the way poets are able to artfully string words together to make meaning, seemingly without effort.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to do that!

Irene came and talked to my Creative Writing class about “Living Your Poem” and what great advice she gave! One way to “live your poem”, she says, is to use art as inspiration. Ekphrastic poetry is poetry that “reflects on the action of a piece of art and adds to or expands upon its meaning.” Basically, it’s studying a piece of artwork—a painting or a sculpture—then writing a poem about it.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so you shouldn’t run out of things to say!

 

IrenePostcards

She came with a little vintage trunk full of postcards with intriguing images and striking colors and the students chose whatever captured their imagination.  Then they followed her guidelines and set to work on their poems—or at least made a start. Her guidelines:

  1. Any kind of art can be used for ekphrastic poetry, including painting, sculpture, wood carving, play, dance, movie, etc.
  2. Choose a piece that speaks to you. Sit with it. Perhaps carry a photo of it.
  3. Strive to carry the poem beyond description. Add to the artwork.
  4. Tap into the senses not evident in the art; enter the scene.
  5. Don’t worry about whether your poem matches the artists’ intention. Write about what it means to your life, memories, experiences, you.
  6. Don’t miss the details. Deconstruct the piece, then put it back together again in your own unique way.
  7. Use words in your poem that reflect the mood of the artwork.
  8. Ask questions of each character in the artwork.
  9. Speak to the artist? What do you want to ask? Address these issues in your poem.
  10. Surprise the reader by making leaps in your poem by connecting the artwork to big thoughts and ideas.

I chose several vintage postcards that reminded me of my childhood. The first was this one.

20170423_205407

The roller skates immediately took me back to my ten year old self in the summertime. Houston, TX. I won’t dare tell the year, but you can look at the picture and tell it was a long time ago! And here’s another one that conjures memories of my grandmother’s living room.

20170423_205237

I’ve been beating my head against the keyboard trying to get some words to come out that would capture these images and memories in a way that would be worthy of sharing, but I haven’t quite gotten them together yet. Over the next few days, though, I will be sharing more postcard images and some of the beautiful words that my students came up with from this assignment.

In the meantime, if you have some ideas or want to try your hand at some Ekphrastic poetry, put them in the comment box! I’d love to hear from you!

For inspiration and more great poetry check out Irene Latham’s blog: Irene Latham

smallsignature

Monday Mayhem: Intentional

sleeping

Note: This is a “Monday Mayhem Post” that’s a little late, so, just go with it…lol!

When I look at my students dozing off in class I wonder…

Why are they here? Why did they bother to roll out of bed, slide into their sweats and flop into those horrible green desks today? Why are they staring at me with those blank stares or into the blank screens of their laptops or cell phones? Why do any of us bother?

Professors dress up. We slip on our uncomfortable heels and button up our bow ties. We revise our syllabi and re-write our semeter schedules to make room for one more assignment, because, well, just because…

Is it intentional?

I’ve been challenging myself and my students lately to think about this. What are we doing–and why? Two of the four classes I teach each semester are sections of the “dreaded” Freshman Composition. The class everyone loves to hate. One of the reasons it’s so hated is that it’s considered to be a “pointless” class–an extention of 12th grade English–touché.

So, this semester, I’m being intentional.

I’m going to assume that their writing skills will progress naturally through the writing process, as writing skills tend to do, and I will instruct my students on the grammatical and usage standards, as any good English teacher should.  But, rather than have them write the traditional final essay–that they’ll read once (maybe) and never again–which I’ll, then, read once (or twice) then stick in a file–I’m going to have them, instead, create something of value, something meaningful, something that goes beyond this freshman class! I’m challenging these students to create a document that has legs!

students

I want them to write with intention, to a real audience. Well, I’m real, but not just to me–to people other than me.

They’re going to identify a problem that they care about–a problem that they want to find a solution to–then they’re going to search out a solution to that problem and write to people who might be able to do something about…

  • the friend whose dad got deported
  • this religious organization that’s still segregated in 2017
  • the family with a history of violence and abuse

It’s about being intentional.

Because, what’s the point of learning how to write better if your essay just gets shoved in a drawer?

So, they’ll submit their articles to magazines or newspapers, or they’ll send off their letters to senators or presidents. They’ll draft feasibility reports or white papers for corporations. Whatever document they think will best serve a real purpose, that they think will make a real difference, that’s what they’ll create!

Who knows? Maybe the documents will still end up in a drawer, but if these students pour their hearts into these projects, their documents will no longer be “essays for Dr. Roper” but rather personal projects that achieve a purpose that they actually care about. These should go far beyond this class.  That would make me very happy.

I don’t expect perfect projects, but I’m excited because the act of doing this is enough to shake all of us out of the doldrums. Doing something that matters is worth it’s weight in gold.

So, what about you? Have you gotten stuck in a routine? Been doing the same old thing in the same old way? Why not re-evaluate?

Why are you here? Why did you bother to roll out of bed, slide into your slippers and flop into your day?  Are you staring out at your life, blankly wondering when, or how, it’s going to end? That’s no way to live! Challenge yourself! Try something new! Look for ways to make the mundane more meaningful. Why not start by looking for a problem you can solve? Even a small one.  Small accomplishments can go a long way towards moving you in the direction of your goal.

For us writers, that may mean a few words, a few pages or 10 minutes!  Just be intentional. You won’t regret it.

Happy Monday.

signaturemed

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

heart

I think about you so much. I miss your laughter and your corny jokes. I even miss those stupid, junky cars…well, maybe not all of them. But I saw an old camper rollin’ down the highway and I sure did think about you. I could just hear you braggin’ about an old thing like that, tellin’ everybody what a deal you got on it and how we ought to take it across country for vacation. Lord knows that thing wouldn’t make it across the street, much less across country. But, God bless you, there was never a lost cause you didn’t put your everything into…including me…

Yep.

Me and sis were laughing the other day about how you’re the only man we know who could fix anything with a roll of duct tape and a butter knife!  That pretty much sums it up.

So, here’s to fond memories of the first man I ever loved. Happy Birthday.

wine2

 

 

 

Monday Mayhem: Fearless

So, I did something crazy the other day.  I said out loud, to my husband, what my deepest darkest dream is…by dark I don’t mean dark, I mean deep. I mean, it’s so deep down that it’s buried in a place where it’s dark. A place where nobody can see it, ’cause it’s that crazy kind of dream that nobody dares to dream out loud where folks can see it, point at it, laugh at it.  It’s just too big and, well, impossible.

do-the-thing-you-fear-most-and-the-death-of-fear-is-certain-quote-1

It’s so impossible, in fact, that I don’t even think I knew that I dreamed it until I heard myself say it out loud. Then, when I said, it I laughed out loud!

Ha! That’s funny, huh?

No.

He would never laugh at something so serious as his wife’s deepest, darkest, most heart-felt, never-spoken out loud dream. Because, heck, after 20 years of marriage, he knows better!

“Not funny at all. Aim for it

That’s all he said.

“Aim for it.”

“Aim for it? Do I dare?”

When I Googled “fearless” I found so many great inspirational quotes about moving past fear, then I thought about scriptures like “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power” (2 Timothy 1: 7) and my favorite: “I know the plans I have for you… plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11).

Without-God-I-am-hopeless-with-God-I-am-fearless

Maybe, I need to pull that old dream up out of the pit so I can aim for it.

Perhaps you’re wondering what it is? That deep, dark dream of mine? Well, the first step was saying it out loud. The second step is setting up the target…let me work up to making the big announcement, okay? One thing at a time!

But, come on, it’s Mayhem Monday! Why don’t you join me? Pull out whatever you’ve got cooped up in your own pit of untapped potential–those running shoes, those writing pens, those swimming trunks, those 10lb weights…whatever it is you’ve been puttin’ off ’til Monday or someday, the time is here! Put away fear and let’s aim for it! We. can. do. this!

Happy Monday!

 

Monday Mayhem: Be Awesome Today!

I missed my Monday Mayem date with you last week! Life has been invading my writing space! But I’m reclaiming my territory. This week I’ll be sharing some treats from my Creative Writing class and I still have a few other goodies on the back burner. Black history month is almost over, but who says we can’t highlight history all year long?

In the meantime, let’s be awesome today! I have discovered a new favorite warm cup to sip, courtesy of my visit to Hawkesdene.  It’s Harney & Son’s Hot Cinnamon tea.

harneysonstea

 

When I tell you this is goodness in a mug, you must believe me! It’s warm and sweet like those hard cinnamon candies that I’ve always loved. My kids say it’s too strong, but I say it’s YUM! It will certainly wake you up on a Monday morning, but it comes with or without caffeine. Try it, you might like it!

Also, here’s a fun Tabata routine to get you going today.

Then, when you’re done, let’s kick that writer’s block! Here’s a cool prompt from Brian Klem and Zacharay Petit’s Year of Writing Prompts

“It’s time for you and Writer’s Block to part ways. Write a letter breaking up with Writer’s Block, starting out with, “Dear Writer’s Block, it’s not you, it’s me …”

HAPPY MONDAY!

signature