July 13, 2020

You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello

by lisa st john

The scariest moment is always just before you start. Stephen King

 

doorGoodbye 24 year teaching career. Hello writing life. Is it that simple, though? I thought I could teach full time and write part-time, but that proved impossible. The kids will always come first, and they should. But, maybe I can write full time and teach part-time. I can still advise the Poetry Club, and I can substitute teach (whatever these things will look like in September). Teaching isn’t something you ever really stop–it’s a calling, like writing.

It’s easier to say goodbye than hello because hello is the unknown. Hello is walking into a party alone when you’re not sure why you showed up at all when you could be home with a good book. Can you tell that quarantine hasn’t been that big of a stretch for me?

Van Morrison captures how I feel in his lines, “If my heart could do my thinking and my head began to feel…I’d know what’s truly real.” (“I Forgot that Love Existed“) I thought I could structure my day, being the ADD and OCD Virgo (B******t) that I am, like I did at school. Monday mornings will be editing time, Monday afternoons for poetry writing, Tuesday mornings for memoir writing, et cetera.

But art isn’t like that.

I need to wake up and listen to my body, not my brain. Suzi Banks Baum teaches this when she states that creative practice is, “… a way of bypassing my head that yearns for product-oriented work and allows me to dwell lushy in the wisdom of the feminine.”

chaos

Lest anyone think I have traded in my atheistic rationality for some hoo-doo (I wouldn’t want my Skeptic Society card taken away), let me just say that spiritual connection to the muse is no joke. Elizabeth Gilbert explains it well in her TED Talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius.” I rewatch it whenever that smoky, dark fungus called you can’t comes creeping around.

I’ve found that sometimes I work best in chaos. The jackhammer tearing up the old stairs to make way for a new room, the cars going by, the radio (sometimes) on–this is good. Often, I work best outside hoping for hummingbird sightings and grateful that my living space gets so much bigger in the good weather.

blueSo, I started listening to myself each morning. Do I feel a new blog post coming on? Is that poem ready for submission? Should I continue with the memoir? Maybe I should finish reading that novel first. Then there is the daunting task of social media and platform promotion. I might journal or take an online workshop. I could walk the property and look for spiderwebs in the dew. I can check Twitter and see what everyone is saying about Henry James’ Turn of the Screw in a virtual book club discussion via A Public Space. 

In Ruminate’s “The Waking,” Sophfronia Scott, calls it non-writing writing, this time spent with writing but not…writing. So if people ask how much I write a day, I cannot respond in numbers. It’s either a good writing day or it’s not.

Hello, goodbye…both ends and beginnings.

Today was a good day.flower

 

 

 

June 30, 2020

Nesting for Change

by lisa st john

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge—even wisdom. Like art. Toni Morrison

 

The idea of nesting invokes permanence, but I am not expecting a new baby. I am preparing for Change. Retiring from teaching public high school and moving on to writing full time is taking a risk, sure. But who are we if we don’t take risks? Retire is the wrong word. I am not withdrawing from anything, just adding on. I will always teach in some way, on some level. That’s what people in love with learning do.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ” Alvin Toffler

I spent most of yesterday changing my physical space to reflect changes in my head space. And that head space has been changing a great deal lately. The rage and pain and frustration of murder is straining against the temperament needed to create real change. That’s what the feminine does–create. Our masculine nature helps us fight, and our feminine nature helps us give. A recent workshop, Writing the Rage, Healing the Soul, with Dorothy Randall Gray was a true wake up call. The feelings of helplessness and fear during this literal pandemic (as well as a pandemic of the nation’s soul) were put in their place by Dorothy’s insight. She reminded us that rage has its purpose. Why now? Why George Floyd? What was the tipping point that finally got us enraged enough to riot, to protest? Perhaps it was that George Floyd called for us; he called out to The Mother in us all.


Calling all Grand Mothers” by Alice Walker

I am forever grateful to the International Women’s Writing Guild for introducing me to Dorothy and her idea of “fierce compassion.”

everything can be useful / except what is wasteful / (you will need
to remember this when you are accused of destruction.)
Audre Lorde

The changes of the past few months have put me through almost every conceivable emotion. But one thing is stable, and that is the power of voice.

I will not feel guilty because I have not physically marched in a protest; I have contributed, and will continue to contribute) to The Black Lives Matter movement in many other ways. I will not feel hopeless when I hear the rising death rates from the Coronavirus (COVID 19). I used, and will continue to use, everything in my power to stop the spread and to help those in need. I vote. I write. I lift. I change.

December 1, 2018

Apology Accepted

by lisa st john

I apologize (to myself) for not keeping up on my blog writing. Trying to negotiate full-time teaching life with my writing life

has been a struggle.

When I went back to work in September I thought I could marry the two lives. This has proven problematic to say the least.

They don’t want to talk to each other let alone live in the same space. It’s too much like a polygamous situation. I can keep each life in a separate house on my property, and I certainly love them both. But how do I treat them equally? 

What about my needs?

So if it can’t be a marriage, maybe it’s just about the sex. The teaching life is languorous Sunday morning lovemaking. The writing life is up against the wall intense.

No. That metaphor is just too weird. Maybe they are like two stomachs. I need to feed them both, and when one gets empty the other just has to wait its turn.

No. I gain weight instead of progress either way.

Here at The Garrison Institute, where the train cries across the Hudson River and the monastic rooms call for peace, none of these analogies work. Just having the moments to contemplate these ideas is a gift.

The property itself is magical. One writing retreat over a weekend and I have been here forever; I never left. Somehow time lets us push her around a bit, and we can get a week’s worth of thinking and writing done from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon.

I have room in my heart for both teaching and writing. I just have to make room in my life. Scooch over sleep. I’ve got work to do.

Thank you Robert Polito and Adam Fitzgerald, for this important weekend. I will carry your words with me.

Thank you Rozanne Gold. I understand now why they are called writing “retreats.”

“Along the Margins of Voice: Writing, Reading & Performance in the 21st Century” November 30-December 2, 2018

September 1, 2018

OKAY, OK?

by lisa st john

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future.

If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay.

Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously.

Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky.

Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

 

O.K. was born, then grew up to be okay.

There’s been a few times in my life when I heard something and–despite all the turmoil and fear and shitty things going on in the world–I knew that everything was going to be okay. I knew that good, true life was all around if I chose to see it. Here are a few examples.

 

 

After a class discussion on the relevance of A Handmaid’s Tale
Distraught looking white female student about to leave…
     Me: “Hey, are you okay?”
Student: “I…I think I just realized that I’m a minority.”
Sad looking white male student after hearing how often girls in the class have been catcalled …
     Student: “I am so sorry. I’m sorry. I never knew how bad it was for all of you out there. I never      knew.”

After walking into the ocean for the first time after Kent died

crying… “I’m still here. The ocean is always here, always, alive.”

 

 

 

The best examples of hearing the okay-ness of the world have come from my beautiful son. Happy Birthday, Little Bear.

 

During a National Geographic video
MOM… how can people look at giraffes and not believe in evolution?” (age: 6-ish)

After school
“Mom! You’re not gonna believe this poet I just found out about in English class today.”
Me: “Honey, I’m an English teacher myself I think I know….”
“Trust me mom, you don’t know THIS guy. His name is Charles Bukowski!” (age: high school)

During a guided viewing of the Robert de Niro & Kenneth Branagh Frankenstein film (because we all know who the real monster is)
Deep sigh, hands thrown in the air, head rolling back against couch…
Me: “What’s wrong? Is it getting too scary?”
Eye roll…
“NO! But, but NOW who am I supposed to feel sorry for?” (age: 8-ish)

During a visit to Detroit for the Women’s Convention
“Mom, we’ve got something to tell you. I’m going to be a father.”

 

O.K.

Okay,

OKAY?

How about some joy?           How about some deep, soulful joy?

 

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these — to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do. –Pinkola Estes

 

Okay?

August 1, 2018

The Satire Paradox: Part Two

by lisa st john

“Satire is, by definition, offensive. It is meant to make us feel uncomfortable. It is meant to make us scratch our heads, think, do a double-take, and then think again.” Maajid Nawaz

sat·ire
ˈsaˌtī(ə)r/
noun
  1. the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

I wrote a post back in February of 2015 called “The Satire Paradox Part One,” so I thought I would try and finish my thoughts here, in Part Two. The problem is that I am not at all the same person as I was 41 months ago.

Unbeknownst to me, the term Satire Paradox is an actual phenomenon written about in a study done byHeather Lamarre. A good explanation can be found in the article, “Stephen Colbert and the Pitfalls of Modern Political Satire.”

Basically, it is when satire backfires and people actually BELIEVE what the satirist is making fun of. For instance, when I assigned a group of students to read Jonathan Swift‘s “A Modest Proposal,” some of them came in angry and disgusted. Not, however, angry and disgusted at the level of Irish poverty Swift was bringing to light, but angry and disgusted that someone would actually consider eating children. Uhm…he didn’t condone eating children. Swift was making a point about the English ignoring the poverty. Sigh.

Back in 2012, the satirical online newspaper The Onion published a headline that fooled China (yes, the country of China). It read, “Kim Jong Un: The Sexiest Man Alive.” Much to the delight of the Twitterverse and The Onion, China took the story and ran with it. “The Chinese website had underscored its story by including its own 55-page photo gallery to accompany the text… .”

Satire Definition:

 

But my original post back in 2015 was more about paradox than satire.

“My mind teased me this morning in that nano-moment; Kent wasn’t gone, and I wasn’t a widow and then–But that’s what makes us human, right? Caring? Suffering? Therein lies the paradox (and is the joke ever on us): we live to love and be hurt so we know what love is and what it means to hurt so we know what life is. Humph. Or is it all a big satire created to change us into better humans? …This morning he wasn’t gone, he just was… almost here.” (“The Satire Paradox Part One“)

Since 2012, I have:

published a chapbook of poetry,

taken a sabbatical to explore the writing life,

become a mother-in-law,

attended somewhere between 25-100 writing workshops/classes,

begun a memoir about Kent’s long illness and eventual death,

started a new blog about widow/ers,

created my professional website,

become a grandmother∗,

and commenced peace talks with my grief.

 

The irony (not really a paradox and certainly not satire) is that I still have those nano-moments when I think Kent is just about to come home from a long trip.

The days are long but the years are short. too.

 

 

 

A video on paradox that I couldn’t resist:

 

 

 

 

∗A Grand mother. Una abuela.

I cannot begin to describe what this feels like. I cried and cried when he was born and I saw him with his parents. I did not cry because I was sad, but because I was grateful. Grateful that my son and his wife have what they need to raise a beautiful human: joy, music, love, empathy, gratitude, creativity, soulfulness, compassion, humor, intellect, curiosity, magic, honesty, truth, strength, and grace.

I need new, more specific, words for bliss and love when I hold my grandson.

For me to put this feeling into words, it’s going to take a while, maybe my whole life.

July 1, 2018

Birth and Death? Let’s Ask the Poets.

by lisa st john

Death does not concern us, because as

long as we exist, death is not here. And

when it does come, we no longer exist.”

Epicurus

 

 

What’s so bad about death? Why can’t we celebrate the circle, the cycle? I do not understand the fear of death. Won’t it be just like before I was born? Why can’t we laugh about it?

As if I couldn’t love Ricky Gervais any more than I already do, he says this:

When you are dead, you do not know you are dead. It’s only painful & difficult for others. The same applies when you are stupid.

 

The only reason I am thinking of death is because I am thinking about birth.

 

IMG_2606.jpg

It’s like the incongruous nature of my favorite flower arrangement, roses and daisies.

To some people, daisies are a weed. To some people, roses are the ultimate expensive gift.

I am not some people.

They bloom at the same time in my yard, and I love their paradox, their contrast.

Why can’t we love death the same way?

Doesn’t it just remind us of the grandeur of birth?

What mystical being is woman? No creature of imagination, no Pegasus, no  Phoenix, can compare to the power and majesty of the human female.

 

 

 

Creation and destruction are our basest states, aren’t they? As for the soul, isn’t that what makes up our life, our living?

 

 

 

Excerpt from “Nothing But Death” by Pablo Neruda

Death arrives among all that sound
like a shoe with no foot in it, like a suit with no man in it,
comes and knocks, using a ring with no stone in it, with no
finger in it,
comes and shouts with no mouth, with no tongue, with no
throat.

Nevertheless its steps can be heard
and its clothing makes a hushed sound, like a tree.

I’m not sure, I understand only a little, I can hardly see,
but it seems to me that its singing has the color of damp violets,
of violets that are at home in the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the look death gives is green,
with the penetrating dampness of a violet leaf
and the somber color of embittered winter.

 

Excerpt from “There Was a Child Went Forth” by Walt Whitman

There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he looked upon and received with wonder
or pity or love or dread, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part
of the day . . . . or for many years or stretching cycles of
years.

The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morningglories, and white and red
clover, and the song of the phœbe-bird,
And the March-born lambs, and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and
the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf, and the noisy brood of
the barn-yard or by the mire of the pond-side . . and the fish
suspending themselves so curiously below there . . . and the
beautiful curious liquid . . and the water-plants with their
graceful flat heads . . all became part of him. …

The horizon’s edge, the flying seacrow, the fragrance of
saltmarsh and shoremud;
These became part of that child who went forth every day, and
who now goes and will always go forth every day,
And these become of him or her that peruses them now.

 

“Soulshine” by Warren Haynes (Because nothing makes the soul shine more than sons and daughters and grandbabies and everything else that makes up what we call love.)

 

June 1, 2018

Flying Through Time

by lisa st john

I have been living the writing life for almost 12 months. My time to return from my sabbatical as a high school English teachers draws nigh. Like many things I do, this year has been an experiment.

Can I work all day as a writer (instead of spending it binging television)? Yes. Have I learned from workshops, conferences, and–most importantly–trial and error? Yes. Have I made some progress in publishing as well as writing? Yes. Whew. All good.

Here are some snags:
When I am writing my memoir I am reliving the days, months, years of Kent’s cancer. So I can’t always write memoir all day.

When I am writing memoir I miss writing poetry. When I do write some poetry I feel like I am cheating on the memoir behind its back!

When I look at my calendar I am bewildered at the movement of time.

When I look at what I do all day I realize I won’t have this much time come September.

When I think about time it all revolves around Jack. (More on him in a later blog.)

It’s not all snags.

 

I have learned many things.

-It is okay to have two desks; one for emailing and editing and sending work out, and another one for actual writing.

-It’s okay not to write every day; some days are for reading.

-I can organize all of my information at my website, HERE, like when I am doing a reading or how to buy my chapbook.

-I can collaborate with fabulous artists like Anna Gilmore to create a new environment for my work. See DINNER video below.

-Thinking is writing without commitment. 

-Voice memos on my iPhone are surprising golden nuggets when I bother to listen to them.

-Not leaving the house for a day or two (or three or four) is somehow liberating.

-Finding writing venues at which to read and finding publishers for my poetry is a different Lisa than the Lisa writing the memoir. Sometimes they hang out on the same day, sometimes not. They are going to have to get together soon, though. They have to teach September Full Time Teacher Lisa how to cope. I have every confidence in them.

I have Tweeted and Instagrammed and Facebooked about some of these things that happened, but here is a run-down of the latest.

2Elizabeths published nine of my poems in their first anthology, Volume 1: Love and Romance.

Light: A Journal of Photography & Poetry published my poem, “Of Light and Mornings” in their Spring 2018 Issue (available in both digital and print versions).

Eyedrum Periodically published three of my poems in Issue 17: The Future.

I started a new blog for widowed people called Widows’ Words.

My updated publishing creds are on my website and here on this blog’s home page. What I am most impressed with, that aren’t listed here, are all of my rejections. I save them in an email folder and look at them and think, “I did that. I got that out there.”

This blog will always be about writing and poetry and random thoughts. I am enjoying the world of creative non-fiction though. When those pieces get published I will put them on the website.

Time is moving along at her own pace. I move at mine. Sometimes we meet up. The only thing I am certain of is that I am not done yet.

 

 

 

April 30, 2018

Do We Really Need Definitions? In Defense of Michelle Wolf

by lisa st john

 

I really wanted to write about television binging this month–how I love it. The pros and cons, but I am too flummoxed by the news. Ironically, I was also going to post an analysis of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale Season Two Episode One, but what is distracting me?

The White House Correspondent’s Dinner controversy. Apparently, we actually need definitions of some of these terms, WHY?

So critics of Michelle Wolf can catch up a bit. And then class, after we learn the words we can explain what they mean, okay?

First Amendment: Freedom to say what we want to say (specifically allowing the PRESS to say what it wants to say).

Satire: Using humor to expose stupidity IN ORDER TO PROMOTE CHANGE AND HELP HUMANITY SEE ITS FLAWS.

Sarcasm: Witty language used to insult. Often used in satire.

Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but the highest form of intelligence –Oscar Wilde. 

Okay. What I find so disconcerting about the backlash of Michelle Wolf’s correspondent’s dinner speech was that people misunderstood the Sarah Sanders eyeliner joke yet totally missed the Aunt Lydia reference.

I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.” (Wolf transcript)https://www.visitcharlottesville.org/listing/charlottesville-historic-downtown-mall/337/

Now we need to explain the joke, apparently. This is NOT a joke about Sanders’ looks.This is a joke about Sanders’ LIES. Sarah Sanders always has great smoky eye make up. I love it. She burns the facts and uses the ash to make her perfect eyeshadow. Get it now?

I have to say I’m a little star-struck. I love you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale. Mike Pence, if you haven’t seen it, you would love it.” (Wolf transcript)

Okay. Aunt Lydia is one of the scariest villains ever. If you haven’t read the book by the incredible Margaret Atwood, you must. In the novel, she is in charge of indoctrinating (here is the definition of indoctrinating for those of you who need help getting Wolf’s jokes) the sex slaves (handmaids). The Hulu version of Aunt Lydia is even more terrifying because in the novel, we never know if Aunt Lydia is just going along with the new regime (albeit extremely) in order to stay alive and in power or if she is a believer in the new tyrannical police state. Hulu expands her character to show just how bat shit crazy she has become.

“She’s most comfortable making room in the world so violence can flourish. Actress Ann Dowd takes full advantage of the role, heightening Aunt Lydia’s zealousness to a point where it almost seems like a caricature … Aunt Lydia is carved in the lineage of villainesses like Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Annie Wilkes in Misery, and Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca. Cold, brutal, and obsessed … .” ()

But that’s not what critics are complaining about, no. They are complaining about an eye shadow joke they didn’t get, the use of the word “pussy” (WHO SAID IT FIRST?) and “tampon.”

[Ivanka] is about as helpful to women as an empty box of tampons.” (Wolf transcript) OMG, did she say (whisper) “tampon”? Women use tampons. An empty box does not help a woman when she is menstruating. Get it?

It’s up to comedians to shine the light on what’s wrong in the world, and we don’t want things swept under the rug.” –Jeff Ross

I almost forgot the Uncle Tom reference! Okay kids, Uncle Tom refers to a subservient character in Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s infamous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It is not a compliment to call someone an Uncle Tom.

So when Wolf said, “…what’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know. Aunt Coulter.” She meant that Ann Coulter betrays her people (women) by sucking up and being subservient to the conservative agenda (men). Get it now?

“One of the most bizarre uses of Uncle Tom as an insult, directed at women occurred…when Jane Fonda wanted to criticize conservative women for not performing the women’s movement.” “She said, ‘Let’s face it, you’re all a bunch of Uncle Toms,’” (“Uncle Tomisms” from Accuracy in Academia)

 

 

You’ve just made yourself a new fan Michelle Wolf. You comedian, you funny, me laugh. I’m in.* Can’t wait for THE BREAK on Netflix!

 

 

 

 

 

*Sorry about the multi-syllabic content in this post. If you need moe definitions here you go: Dictionary.

April 3, 2018

How Blue Can You Go?

by lisa st john

ontology:
1a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature and relations of being  Ontology deals with abstract entities.
2a particular theory about the nature of being or the kinds of things that have existence

How real are Blue Spaces in terms of being good for us?

blue space is defined as; ‘health-enabling places and spaces, where water is at the centre of a range of environments with identifiable potential for the promotion of human wellbeing’. (“Blue Space Geographies: Enabling Health in Place” Foley and Kistemann).

Of course it seems obvious that looking at water or blue skies makes us feel better, but why? How much better? IMG_1610

According to Dr Saliha Afridi, a clinical psychologist and the managing director of The LightHouse Arabia in Dubai, studies show that spending as little as 15 to 30 minutes in nature can increase positive emotions and the ability to reflect on a life problem. “This is best explained by nature’s effect on physiology – heart rates decrease and blood pressure goes down when people spend time looking at nature. When this happens, we are psychologically in a calmer state,” she explains.
IMG_5819-2867282905-1522773783946.jpg
I like a scientific fact to back up what I already want to believe: the ocean makes me feel as good as I can get. In a recent Widow’s Words blog post, I talk about my connection to the ocean and to my late husband, Kent. There is a purity to the inevitability of waves, a homecoming. I also love the duality of the ocean–beauty and danger, calming and fierce.
Scientists are exploring the idea of blue spaces regarding our health and mental well-being. Groups like BlueHealth and other interdisciplinary research teams are paying more attention to blue spaces.
Here are some of the “what ifs” for me:
A virtual reality headset can put me in the ocean for ten minutes so I feel rejuvenated.
Businesses start giving people “blue” days in addition to sick days.
New stores are created where you can purchase “blue time” in individual IMAX rooms.
Doctors can prescribe “blue time” (and you thought medical marijuana was controversial!)
Urban areas start creating blue parks (intentional water spaces both as horizontal lakes and vertical aquariums). 
Fantasy? Maybe. For now. But the fact that the facts are backing up common wisdom gives me hope. Old wives tales, huh? 

 

 

 

ON MAGRITTE’S THE VOICE OF BLOOD (Originally published in The Ekphrastic Review)

Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist ― René Magritte

I think we should listen more to
old wives and their tales.

Learn how not to get caught in a storm             (of fear),
not to enter the                                                       (wrong)
doors,
how to avoid the falling stars                               (or catch a ride).

How to let go                                                            (and know)
when trees are silent they are free.

The voice of blood is captured in the geometry of trees and the lie of open windows.

Meandering greys bend in
moonlight’s fortune-telling whispers.          Listen.

There is no color without light.

Listen
to the moonlight shape our
monochromatic truth.

Listen, old wives, to our prayers for fairytale endings ever,
ever,
after
grey is washed in morning, graffiti of the light revealed.

 

March 1, 2018

Writers’ Paradise

by lisa st john

#ebags #eaglecreekWelcome to March 1st. From now on, I am going to post here on the first of every month. Not that often, right? Except that I now have another blog: Widows’ Words. This one is focused on my memoir, The Beds We Live and Die In. It’s about loss and widowhood and moving through it all.

I also launched a website to keep everything together: lisachristinastjohn.com

I hope you check them both out. I am excited. I really am living the writer’s life and I wake up every day full of energy and ready to work/write.

I am forever grateful to the International Women’s Writing Guild for starting me on this path. If you haven’t been to their amazing online webinars and real-life conferences you are missing out. They are “a global powerhouse & digital village for mighty, soulful women writers.” I can’t wait for the Boston Retreat in April. The summer IWWG Conference is where I heard about the San Miguel Writers Conference in February. I got to attend, and it was like a gift from the ancient gods.

Parish Church

San Miguel de Allende is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site; it’s a mecca of culture and beauty. I have been to this amazing city before–once with my late husband and our son, twice to visit friends, and now to experience the writing community. It was beyond amazing. Workshops in tents outside the gorgeous grounds of the Hotel Real de Minas, round table discussions with authors, pitch sessions with agents, excursions, and fiesta! The keynote speakers are world famous: Rita Dove, Sandra Cisneros, Wally Lamb, and Joseph Boyden just to name a few. 

The air was electric with creative energy. I re-focused, rejuvenated, remembered, and released. I worked on the memoir, but also crashed into some poetry with the astounding Judyth Hill. Here is an excerpt of a fragment that will someday grow into a poem, thanks to Judyth’s prompts.

“Blue brushstrokes of longing
are the impasto of my memory,
and my heart is in Orion’s star.
La Llorona comes for me in a blood moon the texture of hunger.”

Hill was so right when she said that “poets are the grievers of culture.” It’s our job as artists of all kinds to bear the heart of our time.

Check out the CDC Poetry Project, for example. Check out Amanda Palmer’s “Strength Through Music.” Dictators fear artists and intellectuals. Why?

“Art creates pathways for subversion, for political understanding and solidarity among coalition builders. Art teaches us that lives other than our own have value.” (Eve L. Ewing)

There are beautiful, loving groups everywhere who believe in art, who promote art, who value voice. Check out this Children’s Art Foundation in San Miguel. Check out the American Library Association. They need us now more than ever. 

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By the way, loved Interjet Airlines. I left San Miguel to fly to Puerto Vallarta to visit a jungle village they don’t want me to talk about (even though it’s all over the travel sites). I guess I’ll just say I may not miss the Chachalaca birds in the early morning. 

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