Now, there’s a poem

If you've been here a time or two, you know I’ve always believed there is a poem out there everywhere. So many of my ideas for poems come from people I see and places I go that I’m really never at a loss for something to write about. I’m constantly saying, “Now, there’s a poem.” Still I like to work with prompts. I keep a list of them that I get from the Writer’s Digest’s poetry editor, Robert Lee Brewer and his Poetic Asides blog. He posts a prompt every Wednesday. Sometimes he’ll combine it with a request that we write in a specific poetry form, e.g., Haiku, Nonet, Luc Bat, Tanka, Ekphrastic, Quatern, Tritina. So I get a prompt, but a poetry lesson as well. Robert writes about things he knows and loves. The words are simple, homey, about his wife and children. I relate to that. He also conducts two poem-a-day challenges a year in April and November. I’ve participated for the last several years. At the end of the month he asks us to submit a chapbook of our best few poems … [Read more...]

A room of my own – revisited

This morning I talked to a man I recently met at my gym while we both worked out on the elliptical. That’s a new one for me. I usually plug in my ear buds, listen to music, read my New Yorker, and hardly say a word to anyone while I exercise. And he was very inquisitive – he asked about my back ground, my religion, my home town, my current home town, how long married, where I’ve traveled, and of course the dreaded question – number of children. That question always stops me in my tracks – even now, over 18 years since my son Paul left us. And I told him truthfully that Paul took his own life because he had bipolar disorder. As a result I resurrected a piece I wrote for the now defunct Red Room site in 2013 – about the room I’m in right now – my private writing space. Even my husband knows not to bother me in here when my door is closed. In rereading this piece today, I can honestly say, not a lot has changed. He’s still in my room with me. My Private Island - A Room of My Own … [Read more...]

Introducing Fiona Simon

I'm pleased to introduce you to Fiona Simon and her new book, Gambling on Granola, published on January 1, 2018 (Terra Nova Books). In Gambling on Granola: Unexpected Gifts on the Path of Entrepreneurship, Simon shares a tale that is uplifting and inspiring but also raw and honest. This is a business memoir but also a love story―the love for her daughter, of a journey in uncharted waters, of the products and company she created, and of the continued challenge to follow her dream. We see her growth and healing over fifteen years, as mistakes, weaknesses, and naiveté evolve into resilience, resolve, and inspiration. For Fiona, it started out as all new businesses do―with an idea. But her world quickly became more complex as she established her company, developed new product lines, forged personal relationships in a competitive environment, grew her business, and held onto her deepest values―all while raising her daughter, Natalie, as a single mom. Praise for Gambling with Gra … [Read more...]

Women’s March photos

A week ago we marched in downtown Los Angeles to get out the vote and to express our feelings about the first year of our forty-fifth president. I was greatly encouraged about seeing the many numbers of young people marching with us. Could that mean we'll have more voter turn-out from this group in our 2018 mid-term elections? That could mean a Democratic flip - so important in passing some important legislation and getting rid of the liar we have in the White House in 2020 - if not before. Here are a few photos from the day. … [Read more...]

A well worthwhile workshop on metaphor

Now that the Women’s March is over, it was time to get back to my writing life. And I didn’t waste a minute to do that. I went to a metaphor workshop yesterday morning – the very next day after the march. And it was well worth it. It helped me look at the metaphors we use every day, and it gave me exercises to use for finding metaphors in my writing – especially my poems. Here I’d like to share a few quotes about metaphors and a poem that we read during the workshop. Sorry, the three short poems I wrote while trying my hand in metaphor are nowhere near ready for public eyes. Quotes: “One of the deepest pleasures of metaphor is that it says both things at once. It runs two tracks simultaneously.” ~Lia Purpura “Similes are stronger than adjectives and metaphors are stronger than similes.” ~Kaveh Akbar “The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learnt from others; and it is also a sign of genius.” ~Aristotle … [Read more...]

Some recently published poems

I recently had a poem published. So, I've decided to post that, and some of the others published in the last few months. Lately, I've been fooling around with 5-7-5 poems - like Haikus - but not confined to nature subjects. That's been a lot of fun - like writing 140-character poems shown below. Enjoy. Last Chance My last chance for a hug and the words, I love you died with him as he walked down the hall, into his dark room, and forever out of my sight. One Afternoon We turned left on 24th Street, driving slowly as the narrow road wound up and up. There was a light rainfall, just enough to sprinkle our windshield, but not enough to put our wipers on. The hills were bright green, like technicolor, and flecked with dark green clumps of trees and patches of mustard. When the sun appeared, they had an iridescence like mounds of emerald chips. Soon we were in wine country outside of Paso Robles, with rows and rows of budding vines surrounding us. We … [Read more...]

The Los Angeles Women’s March

My writing life has gone by the wayside for a while. I was asked a couple of months ago to lead my local resistance group's, South Bay Cares, trip to the Los Angeles Women’s March on January 20, and I happily accepted. At first we thought this would be simple. This second Women’s March couldn’t possibly be as popular as the Women’s March was last January 21, the day after the presidential inauguration. And WOW!, were we wrong! Last year we filled two 50-seat buses. This year we filled five with almost twenty people on a waiting list, waiting to pounce if someone cancels. In the meantime, I’ve given the wait listers instructions for taking the metro in case they don’t manage to get on a bus. They will be able to meet up with the bus riders once we all get to downtown Los Angeles. What is South Bay Cares? South Bay Cares was founded by two women in the Los Angeles South Bay community after the election of Donald Trump. Their intent is to Educate, Empower, and Engage. It wa … [Read more...]

I saw a stunning art exhibit over the holidays

Over the holidays we visited the Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles to see Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors exhibit with our niece and nephew and their two children. (They missed the exhibit in their hometown, so enticed us to see it with them here.) The exhibit, consisting of six walk-in installations and adjoining paintings, collages, and sculptures, was the most fascinating I've ever experienced. We saw the installations in groups of two, three, or four people only and were allowed to stay in them for 30 seconds. Each made use of mirrors to create the repetition of her designs - lights, phallic symbols, polka dots and huge balloons - that she otherwise would have had to do by hand.  That made the work less time-consuming and less taxing on the 88-year old Kusama. She also used the mirrors as a way to include visitors in the experience. And sure enough we could see ourselves as we looked at what she had created with the mirrors. In between the installations we were … [Read more...]

Elliptical wars

Ever since I joined my gym in 1998 the elliptical trainer has been my choice for cardio exercise. In those days, there was a long row of these machines in the back of a room also lined with stair climbers and treadmills. They were plentiful enough so I usually didn’t have to wait in line to grab one, though then the club gave us a 30-minute exercise time limit if people were waiting. Fast forward nineteen years. Only two of those old, rusty, decrepit ellipticals are left; the others have been replaced by newer versions. However, there is a group of people like me who prefer working out on the old equipment, and a few of us prefer one over the other. I always prefer the one on the left because it goes faster. Here’s my competition: Two women who can’t wait. When they are ready to use the elliptical they come over and ask how long a time I have left. I hate that. I’m always in the middle of a The New Yorker article I’m reading and their question interrupts me. And if only … [Read more...]

Poetry lessons learned at Esalen, Big Sur, Part 2

As promised from my earlier post, here's Part 2 of the lessons I learned while attending Ellen Bass' Life of Poetry workshop at Esalen, in Big Sur, California, during the first week of December. Please click here to read Part 1. Long-armed poem: The third craft talk was about the "long-armed" poem, where we scoop a lot of disparate material into the poem, but all is related ultimately. To do this, Ellen suggests: Be as open as possible, allowing the world to intrude, allowing in things I don't know Start with disparate things Make a list of words, such as names of foods, books, movies, pieces of clothing. Or gather poems and take a word from each poem. Frank Gaspar, in his long-armed poems starts with a time and place and within that goes other places. But then he comes back to his starting point. Here's a long-armed poem I wrote a couple of years ago that was published In The Words of Womyn International 2016 Anthology. Stop and Go On the drive up the … [Read more...]

Fellow poet, Jennifer Payne, welcome to Choices today!

That I love poetry should be no surprise to my readers here, so it pleases me to no end to host the author of the book of poetry, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, today during her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. Jen has also provided us with her thoughts about meditation, something I've dabbled in over the years and always feel guilty about when I don't do it. I thank Jen for her guest post below.  Exploring Mindfulness by Jen Payne 1. A Meditation on Bugs I hadn’t walked five minutes up the trail before they ambushed me. A swarm of gnats dropped down in front of my face like a thin, black veil. Two flies laid claim to my ears—bzzzzzzzzzzzzzing in stereo. Their siege left me breathless—afraid to inhale. My swatting—swat, buzz, swat, buzz, swat, buzz, buzz!—was moot. By coincidence, I had recently watched that scene in the movie Eat Pray Love in which the Julia Roberts character successfully sits in meditation for a full hour despite an enthusiast … [Read more...]

Poetry lessons learned at Esalen, Big Sur, Part 1

I just spent five days at The Life of Poetry workshop with Ellen Bass and Roxan McDonald at Esalen, in Big Sur California. The workshop structure is to hear a craft talk in the morning and then have about three hours of writing time, before we meet in the afternoons in smaller groups to share and discuss our new poems. Throughout the week I wrote four poems* in keeping with the four craft talks Ellen presented. I'll discuss the first two craft talks today, and continue on with the other two later in the week - so as not to bore you too much. Metaphor: Defined as similarity between things that are otherwise very different. Use of fresh vital images to jar us, to heighten the emotion and achieve intimacy. Through quality of the metaphors, the poet can grab the reader. Try to find metaphors in your junk drawer, your garage, your closet, your throw rug (look at the fibers in the rug rather than whole). Here is an example of a poem with great metaphors: My Father’s Tie Rack … [Read more...]

George H.W. Bush groped #MeToo

In May 2012, my husband, Bob, and I toured New England, Boston, New York City, and Washington, DC, as an anniversary treat. We stopped in Kennebunkport Maine for a night or two, and I joked with Bob that I hoped I’d get a chance to say hi to Barbara Bush – I called her Babs – at the local grocery store. Little did I know that I’d see her and her husband while we ate dinner at the recommended Italian spot, Grissini’s, that night. The couple sitting at the table to our left asked for a photo with them as the Bushes were leaving the restaurant, and we asked for a photo as well. Both the president and Barbara Bush were very gracious. When we said it was our anniversary, Barbara asked how many years, that triggered a little discussion about marriage longevity these days. That year we were celebrating forty-two years. We got one of the servers to take our picture – in fact, she took two shots. And during both, the former president rubbed my buttocks with the palm of his r … [Read more...]

Our guest today is Mary Maurice. Welcome!

I'm happy to host Mary Maurice today, author of Burtrum Lee, a scientific mystery, during her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. Also, Mary has shared her thoughts on "keeping readers engaged," especially for our Choices readers. Thanks so much, Mary, for your interesting ideas for engaging your readers. Keeping Readers Engaged by Mary Maurice First and foremost, I try to get the reader’s attention with a good title, and then I reel them in with a semi-hypnotic rhythm, while making sure that there are no stump-words. (words that are complicated, making the reader stop and go over the sentence again, losing the momentum that you’re trying to achieve). Speaking from experience, when I come upon a word I have to think about, most times I set the book down soon after, and sometimes never return to it. Simplicity is a key, as well as colorful and spicy words. I have a box of Crayola’s on my desk which I use for descriptive detail, as well as fruit colors, and anything else to c … [Read more...]

Dr. Leona Stucky writes about violence against women

Dr. Leona Stucky has written an eye-opening account of the violence she experienced in her own home as a young Mennonite woman in her memoir, The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God. She calls this treatment the Invisible American War. The numbers of those affected are staggering, and bringing their turmoil into the light still escapes us. Dr. Stucky says there is denial about the violence against women and men in America. To. This. Day. Choices readers: please tell us your ideas of how to bring these atrocities into the light. We need your help. Public Denial of Violence Against Women by Dr. Leona Stucky The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God is an historical personal account of a young Mennonite woman who finds herself on the front lines of the Invisible American War. I remember the breathless reaction I had when, years after my war experience, I read in Jeff Wolf Wilson’s book, Children of Battered Women, that during the same years that the US lost 39,000 sold … [Read more...]

Larry Kilham – thoughts on fiction vs. nonfiction

Choices is so excited to have Larry Kilham here today - the last day of his WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. His work with creativity, invention, and artificial intelligence is fascinating. Please check out his latest book, Free Will Odyssey. You won't be sorry. Larry has also written a post especially for Choices about his thoughts on writing fiction vs. non-fiction. I can relate since I've also written both. Here is what Larry Kilham has to say: Fiction vs. Nonfiction by Larry Kilham I have written about an equal number of fiction and nonfiction books. Each time I start thinking about my next book, I confront the difficult decision about which modality to use. With fiction, you are not held to a high standard about detail and truth. Writing a nonfiction book, on the other hand, about a current topic like addiction generally requires a team of researchers and a noted research institution in order to gain gravitas and establishment acceptance. Nonfiction is clearly the … [Read more...]

Revisiting journal writing

My writing in the last couple of weeks has been made up mostly of journaling. That has inspired me to revisit a piece I wrote about how important I think journal writing is and share it with you. The Power of Journaling A friend gave me a little leather (or faux leather) bound five-year diary complete with tiny lock and key when I was in high school. And for a while I wrote in the teeniest script about typical teen-age angst – especially about my first crush who gave me my first cigarette and first French kiss and then dumped me for a girl he met at summer camp. I think my parents must have thrown that diary out when they sold our house and moved to California because I never saw it again after I went away to college. I took up journaling again during my thirties while my husband and our two sons and I lived for nineteen months on a remote island in the South Pacific. I felt so isolated on this tiny island that the best I could do was write long rants every morning before the … [Read more...]

Getting in balance

Balance is important especially as we age My mother fell all the time in her late eighties and early nineties. She wouldn’t use a cane either. Or if she took a cane with her, she’d wear the handle on her wrist like a bracelet. At first she did little damage, but her last fall resulted in a broken hip. She died a year and a half later at the age of 94. The fear of falling, which becomes more pronounced as we age, is very real. It’s not only undignified, it can cause serious fractures and internal injuries.  Therefore, our body’s ability to right itself and regain control against gravity depends on our muscles’ abilities to bring us back to the proper center of gravity. If you combine weak muscles with a lack of balancing practice, you have a perfect prescription for injury. The opposite of this equation is equally true. Practicing balancing poses and developing strong muscles that can pull you back to center after a stumble, misstep or accidental push. It can mean the di … [Read more...]

Friends in stone

My darling niece, Dara, sent me this piece a while back. It needs re-sharing: TWO FRIENDS WERE WALKING THROUGH THE DESERT DURING SOME POINT OF THE JOURNEY, THEY HAD AN ARGUMENT; AND ONE FRIEND SLAPPED THE OTHER ONE IN THE FACE THE ONE WHO GOT SLAPPED WAS HURT, BUT WITHOUT SAYING ANYTHING, WROTE IN THE SAND TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE THEY KEPT ON WALKING, UNTIL THEY FOUND AN OASIS, WHERE THEY DECIDED TO TAKE A BATH THE ONE WHO HAD BEEN SLAPPED GOT STUCK IN THE MIRE! AND STARTED DROWNING, BUT THE FRIEND SAVED HIM. AFTER HE RECOVERED FROM THE NEAR DROWNING, HE WROTE ON A STONE: 'TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE' THE FRIEND WHO HAD SLAPPED AND SAVED HIS BEST FRIEND ASKED HIM, 'AFTER I HURT YOU, YOU WROTE IN THE SAND AND NOW, YOU WRITE ON A STONE, WHY?' THE FRIEND REPLIED 'WHEN SOMEONE HURTS US WE SHOULD WRITE IT DOWN IN SAND, WHERE WINDS OF FORGIVENESS CAN ERASE IT AWAY. BUT, WHEN SOMEONE DOES SOMETHING GOOD FOR … [Read more...]

How to have a sober Halloween

Photo by Beth Teutschmann on Unsplash I'm so glad to have Caleb Anderson share his suggestions for a sober Halloween.  As a recovery addict he wants to share how one can live their life alcohol and drug free even during times when our society prefers to use harmful substances to celebrate. Thank you Caleb for offering to write this post for Choices. Your suggestions are spot on. How to Throw a Spooky, Sober Halloween Soiree by Caleb Anderson It's the witching season again and you're wondering how to celebrate the spookiest night of the year while sticking to your recovery plan. Well, have no fear. Halloween and sober living can go hand in hand. In fact, you may find that you enjoy the festivities more with a clear mind and a clean body. But having a party worthy of the holiday means paying attention to the details. In this post we'll share some terrifying tips for creating the right setting for your sober celebration. Some of these ideas require just a dash of crafting skill, … [Read more...]