Sunday, February 12, 2017

Paul Donovan , writer and poet, and my good friend

I am very sad today. My good friend, Paul Donovan, has  passed away. To those who received my email last night, there will not be a gathering at Parson's Pub  in Murphy today.

Paul was one of the most loyal members of our writing community and NCWN-West. He held a writing contest for many years for high school students in Cherokee County, NC. He served as our Cherokee County Representative and brought us  all together at ShoeBooties for readings each month. Like our present Writers Night Out, those were social gatherings as well.

Mary Ricketson, present Cherokee County Rep, told Paul about Reiki and how it might help him with his back pain, etc. That changed his life. He studied Reiki and became a Reiki Master. Soon he was teaching others, including my sister Gay. When Barry, my husband, was sick, Paul came out to our house and gave Barry Reiki treatments. He would not charge me for them.

He published his poetry in journals and in a book. I will post some of his poetry  here later. Paul took a couple of my memoir classes and wrote delightful stories of growing up in an Irish neighborhood in Pennsylvania. He made  some trips to Ireland and told me he would like to  live there. His stories about that country made me think I would like to live there also.,

He adored his beautiful wife, Ann, and my heart hurts for her today. Once again, I feel that life is too short and ends too suddenly. 

Gandi  said, "My life is my message." 
Paul has left us a good message by the way he lived his life. Be kind and generous, enjoy life and  love others. Persevere even when life is  difficult. And love dogs. He and I had great conversations about our dogs.

If only we all could live such a life.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The making of a Writers Conference

We have had some unseasonal weather, warm and almost spring-like, but maybe more snow on Sunday.

It is good weather for working indoors. Between de-cluttering or downsizing I have been busy for months working on the NCWN-West writers conference, A Day for Writers.

This one day conference will be chock-full of interesting information for writers. We have two headliners: Terry Kay, award-winning author of 17 novels who will  talk in two sessions on writing fiction. Visit his website to see what this man has done in his life. He has had a phenomenal career. Three of his books were made into movies by the Hallmark channel. 

Kathryn Stripling Byer is our other headliner. She is not only an outstanding poet, she is the first woman to be selected as Poet Laureate of North Carolina. Read about her achievements and on her website

Putting together a conference like this takes hours of time and it doesn't happen quickly. I enlisted some of our members of NCWN-West for ideas. They were helpful. My job then was to contact people, see if they were interested in coming and make them an offer I hoped they would accept. 

Some writers and poets volunteered to speak and some I contacted said they could not come for one reason or another. One of the novelists never responded to my e-mail. 

I am lucky that over the past twenty years working with our writing group in volunteer positions and as Program Coordinator, I met many, many writers. Some of them write children's books, some speak and teach freelance writing, and some are playwrights. I contacted the writers I thought would do a good job for us at our conference. I am very happy that we will have Deanna Klingel, Tara Lynne Groth, and storyteller, folklorist, and playwright, Gary Cardin on our program. 

Catherine Carter, outstanding poet and professor at Western Carolina University, is one of  our presenters, and she has been extremely helpful to me in planning this conference. Catherine's poetry is well-published and highly praised. Her books will be for sale at the conference, as will those of all our presenters. 

Few people realize the time it takes to organize and gather good presenters for a conference. Once I had the  names of those on the program, I had to figure out a schedule for the day. I also figure the budget and hope we have enough registrants to take care of our costs. 

With the  help of Joan Gage we have begun publicity on 
Our news about A Day for Writers will be published on our blog. 

Although the conference is five months away, all the details must be ready to publish soon so people can put this date on their calendars. My job includes finding volunteers who will help with registration, collect brochures, fill packets, alphabetize them with name tags to hand out the morning of the conference. We will need a volunteer to take charge of lunch, coffee all day  and pastries in the morning. So much goes on behind the scenes while we hope those attending have all they need to make their day as perfect as possible. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Can we protect the Arts?

Today I sent a request to the representatives and senators in North Carolina to vote against the new administration's supposed plans to cut funding for the arts. When Congress cuts funding to the National Endowment for the Arts, that cut trickles down to the states and the lack of grants and funds to support writers, visual artists, theater and music.

I know how important the arts are to children and to adults. Our state Arts organizations are funded by the national organization. Our NC Arts Association sends artists into schools so that children, even in rural areas like Hayesville, NC, can be taught and experience poetry or other arts by a professional writer, musician, or painter. How I would have enjoyed that as a  child.

I wanted to be a writer but I never met a real writer -- someone who published their work. Although I had an english teacher who suggested I submit a poem to a magazine, that was as far as it went. I had no one to encourage my education in writing. We met with a music teacher every few weeks. Mrs. Perry went from one elementary school to another where she played piano and taught us songs. We had no school theater for those who wanted to become actors or screenwriters.

When I hear about the opportunities for children to express their artistic talent today, I am thrilled for them. Our local schools offer a chance to learn how to  throw pots and the kids can be taught by a real potter. Poetry contests are held for students in NC whether in rural schools or city schools. All of these opportunities come from Arts funding to our schools. Our literary organization, NCWN-West often sponsors writing contests for students as well as adults. We are a non-profit and our parent organization, North Carolina Writers' Network, is partially funded by the NC Arts. 

I urge everyone who reads this post to contact your representatives in Congress and demand they not cut funding for the Arts. Support the Endowment for the Arts. If our country becomes only about corporations and big business with no thought to those people who bring us the joys of music and art, books to  read and plays to see, we will be a sad country indeed. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Snow is beautiful at my house today.

We awoke to a lovely winter wonderland this morning. While many were without power today, I was fortunate and am warm in my house. Lexie, my buddy, saw her first snow today. She barked at it. Later when she went outside and walked in it, she turned right around and hurried inside. Today is a day for Pee-pads I think. She is not fond of cold weather and certainly not fond of getting her tiny feet wet and cold. If I thought she wanted to go out, I would dress her in a warm sweater, but she is going to stay inside, just as I am today.
Flower pot is wearing a hat of snow.

I ventured out to take a few photos to share with my friends, my readers and my family. The view above is the woods on the east side of my house. The mountains in the distance I can see from my living room window.

In far mountain range you can see Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia
From my dining room, I look out on my upper deck and in the distance I see a couple of mountain ranges. In the far range I see the top of Brasstown Bald in north Georgia. I live only a few miles from the Georgia/North Carolina border. Brasstown Bald is south of me. 

Better picture of Brasstown Bald from my deck
In this picture, I zoomed in to get a little better picture of Brasstown Bald. You can recognize it by the tower that perches on the peak. My little camera doesn't do such a good job.
Soft snow - I love it
In the above picture, I am looking down on my side yard which is fenced for my pets. My little Lexie would get lost in snow that deep. The railing in front is my upper deck. 

Looking down my driveway 

From my upper deck you can see how much snow we have on the railing
This shot was taken earlier this morning. I was trying to show how much snow we received last night. Later in the morning after the sun had been out for awhile, a large chunk slid off the roof onto my deck. Scared little Lexie with the noise. I made sure she didn't go out there again. If that had fallen on her, she would be gone from this world. 

Home after the snow

I did not get out in the snow today. I don't need to take a chance on falling. This picture was made last year after much of the snow had melted. I love my woods in the snow. I am grateful I had no power outages and no falling trees. 

I hope my friends who were affected by this snow storm had no damages and no inconveniences. I am grateful I can stay inside and have all I need right here. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

What topics for writing are hiding inside your closets, drawers, boxes in your home?

The dreary, dark days of winter can be a blessing for writers or it can dim creative inspiration. Today is a dark day with warnings of snow this weekend. I  have my essentials for spending a few days in hibernation. For many years the gray days of winter depressed me, but this year I am enjoying my stillness, my solitude at home with my buddy, Lexie, sleeping in front of the heater. I might take a nap myself, later.

Earlier today I was motivated to submit some poems for publication and that prompted me to revise some poetry. It is too easy to let our writing slide down the scale of importance during the holidays and during the dismal days of winter. But don't let that happen. Use this time to go through old photographs, albums, files of clippings we have saved to find topics on which to write. 

No matter what your genre, you might need something to prompt an idea. I use my winter days to clean out and de-clutter my closets, desk drawers, and kitchen. Often objects I see or discard bring back a memory of something or someone I could write about. An old beer can opener reminded me of the time Barry and Stu bought some beer cheese for a picnic in the mountains. They assumed that since they liked beer, they would love beer cheese. NOT. The beer cheese smelled so bad, neither of them wanted to taste it. That odor had permeated the entire trunk of the car. We laughed and laughed. Barry and Stu made more jokes about the cheese and we still laugh about that day.

Yesterday, while culling old Christmas Cards I had saved, I came across notes and letters from friends who live far away. Bill, from California, has been a friend for many years. He and his twin sister were in high school when Barry and I stayed at his home while his parents went away on a trip. Bill likes to refer to us as his baby sitters.

Bill's yearly notes included his memories of working at Zoellner Music with Barry, moving pianos on Christmas Eve, when Barry and I were in our twenties. Later at my family's business, Hercules Bumpers in Pelham, GA. Barry worked in sales and Bill, after going to college, came to work in sales also. Barry trained Bill and Bill became an excellent salesperson for Hercules Bumpers down in New Orleans. Bill introduced me to eating crawfish and sucking the heads. Ugh!

I had some good laughs reading Bill's Christmas notes from many years ago, but some of those cards included bad news. His delightful mother died and left her husband, Wotan, sad and alone. Years later Bill lost Wotan, and sent us a magazine in which his stepfather, the violinist, was featured. In his nineties, he played the classical pieces he first learned when he was four or five  years old. He enjoyed playing for his friends at the assisted living facility where he recided when he died.  

I think I will write about Barry and Wotan and Bill, an interesting relationship that lasted for years after their working together ended.

What might you find in your house that will motivate you to write? A book or a movie? A video of a special event? Use what is in your house, in your drawers or closets to find your topic. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year Poem by May Sarton

This came in my email from Garrison Keillor's  Writers Almanac

New Year Poem
by May Sarton

Let us step outside for a moment
As the sun breaks through clouds
And shines on wet new fallen snow,
And breathe the new air.
So much has died that had to die this year.

We are dying away from things.
It is a necessity—we have to do it
Or we shall be buried under the magazines,
The too many clothes, the too much food.
We have dragged it all around
Like dung beetles
Who drag piles of dung
Behind them on which to feed,
In which to lay their eggs.

Let us step outside for a moment
Among ocean, clouds, a white field,
Islands floating in the distance.
They have always been there.

But we have not been there.
We are going to drive slowly
And see the small poor farms,
The lovely shapes of leafless trees
Their shadows blue on the snow.
We are going to learn the sharp edge
Of perception after a day’s fast.

There is nothing to fear.
About this revolution…
Though it will change our minds.
Aggression, violence, machismo
Are fading from us
Like old photographs
Faintly ridiculous
(Did a man actually step like a goose
To instill fear?

Does a boy have to kill
To become a man?)

Already there are signs.
Young people plant gardens.
Fathers change their babies’ diapers
And are learning to cook.

Let us step outside for a moment.
It is all there
Only we have been slow to arrive
At a way of seeing it.
Unless the gentle inherit the earth
There will be no earth.

"New Year Poem" by May Sarton from Collected Poems. © Norton, 1993. Reprinted with permission. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Poetry with Karen Holmes in 2017

A Poetry class scheduled for 2017 at Writers Circle around the Table. 

Karen Holmes will teach a three hour workshop July  15, 2017. Karen is an excellent poet as well as a teacher of  poetry.

I enjoyed a class with Karen at John C. Campbell Folk School earlier this year. We discussed  lyrics, listened to music and then wrote poems or lyrics. She  has taught at my studio in the past and everyone enjoys her workshops. She has been a good friend of mine for more than ten years.

Karen has her own business but finds time to facilitate a poetry critique group in Atlanta where she lives most of the time. She also has a house in Hiawassee, GA on Lake Chatuge. Once each month, except in winter, she holds an Open Mic in Blairsville, GA.

Her poetry collection, Untying the  Knot, has been highly praised with excellent reviews. The knot that Karen was untying was her marriage of over 30 years. I like that this book is filled the pain she felt and still endures at times, but also includes humorous poems. I was one of many who had to read this book through in one sitting.

If you Google Karen Paul Holmes you will see page after page of her publications.

Staci Lynn Bell said, "I thoroughly enjoyed Karen's class. Karen was well organized and kept the class flowing. The exercises given were creative, structured and informative. Her passion and knowledge invaluable."

Put this on your 2017 calendar:

What: Poetry Class with Karen Holmes
Where: Writers Circle in Hayesville
When: Saturday afternoon, July 15, 1 - 4 p,m

Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas is coming and none too soon for me.

November was a trying month for me.

After a summer of fighting health issues, I looked forward to Fall and cooler weather. But the coolness did not come. The leaves turned and fell from the trees, but rain did not come. A drought the likes of which we have not seen in many a year fell over the western NC mountains. 

I was actually happy when my teaching ended for the year and the Writers Circle classes ended. That is unusual, but this year the effort to load my car for my Tri-County Classes and to carry books upstairs and to classes, was overwhelming. I had wonderful students who often met my car and helped me. But at home, setting up for a class in my studio became a huge chore because I had to carry things from my kitchen upstairs down to my studio. After classes, I had to carry glasses and cups up to the kitchen again to wash them. 

Because of major back pain, I could not vacuum, lift anything over ten pounds, and could not stand on my feet for long. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity grew worse and I had to resort to emergency oxygen at home to be used when something triggered an asthma attack. 

My mind was running full blast with ideas for classes, for instructors I hoped to bring to my studio, but my body did not cooperate. I'm sure others have felt this frustration. I began to think I would have to stop teaching and stop holding classes at my studio.

I am a gregarious person. I love to be with people who are interesting, who can hold a good conversation by listening and sharing. At home I have been working on a book that my friend, Estelle Rice, and I will publish in the new year. She and I try to get together at least once each week for lunch or to proof read each other's writing. 

But by late September and early November, I had to cancel many of our plans. I just could not get up and get out. Fatigue overcame me at times and I had to sleep, to go to bed for two hours sometime in the afternoon.

My doctor's checkups showed nothing to be concerned about. I was told to exercise more, but I had no energy to exercise and I can't walk due to pain in my feet. The one day I tried to use the bicycle at the gym, I strained my back and injured my knee which still hurts at times today.

My invisible illnesses, fibromyalgia, MCS, neuropathy, and diabetes were having their way with me, but anyone who saw me would not believe I had anything wrong. Those who read about these illnesses know that each of them take a toll on the body. But I am not a quitter and I love what I do, so I have always pushed through the pain, the tiredness, and the brain fog to live the life I enjoy.

Finally, in November our mountains erupted in wild fires. Some were set by humans and some spread because of the wind and the extremely dry situation.

The Boteler Fire was closest to my house. One evening I received an emergency alert call saying houses in eastern Clay County were being evacuated. The call did not say where, so I drove out to see what I could see, but smoke covered the highway and I could not see the flames from my car.  A friend called and said I should leave my home. "Get out of there now," she said. "Your house is about two hours from the fire."

I packed a suitcase with clothes and my laptop. I grabbed Lexie my dog and her bag and drove south to a town where there were no fires. I rented a motel room for two days. My cell phone would not work because a cell tower was down. To use the motel phone for long distance, I had to have a phone card. I did not have one.

The Internet was my source of communication that first night. I could not find out anything about the fire near my house. I didn't sleep at all. The next day I was able to use my cell and finally found a source online with updates on the fire. It was only ten percent contained and a number of homes had been evacuated. 

I made the decision to evacuate my home in my own time, not wait until someone came to my door and said I had to get out right then. So with the help of two friends, we packed up my most precious things that I could not replace and I drove down to my sister's house outside Atlanta.

I was exhausted when I got there from the stress and fear of losing everything. Gay, my sweet sister, pampered me and let me rest. She took responsibility of my dog most of the time and let me sleep. I slept at night and often slept more in the day time. I soon realized that I felt better, physically, than I had at home. I had no need for my oxygen while I was there. I had less pain than when I was home except for one night after we had taken a long walk in the park. That night was tough. Gay nursed me like she was an RN with heating pads and back rubs and energy healing. She does EFT and Reiki. I finally was able to sleep without pain.

During this time I wondered if I should make the move to a place where I could have help when I needed it. Maybe I should live closer to Gay where I could call on her if I needed her. 

But after two weeks away I awoke one morning with an anxious feeling and a need to go home. I knew that the fire had not reached my neighborhood or my house, but my friends told me the smoke was still bad. When I arrived in Hayesville it was nearly dark, so I only removed a few things from the car. The house had a heavy smoke smell so I opened windows and doors and turned on fans. Even with air purifiers going in all upstairs rooms, I developed a hoarseness that hung on for a week. 

Now it is December and I wanted my house to have a holiday look and feel. My decorations are stored in the basement. That means I had to bring things up those stairs and that has become awfully hard for me now. Once again I called on people I know. M.J. came over Sunday and helped me string some lights across my upper deck. She carried the boxes up the stairs and loaded some things in my car. She is a sweet person who runs her own business in our town. While I have good friends I can call on, I hate to always be in need of help. And I compensate anyone who does come to my aid. 

Today I talked to a man who constructs houses and has developed a fifty-five plus community right off the square in our town. I am seriously considering selling my house that I have loved for so long and downsizing to a one level three bedroom house where all my outside maintenance will be taken care of for me. The area will be half of what I have now. I can have Lexie and a small fenced pen for her. 

I am seeking new medical help for my pain and feel better about my future. I think I will enjoy this Christmas after all. All my worries and frustrations are not gone, but many of them seem to be on their way out. I have always had trouble letting go of things that I can't find a solution for. But I have to accept that some things cannot be fixed, some people will not cooperate with me and I have to let go. When worry and emotional situations begin to affect my health, I have to let go. I am grateful for dear friends, Estelle and Mary Mike, and for my sister, Gay. I am grateful for my readers who read my blog posts, especially for those who leave comments or email me. 

I hope your Christmas and holiday plans are going well and that you will have a festive and happy time.