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Writing in the Margins https://writinginthemargins.ca Self-Care, Self-Discovery, Self-Expression Mon, 01 Jun 2015 18:34:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.4.4 Worthy Already https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=341 https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=341#respond Mon, 01 Jun 2015 18:34:51 +0000 http://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=341  

May 31 Poem – 2015-05-31, 6.18 PM

This is a recording of one of the poems I wrote during Sunday’s workshop. The reference to a “pain slicked” path comes from Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s poem “Wild Geese,” which was my prompt for this poem.

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May 31 Poem – 2015-05-31, 6.18 PM

This is a recording of one of the poems I wrote during Sunday’s workshop. The reference to a “pain slicked” path comes from Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s poem “Wild Geese,” which was my prompt for this poem.

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Patchwork Project Progress (and prompts) https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=339 https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=339#respond Tue, 05 May 2015 20:14:20 +0000 http://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=339 We’re two weeks into this new Patchwork, and everyone’s projects are starting to take shape. It’s amazing to watch.

Our first prompt was “Intersections” since each of our projects have something to do with community or isolation.

This is my (first draft) response to the prompt:

Grief challenges my skepticism
Soft hope at the [...]]]> We’re two weeks into this new Patchwork, and everyone’s projects are starting to take shape. It’s amazing to watch.

Our first prompt was “Intersections” since each of our projects have something to do with community or isolation.

This is my (first draft) response to the prompt:

Grief challenges my skepticism
Soft hope at the edges
Fate and faith and fear
And I think, there must be a loom
There must be a weaver
I must be a thread
There must be a point
A picture
A pattern
A purpose
And you must be a thread
And we must intersect
Again
We must
This cannot be Jackson Pollock
This cannot be random happenstance
My atoms love your atoms
Surely that means something?

But let’s say it doesn’t
There is no cave
No sisters spinning
No loom
No weaver
No pattern
And I am not a thread
And you are not a thread
And my atoms are my atoms
And yours are yours
And there is no we
There is only me
There is only you

Still, I long to intersect

The second part of the day was workshopping a previous poem, and the feedback I got on my poem was so helpful! This will be the first poem in my project, and is intended to set up the false sense of isolation and aloneness that the project hopes to explore. (The first draft of this poem was also written on a day when I was feeling particularly grief-stricken and low, so apologies for the downer but I kind of love it. Goth on the inside forever.)

The Subject is Suffering

The subject is
abandoned at the side of hope
suffering from multiple puncture wounds
and the crude surgical removal
(perhaps without anaesthetic)
of the heart and major organs.

The subject appears to be in distress
and this is distasteful
and the blood is everywhere
and the subject will not stop
with the tears and the talking,
the incessant post-mortem.

So wrap the subject in cellophane.
Shove the guts back in,
looping ropes of viscera and longing
in tangled, tidied knots.
Let the bleeding be internal,
contained.
If the subject is to be alone,
then let the subject be alone.

Finally, we each wrote on our own prompts. These prompts included “what is it about isolation that’s so freakin’ terrifying?” (mine), “flu season”, and a reflection on specific relationships.

This new format is very exciting, and productive! The original goal of the Patchwork groups was to provide a structure for sustainable writing practice, and I think we are getting there with this project. Although many of us are exploring difficult and challenging topics in our projects, the safety and support of the group is invaluable. For myself, working through some difficult emotions and struggling to restabilize myself, I am learning again the healing power of writing. It is possible to find truth and hope and self on the page, and this is a lesson that comes again and again. I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn again, and to facilitate workshops where other writers can also explore the healing power of writing.

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Patchwork Poetics: Trying something new https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=336 https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=336#respond Mon, 27 Apr 2015 03:42:39 +0000 http://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=336 After a too-long hiatus, Writing in the Margins is back! Today marked the return of Patchwork Poetics, with a new approach for this round.

Rather than following our usual formula of three prompts within the session, with each prompt generating a discrete piece of writing, this round will be much more focused on generating a [...]]]> After a too-long hiatus, Writing in the Margins is back! Today marked the return of Patchwork Poetics, with a new approach for this round.

Rather than following our usual formula of three prompts within the session, with each prompt generating a discrete piece of writing, this round will be much more focused on generating a cohesive body of work which we will then turn into chapbooks or a performance. It’s ambitious, and exciting! (And there are still a couple spots left, if you would like to sign up!)

Our structure for this round will be one facilitator-provided prompt (that’s me, the facilitator!), time to review and offer feedback on each other’s revised work (which we will be emailing to the group during the week and then discussing at the group), and one writer-generated prompt related to their specific project. Today we sketched out our projects, talked about how they might work together (amazingly well, it turns out), and wrote on two prompts.

First, I want to brag about these projects. They will range from the self-consciously falsely individualistic (that’s mine! Set up false walls and explore within them, pretend this island isn’t connected to the ocean floor and see what comes of it, explore the me that stops at my skin), to the gloriously communal (exploring the collectivity and contagiousness of pain, each of us in a shared ocean of pain), to navigating the boundaries of individual and communal, self and society (looking particularly at destabilizing the comfortable upward trajectory of ambition and career, and exploring vulnerable creative space). It’s going to be amazing.

The first prompt we wrote on is an Annie Dillard quote, taken from Sage Cohen’s book Writing the Life Poetic, in the section titled “Spending More Than You Save.”

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now… Something more will arise later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes. – Annie Dillard

We wrote about, and talked about, the risks we associate with “spending” our creativity and our emotional energy. Turns out, it’s pretty frickin’ scary to actually put our words and our hearts out into the world. That’s why we’re doing it together!

Our second prompt was Andrea Gibson’s beautiful, generous poem “A Letter To The Playground Bully, From Andrea (age 8).”

As always, the safety of the space within these workshops allowed for some beautiful, cathartic, generous (and sometimes ranting!) poems to be written and shared. I feel honoured to be working with a Patchwork group again, and excited about where this new format will take us. Keep your eyes on this space for weekly updates, and watch for a performance to be announced sometime in the next couple months!

Are there any workshops that you’re particularly interested in attending? Comment or send me an email at tiffany@writinginthemargins.ca and let me know! I’m scheduling the summer programming now and am excited to get back into it.

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Reading with Vivek Shraya https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=328 https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=328#respond Wed, 01 Oct 2014 18:41:29 +0000 http://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=328 Self-promotion is a bit of a challenge for me, so I didn’t post about this before it happened but I did a reading with Vivek Shraya (whose book She of the Mountains is truly fantastic and should be read by everyone) and Sambuddha Banerjee (whose writing about coming out is just stunning). It went really well! [...]]]> Self-promotion is a bit of a challenge for me, so I didn’t post about this before it happened but I did a reading with Vivek Shraya (whose book She of the Mountains is truly fantastic and should be read by everyone) and Sambuddha Banerjee (whose writing about coming out is just stunning). It went really well! I read two texts, posted below.

This first text was written at the writing workshop facilitated by Vivek and hosted by Melanie Carroll and the Mount Royal University Pride Centre. The prompt was two parts – first, make a list of your identities. Then, write about those identities without using those words, starting with “I am…”. This is what I came up with (and then edited to read at the book launch).

I am passionate and purposeful and playful and complex.

Political and critical and always too intense.

I am Facebook fights and 25 tabs open in Chrome.

Hashtag activism and curated media consumption and demanding diversity.

I am tired of straight white men writing, producing and performing in all of the shows and movies that they market to themselves.

I am Pitch Perfect as self-care.

I am pictures of puppies and bunnies and kitties and all things little and cute.

I am audiobooks and podcasts and music.

Amanda Palmer and Beyonce and Janelle Monae and MIA, living room dance party.

I am stopping to pet the dog, any dog, every dog – as long as it wants to be pet.

I am consent-focused with partners and pets and kids and friends and family and everyone else.

Except when I’m not. Fuck internalized rape culture, fuck the normalization of coercion.

I am long lazy mornings in bed making to-do lists and planning events.

I am incapable of relaxing because I am getting shit done.

I am flying alone to San Francisco to eat seafood and attend Naked Girls Reading Neil Gaiman at the Centre for Sex and Culture, to drink coffee at Wicked Grounds and shop at Mr. S.

I am emailing Maggie Mayhem to geek out about porn.

I am hosting porn viewings.

I am analyzing my media – compulsively, critically, through multiple theoretical lenses.

I am really annoying to watch movies with.

I am wearing a costume and delivering tea after a bad day.

I am gelato deliveries.

I am candy stashes.

I am the clomp of four-year-old feet on the stairs and my neiphling hollering “AUNTY FIFFY, I have tandy?!”

I am rootbeer floats.

I am seducing you with pie and homemade dinner.

Did it work? Do you love me?

I am reading Andrea Gibson out loud to my lovers.

I am reading erotica out loud to my lovers.

I am writing erotica for my lovers.

I am sexting and posting tumblr pictures and reading Quickie New York and I am pretending that my sex is easy and accessible.

I am starting a Year of Sexual Recovery.

I am more talk than moan.

I am shame and fear and already feeling the rejection.

I am doctor’s appointments and Epsom salt baths and seeing my counselor twice a month.

I am “shouldn’t you be on anti-depressants?”

I am “are you sure the fibromyalgia isn’t just depression?”

I am a former morning person.

I am being pulled off the balcony railing.

I am self-harm as self-care, breathing as self-care, tea as self-care, texting as self-care, compassion as self-care.

I am love as a verb. Do it even when you can’t feel it.

I am the slide of black gel ink across the ivory page.

I am the click of laptop keys and Parks and Recreation in the background.

I am crying in the bathroom for six hours.

I am London Fogs and ginger molasses cookies and too many bookshelves and too many books.

Or maybe never enough books.

I am falling in love.

I am wearing my heart farther out than is strictly recommended.

I am relying on my ribcage community.

I am reading erotica to a room full of strangers.

I am reading porn research to a room full of strangers.

I am guiding a room full of strangers through a trauma recovery writing session.

I am lucky.

I am grateful.

I am surrounded by more love than I could ever have imagined.

My second piece was a short piece of (not explicit or graphic) erotica.

If you sit beside me on the couch, and glance sideways at me with just a flicker of desire, or maybe more than a flicker, maybe a tentative but tangible interest, then my heart will stumble and my breath will catch and I will be a cliché on the couch beside you and it will be awkward and delicious and I will stay very still in an attempt to hold the moment captive.

But it will not be enough to stay still.

I am greedy, gluttonous, gloriously insatiable and so I will inch my knee closer to your knee, and place my hand, so casual, on the couch between us, and when our eyes meet I will flush pink and look away because it’s just too fucking awkward and I want to…

And your hand might also be casual on the couch, pinky finger twitching, an unbridgeable chasm of endless millimeters between us, caught like my breath on the edge of the leap and then there! Touching. Sliding over, fingers on fingers and eyes on the floor and knees now touching and if I don’t breathe I might pass out but how can I breathe when you are taking all the air.

So I will, maybe, ask for it back. The air. The oxygen. Breath from your mouth on my mouth and hands moving now and the cliché is not just heart and lungs but also stomach flipping and my body wanting your body but we’re just here on the couch, just holding hands, just kissing.

And then breathing, leaning back, grinning goofy, trying to be cool when I am anything but cool and will we talk, then? Maybe. Make a joke, take a drink, remember to breathe. And your hand will still be there, on my hand. And I am greedy. So maybe we will talk, and maybe we will do something else.

And this is my “oh my goodness, I just did a public reading with amazing people!” awkward bathroom selfie:Vivek reading

 

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Patchwork Poetics week 2 recap https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=324 https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=324#respond Mon, 11 Aug 2014 05:01:26 +0000 http://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=324 Kettle boiling, jazz playing (Gretchen Lieberum – one of my first introductions to the genre), lights dim… Sunday evening. 

We had a lovely meeting today, despite (because of?) the fairly low energy we all brought to the space. I’ve been thinking about the poetry I wrote all day, spinning the poems around in [...]]]>
Kettle boiling, jazz playing (Gretchen Lieberum – one of my first introductions to the genre), lights dim… Sunday evening. 

We had a lovely meeting today, despite (because of?) the fairly low energy we all brought to the space. I’ve been thinking about the poetry I wrote all day, spinning the poems around in my mind and trying to figure out how to process the feelings they brought up. That, to me, is the sign of a very productive workshop!
 
We wrote on three prompts.
 
The first, a five minute prompt, was based on Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge’s introduction to her book “poemcrazy.” We were invited “to drop a line into the pool of words around you and within you to begin making poems that express more than words can say, an act Allen Ginsberg calls ‘ordinary magic.'”
 
Our second prompt was from Agodon & Silano’s “The Daily Poet” for August 10: “Write a poem about the history of a relationship where each line is comprised of only six lines.” We wrote for 20 minutes on this one.
 
And our last prompt came from the Scrabble game that happened at the Possibilities Community Cafe on Friday, where the words “barfo/barfot: a person who intentionally attempts to induce vomiting” and “snottweed: a) a pronunciation of “it’s not tweed” – snottweed; b) a tweed made of snot; c) a tweed clothing item worn to be used as a handkerchief” were coined. The prompt was to either use those words (with the provided definitions or your own) or to write a poem about/including your own made up words. This was a 12 minute writing session.
 
And now a final fourth prompt for you to write on at home – 
 
Write a poem about desire. This could be any kind of desire – for food, time, friendship, love, sex – anything. If it’s helpful, start with a word bank of the terms that are associated with that specific desire. Give yourself 10 or 20 minutes depending on your preference, and write!
 
Then stretch. Breathe. You are doing amazing work, poets! Good job.
 
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Patchwork Poetics Friday prompt https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=322 https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=322#respond Fri, 08 Aug 2014 23:33:29 +0000 http://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=322 It seems to me that poetry offers an opportunity to explore difficult concepts in non-linear and creative ways. Not only through metaphor, but also through repetition, rhyme, and rambunctious rumbling rambling raucous wordification. Or quiet calm still wordliness. Or chaotic captivating capricious wordsing.
I am, sometimes, like Andrea Gibson, “rusty when I talk / it’s the storm in me.” (From a poem that speaks so deeply to my heart. Here they are performing the poem – http://vimeo.com/31888473) You might be rusty-voiced, too. I think we all are, sometimes.
So, poets. This will be a tough one. Set aside a block of time for it – I would suggest at least an hour. Settle yourself somewhere safe – maybe your office, maybe your kitchen table, maybe a coffee shop. Write alone, if that feels best, or with friends. Make yourself some tea, or hot chocolate, or a lovely tall glass of water. Get yourself a snack. Take some deep, calming breaths.
Your prompt is to dive into the cold dark water of your emotional ocean, off whichever cliff seems both challenging and approachable. (Remember, you will not drown.) I will be writing about my fear of not-enoughness, of rejectability – a raw nerve that was hit pretty hard recently, and an emotional whirlpool that I have trouble expressing or exploring. Pick your own topic, something that’s hard to describe but that begs for words and expression. Start with a poem, or a mind-map, or a word bank. Stretch, drink, eat, breathe, write.
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Patchwork Poetics week 1 recap https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=318 https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=318#respond Wed, 06 Aug 2014 01:47:52 +0000 http://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=318 Happy Tuesday, Patchwork Poets!

  We had our first meeting on Sunday and I must say… it was fantastic. We all brought our anxieties about writing and sharing poetry in this format (different anxieties for each of us), and together we co-created a gracious, welcoming, anxious and courageous space to begin this new work together. [...]]]>
Happy Tuesday, Patchwork Poets!

 
We had our first meeting on Sunday and I must say… it was fantastic. We all brought our anxieties about writing and sharing poetry in this format (different anxieties for each of us), and together we co-created a gracious, welcoming, anxious and courageous space to begin this new work together. I can’t wait to see where we take it.
 
A brief recap of the basic format of the workshops:
 
 – We all have a unique, creative voice and each voice is equally valued regardless of experience, confidence, educational level, background, linguistic skill, etc.
 – We write together in the group, and are welcome, but not required or expected, to share our writing. 
 – All writing is treated as fiction unless specifically identified as autobiographical.
 – Trigger warnings for non-consent, violence, or oppressive content are encouraged, and participants are welcome to excuse themselves for those readings if they need to.
 – No suggestion, question, or critique is to be directed at just-written work.
 – We will have one short prompt, one mid-length prompt, and one long prompt per session (5, 10, and 20 minutes).
 – Information about the technical aspects of poetry (meter, rhyme, etc.) will be sent in emails, but we will not have highly technical ‘lessons’ in the workshops, so that those who want to engage in the technical nitty gritty of poetry can, and those who just want to write can do that.
 
We will *not* have a session on August 24 (I will be in Edmonton for SMUTfest, reading my erotica and facilitating a Smutty Story Circle – you are welcome to attend!), or on August 31 (I will be with Possibilities in the Pride Parade).
 
I will be sending out a recap, much like this one, after every session, and will be sending additional prompts and things to read throughout the week.
 
The first prompt we wrote on was from Agodon & Silano’s “The Daily Poet,” and was their August 3 prompt: In The Surreal World. 
 
“Close your eyes and imagine yourself holding five things in your hand: a person, a building, a weapon, and two other items of your choosing. Write a poem that incorporates all give items. For extra credit, use one item three times throughout the poem.”
 
Our second prompt came from Diane Lockward’s book “The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop” and included a poem and a prompt:
 
Because I Never Learned the Names of Flowers

It is moonlight and white where
I slink away from my cat-quiet blue rubber truck
and motion myself to back it up to your ear.
I peel back the doors of the van and begin
to hushload into your sleep
the whole damn botanical cargo of Spring.

Sleeper, I whisk you
Trivia and Illium, Sweet Peristalsis, Flowering Delerium.
 
Springs of Purple Persiflage and Lovers' Leap, slips
of Hysteria stick in my hair. I gather clumps of Timex,
handfuls of Buttertongues, Belly buttons and  Bluelets.
 
I come with Trailing Nebula, I come with Late-Blooming
Paradox, with Creeping Pyromania, Pink Apoplex,
and Climbing Solar Plexus.
 
whispering: Needlenose,
Juice Cup, Godstem, Nexus, Sex-us, Condominium.
 
          - Rod Jellema
 

The prompt:

 
“I admire the wordplay in this poem, the sexiness of it. The language is romantic, fanciful, musical. … Real names, made-up ones, or silly ones, they are fun to say, to roll around in the mouth.
Choose a category, perhaps fruits, vegetables, bird, or fish. Or choose something within the category, e.g., apples, beans, or lettuces – something that has variety. Then create a bank of words with great sounds, some rhyming words, some near rhyming words. Let some of those words be nouns, some verbs, a few adjectives. Make up some of the words. Make your word choices delicious.
 
Imagine an auditor.
 
Then begin with Because I never learned the names of _________. 
 
Drawing from your word hoard, write a poem delivered very privately to your auditor.”
 
This second prompt generated some really gorgeous poetry, and the idea of a word bank to begin with was helpful for a lot of us.
 
We didn’t write on a third prompt because we ran out of time – instead, we each chose our birthdays from The Daily Poet and took those home to work on. 
 
And now, since it is Tuesday and since Tuesday is so full of contradictory meanings and potentials – unlucky in the ancient Greek world, since it is the day of the week that Constantinople fell, and lucky in the Jewish world, for other reasons, (thank you, Wikipedia), and belonging to war-like Mars with all the positives and negatives that conflict can bring… since it is Tuesday, my poets, write a poem about luck and unluck, conflict and combat and aggression and assertiveness – either the good or the bad or the both. 
 
If having a time limit helps you, then set your timer for 15 for this one. Start with a word bank, if that helps. If you prefer to write until the poem is done, then write as long as you need or want. 
 
I will see you Sunday, and I can’t wait to write more poetry together!
 
 – Tiffany
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Patchwork Poetics https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=315 https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=315#respond Fri, 25 Jul 2014 14:37:43 +0000 http://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=315 For the first time, Patchwork will be focusing on poetry writing. Last session’s focus on fiction was a success and each of the participants generated some fantastic work – science fiction, magic realism, fantasy – and I’m looking forward to this session’s focus on poetry.

For anyone writing alongside at home, or considering registering [...]]]> For the first time, Patchwork will be focusing on poetry writing. Last session’s focus on fiction was a success and each of the participants generated some fantastic work – science fiction, magic realism, fantasy – and I’m looking forward to this session’s focus on poetry.

For anyone writing alongside at home, or considering registering for this workshop, here is the bonus session recap that was just sent out to participants.

Happy Friday, Patchwork Poets.

You’re receiving this email because you RSVPd yes or maybe to the Patchwork Poetics group. If you’d prefer not to get these update emails, let me know!

This will be a long email, and it’s in two sections so skip ahead or budget your time as required. You’ll find an introduction to Patchwork and how the group works (which will be expanded on at our first meeting on August 3), and three prompts for your own writing at home.

First, an intro to Patchwork.

I’m Tiffany, and I’ll be facilitating our group. I’ve been facilitating writing workshops for over four years, and I love this work. I’m available throughout the course to read and offer feedback on your partial or completed writing pieces, and I’ll be sending a recap email after each session as well as sending writing prompts throughout the week. You are never expected or obligated to share your work either with me or with the group, and how (and whether) you respond to the writing prompts is totally up to you.

If you do share your just-written work with the group or with me, we will respond only with what works or is effective in the piece. Your willingness to take a risk and share will never be met with harsh critiques or challenging questions. If you want to share polished work and receive a mix of positive response and constructive, compassionate critique, that is also an option available to anyone in the group.

If you do want to share your work with me or with the group, you can send it by email or read it at our in-person sessions. If you email a piece to the group or to me, let us know if it is a just-written response to a writing prompt, or if you are looking for critique.

Patchwork, like all Writing in the Margins workshops, is based on Pat Schneider’s Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) method. That means that we have a few guidelines in place that will be part of each session, and part of our interactions outside of the sessions.

You can learn more about how the workshops are run at Pat Schneider’s website or in her book, which you’re welcome to borrow from me, and these are the basic guidelines (from the website):

Unique to the AWA method… are these two revolutionary practices:
• Everything in the writing workshop is treated as fiction, to minimize the personal vulnerability of the writer, and
• The teacher or leader writes with the students or participants, and reads aloud along with the other writers.
These practices, along with keeping all writing confidential, responding to just-written work with encouragement rather than negative critique, create an environment that is non-hierarchical, honest, and safe. Accomplished and beginning writers learn from one another in a generous atmosphere of both critical craft and personal respect for the value of every voice.

My commitment to you is that I will respect these guidelines, and will make sure that they are respected within the workshop space. In addition, if there are other considerations that would help make the Patchwork space feel safer and more welcoming to you, please let me know! The goal of the group is to support and encourage your unique creative voice, and that’s only possible if you feel safe. It is my job to create that space for you as much as possible.

Second, the prompts!

We had a bonus meeting on Sunday, for those folks who were able to attend the original start date. Although we won’t be officially starting until August 3, I wanted to share with you the prompt that we discussed (at lovely, luxurious length!) a few days ago. This prompt lends itself most obviously to prose writing, but I think it could easily become a poem. We will be focusing on poetry in this round of Patchwork, and our prompts will mainly be poetry prompts, but as always all genres and all voices and all writing styles are welcome.

The prompt is modified from one of Priscilla Uppal’s contributions to the book “The Writer’s Gym,” and has to do with myths, fables, fairytales and family stories. Priscilla writes about a love of myth in her youth, a love that I can certainly relate to. The prompt, in its original form, is to interview a family member (or multiple family members) for their stories, and then to retell those stories with an emphasis on how they might map onto existing tropes of fairytale, fable, myth and archetype.

We obviously didn’t bring our family members to the workshop, so the modified prompt was to take an existing story (either from our own lives or families, or from our existing fictional writing) and to retell that story with an emphasis on mythological elements.

But even this, theoretically much easier, quicker prompt, was too much! We agreed, each of us there, that we needed to do more research, find more fairytales, more fables, more myths, more archetypes. As part of my own research, I’m rereading Neil Gaiman’s fantastic book, American Gods. I’m also digging through my memories of family stories, and looking to the mythologies of my various cultures (I’m Norwegian, Scottish, British and settler Canadian).

So, my dear poets, if this prompt speaks to you then take your notebook, your laptop, your voice recorder or just your ears and go out searching for stories. Expand the definition of family to include your chosen family, or yourself. Find stories, sit with them, hold them up against existing mythological stories, and find a fit. Then stitch them together!

I will be interviewing my dad. The man who raised him, a cook in their home in Nigeria, died last week. Issues of religious imperialism (my grandparents were missionaries), colonialism, classism and privilege are swirling around in my head, and I think there is definitely something deep and archetypal about those kinds of conflicts. We’ll see what comes of it!

And now, two new prompts:

The first comes from a workshop that I attended at the Canadian Creative Writer’s Conference in Vancouver earlier this year. I was at a brilliant panel that included a discussion of list poems, and I was enchanted by the speaker’s enthusiasm for this (often maligned) form. So, write a list poem. Think about how a list can be a window into a world, and how all the context that goes unspoken around the list – the negative space of the poem – creates a poetic form that is deceptively simple. Here is a list poem taken from a story in my family’s history.

Escape/Abandonment

Empty house
Pot roast thawing
Note
“Please cook the roast. I’m sorry.”

And finally, a prompt taken from Mary Oliver’s book “A Poetry Handbook” –

She writes, “The part of the psyche that works in concert with consciousness and supplies a necessary part of the poem – the heat of a star as opposed to the shape of a star, let us say – exists in a mysterious, unmapped zone: not unconscious, not subconscious, but cautious. It learns quickly what sort of courtship it is going to be. Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It wait, it watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself – soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or it will not appear at all.

Why should it? It can wait. It can stay silent a lifetime. Who knows anyway what it is, that wild skily part of ourselves without which no poem can live? But we do know this: if it is going to enter into a passionate relationship and speak what is in its own portion of your mind, the other responsible and purposeful part of you had better be a Romeo. It doesn’t matter if risk is somewhere close by – risk is always hovering somewhere. But it won’t involve itself with anything less than perfect seriousness.

For the would-be writer of poems, this is the first and most essential thing to understand. It comes before everything, even technique.”

Your prompt is to sit with Mary Oliver’s admonition to be a Romeo to your poetic heat, and write down the responses that rise up in you. Maybe you are excited by this prospective romance – write that. Maybe you are afraid, of failure, of judgment, of rejection, of a new genre, of the blank page – write that. Maybe you are angry at the suggestion that reliability is essential, and maybe you are chronically ill or overworked or exhausted and you only have scraps of time to begin with – write that. Maybe it feels welcoming, maybe it feels exclusive, maybe it feels open, maybe it feels closed. Write all that down. Pour out the emotional response to what the author says is the most essential thing, and then if you feel inspired to do so, push those words around until they form a poem.

Personally, I believe that Mary Oliver is right that we must romance our creativity and be present with it, and nurture the relationship the same as we must nurture any other relationship, *but* I also believe that we do the best we can with the resources that we have available, and that our creative hearts recognize effort and intention. If you don’t show up at the desk between seven and nine because you are laying in bed in pain, the heat of your poetic heart will not retreat or die out. You can be a poet and be ill, neurodivergent, differently abled, overworked, exhausted, anxious, afraid of failure. You can be a poet even if you only make it to the desk once a month. You can be a poet even if you never write outside of these workshops.

I wish that I could wave my magic wand and grant you each time and energy to invest in your poetry writing with the rigour and commitment that every single how-to book demands, but I can’t. We live in a toxic capitalist culture that shames us for any deviation from the norm, that looks down on creative expression in the first place and *especially* creative expression coming from the margins. As much as possible, Patchwork is kept separate from those harmful messages. You are welcome here, no matter how much time you’re able to commit to this work. The goal is to help you develop a sustainable writing practice, and one that feels safe, welcoming, supportive and expansive. The more you can show up at the page, the better. But there’s no minimum required for participation, and you will never have to explain yourself to me or to this group. Be a poet. Be a writer. You already are! I’m excited to spend time with you, exploring our poetry together.

I’ll see you all on August 3 at 1:30 at the Calgary Sexual Health Centre, and I’ll send another prompt or two between now and then.

Happy writing!

– Tiffany

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Patchwork 3.5 recap and prompts https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=300 https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=300#respond Wed, 04 Jun 2014 18:12:46 +0000 http://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=300 Good morningish, Patchworkers!

This recap is late, I apologize. Our last session was delightful, although/because so many of us were experiencing “brain not braining” issues. Our first prompt was from the book “The Writer’s Gym.” We revisited an existing piece of writing, and rewrote the story from the perspective of a non-point-of-view character. Our second [...]]]>
Good morningish, Patchworkers!

This recap is late, I apologize. Our last session was delightful, although/because so many of us were experiencing “brain not braining” issues.
Our first prompt was from the book “The Writer’s Gym.” We revisited an existing piece of writing, and rewrote the story from the perspective of a non-point-of-view character.
Our second was a two-part prompt, divided into two sections. First, we wrote for ten minutes about an unexplored location (real or fictional). This writing was in a specific form – writing only about what we expect to find in the space. (ie – “I expect there to be shag carpet. I expect the room to be overly warm.” etc.) Then we set this writing aside.
We wrote for fifteen minutes on prompt came from Ursula K. le Guin’s book “Steering the Craft” – we wrote for 15 minutes using no adjectives or adverbs. It was challenging, but rewarding! Definitely an exercise I will come back to when my brain is braining.
Finally, we came back to our second exercise and wrote a story in the environment we had set expectations for.
Despite the amount of fog in our heads last Sunday, we got some good writing and thinking done! I am excited about the progress we’ve each made.
For your Wednesday prompt this week, I want to encourage you to do something a little outside our usual sit-and-write practice. Take a bunch of sticky notes, or index cards, or open up a Scrivener file if that’s a program you use, or Evernote, or Mind Node, or a big sheet of paper for a mind map or whatever else works for you, and map out your characters and story so far. We’ve each spent significant time in the fictional worlds that we’re creating, and sometimes it can be difficult to see the trajectory of our stories or the amount of work we’ve actually accomplished. Map out your story as it exists now, and sketch in the gaps where you have an idea of the storyline but haven’t had time/inspiration/inclination to write the prose. Make note of areas where you may need to do more research, and areas that you’re particularly excited out. On Sunday, we’ll talk about where we’re at, and what Writing in the Margins can do to help sustain your writing practice beyond this group.
This coming Sunday is our last meeting in this round of Patchwork. I am looking forward to writing with you folks one last time in this group! (Of course, you are *always* welcome to join future Patchwork rounds as well!)
– Tiffany
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Patchwork Friday prompt https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=295 https://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=295#respond Sat, 24 May 2014 00:13:41 +0000 http://writinginthemargins.ca/?p=295 Good afternoon, Patchworkers, and writers at home!

A Friday prompt for you, before our meeting on Sunday. (And Sunday will be fun – I have a new prompt generator for us!)

So, make yourself a cup of tea or something else hydrating and delicious. Take a deep breath. Stretch your back, your neck, your shoulders [...]]]> Good afternoon, Patchworkers, and writers at home!

A Friday prompt for you, before our meeting on Sunday. (And Sunday will be fun – I have a new prompt generator for us!)

So, make yourself a cup of tea or something else hydrating and delicious. Take a deep breath. Stretch your back, your neck, your shoulders and your wrists. Let yourself sink into your fictional world, and wander around for a bit before you start writing. Now, set your timer for 15 or 20 minutes and take a character into a part of your world that you haven’t explored before, and that they haven’t explored before. Maybe they’re visiting someone new, maybe they’re lost, maybe they’ve just started a new job or discovered a new market. See what happens!

Don’t forget that we will also have the opportunity to share our 1000-word stories on Sunday. If you’re writing at home, feel free to share your story by email, or in a comment.

And a bonus, the poem that was sent out to the Finding Water group for this week. The poet is Jillian Christmas, and I saw her perform at the literary cabaret in Vancouver. She’s fantastic!

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