Writers’ Mill Minutes 201711 Where Inspiration Comes Sliding Through with Carolyn Martin

Writers’ Mill Minutes 11/19/2017

Wow! What a meeting. Twenty-four of us were there to listen to, work with, and be inspired by Portland poet, Carolyn Martin, whose return visit was so popular we’re already asking when she can join us again, again. Carolyn – a former nun, Assistant Professor of English, management trainer, and now retiree – has journeyed from New Jersey to Oregon, discovered the joys of Douglas firs, months of rain, and dry summers, and written poems and book reviews which have appeared in publications throughout North America and the UK. Her third poetry collection, Thin Places, was released by Kelsay Books in Summer 2017.

With brief pauses during which we

  • ate wonderful snacks from Richard and Robin,
  • picked up the gorgeous 2017 Writers Mill Journal from Sheila,
  • ordered copies of Carl and June,
  • enjoyed delightfully appropriate contest prizes from Richard
    • First place Matthew – Nathaniel
    • Second place Karin – Birds
    • Third place Sheila – Leaves
  • and reminded ourselves to turn our various HUNGERs into contest entries, to be sent to contest@portlandwritersmill.org by the end of Tuesday November 21st,

the whole session from 1 till 3 was a great time of listening, learning and discussion, followed by WRITING, all lead by Carolyn Martin. See below for notes, and BE INSPIRED!

Next month’s meeting, on December 17th, will feature Walt, teaching us about Scrivener, Vellum, and how to use a computer to help us create books, including

  • …general file types and management
  • …Scrivener organization
  • …Scrivener sfiles
  • …Front and Back matter
  • …formatting eBook files
  • …Vellum eBook generation
  • …other eBook generation tools
  • …?

If you’re disorganized, as I am, this will be an invaluable lesson in how to become organized. Maybe I’ll even keep my character’s eye-colors consistent in the first draft one day! Walt is providing snacks as well. And we’re all invited to bring books for the BOOK EXCHANGE. Exchangeable books will be left on the exchange table, where everyone is invited to find something or somethings that they’d like to read. Refresh your personal library and enjoy seeing a great selection of books!

Our 100th contest, with, for us starving artists, the very appropriate title, HUNGER, ends November 21st. Other contests include these:

  • January’s contest prompt is “Why are you here?” – up to 1200 words, ends January 7th.
  • February’s prompt – “What the Hart Wants” – up to 1200 words, ends February 4th

Upcoming events:

  • December 1st and 2nd 9am to 4pm – Sheila is hosting a table at the Oak Hills Holiday Bazaar at Oak Hills Rec Center (just north of the intersection of Cornell and 153rd.) If you have been published (in an anthology, in your own book, a painting, a story, a poem…) you are welcome to bring your books to sell there, and Sheila would love your company or your help.
  • December 3rd 12pm – 4pm at the Oregon Historical Society – Your chance to meet LOTS AND LOTS of Oregon authors. Don’t miss it!
  • December 19th – Don’t miss our meeting from 1-3pm.

Where Inspiration Comes Sliding Through – notes on a talk given by Carolyn Martin

How do you start a poem (or a story)?

  • Put pen to paper?
  • Put finger to keyboard?
  • Write and/or change the first line of something you remember, then see where it goes.

How do you include yourself in a poem (or a story)?

  • You don’t have to say “I.” You can stand back and be objective and still be you.
  • Details/observations reflect the observer’s eye.
  • Allusions imply the observer’s interests and knowledge.

How do you include the reader in a poem (of a story)?

  • End with a question
    • Invites the reader to respond
    • Avoids tying things up with a bow. Let the reader work too.
  • Allude to things the reader might empathize with –
    • not fitting in,
    • achievement not matching the dream, etc.

What kind of thing can you write/include in your poem?

  • Lists – images add to the aura
  • Other writers – allusions add weight. Look for someone whose work fits your context
  • Sensory detail – makes the observer/speaker/character real.

What voice will you write in?

  • Can write in your own voice
  • Or find inspiration in a character from fairytale, the Bible, the woman next to you on the plane…
  • Wear someone else’s mask – humanize them with a surprise twist on the known
  • Can write in more than one voice – mother and child?

How will you use your words?

  • Repetition
    • with altered meanings – lie/deceit, lie/resting place
    • with unexpressed emotion – beyond … beyond
    • with surprise – coach and coached
  • Rhyme
    • Traditionally lines of poetry ended in rhyming patterns
    • Now we’re more like to use internal rhyme
    • Rhymes don’t have to be obvious to be effective – chandelier and silks that sear.

How will you choose your message?

  • Your character probably has something to say. Then make it global
    • No happy-ever-afters if Cinderella’s not wearing her shoe
    • No quick road to success if the inn-keeper didn’t let Mary and Joseph stay
    • Desire for connection is universal theme
    • As are wicked stepmothers
    • And love – but a love poem really doesn’t have to use the word.
  • Doesn’t have to be unambiguous.
    • Your reader may see something more than you thought you’d put there, and that’s good.
    • Poetry makes the reader slow down – it’s okay of they have to read it more than once – perhaps it’s even better.
    • Lots of things are said (or read) in the space in between. Poetry is about spaces.
  • Get the reader involved in the desire/need of the author.

At the end of the session—which was filled with lively discussion (did you know the brothers Grimm invented wicked stepmothers because wicked mothers sounded too unpleasant?) we had four sources of inspiration to think about:

  1. Inspiration all around us
  2. Other voices (fictional, fairytale, neighbor, friend…)
  3. Travel (where you’ve been, where you’d like to go, where you might have been…)
  4. Relationships

We also had several ways to enhance our reading of poetry

  1. Read more than once
  2. Underline what strikes you
  3. Look for repetition, rhyme, unexpected images
  4. Sink into the question at the end.

Finally, Carolyn invited us to WRITE for 10 minutes. If you missed the meeting, you can do it now and create an entry for the next contest!

  1. Write your few words about inspiration
  2. Select a character from literature, fairytale, myth, history or current events and speak in his/her voice.
  3. Think of a place you particularly love. Write about the details and experiences there that inspire you.
  4. What can you say in public about a private relationship?

Thank you Carolyn!

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