Ode to Writers Everywhere

http://thebarking.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/letter_writi_24714_md.gifThe Writing Instructor

The refrigerator hums like a turtle in a small trickling stream. Soft, contented, but with a slight hiccup now and then.

I try to ignore the soothing hum and continue to talk on, too loud at times, but there’s a cougher in the group, and I don’t want my words drowned out.

What an expression: how can words drown? Well, I guess the same way my ideas seem to drown at times. When I’m trying so hard to express myself, I get intense, yet I see a dazed expression on my listeners’ faces, so it must be me, my words, that are drowning them in boredom.

Oh shoot, am I boring? I stop the conversation mid-stream, and no one seems to notice. If a smallhttp://naturespicwallpaper.com/best-waterfall-original-oil-on-canvas-nature-wallpaper-free-download/ waterfall suddenly stopped in the middle of Yosemite, you’d think those around would notice. The hikers and bikers, the park rangers and sightseers would shout out: “What in the world?”

But no shouts of concern from my listeners when I shut my mouth and halt my waterfall of a fascinating story about writing. Well, I have been told that my stories can go on and on, and on, for paragraphs when they could be just a sentence or two.

So I order them to practice what I have just preached about Cinquains.

Adelaide Crapsey, poetry, cinquain

A 5-line poem, invented by the early 20th century poet Adelaide Crapsey and inspired by the Japanese tanka, with 22 syllables arranged in a distinct pattern, no mandatory rhyme scheme, stanzas of 2, 4, 6, 8, and 2 syllables. Crapsey always titled her cinquains, effectively utilizing the title as a sixth line.

WRITE!” I command.

But before I begin I pause in our little writing room (a converted kitchen/dining room, in fact), which vibrates with the sound of fingers tapping on flat black keys and ink sliding against paper: a happy sound; a creative, invigorating, satisfying sound; while the low hum of a dog’s sleepy snores surround my group in a warm writing hug.

cinquain, poetry, writing








Now, a challenge – do you dare create your own cinquain here?


Guiding our Genes

artists born or madeA writer once said, “Journeys, like artists, are born and not made.” (Lawrence Durrell)genes

Really? Are we born into who we are? I know we contain these things called genes, which help us become who we are – the tall gene or the short one; blue-eyed or the brown-eyed gene; the one for a dimple in the cheek or high cheekbones; a gene tendency to grow up lean, or fat.

But are we also comprised of a gene to be an artist or a stockbroker, a train conductor or an engineer?

And then I remember Tory.Guide Dog for the Blind, genes

Tory was my family’s first dog – a golden retriever bred by the Guide Dogs to be a perfect animal to guide and protect the blind. The right height, weight, disposition: sweet, docile, loving, yet with a streak of strength and stubbornness.

In fact, Tory was so perfect, the Guide Dogs organization used her as a breeder (of other perfect dogs), and we became her adopted parents, taking care of her until time to do her duty and produce offspring. Once her litter was born and nursed, Tory came back home with us.

For us, Tory was a perfect family dog. She never met a human she didn’t love.

However, she disliked just about every dog or cat who crossed her path. People oohed and ahh’d when Tory and I walked the lovely Bay path, but if another leashed dog came along, my sweet dog would snarl tightly and lead me firmly away from the unsavory beast.

A mere inconvenience for us as dog owners.

But when it came time for her to breed a third litter, the Guide Dogs rejected her!

Yes, they fired Tory.


Because every single one of her puppies – 8 in her first litter and 9 in her second – disliked dogs and cats. And a Guide Dog who snarls at other dogs cannot be used as a loving companion to a blind person, because that loving dog could lead her person the wrong way, just to avoid a four-legged creature.

So, then, are we only how we arrive, genes intact? Are we born as artist or preacher, as anthropologist or philanthropist?

Are we born mean or nice?

apple pie, genesDo we snarl at strangers because our great-grandfather did, and do we bake the best apple pie this side of the Mississippi because of our great great great-aunt?

What do you think – can we guide our genes, or do they just guide us into who we are?

genes, dogs, Guide Dogs

Smart Tory learned new tricks every day…
thanks to my guy, or good genes?

Never Give Up Chocolate

chocolate, writing exercise, wish I'd known

Pondering the things I wish I’d known.

What do you wish you’d known in your past, now that you’ve reached some type of maturity and can look back?

When I encourage my writing class students to write their list of “Things I Wish I’d Known,” I write along with them, thinking it’s an easy exercise.But I’m surprised by my first esoteric response:

“Never, ever give up chocolate.”

(Photo from http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2013/01/just-a-nibble-of-chocolate-is-enough-to-satiate-cravings/)

Embarrassed, but intent on following my own instructions of just writing out the first things that come to mind, I continue my list:

“Give to others, but be sure to also give to yourself.”  

chocolate, giving, lesson, writing exercise

My grandson already knows some of the things I wish I’d known.

The following one surprises me:

“Don’t worry so much about hurting someone else’s feelings.”

Wait a minute. I catch a glimmer of something.

The next insightful “wish I’d known” advises:

“Those you love, love more; those you don’t like – avoid more.”

Ah, I’m connecting all the dots, or all the “wish I’d knowns,” to be more exact.

Never ever give up chocolate expresses all of the above platitudes, only better.

Never give up what I am, what I need, what is right for me.


I’ve learned that yes, it’s important to keep others happy, to take care of them, to be a “good” mother,wife,daughter,friend,colleague,sister,aunt,grandmother,mom-in-law,sis-in-law,cousin.

But, I shouldn’t have to give up ME to be a good anything.

Not that I’d give up my mistakes and misdirections and missions lost. I needed each and every one of those experiences to get here – to a chocolate-loaded life of love, wonder, worry, pleasure, sadness, but mostly joy.

Particularly if I have a piece of saved (and hidden) dark chocolate buttercream nearby.

(Photo from http://www.geekosystem.com/fruit-juice-chocolate/)

What’s on YOUR list of “things you wish you’d known”…?

P.S. I also wish I’d known that poetry can be fun, instructive, soul-searching, and beautiful. If you feel the same way about poems, my blogging friend Karen Elliott is featuring a Poetry Week February 18-23 – check it out at http://karenselliott.wordpress.com/ (one of my poems will be featured on Friday, 2/22).