KaBooM WritersKaBooM Writers

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!


The KaBooM Writers Notebook: Our Blog

The Things that Keep Us Going

This past weekend was the Spalding University MFA in Writing homecoming. It was an event put together by our fabulous Alumni Association, offering inspiration and replenishment for our work as writers.

All writers need that from time to time. We need the chance to learn from the literary old masters, to dwell in the carefully wrought sentences from a depth not often plumbed in a headline world. We need the stimulation of new ideas as well, and the chance to explore unfamiliar forms and media.

We need companionship in the split-brain effort of valuing the art of writing itself, while taking on the necessary tasks to develop a writing career. In the places where our stories meet, new insights sometimes arise. We all need writing friends to come home to.

Those of us gathered there drank once again from the well that challenged and nurtured us during our time as students. And we were reminded that the dowdy virtues of perseverance and dedication are nonetheless common elements in most stories of literary accomplishment. Along the way, the friends who value excellent work, as well as the approach to life that allows us to recognize and appreciate it, make the journey itself worthwhile.

There’s an excellent article by Jane Friedman at Writer Unboxed, entitled “The Only Way to Know if You’ll Be a Successful Writer.” It offers the kind of encouragement along these lines that we all need. Enjoy!

Getting Organized, A Fairy Tale

Before

First, a disclaimer. I’m in no way a neat freak. Housework has been on my list of things to be avoided at all cost since I was old enough to know that homes are not self-cleaning. I would use my last dime to pay someone to clean for me and consider it money well spent.  Nevertheless, I hate working in a messy environment. Go figure. I even clean the kitchen and put stray dishes in the dishwasher before I start dinner. Like I said, go figure. So when I started to avoid my sewing studio, I knew exactly what the problem was- it needed cleaning.

Periodically I’d take a deep breath and open the door, determined to bring some order to the space. I would look in horror at the mess, the detritus left by unchecked creativity. Were the heaps of material growing? Did the magazines hurl themselves from the shelves? Jumbled fabric demons with thread hair lurked under my sewing machine and taunted me, hissing, “You’re not the boss of me!”  So I ended up closing the door again, trying not to imagine the fabric scraps dancing with the dust bunnies on the floor.

Things came to a crux two weeks ago. With a deadline looming, I had to get some work done.  But things were so bad in the studio that I could no longer see any of the flat surfaces in the room. And that included the floor. There was no way I could start something new surrounded by such chaos. In desperation, I did what any sane woman would do. I cried. Then I picked up the phone and called for help. Help arrived in the form of a professional organizer named Kathy Needy. She calls herself the DeClutter Doc, but I call her my fairy godmother. When she came to the house for an initial consultation, I must admit I was worried that she might take one look at the place and run screaming from the room. Instead she looked calmly around and said, “This is a beautiful space!” I knew immediately that she was gifted with uncommon vision and the ability to look at something and see not what it was but what it might become.  It was a beautiful space, and Kathy was just the person to help it reach its full potential!

My Fairy Godmother and her assistants

She returned last week with her two lovely assistants, Kristy and Laura, and piles of boxes. They set to work immediately, their movements a ballet of organization. They conquered the huge piles by dividing  them into  multiple smaller piles and then putting them away. They assembled shelving and filled it with my painting supplies, all neatly sorted. They constructed a clever grouping of wire baskets that not only tamed my out-of-control fabric, it gave me another table surface to use. They took the vacuum cleaner out of the closet and chased the dust bunnies and scraps out from under the furniture. They sorted and filed and filled large plastic garbage bags with trash. All I had to do was stand back and watch, occasionally answering questions about the value of one thing or another. It was amazing, it was a miracle, it was magic. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Kathy had pulled out a magic wand and chanted, “Bibbity-bobbity-boo!”

After

By the end of the day, my studio was transformed. Everything was in its place, neatly accessible. My painting supplies had their own place out of the way. My design wall was cleared and ready for work. I could see the floor and no more dust bunnies! The area around my sewing machine was clean and quiet with no hissing demons underneath. Kathy and her crew bounced down the stairs and out of the house leaving behind complete order and the smell of lemon Pledge. I stood in the doorway, surveying my sparkling studio, and made myself a promise. I will never, never go messy again. And as I work happily drawing up designs for new quilts, I know that I can create again thanks to my fairy godmother Kathy Needy, at  DeClutterDoc.com.

Comments (3) — Categorized under: Creativity,Mary Alexander

Leaving a Paper Trail

This Saturday, May 22, I’ve been invited to speak at a conference called “Meeting the Challenges and Opportunities of Aging,” sponsored by our local government. As I recall, the last time I spoke at this event, the title included only the word “challenges” and neglected to mention “opportunities.” Perhaps the event organizers know that I have since entered a new decade and hoped to soften the blow.

My topic will be “Leaving a Paper Trail,” and I plan to encourage attendees to set their life stories down on paper. I know what it’s like when a loved one leaves no written record, because when my mother passed away in 2004, she left no paper trail: few letters, no journals or diaries, not even any lists from which to tease secrets. She had assured me that family records would be available in the central section of a behemoth-sized family Bible, but when I opened its yellowed pages I found what I call “the family tree in winter”: all black outline with no leafy verdancy to give it bulk and color.

I plan to make the case that it is essential to tell our personal stories, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. My rationale came to me as I read Diane Ackerman’s nonfiction book, The Zookeeper’s Wife, in preparation for her upcoming September visit to the Kentucky Women Writers Conference. Her book focuses on the director of the Warsaw Zoo and his wife, who worked with the Polish Underground Movement during World War II. They successfully helped approximately three hundred Jews, hiding them both in their villa and on zoo grounds, in outbuildings and animal cages.

The book is filled with details of their lives as zookeepers: the particular personalities of the animals they kept as pets, an inventory of a beetle collection developed by a Jewish friend, the layout of the Warsaw ghetto, the names of trees. I won’t remember all the details that Ackerman includes, but my sense of the reality of the Holocaust in Poland is heightened and enriched by this reading. As a friend commented, “It supplies a micro-story to accompany the macro-story.” The book describes acts of individual courage and sets them against the drama of the larger war effort.

I now understand why college history courses didn’t always work for me. The sweep of history was overpowering. It’s when I consider individual stories that I am able to do the slow work of understanding, one life at a time. In this way I have been encouraged to continue as a lifelong student of history. I’m willing to bet that Saturday’s conference includes people who have important micro-stories to set down on paper, which will add threads of understanding to large and complex historical events.