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

October Inspiration

October itself is a source of inspiration lately—

The vivid blue skies, the flaring foliage, the bright world, transformed.

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October is urgent, and dazzling.

 

The pool of gold below the maple reflects a season nearly gone.

I want to hold these amber days.

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October insists that I pay attention,

appreciate what is beautiful,

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take pictures, take notes,

remember what will pass away

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and write while I can.

Comments (1) — Categorized under: Susan Christerson Brown — Tags:

The Art of Finishing

 

Blog photoGreat is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When we moved this summer, I found these words tucked into a pile of old clothes.  The yellowed half-page torn from a steno notebook nearly thirty years ago had hung on the back wall of our walk-in closet above the small desk where I wrote.  That walk-in closet was the “room of my own” I claimed in our brand new house in 1984 as I mothered three children aged eight to one.  I knew I was good at starting things; I wanted to remind myself that finishing a piece of writing mattered.

Though I have finished books of poetry, an MFA, and a novel since those days of writing in the closet, I still find finishing a challenge.  Most writers struggle to complete a work and wonder if it is our fault that it takes so long to get it right.  The form we glimpsed as we set out on our poem or novel becomes less clear as we write ourselves into the interior.

Thanks in part to Louise DeSalvo’s book, Writing as a Way of Healing, I have learned the value of reflecting on the writing process for each piece I undertake.  I set down what I have realized and what I plan to do next.  Capturing insights and seeing a way ahead has been so important in my work that I’ve incorporated keeping a process journal into the assignments for the classes I teach.

Here’s an excerpt from one of these:

September 16, 2009

And now for my fifteen minutes on the novel — the assignment I gave the Finishing class.

It’s one thing to write about the novel and have its stacks of pages safely out of sight  . . .  It’s another to read those pages and see what’s there and despair of ever making a coherent book out of them.  . . .  But it was necessary for me to see that my coming to know the story, to see its end and feel a general shape for it, was not the same as . . . having worked it out on the page for myself.  What was needed was for me to accept that I still had a period of wandering in the wilderness ahead of me, and that I had to surrender to that if I were to write the novel I want to write.

 

I wish I had made entries like this more systematically as I drafted my novel.  And that I had not buried them in the pages of my journals where I cannot easily access them.  Louise DeSalvo says in The Art of Slow Writing that she keeps her process journals on the computer where she can search them easily.  She accesses them to remind herself of the stages in finishing a work: “Whenever I’m stuck . . . I turn to an earlier journal and . . . learn that I habitually think about abandoning a project just before I see how the book should be organized; this helps me reengage with my current work more confidently.”

I was wise to post Longfellow’s words in that closet.  Finding a way to the end of a piece is an art in itself.  An art that isn’t only about finding the best ending, but also about having the patience to discern the story I’ve wandered into, to receive its wisdom and work out the techniques I need to tell it well.

What Will You Harvest?

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Harvest

It comes down to this:

twilight, on a ridge in Kentucky,

vines twirl about a grid of twine;

leaves, dry, tobacco-colored,

shield indigo globes.

 

dogs and children run the rows,

the low sun a diamond point in each eye.

 

right hand cuts bunches free;

they drop into bins,

the fatness of summer cushions their fall.

left hand plucks fruit to taste:

the sweetness of a cloudless day,

hints of alfalfa and cedar.

 

these are ancient motions

like kneading bread dough or

smoothing curly hair

 

at row’s end, the work turns, repeats itself,

the moon rises,

the earth spins,

light drops.

 

Several weeks ago we went to a friend’s vineyard in a neighboring county and picked Norton grapes, the grapes often grown in Central Kentucky. Participating in this harvest is a rite—an invitation to pause at the end of growing season—as vines wither and last fruits become evident, whether they are bunches of grapes or clusters of pumpkin, squash, or tomatoes.

Common sense tells us that in order to harvest one must first sow. But sometimes we’re in a position to harvest even when we didn’t do the hard work of planting. I had nothing to do with this crop of grapes other than showing up to spend some hours clipping stems and tossing bunches into bins, where they landed noiselessly thanks to their plumpness. Likely I will later drink wine made from these grapes.

I experienced a different kind of harvest, an opportunity for thanksgiving and reflection, and in this case I am led to see that the ordinary and the fabulous are not that far apart. The harvest shows where the one bumps against the other.

This autumn, what will you harvest?

 

Photo credit: rvanews.com

 

Comments (0) — Categorized under: Jan Isenhour — Tags: , ,

Working Water: A collaboration and memoriam

Cover Art by Pam Papka Sexton, 2000

Cover Art by Pam Papka Sexton, 2000

 

At a meeting recently, Gail brought in a copy of the anthology, Working Water, written and published in 2000 by the students in the YMCA Master Poetry Class, taught by James Baker Hall.  Pam Papka Sexton, our dearly missed Kaboom member, created the cover.  I remembered how and when she had made it, and how she and that anthology had led to the final chapter of my novel Ruby River, a chapter I would not have written but for Pam and the phrase, “Working water.”

Now, I often desire solitude as the ideal situation for making art or for writing.  We all dream of the private studio and uninterrupted days as long as the sun’s journey from horizon to horizon that sometimes include the moon’s crossing as well.  The artist in the attic, the recluse in the cabin, the single person, the wealthy person unencumbered by the demands of conversation and appointment.  And yet much good work comes out of group work, when the members intentionally engage in making some thing new.  Collaboration is one form of  group making, but making within the parameter of a group offers a rare sense of support and maybe even revs up the quality of one’s focus and intention.  Sort of like playing on a tennis team where every one has a racket and a desire to win but each member plays, wins or loses, her own match. Kaboom Blog Oct 2014 5

Pam’s cover and my chapter are both stories of artistic collaborations that bore better fruit because of companionship.   First the cover.  Pam, Deborah Reed, an early member of Kaboom, (pictured above) and I met for coffee with a North Carolina artist whose show in Lexington featured images she’d made with a fascinating process that involved a photocopier and nail polish remover.  Pam was intrigued and tried the process herself.  She xeroxed one of her paintings of a wooded landscape.  While the copy’s ink was still wet, she applied nail polish remover which created the foggy clouds of color  When it was dry, she copied that image and that is what you see as the cover of the anthology Sherry Chandler designed.  In this case, one artist shared a process with another.

The chapter came about in a more roundabout way, with more antecedents, some which I will never know of.  Pam, Deborah Reed, Mary Alexander, Betty Gabehart, and I went to Forest Retreat, an old estate in Nicholas County, for a writing weekend.  One of its distinctions is that its family cemetery contains the remains of both a former governor and a Kentucky Derby Winner.  Actually there are several thoroughbred race horses buried in the plot.  We had our photos taken with their memorial stones.

We also visited an emu farm and Blue Licks Battlefield, places which offered inspiration for our afternoon writing practices. We gathered in the sitting room, where Pam led us through an exercise she learned in the Master Poetry Class: as each poet read his or her weekly poem, the students gleaned intriguing words which they used as the basis for new poems.  At Forest Retreat, Pam read a poem she had written using that method.  We repeated the exercise by writing down words we liked.  I wrote “working water” among others.

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From our pile of gift words, we constructed a scene on the page, into which would come, after ten minutes of writing, a character whom the person on our left had created. Since we had been to Blue Licks that morning to the river, I described a sycamore that was “ghostly.”  Mary Alexander (pictured above at the retreat) passed me a character sketch of a young girl wearing a red and black dress.  From those words, I wrote the three page chapter that ends Ruby River:  “He was born with a hole in his heart.  When the wind blew he could feel it gush deep in his chest, a sound like green hush.  If he was working the water on Sunday morning, always a Sunday morning, he heard the wind play as a harp, the ripples on the slow river like the notes in his heart . . . .”