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

Notes from the Ky Women Writers Conference

The 2014 Kentucky Women Writers Conference was full of inspiration and insight, and more ideas than anyone can absorb. I don’t have snapshots to share, but here are some snapquotes to give you a glimpse of what the conference was like. For anyone else who was there, it would be great to hear about what stood out to you.

2014 Ky Women Writers Conference

Jill McCorkle made the intriguing comment that “I’ve come to believe that the [short] story has more in common with a poem than a novel.” She also said that in beginning a new project she almost always starts with the voice of her main character.

Rebecca Makkai spoke about endings, saying “A good ending adds to the story; it tells you something you didn’t already know.” She noted that film has taught us that leaving the audience with sound at the end is often more effective than leaving us with an image. With this in mind, consider how the final lines sound. Pacing is part of that. It often works to slow things down at the end.

Margaret Wrinkle led a workshop on the spiritual work of writing, and the spiritual encounter with material that matters—what she referred to as the stories that are bigger than we are. This is what comes first, before the crafting of work. We journey to that deep place where we find the story and bring it back. “Creativity is a spiritual practice,” she reminded us. “The key to the creative process is surrender.”

Hannah Pittard told how reading Alice Munro’s “Runaway” changed her approach to critiquing work during writing workshops. “First find the most beautiful thing,” is her new philosophy. All kinds of surprising things can work in service to what resonates.

Kim Edwards noted that when Munro’s first person narrators question themselves, they become more accessible.

In Liza Dawson’s agent talk, among her many recommendations was to spend time on publishers’ websites and learn how books are sold. Look at how those books you like are described. You have a dual identity as a writer and as a business person.

But most vivid is a piece of advice from Margaret Wrinkle. Take a piece of paper and write down the mental impediments to doing your writing: the self-doubt, the fear, the questions about the validity and worth of your work. Then burn that list and put the ashes into moving water, letting them be carried away. Repeat as needed. Even the mental image of this exercise is freeing.



Let’s Put on a Show

I love old movie musicals. Particular favorites of mine are the show within a show variety where teens would gather together to solve some financial problem by putting on a show. Within a few days these enterprising young people produced a show with amazing singing, dancing, and costumes that not only saved the theater, school, or whatever the needy cause but also resolved all of the romantic entanglements of the young stars. Everybody would come together in the last scene holding hands and belting out the final number with shining, happy faces.

Of course, in real life, many of those young stars went on to lead tragic lives complicated by alcohol and drugs, multiple love affairs and marriages. Putting on a show in public to cover up their very real problems only exacerbated them and the money they made didn’t solve anything in the end. Their personal show within the show too often closed early without the happy last scene.

I recently had the pleasure of putting on a show of my art quilts at the Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg. It was my first solo show and I spent the better part of the year preparing for it. I was surprised and honored by the number of people who came to see my quilts but I also experienced a form of stage fright. As gratifying as it was to see my work displayed in such a beautiful setting, it was terrifying as well. It was difficult to listen and watch as people looked and discussed my work. But I also had my own part to play in the show. I had to answer all the questions and pretend to be unfazed when someone made a remark about the price that I had put on a particularly large, complicated piece. Nobody knows the real worth of a piece of art more than the artist themselves and having to translate that worth into a dollar value is a daunting task.

Does putting on a show solve our financial problems? Sometimes, perhaps. I didn’t make a sale at my show, but I did have someone call several days later about doing a commission piece. Selling is a validation of the worth of our work. But most of us don’t create only for the money. I can think of many easier ways to make money than by making art. The show is only part of the process and the show within the show is the actual time spent in creative activity. That’s where the drama, the comedy, the tears and the laughter are found. And if we’re very lucky and work hard, that’s where our happy ending lies.

Comments (2) — Categorized under: Creativity,Events,Mary Alexander

On inspiration that makes you more yourself…

This year’s Kentucky Women Writer’s Conference begins with the Gypsy poetry slam tomorrow night.  Workshops follow on the weekend.

KY WWConference

At last year’s conference, we at KaBooM had just launched our book, When the Bough Breaks.  We led a panel discussion that was well attended, well received, and really fired us up for a season of selling the book and making ourselves available to other writers.  It was a wonderful, busy, exhilarating time, a very “put yourself out there” time.

Just prior to the conference, this week I’ve been re-discovering singer-songwriter Emily Haines, whose musical work spans many groups and moods.  For example, she’s appeared with the Canadian band Metric on David Letterman, and has a solo album of her own called “Knives Don’t Have Your Back.”  I’ve been enjoying her pure voice accompanied often only by her piano playing.  And then there’s a Youtube video that captures her reflections on how much she needed a writing retreat in Buenos Aires.

The tone of that video is completely affirming.  And I’m remembering a line from an interview she gave in 2007.  When asked about role models, she said: “everybody needs people to inspire them. The most valuable make you want to be more yourself, not more like them.”

So at this year’s KWWC,  I’m in a very different place, and am looking for …. well…  I’m not exactly sure what I’m looking for.  But since that’s the great thing about a conference,  my plan is to be open to the deep, warm-hearted, generous, creative people who make themselves available to complete writing strangers, for just this eye blink of time that a two-day conference represents.  In my imagination, I’m polishing a tuning fork when I write these words,  thinking of the satisfying hummmmm that reverberates when a tone is adjusted and reaches that instant it’s in tune.

The two notes echo back and forth off each other and vibrate out into the wider air, moving out of the essential “tuning” period and out into the larger world.

Hungry for Good Writing

Homegrown Authors! KaBooM at the Lexington Farmer's Market: photo by Susan C. Brown

This past Saturday members of KaBooM were at Lexington’s Downtown Farmer’s Market at a booth cosponsored by the Morris Book Shop and the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning called “Homegrown Authors.” The event turned out to be one of the most successful sales days ever for our group; you might want to check out the Morris Book Shop site for details on more selected Saturdays this summer when you can meet area authors and buy signed copies of their books.

But as Jan said in her immediate previous post, these days are not only about selling the book. Continuing her theme, I’d like to reflect on what I learned from our time at the book table on Saturday: many of the folks we met at the Farmer’s Market are hungry not only for fresh, locally grown produce.

They are hungry for good writing.

We set up the sewing frame to let people know that the object we were selling was hand-sewn, and a number stopped to have conversations about book binding and the beauty of hand crafts.

Sewing Frame entices passersby to see hand sewn signatures: photo by Susan C. Brown

But an even larger number of passersby were fascinated by the content of When the Bough Breaks.  One person who read through the table of contents was completely stopped by the title of Lynn’s short story.   “Heartichoke!” she called out: “Oh, isn’t that just perfect, that’s exactly what it’s like!”  She bought three copies.

A retired English teacher stopped to tell us of his frustration that high school students are not guaranteed opportunities to do their own writing in English classes.  We showed him the structure of our book: the brief essays after each entry that reflect on the creative process and the role the group plays in our continually developing craft; followed by individual writing prompts—“Try this”—to encourage written responses.  At that, he was sold, too.

And a number of folks were simply pleased as punch that this joint venture meant they could buy literature with their produce: “that’s fantastic,” they said.

We couldn’t agree more.

On the Subject of Book Fairs

Last week I had a conversation with a nice man who anticipates his self-published novel arriving at his house any day now. “Once they arrive,” he asked me, “what do I do next?”

I thought about this conversation Saturday as fellow KaBooM members and I sat in the middle of Main Street in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, in 90-degree sunshine. Our umbrella tent provided some shade but was unable to keep us from noticing how heat shimmered above the asphalt or how good it felt to pour cold water over our heads and let it trickle down our necks.

Harrodsburg’s first Festival of Books and Arts coincided with an unseasonably warm June day in Kentucky, which meant that the crowds of book buyers were thinner than might have been expected, and, as a result, sales were lower. Had the newly-published novelist been present, he might have been disappointed by the results of his day and the undiminished stack of books in his trunk.

I concluded that you have to attend book fairs and local festivals for a multitude of reasons, not all of which include selling lots of books and making lots of money. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.

Those other reasons might include the following:

  • Meeting other Kentucky authors. We were happy to chat with the famous and the soon-to-be-famous authors and publishing house representatives who happened by.
  • Noting how other writers go about making a sale. Those authors who sell books are accessible and inviting when browsers happen along. They make eye contact. They chat. They answer questions.
  • Checking booth arrangements for clues to success. Another writer also sold bracelets; Accents Publishing gave away pocket-size notepads. A basket of candy can help attract potential customers; if you are afraid the candy will melt, a vase of flowers is eye-catching.
  • Figuring out what equipment to invest in: Umbrella tent? Portable chair? Cash box/credit card swiper? Tablecloth? Display signs? Cart on wheels? Long-suffering friend, spouse, or partner who will help you with all this stuff?

And most importantly, recognize that you won’t sell out every single Saturday. Marketing your book is a time-consuming and time-spanning endeavor. You may have to convince yourself that the best reason to attend was to get your name and the name of your book before the public eye one more time.

Passion and Fellowship

We ate cupcakes at our meeting today, heavy delicious cupcakes, each sporting a butter cream hat that doubled its size. Sweet, overwhelming indulgence. We were celebrating the reading of a member’s novel manuscript.

To write a whole novel is an astonishing act of perseverance and passion. That accomplishment deserves oversized cupcakes laden with butter cream and studded with high quality chocolate bits. My goodness! We indulged in reading gorgeous writing about Wyoming, an anti-dote to Annie Proulx’s eccentric wire-flogged people. We licked our fingers and sang praises, brightened by the sugar high. The book was very good.

The happily sated feeling reminded me of the conference of the Kentucky State Poetry Society we attended on Saturday. The upper room in the Kentucky Fudge Company in Harrodsburg was full of sunbeams, people who’d spent the whole day engaged in reading and writing poetry. Whenever two are gathered in the name of poesy, fellowship happens. Love comes down as a scorcher and blazes across the blank page. Something new is made. In communion. In sharing. In getting outside of the lonely mire of self-ness. Hallelujah for the community of passionate poets, for writers who dare to share their nascent forms of future literature, for that courage, for their discoveries, and for those who listen.

I am an introvert, a writer who gets snarly when interrupted, as my family can attest. They knock on the door and quickly pocket their fists to better to keep their fingers intact. Yet I have come to appreciate what the society of writers does for writing. As one poet said on Saturday, she had felt “different” all her life because of her love of language, until she met the poets in Harrodsburg. Others who knew the magic of creating experience out of words recognized her as kin. To that poet, to the society of poets, to kaboom, to all the books in utero, the poems, essays, plays, and stories yet to be published, I raise a cupcake of appreciation and take the biggest bite imaginable.

Comments (1) — Categorized under: Events,Lynn Pruett — Tags:

Writing from the Senses

During the recent writing retreat led by KaBooM we focused on entering our writing through the senses, and invited a visit from the muse by setting up sensory stations for participants to enjoy. We offered images and textures, and images that were textures in the form of Mary’s quilted paintings. Bells and rattles and rhythm instruments made a variety of intriguing sounds. Tastes including fresh fruit, dill pickles, chocolate, and lemon marmalade also held a wonderful aroma. Other scents, most in containers covered with plain brown paper, included:

  • A tin of brown shoe polish
  • Tide laundry detergent
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Murphy’s Oil Soap
  • Joy dishwashing liquid
  • Campho-phenique
  • Desitin diaper rash cream
  • Lavender soap
  • Homer Formby’s Tung Oil
  • Garlic powder
  • Almond extract
  • Oregano
  • Coconut extract
  • Crest toothpaste
  • Colgate toothpaste
  • Cedar
  • Herb vinegar
  • Molasses

Are there associations that arise as you read these lists? Are memories stirred just by thinking about these sensations? It’s a reminder of how deeply imprinted sensory experience is.

One participant spoke of how powerfully a sensory cue brought back slices of life—enough to reshape his writing plan for the day. I too have found that certain scents do more than remind me of another time of life; they actually take me there once again and put me in touch with what I might otherwise have forgotten.

Those memories are multi-layered with all kinds of sensory information. The scent of cold cream can show us a bedroom from long ago, the sound of a school bell may evoke the scratch of a new sweater, a taste of home may place us amidst the voices of people long gone. Our deep remembering is brought to life by recalling the memories of the senses, memories carried in the body as well as the mind. Writing gains power when we put them on the page.

We encouraged everyone to explore and follow where their senses took them. It’s an experience that doesn’t end with the close of the retreat, and we invite you to take part as well.

Try This! At the Saturday February 27 Writing Retreat!

How easy to love a word like retreat that lives in the world both as action and as thing! How fortunate to look forward to a day of renewal in the company of like-minded individuals! How important this time we take for our work and our writing selves!

Join members of KaBooM on February 27 from 10 am to 4 pm at the Carnegie Center for a “Saturday Writing Retreat: Try This!” We’re assuming that it’s your dream—as well as ours—to have an entire day without agenda or distraction—to have nothing to do but write, write, write.  Bring work in progress or a notebook and pen to capture new words. We’ll present invitations to write from our book, When the Bough Breaks, or you are welcome to develop or extend a piece you’ve already begun.

If you prefer working on a laptop, bring a flash drive as you’ll have access to a printer. Maximize your writing time by bringing a brown bag lunch. Day also includes time for sharing and responding.

The cost for the retreat is $100. Our goal is to make sure your well as a writer is replenished many times over, your store of words restocked and ready to go. We look forward to retreating with you!

Comments (1) — Categorized under: Creativity,Events,Jan Isenhour

Where Preparation Ends and Real Learning Begins

Members of KaBooM enjoyed a lively session during LexArt’s Arts Showcase Weekend on Saturday. We talked about forming and sustaining a writing group, setting goals, writing grant proposals, and taking on a publishing project. The group of hardy souls who braved a wintry morning asked smart questions and brought great energy to the discussion. We had a wonderful time!

Yet amidst the rich conversation and advice about starting something new, a companion idea pulled up a chair.

No matter how carefully we plan, a new project means acting before we fully know what we’re doing. It’s wise to gather information and plan carefully, but preparing to launch something new is not the same as learning how to do it. That happens only when we take the plunge.

There’s a limit to what we can anticipate. Situations we don’t expect will arise, surprises good and bad will appear, and we can’t iron out all the details before we begin. This isn’t exactly a revelation, but it’s easy to lose sight of when we’re doing all we can to prepare for a new endeavor.

The intention to bring something new into the world entails meeting its unknown challenges, whatever they will be. Perhaps the best advice is to have a support system of insightful people who care about the outcome. A group of friends to help deal with the obstacles keeps us moving down the road.

KaBooM Panel Featured During Arts Showcase Weekend

Join KaBooM this Saturday, February 6, at 10 a.m. at the Carnegie Center, when the members of the group discuss the challenge of “Wearing Two Hats: From Writer to Publisher.”

When KaBooM began to plan an anthology to honor the group’s tenth anniversary, we first took an inventory of what we considered our strengths: plenty of pieces of writing to choose from, editorial experience, familiarity with book design, and artistic talent.

However, we also knew that we wanted to design a new kind of anthology: high quality in appearance and in content; original in its approach; affordable to produce and to purchase; and usable by writers, teachers of writing, and students. And we had limited financial resources to contribute to the project.

Join us as we discuss the process of moving from concept to product, including seeking and writing proposals to secure grant funding, designing a book that takes advantage of both letterpress and offset methods, learning to sew individual books signatures, and creating a media presence. We’ll answer your questions about forming a group and carrying out a publishing process as well.

Our panel will end around 11:45. At noon, plan to stay to hear our friend, poet and Accents Radio Program host Katerina Stoykova-Klemer as she presents a workshop titled “Bigger than They Appear: How to Write Very Short Poems.”

These programs are offered as part of Arts Showcase Weekend. The weekend is organized by LexArts and is designed to encourage local citizens to discover ways to cultivate their creativity year-round. Please visit www.lexarts.org for the latest information.  All events are free!

P.S. Stay tuned for additional information about the Writers’ Retreat we’ll offer at the Carnegie Center on Saturday, February 27.

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