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

At It Again

They say pets resemble their owners. I imagine him as merely meditating.

I don’t know what it is, but I can’t get my brain wrapped around writing again this month. I think I wore myself out writing 3 books in less than a year. (Last one comes out mid week next week –Imagining the World into Existence.) I told myself when I had a down week I was going to get back to my novel, abandoned a couple of years ago to:
a) Write the aforementioned 3;
b. Get PenHouse Retreat Center going, and the really dreaded
c.) Research and rethink the book.
It’s not a. or b. that have stymied me. It’s that research and rethinking. I found when I stopped I was reconsidering the use of the first person point of view. Wound up reading a few books that used point of view in ways that made me think third person was the way to go, including Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry. Brilliant book! But then a teaching gig came along at Berea and so I did that for a term—and didn’t write a thing other than comments on papers. And then there were the workshops I offered, the publicity for the new book. My publishers like it; I do it, but…
Well, there’s the being a writer part and there’s the selling the books and making a living part. I think I like the being a writer part best. Somewhere along the way I seem to have lost that woman, though. Like Gloria Steinem said: “Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” Amen, sister. Afghan women will risk death to write poetry. (Fabulous article, by the way. Read it here. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/magazine/why-afghan-women-risk-death-to-write-poetry.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all)
I am just making my own small, but certainly public statement here. It’s time. I’ve taken 2 years off from this novel and now I need to either finish it or bury it. So as of now—now being the moment I post this– I am pulling the novel off the shelf and beginning to read it again. Just making notes on a legal pad to start. Here’s what I’d like you to do. Pinch me. Poke me. Hug me. Ask me how it’s going. Thanks. I’ll gladly do the same for your.

Swift Words

I am blessed by having had in my life several configurations of writing circles. I highly recommend them. Wherever I have lived, I have found kindred spirits who write, who listen and who keep me aware of the changing life patterns. Currently, I write with two different groups—my KaBooM sisters in Lexington (all of them publishing writers) and the Crones in Frankfort. (old friends and family)

On the last evening of summer the Thursday Night Crones, as we often called ourselves, gathered. The last time that this journal group met (back in mid-summer), we promised to do it again soon—to not let time get away from us; and we do gather as frequently as our lives permit. It is not the same tribe, but it is the same spirit.

We began in 1992 as a cadre of mothers and daughters who gathered at one another’s homes once a week for about consecutive 15 years. On Sept 22nd we gathered on the porch at PenHouse Retreat Center. Among other old friends, I sat to write with two of my daughters. Alaina is 28, and Roxie is 36. They were 8 and 16, respectively when we began to write together; I was 38. It is hard to believe that this particular configuration of women and I have been writing together in the evenings for 20 years now.

After we write—usually three times all using a similar prompt—I listen to the round of voices, and I feel grateful for the way words on a page have kept us sane all these years. We have shared who we are in deeply personal ways. We have given voice to the wild ones within us, to memory and longing. In our now bookshelf of stacked journals, we have begun to write short stories, poems, novels, to longing through sorrow and ecstasy. We honor the passages, mourn the losses, celebrate the renewals, toast the possibilities.

I’m certain that as I was writing I was not conscious that I was ever working on  this or that book; although, looking back on it, I see that those journal pages were a riffle of flowing language that watered three books of short stories. It wasn’t literature I was seeking at the time I wrote; it was sanity and the only way to find it was laying down one word at a time, one breath at a time.

I think of that two decade process of writing as we pause this night during sunset. The group goes outside into the yard at PenHouse to watch the chimney swifts dive down into the darkness of their home at night. (Yes, we have rooms available for the swifts, too!) They become a metaphor for the act of writing as I watch them sweep across the page of sky, gathering night and tucking it under their wings. They fold night into their bodies and carry it with them down the chimney. In the gray evening sky, they look like clots of words being laid down on the page. A few of them straggle along, leaving meditative pauses in their flight, or perhaps line breaks. Then again, the birds as words cluster together, swirl and fall quickly. There is beauty in their patterns.

I know that these birds (and my cronies) will be leaving soon. Roxie and Alaina will come back whenever we meet. Glenda at the end of autumn has to go back to Alabama. She left an earlier configuration of our group to take a job at the university there. Debbie, a visitor to PenHouse and our group, will return to Louisville, but has promised to come back. I have also moved away several times (to Berea and Lexington) and then returned. Several of the other old-time group members are absent tonight, but our gathering whether in thick or thin continues.

This journal writing, like the migration pattern of swifts, also has its season.  Now that the light is waning in the sky, the chittering birds will soon leave for the rainforest of the Amazon. Our words, too, go out into the air, floating on currents of thought. We gather in our community, and reach out to continue at times to gather in more. The writing together over all these years has changed us. We have grown, we have flown, and we have returned again. The center holds us together—a communion of ideas among kindred spirits.

Why I Still Write

I had an unsettling phone conversation with a family member recently after a literary reading.  I had told him about the event, saying that I thought the 25 or so attendees was a pretty good turn-out. He said, “I don’t know why anyone bothers writing any more. Libraries are dying. Bookstores are going out of business left and right, and print is already dead. Even Kindle has a tiny population. No one care what anyone else thinks anymore. So why do you bother?”

It  annoyed me to consider that maybe he was right. This is a conversation I hear all too often. Even my former colleagues in media are going to online magazines and social media sites for their “messaging.” A blast here, a blast there. Then, I can never seem to find whatever it is they have written. It is too ephemeral.  And for the long haul,  I can’t seem to wrap my mind around the idea of getting a hot cup of cocoa and curling up with a computer screen at night, or taking a blanket out into the shade of my yard and reading random tweets on my i-phone.

If books and magazines are no longer relevant to modern cultulre, is there any reason to write?

For me, there still is.  Of course, whether we use Facebook, Twitter, a blog, a journal, a manuscript, or face to face conversation, we still frame our thoughts through language. Words are how we come to understand each other—the basis of communication.  More importantly, however, I suggest that writing is how we communicate with ourselves.

I like what American journalist and news broadcaster Edward P. Morgan said about the importance of books. “A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.”  That a broadcast journalist emphasized the importance of the book carries a lot of weight for me.

Writing for print is not a waste of time. It allows one to contemplate and frame an idea, to develop it from multiple perspectives, to cultivate meaning as well as to cultivate an audience. We can rehearse a message, revise, and sculpt it until it says what we want it to say—and, surprisingly, it will sometimes say what WE most need to hear.  Novelist E.M. Forester has been oft quoted as saying, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”

In addition, I  believe the words we choose to use, ultimately, create the world we live in.  It takes time to craft a piece of good writing, and that requires a certain amount of energy, The energy that we put into writing a book blossoms to life inside the mind of the reader. The more time we take to sculpt a piece of writing,  the greater its potential impact. A book is not ephemeral. It takes a long time to make, and it is an investment of the time and energy of the writer. A book is a gift to its readers of the living spirit of its creator. Many times I have read a novel and thought to myself, “My God, I wish I’d written that.”

I can’t say that I’ve ever thought, “OMG. I wish I’d tweeted that.”

Comments (6) — Categorized under: Normandi Ellis

Just Looking—Notes from Normandi

Note: In the 13 years KaBooM has nurtured writers, some of our members have taken leaves of absence.   Normandi Ellis is one such member, recently returned and contributing again.  Today she posts from Gail’s account.

I had an A-ha moment in the Louisville Barnes and Noble Bookstore one morning last week. I had gone to Office Depot to print out some copies of a manuscript I am working on. That process was going to take a little while, so I popped over to the bookstore.

I’d never been to this particular store and so everything was a bit turned around. I walked in circles, got lost in the cookbooks and travel books. I went through the aisles looking at this and that, stopping to pick up a cover that intrigued me.  Then I’d move on.  A nice young clerk came up to me at one point and asked me if he could help me find something.

I said “No, but thank you.” I merrily went on my way looking around, walking through a maze of shelves, lost but happy.

After about 30 minutes I walked up to the counter with a magazine, Isabel Allende’s memoir (My Invented Country), a book of W.S. Merwin poems (The Shadow of Sirius) and a Ted Andrews book I’d never read before. The clerk asked me if I had found everything I’d been looking for. “No,” I said, “but it didn’t matter.”

“Well, I could have helped you find it and saved you some time,” he said.   I laughed, saying “Well what would be the point in that? How would I ever have found these books if I knew what I was looking for?!”

I think that is also true about writing. I sit down thinking I know what I’m looking for, but then suddenly something else grabs my attention as I write and I find myself off on a tangent. Sometimes I have to go back and start over, but most of the time I find that being willing to be a little bit lost in the process allows the writing to pleasantly surprise me. The discoveries then, the synchronicities, and the recurring symbols that I hadn’t seen the first time, become a beacon for the writing rather than my imposing a form on it and strangling it into submission.

There are many books on the flow experience including the work of Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg. I like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention and John Briggs’s work Fire in the Crucible as inspirational texts on the writing process.

I hope you find time to follow your nose and keep writing even though you don’t know where you are going. I think I could adapt a poem by David Wagoner called “Lost”.   He suggests that when lost, one must “Stand still. The forest knows/Where you are. You must let it find you.”

Stand still. Let the words find you.