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

Writing as a Communal Art

 

I have just finished writing a poem a day during April. Having set that goal and (mostly) met it, it was a relief for the first few days not to have to come up with “something like a poem” in the midst of other obligations and demands.  At the same time, I felt bereft. The lull after the intensity of writing and sharing poems daily felt a bit like grief.

“Writing and sharing” – Yes. I gathered my poet friends via email, and we made the commitment to share a new poem daily no matter what else was going on in our lives. Part of what I miss this week is that conversation in poems, about poems, in support of our mutual (and solitary) work as poets. The surprises in the poems we shared. The way we allowed ourselves to write badly. The daily immersion in craft on some level. The encouragement of working daily. And, maybe most of all, the audience we were for each other. It’s this sense of being heard by astute but generous readers that I miss.

This was the fourth year that I have taken the month of April as a challenge to write a poem daily. This year my friends, poets George Ella Lyon (past Kentucky Poet Laureate), Sherry Chandler, Sue Churchill, and Martha Gehringer were my companions. (George Ella and Martha and I have written together in April for the past couple of years.) The level of writing was amazing some days—and bordered on silly on others (Okay, so we did cross that border!). We wrote for fun, just to see what might happen.  We could write three lines or three pages, revise or not, send something we’d started last year and wanted to rework. We could write something on our phone in a waiting room or spend a whole day wrestling with lines. The only rule was to write “something like a poem” – and even that rule was loosely applied.

As we wrote, I printed out each of our poems and put them into a loose-leaf binder. Another habit I’ve acquired.  I have four binders now, with poems from four Aprils. The binders capture the raw poems as they emerged – in the body of emails, as screen shots, or in documents we shared. Many of the poems where written “on the fly” – the fruit of productive minutes snatched from a day’s flow. A reminder of the power of setting an intention and of the collaborative nature of art. No, we did not collaborate in writing individual poems, but the poems we wrote and shared not only kept us accountable to each other but also sparked new work. What is writing but a kind of “call and response” between our words and all the literature that has ever inspired us?

When I meet with these poet-friends in person next week, we will read back through our “collected poems” of April, 2017. We intend to point out poems we particularly admired and talk about what works in these poems. I know we will laugh and moan about the “bad poems” we each produced and enjoy the freedom of letting them go. But we will each have a few poems we know we want to keep and revise—poems we see more clearly because of our friends’ responses to them.

If you haven’t tried this kind of shared writing challenge or if you didn’t get to write daily in April, start today – or write in June or whenever you choose to begin. Email some of your favorite writing buddies and see who will join you.  Not only is it more fun with friends, writing together deepens and enriches our work.

If you don’t have a local writing community, you might want to check out opportunities at The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning here in Lexington. I have found the classes and groups at the Carnegie Center to be supportive and welcoming. Lifelong writing groups often begin with friendships formed in a class or workshop.

And, of course, the web offers many virtual groups.  The links below may be helpful.

 

National Poetry Writing Month      http://www.napowrimo.net

Websites for writers                          https://thewritelife.com/100-best-websites-for-writers-2017/

Still sneaking up on the muse ….

"sneaking suspicion" -- cat at the wall

(Photo from: http://bit.ly/CatSq1)

This Monday morning when the muse again felt so many miles away all my inspiration might as well have taken off to Mars, I finally quit banging my head and — miracle — mercy dropped in.   An entire stream of thought, from nowhere I could have seen coming.

Well.

On reflection, this development shouldn’t be surprising.  Yet an old truth, newly rediscovered, certainly feels like revelation.  Writers have long known that the muse, like happiness, tends to flee direct pursuit.  There is a part of my conscious brain that knows this.  And yet.  And yet…still and again, I need to discover this truth anew.

As I read in a post by Misty Massey years ago, the best course of action is to remember that the best bait for inspiration is to “… lure it out into the open by pretending you don’t care. Before you know it, it’s curling up at your feet.”

At one level that doesn’t make much sense, does it?  Pretending you don’t care about your creative product can feel dangerous.  And sometimes, you may be so emotionally invested in the work that you cannot see anything but frustration at what you perceive as failures.

Every now and again, though, I can get just exhausted enough to learn something new—by finally letting go of the struggle.

(Photo from: http://bit.ly/Senv6b)

 

Turns out, all ll I needed this morning was to tell myself I had no time for the project that’s recently been frustrating me,  to sort of turn my back on it, and—sneaky, padded cat feet— it crept up behind me, purring to make its presence known, in a way I’d have killed for days ago.  Between its teeth was a tasty morsel; oh, sure, stolen from something else.  But I’ve got no scruples when it comes to such treasures.  I’ll take them however they arrive.   I simply need to remember that the arrival is more likely to happen when I can turn my back on my anxious, demanding mind and instead settle quietly,  entering a gentle waiting-that-is-not-quite-doing-nothing; entering an expectant interlude, a sympathetic distraction.

It was Kafka who famously said: “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet” (from his translated Reflections on sin, pain, hope and the true way).

Here’s to finding ways, always, to welcome the world,  and then, to finding it rolling in ecstasy at our feet.

Taking Time to Celebrate

Here at the end of the year with the holidays upon us, the days feel too short and the things to be done seem to multiply. Creative work easily falls victim to those long to-do lists, and it’s tempting to respond by trying to demand more of ourselves. But the holiday hiatus might actually nourish our creative pursuits if, instead, we take time to give ourselves credit for what we have done this year.

A life that embodies creativity is something to celebrate. The cultivation of creative gifts, at whatever level we’ve been able to work, puts us in closer contact with the world and helps us to appreciate the talents of others. A shared appreciation of art, or of the effort to create it, fosters friendship and community. Whatever our shortcomings as writers and artists, no matter the goals that are as yet unreached, life is richer and more meaningful for the creative efforts that we do make.

KaBooM at Holly Hill Inn Dec 2011-1

Our group celebrated the holidays, and another year together, with lunch at the Holly Hill Inn in Midway. (We missed you, Leatha!) A wonderful meal in a beautiful setting, the exchange of simple gifts, and time spent relaxing together is a tradition we look forward to. This year we’re celebrating the publication of books and the perseverance in writing those books we hope to publish. We celebrate making progress in our work and making gains with our health; bringing creativity to our lives and bringing life to our creative goals. We celebrate the friends who appreciate the work we’re doing, and the support that encourages us to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Such abundance.

Christmas Lunch

So if you’ve written something, supported a reading, penciled a sketch, attended a show, played some music, made some art, shared a poem, or in any way contributed to the flow of creative work—it deserves to be celebrated! You’ve been part of what breathes life into everyday existence and makes the world more humane. These small acts are bigger than they might seem, and they deserve to be lifted up and acknowledged before the year is gone. It’s an effort that matters, so remember to give yourself credit for it.

 

 

On Setting One’s Intention

Readers of our anthology When the Bough Breaks know that one of KaBooM’s shared habits at our weekly writer’s meetings is individual goal setting.  As honestly as possible, each of us takes a turn to look back and summarize what we’ve accomplished in the previous week.  Then we take a few moments to review the week ahead, reflecting on the writing tasks to which we’ve committed and the ones that remain as-yet-unrealized dreams.  Finally, we articulate—speaking out loud to each other—how much of that task or goal we think we can, or should, accomplish in the week ahead.

The wisdom of this attention to our intentions becomes immediately obvious when you consider that “everyone knows the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  Extend that aphorism and it becomes clear that no matter how bright one’s beginning, to accomplish the journey the traveller still make take each one of those thousand steps.    For some of us, each step requires a new commitment, and our KaBooM goal-setting time serves that purpose well.

This need to continually re-set my purpose is reinforced when I practice yoga with my wonderful teachers at the local Y.   There, we begin our classes with a mindful setting of our intention for that day’s practice on our mats by making our commitment physical.  We hold our hands in prayer position and place our thumbs on our foreheads, because that’s where intention starts.  We lower our hands to our hearts, because that’s where an intention begins to live, breathe, and have being.

From Sacred Source Yoga: http://sacredsourceyoga.wordpress.com/photo-gallery/ariele-meditating-in-nytimes/

Finally, our hands come back to our foreheads to “set” that intention.  When I set my goals at KaBooM meetings, I do my best to articulate goals that will live in my heart and prompt steadfast effort so that I have something of substance to report the next time we gather.

When I set my intentions for my writing work, I am taking seriously the dreams of my heart and the yearnings of my creative self.  At the root of the word “intend” is “tendre” which means, in part, to stretch.  There are times when the goals I set for myself feel too difficult, too great a stretch.  Yet by continually setting and re-setting my intention to make that stretch, the creative power available to me is a constant, wondrous surprise.

Yarn. Tale. The thread of story.

As a writer who knits – or, on some days, a knitter who stops to write –yarn is, for me, a way into memory and story. One leftover ball, the colors of dusk sky, a fringe of evergreens wound into the horizon, bought at the Midway fair and intended for a baby’s hat, evokes a strand of words, a yarn to carry memory forward.

As I made the hat, the yarn bled onto my hands, onto the bamboo knitting needles. I called the alpaca farm and spoke to the woman who had sold it to me, who said to saturate the hat in salt water, then heat it in the microwave. Soaked and zapped, the seeping color stopped. Poor babe got a blurry, irradiated hat — proving that the harder I try to get some thing that will be so perfect (Kentucky alpaca for an expat infant in Salem, Mass.), so special (I met the alpaca!), so much beyond the generic, store-bought gift (hand-made, stitch by stitch, hand-dyed yarn), the more, in short, my pride demands I be beyond outstanding (is it pride or some other need?), the farther I have to fall.

And yet the baby wore her hat, her mother sent me a photo of her in it, and I have this part-ball left to knit into something else. And the colors still call to me, though I wonder if at the heart of this ball, the dye might still bleed.

And all this talk of bleeding and of winding takes me back to yarn as a tale, a thread of story coiled around itself and holding its heart hidden in the turning of its lines. Like a poem I’ve put down on the page or the turning of calendar pages reaching back and back. There never was a place that wasn’t tightly coiled and threatening to bleed. Even in the womb I was a curled bud wrapped in a cord of blood. “Wee weare within the wombe a wynding sheete” one of the Renaissance poets said, and when I read that line at nineteen, how I hated this assertion of our death beginning with our life, preceding even breath. Yet in that time of plague and filth and language lovely-harsh enough to catch it all, those poets spoke the truth.

I was a foolish girl, determined to reflect only the sun and deny the taste of earth already in my mouth, the sluggish drift of it in my very veins. I am wound up in this ball of yarn in ways I haven’t even come to yet. Its failing, its tendency to bleed or break under stress, its messy stain of color, even its softness and its lovely mix of shades are in my days. It sits in my wicker basket waiting to be taken up and used; if it is lucky, something will be made of it and that something – hat, afghan – will have its uses, elegant, unforeseen, ordinary, then will be tossed onto the trash, burned up in a fire or ruined in flood, folded into a trunk, a cardboard box, and stuck in some unused space.

As I knit (and when I write, as well), the lived experience and emotions of my days and hours are looped and caught into what I’m making. A scarf or hat can bring back the worries or the musings that overlay its creation, as this ball of yarn holds the October day and the fair at Midway, my daughter home for a weekend, our hours in the blue air, how I tried to just soak it up, to believe I really was there, and maybe tried too hard, as with the hat. This yarn holds my daughter’s tall form, her clear blue eyes, her laugh, and the long black eyelashes of the alpaca tethered in the shade beside the crafter’s tent, the percussive rhythm of the steam engine grinding corn into the grits we bought, the breakfast we shared the next morning, her driving away.

This ball of yarn, these words reach all the way back to her baby self and forward to the baby, then unborn, who has already outgrown her hat — and outward now, as story travels.

13 Years of KaBoom; How on Earth Did We Get Here?

Lynn, Mary, Jan, Gail, Pam, Susan, and Leatha

A question I ask often myself is how on earth did I get to be this old? And the answer is always the same- one second at a time.  I am sometimes asked the same question about KaBoom. How on earth have we stayed together for 13 years? The simple answer, of course,  is one meeting at a time. But as with age, the simple answer doesn’t tell the whole story. After much reflection I have come up with reasons both general and personal that have contributed to the success of KaBoom. I am listing  these suggestions in the hope that they may help someone who is looking to create a similar writing group.

General

Size: Like Goldilocks, we have kept our group neither too large nor too small. Eight seems to be the upper limit to allow time for full discussions of each other’s work. We like the intimacy of a smaller group, but try not to fall below four in order to ensure a variety of opinion and style.

Membership: New members should be agreed upon by all members. It’s best to say no if there are doubts about someone before they meet with the group. All shoes do not fit all feet and all writers do not play well in group settings. If a problem arises with someone after they have joined, the others should approach that person as a group, explain their concerns, and try to reach a solution.

Place: A neutral meeting space has been important to us. It should be a convenient location with plenty of parking and a tolerance for raucous discussion. We usually don’t meet at a member’s house so no one has to clean up or feel obliged to provide sustenance and so all can simply enjoy being together.

Time: Pick a regular meeting time, recognizing that at various points in life, members may have more demands on their time and that these demands will fluctuate. Don’t sit there with a stop watch waiting for late offenders. Simply begin your discussion and let the late ones catch up when they can. Over time it always seems to even out.

Personal

Be tolerant. We are all struggling and sometimes the things that irritate us most about others are the things that secretly irritate us about ourselves.  Kindness is an important component of our group dynamics and seems to be the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine of honest criticism go down.

Be honest. If we don’t tell each other the truth about our work, believe me, someone outside will. Honesty fosters trust and although we don’t always agree with each other, an honest discussion enhances our work and helps us see it as other see it.

Be committed. You won’t always feel like going to a meeting, reading another manuscript, or discussing someone else’s writers block, but those times pass, and then it will be good again. If something isn’t working for you in the group, speak up before quitting. Anyone can quit, but not everyone can find a group of like minded people with which to share a creative life.

Have fun! This may be my most important suggestion. Laugh, tell jokes, and share life with one another. Don’t take yourselves too seriously even as you struggle to produce serious work. And maybe 13 years from now you will look at your writing group and marvel at the way time passes, one second at a time!

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.