Archives for February 2017

Poem of the Week: Give me a key to unlock my cage

Marsha J. Perlman
SW Florida Branch

 

I’ve been to court countless times.
Not because I broke the law.
Not because I was arrested or presented with a warrant.
I, an instructor of English as a Second Language.
They, my classes of Central American female and male students.

Yes, crossed the border illegally at night while entire villages
lived marginally to support one of their own to start a new life.
At first they couldn’t read the rules they were expected to observe.

Acquired English by day, but not fast enough to understand that
in this country one doesn’t offer a bribe to a police officer
when pulled over, hand-cuffed or incarcerated.

Jail cell was home until court date.

Result:
Lost wages, hungry families.
Lost English lessons, no jobs.
Lost cars, no transportation.
Lost apartments…homeless.
What _is _our definition of_ JUSTICE?_

Imagine an unbroken world designed for compassion with:
Harmony rather than conflict.
Unity instead of threats.
Defense in place of blame.
Acceptance without prejudice.
Laughter replacing tension.
Let us wage peace and rediscover _JOY._

 
www.marshajperlman.com

 

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: A Creative Journey

In this week’s guest blogger post, Carol Mann shares the joy of her creative collaboration with former fellow Pen Woman Lynn Centeno.


 

I recently made a creative journey culminating with the publication of the book All Ways a Woman, a collection of art and poetry celebrating women, done in collaboration with artist Lynn Centeno. As Lynn and I worked on the project, we recognized the uniqueness of every woman’s life. However, we also realized a universality of experience. Women inspire and encourage each other with their strength, their resolve, and grit; with their vulnerability and ability to give; with their talents. We wanted to capture this story, these feelings.

 

The book, published by AquaZebra Press in hardcover, became available on Amazon in January 2017. Within its pages, we walked a woman’s path, gave voice to her life song, and honored her journey. We celebrated being in all ways a woman, always.

 

The collaboration began in 2011, but we didn’t know it. Lynn and I participated in an Ekphrasis (EHK-fra-sis) program for writers and artists, sponsored by the Palm Springs Branch NLAPW.

 

Branch artists submitted their art online, and branch writers selected a work of art about which to write. I chose Lynn’s watercolor “I Care Not.” For the final program, each artist’s work was displayed and the writer read her accompanying piece. By the end of the event, a calm could be felt in the room. The women in attendance, whether they knew each other or not, seemed to feel what can only be described as a palpable closeness, a bonding of spirit, and a sense of well-being. The Palm Springs Branch repeated the event in 2013, and I again chose one of Lynn’s watercolors to write about: “Girls’ Night Out.”

 

Girls’ Night Out by Lynn Centeno

Both watercolors and poems are in the book.

 

Three years passed. In the summer of 2016, Lynn casually suggested we do more. We each went through our body of work, searching for everything “woman.” Themes came to life about thoughts, loves, and lives. Some poems had been previously published in literary journals; some watercolors had been in juried shows. We also created new work. We had a story—a woman’s story.

 

As with any endeavor, we discovered a few tricks along the way that apply when involved in a collaborative effort:

 

  1. Come prepared.
  2. Meet commitments.
  3. Respect each others’ work and ideas.
  4. Don’t compete with each other.
  5. Respect each others’ process. People have different ways of arriving at a mutually desired result.
  6. Negotiate when visions differ.
  7. Compliment.
  8. Listen.
  9. Be flexible and stay focused. Discoveries may be made. Plans can change.
  10. Recognize that during the creative process, stress and tensions may develop. Remember numbers three and five.

 

Our creative journey taught us about collaborating and creating an enduring work of art. It inspired us. We hope women will become inspired by their own journey.

 

 

Come …

walk with us

wonder

explore

For together …

we grow

we discover

we become

– from All Ways a Woman,

by Lynn Centeno and Carol Mann

 


 

Carol Mann is a Letters member with the Palm Springs Branch of NLAPW and co-author of All Ways a Woman. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from Buffalo State College (SUNY) and a Master of Arts in Theatre from California State University Fullerton (CSUF). Her short stories, personal essays, and poetry have appeared in literary journals and magazines such as Six Hens, Bloodroot, RiverSedge, Phantom Seed, Dual Coast Magazine, Coachella Calling, and The Sun Runner Magazine. Her blog can be found at carolsmann.com.

 

Poem of the Week: Costumes

Risa Roberts
Fort Lauderdale Branch

 

She stripped down to her underwear

Then

Slowly stripped down

To her bones

Not enough

She reached deep into her being

Found the child

And

Crossed over

 

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: The Wings of Creativity

In this week’s post, Sara Etgen-Baker discusses how stepping out of one’s comfort zone–and writing routine–helps to inspire creativity.

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In 2010 my mother-in-law gave me her rather simple but graceful antique secretarial desk. I was delighted to have it and cherished this nostalgic piece, for it both served and inspired me as I began my writing journey.

 

The antique desk easily fit into the tiny loft at the top of the stairs. The desk was comfortable; I felt so cozy, secure, and confident when I began each writing session. Although I quickly outgrew the desk, I was unwilling to give it up and acquire a larger one.

 

Despite the desk’s comfort and coziness, its limited storage capacity meant that I often scattered file folders and books on the small floor space around me. I also crave organization and closure, however, so after each writing session, I painstakingly gathered up the scattered tools of the trade and either placed them on a nearby shelf or in one of the desk’s three drawers until the next writing session. Because I’m also a creature of habit and routine, I repeated this process hundreds of times—much like a batter who comes to home plate and repeats a similar process each time he prepares to swing at the first pitch.

 

I accepted this process as the way that I entered into and exited my writing mode. Subconsciously, I convinced myself that the desk and the rhythm of my routine were my lucky charms, and I needed them to be successful.

 

A few years into my writing journey, we moved into a bigger home. Subsequently, I acquired my own office. My husband Bill offered on more than one occasion to buy me a new desk for my office, but I ignored his offers—like the day we stopped at the local office supply store.

 

Bill escorted me to the back of the showroom where he’d found what he thought was THE perfect desk for me. “I want to buy this for you, Sweetie. My writer needs a bigger desk.” He hugged me. “You know you deserve it.  Besides, a bigger desk means bigger possibilities.”

 

“But I don’t want a bigger desk!” I turned and marched away. “I like my little desk.”

 

“I don’t understand. Why don’t you want a bigger desk?” He scurried to my side. “You must be afraid of something? What is it? You can tell me.”

 

“Whatever do you mean? I’m not afraid of anything. What makes you say that?” I folded my arms across my chest and looked him straight in the eyes. “Like I said, I really like my little desk. I’m satisfied with it. It inspires me. Besides, we just moved; I’ve experienced enough change. Changing to a bigger desk will just mess with my writing mojo. So don’t ask me again!”

 

He didn’t ask me again.

 

Then a few days later, while working in my new office, I looked around at the folders, books, and papers strewn all over my office floor. I riffled through several stacks and couldn’t find what I needed to meet a contest deadline. My heart raced, and beads of sweat appeared on my forehead—the telltale signs that I’ve allowed panic and fear to take hold. I leaned back in my chair, took a deep breath, and looked around my office. The room literally swallowed the tiny desk, making it look a wee bit insignificant and slightly out of place. Hmmm. Maybe I do need a bigger desk. But the idea of graduating to a bigger desk sent tiny shock waves through my brain.

 

Perhaps Bill was right. Was I afraid of something? If so, what was it?

 

Unable to continue writing, I closed my laptop, stood up, and paced around the room, focusing my attention on the certificates, awards, and checks that I’d framed and hung on the wall. When I began writing, I never imagined the success that now stared back at me. Each represented either an exciting moment or a significant step forward in my writing career. I was both thrilled and content with the level of success I’d achieved.

 

I closed my eyes and relived the vulnerability and fear I sometimes felt as a new writer. Often when I sat down to write, I didn’t know exactly what I was going to write or where I was going on my writing journey. But during the past few years, I trained myself to love both the ambiguity and the not knowing.

 

I smiled, returned to my chair, and retrieved C. Joy Bell C’s book of poetry, All Things Dance Like Dragonflies, from the bookshelf. I flipped through its pages, and her words about faith jumped off the page into my heart:

 

I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.

 

At that moment, I recognized that a bigger desk symbolized bigger projects, bigger possibilities, more challenging contests, and being once again suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight.

 

Bill was right, of course. I was afraid—afraid to force my complacent writing wings to once more unravel and begin a new flight. C. Joy Bell C’s words helped me grasp, at a deeper level, that once I spread my wings anew, I could trust that the winds of creativity would carry me further, where I needed to go.

 

So when my bigger desk arrived a few days later, I sat down at it, opened my laptop, and once again felt the miracle in the not knowing and the strength in the unfolding of my wings, confident in their ability to begin anew.

 

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Sara Etgen-Baker has been a member of the Dallas Branch of NLAPW since 2014.  She enjoys the support and fellowship her affiliation with NLAPW brings to her writing life. Her manuscripts have been published in various anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Wisdom Has A Voice, My Heroic Journey, Times They Were A Changing: Women Remember the 60s and 70s, and The Santa Claus Project. When not writing, Sara spends time with her husband, Bill, to whom she’s been married for 34 years. She may be contacted via email at sab_1529@yahoo.com.

 

Poem of the Week: Tales of A Hidden Closet 

Linda Newman Woito
Iowa City, Iowa Branch

 

Prudence opened a narrow door and was surprised

she was walking into a closet thinking it was a women’s

bathroom but since she was already holding her legs

tightly together she decided to pull the door closed

and have at it in a little drain that sat in the corner

of the closet below the handy-dandy pull-chain light

and so she did.  As she began relieving herself

the light dimmed once then twice and everything

went black including the drain itself which she was

straining to see as she aimed with as steady a stream

as she could manage under the circumstances.  Yet

all she could think as she tried to relax was did I lock

the door when I came in, knowing I’d need a moment

of personal privacy.   But before she could answer

to her satisfaction the door opened and in walked

a young janitor with a mop and a glass of champagne

in his hand, and soon he was bending over as she

tried to yank up her too-tight jeans in the most

lady-like manner she knew when suddenly the light

came on and she heard him ask:  Can I help you Lady?

You lose something Lady? To which she replied

No, not at all in fact I’ve found precisely what I’ve 

needed for a long long time and in exactly the right 

time place and manner…indeed in the right order

and so she pulled the pull-chain once then twice

and out went the light in time for the next tale

to begin.