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.

 

WANTED: Your Creative Submissions!

Calling all Pen Women! We cordially invite our members to submit artwork for consideration as Art of the Week and guest blog posts for our NLAPW blog. Please read on for more details.

 

ART OF THE WEEK

 

You may have noticed we’ve shared some excellent member poetry via Poem of the Week, but we haven’t shared any outstanding member art in a while. We’d love to see your best work for possible publication as Art of the Week. Please review the general submission guidelines on our web site and then submit your artwork to our Art Editor, Jamie Tate, at arteditor@nlapw.org. We hope to feature some new works very soon!

 

NLAPW BLOG

 

We continue looking for member guest posts for two new series: Creative Inspirational Wisdom and A Creative Business. Accepted pieces will first appear on our NLAPW blog and later in upcoming anthologies from Pen Woman Press.

 

Creative Inspirational Wisdom posts will focus on all aspects of the creative process: brainstorming, drafting, revising and “publishing.” From where do you draw inspiration? What is your creative work space like? How do you tackle writer’s block or revise your work to make it even better? What are your “best practices” for creating? What helpful tips could you share with fellow creatives? Tell us what you’ve learned on your creative journey!

 

A Creative Business will share observations and advice about making your passion your livelihood. What do you wish someone had told you before you started out as a creative professional? Where did you learn how to run your business? How do you make the perfect pitch to magazines, galleries, etc.? What business practices lead to success? How do you market yourself and your work? What practical advice can you offer about taxes, licensing, insurance, and so forth? Share your expertise with us!

 

Posts should be 150 – 500 words on average, although longer pieces will be considered. You must be a current Pen Woman and the original author of your submission. Original posts are preferred, but reposts from your creative blog are also welcome (with the original link and permission to reprint clearly stated in your submission email).

 

Please send guest blogger post submissions to penwomenpress@nlapw.org. We look forward to reading you!

 

Poem of the Week: Black Cat in an Oil Painting

Heather Banks, Member at Large, Rockingham, VA

 

I never owned a real black cat,
though felines of three other shades owned me
for more than 20 years sequentially.
Even longer has this ebony
cat crouched on a table that
might be rectangular or round,
and might be covered or just painted brown
but definitely is very flat
like the depth of all ambiguous spaces
painted on two-dimensional surfaces.

The pot of flowers, painted white, somehow
admits a trace of the room’s vertical orange plane.
The azure sky does not intrude entirely
on primed, bare canvas between cattails
and sunny flowers that sing of daffodils
or gladiolas that cannot open fully.

Light varies the striped décor’s lush tint,
and the sheer, patterned curtain rests, twisted
between breaths from the open window.

A painting—or perhaps mirror’s dark reflection—
almost slides off the wall into the path
of the screen door’s yellow frame.

Through decades now, I see,
the young artist’s energy
coiled in the waiting black cat’s smudge.
Each time I delve into this image,
it’s ready to pounce—perhaps attack
three reproductions of Asian cats
that lurk around the corner in my hall—
originals brushed by watercolor artists
on silk or paper centuries ago.
That trio perches, twitches, too—
and I smile, because _I_ see them all.

 

Poem of the Week: Boca Raton Branch Poetry Workshop collection

Boca Raton Branch Connects-Heart-to Heart Stories in Poetry Workshop

In honor of Sheila Firestone, president of the Boca Raton Branch of Pen Women, Vera Ripp Hirschhorn, Poetry Chair, invited members and patrons to her home for the first workshop on poetry and music. Participants were asked to create poetry as they listened to two of Sheila’s original compositions, “The River of Grass, Rhapsody No. 1” and “The Hearing Forest and Seeing Field.” Members were not told the titles of the pieces until the very end. Enjoy the poems.

CORRIDOR by Lea Hope Becker (to Sheila’s first piece)

I’m moving through a long corridor
There’s not a light nor even a glow
I may emerge from eerie space
And find my way to Eden

Is it night, or has the sun come out above the seashore’s edge?
Casting its sunburst effect upon the water
Watching waves and hearing their soothing sounds

I must glide until the watery end
Careless of the boundary
That which seals the day I die
Whilst I cross into the open sea

Merry from the visit
Happy to be free.

 

A New York Moment by Marlene Klotz (to Sheila’s first piece)

They met by chance
Two strangers afloat at a party
In a Trendy Manhattan apartment
A mutual chemistry occurred
That was instantaneous
Despite a light snowfall

The starry-eyed pair
Left the building and
Headed toward Central Park
As they walked hand in hand
Under the feathery snowflakes
The man in the moon looked down
And winked its approval . . .

Two strangers were now one.

 

“THE CALL TO JOY “by  Etta Schaeffer (to Sheila’s second piece)

Sing, sing sounds of laughter and light

whispering a call to cheer

smile and feel the building joy within

lightness fills the air building to a melodic ending

over and over hear the call

the sound is haunting.

 

‘The Sun Glows’ by Vera Ripp Hirschhorn (to Sheila’s second piece)

Where are you?
I’m here.
Play with me!
Not yet.
Skip with me!
Why?
Dance with me
How?
Sing with me!

Walk with me
Listen to the birds.
The sun glows over them….
Over us.

 

Listen by Sheila Firestone (to Sheila’s second piece)

The conversation is carried by the wind
The anime is constant,
Parts of conversations and overheard nuances,
Only partially understood.

Take nothing for granted,
Maybe you heard wrong,
As you create your melody or
poem, it really doesn’t matter.

It’s an interesting tale at any rate.
Tell me it yet once again, please.
I’m always listening
to your wise words.

 

Poem of the Week: New Year

Dorothy Kamm
Member-At-Large
Port St. Lucie, Florida

 

Looking skyward
a massive murmuration
cascades and folds
into shapes blossoming like bruises;
These starlings – augurs offering auspices –
are wanderers sharing wonders,
offer moments of grace
after a grim year

Where truth got twisted
and became toxic,
fed anger, exploited fears
percolating on the edge of fact,
where reality
mirrored myth,
where freezes and diseases
overlapped and converged,
where calcium and potassium
leached from bones
made brittle;

Looking skyward
see if the gods give a sign,
a yea or a nay;
Scrutinize with skepticism,
weigh power and possibility,
meld gold on the edge of glass
and create a fine plate
through which to view
the future.

© Dorothy Kamm

 

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: Arranging a Personal Work Zone

This week, guest blogger Tricia Pimental explores the merits of a creative garret.

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First, I’m glad others will be contributing about the business side of writing (thank you, Kathleen Vermaelen). That’s definitely not my strength, so I look forward to learning from those posts.

 

As far as creative inspirational wisdom goes, what follows are a few thoughts on arranging a personal work zone. Writer’s Digest editor and author Elizabeth Sims gives plenty of useful tips in her book, You’ve Got a Book in You. They’ve helped me, and perhaps they will do the same for you.

 

Sims refers to the place where we hopefully will get our brains into gear as our “garret.” Two factors to consider when creating a garret are: 1. it’s a frame of mind, as in “Nothing and no one can distract me from writing,” and 2. it must have usable work space.

 

A room in your house is nice, but family members will still sense your presence. They’ll feel free to knock on the door, or worse, barge in while you are in the middle of constructing a clever metaphor or the most brilliant plot line ever conceived.

 

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a real garret—a cozy attic space—try that out. You’ll probably have a window and literally feel “above it all.” Barring that, a corner in your local library or favorite coffee shop might do nicely. Even part of your garage, provided it’s heated and well-lit, could work. Avoid basements if possible, as they can be dark, musty, or chilly.

 

Next time, the elements in your garret: Music? Snacks? TV or no TV?

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Tricia Pimental is the author of three award-winning books. Articles, short stories, and poetry have appeared in The Florida Writer, A Janela (the quarterly magazine of International Women in Portugal), International Living, and anthologies compiled by The Florida Writers Association, NLAPW, and others.  A member of FWA, NLAPW, and SAG-AFTRA, Ms. Pimental is also a former Toastmaster. Follow her on Twitter: @Tricialafille. She blogs on her website: www.triciapimental.com.

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WANTED: GUEST BLOGGERS! Pen Women are invited to submit guest posts for two new series: Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business. Please visit this link for more details. We look forward to reading your material!

Poem of the Week: On Wings of Gold

Sarah Byrn Rickman
Pikes Peak, Colorado Branch

 

Fog shrouds the wings; dawn, but a shard of light.
Twin engines labor, eager to unbridle the horses.
Toes, hard on brakes, check the trembling aircraft.

From the tower, “Cleared for takeoff.”
Brakes off. Throttle to the firewall.
Spine thrust back against the seat.

Rolling, rumbling, reaching,
Wheels eat up runway. Lift.
Ease yoke back. Climb!

Eyes on instruments. Don’t look out!
The Pacific, invisible, lies below.
Altimeter reads seven…eight…nine hundred feet…

A shock of blue—a cloudless sky.

Execute a 180, bearing due east.
Sunrays strike silver wings, turning them gold.
Oh to pull over, stop in mid air, drink it all in!

Below, murky black stuff;
Ahead, two snow-covered peaks,
Sunlight rising through the pass between them.

Above it all, a sleek P-38 flies on wings of gold.

 

© Sarah Byrn Rickman

This poem is inspired by, and dedicated to, Betty Huyler Gillies (1908-1998), second in command, Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, 1942-1944. In an oral history recorded in 1996, Betty described her first flight in a P-38 twin-engine pursuit aircraft that she ferried from Long Beach, California to Newark, New Jersey.