Author Archive | Contributor

Play to the End of the String by Imelda Maguire

Playing-violinist

(after Beethoven’s 3rd string quartet, Contempo quartet)

Draw the bow down,
and when you think
you’ve wrung out all
the sweetness that melody
offers, go on.
Play on.
Play to the end of the string.
Play what you know,
then what you think you know,
then what you don’t know.

Play it, let it fall from your bow.
Play to the end, to the last
of the string.
Play on,
play on,
play on.

 

About the Author: Imelda Maguire

Imelda Maguire bioImelda Maguire has lived in all four provinces of Ireland, and now resides in Donegal, the far north-west of the country. Her poetry has been published widely in journals in Ireland, and she has read at many literary festivals and events throughout the country. A practicing counsellor, she facilitates creative and personal development activities with individuals and groups. Her first collection,  Shout If You Want Me To Sing, was published in 2004 by Summer Palace Press. Her second, Serendipity, was published by Revival Press in 2015. They are both available by contacting her on Facebook or by email at imeldacmaguire@gmail.com.

Ireland Professor of Poetry, Paula Meehan, says “There are many ways Imelda Maguire will lure us into her world…”, and poet Denise Blake recommends Serendipity as a “collection to cherish, (to) keep close at hand.”

Me Before Chickens, Dogs, Cats, Even My Husband: A Typical Day in this Writer’s Life by Andi Cumbo-Floyd

TypicalTuesday_RoutinesandRituals

It’s 5am – or 4:50am or 5:11am – and I’m awake. I’m mostly awake because this is the time I typically get up, but I’m also awake because Mosey, our basset hound, typically wakes at this moment and is sharing his joy with me by licking my toes.

I then feed Mosey and Meander, our other hound dog. By then, the coffee is almost done, and I’ve built a fire in these God's Whisper Farm sunriselate spring mornings. I’ve packed my husband’s lunch and washed the few eggs we gathered late last night.

By 5:30, I am settled into my grandfather’s tufted leather chair and have my mother’s Bible in hand. A chapter from there. A daily read about fasting that I consider intellectually but not physically. A few prayers jotted into a notebook. Then, I lean back with as many chapters of my book of the morning – at this moment, it’s Christie Purifoy’s Roots and Sky – as time and the chill in the air will allow. These are my quiet moments, my centering moments. The only words that I let precede my own for today.

Here in the cold days, I work from our dining room table. (I’m eager to return to my office in what was the summer kitchen of this 200-year-old farmhouse, but that will call for days of sun that warm the walls.) By 6am, I open my laptop and quickly shut down all the browser tabs I forgot to close last night. I slip open MS word and begin.

I tap words ahead into the rising dawn. I do my best not to change anything, trusting that I’ll see better what needs revision when I have plotted the full path of the book. I resist – mostly – the urge to open one of those browser tabs. I keep going until I reach 1,000 words, the magic number Shawn Smucker suggested to me years ago. When I am in rhythm, this takes less than 20 minutes.

For all intents and purposes then, the most important work of my day is done when I get those 1,000 words finished. That’s not to say what I do for the rest of the day – the edits for clients, the manuscript reviews, the notes to communities I organize and writers I love – is unimportant. But for my mental health, for my clarity of mind, for my ability to speak with integrity about the writing life, those 1,000 words are my bedrock.

I have to say there’s another component of this urgency I have to do my personal creative writing first; it has to do with my identity as a Southern, Christian woman. All three of those aspects of my societal upbringing have taught me – through model and intention – to put myself last, to always do what is most important for others before what I do for myself. And while the central underpinning of those teachings – the lessons about selflessness and the need to avoid selfishness are important – many Southern, Christian women, myself included, have come to believe that we are as always to subjugate our calling, our health, our own needs to the wants of others. So when I do my writing first, I am establishing my own personhood as fundamental to the rest of the work I do. I am important, and those 1,000 words help me remember that.

When my 1,000 words are done, I feed our chickens, goats, cats, and Great Pyrenees and then come in to sit with my husband before he leaves for work. Once his truck pulls out of the quarter-mile drive, I’m back to the laptop – writing email missives to clients and crafting newsletters. Then, I edit or listen to client manuscripts for a few hours before taking a lunch break.

This lunch break thing is new for me. I don’t have colleagues to break with, and I don’t have an hours-per-week expectation set from a boss. Therefore, I don’t have boundaries coming from outside myself, and if I’m not careful, I feel pressured to do more every day. Thus, I never stopped for lunch, powering through until my husband came home and the animals needed another round of food. This continual 10 hours of work – 6am-4pm – not only made me cranky and exhausted, but it also made me frenzied and unable to quit work when the day needed to wind down. My belief that it had to all be done now made my chest ache, and I always felt like time was scarce. Somehow, a lunch break has changed all that.

So I eat lunch and watch a TV show on the DVR – Supernatural is my show of choice at the moment. Nothing like some vampire hunting and some pop religious questioning to give the mind a break.
Then, I go back to work for three or four hours until that truck with my beloved rolls back down the lane.

Feed everyone.

Feed ourselves.

Then, by 6pm, we’re back to something else. My husband is usually in his shop working on a car. Some God's Whisper Farm duskevenings I have to work, but I’m making that need more and more rare these days. Instead, I read or listen to podcasts if my energy is still high. As spring comes on, I’ll have garden chores to tend in these hours when the sunshine stretches himself.

Some nights, I’m exhausted and just settle into my recliner – crochet nest nearby – to work on an afghan or stitch a hedgehog. On the days when I’m most tired –usually later in the week – I just watch TV, letting the stories get along without me just fine. (Since I’ve been a full-time editor and writer, I’ve found that I take great comfort – GREAT COMFORT – in the fact that movies and TV shows don’t need my help to get to a resolution. It’s a strange thing to find myself relieved that I don’t have to work out the story myself, and it’s a gift that lets my mind let go of sifting through word choices and point of view strategies. )

9pm means I’m in bed, blankets tucked up to my chin and a book at hand. I’m asleep by 9:30 unless that book is REALLY good . . . and sometime after, my husband and two hound dogs join me under the covers.

It’s not the life everyone would choose, but it’s mine, and it’s so, so good.

Incidentally, this essay is 1001 words. Got my word count in for today. ☺

About the Author: Andi Cumbo-Floyd

andibio1Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and farmer, who lives on 15 blissful acres at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, 6 goats, 4 dogs, 4 cats, and 22 chickens. Her books include Steele Secrets, The Slaves Have Names, and Writing Day In and Day Out. You can connect with Andi at her website, andilit.com, or via Facebook and Twitter.

Experience Being Seen by David Lazarony

Through the Lens

I’m curious, it is part of my human nature. One day while looking at one of my paintings, I felt like the person was looking back at me. How is this possible? How could a few brush strokes of paint cause me to feel like I was being seen? Then it occurred to me that I was doing the seeing. Since then I realized that each of my paintings, whether it was a portrait, a still life or a landscape is really a self-portrait. You dear viewer are experiencing the world through my eyes and my hand. I hope my paintings are able to convey the feeling I was experiencing while I was painting them. Yet no matter how pure my expression once you view my paintings your life history literally enters the picture and your experiences reflect in how you experience the paintings. Let’s go on a little tour of a few of my paintings together and I’ll show you what I mean. But before I tell you about each painting, first just notice how each painting speaks to you. How does viewing the painting make you feel? What thoughts enter your mind?

2014-10-14-Fluff by David Lazarony

Fluff oil 30” x 24”

Fluff was an experiment in exploring textures. The smoothness of her skin compared to the softness and fluffiness of the coat and chair. I also was exploring creating a sense of depth. I wanted her to feel like she is sinking into all that fluff. She is there, yet not paying you any attention. Why?

2011-09-01 The Alluring Stranger

The Alluring Stranger oil 20” x 16”

The Alluring Stranger is all about creating a sense of intrigue with the peacock feather at her third eye. The third eye is usually about awareness, but here it actually obscures more than it enlightens. This adds to the sense of mystery. Yet the real surprise is how she appears when the painting is viewed upside down. Go ahead, try it!

2010-05-10 Contemplating Despair

Contemplating Despair oil 30” x 24”

Contemplating Despair is a true self-portrait composed while I was going through some dark times. Yes, it felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders, yet isn’t it interesting how there is light all around me. I wasn’t consciously aware of the light at the time. Yet it was there. I painted it.

2009-03-10 Well

“Well?” pastel 18” x 24”

“Well?” was the painting I was talking about at the start. This was my first painting that was literally a mirror for me and my emotions. I’ve heard every emotional interpretation of this painting from angry to bored to seductive. How does she make you feel?

2002-08-26 Verenique

Verenique oil 14” x 18″

Verenique was the first portrait that I painted that really conveyed a sense of feeling and presence. This painting was the beginning of me exploring our human condition in paint.
As I continue to explore our shared human experience through my painting I keep running up against my own limiting beliefs about myself and what it means to be human. The more I simplify the expression down to simply light falling across the human form, the deeper I seem to be probing into our humanity. It is ironic that as I strip away the outer world and simply paint the stark naked figure bathed in light, I get closer and closer to experiencing what it feels to be human.

I hope you enjoyed this short tour of my paintings.

About the Artist: David Lazarony

davidlazaronybioDavid Lazarony grew up curious.  As a young boy, he was intrigued by the world around him, constantly asking questions and determined to figure out tangible solutions for everyday problems.

David challenged himself to build models, write computer programs, and explore his creative genius. When it was time to choose a profession, rather than becoming a “starving artist,” he choose a high-tech career instead.
Formally trained at The Ohio State University as an Electrical Engineer, he spent more than a twenty years working in computer graphics and technology.

In 1999, David answered a call from his creative muse, taking classes for seven years to move his art beyond craft to concept, as well as translate his view of the world into a tangible art form.

David believes that his paintings are the mirrors to the soul; and it’s his strong desire to evoke emotion in others that fuels his creativity. He also views the art of painting as a silent meditation, encouraging him to live a more authentic and elegant life, full of never ending curiosity.

Find out more – and connect at DavidLazarony.Com

Editor’s Note: Our Through the Lens series explores how the things we make reveal new and interesting things about us as makers. What does your creative work express about YOU, the artist? How are the things you make like looking through a lens into your heart and soul? What have you seen in your creative viewfinder that surprises, delights, or perhaps frightens you? As we follow along with you on that journey, we may be inspired to look at our own individual creative projects in very new ways.

What Comes Next by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

confidentgreycurlsShe wandered past the perimeter
of midlife, replaced blond curls
with natural iron-ore gray.
At this new stage of life
she wondered
at all those efforts
over all those years
to be the aunt with gifts
she thought her sister’s kids
would love. To be the person
expected.
Tired of trying
to satisfy others
she sighed and slid with relief
into her next decade.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

Threads by Bernie Brown

Like hunger, the urge to create nags me and growls at me until I satisfy it. I know that any creative project will bring me just as much pain as it does pleasure, but my imagination works overtime, anyway. And sooner or later, what is happening in my head demands to be turned into reality.

Let me tell you how one sewing and one writing project both frustrate and fulfill me.

My heart beats a little faster when I walk into a fabric store: the Hawaiian prints, the embroidered denims, and the Needleandthreadslush velvets all put possibilities in my head. Even the neat little packages of zippers, thread, bias tape, and buttons—arranged rainbow-like—delight me. I want to buy them all, but time and money won’t let me. So I work one project at a time.

Two years ago, the sweetest, smartest, most adorable granddaughter on the planet arrived in our lives, our Helen. When she turned a year old, I imagined sewing a custom-made playhouse for her, a cloth cover that would turn an ordinary card table into a magical cottage with windows, a door that works, a roof, a bird’s nest, some flowers, butterflies, ladybugs, a mailbox, and a few garbage cans. Then I pictured Helen crawling in and out of this playhouse and wearing a smile that lit up my heart. For the past several months, that masterpiece has been taking shape.

At the same time, I have been writing a novel. Sitting down at my computer to write is like a visit to a fabric store. Just like all the bolts of fabric tempt me, a blank computer screen begs me to fill it with the stories of love affairs, family squabbles, heroes, villains, suburban homes, and country cottages. But I can’t write them all. I need the characters, setting, and conflict that will tell the story of Weaver Days.

Most days I help the book and the playhouse move forward, side by side. But some days, my projects disappoint me. Something just doesn’t click, doesn’t match my vision. That’s when I have to step back, even when that’s the last thing I want to do.

The first chimney for the playhouse, made of fabric printed with puzzle pieces, didn’t look at all like the whimsical chimney I envisioned. Instead, it just looked like a colorful box stuck to the roof. I fretted over the loss of several evenings’ work and my inability to bring my vision to life. But the thing had to go. My sewing machine whirred and I said naughty words and cried as I cranked out a second, more ordinary chimney of plain red cloth.

The novel proved equally uncooperative at times. In the first draft, several chapters near the end took one of the small town characters to a big city for spring fashion week. How could that go wrong? Up to-the-minute clothing styles filled the scenes. An eccentric, minor character enjoyed a bittersweet annual romance that would win readers’ hearts.

But no. The fashions and the eccentric’s love affair weren’t the real story. Like the colorful chimney, they had to go. In a bold move, I gritted my teeth and cut five thousand words, whimpering the whole time. I had spent countless precious writing hours and creative energy on those chapters.

Each time I stepped back on the sewing or the writing project, the finish line looked further and further away. But soon I found my rhythm again. I knew that someday I would finish both. I will watch Helen crawl in and out of her custom cottage, talking to imaginary friends, involved in adventures she created. And some day I will hold a published copy of Weaver Days with my name on the cover. In each case I will shout, “I did it!” and dance around the living room.

The thrill of personal goals achieved will satisfy me for weeks. But sooner or later, after I tire of resting on my laurels and patting myself on the back, other projects will take shape in my head, projects that demand attention. In spite of plans going awry, in spite of backslides and sidetracks, in spite of cuss words and tears, I won’t be able to resist the siren songs of the fabric store and the blank computer screen.

And I will ask myself, “What next?’

And the whole painful and wonderful process will start all over again.

About the Author: Bernie Brown

berniebrownI live in Raleigh, NC where I write, read, and watch birds. My stories have appeared in several magazines, most recently Every Writer’s Resource, Still Crazy and the Raleigh News and Observer. I am a Writer in Residence at the Weymouth Center. Get to know me better my website and connect with me on Facebook.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes