Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Poetry, Prose and Peripheral Vision

By Alice Trego             

Usually when I go to a writing conference, I attend workshops I believe will enhance my writing style, develop my voice, and hone my vocabulary.

This year at the 21st Annual Women Writing the West Conference in Redmond, OR, one of the Thursday pre-conference sessions, “From Shadow to Dance: Form, Function and Peripheral Vision in Poetry,” became a writing stepping stone for me. One that motivated and inspired me to pick up pen anew and set to paper the stories I’ve been wanting to write.

This presentation, given by WWW member Ellen Waterston, is where I learned that observing via our peripheral vision, noticing the things around us we take for granted, are impetus that can heighten our creativity and writing. Ellen suggested we might use a “frame,” an actual picture frame or shape our fingers together to form a different kind of frame, so we can find a focus. She also recommended we “…notice the temperature of words, the sounds of words…” to help polish our own words for our poetry or our prose.

Ellen showed the small group how we can find the right words that most elude writers. Besides using a thesaurus, incorporating various prompts can be effective writers’ tools. One prompt she described involves writing a list of 20 nouns and then listing 20 “subject-specific” verbs, blending them as many ways as possible to form “word collisions,” which all compel the reader to notice our deliberate vocabulary.

Another prompt she introduced is called “Borrowed Lines.” Each of us in the workshop opened a poetry book to a random page. We chose the first sentence that attracted us, and wrote it down on a piece of paper. We then passed the book to our right and the paper to the left.  This we repeated twice more, and each of us ended up with a paper that had three sentences retrieved from three different poems. Here are my three sentences:

               “A fragrance heavy as dust, and two young women…”
               “The sound was purple…”
               “So expertly she plays the chords…”

The next step was to choose single words, or phrases, or the whole sentence from the three sentences to begin our own poems. Ellen gave us a few minutes, and the result I found astounding. I have no idea where my words came from! But I know that writing a poem using this method can lead to an interesting piece of prose, as well. This is the poem I wrote:

               “The purple sound gave fragrance to the night women
               Expertly standing on the pavement,
               Their garb and makeup heavy as dust
               Reflecting off the buzzing neon.”

What intrigued me first in these “Borrowed Lines” -- “the sound was purple.” Immediately in my mind I saw a neon sign, two young women of the night standing on a corner, their makeup “heavy as dust,” their faces reflecting the neon light that buzzed.

For me, this exercise was an eye-opener. I discovered I had enhanced my writing style, developed my voice to another level, and I had honed my words. Maybe I paid attention to my peripheral vision, too? 


Alice Trego, WWW Past President, enjoys reading poetry, especially to discover what the poet is really saying to the reader by reading between the lines. This workshop was the third time she’s actually written a poem or two. 

For more information about Ellen Waterston, check her web site

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

October Member News

Congratulations to you all! 

Kayann Short’s essay, “Soil vs Dirt: A Reverie on Getting Down to Earth,” is included in the new anthology, Dirt: A Love Story, published by University Press of New England. Editor Barbara Richardson was a WILLA finalist for her novel, Tributary. The book also includes work by, among others, Western women writers Linda Hogan, Laura Pritchett, BK Loren, Erica Olsen, Jana Richman, Liz Stephens, Marilyn Krysl, Carrie Visintainer, Lisa Knopp, and Julene Bair, with an introduction by Pam Houston. 
G. Elizabeth Kretchmer, Women on the Brink is a collection of loosely linked stories in which women aged thirteen to ninety must face the unwelcome realities of their lives. Sometimes gritty, sometimes humorous, and always compassionate, G. Elizabeth Kretchmer’s prose takes the reader on a compelling ride alongside these women as they wrestle with family relationships, self-esteem, socioeconomic status, maternal obligations, and a universal need for independence. 

Donis Casey, All Men Fear Me: An AlafairTucker Mystery (Poisoned Pen Press) The U.S. has finally entered the First World War, and no one in Boynton, Oklahoma, is unaffected by the clash between rabid pro-war, anti-immigrant “patriots” and anti-conscription socialists. Alafair Tucker is caught in the middle when her brother, a union organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World, pays her a visit. Rob Gunn assures Alafair that he’s only come to visit family, but she’s not so sure. Alfafair’s wildly patriotic 16-year-old son Charlie takes a part-time war job at the Francis Vitric Brick Company. When a couple of shift supervisors are murdered, everyone suspects sabotage. But Charlie Tucker comes up with a plan to catch the murderer red-handed. And then there is old Nick, a mysterious guy in a bowler hat who’s been hanging around town.

Anne Sweazy Kulju, Grog Wars has been awarded the 2015 Literary Classics Silver Medal for YA (General) Grog Wars covers the trials and tribulations of Burke Kaufman, a young German sent by his father to America to expand the family business as he endures the rigors of travel in the 1800s, settles in a strange new town, and struggles to make his arranged marriage work. After crossing the Atlantic by ship, they traverse the Oregon trail and finally reach Portland to open a brewery.

Award presentations are one of the highlight of the WWW conference. The LAURA Short Fiction Awards dinner on Friday night had all five finalists present to receive their awards and to learn their placement. They are:
First place: The Growing Season by Wendy Claus
Second place: The Wilkins Will by Josephine Young
Third place: The Trunk by Teri Crane
Honorable mention: Grabbing Hold by Evelyn Hess
Honorable mention: Fool's Moon by K. Lyn Wurth
These stories are posted in The Laura Journal.

WILLA Finalists are winners too and are honored with their own luncheon and award presentation. Present were Janet Oakley, Liza Porter, Deborah Winegarten, Patricia Ackerman and Deborah Lincoln.

WILLA Winners in attendance were Rachel Weaver, Jane Kirkpatrick, and David J. Langum Sr.