Mid-winter I enjoy reviewing my previous year and setting goals for the months ahead. Here’s a peek at what I’m up to, plus juicy links for you to sample:
Culture, Food & South Seattle Neighborhoods
My favorite projects of 2011 include writing for South Seattle neighborhoods like White Center and South Park. The best perks of these projects are a) eating good food on my lunch breaks, b) working with awesome people, and c) meeting Seattle merchants and hearing their stories. I use what I learn from each merchant interview to write business profiles, feature articles, and other collateral. Content I write is used for print and web promotions offered throughout the neighborhood and the greater Seattle area.
In White Center I help grocers spread the word about fresh, healthy food available within walking distance. With more than 30,000 residents speaking 50+ languages, White Center boasts many delicious globally-inspired local eats, as well as specialty grocery markets where folks can find ingredients for Southeast Asian, East African, Indian, Latin American, and Eastern European cuisines. (Learn more about activities in White Center neighborhood at the White Center Community Development Association.)
Just a few minutes’ ride from White Center is South Park, an old Seattle neighborhood with a uniquely urban-industrial heritage. Our goal with Catch the Culture is to attract customers to the 30+ retail stores and restaurants along 14th and Cloverdale. These businesses are feeling the squeeze from the closure of the South Park Bridge in 2010, which typically brings some 20,000 vehicles of customers per day to the neighborhood. South Park is a square-mile oasis of nearly 4,000 residents with a school, a farm, community centers, family homes, hundreds of unique businesses, and a pretty stretch of shoreline along Seattle City’s only river, the formidable Duwamish River (we’ll get back to the Duwamish another day – there’s more to say about this river than one paragraph will allow).
PS – That fabulous South Park logo (as well as the Brainripples logo) are the work of graphic designer Kathi “george” Wheeler at Noise w/o Sound. Whether you need design work for print, web, signage, whatever, george is the genius you want. Unless you want something boring and plain–in that case you’re looking for someone else.
Stories, Poetry & Midnight Madness
Whenever I get busy, I write poetry. A work-weary brain can be conducive to the weaving (and mis-weaving) of words. Each year I like to use January through March to mine poems from the previous year’s journals, and select usable pieces for revision and submission. I think I have about eight candidates worth looking at this month.
I may have forgotten to share here that my poem “Shore” won the Spring 2011 poetry contest for issue 3 of Line Zero (“Springtide” also appears in this issue). I’m grateful for the publication in a new indie arts journal, and I’m even more grateful to have discovered the Line Zero community. As my writer friend James Buescher used to remind me, I’m “not a joiner.” But joiner or no, I feel like I’m in good company in the Line Zero pages.
Last summer I made time (read: skipped sleep) to participate in another Clarity of Night Short Fiction Contest hosted by Jason Evans (which, by the way, is a lot of fun for writers at every level). I’ve since taken my flash piece Solarrivum and rewritten it as a complete short story, which is now in its final stages of editing and actually kinda pleases me (which in turn makes me suspicious that it still needs drastic work). Soon I’ll begin the joy of submissions; I have my eye on a couple speculative fiction/slipstream journals. Speaking of which, feel free to join me sending good vibes for the speedy revival of GUD Magazine.
In January I started my latest fiction-in-progress, a story set in a Twilight-Zone-worthy cityscape. I have the basic structure and cast, and I’ve sketched the main character to get a sense for his needs. For this story I’d like to write a few cutthroat characters, so among my winter reading is Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet – an excellent choice I recommend to anyone seeking good examples of strong character voices.
Rot, Mud & Other Good Dirt
2011 left me with almost no time for garden and forest romping (as evidenced by a severe lack of blogging here at Brainripples). While I did get out into the wilderness for occasional recess, I didn’t even plant my cold frames last spring. That’s about to change. Greens, radishes, onions, and carrots are my usual pre-spring starters in the ground, and I’ll need to get a jump on corn and squash in the cold frames for transplanting to the hills once the warm weather returns in May/June. With any luck I will also find the time (and the necessary bandwidth) to blog from the garden in 2012.
Speaking of nature blogging, The Festival of the Trees has sprouted adventitious roots in the rich loam of the home blog. No longer a roving blog carnival, the Festival of the Trees accepts all tree, forest, and wood related submissions for consideration at treeblogging.com. Poet/Editor/Brainiac-at-Large Dave Bonta is diligently keeping the Festival alive, and he’s found some really cool stuff in recent weeks. Case in point: Goths up trees. Nuff said. (No, one more thing – if you want to see another cool project of Dave’s, check out Qarrtsiluni literary journal where he and Beth Adams are Managing Editors).
Which brings us to other good dirt. The compost pile I started moving in 2010 never made a complete relocation, but I did plenty of relocating to make up for it. After a busy 2010 I started 2011 renting the upstairs of a farmhouse in Hobart, where I stayed for six months to be closer to Seattle work. Making time to care for my health continues to be a priority, and I seem to be relearning how good health enables good writing (somehow the rhythm of writing hypnotizes and the mind can forget the needs of the body, like when I continue writing even though I had to pee some 90 minutes ago). It may seem as if an unwavering diet of persistence and sleep deprivation is a recipe for great writing, but to take that path the writer must gamble finished work against impending burnout, and these days I aim for finished work as often as possible (a habit I attribute to the sound recommendations of Seattle storyteller Anita Marie Moscoso). Finished work requires persistence and steady pacing, even if sleep deprivation is still on the docket.
Recently I read an older article in the Guardian about Philip Roth, yet another accomplished author of whose work I have not read enough. Among the best ideas I gathered from the article are Roth’s habits of writing while standing at a lectern (I’ve considered this for months now but have yet to try), and walking one-half mile for every page he writes. This winter I think I’ll count “bring in and stack the wood” in lieu of my half-mile, although if I apply that math retroactively to my current WIPs I’d have to say, there’s a lot of wood to bring in yet (especially if I want to get ahead of the next good snow storm).
Wanna help me shape my spring reading list? Share what’s good on your bookshelf this season, or tell me where I can read/view your latest work.
Here’s to a most excellent 2012 for all!
For this July’s Clarity of Night “Uncovered” Short Fiction Contest I created a piece of poetry (with narrative movement to meet the requirements of this contest), inspired by Jason Evans’ image of gemstones here. You can read my entry Forties Club Finalist #22 here.
Laure-Alda and Francis aren’t strangers: they are characters from one of my story ideas. This poem started as a 200-word flash fiction piece written from Francis’ POV. After a few hours I realized that the fiction could be extracted to make a poem or rather, a love letter. I’m using love letters to explore Laure-Alda and Francis, their lives, their friendship, and their current circumstances (such as it relates to the story).
Listen to the audio (MP3 link below), and be sure to spend some time at The Clarity of Night this week – there’s a lot of good reading to be had.
* * *
For Laure-Alda, from Francis
by Jade Leone Blackwater
If we awoke
clasped in sunlight
and found that the lump in my throat
had burst and broken
birthed a trinity of gemstones
to my dune grass pillow
would you cradle the tokens
to your nose as dew drops in the palm
watch colors radiate along our wrinkles,
remember our love for what dazzles,
burns us with brilliance?
Would you join me at the gorge
gulp turpentine and cinnamon wind
knock the sharp, sacred clap
which calls the rainbow-scaled fish-sage who,
in his high lip-pop dialect,
whispers “Only when the moon is dark,”
until the incantations crack
open our skull caps
into which we’d drop jewels
as cherries to dish, wait
for the western orb to reach the zenith
blaze its beam down and scoop us both moonward?
* * *
When: Opens July 19th, submissions accepted for 10 days
What: Write a short fiction piece (or a poem with narrative movement) in 250 words or less, using the contest photo as a starting point.
Who: Everyone is welcome to participate.
How: Learn more and read the full submission details at The Clarity of Night
Writers, don your thinking caps: it’s time for the 13th Clarity of Night “Uncovered” Short Fiction Contest, hosted this July by our friend Jason Evans and co-hosted by Stephen Parrish, author of the debut thriller THE TAVERNIER STONES.
If you’re a past participant of Jason Evans’ Short Fiction contests, you already know what a rewarding, supportive, fun experience they are: writers from across the blogosphere join in the celebration, offer supportive feedback, and share their creations inspired by a common photo. The “Uncovered” inspirational contest photo is shown here, created by Jason Evans, to offer a good challenge for seasoned and aspiring writers alike.
Among the benefits of participation are the great prizes which Jason has once again topped for contest #13: $290 in prize money will be awarded (Amazon gift certificates), including $100 for 1st Place, $50 for 2nd Place, and $35 for 3rd Place. Writers everywhere can appreciate this generous opportunity to share their work with an engaged audience and take a crack at a cash prize.
Reserve some time this month to write a new work of short fiction, and remember — don’t just write your story and run… you’ll have more fun if you make a little extra time to read through the entries, offer feedback to the other participants, and engage with Jason Evans’ generous writing community. You never know whom or what you’ll find lurking at The Clarity of Night… Read you there!