Saturday, April 2, 2011

Today's Rally of Writers

I had a wonderful time today at A Rally of Writers! The Rally is an annual event, now in its 24th year. I’d definitely recommend it – it’s a great conference.

The day kicked off with keynote speaker Jef Mallett, writer and illustrator of Frazz. He gave a very inspiring talk about the importance of getting out of your comfort zone and about the importance of having a “life” from which to draw your creative work.

I then attended Anne-Marie Oomen’s “Firework Seeds,” a session of poetry prompts, which I very much enjoyed. We did some guided hands-on writing. Great session.

At lunch, we heard Bonnie Jo Campbell speak. Bonnie Jo is a very engaging and fun person to hear speak. I could listen to her talk all day. She answered a variety of questions from the audience, and we all left with lots of writing information and inspiration (as well as the knowledge of the best treats to feed donkeys).

I then attended a great session by Lev Raphael on creating amateur sleuths in mysteries. I doubt I’ll ever write a mystery, but I love to read them, so I figured I’d enjoy the session (which I did) and also learn a thing or two (ditto!). A wonderfully relaxed and informative session.

For the last session of the day, I went to Diane Seuss’s poetry session, on “how to get bigger, better, wilder, and truer on the page!” Though I doubt I’ll ever manage wild on the page, I left feeling more confident about how I can push my attempts at poetry closer to what they might be.

In short, a great day.

In the spirit of the day – that of stretching and growing and risking as a writer --I’ll share with you here a few of the exercises I did.

In Anne-Marie Oomen’s session, she had us write a poem using Eve Merriam’s “How To Eat A Poem” as a model. What else might we eat? Here’s mine:

How To Eat Indecision

Don’t decide.

Pick a cloud of moderate size

and watch it cross the sky.

It’s just a bunch of water droplets.

Did you not know that?  Did you forget?

Mist.  A mound of fog.

You do not need a flowchart

or bullet points

or columns on a page.

There is white. And there is blue.

And there you are:

You are done.

Not much of a poem, but there’s great value using existing poems as models for writing stretches. It’s something I should try more often.

The other modeled poem exercise I wrote was modeled on George Ella Lyon’s “Where I’m From.” Here’s my exercise results:

Where I’m From

I am from split levels and sidewalks,

from walking to school with my homework done.

I am from vegetables pushed around on my plate

and dropped to the dog.

I am from Lite Brite and Shrinky Dinks and

Brady Bunch reruns.

I am from neighbors with names,

from unfenced backyards

with small wild thickets,

and from leaf piles each fall.

I am from mosquito trucks driving through summer

at 2 AM, the sound of their spray scarcely heard

over the attic fan.

In my closet, under the false bottom of the floor,

were my notebooks, my dentist office prizes,

and a pair of floral pants long outgrown.

I am from four levels,

from three flights of stairs,

and from two steps to outside.

Finally, though it wasn’t from an exercise, this bit of writing was inspired by Diane Seuss’s session:

How I Get There


toward the things I

haven’t yet done, the work

of keeping eyes open opens

my eyes.

All in all, a fun and inspiring experience.  For those of us foolish enough to embrace the activity of writing, every day is like starting over at the beginning.  It's sometimes joyful, sometimes terrifying, and often both at once.  But I can't imagine life without writing.  It was reassuring and inspiring to be amongst others who feel similarly.  So to all of you:  Be brave.  Be joyful.  And Write On!


Bette said...

Wow! Debbie, I loved your poems. I love poetry (incidentally, I love mysteries also and, like you, I probably will never write one.)

Debbie Diesen said...

Bette, thanks! I haven't been feeling very inspired lately in my writing, so it was wonderful to be walking my pen along the page today. Being with other writers always yields such a nice energy.

I had the honor and pleasure of being one of the presenters today, with a session on children's writing. But I didn't write about it in this blog post because it's impossible to know how the session went. I don't feel I'm much of an expert. But no one walked out, and nobody threw anything, so I'll count it as a success. :)