What you see when you are traveling

Photo by Theresa Barker.

I’m staying for a few days in a nearby sea-front town, partly for a conference and partly to get some of my own writing done.  The conference ended yesterday, and because I had organized the conference and was the main administrator, when morning dawned today and the conference was over, I felt suddenly free to pursue other activities.  I nearly holed up in my hotel room to work on my writing, but then a little voice inside me said, “Come on, you should go out.  Find some adventure to participate in!  You can come back and write later.”

That was how I found myself waiting on the ferry dock for the next sailing.  The weather wasn’t great; it was overcast and in the low 30s (F).  In fact when we got to the other side there were tiny specks of snow fluttering in the air, though it never quite got as far as snowing properly.

Still, it was something to take a boat ride across a major waterway in our region, and as I stood on the deck of the boat watching the little town ahead, our destination, gradually growing larger, the town’s individual buildings becoming more distinguishable as we neared the ferry slip, I found myself suddenly imagining what the seafarers back in history might have felt like as their boats skimmed through the water, sea birds soaring overhead, waves making a “shush” sound as the boat cut through the water.

When I got back to my lodgings I realized that even though it was not a huge “adventure,” at the same time it felt good to be out and away from everyday tasks.  I hope you have a chance for a small adventure soon!

Aside:  a story for Dahlia

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“The Farm” by Joan Miró | This Creative Commons image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

In the garden of good and evil there grew a tree.  It was one of Dahlia’s trees, but it did not know it.  The tree had a base in a black dirt circle and its leaves were flying green swans of composure.

If you spoke to this tree it might tell you a story.  “I am a madman,” it might say, thought nothing about this tree was at all human.  The curved-sluice bark matrix of its trunk, the twisted matrix of branches like spider fingers stretched upward, the jutted forks of its form, none of these were of a human nature. Nevertheless, “I am a madman,” the tree might say, and it would flutter its leaves violently as though buffeted by impossible winds.

And you, standing by this tree asking it a question, in the garden of good and evil, who are you?  Are you the woodcutter with an ax to chop it down leaving only a stubby gashed stump and the pain of a lost limb in its place?  Are you a gardener who seeks to nourish its growth with rich compost and tea fertilizer that makes the tree even stronger and more fertile?  Are you the scientist who comes to study its nature and to solve the many little puzzles that make a tree a tree, the engine of chlorophyll and sap-running?  Are you the folklorist who comes to uncover the buried story within the tree, the sage of a generation of generations of trees that has led to this one, this imperfect yet perfect tree that grows in the garden of good and evil?

Whichever you are, stay for awhile in the shadow of its branches.  Watch it change in the light of an ever-moving sun.  Listen to the brush of a breeze in its branches.  Feel the sense of nutrients being drawn up through its roots to make life bloom at the tips of its branches.  Then perhaps one day it will tell you its secrets.

My friend and fellow blogger Dahlia finds the most amazing trees to feature in her blog.  This week at the conference we were given an image of the painting by surrealist Joan Miró called “The Farm” (above), and asked to write for almost an hour using the image as a starting point.  When I saw the tree in this painting, I instantly thought of Dahlia and some of her very original and unique trees!

Thanks for visiting!

January 2018

Hello all, as part of the “re-do” on my author website, theresabarker.com, I am experimenting with a periodic newsletter that touches on current projects, any publication announcements, and includes a writing tip. This week I wrote up the next version of the newsletter. If you’re interested, take a look below! Thanks for visiting!

Theresa J. Barker

Into the Sky Sketch by Theresa Barker.

I’m sitting at my dining room table this Thursday morning.  I sometimes like to write here, away from my desk where I can spread out, and not only that, but the view out the window is onto our lovely side yard with native plants, rhododendrons, sword ferns and Oregon Grape, a Japanese blood maple tree and Rose of Sharon tree (both bare this time of year).  The weather has been chilly, for us, in the low 40s most days.  Brr!  Even with these cool temperatures, the Japanese flowering cherry trees are starting to put out their pale pink blooms, unbelievably.  A whisper that spring is on its way already.

The other day I read a brief lament by the month of January, saying how it is a month that is misunderstood and underestimated, that “everyone loves April” in all those poems written about that month…

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Announcing “Cinderella Reimagined”

Announcing! Cinderella Reimagined, an anthology of fifteen re-told versions of the Cinderella fairy tale.

This anthology was a co-creation with me and collaborator Anne Jailene Aguilar, a South African blogger and writer.  We asked bloggers and writers from all over the globe to submit new tales drawn on the Cinderella fairy tale.  We selected the best stories, edited and designed the collection, and published it on Amazon Books last month.  Now available on Amazon Books! – Take a look:

I think, I say, I do

We did it! We actually released our anthology this month. We missed our in-time-for-Christmas target but it is out. CINDERELLA REIMAGINED: An Anthology of Cinderella Retellings is available on Amazon, USA, UK and Europe.

Do you sometimes feel you are living a Cinderella life? Maybe there is a little Cinderella in all of us. Even your favorite guy best friend may have his happily ever after, Cinderella style. 

Don’t take your shoe shopping routine for granted. You never know who might be there to help you try on your new perfect pair, a pair that may not be just ordinary shoes. A glass slipper could be magical or perhaps one left behind in need of a little TLC. Remember, magic dwells in the most unexpected places.

And do let some step-sisters surprise you. They are not all ugly. After all, Cinderella is one, too.

Most importantly, don’t let Cinderella fool…

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written at the YAWP retreat

Yesterday I wrote about a writing retreat last weekend, and while I was there I wrote something that I was looking forward to sharing with you on my blog. The way our writing leader organized the free-writes is, everyone had to write a word or phrase on a small piece of paper, and on the other side of the paper you had to write a number from 5 to 12. Then for each timed writing, a slip of paper was drawn from the bowl and read aloud, and that was the topic. The number on the back of the paper was the number of minutes we would write for.  Some of the topics drawn were:  On either side of the river lies -, Promise me this, Her name was . . .  I wrote this little piece in response to the topic Hunger.

Hunger

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Hunger is that feeling in your stomach that tells you it’s time to eat.

Hunger is the look in the eyes that tries to grab you.

Hunger is a name for need.

Hunger is a shrunken-bellied child, family cast out by hostile neighbors, somber-eyed and solemn.

Hunger is desire.

Hunger is the firmness of saying No.

Hunger is the last day of the week, the first day of winter, a storm’s biting cold, the prayer of a monk on the last day of life.

Hunger asks us to kill.
Hunger asks us to leap.
Hunger asks us to be human.

Thanks for visiting!

hello from a writing retreat!

Have you ever attended a writing retreat?  Do you have a favorite one?

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Picture this:  a quiet cabin in the woods, no everyday distractions to keep you from writing.  Hot cheery fire in the fireplace, whistling tea kettle on the stove, a cozy desk to write at with a comfortable chair to sit at.  How much writing you will get done!  Your words will flow, your ideas will brilliantly play out in scene after scene of that novel, or verse after verse of that poetry.  All your words will fall into place, and that soon-to-be best-selling novel, memoir, poetry book, or screenplay will be completed sooner than you thought and seemingly effortlessly.  Ah.  This is the life, right?

Hmmm.  Does this dream sound familiar?

It’s just that sometimes when one is alone in a secluded place in nature, as lovely as the surroundings are and as uninterrupted as the time is, the words don’t seem to flow any better than one is at home.  Why is that?  We always think it will be heavenly not to have to make breakfast for the family or answer those pesky emails from business associates or friends.  To have an excuse not to check Facebook.  And from a distance, it seems that way.  Didn’t Hemingway seclude himself in his home in Cuba or in Idaho, to write?  Didn’t Virginia Wolff champion the ideal of “A Room of One’s Own”?  But.  Sometimes that dream of writing at a cabin in the woods is just that – an ideal – and sometimes a writing retreat can be more stultifying than liberating.  After all, with no one else around, only we can do the imagining that it takes to create new work. And, depending on the writer you are, you can put more pressure on yourself to perform than when you take a few moments at your desk at home to tap out a new story, poem, novel chapter – a new blog post!

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Nevertheless, I am happy to report that last weekend I was away at a writing retreat and it was great. It wasn’t precisely a “lonely cabin in the woods,” but it was super-productive and inspiring. It’s called “YAWP,” and it’s part of the writers’ offerings from Centrum, a nonprofit arts organization in Port Townsend, Washington. The retreat ran for three days, Thursday night, Friday, and Saturday, and here’s what we did: each morning we would meet for 90 minutes for a free-writing session with writing prompts. And then each evening we would meet for 60 minutes just to write (no talking, reading, etc., just writing). Each session was optional, so if you wanted to hole up in your cabin and write, write, write, without interacting with the 15 or so other writers at the retreat, that was fine. There were kitchens in the cabins to make meals, and there were also a couple of nearby cafés to purchase meals. Huge 400+ acre wooded state park with a beach, for walking and communing with nature.

I am the type of writer who does best when there are things to bounce off of, like writing prompts, or the voices of other writers different from me, or an overheard conversation at the coffee bar or pub.  This is my third YAWP (definition: to make a raucous noise; squawk), and I love it.  I can focus on a particular work I want to accomplish over that weekend, or I can go with whatever strikes me at the moment.  I can sit in with other writers and hear their work as we write it from prompts, or I can keep to myself and not be interrupted by others.  This time I brought a couple of stories I’m working on – and then wrote a brand-new story in one of the writing sessions.  Yay!

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How about you? Where do you do your best writing or creating? Do you “get away” to do your art, or do you like to work in your studio or at your desk best? What suggestions do you have for other writers and artists to make the most of their creative time? Thanks for visiting!