June 2018 | A bit about titles

If you’re looking for a fun exercise to generate new writing, or if you’d like to get practice working with story titles, I just wrote up a new exercise to try.  Happy summer!

Theresa J. Barker

Photo by Theresa Barker.

I’m sitting in my office this evening thinking about the ways in which our surroundings influence us.  Today is Independence Day in the U.S., and I hear the pops, cracks, and booms of fireworks (legal/illegal) outside my window.  It’s been a warm day for Seattle – 70s-80s – and deeply cloudy this evening, a strange sort of gloominess in the sky.  Yet the circle of light from my desk lamp casts a friendly light on my writing and this little evening moment with words connects me with writers all over the world, with writers of the past and those who will write in the future.  Words are our connections, aren’t they?  Language and thought and the poetry of conversation.

Photo by Theresa Barker.

Where do you like to write?  Whether in a nearby coffee shop, at the kitchen table, or (if you’re lucky enough) in a…

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May 2018 – An Exploration of Voice

Have you thought about the development of voice in your writing? Have you seen, or fallen in love with, other writers’ voices? In this month’s writing newsletter we explore voice and its effect on writing and the reader. Take a look!

Theresa J. Barker

IMG_3224 Photo by Theresa Barker.

When I stroll down my block, or look around my yard this time of year, there seem to be flowers on the shrubs everywhere.  As I think about the progression of the seasons I often wonder why I don’t remember how bright and festive the lavender blooms on my rhododendron are, or how lively and engaging the tiny white flowers on my thyme bushes can be.  But even so, the surprise of discovering flowers bursting forth this time of the year can be delightful; perhaps more so because each year the flowers seem altogether unexpected and new.

Writer Pam Houston has said, “I’m about going out in the world and noticing stuff, going home and writing it down, and putting it next to other stuff I’ve noticed and seeing what happens.”  And borrowing from our glimpse of William Carlos Williams’s work last month, Williams was…

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in which Theresa considers a blogging anniversary

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Do you think about why you blog?  Do you set goals, have a schedule of blog posts?  Perhaps you participate in blog challenges, such as weekly photo challenges or topics.  What makes you thrilled about blogging, what keeps you motivated, what do you most enjoy about blogging?  What do you enjoy the least?

This spring I realized I am coming up on the fifth anniversary of my “Lab Notes” blog in August.  When I started this blog I had no idea where it would take me.  In fact, I wrote a blog post about the start of this blog last year (Feb. 2017), in which I described hoping for a way to overcome writer’s block, a difficult challenge that has plagued me all my life.  What I didn’t realize then is how much I would enjoy the community I had become a part of.  I am grateful for those blogger-writers who have touched my life, and I theirs.

Writing is a solitary pursuit, and I am grateful to those who have taken their time to read my work, and those who have shared their thoughts in a message.  Even though you may be across the globe from me, or across the country, your warmth and kind reassurance have been important and affirming.  Thank you!

As I approach the five-year anniversary of my Lab Notes blog, I would love to hear about what makes blogging worthwhile for you.  Have you changed how you blog over time?  Do you have specific goals or objectives with your blog?  How does your blogging become a part of your other creative pursuits?  What advice would you give someone who is just starting their own blog?

Thank you for visiting!  I’m looking forward to hearing even more from you soon.


Throwback Thursday: Barker Garage

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

For many years my grandfather operated an auto repair shop in Tucson, Arizona, “Barker Garage.”  Located on 6th Street, it still had the sign on the building back in 2010 when this picture was taken (found on Flickr).  My grandfather’s name was Howard Barker; he learned to work on cars in the first World War, according to my dad’s retelling.  A few years back my younger son had to interview a veteran for a school project, and my dad shared some photos of my grandfather’s service time in WWI.  My dad told us that my grandfather learned the trade of engine repair during the war.  He also fell in love with motorcycles; in fact, there is a family story that Grandpa Barker made his own motorcycle from spare parts!

My father told stories of working in his father’s garage as a teenager, and I remember him working on cars he owned while we were growing up.  During the 1960s he owned a series of sports cars, including an Aston Martin, a Lotus Elan (!), and eventually a ’70s Corvette T-Top.  When my dad owned his sports cars, I was too young to truly appreciate them, but I do remember riding in these cars at various times when we visited my Dad on weekends, and those memories bring back a smile.

Back in the day, my dad might take my sister and me to Volunteer Park in Seattle, and we’d park in front of the Seattle Art Museum.  Out front were two camel statues from China, which we nicknamed as we climbed on them.  (A long tradition existed of museum camel-climbing before conservators moved them indoors and provided climb-friendly replicas a few years back, as I discovered in this blog post from SAM.)  We called them “Yesterday” and “Tomorrow.”  My dad would park in one of the open spaces right in front of the museum, and we’d scamper off to the camels while he’d wax his car in the parking space.  One way to pass the time!

I never had the chance to visit my grandfather’s garage in Tucson, but I found an interior shot of the building from Flickr that was taken a few years back.  The photographer has noted that the equipment “must be 50-60 years old, still works fine,” and my thoughts are, what a wonderful family legacy, to think of our grandfather’s workplace still being intact in 2007 when the photo was taken, even though my grandfather had long retired, and he had passed away before the end of the 20th century.  There is something about seeing a palpable representation of one’s family history like this that really connects you to a sense of heritage and shared family feelings and accomplishments.


Photographer’s caption:  “This is an alignment pit. The cars are driven out onto the calibrated ramps, the front wheels onto the turntables. Nowadays, car alignments are computerized done with a lift. The equipment must be 50-60 years old, still works fine.” (Photo dated Jan. 2007)

Our family still reminisces about our time in Tucson, even though we’re spread across the country these days.  It’s hard to believe, but the building is still there, at least according to Google maps!  – Minus the “Barker Garage” sign.  135 East 6th Street

Screenshot-2018-5-31 135 E 6th St
From Google Maps.

Does your family have traditional recollections?  Do you ever revisit a place you spent time at when you were young?

Have you ever looked at tea?

Photo by Theresa Barker.

This morning I made a cup of tea.  Have you ever looked at tea?  If you take a look at tea, before the leaves are brewed, each leaf is curled up into itself, like a little piece of a mystery.  And then, when you add hot water, voilá!  The leaves unfurl and emit their special fragrance and taste.

Doesn’t that seem magical?  Every time I scoop out a spoonful of tea leaves and drop them into a tea leaf infuser I just think, wow.  It may be a tiny thing, but it’s a lovely and wonderful thing, all the same.

Photo by Theresa Barker.

And here’s the result! A lovely cup of oolong tea and the basket infuser of unfurled leaves. Doesn’t that look amazing?

Do you drink tea?  What is your favorite type of tea?  I’m partial to Oolong, but I also enjoy Darjeeling, Assam, and other flavors and types of tea.  If it’s really good tea, the first swallow makes me feel happy.

Indie Bookstore Day, part 2

Photo credit: Third Place Books, Seward Park, Seattle.

This weekend my daughter and I had the chance to go to another bookstore and claim our “prize” for making it all the way around our bookstore tour earlier this month.  We had refreshments, including yummy spice cake with cream cheese frosting, and we visited with other bookstore lovers and staff.  Super-fun!  Here we are!

Tea and Writing . . .

. . . My adventure with tea (above) reminded me of the power in small details.  If you are a writer, photographer, artist, you know what I’m talking about!  There is a talent – isn’t there? – in being to take a moment to see things, really see things, that are small and easy to miss.  And they say, that’s the way into poetry and other art, noticing small details.  And making something out of them!  What do you think?