Sunday, January 22, 2006

Sometimes a poet’s just gotta’ have fun

I often team up with fellow author Dorothy Fletcher for special events. Last year we conceived the idea of a writers’ retreat—we decided we wanted to go beyond the typical workshop and create an experience that would do more than simply inspire writers. We wanted a true writing experience, one that allowed time to go below the surface—a writers’ gathering that a 1 ½ hour time frame would never allow.

We had no idea what to expect. We found a place in Jacksonville’s historic Riverside area. The Riverdale Inn perfectly matched the vision we had for a setting—atmosphere, gardens, a genteel attitude. We spent months planning our format. Limiting the number of writers seemed to be a good idea. We wanted an intimate, individualized experience. We crossed our fingers, hoping other writers would like our idea.

Both of us are excited about our Wordstream writing retreat. Several teachers have signed up; several other writers have come on board. We wanted a group of 10; it looks like we’ll come very close to our goal. An independent bookstore, The Book Nook near San Marco, donated some very nice totes, and Starbucks Coffee Company donated gift cards for each of our writers. I picked up issues of The Writer to include in the bags; Dorothy found some creatively rendered notebooks. We have lots of handouts and information pieces for the bags too.

While we were planning this, we came up with another idea, one just for fun. We were trying to come up with an author event for our favorite Starbucks Coffee, the one in Lakewood Plaza. We do an ongoing “Authors at Starbucks” event there. With Valentine’s Day in mind, we decided to hold a “Love Poem Clinic.” We both laughed as we came up with this idea. I realized this would be something that would be just plain fun. We organized the “clinic” as a resource for others who want to write their lover a poem for Valentine’s Day. We pledged to assist them in rewriting their poems, hopefully taking the craftsmanship up a notch or two.

I’ve received dozens of love poems in email over the years, all of them from aspiring poets. Most of the poems are completely personal; only the person’s significant other would appreciate such a poem. A poet who’s into technique and form usually groans at the sight of such a poem. But when I think about it, anyone who even tries to write a poem for his or her lover is giving a genuine gift from the heart.

Other than those endeavors, I’m juggling a project for The Writer (will announce it February 1), beginning a really fascinating corporate freelance project, and prepping for the SC Book Festival. Making plans for speaking at a writers’ festival in Rockledge. Poetry Month is coming up and I’m trying to figure out how to make room for all the activities associated with that. Coming up with an overview for the 80th anniversary of my National League of American Pen Women branch—we’re holding an arts showcase in May.

My work is featured in this month’s issue of the Florida Council of Teachers of English journal. Considering the other poets they’ve featured, I am humbled by the company I’m in, and I’m very grateful to the organization for supporting my work.

Still hammering on the novel, have an essay in the hopper, and trying to build up my site. Still slogging through research and information about the felony murder rule for my nonfiction book. And of course, as always, writing poetry, the latest a blank verse sonnet.

Had a late lunch with my daughters today. We ate at Cross Creek so we could catch the first part of the Steelers’ game. The weather here was sunny with a temperate breeze. Like spring. Returned to the house and we watched the first half of the Seahawks/Panthers game. Every time one of us yelled, “Catch the football” the beagle hound raced to get his football, baying and pleading for one of us to pass it to him.

When I sat down at my desk tonight, I looked around me and savored the fact that some days, life is better than I ever thought it could be. Considering the first part of my life, most days I’m pretty sure I’ve been handed a miracle.

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