May 182015

Last night, the stars aligned and so did our five featured readers, Eleanor Vincent, Barbara Barrows, Laura Wilson Henrikson, Frank Rutledge and Karen Fullett-Christensen. Many people gave me credit for curating, but the most resonant events build or unfold mostly on their own. Kevin Moriarity and I, with the help of many others, till the earth a bit, but I’ve found that it works best if I step back and let events curate themselves. Only a few will have coherent threads moving back and forth through the readings, but that’s fine. I also love the events without discernible themes. (With apologies for mixed metaphors, etc.) -AV

May 152015

BarbaraHow and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?

I was a reader before I was a writer. As a kid, I could spend all day reading books. Our house was filled with them and my parents were big readers as well.

My switch to writing poetry came on very suddenly after a personal crisis. The stress dealing with the crisis was overwhelming. One night, I convinced myself to forget about the future and just concentrate on what was right in front of me, which happened to be laundry steam from a dryer on a misty evening. Some thoughts came to me, I wrote them down and then I had a poem. I wrote a few more and realized the best way through the fear was contemplating various metaphors and crafting them into something tangible. The crisis receded but I still continued writing.

Something I only recently realized was how my years as an actor honed my ear for dialogue and rhythm. I had an acting teacher that used classical poetry to teach voice and diction. So it wasn’t just reading the words but speaking them over and over in such a way that it really felt as though you were eating them.

Describe your writing process.

I’m trying to get on a writing schedule but find that difficult. I journal constantly and will sometimes get poems out of that. Being in nature is also a wonderful source for material but the most consistent way I create poems is through WordPlay – the writing workshop hosted by Teen Writers and Artists Project. They have been too kind to reject me for not being a teen. I usually get a poem started there and then refine it at home. I write long hand in journals and then edit when I enter the poems in the computer. I stockpile so many blank journals, my kid has forbidden me from buying more. I ignore her.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

My mother was such a constant, caring presence in my life. I simultaneously feared her death and couldn’t imagine her not being around. Her influences continue to ripple through my life and my work.

What are you working on now?

I have been reinterpreting Mother Goose rhymes from a grown-up perspective and will have a collection ready for publication in early 2016. [Taking the “If you build it, they will come” approach.] I will also be the featured poet at WordPlay here at Water Street Studios on Friday, June 26.

May 142015

eleanorVincentHow and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?

I wrote my first short story when I was twelve years old. So I had aspirations. I realized I might actually become a writer when my high school English teacher Virginia DeMora told me I was an excellent writer. We were writing an essay a week in her Advanced Placement class. That same year, 1966, I won the National Council of Teachers of English award for a paper I wrote in Mrs. DeMora’s class. I also worked for my high school and college newspapers as a reporter, and then as assistant managing editor at the Minnesota Daily when I was a graduate student in journalism at the University of Minnesota. You’d think by then I would have been convinced. But I still thought writers were men who smoked pipes, drank martinis, and lived in New York. It took me another 20 years of writing to realize that Mrs. DeMora was right all along. At that point, I went to Mills College in Oakland, CA and earned my MFA in creative writing. Eight years later, in 2004, Swimming with Maya was published. Dream of Things reissued the book in digital and paperback formats in 2013.

Describe your writing process.

My writing process involves a fair amount of thinking and internal dialogue before I ever sit down to write. I like to putter before writing – it’s a form of creative avoidance and it helps manage my anxiety. So I water plants, make tea, maybe even dust or vacuum. Then, I’m ready to sit down. Ideally, this would all happen by 9 AM. Once I start composing, I typically write a first draft pretty quickly, although I edit as I go. When working at home, I tend to sit on the couch with my laptop to compose. To revise or edit, I may migrate to my office and use my desktop so the set-up is a bit better ergonomically. I might scribble a list of bullet points before I begin, but I actually don’t outline until I’m into my third or fourth revision. Then, I will make a plot map to ensure I have a strong opening scene in each chapter, enough conflict, and a climax for each chapter, plus a solid narrative arc for the entire book. Sometimes I’ll make this map in the middle of the process when I start to feel lost.

These days, I’m blogging. In that case, I start with a kernel of an idea, or a quote, and build a mini essay around that idea or quote. I will use google for any research I need for a blog post.

For a longer piece, I use my local public library for research, or I will do interviews to gather information.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

Swimming with Maya began its life as raw journal entries in the months immediately after the death of my daughter in 1992. It was a grief addled rant. Lucky for me, I was in the graduate creative writing program at Mills at the time. That was one of many things that saved me. Within a year, I was researching and writing about organ donation. I wrote an essay that was published in The San Jose Mercury News Sunday magazine two years after Maya died. That’s when I realized the story could become a book.

From that point forward, it took another 9 years to complete. I workshopped it while still at Mills, and it became my master’s thesis. But the ultimate book bears little resemblance to that thesis. From the time I got a contract with Capital Books in January of 2002, until I handed in the manuscript in August of 2003, I worked my fanny off. I revised the manuscript multiple times in that period, working with my writing partner Sarah Scott Davis. We met weekly by phone and Sarah would give me her critique on the set of chapters she’d just finished reading. Then I’d spend the days when I wasn’t at my day job – basically all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday working. I was rewriting down to the final deadline.

Swimming with Maya is a love story. Love is what inspired me to write the book. Grief is the flip side of love – it’s the wild river of emotion we must navigate when we lose someone we love.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a screenplay treatment of Swimming with Maya. I’ve got images I’ll never get out of my head – and I want to see those dramatized on the screen. I found I had to fictionalize the story significantly in order to get the dramatic structure right. I’m hoping to find a screenwriter or production company who wants to take it on, because I’m a narrative writer. I’d love to consult on the project, but I don’t have illusions about being able to write a screenplay. That is a very specialized skill.

I’m also working on a lightly fictionalized account of my time in a co-housing community in Oakland, a sort of picaresque novel. It was a long-held dream that turned into a nightmare with hilarious (and tragic) consequences. It’s populated with a cast of eccentric characters – including the narrator – and plumbs some of the same themes as Swimming with Maya: a search for family, trying to replace a “lost” daughter, and ultimately coming into one’s own as a healed – and whole – woman who has survived the empty nest and moved on with her life. The working title is “Co-opted.”

And, as mentioned, I blog and write personal essays. From time to time, I also write poems.

Monday night, I’ll be reading at the Book Stall in Winnetka.

All of this is thanks to my amazing publisher Mike O’Mary at Dream of Things who gave Swimming with Maya a second chance at life once my original publisher closed its doors. Thanks to Mike, the book has sold almost 20,000 copies since it was reissued.


May 132015

frankHow and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?

In eighth grade the class I was in was asked to fill out a questionnaire about who we were and what we wanted to be. I answered: I wanted to be an author.   That little word still emblazons my being even this far into adulthood. Of course it wasn’t until much later after discovering Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poems and the poems of Jim Morrison that I thought I could possibly do the same for my own enjoyment. Then I read Ray Bradbury’s work and like a creation story my universe came alive. It took me much time before I would call myself a poet. Wordsworth, Longfellow and Dickenson, those are poets. I write writings. The art of poetry became a passion of mine. Poetry isn’t just an art form, it is a way of life for me. It is a tool to get the most out of living. I don’t understand how others do without it.

Describe your writing process.

I’m a morning person. My synapses fire most accurately from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Any time after that I’m best daydreaming upon the movement of cumulus clouds. Or eating pasta. After I’ve well-oiled the machinery of the mind with caffeine, I read either other’s poetry or literature of interest to me. Sometimes it is as simple as perusing the daily newspaper and I do prefer it to be paper, like my books. I do not believe in writer’s block as all I need to do is experience life to find ideas. There’s my sense of anticipation to write a poem that helps me find another idea. They are all around. I think that poetry is a little tougher than novel writing as every time I sit to write a poem I start anew each time. Writing prose poems tickles that spot in me that desires a non-lineated line.  Feeds that urge I get, to write a sentence, straight and true as a Chicago street. I can write anywhere and with anything. Pen and paper or laptop. I prefer coffeehouses to a silent room. The fuzzy chatter of others’ conversations spins my mind in new directions. I start a poem in numerous ways but usually a first line will appear. I never know where the poem is going. I don’t plan out themes or ideas.

However, in the pre-writing I am usually thinking about those ideas. Mostly, it is through surprise that I start. Seeing an experience enacted in front of me, conversations overheard or strange juxtapositions intertwining sends me to my notebook. Night time when my head is Play-Dough thick and far less flighty than morning, I do my best revising. Revision is where the craft and if I may, skill comes in. It is more technical and less emotional than creating. Like the lapidary arts – where the stones become gems or sometimes turn back to mud. When William Stafford was asked how he could write a poem every day and what if nothing good was coming, he said he would “Lower his standards.” That I can do.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

I am deeply moved by the lovely dynamics of changing seasons in the Midwest. I am deeply rooted in place. Having lived in Illinois all of my life, I feel it becoming almost a character in my poetry. Going through some issues lately, I have been working through therapy. Some of these newer poems are what I learn and discover deep in the mineshaft of my being. I try to bring a little of the silt and the diamonds back up into the light.

What are you working on now?

I continue to facilitate the Batavia Writer’s Workshop. It is a great group and I learn as I teach. This will be, I believe, the seventh year I host the Harmonious Howl Open Mike at Graham’s 318 in Geneva. I’m working on two new poetry manuscripts, “Evening Birds” and “Jettison.” Also, a book of flash fiction and prose poems: “Salvation and Other Yard Sale Objects.” I have friends that think since I write poetry it shouldn’t take too long for a book. However, a good book of poems takes years. A great book of poems, maybe once in a lifetime.

May 122015

LauraHow and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?

I started university as a bio/chem, pre-med student. I needed recommendations one summer for a medical internship. I’d just taken a writing class, enjoyed it more than I expected to, and asked the professor for a recommendation. His answer to my request was, “No–you shouldn’t be a doctor. You need to be a writer.”  I knew immediately that he was right.

Describe your writing process.

I used to have a complicated writing process (my environment had to be just so, I had to have my coffee, it had to be after 10pm, it took a good hour to warm up, etc.). But now that I’m a homeschooling mother of four boys I take whatever rare moment happens to present itself– however it comes. And I can be very productive in a tiny space of time.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

Most of the poems I’ll be reading were inspired by the acute medical struggles my youngest son suffered through during his first six months of life.

What are you working on now?

I’m working, slowly, on a collection of poems I’m calling “Poems for the Housewife,” as well as a non-fiction book meant to speak to and encourage mothers of children who have special needs.

May 112015

Karen CHow and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?

I have been writing stories since I was a little kid.  When I was growing up (1950s, 1960s, 1970s), students did a tremendous amount of writing in school.  I read constantly (and still do) — everything that I could get my hands on.  I was the co-editor in chief of my high school newspaper, so I had a chance to write essays and editorials, and to interview interesting people.  I came of age during a time of heightened social consciousness and political awareness in literature and music, which inspired me to try my hand at writing poetry and song lyrics.  I was moved by the Beat poets and by songwriters like Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel — and was encouraged by music and English teachers throughout high school.  I wrote sporadically throughout my early adult years, but couldn’t devote much time to anything private since I was so busy with other things:  career, family, life.  In 2008 it occurred to me that I should put together a collection of my writings for my daughters, who were grown women by then.  I wanted them to see life from my point of view, which encompassed more than just being their parent.  After I finished that project, I decided to explore what would happen if I spent 20 minutes a day writing.  Over a three-year period, I completed over one thousand poems.  It seems as if I had opened the floodgates, because now, I just can’t seem to stop myself.  I have also begun working on a series of memory essays and reflections, and have finished about 30 of those, including the two pieces that I will read at Waterline.

Describe your writing process.

As for my writing routine, I carry a notebook with me all the time so I can record phrases or ideas or lines.  I have tried to use the “notes” function on my phone, but I still feel more comfortable with a pen and piece of paper in hand.  I usually write early in the morning, before I get dressed, talk to anyone, or do anything else…that seems to be the time when ideas and words flow most easily.  When I’m working on my memory essays, I use the Internet for research; it’s amazing how much information I can find that jogs my memory about times, events, people and places.  I revise constantly and am indebted to my thesaurus; this keeps me from using the same words over and over again.  Reading out loud is the best way to edit:  I can hear when a phrase or line isn’t working.  I really enjoy reading in front of other people…I watch body language and facial expressions and go back and revise when I can tell something isn’t resonating.  I need affirmation from others:  I’m not just writing for myself; I need to know that what I have to say connects with other people’s experiences and emotions.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

The two pieces I’ll be reading at Waterline, “Can I Call You Back?” and “Watch the Baby” are reflections on life with my family.  As I get older, my family and friends have become so important to me!  At my age (64), gratitude, appreciation, and forgiveness have become central, powerful themes in my day-to-day thoughts and writing.  I was absolutely delighted when one of my memory stories, “Black Adder” was published in SNReview because it meant acceptance by an editor and publisher who didn’t know me, and therefore didn’t feel any obligation to be nice to me.

What are you working on now?

I am an active member of two writers’ groups:  one is called A-Town Poetics, and the other comprises people whom I met through the Lifelong Learning Institute at Waubonsee Community College.  These groups are very important to me.  They keep me disciplined and focused.  I like being accountable to others.  I like routine.  I enjoy reading my work at Lit by the Bridge, run by Paul LaTour, for the same reason.  I love hearing the work of others, not for the sake of comparison, but more for the pleasure of knowing that there are other people who take their craft seriously, and are always trying to do better.  I am astonished at the number of truly talented people out there; I meet more and more every day.  It’s not about becoming a celebrity or even being published; it’s just about connecting with people through the creativity which is part of each one of us.

May 102015

… of the season, so join us May 17th at 7 pm when our lineup includes author Eleanor Vincent of Dream of Things publishing reading from her New York Times best-selling ebook Swimming With Maya which celebrates her daughter’s short life and chronicles her tragic accident and the journey into grief and beyond. Poetry and essays by Barbara Barrows, Karen Fullett-Christensen, Laura Henrikson, and Frank Rutledge reflect on life’s vagaries, and the means by which we survive them—our connections to each other, our beliefs, our ability to transmute experiences via writing and other forms of art.

Your $5 suggested donation is refunded if you buy a book from a featured reader or become a member of Water Street Studios!

Our 5-minute-limit Open Mic begins after the readings. Bring a piece to share, or stay to listen!

Visit our site to read interviews with this month’s featured writers!

We’ll begin accepting fall submissions on August 1st. Our fall event dates will be September 20th, October 18th, November 15th and December 20th.

Waterline Writers: experience writers reading their own work—poetry, spoken word, fiction, non-fiction, essays, scenes and more—3rd Sundays from September – May at Water Street Studios, 160 S. Water St. Batavia, IL. The opening reception for Portraits, the latest gallery show, is Saturday, May 16th from 5-8. WSS is also home to two beautiful art galleries, twenty-six artist studios, School of Art classes for all ages, free Awesome Art Afternoons, Art Flow enrichment programs, and artist access to PrintLab, CeramicLab or MetalLab. The opening reception for Portraits, the latest gallery show, is Saturday, May 16th from 5-8.

More Open Mics:

3rd Thursdays (next event May 21st): Lit By The Bridge, hosted by Paul LaTour, featuring Ann E. Funck. 6:30-8 PM, with signup at 6:15. Limited to the first 10 people who sign up.  It’s at Culture Stock 43 E. Galena Blvd, Aurora.

4th Thursdays, May-Oct (next event is May 28th): Harmonious Howl, hosted by Frank Rutledge. 7-9 PM, with signup at 6:30. Writers and musicians welcome. Free gelato to participants! Graham’s 318, 318 S. 3rd St. Geneva.

Summer is a great time to write!  

  • Join a Local Writers Group. Our site helps you find the right day, time, format, size and focus!
  • Visit Wordplay poetry workshops for teens in Batavia, St. Charles or Elgin.
  • Look for Take My Word For It! creative writing classes for kids in the fall!



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May 092015

For our final event of the season, the Waterline Writers lineup includes author Eleanor Vincent of Dream of Things publishing reading from her New York Times best-selling ebook, Swimming With Maya, which celebrates her daughter’s short life and chronicles her tragic accident and the journey into grief and beyond. Poetry and essays by Barbara Barrows, Karen Fullett-Christensen, Laura Henrikson, and Frank Rutledge reflect on life’s vagaries, and the means by which we survive them—our connections to each other, our beliefs, our ability to transmute experiences via writing and other forms of art.


Apr 302015

If you did not get a chance to attend, Waterline’s April event will be broadcast on BATV this weekend. Showtimes:

Friday, May 1: 3:30 pm, 9:30 pm
Saturday, May 2: 3:30 am, 9:30 am, 3:30 pm, 9:30 pm
Sunday, May 3: 3:30 am, 9:30 am, 3:30 pm, 9:30 pm
Monday, May 4: 3:30 am, 9:30 am

You can see it at the scheduled times on Comcast Channel 17 (in Batavia), AT&T U-verse Channel 99 (throughout Northern Illinois), or streaming online during the scheduled broadcast times at:

Mobile devices may require the Ustream app, free at: Apple app store (I-phones) & Market for Android devices. Once installed, search for batv; click on BATV Channel 17 Live.

For more information, visit