Jul 212015

Summer moves along. Pretty soon a new season of Waterline Writers will begin. We will start reading submissions August 1st, so send us your work!

Put these dates on your calendar now:

  • 9/20/2015
  • 10/18/2015
  • 11/15/2015
  • 12/20/2015
  • 1/17/2016
  • 2/21/2016
  • 3/20/2016
  • 4/17/2016
  • 5/15/2016
Jul 162015

AASLogoAnderson Animal Shelter will celebrate their 30th Annual Gala Dinner & Auction, A Night to Paws, on November 14th at the Q Center in St. Charles. This annual premier fundraiser allows the shelter to continue to save lives and impact the community. Attendees are treated to a wonderful evening with dinner, entertainment and a chance to bid on some spectacular auction items.

That’s where you come in! This year the shelter would like to auction off a local author book basket. Please consider donating your book, preferably signed! An associate of Anderson will be more than happy to pick it up. The book does not have to be animal themed and “local” can be anywhere in Illinois. If you would like a charitable donation receipt, provide your address and Anderson will send you one.

Book baskets have been very popular in past years and I believe this local author themed basket is going to be something really incredible and desirable. Any bibliophile or writer will want to bid on it. Please consider donating – it’s for a great cause.

If you can donate, contact us at waterlinewriters@gmail.com and we will coordinate with Anderson to make it happen.

Jun 252015

tmwfi“Take My Word For It!” is offering creative writing classes this July at Water Street Studios! TMWFI’s innovative curriculum is designed for young authors, and summer sessions include lots of creativity-inspiring activities.

3rd – 5th grades: July 6-10 (M-F, 10 am – 12pm); 6th – 8th grades: July 20-24 (M-F, 10 am-12 pm). Sign up online!

Learn more about TMWFI’s history and curriculum at takemywordforit.net or get more info about these new, local classes at tmwfichicago@gmail.com.

Jun 242015

tmwfiWe’re looking for kids who already have a passion for writing AND for those who don’t even know how much fun it can be! “Take My Word For It!” is offering creative writing classes this July at Water Street Studios! TMWFI’s innovative curriculum is designed for young authors, and summer sessions include lots of creativity-inspiring activities.

3rd – 5th grades: July 6-10 (M-F, 10 am – 12pm); 6th – 8th grades: July 20-24 (M-F, 10 am-12 pm). Sign up online!

Learn more about TMWFI’s history and curriculum at takemywordforit.net or get more info about these new, local classes at tmwfichicago@gmail.com.

Jun 032015

Photos from Waterline’s May 2015 event are courtesy of Chuck Bennorth. Thanks Chuck!

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.