Waterline Writers

Sep 152017
 

 

Every story really happened, but many are stranger than fiction. The longest is about a book challenge to a Kurt Vonnegut book in my classroom, an event that caused Mr. Vonnegut to write a letter to me about censorship.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

A student in my education class at Monmouth College suggested I put into writing an inspirational story I’d told in class about the teaching profession. Telling and writing are two different processes entirely, and I was doubtful about the latter. However, I decided to try. After nervously editing “War and Remembrance” about fifty times, I sent it in to Teacher Magazine. They contacted me in two days and bought it. That was 2006. I thought, “Wow! It can’t be this easy.” Of course, it wasn’t after that. I self-published the teaching memoir of fifteen stories that began with that early one because publishers of education topics wanted textbooks. However, I say with a smile on my face, that this memoir has paid me a nice royalty check every quarter since September 2010. After that, I decided to move to fiction and write mysteries. My Endurance Mysteries were picked up in two weeks by Five Star Publishing (Gale/Cengage), and I’ve been writing mysteries ever since. So, I believe—finally—that I am a writer.

Describe your writing process.

Referring to my mysteries, I usually begin with an idea and spend several weeks thinking about it, making decisions, and solving problems. I also do a great deal of initial research since my mysteries often involve technical research such as mitochondrial DNA, cold case files, various kinds of wounds, blood spatter, etc. These, of course, are topics I never learned about while teaching high school English. I often interview people who can help me, especially coroners, doctors, and police detectives. I am an outliner, and I feel I must be so to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. The more detail in my outline, the easier it is for me to write and the less revision necessary later.

Generally, I write a chapter at a sitting, and chapters usually run around 2,000 words. I write best in the afternoon. After teaching for 44 years at 8 a.m., my mornings in retirement are slooow. I often edit as I go along, and I do a great deal of editing and proofreading at the end. When I finish writing each day, I make a list of what I will write about tomorrow. I have never had writer’s block, and that is why. I try to write every day, sometimes in my office and sometimes in my living room. Despite that statement, I don’t always manage to write every day because some days I play duplicate bridge. I must keep my priorities straight.

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

The Education of a Teacher (Including Dirty Books and Pointed Looks) is a series of fifteen creative nonfiction stories of students who came into my life and changed the way I thought or taught or viewed the world. It tells, chronologically, over four decades, true stories that are funny, poignant, interesting, and filled with ethical choices that teachers make. Every story really happened, but many are stranger than fiction. The longest is about a book challenge to a Kurt Vonnegut book in my classroom, an event that caused Mr. Vonnegut to write a letter to me about censorship. It is now framed and resides on my living room wall. The story I’ll read is the only one from my college teaching years. It is the final story, the period at the end of the sentence, the event near the end of the career. Every time I remember that night, I smile.

What are you working on now?

I just finished my fifth mystery tentatively called A Death at Tippitt Pond. I sent it off to my editor two days ago. While it takes place in the present day, it concerns a murder that happened in the early 1970s.

Click here for more information about Waterline’s September event.

Sep 152017
 

A previous post said Waterline’s event would happen BEFORE the Cuban music, but it was incorrect. Waterline Writers will be held at 7 PM (our usual time) on Sept. 17th, at Water Street Studios, 160 S. Water St. in Batavia, IL. This month we are inviting everyone to come early, between 5 and 6:30 pm, for a rare opportunity to hear Cuban & Colombian musicians, in the adjoining Kiss The Sky Record Store. Find more event information on Waterline’s live literature or KTS’s concert by following those links!  -AV

Sep 152017
 

 

…Now I write when something–and it could be ANYTHING–captures my attention. I have learned not to try to control the poem too much but to let it have its way.  I am aware of an inner muse who leads the band, and I try not to get in her way.”

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

I always had a nudge to write. However, being raised in the 50’s, most women didn’t aspire to be writers as gender roles were pretty specific: teacher, nurse, secretary. So, I became a teacher. I taught Creative Writing, among other classes, as East High School (Rockford) for many years. During that time, I enjoyed doing the assignments with my students. Eventually, the nudge to write became a burning desire, which led to sabbaticals in which I honored the writer in me. I spent a year working with Lucien Stryk at Northern Illinois University and later another year at the Vermont Writers’ program working with Lynda Hull. They were both inspirations in different ways. Working with Lucien taught me to be more concise and tight, while working with Lynda taught me to be more lyrical and expansive. I navigate poetry both ways, depending on subject and mood.

Describe your writing process.

My process has become more spontaneous after decades of writing. When the burning desire first took hold, I wrote every day in the wee hours of the morning. It seemed like I was drawing from a bottomless well. After writing furiously for several years, things tapered off a bit. Now I write when something–and it could be ANYTHING–captures my attention. I have learned not to try to control the poem too much but to let it have its way.  I am aware of an inner muse who leads the band, and I try not to get in her way. I used to revise so much that I sometimes took the life out of the poems, but now I tend to trust my own process and revise just a little here and there. I am more aware now of shaping poems rather than rewriting them altogether. Since nature informs my work, I do enjoy learning Latin botanical names, which in themselves are remarkably poetic. I don’t outline my poems, but I do outline my books, and see groupings that seem to fit together thematically. I write at home.  For many years I had to use long hand for the kinesthetic sensation that went along with the poem, but gradually I have grown more comfortable at the computer.

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

I was inspired by a newspaper article on Oppenheimer many years ago. Travel and aging are inspirations as well as politics. Sometimes they all spin together.

What are you working on now?

I am excited about my book just released–Wild Fruition. I am looking forward to readings.

 

Sep 142017
 

 

I’m a great believer, especially with poetry, in grabbing the moment. Often poems arrive as if dictated and it can be critical to capture them. Dangerous too in the event you happen to be driving.”

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

From the time I was a young child, I was an eager reader and was also lucky to be encouraged by my father who read to me from Shakespeare, the Odyssey, Dickens, Kipling, Scott, etc. I began to write my own little stories. I think I always knew I would be a writer. In my day jobs, I’ve worked as a journalist, editor and teacher of writing, so it was always a focus.

Describe your writing process.

Process is such an individual thing that I don’t know that one person’s experience is valuable to another. I’m a great believer, especially with poetry, in grabbing the moment. Often poems arrive as if dictated and it can be critical to capture them. Dangerous too in the event you happen to be driving. I advise pulling over, but confess to scribbling down the gist of a poem while haphazardly steering. I tend to be rather prolific so generally I write daily. Of course, much of what one writes is expendable, so it is also important to put a piece on ice for a while before exercising one’s critical judgment.

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

The inspiration behind the Carnival poems was engendered by memories of the many carnivals and fairs that afflict our towns and counties every summer. After writing the first one the rest came in a rush. I already had a potential chapbook manuscript that I’d been working on which I was calling Invented Histories, poems that projected the futures of literary or mythical characters. Renaming that Sideshows made is conceivable to partner it with Carnival and then conclude with some circus poems.

 What are you working on now?

I have a new book that won’t be available in the U.S. till January, 2018–the publisher, Presa Press, has a contract with a U.K. distributor that gives them a 6 month exclusive. The book is called Her Heartsongs–I have my contributor copies already and I have brought along some drafts of the P.R. that is going out.

Sep 142017
 

I wrote “extra credit” stories as a 1960s grade-schooler and won the “Gutenberg of the Atomic Age” award, though that appropriately acknowledged the nuns’ appreciation of my printing ability for school event signage rather than any of my creative compositions.”

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

I wrote “extra credit” stories as a 1960s grade-schooler and won the “Gutenberg of the Atomic Age” award, though that appropriately acknowledged the nuns’ appreciation of my printing ability for school event signage rather than any of my creative compositions.

In high school I filled the first few pages of a notebook with some really bad poetry.

At the conclusion of the college years, three of my best friends and I committed to “keeping in touch” via an annual letter, followed by a gathering several weeks thereafter, a “Symposium,” to discuss the correspondence. Forty-three years later and true to our pledge, our discourses, addressing topics esoteric to mundane, fill multiple volumes. My friends would compliment the humorous bent and laugh out loud moments sprinkled throughout my letters. With a number of those involving fishing related experiences, I acted on their suggestion to submit articles to outdoor periodicals, all of which were published. Further buoyed by those little successes and the availability of extra time resulting from retirement, I embarked on a significantly more involved project—my memoir—playfully told, with my love of fishing woven throughout.

Describe your writing process.

Pour ½ ounce of Rock and Rye cordial into a snifter.

Ascend staircase to loft-located writing desk, taking care not to trip and spill snifter contents.

Light “Dream by the Fire” Yankee Candle.

Load 5-disc changer, alternating Native American flute and Led Zeppelin CDs.

Turn on computer and activate Word program.

Stare at blank screen as its paralyzing whiteness smothers the creative soul.

Answer with a sip of Rock and Rye and begin typing.

(Honest!)

I need a block of several uninterrupted hours to feel comfortable getting started. Time of day does not matter, though if it is morning or early afternoon I’ll judiciously skip the Rock and Rye component. My writing method is slow and methodical (I’m on my second hour just answering this question) with continuous revisions, sometimes to the point of reworking, multiple times, the sentence last completed. I’m amazed anything ever gets finished!

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

In my case, it was “who,” and the answer is EVE. (That’ll make sense if you attend Sunday’s event!)

What are you working on now?

I’m in the early stages of a piece (short story, or maybe longer…) with the working title, The Unusual Life of Logan Mayonnaise.

Sep 132017
 

I spent a lot of time outlining an entire novel, and when it was finished I didn’t want to write it. I already knew what would happen, so it bored me. I prefer to discover what will happen bit by bit as the story progresses.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

In elementary school I started writing stories and plays. In sixth grade I wrote, directed, and starred in a play that was performed before the entire school. What a way to live your life, doing something fun to produce something that people like to read or watch! My mother taught me to read before I went to school, and my father always encouraged me to write my stories.

Describe your writing process.

There’s a process? Much of my work takes place in my head before I begin putting words on paper. Trained as a journalist, I am always watching, listening. Often I start with an overhead phrase, a scene, a character observed. Then I see them in other circumstances and the story forms around them or their words. I don’t outline. I spent a lot of time outlining an entire novel, and when it was finished I didn’t want to write it. I already knew what would happen, so it bored me. I prefer to discover what will happen bit by bit as the story progresses. There’s an anecdote regarding Flannery O’Connor where someone asked her when she knew a man would beat another man with his prosthetic leg. Her answer was, “When he did it.” I have the same process. I rewrite as I go, re-reading the entire work before I start the next day. As a short story writer, this is possible. As a novelist, it is impractical. Perhaps that is why I am a short story writer.

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

I remember reading a writing prompt about change, and I thought about how people count out change from a cash register. Not many people do that anymore; they just look at the readout on the register and put it all in your hand at once. The Spanish word for grandmother, abuelita, resonates with me because of two lovely songs titled “Abuelita” that I play often.  Richard Shindell’s song of a fierce and protective grandmother who stands and waits to catch a glimpse of her grand daughter stolen when she was a baby, and Caroline Herring’s song of a woman sitting under a tree in Costa Rica inspired this piece. The story, “Nibbling at the Bloodstains,” had a working title of Abuelita. However, since there’s no grandchild in the story, I changed it.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a stage play and and more short stories. I’ll be reading at the Dundee Library in East Dundee on September 21 at 7 p.m., and at the Other Words Literary Conference in Tampa, Florida, October 14.

Sep 022017
 

Authors Joan Colby, Linda Heuring, Ed Piotrowski, Christine Swanberg and Susan Van Kirk will be featured at the next Waterline Writers event on Sunday, September 17th at 7 pm, and everyone is invited to come early (anytime between 5-6:30) for the chance to hear the traditional laúd played by Cuban musician Jesús Fernández, guitar by Colombian musician Julián Norato , and the tres by American professor and ethnomusicologist William Hope. All info on both events below, but note that the new elevator may not be inspected and available for use by September 17th. We apologize for this!

WATERLINE INFO:

Ed Piotrowski reads A Fishy Encounter in the Retail Garden of Eden from his memoir, A Life Well Fished; Susan Van Kirk reads Rockin’ Out from her memoir, The Education of a Teacher (Including Dirty Books and Pointed Looks); Linda Heuring reads Nibbling at the Bloodstains from her short story collection, A Woman Walked into a Bar; Christine Swanberg reads from her new poetry collection Wild Fruition; and Joan Colby reads Carnival and Sideshow poems from Carnival, one of her recent poetry collections.

Admission to Waterline Writers is $5/$3 students. Each event gives you the opportunity to purchase an author’s book, a hand-tooled pen from Wooden Writers, beer from Solemn Oath Brewery or wine from Bright Angel Wines. We also feature food from The Market at Gaetano’s!

Writers may bring a 5-minute piece to share at our 8:30 Open Mic or visit WaterlineWriters.org and follow our Submission Guidelines to be considered as a future featured writer, but everyone is welcome to come just to listen and enjoy Waterline Writers, 3rd Sundays at 7 pm, September to May, in the art gallery at Water Street Studios 160 S. Water Street, Batavia IL. Contact us on Facebook or at waterlinewriters@gmail.com. Find more info or let us know you’re interested in our Waterline event by going to our Facebook event page!

CONCERT INFO:

Jesús Fernández is director and laúdista – the laúd is a lute traditional to Spain and Cuba – of Grupo Amanecer and Quinteto La Luz in Guantánamo, Cuba. He was a featured guest artist on the Septeto Santiaguero’s album No Quiero Llanto, awarded the Latin Grammy for Best Traditional Tropical Album in 2015. He is currently a visiting artist-in-residence at Knox College in Galesburg, IL, and is in the Chicago area to perform with the Chicago Cuatro Orchestra.

Julián Norato (“el sinsonte de Bogotá”) is lead vocalist and guitarist of the group Sandunga, originally based in Urbana-Champaign, IL.

Knox College Asst. Professor of Anthopology William Hope, coordinator of this event, will play laúd and tres, a Cuban variation of the guitar.

Although the show is free, donations are appreciated and all proceeds will be given to the visiting musicians.

Kiss The Sky is located at 180 First Street, Batavia IL, on the corner of First and Water Streets. It adjoins Water StreetStudios, 160 S. Water St. in Batavia. Find more info or let us know you’re interested in our special musical event by going to Kiss The SKy’s Facebook event page!

Jul 312017
 

Waterline Writers will be accepting submissions from August 1st through March 31st or until all reading slots are filled. Please send only ONE submission. If you have others, just mention that in your email. Follow our NEW Submission Guidelines and read the Tips for various types of submissions. Submissions that don’t meet the requirements will be returned as time allows. Click Submissions to find all Guidelines and Tips. It’s also a good idea to read the general FAQs about our events!