A Memorable but Disappointing Poetry Workshop #TuesdayTidbit #Essay

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

Rose and I have been traveling to poetry workshops and other writing conferences for years, sharing gas and motel costs. I first met her in 2000 through Range Writers, a local group I joined when I first started out as an author. Rose is old enough to be my mother, in her eighties now with me turning sixty this year. But we’ve been good friends ever since the day I attended that first Range Writers meeting. Not only am I grateful for her companionship but also for her ability to drive, something I can’t do, thanks to my limited vision.

Last year, because of COVID, my Wyoming state poetry society, WyoPoets, did not hold its annual workshop. These workshops usually take place during a weekend in April, National Poetry Month, and last two days with a reading on Friday night and the workshop itself running all day Saturday.

This year’s workshop took place in Gillette, about 100 miles away from Sheridan, where I live. It featured a couple of panel discussions on Friday afternoon and live music on Friday night in addition to the reading. I hoped there would be a virtual option, since I wasn’t sure how Rose would feel about traveling, even though COVID restrictions had been lifted.

But there was no virtual option. So, when I was asked if I would serve on a panel of published poets that would take place on Friday afternoon, I called Rose, expecting her to say she didn’t think it would be a good idea to travel just yet. But to my surprise, she said she wanted to go. Although I could have found a ride with someone else in my Range Writers or Third Thursday Poets groups, I was relieved that Rose and I would be traveling together again.

Renee, another poet, offered to drive us both. Janet, a third poet, agreed to follow us in her car, since she was planning to stay at a different hotel from the one where we were staying and where the workshop was being held. So, at about eleven o-clock on a Friday morning in April, our little convoy hit the highway.

It was raining when we left Sheridan. By the time we arrived in Gillette about an hour and a half later, the rain had stopped. But dark clouds still hung in the sky, and the wind blew from time to time. It remained cloudy and windy throughout the weekend, but we were thankful there wasn’t any snow, which there sometimes was at this time of year.

After a delicious lunch at a pizza place Janet recommended, we drove to the hotel where the workshop would take place. When Rose and I checked into our room, we realized it was about time for the first of two panel discussions to start. I was thankful the discussion in which I would participate wouldn’t start until later. In the first presentation, several poets talked about how they found their poetic voices, which was interesting, especially since a couple of them also wrote music.

The panel in which I was involved consisted of poets with published collections. We each shared a few poems, then talked about our publishing experiences before taking questions from the audience. This went well. A lot of people asked about the publishing industry, and I think we gave them some helpful answers.

Afterward, I was approached by an elderly woman, who would be our workshop presenter the next day. A month earlier, I’d mailed her a poem to be critiqued. We’d been told that she would use a few poems she received in her workshop. I’d since forgotten which poem I’d sent her, and I figured she would choose other people’s work instead.

So, I was completely thrown off guard when she told me how much she enjoyed the poem I sent and asked me to read it to everyone the next day. Being visually impaired, I stored any material I planned to read aloud on a Braille device I carried with me. Since I’d forgotten which poem I’d sent and didn’t think she’d want to use the poem, naturally, I didn’t have it in a format I could read. When I explained this and asked if she would read the poem aloud instead, she agreed.

That evening, after we all enjoyed some live music and appetizers and desserts, the reading began. Usually, the first to read are our workshop presenter, then our annual contest winners, then those featured in the organization’s chapbook that comes out every other year. After that, anyone else who wants to read is welcome to do so. Since we didn’t have a workshop last year, there were more contest winners than usual. Many people who contributed to last year’s chapbook also shared their work. Rose and I had signed up to read during the open mic portion, but by nine o’clock, when we still hadn’t had our turns, we were tired and decided to return to our room. I slept remarkably well that night, considering the fact that I was in a strange bed in a different environment.

The next morning, after we all enjoyed a free breakfast the hotel provided and attended the WyoPoets business meeting, the workshop began. I was delighted when the presenter read my poem aloud. She did an excellent job, and it was nice to hear someone else read my work. She also provided some useful feedback.

But that day’s workshop, as a whole, was a disappointment. In my opinion, a good workshop should provide instruction in technique and plenty of opportunities to write. In this one, though, the presenter spent most of the day reading poems written by herself and others, myself included, and leading the group in a discussion of these poems. This can be a good way to learn about craft but can get old after a while.

That having been said, this workshop wasn’t a total bust. I was thrilled to have my work shared, even though I wasn’t the one reading it aloud. I also had an opportunity to reconnect with people I’d met over the years during past conferences and lost touch with since the pandemic. I also made new friends and ate great food I wouldn’t have if I’d stayed home.

The workshop ended around four o’clock that Saturday afternoon, and our little convoy of poets hit the road soon afterward. It didn’t seem to take nearly as long to get home as it did to get there. I was glad to unpack, toss a load of clothes in the washer, then collapse into my recliner with a Dr. Pepper to deal with email that had piled up since I’d left town the day before. If I’ve learned anything from this, it’s to keep a record of poems I send for critique, just like I do for work I send for publication, and never assume my piece isn’t good enough to be used in a workshop.

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The above appears in the current issue of The Writer’s Grapevine, which can be read here. The poem that was critiqued has been published on Recovering the Self.

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And now, I’m pleased to announce that throughout the month of July, My Ideal Partner and The Red Dress are available from Smashwords ABSOLUTELY FREE as part of its annual summer/winter sale. You can visit my Smashwords author page to download these books. Happy reading!

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

***

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Image contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

Books

My Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Website

 

 

The Rise and Fall of My Zorro #Poetry #TuesdayTidbit


Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

As promised, here is my step-by-step process of how I wrote a particular poem, modeled after a similar post by fellow author and blogger Lynda McKinney Lambert. You can read her post here.

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Step One: Select a song lyric that you like or even one that you don’t like. Use one or two lines from that song as the theme for your new poem.

 

I used “I want to spend my lifetime loving you” from the song by that name, which was used in The Mask of Zorro. This was one of my late husband Bill’s favorite movies, and after he proposed to me, “I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You” became one of our songs. You can read more about that in My Ideal Partner, which is available from Smashwords this month for free. Please see below for details.

Step 2: Select one or two lines from the song as a place to begin your poem.

 

I used these two sentences. “Take my hand. Dance with me.” They don’t begin the poem because I wanted to describe Zorro before he speaks. After his strokes, Bill couldn’t walk, let alone dance. So, there’s the irony.

Step 3: Choose the format you will use for the poem.

 

As with most of my poems, I chose free verse because I didn’t want to work with limits imposed by many traditional forms of poetry. This poem appears in My Ideal Partner. Below it, you’ll find a link to where you can hear me read it plus a video of the song that inspired it.

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THE RISE AND FALL OF MY ZORRO

by Abbie Johnson Taylor

 

With cape, hat, mask, rapier,
he rode out of the darkness.
“Take my hand. Dance with me,” he said,
“I want to spend my lifetime loving you,”
but happily–ever–after was not to be.
My hero fell and rose many times.
I felt the glory
until he fell for the last time.
Where there’s love, life begins again.
When life dies, love goes on.

The Rise and Fall of My Zorro

 

***

If you’re a poet, and there’s a song you like or dislike, why not write a poem, using the three simple steps outlined above. If you have a blog, I suggest you post that poem there, along with your explanation of how you followed the steps, a video of the song, and a link to Lynda’s post. Otherwise, you can leave that information in the comment field here or on Lynda’s blog. In any case, I hope to read your responses.

***

And now, I’m pleased to announce that throughout the month of July, My Ideal Partner and The Red Dress are available from Smashwords ABSOLUTELY FREE as part of its annual summer/winter sale. You can visit my Smashwords author page to download these books. Happy reading!

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

***

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Image contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

Books

My Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Website

Tuesday Tidbit–Thinking Positive #Memoir

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

It won’t rain,” my friend Rose says when I call to ask her to pick me up for a writing workshop at the local library. I can’t drive, although I can see people and objects up close and read print if it’s large enough. I love to walk but not when storm clouds are gathering in the west, and the wind is picking up.

When I call Rose, she says, “I’m running late. Just start walking. It won’t rain.”

As I return my cell phone to my pocket, I think of my late husband, struck by lightning in a Missouri park years before he met me. He and a friend were lounging after a picnic lunch on a warm afternoon. The thunder clap and lightning bolt came from nowhere. His friend was killed instantly. He was treated for minor injuries at a nearby hospital and released.

“There’s nothing to do now but go,” I tell myself, as I finish my supper and prepare to leave. I read earlier that if you think something will or won’t happen, it usually does or doesn’t.

“It won’t rain,” I say to the dishes in the sink, as I rinse and put them in the dishwasher. I picture myself hurrying down the street, as ominous black clouds darken the sky. A thunder clap and a blinding light stop me in my tracks. I fall to the ground and am no more.

“It’s not going to rain,” I tell the mirror in the bathroom, as I’m washing my face. I picture heavy sheets of moisture drenching my dead body in the middle of the sidewalk.

It will not rain,” I say to the bureau in my bedroom, as I apply lotion to my face and comb my hair. I think of my brother in Jupiter, Florida, answering his cell phone, hearing news of his sister’s demise, just what he needs after a long day of work.

I keep reassuring myself that I’ll be safe, as I pack everything I’ll need for the workshop: Braille notetaker, water bottle, magnifier, folder with Braille paper, and slate and stylus in case my notetaker’s battery dies. Finally, I can delay no longer. My talking watch tells me it’s six o’clock. I have half an hour to get there. “I’ll be able to take shelter along the way, if necessary,” I tell myself. I sling my backpack over my shoulders, pick up my cane, and step outside.

I look at the sky. To my surprise, I see no dark clouds, only white ones. As I start walking, a gentle breeze stirs the air, and I feel the sun’s warmth on my shoulders.

***

The above appears in the current issue of The Writer’s Grapevine, which can be read here. The workshop was on writing memoir and took place several years ago. The presenter asked us to write something about water. Thus, this piece was born.

Later, when I teased Rose about her ability to predict the weather, she pointed out that the dark clouds I saw were dissipating, and there were white ones right behind them. Why didn’t she tell me that when I called to ask her for a ride? Well, if she had, this memoir wouldn’t have been created.

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And now, I’m pleased to announce that on Wednesday, July 7th, I’ll be playing the piano and singing in the dining room at The Hub on Smith, here in Sheridan, Wyoming. If you live in my neck of the woods, the facility is located at 211 Smith Street, and you can come and eat lunch while listening. The event will be broadcast live and recorded. You can click here to visit the event’s Facebook page, where you’ll be able to see the live broadcast.

On Sunday, July 11th, I’ll be participating in a virtual poetry reading, where anyone is welcome to attend and share a poem or two. This will take place at 5 p.m. mountain time on Zoom. You can click here for more information.

Last but not least, throughout the month of July, My Ideal Partner and The Red Dress are available from Smashwords ABSOLUTELY FREE as part of its annual summer/winter sale. You can visit my Smashwords author page to download these books. Happy reading!

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

***

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Image contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

Books

My Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Website

 

 

Open Mic Recording #TuesdayTidbit #Poetry

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

In the recording I’m linking to below, you’ll not only hear me read one of my poems but three. A couple of weeks ago, I participated in an open mic poetry reading on the Writing Works Wonders podcast. I was the first of many wonderful poets to read.

One of the poems I read is about my father. So, in honor of Dad’s special day this coming Sunday, please click below, scroll down, and enjoy!

 

Poetry Reading- Open Mic June 4, 2021 – Writing Works Wonders

 

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Image contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

Books

My Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Website

 

 

My Favorite Commercials #OpenBookBlogHop #TuesdayTidbit

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

Welcome to another edition of Open Book Blog Hop. This week’s question is:  “What commercial do you hate? What commercial is your favorite? (YouTube link us if possible) Have you ever got an idea for a story from a commercial?”

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I don’t watch television anymore. There just isn’t a lot I like to watch now. So, I don’t even pay for cable. That having been said, I remember three commercials from my childhood.

 

Armour Hot Dogs

 

As a kid, I loved hot dogs, plain, with no ketchup, mustard, or bun. When I was little, my mother sliced them into bite-sized pieces that I could eat with a fork. When I grew older, I enjoyed picking them up and biting into them. I don’t know if my mother ever bought Armour Hot Dogs, but I sure loved the jingle.

 

Oscar Mayer Bologna

 

I wasn’t into bologna as a kid, but as an adult, I like to eat it every so often, either in a sandwich or sliced into a salad. When I make my grocery list and decide to buy it, I often sing the last part of this jingle to help me remember how to spell it.

Dr. Pepper

 

Last but not least, here’s a commercial for my favorite soda that I still drink today. Years ago, I was inspired to write a poem about Dr. Pepper, which appears in my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. I’ll paste it below the video, along with a recording of me reading it.

Ode to Dr. Pepper

 

I like to swallow its cold carbonation,
feel it come back into my mouth in the form of a belch.
Oh, that feels so good!

I drink it in mid afternoon.
It helps me get through the day.
I sometimes consume it in the evening
when I’m sleepy, and it’s too early for bed.

In the good old days,
I drank a lot of it,
just what the doctor ordered.
Now, the doctor says it has too much sugar
so I limit my consumption to one or two cans a day.
What would I do without it?

 

ode to dr. pepper.mp3

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How about you? Do you have any favorite commercials? What advertisements don’t you like? You can either sound off in the comment field below or participate in this week’s Open Book Blog Hop.

***

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Image contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

Books

My Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Website