Attending a Poetry Workshop #WednesdayWords #WeeklySmile #Inspiration

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. She has short brown hair which is cut short and frames her face. She is wearing a bright red shirt and a dark, flowy scarf swirled with hues of purple, pinks and blues.

My state poetry society, WyoPoets, holds an annual workshop, usually the last weekend in April, to commemorate National Poetry Month. These workshops usually consist of a reading on a Friday night and an all-day presentation on Saturday, which includes lunch. Attending these workshops always makes me smile because I have a chance to renew old acquaintances, meet new people, and, of course, write and learn about poetry.

This year’s workshop was no different. It took place in Douglas, Wyoming, about a three and a half hour drive south of Sheridan, where I live. I traveled with a group of poets. We left early last Friday afternoon and arrived in Douglas in time to check into our hotel and eat dinner at a nearby steak house before attending that evening’s reading, which, along with the next day’s workshop, took place at the county library. That night, WyoPoets unveiled its new chapbook, Emergence. We usually publish a chapbook of our members’ work every other year. Also, winners of our annual contest were announced and encouraged to read their work, which some of them did.

The next day, after a free breakfast at the hotel and the annual WyoPoets business meeting, the workshop took place. This year, I was impressed with our presenter, Camille Dungy, a poet from Colorado. She led us through a series of exercises and talked about strategies for writing and revising poetry. I ended up writing a poem that day. Lunch consisted of a taco bar at the Moose Lodge down the street, which was delicious. All in all, it was a fun and inspiring workshop.

WyoPoets also holds monthly readings on Zoom. You’re all invited to this month’s event, which will take place on Sunday, May 8th at 5 p.m. mountain time. You can share a poem or two or just listen. Please see below for details.

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WyoPoets is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

 

This event is open to anyone who wants to share or listen to poetry. You don’t have to be a member of WyoPoets, you don’t even have to be in Wyoming to participate. So, feel free to invite your friends! Please sign up to read and receive a Zoom invitation using this Google Form:  https://forms.gle/tKAYAjmDQd1bhTMN8.

The first 20 poets to sign up will get to read, additional poets will be allowed based on time. Each poet gets 5 minutes to read.

 

Topic: Virtual Poetry Night
Time: May 8, 2022 05:00 PM Mountain Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89879659378?pwd=bHovcWI5bm5XbzhYR3Z4bzc4ZlZIdz09

Meeting ID: 898 7965 9378
Passcode: 307504
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What made you smile this past week? Click here to participate in this week’s Weekly Smile feature.

 

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

The cover of the book features an older woman sitting in a wicker chair facing a window. The world beyond the window is bright, and several plants are visible on the terrace. Behind the woman’s chair is another plant, with a tall stalk and wide rounded leaves. The woman has short, white hair, glasses, a red sweater, and tan pants. The border of the picture is a taupe color and reads "Why Grandma Doesn't Know Me" above the photo and "Abbie Johnson Taylor" below it.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

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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.

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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.

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How a Workshop Inspired a Poem #Tuesday Tidbit #Poetry

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

June and I have attended many poetry workshops together over the years. By the way, June isn’t her real name. I don’t want to embarrass her with the story I’m about to tell.

One year, we went to a workshop where the presenter was Dawn Senior-Trask. I don’t recall what year that was or where the workshop was held. I don’t remember too much about Dawn-Senior Trask except that she had worked with children. Naturally, she took in stride what transpired during the workshop.

In the morning, June and I were sitting side by side with other workshop participants. We’d just ben given a prompt, and we were writing away, minding our own business. Suddenly, June let loose a loud belch, and it was all I could do to keep from laughing. To her credit, she was usually not in the habit of large, aural expulsions of wind. When she realized what she’d done, she cried out in mortification. That made it even funnier. Fortunately, nobody else laughed, or I would have lost it.

That afternoon, Dawn Senior-Trask prompted us to write about something out of the ordinary. Below is what I wrote that day with a few minor revisions. Telling the story of poor June’s so-called fall from grace, it appears in my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. You can click below to hear me read it. This weekend, June and I will attend another poetry workshop, and maybe, I’ll write another memorable poem.

Belch!

by Abbie Johnson Taylor

The room is silent

but for the scratch of pencil against paper,

murmur of voices,

flip, rip of pages.

Unexpected, it cuts through the silence,

raucous, obnoxious,

breaks my concentration.

I fight to diffuse a bomb of mirth

that threatens to explode.

The effort brings tears to my eyes.

After a moment, I continue writing,

but my heart’s not in it anymore.

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.

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Laughter, The Best Medicine #Wednesday Words, #Poetry

I like interjecting humor in my writing once in a while. I sometimes laugh at my own writing if I’ve made a typographical error that could be interpreted the wrong way. At other times, my writing has made people laugh when it hadn’t seemed funny.

Years ago, I was attending a poetry workshop with my friend Rose, with whom I’ve attended many such writing activities. In the morning, we were doing a writing exercise. Rose was seated next to me, and we were writing along, minding our own business, when suddenly, she let loose with a loud belch, followed by a cry of embarrassment.

Poor Rose, she’s a grandmother and a Methodist, not usually given to loud expulsions of wind. It was all I could do to keep from laughing. I somehow managed to get myself under control and finish the exercise. Later, during a break, Rose said that during that time, I’d looked like I was in pain, and she asked if I was all right. I told her I was.

That afternoon, the workshop presenter prompted us to write about something unusual or extraordinary. I jumped at the chance to write the following poem. I then shared it with the group, much to the delight of everyone, including Rose.

Now, in meetings of my local poetry group, some of whom attended that workshop, when anyone auditorily exhibits a bodily function, someone usually says, “Oh, Abbie, I’ll bet you’ll write a poem about that, won’t you?” Well, I tried writing a poem about an unusual-sounding hiccup but didn’t get very far.

Anyway, this poem appears in my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. You can click the Play button below to hear me read it.

Belch!

 

The room is silent
but for the scratch of pencil against paper,
murmur of voices,
flip, rip of pages.
Unexpected, it cuts through the silence,
raucous, obnoxious,
breaks my concentration.
I fight to diffuse a bomb of mirth
that threatens to explode.
The effort brings tears to my eyes.
After a moment, I continue writing,
but my heart’s not in it anymore.

Thanks to fellow blogger Stevie Turner for inspiring the above post. If you’d like to participate in her blog hop on the subject of humor in writing, click here.

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Services 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

Front cover 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.

***

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Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

Losing Bill, a Poem

Abbie-1

 

 

My Profile Picture

LOSING BILL

 

 

The Nurse

 

He’d only been living here a month,

although he came frequently for respite care

while his wife went to writers conferences.

He loved bragging about her,

the author of two books,

When his decline made caring for him difficult,

he moved here to stay.

 

After that, he went downhill,

lost strength in his good arm

needed help eating,

developed bed sores so painful

he couldn’t sit up for long.

One day, he quit eating,

was given oxygen.

His wife signed end-of-life papers.

Four days later when I came to work, he was gone.

 

The Husband

 

For six years,

I couldn’t use my left arm or leg.

My wife did everything,

wiped me when I pooped,

dressed me, got me out of bed,

helped me with my computer,

prepared meals, did laundry and other chores.

Other women would have walked away-

she didn’t, despite limited vision.

For six years, I was happy until

 

I didn’t feel like eating.

It became harder and harder for my wife to lift me

so I reluctantly agreed to move to a nursing home.

She visited me every day.

We went out once or twice.

Although I wanted to be involved,

it was too hard, too painful.

 

I wanted to be in a better place.

I knew it would be a shock for her

so I held on as long as I could.

When she finally gave me permission, I went.

 

The Wife

 

The nurse’s call woke me at 6 a.m.

I thought, this is it, I’m a widow.

I knew it was coming.

In a way, it was a relief,

but that didn’t take away the emptiness.

At his bedside in the nursing home,

I kissed his cold face,

positioned my cheek in front of his still mouth,

expecting a response—none came.

I buried my face in his soft hair,

caressed his cold chest,

told him I loved him,

took his belongings,

my life changed forever.

 

The Wife, Four Years Later

 

His suitcase from the nursing home sits in the closet, still packed.

His computer and other belongings gather dust

in the nook off the kitchen that was his for years.

Whether I find someone new,

there will always be a place in my heart for him.

Life and love go on.

(((

I wrote the above poem during a workshop this past weekend given by University of Wyoming instructor Lori Howe. Click this link to hear me read it. Please check out my new memoir to read more of our story.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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