The Pleas of the Leaves (or how writing fiction is just improv on the page)

Image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto from Pixabay

Last November, in an attempt to push myself to try new creative things, I entered the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest.

This is a fiction contest where, at the designated start time, participants are sent their assignment, which includes the genre they are supposed to write in, an action that has to take place, and a word they must include in the story, and they all write a story. The top writers in their groups move on for two more rounds, until a winner is crowned.

Oh, and did I mention participants have 24 hours to write their story?

Here’s the thing. I don’t write fiction. OK, well, I do, sort of. As part of my “write like a mad scientist for the first draft” practice, I often will ask friends for three random words, set a timer, and then use those words as prompts to write anything that comes to mind during the designated free writing time.

Often, it’s some weird story that comes from out of nowhere, something that if I was trying to write it would never appear. I just “Yes And” whatever comes out (improv has improved my writing as well as my life), and I rarely edit those mad scientist drafts. They go into a file I pull the out once in a while and think, “This would make a great story,” panic at the thought of having to actually write the story, and promptly put it all back in a drawer. I do, however, share them with my besties and creative cheerleaders Roberta Gore and Carrie Anne Noble, two accomplished fiction writers.

“You do write fiction, Joanne,” they keep telling me, but I still disagree.  To me, a fiction writer plots story lines and crafts characters and pays attention to themes and irony and other literary devices. I just splash something on the page and leave it to fend for itself.

My non-fiction career? Not a problem. I can pen a fabulous feature story, spin a delightful humor column, muse poetically in an essay. I have a few awards to prove I’m pretty good at that.

But making stuff up and creating worlds? Not really my thing. (Except on the improv stage. Are you noticing a theme here?)

So anyway, back to the contest.

The contest entry fee was $25, and every participant receives feedback on their piece, whether they move on to the next round or not. That sounded like a good deal to me.

Here’s the wrinkle: I thought I had entered the Flash Fiction contest, where entries had to be 500 words or less. When I saw the assignment I realized I actually entered was the Micro Flash Fiction contest, where entries were limited to 250 words.

Oh boy. Continue reading “The Pleas of the Leaves (or how writing fiction is just improv on the page)”

Recharge Your Creativity: January 2021

It’s a new year so let’s kick it off with the return of Recharge Your Creativity nights!
Join me on Monday, January 18, 2021, from 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm ET/US, for an evening of writing prompts and playful exercises designed to spark ideas and recharge your creative spirit.
This is a low key, high support workshop. No writing or artistic experience is necessary, and sharing is optional.
This is a free/pay what you want monthly drop in event. Prompts and themes change monthly.
For more information or to register, visit
or

The Story of You: a new creative project for 2021

photo courtesy of jplenio via pixabay

As we enter into this new year, I have a confession about 2020: once I got over the initial “lockdown put the brakes on everything” depression, I thrived creatively in isolation.

The “aha” moment came when the bird landed on my head and ushered in a mindset of magical possibility. After that, it was far easier for me to do big things even though I was confined in a small box. Maybe because I controlled the box and the box could take me around the world with just the click of a mouse, a sort of pandemic TARDIS. Having the freedom to just do something without needing to find a host or get permission allowed me to…well, just do shit. Whatever shit I wanted to do.

Workshops! Collaborative poem projects! Virtual create space for other writers!

Notice anything? I didn’t do this alone. You were there the whole time.

And with that, I am going out on a limb to say out loud that I’m starting my next book, tentatively titled “The Story of You: A Creative Journey.”

Once upon a time you did not exist.
Then one day something happened, and viola!
There you were.
Then some more things happened, and are happening, and will happen soon,
Until one day, in the blink of an eye, you will be no more.
That is the story of you, in a nutshell.
But when you crack that nutshell, out spills an avalanche of those things that happened, and are happening, and will happen soon.
Those things are the heart of your story.
They explain who you are.
They define why you are here.
They show where you came from.
They guide where you are going.
They create what you will leave behind.
Inside the nutshell is the story of your journey.
And that is the real story of you.

I’m telling you this because throughout 2021, you can help me work through ideas by responding to prompts and answering questions and playing games and participating in reflective exercises. If you want to stay updated, make sure you’re on my mailing list. You can find the sign up on the home page of my website. http://joannebrokaw.com/index.html

While I can take this journey alone, it’s more fun with friends. And let’s be honest: while I am confidently at the starting point, I have no itinerary or road map. If I don’t take someone along for the ride, I may just sit in the parking lot with the engine idling.

So we’re going on a fun, introspective journey together, my lovelies, starting soon. No seat belts required.

Here’s to a new year that overflows with beautiful things.
Happy creating!
Joanne

Exquisite Collaboration Poem: Our Hope For The New Year

Earth sunrise greets astronauts aboard the International Space Station; taken Apr. 8, 2015. Courtesy NASA free images.

 

a note on the final poem of 2020:

For this final exquisite collaboration project of 2020, almost 40 people from around the world contributed one sentence expressing a hope for the new year. These sentences were then sorted to create the following poem that, despite everyone contributing independently of each other, echoed common themes of peace, health, and the desperate desire to hug again.

I want to thank everyone who participated in these poems this year. Facilitating these gave me a creative purpose during the pandemic lockdown and put into action what has been my writing motto for more than 20 years:

Connect. Inspire. Change the world.

May your 2021 overflow with all things beautiful, and may we have many more opportunities to create magic together.
xo
Joanne

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

our collective hope for the new year

my hope for the new year is that we start the awkward climb upwards
that this year we will re-learn how to have conversations that don’t include the word ‘covid’
a world more wrapped in peace than strife
a sparkling unicorn to ride to target on tuesdays

my hope for the new year is universal respect for the precious value of all human life
that science, logic and reason will prevail and lead us to health, civility and peace
my hope is to see more of my grandchildren
to learn to be a father

empathy needs to rise as a phoenix from its comatose state, after the regime beat it senseless with half the nation approving
my hope is that the sacrifices my ancestors made coming to this country won’t be in vain
we will find life in the simplest moments, peace in the fiercest storms, and a renewed sense of commitment to one another
that all humanity will band together in a world community effort to help heal each other and our mother earth
for everyone to have the freedom to move about the world
non-virtual hugs

a beefeater martini, up, with a twist, very, very dry – every wednesday night at donnelly’s
health, healing, holiness, and hearty laughter
the warmth of family and friends, the touch of hands and hearts, the wonder of feeling your cheek against mine
good health, less worry, more joy, less conflict, and consistent gratitude for all
hugs. friend hugs, more than friend hugs, acquaintance hugs. hugs
that i won’t be this late again

my hope for the new year is that the world learned something, anything, from 2020 and becomes wiser for it
for all to be healthy and learn to live in peace
we will be proud of our scars, but forget the wounds
i hope to do my part to see the true you more
reunions while rejoicing in remaking our lives
seeing full face smiles and crinkly eyes
at last, it’s safe to hug

deeper and deeper into the eye of calm amidst all those crazy surface noisy chaos and arrows
that gravity holds and the sun does not flicker out
that we use the pain and disappointment of 2020 to cultivate a better future
the ability to hug my friends

i hope to find hope in the new year, to learn again to welcome each day with joy instead of dread
that my next-door neighbor defies the odds to win his battle against cancer
that my husband’s heart health will remain strong and steady
my hope for the 2021 is … love, human contact, health for everyone… a hug

may the world’s burdens lift under a bright new sky, the shine return to countless shadowed eyes, and music tend to the soul
sunrises announcing that hunger, hatred, illness, and pain are just memories now. stories of before will begin, “there once was a terrible time, and now it is over… would you like to hear the rest of the tale?”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

the poets

Jack L.
Sheryl H
Janet Coburn
Kay Ross
Lori B. Duff
Tracy Gerhardt-Cooper
Yvonne DiVita
Judy Weatherbee
JimmyS
Jane S.
Miriam Lerner
Teri Foltz
Mickey Cherry
Robin Murphy
Leslie Millenson
Nancy Purdy
Sue A. Fairchild
Battybat
Sam Cardamone
Jill Marie Thomas
Alyssa
Crystal Hayduk
Justin Rielly
Dave
Mindy Wells Hoffbauer
Karen Ward
Paula K. Parker
Kari
Aprille
Janet L. Pierce
Kathy Ann Morris
Martha Oduffy
Joe Rupinski

our poets hailed from across the u.s. and around the world:

Penfield
Ohio
Hong Kong
Loganville GA
New Jersey
CHENANGO BRIDGE
Bangor, Maine, USA
VICTOR
Vero Beach, FL
Geneseo, NY
Kentucky
New York
Maine
Chicago
Texas
Pennsylvania
Rochester, NY, USA
Lewisburg, PA
Rosemount
Michigan
Springboro, Ohio, USA
United Kingdom
Tullahoma
Rochester, NY
Irondequoit
Pittsburgh PA
Canandaigua, NY

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Click here to read the series of Exquisite Poems done during the Covid lockdown along with other collaborative projects.

To learn more about my workshops, visit my website.

To be part of future poem projects, follow me on Facebook @joannebrokawwriter for prompts or join my mailing list by filling out the form on my website.

Exquisite Collaboration Poem: THE POWER OF PEACE

THE POWER OF PEACE

If we all treated each other and the planet with kindness and respect,
Then there would be no need for war,
And the world would be at peace.

If you recall, a hooded stranger ran up to me in the street.
Then I greeted them warmly, and asked them to join me at the community faire.
And the world sang joyously at our arrival.

If the skies burn and the storms rage and the winds rush and the seas churn
Then no human life will have the privilege of comfort and safety
And the world will laugh and dance to celebrate the new life to take our place.

If I could climb to the top of the apple tree
Then I could breathe in fall like the starlings and the last of the butterflies
And the world would hurt a little less.

If they told me to go home and make crafts with my daughters
Then I’ll craft my ambition to show them what’s possible
And the world, doubters and believers alike, will watch me rise.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE POETS

Kay Ross
Coriander Rainbeaux
Maur J DeLaney
Carrie the Bat
H.H. Wood

The poets hailed from Hong Kong; Rochester, NY; and Pennsylvania.

THE ARTIST

The video presentation of the poem was created by Crystal Hayduk, who also provided the poem’s title. She hails from Michigan.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE POEM

For this poem, each participant wrote three lines that together form one stanza or thought.
Line 1 began with the word “If”
Line 2 began with the word “Then”
Line 3 began with the phrase “And the world”

This Exquisite Collaboration Project is based on the Exquisite Corpse, a technique created by Surrealists in the early 1900s, in which participants add to a work one bit at a time, with no one seeing what the previous participants contributed. The goal is to encourage non-writers and artists to embrace their creative selves in a safe, supportive, “you can’t fail” environment.

Click here to read the series of Exquisite Poems done during the Covid lockdown along with other collaborative projects.

To learn more about my workshops, visit my website.

To be part of future poem projects, follow me on Facebook @joannebrokawwriter for prompts or join my mailing list by filling out the form on my website.

Five Minutes From The Funny Farm: Free Writing Like A Mad Scientist

This morning I hosted a Zoom Creative Space with some friends – a dedicated time to write, paint, sew, create, whatever anyone wanted to do, but in the virtual company of other people also creating.

I haven’t been writing myself lately; for most of the last two years I’ve been focused on helping other people capture their own creative energy. I needed this time  just as much as I wanted to facilitate the time for other people. But since I’m not actually working on anything at the moment, to get started I asked my Facebook friends to give me three words to use as free writing prompts. The first three words offered – from Chris Stoker, Yvonne Ransel, and Larry Ploscowe – were:

Breathe
I
Whoa

Here’s what I mean by “free writing”. I’m taking those word suggestions and, with as little editing or thinking as possible, writing for an allotted time (in this case about 45 minutes with a few breaks), and then letting it settle to see what might come out. The goal is simply to write – what I write is irrelevant.

I call this the Mad Scientist draft – anything is possible and everything is allowed. I love being a creative mad scientist.

Full disclosure: I’ve gone back and done a wee bit of tweaking before I posted this – mostly taking very long run on sentences and turning them into slightly less long run on sentences, and fixing some typos (I’m sure I missed a ton). But keep in mind this is still a very rough draft of…something. I’m being creatively vulnerable here because I want to encourage you to create without fear, to turn off that internal editor and let words flow however they want. Worry what it means later.

I had fun with this. I hope you have fun reading (or watching the video). And for the dozens of people still posting word suggestions, I have an idea to use all of them so stay tuned.

OK. Ready? Begin writing.

* * * * Continue reading “Five Minutes From The Funny Farm: Free Writing Like A Mad Scientist”

Exquisite Collaboration Poem: STARDUST DREAMS

Photo courtesy Pixabay

I am an imperfect beast
I am here to solve more problems than I create
I came from bigger places
I am going somewhere worse, hand basket free.

I believe hand baskets are for sale, but I can’t afford them.

I am dandelion fluff and dewdrops
I am here to enchant and to vex the minds of small mice
I came from the edge of the meadow where the pine trees nod
I am going to the midsummer fair to buy milkweed and maple sap

I believe in stardust and salamanders.

I am a masterpiece in progress,
Working on my canvas every day.
I came from the earth, the stream, the stars, the wind.
I am all those things now, and will return to their pure forms once again.

I believe we are all connected to each other and our universe.

I am me, soft, old, pliable, feminine me.
I am here to pave the way for the next generation of dreamers to become believers.
I came from the stars and to the stars I will return.
I am going everywhere and nowhere.

I believe we are on the edge of a great discovery that will change the world for the better.

I am different things to different people but to myself I am just me.
I’m here because my parents created me.
I came here from another state.
I don’t know where I’m going as long as I’m going and hopefully it’ll be fun.

I believe that someone, somewhere will eventually answer any and all questions we really need the answers to.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE POETS

Lori B. Duff
Carrie the Bat
Mindy Wells Hoffbauer
Jan Heverly. Writer.
Mickey Cherry

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE POEM

For this poem, each participant wrote five sentences, one each in response to these questions:

Who am I?
Why am I here?
Where did I come from?
Where am I going?
I believe…

Everyone participating responded to the same prompts without knowing how the others responded and how (or if!) the verses would work together as a whole poem. The goal was for participants to turn off their internal editor and reflect for a moment on their own moment in existence. The end result, posted with almost no editing offers a glimpse into our interconnectedness.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This Exquisite Collaboration Project is based on the Exquisite Corpse, a technique created by Surrealists in the early 1900s, in which participants add to a work one bit at a time, with no one seeing what the previous participants contributed. The goal is to encourage non-writers and artists to embrace their creative selves in a safe, supportive, “you can’t fail” environment.

Click here to read the series of Exquisite Poems done during the Covid lockdown along with other collaborative projects.

To learn more about my workshops, visit my website.

To be part of future poem projects, follow me on Facebook @joannebrokawwriter for prompts or join my mailing list by filling out the form on my website.

Exquisite Collaboration Poem: LOVE IN THE GLOAMING

Photo courtesy jplenio on Pixabay.

IN THE GLOAMING

The head – too full: the heart must open,
Its reddish hue pumps forward still.
Years pass; The heart grows fonder.
And as memories fade
the dusky pitch glows.
Nighttime creeps in.
It gives up
reason.
Hope.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE POETS

Rick Hughson
Sara Moore
Andy Pacher
Mickey Cherry
Fred Dean
Wayne Dunbar
Coriander Rainbeaux
Rene Wazowicz
Stephanie Siuda

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE POEM

This group of contributors helped me experiment with a format called a Nonet – a nine line poem in which each line has a specific number of syllables, starting with the first line, which has nine syllables, and counting down to the final (ninth) line, which has one syllable.  Unlike our other poems, each contributor got to see everything that came before their line.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This Exquisite Collaboration Project is based on the Exquisite Corpse, a technique created by Surrealists in the early 1900s, in which participants add to a work one bit at a time, with no one seeing what the previous participants contributed. The goal is to encourage non-writers and artists to embrace their creative selves in a safe, supportive, “you can’t fail” environment.

Click here to read the series of Exquisite Poems done during the Covid lockdown along with other collaborative projects.

To learn more about my workshops, visit my website.

To be part of future poem projects, follow me on Facebook @joannebrokawwriter  for prompts or join my mailing list by filling out the form on my website.

5 ways to keep your dog happy this Fourth of July

My dog Bandit, getting ready for the Fourth of July. (c) Joanne Brokaw 2016
My dog Bandit, getting ready for the Fourth of July. (c) Joanne Brokaw 2016

(Note: this article originally ran in 2016 on my Heavenly Creatures blog at Patheos.com. It has been slightly updated here.)

While humans are celebrating Independence Day with picnics and fireworks, many of our dogs are freaking out over the crowds and loud noises, sending many dogs under the bed – or over the fence and down the road, until they’re lost. Or worse.

With the Fourth of July just around the corner, here are a few tips to help keep your dog safe and stress-free.

1) Don’t feed Rover picnic food. While he might really enjoy a burger or a hot dog (or other things he can steal from your plate), changes to your dogs diet can cause stomach upset. And upset stomach = anxious dog. Not only that, some of the picnic fare is dangerous for dogs, like onions, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners found in candy and gum. If you insist on bringing him to the family gathering, make sure he has plenty of water and a cool, quiet place where he can retreat, and that you keep a watchful eye on well-meaning folks bent on giving the doggie a “treat”.

2) Leave the dog at home. While we like to think that our dogs want to be with us 24/7, the truth is that most dogs get anxious in large crowds. Don’t believe me? Just for fun, find a large crowd of people and then get down on all fours and crawl around for a while. It’s hot, it’s confusing, and it’s probably stressful, especially if there are going to be fireworks. He’d be much happier at home, with a nice Kong toy filled with a treat, the shades drawn, and the couch all to himself.

3) Prepare ahead for the fireworks. Some vets estimate that almost half of dogs are spooked by loud noises, like thunder or fireworks. It’s not something to blow off; dogs have much more sensitive hearing than humans and they’re also affected by the electrical changes in the air from thunder and stormy weather. Yelling at the dog, or closing him in a room by himself without actually addressing the problem, can make it worse.

If you need immediate help this weekend, try a Thundershirt, which helps “swaddle” your dog by applying even pressure on his body. You can also use calming aromatherapy scents and oils, like Canine Calm, that you can spray on a dog’s bed or apply to a collar. (Check with your vet before applying oils directly to your pets, as some can be irritating to the skin or in some cases toxic). You can also talk to your vet or trainer about pheromone collars.

Don’t hesitate to talk to your vet about medication; just make sure you give it to your pup well in advance of the fireworks so it has time to take effect. The one I’ve used in the past with Bailey takes about four hours to kick in, but once it does she’s sedated just enough that she really doesn’t care about the noises but not so drugged that she can’t function.

4) Prepare for the worst case scenario. No one wants to think about losing their dog, but a scared dog reacts without thinking, and can bolt in a crowd, run into traffic, jump a fence, chew through a screen door, or otherwise do whatever he can to get away from the scary noises. Make sure your dog is safely in the house this Fourth of July, is wearing a collar with tags, and is also microchipped. If he manages to get out, you want to make it as easy as possible for him to be identified and returned to you. The longer he’s away, the more traumatic the experience.

5) Get ready for next year, now. It’s never too early to think about the next thunderstorm or fireworks display. Help desensitize your dog to loud noises with programs like Victoria Stillwell’s Canine Noise Phobia Treatment or Through A Dog’s Ears [now iCalmpet.com], music “psychoacoustically designed to support you and your dog’s compromised immune or nervous system function”. I  used it often and find very helpful. In fact, I keep a CD in the car for rides, and music on my phone, just in case. You use these to slowly desensitize your dog to loud sounds or pair the music with the feeling of being calm, so it won’t work overnight. But it’s not too early to make a commitment now to give your dog some long-term relief.

And if you don’t already have a relationship with a positive-methods dog trainer, now’s the time to find one. Dog training isn’t just about going to puppy classes. If you have a trainer that knows you and your dog, when a problem arises throughout the dog’s life you can call on her to help address the issue quickly and positively. My dogs are older, but I don’t hesitate to call my trainer with questions, especially since I have a very squirrely Border Collie and a reactive Retriever/Pit mix. We’re always working to help the dogs be less anxious and to get along better with each other. I promise: a well educated, positive method trainer will change both you and your dogs’ lives.

Here’s hoping you and your pups have a healthy and safe holiday!

Exquisite Collaboration Poem: THE LONG JOURNEY HOME

Image courtesy of jplenio on Pixabay

THE LONG JOURNEY HOME

I am a tree in the shape of a woman
I’m here to radiate light
I came from pine needles and leaf litter and what passed as love at the time
I am going to the place of the soaring oak, where nevermore shall a leaf fall to the ground.

I am the beloved daughter of the Most High King of Kings.
My presence at this time and place is to accomplish God’s predetermined purpose.
From infinite possibilities, the Grand Designer wove every cell, chromosome, and atom of my humanity.
I wake each morning – an heiress of incomprehensible love – to continue the adventure of learning how to follow in faith, without fear.

I am a woman, a mother, a wife, and a scholar.
I am tired and this is where I can rest.
I came from the privileged suburbs, far from here.
I am doing the best I can, then going to bed.

I am a hologram of the divine, God, the Universe, All that Is…
Consciousness saw there was a space that only I could fill.
I came from stardust, willingly.
In every moment I step boldly into the unknown.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

THE POETS

Carrie the Bat
Crystal Hayduk
BAB
Kay Ross

The participants for this poem hailed from Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, and Hong Kong.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

THE POEM

This was the second poem done as part of the book launch party for Carrie Anne Noble’s new release, “Gretchen and The Bear”. Four participants wrote independently, writing one sentence in response to each of the following questions: Continue reading “Exquisite Collaboration Poem: THE LONG JOURNEY HOME”

Exquisite Collaboration Poem: Into the Forest

“Gretchen and The Bear” by Carrie Anne Noble is available now from WordCrafts Press.

As part of the online book launch party yesterday for “Gretchen and The Bear”, by my friend, the delightfully talented Carrie Anne Noble, I invited readers to contribute to a collaborative poem.

Ten people participating, providing five random sentences in response to five prompts. I then arranged the sentences according to a pre-set pattern to create the poem you’re about to read. Note that no one saw what anyone else was writing, and that no verse contains more then one sentence from the same person. You can read more about the prompts and how they were arranged at the end of the poem.  Here’s what they created:

Continue reading “Exquisite Collaboration Poem: Into the Forest”

Exquisite Quarantine Poem: THE JOURNEY

Photo by Jesse Sprinkle

THE JOURNEY

I am a genderless perfectly flawed human being.
I am a healer, using sound and the written word to transform the impossible.
I arrived from a time full of fear, anxiety, depression, and suffering.
I am walking into the unknown, with faith, strength and hope.

Alas, I am a wizard.
I have come forth to warn you of magic not yet known.
Stillness has come across the land, but I have not come from a place of stillness.
It is here creativity emerges! With the swirl of time and space together as one!

I am a mother, a ghost-writer and a pianist,
reaching out to relieve my boredom.
Stuck in a city without peace and justice,
longing for a place with true freedom.

I am just another wounded soul, wandering, stumbling, hiking, running, skipping (sometimes, rarely), creeping, crawling, spinning, swirling, swaying, moving, journeying through time.
I am here to live, and then die, which is a good thing in the right season.
I came from a long line of people, starting with Verity Tree-dweller from Central Africa
and going to death

I love to love and I love to laugh.
I am here to abracadabra Magic Makers.
I came from some blip in the twinkling stars some galaxy somewhere.
I will go when my earth job is done to lands who knows.

I am the unicorn, an angel, or a mermaid-
I have come to carry you through a time of dismay.
It was human imagination and folklore that created me to
Stand by your side until you can stand alone.

Now I am an orphan —
Looking for family without the blood connection.
What began so conventional, nuclear,
Moves toward something wholly of my own invention.

I am a mighty river, slowly altering my course.
I am the result of a million tiny decisions.
I come from a sacred place, where thoughts and dreams arise.
I am sailing a course, charted by my wisdom.

* * * * * *

THE POETS
Coriander Rainbeaux can be found IntheSpiceRack.com
Fred Dean says “Writing gets me to the places I’d rather go when I do not know how else to get there.”
Judy Lam is a Hong Kong-born pianist. https://judylam.wordpress.com/
Laura V.N.
Sheryl Hooi, a curious smithy of all sorts.
Kathy Ann Morris Self-proclaimed poet since age 8
Leslie Joan Millenson
Laura Fleming

THE ARTWORK
Jesse Sprinkle – Artist of sight and sound. https://www.patreon.com/jessesprinkle

* * * * * *

THE POEM
Participants were asked to write four lines, with a prompt for each line:
Line 1 – Who am I?
Line 2 – Why am I here?
Line 3 – Where did I come from?
Line 4 – Where am I going?
None of the contributors saw what the others wrote; all four of each contributor’s lines stayed together as one stanza.

Note: this is the last in this poem in this phase of our Exquisite Quarantine Poem project.  I can’t thank the participants enough for their time and effort!

But that doesn’t mean the collaboration is over! As we begin to venture out of The Pause and into our “new normal” lives, I’m simply rebranding these projects as the Exquisite Collaboration Project. The goal is the same: to bring together strangers who will contribute individual parts to make a collective, creative whole.

You can read all of the Exquisite Quarantine Poems here.  And make sure you’re following me on Facebook or on my mailing list to stay updated on the next phase of the Exquisite Collaboration Project!

* * * * * *

Five Minutes From The Funny Farm: Are You My Mother?

This week, my cat Dickens died. It was sudden and very unexpected. The next day, something magical happened that can only be a message from my kitty. What was it? You’ll see, in today’s video.

This is what happens when you lock a humor writer/improvisor who doesn’t know how to use a video camera in the house with two dogs and a cat during a pandemic. I warned you it wasn’t going to be pretty. Or professional.

Visit my website http://www.joannebrokaw.com
Follow me on FB @joannebrokawwriter
Check out my latest book, “Suddenly Stardust: A Memoir (of sorts) About Fear, Freedom & Improv” wherever books are sold. Available in print and ebook editions.

 

Exquisite Quarantine Poem: DISCONNECTED

 

DISCONNECTED

As I sit at home on day whatever of the quarantine,
Contemplating how many days it takes to use a roll of TP,
I have seemingly endless hours to watch my grey roots grow,
And ponder, “Is it just a matter of choice to feel connected?”

One click to see a face long absent,
Glowing screen a beacon in the dark
Miles traversed in seconds
Intangible strands linking voices.

Phone, phonetic, frantic connection.
Hello? Speak to me.
I’m alone, lonely, bored.
Can’t you feel what I’m feeling?

I’m grateful; peaceful. I’m feeling quite blessed.
I have shelter; food, and a furry nice guest.
He comes every morning, eats, then sits in the sun.
He’s the sweetest companion; the very best one.

He’s the one who watched and waited silently as I shed my hair and picked my nose
and ate the last few crumbs of brittle brownies flung with abandon by angry children locked in high chairs when we grew too tired to chase them.
Shaking skittishly, I realize suspicions of the subtle snobbery of surreptitious scarabs savoring tidbits of that which it was he was.
Wresting the last sweet smell of baked cinnamon buns from that brown, embarrassingly frayed cardigan, I turned toward no one as I start to weep.

* * * * * *

THE POETS
Mindy Wells Hoffbauer is a professional explainer, still trying to figure out what she wants to be when/if she grows up.
Robin Murphy
Kay Ross lives in Hong Kong and is the Head Tour Guide in The Playground of Possibilities. https://playgroundofpossibilities.com.
Allia Zobel Nolan writes about God and cats….in that order.. www.AlliaWrites.com
Michele Manting is the Artistic Director, Vintage Improv Festival www.vintageimprov.com

THE ARTWORK
There were some starts and stalls with the artwork for this poem, so in the end I chose “Operator”, by Jim Croce. It just felt right.

THE POEM
Contributors were asked to write four lines of free verse. The first contributor was given the prompt “Disconnected”; each of the other contributors got to see only the last line of the previous verse.

Click here to learn how you can take part in the Exquisite Quarantine Poem project.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Exquisite Quarantine Poem: UNMASKED

“The Three Faces” by Daniela Gitlin

UNMASKED

Why do I have to notice everything?
Because acting aimlessly misses the target
If you take off your mask.
Then yellow became my signature color.
I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener.

Why do we close our eyes when we kiss?
Because when you don’t raise kids, you can’t mess up their lives.
If one doesn’t nurture their own personal narrative
Then Humpty Dumpty wouldn’t fall.
I wish I had tried harder.

Why do you always have to say that?
Because she put all her eggs in heaven’s basket, she stopped living in the now.
If they didn’t acknowledge me on Mother’s Day, I wouldn’t notice.
Then I would have taken more solid, pure, possibly different actions.
I wish I was a creative genius.

Why do masks make us feel both safer and more alone?
Because there’s always time to get a DeLorean.
If my dog could talk, I’d know the secret to contentment.
Then I would not be a mother.
I wish I was more aware of my personal narrative earlier in life.

Why else would it matter?
Because of that night, we never made it to Saratoga, or the concert.
If this works, we’re going to be rich.
Then maybe all of this would make better sense.
I wish I never gave birth.

Why would anyone else?
Because the collective is the whole.
If Sheila had given ten percent more effort, she would have earned that scholarship.
Then, you won’t believe it, I just got up and walked away.
I wish I had asked my mother how she felt when my brother died.

* * * * * *

THE POETS
Teri Foltz is a playwright (Teri’s Play Date on YouTube) and a poet (Green and Dying on Amazon)
Sara Moore www.hypnohelpcounselingservices.com
Sam Cardamone is a native of Buffalo, NY now living in Rochester and, as of late, desperately trying his hand at improv.
Jason Rugg Instagram: @deviations_in_the_dust
Jenean Roth is lover of words read, written, spoken, dreamt, and arranged in entertaining ways.
Stephanie Lewis is wondering should we be on lockdown or locked up? Onceuponyourprime.com

THE ARTWORK
“The Three Faces” by Daniela Gitlin
Daniela Gitlin’s first book (note the optimism) is available on Amazon: Practice, Practice, Practice: This Psychiatrist’s Life. It’s amazing how much trouble she gets into and still manages to be helpful. danielagitlin.com

THE POEM
This poem was an experiment in a word collage, similar to RESTRUCTURED. Without knowing anything about what the final product would look like – or seeing a prompt or the line before theirs, as with the other poems – six contributors were each asked to provide five unrelated sentences: Continue reading “Exquisite Quarantine Poem: UNMASKED”