"I am trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I'm doing." - John Cage


Friday, May 12, 2017

Write a Ten Minute Play One Day Workshop June 17th 10 am - 3 pm

·        Learn technique for structure, scene, dialogue, conflict
·        A safe place to be creative on the page
·        Write a complete first draft in one day
·        Coordinated with Truckee Community Theater
·        Develop writing skills to strengthen other genres
·        Tons of fun writing time with guidance
·        Includes lunch, beverages, and social networking
·        Q&A Happy Hour on directing/producing plays 3-4 pm

·        Call for details!




Thursday, May 4, 2017

Tamsen Donner Commits Horrid Acts with Her Husband

Tamsen Donner Commits Horrid Acts with Her Husband 
…the cabins, by order of Major Swords, were fired, and with them everything connected with this horrid and melancholy tragedy were consumed...
– Edwin Bryant, with the Eastward-bound army after conquering California, 1847

The tent, canvas from the wagon,
a pebbly texture sagging
with ice, crackling
in the cold night air.
Wind’s monologue. Dead-cold trees.

From within,
Tamsen and her dying husband
watched the layer of canvas
fearing its failure, the loss
of that distinction between inside and outside.

Storms lasted ten days at a time. 
Starving so,
skeleton shows through.
Now the body is the shape of
what’s inside.

After he died,
she stroked his body, the bones
and the tendons like wrapping twine
around his femur, radius, and ulna.
She dressed him. Then
undressed him, needing
his clothes herself.

He lay naked, under a threadbare quilt
(midwest quilting socials,
bills sewn into the squares).

She removed the blanket
and wrapped herself in it,
gazing and not

gazing.  Was she still
the woman who married him?
Was he, in death,
the man she married?  

Tamsen licked his wrist, remembering.
She used her teeth,
as when he used to bite
little purple marks into her neck.
She nibbled along

the inside of his arm – she felt most familiar
with this part of him, what was visible
as he worked,
what touched her

when he held her face
to kiss her. 
A penknife was all that was needed

to slice out a curve of pink
as if melon from its rind. 
Her tongue

ran across the inside
of the inside of his arm. 
Its damp baby-pink
surprising beneath the brown
paper bag skin

as if here
was the man she married.  Here
was the untouched part. 
She savored the hope of him,
in the hard white desert of winter -

his release from the packaging of his body,
and for her, a surrender
to the inside - the outside layers collapsing
inwards, heavy
tent walls sagging.
Silence pressed

upon her. She chewed slowly
to make him last, her eyes
closed in pleasure.

by Karen Terrey



Published in Sierra Nevada Review

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Time for Praise - Writing Odes


“I just think that praise is such an intense passion with our species,..The drive to thank someone for a gift, friendship or whatever it is, that has made a huge difference to us. It’s part of the reciprocal contract, I guess, and surely it’s one of the things art is for. I would think it’s for that reason for many of us to write love poems, positive poems.” - Sharon Olds
“Ode” comes from the Greek aeidein, meaning to sing or chant, and belongs to the long and varied tradition of lyric poetry. Originally accompanied by music and dance, and later reserved by the Romantic poets to convey their strongest sentiments, the ode can be generalized as a formal address to an event, a person, or a thing not present.
There are three typical types of odes: the Pindaric, Horatian, and Irregular. The Pindaric is named for the ancient Greek poet Pindar, who is credited with inventing the ode. Pindaric odes were performed with a chorus and dancers, and often composed to celebrate athletic victories. They contain a formal opening, or strophe, of complex metrical structure, followed by an antistrophe, which mirrors the opening, and an epode, the final closing section of a different length and composed with a different metrical structure


Ode on My Episiotomy  


Kimberly Johnson, 1971

Forget pearls, lace-edged kerchiefs, roomy pleats—
this is my most matronly adornment:
stitches purling up the middle of me
to shut my seam, the one that jagged gaped
upon my fecund, unspeakable dark,
my indecorum needled together
with torquemadan efficiency.  
But O!  the dream of the dropped stitch!  the loophole
through which that unruly within might thread,
catch with a small snag, pull the fray, unknit 
the knots unnoticed, and undoily me.
 
Don’t lock up the parlor yet; such pleasure 
in unraveling, I may take up the sharps

and darn myself to ladylike again.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

3/17 Open Mic at Art Truckee with Tahoe School of Music in Support of Sierra Poetry Festival

Please let your writer friends and students know about this super fun and diverse open mic this Friday at Art Truckee, the historic theater space in downtown Truckee from 7-9 pm.  This open mic features talented groups and individual musicians and this month we are hoping to bring in as many writers of all genres to expand the diversity of arts! And Green Beer (and other beverages) are available at the wine bar.

At this event you can support the Sierra Poetry Festival on April 1st in Grass Valley on the Sierra College Campus by learning about the readings and workshops being offered!   Sands Hall will be teaching a songwriting workshop, and other poets will be offering a range of readings, workshops, and activities.
Here is the open mic event:

https://www.facebook.com/events/121716808344284/

And here is the Sierra Poetry Festival event on FB:

Please spread the word and come to our open mic and share your work - use it as a deadline!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Make a strong first impression in 3 opening paragraphs - and other revision tips

“The risk of crossing boundaries is not just limited to trespassing on another's privacy: the ultimate challenge may lie in breaking through our reluctance to move into the tender and vulnerable places of our own lives. As writers, we must be willing to take those risks, not for journalistic reasons of the truth as fact, but for the sake of shaping the work into an art that transcends the circumstances about which we are writing. Writing hard truths with candor and compassion legitimizes and validates not only one's personal experience but, when artfully done, offers a passageway to universal truths that can illuminate and liberate.” – Kaylene Johnson



Tonight six brave writers joined the Tangled Roots Writing Revision workshop, a 4 month series to study craft and strengthen fiction and non-fiction pieces. Using Nancy Kress's book Beginnings, Middles, & Ends as a guide for our theme tonight, we explored the opening chapters of our work and considered Kress's thesis: what if you only have three paragraphs to make a good first impression? 

Four qualities make an opening interesting and original: character, conflict, specificity, and credibility.
  • Your opening should give your reader a character to focus on
  •  Conflict arises because something is not going as expected, or someone is experiencing disturbing emotions, or something is about to change
  • Effective use of details distinguishes publishable manuscripts from those that “aren’t right for us” by anchoring your story, set your opening apart from all others, and convince the reader that you know what you are talking about.
  •  Credibility comes from credible prose that is in control of words, sentences, paragraphs by using: understanding of diction, economy of words, sentence construction and variety, and tone

Monday, February 20, 2017

New 6 week generative writing workshop starts 3/6!

“Words, like sensations, are blind facts which, put together, produce a feeling no part of which was in the data.” – RP Blackmur

Writing with other writers feeds the creative impulse.  Generating new material with encouragement to take risk and experiment in content as well as craft is what we do in the Monday Night Creative Writing Workshop. 

A new 6 week series runs 3/6 - 4/17 (no class 4/10): A fun and generative workshop.  Do you wish you wrote more? Want to feel a sense of community when you write? Want to start or finish a book? Craft, technique, and prompts for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.  A kick in the butt for your writing life! 


Connect with a community and improve your writing practice. Tea and chocolate provided. Mondays from 6-8 pm. $150. Downtown Truckee.  No class 4/10.  All levels of experience welcome!



Monday, January 23, 2017

And tonight I wanted to read a sonnet that fights

“First fight. Then fiddle”
I love the sonnet form, how it can be used to ponder an argument, using the turn and the 14 line constraint to strengthen the paradox or conflict. This wonderful sonnet by Gwendolyn Brooks was chosen by Robert Pinsky in response to the 2016 election for a piece in Slate.com.    

 (Gwendolyn Brooks, from The Womanhood, 1949)
                       4

First fight. Then fiddle. Ply the slipping string
With feathery sorcery; muzzle the note
With hurting love; the music that they wrote
Bewitch, bewilder. Qualify to sing
Threadwise. Devise no salt, no hempen thing
For the dear instrument to bear. Devote
The bow to silks and honey. Be remote
A while from malice and from murdering.
But first to arms, to armor. Carry hate
In front of you and harmony behind.
Be deaf to music and to beauty blind.
Win war. Rise bloody, maybe not too late
For having first to civilize a space
Wherein to play your violin with grace.
According to Robert Pinsky, "Gwendolyn Brooks’ sonnet from her sequence The Womanhood uses that form to present the relation between art and battle, with their related priorities and demands: a practical, urgent struggle for a black woman poet of Brooks’ lifetime. “To arms, to armor,” she writes, with her fluent mastery of the sonnet form enacting a victory."
Read the four poems from the past that Robert Pinsky collected for readers at Slate.com in response to the 2016 election.