Sunday, January 19, 2014

First Exercise in My Online Collage Class

So I decided to spend some money on myself (a pretty rare thing--I usually only buy myself stuff like secondhand books and thrift store t-shirts), and I'm taking an online collage class with an artist named Randel Plowman. I first learned about his work a few years back from my friend Wendy who referred me to his blog called A Collage a Day. He has written a great collage exercise/workbook, too. And I just plain like his work, which is a good thing to look for in an instructor, I'd say.

It's funny because I teach online classes all the time (really the only time I'm not teaching online is for a week or two between quarters), but I've hardly ever taken any classes online. In fact, I can only think of one online class I've taken (which was a class about how to teach online). It's cool to see how someone else teaches an artistic class in an online format. And I've been wanting to take an art class again--it's been several years since I've taken one.

The first assignment for the collage class was to do "five minute collages," where you gather your materials and then spend just five minutes making a small collages (somewhere around three inches by five inches). I tore a sheet of watercolor paper into four pieces, and I made two little collages tonight.

The versions here are cropped a bit--the originals have some torn edges, which is a look that I like but which is hard to represent very well in photos (I don't have a scanner hooked up right now). On the second one, I'm trying to decide if I'm OK with trimming off the text or not: the text in the lower left reads "THIS GIRL IS IN TROUBLE!". Maybe one of these days I'll get a scanner set up and try some different things with uploading and editing images...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Little Poem from My Neighborhood

Well, I've been writing in my journal now and then (and writing things for work), but I haven't worked on a poem in a very long time--a few months anyway, but who's counting?

I finally did draft something. I almost called it "An Appreciation" as it's in appreciation of the man who sells Real Change outside the post office on Greenwood Avenue. But then I figured my appreciation was clear.

In Front of the Post Office

"Hello, queen," sings the man
who sells newspapers. You wouldn't think

I'd be so charmed, but who else
greets me this way? When I leave

with my paper, I never hear
another customer receive the greeting

I almost believe he keeps for me.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Great October Class

I thoroughly enjoyed the October "Short Forms" class I taught. This was the first of my independent online writing classes that I taught where the assignments were designed to work for writing poetry or prose, rather than just poetry. I think that opening up the assignments in this way was a good fit for me as an instructor and for offering greater flexibility for students in terms of being able to use the class as a springboard to write what they wanted to write.

At first I was thinking I could do another class running from mid-November to mid-December, but now I'm thinking that January would be a better time. I have an idea for the next class where it would also allow for both poetry and prose writing--and it would have a visual art component. The class would focus on exploring images. It would mostly be writing, but then we'd also do a piece where we worked with words in a visual way (like making cut-ups). And I'm mulling around a collage assignment, too.

I've mostly been doing work-related writing lately rather than creative writing, but so it goes. I've been reading Cornelius Eady's collected poems (he has a great poem about John Henry's hammer that I hope to develop an assignment around one day), and I've also been reading a nonfiction book called Rebounders which tells stories of people whose careers developed through a series of twists and turns--like the founder of Pandora, who started out as a mostly unknown musician. I always feel better to be reading!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Comparing Web Hosts

I can't remember how many years ago it was when I first bought web hosting. It was at least ten years ago, but probably closer to fifteen. Well, this makes me feel old. Anyway...! The first web hosting service I paid for was from a tiny company run by a friend of a friend. When my account expired, I switched to GoDaddy; if I remember correctly, this was because the rates went up at the tiny company, and I got a coupon for a good deal from GoDaddy.

Lately I've been researching other web hosts to see if I might switch to a smaller company, in part because I want to support indie businesses, and in part because I'm thinking about starting some different websites focused on specific topics (maybe even a specific site focused on online creative writing classes!). In looking for smaller hosting companies, I found a blog with web hosting reviews, run by a stay-at-home-dad named Jerry. These are Jerry's current top 5 picks for web hosts. I hadn't heard of any of these myself, but that doesn't mean much as I'm not too well-versed on the latest in web hosting!

Anyone have any recommendations on hosts they like and/or hosts on Jerry's list that you've used?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thanks!

Thanks to those of you who have signed up for the October online writing class and/or helped to get the word out. Six writers have already enrolled. I'm looking forward to working with both prose and poetry this time around.

Meanwhile, did you know that over the summer, Trish and I started selling t-shirts, toys, and other odds and ends on eBay? I love buying t-shirts, and in a way this has been an excuse for me to buy a bunch of t-shirts without running out of space in my dresser drawers. Here are a couple of cool shirts we've found recently.

The shirt above is vintage from David Bowie's 1990 Sound + Vision tour. The shirt below is a mash-up of Dr. Who and My Little Pony.

What did you do over the summer?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Poem about Flood Damage

I wrote a series of poems a few years back when the Chehalis River in Washington state flooded and blocked Interstate 5 for days. In reading and watching news stories about the flooding in Colorado, I've thought a lot about the people there and the damage to the landscape and roadways. We drove to Boulder last year when I went to Colorado with Trish to visit her family, and it's amazing to see how Boulder Creek has become such a raging body of water.

Tonight as I was thinking of this current flooding, I remembered the poems I wrote about the Chehalis. Here's one that borrows found text from a map of road closures.


Closures and Restrictions

Trees down. Sinkhole.
Broken levee. Debris in road.
Rising water. Mudslide.
Several lanes washed out.

Watch for mud and overflow
from ditches. One lane.
Local traffic only. Deep water
marked with cones. Rough

but passable. Bridge intact.
Highway clear. Heavy traffic.
Open to all cars. Open
to trucks with perishable loads.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Signups Open for October 2013 Online Class

I've just set up the signup page for the first "Short Forms" writing class, to run October 1-31. Like the other independently run online writing classes I've offered, this class costs just $50. Students will complete four writing assignments over the course of the month and receive constructive, encouraging feedback from me on all four pieces.

These classes have offered a lot of camaraderie and support among the writers taking the class, and I have found it a true pleasure to read the pieces as well as the comments people have shared.

The assignments for the Short Forms class will allow for responses in the genre(s) of the students' choice. You can write nonfiction. You can write fiction. You can write poetry. You can write any or all of the above at any given moment!

Please feel free to leave a comment below and/or email me if you have any questions. And please click here for more info and to sign up via PayPal (I can also accept payment via check--just let me know.)

Thanks, as ever, for your interest and support--with special thanks to Erica Sternin for reminding me of her enthusiasm for this short forms class. Here we go!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

New Class in the Works

I've been mulling it over for months, the idea of offering an online writing class that expands beyond focusing on poetry writing. This morning I sat down and made some notes toward planning a new class, this one suitable for both prose and poetry writing. The idea is that the class would focus on "short forms," and the assignments could work for prose or poetry: students could choose for each assignment what form they wanted to use. So you could do all fiction writing, or all nonfiction writing, or all poetry writing, or a combo.

I'm thinking of having this run as a month-long class in October. More info to come very soon, and if you're interested in the idea of this class and have any thoughts/suggestions/etc about what you'd like to see in such a class, please do let me know!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Teeny Tiny Travel Zines

Out of nowhere (or so it seemed), I had two people I didn't know order copies of my zine, From Dinosaur to Denver, from my Etsy shop last week. Dinosaur is a tiny 8-page zine about camping with Trish at Dinosaur National Monument on our road trip in the summer of 2012 from Seattle to Denver, where her parents live. One of the people who ordered the zine ordered five copies, which was extra-cool.

This inspired me to set to work on a second Teeny Tiny Travels zine. This zine is called Seattle to Spokane to Steamboat and is about a quick trip we took in June of this year to Eastern Washington. I've finished writing and formatting the text, and now I need to print it out and do the layout for the zine. I like doing cut-and-paste layout by hand for my tiny zines. I cut out some interesting images from my piles of collage materials last night, so hopefully they'll work for the zine.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Busy, Busy, and Busy

With summer quarter starting, I've been super-busy because not only am I teaching a new theme for my Research Writing class, but I'm also teaching on Canvas instead of Blackboard. While I've been using Canvas for my indie poetry classes, this is my first time using Canvas for my college teaching, and I have a lot more material to upload, plus I need to do grading while the indie classes are ungraded. Sometimes I get frustrated because I'm so used to the Blackboard interface, but I do understand why people like Canvas because it does look more like a web page, and it's easier to embed links to different files, assignments, etc.

Normally I upload my new assignments for the poetry class on Fridays, but I need to upload the fourth and final assignment for the June 21-July 21 class on Saturday this week. The final assignment involves writing a poem which uses found text, which of course is a writing exercise that's close to my heart!

If you're kind enough to be reading this, please know that I hope you're having a nice summer! :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Class Begins

Thanks to everyone who helped me get the word out about my summer poetry class. I have 11 students, and class started yesterday. The first assignment involves writing an ode/praise song. I'm looking forward to reading the poems that the students submit!

Meanwhile, the weather here in Seattle has turned chilly, which isn't unusual for June. So in order to feel a little warmed up, I'm posting a photo I took earlier this month when we visited Dry Falls in Eastern Washington.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Four Spots Open in Online Poetry Class Starting June 21

To borrow a phrase from William Carlos Williams, "This is just to say" that I have four open spots remaining for the month-long poetry writing class which begins this Friday, June 21, the first day of summer. The class runs through July 21. It's a 100% online class, facilitated through the Canvas learning management system. It's also a totally independent class, operated by me and not through a school or any other program.

For more info, please check out this link, and feel free to comment here or email me if you have any questions!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Back on the Fisher Price Farm

This is my favorite "group photo" I've taken so far of some Fisher Price toys. We are looking into doing some resale of vintage toys and possibly making and selling some vintage-inspired items.

At first I was biased and only liked the Fisher Price I remembered from the 1970s and 1980s, but now I have to say I like some of the newer Little People stuff, too. I mean, how cute are these farm animals?

The trouble with even thinking about selling toys is that even when they aren't "yours" from your childhood, it is still hard to part with something so cute.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Real Men Drive Pink Trucks

Well, maybe not "real" men, but the coolest Fisher Price men...

Am I having too much fun photographing some of the vintage toys we've picked up at the thrift store? Yes, yes I am.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Robert Francis

Have you ever read any poems by Robert Francis? Here are a few on the Poetry Foundation website. I've been meaning for years to assign his work to my composition students, and finally I assigned a pair of his poems in English 101 this quarter.

The other two poets the students can write about are Jane Kenyon and Cornelius Eady; I've assigned work by these poets before, and they are pretty popular with my students. I think Mr. Francis is running a distant third so far, but I also notice that the students who are writing about his poems are really enjoying them, so I think I found some of his kindred spirits (as Anne of Green Gables would say).

What have you been reading lately?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Feeling Tired and a Poem about Vigorous Good Health

I've been meaning to post to this blog, but I've been very tired. Turns out that the iron stores in my body are very low. By 5pm or so, I'm pretty much done for the day lately. Well, I'm taking iron supplements and trying to eat more iron-rich foods, and hopefully I'll have rebuilt my iron supply soon; I'm being conservatively optimistic in my hopes because I've read that this can take several months!

On that note, here's a poem I drafted recently about taking vitamins.

Unseen Needs of the Whole Family

To grow taller, to resist
sickness, to miss less school,
to have stronger bones and more

endurance, to feel tip-top,
to have good appetite and digestion,
to prolong your useful years,

to meet the stress and strain of life,
to help build good red blood,
to prevent deposits of fat

in the liver, to prevent fragility
of the capillaries, to promote
sound nerves, to have lots of energy,

to feel less depressed and lonely,
to meet the dietary needs of those
who have poor teeth,

to read about vitamins
and what they will do for you
to maintain vigorous good health.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Writing Exercises for Found Poems

A couple weeks ago, in putting together a little zine on writing poems which use found/borrowed text, I happened upon some fun writing exercises. Here's one on writing "found or headline poems" by William Stafford and Stephen Dunning. Here's a list of 93 poetic experiments to try, compiled by Charles Bernstein. And here's a "word mover" tool from ReadWriteThink which uses Flash to let you move found words around to create your own poems; it lets you save/export the poems you create, too.

I need to take some photos of my zine--it's called Found It!--and list it on my Etsy shop. Well, I need to do about a zillion other things, too, starting with catching up on the grading (I'm teaching one English 100 class and two English 101 classes this quarter) that I promised myself I'd catch up on this morning...

Monday, April 22, 2013

An Interview with a Poet and a Resource for Publishing Poetry

Since November of 2012, I've been working on a little project called With Five Questions, a blog where I post five-question interviews with writers, artists, entrepreneurs, and more. I occasionally do other sorts of posts, too, but the majority of the posts are interviews. I conduct the interviews over email, and it's always fun to see the responses people come up with to the questions I've written for them. The other day, I posted one of my very favorite interviews, with Laura-Marie Taylor, a poet in Sacramento who has been making zines for many years. I hope you'll check it out. If you're at all interested in zines, I think you'll appreciate Laura-Marie's; they are thoughtfully written and carefully made.

If you're a poet looking for places to publish your work, I happened upon a listing the other day for The Poetry Market Ezine, which is a free email newsletter with lists of magazine publishers who are accepting submissions of poetry. I remember receiving this list years ago when I was following a few different writing-related Yahoo groups, and it's good to know it's still in operation. It's an announcement-only list, so you only receive a couple messages per month from the list owner.

Also, I've just opened registration for the online poetry writing workshop I'm offering this summer. It starts on the first day of summer, June 21, and runs through July 21. There's more info about the poetry class here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

New Poetry Class to Start on the Summer Solstice

I've just uploaded the information about the next online poetry class I'm offering. It starts on June 21 and runs through July 21. I've compiled a new set of four assignments, so if you're currently taking my April class, you'd be doing all different assignments if you were to enroll in the summer class.

I chose assignments for the class that have potential for reflecting a summery theme, but of course I welcome content on all sorts of topics. I just thought some writers might enjoy the idea of writing about summertime.

As ever, I hope you'll help me in spreading the word about the class, and please do let me know if you have any questions. Many, many thanks!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Line or Two

One of my online writer friends, Rebeka, wrote an interesting post today about a famous two-line poem by Ezra Pound. In a way, poems like Pound's are sort of the English language version of haiku: concise and image-focused. You get a clear sense of action/emotion from just a handful of words.

Writing very, very short poems like this can be a great writing exercise. Can you condense an observation or experience down into just two or three lines? Or what about stringing a series of very tiny poems together to form a short sequence? I'm also reminded of Laura-Marie, a poet who sometimes shapes poems by writing just one line a day until the lines add up into a poem that feels finished.

I know I've written about similar (if not the very same!) writing exercises before, but that's because I think they work. :)