Deb Blackmore is a long-time member of Laura's Friday morning feedback group, currently on hiatus as she sails around the world. She writes humor, poetry and a novel in fits and starts. She wrote this in response to Laura's prompt to create a recipe. This is an old family favorite – a deeply satisfying dish that’s enough to serve a crowd. It’s full to the brim with simmering resentments, sly sarcasm, back biting and betrayals -- all covered in a crispy fat-laden crust that will make everyone feel guilty for enjoying it with such gusto. First, pre-heat your oven to roaring hot. It should nearly singe your eyebrows off when you open it to take a peek. This pie is best half-baked, blackened around ... [Continue Reading]
Michael Dorenzo is a member of the Wednesday morning writing practice group and has attended many of Laura's classes and retreats over the year. She wrote this piece in response to the prompt, "Write Your Own Personal Ten Commandments." 1. Thou shalt not scream at thy mother even when it seems like an appropriate response to her telling you every detail of her day: each conversation she had with her love interest, what she ate, did not eat, did, felt, every moment, over and over. Every day. More than once. 2. Thou shalt have dogs. Big beautiful companions with shiny coats to sleep with-Furry, loving, smiling ancient jackal grins, stinky, dangerous creatures. Thou shalt love them. 3. Thou shalt be kind to strangers and be open to their pain, their joy, your moment with them and ... [Continue Reading]
Julie Sheehan lives in Livermore and has attended many of Laura's writing retreats. She wrote this piece during Laura's weekend retreat at Esalen in Big Sur. The prompt was, "Tell Me About The Sounds of Your Childhood." Henry was a mean Mother Fucker. I can't even remember how he came to us. Growing up on a farm, animals were always coming and going. Stray dogs showed up and we'd feed them. They'd have puppies and we'd feed them. We started with one cat and didn't get her spayed. At one point in time we had twenty-seven cats, all of which were inbred and crazy. Buttlick was my favorite. An orange cat with darker stripes who did nothing but lay in the sun on the deck all day licking his butt. He had the life. Sometimes I'd hear a gunshot over breakfast and I knew we'd be ... [Continue Reading]
Tery Gargiulo is a member of the Wednesday morning writing practice group. She wrote this piece in response to an exercise that encouraged each writer to focus on concrete sensory detail.
I led the students through a long visualization of their childhood kitchen, asking them to look in the cupboards and in the fridge, to peer inside the pantry and to study the oven. I asked them to use all their senses--to smell, to hear, to taste, to notice the light in the room, to remember the specific foods that were there, to recall meal times and how food was prepared. To remember what was said in this room. How they felt in this room as a child. This visualization went on for twenty minutes before we wrote and the ... [Continue Reading]
Naomi White is a member of the Tuesday night writing practice class. She wrote this piece in response to the prompt, "Write about your childhood kitchen with as much concrete, sensory detail as possible." It was a sticky Sunday afternoon in July and we had had just come home from a prayer meeting: mom, dad, my younger sister Judith, a large handful of people in their early 20’s who lived with my family in what was called a Christian household, and I. We filled two units of a four-plex in northern Minneapolis, shared meals and prayed together regularly. Family friends lived in the third unit and a trio of aged Swedish sisters lived across the hall from us in the fourth. Ana, Inga and Regna Gulla were ... [Continue Reading]
Martin Sampad Kachuck attended Laura's weekend retreat at Esalen in January and then joined the Wednesday morning writing practice group as part of his sabbatical from teaching. This was his response to an exercise to describe his childhood kitchen in vivid sensory detail.
During my adolescent years, the kitchen at our home in Tustin, California was a place of hurry. Not a lot of in depth cooking occurred there, nor was meal making given huge priority. The repeated routine consisted of my mother, a college English teacher, arriving home late, scurrying to “throw something together”, my father needing to be repeatedly called from his corner office fortress, my older brother shaken free from his space ... [Continue Reading]
Sid Roth joined my Tuesday night writing class with his father on the "new student special." I loved his response to the prompt, "Ode to an Ordinary Object," and thought it was particularly fun when paired with his classmate's response (see below).
Mr. Pencil, your uses are many. I know your ancestry; perhaps your humble beginnings from tree and mountain deep reflect your strength and resilience, and the strength and resilience you lend to me. I know the other humans despise you; they say your glyphing is faint and your point is weak. It is, however, your inner integrity and inflexibility that makes you most valuable to me. Pens, they either work or they do not. I know your failure ... [Continue Reading]
Shannon LaGrandier is a committed member of the Wednesday morning writing group. She wrote this in response to the prompt: Write an Ode to an Ordinary Object. I loved it because we writers are often obsessive about our writing implements.
Oh how I love you, purple pen, let me count the ways. The way your cursive letters splatter all over this page makes my heart skip a beat. The way the ink flows out of your tip is like a gentle breeze grazing over my sheet. So many words long to leave my soul. As my heart opens to the world, you are the vehicle in which it escapes.
Each word begins to come together into sentences, paragraphs and pages. These beautiful purple ... [Continue Reading]
Wendy Ledger is a student in the Tuesday evening writing practice class. When I heard her read this piece in class, I immediately asked her if I could publish it because it demonstrates so clearly how much criticism can shut a writer down--and how encouragement can buoy that writers to continue studying her craft, and most importantly, writing.
When I was a graduate student in creative writing, I took a short story course, where several times a semester, we would submit our work. Everyone took these stories home, evaluated them, and gave feedback during a scheduled class critique. Today was the day my story would be reviewed.
I had written a story ... [Continue Reading]
Renee Winter is a member of the Thursday night feedback class. She is working on a series of short memoir pieces--all of which are carefully crafted to create an evocative mood. She wrote this piece in response to the prompt, "Tell me about your relationship to time."
Time. I'm aware of it. My watch is a constant reminder and I wear it every waking non-shower, non-swimming minute. I'm a scheduler. Time must be filled up; structured with activities; projects; meetings; assignments; to do's. I almost panic when a day stretches before me and nothing is on my plate. Time is a calendar; an app; a day planner; parceled into portions; slots; hours; half-hours; mornings; afternoons; evenings.
I like to control my time, but I would love ... [Continue Reading]