This is a poem I “keypunched” when I worked as a keypunch operator at Harbor Service Bureau, Wilmington, CA; circa 1968. Using simple number coding, I punched cargo data from a ship’s manifest into the keypunch cards.The punched cards were then “verified” by another keypunch operator by re-entering the data into the cards I had punched. Once verified, the cards were fed into the computer, which filled an 8 by 4 foot “Computer Room” and ultimately created a detailed cargo print-out for unloading the cargo.
Clearly, I felt as though the keypunch machine was in charge of my life. When all six of us were keypunching, it was very noisy. Also clearly, any subject can be fodder for poetry.
CALL FOR READER/JUDGE ELMER SCHOOLEY SHORT STORY PRIZE
The Las Vegas Literary Salon is looking for a reader/judge for the Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize writing contest, which is based on a print Schooley created in his student years. The deadline for entries is June 1, 2022. Entries will have a maximum word count of 2,000. Reading will take place as entries arrive. An honorarium will be offered. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested. LVLS will collaborate with reader/judge on a suitable judging rubric.
Elmer “Skinny” Schooley (February 20, 1916 – April 25, 2007) was an American painter and printmaker. He received a BFA from the University of Colorado, and an MA at the State University of Iowa. Schooley was a Professor of Art and Head of the Department of Arts and Crafts, New Mexico Highlands University, Las Vegas, New Mexico. His works are included in collections at the Library of Congress, Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art, among others.
WHAT DOES THE SCHOOLEY PRINT SHOWN ABOVE CONJURE UP IN YOUR WRITER’S MIND?
The Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize is a writing competition sponsored by the Las Vegas Literary Salon, made possible by the generous donation from Lorenzo Martinez of five Elmer Schooley prints. The print above has been chosen by the Las Vegas Literary Salon to be the subject of short story entries. We’re looking for good writing and creative panache!
What does this image conjure in your mind? Write that in a short story of 2,000 words or less and submit. Three cash prizes will be awarded. Prize-winning stories and qualifying submissions will be those that best reflect the hidden stories behind the image. Qualifying submissions among non-winners will be included in an Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize Anthology along with the top three winners. Authors included in the anthology will receive one free copy of the book. Click on Call for Submissions in the menu to download the Submission Guidelines. The prints will be available for sale as part of a fundraising initiative for Las Vegas Literary Salon.
This fund-raising effort is future supported by donations from educator, author and artist Ray John de Aragon, and Rosa Maria Calles, artist and folklore dramatist. More about them on the Las Vegas Literary Salon website soon. Among the offerings are signed posters of paintings by de Aragon and Calles depicting cultural icons Gorras Blancas and Los Penitentes, and several of de Aragon’s books. He is a recognized expert on the Spanish colonial arts, traditions, heritage, and folklore.
COMING IN MARCH: NEXT GEN RETURNS
These students of West Las Vegas High School teacher Anthony Lopez participated in the Salon’s first open mic event and then made a solo act return as presenters for the Next Gen event a couple of months later. Their poetry is fresh, original, thoughtful, and creative. They’re coming back with new material and new participants. Shown in this photo are Maya Sena, Christian Lopez, Josephine Morales, Dominic Garcia, Viviana Rivera and Joshua Sandoval. We are expecting twenty presenters this go-around.
UPCOMING EVENTS Scheduled 4th Sunday of every month at 4 p.m. Venues to be determined, times subject to change
• March – Next Gen poetry reading featuring high school students • April – Poetry Open Mic (Working collaboration with NMHU student Aman WInkle) • May – Featured Author Event TBA • June – Book Fair sale of books with a focus on LOCAL AUTHORS • July – Writing Historical Fiction, Patti Romero • August – Featured Author Event TBA • September – Hispanic Heritage Month (If you are interested in being a presenter, contact email@example.com) • October – “Readers Theater” Featured Authors – Patti Romero and Sharon Vander Meer • November – Open Mic Essays and Poetry: Being Thankful • December – Book Launch (This assumes we will receive sufficient qualifying short stories for the Schooley writing contest to create a book.)
THANKS TO OUR FISCAL SPONSOR AND BEST CHEERLEADER – LAS VEGAS ARTS COUNCIL
Helen Keller sums it up: “Literature is my Utopia.”
Carl Sagan amplifies:
What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic. (Cosmos, Part 11: The Persistence of Memory, 1980)
From a Poet: “I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and look at it, until it begins to shine.” Emily Dickinson
From a Master of Suspense: “She was fascinated with words. To her, words were things of beauty, each like a magical powder or potion that could be combined with other words to create powerful spells.” Dean Koontz, Lightning.
Many thanks to David Pascale for sharing his collection of words on words.
Award-winning author, playwright, poet, screenwriter and successful grant writer Kayt Peck sat down with Mary Rose Henssler recently for an interview. Kayt is the current Poet Laureate of Las Vegas, N.M., and will be the featured guest at the Literary Salon Visit with the Author, at Gallery 140, 140 Bridge Street, Las Vegas, N.M., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, at 4 p.m. In our interview, we discussed writing, among many subjects, and that part of the interview is excerpted below.
MRH: You were studying speech and communications. At what point did you start knowing that writing was your life? KP: Before I could write I would go into my dad’s office and make up stories on his typewriter. I was just pecking away, but the stories were in my head. Yeah, I always wanted to write.
MRH: And at what point did you start writing fiction? KP: Probably junior high. It sucked, but I wrote it. And my degree – I had a weird degree – it was called a functional degree, and I had a major in speech, and what amounted to a triple minor in journalism, psychology and education. That’s because they tried to push me into that. Actually, I finished everything except my student teaching to get education certified, but I didn’t want to teach. That’s something they – if you’re a woman at that school you had to go into education or medicine or something. I had no desire to be a teacher. I’ve been told I’m a good one.
MRH: What is your writing kryptonite? Something that protects you from just everything and lets you write? KP: That’s a good question. Writing kryptonite. Passion. I have pretty much–I have developed the craft. I can write about anything. I make a living largely writing grants, so I can write about anything. But when it comes to fiction, when it comes to plays or now screenplays, it has to be something I am passionate about. And if I truly have passion about something there’s no such thing as writer’s block.
MRH:Now, you believe in writer’s block, but you don’t get it? KP: I do sometimes, but it’s short lived. It’s when I’m tired. It’s the body saying ‘shut up.’ I do get it sometimes. Natalie Goldberg has some great exercises to get you past, you know, over the hump. I think it’s a story she wrote or my writing instructor in college may have told me this story about someone who was in a writing class and couldn’t write. Just couldn’t get past it, so the instructor said, “Okay. Just pick a street.” She did. “Pick a building.” She did. Couldn’t write. The instructor finally said, “I want you to go to that building. Go up ten bricks, three bricks over, and start writing about that brick.” And that broke it. Have you ever read my tagline on my email? ‘Writers are like magic wands. They can create anything.’ And you know, we really do. It’s not just on the page. Writers create everything when you come down to it, the things that happen in the world, the things that humanity creates, it has to start with words. Everything has to start with words. It has to start with communication. That’s why I was so fascinated by interpersonal communication.
MRH:When you were in the Navy, I know the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City had a tremendous affect on you. What other experiences with the Navy had a great affect on you, good or bad? KP: Probably the most important writing I have ever done in my whole career was when I was recalled to go to Strategic Command to help write the VIP documents when Admiral Childs was developing a plan for the stand down from the Cold War. So, I helped write the documents he used for key legislative committees to convince them to follow his plan.
MRH:You feel that was the most important writing you ever did. Do you feel that way about any of your fiction? Do you feel that your fiction has an impact on the people that read it? KP: I think so, yes. I think this latest book, especially. The fantasy series. I really need to get into a different market for that, because I think that series… You know, Harry Potter changed the world. I think everything I’ve written–sometimes it feels like I’m not writing alone so everything I’ve written there’s been a trigger. I don’t write just for fun. It’s fun to write, but there’s something. There’s a kernel. A truth I need to say, or an observation I need to say. I told you the story of why I decided I needed to write Broken. The Ladies Room, I had to do.
MRH:That was a very powerful book. KP: And you know, I couldn’t really tell the story of what it was like to start an organization in the Texas Panhandle, because nobody would have believed it. It was horrible. But I needed to get that flavor, that experience out to people. And do you know, I’ve done well selling that book out at the flea market, when I tell people what it’s about, that’s the one they want–straight people. And I’m amazed how supportive they are when I tell them what the book’s about. The fantasy trilogy? That was important to me, and it hasn’t hit where it’s supposed to yet. I probably needed a different publisher for that. When I write, I let the story drive the length and the pace. And even though I like fantasy, Tolkein was so verbose. The story’s good, but I enjoyed the movies more than the books. I’m waiting to see what happens with Chokecherry Jelly (screenplay). I entered it into two contests and I’m not entering it into any more until I see what it does. It costs money to enter screenplay contests. (Chokecherry Jelly won both contests.) (Someone) wants to produce it, but it’s a long ways from concept to production on a movie.
MRH: Unless you want to do it yourself. KP: There’s so much I want to accomplish, and picking and choosing, because I realized, you know, I’m not going to live that much longer. In the scheme of things, ten or even twenty years isn’t that long.
MRH: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? KP: It wouldn’t be my writing self; it would affect my writing self, but I would go back earlier. Because when I was a kid growing up, somehow I knew it wasn’t me that was screwed up. Well, I was screwed up, but I think I would go back–I waited until I was older to–I’ve written forever. I’ve got manuscripts even I forgot I had written. But it wasn’t until I got in my fifties where I started saying, “Yeah, let’s put it out there.”
MRH:So you wrote, but you didn’t send it out anywhere, until you were in your fifties? KP: I would do some, but I wasn’t real serious about it. I was serious about helping other people accomplish their dreams, because that was the subliminal message that I had, was that my talent wasn’t supposed to be used for me. So if I could, I would go back to even before pre-writing and tell child me, “It’s okay to be ambitious. It’s okay. You’ve got a gift. It’s okay.”
MRH:So that was a pretty powerful message that you were getting from the people around you. KP: Oh yeah. That I wasn’t supposed to use my talent for me. And it took me a long time to even recognize that’s what it was doing. I think that’s why I got into grants, because it was okay. I told myself at the time it was a great way to practice my writing skills and still make a living. Now, I look back at it, and if I had put it where I really wanted to, by now I’d be in clover.
MRH: What did you do with your first advance? KP: What advance?
MRH:Your publisher doesn’t give an advance. What did you do with the first check you got from your writing? KP: Put it back into the writing. Or into publishing. All of the stuff I make off my books I put into Dreamcatcher Books or I put it into the marketing. So I’m trying to think if I used it for anything else.
MRH:What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? KP: Getting a computer. That really opened things up.
MRH:You wrote your first books on a typewriter? KP: Mmmhmm. Speaking of investment, I tried to make an investment. When I was in my twenties, I thought okay, I want to be a writer, I want to do publishing, so what am I going to do? So I started a little magazine called The Coldwater Holdout. Which is apparently kept in a couple of museums in Oklahoma. Which is kind of fun. And my dad had bought, when I was a baby, a whole life policy which he turned over to me when I turned twenty-one, and I left it for a while and I thought, ‘You know what? I need some money to be able to do this magazine.’ So I cashed it in. Now, this is one of the ways–I should have divorced him then–so, I made the mistake of putting the money in the joint bank account. Kevin bought a motorcycle. Spent my magazine money on a motorcycle, so that was a short-lived–I think I did it for six months. It was so much fun. I’ve still got it somewhere. I ought to let you see it. The Coldwater Holdout was fun. I might have been able to stay in publishing. But you know, I don’t regret the newspapers I worked for, either.
MRH:What do you regret? KP: Not a damn thing.
Kayt Peck will be the Literary Salon’s featured guest on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, at 4 p.m. at the Gallery 140, 140 Bridge Street, Las Vegas, N.M. Refreshments will be served. Please wear a mask and observe social distancing.
Article written by Mary Rose Henssler whose work includes playwriting, scriptwriting, poetry and prose. She also enjoys drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, and being outdoors.
One would think so, but it’s surprising how many writers are inveterate procrastinators. Every bit of advice about writing boils down to putting one’s behind in a chair and banging away at your word processor, be it a computer or an old fashioned pencil.
Serious writers write
Traditionally published authors work as hard at getting an agent as they do at writing books
Serious writers write
Indie and traditionally published authors learn how to promote their own books with confidence
Serious writers write
Author platforms are crucial
Serious writers write
Authors read nearly as much as they write
Serious writers write
And don’t depend on family to edit your work, unless that is their profession and they are generally heartless when it comes to reviewing your article, or essay, or book. My ever-patient husband has been my biggest supporter and kindest critic (as in being no critic at all). He is not my editor. According to him everything I write is “fine.” Yikes. The worst word on the planet for a writer. “Fine.” A writer wants to be “thought provoking,” “hilarious,” “a thorn in someone’s backside,” “extraordinary,” any and all of the superlatives you can imagine. “Fine,” I didn’t think, quite cut it. And then I looked at synonyms for fine:
So I guess I’ll take “fine” from my husband, who really, when I think about it, is a discerning and highly intelligent man. He’s still not my editor.
Over the past several years I’ve had the opportunity to talk to writers of varying levels of success. These wonderful interactions have taught me a lot about what it means to be a writer.
Write tight. Whether you are writing an advertisement or penning the Great American Novel, less is more. Good writing is often a matter of making the most of a few well-chosen words.
Do your homework. (Research). Writers have an obligation to their readers to be credible. Works of fiction with shaky plots and weak characters turn readers off. Nonfiction books with incorrect information turn readers off. Period. End of story.
Write. To be successful, writers must write. It sounds simple, but making time to write is difficult if you are not intentional about putting words on paper (or computer), which is why most authors have a schedule and stick with it come what may.
Be interesting. Create a compelling story with strong characters, drama, conflict, action and a satisfying conclusion.
Be creative. There are many ways to write about the same subject. Love. Hate. Death. Life. Fear. Happiness. Truth. Lies. You name it and it has been written about, and that will continue. How does your creativity and innovation bring new life to these concepts? That’s the story you want to tell.
Read.Yes. Read. Read a lot. Read different genres. Read nonfiction, poetry, history, fiction. Read. Read. Read. As famed author Stephen King said, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”
Next up: In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), the September 18 Las Vegas Literary Salon will feature two of the writers who will be published in Tapestry: Tales, Essays, Poems. Ray John de Aragon and Sylvia Ramos Cruz will talk about their work, the craft of writing and their writing journeys. Read more here and register to attend. The event begins a 2 p.m. on Zoom.
NOTE: If you are interested in being on the Las Vegas Literary Salon planning team, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re also interested in guest posts from writers about their writing journeys, the craft of writing, book reviews in any genre, posts about reading. If you have a guest post idea, let us know.
Coming in October: Las Vegas Poet Laureate Kayt Peck will be our featured author at an event full of surprises, which may include hot cider and spooky treats! Hopefully by then in person gatherings will be possible. Stay tuned. Either way, Kayt will be talking writing and poetry and publishing.
Thanks, Next Gen writers! Writing is a solitary endeavor and we never know the gift our words are to others until we share them. The Next Gen event on July 25, at Gallery 140, was well-attended by an appreciative audience whose support for young writers was evident. The seating limit was 35 and there were a few people standing, ergo, we had a standing-room-only crowd!
Thanks Maya Sena, Josephine Morales, Dominic Garcia, Christian Lopez, Viviana Rivera and Joshua Sandoval. You all did an excellent job and we at the Las Vegas Literary Salon look forward to working with you and encouraging you in your writing journey. We appreciate you taking time to share your work.
Thanks also, to those of you filled out an “I Want to Help” form. We will be getting in touch with you soon. And our deepest appreciation to those of you who donated.
Next Gen is the 14th presentation by the Las Vegas Literary Salon since launching in July 2020. Thanks to our fiscal sponsor the Las Vegas Arts Council, Las Vegas Community Foundation, and a Mustard Seed Grant from the First United Presbyterian Church, LVLS has shared the talents of more than 30 writers from the Las Vegas area! Previous events have been virtual, thanks to Zoom, a technology that has allowed us to take a dream concept to reality. We will return to Zoom for our next event, La Nina: The Story of Nina Otero-Warren. Details and registration form here.
We invite you to join us in celebrating the written word as a writer and a reader. The craft of writing is a skill set that goes beyond putting pen to page. It is immersing oneself in the art of creation and bringing your reader along for the ride.
Fill out the contact form below and let Las Vegas Literary Salon know how you would like to be involved as a writer, reader or volunteer.
When someone who has never been here asks you about our community, what do you say? I tend to talk about the live music that bursts out seemingly at random, especially in the summer. One Friday night pre-covid, my husband and I walked by the Plaza Park and heard guitars, a keyboard, trumpet, and drums. We paused for a few minutes of dancing, and then walked down Bridge Street, where a small band played in the breezeway, part of an opening at Gallery 140. Across the street at Borracho’s, we heard another band playing. And when we walked across the bridge and another block up the hill to Burris Hall, a guitar player sang and played softly at another gallery opening.
Or maybe you talk about the architecture, and the fact that we have over 900 houses and other buildings on the National Historic Register. Amazing. And talk about the architecture naturally leads to discussion of the history of the area. And that might lead to mention of the Fiesta in early July, when vendors circle the park and flow down both sides of Bridge Street, while in the park itself, families sit and talk to friends they only see at Fiesta, when everyone comes in from the ranches and they catch up on everyone’s news, and they watch flamenco dancers perform and listen to live music for days.
And that’s another thing, we have so many local artists who show their work not only at the galleries, but at Borracho’s, Travelers, and The Skillet (owned and run by two artists who have MFAs in sculpture and painting – I think all of the art in there is their own.)
If you are talking to someone who has a motorcycle, they might have questions about the motorcycle rally in late July, when hundreds of bikers, many headed for Sturgis, stop for a couple of days in Las Vegas for bike-related events or just to see old friends.
That’s another wonderful thing about our town. People are genuinely friendly, and will stop and pass the time of day. I once talked to a man in a gallery who told me he was in a hurry, and just needed to turn in a form, then proceeded to spend another 45 minutes talking to me and to everyone else who came through the door. He looked far more relaxed when he left.
There is a dark side. Every community in every state confronts problems. Maybe that’s where your mind goes.
But whatever you say, or think, how about expressing yourself in the pages of Tapestry, the Las Vegas Literary Salon’s upcoming offering of writings from present and former residents of northeastern New Mexico. From one of the other small villages or towns or ranches in the area? That’s great. We want to hear about your home, too. Have a great story about what happened when someone crashed Christmas dinner? Tell it as a short story. And don’t worry, as long as you change the name, people never recognize themselves in fiction.
The Literary Salon is now accepting submissions of short stories, essays, and poetry for Tapestry. Check the guidelines on this website.
I’m going to crow just a bit. Las Vegas Literary Salon’s Edwina (Patti) Romero, suggested we do an open mic event in recognition of poetry month, celebrated annually in April. We already had an April event scheduled, Dreams and Creativity presented by Jan Beurskens, but we decided to add the event to the schedule and see how it developed.
It developed very well. Eighteen signed up for the first Open Mic poetry reading on April 29, to read poetry, either their own or the work of another poet. Thanks to these amazing talents who shared their passion for poetry. Three of them were West Las Vegas High School students, and one was their teacher, who also read the work of a student who couldn’t make the Zoom event. See the names of participants here.
This is the eleventh Lit Salon event since we launched in July 2020. Check out our Guest Roll to read more information about the presentations, authors, and books we’ve featured.
So, why a Literary Salon? The founders of the Las Vegas Literary Salon, Patti Romero and Sharon Vander Meer, wanted there to be opportunities for writers and readers to come together in a welcoming environment where the art of the written word may be celebrated.
It appears, we’re on the right track. With the encouragement of Susie Tsyitee of the Las Vegas Arts Council, and with funding from a Mustard Seed Grant, we moved the idea forward, one guest – sometimes more – at a time.
The Great Pandemic of 2020-2021 was not the obstacle it might have been. Through Zoom, we have reached a growing audience and expanded our network.
One of our projects is the publication of Tapestry: Tales, Essays, Poetry, a collection of written work by Las Vegas and area writers. To qualify for the publication, you must live – or have lived – in Las Vegas or Northeastern New Mexico. Submissions that reflect the area are preferred, but not required. There is much to celebrate – or comment on – about Northeastern New Mexico, a diverse area with a broad mosaic of cultures and lifestyles. You will have lots of fodder for your writing muse. And, yes, speculative fiction, mystery, suspense, comic relief, ghost stories and any other genre you can imagine – and write in short-form – is admissible and encouraged. Essays and poetry are open to the writer’s imagination and creativity.
Tapestry authors will receive a copy of the book as compensation and a publishing credit to add to their writing resume.
This is a fundraiser for Las Vegas Literary Salon. Proceeds from sale of the book will go to the Las Vegas Arts Council, our fiscal sponsor, to support future programming and workshops. The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2021. Projected publication date is mid-November, just in time for Christmas sales.
Stay up-to-date on Lit Salon news and upcoming events, follow this website lvlitsalon.org. We appreciate your support and participation. If there is an author you would like to see featured, contact the Lit Salon at email@example.com.
Our Visit with the Author May 23, will be retired educator Alvin Korte. More to come about Mr. Korte and his work.
Other Lit Salon news: • Call for Submissions – Tapestry: Tales, Essays, Poetry. Find out more here. Deadline for submissions, June 1, 2021 • A Visit with the Author, Alvin O. Korte, May 23 on Zoom. • See our Poetry Open Mic event video here.
The Las Vegas Literary Salon joins the rest of the country in celebrating the joy of poetry. The Academy of American Poets – https://poets.org/national-poetry-month – designated April as National Poetry Month recognizing poetry in all its forms and styles from rhymed verse, to free form, experimental, cowboy and cowgirl poetry, prose-poetry, and on and on.
Poetry provides us all – even those of us who do not think of ourselves as poets – with the means to express strong feelings through imagery, rhythm, and sometimes a special, concentrated language, a language we do not use in our daily communications. People who write poems write from the heart.
When my daughter was born, my mother — not a writer or a poet and not a high school graduate — wrote:
Rarest of children, child of my child Angel on earth with a heavenly smile Cherub to cherish although far apart Here or there you are still in my heart Eternally I’ll love you never forget Love is the answer give and you’ll get.
Poetry gave my mother the means to express her deep joy at the granddaughter born a thousand miles away.
I think you’ll agree we can all benefit from spending time with poems. So please – forget politics and pandemics – join us for an hour of non-stop poems.
THURSDAY, APRIL 29, 2021, 6:00 – 7:00 PM via ZOOM for THE FIRST ANNUAL Las Vegas Literary Salon Open Mic(rophone)Poetry Event
You have some time. Maybe you have some time at the same hour and in the same place every day. Most days, you write eagerly and productively. You make progress on your novel or your collection of short stories, or your non-fiction history of the Sangre de Christo mountains.
But then one day you have the time. You have the space. You have the enthusiasm. But you don’t have any idea what you want to put down on the page. Often, this has roots in self doubt.
Nobody wants to read this. I suck at this. Who am I to try this?
The first thing to do is tell yourself it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, because this is a first draft, and you aren’t going to show it to anyone. Now that that’s out of the way, remind yourself that the most important thing is to get the story down on paper before you lose it. That is, if you have a story.
If you have a story, and you don’t know where to go next, try free writing. Do this with a paper and pen and the determination not to cross out or read until you’re done with the exercise. Start with the last sentence you wrote in your story and write for 30 minutes without stopping. At some point you may need to write “Keep the hand moving” a couple of time before your mind kicks in. As the author and creative writing teacher Natalie Goldberg advises: “Follow your mind.” Don’t try to stay on track (what you think is the track) just write. Something good will come out of it. Maybe something small, maybe something important. It doesn’t matter.
And if you don’t have a story, pick a color, or an object, and write about that, until something clicks in your mind and you are writing about a memory, or a dream, or a wish you had as a child, anything that resonates with you and continue with that until you have exhausted it. These seemingly random thoughts will have little nuggets of truth that you can work with.
Maybe you will get a poem, or the start of one. Maybe you will get a flawed character that you can build a seven novel series on.
One of my favorite exercises when I’m starting a new story or poem or scene for a play is to go to the thesaurus or the dictionary, open it at random with my eyes closed and put my finger on the page. I do this three times (three different pages). Jot down each word in turn, then look at each word. If you’re not sure of the meaning, look it up. Now use the meanings of those three words in your poem or short story WITHOUT EVER USING THE WORDS. Somehow, this gives your mind room to play and make some surprising connections that will enrich your work.
Inspiration can come from anywhere. This next one came from Alice Whitfield, my voiceover coach one day when she felt that the energy in the class was not as creative as she would like. Evidently we were all giving lackluster performances on our recordings. She told us all to close our eyes and picture a corner in our kitchen at home. We were to recall every single item in that corner, from floor to ceiling, to pick up any small objects, to note their color, and weight in our minds. We were to think of a scent from the kitchen, maybe gingerbread, or savory stuffing, or something else pungent that we enjoyed. When she told us to open our eyes, and take our turns recording for a second time, every single performance had improved. And I put it into my writing toolkit.
When the current plague is over and we can return to activities like sitting with our notebooks and a cup of tea or coffee at Travelers or Charlies or El Sombrero, listen to the conversations around you. Not obviously, of course, try to look like you are writing something of your own, not recording snippets of conversation. I once heard a woman say to a man that stopped by her table, “Is your dad still in the graveyard?” Something like that can lead to any number of stories.
Is the dad a gravedigger? A landscaper? A vampire that walks by night?
Another trick you can use is to have some jars filled with folded scraps of paper. One jar could have jobs – mechanic, neurosurgeon, substitute teacher, detective, etc. Another could have places – small town, big city, mesas, mountains, Alaska fishing village, artist’s colony, desert, any place you can think of, especially if you have been there, or would like to research it. Then a jar with situations – kidnapping, star crossed lovers, changing places with someone, building a house on swampland. Pull two slips out of the first jar for your protagonist and antagonist. Then a slip of paper for the place. Then one for the situation. And suddenly you have characters in a situation in a place. And it’s a start.
Now use these tips, or your preferred starting point, and write something (poetry, essay, or fiction) for Tapestry, the Las Vegas Literary Salon’s upcoming collection. The deadline for submission is June 1, so start writing. Click on the TAPESTRY GUIDELINES tab in the menu to get the submission guidelines and read the Call for Submissions here.