More Four and Twenties

Two of my poems appear today in the October edition of Four and Twenty: A Short Form Poetry Journal.

I discovered Four and Twenty last year, through one of those serendipitous searches, the kind where you follow links from other links. Since then, 9 poems of mine have appeared in this journal. I’ve been consistently delighted with this non-daunting poetry form. It is simply this: four lines (or fewer), twenty words (or fewer), and a short title (or no title at all). Now I’m absolutely hooked on the little things. Haiku are my favorite subset of four and twenties.

My two poems this month were both inspired by real-life events, as is probably everything I write. Five Bats at Twilight came to me at once, as I stood at the bottom of my driveway late one summer evening, after coming home from somewhere, and watched first one, then two, and finally five bats flit crazily around the greenspace near where I live. See, it’s taken me a whole paragraph to describe, but I wrote it in 15 words (with 4 more for the title)!

Stray objects is a tribute to my friend Robin, who succumbed to ovarian cancer almost exactly a year ago. She was days short of her 51st birthday. It was either in a conversation we had, or in one of her many humorous, touching and gutsy writings where she mentioned mismatched objects, and how by the time you had amassed three of anything, you could consider it a collection. I believe she was specifically talking of teacups at the time, but it applies to anything. Again, a long-winded explanation. My poem Stray Objects, one of my shortest, captures it in 7 words (with 2 additional for the title). That’s why I’m hooked on 4 & 20’s. Try writing one yourself. You won’t be sorry!

Komen Wrap Up

I wanted to take the time once again to thank everyone who supported me in my fundraising efforts this year on behalf of the Komen Portland Race for the Cure. Not only did I meet my goal of raising $385, but I actually exceeded it with the wonderful support of family and friends and raised $527!

Thanks again to Holly, Haldan, Avra, Jeff, Tom, Emilie, Robert, Myra and John for their generous contributions. Thanks also to Douglas, Evan, Gabi, Candice and Jason for walking with me this year. Together we can make this disease a thing of the past! It is not too late to contribute. Although this current fundraising drive ends tomorrow, donations are accepted year round.

A Parent’s Intuition

When my youngest son was 15-months old, he became very ill with a rare condition,that baffled the doctors. Six nerve-wracking days passed, with many calls to the pediatrician’s office and one emergency room visit, before he was properly diagnosed and underwent emergency surgery. The story of this experience was one of five winners in the 31 Hours parents’ intuition contest:

Although it has been over 13 years since this event took place, and my son made a complete recovery following surgery, I wanted to tell the story, not in an attempt to bash the medical professionals who failed to recognize the seriousness of the situation, but to encourage parents to continue to advocate for their children when their intuition tells them that something is seriously wrong, even if it means seeking out a different medical provider. I will always be grateful for the pediatric ENT on call, who took the time to listen to my concerns, took stock of the situation, promptly and accurately diagnosed this infrequently occurring condition, and put our son on the path to recovery. Without this doctor’s expertise, I don’t even like to think about what might have happened that day. Luckily, all’s well that ends well!

More Wordstock Wit/Wisdom

And then there was the panel on “Stages of Playwriting” with panel members Marc Acito, Storm Large, and Cynthia Whitcomb.

  • “The secret of comedy is surprise.” (Marc Acito)
  • “All comedians are motivated by hostility.” (Marc Acito, noting comedians use expressions like “I killed them”, “I slayed them”, “I died out there tonight.”)
  • “The closer you get to the truth, the funnier it is.” (Marc Acito)
  • “A writer is someone who feels bad when they’re not writing.” (Cynthia Whitcomb, on the true definition of a writer.)
  • “You can’t figure it out.” (Cynthia Whitcomb, noting that there’s no formula for producing a successful screenplay time after time—it’s an organic process between the audience and the performers.)
  • “You can get brilliant gifts from your subconscious if you ask it to deliver for you.” (Cynthia Whitcomb)
  • “You win some, you lose some, but you win some.” (Cynthia Whitcomb’s motto)
  • “Failures become part of your fabric.” (Storm Large)

And finally, the last book talk I attended was Hope Edelman speaking on her latest book, The Possibility of Everything. I was, to put it mildly, a wee bit fatigued at this point, and initially put away my notebook and decided to just listen. But I absolutely had to pull it out again to jot down the bit where she said that she initially began the book as fiction, because she was wary of portraying herself as a “new age lemming.” Can lemmings be new age? Who knew?

The Wit and Wisdom of Wordstock

Am I the only one who takes notes at book talks and panels? Well, maybe. But I remember so much more as a result. I was particularly riveted by the panel on “Truth and Story”, moderated by Debra Gwartney, with panel members Julia Glass, Jeannette Walls and Laurie Sandell, since I write a lot of creative non-fiction. I also saw Jeannette Walls and Julia Glass individually, at separate talks.

There were so many quotable quotes, it was all I could do to note some of them down. I don’t claim to have the words 100% accurate, as I was listening as well as I could to some fairly fast-paced discussion while simultaneously attempting to capture some of it on the page. Here then is the flavor of some of the highlights, as closely as I remember them. I have attributed them to a specific person wherever possible.

  • “The truth is a liquid, not a solid.”
  • “Even though we have the same facts, we have different truths.”
  • “My fancy doesn’t fly, it burrows.” (Jeannette Walls, on why she writes memoir rather than fiction)
  • “The best fiction reads like non-fiction and the best non-fiction reads like fiction.” (Jeannette Walls)
  • “All serious fiction is emotionally autobiographical in some way.” (Julia Glass)
  • “Everyone has ownership of his or her own story.” (Laurie Sandell)
  • “Secrets are like vampires. They suck the life out of you, but they can only exist in darkness.” (Jeannette Walls)
  • “The details of our lives are very similar, even if the stories are different.”
  • “I mix what I know from my own life with fictional elements, to intensify the truth of the story.” (Julia Glass on why her books are classified as fiction, rather than memoir.)
  • “We shape our truths by which stories we choose to tell and how we choose to tell them. You have to trust your impressions and memories of things” (Jeannette Walls)
  • “It’s not what you remember, but why you remember it that way.” (Debra Gwartney)
  • “One of the most difficult aspects of writing a memoir is finding your voice– you have to be true to your voice.”
  • “We get our happiness not from being superior to others, but by making those connections and finding common ties.” (Jeannette Walls)
  • “Every challenge is wrapped up with a gift, if you choose to accept it.” (Jeannette Walls)
  • “Everyone needs to experience things outside of their sphere– that’s why we read memoir.” (Jeannette Walls)
  • “Scars are a sign that you survived—that you are stronger than the thing that tried to hurt you.” (Jeannette Walls)
  • “A luxury once tasted becomes a necessity.” (Oscar Wilde) [No, he wasn’t actually physically present at Wordstock—only in spirit. 😉 ]