Monday, June 25, 2012

Writing Classes

Last week I attended the second of the poetry and flash fiction Leisure Learning classes at McNeese. At the Tuesday night poetry class Connie had us free write from memory about a time we got away with something. I remembered the swimming lessons at the lake on Shell Beach Drive when I was about five. The instructor told us we'd be going under the water the next week and get a shell from the bottom and show it to the class when we came up. I stewed about it all week. Even offered to stay home and pick the strawberries. If anyone has ever picked strawberries they know how desperate I was. It's not that I was afraid of the water. Just didn't like going under at that time in my life. Five years old, for crying out loud. At any rate, I got my shell and showed it to the class. But - I didn't go all the way to the bottom for it. And that's all I'm saying about that. After I read it out loud for the class, Connie said it worked great as a flash fiction piece, so I'll use it in that class for this week's assignment.

Next we did some poem sketching from Sandford Lyne's excellent book, Writing Poetry from the Inside Out. From several groups of four words each I chose one with the following words: icicles, poor, roof, beauty. I ended up with a haiku. Here's my attempt.

Icicles melt the
beauty of the roof into
a pudgy puddle.

For the non-poets among us, a haiku is a Japanese form with three lines and a syllable count of 5-7-5.

For the FLEX YOUR MUSCLES writing prompt see what you can do with those four words. Maybe you can get a longer poem or even a story out of them.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Someone once called me a professional student. Maybe it was because after graduating from high school in 1954 it took me the next fifty years to finally walk down the aisle and receive my Masters degree in English. That's right. Got that puppy in 2004 at the tender age of 67. Unfortunately I won't be around to join my fellow grads from the class of '04 when they get to sit down at the front in their golden robes in 2054. Be that as it may, that  education is something I wouldn't trade for anything in the world and it's something no one can ever take away from me.

And guess what? I'm still at it. Last week I made my way out to McNeese not once, but twice. Poetry class on Tuesday and Flash Fiction on Thursday. I've been seriously blocked since the first of the year. Hadn't written anything new since January. I left Poetry class with two poems and Flash Fiction class with one very short story. Got my mojo back. These are Leisure Learning classes, so there's no pressure to do anything. I have two excellent mentors. Connie, a retired teacher, is the poetry instructor, and Rachel, an MFA grad student is our fiction teacher. We only have three in the poetry class, but that's okay. Quality, not quantity. We have a few more, maybe eight, in the fiction class, but still quite manageable. 

So go ahead and call me names. I'm going to keep at it as long as the old brain lets me.

P.S. If you do the math you can even find out how old I am. I don't do math. I'm an English major.

Writing Prompts
Anthony Burgess suggested taking a page from a dictionary and seeing if the words on the page can build up a scene or a description.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Oner

Preacher Hebert was a oner. "Preacher" was a nickname he picked up in grammar school, and it followed him through his long, diverse life. Will Rogers once said he never met a man he didn't like. Preacher went him one better. He never met a man who didn't like him. As the years passed more and more of his friends, coworkers, and family members said goodbye to this world.

"There won't be anyone left to see me off," he often joked. He would have been surprised at the steady stream of condolers on visitation night and the standing-room-only crowd in the chapel the day of his funeral. There were plenty there to "see him off." Wife, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, former coworkers, hunting and fishing buddies, seven siblings, and assorted extended family. And friends. Lots of friends of all ages. The eulogies went on for quite a while.

He was in my life from the day I was born until the day he died. I observed nearly every phase of his life. Early on I remember those dark Cajun looks--the curly  hair, the laughing eyes, the pug nose that is a strong familial trait of the Heberts. Tall and solidly built, he had an athlete's fluidity of movement. I remember his hands--so big they could hide a baseball, strong enough to skin an alligator, yet with a touch so delicate he often bested his sisters, so I'm told, in a game of jacks. The dark curly hair grayed and thinned over the years, but the laughing eyes were there until they closed for the last time in his ninety-second year. December 8, 1999. Twenty-three days before the new century.

He excelled in all sports, but his passion was baseball. He was amazed he could actually get paid for doing something he loved so much. But when it was time, he hung up his cleats and went on to the next phase of his life. He never tried to relive the past through his children. Of the five of us, only two showed any real interest in sports, but that was fine with him. He always supported us in everything.

His retirement years afforded him the opportunity to pursue his other passions. He hunted ducks in the fall and winter. Spring and summer was the time for fishing and gardening. He skinned alligators during gator season and read "shoot-em-ups" when the weather was too bad for anything else. His talents extended to the kitchen as well, where he could whip up a mean gumbo. We were often treated to fried filleted fish, French fries, and fried okra followed by our mother's blackberry cobbler.

A snapshot shows him sitting in his pirogue in a quiet backwater of the Calcasieu River, an old man fishing, his face shaded by a battered baseball cap. A stranger might be surprised to know he'd been equally at home on the pitcher's mound in St. Louis, San Diego, and Pittsburgh. That snapshot is only part of his story. He was in my life a long time, and I regret he's no longer a part of it.

Writing Prompt
See what you can do with this:
A person who refuses to fit in and an asteroid heading toward Earth.
(Taken from The Storymatic)