Writers give voice to their words

An enthusiastic audience, lively writers, great musicians, and spring weather made Off the Page, on April 6, 2012, a great success.

In its sixth year, Off the Page continued to offer an encouraging spirit of creative expression. Writers from the central Oregon Coast — Lincoln City, South Beach, Waldport and Yachats  — shared their work to a capacity crowd of 80 people at the Overleaf Lodge Event Center.

Many thanks to the writers, singers, songwriters, and the wonderfully supportive crowd for helping Off the Page soar. Our words came out of the dark and cloistered journal and into the world. Thank you.

Tim LoweryNina, one of the young writers from Seashore Family Literary

Richard Sharpless Khlo BratengSusan Fagalde LickBarton Howe


Thankful Thursday: Words Bloom

Vocabulary of Dearness

How a single word
may shimmer and rise
off the page, a wafer of
syllabic light, a bulb
of glowing meaning,
whatever the word,
try "temperature" or "suffer,"
any word you have held
or traded so it lives a new life
the size of two worlds.
Say you carried it
up a hill and it helped you
move. Without this
the days would be thin sticks
thrown down in a clutter of leaves,
and where is the rake?

Naomi Shihab Nye
from Fuel *


At Seashore Family Literacy this week, the young writers and I took an unexpected journey, gathering words like flowers for a bouquet that grew fuller with each new bloom.  

What's another word for rusty, I asked? One youngster jumped for the thesaurus, another for the dictionary, and our word hunt began. Rusty led to strident, to tempersome, to drowsy, to frazzled, to daft, and finally to lackadaisical, a word completely unrelated to rusty but the jackpot word nonetheless. (We then spent 10 minutes on spelling and pronunciation).

The next day, a young writer burst into the Writing Room:  I used the word today, she said. I used lackadaisical!

On this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for shimmering words, and minds eager to use them.

It's Thankful Thursday.
Gratitude. Appreciation. Praise.
Please join me in a weekly pause
to appreciate people, places & things.

What are you thankful for today?

* You could win this book in the Big Poetry Giveaway.


Just what is Off the Page? 

Off the Page is on stage this Friday night.

But wait, I see that confused look. You wonder: Is it writing group, workshop, event, or blog?

Answer: All of the above.

Off the Page was first a writing group, that turned into a literary event, that spawned a workshop, and also this blog.

A brief history
I was hungry (read: desperate, lonely) for writing companions
when I moved to Oregon in 2004, so I put out a call. That call created a writing group that, for two years, gathered monthly in my home. We'd eat soup, chat, and then dive into writing exercises. We shared our work with each other. In essence, we created and encouraged.

We were a mixed bag. Some of us had never been published and some were professional writers. Some were accomplished professionals -- an actress, a stock broker, an architect. Some were retired.

After we had written together for over a year it seemed time to share our work with a larger audience, and a reading event was born. The first year about 40 people showed up to see us nervous and shaking as we shared our poems and stories. The next year 50 people packed the coffeehouse.

As my circle of colleagues expanded, so, too, did the annual event. After several years we outgrew the cafe and moved to the Overleaf Lodge Event Center, a larger but still intimate venue that holds 80 people. Last year, much to my surprise, it was standing-room only — and to hear largely unknown writers!

What this tells me is that people are eager to support creative expression. And I am beyond grateful for the warmth and encouragement. 

While the initial writing group has long passed — lives change, people move on — the spirit of Off the Page remains. The premise is simple: Writing needs air.

Writing needs air
Over the years, writing has allowed me to wear many professional hats: newspaper reporter, editor, grantwriter, corporate communications, copywriter, and publicist.

I am also a poet who, for years, wrote in the dark, keeping my writing as a deeply personal, never-to-be-revealed part of myself. When I began to take my poetry seriously, I discovered that writing needs air. It needs life. It needs to come out of the cloistered journal and given space. It needs to come off the page and into the world.

And once words lift off the page, they are free to float into ears and soar into hearts.

This is the power of a small start. Just a few words on a page, and then a few more . . .



The Big Poetry Giveaway

It's National Poetry Month, and time for the Big Poetry Giveaway.

Initiated three years ago by Kelli Russell Agodon, this annual event celebrates poems, blogs, and the love of books.

How it works: Participating bloggers host a drawing in which they give away two poetry books — one of their own, and one by their favorite poet.

How to win: Simply post your name and email in the Comments area below. The contest runs April 1 - 30, 2012. Two names will be randomly drawn, and winners will be announced on May 1, 2012.

After entering my book giveaway, hop over to Book of Kells to discover the full roster of book drawings. Last year, the list featured more than 50 giveaways! The more blogs you visit, the better your chances to discover — and win — great poetry books.

Enter now, to win these books:

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Of the handful of poets I strive to emulate, Naomi Shihab Nye tops the list. Author and editor of more than 20 volumes of poetry, her work pulses with a calm urgency in which she "lends a fresh perspective to ordinary events, people, and objects." Fuel, published in 1998, is her most acclaimed collection.


Sweet Grief
by Drew Myron and Senitila McKinley

Two friends and a dying husband are at the heart of a powerful collaboration of paintings and poems exploring love and loss.

The collaboration is the work of Senitila McKinley and Drew Myron (that's me!), two women who share a tenderness for children in need. At Seashore Family Literacy, the nonprofit organization Senitila created and runs, Drew serves as writing instructor.

In 2011, Senitila's husband of 33 years was diagnosed with cancer, and died just a few months later. As a means to express the sense of individual and collective loss, over a period of six months Drew and Senitila created Sweet Grief, an art exhibition and accompanying book featuring 12 paintings and poems offering a range of darkness and light, from the heavy weight of loss to the bright glow of gratitude.

These books could be yours — for free!
To enter the book drawing, just add your name and email in the Comments section below. The contest runs April 1 - 30, 2012. Two names will be randomly drawn, and winners will be announced on May 1, 2012.



Try This: Poetry Poker 

A poem starts here

in a happy crash of orange tacos
and blue knights.

I am the Queen and you are the Joker,
anointing every room with laughter.

A poem starts here, where the elbow
bends, the toenail curves.

The house is ablaze with the sound of bacon.
The boiler thrums, soup hums.

Can you smell every donut rising?
Taste the rust of happiness peeling?

Poems live in the cracks of nonsense,
in the seams of disbelief.

We’re in the funhouse, join the ride.
Stale bread discarded. Fresh words only.

Even the fish swim backward, blowing
bubbles of electric pink.

- Drew Myron
A Poetry Poker poem written with the Happy Hour writers


Have you played Poetry Poker?

It's a great way to get out of your head and into language.

The game is the invention of Dave Morice, and appears in The Adventures of Dr. Alphabet.

How to Play Poetry Poker: Type a phrase across each card in a deck. Words should be a mix of complete, incomplete and unusual phrases. Each player is dealt five cards. The object of the game is to write a poem that includes all the phrases, along with many of your own words. It's essential that you add many of your own words to make and expand connections between phrases and ideas.

Sample Phrases: to the store, old train, the roof leaked, jumped off the, magic hamburgers, zoo monster, color of sleep, orange tacos

Optional Rules: Rules are fluid. For example, if playing in a group, writers can trade cards. Or, writers can choose to discard. The rules are not hard and fast, but loose and lively.

This game sometimes yields good poems. More often it breaks routine and opens the door for the next good poem. Whether writing prompt or powerful new poem, it always feels good to exercise the writing muscle and produce new work. And, really, Poetry Poker is just fun. The idea is to loosen the mind and try new word combinations.

Try This: Send me your Poker Poems and I'll post them here. You may post your poems in the comment section below, or share your work via email to

Don't be shy — let's exercise the writing muscle, and play with language.