Monthly Archives: February 2012

Remember Community Gardens?

Rhubarb

Dear Reader:

In recent posts I have strayed from my original plans for this blog–advocating “going local” in place of spending hard-earned dollars at big-box retail stores with questionable business ethics and negative impact on community economics.

One of my passionate causes a few years back was the attempt to create a community garden in my, er, planned neighborhood which I will nickname The Contrammunity. If you have been following Outside the Box for awhile, you will remember that the struggle ended in defeat . . . mostly because some members of The Contrammunity thought that a run-down, unusable tennis court was preferable to a garden in their neighborhood.

But who am I to say what is or isn’t more valuable? I gave up the fight, deciding that if a community garden stirred up so much controversy and bad feelings, it wasn’t anything I wanted to pursue further.

Anyway, I still have a soft spot in my heart for community gardens. In the right kind of neighborhood, a shared garden space can be an oasis, a gathering place, a teaching/learning tool for newbies and kids, and (I truly believe this) a positive selling point for real estate nearby (unlike a broken, unused, cracked tennis court, for example.)

Waiting . . . waiting . . . waiting . . . for spring!

So when I read “If Every Community Had a Garden” in the Significato Journal this morning, my heart warmed. I was especially interested in the rainwater-catching system used for irrigation. Click to take a look at this short piece about a community garden started in Norway, Maine . . . incidentally, a town I lived in, worked in, owned a home in before moving further south. Norway is a wonderful, small, Maine town with a vibrant Main Street of small, locally-owned businesses including an impressive co-op store/space called the Fare-Share Co-op.

This video says it all!! Click Alan Day Community Garden Video. (Honestly, I’m watching this, and I can’t believe I moved away from this place!)

I don’t see myself ramping up the necessary energy to try to create a community garden again here The Contrammunity again. Sometimes you just have to admit you are living in the wrong place, make the best of your own backyard, and find a good co-op group and/or CSA farm–by looking at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) website.

Wild Plant with Old Leaves in Background

Spring is just around the corner, and I’m looking forward to getting new garden boxes set up, ordering seeds, and planting–just as soon as the snow melts and I’ve raked up the leaves I left moldering on the lawn over the winter.

What about you? Does your community have a shared-garden space? Do you have plans for spring planting? Drop me a line . . . Outside the Box.

Chopping the Writer’s Block

Nature's Way

Imagine my surprise when I opened up this month’s issue of TRUE STORY and discovered . . . my November story submission! I hadn’t heard anything from the magazine–acceptance or rejection–so I figured it had fallen into the hole where unsolicited manuscripts often end their journeys.

I also received word last week that the Hawaii story will be published in the June issue of TRUE CONFESSIONS . . . so pick up a copy when it hits your local newsstand, bookstore, or supermarket if you would like to see what all my fussing was about.

Now that I’ve had a little bit of writerly success, I am turning my attention to the Teen Writing Class starting up next week. The main focus of the class will be translating ideas from head to paper, from dreams to words. One of the biggest hurdles is, of course, the dreaded “writer’s block.”

I have a solution to that: Writing Prompt Lists. There are tons of lists out there on the web. I found this one today–http://www.creative-writing-now.com/short-story-ideas.html on the Creative Writing Now website. I especially liked the “three elements” ideas.

Check out this website if you are looking to chop into that old, frustrating writer’s block of yours. I may even take one and run–er, write–with it myself. Happy writing!

Writing My Mind To Hawaii

Beach At Waikiki

I have finally perfected the magic of teleportation. On this wintery Valentine’s Day in Maine, with a cold front settled in over the landscape like a cool-pack, I have been luxuriating in Hawaii. Waikiki to be exact.

I’ve been listening to slack-string guitar played by an older man wearing a splashy shirt and a lei (thanks to Pandora Radio).

Giant Shirt

I’ve been laughing with my sister at a luxury hotel while the lights from the tiki torches dance, reflected, in the water of the pool while we slurp down tropical drinks garnished with pink umbrellas stuck in pieces of fresh pineapple (thanks to my imagination).

The air is warm and balmy (thanks to the electric heater).

What exactly is this, you ask? Inspired by a trip we took a few years ago, I’ve been writing a story set in Hawaii, and what could be better than that on a mid-winter day? The story is aimed at the confession market because, well, I have to confess that I love writing them.

Bird of Paradise Plant

I hope that this story will find a home in one of the two confession magazines, True Story or True Confessions, but even if I don’t make a sale on this one, at least I’ve had a most enjoyable trip writing my mind to Hawaii today.

Sunset on the North Shore

Aloha! And Happy Valentine’s Day.

Writing With The Teen

The Teen artwork

Inspired by writers Bill Roorbach and Dave Gessner who publish a writerly blog called Bill & Dave’s Cocktail Hour, I’ve decided to “give something back” as they suggested in a post entitled Bad Advice Wednesdays: Do Something For Someone Else (30 Ideas for Writers).

From the post, which I highly recommend you read, is the following:

What I’m proposing today is forgetting about our own careers (or lack) and thinking about what we can do for others, what we can do to make the world a more hospitable place for art, and for artists, which is to say for writing and writers. Doing for others may be your key to success, and is certainly the key to happiness. Herewith, 30 suggestions for writers. Karma, anyone?

This past fall, I drove the Teen and three friends once a week to Portland, Maine to attend a teen writing workshop at The Telling Room. This place is awesome! A non-profit organization dedicated to mentoring young people as they learn to express themselves through story–oral storytelling, cartooning, poetry, fiction, personal narrative, new media, film, etc., The Telling Room provides a cozy space on Portland’s waterfront, guest teachers, and a wonderful staff both paid and volunteer.

The girls were attending a writing/cartooning class once a week. Driving to Portland and back after school, on a weeknight, was tiring for all of us, though. I kept thinking, “I wish we had writing workshops offered close to home.”

Well, when you want something to happen, often the solution is to do it yourself. I dredged up all my old high-school English teacher training and created a syllabus for a five-week teen writing workshop. I’m calling it Dreaming On Paper. Retro, perhaps, since most of us writers use computers now. However, I decided the focus of the class will be the keeping of a daily writing journal . . . paper and pen. Basic. Portable. Inexpensive. Not intimidating. The idea is to take a set amount of time, start your timer, and write until the alarm goes off. Writing with intention but freedom to let your mind stray, hopping from topic to topic, recording even the strangest images and connections that pop up from who-knows-where in the subconscious.

Natalie Goldberg in WRITING DOWN THE BONES describes the process in detail, and my hope is that teenage writers will find timed journal entries both fun and productive–a treasure trove of ideas for future writing projects.

The Dreaming On Paper writing workshop syllabus can be viewed by clicking here. Feel free to use it. Offer a writing workshop in your hometown. Follow the instructions to start your own writing journal/journey. Use your imagination.

When the workshop actually starts in March, I will be posting about it here, sharing tips and stories and maybe some segments from our notebooks (with permission of the authors, of course). My hope is that teens in my community will be inspired to put their dreams, observations, and ideas onto paper, discover the joy that writing brings (along with some frustration, because, let’s face it, writing isn’t always easy!), and find a micro-community of other young writers with whom they can share their interest, craft, and passion for the written word. While my Reiki instructor friend, Laura, explains that there is a difference between “expression” and “communication” (more on this topic at a later date, plus a link to her new blog!), here we can combine the concepts. . . expressing on paper in a private journal, rewriting for clarity and meaning, and then communicating to others. This is how it works. This is writing.

It’s so fabulous!