Thursday, September 27, 2012

Writing Prompts Don't Have To Be Words

Alternative appearances: Lith Prints and Polaroid Transfer Images
I recently visited Marianne McKee's exhibit of 28 monochromatic prints at the Richmond Public Library. I had intended to pause briefly before each small photograph. But I found myself stopping for long minutes, drawn in by the ancient doorways, windswept moors and  craggy shorelines of the Hebrides, horses and sheep from the rural Virginia and  sculptures of bears, lions and rabbits enlivened by the intimacy of these delicate images.

Marianne has carefully manipulated the lith and Polaroid transfer processes for maximum effect, resulting in pictures that are evocative and haunting. I was drawn in, curious about the stories within  and just outside the frame of each photograph. Who took care of the sheep and cows, fed the cats, walked the hills, ran down to the ocean?

The inspiration for creating stories was unexpected and a delight. I was reminded that our muses come from anywhere and everywhere and sometimes our most powerful writing prompts are not the written word.

Marianne's work is at the Richmond Public Library- Dooley Hall, 101 E. Franklin Street, Richmond, VA from Sept 7 to Oct 2, 2012.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Happening at bbgb

Inspired by Lana Krumwiede, bbgb (3100 Kensington Ave.) hosted a gathering of writers and lovers of children's books on Saturday, September 15, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Co-owner Jenesse Evertson gave a short presentation, highlighting the following trends in publishing for children/YA:

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls
bbgb is pleased to see the return of the scary story that is squarely in the realm of impossibility. In this context, Claire Legrand's book (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers) really delivers. Lately, the borderline between reality and make-believe has become blurred in children's books. Could the events in the story really happen or not? This can be confusing for young readers. bbgb loves this book because it's scary, but safe scary because it's something that could never happen.

Every Day
Want a book that will make you cry but completely blow you away? That is how Jenesse describes Every Day (Knopf Books for Young Readers), a book about a soul who wakes up in a different body every day. A veteran of collaborations, David Leviathan wrote this book on his own.

Glory Be
Strong voices are becoming more and more prominent in books for kids and this book exemplifies the emergence of the southern voice in children's literature. A strong voice connects the reader with the character right away. Glory Be (Scholastic Press) is a debut novel by Augusta Scattergood, a 60-something--year-old, new author. Gives us all hope!

What's new in graphic novels? Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol (First Second) and Drama by Raina Telgemeier (GRAPHIX)  are examples, featuring solid stories and good characterization. Graphic novels are especially valuable for kids who like to jump around the page when they read. This format also helps kids learn to integrate visual and written elements to create the meaning of the story.
bbgb has changed the way they stock books. They have a permanent collection that will always be available in the store: classics plus newer books that they absolutely love. They also have a collection that changes constantly--new titles to try, great finds from other countries, etc. 

Lana Krumwiede was there to enjoy the talk and mingle with old friends and make new ones. She will launch her debut novel, Freakling (Candlewick) on October 13 at bbgb. All are invited! (For a full list of Lana's coming events visit
Also spotted in the audience was Brian Rock ( who launched his picture book With All My Heart (Tiger Tales) on Sept 1, 2012. Next for Brian is The Deductive Detective (Sylvan Dell) scheduled for April 2013. Congratulations, Brian!

 Gigi Amateau will launch her new novel Come August Come Freedom (Candlewick) at the Poe House, Thursday, Sept. 20, at 6:30 p.m. Visit Gigi at

Troy Howell (, illustrator and author, was on hand to meet and greet, as was Meg Medina (, winner of the 2012 Ezra Jack Keats New Writers Award for Tia Isa Wants a Car. THey were joined by Anne Westrick ( whose debut novel, Brotherhood, (Viking/Penguin) will come out in fall, 2013. Deb Dudley, Marianne McKee, Libby McNamee, Chris Sorensen, Roxanne Lane and many others also gathered at the bookstore to talk about books, talk about writing and catch up with each other. An informative, lively time for all!
Visit bbgb at for coming events and notice of future gatherings.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ruckus Reading Tips

Check out Brian's reading tip on the Ruckus Reader page!
Feel free to chip in and suggest you own tips at the site!
Apparently he submitted the tip a while ago, because his daughter Delaney is now 7!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Box

Recently I had the delightful experience of contributing to an art project by writing a short poem that will never be read. I will let my friend, Sarah Masters, who created this piece, tell you about this unusual project in her own words.

Sarah writes: This is the story of how this piece, Collected Stories, came to be. One day my friend Rob offered to take me to a couple of interesting used furniture and stuff places up Route 1 heading north out of Richmond. Our first stop was “Class and Trash” which is always over-full with furniture, household goods, and assorted curiosities. We both noticed this box, because it had such an interesting shape; but neither of us could imagine what it was ever intended for. That day I bought a couple of things that had potential for use in future assemblages – but not the box. The curious piece stayed on my mind the rest of the day, so the next morning I went back to buy it. At the time I was in the midst of working on a group of 3-dimensional pieces, so I immediately began cleaning the box up and smoothing out the rough inside. But I had no notion how I might use the box in a piece. Over time I sketched out several ideas, but none seemed quite right. As I began the work for this show at Caldwell Arts Center, I began once again to consider how I might use the box. I had just finished the piece Promise in which I had used some layered writing on Lokta paper, and I thought about the possibility of using the same kind of layered paper in the box. For this piece I wanted to fold the paper accordion-style; this was influenced by a Japanese accordion sketchbook I had recently finished (as a left-handed project) and also by an amaryllis pod which split to reveal paper-like seeds layered in the pod like some sort of gills. In the past I have used quoted poems and, in Promise, some of my own poems in the writing – whatever seemed relevant to the piece. This one called for something different: a collective voice - true stories from the people around me. I set about composing an e-mail with a request for a true short story or anecdote (NOT a creative writing piece). Within an hour of sending out the message, the first story came in, and after the first day, six stories had arrived. People have been so generous with their stories and time, and they have been very supportive of the project. As soon as the stories began coming in, the piece became more than I had imagined it would be. I don’t know why this surprised me. One predictable aspect of making art is that each piece has a life of its own, and the maker is generally not the one in control. As soon as a piece is begun, it goes off in some unforeseen direction. The job of the artist, I believe, is to respond to what is happening – in a sort of dialogue with the work itself. With the box my focus had been on making the object. But the process of collecting and transcribing stories immediately became extremely important to the piece, and curiously so, since I am the only one who will read the stories. People have trusted me with their stories, these small fragments of their lives, and I have a responsibility to honor both that trust and the gifted story in my making. The stories themselves and the gifting of the stories change me. And, it seems, the project has also affected the participants. Many have thanked me for the invitation to write for different reasons: they were grateful for the motivation, they had been meaning to write this story, the writing was a welcome break from the daily routine, the writing brought clarity to their story, or the writing provided the opportunity to share a story that would be safe here - something that could not be shared more publicly. There is an aspect of exchange in this process that is akin to ideas expressed in Lewis Hyde’s book The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. For a gift to have value and to stay alive, it must be passed on, kept in motion, not quantified. Hyde supports his ideas by looking at the notion of the gift through time and across cultures before he begins a consideration of the creative gift. What has happened and is happening with this piece seems to fit his thesis well. Further elaboration would require an essay of its own. Many aspects of this piece are multi-layered. In its format it is a combination of object/sculpture, assemblage, collaboration, and conceptual art. It is made from the literal (physical) layering of stories combined with more figurative sorts of layering. The contributed stories have been written and layered two sheets together. They are layered again as they are torn in strips, then glued and stitched, and finally folded into the box. There are layers within the stories themselves: layers of narrative, meaning, feeling, symbol, and characters. From story to story there are links and overlaps of subject or theme. There is a layer of the story of the box itself: the unknown story of the box’s origin and the one that is being written and continued now in the making of the piece. These layers and stories together speak of our connections to one another in ways that are elemental and quite profound. While it is unlikely that the viewer will be aware of all that I am describing, it is these things that allow a found box to be transformed into MORE. Sarah Masters June 2012

Sarah's piece, "Collected Stories" can be seen at The Caldwell Arts Council Exhibition in Lenoir, N.C.:

Visit Sarah at: