Wednesday, November 21, 2012

SALT LAKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE COMMUNITY WRITING CENTER CELEBRATES TEN YEARS


A DiverseCity Writing group becomes a family, a writing coach a trusted friend, a workshop a safe haven.-Faye FischerWriting Assistant & DiverseCity Writing Series Coordinator

I don't recall how I heard about the Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center but remember being present as copies of the first sine cera anthology People Are Strange were being pulled out of boxes in preparation for an upcoming reading. I became a card carrying member in 2003. A laminated, rectangular piece of green construction paper with my card number written in black marker on one side and the words- I Write Stuff on the other has been in my possession ever since. It serves as a constant reminder that everybody can write and encourages me to don the descriptor with pride.

In addition to using open space available for writing and computer access the Community Writing Center provides opportunities to enhance writing ability through writing workshops. I registered for a writing workshop taught by Professor Melissa Helquist. I very much enjoyed meeting her brother Brett Helquist, illustrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Author of sixty-two books on Goodreads with 756982 ratings, Lemony Snicket's most popular book is The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #1). Brett diagrammed his process and when asked why he chose to share his experience and knowledge with our small group expressed sincere belief in Zig Ziglar's philosophy- YOU CAN ONLY GET WHAT YOU WANT, IF YOU HELP ENOUGH OTHER PEOPLE GET WHAT THEY WANT. Though not an illustrator myself, I can scarcely trace, a sense of community was palpable. It felt good to know there are artisans who believe in giving back.


In 2006 I was elected Chapter President of the Oquirrh Writer's group, as such responsible for planning monthly meetings. Writing Center Program manager, Jeremy Remy, agreed to give a presentation on Horror during our October meeting. He used visual aids including short film clips to demonstrate the diverse sub-genres of Horror fiction. These and more examples of volunteerism fueled my own desire to help others who longed to be heard, but were limited by ability or educational background. This spurred me to attend a volunteer training and orientation. Writing coaches provide one on one collaborative assistance, offering helpful feedback in a supportive environment. Everybody can write for practical needs, civic engagement and personal expression. Types of writing include letters, resumes, essays, and short stories.

In 2011 I took a bite out of procrastination by challenging myself to write 50,000 words in thirty days. The Community Writing Center partnered with nanowrimo.org and hosted NaNoWriMo workshops to celebrate November as national novel writing month. I used Woody Allen's quote, "Eighty percent of success is showing up." to prod myself when my inner critic set up mental roadblocks in an effort to discourage me from attending workshops. Meeting other frantic novelists and facilitators, also participating in NaNoWriMo, provided support through the highs and lows this kind of insanity condones. We explored inventive ideas and made a commitment to set aside time each day for writing. A white board, graphed each writers progress- number of words produced. My inner critic wanted to beat me up for failing to reach my goal. I exercised him by creating his likeness on paper, surrounded by bubbles filled with negative feedback. Chuck, as I like to call him, didn't give up! He started criticizing my illustration. Now he was out of my head. I tore up the paper and threw my inner critic away. During our final meeting we reviewed lessons learned, prompted each other with future goals and celebrated our successes.

I am a long time participant in the DiverseCity Writing Series and co-mentor the Gay Writes group with Toastmaster extraordinaire Doug Woodall. This month the writing center celebrated sweet success with a dessert party in our honor. Volunteers were thanked for being a driving force to all the center's achievements. John Wilkes has been participating since the center opened in 2002. His is a true success story, but I'll let him tell it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

DICHOTOMY

In fifth grade I joined the volleyball team. I distinctly remember changing into shorts and a jersey with my teammate, BJ. We had ducked into a hall restroom. When she saw me with my top off, she said, "You need a bra."

"You really think so?"

"Yeah, look at me." she said, drawing attention to her chest with her hands. Though flat, she looked very young lady like in her training bra.

I started wearing lose fitting tops in an effort to hide my new found young womanhood. More than anything I wanted to blend, the thought of standing out for good or ill terrified me.

One of my favorite Friends episodes shows Phoebe and Joey at Central Perk. She's sharing her concern that there must be something wrong with her because the guy she's dating hasn't made a move. Joey tells her one of the first things he commented to his friends about her was that she has a cute butt and great rack.

"Really?" she asked, then added, "I'm officially offended, but thanks." This dichotomy is typical of the female experience. As women we want to be judged on our merits without the cloud our perceived beauty or plainness puts before the lens. Notwithstanding, it's always nice to be noticed and appreciated. So we're constantly warring within about what to wear or how to present ourselves.

I realized this once again while donating blood plasma at CSL Plasma in Salt Lake City. I asked the phlebotomist, "Is she OK?" referring to a gal with five techs hovering. She confirmed my guess.

"It doesn't take five people to stick one donor, they're ogling her breasts." Despite my efforts to conceal myself and prevent flopping or flapping, jealousy toward a complete stranger with five onlookers at her side welled up in me 'til the voice inside my head shouted, if she gets five, my breasts are worthy of - at least three!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

WHY READ?

Whether you are reading for inspiration, education or entertainment- analyzing other writers’ work improves your own writing style. Even bad prose can be the instrument of instruction, clearly teaching us what not to do. On the other hand, from good writing we learn about graceful narration, plot development, and the creation of believable characters.

When asked, "Where do you get your ideas?" William Nicholson author of The Wind Singer trilogy said, "The material that forms my ideas comes from my life, from the people round me, from the books I read, and more than I sometimes realise, from newspapers and magazines." When asked, "What tips would you give someone starting out as a writer?" He said, "If you want to write books, you have to do two things: read books, and write. It sounds obvious, but only by writing a lot will you get any good. The better the books you read, the better your own writing will be."

It’s true, you may not be able to watch every episode of Glee or House MD and still have time for the important things in your life, but reading doesn’t have to take up large blocks of time. I take a book with me everywhere I go, reading in theater lobbies before the show, while waiting in line at the checkout, and during potty breaks. You can even read while driving, thanks to audio books. Reading is a good fit for any time that would otherwise be wasted.

In his book On Writing, Stephen King advises, "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut. You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."

If you work full-time, it may be easier to reserve time each day in which to write. Get up early and write before you leave the house, or stop off at a cafe on your way home. Students may have a full day of the week to devote to creative writing. Stay-at-home moms and dads often rely on nap time. Make that time golden, as you would any important appointment. You might disappoint some people, but if you use tact, they'll get over it. In fact, it might give them permission to carve out space for something they really love, too.

If you need some incentive to read, maybe a monthly book club would be just the thing to get you motivated; if you can’t find one you like- start your own and invite all your friends. Whether you’re reading the instructions for putting together the latest gadget, telling your kids a bedtime story or reciting a poem on open mike night, you’re learning something about writing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

LIVING FREE IN AN UN-FREE WORLD

by Jonathan Dale Ricks

First, it's important to define the word freedom. This word gets thrown around every day in popular media. Commonly, they misuse, abuse, or redefine its meaning. To me, freedom is the ability to express one's own self. In a free state of being, one's abilities increase while personal limitations decrease. Another important part of being free is the way we feel about ourselves given the society and environment we live in.

How can we obtain freedom in a world that is fully corrupted? How can one be free in a fully corrupted nation? In talking about corruption, we speak of people using the system in ways that were not intended, and thereby creating a system that was planned for or expected. The unfortunate fact is that we cannot fully stop others from abusing the system, and most especially in large groups. One solution is to remove yourself from that system, partially or fully. A positive way to remove one's self from the system is to Do It Yourself, abbreviated DIY. There are many ways to DIY.

When most of what we eat all year is from our personal or community garden, we have freed ourselves from a major amount of control the system inflicts upon us. In encouraging people to grow food and not buy it at the grocery store, you are thinking, "I live in an apartment. This advice doesn't apply to me". If you continue to think this, you are right. However, it can apply to you if you find a community garden near your apartment in the city. Gardens are starting up everywhere, and personally I would be surprised if you could not find one within a few block of where you live. If you volunteer to water and weed, plan and plant, you will be able to take some of the harvest home to eat. Alternatively, skip the hard work and simply volunteer to take some excess vegetables home! This is a smaller step, but it contributes to the overall success of gardens everywhere, and the feeling of accomplishment each person working their own garden feels. It feels good to give, and in order for someone to give, another must receive.

For most people, work is essential. Work takes up a large portion of our day each and every day, so it is an important aspect of life to look at when considering freedom. How much satisfaction does doing the work you currently do give you, directly? Many people work for the rewards that work gives indirectly, but forget that work itself is a large portion of their life. If what we are doing with a large portion of our life does not satisfy us, then we will experience a nagging sense of unease, of not accomplishing what we ought, or of not being the person that we want and know we can be. It is vital that we look closely at what we do for work. We should look at how much it satisfies or does not satisfy us.

Technological improvements impact almost every aspect of our lives. It is important that we use technology and not allow it to use us. Cell phones, the Internet, social media, and portable music players have all had a large impact on our lives. Sometimes we allow a music player to create a cocoon around us, where we are mostly unaware of what is going on even in our immediate vicinity. Cell phones can leave us a slave to answering them immediately, regardless of where we are or what we are doing, sometimes ignoring the people who we are personally interacting with! The Internet can be very addictive in its explanation of most things, and social media can take up a large part of our free time, leaving no room for in-person interactions once again. These personal and face-to-face interactions with people build confidence and affect how we view each other. As a result of the technologies we have, and their huge popularity, many people can no longer meaningfully connect in person, and have lost many of the social skills and courage to do so.

Proper Role of Government for Thee, But Not for Me | Libertas Institute Cartoon

Political Cartoon by Libertas Institute.

Monday, August 20, 2012

VIRTUAL FREEDOM

There are many devices that make our lives easier and more carefree such as the internet, but the internet can consume our time and enslave us rather than operate as a servant. The internet can be used as a tool to perpetrate or solve crimes, to educate, or propagate falsehoods. Though it is a tool subject to the whims of those who use it; I believe the World Wide Web affords greater freedom than other communication mediums because it brings them all together in one place. Fact checking is made easier as the internet provides easy access to multiple sources of media. You want balanced news? You don't feel the TV stations, or even cable, is giving that to you?. Again, the internet can give a far more balanced opinion and show the other side of news stories that you won't see on TV. Just let your fingers do the searching. Multiple sources of news and information can be accessed within minutes. Online news contains everything from top stories to the hottest fashions and celebrity gossip. Your favorite morning or evening paper, your magazines, crossword puzzles and comics books are among the many available online resources. Yes, you can get your horoscope too!

The internet can help Utah residents regain freedom by virtue of the fact it allow individuals, companies and local government to see what other parts of the country and indeed the world are doing. In this way, citizens are not influenced solely by their own culture and morays. An Arab for example can talk to an American and not even know they're talking to an American and vice versa. In this way both parties are able to communicate with one another without being subject to biases. People can judge an idea on its own merit rather than prejudging based on the person. The internet is a great equalizer, acting as a loophole in racism, ageism, sexism and even nationalism. We can be a part of the bigger world, and what's nice is that you can choose how much you take part in the bigger world. Facebook settings illustrate this principle by allowing its users to customize account privacy settings. Facebook settings limit or expand what others see of a users online activities. Additionally, every form of how to instruction and self help can be found online, including anti-paranoia exercises which allow people to use the internet itself more freely.

You can use your internet buying power to price and order items from anywhere in the world. You can make a statement by purchasing from/recommending local businesses as opposed to national chains. Also, lets say you like a product that isn't selling well enough to be mass produced and distributed in supermarkets. For instance, I prefer tinted acne medication because it doubles as makeup base. I've gone online and ordered it from drugsupplystore.com before, because my nearby supermarkets only carry clear acne medication. Overstock.com provide jobs for 1,300 people. Overstock.com harnesses the internet to catch consumers who want to enhance their personal buying power through online resources.

Musicians who may have gone unnoticed can gain sudden popularity on web sites like You Tube. Popularity on You Tube gains the attention of major recording labels. Not only can artists make money when someone purchases their CD or downloads their music from iTunes or some other music service, but they get royalties from the radio stations each and every time a song of theirs is played.

Sites like eBay allow for re-use because the items sold there many times are listed by individuals and not companies. Online auctions provide a service because games, books, or movies that you can't get other ways, can be obtained through eBay. We all have valuable stuff beneath the dust bunnies. We're all setting on something.

Friday, August 17, 2012

♫ DREAM ON ♪ DREAM ON ♫


Have you ever wondered what a strange, odd or just plain silly dream meant? I’ve had a few weird recurring dreams. Some I can only recall random pieces of, others flow through my brain like a mental movie (complete with rolling credits!).  Perhaps your dreams have been boring lately.  If so, choose to expose yourself to new experiences throughout the day.  Dreaming allows our subconscious to process the day’s events. New stimuli will make your dreams become exciting once again.

Regurgitating one’s subconscious on paper may seem tedious or even ridiculous, but many a midsummer night’s dream or winter’s tale have given birth to narration.  C. S. Lewis said that the famous Narnia story, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, came to him from a single picture he received in a dream, of a faun carrying an umbrella and parcels through a snowy wood.  Mr. Tumnus, in Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia (1949), is that faun.

It pays to keep a notebook near your bed so you are able to write down an inspiring thought or a funny dream you had. If you’re like me, those shimmering images won’t linger long in the light of day. However, there are exceptions. Stephenie Meyer's life changed dramatically on June 2, 2003. The stay-at-home mother of three young sons woke up from a dream featuring seemingly real characters that she could not get out of her head.

She says, "Though I had a million things to do, I stayed in bed, thinking about the dream. Unwillingly, I eventually got up and did the immediate necessities, and then put everything that I possibly could on the back burner and sat down at the computer to write—something I hadn't done in so long that I wondered why I was bothering."

Meyer invented the plot during the day through swim lessons and potty training, and wrote it out late at night when the house was quiet. Three months later she finished her first novel,which eventually made its way to the publishing company Little, Brown Book Group where everyone fell immediately in love with Meyer’s gripping, star-crossed lovers.

Inspiration for a poem or song can also come by way of a dream. Paul McCartney woke up one morning with the tune for yesterday in his head. He jumped out of bed and played it instantly on his piano, and is quoted as saying, “It was just all there, a complete thing, I couldn’t believe it”.

Because of the way that Paul had dreamed up the song he was very concerned that it may have been a tune he had heard previously. He spent the next month driving people mad by asking them if they had heard the tune to yesterday before.

The song was originally titled Scrambled Eggs and contained the lyrics “Scrambled eggs, oh you’ve got such lovely legs”. He used to practice the song relentlessly because he loved it so. Despite this, it took many weeks until he came up with the lyrics for yesterday while on holiday with Jane Asher in Portugal .

Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote Kubla Khan immediately on waking from a laudanum-induced dream. The poem is considered one of the most famous examples of Romanticism in English poetry. A copy of the manuscript is a permanent exhibit at the British Museum in London. Whether writing for pleasure or profit, your dream log could be a gateway drug into published imagination.  Keep it daily if you value the idea of being a writer, for no good writer throws away a good tool.

Happy Writing!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

PERFECT DAY

"It's good to do things differently than you do everyday," I tell myself, while trying to pull up underwear beneath a long pleated shirt. "It reminds us that we're alive."  I'm wearing a less-than-clean shirt for the singular reason that the merrymaking that Jon & I enjoyed yesterday left no time for cleaning clothes. Ordinarily for work I don business casual pants, a blouse and an old pair of tennis sneakers for comfort. "Frumpy!" you might say, but Jon is a fellow pragmatist and he doesn't object to a little mess. He hands me my morning coffee and I sit down to a steaming bowl of Better Oats Strawberries and Cream. I then grin ruefully as he exercises the cats using a penlight.

 Did you know that only two percent of Americans are employed within walking distance of their home? I am fortunate to be among them. The temperature outside is hot enough to elicit beads of sweat on my forehead as I ascend the stairs to work at a moderate, even pace. When compared with yesterday morning, the start of this day is very different. Today is the 25th. I'm grateful my employer closed for Utah's state holiday, July 24th (Pioneer Day).

Yesterday morning was special because I heard no alarm, nor did I have difficulty in getting the mattress off my back. That day, I ran to the TV like a kid on Saturday morning and watched Justice League episodes on DVD. Jon soon joined me on the couch. Wonder Woman exclaimed, "Hera, give me strength." Which prompted me to ask, "Who is Great Scott?" Jon then let out a belly laugh, before replying, "I think it's just an expression." When we grew tired of watching cartoons he put in a music CD, and I got out our Scrabble game. While debating amongst ourselves about whether we should allow proper nouns such as Kleenex, Oreo and Snarf we noticed an alternate version of play in the rule book. If you want to hide something from a Jack Mormon put it in a manual. We won't read it! The suggestion was to draw 9 tiles instead of the usual 7. We would score a 50-point Bingo bonus for using 7, 8 or all 9 tiles on our rack. We decided, "Our domicile, our rules".
A perfect day off.