Friday, April 29, 2011

Artists' Book Exhibit: A Booker's Dozen

While looking at upcoming events in the area I noticed a traveling exhibit called Bookers Dozen 2011 on loan from the Idaho Center for the Book (ICB) at Boise State University will be on display at the Coeur d’Alene Library during the month of May. The exhibit consists of 14 handmade and self-published books often called Artists' Books. Intrigued, I decided to check it out.

According the ICB website, the exhibit is the ninth edition of a state-wide competition founded in 1994 "to reward and encourage bookmaking, to promote Idaho bookmakers, and to inspire Idahoans to make their own books."

Amazingly, the 2011 competition drew 109 entries including national and international artists.
Perhaps due to the fact that the show has been on a transitional hiatus since 2008, or perhaps because of the resurgence of interest in the book as an object and in unique books as a counterbalance to digital artifacts, Booker’s Dozen 2011 elicited an astonishing response. - art professor and center director Stephanie Bacon
Now I am excited! I just learned four new things:

1. There is an organization in Idaho dedicated to books. Yay!

2. After troubling news earlier this year about technology and e-books cutting into the book market, I found it comforting to learn people are not only still reading books, at least 109 in the state of Idaho are actually making them. Double yay!!

3. An Artists' Book is a book made by an artist. One artist calls the art form a "crossroads between art, crafts, and creative writing." Each book is considered a piece of art and may or may not look like books as we traditionally think of them. They have several distinguishing characteristics: they are portable and often (usually) enclosed in a protective case or container that is part of the work itself, they are mixed media, and they are meant to be interactive.

4. Jurors for the book competition selected 14 books out of those entered to travel across the state as part of the 2011 biennial exhibition. There it is - a new factoid. Everybody knows a dozen is 12. A baker’s dozen is 13. And now I've discovered that a booker’s dozen is 14! Who knew?

About the ICB
The Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, Washington, D. C., upon recommendation of the Idaho State Library, in Boise, Idaho, designated the Hemingway Western Studies Center at Boise State University as the Idaho Center for the Book in November, 1993.

The Idaho Center for the Book was established to encourage and promote an interest in reading, writing, making, disseminating, and collecting books. The ICB also seeks to preserve and publicize the bibliophilic heritage of the Gem State.

ICB publishes a semi-annual newsletter, as well as books and videos relating to Idaho and book history, Book Arts, and related book topics. It sponsors (often with the assistance of the Idaho Commission on the Arts) "Booker's Dozen", and other projects in coordination and support with the efforts of a variety of state and national organizations.

The above information is from the ICB website. For more information on ICB and other exhibits go to:

If you want to take a gander at these books, the Booker’s Dozen Exhibit can be found in the glass cases in the lower level of the Coeur d’Alene library, 704 E. Front Street, from May 1 through May 27. For more information:

Lots of interesting examples of Artists' Books can be found online. Just give it a Google.

Monday, April 25, 2011

kNIFVES Crew Produces PSA on Domestic Abuse

I believe I have a lot in common with “The King’s Speech” screenwriter David Seidler who joked when he won an Oscar for best original screenplay at age 73, “My father always said to me I’d be a late bloomer.”

I’ve recently experienced an exciting adventure through my own late blooming screenwriting career. No Oscar as of yet, but through the experience I learned more about the craft of screenwriting, participated in an actual production, and hopefully made a difference in my community. What fun!

Several weeks ago, members of the Screenwriter’s Special Interest Group (SIG) I belong to through kNIFVES, Northwest Independent Film & Video Entertainment Society, were given the opportunity to write a script for a 30-second Public Service Announcement (PSA) on the subject of Domestic Abuse for the Post Falls Police Department (PFPD).

First I researched how to write a PSA and then took a look at some on-line. Finally I contacted the Victim’s Services Unit (OASIS) of the PFPD and asked them for insight into the audience they wanted to reach and anything in particular they wanted to say.

Then I wrote my 30-second PSA – all 1½ pages of it. It took me 3 days.

To my surprise, because the subject touched so many people, 13 scripts were submitted from our small group, some writers submitting more than one. A couple of weeks later, I was pleased to learn the members of the PFPD chose my script, "Break the Cycle" as the winner.

Then the real fun began. I got to watch my script – all 30 seconds of it – go from pre-production, through production, and into post-production all in a 1½ day workshop designed to teach students how to produce a PSA.

The amount of work the kNIFVES professionals put into this short commercial was amazing. The Line Producer and Production Manager, Karla Petermann, worked for weeks lining up mentors and actors willing to donate their time and talent for a good cause – to let abused women know that someone cares and someone will understand if they just call.

I worked on rewrites with W.J. Lazerus the producer, perfecting each of the three short scenes in the script. Believe it or not, there were actually 5 rewrites on this simple little script that I considered perfect in the first place!

Once the final script was OK’d by the client, the actors were recruited, the Call Sheets were printed, the students were signed up, and we were good to go.

What excitement for me the weekend of the shoot. I proudly wrote Mary Jane Honegger – Screenwriter on my name tag and stood back to watch the action.

From the first words out of the director’s mouth, I knew I was in good hands. As he directed the actors and shared his vision of the scenes I had written, I realized each one was becoming even more powerful than I had envisioned.

And he wasn’t the only one. Each one of the twenty-three crew members (Yes, 23!) worked their magic, helping to make a difference through the PSA we were creating. Cinematographer John Bateman and Camera Operator and Editor Paul Brand were TOTALLY amazing to work with. Each gave me a hug, congratulated me on my script, and asked what it was like for me to watch my words turn into action. What nice guys!

Other crew members included two assistant directors, and a couple of production assistants; grips, gaffers, mixers, and prop guys. There was a Best Boy, a makeup artist, a hairdresser, a wardrobe gal, and a still photographer; all donating their efforts and use of their equipment.

After a day-and-a-half of shooting, I was, well, shot. As a screenwriter my duty was done once the filming started, but during the last couple of years I’ve discovered I love the behind-the-scenes hustle and bustle; so I jumped in whenever I could; helping mostly with props, making sure the crew got fed, and things got cleaned up.

By late afternoon on the second day, only a small crew was left; just a couple of mentors teaching a handful of students the art of editing. But they got the job done and the next day I received a copy of the PSA via e-mail.

I was warned by the director that the piece still needed some ”tweaking” and that the music wasn’t finalized, but to me, finished or not, it was stunning. And as I watched I was struck with the realization that this piece became more powerful as the result of true team effort. Each person who touched the script - director, cameraman, lighting director, and actors added the emotion that brought my words to life.

"Break the Cycle" will be released on “Cinco de Mayo,” according to the director. It is scheduled for release on our local PBS station, but release to other local stations is being considered. The video will be installed on the PFPD website and I hope to post a copy on our blog.

If you would like to check out kNIFVES, visit their website at Our Screenwriting SIG meets the third Tuesday of each month in Coeur d'Alene. You'll find more information on the website under Announcements.

One out of every three women will become a victim of abuse at some time during her life. If you or someone you know is being abused, call 208-773-1080. They can help.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Who do YOU write like?

Well, I recently discovered the ultimate fun toy for writers. It’s on a website called, I Write Like.

On the site a writer pastes a sample of their writing into the window, clicks the ANALYZE button, then VOILA!---the writer is given the name of a famous author they write like! The writer is also given the code for a badge that can be posted on a website or blog to impress visitors.

I wondered, how in the world does this thing work?

So, of course, I tried it myself. I pasted narrative from my book South to Alaska, and the Analyzer spit out Margaret Mitchell. Really? Hmm. I then put in a couple of paragraphs from an article I had written about sled dog racing. For that article, I apparently wrote like Jack London. Hmm again.

I decided to test this gadget further, so I pasted some paragraphs from a newsletter I received from my bank. And guess what? My bank writes like Stephen King!

Well, I’m really having fun now. So, to carry this a bit further, I copied a random paragraph from a post made by each contributor on this blog, combined them, pasted them into the I Write Like window, and hit the Analyzer button. So, fellow bloggers, Writing North Idaho writes like:

H. P. Lovecraft

Fun stuff aside, the truth is, in most writing styles some general characteristic of a writer’s style could probably be identified and compared to that of a famous writer. After all, writers learn to write by studying and emulating famous and not-so-famous writers. And even though those similarities may exist, all writers eventually develop their own distinctive voice. In his book, On Writing Well, William Zinsser explains:

Never hesitate to imitate another writer. Imitation is part of the creative process for anyone learning an art or a craft. Bach and Picasso didn’t spring full-blown as Bach and Picasso; they needed models. This is especially true of writing. Find the best writers in the fields that interest you and read their work aloud. Get their voice and their taste into your ear---their attitude toward language. Don’t worry that by imitating them you’ll lose your own voice and your own identity. Soon enough you will shed those skins and become who you are supposed to become.

Makes sense to me. Although I didn’t read them aloud as Zinsser suggests, I read lots of Hemingway, Steinbeck, and others, trying to get the feel and flavor of what made their stories work.

What famous authors have you studied to work on your skills as a writer?

While you’re thinking, and when you’re done playing with I Write Like, check our Events page for writing-related book signings and other fun happenings this weekend and the rest of this month.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Conferences and baby pee. Tips on pitching.

Today we welcome back Idaho writer and blogger, Jessie Gunderson, who was a guest blogger for us earlier this year. Jessie kindly offered this cross post to share on Writing North Idaho, which was originally published on her blog, Blog Schmog. In the post she gives us her fun and informative thoughts and tips about pitching her work after attending the recent Inland Northwest Christian Writers Conference in Spokane where she met with editor Mick Silva of Waterbrook Press and agent JD DeWitt of The View Talent Agency. The photo in her post shows Jessie (right) and a friend at the conference.

Baby pee isn’t the best of perfumes when meeting with Mick Silva on editing and novel ideas. With a large wet spot on the front of my shirt, I had a difficult time being confident. Note to self; bring a change of clothes.

If you are four-foot eleven and have an innocent (some have said, childlike) face you shouldn’t be surprised when the agent nearly chokes on her pencil eraser after you tell her that, in your book the New York senator is accused of being a terrorist.

What I learned about pitching at the Inland Northwest Christian Writers Conference. Click the link to view next year’s schedule. Tracie Peterson is the keynote speaker. You won’t want to miss it!


1. Be Compelling

Surprise the agent with something she’s not often heard, but deliver it with passion not monotony.

During a small group agent session, I had to repeat my one sentence pitch twice. I surprised the agent but not in a good way. My pitch came across shy and unsure. I must have been twirling my hair like a school girl ready to recite Dick and Jane. Thankfully she was there to teach as well as procure a couple of authors so she helped me see my error.

“More conviction!” she coaxed.

No more pitching like I’m doing grade school recitations, especially if I am a suspense writer. Point well taken. I’m laughing at myself now.

2. Be Short

And I don’t mean in stature.

Be concise. Avoid including every character in your book or details about back story and subplots. Keep to the main point. Why should she care? Why is your story different?

As writers we are so close to our projects that it can be hard to see the sun for the sunrise. Tell about your main conflict and characters. Let the colors of your story speak for themselves but during the pitch, stick to the big picture. A great resource for coming up with your pitch and/or plotting a novel is Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method.

3. Be Specific

Please don’t forget to include what your book is about. I heard several pitches this weekend and yet some of them I couldn’t identify a single unique thing about the story.

One pitch went something like this…

“My story is compelling and full of adventure. The main character is one we can all relate to. She has convictions and a strong motivation. I don’t need editing at this point, just an agent to sell my story.”

Can anyone tell me what this story is about? It may be the story of the century but how can anyone know?

Do you have a conference faux pas or helpful tip to share?


Jessie Gunderson writes mainly inspirational fiction and poetry. She's currently hard at work at two important creative projects: (1) a political suspense novel, and (2) wrangling her five children ages 1 month to 9 years. She lives in Post Falls. Be sure to check out her great blog, Blog Schmog.

Friday, April 15, 2011

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “ A good intention clothes itself with power.”

In order to write a poem, a short story, or a novel, the beginning is set by the intention. Writer's are inevitably asked this question, “What prompted you to write this book?”

J.K Rowling, riding a train and looking out the window, had this thought: What if there was a wizard school? That one fleeting moment evolved into an empire. It made her a fortune and touched the lives of an entire generation.

She said that in her mind, she was given the sense that the trick would be in getting it published, but after that, it would be really big. She set her intention from that minute forward. Her thoughts came tumbling out, and she had nothing then to write with. As soon as she could get pen to paper though, her intention was very clear. She would write a book about a wizard school. She wrote as if on fire. An agent picked it right up, but eleven publishers turned it down. She did not despair because she was still focused on her intent. The rest is history.

The Irish have a saying about this topic.: "Throw your cap over the wall. You'll have no choice but to go after it."

The race to the moon was described in these terms and it was achieved in record time.

Is it enough to see a writer through? Yes, if the focus is constant. A writer is essentially creating something out of nothing. It feels, at times, in the dark nights of despair, that the nothing wants its nothingness back. Yet, anything worth doing, is worth doing well.

“There are so many more important things you could be doing.” I have heard this more than once from very well meaning friends. It was most likely my own fault for complaining, for whining about the nothing nipping at my heels. I learned it is a better idea to vent to other artists and writers who never, not in their wildest dreams, would ever encourage any work to go back to a blank page. Creating for the sake of creating may not seem that noble, yet if that was the intent, there is no turning back.

Books have shaped my life, they have given meaning to my very existence. Sharing our stories, telling others about the beauty of North Idaho, about the people who came before us, unearthing great moments in history and bringing them to life, that has meaning.

My father had a book of poems reprinted that were written by his grandfather. When he gave me that book, I had a glimpse of another light, one that had fallen away in the busy post war years. I knew the heart of a man I had not had the privilege to know except through his poems.

He helped set my path. I would not dare to presume I could do the same, but it has always been my intention. I want to share what I have gleaned from my time upon this earth, with someone who will never meet me or see me, but will know something of me, nevertheless.

That is why I am given to writing.

"No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of the friends or thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
John Donne

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Hungry Heart

“We have a hungry heart,” said the poetess Mary Oliver. Published in this month's O magazine, this gem was shared by Maria Shriver who conducted the interview. 

Like so many others, I often find myself in the firm grip of desire. Sometimes, I don't even know what for. I can remember my teenage son, staring at the open fridge coming up blank, moving on to the freezer and then the cupboard containing the cereal. Sometimes he would joke and say, "there isn't any food." I, too, graze for fillers, the greatest of which is popcorn. Why this became the answer I do not know; I only know that it goes in a bowl with melted butter whenever I feel this particular affliction coming on.
From there it can go from bad to worse, but before I turn this into a confessional, let me just say that books are better than popcorn, always have been, and always will be. Sent to my room for a nap, all the way up to the second grade, I picked up the Bobbsey Twins, and pretended to read it. In the midst of filling my hungry heart, I suddenly realized something quite strange. I could read! It was the most electrifying moment of my young life. When I came to a word I could not sound out, or could not understand, I looked at the rest of the sentence and quickly learned that it was possible to ascertain the meaning.
Proudly informing my family of this marvelous feat at dinner, I was met with one great big, who cares? As the youngest child, my vast leaps of development were simply a matter or course and the family, by and large, remained consistently underwhelmed. Well phooey, I tried again at school. The teacher who was impressed picked up a book near at hand and asked for a demonstration. Quite confident that I would meet the challenge, I got right to the point. Not only could I read, she told the class, I could read with expression. She was at that time dividing her little charges into reading groups and I went straight to the head of the class.
Why do words have such an effect on me? Why do they fill me? Why did I first take up the task of writing a diary, soon to be followed by stories and compositions? Why do I have this compulsion?
Who cares?
It beats, popcorn, or obsessive cleaning, or any other more harmful activity. Erma Bombeck said that housework, if done properly, can kill you. Reading satisfies my endless curiosity; it edifies and enlightens, and yes, it also entertains. It is available, plentiful and constant. What if I were stranded on say, a desert isle, with no books, pens or paper” What then?
I would write poems in my head and retell stories to myself. My heart will never be so hungry that I am at a complete loss. There will always be an answer. I read my way through everything. Then I write. I love words. I love the English language. I am addicted to it and proud of my habit. Books fill my life. Words float across my consciousness. I am in love with them.
My heart is full. I am not alone.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Is It a Story?

Is it a story?

My greatest teacher, the late Josephine Carson used to ask us this question, over and over.

She taught Creative Writing at Mills College, one of the last institutions that operates on the undergraduate level for women only.

Our classrooms were cozy; the campus lush and beautiful- an oasis in the hardscrabble neighborhoods of Oakland. Its founding predated and preceded the conflict to come.

When I discovered Mills, it was at a time in my life when I was as lost as a person can be. Far from home, living in a small farming community after growing up in a big city, a hot dry place for a northerner used to lakes and woods, a new mother, with no friends, or family for company, and with a husband in medical school, I did not know which way to turn. 'Take up a hobby, read a book, try something new,' said every self help book available in the early eighties. With little time, and my writing dreams seeming to go up in smoke, I decided to take a drive. There had to be a school within a hundred miles, I reasoned, where I would find my way. So with my son in the car seat, and setting out in the one hundred degree heat, I headed for San Francisco, initially expecting nothing more than a chance to cool off.

After checking out several colleges and universities, I returned feeling it was impossible- too far, too expensive, not the kind of place that suited me. I saw myself turning into Sylvia Plath, but it was far too hot where I lived to ever consider sticking my head into anything hotter. I was spared both her outstanding talent and her ultimate demise.

Being a veteran of a girl's high school and summer camp, I thought a woman's college would be the last choice. Still determined, I went off to try again, alone this time, having a husband at home for the day. Turning off the freeway, I made note of the distance. Sixty miles exactly. Lots of people drove that far to work, I reasoned. Who? Well, some people had to. Once through the gates, I inhaled the scent of Eucalyptus and felt my hair stand on end. Home. I could barely contain my excitement. I loved the architecture! The first girl I saw walking to class had an absolutely smashing hair cut and looked really hip.

In the administration building, I marveled at the antiques, read up on the history, admired the founder's collection of tea pots. I collected tea pots. That did it. What greater sign could I possible be given? I looked at the requirements. No math necessary. I could not jump through the hoops fast enough, and once enrolled, the great wheel of my life turned for good.

Enter Josephine Carson. She was not an academic. She was a card carrying writer, a successful playwright and a person teaching from the perspective of giving us the tools of the trade.

Into our heads she drilled this concept: Is it a story? She said it so much that on the last day of class we presented her with a cake. In icing we had written her dictum: is it a story?

The truth is, we were all give to blathering, stream of consciousness, flowing from what we thought were our marvelous minds whose every thought was a worth preserving forever. Where were we going with this, she would ask. Straight to the rejection pile? What does your character want? Oh, we weren't writing about materialistic desire we would say, we were more interested in internal landscapes. Ha. Then what happens? Well, there is a new insight gained perhaps. IS IT A STORY? Did we even know what a story was?

Then we got the ultimate definition. It will stay with me forever. It makes words superfluous. Don't be silly! You can't tell a story without words. Oh yes you can. This is what she gave us:

Can it be danced?

A story is a chain of related events resolving a basic human need. The need to be loved, the need to belong, the need to gain mastery over our fate, the need to avenge a wrong, the need to overcome an obvious obstacle or limitation, all of these needs can create great stories.

As writers, we are limited to a one page query letter in order to obtain representation. Agents reading hundreds of these per week are looking for this one quality. If it is a story, it can be set down in an effective query letter. If not, the process of writing the query, could well send the writer back to the drawing board.

If it can be danced, it is a great story. Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, West Side Story, Giselle; I could go on and on.

Take a look around at the great books in your library. Read the first sentence. In all the best stories, it is right there.

“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the gulf stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish” The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway.

That is a story.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Writing, North Idaho and Poetry Forums

This is my first week writing as contributor for Writing North Idaho , I'm so pleased to be here, but am still learning my way around the blog, and and trying to find what readers might be interested in. A simple answer is writers and writing, and in particular, writers and writing in north Idaho. At a workshop I attended last year, the guest speaker told the audience, "If you write on a subject you're interested in, it's very likely someone else will be interested, too." I think that's probably true.

North Idaho has such a beautifully diverse landscape, writers are often inspired to find just the right word to describe its grandeur; to write a picture, if you will.

Powder blue skies,
deep blue lakes, crystal
clear air, and white
capped mountains -
a million evergreen trees
decorate the slopes, like first earth;
Nature's best, the land of Idaho

Also important to Writing North Idaho is relaying information about writers forums, events and book signings. Because April is National Poetry Month, my hope for this post was to include libraries, coffee houses and bookstores that were showcasing poetry readings, talks or forums to highlight northwest poets. Alas, I couldn't find any. My challenge to you, dear reader, is to seek out, and request the book stores, coffee houses and libraries you visit to present programs about northwest poetry and poet; not to let the poets prose die, and be lost to the long ago.

I did come across a couple good internet sites dedicated to poetry in Idaho. They are listed here - and

To read more of my blogs please visit 2 lane highway at


Wednesday, April 6, 2011


The saying, Laugh and the world laughs with you , weep and you weep alone  may be familiar to some,   but I  bet most  don’t know  it’s the opening line from the poem, Solitude or   its author, Ella Wheeler Wilcox was a 19th century American author and poet.

Solitude  was first published  in 1883 ,  in an issue of The New York Sun, and  earned Wilcox  a whopping five dollars .  Now recognized as one of her most famous poems it was included in several anthologies:  Best Loved Poems of the American People , edited by Hazel Felleman , Best Remembered Poems,  edited by Martin Gardner, and One Hundred and One Famous Poems along with Longfellow, Frost and Markham.

 Equally, her poems have been cited in anthologies of bad poetry. The author Sinclair Lewis  even mocks her writing when he indicates Babbitt’s lack of literary sophistication by having him refer to a piece of verse as  “one of the classic poems, like If by Kipling, or Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s The Man Worth While. “ Although Lewis was the first American author to win the Nobel prize for literature,   my grandmother Cooney  would disagree with him  in mocking Wilcox and Kipling, via Babbitt’s character,   as having a lack  of literary sophistication.  A framed print of If  hung in my dad’s  boyhood bedroom, eventually finding its way to my brother, Walt’s boyhood bedroom; it was one of grandma’s favorite poems  to recite:

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings— nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it
And  - which is more—you’ll be a Man , my son!

I  can assure you, my grandmother  did not lack in literary sophistication, but she was plain spoken ,  full of optimism  and good cheer.   It  wouldn’t surprise me to learn grandma read some of Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s poems  - maybe even from a  copy of the  book I have now , Kingdom of Love And How Salvator Won  copyright 1902,  and  liked her plainly written, rhyming verse from The Winds of Fate :

One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow,
‘Tis the set of the sails,
 And not the gales,
That tell us the way to go.

Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate:
As we voyage along through life,
‘Tis the set of a soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

Writing an article for Women’s History Guide, Jane Johnson Lewis in her titled piece, A Major Poet 1901 says Wilcox was  wildly published in her life time . Sometimes compared to Walt Whitman because of the feeling she poured into her poems, at the same time Wilcox  maintained a very traditional form, unlike Whitman or Emily Dickinson. Wilcox's poems and essays appeared in both women's magazines and literary magazines, and by 1919  began appearing in Bartlett's Famous Quotations. 

I have read several of Wilcox’s poems, and honestly speaking, I do  like some better than others, among them—The Kingdom of Love and Memory’s River.  My favorite ,  How Salvator Won  is about real life  Salvator,  an American thoroughbred race horse,  maybe the best racehorse during the latter half of the 19th century.  After Salvator beat Tenny, another racehorse of great speed and beauty, at the Suburban Handicap, Tenny’s owner  had a hard time accepting it, and challenged   Salvator’s owner to a match race.  It took place  on June 25, 1890.  By all accounts it was the race of a lifetime.    The horses ran  side by side for three furloughs.  Then Salvador led by two lengths.  Tenny came very fast and was overhauling Salvator, but the latter lasted to win by a nose.   Ella Wheeler Wilcox was so overcome  by the excitement of the race ,  she was inspired to write a poem about it .  To long to copy in its entirety here is a sample verse:

There’s a roar  from the crowd like the ocean in storm,
As close to my saddle leaps Tenny’s great form,
One more mighty plunge, and with knee, limb and
I lift my horse first by a nose past the stand.
We are under the string now—the great race is done,
And Salvator, Salvator, Salvator won !

Not only was Wheeler  a poet, but a bit of a historian, too .

Postscript:  Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s  quote, “ Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes” is  inscribed on a paving slab in Jack Kerouac Alley in San Francisco  *  The first stanza of her poem  “The Man Worth While” can be found in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, in the boiler room portion  of the queue for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.   

* The complete poem How Salvator Won  can be
read at

* To read my blog A Love For Poetry link to

* April is National Poetry month. Read a poem ! Write a poem !  Hug a poet !

Monday, April 4, 2011


It seems to me,  reading and writing go together like ham and eggs, toast and  jam ,  birds and flying. 

An epic story, a memoir, a poem is meant to be read — Just as  when an actor acts, he performs  for an audience to see , and enjoy; Or  a painter captures  to canvas  a beautiful landscape with color and pastel , hoping  to  share with others what was in her eye’s view.  Writer’s write to express their thoughts, to speak for others and sometimes through others; To tell a tale  that may warm the heart or make one sad, or laugh out loud.

An idea, like a tiny seed planted in earth’s soil germinates and begins to grow, until finally it blossoms and blooms from that secret place within.  Eventually , the idea becomes a story with proper punctuation, correct grammar, no typo’s  or misspelled words. But  initially,  it is just feeling and movement of thought welling up from heart, mind, soul. The writer is compelled to spew it out. And ultimately the story , poem, essay finds its way to paper or PC.

Believing this to be true,  I began to ponder  and ask,  if there were no readers to read what writers wrote, would writers still write ?   Answering my own question, “Yes.  Of course, writers would still write”. We’re funny creatures that way.  Writing is a part of who we are.  Like the air we breathe,  and food we eat.  We’re an eclectic  group, too.  We write fiction, non-fiction, mystery, poetry, plays;  Some write letters, some a daily journal.   It is the way we express ourselves best , allowing us to be honest with our thoughts  - at least for that moment in time.  Writing helps us shed the puff and fluff; the shallowness , and reveal  more of our depth of being.

 Leo Tolstoy, one of the giants of Russian literature ,  is quoted  as  saying , “ A writer is dear and necessary for us only in the measure in which he reveals to us the inner working of his soul.”   I think that’s true, especially true of journal writers.

My younger brother, Walt passed away May 30, 2010.  Until last weekend I, nor anybody else who  loved Walt knew  he  had kept a journal,  or that he   had been a writer.  To our great and happy surprise,  my mother and  I discovered Walt’s journal buried at the bottom of a duffel bag he had stored at her house all these years.   The  pages are dated   from the 1980’s.  My brother’s writing helps prove my point, writer’s don’t always write to be published or  in print, but because they are inspired and motived to do so. 
Here are a couple examples of what  I believe Tolstoy meant when he said, “He reveals to us the inner working of his soul.” 

By Walter Cooney

Songs are sung.  Words are written.
Men, women, boys and girls
have died in the name of love
But yet it happens every day.
You say  so easily,
“I  love a hat, a shirt, a ring,
the dog, and of course ice cream”
No, my lovely lady, that kind of love
isn’t love at all . Real love
hurts, and gives  joy to
the heart.

To love what is gone. My heart is
so sad.  To be loved is to have love,
to give love. When there is no-one
to receive love,  where does
it go ?  Where does it end?
To hear what can not be heard,
to see what can’t be seen
to smell what doesn’t smell
It’s like being lost,
being dead
People killing people,
lives dying everyday
all in the name of love.

Oh, this thing called love
What is it? Where does it come from ?

I beg  all of you  writers who are not published authors, but keep a journal , write letters or  stories and poems for yourself, never think of  your writing as unimportant or without value.   Persevere in telling your story, sharing your thoughts, revealing a part of yourself . I can promise you,  at some point, some time it will lift someone’s spirit and touch someone’s heart.

Postscript:  While there are no staid or circumscribed  rules for journal writing, there are several books available that may prove helpful in your journal writing effort.  Titles include:

Creative Journal Writing: The Act of Reflection by Stephanie Dowrick, 350 Fabulous Prompts: Thought Provoking Springboards for Creative, Expository and Journal Writing by Jacqueline Sweeney, Voice of Her Own: Women and the Journal Writing Journey by Marlene A. Schiwy and Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal by Alexandra Johnson

*** To read my blog My Brother's Journal link to


Friday, April 1, 2011

Celebrate! April is National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month was inaugurated in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets and has been held annually since. Thousands of not-for-profits, businesses, teachers, librarians and writing groups plan festivals, readings and workshops revolving around poetry. Some ideas for you to participate are to add a poem to your e-mail footnote, post a poem on your blog, sign up to receive a poem-a-day via email ( and celebrate with poem lovers across the country on April 14 during national "Carry A Poem in Your Pocket Day." Select a favorite poem and share it with others.

The U.S Poet Laureate for October 2010-May 2011 is W.S. Merwin. Since 1937, the United States Library of Congress has appointed an official "Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress." The duties are kept to a minimum so holders of this position may have time to write. The poet laureate gives an annual lecture and reading of his or her poetry and usually introduces poets in the Library's annual poetry series held since the 1940's in the Washington, D.C. area . (See video chat with Merwin on left side bar.)

Mr. Merwin is a poet, translator and environmental activist. He lives, writes and gardens at his home on Maui. He has become one of the most widely read and imitated poets in America. He is the son of a minister and began his writing career at age five writing hymns. Over the years, his themes have moved from the formal and medieval to a more distinctly American voice. Mr. Merwin has won numerous international and national prizes including twice for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and a National Book Award.

Idaho does not have a poet laureate but instead a "Writer-in-Residence." He is novelist Brady Udall. Professor Udall will serve through June 2013. He has authored The Lonely Polygamist and Miracle Life of Edgar Mint. He is an associate professor in the M.F.A. creative writing program at Boise State University. Writer-in-Residence is the highest literary recognition in the state, replacing the former position of state Poet Laureate. It pays $2,666 per annum and his duties include presentations of twelve public readings during his three-year term, eight of which must be in rural communities. He may be required (by the overseer, the State Arts Commission) to give three more readings at special public events.

For The Anniversary of My Death by W.S. Merwin

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

Mr. Merwin will appear April 27 at the Egyptian Theater in Boise at 7:30PM. Tickets are $12 for student up to $35. A special reception with Mr. Merwin, "I Think Therefore Iambic," is scheduled from 6:00-7:00pm that night and tickets are $25. For tickets, call The Cabin, 208-331-8000 or