Happy NaNoWriMo!

Copy of I'm in the write mood!

It’s that time of year again! Time to put your writing chops to work. Every year I think I’m going to skip it, but then when November 1st gets here, it feels like a holiday and I get as excited as a child waiting to open Christmas presents!

50,000 words in 30 days, what could I possibly have to say that would take that many words? I originally thought I would do a series of personal development blog posts I’m working on to fill the space, but that historical fiction/time travel book started knocking inside my head asking when the heck I was going to set the characters free that have been taking up space in my cerebral cortex for nearly 20 years!

My goodness, 20 years seems like a lifetime. It is beyond time to tackle this project once and for all. I have attempted it at least a dozen times. I keep getting stuck then abandoning the project, but for the story to keep resurfacing the way it does, I’m thinking it wants to be born and become part of my legacy. We will see! It sure has been incubating long enough. The characters almost seem real to me, like family, and friends from high school waiting patiently for the next reunion!

I think the real reason the story hasn’t been completed yet is simply fear of not being able to tell the story the way I see it in my mind. Not doing the story justice terrifies me. I have even thought of contacting a “real writer” like  James Alexander Thom to share my idea with him in hopes he would write the story or at least help me. He and his lovely wife Dark Rain would bring a rich authenticity to it that I’m not sure I can do.

But, today, I feel strong enough to face my fears and do the warrior word dance. Thank you NaNoWriMo for pushing me out of my comfort zone once again!

Kathy Chaffin Gerstorff,
WriterKat

P.S. If I fall a little short of 50k words by the end of the month, I’m counting this blog post

Advertisements

Meet Me in Montreal

I'm in the write mood! (7)

I followed an email link from Leonard Cohen’s family that led to a star-crossed love song the legendary song writer recorded called Traveling Light. I sometimes feel a pang of jealousy of songs and poems written for a poet’s love interest. I don’t know why it matters, but for some odd reason it does. Perhaps it’s lust to be a writer’s muse or maybe it’s immortality I seek?

Leonard Cohen’s songs get to me. His words and poetic rhythm unlocks a door in my soul where heartbreak, loneliness, and regret reside. His music wafts in and waltzes toxic emotions to the surface so they dissipate rather than destroy me. What a cathartic gift and legacy.

My late spinster aunt loved to listen to Gordon Lightfoot. She had all his CDs and would go to his concerts whenever he was within four hours driving distance. I never understood her fascination with him until now. He must have been her lyrical soul doctor like Leonard Cohen has been for me. God bless the music makers for they set our spirit free.

Hopefully, the stars will align for me to make it to Montreal in November. For someone with no stamps on their passport, like me, what an adventure that would be! What is life if not a daring adventure and celebration of using your gifts to the fullest as Leonard has shown us can be done with style and grace.

What follows is the email I received regarding the upcoming Memorial Tribute for Leonard Cohen. Meet me in Montreal to celebrate the life and music of one of the greatest singer-songwriters of our generation!

The Cohen Family presents
TOWER OF SONG:
A MEMORIAL TRIBUTE TO
LEONARD COHEN

ELVIS COSTELLO, LANA DEL REY, FEIST, PHILIP GLASS, K.D. LANG,
WESLEY SCHULTZ AND JEREMIAH FRAITES OF THE LUMINEERS, DAMIEN RICE, STING, PATRICK WATSON, ADAM COHEN AND OTHERS TO MARK ANNIVERSARY OF ICON’S PASSING

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6th 7:30 PM
BELL CENTRE, MONTREAL

The family of Leonard Cohen invites fans from around the world to join them, along with renowned musicians, the Prime Minister of Canada and the Premier of Quebec in celebrating Cohen’s legacy for Tower of Song: A Memorial Tribute to Leonard Cohen at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Nov. 6, 2017.

“My father left me with a list of instructions before he passed: ‘Put me in a pine box next to my mother and father. Have a small memorial for close friends and family in Los Angeles…and if you want a public event do it in Montreal,’” said singer-songwriter Adam Cohen “I see this concert as a fulfillment of my duties to my father that we gather in Montreal to ring the bells that still can ring.”

The event will benefit the Canada Council for the Arts, the Council of Arts and Letters of Quebec, and the Montreal Arts Council.

Tower of Song will mark the first anniversary of Leonard’s passing and commence a week of celebrations honouring Cohen in Montreal. As previously announced, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal’s new exhibit, “Leonard Cohen: Une brèche en toute chose / A Crack in Everything,” will open to the public November 9. The exhibit was approved by the late songwriter before his passing and will celebrate Cohen’s life and work. Select media and top tier Tower of Song ticket holders will be invited to a preview of the exhibit on November 7.

TICKETS ON SALE THIS SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23rd AT NOON (EDT) AT EVENKO.CA AND 1-855-310-2525.

Write Through Tragedy

Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. (4)

“Write every day, even if your house is on fire and your grandmother just died.” ~ Tom Robbins

I saw this quote on a copywriting course I am taking with Kaia Van Zandt and it stopped me in my tracks. I had to share the quote with my writer friends and talk about how writing has saved my sanity. Both of those things in Tom Robbin’s quote have happened to me.

My grandmother was my rock. I held tight to her as she clung to her faith and somehow by osmosis her faith transferred to me. It is a beautiful thing to leave a legacy of faith. My grandmother (who I am named after) almost always had a notepad in her lap when I would visit, especially in her later years. I often wondered what she wrote in those notebooks. I happened upon one years after she went to be with the Lord. She kept a journal of mostly who came to visit her that day, upcoming birthdays and anniversaries. I was a little disappointed as I wanted to see the juicy stuff. What was she thinking? That’s what I wanted to know! She was such a quiet person and didn’t go out much except to church. I knew she had to be expressing her thoughts somewhere, but it didn’t appear to be in her journals. She loved to write letters to her family. She had six children that lived in different states so she sent a lot of letters. Writing letters is a lost art!

I’m glad that in addition to her faith, my grandmother modeled a love of writing. It has kept me sane over the years, especially in 2014 when our home, business, vehicles, pets, everything we owned, burned to the ground. Everyone kept asking me how I was staying so calm and optimistic throughout the ordeal. I didn’t really know in the moment, but in hindsight, I can clearly see that it was faith and writing!

Write Now

Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. (2)You can’t think yourself out of a writing block. You have to write yourself out of a thinking block. ~ John Rogers

I have a dozen book ideas floating around in my head, some of which have characters suspended in time like the mannequin challenge, for over a decade! I have used every excuse in the book to procrastinate including writer’s block, no time, distraction, foggy brain, you name it! But here’s the thing. I’ve ran out of excuses. Time is on my side right now. A couple weeks ago, I lost a “temp” job that I used as my “no time” excuse for years. The whole reason I decided to do temp work in the first place was so I could write! Somewhere along the way I got complacent. I stopped doing the things that nourish my body and soul. Creativity took a back seat. And I was willing to stay in the comfort zone because I believed I wasn’t cut out to be a “real” writer anyway.

That j.o.b. crutch is gone now. It’s just me and reality. The truth is I have let myself fall victim to the disease that strikes many writers and creative types and that is fear. Fear of my writing not being good enough. Fear of no one wanting to read what I write. Fear of wasting my time. But guess what I’m wasting time already and not accomplishing much. Why not dive into that fear and watch the muddy water turn crystal clear! Fear and action do not mix. Fear thrives in a stagnant environment. Once you take action, the water starts to aerate and life begins to grow. That is where I want to be, among the living things.

Writing is the key that unlocks the door to my world of wonder. It awakens my imagination and takes me out into the great big world that sometimes seems scary, but at closer look just wants the same love, passion and purpose that I seek.

 

 

Nature and Poetry

I'm in the write mood! (1)

“Nature brings out the poet in me.” ~ Kathy Chaffin Gerstorff

My favorite park on the planet is Mounds State Park in Anderson, Indiana, which happens to be my hometown. I have always felt drawn to Mounds for reasons I don’t completely understand. I think it has to do with the rich history of the Mounds. I’ve had a story in my head for nearly 20 years that I do hope to get out into the world someday. In the meantime, I’m content to enter their annual poetry contest. This year I nearly forgot about it. Fortunately, a reminder popped up in my Facebook timeline. They added a Poetry/Photo “hybrid” category this year which is cool. I love photography almost as much as poetry, they make perfect mates.

To prepare for the hybrid entry, I ordered a couple prints of photos I snapped of my family at Mounds a few months ago. When I see a photo sometimes the words come to me, but sometimes they don’t. When a deadline hangs in the air like stale cigarette smoke, my muse chokes!

I knew what I had to do. I had to go straight to the source and get some fresh air. I talked my husband into driving me to Mounds so I could knock out the poem on the way. Yeah right. Nothing! Once we got to Mounds I went straight to their nature room where I presumed it would be quiet and I could write. Wrong again. Someone was already in “my” room with their head buried in their cell phone listening randomly to news, music, whatever. It was noise to me and oh so annoying. Why bother coming to a nature center if you’re going to be on your phone? At least put in some earbuds!

I then went outside and sat at a picnic table. The sun was shining from a clear blue sky. Birds were singing. My muse blew in on a slight breeze and took a seat beside me. Magic. I love when that happens. I looked at the photo of my youngest granddaughter sitting on one of the beautiful native benches that makes a wonderful addition to the park. I wondered what someone who didn’t know my awesome little angel would see if they looked at the photo. Would they see all the generations that have visited the park before her and the generations that she will introduce to our special place. That’s what I see.

I finished the poem and took it directly to the manager’s office. So they have the original poem if I ever become postmortem famous! I doubt it, but you never know.  I don’t do it for the money or the fame. I write because it is who I am. Writing is as much a part of me as my flesh, more so I believe. Spiritual. When I write poetry I feel connected to heaven and earth in a way nothing outside of prayer has ever made me feel. Sometimes the words do not convey the depth of my emotion, but that’s okay. I’ve made peace with not being a flowery prose writer that creates a symphony with the flick of her pen, even though I still appreciate hearing a concerto of words by the masters. My words are more like a street musician strumming a guitar. Simple, raw, surprising. Entertaining to me and sometimes the audience that stops to listen in.

Happy National Poetry Month. I hope you take note of what inspires you!

IMG_5411

Photo I took of my granddaughter that inspired my poem, “What Do You See?”

What Do You See?
Kathy Chaffin Gerstorff

What do you see?
An adorable blonde-hair,
blue-eyed little girl
sitting on a park bench?

I see the fourth generation
to create happy memories
of time spent with her family
at Mounds State Park.

Storing up smiles
and happy thoughts
to see her through
the hard times that
life sometimes brings.

I see a link to a
love of nature
that lives on
in the heart
of a child.

If You Really Knew Me

writerkat-com

I attended a writing workshop yesterday led by three fantastic facilitators (Lorraine Marshall-Rey, Michael Brockley, and Jeffrey Owen Pearson). The workshop title was “Writing the Lonely Life” and the topic was loneliness, being alone, and writing. I will attend a writing workshop on any topic. I like to keep my claws sharp. Plus, I meet the most fascinating people at writing workshops. There seems to be an automatic trust among kindred spirits. After a few minutes getting to know each other, we put our vulnerabilities on the table like scalpels during open heart surgery.

One of the ice breakers the fantastic facilitators used was an exercise called “If You Really Knew Me”. We went around the room telling each other what they would know about us if they really knew us. We discovered that one of the facilitators (Mike Brockley) has over 700 “conversational” ties, each one with a theme or story. We learned that a couple writers struggle with depression, one writer just graduated and feels lost, another one used to be in a cult. I shared about overcoming a phobia of escalators and using that same fear-facing strategy to publish my writings that I had spent years putting in a box or throwing away.

After I left the workshop and thought more about the exercise, I thought about some other things I could have shared, like how I have a touch of OCD that prevents me from letting any canned goods be upside down in my cabinets or how I would rather read and listen to the rain than watch TV or how I redirected negative emotions of an abused childhood to write and publish books to help others that have gone through the same thing.

But then, if you really knew me, you would know I wouldn’t want to mention anything that seemed like bragging. It is a fine line we walk between sharing our stories to get to know each other better and staying silent to avoid sideways glances and shoulder shrugs.

Of course withdrawal is where loneliness begins and thus the need for workshops such as this one where we learn about anaphoras and ghazals, pair up to create couplets, dance, laugh, birth poems, and make new friends that helps fill the abyss of loneliness with the connection we all crave.

Write on.

WriterKat

Below is a poem my new friend Helen Townsend and I created at the workshop. We both created couplets separately, then when we paired up to put the poem together, we were in awe of how one line seemed to be responding to the other, almost as if the inner voice of strength was talking one through the fear (which was a word we both came up with when asked to list the cost of loneliness). It was a fun exercise. 

Defeat

I want to step out into light

but loneliness keeps me in a shroud of fear.

    Take off your eye glasses

    De-focus your fear.

I am a fist

of pain and fear.

    Twirl your precious stones

    let your fingers forget fear.

My face hides a

self-imposed prison of fear.

    Walk outside in inside-out-socks

    Your feet splash puddles of fear.

My strength is here

I don’t feel fear.

 

 

You’re Fired

writerkat.com (26) A young man got fired at my day job recently. It was his first “real” job. I’m sure he felt defeated, but if I could have talked to him, this is what I would have said…

I knew from the moment I heard your celebrity name and saw your chiseled face that your light shines too bright for this solemn place. You are young, full of life and energy – not yet resigned to a life of mediocrity in a dead-end job where you cross off the days on your wall calendar counting days until your sentence ends and wish your week away along side TGIF co-workers who long ago abandoned their dreams and think this is as good as it gets, in this life anyway.

Learn the lessons from your brief time here because the test will come again and again. There will be many failures along the winding road that leads to where you are meant to be, where you thrive, where you feel you belong, where you make a positive difference in the world. Use every perceived failure as a stepping stone to success.

Take it from someone with enough regrets to fill the Grand Canyon because she settled for “steady” pay and sub-par benefits while her dreams passed by like clouds in the sky…

Go ahead and let the door hit you on the way out as a reminder to never settle for a life of mediocrity, but instead to do the things that light up your soul. Consider yourself blessed.

Write on.