Free writing prompt for teachers of young writers…
Write a poem using a voice that is not your own! Try giving voice to your favorite animal.
Source: animal speak poem
I’ll be reading at Malvern Books in Austin again! This time, I’m reading for their monthly event, Novel Night from my novel, Making Room for George, Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press, 2016 alongside Marcia Feldt Bates, the author of The Oys and Joys.
Earlier this year, I read at Malvern’s during an event they hosted featuring Tupleo Press 30/30 Project Alumni (a fundraiser for the press during which poets wrote 30 poems in 30 days). Here’s a link to the July, 2016 30/30 poems. If you’re a poet, consider volunteering for a month coming soon!
I’ll be reading for the Voices de la luna poets in San Antonio from a chapbook of poems written during the 30/30 Project last March. The reading is free and open to the public: Lynn Belisle Studio. To tease you into coming, here is the April 17, 2016 poetry reading at Malvern’s:
I’ve just released the second edition of my novel, Making Room for George (Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press, 2016). TADA!
This love story, based on real events, was first released in 2013 by Balboa Press & has 22 five star reviews on Amazon which you can read here. That edition will soon be out of print.
The second edition is improved because (this is a secret), I have removed many song lyrics used in the first edition (without permission; mistake of ignorance) and gained permission for the use of the few lyrics still in print in this edition. It was this Book Baby Blog post by Chris Robley that helped me understand how to use song lyrics in my novel legally.
In short, song lyrics (written after 1923) are NOT in public domain and do not fall under the fair usage policy. YIKES!
So, I got to work doing research I should have done before releasing the first edition of the book, but honestly, I thought lyrics, as long as I didn’t claim them as mine, could just be quoted. Wrong.
Indie authors have to pay. For everything. Themselves. And we have to do it all: write, market, read, network, & run a business. I’m TERRIBLE at running my writing career like a business. I’m getting better at networking. Mostly, I tend to hole up and slink back to my studio where I’m friendly with all the paper & pens and color, and this slinking usually takes place after too much effort at “marketing,” or too much time at the PC.
I need my swing and the palpable sweetness of natural things.
I’ll let you do your own research if you are considering becoming an indie author. For me, knowing what I know now, Create Space makes more sense. I can choose the price of my book. I’ll make more of the money I have spent on the book back (as long as readers buy directly from my e-store). There will be no additional pressure disguised as “marketing help” to spend any more money for anything. I can conduct a book giveaway at an affordable price.
Which brings me to my point! I’M DOING A BOOK GIVEAWAY! As soon as the Kindle version is ready which should be in about ten days, I’ll be gifting an e-version of the book to the first thirty people who follow this blog and opt-in to my email list starting now! Whoohoo! There is no obligation, but I’d sure love a fair and honest review. I’ll send that info along with your copy.
Once, a writer friend, visiting my studio, viewing a bronze sculpture of mine (still sitting on my hearth today) said, “It must be hard for you to decide what to do first when you get up in the morning!” She said this because I paint, I’ve done some sculpture, I write (poetry, a novel, a blog…sometimes) and I do body & soul work with private clients. She was thinking all that doing and going in so many directions might be causing me some conflict. She’s right. But I don’t seem to be able to stop.
I’ve been working in this circular way as an artist for twenty-five years, each media delightfully informing the other.
However, last month (March, 2016), I agreed to write 30 poems in 30 days for Tupelo Press’s 30/30 Project. This very creative way of raising funds for the small press was a wonderful challenge that, as you can imagine, kept me quite focused!
It was a thrilled to see my DAILY work “published” on the Tupelo 30/30 blog pages alongside the other six accomplished poets who also wrote during March. The poems are still “up” through the end of April, National Poetry Month & you can read them here.
This coming Friday, April 15, 2016 from 7-9PM, I will be very happily reading in Austin at Malvern Books, with other awesome Tupelo 30/30 alumni from previous months and/or years: Robert Okaji, Christine Beck, Pamela Paek, Katy Chrisler, D.G. Geis, & Ronnie K. Stephens.
Yesterday, I re-blogged a post by Rober Okaji: How to Write a Poem. The reason I like the poem he posted so much is because it beautifully describes how poetry happens for me as well. I do just what he says to do: live and let the words come. But during March, I picked up my pen. Every day.
The pen is the difference between simply living a life and living a writer’s life, the pen, the art of listening, and a strange penchant for recording everything!
I didn’t want to “cheat” myself out of the chance to learn this (again!), so I decided that I would wait, each day, for the prompt life would provide. Life did not disappoint.
Close to the end of day #24, I still had not written anything, but on my way home from the grocery store, I stopped at the intersection, turning left to go home. Here is the poem that stop prompted:
at the intersection
the cement truck
i think about
the day you
i’ve joined the army
how i thought
how it did:
pills for rage
pills for sleep
pills for pain
to every wall
have you ever
for a job
for a soul
today you call
of the old you
the one i knew
to tell you
i think about
by making one
i think about
the time you
& i prayed
for our lives
in front of
the cement plant
how we shook
how the deluge
how we bow
to a god
neither of us
d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George, A Love Story (Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press, forthcoming 2016.)
image: “Mystical Tree” Used with permission of the artist, Sya at Deviant Art
Because, as an artist, I work in multi-media (prose, poetry, painting, mixed media collage) and because my creative process is the tether to my sanity and sense of purpose in the world, I wanted to know about this author’s process.
Because my own dreams (and power animals) are my guide, the way, if you will, I receive from “between the worlds,” and because much of my work is conceived in the Dreamworld, I wondered if the same is true for this author.
Because I stand in solidarity alongside women and men who have experienced misunderstanding and persecution for using their innate powers of intuitive wisdom; because I stand alongside women and men who have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of those in religious authority, both unconscionable misuses of power, and since these themes recur in Corvus Rising, I wanted to know what personal experiences this author has had with these intense social issues.
D: Does your own experience of the creative process mirror that of your character Jade?
Mary: In many ways, yes. I bury myself in art like she does, though I do not paint. My mother was a painter, and I opted for the 3-d art forms of ceramics and jewelry.
I am haunted, like she is, with a great many creations pushing to get out of me and into the physical world. Note: I did not say “real,” as this inner world is every bit as real as this surficial one that has its own illusions.
I live in this “underneath” world where Jade does, where the mystical and intuitive are the ways of knowing. And I am often haunted by the beings I encounter.
I fret less than she does and I don’t consciously remember most of my dreams.
D: Are the dreams Jade has actually dreams of your own or adaptations of your own dreams? Describe your relationship to the dream world.
Mary: Waking dreams, perhaps. There is such a fine line, you know. I have a vivid and energetic imagination and that underneath world I live in probably would seem like a dream state to someone else. I like to tear away at that boundary between the real and the imagined. There are secrets behind the curtain of illusion in which the real world cloaks itself.
D: Have you ever feared or experienced being locked away for perceived “insanity,” for being different?
Mary: If only they knew….bwahahahahaha!
Remember that Waylon Jennings song: “I’ve always been crazy but it’s kept me from going insane….”
Me to a T.
Seriously, I have never been afraid of being locked away or of being different.
My fear all comes from a profound sense of not belonging. In my book, Charlotte’s graying tells about that. I can see, hear everything, but people are all speaking a whole different language that everyone understands but me. Nobody sees me, no one understands me. I belong nowhere.
That is the lock up: a tremendous illusion that seems to have run my whole life.
D: What is your own experience with “animal speak?”
Mary: I speak to cats all the time, as I believe I am part cat. We just get each other, cats and I.
I’d love to have a crow start hanging around me. I do speak to them (and ravens too) and sometimes it seems they hear me.
I do believe we have misunderstood the speech of animals. If they make any sound at all, we think it’s a mating call. This is a pretty weird idea, considering that animals that make any noise at all do it all year long, not just in their mating season.
Sometimes I wonder what the crows think about our language. All they hear is what we shout at each other. Perhaps they think we lack vocabulary. Or that “F*** YOU! is a mating call.
D: Have you ever experienced a trance-like state like the one you describe in “The Keeper’s Trance,” like an Ayahuasca ceremony or other hallucinogenic states of consciousness?
Mary: Not sure I would call it a trance, but I do get carried off by Gregorian chants. It helps to NOT to understand the words.
The trance sequence in my book came from an unknown corner of my imagination; it is outside of any experience that I am aware of, and just came as I was writing. I hadn’t been thinking of trances or hallucinations at all. That is so cool when that happens.
I was thinking of brains: ours, that of Crows and how we know so much more than we think we do. We have it all in there, but use so very little of it. I imagined our brains as a vast lattice of space that you could walk around in, like a library of sorts. I think we carry a good amount of collective knowledge of our complete history on Earth, if we knew how to access it.
That’s where the trance came in. In the book, the early Patua’ gave the crows and ravens their entire history to preserve as they went underground.
More on that in Book Two.
D: Have you studied Reiki or any other form of energetic or healing practice?
Mary: No. My path seems to be through art and writing. Reiki and the other healing practices are a life-long effort, and I am engaged elsewhere. But, because I live in the “underneath,” I know there are different ways of knowing, and different ways of healing than what is out there in the “real” world.
Do I believe in ‘laying on of the hands’ as a way of healing? Absolutely!
image: “church at Abiquiu” New Mexico, d. ellis phelps. Rights reserved.
D: You mention the “sex abuse” issues “the church has been sweeping under the rug” more than once in this writing. Do you have personal experience with this unconscionable misuse of power about which you would be willing to speak here?
Mary: I grew up in New Mexico, where they sent the pedophile priest for rehabilitation. New Mexico is the place where the lid blew off Hell, because a great many of these rapists were sent there. The first prosecutions of priest sex abuse were in New Mexico.
I had no idea that the place in the mountains my family and I passed on our way to a picnic—it is still there, called the Servants of the Paraclete—was where they were sent for rehabilitation before being turned out into the parishes of NM.
New Mexico is very poor and very catholic and the American bishops of the Roman Catholic Church cynically sent these rapists into New Mexico churches as Spiritual Leaders. I say ‘cynical’ because I think these self-serving bishops sent the troublesome priests to New Mexico, to sweep them under the rug.
Though it infuriates me, I have no personal experience with sexual assault from priests.
The subject comes up in my book because of one of my main characters, a Jesuit priest who is deeply flawed, but is not a predator. I wanted to confront it head on, as this is not what the book is about at all.
I admire the Jesuits more than the other orders, as they’ve always been about science and education and they haven’t engaged in the exploitative and hateful, bigoted practices of say, the Franciscans, who were quite brutal to native populations (including those in New Mexico).
D: Are the Patua’ a non-fiction tribe in history or a fictional tribe?
Mary: I invented the Patua’–a fictitious and ancient race of humans who spoke to the crows. They do represent what I think we all look back wistfully to: a Garden of Eden where we were one with all of Creation.
Patua’ is a real word, however—it means ‘dialect’ more or less. They were humans who were more attuned to the natural world of growing things and they figured out the secrets of the plant world. Because they were so connected, they had not forgotten everything humans were given when we got here. They didn’t forget the language of the crows.
Book Two will have more about the history of the Patua’, the Church, greed, hubris, and how their agricultural prowess got them to the same place we are now with corporate farming (a euphemism for ‘starving the people’).
D: Are the fictional Patua’ in your book symbolic representatives for shamanic and witchery practitioners that were forced underground and persecuted by the rise of Christianity?
Mary: Yes. There will be more of that part of the story forthcoming in Book 2.
The Patua’ were looked at as heretics. Humans are not supposed to speak the tongue of the crows, or any other animal. But they also knew how to grow things far, far better than anyone else. Some thought this was unnatural and perhaps portended an unholy alliance with the powers of darkness.
Though they guarded their secrets, the Patua’ weren’t doing anything magical; their botanical lore was based on many centuries of observation and experimentation.
But what is magic? The thing we point to when we don’t understand how something works. I heard a Baptist professor once comment that scientific knowledge over the centuries has shrunk the ‘God of the Gaps’—meaning that we attribute to God (or magic) what we cannot explain.
D: Have you experienced building a wilderness abode such as the tree house you describe?
Mary: I have not, though I was happy to spend six weeks sleeping in a tent when I was in graduate school. I’ve fantasized about caves as well. When my father took me and my brothers to Carlsbad Caverns when we were kids, I fantasized about getting lost from the group and disappearing.
I would LIKE to build an ‘off the grid’ place far enough away from cities to have animals and quiet, but close enough for companionship.
D: How far along are you on Book Two? When do you anticipate it will be ready for readers?
Mary: I am hoping to publish Book 2 within the next four to six weeks. Its working title is Teosinte —after the ancestral plant that got bred into the corn plant we know today, more than 7,000 years ago in southern Mexico. By the time Columbus showed up, corn as we know it, properly called maize, was all over the Americas.
D: Tell us how you really feel about cookies.
Mary: Mmm cookies! In fact, I am more a chocolate freak than cookies. Really, I like to bake, so I gave that to the priest. I bake the most awesome sourdough bread. So does he, thanks to me!
D: In a few words, tell us who you are.
Mary: Enthusiastic. Obsessively creative. Curious. Outspoken. Raucous. Irreverent. I am an extroverted reclusive. Or perhaps an introverted socialite. I love freedom.
D: Ahhh! Methinks you are part crow!
Do you have a special relationship or kinship to certain creature-beings? Does your daytime or nighttime Dream World guide you? Do you experience a profound sense of not belonging? How does this show up in your life and work? Please, tell us about it here.
Yesterday, I met a young woman whose only child died last year.
Through tears, she told me that those close to her want her to “just get over it already.”
If you are one who feels uncomfortable when in the presence of pain being experienced by another and so you tell them to buck up and move on, please know that in an emotionally healthy individual, the grieving process takes time. Lots and lots of time. What is lost, is lost forever. And mourning is never “over.”
The pain comes in waves, unexpectedly, profoundly. And sometimes, for years.
As for me and my own experience of grieving, most recently the loss of both of my parents, and within that context, the perceived permanent loss of any possible reconciliation with them, the process has been ongoing since I first realized they were both in the process of leaving their bodies, until this very day. It has been more than five years.
The pain has subsided. It is distant now and thoughts of my loss do not always cause me to dissolve into tears, but I do still mourn for them, for myself, and for this planet full of others mourning.
I continue to allow myself whatever form of process-release I need: wailing, talking out loud to the deceased (believing they “hear” and respond to me), furious dancing, receiving bodywork and energetic intervention, talking with a trusted friend, writing and making art.
I am clear on this point: relationships do not end when one “dies,” but they do become more difficult to navigate because the other now lives on another plane of existence, communicating in non-linear dream-time, thought waves and forms, scents, signs, nudges, and yes, even visions.
For me, writing and making art are the most significant way I move forward–toward the Light. The point is movement, not resistance to apparent darkness. Seeking new insight and understanding regarding what is lost and moving gently toward integration of the new understanding into my life-view and way of being in the world, in relationship, transmutes all negative energy into positive, allowing all experiences to be used for the Highest Good.
When I can truly assimilate and put into practice what I have learned from a relationship and from purposeful, deep reflection on its relational qualities and nuances, studying and accepting which is my part and which is the part of the other and how we became who we are (were) together, then the essence of the relationship is not lost but found because the essential life of it lives in me and, indeed, in all whose lives I touch.
This process work is a profoundly spiritual experience. My most recent series of art,” the surprising” and my full length book of poetry, what holds her (under submission) are both examples of living this process
Further, when this kind of profound interaction between the worlds takes place, each of us heals and can then, and only then, organically move forward with living our lives as they are now, resurrected in this new form, moving more freely within and between the realms and planes of existence toward Harmony and Love–the Highest Vibrational Frequency.
When I published Making Room for George last year, I was, at best, a Labrador puppy with a new bone: exuberant, elated, undisciplined, and naive.
Why not? I had just accomplished the dream of a lifetime: I had written my first novel and it was good. I could not wait to see it in print, so after multiple rounds of “send me pages” and “send me the manuscript” and “can you do (four) re-writes?” with traditional literary agents, I decided to publish independently.
I don’t regret this. I didn’t want to wait. I am a Baby-Boomer after all. I had certain control: I used one of my own images for the cover, decided what font and colors to use, designed my page layout, hired my own editor, chose my own Beta Readers, and I still own the rights to my content.
I’ve gotten some good reviews. I’ve done several readings to en rapt listeners (these were awesome!). It is precious to be heard.
What I do regret is not having done more research before choosing a publisher and buying marketing packages, the Hollywood Treatment and Press Release, for example that eventually proved not to be worth the money.
So here I offer two valuable blogger resources I have found recently for your referral.
“Writer’s Toolbox” by Ryan Lanz (@theryanlanz) offers tips and resources for #writers. In this post, the particular link that caught my eye was the one about how to create your own book trailer (gratefully, one of the packages I did not buy from my publisher). With these hints, I think I’ll give making my own trailer a go.
As for legal issues surrounding independent publishing, they abound. Since I published, I have realized (via a Book Baby blog post) that I have one, one I still must correct, but that’s another blog post.
So that you don’t end up with your own legal issues, there’s Helen Sedwick (@HelenSedwick), a writerly business attorney out of California. She has a book, Self Publisher’s Legal Handbook, and a blog for you. Here’s the post she writes about the not-so-wonderful idea of purchasing a Hollywood Treatment package where the publisher writes a synopsis of your book for you and shows it to their associate Hollywood production company then, if it’s not picked up, files it away in a Hollywood database, a place akin I think, to those cavernous federal warehouses full of floor to ceiling, huge, wooden crates of boxed files you see in movies.
Good luck and happy writing!