Day 5 Open Write with Barb Edler and Glenda Funk

Yesterday was the last day of five days of January’s Open Write at http://www.ethicalela.com. Each month, this writing group gathers to write and give positive feedback to at least three other writers. I took a break yesterday to pause and give thanks for my daughter Mallory on her birthday.

Yesterday’s prompt was to write a Postcard Poem. Using a postcard or a blank index card, you draw a vertical line to separate the address and the poem on the writing side. Here’s my Haiku poem, prompted by a suspension bridge I crossed in December at Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee:

tracking feet

suspension bridges
crossable risk-taking feat
empowering treks

January 23 Open Write with Barb Edler

Today is the third day of five days of January’s Open Write at http://www.ethicalela.com. Each month, this writing group gathers to write and give positive feedback to at least three other writers. Please join us! Here is the direct link, where you can read about today’s host, Barb Edler of Iowa, and the inspiration she brings in her prompt: https://www.ethicalela.com/connecting-with-your-inner-self/

Today’s poem is about reflecting on our goals. I think this prompt was designed just for me! I’m reflecting on my goals the last day of each month in the areas of creativity, experience, literature, gratitude, reflection, self-improvement, and spirituality that I spent the first days of the year crafting and describing on my blog. Today, a Haiku is a great way to celebrate the journey:

I'm in No Hurry



praying for answers

wondering about outcomes

I'm in no hurry



seeking my weight range

closet-eating M&Ms

I'm in no hurry



Reading Around the

U.S.A - savoring words

I'm in no hurry



counting my blessings

focusing on gratitude

I'm in no hurry



Route 66 plans

dreams in the making: someday

I'm in no hurry



creative touches

camera-ready journeys

I'm in no hurry



family stories

capturing the past in ink

I'm in no hurry



slowing down the pace

seeing more of it ~ not more

I'm in no hurry

January 21 Open Write with Barb Edler

Today is the first day of five days of January’s Open Write at http://www.ethicalela.com. Each month, this writing group gathers to write and give positive feedback to at least three other writers. Please join us! Here is the direct link, where you can read about today’s host, Barb Edler, and the inspiration she brings in her prompt: https://www.ethicalela.com/connecting-with-others-or-things-through-a-personal-letter-poem/

We’re invited today to write Personal Letter poems that capture intimate moments. I think often of our old farm dog Archie, who lived under the porch of the Presbyterian Church over on Pedenville Road in Concord, Georgia and must have always been chased off with a broom by the cleaning crew. He had a dreadful fear every time I swept. In a thunderstorm, he chased a colleague’s car all the way home, looking for shelter from the storm and something to eat. Her twin girls, both veterinarians, nursed him back to health as best they could before their mother called me. This is the perfect dog for you, she urged. We’ve named him R.K. for Roadkill, which is what he’s gonna be if someone doesn’t give him a good home.

And so we brought R.K. to the Johnson Funny Farm, my husband holding him down in the bed of a Ford Ranger pickup truck as I drove us home (in a stick shift for the first time in many years), hurky-jerky all the way here, where we softened R.K. to Archie and came to love a dog who was as close to human as they get.

Good Ol’ Archie

whenever I clean the empty 
hardwood floor space
under the antique oak buffet
~your thunderstorm safe zone~
my heart goes thud-thumpy

I exhale
my eyes close
I think of you,
your eyebrows
raising back and forth
left, right, left…..
looking me full
in the face
searching for love
wanting
needing
my embrace
waiting for my concrete to crumble

this was your favorite game

you wanted love 
more than food

when I let your human eyes
pierce the stoic face 
I’d held as long as I could
and my smile cracked, turned to laughter….


your full goofy body wag 
erupted with joy
slathered me with sugary sweet love kisses
paws on my shoulders

loving me as you did
rescuing me as you did

* * *

and then came that morning. 
you hadn’t moved
I knew before your 
three tail thud-thumps
became my heartbeat

I’ve…….loved…….you

It…….is……time

Help…..me…..cross

thump……thump…..thump

your empty space remains, Good Ol’ Archie

Reflection: Campfire Stories Game Cards

Anytime I see a new way of telling stories or writing, I get excited and buy stuff. That’s what happened when I was in Barnes and Noble in Atlanta recently and picked up a copy of Gathered Around the Campfire by Melody Carson and read a few pages of her real life stories about her experiences under the stars. That’s also what happened when I was walking through the Betty Dunn Nature Center at Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee and saw a deck of cards called Campfire Stories: Prompts for Igniting Stories by the Fire, published by Mountaineers Books (Ilyssa Kyu & Dave Kyu). There are 50 cards in the deck, complete with instructions and variations for storytelling.

As one who loves to camp, I look forward to using these to generate new conversations as I relax and spend time with others as we make s’mores and stargaze. That’s enough of a reason to love these prompts. My role as a Literacy Specialist and leader of small writing groups is a bonus reason. Cards like these help in getting to know students and inspiring them with new ideas for their writing. The game element adds to the thrill!

Immediately, I was transported to White Wharf at Bear Skin Neck in Rockport, Massachussetts when I selected the card that asked me to share an object I found and kept from my travels. I can still see clearly the tiny pair of angel wings resting along the shore as I ambled around near the water’s edge searching for sea glass. My mother, who often took me shell hunting on Sea Island, Georgia when I was a child, found several pairs of intact angel wings over the years and celebrated each rare discovery. Her sweet hello from Heaven was a reminder that no matter where I am on the face of this planet, she is right there with me. I wrote a poem about my experience here.

A Hello from Heaven….Mom sent a pair of angel wings to White Wharf for me to find!

Another time, I took a walk with my daughter while visiting her for the weekend and picked up a rock at the edge of the path. I brought it home to put on my computer at work so that whenever I see it, I think back to that afternoon I spent with her and know that a piece of our journey is still tangible. These objects inspire the memories, and the memories keep those we love close to us.

“I realize their trailer was pretty tiny, but it didn’t feel overly small back then….In fact, it felt perfect. And I know (my grandparents’) little trailer planted seeds in me…making me look forward to the day when I would get my own trailer. Even now, five trailers and one motor home later, I can still feel my grandparents’ influence.” -Melody Carson

….and to echo, with my own words that are not published in this book but are forever in my heart and on my blog…..

“As a child, I camped with my grandparents on Fernandina Beach in Florida. I can still smell the sulfur in the water and see the table that magically became my bed in their truck camper. When my grandparents left each of their grandchildren a small inheritance, I knew what I would do with part of their gift after camping for years with my own children. I bought a camper so we can honor their legacy and continue making memories with their great, great grandchildren.” -Kim Johnson

Literature: What are Your Writing Habits?

A springtime stay at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina convinced me that I needed a writer’s desk like F. Scott Fitzgerald had. I’d slept right across the hall from the two rooms he’d regularly occupied there, positioned strategically over the front doors so he could keep an eye on the comings and goings of folks. Downstairs, where his desk is on display, I’d taken pictures from every angle.

Oh, to have a writer’s desk like that, I thought, admiring the heaviness of the oak and its ample surface space.

I priced desks online. I looked in stores. I came home and made a makeshift writer’s desk from an antique dresser in our guest room, even buying a comfortable chair for my newly-crowned space until I found just the right big oak desk.

Every morning at my same pre-civilization hour, though, I returned to my favorite living room chair and perched up with my lap desk and Chromebook to write. I still do, 8 months after falling in love with Fitzgerald’s desk. I used the makeshift desk only once, and it was not my wave to ride. So instead, I ordered a bigger lap desk with more surface space – and after that fine-tuning step, my chair is my spot!

All this got me thinking: what were the habits of writing among the classical writers? Where do my contemporary writing friends and authors I follow write today? Learning about the writing habits of others is fascinating. I’ve included some links below for exploring. Happy writing!

https://writetodone.com/learn-from-the-greats-7-writing-habits-of-amazing-writers/

https://www.arts.gov/stories/blog/2015/peculiar-habits-7-writers

https://writetodone.com/20-weird-and-wonderful-habits-of-famous-writers/

Literature Goals: Reading Around the USA in 2023

"....no, there is not more beauty here than elsewhere....but there is much beauty here because there is much beauty everywhere."  

"....most people only get to know one corner of their room..." 
                                                             -Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Reading: About a month ago, I got a 6 a.m. Facebook Messenger post from a friend and co-worker who shares my love of reading. She wanted me to see the new challenge from a Facebook group called Read with the Book Girls ~ to Read Around the USA in 2023. The January Challenge includes the New England states of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont (Connecticut, they say, will be included later this year). The site administrators even provide a curated list of book recommendations, along with brief blurbs about the books for those who would like some suggestions. Each month, I’ll read a book from a different area of the United States throughout the year. Here are two links: here and here.

As a predominantly nonfiction reader, I’ve chosen Stephen King’s On Writing to read as my January book. Though I think the focus is more on the landscape and setting of place, I vividly see the King home as I read the words of his books. I see the roots of the thinking that goes into his writing. I have two other New England-setting recommendations if you’re contemplating this challenge and love nonfiction: Following Atticus by Tom Ryan (and the sequel, Will’s Red Coat) and The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. Two of my favorite authors!

I’ll be reading around the USA this year for 2023, and my goal is to complete the 12-book trek over 12 months. I love the way the book challenge supports my experience goals – I’m taking a journey around the nation, but relaxing the pace through the power of books – it’s a peaceful endeavor.

I’ve also chosen a book for each category of my goals this year. For example, I’m rereading Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance as my gratitude guide, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic as my creativity guide, Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project as my self-improvement guide, Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet as my literature guide, Bhavana Gesota’s The Art of Slow Travel as my experience guide, Women of Faith Daily Devotional by the Women of Faith as my spiritual/inspirational guide, and a yet-to-be-decided book as my reflection guide. My One Little Word (Pray) guide is The Meaning of Prayer by Harry Emerson Fosdick, a gift from my father.

Writing: Every single day this year, I have written and posted on my blog.  On the last day of February 2023, I will celebrate two full years of daily blogging, and my blog celebrates its 10th birthday TODAY!  Here is a link to my very first post back in 2013. Again, my goal is to blog daily throughout 2023. I'll continue to participate in Open Write and #VerseLove at www.ethicalela.com, and also to share on Slice of Life at www.twowritingteachers.org.  I also hope to present at NCTE this November in Ohio as part of the speaking and listening parts of my Literature goals for the coming year.  A huge thank you to Glenda Funk for her gifts of time and talent in writing proposals! 

In 2023, I will continue to do what I started in the fall of 2022:  I’ll give away at least one book a day with a handwritten note to the recipient.  I’m paring down my collection, and my goal is to get down to two and a half bookcases by the end of the year. My current book hoarding number will remain my secret. If you’re reading this blog and would like to receive a book with a handwritten note from me tucked inside, please send me your name and mailing address on Facebook Messenger at Kim Haynes Johnson, along with some of your hobbies and reading preferences.  I can’t wait to share the gift of a book with you this year!

I'll also continue to send out postcards, as I started doing in 2022.  When I purchased some in the gift shop at Red Top Mountain State Park the last week of December, the clerk said, "I don't think in all my time here I've ever sold a postcard.  It's a dying thing.  I'm glad to see someone is still mailing them."  

Yes, ma'am, I thought to myself. Let me be the change I wish to see in the world. 

In 2022, I mostly wrote poetry.  This year, one of my goals is to vary my writing more.  I am a fan of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, and I love the structure of her book and all that she does to focus on establishing order to create happiness in her world.  I reread her book (again) and simmered my thinking down to seven blog categories, hoping to adopt a cycle of writing that will broaden my net and inspire me to listen and to share in some different ways.  My dad, Reverend Dr. Felix Haynes, Jr., will share as a guest blogger as he has done in the past, helping me to preserve family stories.  While I have loved working my way through two book studies in 2022, I plan to pull the wider angle lens out and take a broader perspective rather than a deeper one this year.  

I'm ready for writing through 2023!

Happy Epiphany!