Category Archives: Creative Writing

Creative Writing Workshops; Wednesday nights from 7-8:30 PM

creativewritinginstagramForget essays and homework; discover what it means to let creativity run wild and write for pleasure at these weekly creative writing workshops. We will read and discuss poetry, fiction, non-fiction, slam poetry, and any other type of writing that strikes our fancy. These workshops offer the opportunity to explore your writing skills in a relaxed, informal environment. Creative Writing Workshops aren’t about getting a good grade or writing a critical analysis, they are about trying new things and creating something exciting to put on a blank page.

313393_283129255049078_100000560186552_1070834_1377457794_nIf you don’t feel like writing, that’s fine too, you are always welcome to just hang out, eat candy, and listen to what others have to say. 

Student writing can be found here.

Like our Facebook page here.

Creative Writing links of interest can be found here.

Contact Katie (workshop facilitator and Young Adult Librarian) here. 

Workshops are open to high school students only

View of Metropolis by Ben Daly

Kind of like a dream to break your neck looking up at these walls parting away for the living to navigate through. Even the childless adult who never grew up looks out his tall window at a sky that has enough warmth to look back at him. The bar owner and his cigarette look up through the high forest of right angles in more amusement than jealousy. He never needed a higher place than where he was. Far above is the CEO, and far below are the crustaceans of men who truly live in the shadow of his work. The moon doesn’t have many words for it, but spectates the battles of lives the running people fight on the pavement. How many are running from something? Will the blue sky ever see a day with these people at rest? Will they ever have a real sunset in their lives? The mechanic can never answer as he stares up out of his lonely warehouse. Even the young ones who live behind the skyline ask their parents if they have faced this question. Night is haunted by anger and orange lights. Sometimes they run more now than while the sun is out.

Creative Writing Links and Wisdom

Thanks to the weekly Creative Writing Workshop for high school students, I do a lot of reading about writing. It seems selfish to keep such a plethora of knowledge to myself. If I find an article/post/cat gif that I, in my totally subjective way, find pertinent to the craft of writing, I will share it here. Generally speaking, I will only post the title and/or first few lines of something, with a link to the full text. If nothing else, this will be a useful repository for me to collect the interesting writing articles I find and usually promptly forget about. There may only be a few pieces to start, but I promise to continue to add more. If you come across something you think should be here, email me or post it to the Facebook page (which pretty much only I read) and I will repost here.  Read/Write on!

~Katie

  • All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.– ERNEST HEMINGWAY

  • I don’t follow Quora much but this showed up in my inbox and if Lois Lowery is talking about the process of writing a novel, I want to read what she has to say.
  • This illustrated version of Charles Bukowski’s “air and light and time and space” is awesome. 
  • I am living by this excerpt from Anne Lamott’s great book on writing, Bird By Bird.
  • I mean, you can be sure I am going to include lots of quotes from my boy Hemingway on this page: 

“When I am working on a book or story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day next you hit it again.” - ERNEST HEMINGWAY

  • Although this does not bode well for me, as I am actually the least athletic/exercise-y person alive, I am sure what Rebecca Makkai says is true:

“My cures for writer’s block are alarmingly pragmatic and physical. So pragmatic that they arrange themselves in list form! To wit: 1. Get up and walk around. A few years ago, I realized that the solutions to most of my writing problems would come to me in the bathroom. It wasn’t the bathroom itself, of course, that was magic, but the act of getting up from my desk and walking there, getting the blood flowing, and tearing my eyes away from the computer screen. So now, when I’m staring down a huge plot problem, I take a long walk—without a notepad. It’s nearly always solved by the time I get back. 2. Vitamin B. It’s better than caffeine. It makes you both calmer and smarter. I keep a bottle on my desk. 3. If you can, sleep late. That last cycle of sleep is when the weird dreams come, the ones you’ll actually remember. (And how great is it to say, “I have to sleep late for work?”) 4. Yoga. My point with all of these being: Writing isn’t entirely mental. You’re a physical being, and sometimes when your writing is broken, it’s your body that needs attention, not your mind.”
—Rebecca Makkai via The Millions

  • Finished a draft of something? Here are six questions to ask your reader to ensure they give helpful feedback.
  • Failure is Our Muse by Stephen Marche (good, because one of my stories keeps getting rejected and it’s giving me a sad!)
  • “You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.” JOSEPH CAMPBELL

  • What Writers Can Learn from “Goodnight Moon” by Aimee Bender
  • Fiction Writer's Cheat Sheet by RipleyNox

    Fiction Writer’s Cheat Sheet by RipleyNox

Excerpt from “Shitty First Drafts”

From Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

From: Shitty First Drafts

“The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp  all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it  later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. If one of the characters wants to say, ‘Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?,’ you let her. No one is going to see it. If the kid wants to get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory, you let him. Just get it all down on paper because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go — but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.”

Reflection by Ben Daly

It was dark, so I could only trust the moon. Spending what could have been better days with worse people, who were still so far away. The pale patterned walls saw everything. And when my family made me come to the surface for air, it was artificial. My passions, my hobbies, my ego, even my music. I pretended it was perfect. Like the people, these things could have been closer to me. But unlike the people, I chose to keep them far. And when I could not see the moon in my window, I pondered if anything really was there. It felt like a beautifully decorated stage with no actors. Even the music was there. But no matter how hard I tried, the star would not come on. What was his motivation for this scene? The audience was preoccupied, and the tickets were approaching unaffordable. So I sat on the side of the stage, awkwardly looking to the backdrop of the night sky, hoping I would remember my lines. But it was dark, so I could only trust the moon.

 

Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway

This is the short story that made me fall in love with short stories. I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t include it in the “Stories to Keep Us Going” collection. You can also download a PDF of the story here.

Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway

 The hills across the valley of the Ebro were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun. Close against the side of the station there was the warm shadow of the building and a curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads, hung across the open door into the bar, to keep out flies. The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building. It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It stopped at this junction for two minutes and went to Madrid.

            ‘What should we drink?’ the girl asked. She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.

            ‘It’s pretty hot,’ the man said.

            ‘Let’s drink beer.’

            ‘Dos cervezas,’ the man said into the curtain.

            ‘Big ones?’ a woman asked from the doorway.

            ‘Yes. Two big ones.’

            The woman brought two glasses of beer and two felt pads. She put the felt pads and the beer glass on the table and looked at the man and the girl. The girl was looking off at the line of hills. They were white in the sun and the country was brown and dry.

            ‘They look like white elephants,’ she said.

            ‘I’ve never seen one,’ the man drank his beer.

            ‘No, you wouldn’t have.’

            ‘I might have,’ the man said. ‘Just because you say I wouldn’t have doesn’t prove anything.’

            The girl looked at the bead curtain. ‘They’ve painted something on it,’ she said. ‘What does it say?’

            ‘Anis del Toro. It’s a drink.’

            ‘Could we try it?’

            The man called ‘Listen’ through the curtain. The woman came out from the bar.

            ‘Four reales.’ ‘We want two Anis del Toro.’

            ‘With water?’

            ‘Do you want it with water?’

            ‘I don’t know,’ the girl said. ‘Is it good with water?’

            ‘It’s all right.’

            ‘You want them with water?’ asked the woman.

            ‘Yes, with water.’

            ‘It tastes like liquorice,’ the girl said and put the glass down.

            ‘That’s the way with everything.’

            ‘Yes,’ said the girl. ‘Everything tastes of liquorice. Especially all the things you’ve waited so long for, like absinthe.’

            ‘Oh, cut it out.’

            ‘You started it,’ the girl said. ‘I was being amused. I was having a fine time.’

            ‘Well, let’s try and have a fine time.’

            ‘All right. I was trying. I said the mountains looked like white elephants. Wasn’t that bright?’

            ‘That was bright.’

            ‘I wanted to try this new drink. That’s all we do, isn’t it – look at things and try new drinks?’

            ‘I guess so.’

            The girl looked across at the hills.

            ‘They’re lovely hills,’ she said. ‘They don’t really look like white elephants. I just meant the coloring of their skin through the trees.’

            ‘Should we have another drink?’

            ‘All right.’

            The warm wind blew the bead curtain against the table.

            ‘The beer’s nice and cool,’ the man said.

            ‘It’s lovely,’ the girl said.

            ‘It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig,’ the man said. ‘It’s not really an operation at all.’

            The girl looked at the ground the table legs rested on.

            ‘I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s really not anything. It’s just to let the air in.’

            The girl did not say anything.

            ‘I’ll go with you and I’ll stay with you all the time. They just let the air in and then it’s all perfectly natural.’

            ‘Then what will we do afterwards?’

            ‘We’ll be fine afterwards. Just like we were before.’

            ‘What makes you think so?’

            ‘That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy.’

            The girl looked at the bead curtain, put her hand out and took hold of two of the strings of beads.

            ‘And you think then we’ll be all right and be happy.’

            ‘I know we will. Yon don’t have to be afraid. I’ve known lots of people that have done it.’

            ‘So have I,’ said the girl. ‘And afterwards they were all so happy.’

            ‘Well,’ the man said, ‘if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to. But I know it’s perfectly simple.’

            ‘And you really want to?’

            ‘I think it’s the best thing to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you don’t really want to.’

            ‘And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me?’

            ‘I love you now. You know I love you.’

            ‘I know. But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you’ll like it?’

            ‘I’ll love it. I love it now but I just can’t think about it. You know how I get when I worry.’

            ‘If I do it you won’t ever worry?’

            ‘I won’t worry about that because it’s perfectly simple.’

            ‘Then I’ll do it. Because I don’t care about me.’

            ‘What do you mean?’

            ‘I don’t care about me.’

            ‘Well, I care about you.’

            ‘Oh, yes. But I don’t care about me. And I’ll do it and then everything will be fine.’

            ‘I don’t want you to do it if you feel that way.’

            The girl stood up and walked to the end of the station. Across, on the other side, were fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro. Far away, beyond the river, were mountains. The shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain and she saw the river through the trees.

            ‘And we could have all this,’ she said. ‘And we could have everything and every day we make it more impossible.’

            ‘What did you say?’

            ‘I said we could have everything.’

            ‘No, we can’t.’

            ‘We can have the whole world.’

            ‘No, we can’t.’

            ‘We can go everywhere.’

            ‘No, we can’t. It isn’t ours any more.’

            ‘It’s ours.’

            ‘No, it isn’t. And once they take it away, you never get it back.’

            ‘But they haven’t taken it away.’

            ‘We’ll wait and see.’

            ‘Come on back in the shade,’ he said. ‘You mustn’t feel that way.’

            ‘I don’t feel any way,’ the girl said. ‘I just know things.’

            ‘I don’t want you to do anything that you don’t want to do -’

            ‘Nor that isn’t good for me,’ she said. ‘I know. Could we have another beer?’

            ‘All right. But you’ve got to realize – ‘

            ‘I realize,’ the girl said. ‘Can’t we maybe stop talking?’

            They sat down at the table and the girl looked across at the hills on the dry side of the valley and the man looked at her and at the table.

            ‘You’ve got to realize,’ he said, ‘ that I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want to. I’m perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you.’

            ‘Doesn’t it mean anything to you? We could get along.’

            ‘Of course it does. But I don’t want anybody but you. I don’t want anyone else. And I know it’s perfectly simple.’

            ‘Yes, you know it’s perfectly simple.’

            ‘It’s all right for you to say that, but I do know it.’

            ‘Would you do something for me now?’

            ‘I’d do anything for you.’

            ‘Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?’

            He did not say anything but looked at the bags against the wall of the station. There were labels on them from all the hotels where they had spent nights.

            ‘But I don’t want you to,’ he said, ‘I don’t care anything about it.’

            ‘I’ll scream,’ the girl siad.

            The woman came out through the curtains with two glasses of beer and put them down on the damp felt pads. ‘The train comes in five minutes,’ she said.

            ‘What did she say?’ asked the girl.

            ‘That the train is coming in five minutes.’

            The girl smiled brightly at the woman, to thank her.

            ‘I’d better take the bags over to the other side of the station,’ the man said. She smiled at him.

            ‘All right. Then come back and we’ll finish the beer.’

            He picked up the two heavy bags and carried them around the station to the other tracks. He looked up the tracks but could not see the train. Coming back, he walked through the bar-room, where people waiting for the train were drinking. He drank an Anis at the bar and looked at the people. They were all waiting reasonably for the train. He went out through the bead curtain. She was sitting at the table and smiled at him.

‘Do you feel better?’ he asked.

‘I feel fine,’ she said. ‘There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.’

 

Slam Poetry with Billy Butler, Wednesdays 7/9-7/30

billybutler2For the month of July, slam poet extraordinaire Billy Butler will be teaching four Slam Poetry Workshops. Billy has performed his spoken word poetry everywhere from the Mill Valley Library to Carnegie Hall in New York! Register for one or all of these special classes.

Wednesday, July 9, 7:00-8:30. Creekside Room. Register here.

Wednesday, July 16, 7:00-8:30. Creekside Room. Register here.

Wednesday, July 23, 7:00-8:30. Creekside Room. Register here.

Wednesday, July 30, 7:00-8:30. Creekside Room. Register here.

Check out Billy doing his thing on his YouTube channel here.

Stories to Keep Us Going

Update 7/14/14: Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway. The short story that made me fall in love with short stories. 

Update 6/26/14: Story #2 (Flash Fiction),PUNK” by Claire Rudy Foster. I particularly liked this piece but SmokeLong is a great site and you should check out their online quarterly. Hope that gives you some good short fiction reading! I will be back after the 4th (unless I break down and post more stories in the meantime) with more delightful prose to share. 

***

OK, so it has been approximately two days since Creative Writing and I already miss it. See, there’s going to be a two week break from class (6/25 and 7/2) and then the estimable Billy Butler is going to take over for four weeks of Slam Poetry Workshops that are going to blow your frikking mind. I strongly suggest signing up for all four.

And yet, old habits die hard and I find myself looking for short stories to for us to read in Workshop. I simply don’t want to wait until August to share them with you. So, over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting links to good short stories here. When I post a new story, I will also post to my Facebook, letting people know.

Feel free to comment on the stories you like/don’t like, etc. I have to approve each comment, though, because this site is a spam magnet (don’t as me why–INTERNET, WHAT DID I EVER DO TO YOU?!) so it might not show up right away.

The story I am posting today was originally published in The Paris Review and came to me courtesy of Short Story Thursdays, this super neato deal that emails you a different short story every week, totally for free! Check out the Facebook page here.

Without further ado–here is The Vac-Haul by Peter Orner!

 

~Katie (6/20/14)

Punk by Claire Rudy Foster

Story via Smokelong Quarterly.

PUNK
by Claire Rudy Foster

Our parents all think we’re losers. We’re not good enough for them but we’re good enough for each other. The music is too loud and we are packed tighter than canned tuna, shoulder against shoulder. Heads moving more or less in rhythm like we’re agreeing. Yes, we are the fuck-ups. Yes, we’ll disappoint you. We did it wrong. We win at making better mistakes. 

art by Taro Taylor

art by Taro Taylor

Some of us look like punks and some don’t but we’re all wearing the costume of belonging. We don’t go to church, you know. This is our church and it’s loud, loud, loud. There is the voice of God in the bass reverb and the lyrics’ rising incantation. We are already dead, they say. The world has forgotten us in its shame. We forget ourselves. We don’t distinguish between wrong and right, we do what is real.

The singer has a voice like fighting tigers. He raises his beer can over the crowd of leering faces and our arms reach up to engulf him. Dismember him. Eat and take him for our own. We eat our young, and we are all young. We’re hopeless. What happens? Go to school, get some debt and a silly job. We might get married. What is it for, we wonder? We wear work boots to the office and leave the safety pins in our ears. We grow old gracelessly and we will teach our children to argue with anyone, even us, even God. Kill your idols, we will say, even as our hearts ball up in our throats.

If Darwin was right, we are better than you. We are going to spawn and die and we’ll do it in a jugular splash of blood and love, soaking life’s sheets. The solo comes and we are a mass of fury. The fists we raise? That’s for you. We are knocking on your door.

Read the interview.

Claire Rudy Foster lives in Portland, Oregon. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing. Her critically recognized short fiction has appeared in various respected journals; she has been recognized by several small presses, including a nomination for the Pushcart Prize. She is afraid of sharks, zombies, and other imaginary monsters.

Taro Taylor is a 32-year-old who has been living in Sydney, Australia, for 4 years. Taro has been photographing on and off for three years. This photo was used via the Creative Commons license on Flickr.