1 Aug

Days at the Waldport beach house always revive my writing energy.  Staring at the waves, walking the beaches, watching the gulls.  On top of that, for a few days, my writing gurus (both of them) were with me and gave me good feedback on an essay.  “Getting to the Heart,” which is partly about artichokes, but is really about communication and finding a voice and being heard. 


MIS-communication,  a big problem in our times.  How was the Colorado shooter able to live for months of collecting his arsenal and booby-trapping his apartment without anyone noticing odd behavior?  Was everyone on their cell phones?  Not paying attention? 

On the other hand, in the news this morning was the story of a nineteen-year-old in Portland who noticed a man lying on the ground next to his lawn mower, jumped out of his car and administered CPR while someone called 911.  The man who wasn’t breathing, now is alive.   Not only was that young man paying attention, he cared enough to stop and ACT. 

Back to the essay which now is about my voice, but needs to be about everyone’s voice.  When thinking about the essay you are writing, ask yourself:  “What is my writing’s occasion?  Why am I interested in this today? Is something in the news today that gives urgency to your topic?

Writing Prompt: 

Who made you feel as if your stories were not valuable?  Did someone take away your voice?

Carry it further: 

Write a letter you will never send.  Tell that person how he or she left you voiceless.  Now, write a letter back to yourself from that person — a letter that attempts to explain his or her actions. 

What you may find:

You will gain reader sympathy and identification.  The letter that you imagine coming back to you from the person who stole your voice may give you new insights.  Possibly, you will even come to understand why this terrible thing happened.  I predict that your writing will be less whining, more compassionate, and thus more appealing to the reader.  Sure enough, there will be outrage (completely justified), but your anger will tempered with understanding — a sure way to gain reader sympathy. 



  1. frances August 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Writing can be so different from painting. Much of what i hear back from an audience is true but was not on my list to include in the artwork. It must be the writing medium requires more conscious attention than teh hand and eye combination requires. The analogy has been made to me, “Did our ancestry common to the champanzees’ write or make noises without grammar recognizable to us?”

    Did you get my answer to your other blog? Hope you are doing fine.

    • annewarrensmith August 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

      I don’t know about the chimps, but I do know that the viewer of a painting and the reader of a story bring themselves to the piece. Each one will respond according to their life experience, and many times in ways that the artist/writer never expected. Artists are so lucky, I think, because they can set their work out to be seen. We writers have to wait (most of us) to be published before we can enjoy interaction with our readers.

  2. frances August 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    I think musicians a lucky because their art requires interaction with an audience. Sometimes painters, for instance, are not part of the response. Being a painter can be a very lonely experience. As, I suppose, being a writer could be.

  3. Ann Marie Etheridge August 20, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    In June of this year, I attended a reading at Grass Roots. The author is Aria Minu-Sepehr and the book is entitled “We Heard the Heavens Then”. Aria had learned that very day that he was nominated for the Pulitzer! Good read, my friends! I have been laboring through my own memoir amd getting close to completion! Any how-to works would be much appreciated! I have read countless memoirs, but would love a work that is didactic in nature. Suggestions?

    • annewarrensmith August 20, 2012 at 9:34 am #

      Didactic, instructive, books about memoir. You’ll find a list on the back page of a bibliography I handed out in class. For those without the handout, take a look at Roorbach, “Writing Life Stories”; Barrington, “Writing the Memoir”; Alexandra Johnson, “Leaving a Trace: The Art of Transforming a Life in Stories”; Miller and Paola, “Tell It Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction.”

      Congratulations, Ann Marie. Getting close to the end. How wonderful! You have a great story to tell. It seems to me that your story lends itself to the classic form — situation, complication, crisis, and resolution. For that I recommend Jon Franklin’s “Writing For Story.”

      • Ann Marie Etheridge August 23, 2012 at 12:26 am #

        Yes, I went through my notebook from one of your classes, and I found the list! Thank you for the feedback regarding the venue in which my story lends itself! I will be ordering Franklin’s book in the morning.

        So helpful to have this writing outlet, Anne.

    • frances August 20, 2012 at 9:52 am #

      Whoever is writing aout artichokes, anne Marie or Anne I have an artichoke story very different from yours but probably with a moral. In 1950 my sister and I visited relatives in California. Just about every meal they proudly presented over-cooked artichokes that we could eat only by dipping them in thousand island dressing. they tasted terrible to my sister and me without the dressing. My family took us to China town where we were introduced to hoarhound hard candies. They tasted just like those artichokes. Today, I love marinated artichokes (maybe not the disguised ones yet). I odnt know the moral. Maybe something about keeping on trying.

      • frances August 20, 2012 at 10:04 am #

        I meant “maybe not the undisguised ones yet.” Moral: proof-read!

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