My Writing Journey, #2

The Poetry Writing class ended in April. That month always celebrates poetry reading and writing. We talked about posting a display of our work at the local library, but that didn’t happen. It did indicate that we were looking forward together.

On the last class day, we all agreed to continue meeting in our homes. Monthly seemed to be a small commitment compared to our weekly class. We wanted to continue writing and workshopping our poems. I knew it would motivate me to keep writing. I needed that.

We decided to alternate meeting in each other’s home. Since it was an evening meeting, we shared a meal and then shared our poems, discussing possible ideas for revision. We kept moving around and writing.

We eventually named our group The Great Rift Writers, after the Great Volcanic Rift in our local region of Southeastern Idaho. We continued meeting for about five years. We kept losing members as they moved from the region, but we did promote poetry in our area. I worked for Barnes and Noble Booksellers, and arranged an Open Mic Night once a month at the store. Members of the community were invited to read their works.

We added a few new writers to the group, but not enough to keep it going. One of my best friends today from that group is still writing and publishing his poems. I kept writing after leaving the group. I finally published my collection of poems this year after twenty-five years, Writing in Sand. It’s available now on Amazon. The hefty poetry tome ended up being 412 pages.

It took a couple years to find most of my poems–many from near-dead computer hard drives in my basement. I have to give credit to the Great Rift Writers for keeping me going early on a creative path that I’m still traveling. It’s hard to do anything alone initially.

How did you start writing consistently? What influenced your writing life? What motivated you to write? I’d love to hear from you. I’d like to hear from writers of other genres. Let’s promote writing together. This small space could influence a community of future writers.

#learningtowrite #poetry #writingcommunity

My Start in Writing Poetry

While teaching English to 9th Graders in the mid-1990’s, I read in my local newspaper a list of classes being offered by Community Education during the Spring Semester. A Poetry Writing class was being offered by Leslie Ovard, an Idaho State University instructor. I had been interested in writing for years, but now I had a method of writing that I wanted to explore.

The class was organized as a workshop. We would come each week with a poem, created from a writing prompt from the previous week. I started writing about what I knew– the mining industry in North Idaho. I am from Kellogg, Idaho, and my father’s family had immigrated there from Camborne, Cornwall. His grandfather had come to the area since the 1880’s, probably in the gold mining camps of Pritchard and Murray north of Kellogg.

On the first night of the class, I found that I was the only male who signed up for the class. I was not too surprised. The only reason why I mention it is that I seemed to be treated differently when we shared and commented on our weekly writings. My stuff seemed to be chewed up and spit out quicker than others.

I didn’t take it personally. It was more of a humorous highlight–more of a challenge. A few weeks in, one of the ladies brought it to the class’s attention that my writings seemed to be getting more negative comments. Actually, I used the comments as more of a personal insight. I spent more time editing and polishing my writings, knowing that they would be bulldogged. I used the comments to improve. However, after that comment, I did feel that I was more a part of the class.

I kept returning to mining themes for writing my poems. I always admired my Dad who spent his whole working life as a hardrock miner. He was proud to be a Mainline Motorman. I wanted to memorialize his life’s work in poetry. My writing grew from a chore of completing a weekly assignment to a love of finding my writing voice. Having a real goal improved my results.

My mining poems were eventually gathered together and self published as my first Chapbook in 2004. The title of that first work was Miner Moments. I only hand-sold less than ten copies. I gave away more copies to family and friends than I sold. My pay was in thank-you’s. I’m reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s comment after publishing Walden: “I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself. Is it not well that the author should behold the fruits of his labor?”

When l published my 25-year collection of poetry in January of 2022, Writing in Sand, I included all my poems from Miner Moments. I’m still proud of that first Chapbook since it was dedicated to my Dad.

My next post will continue my writing journey in poetry. What happened after the writing class? How did it change my writing life?

What are you most proud of in your life? If you are a writer or a poet or another creative, what got you started? How did you go about finding your voice in writing or creating? I love sharing stories. None are too small to hear.

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