On Writing In A Cafe (The Creativity Series: Guest Post)


I’ve know Rita Bregman for a long time, more as an online presence but we have met, and talked on the phone. A displaced New Yorker living just outside of San Fransisco, Rita is a talent writer and good friend.

On this, the last Bornstoryteller for 2011, Rita offers you a poem from her book: On Amethyst Glass: Two Voices, One Song

On Writing in a Cafe

In the process of reading,

you concentrate on the lines,

and the words filter through you

as though through a fine sieve.

You can see them; you can keep a few,

but you don’t really need them.

But the process of writing takes you over,

drives and tortures you,

lets nothing in to save you —

no noise, no time,

no pain, no hunger.

It’s not a casual pick-up,

not a one-night stand.

No!

It’s a long-term, symbiotic relationship.

You are one with your words,

and they with you,

(although you fight a lot),

and it’s a restless world placing words over words, under words,

turning inside out the world of rhythm and sound, time and space

that lives inside.

And you’re never sure if you’ve found that one right word

that will stand-in for your feelings…

…but you damn well know when it’s wrong!

Sometimes in the oddest places

you will become so excited by the combinations,

and so necessary to you are they,

that you will grab a lipstick pencil and an old, used tissue,

or write all around the borders of a road map,

just to see how the words work together….

because they are gifts to try on,

be amazed by,

and held onto because they are yours.

And then WHAM! You’re jolted!

Because someone across the room has dropped a cup on the tile floor

and shattered your concentration in a million pieces,

and you slowly become conscious that you’ve been writing

with a pen borrowed from the waiter

on a napkin,

over a wilted spinach salad,

in a cafe filled with laughing, young men in shorts,

and young women with no make-up reading novels,

and that you are the fossil

they know they will become some day.

Rita Bregman, © 2011

Happy New Year, Everyone. See you in 2012.

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Save The ARTist (Creativity Plus)


There is a great deal of concern and hand wringing over saving the arts. Recently, the Westchester County Arts Council sent out a plea for us to write to our congressmen about major cuts to the arts. I did is they asked, knowing that in even the smallest way our voices have to be heard.

I got an answer back not from the congressmen but from his assistant. there was a lot of blame and finger-pointing in this letter, it still talking how great Westchester County is in comparison to other locations. I will copy and post her letter, but before I do: I have something to say. Yes, big surprise.

With all the talk about saving the parts one very important component seems to be forgotten:

WHAT ABOUT THE ARTIST?

I am a performing and teaching ARTIST. I make my primary living from working in the Arts. My discipline is Theater/Drama, Storytelling and Creative Writing. I do not create “lasting” art in Fine Arts, but I DO perform a service in the Performing Arts.

When you cut the funding for the arts, you are not just cutting out a sculpture or a painting, or a dance or theater piece, or a choral work, you are taking money out of reach of PEOPLE who are trying to pay their bills and survive. by making these budget cuts to save organizations, you are also then putting more people on unemployment. This fall, I have been unable to find a job, mainly because in my field there’s much less work. There are also more people out looking for any work, so even jobs that I could fit into are inundated by other people looking for work.

Where would we be without ones like Van Gogh?

Is it just me, or does this just not make any sense? A good friend of mine has put it  very simply: at this point in time, if everyone across the board and that means the big boys in the middle management boys played fairly, more people to keep their jobs. It’s part of what I’ve been saying in that we need creative solutions and problem solving in place of the reactionaries.

I do not want to be on unemployment. I want to work. I feel there are ways that more people can work and keep their jobs. Today on the news from NPR I heard that more than 28,000 postal workers will be laid off soon. What jobs will they be able to get to support their families?

It’s very easy to cast blame and point fingers. As a country, we seem to excel at that.

Wouldn’t we be better off if we were creative problem solvers?

As stated above, here is the letter I got today:

Thank you for writing to County Executive Robert P. Astorino regarding funding for the arts.

Please be assured that Mr. Astorino has read your message and he has asked me to respond to you on his behalf.

The county executive understands and appreciates your concern for the arts.  While developing the proposed 2012 county budget, Mr. Astorino and his administration have given the arts the same consideration accorded to every program, service, agency and facility supported by county government.

As you know all too well, this is a very challenging economy.  There is a critical need to balance a $114 million county budget deficit with a responsibility to provide essential services and property tax relief, protect Westchester’s neediest residents, promote structural financial reform and reduce government spending at all levels.  One of the major roadblocks to maintaining the funding level for Arts Westchester and many other worthwhile programs and services, is the failure of the public employee unions to agree to make a reasonable contribution to their healthcare premiums.  Westchester County’s union employees are one of the few groups left in the nation that contribute nothing to their healthcare costs.  This ever-increasing financial burden necessitates reductions in other portions of the county budget.  The county executive, since taking office two years ago, has attempted to get county workers to agree to the same level of healthcare contributions state workers make.  While there is a reduction in the allocation to arts programs, the County Executive’s proposed budget includes funding for the arts at $750,000.  This action is in no way a reflection on the outstanding quality of exhibits and performances presented by the arts community nor the talents and efforts of all who labor to bring these offerings to fruition.  It is instead, a part of many across-the-board measures which must be taken during these difficult times.

Your views and those of all who live and work in Westchester are very important to the county executive.  Your input is both welcome and valued.

Again, thank you for writing.

Sincerely,

Janet Lokay
Assistant to the County Executive
148 Martine Avenue
White Plains, New York 10601
(914) 995-2127

Here was my response to Ms. Lokay:

Hi…
it’s not just the exhibits and performances.

You forget a very essential part: the artist has to live, pay bills, and be part of the economic structure. By cutting the arts, it’s not just the end product but the people who live through the process. Two very different things.

I am a Teaching Artist and a performing artist. My entire life is creative and my livelihood depends on schools, libraries, community centers and more have funds to hire me and others like me. I live for the educational process that is part of the learning process…and it does not seem politicians realize this.

Schools may not hire a full time Theater Teacher anymore (I have my NYS Certification in Theater), but they SHOULD hire me as a consultant, which is what a TA (teaching artist) really is. I integrate my work into the school core curricula, and it enhances, not wastes, the teachers’ lessons.

I would love to have a conversation  about this. Yes, many of us produce art that is seen; there are many more of us who produce art that is part of the educational process, for ALL ages, and we’re hurting, trying to make a living.

My thing: instead of telling me why something isn’t working, why are we not doing problem solving around the negatives out there. I’d rather know what has been attempted, or will be, instead of what is not working. I  work a lot with my students, when I get them, on problem solving.

I’m serious about talking with Mr. Astorino.

She gave me her phone number. If I don’t hear from them, and if you know me at all, they will hear from me. I will let you know what happens next. I’m tired of the excuses. Let’s get off of  unemployment

What Sparks The Writer? (The Spark Blogfest)


My good friend (and co-conspirator in our Rule of Three Writers Blog Fest) Lisa posted on her blog Flash Fiction something that intrigued me: When Dreams Come True-A Post for the Sparkfest.

Sparkfest is the invention of Christine Tyler of The Writer Coaster, and this is my first introduction to her writing blogging world. I am sure it won’t be my last as I just subscribed. SUPPORT WRITERS AND OTHER ARTISTS. End of soapbox.

The prompt for this blogfest:

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer?

What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?

Or, Is there a book or author that changed your world view?

Christine has a whole set of “rules” on her page: check them out, and enter as you will. Me, um…well,  if you’ve been reading me at all, you should have an idea about how I feel: Rules? Rules? We don’ need no stinkin’ rules!  Her basic prompt was to choose one of the three above.
By The Way: if you don’t know, I am also a Fiction Writer, and write on my Tale Spinning Blog. This probably should have gone there, and it might still, later. Thought you should know, if you have only known me for what I write about in Education.
I’m going to try all three. Just to be…me. (Thank you, Gene Simmons. I hope she says yes, and I hope you are better).

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer?

This is a tough one for me. I am not sure there is one book that did that. The first thing that comes to mind, really:

Comic Books

I have been involved with reading, collecting, cherishing comic books since way before I could read. My mother used to buy me a few when I was very little (Gold Key; Harvey; Classics Illustrated; Disney;  and Archie comics) and I loved the whole thing. It was more than pictures and words. Comics took me on a journey across the world and into imagination. When I discovered Super Heroes, that was it: Hooked 110% all the way. My imagination knew no boundaries from that day forth. I also understood very well that with great power comes great responsibility.

My memory may play tricks with me, but besides wanting to be a scientist (not with MY grades!), I had always wanted to write for the comics. Always. Still do.  I used to write my own little things in school when I was bored out of my mind. Always drawing my little thumbnails (didn’t know I was story-boarding then), creating characters, writing dialogue, etc.

So…doomed to be a writer? I don’t think I’ve ever thought of writing as a doomed thing. Exciting, creative, expressive, exploitative, demanding, challenging…yes. Doomed? Never.

What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?

My current work in progress is Agent driven: I asked her “what do you want from me?” when all she had previously said was she wanted to see a novel from me (she won’t handle short story writers). Her answer: “I want a great love story.” So, that is what I am doing right now. For those of you that have read my published short story in Dawn of Indie Romance, you’ll see I do have that in me.
The author who set me afire in inspiration overall is Roger Zelazny. I do have a few other things in the works besides the “great love story,” and I feel that I owe them all to the late Mr. Zelazny. He was, to me, THE writer to look up to, to want to be compared to. He broke down big heavy walls in his speculative fiction and fantasy writing.  He explored ancient mythologies putting his own twist  on things.
  • Lord of Light was the first book of his I read, and will reread it as long as I can read. Hinduism, scifi, fantasy: you name it.
  • A Rose for Ecclesiastes just an amazingly beautiful story, melding Christian mythos with science fiction AND it’s a love story too.
  • The Chronicles of Amber is probably what Zelazny is best known for. This fantasy series has everything in it: great stories; great characters; great mysteries; great love; great horror and tragedy; and a lot of Zelazny’s humor.
He was diverse in his writing styles. He had a love for language. He had a diverse referencing skill in what he drew upon as a writer. If I ever had to grow up, I’d want to grow up to be a 1/10 of a Roger Zelazny in my writing. My The Kistune-Mochi Tale (working title) is inspired by his work. Thank you, Mr. Zelazny.

Is there a book or author that changed your world view?

This is the book that blew away my itty, bitty mind when I was around 16/17. It was written/published in 1972, and I still have my copy. So, yeah…16 or 17. I remember reading it, having to put the book down, close my eyes, and my head just swam/exploded with all the complexities I was experiencing from the book. No: I was not on any drug. I don’t do drugs. Never did. This book was enough.

RD Laing’s knots was a psychological poetry brainf**k for me then, and it still retains all of that for me now. Not a fiction book, per se, as I’m normally driven towards fiction. But,it is life presented in an infinity loop of desperation, longings, desires, needs, destructiveness, love, hate, and “what are we doing to ourselves and each other?” wanderings.

Amazon’s description of the book is:  “A series of dialogue-scenarios, which can be read as poems or plays, describing the “knots” and impasses in various kinds of human relationships.” I think they do it a disservice.

I think my questioning of “why” someone does something, not as judgment but as wanting to just know to understand, has it’s roots from reading this book. It does help me as a writer/playwright: all characters want something. My question is: why?

Hope you liked this one. Bit on the long side, but…I never did promise you brevity.

You should join this one, if you are serious about writing too.

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