Never on Tuesday

“You cannot go Tuesday, but you can go Monday, Wednesday and Thursday to Friday Saturday Sunday. We chose Thursday, and dined at this charming little spot located at 261 S. 21st Street.”

So opens my first published article in the spring of my senior year of high school.

It was a restaurant review in my high school newspaper, The Earthquake, that I co-wrote with my friend Marianne, with whom I am still close. She became a painter and I, a writer but I remember that lead insisting itself on both of us.

It’s hilarious to read, now, forty years later.

For our hubris:

 “We were warmly welcomed by a young hostess and promptly seated at a table adorned with fresh flowers.”

A young hostess? Really? We were 17 or 18 at the time.

For our earnestness:

“We immediately noticed that the walls and ceiling were draped with billowing Indian fabrics. The menu was cleverly situated up high on a blackboard which was nestled among plants. Dim lighting and soft jazz music added to the cozy ambience of the restaurant.”

And our innocence:

After splitting a mocha walnut torte – dubbing it a “sublime delicacy” – we concluded:

“Our dinner was topped off with an uncommonly good cup of coffee and left us content and satisfied having enjoyed our dinner thoroughly!”

Coming across these six-paragraphs delights me for three reasons.

First, it’s a reminder of how long I have been honing my craft.

Second, what a lovely souvenir from my senior year.

Finally, though I never wrote another restaurant review in my life, discovering and critiquing new eateries is something that I still love to do with Marianne. We like what we like from an early age.

And it appears that we know how to pick ‘em, too. I just Googled the restaurant to see what might be in its place and would you believe, it’s is still there.

Just like we are, now.

But without this yellowed newsprint, there wouldn’t be proof that I was there, then.

I guess what I’m saying is, keep what you can, so you can take note of the miles you travel.

Marianne and I, many miles ago.

Cover image is page 5 of The Earthquake, March 11, 1977.

Ten Gifts to Stir Your Creative Soul

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For some of you, the last two weeks in December multiplies the items on your to-do list and pushes you to pick up the pace. For others, it may be a quieter time. But the shorter days, perhaps a few high expectations, and our cultural magnification on the holidays can make this a challenging time for psychic space to create.

So I urge you not to fight against it and instead give yourself a break from making and allow yourself the gift of taking. I’m not talking about things material (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) I’m talking about filling your creative well with inspiration, affirmation and perhaps an insight or two. Consider using the next few weeks to take in what others have to say about why creativity is a priority in their lives. Let them give you words that to help you appreciate what you do, creatively speaking.  Make it your end-of-the-year gratitude review.

To that end, I have some recommendations. Below are ten books that have provided me with this gift. Books that I go back to from time to time. Writers whose words on the subject of creativity, craft and the writing life ring bells for me and remind me why I spend so much time in its pursuit.

Certainly you can get your own thoughts down on the subject  –  it makes a great prompt – but when a writer articulates what you have long felt but never put into words (whether you’ve tried or not), it can be such a gift.

Gifts to stir your soul.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert

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The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr

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Still Writing, Dani Shapiro

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Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

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The Story Within: New Insights and Inspiration for Writers, Laura Oliver

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The Situation and the Story, Vivian Gornick

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Writing About Your Life, William Zinsser

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Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg

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Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art, Judith Barrington

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Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives, Louise DeSalvo

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Photo by Ellen Blum Barish. Copyright 2015.

A Cluster of Color on a Palette of Possibility

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A cluster of color on a palette of possibility.

That’s how I’ve been feeling since my June 4th post that linked readers to my essay in Brevity’s Blog about the decision not to go with themes for Thread.

The weeks since that post gifted me with a beautiful selection of submissions and many new blog subscribers. A warm welcome to you all!

Since 2008, I’ve been utilizing this space to write about creativity, craft and the writing life. I’ve ruminated on words as worlds unto themselves, writing as a way of seeing up close and far away, what made me burn my journals, the potency in taking a writing break, and struggling with the writing-and-reading-rich promise of summer. EBB & Flow is also a direct link to updates on, and the latest issues of, Thread.

I believe that we all get more than enough to read online as it is, so I only post a few times a month when I’ve got something on my mind that feels share-worthy.

And right now, it’s thank you. Whether you found Thread through Brevity or Duotrope or Facebook, thank you for reading Thread, writing to say how much you enjoyed Thread, submitting your work and for supporting Thread by telling others about it. To those of you who submitted your essays in the month of June, my goal is to respond to you by month’s end because I’ve never much liked all that waiting to hear from literary editors myself.

I’m hoping that the cluster of color will begin to look more like this soon:

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I’m working on a blog post about chaos theory and the creative process for early July.

Hoping you’ll stay tuned and in touch.

To a word-and-image-rich, sun-drenched summer.

Photos by Ellen Blum Barish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a Stitch! Sensational Sentences, Part Two

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Sensational sentences are the threads of great writing.  And like thread – cotton or nylon, wool or silk – they are full of color, shine and texture. Sure, they pack more wow when followed by another great sentence and then, another. But the great sentence stands on its own, telling its own story.

I look for them and collect them. Because in their simplicity, they embody the craft of writing beautiful sentences.

You can find them in the most interesting places.

The specimens below were all posted on Facebook (yes, Facebook!), sprung from a sharp wit and keen, urban observing eye. I was delighted when the writer gave me permission to reprint them, as she doesn’t always say yes to her mother.

This time, she did. Note the well-selected details, use of senses (especially smell), dollop of imagination, mix of quote, observation and advice and, of course, humor.

On family reunions

Grandpa, referring to the Google map direction voice to the restaurant: “Hush, everybody! This woman is trying to take us someplace!”

On temptation

Every morning I don’t succumb to the siren song of bacon emanating from Longman & Eagle [a popular Logan Square restaurant] on my way to the train is both a victory and a loss.

City commuting

Sometimes, after it rains in the loop it smells like a giant fart cloud.

More on farting. Advice from a city girl on her lunch hour

If you’re wandering around Macy’s trying to kill time and you find you have to fart, just waltz into the perfume section.

On the winter of 2014

I’m moving to Hell for the weather.

Airport travel

Airport sushi is a sure fire way to miss your flight in more ways than one.

On St. Patrick’s Day

If I were really smart, I would have targeted the drunkest of drunk people, pretended to be a leprechaun, then stolen their wallets amidst their awe and confusion.

Thanks, Em!

Photograph by Ellen Blum Barish. 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

Open Window

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It’s been a new year’s resolution of mine — for many years now — to reimagine my website and blog and this, finally, was the year!

My intention is to blog – more frequently – about writing process, craft and inspiration through stories from my own writing and teaching-writing life and to link you to provocative and thoughtful pieces, writing prompts and tools on the short personal narrative form.

I’m a cheerleader for the creative process, which we all know can be slow, lonely, surprising and magnificent — often at the same time. My mission is to inspire you to open your window and urge us both to the page.

Feel free to leave comments and/or to share bits of your writing adventures.

My window is always open.