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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creativity is Contagious

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I am surrounded by some really creative people and in the past year this has had a profoundly productive effect on me.

It all started in March 2013, when my husband and I and a few folk and blues-minded friends  – Pam, John, Deb and Tom – formed a monthly, house-hopping gathering where we make music with our guitars, drums, harmonicas, accordions, violas and voices. The music loosened me up, shook off the cobwebs and opened up some room inside.

In June, I went to New Mexico with a group of painters with the plan to write, but the charcoal pencils and oil pastels found their way into my fingers and all I wanted to do was sketch and paint.

A month later, in July, because my innovative new friend  Jill asked, I read a personal essay I had written in front of a live audience at a Chicago bar which led to meeting a new group of writers and another reading night at an independent bookstore in January.

Then, in February, because Lori, another out-of-the-box thinking person asked, my photographs were hung on the walls of a nearby café that features local artists.

What’s particularly interesting to me is that a significant number of dear, longtime friends are in a similar state. All of us are women who are seasoned and ready to serve up what’s been marinating within us for a long time.

I feel compelled to share what they are doing so that you, too, might catch a whiff of the atmosphere that’s created by creative people.

My friend, Nina, an author and bibliophile, is opening an independent bookstore in Evanston.

Alysse, who makes sculptures and transforms landscapes from a wheelchair, is project managing an art exhibit made by people with disabilities at Moss Rehabilitation Center just outside of Philadelphia.

My oldest friend, Leah, whom I’ve known since we were five and is also a Philadelphian, has returned to something we did together as little girls: she’s writing beautiful songs on her guitar and is preparing to record them in a studio. You can hear them under construction on her Sound Cloud site.

Rebecca, director of Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, writes a column for The Business Journals on ways women can start and grow their businesses. She provides sound, non-nonsense professional advice.

Judith, a Chicago-based psychotherapist, author and activist in the health-at-every-size movement, just published the second edition of her book “Beyond a Shadow of a Diet.” 

Marianne, a painter and teacher in Denver, is transforming lives through the presence and practice of art. She was recently profiled in Colorado Expressions magazine.

My friend, Sean, a family archivist who lives across the street from me in Skokie, provided artifacts and memories and was interviewed for a documentary and museum exhibit about her amazing grandmother, Marjorie Lansing Porter who archived the music of the Adirondack region.

Kacky just went international from her home in Vero Beach, Florida, by launching an etsy site offering her beautiful handcrafted crochet, bridal and vintage jewelry. 

And Mary Ellen, a Chicago writer and blogger was nominated for an “Inspire to Aspire” award that celebrates bloggers who inspire through their posts and stories for “On the Wings of a Hummingbird,” her blog about joy.

Alll of this energy seems to have spilled over to my writing students several of whom have had their work published in the past year (see “Writing Dreams Do Come True” from earlier this year), as well as my husband, David, who was inspired to write and tell his own personal stories, one of which was recently featured in a Story Sessions podcast.

Creativity is contagious. Hope you catch it and then spread it around.

Many thanks to my very creative friend, Lori, who told me about a cool new watercolor app to apply to photographs.