What Falls into Place

 

The little publication that could. I was delighted to learn that an essay from the Fall 2017 Issue of Thread was recognized by the discerning editors at Best American Essays this year. Richard Holinger’s “The Art of Passivity” earned a spot as a notable in this year’s edition, a coveted list that acknowledges excellence in essay. Kudos to Richard  – and Thread  – for this second recognition in BAE! Randy Osborne’s “Seaside Bohemia” was selected as a notable in the series’ 2016 edition.

 

 

 

 

A memoir makes its way. The journey to publish my memoir continues. I was over the moon to find an agent in June and now I am learning a great many things about the state of publishing. These are challenging times for the memoir. Editors are saying the loveliest things about the manuscript, accolades that you would think could sell a book, but if one isn’t a well-known writer or celebrity, the memoir is a tough sell, they say. My advisors are telling me to buckle up and prepare for a wait as long as a year. I am working on cultivating patience!

 

Coaching café. My writing clients are working on such interesting projects! An MFA grad, who is also a hospice nurse, is working on collection of personal essays. A university professor and elementary school teacher are working on memoirs. A psychotherapist is working on a professional article and a personal essay. And a performer/educator is completing a professional presentation reflecting her life’s mission. Watching their words find their way onto the page is my life’s joy.

 

 

 A taste of personal narrative. My October workshop is currently full, but there are more opportunities to dip your toe into personal narrative in November. Check out this four-week introduction to personal narrative at Ice House Gallery. Monday nights, 6:15 – 8:15 pm. And take a look at this theme-based afternoon on “Writing Wrongs” at the CG Jung Center. Saturday, November 10. 1-4 pm.

 

 

Mark your calendar! Save the date!

Thread celebrates it’s fifth birthday in 2019 and we are celebrating with a night of storytelling with some of Chicago’s finest tellers at the Skokie Theatre.

Thursday, May 2, 2019
7:30 – 9:30 pm

Keep up with the latest updates on Facebook or by subscribing.

Tickets on sale March 2019.

 

Photos courtesy of Ellen Blum Barish, healthymond, rawpixel, Agency Olloweb and Skokie Theatre.

 

Sensational Sentences, Part Three

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There’s nothing like being swallowed up in a writer’s words. When something we read has us nodding, shouting, “Amen,” or marking in the margins, a writer’s work has been done.

The reader has been moved.

But being moved doesn’t mean that we remember every single word. It’s the whole work that moves us, and moves each of us differently. If we’re lucky, we can recall a phrase. With a decent memory, we may remember an entire sentence.

When I read a student’s work-in-progress or a submission to Thread, I’m absorbing an enormous amount of stimuli: I’m hearing the writer’s voice, visualizing her scenes, feeling his sensory details, absorbing the language, emotion, pace and theme.

But what stops and suspends me, urging me to hang there for a moment, is one beautiful, true sentence. And that’s usually the moment I fall in love with the work, even a work still under construction.

There’s just no arguing with a sensational sentence.

To illustrate my point, I offer eight very different examples taken from the pages of Thread. Some are the very sentences that sold me on the piece. Some I came to love later. But each stand out in their own way, like each of us does as human beings, highlighting something thoughtful, funny or just, human, and beckoning you to read on, or perhaps, write one yourself.

It was just some dog, the victim of a hit-and-run, lying in the middle of the street on a humid summer night in Detroit, not yet dead, panting shallow gasps, no visible sign of injury except for the small pool of sticky blood below its snout.

From “Rescue,” by Tom McGohey (forthcoming Spring 2016)

During my travels across America, I’m always looking at other cities and asking, “Could we grow old together?”

From “I’m Not From Here,” by Eileen Dougharty (Summer 2015)

This counterfeit ski photo of me sitting dumbfounded on top of a grimy snowbank represented exactly where I was in life: Stuck on the Bunny Hill of a career that was on a slow downhill slide.

From “The Paper Trail” by Tom Wolferman (Spring 2015)

I wanted to write stunning poems and make my friend David, a classical guitarist with green, basset hound eyes, fall in love with me.

From “Should I Feel Anything Yet?” Ona Gritz (Fall 2015)

Others looked where he looked, not seeing what he saw.

From “Seaside Bohemia,” by Randy Osborne (Fall 2015)

It was also the summer my brown baby boy learned to battle the blue jays.

From “First Day of School,” by Gay Pasley (Fall 2015)

Imagine the nerve: My dealer had gone out of town without informing me beforehand.

From “Smoke Screen,” by Timothy Parfitt (Spring 2015)

All I wanted was Barbie’s Dream House and a decent set of Shabbat candle sticks.

From “A Piece of Sky,” by Jeremy Owens ( Summer 2015)
Want to read “Sensational Sentences,” parts one and two? Here is One and here is Two.

Sensational Sentences

What a Stitch! Sensational Sentences, Part Two

 

Photo by Ellen Blum Barish. Copyright 2016.

A Fire Burns in the Ice

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This year marks my tenth as a writing coach and it’s got me musing on how we end up doing things that we love that we didn’t set out to do.

I liked school well enough to pursue a graduate degree, but I wasn’t anything close to a stellar student. Enthusiastic, sure. Yet far from a star.

But I sure put that degree to use. My bylines appeared in Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, Self, my essays aired on public radio and I helped several publications earn editorial awards. I felt really lucky to enjoy so many of the pieces of my chosen field – the reporting, writing, editing, and publishing. I even liked rewriting and proofreading.

Twenty years after I graduated, a former professor of mine at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications where I received my fine j-school education, recommended me for the editor post at the school’s alumni magazine. I was delighted at the offer and happily accepted.

During my three years there, that same professor thought I might be able help coach students who were destined for fine journalism careers but struggling with some aspects of writing. So in addition to my editorial duties, I coached a few students on the side. I keep up with a several of them on Facebook and boy have they have soared!

I’m not exactly sure what it was he saw in me then that promised some skill at working with people on their writing and helping them to reach some goal. I suspect it had something to do with my love for the work, dedication to excellence (even if I try and fail), and a certain gusto that I still carry with me.

Gusto, I guess, because I’m not that patient when it comes to other things. Very little else holds my attention like the process of making something appear — into what is often gorgeous and artful – out of nothing. There’s something extremely appealing to me about the blank page, something alluring and challenging that offers us a chance to capture an experience, a thought, an idea, a memory, or simply a series of words, that if handled in just the right way, provides an answer or a clue, is a gift to someone else or, perhaps most importantly, remains forever.

To leave a legacy behind, even a small one, made of static words on the page that have the power to move people. How cool is that?

Many years into a career, some folks burn out. I feel like the fire glows brighter for me now, especially at the sight or sound of a spark in the eyes, voice, or written words of the writer with whom I am working.

In the gem world, the tenth anniversary merits a diamond but because it’s below freezing here in the Midwest, I’m leaning toward readily available ice as my metaphor, with a multi-faceted look back at some of the successes I’ve seen in the writers with whom I’ve had the joy of working:

  • One of my first tutees from j-school has a high-level communications role in the Democratic National Committee.
  • Three personal essays of a writer I met at one of my book readings were recorded and aired on Chicago public radio.
  • Numerous stories that were struggling to leave the head of the writer, looking for a safe place to land, found their way to the page.
  • Many stalled final papers, dissertations and business proposals became unstuck.
  • Writing prompts given to four of my students turned into essays that I felt were good enough to publish in Thread.
  • I believe that the strong personal essays for graduate school applications helped send at least ten writing students into the programs of their choice.
  • A powerful story was published by one of my writing students in Shambhala Sun, another in More Magazine and a third in Blood Orange Review.

If you have been thinking about working with a coach, consider this year as the one where you make that dive.

Click here for more on my coaching.

Does working with others sound better to you? Try one of my workshops – online or live – that start next week!

Subscribe to Thread.

Submit to Thread.

Support Thread.

Read Thread.

Thoughts? Questions? Something you’d like to share? Comment below or email me at ellen@ellenblumbarish.com.

Photo by Ellen Blum Barish. Copyright 2016.

 

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:

craypas #2

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One True Sentence

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Photo by Ellen Blum Barish

“But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.”

— Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Last week, a writer friend and a rare day off gifted me with an opportunity to visit Hemingway’s childhood home in Oak Park, Illinois. What a treat!

I’m embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until my friend, Annette Gendler, became the writer-in-residence there that I knew Hemingway’s House was less than 15 miles from my home. I’m hoping to prevent Chicago literary lovers from this terrible shame. Thank you again, Annette.

Hemingway was born and raised in this house. You can step into the bedroom where his mother delivered him. The home is in mint condition, brimming with actual or reproduced furniture, art and everyday kitchen and bathroom items from the late 1800s. Daily tours can be arranged. Writers-in-residence work in the studio/office in the third floor attic (off limits to tours) but Annette provided me with a glimpse. It is the quintessential writer’s garret.

Soaking up that Hemingway energy and talking shop with Annette, an essayist, memoirist and writing instructor, prompted me to revisit some of Ernest’s essays. I love the quote above from this incredibly prolific writer. His soul was clearly troubled, his life ending tragically by his own hand. But the quote suggests that he understood something about the ups and downs of writing.

Just one true sentence, he advised. “Write the truest sentence that you know.”

One more thing that’s true:

When you can, give yourself the gift of a day off.

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Live Literary Events

Calendar these!

I’ll be telling my own stories, or hosting the stories of other writers at these locations through September.

Thursday, June 18th at 7 pm

Stories from the House of Truth at Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston, IL.

Thursday, August 6th at 8 p

Story Club North in Chicago, IL.

Thursday, October 8 at 7 pm

Curt’s Cafe South in Evanston, IL. The Fall Reading Series.