A farewell

I’m sad to announce that River River Writers Circle is ending its run, partly because its crew has been busy working other ships (i.e., our day jobs, families, and other organizations) during the last several pandemic months. Sad, but remember that this means your local libraries, schools, colleges and communities to which we contribute our time and talent have been enriched by the smart, sweet and sincere work that we’ve been doing here. Our efforts in the literary arts haven’t gone away; they’ve gone into the daily machinery.

When I started organizing River River with Donna Miele and David Bell in 2015, the main focus was always in-person gatherings. The need for writers to be together, and to have opportunities to create together, share, and listen to one another, was clear then. We managed to keep the Zoom salons going for months, but it seemed counter to the culture and mission of the organization to continue without the opportunity for in-person events.

Considering that our board members/editors work as school teachers, librarians, freelancers, tutors, professors, parents and writers, I’m amazed at what we managed to get done during this extremely difficult COVID-19 period. There are many people to thank for supporting us in our 6-year run as a nonprofit, but I especially want to highlight our local community of writers who have shown up to events with smiles, tears, and so much heart. We did this all for you.

Prompt for August 21 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

Sometimes you just want to make something, and that something is made of beads, cardboard, artsy paper, and hot glue. Or sometimes it’s just made of words, thoughts, memories, hopes, and birdsong. The impulse nibbles at you until you do something.

I like this kaleidoscope craft idea, and I’ll probably make one this weekend with my daughter. In the meantime, we could write something about crafting. For today’s prompt use the steps and instructional mode of a craft how-to, and see where that leads you.

Tonight, we are joined by young writers from this summer’s Kaleidoscope Poetry Circle for a celebratory reading. Join us on Zoom at 7pm to listen, encourage, and share your own writing from today’s prompt.

This Friday evening salon takes a break indefinitely after today (waiting out the rest of the pandemic perhaps).

Prompt for August 14 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

We’ve arrived at the glory of tomatoes and peaches in the markets. The feeling of harvests, all kinds of emotions and all kinds of metaphoric leaps, come up. I think there’s a kind of beautiful melancholy in picking the vegetables and fruits of the year, the ones you’ve grown yourself and the ones that your neighbors beg you to take from their over-planting. Also, I read a really beautiful sentence in a novel at the end of a description of harvesting. It’s full of dramatic terror.

His shoulders flinched, and his hands moved as if to catch and hold her until she regained her balance, but he just looked on helplessly as she stumbled and fell onto the rails, and then, with the class watching in horror, slid down the other side of the embankment and out of sight from where they were among the apple trees.

Abigail, by Magda Szabo, translated by Len Rix

Write something and then join us at 7pm for our Zoom salon, where we will read and talk and dream of bountiful autumn days.

Prompt for August 7 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

Whether a catastrophe is born of the natural-world or is made by human failing remains a bit difficult to determine these days, and it seems to depend on whom you ask. If a volcano erupts, it’s pretty clear which is to blame, and I’m glad that 2020 has spared us this at least. But I wonder when we will spare ourselves.

For tonight’s prompt, consider the ways in which self-defeating behavior causes catastrophe. Try brainstorming a brief list of the ways (there will be many), and then choose and write.

Join us at 7pm in our virtual salon on Zoom for readings and conversation. Hope to see you there!

Prompt for July 31 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

Our new writing circle for teen poets has begun, and I was happy to find the group willing to talk about a John Ashbery poem this week. It’s pretty hard to talk about his poems! However, I think it’s easy to feel the pressures and questions in them, which is always something that young writers find interesting. Then this morning, I shared his poem “Rain Moving In” with a group of community leaders, and there was another good reception for Ashbery’s complex style of poem, with its simultaneously critical and hopeful attitude. I’m feeling bold now… here it is for you. See if you can borrow something from the language or imagery for your own writing.

Rain Moving In
by John Ashbery

The blackboard is erased in the attic 
And the wind turns up the light of the stars, 
Sinewy now. Someone will find out, someone will know. 
And if somewhere on this great planet 
The truth is discovered, a patch of it, dried, glazed by the sun, 
It will just hang on, in its own infamy, humility. No one 
Will be better for it, but things can't get any worse. 
Just keep playing, mastering as you do the step 
Into disorder this one meant. Don't you see 
It's all we can do? Meanwhile, great fires 
Arise, as of haystacks aflame. The dial has been set 
And that's ominous, but all your graciousness in living 
Conspires with it, now that this is our home: 
A place to be from, and have people ask about.


(from The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, ed. Phillis Levin)

Join us at 7pm for our virtual salon on Zoom to share your writing and talk about this poem a bit with others. Hope to see you then!

Prompt for July 24 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

The things we heard around campfires as kids might be the things that haunt our writings most. Take a little inventory for yourself — stories, verses, bits of gossip you listened to among grown-ups in summertime indolence. Let it spark a new piece of inspiration.

Write and then join us at 7pm for our virtual salon on Zoom. Readings, conversation and maybe some new memories.

Zoom Meeting ID: 810 6803 6209 Passcode: 325039

Prompt for July 17 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

I’m reading a poem by one of my mentors, Leslie Ullman, in the new issue of Cloudbank, and I’m reminded of her lessons to me as I headed into my toughest summer, the one in which I was writing a master’s thesis while single-mothering. But that’s not the prompt. The poem, even with its title, “Use fewer notes,” opens the door to this reflective-imaginative opportunity. Take this excerpt inside with you.

   A lost summer blooms...

...we revisit less encumbered versions of

self, the promises
we half-kept and then
  forgot, replacing daydream

with modest achievement
    clutter of passwords
   and rechargeable devices designed

to relieve us of suspension, silence,
  the tease of uncertainty, chord or phrase
    that might have left intervals for what next?

Enjoy your writing time, and then join us at 7pm in our virtual salon for readings and conversation. Hope to see you then!

Prompt for July 10 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

(This is a re-blog from this Tuesday, a writing prompt crafted by our summer intern Ellie Rostan.)

As the world is being shaken and drastically realigned by COVID-19, normalcy seems lost, and we are lost in the strangeness that is becoming our new normal. Carson McCullers’ poem “When We Are Lost” imparts a universal voice to this very terror of losing oneself in a warped space or time or “the joined trickery of both conceptions.” When we are lost, we writers write. We write to regain our footing, to make sense of the strange, to pull on what is uncomfortable. The prompt is simply this: Write to finish this phrase, however you see fit:
“When we are lost…” 

Join us for our virtual salon on Zoom at 7pm for readings and conversation. And meet Ellie!

Open for submissions for issue 12 – and a writing prompt inspired by Carson McCullers

Tomorrow night (July 8) at 8pm, Rivertown Film will screen a conversation with directors Karen Allen and Kristi Zea on their films with the director of the Carson McCullers Center, Nick Norwood, and moderator Susanna Styron from March 25, 2017, celebrating the birthday centennial events in 2017 organized by CSU’s Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians. Be sure to check it out on their YouTube channel, part of their Artists from the Archives series. In the meantime, one of the teen writers who participated in the events that year, Ellie Rostan, offers a special writing prompt for this week:

As the world is being shaken and drastically realigned by COVID-19, normalcy seems lost, and we are lost in the strangeness that is becoming our new normal. Carson McCullers’ poem “When We Are Lost” imparts a universal voice to this very terror of losing oneself in a warped space or time or “the joined trickery of both conceptions.” When we are lost, we writers write. We write to regain our footing, to make sense of the strange, to pull on what is uncomfortable. The prompt is simply this: Write to finish this phrase, however you see fit:
“When we are lost…” 

Send us your writing! Our open submissions period for issue 12 continues until the end of August. While we are not accepting new poetry as we deal with the quarantine backlog, fiction and creative non-fiction sections need your best work.

Prompt for July 3 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

Borrowings, gleanings, erasures, black-outs, and riffs. These are a few of the ways that poets reuse the canon to make new, fully alive verse. In honor of Independence Day, our national holiday, let’s make something living out of the old poem by Francis Scott Key. What’s your vision, and “[w]hat is that which the breeze… now conceals, now discloses?”

Try shaking up the old poem and writing something new out of the process. Then join us at 7pm for our online salon on Zoom for readings and conversation. Hope to see you!