writers

Water/ by Laurin Bellg

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This prose poem is from the prompt Water we received on the second day of the retreat on Pantelleria. I brought a struggle with me to the gathering, a pivotal decision to be made about my future. And there on that sparse, volcanic island – closer to Tunisia than Italy – I was able to see more clearly through Water than I was ever able to do with the charts and statistics I’d laid out neatly and collated logically to help me decide. The logical charts hadn’t helped me at all and kept bringing me back to the same thought that to follow my heart makes no sense at all. I had to go halfway around the world to understand my dilemma and sort it out. The WOW retreats do that – take you to places where you have no choice but to unplug, and thus unfettered, allows you to look at things differently and see what’s really there. I am not a poet at all. Far from! But, even having words come out of me in a different way in a different place with different people was useful to render clarity.

Laurin Bellg

Appleton, Wisconsin

 

Water

I’m in control until I’m not. And when I’m not I struggle,

fighting the water; gasping when it rushes right into me.

I’m reminded I forgot to breath before it hit. Damn.

I drown. I go down. Now thoroughly and completely down,

I find out – what’s down there. What’s down here,

where I am now. Down in the layers of muck and sediment,

among fossils of the non-living, who once lived but now

they just don’t because they can’t.

 

Their choice of fuel was always going to be self-depleting,

and once it’s gone, well – it’s gone. That’s it then.

There’s nothing left to do in that fuel-less place but die

and become shells of ourselves. And I do that.

I die, but I will not be committed to fossil and shell.

I decide. There is nothing left to do but sever bindings.

So, I grab them. Rip them. Leave them there and float up.

And it’s easy. I’m surprised that it’s actually – easy.

 

I’m amused that it took that long to realize, to know I had that –

that shell. A shell, it turns out I don’t even need. I thought I did,

but now I know. I don’t. Funny, I did not even see it –

did not realize, until I lost it, that I ever had it in the first place.

That’s how the sheer weight of the thing – that confining,

limiting shell – can go unnoticed, or if I do notice, how I

convince myself of its usefulness to me. How maddening.

What a stupid construct, really, that somehow

I thought I needed it, but now that it’s gone I am so light –

Light and light – a self-illuminating, auto-renewing

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luminescence in water floating up

 

from deep and pressing water to something I can actually tread.

Once I know that, I can move in any direction I choose. And I do.

I choose – to move. Away. Away from the safe shore I’ve sold myself

as logical to that one – the one I feel is out there, just beyond sight.

I am certain it’s there because, having dwelt in water for so long,

I’m an expert. I know water – how it moves, how I fight it, how it

flows around me when I let it. So, I find the path, that synchronous current

that I don’t have to fight to navigate. It moves me forward with ease,

with a hum and a flow. A flow that I know

would move away from me if I tried to control it.

 

So, now that I have died, escaped the shell, left it there and floated up,

It’s clear that I’m not really moving away from but going toward.

 

Laurin is a critical care physician living and working in Appleton, Wisconsin since 2002. Medicine is her heart, but writing is her soul. She is married to a poet (not his day job), who is looking forward to attending his own WOW retreat in the near future, since Laurin – the test case – made it back alive. He noticed she was changed after WOW, but decided it was for the better. They have two daughters, a rescue dog, a feral cat, a hamster too pedigreed for its own good and a few fish. Laurin is an award-winning author of the medical memoir Near Death in the ICU and continues to throw short stories and essays at contests, because, well, you know – deadlines. That’s the trick she plays on herself to hoodwink a regular writing schedule. Occasionally, they win – the contest entries and the hoodwinking. Next goal is to try her hand at journal submissions. She went to Pantelleria fighting the urge to peruse an MFA in creative writing for the pure pleasure of it (as the answer to a long-time dream and a gift to herself so her writing soul won’t rot), but it’s never made sense on paper. She came back from Pantelleria thinking – we live, we work, we die, so get an MFA and see what happens. Could it be that simple? The WOW writing retreat was pure magic for her and felt like home. She can’t wait until the next retreat, thinking she may have found her writing tribe among these fine, creative folks – many of whom seemed to be the same kind of creative crazy that she is.

Laurin is a critical care physician living and working in Appleton, Wisconsin since 2002. Medicine is her heart, but writing is her soul. She is married to a poet (not his day job), who is looking forward to attending his own WOW retreat in the near future, since Laurin – the test case – made it back alive. He noticed she was changed after WOW, but decided it was for the better. They have two daughters, a rescue dog, a feral cat, a hamster too pedigreed for its own good and a few fish. Laurin is an award-winning author of the medical memoir Near Death in the ICU and continues to throw short stories and essays at contests, because, well, you know – deadlines. That’s the trick she plays on herself to hoodwink a regular writing schedule. Occasionally, they win – the contest entries and the hoodwinking. Next goal is to try her hand at journal submissions. She went to Pantelleria fighting the urge to peruse an MFA in creative writing for the pure pleasure of it (as the answer to a long-time dream and a gift to herself so her writing soul won’t rot), but it’s never made sense on paper. She came back from Pantelleria thinking – we live, we work, we die, so get an MFA and see what happens. Could it be that simple? The WOW writing retreat was pure magic for her and felt like home. She can’t wait until the next retreat, thinking she may have found her writing tribe among these fine, creative folks – many of whom seemed to be the same kind of creative crazy that she is.

Publishing: Get rich quick? Nope, but there are rewards/ by Carolyn Porter

My book has been out for four months. I’d tell you to envision me sitting poolside at my new fancy mansion, checking an ever-increasing bank balance, but that would be a disservice to both of us. My editor is delighted with sales, and the book has gotten good reviews, but here’s the truth: I didn’t turn into an overnight bajillionaire. Quitting my full-time job is not an option. 

But I have reason to suspect people think otherwise. “Are you going to move?” both my husband and I have been asked. Repeatedly. “You still work?” someone remarked with surprise at a bookstore reading. A half-dozen book clubs have made the assumption I would be available any weekday for a leisurely afternoon gathering. And I’ve received cross-country invitations to speaking events, though the organizations expected me to cover airfare and hotel. It’s as if people believe I am equally flush with cash and free time.

I try to give them slack, though, and answer questions with kindness and transparency. I probably harbored some of those same perceptions before learning the realities of publishing. 

So, let me share a few things I’ve learned these last few months:

Publishing a book is a numbers game. 

In 2015, 338,990 books were published in the United States (new titles or re-editions).* That’s 928 new books every single day of the year. 38.7 new books every hour. One new book every minute and a half. By the time you’ve finished reading this blog post, two more books will have been published. Consider that fact with kindness because each new book represents years of work. Each new book represents an author’s total commitment to that project. It’s tough to compete with so many other titles on the market.

Publishing a book might not change your financial life. In fact, it probably won’t. 

Even in traditional publishing, there are expenses to bringing a book to life. I paid thousands of dollars to a developmental editor, thousands more for promotion, and spent countless hours writing and editing—time that could have been spent pursuing paying client work. And I did all that fully aware of this frightful statistic: the average U.S. nonfiction book sells less than 2,000 copies over its lifetime.**

Publishing a book requires fierce dedication, commitment and sacrifice. 

The writing process, especially while holding a full-time job, requires a complete, give-it-everything commitment to the project. Ready to give up television, time with friends, time working out, cooking for fun, or whatever it is you do for recreation? Writing a book requires hundreds—if not thousands—of hours of time at your desk (and inside your own thoughts) when you might otherwise be doing or focusing on something else.

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Publishing a book requires thick skin. 

I’m still trying to find the vitamin that will help me grow it. Ready for rejection? Multiple rejections in a single day? Ready for every single person you meet to have an opinion about the book’s structure/pace/ending/tone/content/language or cover design? Ready to read breezy reviews written by people who only seem to have a marginal comprehension of the facts of the story? Or those who judge the book against criteria of a different genre? It will happen. But if you keep in mind the reason that compelled you to write the book in the first place, the harsh opinions seem to sting less.

So, if publishing is financially unrewarding and emotionally taxing, why did I write “Marcel’s Letters”? It was important to tell Marcel’s story. I chose to commit time, energy, and money to the project to ensure his story wasn’t lost to time. Even if I never break even on the project, I will tell you it was worth every dollar, every ounce of effort.

Publishing a book has unexpected and delightful rewards.

Along the way, I’ve befriended other writers who are equally committed to telling their stories. I’ve launched myself far outside of my comfort zone. I’ve met passionate readers. I’ve seen both tears and joy (and tears of joy) on people’s faces as they talk about the book. I even received a handwritten note from my Kindergarten teacher congratulating me on writing a book. I’ve been buoyed by unexpected cheerleaders. I’ve gained a sense of satisfaction knowing for a few hours I transported people to a different time and place. I’ve been told I’ve inspired people to write, to design, to pay attention to typography, to think big. 

Do you have a story important to tell? Tell it! Start writing today. Go work on it now. Seriously. Right now. If that story inside of you is so big, so strong, so full of life that it is going to gnaw its way out of you with or without your help, figure out how to make time to write it down. Start crafting a work of literature, not just a number. Start cultivating thick skin. Start believing you can.

*. https://www.statista.com/statistics/248335/number-of-new-titles-and-re-editions-in-selected-countries-worldwide/

**. https://www.bkconnection.com/the-10-awful-truths-about-book-publishing

Carolyn Porter is a graphic designer and self-professed typography geek who designed the font P22 Marcel Script. Released in 2014, the font has garnered four international honors, including juried selections for the 2015 Project Passion exhibition, typeface competitions by Communication Arts and Print magazines, and the prestigious Certificate for Typographic Excellence from the New York Type Director’s Club. The book, “Marcel’s Letters: A Font and the Search for One Man’s Fate,” recounts Carolyn’s obsessive search to learn whether Marcel Heuzé, a Frenchman conscripted into forced labor during World War II—and whose handwriting provided the inspiration for the font—survived to be reunited with his beloved wife and daughters. Carolyn lives in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Carolyn Porter is a graphic designer and self-professed typography geek who designed the font P22 Marcel Script. Released in 2014, the font has garnered four international honors, including juried selections for the 2015 Project Passion exhibition, typeface competitions by Communication Arts and Print magazines, and the prestigious Certificate for Typographic Excellence from the New York Type Director’s Club. The book, “Marcel’s Letters: A Font and the Search for One Man’s Fate,” recounts Carolyn’s obsessive search to learn whether Marcel Heuzé, a Frenchman conscripted into forced labor during World War II—and whose handwriting provided the inspiration for the font—survived to be reunited with his beloved wife and daughters. Carolyn lives in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.