Last night we saw fireflies in the corner lot where the grass grows tall.
We stopped so we could see more, and again and again, we pointed and said, "There's one. Over there." And, "Wow!"
Now I want to go back and see them again.
Qwirky, QWERTY Love: It’s Typewriter Day!
Last year I wrote a love letter to my typewriter and I want to share it with you.
When I composed the letter, I included as many typewriter terms and sounds as possible:
- cap lock
- royal (Royal)
- space bar
Each typewriter has a different touch on the keyboard and unique bell tone. I typed the love letter on my Olivetti Lettera 35 (with great care ... nearly holding my breath, straight through, with no mistakes...whew!).
Do you have a typewriter? What do you write on your typewriter? The manuscript for a book? Poetry? Love letters? I write lots of letters ... and sometimes, love letters.
p.s. What is QWERTY love? QWERTY comes from the first five letters on the upper left of the keyboard. The term is used to identify the standard layout on an English language keyboard. I do love my typewriter(s)!
Three words on a signboard in front of a local church. Hope was at the top, coming soon sat at the bottom of the sign, referring I’m sure to the day they might welcome parishioners inside. The words weren’t meant to be one phrase, but that’s how I saw it. I like to think hope is all around us ... it’s good to know more is on the way.
I HeARd the CaRDiNal siNGing before I saw it
PerCHeD in the BiRcH tree
a CAt LOOkiNG At mE, LOOkiNG at iT
And, ONe MoRe SaP BUCket
tHat MaKes ThrEE
This is a throwback: a collage and poem I created a few years ago. It's still one of my favorites. You can see I was starting to use sheet music in my work.
It's also got a bit of shorthand mixed in: that line with the dot below it.
Do you know what it means? Morning. That simple line with a dot = a word.
Shorthand is a symbolic writing system used by office clerks and secretaries before voice recorders were available. I'm not fluent in shorthand. It comes from a shorthand instruction book I found at a secondhand shop. The book has an index, so it's easy to pull a single word.
It's like code writing because so few people still know shorthand. Don't you think it would be great for a secret diary or message? One big drawback, though, you'd have to learn shorthand to make it work.
And the poem?
I don't consider myself a poet, but sometimes I like to combine words with images to tell short stories. I don't remember now why I used upper and lower case letters for the poem, but it does make it interesting.
If you'd like to write more, short poems could be a starting point.
Not my hobby.
Even if you don't stick with it, a new hobby might lead to something else. I haven't done much more with poetry, but the collage was the beginning of a lot more collage work. I now work entirely with sheet music and really like collage.
Do you have a hobby that started while you were doing something else?
This post is a continuation of the May theme, birds and birding.
If you have ideas or work you'd like to share, get in touch. I'd love to see what you're doing.
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The first time I saw her, she was tucked in a corner behind bars in the entryway to the Portland Public Library. I might not have noticed her that day, or any other, if it wasn’t for the whirlwind of dried leaves and rubbish swirling at the base of the statue.
It was the Little Water Girl, a charming bronze statue of a young girl, and I wondered who she was.
I did some research and found an amazing story, and it made me wonder about other statues in the city.
There’s the The Hiker in Deering Oaks park, the Lobsterman in Canal Plaza, filmmaker John Ford in Gorham’s Corner, and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Congress Square. Each one revealing more history and intrigue than I could have imagined. I uncovered information about a poet and a filmmaker, yellow journalism, a horse named Madge, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, air pollution, prohibition, and the World’s Fair.
After doing my research, I wanted a record of what I found, so I wrote essays and created posters for some of the statues. Here are three of them.
Little Water Girl
Barefoot with outstretched arms, the Little Water Girl is a fitting tribute to the legacy of Lillian Stevens, a dedicated advocate for women and children, and the third president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).
Founded in 1874, to “combat the destructive powers of alcohol and the problems it was causing their families and society,” the WCTU banded together in prayer, protest, and pledge—a pledge of total abstinence from alcohol.
Prohibition and Water Fountains
In an effort to curb the temptation of saloons the WCTU fought for Prohibition, encouraging members to install public drinking fountains in their communities where “men could get a drink of water without entering saloons and staying for stronger drinks.”
The Little Water Girl is one of those fountains.
In support of the WCTU, Lillian Stevens a committed and independent woman, traveled by carriage with her horse Madge some 50,000 miles lobbying for Prohibition.
Ratified five years after Stevens’s death, Prohibition didn't last, but more than 70 fountains inspired by the WCTU initiative remain standing across the United States, in Canada, England, and Australia.
The Little Water Girl by British sculptor George E. Wade was commissioned by the WCTU for display at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. Copies of statue can be found in Chicago, Detroit, and London.
Note: Why was the Little Water Girl behind bars? She was moved to the secure, gated entrance to the Portland Public Library after she was vandalized in Deering Oaks park. When the library was renovated, the Little Water Girl was restored as a working fountain and moved inside. Today she greets patrons as they enter the library.
Although the Hiker is larger than life and perched on a six-foot pedestal, the Spanish War Veterans memorial on the north lawn of Deering Oaks Park is easy to overlook.
But do look—it’s a beautiful statue.
From the soldier’s wadded and rolled sleeves to the leather satchel reminiscent of today’s messenger bag, the details are captivating. The Hiker is sculptor Theo A.R. Kitson’s most well-known work—more than 50 copies of the statue are installed across the country.
Under the rallying cry “Remember the Maine,” the Spanish-American War secured Cuba’s independence and remains one of the shortest wars on record. But that’s only the beginning.
Dig a little deeper and fascinating tales of science, circumstance, and cowboys emerge. For it was during the Spanish-American War that army medical scientist Dr. Walter Reed isolated the cause and stemmed the transmission of yellow fever plaguing the troops; eager journalists and competing publishing magnates gave rise to the dirty business of yellow journalism; and Teddy Roosevelt’s volunteer militia, The Rough Riders, found glory.
It was a short war, but a war with a decidedly jaundice pallor.
Note: There were at least 50 copies of The Hiker cast and placed in cities across the United States from Texas to Minnesota, and Georgia to Maine. Here’s a list of cities where The Hiker was installed. See if there’s one where you live.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
He broke bread and corresponded with the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Oscar Wilde, and Charles Dickens.
Born in Portland, Maine, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a linguist, professor, and poet.
A graduate of Bowdoin College, Longfellow yearned for a life in literature. And so it was.
Under agreement with his alma mater, he set out across the Atlantic to study European language and literature. He would return to teach at Bowdoin and then at Harvard College, but writing would prove to be his vocation.
Longfellow's well-known works include Evangeline, “The Wreck of the Hesperus,” and “Paul Revere’s Ride. He was a best-selling author and enjoyed considerable success with his work but he suffered tremendous loss in his personal life.
His first wife and childhood friend, Mary Storer Potter, died following a miscarriage. And his second wife, Fanny Appleton, with whom he had six children, died after setting her dressing gown afire with candle wax. Forever saddened, Longfellow did little writing after Fanny’s death.
Sculptor Franklin Simmons’s bearded Longfellow sits with a stack of books at his feet and scroll in hand.
Like Longfellow, Simmons was born in Maine and became a well-known artist in his day. A second sculpture by Simmons, Our Lady of Victories stands just blocks away in Monument Square in downtown Portland.
How could you interpret statues and landmarks where you live?
This post is part of the April Playbook.
We're all poets, even you(!) ...
I think it was in middle school. The assignment was to memorize and recite a poem. I chose Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.
I think I liked it because it sounded poetic, but it also made sense to me.
The poem isn't terribly long, and I practiced well enough to remember now that I felt pretty good when I sat down after my presentation.
I can't say the exercise inspired me to write poetry, but I have churned out a few poems using the blackout poetry method.
It's easy enough, and I've created a worksheet (2 pages) that makes it even easier if you want to give it a try.
Chances are you've got some extra time on your hands, it's Poetry Month afterall, and given the circumstances we're all in, a little distraction goes a long way.
Share the worksheet and invite someone to try it with you.
Here’s what you do. Find a short story or article (a printed page from a newspaper, magazine, an old book, or something you've written). Read through the text and select an anchor word. Something that catches your attention. String together a few others words to form a thought or sentence. Be sure they read as traditional writing does. Left to right, top to bottom.
Blackout the words outside of the words you circled and you’ve got a poem.
Here’s one I did. It's remarkable how simple yet thoughtful is it ... don't you think?
Now it’s your turn.
Click on the poetry sample above to get your worksheet download. It’s two pages (instructions and a short poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) that will get you started.
I selected Longfellow because he was from Maine and he is my choice for a writer/poet in this week’s This State of Mine playbook challenge.
Longfellow is a prominent figure here in Portland. There’s a fabulous statue of a seated Longfellow at the intersection of Congress and State in downtown Portland. He's positioned so that he's looking down Congress Street, toward the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, his boyhood home and home of the Maine Historical Society.
p.s. Did you pick a writer or author for the April Playbook? Haven’t picked anyone yet? It's not too late, grab the state fact sheet and get started.
World Storytelling Day
It’s easy to imagine your stories aren’t interesting. But they are. And they’re worth sharing.
They’re worth sharing because we all have similar experiences. When we share our stories, there are feelings, circumstances, and events that feel the same.
Yesterday I participated in an online writing webinar and did a bit of writing live during the session. Here's the writing prompt we got: “Write about a time you knew there was no turning back.”
I’m sharing the unedited version (it's so hard not to clean it up, but the point was to just write and not worry about grammar, making mistakes, or trying to be perfect). The whole point is to not judge yourself, to just start.
Because that’s where we all get stuck...starting. Wanting everything to be just right before we begin.
And it's not just with writing.
It can be hard to start even if it's something you want to do ... like starting new hobby or project.
Here’s what I wrote (transcribed below):
I was to meet them on the ice. They were ice fishing. I’d been to the lake before and we’d always set out down the dirt road. It was the only way I knew to get there. The dog was in the back seat of the car, a white Mazda hatch back.
Just me and the dog.
We were a third of the way down the road, the snow-covered, steep-downhill road, when the car started to slide. I pressed the brake. No traction. Then traction. The car came to stop. I jumped out to look down the road, to see how it looked. Not good.
And then the car started sliding.
When people were asked to share their writing, there was one volunteer. Asked again, no one raised their hand, so the instructor called on someone she knew. When the third call came, crickets. So I raised my hand.
Raising my hand was hard, but I’m glad I did.
I’ve hosted a few workshops and having people participate creates a more interesting and beneficial event.
And I wanted the feedback.
Getting the feedback was like a big dose of feel-good. And inspiration. It makes me want to finish the story. To write more stories.
I’m not sure it would have had the same impact if I hadn’t raised my hand.
You may not be a writer or have any interest in writing, but you can still share your stories. You can videotape yourself, draw pictures to tell your story, or record yourself ... no video, just voice. Or in person.
Use the prompt we used, or if my story brings to mind an event that happened to you, tell that story.
Agatha and I made it to the lake safely and yes, we went home another way.
Sharing your stories can be like it was for me, a big dose of feel-good.
Will you share a story? What’s it about?
A Workshop: Love Letters at The Press Hotel
So excited to share a new Valentine event: LOVE LETTERS AT THE PRESS HOTEL . . . yes, The Press Hotel, Portland’s fabulous boutique hotel where writing is celebrated and typewriters are elevated to art.
So often we think the people we love know how we feel. And maybe they do, but let's tell them anyway. Share your love this Valentine's Day with this two-part event.
A workshop designed to celebrate love and the art of slowing down.
Give someone a gift they'll treasure . . . and give yourself a morning of paper hugs and pastries.
With guided instruction, along with muffins, pastries, tea, and coffee from UNION restaurant, we'll help you say something nice to someone you love.
February 9, 2020
The Press Hotel
It’s National Handwriting Day and I’m excited to preview a page from my upcoming book: Cursive Writing Practice by the Letter.
The workbook brings together cursive writing practice and letter writing—one of my all-time favorite pastimes.
This page from the workbook features the "I Write Letters to Say" series that showcases the storytelling side of letter writing. And because reading cursive can be a challenge for a lot of people who have never been taught cursive, each entry features handwriting samples from different people.
The book is in the final stages of editing, scheduled for publication this spring.
What will you write about?
A sneak peek at some ideas for the cursive writing handbook I'm working on. What do you think about handwriting, and more specifically, cursive writing?
Though I' may not always be happy with the way my handwriting looks, cursive writing is a lifeline for me, and it's helpful with hobbies like journaling, writing, and mail art.
Writing allows me to sort my thoughts, write letters, lists, and more lists. And recognizing someone's handwriting on an envelope, addressed to me? It just about takes my breath away.
Some people think it's a waste of time now to teach cursive writing. They argue that we have computers and telephones and texting. I love all of the technology, but still believe there is a place (and need) to learn how to write in cursive.
Your handwriting, my handwriting, it's as unique as we are. It allows us to express ourselves, to get to know ourselves, to be ourselves. And I don't think we should erase it from our lives.
All aboard! Get on track with new adventures.