New Harmony's Roofless Church

New Harmony’s Roofless Church


I’m writing from Historic New Harmony, Indiana (I’m here taking part in the 2nd Annual Extraordinary Time Writer’s Retreat)!

Look, any chance I get to be in New Harmony with my computer (and, especially, with a notebook and pen), is one I welcome with unbridled exuberance. I’ve been to very few places that emanate the creative energy and the sense of equanimity of New Harmony and both of those things are invaluable to a writer.

Add to that a tranquil setting with an interesting history (and some pretty cool historic buildings and parks), as well as that rare combination of quiet time and a separate space to write, removed from the many obstacles of the daily grind, and you have a writer’s dream.

Of course, one of the best things about the retreat is getting to spend a few days with one of my favorite people (and a talented writer), Terry Price, as well as some other warm, wonderful, creative writers.

I get to start the day with gentle morning yoga, engage with those other writers in a variety of ways, practice sparking my own inspiration by moving my body, and savor some solitude devoted to my own writing. And this evening we’ll be participating in a special Free Public Reading at Sara’s Harmony Way (a charming little wine shop) located smack dab in the middle of in New Harmony.

If you’re a writer, going to a retreat (whether it’s guided or unguided, whether it’s in some other place or right there in your own home) is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for your writing. And if you get a chance to be in New Harmony (whether you’re taking part in the retreat above or you’re just getting away for a few days to be at the page), take it. Take it as soon as you can, as often as your life will allow.

You’ll see what I mean once you get there.


I recently spoke with Marc Rubin, an artist I’ve long admired (and finally had the chance to meet), and on his website he states that he “pulls things from the debris of the world, objects we walk by every day, and by painting them” he shares their stories, he brings “the viewer eye-to-eye with them, and as simply as possible,” he lets them “speak for themselves.”

Maybe that’s why his art is so compelling to me! That’s what I try to do with my poetry and with my fiction, after all. I may have mentioned a few times now that I am drawn to misfits. But I don’t just feel that way about the characters I paint with my words.

I also feel that way about the words themselves and how they’re used.

Metaphors, for example, tend to be the A-list celebrities when it comes to figurative language. They get the notoriety, the spotlight, the hype, the adoring fans. Similes tend to be overlooked not just by readers or literary critics, but often even by writers as they sit at the page crafting their works of art. And I don’t want to take anything away from Metaphors, they’re priceless, but a good Simile can go a long way. Sometimes they might even fit better with the moment, with the work itself.

I like giving props to Similes, examining how they can enrich your writing, and also how they’re sometimes misused.

That’s why, back in May, I hosted a special event at Elmira College called The Wonderful World of Similes. The event opened with a one-hour workshop which included an examination of examples from classic and contemporary literature as well as some tips for crafting effective similes.

Made possible by a grant from Poets & Writers magazine, the event was FREE and open to the public and was followed a 30-minute reading by yours truly (a selection of my poetry and my YA fiction), concluding with an open mic where a number of students as well as another local poet took part.

That was my first public reading of 2013. I did another reading in June as the Featured Reader at the Youth Poetry Awards ceremony where I read some poems from my novel-in-verse as well as the opening chapter for Xero.

It was so rewarding to be part of an event celebrating young writers.

My next reading in upstate New York will take place on August 26th at the Franklin Street Gallery in Watkins Glen (that of the state park with 19 waterfalls, of the race track, of the wineries, and of the Finger Lake named Seneca).

Despite the fact that stage fright is still one of my top fears, I love doing readings.

Standing there (trembling on the inside), looking out at the faces of the audience as I read, taking in their reactions to line breaks, to the impact of words, to the set ups as well as the punch lines, these are such rewarding experiences. 

I love engaging the audience in a dialogue. And making them laugh. And opening a window, so to speak, into other lives. Getting them, perhaps, if just for that moment, to look, to see, to think.