Take a Creative Leap & Receive a Gift


Take a risk or leap with your creativity and tell me about it in the comments below. If your story grabs me, I’ll give you a one-year subscription to my favorite magazine.

Yesterday I received Issue 40 of Ruminate Magazine, in which my poem “Yellow” appears, winner of the Janet B. McCabe poetry contest. Entering the contest felt like a leap, after a hiatus from writing and submissions following my daughter’s birth.

It felt like recommitting to my dreams, and receiving the prize has been affirming and supportive. It’s helping me pay for childcare to work on my book. I’m grateful for a magazine that pays its contributors and runs contests like this one, because they’re committed to fostering and supporting a dynamic community of writers, artists, and readers.

To celebrate, I’d like to give the gift of a one-year subscription to a new reader.


Comment below with a few words about your creative leap by October 4th, 2016. I’ll pick my favorite story and give a one-year gift subscription to this beautiful journal of art and faith.

Be bold. Submit your writing to a journal on your reach list. Apply for a grant or a fellowship. Undertake a new project. Reach out to a fellow artist and ask them to collaborate with you. Paint a big canvas when you usually work small, or a small canvas when you usually go big. Whatever feels like a risk or a long shot, try it.

I can’t wait to hear about it.

Photo via Unsplash.

***10/5/2016 UPDATE: Congratulations to Janaya Martin and D. Allen, who will both receive one-year subscriptions to Ruminate Magazine. I loved both of your stories and am excited to share this journal with you. Thanks to everyone who responded via email and social media, as well. Congratulations on all of your creative leaping. Keep it up.***



Writing About Climate Change

Here’s a letter I wrote for Dear Earth With Love, a collaborative community chronicle of personal stories about climate change.

My dear friend Jo created this project. I encourage you to write your own letter to the earth, responding to your personal experience with climate change. It could be a letter, poem, story, song, or spoken word piece. It could be a video of a dance or performance; a painting, collage, or sculpture. Whatever medium suits you best, use it and make something– then submit your work.

Dear Earth With Love holds rolling submissions, with a deadline posted every few months.  The next deadline is August 31, 2016.

Read the beginning of my essay here:

Continue reading “Writing About Climate Change”

A tanka walk with Haryette Mullen

photo-1462774603919-1d8087e62cadInspired by Los Angeles poet Haryette Mullen and her book Urban Tumbleweed, today a group of students and I took a tanka walk around the Metropolitan Learning Center building in NW Portland.

Each writer made notes about their exterior and interior landscape. Walking quietly and carrying a small piece of paper, we wrote down what we saw, heard, touched, smelled, thought, and felt as we moved through the building.

This is one of my favorite activities, because I love writing and I love walking. Last year, I took a tanka walk with students at Cleveland High School, and I was so inspired by their creativity that I decided to take the project with me into my own backyard. Continue reading “A tanka walk with Haryette Mullen”

Thank you for your support!

I’d like to thank the people who sponsored my attendance at the Tupelo Press Perfect 10 workshop, which invites poets to bring twenty poems to the mountains for three days of intensive workshops in the company of other poets. With their support, I completed Split the World in Two, a collection of ten poems written or revised over the course of the weekend (October 31-Nov 2 in Truchas, New Mexico.) I also received invaluable one-on-one feedback on a chapbook-length manuscript. Many thanks to the following people, who sponsored me via Indiegogo in October 2014. You guys are awesome.

Cheryl Wallick
Amy Ridout
Bill Peters
Chris Warner
Mike Datz
Aaron Guest
Stephanie Langlais
Isabelle Ratane
Holly Ringland
Barbara Marsh
Robyn Steely
Sandy Parks
Evan Schneider
Julia Vanderham
Rachel Hammer
Celine Foucher
Megan Falcone
Patrick Poulin
Heather River
Nancy Poulin
Debra Conkey
Cathleen Greiner
Dave & Claudia Bennett
Tom Reeser
Cynthia Eggers
Bryce Poulin
Sharna Langlais
Bob & Kathy Crawford
Jim Renfro
Brett Poulin
Christa Easton
Autumn Reeser
Lonnie Handel


Writing Log # 3: Taking off


It has been a big month!

The anthology I’ve been editing over the past year is finally finished, printed, and waiting in boxes in my living room for this week’s first mailing session and book launch party. It’s beautiful. I love it so much and I can’t wait to get it into the hands of many, many readers.

I launched my Indiegogo campaign and in a matter of weeks, my friends and family launched ME on the road to New Mexico. I leave next Friday morning for a weekend writing workshop with Tupelo Press, one big step toward finishing by first collection of poems. I’m amazed and so grateful.

And yesterday I found out that I was accepted into this year’s Teaching Artists Studio, run by Young Audiences of Oregon and SW Washington. I’m beyond excited for this series of intensive weekend professional development workshops for practicing artists who teach young people. It’s going to be incredible, and it starts in just a few weeks.

With all of this excitement (and more…), I’ve been sleeping less and thinking a lot about details. Wine cups for the event, mailers for book distribution, renting a mini-van in Albuquerque so I can carpool to the Truchas workshop with other poets. Emails and press releases and even an interview.

In between, I’ve managed a few naps, some hasty notes for poems, and sneaky bits of new reading (Mark Doty’s memoir Firebird, strange and beautiful; Joan Didion’s A Year of Magical Thinking, because I still haven’t read it; Denise Levertov’s Light up the Cave, a favorite.) There’s a sinkful of dirty dishes in the kitchen, and a pile of rebar and pvc pipe in the garden, waiting to be turned back into a hoophouse for our winter bed. The ants are making inroads and the romaine lettuces are shivering, but they’ll have to wait.

I’ve been elbow deep in the pre-conference assigned writing, which is challenging and engaging– and hard to make time for during the week. I just find myself with so little energy left after commuting, teaching, prepping, commuting again, and catching up on the aforementioned details. But I’m trying.

I logged a pretty weak three hours this week. I had plans for some good writing time today, but insomnia last night and a power outage at the grocery store midday had other plans. So here I am, catching up and hoping to park myself at my desk after church tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I keep looking for moments to dip into this well of gratitude, and it brings me energy. I’m thankful for the support I feel all around me, including the community of writers I met in my MFA program. After a year apart from them, I was delighted when one plucky poet wrangled a few of us together for what I hope is a monthly Skype workshop, preceded by an exchange of our current poems in progress. That’s this Wednesday and I’m looking forward to seeing their sweet faces and connecting about our work.


Writing Log #2: Drafting

Leaves-page-001Last week was a tough one. I barely pulled myself upright on both feet, showered, and made it to work each day, so my morning writing time went out the window. I made up for it on Saturday, though, by clearing my schedule and sitting down at my desk for the morning and early afternoon. I logged a solid 6 hours in that writing chair.

The bulk of it was revising. I have about six or seven different folders stuffed with drafts in various phases of order and disorder. Every month, I try to get away from the house with my book, my typewriter, and my drafts. I dive back into the mess, picking up where I left off and usually finding some new angle on a piece or (less appetizing) realizing that the poem I thought was finished last month actually needs major work.

Then I take everything back home and make changes to the master document on my computer. I just find that I do more of the actual creative work if I separate myself from the computer, and spend time with the poems themselves.

I keep my current version of the book in a three-ring binder, so that I can easily reorder things when I’ve got a new piece or revisions for an older poem.

This month, I couldn’t get away from home, but I’m happy with what I accomplished– and delighted that I’ll be on a plane to New Mexico in a few weeks, for a real chance to get busy with this book. Thank you SO MUCH for your contributions to my Indiegogo campaign. I’ve booked my tickets and I’m starting to work on the pre-conference exercises, which are substantial.

Here’s a poem in progress, something about regret that I’ve been trying to write. Please leave some feedback.


Once we fell asleep
in the meadow
during a meteor shower,
wind licking our thoughts so
they knelt like blades.

Another night I lay staring
up from bare ground until
I saw one fall—Hello
and I knew I was going
out like that, and you were
an orange glow in the window
washing dishes, tinning
silver on ceramic and then
there, breaking the dark
like a yolk and saying
should I get a blanket?

Tuesday morning, I passed
a couple asleep
beneath a row of cypress
trees— new, and clear of words
they didn’t mean

and I remembered I told you
No, meaning blanket
meaning you in the grass
with me covered in stars,
but you were already gone.



Writing Log #1

Delicate by ChristineMonday I launched my first ever Indiegogo campaign, to fund my attendance at a weekend writing workshop and finish my first book of poems.

I was floored– absolutely floored– at the response from friends and family in the first few days. Even more than knowing that I am much closer to attending the workshop, I am simply struck by the reality of love as a motivating force. Knowing that you guys are rooting for me and that you believe in me enough to contribute– this is tremendous. It really does make a difference in getting to the desk every day, or at least just propping myself up on one elbow, bleary-eyed at 5 a.m., and reaching for my notebook to scribble something down. Instead of saying, nah, I’ll just sleep a little longer, I get up because I have made a commitment to myself and to all of you to finish this book.

So how did I do this week with writing?

I logged 3 hours and 40 minutes, and it felt good, if a little wobbly.

Beginning intensive work on a project or getting back to a regular writing practice has almost always been awkward for me. The work is either wooden or woozy– it’s like I haven’t quite find the right mix of hot and cold. How much control and how much freedom?

I think what I’ve been most excited about is cultivating creative energy for this book, feeling potential begin to circulate in my fingers, ideas gathering. And I’m hoping that this will also lead to more writing away from my desk, more moments– on the MAX, in class, driving, in the shower– when an idea or a question or a line comes to me.

I’ve also been digging through the desk drawer I keep with lost poems and lines– bits of drafts that never made it or rambling freewrites– and experimenting in crafting new work from them.


we are portland

Among the many things I love about my adopted hometown of Portland (including great public transit and bike routes, community acupuncture, gardens, and beautiful summers), I love the constant overlap of art with shared public space.

The city is full of commissioned sculpture and art installations. Seems like even the tiny corner coffee shop has a rotating exhibit from local visual artists– and a packed waiting list. There’s poetry on the bus and dangling from the trees. There’s practice Shakespeare in the park.

Lately, I’ve been appreciating a series of beautiful photographs at the parks & rec community center down the street. I’m especially interested in it because it’s a project funded by RACC, the same grants organization that has helped make Winged possible:

Check it out!


We are Portland is a youth-run mobile portrait studio that captures the faces and stories of a changing Portland. These portraits were taken at free Family Portrait Days hosted by My Story’s youth photographers. At these festive neighborhood events, new conceptions of community are formed, and as the portraits are broadly shared, Portland youth focus the lens of public discourse on the places they call home.


Summer 2014 show:tell Workshop

Hey Marylhurst campers!

I’m so glad to be writing with you at show:tell 2014. Here are those links I mentioned in class, for further explorations. May you get lost in the kinship between poems and poets, may link lead on to link and especially on to more of your own poems.

1, 2, 3 Make a Poem workshop

Day 1: More practice for getting words on the page

Read Sylvia Plath’s “Tulips” and circle all of her metaphors and similes. Create metaphor “templates,” then write lines that use the same kind of metaphor for each image. Use one or two of the resulting lines to lead you into a poem.

Get inspired at Hazel & Wren

Day 2: More practice for re-vision

Try rewriting your poem in a different form, such as a villanelle, sestina, or ghazal.

Try this nonce form, the  “semi-glosa,” invented by poet Barbara Crooker. Then invent your own form!

Day 3: How do you know when a poem is finished?

The drafts of Sylvia Plath’s poem “Stings”

The drafts of Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “One Art”

Draft, a really cool lit journal that’s all about first, second, third (etc) drafts


Tattoo & Identity workshop

This workshop on tattoo, writing, and identity was inspired by metal/enamel artist Martha Banyas’ concept of “invisible tattoos” and her short video “The Mysterious Lives of Makers.” In her metal sculptures and paintings, Banyas uses botanical imagery in tattoos on human figures.

We’ve all had experiences that have ‘marked’ us, either visibly or invisibly. Where do these experiences live in our bodies? How do they shape our identities? How can we carry them in our writing and visual art?

These are big questions, and we try a lot of different exercises in this workshop. Here are additional resources and ways to use some of the passageways we explore:

A Thousand Words, an essay about writing from photographs, The New Yorker

self portraits, body image: photography

Shelley Jackson’s skin quilt, a collective tattooed poem

a video about her project

personality quizzes as fodder for poems

The tattooed poets project

Tattoo Highway lit journal

Try Jeanne Murray Walker’s Tulips Exercise

When I was in graduate school, I had the pleasure of working with poet Jeanne Murray Walker. She gave us an assignment for working with metaphor that I found profoundly helpful. It involves reading and observing metaphor in Sylvia Plath’s poem “Tulips,” which you can read here.  

Here are Jeanne’s instructions:

“Okay, here we go.  This is to show you how to go through a poem to create metaphor templates that you can use to generate your own metaphors.  I’m looking at Plath’s “Tulips.”

The first metaphor is “The tulips are too excitable.”   So you might formulate the template like  this.   The X (the given term) is described by an adjective which attributes to it the characteristics of a Y (a human trait).

For the exercise you would write a bunch of metaphors with that format.

Examples:  The sun seems too anxious to rise in the morning.   Why is the watch so eager to race ahead?   The turtle seems oddly philosophical.

The second metaphor in “Tulips” is “Look at how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed in.”   Actually, that’s a series of normal adjectives that leads, in the end, to a metaphor:   “how snowed in”.

The template for this metaphor might be this:   The X (everything in this hospital room) is described by a verb (“snowed in”) which gives it the characteristics of Y (ie whiteness, quietness, emergency, etc.).

For the exercise you would write a bunch of metaphors with that format.

Examples:   How the sun got hemmed in by the gossiping of the big stars.    How unremarkable the chair is, how undistinguished, how—well—belittled by its surroundings.

You go on doing that kind of work through the whole poem.  “Tulips” is built out of metaphors.  To work through it  might take you two weeks.  But it will be two weeks well spent.

Does this give you the idea?   I’m inventing the examples as I go along here, so they’re probably not very good.  But you will do better than this when you do the exercises in your journal.

I made up this metaphor exercise for myself a long time ago and it has been most useful to me when I could follow the format of the original metaphor as exactly as possible.  But all my reading in semantics suggests that metaphor is a slippery and wily animal.  Don’t use that as an excuse to get discouraged.  Just do as well as you can.  Any practice, even if you’re not quite accurate, will help you.  Accuracy is not the ultimate goal.  Try to make good metaphors rather than ones that won’t be useful to you in a poem.   And the ultimate point is not just to gain metaphors you might use, but above all to get a mind nimble for metaphor. Practice in your journals.   And be well.”