Gratitude and the Writing Life

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Gratitude Postcards

I carved a block with the international gratitude symbol and printed it in pink, a color associated with gratitude. I want to provide guests at the upcoming Riverside Arts Walk who attend Inlandia’s panel discussion at the library an opportunity to express their gratitude to a writer through a postcard.

Thursday, February 2, 2023
First Thursdays Arts Walk
“The Gratitude Project: Readers & Writers Edition”
with Janine Pourroy Gamblin, Cati Porter, Leila Kirkconnell, Robert Kirkconnell, and David Stone

Riverside Main Library
3900 Mission Inn Blvd
Riverside, CA 92501
Doors Open at 6:00 PM
6:30-8:00 PM
Free and open to the public.

Is gratitude part of what it takes to build a writer’s life? We think so.

In reading and writing, as in life, we don’t often take the time to tell people how much they – and their work – mean to us. Join Inlandia and a gathering of IE writers to learn how to weave together a literary life, and discover ways readers and writers can express gratitude for one another while doing so.

Journaling Idea #29: A Reader’s Journal

A photo I took of one of the books that I am currently reading.

When we read, we are not metaphorically vacuuming up the words from the page; rather, we are making sense of the symbols we encounter by relating them to previous material we have encountered. Reader-response theory leads us to consider that every reader, therefore, has a unique reading of a text based on their personal experiences.

Keeping a journal in relation to your reading, gives you the opportunity to enrich your reading experience.

Before Reading

Writing before reading brings to consciousness your previous knowledge and gives you the chance to record your predictions about what you are going to read . Readers make a surprising number of observations of a text before they read it that set them up to interpret it. We do judge a book by its cover. The packaging of a text (cover design, title, fonts, etc.) give us clues as to the text’s genre. Our expectations about what kind of text we are reading shape what we expect to find.

So, before you start reading, write down what you think the text will be be like:

  • Do you think the text is fiction or nonfiction?
  • Is it a narrative, an argument, or an explanation?
  • Why are you reading this text?
  • Who is the author and what do you know about them?
  • What kind of text is it?
  • How do you expect the structure of the text to go?
  • What have you read like this text before?
  • What topics and/or themes do you expect to encounter?

Writing before reading prepares you to read. Context and experience will teach you what and how much to write.

I’m excited to read Warren Berger’s The Book of Beautiful Questions. Having read read Berger’s article in Spirit magazine and his first book, A More Beautiful Question, I’m expecting Berger to inform me about the different types and functions of questions. I imagine he will be advocating for the importance of questioning in business, education, and everyday life. I’m hoping to gain more skills in the making and using of questions to share with my students.

David Stone’s prereading entry for Warren Berger’s The Book of Beautiful Questions

While Reading

Take time to pause to write periodically while reading. You can pause at divisions in the text, or when the impulse strikes you. The California Reading Association lists 26 things good readers do. Writing some of those things down can help a reader of any age to become more self-aware of the strategies they use and allow them to be more consciously reflective. I selected the following activities from the CRA list that I think would work well in a journal:

  • Summarize.
  • Make predictions.
  • Take account of what you already know.
  • List what is new to you.
  • Note what you want to learn.
  • Make comparisons.
  • Connect what you are reading to your life experience and/or to your vicarious experiences.
  • Paraphrase complex sentences to make them personally meaningful.
  • Question.
  • Make comments in response to what you have read.
  • Record whether your predictions were accurate.

In addition to the activities suggested by the CRA, I would add write out quotes that you might use later.

I like how Berger uses questions for the subtitles of his chapters and for the book’s subheadings. His introduction is subtitled “Why Question?” He notes how questioning is where inventive change begins (3), questioning can change our perceptions, expand our vision, make us aware and move us beyond our preconceived preferences, and open up creativity and our range of emotional response (4). Berger introduces how his book is divided into what he sees as the four major uses of questions: decision-making, creativity, connecting with others, and leadership. I found myself concerned in response to the “What can we learn from a four-year-old girl?” section that Berger might spend a lot of this new book restating information that I had read in his first book. Review is good, but I am looking to learn new things.

David Stone’s reading entry written in response to the Introduction of Warren Berger’s The Book of Beautiful Questions

After Reading

Behind every text is an author. Reading could be compared to listening. So when you are done reading a text, it is your turn as the reader to reflect and respond.

Here’s your opportunity to agree, to disagree, to provide further examples, make comparisons, note areas where you think more needs to be written or researched, comment on the quality of what you read or how it was written. You may want to engage your own creativity to a work of fiction and write an alternate ending or a sequel.

Your reader’s journal may be something you keep to yourself, or may be something you share with a family member, friend, book club, class, or colleague.

I enjoy reading my own reader’s journals from thirty years ago. I laugh at how much I have forgotten that I have read and find satisfaction in reconsidering my earlier responses.

If reading is not your thing, many of the same strategies could be used for a viewer’s journal as well.

Eleven Months Have Passed

I was struck with disbelief today by a post today of a photo of Bernie Sanders in his iconic large mittens at Joseph Biden’s inauguration. The caption queried, “Can you believe that this was 11 months ago?” I couldn’t. I searched up the date of Biden’s inauguration and found myself still in disbelief that his inauguration was less than a year ago.

Amanda Gorman took center stage on that Inauguration Day in her golden coat as she read her poem “The Hill We Climb.” Today I began reading her new collection of poems Call Us What We Carry. Her poems are helping me to reflect on this seemingly long year and the disruption that the Covid pandemic has caused in our lives.

I will say more of Gorman’s book when I finish.

Geary’s Guide to the World’s Great Aphorists

I asked my wife for this book for Christmas because I have thoroughly enjoyed several other books by James Geary. Tonight I am starting it with my wife. It’s a perfect read aloud book for the two of us to share with its short entries. It starts off with Alan, Woody (Woody Allen) as the first entry in the opening section titled “Comics, Critics, and Satirists.” A perfect section to share with my witty wife.

And since I have stated my plan with such confidence, I should quote the aphorism from Woody Alan found on page nine, “Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem.”

Looks like this book will keep me humble, which is exactly what I need to keep learning in the upcoming year.

Open to Air

Such a perfect afternoon and location for a reading entitled “Open to Air”! Since it was the day before the fall time change, I had selected a group of ten poems for my first set that centered around time, including “On Seeing the Cost of Time Change,” which playfully mocks Benjamin Franklin for not seeing the effects of his idea. It was great to have Roxy Heinrich in the audience who originally suggested I write a poem about the time change.

My second set focused around memories, most with medical connections, taking into account the majority of the audience with professional medical connections. I was touched by a woman who spoke with me after the reading to say she was an ICU nurse and that my poem “2 a.m. Set” captured that environment.

Members of the Inlandia Ontario Workshop: Victoria Waddle, David Stone, and Linda Rhodes
Former and present colleagues from Loma Linda Academy:
Flynt and Danelle Taylor-Johnston, Melanie Jobe, David Stone, Anne and Kevin Chaffee, and Dr. Andy Sandiford

The final set centered around nature. I was disappointed that Dr. Melissa Brotton was not able to attend and hear a poem about a Siberian Husky named “Huck,” which I wrote for a nature writing class I took from her at La Sierra University.

I also read “We Came to Count the Cypress” which I wrote six years ago today in response to a walk at Fairmont Park in Riverside, CA led by writer Gayle Brandeis and artist Sue Mitchell.

Walking in Fairmont Park in 2013 to admire its 52 Cypress trees
Fun with My Kids

Thank you to Drs. Michael Orlich, Jim Walters, and John Lou from Loma Linda University’s Humanities Program who invited me and organized today’s reading.

Open Words

Enjoyed reading for the first time at the Open Words poetry reading I wrote about for the newspaper back in May. Located at the Ironbark Ciderworks in Claremont, this open mic reading occurs on the first Sunday of each month.

1420 N Claremont Blvd Ste 107B, Claremont, CA 

Mari (pronounced like Marie) Werner and Terry Wilhelm organize the reading. One of them typically starts the evening to warm up the crowd and the other closes the reading.

Terry Wilhelm opening July’s reading
Iron Bark’s Event Calendar

I arrived about ten minutes before the reading began and was about the eighth reader to sign-in. The dozen or so readers for the evening showed a wide array of comfort and skill. The audience facing the microphone and the general customers were audibly receptive to all. It’s a great venue for both the novice and seasoned poet to read.

Me (David Stone) reading “Earthquake at Taco Bell,” written in response to the Ridgefield Earthquake which recently occurred on July 5, 2019
Mari Werner read an engaging prose piece about the tragic loss of trees at her former home to close the reading.

Ironbark provides a vivid, artistic environment for a poetry reading. The staff were friendly and helpful (I think one of the staff was even a reader), but not obtrusive. A teetotaler like myself felt no pressure to drink. Other readers shared how much they enjoyed the fermented cider offerings. I only wished Ironbark sold food as well as beverages.

Retro decor really pops!

After the reading, the closing host encourages the audience to share news of upcoming local poetry readings and publishing opportunities. Mari noted Karen Maya-Greenbaum in the audience and suggested the Fourth Sundays Poetry Readings at the Claremont public library. Victoria Waddle, Managing Editor of Inlandia: A Literary Journey, encouraged the readers to submit to the adult edition of the online journal before the August 31st deadline.

Riding the Flexible Flyer

Riding the Flexible FlyerTuesday, June 19th may have been a typical hot day in Riverside, but I escaped the heat with over twenty of Celena Diana Bumpus’s poetry students and guests at the second reading in the Tuesday Literary Series at the Janet Goeske Center in Riverside, California.

Ms. Bumpus leads a highly engaged group at the Goeske Center for an hour-and-a-half long workshop each Tuesday afternoon from 1:00 to 2:30, one of the Center’s many free lifelong learning options.

I shared forty short poems from my current manuscript, including “Riding the Flexible Flyer,” which tells the story of a memorable childhood sled ride.  You can see my splayed hands and bent knees in the photo above as I describe the launch of my sled.  Nothing like a fanciful winter poem and a well-airconditioned room to help one forget the wilting temperatures outside.

My poems explore nature, time, and family relationships with images from my rural childhood in Northeastern Pennsylvania and from Southern California’s Inland Empire where I’ve lived for nearly twenty years.

After reading I enjoyed conversation with the group about my poems and the craft of writing.

I look forward to hearing Michelle Gonzalez read on July 10 at the third presentation in the Tuesday Literary Series organized by Bumpus’s Islands for Writing Publishing. Tim Hatch will read on August 7.

 

 

2017 Writing from Inlandia Reading

Since my plans to travel this weekend had only recently changed and I had not signed up to read, I went to the reading for the 2017 Writing from Inlandia today to listen to other local writers and not to read myself.  However, just as the last scheduled reader was preparing to read, I was urged to follow her at the podium.

I shared three of the five poems I have in this new anthology:

Standing Ground

Rest in the Grove

Hope

Two Hollows on a Hill

At Last a Black Lily

“Birdie, birdie, birdie, / calls the cardinal,” I chirped out as I began “Standing Ground,” which features the territorial calls of a cardinal perched above a hanging carcass.  My mother loved cardinals.  She would have hated this poem.  “Why write about such a gruesome scene?” she would have said, but she was not there.  She and my father were interred at Hickory Grove Cemetery just two weeks ago.  My mother passed early in January and my father less than a year earlier.

I struggled to lift my eyes to face the audience.  Maintaining periodic eye contact while reading is a part of my daily routine.  I’m a teacher.  But I found myself desperately struggling to maintain composure as I thought of my parents.

As I read the dedication, “for Benjamin Mileham Stone,” I felt my voice begin to waver.  I came close to crying, but made it through the poem. “Rest in the Grove.”

I hadn’t introduced the poem, but after a deep breath at its end, I shared about the recent loss of my parents, feeling a need to explain my quavering.  The compassionate faces I saw in the audience, many who I have known for years now, steadied my nerves and voice as I read through the four stanzas of “At Last a Black Lily,” which reflects on the death of a raven from the West Nile virus.    Rest and beauty came for the bird in my poem as courage and peace came for me.  I am grateful for the community of writers I’ve come to know through the programs of the Inlandia Institute.