Thursday, August 09, 2012

Source of Inspiration

Photo ©Joe Gemignani
Today I had a phone call from a former member of the women's writing group I founded in Fort Lauderdale back in 2006. At age 76, Valerie is a performance poet with a PhD in Philosophy who teaches at Broward College, lectures at Nova University, speaks for nonprofit groups, and creates and gives workshops and seminars on spirituality. She wanted to know if I was still leading the writer's group and if I had room for her in my classes. She said she recently had surgery for thyroid cancer and finally had time while recovering to put together her book, which she envisions as a collection of her poems, essays, cartoons, articles, and academic papers. She was terribly disappointed to learn that I'm no longer located in South Florida or leading writing groups.

I remember Valerie quite vividly. Almost six feet tall, with long black hair, she is a woman not easily forgotten or even ignored. When it was her turn to share her work with the writers group, she stood up and performed her poetry from memory...sometimes entertaining us for 10 or 15 minutes a time. I don't remember that she ever slipped up even once or forgot the next line. She was amazing...she was doing her version of poetry slams long before most of the contemporary poets' parents were born.

In between telling me about all the things she's been up to since we last saw one another, she offered up a poem she had written yesterday after seeing her reflection looking out the window. I wish I had a copy to print here or, better, an audio recording of her spoken word because my own words can't begin to describe the power of hers.

Valerie was a bit overwhelmed with the voluminous amount of material that she's created over the years. Where should she begin, she wanted to know? That's pretty much the first opportunity I had to get a word in. I told her, "Normally, when people ask me that question, I tell them to begin with the area of their writing is closest to their hearts and that gives them the most pleasure. I already know what that is for you. Start with your poetry collection, and record it as well." "Really?" she asked. "You don't think I should include everything in one book?" "Valerie, you have an encyclopedia's worth of writing. Begin with your poetry. Then move on to each collection of work separately. When it's all complete, you can combine all the collections in a gift set."

She's not tech-savvy, so I also suggested she get a student to help her with the technical and administrative end of the project. She liked my ideas very much and thanked me many times. "You are such an inspiration!" she said, more than once. "Valerie, you are the inspiration. You don't know it, but this has been a wake up call for me. Thank you for getting back in touch."

When we hung up, I took a few moments to savor our conversation and remembered with pleasure her eloquent and captivating delivery. I realized how much I miss being in the company of other writers and what a wellspring of creativity I found there. I also felt more than a bit guilty about my pathetic delays getting my novel complete. But, I didn't want to wallow in self-pity or guilt. I truly felt uplifted by Valerie's fervor. And so I begin again, picking up where I left off in the second draft of THE PRINCE CHARMING chapter 19, which as chapter 18 in the first draft was a stumbling block as well.

So, tomorrow (since today if virtually over as far as time for writing), I begin back at the page with my novel. In the meantime, you can read Chapter One here. On the blog with the novel is a short story I wrote for a friend's book from a visual prompt. It's called "Girls Night Out," and you can read it here.

I will continue to post chapters of the novel, so if you're interested in following along, subscribe to the email updates at the Elyse Grant blog, where the hot and spicy stuff is taking place.

We never know where we'll get our inspiration. Perhaps my writing can spark something for you...or if your muse needs a more personal nudge, the aMUSEment consulting package is available through the end of August.

Please let me hear from you via the blog comments. Tell me what you're working on and what inspires you.

To your writing success,

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