Archives for category: Jack Grapes

Brandi’s prompts today or yesterday from and my response today:

Tell us why you became a part of this fabulous league of writers!
2. “According to the hard-hitting journalism of cosmos…”
3. Of all the skeletons in my closet, you are my favorite.

List your personal comfort foods, bonus points  if you tell us why each one is comforting.


One day, when the earth was young, and bubbling, in a cute kind of primordial way, I was sitting, driving, thinking, wondering, if I were anorexic and a fiction writer, could I, just possibly, write about all the skeletons in my closet and how I admired their paucity of flesh.
Exactly dear reader. They had no flesh.

Then I mulled over which type of comfort food I was in the mood to eat.  I couldn’t decide on either bowlS of Hagen Das vanilla ice cream with buckets of Hersey syrup or my old standby; that balled-up-in-a-fist peanut butter and jam sandwich on wheat if you please, but a friend, a writer from CHPercolator sent me an
email encouraging me. He encourages well, and to all I note.

Soooo, long story short, I had just finished several advanced writing classes with Jack Grapes, –  superb writing workshop leader, and I had blasted out of the gate of Write Like You Talk, into Write Like You Sing, Absence of Field, Teeth and Mouth writing (feel your mouth and teeth going over syllables and words you produce), Write Like You Sing, (think Martin Luther King, or Dickens, “It was the best of times, the worst of times…”) literary, heavy on the multisyllabic, so reader, you catch my drift. Are you with me? (Straight talk) and I thought  why not try CHPercolatorCoffeehouseforwriters, and the rest is history. Two years later, enter into my crooked pathways of a brain, a book, You Carry the Heavy Stuff – (Lulu, Amazon, my house), a combination of writing styles, homage to Oakley Hall, Jack Grapes, and stuff from their workshops, plus my responses
to CHPerc prompts.

The lesson: A little prompt goes a long way.

So how do you feel about prompts?  Writing Workshops?  Do they help?

P.S. Open House to my blog, no visitor turned away, sign up, and we’ll dance together among the words.

From…. Quote of the Day, Sat., August 13, 2011

“Thou hast asked Me concerning the nature of the soul. Know, verily, that the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel. It is the first among all created things to declare the excellence of its Creator, the first to recognize His glory, to cleave to His truth, and to bow down in adoration before Him. If it be faithful to God, it will reflect His light, and will, eventually, return unto Him. If it fail, however, in its allegiance to its Creator, it will become a victim to self and passion, and will, in the end, sink in their depths.”
Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Author: Bahá’u’lláh, Source: US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1990 pocket-size edition, Page: 346

Here’s something from my book
You Carry the Heavy Stuff It’s a writing prompt and written in a particular style. Kurt Vonnegut (God Bless you Kurt Vonnegut) said, write 4 lines across the page every night; don’t show it to anyone, but just do it. These were my 4 one day, and the word soul just showed up, like it wanted to be on the word train within this piece. This is also something under Jack Grapes’ (best writing teacher of all time) teaching in that he calls this type of piece To Be Read and Sung, okay enuf said, 4 lines:

Read and Sung
Do not ask of your shadow’s future. Do not dwell on your shadow’s past. Do not ask what others think. Rely not upon the delusions of the many. Do not turn away from certitude and a multisyllabic path. Do not listen to politicians’ rhetoric. Do not become a sleeping mute, a junk yard dog. Do take yourself and shadow on a dual path. Take a soul to lunch this week. Better yet, take your soul with you. Best yet, be your soul.

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Share Quote of the Day with friends.

The best writing teacher you'll ever want to meet

Jack Grapes -fantastic writer, teacher of poetic souls, and lovely man

Help, I lost a few days. Last I knew it was the 11th and then this morning, I called out to Bill, “What day is it”? He replied, “the 13th.” I read from the most incredible daily reader of the Baha’is Writings, published in London and out of print, and it is heavenly and unique and the fragrances of same float around my heart. Baha’is are encouraged to read from the Writings in the morning and the evening, and of course, we say what prayers resonate with us. There is a requirement of an Obligatory Prayer, and there are 3 choices. The following is the noonday prayer:

I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth.

There is none other God but Thee, the help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.

I wake up in the morning, and the first thing that flies to my mind is “I have wakened in Thy shelter, O my God, and it becometh him that seeketh that shelter to abide within the Sanctuary of Thy protection and the Stronghold of Thy defense. Illumine my inner being, O my Lord, with the splendors of the Dayspring of Thy Revelation, even as Thou didst illumine my outer being with the morning light of thy favor.”. Baha’u’llah

You know this blog started out about losing a few days; all of which have been action packed, insightful, wonderful connection with people, but here I sit, it is 1.25, and I should walk. I haven’t even taken my morning meds. I may take a nap instead. Hard to be wise with my body.

Last night in Pasadena, at the Judges Nelson’s home, Navid Dheghani spoke. He’s a scientist and one of the people who work on the Mars is it Rover? the machine that lands on Mars, and all. Last night he gave a wonderful presentation of an overall view of the Baha’i Faith, and then in the question and answer times, talked about science a bit. A funny, modest, humble, and knowledgeable man. It was great.

I have several books to read: Mudbound. Read it once; it’s terrific and it’s Pasadena’s One City, One Book read; a friend wants me to participate in my favorite library, La Pintoresca, so I will re-read it, and our book club which has been meeting for at least five years is reading it for February. Then, we are reading The Long Walk, now made into a film; the author’s name is a Polish one, and I lent my copy of the book out.

Years ago, late 1960s I discovered this book, and it made such an impact upon me. I notice it’s been republished, and one of the blurbs on the front cover describe it aptly as “Homeric,” and I would say yes. The story of this man; his survival; the group he is with, their connection and unity with each other, remains nested within my memory bank; hopefully forever; and surely along with An Interrupted Life by Etty Hillesum and her Letters from Westerbork.

Why is it I am so drawn to memoir? I think I have always been fascinated with man’s inhumanity to man, and man’s humanity to man. My first pilgrimage, trip to Israel, visiting Christian and Jewish holy places and then to Haifa, to the Baha’i Shrines, I felt the themes of this ribboning through the country as I witnessed the Holocaust memorial.

The Baha’is believe in all the religions and consider religious truth to be like an unfolding scroll, relative to the day and age, but God, an unknowable Essence, is absolute. Spiritual truth is spiritual truth and is not obsolete. It is revealed with each Messenger in a different manner, much like if you looked around you and saw lights or lamps of different kinds, you would see the light source is the same, but the vehicle holding the light is different, and then the social teachings are changed to meet the needs of the day. All of the Messengers of God, Prophets, or what we in the Baha’i Faith call Manifestations occupy the same high, mystical, incredible level, an abstract level of unity really which we as puny souls can hardly imagine. We need these Divine Luminaries, these Educators of Mankind, these Divine Physicians of the Age.

At any rate i read voraciously and read a lot of books by Buddhists, Jewish, Islamic writers. And of course all memoir. I think we are in such an age of transition that people must speak out and record their truths. I often think of a kaleidescope as an image; are we not all chips of different colors – moving, shaping, but connected? I would like to think so.

Wow I can’t believe i’m going on like this, but so be it.

I had a writing workshop Monday evening, at Ten Thousand Villages, which is an awesome and aesthetically pleasing experience. They feature artifax, jewely, vases, cloth, you name it, from around the world, made by villagers who support themselves by their creations. I am st up in the basement, and it is a long white walled room, and somehow we did it: 2 tables, some folding chairs around, and I set up a whiteboard talking about showing versus telling in writing. I spoke about Oakley Hall and Jack Grapes, two of my writing heroes and teachers, and 17 people of all manner came, and we had a blast. We cooked as I like to say. then the next day i taught my usual writing workshop at the Women’s Room, a haven for homeless women, and women in transition, and they (the clients) and the volunteers can participate in writing. They have done soooo well, and we are family. What a group.

So now, I’m going to close after this unexpected tell it like it is, blog, and take a nap. Bill’s daughter, Tory, coming up for a vist. Did I mentioln, the day is utterly gorgeous, sun, breeze, temp of about 71 degrees by our little pool house.

One more thing; i liked President Obama’s talk; my heart twisted, particuarly gazing at the father’s face of the wonderful little 9 year old girl; I hope this even brings about more civility and unity. If we had children, would we let our kids squabble so divisively in a family?

High regards to all who read this.

The world’s greatest writing teacher
(the one on the left) – Jack Grapes

Below is something Jack Grapes, LA Writer and Teacher Beyond Measure, sent in an email to his cronies near and far. Read every word reader. Have good days! esther

Hi,What a wonderful article in yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) TIMES, Calendar section, about KarenMoncrieff, who was part of the Collective a few years back. She turnedsome of her “self-indulgent” journal entries into her first featurefilm titled “Blue Car,” — about a troubled young woman who enters apoetry contest. The film was purchased in 2003 at Sundance and exitedthe festival as one of the year’s so-called buzz items. The film wenton to garner numerous positive reviews. The article in yesterday TIMESis about her second feature, “The Dead Girl,” which she again wroteand direceted. It premiered last month as part of AFI Fest, and ismade up of five vignettes, [to quote the Times reviewer] “each a delicately heartbreaking portrait ofquiet resolve and small steps forward as it follows largelydisconnected characters whose lives are all in some way catalyzed bythe muder of a drug-addicted prostitute.” The film stars ToniCollette, Brittany Murphy, Mary Beth Hurt, James Franco, etc. Thefilm opens this Friday and [again, to quote the reviewer] “has arelentless consistency from story to story, a somber, death-stainedlook at lives in stasis, in desperate need of new directions, thoughit is leavened by slight slivers of hope. For her part, Moncriefacknowledges that titling the film THE DEAD GIRL serves as a form oftruth-in-advertising and that those uninterested in the occasionallydisturbing subject matter might be better served elsewhere.”Karen is quoted in the article about realizing that films that areemotionally difficult [check out THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS if you wantto see a film that even though you know has a happy ending coming, isstill unbearable to watch, though the pay-off is wonderful] may not beeveryone’s cup of tea. She says, “I feel like I’m making films forpeople who are like me, who like to go to movies and be shaken up,literally taken by the throat and shaken up for an hour and a half.And moved and forced to look at things that are ugly, forced tocontemplate the darkest moments any of us can imagine.””Somebody asked me,” [she continues in the article], “if it would bebetter if the movie was ‘uplifting.’ And I said, ‘Well, to me this isuplifting.’ To me, what’s depressing is to see lies-on-screen, to seelives sugar-coated, a fake version of life as I know it or feel it.”Anything less than that and I’d feel like I hadn’t done my job.”There are other people who are much better at shining a light onwhat’s funny or what’s sweet. Maybe my calling is to feel deeply someaspects of human pain and grief. People making choices, struggling todo better and change, to me is uplifting.”I’m so glad to see Karen’s work getting such good notice. She’s awonderful writer who doesn’t flinch from what’s true. There’s aassumption that if you want to write something uplifting, it can’thave sadness or grief or loss in it, but the fact is, the best happyfilms chronicle a character’s struggle to overcome obstacles, and noone ever talks about seeing a film with a “happy beginning,” it’salways about the ending, the “happy ending,” like, say, PURSUIT OFHAPPYNESS, or a film like ANNA, with a “tragic ending.” But they allbegin with something difficult, both an emotional and a situationalstruggle that the protagonist finds herself in. And if you can’t learnto convey and evoke that struggle, no one’s going to relate, no one’sgoing to stick around for the ending, whether it’s happy or not. It’salways about the deep voice and the transformation line. The beststories are stories that you know deeply in your own heart, and thatmeans you have to be willing to acknowledge the truth about the humancondition, that we’ve all struggled through both emotional andsituational difficulty, and it’s how we come through that canshape the dramatic structure of whatever we write about. Readers andaudience can smell the fake, the so-called “good-writing” that is allabout writing and nothing about truth, human truth. Somehow, inschool, your teachers admonished you against writing about yourself,about using the infamous “I” and about the fact that if you’re a realwriter you make stuff up, when in fact, most great writing is about”I” and is about what the author has experienced. And when it is madeup, what is not made up is the inner emotional truth, which the authorhas most likely experienced. I may be writing about someone else, butI sure as hell know what it feels like to have your heart broken inlove. If I can’t bring that truth to myself as a writer, how the hellam I going to bring it to my character? But so many of us continue tofeel self-conscious about writing about the self, or using the truthof the self to create our stories and our characters, because some 8thgrade teacher chided us about using the dreaded “I” word, anddiscouraged us from writing about ourselves, as if, when all is saidand done, we are ever writing about anything else.My favorite cartoon is the young woman curled up on the couch writinga letter on a notepad. The caption reads: “Dear Mom and Dad, Thanks for thehappy childhood. You’ve destroyed any chance I had of becoming awriter.” The joke, of course, is that no one has had a happychildhood. Just some of us had childhoods happier than others, but allchildhoods are filled with heartbreak and struggle and sadness andloss. As parents, we try to shield our kids from that, but it’s notpossible. Whether we like it or not, they will grow up with all thetools necessary to become writers, to become artists, provided we’vetaught them to be willing to accept the losses and the griefs, tolearn to look inward and bring those truths out of themselves in theprocess of making art. And if by some chance our parents didn’t teachus that, then we had better learn to do it ourselves, or whatever itis we will write might please our 8th grade teacher, but it will notsell a copy to anyone looking to be touched by art.Hope you’re having a good holiday, and here’s to a wonderful,creative, fulfilling new year.jack

Hi, am back from 10 days at Kaiser Hospital; cut to the quick, it means, mechanical valve has quirks, all controllable by meds, and also, that the knowledge, service and love given by doctors, staff and all and my friends and cronies, too numerous to mention, incredible. Also met some soul stirring people; am home, weak, but happy.

Below is stuff sent to me by the writing teacher I revere, Jack Grapes

“Collective Writers of the Method Tango:

Sorry I’m a little late getting out the Fall schedule.
I’ll do the info part first, and the boring stuff last, since most people
I’ve found don’t read emails past the 5th line.
Oooooooops! this is the 5th line.

Well, if you’re not interested in the Fall Schedule for Advanced Class
Tango, you can stop reading now.
But For those of you who have persevered to this point, here’s the
schedule for the Fall.

Regular Beginning Deep Voice Method Writing Class starts Tuesday Sept 26th.
This class is full (maybe I could squeeze one more in).
If you were going to mention it to a friend, now’s the time.


Wednesday Morning Roundup begins October 4th, 9 am to 12 noon.
(two spots left)

Wednesday Late Afternoon/Evening Big Bang Singularity begins October
4th, starting at 4pm and going until the cows come home. Come anytime,
leave anytime, check guns at the door. This class is full. Sorry.

Thursday Afternoon 1pm to 4pm Juggular Syncopation starts October 5th.

Thursday Afternoon 4pm to 7pm Alligator Cummerbund starts Octber 5th.

Monday Night class starts October 9th, 5pm to 10pm. Same drill as
Wednesday evening, come anytime, leave anytime, check guns at the
door. Only one spot left in this class.

What about the Editing classes. These are not
process classes. No exercises. You bring work in a week ahead of time, and the class
has a week to read it and make red marks all over it and discuss it in
class the following week, with the goal being to make the specific
poem or piece of prose polished and ready to be published.

There’s only one spot left in the Monday
afternoon editing class which starts Oct 2nd, 3pm to 5pm.

There’s only one opening left in the Thursday Night Editing Class
which starts October 5th, Thursday evening, 7pm to 10pm.

Okay, that’s it. You can stop reading now.
I have to go boxing.
An ex-professional boxer beats me up for 5 rounds.
It’s the most fun I’ve had since Brenda Goldfarb kissed me in biology
lab while we were dissecting a frog.
Anyone want to join me sometime? It’s fun.
You put on the gloves, step into the ring, and kill your mother,
or your father, or both. Who needs therapy when the sweet science

Hope you’ve had a great summer and have geared up for the stretch run
to the holidays and beyond. I’m reading a book on the History of
Language, but it’s written in an ancient tongue so I can’t understand
a word of it. Also reading several books about the Thirty Years War
(including Wedgewood’s classic account), which–you guessed it!–lasted
more than thirty years. Hollywood is older than you thought. I have a
picture in my mind of a bunch of Austrian/German/French/Spanish/Danish
generals (the war had numerous combatants all over Europe)
sitting around in 1652 after the last battle saying, “Vel, ve can’t call it
the Thirty-Four Years Var, it von’t zell!” 1618 to 1648, just in case
you’re interested. Peace of Westphalia sent everyone packing. If
anyone ever asks you what was the Defenestration of Prague, the answer
is, that was when they threw the guy out the window, starting the
Thirty Years War, which really lasted 34 years. It was
the last war fought for religious reasons. After that, it was all
about nations fighting each other, not religions. Seems like we’re
coming full circle, though. As we are wont, to recall Santayana’s
famous dictum, to do. (“Those who forget history are doomed to repeat

I’m also reading Richard Jones’ latest book of poetry. It’s exquisite.
APROPOS OF NOTHING. You can get it from Copper Canyon Press. I’m
swooning, it’s so good.

I’m also struggling to read Albert Camus’ THE STRANGER in French.
Bears no relationship to Billy Joel’s song “The Stranger.” There are
paragraphs in there that are pure poetry. But you know, you can find
poetry anywhere, even in a recipe for chicken soup. So Melville starts
Moby Dick with “Call me Ishmael.” Three unforgettable words. POetry.
For me, the greatest lines of poetry
are pretty simple, no more than three words. How’s this for a line of
poetry, no more than three words:
I’m reading a recipe for chicken soup that was published in a book that’s
about 100 years old. It’s an old Jewish recipe book. The first line of
the recipe is this:

“Get a chicken.”

I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in a long time.

After a long bout of laughter, I knew I’d read something profound, if
you really think about it. We all have our recipes for what we want to
do, the book we want to write, the poem we want to make, the symphony
we want to compose. We all forget the first thing. We’re so intent on
doing it sometimes, that we forgot the most important thing of all.

Get a chicken.

So here’s much love and best wishes I’m sending to you today, a
Sunday morning in September, clear skies, crisp light, zippy-de-do-da
leaves detaching themselves from tree brances with delectable daring-do.
A September morning in which my son Josh is practicing Rachmaninoff’s
“Prélude in C Sharp Minor, Op. 3, No.2” in the living room. A September
morning when my dog sits at my feet here by the computer, dreaming of
chasing other dogs over the green hills of South Carolina. Me? I gotta
get back to work on my book on Method Writing. And my other book on
the history of modern poetries that nobody’s gonna read (who the hell
is going to read a 1400 page book on the history of modern poetries
from Homer to the present day? but I’m in love with the writing of it,
so I press on). Me? I gotta get a chicken.

All best,