Live Write Words

Workshops for Emerging Writers

Page 2 of 3

new poem

The Butterfly Poem


Stop beating your wings against my windowpane!
Wings are more fragile than glass, you know.
You don’t have long to live, you know.
Stay out here with me.  Help me write this poem.
You and I belong out here, not trapped inside.

Like all poets I write about dying,
not death.  Dying is harder.
We need to wake  to love and pain.
But you who have such little time,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              don’t try to go too soon below.

Painters look around to see what’s here,
find butterflies trying hard to die.
Sometimes paint what they cannot see                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        in colors bright or dim, or hardly there.
No, I won’t bore you with my woes today.

Your wings so shiny black!
How you power them no one knows.
Where you come from no one knows
or where you go–or even I–
oh, if you could only teach me to how to fly!


We poets usually find another time
to die, not by giving up like you.
The old refrain we hear inside
pushes us on or gives us pause.
Music and love is what it’s all about.

And you, do you hear sounds of love?
Hear my heart right now, beating low?
Hear quiet thoughts inside my head?
Maybe you know much more than I,
or do you flutter about unconsciously?

“Art for art’s sake!” a painter shouts,
knowing his life will sputter out.
But what he does will stay and stay,
keep him alive beyond his day.
Flutterby, take a lesson from him today.


Could you be more than beauty robed in black?
Can butterflies be souls of loved ones lost,
come back to lift a troubled lonely mate
at times like this when feeling all alone,
remembering our headlong rush to love?

If so, I bless thee, mute angelic friend,
wish Godspeed on your trip back home,
memorialize your visit in heartfelt words.
Dare I say your name, my lovely wife?
Dare I whisper, come to me tonight?

Stephenson         Fall, 2017

What’s this Golf Workshop?

What’s This Golf Workshop About?

A friend talked me into offering it, not to teach new swing thoughts or achieve lower scores, but to discuss what few golfers do–why they obsess over the sport. Our discussion book would be M.Scott Peck’s Golf and the Spirit. The idea sounded good to me, so I added it to the website listings and scheduled workshops for March and May.

No problem back then, but when March loomed, finding me not one bit closer to knowing why I obsess, I started to worry. Fortunately something happened in early February.

The lady I’d met in tango class told me she loved golf, and we agreed to an exploratory nine holes. They went fine–she has a natural swing, and I did ok–so we moved to eighteen… securing a 2:30 tee time that would probably pull us up short before dark. Oh well.

Before continuing, a word about my game. I’ve been playing for twenty years, ten seriously, but still feared the risky proposition of getting clobbered by a woman I still barely knew who’s been playing only five or six years, not ten or twenty. That could easily happen; such things do in golf. But hopefully not to someone who’s already scratched out on the tango thing.

Fortunately, something good happened. Despite the extremely slow foursome in front of us, people who should be confined to putt-putt golf, not real golf, we started relaxing and just having fun. No wicked swing thoughts or troublesome fears of pulls and shanks. After a while we just walked up and slammed the ball where it was supposed to go. Fairway woods, so-so; irons, pure magic. (She even hit her five iron 20 yards farther than usual, over a pond to the far side of the green.) Greens, unbelievable. Once, having gained confidence from somewhere, I showed off before my new partner by putting from fifteen feet off the fringe, not with a putter, but with a #5 rescue hybrid, a shot my son had taught me and I’d practiced the week before at the range. Things like this can also occasionally happen on the golf course.

On the front nine she got one of her best scores ever, and I couldn’t believe my 39. It got even better on the back nine. Not the scores, but the game. Our adversaries in front disappeared and the afternoon stayed warm and beautiful. Didn’t that magical Arizona sunset turn skies red, and didn’t it stay light enough to finish? We launched our drives on 17 and 18 right into the dark, but they magically showed up on the fairway when we drove up, and the light held out to the last putt. It was all too much.

About this time I discovered what had happened that later allowed me to answer why I loved golf so much. We’d been playing intimate golf.

Who’s ever heard of intimate golf? It’s not that we’d been thinking about our bodies, except to make reminders about staying square to the target or keeping head up, but just that we’d left behind all small talk, guarded talk, or worst of all, political talk, and were just in the now. Mainly we laughed and joked. Somehow managed to get free of the thousand mental, physical, emotional, and–according to Scott Peck–spiritual traps that golf springs on unsuspecting souls. We were playing intimate golf, that was the difference. Scott Peck calls it playing in the zone, playing intentionally yet relaxed, playing humbly. I guess I’d just say playing in joy. We smiled and laughed all afternoon and all the way home.

At first I’d decided to confine the workshop to men, but now realize that was silly. Everyone can profit by occasionally playing and discussing intentional golf…particularly when it’s intimate intentional golf.

memoir versus novel

During our January 2017 memoir workshops we discussed why memoirs have to tell the truth, and how this affects a writer’s organization, subject, and theme.  We spent a fair amount of time beating up Strout’s My Name is Lucy.  Unlike her earlier Olive Kitteridge, this one reads partly like a memoir, partly like a novel.   I thought she never did find her real subject, hence theme–or even genre.   The readers on Goodreads also had problems with ambiguity, clarity, and purpose, although many did identify with the mother-daughter relationship.  Well, I’m a man, so didn’t.

Anyway, we talked about the six or seven quite distinct types of memoir, all sharing the commonality of being strictly personal (in first person or, like Karr’s Cherry, in second person which is really first), and also being one fairly short slice of life, and most important, going somewhere, not just being self-indulgent or leaving self-pity unresolved (e.g,, Alice Sebold’s Lucky).  We particularly liked Wave, about the tsunami that took away all of Sonali Doraniyagala’s family and is so powerfully written–and concluded.   I tried to explain why Hillbilly Elegy is so popular now, even though it’s so poorly written I’m surprised anyone published it.

After the workshops a friend admitted she didn’t really like memoirs, and I can understand.  Unless they’re spectacularly written, as with Glass Castle, they don’t fully satisfy…but then how many novels do, either?

Why I Enjoy Memoir Writing

                                                                  October 6, 2016

I’m overjoyed to have just finished the last revision of Part I of my new work, Red in the Morning.  It merges two different kinds of prose, memoir and novel.  (At least for me, they’re different in the writing, ‘tho I have read memoirs that read like novels and vice-versa.)  When I’m going from notes or a journal I don’t have too much trouble with memoir writing: dialog, narration, description, and interior monologue come easily, and I don’t have to worry about plot/action because in memoir what happens is what happened–you just tell the truth.   The hard part is remembering.

I’ve always had a hard time with novel writing since I’m still not good at plotting.  Whenever I start inventing it all sounds like pulp fiction, which I dislike.  I actually have finished, and revised, two and a half novels..and am finally returning to one, “Outwatch.”    But I’m enjoying this new work since I’ve found a creative way to blend truth and fiction.

Well, here’s another confession about my writing habits.  What I’m about to say will be believed only by those with similar experiences.  It just sounds too weird to say that I enjoy grief writing.

I used to tell everyone that people write grief memoirs to help move through grief, get to the other side.  That’s true, but for me there’s another reason.  I still haven’t left grief-land; too often find myself wallowing in it. Maybe those of us who have loved too deeply never get over the loss.  Anyway, when the fit comes, I rush toward physical activities–golf, pickleball, walking the dog, biking, running in place.   Physical activity helps for the time, but only for the time.  You can’t do sports all day long, but you can write until you fall asleep. Doing that helps more than running in place.

So, I keep asking myself, how is it that writing about painful stuff can lift a person’s spirit?  I don’t know, but it works for me.  I actually rush toward the computer, half-smiling, ready to do battle.  Something lifts inside.  The dark starts to lighten.  I think I’ll subtitle the Memoir Workshop, “Writing from Dark to Light.”


« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2018 Live Write Words

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑