sharing a poetic LIFELINE with the world

Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Dancing into a New Year

Some people have a tradition of choosing a word, or a theme, to focus on or represent their new year rather than (or in addition to) traditional resolutions. It’s not something I’ve done in the past, but as the last year drew to a close there was one word that really resonated with me. A word that represents what I want to bring forth in the world, and project from myself.


What does this word mean to me?

Dance is energy, movement, joy. There is rhythm and flow. Words dancing across the page, fingers dancing across the keys. Being fit in body. Not falling stale and still. Not caring what others think. You can dance alone, or with a partner. If you dance with a partner, there must be a connection, and coordination. It doesn’t work if your steps are not aligned. Pick your partners carefully, in love and in business and in life.

How dance relates to my goals:

  • Words dancing across the page, regular writing with the goal of finishing another novel.
  • Poems compiled into a new chapbook, focusing on the theme of dance and music.
  • Collaboration with my fellow Muselings on new projects.
  • Losing weight and drinking more water, doing yoga, to be fit in body, have more energy and grace.
  • Play the piano more frequently.

Do you choose a theme for the year? What are some of your goals, resolutions, or energies for 2015?

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An Invitation to our Readers

festival colors...

festival colors… (Photo credit: jmtimages)

As Anne mentioned in a previous post, we are having an internal contest. The Museling who writes and posts the most poems between July 15, 2014 and September 1, 2014 wins a writing book of their choice from Expect the blog to be a crazy place, as posts will be unscheduled. We are posting whenever the inspiration strikes.

One of our main inspirations was returning to the joy of writing. We’re hoping this will lift the pressure of structured posts, and get our poetry springs flowing again.

You can join in on the fun! Here’s how you can help us keep the flow:


  • Cheer us on.
  • Comment on our poetry.
  • Share your own poems in the comments.
  • Feel free to challenge us with themes, forms, prompts. You can challenge an individual member or the group as a whole.

 What do you do to keep the writing wells from drying up?

We hope to see you around during this poetry fest. Back to poeming, everyone!

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Gifts and Inspiration

‘Tis the season of giving. This year, I decided to do a Christmas countdown for my husband. I handmade 25 cards, and numbered the envelopes. On each card, I wrote an activity, a compliment or thank you, a service, or a gift. I even wrote him a poem for one. I wanted him to feel loved and appreciated. I took some inspiration from the internet, and had to get creative to decorate 25 different cards. It was a fun, time consuming project which I spread out over multiple days. Here are a few of my favorite cards:

card 1 card 2

In other news, I now have a new desktop muse. Not long ago there was a sale on My Little Pony Funko mystery boxes. We ordered eight. They are so darn cute! Here’s the line-up:

MLP train

This one is my favorite, and has been dubbed my magical muse.

Lyra Heartstrings

Lyra Heartstrings

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Creativity and the Decluttered Knee

DSCN2012 - Version 2Soon, I shall experience full knee replacement surgery, leap from hobbled old Crone, muttering to myself and others through a pain-med haze, foggy-focused at best most days.

I’ll push through worse anguish for a bit, then — magically — break through to the exquisite tedium of a lifetime of daily attention to reach a level of mobility and sanity I’ve missed. My world has become smaller in scope, narrower in experience, limited by decisions I’ve made to balance constant pain vs. clear-headedness.

Thinking (and writing) have receded to the background. Every six hours, I joust the bits of my brain that control pain receptors. I succeed at times, but the price is an ongoing trip to la-la land. One small knee twist reminds me to be grateful for the advances in medical technology, and keen to get this over.

A couple of weeks ago, tripping in my la-la land, I discovered a site called 365 Less Things, a journey of decluttering life as well as belongings. Yes, the blog owner is aware of the grammatical situation. People who cannot see beyond the title are missing out on a huge benefit.

As I read the archives, from the first post, comments, links that still work, etc., I’m fascinated. I’m up toApril 2012 posts, getting closer to current in snatches online.  I’ve followed the joy, sharing, and breakthroughs of this international community. Watched them mature, fine-tune their concepts as well as their tactics. I recently sent in a couple of ideas for future posts.

I’m always looking to get my life under control, to make it easier to sit down and work instead of clear my space (and head) in order to attack my writing time productively. The 365 Less Things blog is shifting my life.

I declutter my house by noticing what’s in front of me. I’m looking at my office supplies and books (THE most difficult things for me to let go of) with new eyes. Took extraneous “stuff” off my dining room table. Checked out how to recycle an older iPad and iPhone for a Mini Mac; if we could figure out what to do with the dreadful Windows 8 computer we got hubby late last year, we’d do it in a minute.

But back to my knee –the shredded ligaments, cartilage-less kneecap, shifting lower leg bone, and lots and lots of pain. (I don’t know what they do with old knees; maybe bone donations? They have my okay already.) For my new knee to work, I must exchange my old lifestyle — give up non-productive habits, like I have eliminated gluten from my life — in order to truly live.

This cannot be a sprint — ever. Every day, I must re-earn the right and ability to walk and get around. Every day, I must push beyond my ingrained procrastination genes, well-developed excuses, and creative idiosyncrasies. Embrace boring, mundane, and important actions.

Photo on 2011-10-09 at 10.15During recovery, as I come off drugs that have kept me from screaming and behaving even crazier than I normally do, I’ll have time to rethink and rework other parts of my life.

I WILL put rehab first in my life. Choose small changes in my mental and physical environment, Clear space, be ready to write during my “writing time”. Play during playtime. Prepare and follow-through with what’s appropriate to heal body and spirit with nutrition, sleep, and attention to the present.

In a strange way, I’ve been heading to this crossroad for the past year. Prior to the 2012 Muse Online Writers Conference (this year Oct. 7 – 13, 2013), I promised my husband I’d turn over my major role in 2013 to others, so we could celebrate his 70th birthday in style. Since his big day comes right after the conference, he’s had a frazzled wife for the past five years.

My present was to be present for him this year. We planned a nice trip, and I worked on a surprise party for him. A couple of weeks ago, we knew this is not the time for this trip. I can barely get around, and can’t imbibe bubbly spirits.

So, no trip, no party, but no other obligations through the end of this year. Nothing else to sneak ahead of what I will do to bring congruence into my life. I’m approaching TaCaMeFi from a very different direction.

I hope you have an opportunity to reassess what’s important soon, but not because you are forced, like I am. May you keep your personal North Star in sight to guide you in all seasons, and enjoy your journey.



Clouds in Flight

Cloud in Flight

Clouds in Flight, Judy Hayden 2012

“Ah, yes, I remember it well”
Maurice Chevalier, in GiGi


I see and remember
through filters
of place and need,
hunger and fear,
time as instant as breath

You see a cloud
slide through the sky
I feel dragon’s breath
claim the ground
above the trees

Your wide-angle mind
grasps the world’s entirety
— so easy, you say —
it’s all clearly there
fully defined and framed

My mind cannot hold
virtual, visual
logic-formed snapshots,
all pixels in place

Darkroom details,
emotions, shapes,
visceral images
revealed in layers
are my truth

raw word-pictures,
mental music . . .
objects defined
by their given names . . .

we each see and say
our imprinted version
of reality as it never is

Michele M. Graf

This poem grew out of a discussion my husband and I had with friends, when we were each describing what we saw and did on part of our life on the road. How could two people come away with such different memories of the same shared event? One of the best parts of being married to one’s absolute opposite is laughing at all the ways we interpret “Life, the Universe, and Everything”. (Thank you Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)

In June, I was co-presenter of the Eugene Public LIbrary Summer Reading Series Poetry Workshop and Showcase. Judy Hayden’s photography was on display as part of the celebration. I went wild when I saw her bird in flight cloud photo — the clearest image of what I’ve tried to explain about how I process the world. Sentimentally, watching cloudscapes and the moon were my special moments with my father when I was young.  Judy graciously agreed to share this magic image with the Poetic Muselings in this post.

A bit about Judy:  I see light and line, color and texture, gladly through my lens; both still and moving images in nature; blessings from the earth, sea, and sky. 

Inspiration for the cloud photo:  During my annual women’s retreat in Eastern Oregon, a time to laugh, cry, and nurture, this amazing bird-like image appeared briefly on our morning walk, bringing us much appreciated joy and inspiration.

Thank you, Judy, for capturing that bird, and allowing it to soar here! We hope to collaborate on other poetry-photo projects in the future, so watch for more.

The Evolution of a Story pt 1

I have multiple novels in various stages. Sometimes I have a basic idea, but not enough for characters or plot. I always write these down anyways. If I’m bored, I’ll pull up my idea file and see if any of the bits and pieces will work together.

I want to share with you the notes and evolution of how my current project came together. All these notes came at completely different times and from unrelated places.


ideas (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Idea 1

Someone who lives to their beliefs. Mental expectation defines our reality. Refusing to belief that flight is impossible. A person lives by their own set of rules. What others see as tricks and magic is reality for this person. Anything is possible if you believe.

Idea 2

two best friends from childhood, begin to grow apart. the guy stops writing. she continues, unaware that he is throwing her letters away without reading them. The guys roommate gets curious and opens them. he falls for her through the letters. when she writes about interest in a guy, he gets jealous, has to meet her.

Idea 3

Story about the Crazy Lady:

They call me crazy. I’m not crazy. Just different. I’m happy. I can’t help expressing it. They don’t understand me, because they have not experienced my happiness.


It wasn’t until later that I came back to this notes and realized they could all be combined into one story. Each alone is only a concept, a character, a setting. But combined together we can begin to see a STORY. Suddenly I had three characters: a “crazy” woman who believes in magic and writes letters to her old friend, and the roommate who intercepts these letters.

I still wasn’t ready to write the story. It needed rules, conflict. But the combined ideas gave it a shape, popped it out of 2D and into 3D. So that’s my advice for today. Always write down your ideas, no matter how small. And if you cut a character from a story, or a line from a poem, save that as well. You never know where it might find a fit later.

If you don’t have anything in your idea file, or can’t find a way to make any of your ideas fit for a story, don’t be afraid to use prompts. There are plenty of prompt generators online. Feel free to use different ones, mix and match. Get a character here, a setting there. The more ideas you can combine, the more depth your story will have.


Here are a few places for free writing prompts

Seventh Sanctum: A personal favorite. In addition to story prompts, has a lot of other random generators.

Writers Digest Boot Camp has a download for two full weeks of prompts.

Hundreds of little prompts at Creative Writing Prompts

And if you’re more visual, try out Writing Picture Prompts

Next time on Mary’s Expression (March 19): Evolution of a Story continues


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Meet Carla Girtman

Carla lives in Central Florida with her family and three cats (who claim they write better than she does). She has been writing since sixth grade (and
image00still has most of her handwritten work in a box somewhere), but didn’t really have anything formally published until 1996 when her story “Me? I’m No Writer” was published in the Phoenix (Valencia Community College) magazine. She received her BA in English in 2000 and her MA in Technical Writing in 2005.

When she isn’t working undercover at an international airport or teaching online, she manages to write speculative flash fiction and especially enjoys writing microflash. Her flash stories have been published in Clockwise Cat, Flashshot, Demonic Tome, Flashes in the Dark, Short Humor Site, Blink Ink, 101 Fiction, and her work has appeared in two print anthologies, The Zombie Cookbook and Vicious Verses and Reanimated Rhymes. Carla is spearheading the anthology: Midnight Tarot: A Fool’s Journey; Mermaids, Zombies, and Vampires – O My! A collection of published and new fiction; and Fits and Starts: 102 Prompts For Story Inspiration. Carla has participated in the  National Novel Writing Month four successful times. Her first Nano novel When Elves Return has actually sold copies she didn’t buy herself.

She doesn’t really consider herself a poet and generally writes when the Muse stabs her with a pen.  Her poem, “When God Awakens,” appeared in The Corner Club Press and the poem “The Ring” found a home in Dark and Dreary Magazine. Her friend Linda, got her involved with the Muse Poetry Workshop which she helped develop the participant’s workbook. Carla mostly lurked in the Muse Conference due to restraints of grading 15 thousand-word rough drafts for her online composition class. Her favorite part of the Muse Conference was working with the Poetic Muselings and creating the workbook! She also enjoyed creating an aragman poem which did get into the workshop, and of course, it was about cats.

What kind of advice would she give to writers and poets? Set aside a regular time to devote to writing. (She’s also not very good at taking her own advice!) Don’t be afraid of rejection or be discouraged by it. A word written today is one less written tomorrow.

She enjoys reading, watching movies, and collecting antique books and the McDonald’s Madame Alexander miniature dolls.

Below are some poems that I have written.

Alarm! Tracing
the cat who hides
Alarm! Crating
The cat who snarls and yowls.
Alarm! Carting
The cat to the vet.

Alarm! Cat grin!

Aragman for the Muse Conference Poetry Workshop

Break Up

Upon the tin roof
Rain drums its tantrum.
Silver pillows of clouds
mound the sky.

Flashes of lightning
Flit like knives of firelightning
Following the trail
To where my love lies.

Charting the storm
Which roils my heart,
I weep from loss
And wait for dawn.

(Photo is from Microsoft word’s clip art file.)
Poem was inspired by specific words for an anthology and was eventually withdrawn.

To the Young Mummy Recently Found

Atop an ancient volcano
Buried hundreds of years agoAtop
In a sanctuary shrouded in ice
a girl child was found below.
What thoughts went through your head
When to the altar led
To become the sacrifice?

Photograph by Maria Stenzel/NGS

Were you proud or full of dread?
You were ten, maybe twelve years old
Too young to shed your innocent blood.
The priests had hoped it would suffice
And appease their angry god.

You were frozen and preservedyou were frozen
Your body to the god reserved.
Only once again to become a sacrifice
On the altar of science to be observed
And solve the riddle that would show
Why was a young novice
Buried hundreds of years ago
Atop an ancient volcano.

Photograph by Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Written for UCF poetry class inspired by a news story. Glose form.

Pictures found on

Shadow of Demons

With shadows of dread
In stillness dark, I alone
wrestle the demons.

Haiku – poetry group challenge

Ocean Song Ocean Song
Under the window, near the sea
Trembling lip sings sad stories
By mermaids who pluck strings
Of harps against a bare shoulder.
I sit by the window, bow against fiddle
Harmonize with the mermaid’s harp
Joining songs. Seductive dreams
Invade my sleep until morning’s rays
Chase the splash of a fish tail
Beneath the ocean’s wave.

Photograph by Carla Girtman

Published in issue one “use these words” 2008. Specific words were required.

Why A Cat StaysWhy a cat stays

Languid, fluid, aloof
Basking in sunshine
Nothing is required
From a cat.

Limp, boneless
A puddle of fur
Lying in the shaft of light
Streaming from a window.

Nothing is required
From a cat.
Not even affection.

Which can be doled out
At the cat’s whim.
It may come – or not  when called
When called.

Regal, royal, proud
A hunter with quiet steps
To pounce on a prey

Nothing is required
From a cat.
Nor does it ask for

So why does the cat stay?
It knows a good thing
When it sees it.image07

Inspired by a poetry group challenge. Included in an altered book submitted in art contest which won first place. 

Photographs by Carla Girtman


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