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Creative Nonfiction Poetry Online Workshop

For five weeks starts August 12 and ending September 9th, I will be offering an online workshop teaching others how to write and revise Creative Nonfiction Poetry.

It will run like a normal workshop. There will be a writing prompt every week, you will get feedback on your poetry, and there will be suggested readings to help you further your craft.

The cost will be $50.

 

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in doing or want more information, please contact me at mmwittle@gmail.com

 

To check out my writing and bio, please go to: http://www.mwittle.wordpress.com

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They are in every city. They may work at a local (or chain) grocery store or are sitting in the cubical next to you. Maybe they are part of the educational bustle and grind working as a substitute teacher or an adjunct.
They are also in the suburbs. They take their kids to school in the mornings and drop off forgotten homework or lunches at 10 am. They attend Parent-Teacher Meetings. And they also work at the mall or Wal-Mart.
They volunteer in the arts hoping someday they can get back to making money from their art. For now, all anyone is willing to pay this mid-level experienced artist is, well, nothing. It’s a win for the art community because it can rely on the artist and his or her contacts to further their cause without having to pay a dime.
The artist takes what free moments they have and sit, staring into space. One might think they are “having a moment”. But they are thinking of the times when they were starting out, it seemed they could’ve had their choice of jobs. Everyone wanted the newly minted artist. A plus is if the artist came in with a small fan base.
Now, after a few years, the artist has more fans and more experience. That’s a bad thing because now, the company has to pay this artist more. The fans aren’t too numerous to cause a dent in the company’s wallet, so a boycott doesn’t amount to much. Also, the company finds a person in, say, El Salvador, who can mimic said mid-level artist’s style and is willing to be paid less than half of the salary the artist generated.
This is creating a new endangered species because all these talented mid-level artists are losing their creative jobs and are turning to something to pay the bills. Sure, every now and then, they might get asked to do a commission for someone, but those are far, few, and in between.
Artists who still need to grow and mature in their craft are being tossed into minimum wage jobs because they are too expensive to keep around in the art world and they aren’t a big enough name to pull in revenue. Since it’s all about the bottom line (and not about loyalty), it’s cheaper to find a knock off than to pay for the brand name.
And this isn’t happening only in the publishing world, this is happening in all aspects of creative endeavors.
When will we stop outsourcing our mid-level artists and allow them to grow to be top selling artists?

I’ve always felt inspired by Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. I used to chalk up my obsession with the small, two hundred fifty plus word speech because of my love of Lincoln and of the beautiful town.
However, I’ve decided to do what I would do with any piece of literature I wanted to study. I started looking at how the words were placed on the page. I looked at the Point of View Lincoln used in the address. I looked at the use of what’s familiar and what’s new in the speech to link the people in the speech.
First, I looked at the point of view. Lincoln used the first person plural in the speech. This was probably the most effective way to get the audience to feel a part of the speech and a part of the actions which predated the speech. Lincoln put the bystanders in the speech because they were part of the speech. The Civil War was their war; those lost soldiers were their lost brothers, husbands, friends, and sons. The dedication was not about Lincoln, but about the collective we and what was lost and gained on that land.
Secondly, I looked at the words on the page. For the most part, Lincoln has long complex sentences. However, when Lincoln begins talking about the “we” the sentence is split with a comma between each phrase as in this sentence, “But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground”. In addition to the commas, Lincoln used six syllables in the first, “we cannot” and seven in the last. Its effect was three quick claps and three bass drum claps at the end.
Lincoln used words which mirrored the war itself. For instance, Lincoln used words like, “struggle” and “devotion” which reflect what the people have been feeling about the war which was supposed to end quickly but three years later still raged on. Lincoln used the word, “dedicate” and “consecrate” at least twice. In a speech so small, it made the listener really understand the purpose of the dedication of the land.
Lastly, I looked at the things which bridged the things the audience was familiar with to the new insight. Lincoln started the speech using words from the Declaration of Independence and ended the speech with more words taken from the Declaration of Independence. It made sense Lincoln would take a document, a contract really, the forefathers made with the people of the time because Lincoln was also making a contract with his congregation. Lincoln was reminding the people what this country stood for and although this was a war and they were standing on the ground where months before many, many men lost their lives, there was hope these men didn’t die for a lost cause. These men were fighting for freedom just like the men in the American Revolution.
The speech was a small punch in the gut, reminding all who read and reads it, things may be horrific, but there is something larger we are fighting for.

In my opinion, there is something so fantastically beautiful about seeing the words you wrote come out of someone else’s mouth. It’s unreal. It’s creepy. And it is breathtaking.

I remember sitting in the audience of the reading of my full-length play, “Family Guidance” at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. I was first crazy excited to have a play of mine in a place once owned by John Wilkes Booth’s brother (in case you forgot, I love Abraham Lincoln-a lot). Then it hit me, my play was being read in the world’s longest running theatre.

When the actors started doing their job, I forgot about the history of the theatre. I forgot about the audience in the room. Hell, I forgot the play was mine. I was invested in the play because of the life the actors gave my words. I knew what was happening next, but the actors made me forget that part.

The actors gave my play life and breath.

I was humbled and amazed something I wrote could sound and feel that way.

And once again, I am in the position of hearing an actor take my work and give it life.

Below is a link to my monologue called, “Raised Right.” The actor in the monologue, Renee Cole, did an amazing job taking the character in my head and bringing her to life.

I am again so humbled and just plain blown away.

I am beyond grateful for all the actors who gave my characters life and I am thrilled to be part of a community in which this kind of conversation happens all the time.

Here’s the link:
http://playoftheweekblog.blogspot.com/2012/08/play-of-week-raised-right-by-mm-wittle.html

A million pounds of gratitude to all of you who support my work, who read my work, and who take on the “skin” of my characters.

I finished reading, “Fragile” by Lisa Unger last night. While I liked the book, I was taken aback by one description of one of the characters when she was in high school. It read, “She was the geek in black, with black fingernails and eyeliner, the brain, the poet, the freak,”(Unger, 95).

Why is it the poet is always the freak in the back?

Now, I know that I do fit the description. Back in high school, I did have the black nails (actually, it was middle school…8th grade really) and I was hiding in the back (helped my last name was a “W”). I did enjoy the massive amount of Wet N’ Wild black eyeliner you had to use a lighter to “get it started.” Hell, I even wore razor blade earrings and wrote horrific poetry all the time in class.

But, when did this become the norm to describe a poet?

I don’t think Sylvia Plath was goth-ing it out in the back of her high school English class.

But now we have this strange marker where the smart, writer kid is the “freak in black hiding behind his or her hair.”
I feel it comes from the feeling of being an outcast. No one was like me in high school. I could write five or six (what others thought were) decent poems in one sitting. I saw the world differently. In order to hide that difference, I hid in the back. I used an armor of black to keep others away, but what I wanted was for someone to really, really listen.
It’s now normal for kids, who have this wonderful gift of writing, to feel they need to cover themselves, wear things that seem abnormal to keep people away from them.

I think we don’t see writing as a gift when we are growing up. I know my teachers encouraged me to keep writing, but they always talked about what I was going to do for a career. Writing was the hobby.

Why can’t writing be a career?

And why does the girl in the back of the class, wearing black, have to be the poet? Can’t she be the brain surgeon and the cheerleader be the poet?

This book is fantastic. I love how it is a discussion about topics we all wonder about. Burroughs gives the reader the hard truth within these topics.
One of the most moving discussion topics for me was “How To Lose Someone You Love.” Burroughs discusses how, when we know someone is dying, we spend so much time trying to prepare for the death, we miss out on living with this person. We get so consumed with making sure the pillow is fluffed or a text answered, we miss living in the moment with the person. We do these things because we want to feel in control in a situation that is beyond control. Also, Burroughs talks about how when the person dies, we die, too. I learned that lesson at 17 when we buried my mother. Her name was Mary and I’m Michelle. On the way to burial plot, they had a green street-like marker to lead us to her plot. It said, “M. Wittle.” I remember thinking, “that’s me.” And I was right. That 17 year old girl was dead and we were all their burying her along with the pieces of ourselves that died along with this woman.
Another topic I found myself totally engaged in involved suicide. I can’t help being interested in this topic. I want to know at what point does a person just seriously give up and give in? Burroughs doesn’t discuss that point, but he does discuss how suicide isn’t the peace the person is looking for. Suicide is actually the complete opposite of peace. I can’t do this discussion justice. Take my word on it, if this subject interests you, read his discussion on it.
The last topic I want to discuss is Burroughs’ take on being fat. In the section called, “How To Be Fat,” basically Burroughs says if you want to be fat, then be fat. If you want to be thin, be thin. It really is up to us to want it bad enough. Now, he does mention if you have a medical condition this may not work-this line of thinking. However, if you are a normal, healthy human being who finds his or her self not at the weight he or she wishes to be, it is up to that person to make the decision to really, truly want to be thin. I’ve been struggling with my weight for years since my cancer surgery. I blame the medicine, the surgery, the diets not working. But honestly, there is something deep within me that doesn’t want to be thin. I have to find that piece and confront it. Then I can start realizing I don’t need or want to eat the bag of Oreos.
This book, “This is How” is a great book because it gives the reader the truth. The only problem with this book is if you are not up for hearing the truth, you will revolt against the book. You’ll call him all kinds of names and think of him as a pompous ass. He isn’t. He is a person who has had a lot of life experiences and isn’t afraid to tell us the truth behind our darkest secrets.

I never thought I would utter those words. When I was younger, I wished I lived in England so I could be one of those crazy women chiseling off Hughes name from Sylvia Plath’s headstone. I, too, blamed Ted Hughes for her suicide.
Now that I’m older and have more information, I don’t blame him. I think it’s wrong for anyone to desecrate a person’s headstone especially when that was the man Sylvia chose to marry.
As I am reading Lover of Unreason: Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath’s Rival and Ted Hughes’ Doomed Love, my defense of Ted grows even stronger.
In the book, Koren and Negev have been criticized for making Ted out to be a monster. They report, from Ted’s own letter to Assia, how Ted left a detailed schedule for Assia to follow on a daily basis.
It sounds harsh, but when you look at the life Assis was accustomed to, it made sense. Assia was the perpetual spoiled little girl and it wasn’t her fault; she was raised that way. Also, look at the situation Ted found himself in. His wife, who he loved, just killed herself. He was now a full time parent dealing with the grief of his wife’s death. He needed normalcy. He wrote a list.
And then there’s the Assia took Ted away from Sylvia line of thinking. It’s time to think again. Ted married Sylvia. Throughout the marriage, Sylvia became increasingly ill. Ted was used to Sylvia being one way and then she started turning into a shell of herself. He freaked out and needed a break. Insert Assia, who, by the way, was one husband number three. I am in no way saying it is okay for people to step outside their marriage. However, I am looking at the whole picture. Sylvia is falling into a deeper depression. She can’t control herself and she knows she needs help. The only time in her life when she really got the help she needed was when she tried to kill herself before. It makes sense she would try a second time. However, this time the nurse was late and she died. Ted doesn’t know what to do. He needs time and distance. Assia is appealing and seems like a perfect distraction.
In the book, Koren and Negev claim Ted was making his way back to Sylvia. The Monday following her death, Ted planned to take Sylvia on a holiday. In my opinion, Ted was never going to permanently leave Sylvia. They loved each other to the point of destruction. I feel Ted married Assia because he needed a mother for his kids. He couldn’t raise them alone and he never wanted to raise them alone.
Ted isn’t to blame for Sylvia’s death. She had a mental illness that was not treated correctly. It killed her. No one killed Sylvia; not even herself. An illness killed her.
Blaming Ted is wrong. He hurt just as much as the world did when Sylvia died. Ted did not bring this tragedy on himself; he was a man trying to make sense out of a non-sensible situation.

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