Reading Writing Relationship

Some interesting discussion about “copying” and “emulating” has found its way into these pages.  And important discussion it is.  Finding one’s voice is difficult enough without also finding that you’ve been using someone else’s along the way as well.

When I think back to a time when I knew I’d found my voice, I also think of what made it authentic.  Sure, I was writing about what I knew, but I was also writing from deep inside.  I was eager to tell a tale.  So sure of myself because I believed that what I was saying was important and that anyone who read my writing was certain to agree.

“If you would write well, read good writing.”  William Least Heat Moon made that observation when discussing the relationship between what and who we choose to read and how it impacts our own writing voice.  Copying is one thing, but emulating is quite another.  Like Moon, I believe we unconsciously absorb some of the style, tone and voice of writers we love.  Stands to reason.  If we take time to marvel at a turn of phrase, a well-formed paragraph, a particularly engaging opening line, or that final phrase, hammered into place like fine craftsmanship, why wouldn’t we incorporate something similar.  Not something identical, but something with equal impact.

Musicians work this way.  We all know what happens when musicians and writers plagiarize.  Disaster!  Yet, there is a place for influence; I think it’s inevitable.  That’s why what we choose to read can provide great benefit.  I often try to read something I would never choose myself.  If left alone, I’d find plenty of writers that I like…Steinbeck, Walker, Bellow, Duncan, Krakauer, Morrison,  But I might not find the likes of  Poe Ballantine, Alice Munroe, Ivan Doig, or Carlos Ruiz Zafon. (Zafon’s novel, The Shadow of the Wind, is currently on my nightstand)

So dig in.  Read widely and deeply.  Absorb. Your writing can’t help but flourish.

A Poetry Musical Experience at the Ocean

Saturday 10/2/10 (5-8pm) at Beach Books in Seaside, OR: A poetry and musical experience featuring five local artists. The Portland poets will weave their work into a tapestry with full musical accompaniment.

A. Molotkov is a writer, composer, filmmaker and visual artist.  Although he has been writing fiction and poetry for over 25 years, his more recent involvement with other art forms allows him to approach the creative process from various angles, with individual parts contributing to a greater whole.  Molotkov is the author of several novels, short story and poetry collections and the winner of the 2008 E. M. Koeppel Short Fiction Award for his short story “Round Trip”, which was nominated for a Pushcart.  His fiction and poetry has appeared in or accepted by the Hawaii Pacific Review, Peralta Press, Acquillrelle, Gival Press, Epicenter, Suger Mule and elsewhere.  His debut CD “Can You Stay Forever”, an ambitious project utilizing 15 musicians, has received glowing reviews.   A. Molotkov is quickly becoming known in the Portland poetry community for his exceptional skills at oral presentation.  In February 2010, Molotkov spearheaded a one-hour performance “Love Outlives Us” presented by the Show and Tell Gallery and repeated on KBOO in June.

John Sibley Williams is a poet and book publicist residing in Portland, OR. He has a previous MA in Writing and presently studies Book Publishing at Portland State University, where he serves as Acquisitions Manager of Ooligan Press and publicist for Three Muses Press. His poetry was nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize, and his debut chapbook, A Pure River, is forthcoming from The Last Automat Press. Some of his over 100 previous or upcoming publications include: The Evansville Review, Ellipsis, Flint Hills Review, Euphony, Open Letters, Cadillac Cicatrix, Juked, The Journal, Hawaii Review, Cutthroat, The Furnace Review, Red Wheelbarrow, Aries, and River Oak Review.

Before landing in Portland, Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk lived all over. She learned kickboxing in Turkey, faced-off with a rhino in Nepal, discussed the weather with Queen Elizabeth in England, and was chastised by Mother Theresa in India. Portland has been her home for ten years.  For the last four, she has been collaborating with members of The Guttery. Some of her readings have been published by The Peace Corps Digital LibraryThe Oregon Literary Review and Show and Tell Gallery as well as featured on the site Love Outlives Us. She writes novels about what happens when the will of the individual and the collective muscle of a culture clash.  Her latest novel, Only Ghosts, is about the changes to a village in Nepal during the democratic movement of 1990. More at

David Cooke was raised Catholic in Oakland, California, and now lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon.  His debut poem Edges won the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize and was nominated for a 2010 Pushcart Prize. His work appears in Flatmancrooked, Hunger Mountain, A River & Sound Revie,w and in performances at the Blackbird Wine Shop, Show and Tell Gallery, Stonehenge Studio, and KBOO’s Talking Earth.  He is also known as The Lawn Guy throughout Portland and Lake Oswego for his lawn maintenance business.  Much of his current work is included in his forthcoming chapbook, Discretion.

Ragon Linde is a musician specializing in eclectic jazz. He plays the guitar, drums, and bass. Ragon moved to Portland in 2006 from Tulsa, Oklahoma where he lived most of his life. While in Oklahoma, Ragon played in a wide range of musical groups over the last 35 years whose styles included big band, psychedelic jazz, heavy metal, acoustic folk, classical, and western swing. Much of his work has been recorded and his latest album of work titled My Own Private Jihad can be found on his MySpace site,

Get out of the House

A year and a half ago I barely left my house. I shared my time between my work and my art. No one in Portland knew me, and I didn’t know anyone. Laurie, my partner, gets the credit for pushing me out into the world. In September 2008, she stated that my life didn’t have enough context, that there was nothing to discuss. I was offended at first, but after thinking about it, I saw that she was right. I applied with the Guttery and joined Portland’s Poems and Coffee group. Being accepted by the Guttery took over 3 months. By contrast, Poems and Coffee are open to anyone. They are a wonderful free-flowing group for poets and those interested in poetry. This is where I ran into Shawn Austin, a local poet whose work immediately appealed to me. Eventually, Shawn and I decided to form a new group, The Moonlit Poetry Caravan, with a narrower focus and operating by acceptance only, to ensure a responsible participation.

In a matter of three or four months, I had made a dozen new friends, all wonderful writers and thinkers. I couldn’t believe I had been missing this experience for most of my adult years.

In September 2009, Bruce Green, a dear friend and a Guttery member, set up a reading for the Guttery at the Blackbird Wine Shop. I felt that we did a good job, and it was fun to perform in front of an audience, my first experience of that sort since earlier this century in San Francisco.

Now I was hooked! I attended an evening at The Show And Tell Gallery, followed by an open mic session. I enjoyed other poets and read some of my work. Each space has its own vibe. I liked the vibe here at the Three Friends Coffee House. I talked to Melissa Sillitoe, the curator of Show And Tell, about staging our own performance. She kindly gave us the floor on February 8, 2010, allowing us to present our 1-hour fairy tale “Love Outlives Us”.

Since then, I visited and/or read at Tony’s Tavern downtown, Three Friends, Hillsboro’s Last Monday Poetry, If Not For Kidnap in Portland, Stonehenge gallery, Overlook Park annual poetry event, and several other locations. John Sibley Williams, Shawn Austin and I are reading on September 26th at St. Johns Booksellers in Portland, 2pm. A whole team of us are going to perform in Seaside on 10/2, with a three hour marathon music meets literature performance (5-8 pm, Beech Books, Seaside, OR).

Strange how much can change in your life once you step out of the house and into the world. And if literature is not your interest, all of this still applies. It’s more fun sharing with others than being cooped up by oneself. Get out of the house and make connections!