Writing Marathon– January 2009

Writer in red chair Writers in art Gallery Man Reading

January Chill No Match for the Warmth of the Winter Writing Marathon

Story by Chris Lund, Photos by Kate Brooke

NeWP writing group

Sixteen writers met at Yia Yia's Pizza in Lincoln on Saturday, January 24th for the Nebraska Writing Project's Winter Writing Marathon. With temperatures in the teens and a light dusting of snow, two hardy writers made the three hour trip from O'Neill, joining other writers from Sumner, Henderson, Omaha, and Lincoln. The goal for writers at a writing marathon is to write in at least three different places. Writers then share their own writing and enjoy the surprise of other writers' inspirations.

Experienced marathoners teamed up with first-timers to form three groups. Equipped with notebooks, pens, and warm coats, they ventured out to write and share in settings that included the Zoo Bar, Kinetic Brew Coffee Shop, the Center for Great Plains Studies, the Sheldon Museum of Art, and other art spaces in downtown Lincoln. The primary criteria for writing sites were: 1) a short walk away to minimize exposure to the cold 2) appropriate libations to warm and relax and 3) writer friendly atmospheres.

The day wrapped up at 5 p.m. as marathoners gathered at Misty's Restaurant fordinner and a final read around that included memories, poetry, personal reflections, essays, and a fledgling short story. While the cold lingered outside, writers were warmed by the celebration of creativity and friendly conversation.

Here's a glimpse at writings shared during the Lincoln Marathon:

From Robert Brooke, writing at the Tugboat Gallery:

The Illusion of Safety (for my father to find peace)," Jocelyn Lippincott. 2006 monofilament and wire

This is the best title in the show - it absolutely makes for me an otherwise bland-descript sculpture of white open Tyvek mesh draped around three pieces of wire, hanging from the ceiling in the shape of a boat. This boat hangs at just over waist level, so I can almost image resting my hands on its sides and swinging over inside - as if it were sturdy and centered in water, instead of gossamer, ghostly, fragile and merely suspended in air.

But what draws me to the sculpture is the title: the illusion, it says, which is what this thing is. Not a boat or ghost ship but a whisper of the same, so this piece doesn't offer safety but only the illusion of it - and that distance between real safety and its mirage seems so tied to the parenthetical phrase of the title "(for my father to find peace). " I imagine the artist's now absent father, gone but in memory, and the desire for both peace as well as the kind of ethereal journey this boat suggests. A desire both for her father ("may he experience peace") and for herself ("may I imagine peace in his absence") and I'm left thinking of the rivers a soul might cross in such a boat as this, at that moment when the soul's lonely weight is no heavier thana breath: the River Jordan with its glorious shore; the River Styx with its dread ferryman; the River Lethe, with its bald promise of forgetting. The illusion of safety is, of course, all of these, but maybe only in the last can any one of us really find peace.

from Kate Brooke, writing at Cultiva Coffee on "O" St. :

"You have to walk really fast to keep up with Kate.";-- Dee, a member of my small group

It's my father's fault, I'm pretty sure, that I stride out and cover ground so quickly. At six foot three he was a fast walker, and at six years and maybe three feet tall I kept up. The alerting snap of his fingers called me to hold onto my father's forefinger, his hand and mine being too disparate in size to make a grasp. And then we'd go. I don't remember stumbling, I don't remember falling. His urgency was enough to propel me on: to an enormous fountain with dolphins spouting water, water gushing from drinking gourds, pouring from the mouths of snakes; to a museum where my free hand reaching for the shiny nose of a horse statue drew a "SSSssT!" from a guard; along the path to ruins where an oracle gave her prophecy. And then my memory goes quiet, without recollection of a space of time that would bring us home again, and instead of my hand clinging to my father's forefinger, I knew his arms were around me and I was placed beneath a blanket, my fingers gently being disengaged from his shoulder.

From Dee Thompson, writing at the Great Plains Art Museum:

III: Photography exhibit by Jeffrey Haller: Somewhere in the Middle of America: Life in a Prairie Town

"Victory"

In a crowded gym the Red Cloud
Warriors cheer at sideline, fists clenched
Mouths open...one so elated
He's a foot off the floor His number is 33, a famous number
That's why my son wanted it and his joy
Of victories still defies gravity
Tho' he's wiser now...
He knows that basketball is not life
And duty to country is honest but tainted
With threat of what's to come
But he still dreams of that 3-ptr
From mid-court, an innocent
Clean shot that made small-town victory
So sweet and simple 

"Plow"

Connecting to our past essential
We see a rusted plow and wonder of its owner
Bent or straight...determined or beaten
Jeff Haller's "Plow"
Has been raised as a monument to the past
And we have to catch our breath
And sigh before moving forward again to
New plows and new plowmen

"NE Sunset"

Glass stillness sequesters the bare birches
So they can touch the soft sky in prayer
I exhale slowly to the count of
Amazing Grace
...in contrast to the paper-skinned
Elbow of the man in the hard bony pew
Who is thinking of the woman who used
To sing next to him

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