And so, she just started typing. As if she was trying to dig herself out of some hole that was filled with words, perhaps that she never said but had always wished she could. She typed and dug and typed and dug as if letter by letter, word by word she would finally uncover who she was—why she was . . . 

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Writing I’d Prefer Not To Do: The Nonprofit Paperwork Blues

posted Jul 23, 2018, 6:46 PM by Colleen Getty   [ updated Jul 30, 2018, 4:48 PM ]

: This is a tirelessly long description of a tirelessly long process, but I sprinkle in some flying monkeys and a yellow brick road for good measure and comic relief. Tuck in!

There are all types of writing, but at the most basic level I can break writing into two simple categories:

writing I want to do, and
writing I’d prefer not to do.

I thought I’d talk a little about the writing I’d prefer not to do, but am doing, in hopes that it will help get me and many other local writers to a place (a physical place) where we can do a whole lot of writing we want to do.

What kind of writing am I talking about? I’m referring to all the documents and legal forms I’ve had to write up in order to receive the legal determination of "nonprofit" for The Room to Write. Becoming a nonprofit is an extremely complex process and it honestly boggles my mind how any corporation that is quite literally not making a profit could possibly afford to be legally recognized as a nonprofit. Beyond the mere application fees that you must first pay to the State, then the Feds, then to the State again, but this time to the Attorney General’s Office because apparently the Secretary of State and the Attorney General’s Office don’t talk to each other—oh, and then you pay the Secretary of State again in order to get a certified copy of the document you thought you already paid to file, so you can send it to (you guessed it) the Attorney General’s Office.

Aside from the basic upfront fees (which equal $35 + $375 + $100 + $50 [The $50 is if you want to solicit donations, which at this point you have to since you’ve given any of your (non)profits to the state and federal government] + $15 = $560 total) you need to pay an attorney who is fluent in legalish and taxish if you don’t happen to be friends with or related to one already. Oh, and just because you know three attorneys and two CPAs does NOT mean they know the first thing about nonprofit forms and laws which is a whole category all its own.

Enough complaining and sarcasm (ok, the sarcasm may come back) let me just try to tell you what I learned—most of it the hard way and in such a way that often made my head hurt. Quite honestly I don’t know how there are any nonprofits. It’s that complicated. First apply for an EIN number. Pop the champagne after that because that’s the easiest thing you’ll do and just the beginning of the eye-crossingly complex road you’re choosing to travel. 

This reminds me of Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken, often referred to--even by me--as The Road Less Traveled. In reality, I guess those titles would be the complete opposite: the road Rob-O doesn't take and the road he does. Perhaps even Robert Frost was trying to tell me not to go this way! But don’t picture a hiking trail through the woods or a path through snow-covered hills in Vermont. Picture the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy sees the sign “I’d turn back if I were you.” Sure, she eventually makes it home to Kansas but she goes through some pretty nasty stuff first along with her travel companions (substitute your newly minted board members in place of the scarecrow, the tinman and the lion).

So, you’ve decided to ignore the sign and you venture into the haunted wood where flying monkeys lurk (that’s the IRS) and poppies grow (only these are not the poppies that will make you sleep—you’ll wish they were because, instead, you’ll be up all night and exhausted). After receiving the EIN (which stands for Employer Identification Number) you file as a corporation with the State Secretary’s office. Here begins the writing I’d prefer not to do: Articles of Organization. Make sure you write “Inc” after your organization’s name because the State will reject your application if you don’t and the best part is that they will not tell you this. They do not send a letter or email. 

If some time has passed and you have heard nothing but crickets—give the State a call. The good news is that when you call the person on the other end will be very kind, patient and helpful. When writing your Articles do some homework and put in the legal tidbits that are usually required. A great resource for legal documents is the NOLO Book Series. Look them up in your library if you are truly a nonprofit and can’t afford to buy the book (like us:). At this point you need a board because you need to list them in your Articles, so get going down that yellow brick road and keep your eyes peeled for friendly faces.

Onto the IRS. These were my least favorite documents because, quite honestly, I didn’t even know which ones to fill out because everything is so very densely packed and for a gal who loves words—the words they use in the combinations they use them in just ain’t right! Nobody speaks IRSish natively. Find a lawyer at this point or face those flying monkeys alone. I’m sure it’s possible, but I was almost instantly overwhelmed just thinking about it. Picture the tinman. I froze! FYI: when you become a corporation with the State, the instructions tell you to file an 1120 form, but what they don’t tell you is that if you’re becoming a nonprofit, you don’t do that. Ignore that. Nonprofits file a 1023 form.

My goodness—knowing those forms off the top of my head feels similar to completing the first year of Spanish in middle school. I’m nearly giddy about knowing the beginnings of what seemed like a secret code and then realize how much more there is to know that I may never absorb.

You fill out the 1023-EZ, which is stunningly EZ if you’ve looked, as I did, at the not-so-EZ 1023 form and your eyes bugged out of your head. It’s mind-numbing to even recall briefly. Here’s when you need your Board’s Bylaws adopted and signed by your board members (remember that highly flammable man of straw, the cool cat with the hollow chest and the big fluffy frightened fella you were supposed to collect along the way?). Oh—and you need numbers. You know, IRSy-type numbers. 

Here’s where not making much money finally pays off (no pun intended) because then there are not a whole lot of numbers to look up in order to use those math skills your teacher promised would come in handy one day. Here’s the thing though, while the numbers may not be hard to find, it’s the words that will seem at the same time familiar and completely foreign. Each line will make you wonder, “Who actually understands this?”

Here’s where I went wrong being the glutton for punishment that I am. I must have just started filling out everything with an “EZ” after it because while I filled out the 1023-EZ forms, I completed the 990-EZ form that I had seen mentioned in the “instructions” somewhere along that wonky, brick road. Picture the cobblestones at Fanuel Hall after all the bars close. There’s no skipping along in shiny, red heels and doing side-kicks into the sun whilst singing “We’re off to see the wizard!” This brick road is a mass of Boston cobblestone pounded in by a bunch of drunken Puritans—oh, wait, I don’t think they were allowed to have a pop. Well, whoever it was, what’s left is an ankle-breaking mess where you constantly feel dizzy. 

Please understand that when I refer to IRS “instructions” you should not be picturing the two-sentence instructions that we all ignored in school but were urged endlessly to read. IRS instructions are so diggity-dang long that they actually don’t even include them on the same form that you are being told to fill out. The “instructions” are actually a whole, separate, million-page document which often refers you to other “instructions” and other “schedules” (schedules translates as horrible, horrible digressions. Worse than any digressions I have ever made and that’s saying something as I have a tendency to digress and to even digress from my digressions) with complete sets of instructions all their own. Who came up with this stuff?!? (Ok, yeah, yeah—lawyers:)

Back to where I went wrong in my attempt to do right, but as a mere mortal, not some IRS demigod. I filled out the 990-EZ and sent it in. Picture me coming back from vacation to find an envelope from the IRS. Even when flying monkeys don’t actually show up at your door and ring your doorbell, a letter from them still makes you tremble as you imagine them swooping down and snatching your first-born if you don’t submit to their demands: Surrender Dorothy (insert your name for Dorothy). Of course, although I filed the 990 two solid months earlier, this envelope arrived at the exact time I was gone on the first week-long vacation I’ve taken in an entire year and furthermore it stated the need to correct and refile within 10 days, which of course happened to be the very next day.

The very next day (the day it was due and I was to Surrender) I called the IRS knowing I had to hear it from the horse’s mouth (or in this case the flying monkey’s mouth) what exactly I needed to do and to explain that I was away when the letter arrived, etc etc. I had forgotten to file Schedule A. “It was in the instructions,” the patient woman on the IRS side of the phone explained. “Instructions.” Oh, right—those very simple instructions. The word really did sound simple when she said it, but then again she was fluent in IRSish. She talked about how, actually, I didn’t need to file anything at all because I was not legally formed until this year, and that when I do need to file, I can just file the 990 postcard. For those following the Wizard of Oz metaphorical thread, this is when Glinda tells Dorothy that she could have simply clicked her heels together three times to get home. Ugh!

It’s simple. “Right!” I said, “I saw something about that and set my account up and everything, since it was an online-only filing, but when I tried to do it the EIN number I put in was rejected. The nice lady (Shall we call her Glinda? She didn’t seem like one of those mean, flying monkeys at all!) who spoke fluent IRSish told me then that the number was rejected because I didn’t need to file. Ahhhhh . . . if only there could have been a little message that popped up telling me that. Maybe they could have put that little detail in one of the volumes of “instructions” for first-time filers. Perhaps it was there but I just didn’t see it. Anyway, I’m telling you. If I can at least turn my miserable mistakes into a slightly better journey and a “Get Out of the Haunted Woods Free” ticket for you, please let me know and that will make it all a worthwhile bother.

Now—go register with the Attorney General’s Office. Give them their cut of the nonprofits of course. But, give more money to the Secretary of State’s office first so you can pay to have a certified copy of the Articles of Organization that you thought you already paid $35 for, sent to you so that you can then send that to the Attorney General's Office. It's kind of like when you passed notes in school between two kids who refused to talk face to face. Gather all those documents together.

Festival (& poetry) by the Lake

posted Jun 11, 2018, 6:30 PM by Colleen Getty   [ updated Jun 11, 2018, 6:35 PM ]

I almost bought a bubble machine, candy, balloons—but in the end it was the two donated manual typewriters that made people of all ages stop and stay awhile.

The Festival by the Lake was the first event since The Room to Write received its determination letter from the IRS that it was officially a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It was exciting. It was festive. It was a picture perfect day. How would the idea of writing be received? What if nobody came by? What if words weren’t so cool after all? Six hours seemed long. It looked long on paper. In the end, it flew by!

I set up all my information for The Room to Write and placed the two manual typewriters perpendicular to each other on a card table. One was facing the lake—what a whimsically romantic thought remembering it just now. I brought plain white paper. I brought paper with flowers, paper with angels, paper with an inspirational scene. Most of the tiny typists weren’t concerned with the paper—it was the keys they were really interested. The majority of my visitors were young ones from as tiny as age 2 all the way up to the teen years. 

Much like my experience in the past kids were drawn to the unfamiliarity of those two contraptions sitting on the table. What in the world was that? Surprisingly some knew the name: typewriter. There were no plugs. There were no screens. Nothing to strap on your head or stick in your ears. No waivers to sign. Absolutely nothing glowed and yet those typewriters blew their minds. Many were so young they couldn’t spell yet—but they wanted to. It was endlessly amusing, which led to most of the little novelists being coaxed or carried away eventually by their parents who had hoped for more from a festival than to watch their kid type on an old typewriter.

For me it was success! The sound of words, in many cases partial words or misspelled words, hitting a page was music to my ears and to the ears of those little ones. Typing really can be quite a comforting sound if you don’t have a headache. Perhaps it has that same addictive quality as bubble wrap, but instead of destroying a bubble you are creating words, sentences, stories. I’d say that is even BETTER than bubble wrap. Wow—that’s an idea for next year: which do kids prefer bubble wrap or typewriters?

Later in the afternoon the always wonderful and endlessly generous Carol Gordon Ekster joined me. She brought her wonderful books along with her to share with festival visitors, including my children who were fortunate enough to hear Carol’s stories read that day by the author herself.

If that wasn’t special enough, late in the afternoon two 8th grade girls came over and sat at the two typewriters. Before starting my family I was an 8th grade English teacher who wanted nothing more than for my students to enjoy creatively crafting the written word. The two girls at the festival that day were not there to just poke at the keys a few times and move on. They picked pretty paper from the selection. I showed them how to load it into the typewriter and there they sat for a good long time—writing poetry. One found a poem she had written in fifth grade to type out along with whatever she had decided to write there in the moment. One found something inspirational written by JRR Tolkien to add to her page of poetry. It doesn’t get better than that!

I was so thrilled to see so many young people basking in the satisfaction of something so simple. In these days of overcomplicating everything—it was nice to see that “simple” can still make people of all ages stop and stay awhile.

Points of Light

posted May 2, 2018, 6:37 PM by Colleen Getty

When was the last time you watched fireworks? That boom that makes your chest thump while the flash illuminates one side of everything below like a giant flashbulb. My favorite firework is the one that takes off with an audible “pfft” shooting invisibly into the night. Everybody looks up and waits. Then, from one central point, it explodes its beautiful self suddenly bursting and fanning out away from the center. Each point of light races until it can't anymore and each tired streak trails, down to form the branches of a shimmering weeping willow tree floating there in the sky.

That’s what mid-April and May feel like. There is the giant “puff” as we all go shooting out from the winter slow-down, our attention demanded in every direction. We keep it up as long as we can until eventually we sink and sail down onto the sand of some beach to let the waves just lap and cool us down. Despite the frantic energy of fireworks they are beautiful.

During the efforts to work toward providing a physical space and a supportive community for writers I have had the rare privilege of seeing so many points of light up close, six of which sat across from me in a director's seat in the WCAT studios to talk about the journey of their stories. Each writer is so unique and inspiring to me.

I am grateful for the opportunity to do so many different things at one time in my life. The last two weeks found me twice in the wonderful WCAT Studios with two talented writers both of whom work to help build community and truly embrace the idea of collaboration. 

PJ Carmichael and Eileen Doyon inhabit quite different genres (PJ is a poet and Eileen writes and compiles personal non-fiction stories) and yet there are so many common themes between the two of them. Poems and personal stories both come from deep inside and the act of expression in either form can have such a healing effect on a person’s mind, body and soul. 

I feel nothing but gratitude each time a writer volunteers to participate in The Journey of a Story series—a collaboration between The Room to Write and Wakefield Community Access Television. Tom, Barbara, Ryan, Ian and Adam exude a radiating warmth and a genuine interest in each writer who enters their studio. They help to create an atmosphere where each writer is able to talk so personally about their writing process and how their lives came to include writing so intentionally. Viewers benefit from each writer discussing important details and lessons they have learned about publishing in its variety of ways, how to market their book once it is published and the reality of earning money as a writer. 

We have benefited from children's picture book writer, Carol Gordon Ekster; non-fiction essayist and psychologist, Ellen Holtzman; adult fiction novelist Sally Chetwynd and romance novelist, Satin Russell.

The written word will always serve such a powerful role in the lives of humans. How else, but through words, are we able to connect to others so genuinely and to truly process love and loss and life. There is no app for that—but there are words. Words are all the app we need to connect, to bring change and to heal. 

The feeling you get when you are able to express yourself genuinely through art is like hearing that puff of air in the dark, seeing that light shining briefly as that shimmering image branches out and breathes its sigh of relief on its way back down to the earth. Energy needs to go somewhere. Choose a healthy way to let it out and let it go in all directions like a hundred points of light to create art and beauty along with a sense of deep satisfaction that often follows closely behind.

I Need to Write

posted Mar 29, 2018, 7:56 AM by Colleen Getty

I need to write—but, then why am I not writing? Sure. I write in my journal. Yeah. I write my newsletters. Ok. I create content for my website and have begun filling out the endless amount of forms that go along with trying to become a non-profit. I am constantly writing, but it is not that deep, focused, driven writing that I was doing only a few months ago. It is not a “project.” 

Sometimes I fall into this state of mind where if I feel myself being pulled in too many directions and so I resist sitting down with pad and pen or at my computer to create something purely for creativity’s sake. It feels too selfish—too frivolous. It’s as if I’m being stubborn. I can’t describe it. I am conscious that I haven’t really “written” in what feels like a long time. I want to get something going. Yes, another one of those “projects” that I resist calling a book or a novel. “Project” seems like so much less of a commitment. The expectations are lower. Project doesn’t sound like anything anybody would ever want to publish and so it won’t drag along behind me like an old teddy that’s been around so long it lost an ear and managed to gain five pounds of dead skin cells from too much loving and nuzzling. 

“Book” seems too precious a word. At the stringing together of any combination of words that would amount to having written a book there is the spark of excitement in the eyes of the owner of the ears that just heard “book” and some tense of the word “wrote” in a sentence together. I assure them that while I wrote something that I would categorize as a book—it has not been published. I don’t even say, “It’s not published yet.” “Yet” would at least represent even the most conservative amount of confidence in my own art form, but I back off partly out of superstitious hogwash and because I wouldn’t want to sound presumptuous or come off as a braggart who has not officially done anything worth bragging about. So, I say simply, “It’s not published.”

I think of the old question, “If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” And yet my situation is even more nitpicky than that. The words from my book have fallen into the eyes of a few readers and they read them. Some claimed to have enjoyed the words and encouraged me to, “Keep going.” “Amazing.” They say. But they are not editors. They are not agents. They are mere mortals. So I try not to get my hopes up.

And so I go about my life having covered what used to be a tree with words and letting it fall, but perhaps whether it makes a sound or not depends on which forest it has fallen in and if it was the only tree falling at the time. Perhaps a hundred trees went swiftly to the ground all at once along with mine and so who is to say that one tree could be heard with any distinction from any of the others falling along with it. There could be just too many trees falling. Too many branches cracking, leaves shushing and wafting and flapping like tiny flames on the journey they were pulled along on.

Writing is a bit strange. I’d hate to spend any more time on something that perhaps has already been a waste of my time. It is all up to some beholder that maybe I have not met, yet. Is this how every artist of every medium feels? There are just so many words in the world—so many. Maybe there are too many for anybody to really hear any, anymore. Why does art make us chase it so? I think it is because we are always chasing ourselves—trying to get a glimpse of who we really are. We want to know ourselves and we want others to know us and then to accept us for our true selves. 

That is why art draws us in. It is like a code or a secret language that makes us feel safe enough to reveal ourselves under its guise. It is the mask at a masquerade where our eyes are our own but not immediately recognizable. It’s just barely enough to make us feel safer to be ourselves. Art is that narrowest of material bordering our eyes and bridging our nose. Perhaps there are sequins and plumes of feathers or maybe there is just a thin, black plastic.  

Whichever—I must let trees fall where they may and masks await the next occasion and go back to the tasks of the day: clean the house, do the laundry—get a job. A real job. I really should do that.

But—I need to write.

Try Poetry

posted Feb 23, 2018, 7:50 AM by Colleen Getty

Have you tried poetry lately? If you don't like poetry—try it. It's good for you. Just one bite. You might like it. Poetry is like spinach and beans and kale with much less gas.

If you love poetry, like I do. If you haven't written a poem in a while, like I haven't. Write one. Just pick a time today, say 10:00 am or 1:12 pm or 7:08 pm. Put it in your calendar. Schedule a poem and you just might write one. Allot yourself 15 minutes for a "Poetry Meeting." Stand up or sit down. Stop what you're doing or continue to pretend you’re doing something important. Don't try to rhyme. Just write like nobody's reading.

Write a few thoughts on paper or type them into your phone--your computer--about your life at that very moment. Love it? Hate it? Sad about it? Excited about it? Not sure about it? Not sure about anything? What thought keeps popping up, worrying you, distracting you. Put it to rest with poetry. Walk through your thoughts and simply put them down. Don't think too much. Just splatter it down. Try to use primary colors. Keep things raw and perfectly ripe. Are those opposites? Work out the answer in a poem.

When your "meeting" is over—put it away. Polish it up later. Maybe schedule that "Polish Poetry Meeting" now too. Then put a poetry contest into your calendar. Enter one or two or all of them. Try it. Just try. Poetry! 

Link to poetry contest details on The Room to Write's website at:

(Warning: There are two different Naomi Cherkofsky poetry contests. Yes, it is very confusing, but feel free to enter both. The mailing addresses are different. So--pay close attention to submission details for each.:)

March 15

MA State Poetry Society

Gertrude Dole Memorial Award 

April 1

Hamilton-Wenham Library

Teen Poetry & Flash Fiction Contest 

April 1

North Shore Poets' Forum


April 15

MA State Poetry Society

Ambassador of Poetry Award  

June 30

MA State Poetry Society


Giving Birth to a Book

posted Jan 17, 2018, 8:10 AM by Colleen Getty

Have I really not wished any of you a Happy New Year yet? There was a big blur of turkeys and lights and cookies. Then I needed to stop eating chocolate and really focus. Remember focusing? Did we throw our focus in the same basement-bound box with our old Walkmans, Champion sweatshirts, Michael Bolton mullets and Keds? I realize focusing is not in vogue these days with all the wonderful distractions at our disposal, but I fastened my seat belt in the old way-back machine and put my head down to get ‘er done.

What exactly is “’er?” ‘Er is the story that I have been pregnant with for almost exactly two years. It was a good pregnancy, though. Not a smidge of morning sickness or people trying to touch my stomach unsolicited. Wow, that would have been awkward! The birth was actually easier than I thought it would be. After a long incubation, I could tell things were about to get real when I attended the SCBWI Encore conference in October, but I was ready. Two years is a long time to be holding something in—waiting for the moment when a healthy amount of motivation could be paired with children old enough to allow a few solid hours at a keyboard. 

I knew it was time to push when I attended SCBWI’s Agent/Editor Day at the beginning of November. Not long after that event it was Thanksgiving and so I had to tend to my family and the usual holiday hoopla causing me to break focus for several days and even weeks at a time. When I could steal a moment, I was heads down and writing, reading and rearranging. There was also a lot of reading my own writing aloud which I tried to do when nobody was home to get concerned and wonder who I was talking to. 

After the information and feedback I got at the two events I attended, I decided that the 1st person narrative needed to switch to 3rd person and that what had been my first chapter should be somewhere further into the book—oh, and the entire storyline needed a firm reworking. 

I came to terms with the fact that dialogue is a tedious thing, but can be fun once you get going. The whole project was a mosaic. Broken piece by broken piece, things started to go together but then I doubted my efforts while I was looking so closely at what I was creating. The whole thing seemed like nothing more than a bunch of little, broken pieces. Then things started to take shape and an image started to emerge. I asked someone to take a look as self-doubt creeped in again and I was ready to scrap the whole thing. It was something as simple as “You should be proud of this. It's amazing! I can't wait to read how it ends. 
Keep going!” and so I did. Encouragement can go a long way in fueling the fire within.

One super annoying discovery I made was that I write in past tense. So, when I had finished everything I was left with a task even more tedious than following a conversation in your head and writing every word and every movement down. I had to change nearly every “was” to “is,” every “said” to “says,” every “looked” to “looks” and so on. That was not fun—I mean, that is not fun!

This is the longest project I have ever drafted. If nothing else, it was and hopefully continues to be a master class in writing a manuscript. I started to create natural sounding dialogue and allowed myself to relax into the characters enough so that I simply followed them instead of always leading them or trying to predict their every move. What else did I learn? I learned that sometimes you need to forget your blog and your newsletter for a few weeks so that you can give birth to something that you hope to be proud of some day. 

Labor takes all your focus and all your strength—especially when you have young children and a life beyond your current project. But, hopefully when you resurface cradling a new baby in your arms—even if that baby is unnaturally thin, frighteningly square and exactly 8 by 11 inches—everybody has already forgotten about the things you missed as you introduce them to the new story you brought into the world.

Comfortably Numb Christmas Time

posted Dec 20, 2017, 6:29 PM by Colleen Getty

The world is moving at a pace faster than any mere mortal can go. Stop trying to catch up. Slow your roll and be comfortable with your own pace. I am not a runner, but I know runners and even a non-runner has heard about the importance of pacing. In a marathon or any other crazy-long-run-I-will-never-ever-run, I have heard that runners just have to forget the runner who just flew by them. They have to put him out of their mind even though their instinct is to speed up—it is a race after all. But—it’s a long race and so a runner needs to plan ahead and to know their own limits. 

So, in the holiday race that is going on right now (on foot, in the car, in stores, at schools and everywhere) I just have to decide I’m going to be comfortable with seeing the bottom of a lot of people’s sneakers and their wagging ponytails. I may even sit down and take a few orange slices and a swig off that water bottle and watch a bunch of people run by. I’m beyond pacing at this point. I’d have to say I’m comfortably numb. I get it now. That line means so much more than I thought it did long ago.

I have a thought along the lines of, “Oh, I should get that or do that--” comes into my mind and then here’s where the comfortably numb part comes in: If I visualize what “getting that” or “doing that” may look like for me and if, in my imagination, I see myself exhausted or frustrated or short-tempered as a result I say, “Eh, forget it. Not worth it.” And it’s that easy. It’s kind of weird to me, but I almost feel a bit Zen about the whole thing. I’m doing what I can do and trying not to go haywire. I’m shooting for an attitude that leaves me feeling more like Pete the Cat and less like Angry Cat.

And so, I haven’t written a blog in a while and decided that I would write one tonight. This may not be the best blog I ever wrote, but I’m writing (and running) for myself—just strolling through my thoughts at the moment as I am fresh from my youngest son’s Christmas Concert where he danced like I’m pretty sure no donkey has ever danced before and I’m just going to savor that fun scene because that is definitely something worth remembering. 

Tomorrow I’ll think about my list again. Hopefully I’ll still be in this sort of laisser-faire state of mind. For the most part I’m just getting things off my list (a list that doesn’t totally exist, but that is sort of like the innards of a magic eight ball floating around in my ink-filled head). When things stop bobbing up then I’ll know my list is complete but in the meantime I am convinced I am in the eye of the holiday
storm because I’m rather calm about the whole thing. It is five days until Christmas and I just kicked off the bulk of my shopping four days ago at 8:30 pm. I have to say, I was tired, but it was a great time to go shopping because it’s so close to Christmas that the stores are open late plus there wasn’t any traffic and the lines were minimal.

This world is a bit overwhelming right now with the orange hue things have taken on, but I’m trying to block most of it out and focus on my family and the short distance in front of me. That is humanly possible. Focusing on all that other stuff, well, it just isn’t. I’m waiting for people’s heads to explode or their eyes to pop out and hang from springs while making that “boing” noise from the cartoons. We’ve gotten ourselves in quite the tizzy lately and so I guess there are two roads in that forest that Robert Frost talked about and unfortunately most of us aren’t even looking at the road ahead, we’re just trusting the path to our GPS. 

In terms of today’s world you can either go the path that makes your head explode and your eyes go “boing” or you can take that less-traveled path and try to stay focused on the things not too much beyond your own nose. Stop trying to catch up to the bottoms of those sneakers in front of you and allow yourself to say “Eh, forget it. Not worth it. Nobody will even remember that.” and embrace the comfortably numb results.

(type)Writing Teens

posted Nov 15, 2017, 6:44 PM by Colleen Getty

The Youth Room to Write started about a month ago at the Wakefield Club for teens in grades 7 through 12. Things move slowly when creating a new group and it takes some time to see what works and what doesn't. It has been a professional challenge for me to transition from the structure and experience I had as a full-time 8th grade English Language Arts teacher to the much more agile nature of working in a Club in addition to only being there once a week with no requirement for the teens to participate—oh, and I am in direct competition with all the other fun activities going on at the Boys & Girls Club of Wakefield: floor hockey, basketball, F
oosball, video games, pool, just plain sitting and talking with friends, and you get the picture. It means I need to be creative and since I rarely shy away from a challenge: cue the typewriter.

I was wracking my brain recently for ways to get the teens who are in the group to stay in it and to try to win over one or two more to add to our group when I remembered a big, black, plastic, clunky suitcase-looking thing that my Uncle Skip gave to me—has to be over ten years ago now. Against all odds, I found it on the top shelf in a basement room that seemed to serve as some sort of purgatory for material objects before they were finally shown mercy and either donated or sent to a fate worse than death: a landfill.

I brought the big, dusty hunk home. It wobbled in the back seat of my car beneath my 4-year-old's feet as they dangled above it from his perch in his carseat. He was actually afraid to touch it even with his feet and claimed it was destroying the back of the car. He didn’t trust it and I can’t say I blamed him. This was a long shot. I got it home, dusted off the case and opened it up on my kitchen floor. My four children gathered around me wondering what this strange object could possibly be. It wreaked of mildew and still had a yellow, dehydrated sticker that read $3.00 stuck to it. The back said "Olympia International" and it was electric complete with a thick, black, three-pronged industrial-looking plug. I set it on the kitchen table and fired it up.
My kids were awestruck. I have to admit I was a little excited to use it myself and a lot excited to bring something back from the brink of non-existence to show some young people how things used to be done and miraculously still could be. I love mechanical things if for no other reason than because they can be fixed with two hands and some tinkering. No Apple Genius required. No wi-fi password needed. No software update to load before my kids could start punching away at the buttons and see things happening in real time, with real metal hitting a real ink ribbon and making letters right in front of them. They loved it. They argued about who got more time and how many more minutes before the next one had a turn. I didn’t need to worry that they’d hit the wrong key and buy a twelve dollar movie, or that they would catch an online virus, or stumble onto something inappropriate. No Russians could leak these documents. It was safe.

I entered the Boys & Girls Club of Wakefield carrying what must have looked like a laptop from 1980 if there was such a thing. I walked into the Teen Room where there was a group video game going on. I started to doubt that my humble typewriter would draw anybody away from something that looked really fun even to me and they were playing as a group—my chances of sparking interest in writing were sinking by the minute. I carried on and set up shop. I took out the typewriter and plugged it in. Two girls were the first to notice and they came over. One said she had seen a typewriter before and the other had never even seen one in person. I 
fed some paper in and gave them a couple tips and they started typing. 

One was surprised to find that there was no delete button, but figured out through trial and error that if she pressed the “backspace” button and then held the “correction” button that you could type a darker letter over the mistake letter. The other girl said she enjoyed hearing the sound of the typing and loved the fact that the letters appeared right there in front of her on the paper. Forget virtual reality—reality seemed to be pretty amazing too.
In the end kids that would have scoffed at the idea of “writing” slowly trickled over to try out the typewriter, which meant they were writing on the typewriter. One young man wrote a short and humorous story while the others wrote journal-style about how they felt typing and what their experience was like. It all qualifies as writing in my book.

Who knew that taking kids off-line and back to simpler times would get them writing? I know now, and I’ll be sure to give that typewriter the second life that it was hoping for while it sat patiently waiting on a lonely basement shelf. 

If you have a typewriter that you’d like to see live out the rest of its years dazzling young writers, contact me. I’ll pick it up and put it to good use. If you know a young writer in grades 7 through 12 that would like to be part of our writing group join us Wednesdays at 4pm.

Professional (Arrested?) Development

posted Oct 24, 2017, 10:40 AM by Colleen Getty

This past weekend I had the privilege of taking part in some professional development. Thanks to SCBWI (which stands for Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) I was able to afford a full-day conference where I was in a room with a bunch of nerds who like words. Yes—finally! Sure, I have taken a writing class before, but I was in a college classroom not a hotel ballroom. I was paying hundreds of dollars, not fifty! I probably ate a drive-thru burger on my way to class, not a buffet lunch on a real dish at a table that wasn’t moving and where I didn’t have to work the blinker or windshield wipers. I must also mention that I did not have any children during college, which means being in a room where I could focus, listen and think all at once with an occasional opportunity to write—well, let’s just say it’s been a while and it felt quite luxurious.

I wrote this during the conference when I was told to focus on what I was feeling at that very moment: “This is bliss. This is me walking into the horizon that I’ve always wondered about and squinted toward assuming it was tomorrow and realizing that it is right now. This is tomorrow. How wonderful. How refreshing. Here I am sitting and thinking and writing. Sneakers and khakis. A ballroom—but no ballgown. Just how I like my ballrooms. People who love writing. People writing. Me. I’m one of those people. Writing and being told to write, not just squeezing it in. Not having to feel guilty. Writing for the sheer pleasure of it. Ahhhh . . . This is bliss.”

Can I call it “professional development” if I am not currently getting paid for the job I am doing? Sure, why not! What do writers have to do before they can call themselves writers? Write, I suppose. The irony is that so many writers hesitate to call themselves writers because they do not make a living doing it, but nearly every writer I meet (even the published ones) simply cannot make a living as a writer. Can we at least refer to ourselves as starving writers—at least visual artists get to call themselves artists if they haven’t sold a single piece of art and they stick the “starving” in the right place. I’m guessing that the fact that they are not eating means they are not selling art. I could be wrong. Yet, I feel like a phony calling myself a writer. It seems like such a slippery art form, which may just be what so many of us like about it.

Later in the conference, we were challenged to picture a scene with a character from something we are working on. I chose the YA novel I am chipping away at and by golly—I may just use this in it: “She took her seat, sliding in quietly and trying to blend into the old wood of the chair and the cold metal of the desk. That’s what she felt—where she felt she was—somewhere between worn wood and cold, cold metal. She didn’t seem to fit either and so she sat floating along and unidentifiable in the space in between.”

It seems it is not always enough to see yourself for what you want to be. You must look outside to others to see what they think you are. But, if you don’t even know what you are then how will they know?! Balderdash![1] I am a writer. I must be a writer. I went to a conference. I didn’t get kicked out. They didn’t ask to see some ID or my published poems, essays or books. They took me at my word. 

When will I?

[1] I was excited to use that word. I sat back and admired the boldness and refreshing quirkiness of balderdash. Only a crazy person would do that. A crazy person, or—a writer.

NaNoWriMo Newbies

posted Oct 14, 2017, 12:25 PM by Colleen Getty

Meet two friendly and talented writers 
named Satin and Lynne who are the "Municipal Liasons" (MLs) devoted to helping writers crank out those words during (as well as a bit before and after) the month of November: National Novel Writing Month which is shortened to NaNoWriMo (which is pronounced: Nah-No-Ryme-O). Love it!

These gals were at Hamilton-Wenham's NaNo Newbie: Introduction to National Novel Writing Month where I learned all there is to know about this motivational and inspirational way to try to write a novel in one month. There are all sorts of "rebellious" ways to participate if you are not starting a novel or would like to adapt the idea to illustration or poetry or editing a draft of something you already wrote--but it sounds like it may be worth going the purist route "start to finish" if you haven't tried it yet and if for no other reason than for the full NaNoWriMo experience.

As I participate in this myself and support it in any way I can, I will add to The Room to Write's NaNoWriMo page to keep you updated. For the best way to stay in touch with this wonderful group or a group closer to you, sign up at the official page: and see for yourself. There are forums, events and all sorts of tools to keep you on track.

Once you sign up you can look up the North Shore region or check them out by clicking here.

Good luck!

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