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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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Walk, Write and Wash Your Hands!

posted by Colleen Getty   [ updated ]

I am currently operating on a bit of a delay. Maybe you haven't noticed or maybe you have. Sometimes the change of seasons doesn't go as smoothly as we'd like. That's when it's most important to make time to nourish our body and our soul!

Today I went for a walk. I’m fortunate enough to have a lake nearby and to have the opportunity to walk around it—especially during this time of year. Here’s the problem: that’s the first time I’ve gone for a walk, without a destination as my main motivation, in a very long time. But, I had to do something. Fall is usually a time of great energy for me, but this year Fall has me falling behind. It was like the battery inside just up and quit on me, and I needed to get the jumper cables out—afraid, as I was, that I would hook them up wrong or that it wouldn’t revive anything. I needed to break out of this uncharacteristic, fall funk.

My brother passed away at the start of September. That was unexpected. That felt like jumper cables hooked up wrong. The hole left by burrowing grief created a sort-of catch basin that collected all sorts of germs along with the rainwater, so that this month greeted me with not-so-cute, acute conjunctivitis and then tonsillitis and strep throat decided it looked like an opportune time to jump in as well. Being sick is bad enough. Being highly contagious is down-right depressing.

The grief from my brother’s passing worked subtly below the surface—nearly invisible, while those bombastic and flamboyant germs were like bedazzled rock stars trashing a hotel room. Despite their two very different approaches, they have carried on quite consistently and I thought that maybe I should stop trying to fight back. I started to think that I’d better just sit back and shut up until those relentless thugs found someone else to bug. 

This past week my husband brought home a bright yellow book for me that he thought might be interesting or possibly helpful, titled: You are a Badass, which is what he believes me to be and assured me that he meant it in the best possible way. I’ll have to take his word for it, though I feel like I should be riding a horse or at least wearing chaps and sporting a long mustache to qualify for “Badass” status. 

I’m only 70 pages in, but the book made me think I needed to get out the jumper cables, ignore my constantly red and drippy eye (yeah, gross!), and just put on some sunglasses and walk the dang lake. I finished the Zpack I was prescribed, yesterday. The eye drops are nearly at their end. And, there’s something about fresh air, nature, and exercise that I felt might band together to become the perfect bouquet garni I need—that somethin’ somethin’ that forms the basis for soups and stews but that we don’t actually see and can’t quite place with our taste buds alone. 

So, we’ll see what happens. I took the walk. I beat the rain that started falling just as I was getting to my car. I’m writing this down—another thing I’ve been avoiding as I took shelter in my cozy, curmudgeons-only cave. Am I on top of the world? No. Am I six feet under? No. Am I floating somewhere in between and forcing myself to look through rose-colored glasses—even if I have to blot my drippy eye occasionally? Yes. 

I suppose floating is better than sinking. 

So, the two things I am going to try to do more consistently and may suggest to you if you find yourself in a funk: 
walk in nature for no reason other than to get some fresh air (and possibly some vitamin D:), and 
write what’s on your mind if for not other reason than to get some of that stuff off of your mind. 

Walk and write. Walk and write. Oh—and be sure to wash your hands!!



Whitelam Books Meet & Greet

posted Sep 18, 2018, 8:34 AM by Colleen Getty   [ updated Sep 18, 2018, 9:04 AM ]

While I don't usually do more than one blog post a month--some months are just more prolific for a variety of reasons (as you can see) and so I thought it was worth writing about the recent Writers and Illustrators Meet & Greet organized by The Room to Write:

Over twenty writers and illustrators joined The Room to Write at Whitelam Books located at 610 Main Street, Reading MA for the September installment of our quarterly Meet & Greet, which is a free and casual way to get together with other local writers and illustrators of all genres and levels--this time with the added bonus of meeting Liz Whitelam, owner of Whitelam Books. Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions, introduce published books, share the exciting details about books soon-to-be-released, as well as purchase a book or two to support the important role that independent book stores play for local authors and artists.


There was a near 50/50 ratio of writers and illustrators, which is always refreshing and a great opportunity for connecting and possibly sparking future collaborations. A couple of playwrights evened out the mix! Several published authors introduced their books to those in attendance: Susie Rich brought several of her children's books including the timely DUANE: Don't Underestimate Any Natural ElementsCarol Gordon Ekster held up her latest children's book You Know What?Elaine Magliaro brought Things To DoMarcia Strykowski had her latest tween novel Roller BoyGloria Mezikofsky brought her children's book A Perfectly Snowy Day AND her illustrator (who happens to be her talented husband, Mel:), Sally Chetwynd had a copy of her first novel, Bead of Sand, handy while announcing The Sturgeon's Dance was coming out in November, Hayley Barrett talked about her picture book, Babymoon, being released on April 2, 2019 and sharing the excited anticipation for a new release was Rajani LaRocca with her middle grade novel Middsummer's Mayhem set to release in the summer of 2019.


It was a wonderful event that included sweet treats and even sweeter conversations with some talented individuals. Those writers and illustrators in attendance who are new to the publishing world or who are trying to gather inspiration and information as they increase their creative output enjoyed a warm and welcoming atmosphere in which they were able to do so. Attendees came from as close as "down the street,"Reading, Wakefield, Melrose, North Reading, Peabody, and as far as Bradford, Concord, North Andover, Somerville and even Framingham.

This Meet & Greet was sponsored by The Room to Write and located in space being generously provided by Whitelam Books with thanks to local artist Ned Connors for the accompanying image. 


   

The Eulogy

posted Sep 9, 2018, 9:28 AM by Colleen Getty   [ updated Sep 9, 2018, 6:30 PM ]

On a cold January day in 1974 a baby boy was born and along with him joy was ushered into the lives of his young parents who had prayed and anticipated his arrival for years. Today that child, now a man, leaves sorrow and a hollow longing with each of us here today. Sorrow does not mean we have lost hope or lost faith—but it does mean we have lost a kindhearted coworker, an old friend, a new friend, a beloved nephew, a favorite cousin, a fun-loving uncle, a cherished Godson, a big brother, and that precious baby boy who arrived just 44 years ago.

Each of you has gotten to know my brother Patrick in so many different capacities, but no matter how you knew him or for how long, chances are one word stands out in your mind that describes him: FUNNY. This quote posted by Patrick will give you a glimpse into the flavor of his humor, it reads, “I aspire to mediocrity. Why shoot for the stars, when the ceiling is right there?” 

He was never afraid to laugh at himself—especially if it made the people around him have a good chuckle, too. He was the eternal host and went to great lengths to entertain a crowd and keep people happy. While Patrick was not a large fellow, he lived large, he loved large and he laughed—boy did he laugh. He made me laugh. He made you laugh. That was his gift to each of us to keep and to pay forward. 

But a life cannot live on laughter alone. He had a deeper side and it showed up in his amazing art. I’ll never forget the gigantic wooden three-dimensional star that he took home from a discarded display when he worked at the Disney store. In perfect, creative Patrick style he turned trash into treasure. The star got a coat of solid purple paint on every surface. On one side he painted Aladdin and Jasmine riding a magic carpet. On the other side he painted the words of a poem he wrote for the girl he was dating at the time. That was Patrick. He went out of his way for grand, romantic gestures, to create something special and to put his heart and soul into gifts for family and friends. He was a jolly old generous soul.

Patrick struggled in more recent years as his health continued to decline. He truly did suffer for so long and yet his sense of humor was never far from the surface. His love for art and music and a good movie continued to be mainstays in his life. When we moved from Melrose to Wakefield—my brothers showed up in their new jackets: Ryan rocking Michael Jackson’s Thriller threads while Patrick got his mean on in Michael Jackson’s Beat It style. My brothers learned fast that just a town away can be a world away when youth “fashion” is concerned. 

Then there was the time when we visited an aunt who was elderly and whose sight was failing. Patrick was going through his long-hair stage and refused to cut it thinking it paired well with the long, black trench coat he wore. When our aunt looked at each of us with her limited vision and then turned to Patrick and asked, “Now, who is this nice girl over here?” Patrick couldn’t help but laugh along with the rest of us who, of course, were in hysterics. 

Having a sense of humor is mandatory in our family and Patrick polished humor to high art. He could talk to a hole in the wall and be quite charming about it. His stories were like live performances that you hoped you’d get a seat for. Stories and conversations were only interrupted occasionally to dole out carefully crafted compliments and undercurrent insults in equal measure to friends and family alike—but the insults were always so hilarious and innocently accurate that you had to laugh, especially since he was sport enough to often include himself as a target. His compliments left the person on the receiving end, smiling and seeing themselves in a brighter light. Pat lived to please.

He hosted “Football Sundays” at our parent's house and then his house despite knowing next to nothing about football but seeing it as a good excuse to get together with his friend Carl and brother-in-law George among other friends and family who happened to be available on a Sunday afternoon to eat, drink and yell at the television. Patrick was never a big sports player or fan, but in addition to leveraging football as an excuse to socialize, he wanted something to share with his hockey-loving friends. So, he decided to route for the Tampa Bay Lightning. His sole reason for getting behind that team was because he liked their team colors the most. Isn’t that how everybody picks a team to cheer for? 

When you think of color and Patrick many of us think: purple. When we think purple, maybe some of us think Prince. Patrick loved music. He loved Prince. He had every album. Patrick and his long-time friend Carrie always found the time, the money and the tickets to go to concerts for everything from Tori Amos to Lindsey Buckingham and, of course, Prince. Pat loved music so much he was known to grab the occasional microphone and belt a few tunes out at karaoke. Maybe some of you remember his Michael McDonald phase. And, I can see why he liked him. It’s good stuff. Pat liked good stuff.

Patrick had an answer for everything even if it was not the answer you were hoping for. My mother loves to tell of the time when he was a young boy and his swim instructor picked him up out of the water while turning to the parents in the bleachers to ask, “Who does this one belong to?” My mother hesitantly raised her hand, to which the instructor replied, “He’s trying to bargain with me!” My brother had been trying to offer up alternative options in lieu of having to swim the entire length of the pool as he was being instructed to do. Yes—that was Patrick. There was nothing to do but laugh about it and maybe even be a little impressed—the kid had guts.

Speaking of guts—Patrick has always had a love of all things horror and Halloween. He even had a subscription to Fangoria magazine. That was a bit of a bummer for a sister who was scared of her own shadow—but that was a bonus for both of my brothers as they teamed up to scare me with every jump, scream, and bug-eyed expression always satisfyingly authentic. Pat loved theatrics and so Halloween was the perfect holiday for him with his artistic touches and unique ideas for every costume. Good times! Good sister-scaring times.

But--he’s gone now. What can we do? 

I don’t have the answers for you. There is no app for this. There is no quick fix or button to press. But, there is always faith and honesty to fall back on. There is the ability to be present, to feel uncomfortable, to act awkwardly. There is being human in all its wonderful, horrible intricacies. And so, I and my family thank you all for being present even if you feel uncomfortable and fear you’ll act awkwardly. We all do, but the love shines through. Death is the thing we all try to avoid at all costs and yet it is the one thing that can really shake us out of our stupor and remind us to live honestly and with faith. Faith is what is going to bring my family through this. Faith is the one thing we can rely on when we humans disappoint each other—as we always will—being human and all. 

So, we ask for your prayers and to share in our faith that our Holy Father and Mother have been just as eagerly anticipating the arrival of the same baby boy, now a man, who arrived here among us 44 years ago. We have to have faith that They love him as every father and mother love their own flesh and blood, accepting him into their forgiving and loving arms with gratitude that he has arrived to live out an eternity with them and with a welcoming crowd’s-worth of friends and relatives—my dad among them—in paradise. 

So, please pray. Pray for Patrick. No matter if you’ve never prayed before—pray for him. Pray for his soul and for each of us here today that we will grow to understand we are unconditionally loved no matter how we leave. Pat’s leaving fills us with sadness, but his arriving can fill us with solace if we let go and allow it.

I was telling my friend how I found several blank canvases in Patrick’s apartment. I took them home to hang as a poetic way to pay homage to the canvas that was my brother’s life that seems unfinished. The art he will no longer make. The joke he will no longer deliver. The generous spirt we will no longer be on the receiving end of. There was so much left, still, for him to create and accomplish. 

Yet, while I was seeing things through the lens of loss and emptiness, Emily pointed out the potential of a blank canvas and how it can also be seen as a symbol of hope. Potential. Endless possibilities. We don’t have to dwell on the unfinished. We can choose to focus, instead, on the hope and potential that each of us—with canvases yet to fill—have sitting right in front of us today and every day. We can choose to be inspired by my brother and to get out a brush and paint the canvas each of us has been given. Fill it up with color and meaning, passion and laughter, and most of all: love. 






So Long--Summer, so long.

posted Sep 4, 2018, 12:16 PM by Colleen Getty   [ updated Sep 4, 2018, 12:18 PM ]

Summer starts out like a poem with all the potential of a blank page and the indecision of where to start—what to cram in. So many favorites to highlight along with the subtleties that stitch it all together into one soothing sheet of life-sustaining respite. With excitement and anxious anticipation, we set out knowing it will end but ignoring that for now and hopefully tomorrow. Trying to focus on what is in front of us—something we’ve shoved aside too many times. 

Ahhhhh . . . we sink, sip, slip, sleep, and summer. We summer. It’s the only excuse other than being sick that we can cling to and to which people can only respond with an understanding nod of the head and a quick flit of the memory to their last vacation and how they tried to block out the world beyond and just focus on the world in front—directly in front—of them. They understand. 

We all need a break from “it all” sometimes. And so, in the absence of something funny or moving to prose on about, I have written a poem dedicated to a summer that seemed so long and yet now is waving so long to me with its gentle pre-autumnal breeze and sinking sun:

Summer, so long it seems 
as feet set foot in June.
Sun seeps into skin with early light, late light—
days so long.

Vacation, so long awaited and anticipated
butts in chairs, toes in sand, heads in clouds.
The deep breath needed 
for so long.

Memories treasured, tinted, told and traded—
taken out of storage to walk and
be rewritten.

Forever waits up, tapping its foot
for butts, toes and heads to return.
Meat and potatoes and apple pie.
Holiday cookies, new year, new snow, new spring shoots
and summer,
so long.

(This blog entry is dedicated to the letter “S” without which much of this could not have been written.😊)

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 ]

Warning
: 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: 
http://www.theroomtowrite.com/the-writing/contests--submissions

(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

NAOMI CHERKOFSKY MEMORIAL CONTEST (NSPF)     

April 15

MA State Poetry Society

Ambassador of Poetry Award  

June 30

MA State Poetry Society

NAOMI CHERKOFSKY MEMORIAL CONTEST (MSPS)  

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.

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