Just call me Helen….

Friendly Fall note here about an upcoming reading by participants in my Short Form Creative Writing Class at The Troy Arts Center. We’ll be in the Black Box Theatre from 7 to 8 PM next Friday, Oct 28 for Troy Night Out. Join us!

Here is the list of readers: Linda Berkery, James Carr, Deborah Hrustich, Dr., Cindy Insero, James Marchetti, Teri Mayor, Rosemarie Nash, Zachary Stewart, and Sara Weeks.

Then the second session of Short Form starts the week after. Spots are still available! I thrive on facilitating the creative writing process and these classes have been so rewarding for all of us. If you’ve been with me or not yet, you can always join because I don’t repeat and there aren’t any prerequisites. Details below.
November 3, 2016 to December 15, 2016 — 06:00 PM to 08:00 PM

In this continuation course, students will keep the pen moving. Once we’ve got writing down, we can look at what form could help us move it along. Poems, blog posts, flash fiction, creative non-fiction, status updates – we’ll make it all. Don’t worry if you think you don’t write in a certain form (or much at all). We will generate new, fresh writing then work with these pieces to create a “finished” piece. *The prerequisite of Short Form I is NOT required to take part II* NO CLASS 11/24


Full Fall

Already! So this will be quick because it’s not even officially Autumn yet. I’ve been waiting for the soil to cool down in order to plant and that is happening any minute. The pots of newbies and envelopes of seeds piling up are ready to go. So let’s just add that to the list.

Still the revision of the manuscript, which I’m committing to getting to the agent this season (having thought the last one might be it), is always and ever right under my fingertips. The Troy Arts Center Short Form Writing Workshop I’ll be leading in two sessions starts next week on Sept 15. The last weekend of the month I’ll be joining a gaggle of other writers in CT for Courtney Maum’s The Cabins inaugural retreat. For this I’ll be presenting on writing the self, writing the political via views into Teju Cole and Claudia Rankine. Then there’s that book I’ve said I’d review, and I’m mentoring some writing students and clients whose work is heating up. Oh yeah, we’ve got to deal with a whopper of a ground hornets’ nest.

I don’t think this is the species in our yard, but here’s a video of a wasp hauling a cicada up a tree. Enjoy!

courtesy wikicommons

Fall? Fall.

The day after the Summer solstice I feel the turning of my corner of the planet from the sun. It’s always just there over my shoulder: the contraction of days, the purging of nectar that is itself an apotheosis. Yes, it’s still August – and not even fully mid-month as yet! I have travel to come and that manuscript I’m ever revising to finish (I WILL send this back to the agent by end of September, I will). I haven’t got summer semester grades in for gd’s sake. But I sense it, don’t you? It’s coming. We see ourselves in the future before we get there, often with varying degrees of intention. What images come unbidden. Which ones do we devise.

All this to say, if you would like to schedule yourself some writing time in a workshop with yours truly, why not now? Now, that is, for then.

I’m leading two sessions of Short Form writing at The Arts Center in Troy, NY. You can take either or both. I led this last late Winter and it went swimmingly well. In fact, those participants are invited to come back! No repeats, save for the repetition of showing up to the page, to a writing practice, to our memories and imaginations. The first session begins September 15. Here are the details and you can click on the title for more.

Short Form: Writing Creatively Without Worrying What To Call It – I

September 15, 2016 to October 20, 2016 — 06:00 PM to 08:00 PM
Member:151 | Non-Member:168 Enrollment Max: 16

This course is designed to get the pen moving. Once we’ve got writing down, we can look at what form could help us move it along. Poems, blog posts, flash fiction, creative non-fiction, status updates – we’ll make it all. Don’t worry if you think you don’t write in a certain form (or much at all). These exercises are designed to get us to write first, then ask questions later. We’ll come away with a mini-portfolio of short pieces.


Hummingbirds, Moths, & Analogous Convergent Evolution

Astonishing creatures, these nectar sucking fast movers. Every shot I got was not able to capture the wings in anything other than a blur. We’ve had the good fortune to have the company of a ruby-throated hummingbird grace us with frequent visits this summer, so when this particular friend buzzed me as I moved near the Bee Balm one day  I thought it was hummy stopping in for a feeding. Fortunately, I had my tote slung over my shoulder and could wrangle my phone out of the bag to manage a handful of shaky one-handed shots.

The species of this beauty is Hemaris Thysbe and was first described as such by Danish zoologist Johan Christian Fabricius in 1775. It’s likely that the red band on the furry abdomen evoked Thisbe’s blood-stained scarf in Ovid’s Metamorphosis for the insect lover and observer. Ill-fated lovers did not come to mind watching hummoth hover for the nectar in the balm; this passion was surely fulfilled.

The hummingbird moth and the hummingbird are examples of analogous convergent evolution. The latest common ancestor in each did not carry the hovering flight behavior and yet they each, independently, converged on this trait.

Why do I go on about this? It is a note to self to remember there are forces greater than I can imagine at work in the world. But if I get lucky, I get a glimpse.*

*Which is not to give short shrift to the imagination, nor poiesis (humans making), but to bow before mystery. Yes, awe.

Revision Comma June

That is the gig folks. That’s what the writer is doing this summer: revising the current manuscript. Fortunately it’s also gardening season and the similarities are striking. I wheedle my fingers down into the dirt, feel which leaves or shoots need picking off or what roots need more room, scan the yard for where to put all those overflowing pots of lilies and Rose of Sharon sprigs that are taking over. This bodily relating to world with an eye toward shaping is perfect training for writing. In fact, finding wormholes in the manuscript where I can enter, plant, water, pluck feels so kindred to the circling the house I do on a writing break, spade or water can in hand, that the processes are beginning to blend together. If I am stymied in one area (Stymied gardening you might wonder? Why yes. No clue what to do with all those extra lilies – really.), I move to another.

Siri Hustvedt writes about her relationship to these living things, to her garden, in an essay called “Flowers”. For her this engagement is pre-reflective; it precedes language. In this way it is a reprieve from the narrating, naming mind. I quite agree. I love that lingering in the flora of the world helps me to bring my creature-self to the word.

Now, what to do with those lilies. IMG_9055


New Work, Reading From


There’s audio coming, but meantime I’ll note that this past afternoon at Olana was such a boon to my practice. There’s nothing like getting new work up on its feet in a room with an audience to feel just what the heck you’re up to, amirite?

Matthew Friday showed slides and spoke about his place based collaborative work and the ecology of human-land interaction and the fantasy of returning to the Garden. Thems my words on it, but I think they are suitable to give an inkling. Something like thinking we will return the starlings to the birthplace of Shakespeare is fallacious in the way that we will never remove the non-native species from our backyard let alone an entire region so it really is time to adapt and invent.

Then I read two new stories. One had been published in The Brooklyn Rail (thank you fiction editor Donald Breckenridge), but the other is entirely virgin and 100% in the vein of the current manuscript I’ve been working on for a few years now. It features my partner (in real life Jon Lathrop who was also in the audience and snapped the above pic) and is me attempting to live my politics. Or just how does one live as a political individual who also wants to (needs to) earn an income? Soon as I’ve got it answered, I’ll send it off to the agent. Poet Matthew Klane was there with his wife Amy Nowak and apparently Matt said to Jon that he (Jon) really is the hero of the story. That makes me my own anti-hero. Too true.

Amy Hufnagel and Chris Funkhouser and Lori Anderson Moseman and James Carr from my Arts Council writing workshops and Lee Gough who curated the afternoon were all in the room. Others, too, and Sumac beverages. We talked a lot of shit after and then a few of us went up the hill to see Frederic Church’s paintings connected to Humboldt’s pre-Darwin cataloguing of the natural world. And now I’ll get back to that manuscript…


Yeah, that’s all I got for clever as far as title goes. Short, sweet, true. Same as this post. Just popping in here to note a few things….

First is about my last interview for the last issue of Bookslut. I’ve so enjoyed talking to other writers for this venue. Here’s the link to my conversation with Mary Rakow on her lyric novel This Is Why I Came.

Next is a reading notice for a May 15 gig at Olana with writer Matthew Friday. From their site: “Friday and Benson make art about landscape and commerce: What is our currency; what is spent? What will we declare when we take inventory of our landscape through travel and notation? What cultural edges and borders appear in maps of our resources?” This takes place Sunday, May 15 from 1 to 3 pm. If you’re in the Hudson Valley, consider coming up the hill for it.

Olana South Facade