Sometimes I Teach

A little over ten years ago I was employed in one of my favorite jobs to date- school library manager.

Through my position, I was able to encourage more young readers, and on occasion, worked on collaborative story creation with them.  We created shared worlds inspired by what they were learning in class, and after school, I led a small shared world writing workshop (as well as a kids’ NaNoWriMo and other book-connected events, but that’s a story for another time).

It’s the collaborative and shared writing times that I enjoy most.  Working with the group on a shared theme, or simply writing at the same time, modelling the practice of writing- including stumbling blocks and changing my mind (or is it the story leading me elsewhere?) gives me great joy, and sometimes leads to stronger writing.

In the last few years, I have been able to bring that love of writing to a new group of kids through after school workshops at our local school (my own pay-it-forward project, I never charge a fee for this group).  I dubbed the most recent incarnation “Stone Soup Storytellers”, and we created an All-School play with adapted folktales, including Stone Soup, of course.

Most recently, I brought back the theme of Stone Soup and adaptation for a POV workshop with our Uppers students (grade 4-6, some of whom happened to have originally worked on the Stone Soup adaptation), and with our school adaptation of Into the Woods coming up, we’ve been focusing on fairy tales as our inspiration.  With our Middles (grade 2-3) I simply chose randomizers- but since this is me, my writing took a bit of a folktale path.

I present below *my* stories- may they entertain and inspire your own words.

(Feel free to use the images and links in this post as inspiration and share your own tales in the comments!)

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There is a beautiful tradition at my son’s school involving the gift of a stone that everyone has held and put their loving thoughts into. This is my Stone, gifted to me after our production of Stone Soup Stranger. I carry it with me always, and I always shall.

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Words from the well…

And so I’m back…

Words have not been flowing so easily, yet the old well is full.  Perhaps a draught, a draft, a 17 year old vintage to slake our thirst…

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We are the music makers,

We are the dreamers of dreams

— Arthur O’Shaughnessy

Colors, costumes and castles– my life as a ceremony, a celebration.  Endless images imbued with the water– a fountain of fantasy, a seductive spring in a real realm- of myth and man, magic & meniality, marvels & mediocrity.  Two worlds as one, but broken by boundaries.  The sane & the sleeping, awake and dreaming, haunted by heaven– a heavy hell indeed.  Dreams draped in orchid organza and olive organdy, as empty as the o’s that they begin with, or the notes that rise from an organ–there, but not; full of feeling, but not tangible.  A story with no end, a journey with no bend– always new beginnings, always reaching that point that was beyond sight, beyond reach– never settling down at a destination– that is our destiny.  Simple Solutions Slip from our sight, from our fingers– difficult to grasp.  Stars soften to swirling snowflakes, descending as dancing dust particles, perhaps persons on another plane.  These pearls of poetry & prose, word building upon word, images form, dimensions unfold, kingdoms land at my feet– each gem raw & radiant, waiting to show their worth– some are cast aside, some forgotten.  Prizes for a princess, memories for a maid.  Colors muted as they struggle to shout their sagas; stones with stories silenced when there is sight, but no vision; beauty lies in details, seen and unseen.  Truth is subject to who, wealth, & whimsy- fact just is.  With all the whimsy of my world, there is winter in a walnut, streets in a seashell, gold in a grape, all true for a moment, for me, no more.  Moment means milenium, month, and microsecond, as time is relative as it relates to me– a manchild to mold, a parent to provide, a crone to chronicle all I cast off– a family given to me, though often not what I need, but there when I do.  Ah, solitude, not silent, but screaming– things to do, though still I sit.  Too much time tempts me, halts me, holds me– no longer the parent, but the paramour– presenting pleasantries a plenty, too many to pick from that I lose my place– where am I?  What to do?  The words don’t come as easily now, not for randomness.  Images return, organized stories wish to be heard.  Shall I listen, shall I look, shall I restrain them by writing them in a book?

Golden verse, flowing from a fountain pen,

Jeweled words, smooth, faceted, each stone letter placed in its own finding,

Finding its place in a piece,

Finding harmony in a whole

The color fades

Here

There

Only a hint of glimmer as stones drop from their settings,

Stars sleeping in the skies, blinking as the light of day dawns,

And the orb outshines her adornments

(c)  2000  Kerrie Colantonio (not yet McNay)

All Souls…

“A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.”

Soul Cake

Today is the feast day known as All Souls’ Day.

A while back I shared a poem I had written for my grandfather (for all grandfathers, of course, but especially for him).

Today I’d like to share a letter I wrote to a man I never actually met….and never will.

Encouraged by Angi Sullins– the magnificent Muse of Duirwaigh Studios– in her Once Upon a Time online workshop, I wrote this letter to my Benefactor, Douglass S. Parker.

Why would I write a letter to someone I had never met and never will?

I think the letter explains it all.

Dear Doug,

I never got to meet you.

We only “met” in email correspondence, and one dream, though brief and suddenly gone. I meant to visit, for your retirement celebration. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I should have. Because now you are gone. You died. And I didn’t know. I tried to get in touch with you again, to share news, but never heard from you after some time in 2007. So I’d like to try this- writing to you. Thanking you. Learning from and with you. Exploring together worlds others plop down cash or credit card or library card and cast away or return or pass on. But we- you and I and others, I think- we go there. We understand the local language, customs, rituals, and more. I want to expand and delve and share what I’ve learned. From them. From you. From myself. You seemed interested, intrigued, by my enthusiasm. I think I got you excited, too, new angles to approach, new worlds to find. I hope in all of my energetic, “look at this!” messages another message came through. “Thank you!” Thank you for showing me the first map to a world I had visited but didn’t realize I could explore, or even stay a while. A map. A key, unlocking new doors, in learning, in creating. I made so, so many more connections, however brief. I stepped out the door, key in hand, and headed down an unknown path, Bilbo and Frodo and Dorothy and Lyra and you by my side- your footprints in the dust, the dirt, the path, next to mine. You’d already set out, and left a lampost to guide me, to show me the path, There, and Back Again. You left me Lookfar, for the watery route, for finding, alone, my shaddowy self, my gebbeth. You left me a mirror, a couple of Oracles, to question, to pass through the gates, to seek the answers in my soul. To show my self my soul. To show- not tell- me, all I needed, all I need, is my self. To open that door, to return home, to draw my own maps, write my own adventures, and share them. With them. With you. For you. For me.

Thank you, Doug. Thank you.

Much love and gratitude to you, sir.

Love,

>Kerrie

“Self-Inflicted Fairy Tale”

One more for today… I wrote this poem days before the release of Ever After, and had no idea how close I was to the last line of the film.  The first of a series of three I’ve written so far, this originally untitled poem speaks to me lately, as I live vicariously through the art of others, calling it “seeking inspiration”, instead of making my own.  A bit about the series:

S.I.F.T. Series (Self-Inflicted Fairy Tale)
These poems were actually written in pieces, months apart. The first I wrote days before the premiere of Ever After- I freaked out when I heard the end of the movie, as it was similar to the end of “Self-Inflicted Fairy Tale” and I was afraid people would think I stole it. I’ve even kept the email I sent to my then boyfriend (now husband) in for the date-stamp! The second one I wrote summer 2000, frustrated with computers and their place in my life. I think I actually drew a picture first, then wrote the poem. The last one I wrote in February 2001, at work, just after reading one of the essays in Kate Bernheimer’s book * Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales,* the one on Fitcher’s Bird and Bluebeard, then I realized the sifting is in Cinderella too, and then it’s the initials of my poem series. Weird!

All of them are about my life- the first and last have heavily to do with my work life at the time I wrote them and the dissatisfaction I had with it. I grew up with a heavy interest in fairy tales, to the point I tried to live them. If I had to do chores, I was Cinderella. If I needed to get to sleep, I became Sleeping Beauty. If I felt imprisoned, Rapunzel was my company. In college, I was called Cinderella because I would wear a kerchief on my head and, after I finished washing the floor in my quad, ask my dorm mates if they wanted theirs washed. I was that into it. As I’ve become more interested in adaptations, read the more PC versions, the adult versions, etc., I’ve been trying to find my own identity outside the fairy tales, but cannot associate or write without them. I find writing about real life difficult, or less satisfactory, unless there’s a bit of them there.

Hopefully the words will flow again soon.

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“Page fright, Dancer’s block…”

I’ve had a lot of “writer’s block” lately (not for lack of ideas- I have too many to complete in my lifetime!), so I thought I would share with you a few of my poems about writing.  They will be included in Cracking the Nut, a collection of poems inspired by ballet stories and dance in general, as well as a revised edition of my first self-published chapbook, Twisting the Glass.  May these hands of silver move across the page again soon.

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A pantheon of muses…

From one of my many works-in-progress, Hallowing / Hollowing the Ash.*

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So much to inspire,

    song,

        poetry,

            dance,

                portraiture,

to personify it all would create

        a pantheon

    of muses.

    Their essence,

            the minutae,

when does the inspiration end,

    and the art begin?

© Kerrie McNay, 5/25/08

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I haven’t yet decided which to use- it’s a collection of poems inspired by myths, legends, and various sacred texts, so either could work.

“You are dancing for us…”

Rustling what remains of their skirts, veils,
Juniper and pinion/sycamore show me how
to finish my dance.
Raising my arms, the wind molds me
as it does the trees,
Just so.
You are dancing for us, not them.
Follow us, this way.
If you travel down this path,
we’ll show you how you appear to others,
what you really are,
inside,
to us.
Come back tomorrow, once you’ve passed
through (the mirror of) Tonight,
shimmering twilight lifting the veil
for you to pass,
a little of its magic coming to rest upon
your shoulders.
You can never return home,
but you will find it,
changed,
on the other side.

(c) March 2002