Maternal Mitochondria: The Ghost Print

Isabel and I started off our collaboration in the new year by warming up–timed writing, suminagashi, and project overview. We’ve been using Korean acrylic marbling ink plus traditional sumi ink and turpentine. The effect is really changing and it is quite exciting. Essentially these look like modern monoprints, but they are pulled off of water.




You can keep printing after the first–the effect is paler in all monoprints but with the suminagashi it tends to create the more usual ripple effect, which can be quite lovely.

Does writing have a ghost print? We figured not. Our timed writing a la Natalie Goldberg method is less organized than the finished product. In contrast, the sumi gets less organized, more chaotic, as it goes.

Think about this. In whatever art or craft you practice, is there a ghost print created by a second try?

Creative Writing at SFCC: Come Join Our Fiction Classes!

There are spaces in Intermediate Fiction (English 225) at SFCC this fall. It’s aimed at focused development of craft and stories. Russ Whiting is the instructor—and I’ve asked him to talk about the class below.
There are still a very few spots left in my on-line fiction class (English 221)—take it from anywhere in the world! Focus is on flash fiction. Terry Wilson’s writing class (English 120), always a jump start, is also open to a few more folks.

Check out

And feel free to ask me directly about our AA, certificate, and individual classes at:

Interview with Russ Whiting

What are the major one or two things students will learn in the class?

I hope that students take away many things from the class, but I suppose the main thing we learn is  that writing is a craft and a practice, and we get better at it each time we go to the well.  The course is built around practice and I see my job as a facilitator or coach to prompt each student’s best writing.  The second thing I try to impress upon students is that the story, whether short or long, is the most important element.  We can work out the details as we share and critique as a group.  We work on ideas, plot, description, dialogue, point of view, and all the necessary elements of the story, but the most important thing is just going for it.

Will you address longer forms of story like the novella or novel, or mostly short stories?

I like all the forms that stories take and it is up to the students to decide which forms suit them.  Often, a short story can be a chapter or an outline of a novel or novella, so everything is fair game.  I will definitely discuss the difference between them, what is selling in the market, what editors and agents are looking for, and how to build each form and what each includes.  I’ve lined up a New York agent to do a phone interview with the class and answer questions about how the literary world has changed and what really works for readers.

What is your opinion about the central challenge that writers face?

I grew up on a farm and worked on ranches, doing the toughest labor you can imagine, but writing is still the hardest job I’ve ever done.  As a newspaper editor and reporter, freelance journalist, and now fiction writer, I think that shaping words to tell a story, entertain, educate, and elicit a visceral response in the reader is the ultimate challenge.  We want it to “sound” beautiful, have characters that jump out of the pages and become real in our minds, and tell a story that somehow matters.  In order to do all these things, we have to sit and write, usually alone.  Overcoming the obstacle of our own inertia is probably the toughest wall we have to climb, but that’s what the class is for.  We learn that we are not alone, that there are specific things we can do to break the resistance, and ways to trick the muse into action.

Anything else?

Only to say that I really love teaching this class.  We become a community of artists.  I have students who have published novels that began in this class, script writers who are producing short films and entering them into national contests, and even one student who is now teaching creative writing at a college in Missouri and continuing to write her own novels. It always gives my writing a boost and I want to be able to do that for other writers.

Creative Writing at Community College

Check out Santa Fe Community College’s creative writing program for fall. There are some spaces left in our classes. Terry Wilson is teaching her signature class, Exploring Creative Writing (English 120). She says:

“I run the class workshop style, so students often get to know each other quite well. Many of my students have had their essays, stories, poems, and even books published. Writing Creatively is a perfect class to take to enter into SFCC’s Creative Writing Program because in it, you can experience many different types of writing and begin to develop a discipline. Or if you’re a more seasoned wordsmith, you can use the class to keep writing, keep getting feedback, and keep developing your skills!”
Wednesdays at 6 pm

And Terry is teaching a FREE intro class. She says: I wanted to let everyone know that I’m teaching a free creative writing class at downtown library on Monday, Aug. 3 from 5:30-7:30 pm.–it’s an Intro class in case anyone wants to know how “happening” my SFCC English 120 class is! 😉 And by the way, we do a lot of memoir writing in English 120 (Exploring Creative Writing) in addition to fiction and other non-fiction. So check it out, y’all!

Shuli Lamden is teaching poetry on Mondays at 5:30 pm. This class rotates among several teachers, so this is a good opportunity to study with her. That’s English 222. In general, Shuli’s approach emphasizes the relationship between the writer and the world, and metaphoric connections.

Just a few spaces left in my on-line intro to fiction class. This is taught with a flash fiction approach. Expect lots of exercises to develop plot, character, setting, dialogue, conflict, and resolution—in bite sized pieces. English 221. It’s on-line, so you can write in your pjs if you like.

My twice a week Memoir class (English 227, Tues/Thursday at 1 pm) is basically full—but if you watch registration sometimes a spot opens up. From diary to personal essay, this is an intensive writing class that is subject driven. What is your autobiography in food? Politics? Nature? How do we know what is “true” and should we even care. A look at the eternal questions of memoir writing, with critique groups, lots of feedback, short and long forms, and inspiring reading.

New Class with Terry Wilson at SFCC: English 120

Interview With Terry Wilson about her upcoming creative writing class at SFCC

The Writing Creatively class is the most fun thing you can do on a Wednesday evening! The class starts on August 27 and runs for the 16 week semester; class time is 6 pm. till 8:45 pm. There are no prerequisites, and the class is worth 3 credits. The grading is Pass/Fail, and you can register for it online at; by phone (call 428-1000); or in person by going to the Enrollment Center. SEARCH UNDER ENGLISH TO LOCATE IT. It is English 120.

My approach as a teacher is to encourage my students to do as much freewriting as possible, and to create a supportive atmosphere in the class so students can break through their writing blocks. For our text, we use Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones; I feel that every student has important stories to share. The group is quite varied; some are new writers, and many are writers who just want to maintain a discipline so they keep going with their craft. We write memoir, fiction, and poetry, and sometimes students even pen songs and rap tunes during the class. I employ different exercises while we’re together so the time we spend is enjoyable: one example is a scavenger hunt where we use “found objects” to write about. We also go to Blue Corn for one class during the semester, and during this session, we blend non-fiction and fiction by writing about the food in front of us and its smell, taste, etc. as well as the noise and music we hear around us. Then we mix that into the creation of a fictional story about one of the customers in the restaurant and something that we imagine happening to that person, good or bad. We do “color walks” in one of the first weeks, so students are focusing on the sense details around them. Sometimes we also put a costume on and become a character that we then write about! In general, though, we generate a lot of new writing material, especially during the first 8 weeks of the class. During the second 8 weeks (after mid-term) we continue to freewrite, but we focus more on character, plot, setting, and dialogue. We also critique pieces if students choose to do that. At the end of the semester, we often create a class book of stories, poems, and memoir pieces. We have done public readings at the end of the term, too.

In terms of my background as a writer, I’ve had about thirty pieces published in literary magazines, newspapers, and journals throughout the US. I’ve done stand up comedy in Los Angeles, and I also wrote and performed my own one woman show at El Museo a few years ago. I recently completed a memoir called Confessions of a Failed Saint which I am now marketing. In addition, I’ve performed many autobiographical monologues in the Southwest, and I have presented my work each Monday evening at El Farol during Poetica.

I run the class workshop style, so students often get to know each other quite well. Many of my students have had their essays, stories, poems, and even books published. Writing Creatively is a perfect class to take to enter into SFCC’s Creative Writing Program because in it, you can experience many different types of writing and begin to develop a discipline. Or if you’re a more seasoned wordsmith, you can use the class to keep writing, keep getting feedback, and keep developing your skills!

I’ve loved teaching English and Writing Creatively at SFCC for the past 19 years, and I can honestly say that this class remains one of my all time favorites. If prospective students have any questions for me, they can contact me at Thanks!

To see Terry’s book, CONFESSIONS OF A FAILED SAINT, click here.

Teaching and Something Else Entirely by Devon Miller-Duggan

Teaching and Something Else Entirely

At this year’s Associated Writing Programs convention (first time I’ve ever gone and it turned out to be the opposite of the MLA—at AWP folks are nice to each other and have a good time), there were a huge number of sessions on Creative Writing Pedagogy. I started to get really nervous, because I had never thought much about it and mostly just used Stuff I Like and tactics that I found nurturing in workshops I took when I was younger and try not to muck around with my students’ brains and hearts. So I did what I always do when I get nervous about something I think I might not know enough about and I bought every book I could find on the subject, read a couple, and put the rest on the pile of to-reads that mostly never gets read. And I went to a couple of the sessions—both focused on different versions of how to deal with it when a CW class finds itself dealing with students whose neuroses are scarily/uncomfortably/disturbingly dominant in the classroom. They were both very good sessions, but by the time I had listened to a bunch of other writers talk about doing what we do in colleges around the country, I glommed onto what I should have figured out in the first place: CW Pedagogy is a field that exists because Academia needs to have people Thinking And Writing About It so it can justify itself in a world that increasingly depends on justification-by-documentation. But most other folks are happy to read it and talk to others about it because we all like to share/steal/riff on each others’ good ideas. And it’s not a bad thing that folks are writing this stuff down. But most of us are mostly just using Stuff We Like and tactics that we found nurturing in workshops we took when we were younger (or the Writers’ conferences we escape to) and trying not to muck around with our students’ brains and hearts. Which is damn fine work if you can get it.


Teaching and Something Else Entirely.2

I like the old exercises—persona poems, found poems, color poems, list poems—those fairly simple, mechanical strategies to get students started. I tend to mash them up with forms—mostly sonnets because I have a great faith in the ability of the sonnet, with its tight mechanics and organic rhetoric, to teach a great deal about how to wrestle with words. But mostly I like those old, hoary writing prompts because they do build skills sets, which are pretty much the muscles of writing. I also love complicated, radical, oddball prompts (Peter Murphy, who runs a bunch of really wonderful Writers’ getaways in various places east of the Mississippi has a genius for crack-your-brain-open prompts). But in Intro Poetry Writing, I tend to lean on the oldies-but-goodies. And sometimes something sublime happens. Here’s one of those, by Kaelin Falandays. It’s a sonnet made of found material (in this case Foer’s novel Everything is Illuminated, so the source material was already rich and literary, but still…):


Memory: a bird crashed through the window.
Truth: I mourned for you without speaking.
A shadow of the bird crashed through the window.
Here I mourned for you. Without speaking.
Yesterday: A bird crashed. Through the window,
I mourned for you. Without speaking
truth. A shadow of the bird crashed through the window.
I mourned for you here. Without speaking.
Without speaking you must believe me,
a bird and its shadow crashed through the window.
It will happen again, you must believe me.
I mourned for you through the window.
It is dusk and I dream of flight.
Then of my own death. I dream of flight.