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Happy Birthday, Gem State Writers

On April 1, 2011, Gem State Writers was born. Join us to celebrate our one year anniversary and what it means to us.

Meredith Allen Connor: This is the first time I’ve done a blog. I’ve enjoyed it – the commitment, the different perspectives on writing and the different processes we each have, the comments and most importantly the knowledge that I am not alone in this journey. Writing is so solitary and I live in a very small town. It’s wonderful to be able to connect to other writers. I’ve also found other blogs and authors that I enjoy through this blog – both from our guest bloggers and various comments made. We are a varied group of women writers and we each bring something unique to this blog and I love that.

Peggy Staggs: Gem State Writers is my first blogging experience. I’ve written lots of articles for newsletters, but a blog is different. Not only are others reading it, they’re making comments. I do love the feedback. I enjoy the exercise of coming up with a new topic every other week. Sometimes it’s a challenge and sometimes the topic presents itself. I always worry whether my contribution provides some insight and help to those who drop by.

Having a set day to blog gives me a taste of what it’s like to make a deadline. I’m a stresser. I have to have a month or two in the can or anxiety sets in. A year later, I’m not any less apprehensive, but I am getting better with pumping out the blogs, so the stress balances with productivity.

Speaking of balance, when I’m considering what topic to tackle next, I remember Janis. Her blogs are deep and meaningful and I have to follow that act. I’ve decided to be the fluffy sweet stuff that follows the rich chocolate cake of her blogs. My therapist would be so proud.

Clarissa Southwick: For me, the best part of blogging is the sense of community it builds. I’ve met some fascinating people through the readers and guest bloggers. I love how the GS writers support one another both on and offline.

Mary Vine: I was surprised and honored to be asked to join Gem State Writers last spring. At first, I knew it would be hard to get a blog written every two weeks, but I had a few saved that I could use in a lurch. When I ran out of the extras, I learned that I can write new blog posts every two weeks as the more I created, the more I was able to do (especially if I had my mind on a topic and started a few days ahead). I love the name and have enjoyed getting to know the others in the group through their blog posts. I like reading all of the comments each day, and have met new folks; Florence is one who comes to mind. I’ve learned more about the writing craft from the daily bloggers. I’ve learned that being part of a blogging group is a far less lonely venture and makes for a more interesting site.  I’ve learned that asking a guest blogger is not as simple as one would think as you have less power over getting a blog in a timely manner.  It’s been a great year!

Liz Fredericks: I’ve never participated in a blog before joining Gem State Writers. Heck, I don’t even keep my Facebook page up-to-date (and I hear plenty on that point from my daughters).  I’m fairly reserved and the ‘post everything about your life’ environ is sometimes shocking to me. So, I’ve made an effort to include stuff from my professional life as well as a few personal journeys. Actually, though I hope to have contributed something to others, I’ve probably benefited to an even greater degree.

It’s an injustice to attempt a summary of the depth and variety of my colleagues’ contributions. We’ve had blogs on nearly every aspect of writing and publishing as well as rich content on the region and its history. Each of us contributed a personal take on our physical community as well as the communal genre from which we each draw inspiration and to which we direct our efforts.

I expected to learn from the other GSW folks . . . I was totally overwhelmed and thrilled to learn so much from commenters. We’ve heard from people across the country and built new relationships from their generosity in stopping by and reading the occasional post.

This is my first attempt at blogging and it won’t be my last because it’s kept me writing when it seemed easier (and more politic) to give up. Thank you everyone for this past year.

Lynn Mapp: I can’t believe it’s been a year.

I’m going to be honest.  I reluctantly served as president of a local writers group.  The reluctance stemmed from having to write an article every other month.  That was every other month, stress on every other. With Gem State Writers, I write an article every other week.  I am gritting my teeth.

Writing had fallen off my “to do” list.

Dealing with the grief of my son’s death drained me.  Getting through each day is a task.

It’s simple.

I blog to force myself to write.

During the past year, I’ve learned I can generate an idea and write on the subject.

I take my commitment to the other members of Gem State Writers seriously.  More importantly, I love reading what the members of the group post.  They inspire, motivate, and share.

It’s been a good experience for me.

Johanna Harness: Being part of a group blog is great for me because it holds me accountable.  I’ve blogged for several years, but never on a regular schedule.  Usually I’d blog only when I couldn’t fit my thoughts into a 140-character tweet. If I kept getting asked the same question, I’d blog about it.  My experience was very casual.  Now that there are others expecting a blog post from me every two weeks, my writing is a lot more even and I’m building up a body of essays I can use for other purposes.

I recently used one post as a writing sample and I turned another into a longer essay for a contest.  I’ve also started keeping a file of ideas for blog posts and I use that file for other writing as well.  The biggest reason the experience has been so positive is because the people I’m blogging with are amazing.  I’m so lucky to have been asked to join and I’m looking forward to another year.

Janis McCurry: The first twelve months of Gem State Writers passed so quickly. When Clarissa first broached the subject of a blog group, I thought, “Me? What do I have to say that anyone will be interested in?” You see, I was born in Boise, love it, and I don’t believe the grass is greener anywhere else. But, that means I’m not a world-traveler who has relocated as a military child like at least two of our members. Neither do I speak multiple languages like two of the members. I haven’t lived overseas and been a dog sled driver like one of our members. I’m not a musician or a photographer like two of our members. I don’t have the sacred responsibility of teaching today’s youth like three of our bloggers. I’m not published like three of our bloggers. I’m a writer who hasn’t heard the call.

I like the commitment of blogging every other week. I also like receiving comments about the subjects that fascinate me. Or enrage me. I like the communication and learning from people I may never meet. I always hope my contributions make a reader think just a little more about the topic. It’s important to me that we’re all connected.

Happy Birthday, Gem State Writers!

 
11 Comments

Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Blogs, celebrations, community, Idaho, writers

 

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Making Connections by Johanna Harness

Two years ago today I wrote the first tweet that sparked the #amwriting community into life on Twitter.  Today, the energy within this group continues to blow me away. To celebrate the hashtag’s birthday, more than 25 bloggers have signed on to post photos, essays, short stories, poetry—gifts for the community from the authors who participate there.  The idea of a blog party only came to me a few days ago. I posted the idea—with very short notice—and writers jumped in with enthusiasm.  (I say we have more than 25 writers because every time I attempt to get the number right, more writers join in.)  Today, as part of this blog party, I want to share with you one of the many reasons this community is vital to me as a writer in The Gem State.

Idaho is big.  There are not a lot of writers near my home.

If you live outside The West, you might not realize just how big Idaho is.  Heck, a lot of people who live here can’t quite grasp it.

Southeastern Idaho is full of farmland and small towns. The rivers chisel right through volcanic basalt and the waterfalls will take your breath away in the springtime.

The Sun Valley area boasts movie stars and resorts, but drive a few miles farther and you’ll find campgrounds filled with trailers and tents.  The lure of The Sawtooths crosses boundaries.

In Southwestern Idaho, we have mountain scenery to take your breath away. We also have deserts and sand dunes. We have sagebrush and evergreens, sometimes co-existing.

Central Idaho is farther north than many Southern Idahoans ever venture. When I was living in Lewiston, Idaho, we had a politician tell us he’d crawl all the way up Highway 55 to Lewiston to get our votes.  Yeah, funny, since Highway 55 doesn’t go north of New Meadows–and Lewiston is another 2.5 hours north from there.

There is no interstate connecting our state from North to South (or South to North, depending on your Idaho orientation).  But before you get cocky and think we’re backward yokels, I remind you that America’s deepest river gorge runs through the middle of our state:

And the prettiest drive you can imagine is the one between Lewiston, Idaho and Missoula, Montana.  Highway 12 is the kind of beauty that makes me use swear words as adverbs:  ____ beautiful.

And you want geothermal?  We do claim part of Yellowstone–and we have these great old hot springs resorts. (That’s not even counting the amazing undeveloped springs.)

But wait. Don’t start thinking Lewiston is North Idaho.  And don’t start feeling you’ve seen it all just because you’ve traveled Highway 12.  It’ll take another 2.5 hours to drive up to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (where you’ll find Interstate 90 cutting up from Missoula, MT).

Now you think you can just cross over into Canada from there? Think again.   You want to zip up to Sandpoint, Idaho?  It will take another hour.  Of course, you have to see both Coeur d’Alene Lake and Lake Pend Oreille while you’re there, so you’re going to need more time.

From Sandpoint? You’ll still have to drive about an hour north to get to the Canadian border.

To drive the direct path through Idaho, from South to North (or vice versa, depending on your Idaho orientation), it will take over 14 hours.  That’s in the summertime, when roads are good. And on that route, you’ll miss that whole big, beautiful portion of the state near Yellowstone National Park. You’ll miss The Sawtooth Mountains. You’ll miss that gorgeous stretch of Highway 12. You’ll miss the wilderness, the rivers, the sand dunes, the boat trip up Hells Canyon. My heart breaks with all the things you’ll miss.

Idaho is my home.  I love it here.

And yet I need the community of other writers.

So every morning, I get up before dawn and switch on my computer.  By the time the Boise foothills glow with morning rays, I’ve chatted with authors all over the world.  By the time the sun sets over the Owyhee Mountains, I’ve finished a good day’s work in the presence of some of the smartest people anywhere. And I’ve managed it all in the gorgeous solitude of my home state.

Thank you, #Amwriting. Happy birthday.

If you’d like to continue on the blog party, the next stop is the blog of John Ross Barnes.  John is an integral part of the #amwriting community and I look for his tweets every day.  His blog is: “Love This Life, Onward Through the Fog.”

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2011 in community, Idaho, twitter

 

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Birthday Foxes and Epiphany Trees

Why do you write? What prompted you to take that first step – to set pen on paper, finger on key – in telling your story? Learning the why and what of a writer’s journey allows each of us to explore dimensions of will, discipline, and fortitude. Why do intelligent people sacrifice enormous amounts of time in a potentially anonymous venue to engage in an activity that bores the average human being to mindless rocking.

Trust me on this.

I hear agonized howls from adult students when they’re charged with writing a couple of pages for an assignment. And we volunteer to write – not for a grade, not for money, not for glory (though the latter two may tantalize), but cuz we must.

The writers who’ve shared their thoughts with me often capture aspects of nature that resonate – cycles, beginnings . . . closure. Nature drives us to write as much as it provides fodder for the conflict and motivation in our stories. So, let me tell you about my birthday fox and epiphany trees.

Redfish Lake, at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains, stuns visitors with its beauty. The lake defines the cliché ‘crystal clear’ and draws all manner of wildlife. I’ve been visiting this area since I could walk. Every few years, luck and haphazard planning meant that, as a child and adult, I could wake up on the morning of my birthday and walk to the lake to see the sun come up over Mount Heyburn. I shared this vista in my dragon story a few days ago.

However, five years ago, I didn’t make it to the lakefront on my birthday morning. I was knee deep in a ‘coffin countdown’ moment. You know – contemplating gray hairs, neck wattle and forehead lines, then considering the length of my ‘if only’ list. If you haven’t had one (or more) of said moments, then you can’t claim three decades. I sat, wrapped in my imaginary cloak of pity party red, on the porch of a rented cabin. Sipping at a nasty cup of coffee and trying to get bars on my cell phone – further evidence of my despair and the universe’s punishment – I waited for the horde to wake up and demand breakfast. At a slight whisper and vague movement, I looked to the right.

The fox busied itself for several minutes looking for mice, maybe scavenging for marshmallow remnants from the s’more frenzy of the previous evening. I thanked the fates that my cell phone had a camera and captured his image. I watched, shivering off and on in the damp morning air, as the fox went about its routine. What was so mundane to this charming animal was a gift rivaling anything I’ve received in life – save for the birth of my children. A reminder. Serendipity.

The birthday fox reminded me that we never know what surprise may bless us next. At that moment, I decided to knock off an ‘if only’ or two. I would jot down stories from the batch that nagged at me. Aside from the occasional assignment in an English class, this was my first step. As silly and self-indulgent as another might see it, I needed to do this. We never know what might come of a first step. We always know when we fail to try.

So, I wrote my stories for a month. Then, every few weeks. Within three years, writing was something for another time, another week, another year. I went about my mundane schedule, much like my birthday fox, only I don’t think anyone was finding inspiration in my actions. One day in late April two years ago, on my way to another meeting on something serious and forgettable, I looked up.

I watched these trees bloom for ten springs, marveling at their twin beauty every year. But I only saw the trees once a year. The remainder of the time, the trees’ cycle was rote to me. Leaves turned green, morphed to fall colors, then blew away in the first winter storm. My epiphany was so obvious and simple that I’m faintly embarrassed to share (but what the heck, here goes).

We need to grab serendipity, see it, and hold on. Tenacity and perspective. I can choose that rote existence and mark each anniversary. Or, I can see the mundane, make it new, and capture that moment in words. I can choose to remember my fox and see my epiphany every day. Now, I write for hours every day. Yes, some of that writing is heavy, researchy, and decidedly mundane. But the rest? I see romantic suspense in every scandal . . . and a paranormal, extra-dimensional ride in the most innocuous headline.

Why do you need to write? What prompted you to start?

What birthday foxes and epiphany trees keep you going?

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Idaho, wildlife, writing motivation

 

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