Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Karma's often been waiting at the porch door with this recent heat wave--hehe! Still supposed to get up near 30 degrees for the next couple of days. Foggy morning today.
Big excitement yesterday! A new online friend--Sue from Alaska--suggested we do a kind of artsy/crafty trade. This huge box arrived--my goodness! Wow!
She even sent dried leaves we can use in the handmade paper.
I snapped pictures as I pulled things out of the box.
Lots of collage items!!

Some instructions and sample sheets she keeps of what she has done...
...and look at all these hand-painted cards!!
This is what was in the zip lock bag.
I transferred the dried leaves in a bag right away so Leah can take it home and put it with our paper making supplies.
Just so exciting! Thanks so much, Sue!! I can hardly wait for Leah to see everything tomorrow night! You have definitely inspired me to try some collage/painted paper work like you used on some of your cards. Awesome! Thanks!!
I got the email newsletter yesterday from John Reid. My interview was the first thing! I will see if I can cut and paste it here:

Interview with Rita McGregor -- Grand Prizewinner, Tom Howard Poetry 2009

When did you start writing poetry?

I started soul-wrestling on paper when I was about nine years old to help me sort out my path and keep my sanity, but didn’t try writing poems until we studied them in English class in high school. The number of poems I had written since I was a young adult could probably be counted on one hand. As an English Writing major I took a poetry class at MSUM with Mark Vinz because I was encouraged to stretch myself as a writer. I wrote “Baby Girl” as an assignment for class.

How did you arrive at the subject of your winning poem, "Baby Girl"? Was it based in whole or in part on personal experience?

This happened one winter day on my bus ride to school. I had started carrying a small Moleskin notebook in my backpack to jot down references to things I saw and heard—and what I had thought about. I usually pick events that meant something to me—that touched me in some way. I love those light bulb moments in life—whether they are epiphanies or quick flashes.

How many drafts of the poem did you make before you finally reached the perfect final?

I was brand new to computers at 48 years old when I started college in 1999—discovered cut & paste and have written on a computer ever since! Greatest invention ever! Since I am basically a creative non-fiction writer I start at the beginning of the particular story I want to tell and slowly work and rework my way to the end. It is a very slow process for me. I start from the beginning--over and over—tweak and tweak—sit staring at the screen remembering—try out phrases and words to see what fits most accurately. I can even take out sentences, phrases, or paragraphs and store them on a blank word document—or save different versions. So much easier than using reams of paper handwriting--crossing things out, drawing arrows, cutting up pages to save parts and throw others. I have no clue as to how I could even count drafts because of my particular labor intensive, repetitive process. And, in my excitement, I still sent the copy where I misspelled aisle! (Makes me laugh and keeps a person humble.)

Approximately how much time did you spend writing and polishing this poem?

I think I was working on this poem for around 10-14 days for a class assignment. After I have finally made it to the end, I leave it alone for at least a day, preferably longer. Then I can come back to it with a fresh eye. If I can do that repeatedly for double checking there will come a time I can make it thru the story without tweaking. Then I know it is done.

Have you tried other areas of creative writing?

I started out kind of diary journaling—soul wrestling—hashing things out on paper until I could understand the whys—and I never stopped. I’ve also been an avid letter writer and verbal storyteller all my life. I prefer to think of it as sharing my path—hehe! A lifetime of freeform, stream of consciousness writing didn’t prepare me for professional, polished writing for strangers in college. (As you can tell, I developed a lot of bad writing habits over 50 years—probably why I am more comfortable blogging.)

I think my only saving grace was I have always been a reader, too. Not that I had knowledge about all the wonderful writers I was introduced to in college—but I’d read a cereal box if it was in front of me. I went to college thinking I’d take up Social Work and got such encouragement for my writing that I changed my major and had dreams of an MFA in English Writing.

Have you enjoyed any previous successes?

I was at Concordia in Moorhead, Minnesota for three years. Won first place in a couple of the contests at Concordia—published in their student literary magazine. Was encouraged to submit to literary magazines my sophomore year by my mentor, Doug Carlson. I nervously sent out 30 submissions of a short story called “Soft Breaths”. It was eventually accepted and published by Inkwell Magazine, Manhattanville College, New York! And then again by The Troubadours Lantern, Woodstock, Illinois—and later by Red Weather, MSUM, Moorhead, Minnesota.

My health was quickly failing. I transferred to MSUM so I could continue as a part time student, but I was physically unable to graduate. I have basically been living as a recluse of sorts with my cat—housebound—for the past five years. Had a poem published in the local paper (won an over 50 writer’s contest shortly after I left school)—“I Mourn My Body Past”. But, other than that, I haven’t been writing in any professional manner for five years. The way I write—just too labor intensive for me physically to sit at the desk computer for hours anymore. Recently a lady I met online years ago looked me up, had always remembered “Baby Girl”, and out of the clear blue sky offered to enter it in the contest for me because I couldn’t really afford to myself. So I thank Barbara Elliott Carpenter for her faith in me as a writer. This is my greatest success!

Any words of encouragement that you'd like to share would also be much appreciated.

It’s never too late. Dreams can come true! Have faith and trust in yourself—your own voice. Write from your truth. Believe it when people encourage you. And when a door opens—walk through it!

I wondered how I could ever manage to physically write again. With the miracle of winning this contest, I have been given the gift of a possible solution. I just bought a nifty new laptop and have reinvested in myself as an “author”. No matter what else happens in my life—this was glorious!! I thank you from the bottom of my heart.


I worked most of the day yesterday on my February update for my art blog. Was actually on time this month--hehe! This afternoon Caroline comes to clean. Tomorrow is already Craft Night again--tada! Seems like this last week just sped by so fast--in a good way. :) Time to pick up cat toys...


Leah said...


Going through top to bottom, yeah, I bet Karma's in and out, in and out... ;)

That is a really BIG box! Those are great fall leaves, that "Open It" is exactly what I was talking about to get you, I have one for openning those clamshell plastic packages. Good thing I forgot to look for one when I was at Target the other day... :D:D:D It works awesome! Well worth the money. I wonder what those syringe looking things are on the left?

Anyway, everything looks great! Although it's always better to see it in person and I look forward to that tomorrow. Thanks Sue from Alaska! :D

Thank you kindly,

Intense Guy said...

Wow! This blog entry is a two-four! (That is, two for the price of one!) since you have both the huge box of wonderful goodies and the nifty interview in it!

Hmm, Karma? You are getting to be a plain "regular feature" these days... you might want to dream up something new ok? LOL! Okay - so blame me when the cat starts acting (more) freaky alright?

:) Can you really use dried leaves? I could always send you a truck load of 'em...

Oh... by the way... in simple numbers (like in hours) "approximately how much time did you spend writing and polishing this poem?"

You can't slip by me with one of those "politician-like" answers! :)

Leah said...


I doubt she even remembers, she wrote that poem years ago while she was in college.

Yes, we can use all of those leaves, we like them like that, beautifull fall colored leaves are the best I think, but green are good too. Also nicely pressed leaves are great to use on things! It will probably take us quite a few batches of handmade paper, but I think they will look great! Make great bookcards!!!

Maybe Rita should do a shout out for some fall leaves each year on her blog from her readers, to send us cool supplies for the following year. Neither of us have a yard so there isn't really anything to collect unless you go around stealing from public parks or something. ;)

The only thing would be that they have to be completely dry before they are sent or they will start molding/decomposing in the mail. Well back to work for me... :(

Thank you kindly,

Rita said...

Hi Iggy!
Ha! I probably should have waited until tomorrow and split them up. I might not have anything to say now on Wedensday--hehe!

Karma has been so focused on the porch lately all she does is go out, come in, eat, sleep (being outside in the chill is exhausting), and go out again. She (or myself, for that matter)hasn't been doing anything too interesting or unusual lately--LOL!

I think we have enough crumbled dried leaves to last us for a long time. What we could really use are the flattened/pressed dried leaves and flowers. Throwing them inside an old phone book until they're dry works really well. ;)

Ha! There was no way I could give even an approximate number of hours. Politician-like! I could take that as an insult, you know--ROFL! True--I was skirting the number answer--but trying to explain why I didn't know (like with the drafts)--hehe! :)

So good to have you back, Iggy! :):)

Rita said...

Hi Leah!
Wait till you see all the goodies! Much to look thru. And-yes-I wondered if that was the scissor thingie that you had just mentioned to me last week! Cool!

You can use the syringes for paint. With watercolors they can be used for a wash and with acrylics you can dribble or kind of write with them. There are probably more uses for them, too. Cool!

I wouldn't have been able to tell numbers for the drafts or the total hours even back then--ROFL! When I say I used to get lost in time--I mean that literally. ;)

If I do a shout out--it would be for pressed leaves and flowers. We have enough crumbly leaves and plants to last us a long, long time, I think. But we don't have many pressed leaves and hardly any pressed flowers. Remind me to do that in the spring.

We should really go around town in the early fall when the leaves are first changing and look for leaves to press this year. You know how we especially love the red/orange maple leaves. And the pressed green ones stay a little pliable for a while to do that watercolor technique. We should try that inked and pressed on cardstock again, too--like you did with the ones you have framed in your bathroom--silver on cobalt blue paper. I love those! I shouldn't chat here--I should email you--duh! LY

AliceKay said...

Wow...lots of goodies in that box. I'm sure you'll put them to good use, too.

Great interview. :)

(Karma cracks me up)

Unknown said...

That was a great interview.

The syringes are for squirting watercolor paint or water on or across your painting held sideways to make water effects. The idea is from a painting show on the educational channel. Gary something.

I normally would have pressed the leaves, but forgot, so thought Rita could use them in her paper. I have another batch that's pressed. The wallpaper is to paint or not and use for book covers or whatever.

Glad you enjoyed it!

Rita said...

Hi AliceKay!
Box filled with discoveries, that's for sure! :)

Rita said...

Hi Sue,
Thanks--glad you liked the interview.

Gary Spetz. I have a DVD of his and did a painting from the DVD and he used syringes for washes, yes. You can also kind of dribble or draw acrylic paints with them, too. I've seen it somewhere on youtube.

I love that the leaves kept so much color! Should retain the color in the paper pulp. :) :)