nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

places for writers … writing desks

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‘writer’ and ‘desk’ … a likely pairing of words …  a writer may have many desks, but does the desk have a writer?

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In our home are five desks, four for me.

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the writing desk in my guest room

The desk in my guest room is the neatest, used only for addressing Christmas cards in December. A little desk, it has a lamp, a box of stamps for personalizing cards and envelopes, a ceramic dog that once sat on my desk at work, a tiny gecko bought for me in Milan by my oldest brother, a cloisonné sea-shell from my sister, and a hand-blown glass purchased with my husband in Ontario. Quite by accident, these items are all orange and green. I sit at this desk every morning, to look at the eastern sky and plan my day. I never write fiction or poetry at this desk.

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my desk in the loft

The desk in the loft is my official desk. This desk is oval and was given to me by my youngest brother – it originally belonged to my aunt. It has a lamp, a small fountain and a jar of simulated fireflies from my son.  I keep a few ongoing projects here, including a stack of pages where I store tidbits of information remembered from my life. If I come across a vacation memento or a scrap of paper kept from some event, I record it here. One page per year … 61 so far.   This desk is equipped for writing. Nearby is a dictionary, a thesaurus and a keyboard for my iPad. No poems or fiction, however, are written at this desk. This is the desk I clean when I haven’t written for a while.

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my messy desk in the library

My third writing desk is oak, very old, and has a leather top. This desk holds a lamp, my computer and printer, the modem, and a USB dock for e-books, iPad, camera, Bamboo drawing surface, and a small USB-driven fan for warm days. Add a wonky stack of paperwork, sorted at tax time, and a mouse with 2 square inches of space to manoeuvre. This desk is always a mess, has no space for pen and paper, and somewhere in the desk drawer is a Tamagotchi that hasn’t been shaken in fifteen years! Lots of poems and thousands of words of fiction are written at this desk … not so much written as pecked out, in three finger combinations.

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my lap desk

My fourth desk wouldn’t get a mention in a furniture inventory. It is a beaten-up plastic lap desk, scavenged from my son and re-covered (it used to have a dinosaur pattern) in a fern-patterned fabric. This is where my pen and paper writing gets done, usually in my living room chair, sometimes at our camp and occasionally outside in our yard. It has room for my rough book and a small ledge to hold a pen. It never needs tidying and slips neatly into my writing bag. It has supported the writing of poems, books, blog posts and letters. I love my lap desk.

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Do you have a writing desk or desks?  Where do you prefer to write?

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Copyright 2015 Jane Tims

 

Written by jane tims

May 20, 2015 at 7:10 am

‘Outside-In No. 2′ – bringing the outside into our homes

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I have submitted another painting to Isaac’s Way Restaurant, for their 24th Art Auction and Sale.  This event will run from May 24, 2015 to September 20, 2015.  The proceeds from the auction go to sponsor kids-in-need for theatre lessons.

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Looking for a theme for my recent work, I decided to do a series of still life paintings about the many elements of the out-of-doors we bring into our homes.  This includes items collected on walks, motifs on fabrics and metals, small statuary and so on.  My second painting in the series is ‘Outside-In No. 2′ – a still life of books, a jar of potpourri, a metal bird sculpture, pine cones and my fern curtains.

For the painting, I used Chromium Oxide Green, Burnt Umber, Titanium White, Phthalo Blue, Cadmium Yellow and Quinacridone Magenta. I finished some surfaces in the painting with Golden Polymer Medium (Gloss) to give some items shine and a smooth texture.

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Jane Tims 'Outside-In No 1' May 2015

Jane Tims ‘Outside-In No 2′ May 14, 2015 (24″ X 20″ acrylic, gallery edges)

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The first painting in the series was ‘outside-in’, currently displayed in the 23rd Art Auction at Isaac’s Way. It features a moss terrarium and dragon sculpture.  There are still a few days remaining in the 23rd auction (until May 24, 2015) so if you are local, it is a great way to own some original art and contribute to a worthy cause!  The paintings in the auction can be seen at:

http://isaacsway.ca/art/

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Jane Tims  'outside-in'  February 12, 2015

Jane Tims ‘outside-in’ February 12, 2015 (24″ X 20″, acrylic, gallery edges)

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The canvas for my next painting stands ready on the easel.  Now, to look around the house for some out-of-doors items to include in the painting!

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Copyright  2015  Jane Tims  

Written by jane tims

May 18, 2015 at 7:10 am

places for writers … writing workshops – part two

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Sometimes the ‘place’ experienced at a writing workshop is the local area, the community where the workshop is held.  I wrote this poem in 2014 after a writing workshop at WordSpring in Saint Andrews (New Brunswick) …

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'oak leaves and acorns'

‘oak leaves and acorns’

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encounters

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on a windy night

in Saint Andrews, a toad

out of place, hop-toddies across

the street

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also, on Prince of Wales, a deer

pauses on the sidewalk, stares

up the hill, and I hesitate

before driving on

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in the Algonquin, a light

switches on, in the room I know is mine

and a couple huddles on the hotel porch

their attitude more suited to summer

than a night when leaves skip

mottled across the street

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Previously published in ‘writing weekend’, June, 2014,  http://www.nichepoetryandprose.wordpress.com

Copyright  2015  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

May 15, 2015 at 7:51 am

places for writers … writing workshops – part one

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St. Thomas University workshop ‘Understanding Our Stories’, facilitated by Deborah Carr, 2015

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For a writer, spring is often a time for attending writing workshops. Last month I attended part three of a workshop about writing life stories. In the next couple of months, I plan to attend short courses as part of the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick’s WordSpring weekend, and a workshop about nature writing ( http://www.natureofwords.com/writing-workshops/write-in-nature/ ).

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Partly because my current fiction project ‘Crossing at a Walk’ is about a writers’ retreat, I have been thinking about the spaces where writing workshops are held. I have attended workshops at hotels with comfortable meeting rooms and lovely gardens. I have also been at workshops in huge community auditoriums and cosy private homes. One year my writing group went to a retreat at the Abbey in Rogersville in eastern New Brunswick and experienced simple dormitory surroundings in a very spiritual setting.

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Some of the rooms have been so noisy or full of echoes thinking is impossible. Some spaces are quiet, meditative.  Auditoriums can be freezing cold. Workshops in summer can be stifling and hot. I remember one July week at the University of New Brunswick during the Maritime Writers’ Workshop … every writer in the poetry workshop had an electric fan. Our instructor shook her head and said, ‘Those poets, they want to carry their own space with them!’

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I think the most variable aspect of space in the writers’ workshop is the ‘chair’. Some are comfortable, built to allow both body and mind to relax.  At one workshop the designer chairs were so flimsy, I spent the entire time worrying I would fall to the floor!

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Although I have attended many workshops on writing, in many different spaces, I continue to benefit from these experiences and to learn more about the craft of writing.

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  1. Every workshop facilitator or leader offers a unique perspective on approaches to writing. It is rare for me to leave a workshop without some new technique or method for improving my writing.
  2. Writing workshops cover a variety of themes. I am a writer of poetry and fiction, but I have received some of my most valuable training from workshops about writing screenplays and non – fiction.
  3. Learnings can be so simple, obvious even. For example, it seems I have to be reminded, over and over, to try techniques such as writing from the perspective of various characters.
  4. Workshops create an opportunity to meet other writers. Meeting old and new friends and renewing past acquaintances is a constant source of inspiration for me.
  5. The workshops I attend contribute to my own history of being a writer and demonstrate my interest in the writing community and in improving my skills as a writer. Even retired, I continue to build my resumé since publication and grant applications are an important part of my writing life.

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Hot or cold, noisy or quiet, on chairs designed to break backs or to summon comfort, the workshop space itself can be a source of experience and inspiration. A lot of those chairs, cold spaces and pinging echoes have found their ways into my writing. For some reason, the places I encounter on the drive home from a workshop also make it into my poems.

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Have you attended any writing workshops and has the workshop space influenced your writing for better or worse?

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Copyright  2015 Jane Tims

spring orchestra – downy woodpecker

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'female Hairy Woodpecker'

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sticky tongue, tail prop, zygodactyl feet

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beneath the key of chained song (chick-a-dee

whistle, robin melodic and whitethroat

mnemonic, wheezy phoebe, junco click) –

grubs mumble, coil in rotting wood

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beneath low woodwind, blazing brass and string –

jagged percussion and drum roll, Downy

Woodpecker excavates sugar maple

stump, black jackhammer

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beak throws wood chips, heaps sawdust and splinters

dapper shudders, black and white, a grey smudge

bright head-bars, a red blur, tap a stammer

steady stutter, busyspeak

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Copyright 2015  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

May 8, 2015 at 7:33 am

navigation – guest post by Rob Hughes

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I am so pleased to welcome a guest in this post.  Rob Hughes is a former colleague and friend, now retired and keeping bees, hobby farming and trekking around the Maritimes.  In this post, Rob writes about finding your way in the landscape.  Welcome Rob! 


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Rob 1

(photo credit: Rob Hughes)

 

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Whiteout

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In the noise of white the blurring snapped

the normal drive detached

flipped and pulled my brain on bungies

In a spin or floating

zigged

away –

disconnected, inverted, spinning somewhere –

Somewhere, in a nagual line of space.

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A pinch of view, a scrap

as I groped not knowing –

a bush? Something, please – then

zag.

I see and am unswallowed, spat back out,

land again in what must be reality

Tonality

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I drive on frightened, woozy from the warp of time and space

The white took over.

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The poem is an attempt to capture the scary vertigo that can happen when driving in a whiteout. We can lose normal visual cues and suddenly, what was familiar becomes a trip into the unknown.  While usually only lasting seconds, it can feel like dropping down the proverbial rabbit hole.   It’s a powerful lesson in how we are constantly checking where we are in the world, and how quickly our inherent navigation system can go off the rails when the inputs are messed up.

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These days there are more ways than ever to help find your way around. People still get lost.  Map reading might be in danger of becoming a lost art.  Let the GPS take care of it.  Nice, but you might get disconcerting voice commands to turn here, or there, even when the maneuver is patently impossible.  The trouble is that those devices are not thinking.  Most of us know of hapless travelers sent into the backcountry mire on a short cut.  You could be better off with a map!

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Rob 2

Ski orienteering in Odell Park, Fredericton. (photo credit: Jenny Hughes)

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For years I have enjoyed turning navigation into adventure, exploration, exercise and fun all at once through the sport of orienteering.  There are lots of drills to help with how to visualize terrain, choose the best route, and then memorize it, so you can concentrate on navigating through the real world without having to refer back to your map every twenty seconds.  It’s a lot of fun to locate landscape features along a route deep in unfamiliar forest.

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Rob 3

Rob (right) and team-mate Steve finishing the E2C, a 24-h rogaine held annually in Nova Scotia. (photo credit: Halifax Search and Rescue/Orienteering Nova Scotia)

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After orienteering for some years, there came a sort of craving for more… a kind of classic addiction response, presumably.  Enter rogaining.  Yes, it really is a word, and the internet is there to prove it.  It’s a perfect fix for navigation junkies.  I have made some great map and compass buddies in this sport, in which teams of 2-4 spend up to 24 hours seeking control locations in the backcountry, sometimes covering the distance of two marathons in the process.   No electronic devices, just map and compass.  The sport has a kind of quirky mystique that draws aficionados from all over the globe to the biennial world championships, often held in spectacular settings.

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Rob 4

The logo of the International Rogaining Federation. It depicts the sport well – day and night, up and down, footsteps…. (credit: International Rogaining Federation)

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Spring in the Maritimes is marked by an annual pilgrimage to take part in the Eco-Endurance Challenge, held in Nova Scotia in April or early May and organized by Orienteering Nova Scotia and Halifax Search and Rescue.  This is often a very difficult and wet rogaine, but popular with hundreds of local map heads.  Who knew finding your way could be so addictive?

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5. Dawn forest scape at the 2009 Australian Rogaining Championships held at Wandering, Western Australia.  A memorable navigation challenge!

Dawn forest scape at the 2009 Australian Rogaining Championships held at Wandering, Western Australia. A memorable navigation challenge! (photo credit: Rob Hughes)

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Copyright 2015  Rob Hughes

Written by jane tims

May 6, 2015 at 7:00 am

spring orchestra – fee-bee

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Carving of the name Phoebe on a beam of the Tantramar #2 Covered Bridge near Sackville, New Brunswick

Carving of the name ‘Phoebe’ on a beam of the Tantramar #2 Covered Bridge near Sackville, New Brunswick

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Phoebe

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unknown, she nudges

her way into Monday –

carved name in the covered bridge

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Black-capped Chickadee pipes

fee -bee, hey-sweetie

(bored with chick-a-dee-dee-dee)

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and Eastern Phoebe, rasps fee-bee

whee-zy, Phoe-bee

black bed-head, smuggie throat

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unknown, Phoebe nudges

her way into Monday

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Copyright 2015  Jane Tims

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one of the usual visitors to our feeder ... the Black-capped Chickadee

one of the usual visitors to our feeder … the Black-capped Chickadee

 

 

Written by jane tims

May 4, 2015 at 7:10 am

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