FINDING WORDS OUTDOORS

After spring arrived, I left my dim lamp and leather chair by the indoor fireplace to find a spot outside on the front porch to write in the warmth and light of the sun. The perfume of purple hyacinths infused my new workspace. Ornamental pear trees along the block also added their powerful scent. Noisy traffic and chatty passersby occasionally drew my eyes off the page. But I liked being outdoors and writing with paper and pen.

During the colder months, I composed mostly on the computer in the quiet house, which had the advantages of climate control and proximity to coffee in the kitchen. The need to do housework was my biggest distraction. But I would rather put more thoughts in a notebook than empty a dishwasher.

Recently, I joined two other local writers on a backyard patio for a mini-submit-a-thon. We expected a morning of sunshine and short sleeves, but gray clouds kept the temperatures cool enough for jackets.

A slight outdoor glare made our computer screens difficult to see as we transferred words from legal pads and spiral notebooks. Pollen stirred. Our cast iron table wobbled. I discovered a scratch on the left lens of my new sunglasses.

But on the plus side, we worked amidst the backdrop of a budding peach orchard. Rows of outstretched branches ladened with pink blossoms extended across the field. From afar, the delicate flowers looked like puffs of cotton candy. Up close, the blooms resembled elaborate marzipan on a wedding cake.

Counting how many flowers each tree held would be a feat. But we were gathered in the space of chirping robins and a sleeping dog to tally words, clarify meaning, improve passages, and send our work to various editors.

During winter and inclement conditions, our group meets via conference call, but weather permitting we prefer to assemble outdoors. The farm landscape slightly changes in between our gatherings. But as the orchard grows, our writing does, too. At our upcoming meeting, I expect to see pink petals on the ground and rows of fruit trees thicker with green leaves.

At the same time, our grove of writers’ notebooks will be spread across the glass tabletop and thriving with new cursive scribbles of metaphors and plots.

–cawk

READING EACH SENTENCE FEELS LIKE KNITTING ONE MORE ROW

Thanks go out to author Stephanie Pearl-McPhee whose humor and insight recently led me back to knitting.

I picked up her 320-page book “At Knit’s End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much” during one of those rolling snowstorms in February thinking I could reflect on one meditation a day for the rest of the year. But I was wrong.

Reading the entries with willpower was like trying to eat one jellybean or grape or piece of chocolate from a full bowl. Each time I put the book down and walked away, I couldn’t stop myself from returning to read “just one more page or two” until the book ended.

And then all I wanted to do was knit.

People respond to prose in various ways. The greatest compliments for me as a writer are when people tell me they craved soggy tomato sandwiches after reading my food essay on the topic in Bay to Ocean 2018 or that they couldn’t keep their minds off eggplant after reading my piece about cooking the vegetable posted on Philadelphia Stories.

Connecting with readers is a joy. And as Pearl-McPhee reminded me, so is knitting.

–cawk

FAMILY FAVORITE EGGPLANT RECIPE

Philadelphia Stories recently posted “Making Eggplant Disappear” as an online bonus to their magazine. For readers who are interested in making the Eggplant Caviar recipe that my family enjoys, here are the instructions:

EGGPLANT CAVIAR

1 large onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped

4 plum tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup dry white wine or chicken broth

     Sauté first 3 ingredients in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add eggplant and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomato and remaining ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Serve warm or chill up to 1 week. Serve with crackers or toasted pita bread triangles. Can also be served in a pocket pita as a sandwich.

     Yields about 3 cups

To read “Making Eggplant Disappear,” visit the Philadelphia Stories website at https://philadelphiastories.org/article/making-eggplant-disappear/

BOOK FEATURES ‘HERE/NOT HERE’ EXHIBIT

Here/Not Here: Art and Poetry of Place’ is available in paperback and hardback editions.

Salisbury University Art Galleries has published a book celebrating its exhibit “Here/Not Here,” which was on display July 17 through Oct. 17. The show included works by 18 artists including Michael Amato, Lani Seikaly, Eve Hennessa, and Marcia Wolfson Ray.

     In addition, poets were invited to write and submit ekphrastic poems inspired by the art. Pictures of artwork from the exhibit and ten of the poems are included in the book “Here Not Here: Art and Poetry of Place,” which is available in paperback and hardback editions.

     A virtual poetry reading moderated by Salisbury Poet Laureate Nancy Mitchell was held Oct. 15. Among the featured poets, Susan Donoghue read “Brittle Bones,” inspired by Stephen Borko’s digital photograph Family Plot. Matt Hohner read “Rumbley Maryland,” inspired by Jonathan Nepini’s oil on canvas Hooper’s Island. And Paula Lambert read “Abandon,” inspired by Wil Scott’s digital photo Abandoned Farmhouse. I read my poem “Book,” inspired by Richard Paul Weiblinger’s archival digital print Old Book with Butterfly 1434.

     Other featured poets include Lennart Lundh, Joan Drescher Cooper, Tara A. Elliott, Mary McCoy, K. Serenity and Gail Peck. Other artists include Petra Bernstein, Michel Demanche, Camila Franco Ribeiro Gomide, Richard Hall, Pat Lang, Mehves Lelic, George Lorio, Lake Roberson Newton, Peter VanderPoel and Scott J. Whitman.

     Although the exhibit has ended, books are available for purchase in the SUAG online store at:

https://my-site-101612-102435.square.site/product/here-not-here-art-and-poetry-of-place/7?cs=true

LOCAL FLARE A MUST READ

One of the best ways to find out about a region is to read books written by local authors. Seeing a place through their eyes brings forth an invaluable perspective.

When traveling, I search in local book stores and gift shops for souvenirs that I can read later about the people, places and events I’m experiencing. A collection of poems, a literary review, a cookbook, a biography – usually authors have written something about the area where they live. The books are like supplemental tours, adding to my memories and feelings about a place.

Keep in mind that great writing doesn’t always come in the form of national best-sellers. Taking a chance on the words of a lesser-known writer or turning the pages of a local literary journal can yield pleasure, too.

Historical societies often sell books written about a town’s past. Newspapers also provide a glimpse of life in local areas.

Consider reading more than the classics and best-sellers this year. Attend a reading event at a public library or a book festival for local authors and invest in a budding writer.

–cawk

RESOLUTION TO READ

A few years after I graduated from college, a colleague asked me what book I was reading. My answer shamed me. Although I boasted a healthy diet of reading magazines and newspapers, I had not read a book since before my bachelor-of-arts diploma arrived in the mail.

With no new books to read in the house, I headed to the nearest bookstore, which at the time was Waldenbooks at the mall. I spent several hours scanning the bookshelves and glancing at back covers before settling on a best-selling paperback novel about an older man who dies leaving his wealth to the younger woman he is dating, and his children get upset. I don’t remember the rest of the storyline. But reading that book felt good.

When the tale was over, I returned to the bookstore and purchased a more complicated novel. The book kept me mesmerized, and I continued to purchase book after book. I watched the collection grow on my bookshelf and took pride in my page-turning accomplishments.

Since my post-college, book-reading renaissance began, I have logged every novel, biography, romance, non-fiction, self-help and western I have read. The total comes to about 263 books with an average reading pace of about 12 books a year – not bad for a slow reader who has been volunteering and raising two children. But I can do better, and I have.

In 2016, I set a lofty goal to read 24 books – which is about one every two weeks. I failed, with only 10 books logged for the year. My goal for 2017 was cut in half to 12 books, but I triumphantly surpassed a book a month and read 16 that year. In 2018, I read 23 books with a goal of 18, and in 2019, I bested my goal of 25 books by reading 31. This year’s goal is 40 books.

I feel better about myself when I read.

Reading is an exercise in listening, paying attention to details, calculating actions and consequences, testing my memory, stirring my emotions, educating and entertaining myself.

Carving out time with a paperback has become an essential part of my day – and for that I feel no shame.

–cawk

BOOK LAUNCH INTO NEW YEAR

A few weeks ago, the Eastern Shore Writers Association launched its 2019 edition of the anthology Bay to Ocean with a luncheon and reading at Doc’s Sunset Grille in Oxford, Maryland.

A thick blanket of fog obscured the waterfront view as members of the organization and their guests chatted over lunch. But as writers took turns at the podium to recite poetry, essays and fiction from the new literary volume, the murkiness outside evaporated with each applause to reveal the scenic coastline.

That’s how my stories are written. I begin with a foggy notion of a tale I want to share, and with each paragraph, the story begins to reveal itself until the message becomes clear.

This year’s Bay to Ocean includes an excerpt from Sarah McGregor’s time travel novel “He Loves Me Knot” and Russell Reece’s amusing short story “The Whopper” about a family trip to Rehoboth Beach, DE; poetry by a variety of Eastern Shore writers including Kari Ann Ebert, Beth Dulin, Kristin Davis and Nancy McCloy; and the essays “Twenty-Two Acres, More or Less” by Barbara Lockhart, “A Queen in the Garden” by Ann Hymes, and my piece, “Knitting with My Grandmother.”

The Bay to Ocean books are available online at Amazon and at The Orange Blossom gift shop in Hampstead, NC.

DANGLING TOMATO SLICES

     My sister saw these earrings and immediately thought of “Soggy Tomato Sandwiches.” The essay is included in Bay to Ocean 2018: The Year’s Best Writing from the Eastern Shore Writers Association. The volume includes stories and poems by various authors including David Healey, Russell Reece, Mary Emma Tisinger and Pat Valdata. Readers can purchase the book at The Orange Blossom in Hampstead, NC.

 Thanks Baby Sis for sending the jewelry to me. The dangling tomato slices are adorable.

–cawk

FINDING INSPIRATION IN THE PAINTING OF A PINK TOILET

Finalists in the Crossroads Ekphrastic Poetry/Flash Fiction contest sponsored by the Eastern Shore Writers Association include, from left, Caroline Kalfas, Beth Dulin, and Pat Valdata, finalists; Kari Ann Ebert, winner; Carl Goldhagen, artist; and Tina Raye Dayton-Ludwick, honorable mention.

     Mixing artwork and writing makes for a great venue of creativity.

     The Eastern Shore Writers Association recently sponsored “The Crossroads Ekphrastic Poetry and Flash Writing Contest” in conjunction with an exhibit of artwork by painter and sculptor Carl Goldhagen.  

     Writers were invited to visit the artist’s exhibit “The Long View: Selected Works 1970s to Present” on display at the Salisbury University Art Galleries Downtown and use inspiration from the collection to write poetry or flash fiction.

     Browsing through the various paintings and selecting one to write about was like choosing a book to read from the shelves of a library. Many of Goldhagen’s works caught my attention, including “On the Move,” which depicts a small house on wheels rolling over an object in the road; “Two Right Hands,” featuring fingers and thumbs in the same direction working upon a manual typewriter; and “Supper in the Little House,” which gives an under-the-table view of a couple sitting almost knee to knee. All the paintings were vibrant and interesting with much to consider. But “The Facility,” featuring a distorted image of a pink toilet, captured my attention the most.

     Using the painting as inspiration, I wrote the flash fiction piece “Splash of Pink,” which began with a pink toilet left on a deceased woman’s front lawn and followed with her granddaughter’s subsequent attempts to deal with the loss of her grandmother.

     As a finalist, I had the honor of reading my piece and listening to the poetry of four other honorees with Goldhagen’s animated artwork as a backdrop. The poets included Beth Dulin and Pat Valdata, finalists; Kari Ann Ebert, winner; and Tina Raye Dayton-Ludwick, honorable mention.

     The paintings “Cooking” and “What’ll It Be” fueled some of the featured poetry. Goldhagen, his family, and Salisbury’s Poet Laureate Nancy Mitchell were among the audience members. Mitchell judged the event. Light refreshments were served.

     The exhibit and the winning poem remain on display through Aug. 24. I encourage people to see the paintings first-hand, especially writers who may be inspired to create their own ekphrastic poetry or fiction.

–cawk

Welcome to CarolineChatter

My goal each day is to find something extraordinary in the ordinary and write about what I have discovered. — Caroline Kalfas

Writing is a treat.

I’m glad you found my page! I am a writer. I’m not glamorous or famous. But I like to explore ordinary subjects, such as food, gardening, travel, writing, the needle arts and crafting. Mostly, I share my observations with others through personal essays and blogs. I also write memoir, poetry and fiction.

I used to think that being a writer meant publishing a book. I was wrong. Being published does not make you a writer. Putting pen to paper does.

When my sons were in elementary school, I asked them to keep a journal during vacations and summer break. They wrote in marble composition books according to their ages. My son who was eight years old wrote at least eight sentences a day. My son who was 11 years old wrote at least 11 sentences a day. They were writers. At the end of the summer, they had produced great volumes of work. Although their journals needed editing and were never published, they are among my favorite books to read.

My goal each day is to find something extraordinary in the ordinary and write about what I have discovered. All are welcome to read my writings, beginning with this page. Welcome to CarolineChatter.

— Cawk