Christmas ornaments reflect light –
and lighting faces
– young and old –
Like stars alight
in the swirling dark,
their colors shine sublime.
Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting, and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares, and comments are welcomed. I am an indie author of six books and two chapbooks of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. I frequently write about my town, Las Vegas, N.M.Occasionally I use interesting and helpful content from other sources. I also invite guest posts. If you have a topic you would like to share, send to email@example.com.
Poet Kathleen Lujan has carried her passion for the written word with her from childhood. It was where she focused her education and career trajectory.
Lujan has a Bachelor’s Degree in English and History, a Master’s Degree in American Studies (Southwest History and Literature) from NMHU, where she taught for four years. She also taught for 10 years at West Texas A&M University, where she received a Teaching Excellence Award in 1998-1990.
Lujan developed a writing and reading process called the ARQ (Active Reading Quest), which she presented at a seminar at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and presented to teachers during two-day seminars in New Mexico. She taught Language Arts at Coronado High School for two years and then five years at Lybrook School as the project coordinator for literacy for Alaskan and Native American children.
She is an awarding-winning educator who has conducted studies and seminars in India, England, Scotland and Italy, and served as adjunct faculty for Navajo Technical University to teach AP composition class at Alamo Community. She has always made time for writing with a focus on poetry. Her recently release chap book of poetry, Puddles of Years, is available from the author. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Lujan will be the featured writer at a Zoom Las Vegas Literary Salon event on Sunday, Aug. 23, at 4 p.m. The Zoom link for the event is here.
Q: What writers did you enjoy reading as a child? Lujan: My father taught me to read at the age of five and I developed a passion for reading. I loved Greek and Roman Mythology. I had two red, cloth-bound books of mythology, which were at least five pounds apiece, and read them from front to back. I loved Homer, Hawthorne, Austen, Bronte, du Maurier, Dickinson, Keene… among so many others. I was a voracious reader. Even today, I usually have three novels going at the same time.
Q: Did you write as a child?
Lujan: I started writing poetry when I was about 12. I loved the rhythm and sounds of words and saying so much with so little.
Q: How did you get started as a poet?
Lujan: At age 12, because of Emily Dickinson and her lyric poem: Success.
Q: Do you find writing easy?
Lujan: The only time writing is easy is to be totally in the present moment and letting the words come; not forcing the words to appear. And that’s not easy!
Q: How did you manage to fit writing in with other demands on your time? Are you good at managing your time?
Lujan: Teaching, consulting, and traveling consumed large portions of my time, but I would always carry paper and a pen or find a napkin if a line or idea hit me in a restaurant, at a seminar, or during a class. I had pieces of candy bar wrappers and cocktail napkins that would have my scratches on them. I would empty out my purse on a Sunday, usually, and write poems from the lines I had scribbled down.
Q: Who are your favorite living poets?
Lujan: My absolute favorite poem is on my refrigerator door held up by a portrait magnet of Frida Kahlo. The Everlasting Self, by Tracy K. Smith. You can find it on poets.org.
Q: How do you prepare yourself for writing?
Lujan: P.P.P. (Prior Proper Planning). I never know when an emotion or a tanager or a kiss will inspire a poem, so trying to always have pen, paper, or now, a phone, to jot down the initial true thought or feeling is essential.
Q: What do well-written poems have in common?
Lujan: I can only speak for myself and what calls me to read and reread what I believe is a well written poem. The “show me don’t tell me” aspect, a rhythm, which matches the image, idea, or emotion being expressed, and a required quiet to read and reread slowly to savor the words.
Q: Talk about your recently published chap book of poetry, Puddles of Years.
Lujan:Puddles of Years is a compilation of poems which have been previously published and written over a twenty-year period. My sister kept after me to publish, and after my sister died last September, I was encouraged to retire and do what she asked me to do: finish the chapbook. I also received, from my brother, a folder kept by my father of all the poems I had written since I was twelve. No one in the family knew about the folder, myself included, until Dad died. When my brother went through his desk, he found it. He sent it to me and encouraged me to keep writing and complete the chapbook. Thus, the dedication to my Dad. I suggest the reader read the poems, enjoy, and take with you the sublime experience of poetry!
Las Vegas Literary Salon hosted its first event Sunday, July 12, thanks to the Las Vegas Arts Council and the Las Vegas NM Community Foundation. A special thanks to Susie Tsyitee who walked us through the Zoom technology and acted as host for the event. Below is a video about the event we hope you will watch. It features Patti Romero and me talking about Las Vegas Literary Salon in a broad sense and giving our thoughts on this premier event. Please note that this is a first “video interview” either of us has done and I was at the tech wheel, which in and of itself speaks of disaster! But, all things considered it gets our message across.
And what is our message? Writing is an art. We want to encourage emerging, young, established, genre, literary, nontraditional, fiction, nonfiction, poetry – basically writers and writing across the spectrum. We will do this through workshops, events like the Zoom Writers Roundtable, book fairs, tapping into the skills of experts in areas related to getting the book, essay, memoir, novel, whatever it is, from your brain to the page.
This is not for everyone. Some writers want solitude and choose not to network with other writers. I get that. But for those who do want to be part of a learning and networking community, come on board! And we want readers as well. You are important to the process. You consume our words and make them a part of your story from the time you start reading until you reach the end, and sometimes beyond. Along the way, we hope we’ve made you laugh or cry, pissed you off or lifted you up, perhaps even broadened your horizons.
The Sunday event was a success largely because of our five readers: Joy Alesdatter, Kathleen Lujan, Ray John de Aragon, Tim Hagaman, and Beth Urech. We thank them for the time and effort they put into preparing for their readings.
What’s next? We will be scheduling an event with former Las Vegan, Vera Jo Bustos in the near future. Look for details to be released soon.
We have a lot of ideas, and now we need bodies to help implement them, and come up with more. Join us! Fill in the form below the video and let us know if you’re ready to join, or whether you need more information. Also consider donating to one or both of the organizations working through the pandemic to figure out ways to keep the arts alive and thriving!
Whenever I’m afraid, I put my trust in you… Psalm 56:3
When fear becomes a driving force
I sometimes seek dark places
and avoid the Light,
places where it is close, confining.
Places where the voices I hear
are the voices of
There is Light all around,
but fear hustles me
into that dark space.
There I will be hidden,
It is the great deceit.
In that dark space,
the voice of fear gets louder,
faith gets smaller.
Only in the Light
can the deceiver be exposed;
only in the Light can I find
hope and healing, faith and renewal.
I’m in that battling through ideas stage, wondering what thread of excitement engages me enough to begin story development. It sounds easier than it is. Some ideas will be best expressed as poetry, others as a short story and others in a novel.
How does one get past the muddled mess and move forward? Here are five questions to help you determine how you want your inner storyteller to tell the tale.
Is this a story with interwoven plots and subplots?
Complex stories can be told in any form, including poetry. Think of The Iliad by Homer, a marathon Greek poem about the Trojan war, or Caged Bird, by Maya Angelou, a story about freedom. Could these tales have been told in a different way? Probably, but not as poignantly. That said, if you have a story that’s deep and wide, consider writing a novel, or at the very least, a novella. You have more time and space for compelling characters and intriguing plots.
Is this story a shovel or a knife?
A shovel digs deep and uncovers what is hidden; a knife is more precise and goes to the central theme without a lot of lead in. Deep is best handled in a novel; precision in a short story or poem. O. Henry was the master of short form writing with satisfying – often unexpected – endings. Remember The Gift of the Magi?
What audience is the story geared toward?
I don’t like to bring it up, but yes, you do need an audience for your work, no matter what you write. Children’s books are written in a certain way for very good reasons. Consider carefully the profile of your reader and forge ahead accordingly. One of my favorite authors is David Baldacci. This is a writer who knows his audience and creates powerful characters in compelling situations. His novels sell worldwide and have been translated into many languages.
How much do you love your idea?
Writing a story is a process. The seed is just that, a seed. For it to grow into something that will inform and entertain requires nurture (creativity), weeding (editing), and feeding (revising).
But – as writer and literary agent Lisa Cron would ask – how much do you know about your character before you push him or her onto page one of your novel?
Cron, the author of “Wired for Story” encourages writers to understand their protagonists’ deeply and well before proceeding. This isn’t pre-writing; it’s exploring the lead characters backstory so, as the author, you know going in the “inside intel” that drives the character and mucks up his or her life as they make their way forward. It sounds easy, does it not? Well, it isn’t. It is probably the most difficult thing a writer must do. Is it worth the effort? Cron says, yes, citing authors in her acquaintance who – by way of this process – went from rejection to seven-figure book sales.
My stumbling block is focus. To write, one needs to set everything else aside an focus on the goal, and be willing to do the work.
Back to basics. Who is my story about? What does she want? What does she fear that will keep her from achieving that goal? How can she overcome her fear and succeed? Therein lies – THE STORY.
I’m belatedly taking part in the Writer’s Digest April Poem a Day Challenge. Below are three new works. Enjoy.
Life at its best is quirky for you,
and at its worst, it’s quirky too;
you start with one thing in your head,
and life throws you a spanner instead!
A monkey wrench, if you will,
a quirk to give you a chill
taking over your plan for the day
in an annoyingly unexpected way.
Or… it brings a new quest
that shows you at your amazing best.
The outcome of quirks are up to us,
Disasters or adventures, no need to fuss.
Make the best of life’s quirks;
find in yourself what really works.
You asked me to dance.
I said, NO! Not a chance.
There are many things I’d like to do,
one of them is to NOT dance with you.
Why, you may ask,
am I not up to the task?
You are an elephant; I’m a giraffe
everyone would look at us and laugh!
This social dialogue ends with a grin,
animals talking, it’s my poetic whim.
WANDER ON A CROOKED ROAD
In the way of life on the dusty road,
it turns and twists, wanders here and there,
gives rise to questions without answers.
The chatter of dissenting voices mirrors the road,
turning and twisting, giving rise to answers for questions unasked.
The road bends and dips, throwing life onto a battered field,
knocking it cold but for the hot tears that stream from life.
What is that shooting up from the ground
where salty tears touched the soil?
It is a flowering vine, that quickly grows,
turning the field into a meadow,
lush and abounding with life.
Life shakes off despair and sets off once again
to wander on the crooked road.
More later this week. Please let me know what you think. Like, comment, share.
I thought hard about the poem I’d write
as 2020 barrels toward me
and decided it didn’t matter
because life in the next 365 days
is something over which I have zero control.
I pray to be healthy and for my husband
and other loved ones to be healthy, too.
But that goes without saying,
does it not?
What do I want 2020 to look like,
in a perfect world, one where everything
– and I do mean EVERYTHING –
goes my way?
Family relationships will be reformed and strengthened.
The work I labor at
will go viral (in a good way) and I will become
the it author of the next decade.
So my personal aspirations are smallish.
On the world stage I would hope for
peace and well being for all,
a world where respect and civility
overcomes hate and violence,
a world in which war is a thing of the past,
and kindness determines the course of human affairs.
In my perfect 2020, I would
– listen more and talk less,
write more and talk less,
do more and talk less,
volunteer more and talk less,
be kind more and talk less,
laugh more and talk less.
I’m not about making resolutions;
I never keep them.
I can’t give sage advice;
my life is its own kind of mess,
so I’m in no position to tell you how to live yours.
Sanctimonious pontificating is a drug I don’t want to get hooked on.
What do I want 2020 to hold?
With anticipation I pray it will be one happy surprise after another,
and when there is sadness thrown into the mix,
I pray for the faith and strength to get through it;
– whatever it may be.
And as co-members of this thing we call the human family –
I pray the same for you.
Happy New Year – 2020
Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares and comments are welcomed and hugely appreciated.