Creative writing can help after Harvey

October 3, 2017, by

When any great loss occurs, we need time and a way to process that loss. It’s difficult enough when one loses a beloved car or musical instrument, photos, books, a favorite chair – but when one loses all of it at once – one’s house and nearly everything in it – and when whole neighborhoods are inundated, the loss becomes one that all of us in the region must process, either directly or indirectly. It’s as if there is a toxic gas release or poisons in the water – the malaise affects us all, in one way or another.

There is also the matter of processing the grief that follows loss. Even though this is a different sort of grief than the loss of a family member or friend, still one is haunted by what is missing, or what happened down the road (especially in the quiet hours of the night, when one has time to reflect).

Writing through the grief – acknowledging somehow what happened and what it means to us – is one way to metabolize and learn to live with loss. It’s also cathartic in such circumstances to know those things for which one is grateful, and to whom one is grateful, and to pay tribute to them.

To demonstrate the way creative writing—some unleashing of the unconscious—can help after Harvey, a few weeks ago, at an Inprint Board of Directors meeting, after we were officially adjourned, Cait Weiss Orcutt—a poet, Inprint C. Glenn Cambor/MD Anderson Foundation Fellow, experienced writing teacher, and PhD candidate at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program—led us in a writing exercise to show how one might write creatively in response to trauma, and emerge from the experience both slightly relieved and with a text one might expand upon, and perhaps eventually share with others. Continue reading

“House Rules” by Dana DuTerroil: Inprint Workshop Participants on Harvey

September 20, 2017, by

260px-Harvey_2017-08-25_2231ZThis is the final entry in a series of micro essays on Hurricane Harvey by participants in Inprint’s nonfiction workshop led by poet Cait Weiss Orcutt. She says, “Each piece serves as a proof of our city’s resilience—you can give us rain, wind, uncertainty and days of isolation, but as soon as we can find a pen, we will turn that into art.” For her full introduction and the first essay in this series, click this link.

“House Rules” by Dana DuTerroil

When you weather a storm as a couple you cannot freak out about the same things. There must be a yin and yang to the crisis. A delicate balancing act where one spouse stays calm and convinces the other one to relax without uttering the word, relax, because that will immediately escalate the situation into a full-blown, code red, Cat 5 catastrophe.

It is Sunday morning – the day after the pummeling deluge of Hurricane Harvey’s rain bands. Our home sits near the hike and bike trail leading to White Oak Bayou and my husband has been monitoring the water’s rise throughout the storm. In addition, he is keeping a watchful eye on the end of our street where the road meets I-10, which is now filled with eight lanes of water instead of traffic. I do not accompany him on these missions knowing that he will provide a full report with photographic documentation. Unfortunately, he returns from his afternoon outing with a high level of concern. Continue reading

“On the Brink of the Storm” by Stephanie Gunther Vaughan: Inprint Workshop Participants on Harvey

September 18, 2017, by

260px-Harvey_2017-08-25_2231ZOn Monday, September 11, An Open Book posted the first in a series of micro essays by participants in Inprint’s nonfiction workshop led by poet Cait Weiss Orcutt. She says, “Each piece serves as a proof of our city’s resilience—you can give us rain, wind, uncertainty and days of isolation, but as soon as we can find a pen, we will turn that into art.” For her full introduction and the first essay in this series, click this link.

 

“On the Brink of the Storm” by Stephanie Gunther Vaughan

The sun was burning the dry pavement under my bare feet as I stood at the mailbox. I was cautious not to step on the tiny camouflaged chameleons that leapt around the lower leaves of the vines that curled endlessly around the gate, where the mailbox was hinged. The competing green and brown lizards scurried by my freshly painted toes, seeking a new refuge. I stared up at the reaching arms of the once young oak tree that stretched above me, its protective branches covering most of our front yard.  Only 13 years in this house, a chapter in mine, a short lifetime of my oldest daughter. Continue reading

“Harvey” by Mike Nichols: Inprint Workshop Participants on Harvey

September 18, 2017, by

260px-Harvey_2017-08-25_2231ZOn Monday, September 11, An Open Book posted the first in a series of micro essays by participants in Inprint’s nonfiction workshop led by poet Cait Weiss. She says, “Each piece serves as a proof of our city’s resilience—you can give us rain, wind, uncertainty and days of isolation, but as soon as we can find a pen, we will turn that into art.” For her full introduction and the first essay in this series, click this link.

“Harvey” by Mike Nichols

As the wind and rains on the dirty side of Hurricane Harvey increased, I sat on the wet tiles of the front porch of our sturdy house on the south shores of Lake Livingston in San Jacinto County. All of the outdoor furniture had been moved to the safety of the basement or garage.  I watched the strong waves break over the dock and over the ten-foot concrete apron across an expanse of lawn moving nearer and nearer to the porch stairs. I knew the power of these waves, punching with eight pounds of force for every cubic foot of churning water overflowing its banks and its iron bulkheads in this ninety thousand acres lake. I had seen the result of Hurricane Ike tearing the roof off our next-door neighbor’s house and destroying our dock. I was powerless against the whims of Hurricane Harvey. All I could do was watch and wait. 

As my stomach churned with fear, I thought about the upcoming Jewish holiday of Sukkot – Sukkot was a precursor of American Thanksgiving, a festival thanking God for the bounties of the fall harvest. Jewish tradition mandates that during Sukkot, families must eat their meals and sleep under an arbor.  The ritual requires the arbor to be temporary, without walls, and with a lattice roof through which the family can see the night stars.  The liturgy reminds Jews of our time in the wilderness living as nomads in fragile structures.  I always understood Sukkot as a physical reminder for us to have compassion for everyone in the world who lives without the security of a stable home and community and as a reminder that we are responsible to help those people who live in fragile circumstances because of their economic, social, political, or immigration status. Continue reading

“Getting Undammed” by Paige Hassall: Inprint workshop participants write micro essays after the storm

September 10, 2017, by

260px-Harvey_2017-08-25_2231ZCait Weiss Orcutt teaches Inprint’s Personal Essay Workshop which started on the afternoon of Wednesday, September 6. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Boston Review, Chautauqua, FIELD, Tupelo Quarterly & more. She is founder of the Writers Guild Community Creative Writing Workshops in Columbus, Ohio, Editorial Advisory Board Member of Mad River’s Slash Prize, and Online Editor of The Journal. A recipient of an Inprint C. Glenn Cambor/MD Anderson Foundation Fellowship, she is a graduate student at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. Here Cait talks about the first workshop gathering.

Cait Weiss Orcutt: This past week, our Personal Essay workshop met for the first time. I had come to class planning to talk craft—what is Creative Non Fiction, for instance, and what (or who) makes “fact” fact? Instead, it quickly became apparent that, while the sky outside was clear and blue, the class was still caught in the storm.

And why shouldn’t they have been? Why should we force ourselves to pretend we’re okay? If writing is about honesty, why lie about what is really weighing down our thoughts, troubling our dreams and hurting our hearts. An enormous, historic disruption occurred—and for many, if not all of us here in Houston and beyond, the recovery effort contains its own disruption, grief and trauma. How can we write anything “personal” without sharing what we’re going through? Continue reading