Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

Out of Thin Air – A Guest Post by Patty Kinney

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I met Patty Kinny in my first writing workshop at Antioch University Los Angeles.  She was buoyant and talented, and I was intimidated.  But as is usually the way, as I got to know her, I found her heart tender and her spirit kind.  Now, I consider her a dear friend.  Please, enjoy her post. I think you’ll find her words and her ideas will spur you on, as they always do me.

I’m just going to write because I cannot help it. – Charlotte Brontë

Waiting around for the inspiration to write is like making a pot of coffee out of six beans. It is just not going to happen. Yesterday, I read a comment on a writing blog. The reader, who I assume is a writer, was understandably frustrated. They were at home dealing with a young child, a back-talking teen, and a sick spouse. “It’s hard to pull essay topics out of thin air,” lamented the writer.

581093_3916158232664_1303038867_nThe thin air is where you want to pull from. The randomness of the mundane is fodder. Pull from those routine doctor visits , from your toddler spilling grape juice on the newly-installed bamboo composite carpet, from the traffic ticket you received on the way to pay the overdue power bill. Pull from the way the next door neighbor wears a coat the same color as the squirrels she feeds beneath the sign stating do not feed the squirrels, one of which she has named, Gabriel.

Keep your eyes peeled and ears open. Pan for that gold. Break your mama’s rule and talk to strangers. The medical office may have “Starry Night” hanging in their reception area as a tribute to the pediatrician’s mentally ill child. Read the nametag of the cop that pulled you over. You might discover you dated their dad/mom three decades before (getting you out of paying a fine.) When you’re on those knees cleaning stains from the carpet, recall how your parents reacted when you hid your peas under the plate.

Thin air is the fertilizer for rabbit trails. Rabbit trails lead to metaphor and so many other tools it takes to dig your way to what you want to say. Unlock the psyche of the “squirrel lady.” She may have been a go-go dancer in a Vietnam nightclub when Saigon fell. Don’t let her story slip into thin air.

Writer/Poet Patty Kinney’s work has been published by The Sun, hipMama, occupypoetry.org, and other journals and anthologies. New work will soon appear in Crab Creek Review, Cascadia Review, and The Farfield. Kinney is a US Army Veteran and the mother of six sons. She holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles. Her chapbook, How To Talk To Your Schizophrenic Child, will be published in 2013. Kinney lives in Olympia, Washington where she leads the group, OlyWriters while she works on a full-length collection of poems.

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Thanks to all of you who have contributed toward my goal of raising $500 for the American Cancer Society by tomorrow.  We have raised $115, and I’m so pleased.  I’d still love to reach this goal, however, so if you can donate any amount $50, $25, $10 to this fight against a disease that will infect 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women, please do.  You can donate through this website or by sending a check made out to ACS. (Just comment, and I’ll email my address.)   Thank you all.

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Author: Andi

I am a writer, editor, and writing teacher whose most recent book, The Slaves Have Names, tells the story of the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. When I'm not working, my husband and I are working to make our small farm - God's Whisper Farm - a retreat here at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.