Introducing Po-Art: Part 3

By Annie Newcomer:

Po-Art represents the angel who takes us to the bus stop, waits patiently, and then hops the bus with us on a journey of exploration into Poetry, a place where we can find solace and joy even in difficult and inconvenient times.

Po-Art is a concept that reminds us to cherish our histories.

Encouraging one another to pick up our pencils and begin writing our stories and creating art is my vision for Po-Art. The many unique ways we discover to share is the journey. This idea stems from my belief that our individual life’s work is blessed when we inspire others to share their stories too.

Begin reading the Po-Art Series here.

Writing is like no other journey we will take. We do not always know the destinations our pens have planned for us. There is also a lot to unpack in our minds both before we write and in the sharing after we have completed a poem or a piece. Locating trusted and encouraging writing mates is critical to our development and success. How we go about finding our literary critique family is unique for each writer. This belief is a key premise of Po-Art.

I remember clearly the morning I jumped into my car and started out to my first creative writing workshop adventure. I was deliriously happy. Snow was falling; what a perfect sign, I reasoned. It was as though God was endorsing my decision to take up the writer’s mantle. However, even though the class was full of accomplished writers, poets, and technical writers, I soon realized that workshop was all wrong for me. After such high expectations, I found myself crying all the way home after each class, and not because I was emoting an amazing story idea. My tears were not metaphors or similes or some other amazing literary tool. They were exactly what they felt like, wet drops of unhappiness. So after a few weeks, even though I didn’t like the idea of quitting—which was foreign to me after having finished triathlons, a marathon, and the MS 150—I knew that in order to continue writing, I had to leave that class. This left me unsure where to turn.

A couple of months later as I was literally on my knees dusting the coffee table in our living room, a magazine (The Best Times in Kansas) seemed to magically float off the table to the floor, landing open in front of me to a page with a photo of an older lady and an article on the writing class she taught at an assisted living home. In true Harry Potter fashion, Nancy Kastman-Scott summoned me. I responded. During my phone call to her, this wizard-teacher encouraged me to come to her class, giving me the option of either her Tuesday or Saturday session. After a month, I loved her class so much that I asked if I could attend both. For two years I did.

This was probably one of the best decisions I ever made for my writing life because I needed to feel that I “belonged” as opposed to feeling that I needed to “fit in” with the other elite writing group.

In my new writing environment, I learned important lessons. I discovered that you can’t just put words on a page and emotionally think you have a great piece. I learned to pay attention. To never assume. To listen. And for these things to happen, being in a safe place was everything. I became friends with writers who weren’t all hung up on how many books they had published or counting on an abacus how many awards for poetry they had won. The writers who I met at the assisted living facility were writing stories with plans to self-publish in limited editions as keepsakes for their families.

These new friends didn’t see me as competition. They protected me. They nurtured my writing in a way that taught me to love the act of writing with a pure purpose. This experience fortified me in ways that give me strength to this day because my new classmates didn’t “tell” me, they “showed” me what should and must be important about writing. This love I carry with me, and it shapes every piece that I write. In those two years, I learned that I didn’t just want to be a writer; I wanted to live a poetic life. I developed the sense of integrity and respect for my audience. Yes, indeed, I had landed just like Harry Potter in a magical place, completely enthralled and excited to discover what was to follow.

My new writing friends called themselves the Senescent Scriveners, with ages ranging from 80’s to 100 years. I hadn’t realized how my assumptions of seniors was so off track. These older writers showed me the value of experience, wisdom, and excellent writing skills that many had acquired in little one-room country schoolhouses. It is from them that I learned the richness of storytelling. For example, one day a gentleman read his piece about the famed dancers Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, who he knew personally. Another day I heard how “Harry used to walk past my house every day. Nice guy, but I still didn’t vote for him,” when sharing about President Truman.