Volume XI, Issue 35
August 31, 2022
working like a maniac this week, getting everything ready for my fall classes and catching up on a big backlog of work, so it's the perfect day for a "throwback" zine. This one is from September 8, 2014, and features author Kelly Corrigan, whom I had the pleasure of hearing speak while I was at Chautauqua Institution earlier this month. And it also features beloved WordPlayer Kathy Gruhn, who has taken on so many brave things with so much gusto. So without any further ado . . . here it is. I
hope you enjoy it!
Are you familiar with Sara Bareilles's song "Brave"? One of my many generous students
first shared with me, before it became a runaway hit. And what's not to love about a song that urges us to "be brave" and "say what you want to say"?
Every time a new WordPlay class starts, I'm struck by the bravery of my students. It takes a lot of courage to
admit you have a dream, to walk into a room of strangers and share your first attempts at reaching it. And yet there's little better, at least in my mind, than having a community of kindred spirits to match your bravery with their own, to cheer when you succeed and encourage you all along the way.
I will never forget when Kathy first shared her idea for a program to support parents and caregivers in giving children the very best support in all developmental areas from birth all the way to age 7 --
what a ride it was to the finish line of three finished books, with checklists, activities, and CD's! It's also brave to invest so many hours into a writing dream without knowing how it will turn out, and to do what it takes to get your writing out into the world.
This may not be what brave looks like for you, of course. You have your own dreams, your own style, and, yes, your own challenges,
too, which are often what trump our bravery into emerging.
Whatever it looks like for you, , as Sara Bareilles says, "I just want to see you be brave." And to celebrate the ways and times you have already shown others—and yourself—how brave you can be.
Today's featured writing is from a memoir by author Kelly Corrigan called The Middle Place. Kelly recounts much bravery of her own as she and her father battle cancer at the same time, and she does so with much humor and warmth. I hope you enjoy the excerpt I picked, which inspired this week's prompt. (You might also enjoy writing about your first job and/or what you bought with the first money you earned, as well as exploring brave.)
Love and light,
Kelly Corrigan at Chautauqua Institution, August 2022
An excerpt from the memoir
The Middle Place
The bravest thing I ever did was kill a snake. It was an accident, but it still counts.
The snake came to Wooded Lane the same spring that my dad gathered us around the kitchen table and made this speech:
"So, you all have your chores, yeah?"
"And you"—he looked at me—"want a dollar for every time you take out the trash, right?"
"Right," I nodded, comfortable with my pricing.
"And you"—he looked at Booker—"you want ten dollars for cutting the
"At least," Booker replied, definitely implying he may have underpriced the project for a good guy like my dad.
"So that's just passing money around the inside," he said, eyebrows raised, slowly nodding, like "get it?"
"Huh?" Booker said.
"What?" GT said.
"Dad?" I said.
He stuck to this seemingly self-evident phrasing while he waved his arms around in circles, eyes wide to make his point. "We're passing money around the inside. We're ready to start bringing it in from the outside."
He fished around in a paper bag I hadn't noticed on the counter. Booker slumped over, apparently catching on before I did.
"We're ready to get out there and start drumming up some business on Wooded Lane." He lifted a grass green T-shirt out of the bag that said CORIUGAN CUTTERS in big white block letters.
"DAD!" Booker whined.
"DAD!" GT echoed.
I stayed quiet. Girls did not cut lawns.
"Corrigan Cutters!" my dad broadcasted, as if it were perfectly obvious. Then he flipped it around to show us the back. THE BEST FOR
Then he reached back in the bag and pulled out a pink T-shirt that said CORRIGAN CLEANERS ... THE BEST FOR LESS!
I was appalled. "Are you crazy?"
Fortunately, the cleaning business never took off in the way the lawn business did. I had a couple three-dollars-an-hour gigs up at the Dunlaps', where I wiped down walls while Mrs. Dunlap nursed her third baby from one colossal breast then the other, but that was about it. Booker, on the other hand, saved up fifty dollars in no time and
became a man possessed by a dream, a dream to own a boa constrictor.
WordPlay Now! Writing Prompt
This is WordPlay—so why not revel in the power and potential of one good word after another? This week, it's "brave."
The opening words in the excerpt above from The Middle Place got me to thinking about what I would say was the bravest thing I ever did, and how much I would
enjoy finding out from all the people I know what they'd say was their "bravest thing." And wouldn't this also be a great question for fiction writers to explore on behalf of their characters? So there you have it...
PROMPT: Write about the bravest thing that you, or anyone else, real or
fictional, did. You may want to start by taking a few minutes to make a list of all the brave things that come to mind, and then pick one of them to put into words, as a scene, story, poem, essay, etc.
MAUREEN RYAN GRIFFIN, an award-winning poetry and nonfiction writer, is the author of Spinning Words into Gold, a Hands-On Guide to the Craft of Writing, a grief workbook entitled I Will Never Forget You, and two collections of poetry,
This Scatter of Blossoms and When the Leaves Are in the Water. She believes, as author Julia Cameron says, "We are meant to midwife dreams for one another."
Maureen also believes
that serious "word work" requires serious WordPlay, as play is how we humans best learn—and perform. What she loves best is witnessing all the other dreams that come true for her clients along the way. Language, when used with intentionality and focus, is, after all, serious fuel for joy. Here's to yours!