Literary Open Mic – Follow-up


Aaron the Barista

Just reporting back after a successful Open Mic event on Saturday evening at Zola’s Café in Auburn, Washington.  It was a great event and I think a good time was had by all. A number of people from the community joined us, a couple of families with children were there, and a contingent of folks from the UW Bothell 2014 Cohort drove down from the Seattle area to offer support and to read.



I thought we had a nice diversity of people in different ages and stages of life (children, parents, college students, local writers).  Even people who just happened to be at Zola’s during the Open Mic but hadn’t come to perform were inspired to participate.  I brought a selection of poetry books and anthologies for people to choose from if they didn’t want to read something they’d written.  Lewis Carroll was a popular choice–three different selections of his poetry by three different readers.



My grandfather’s old bowler hat became the hat from which we drew names randomly for the next reader.  The general rule we followed was that each reader had five minutes to read, and could put their name back into the hat if they wanted an opportunity to read again later.  Nearly everyone who read enjoyed it enough to want to come back up a second time.  Some even did a third reading before we ran out of time.



Before the Open Mic began, I went around to each table of customers to let them know the Open Mic was about to start and that they were welcome to listen or join in by reading a selection from a book I’d brought or maybe something they’d memorized.  Everyone was excited to be there while an event was happening, and it was fun to see them wander over to the table, browse through a book of poetry, and then write their name on a slip of paper and throw it in the hat.


Shannon, Doug, Carol, Kaitlin

After each reader’s moment of applause (the audience was warm and accepting of everyone who shared), I would ask them briefly what their inspiration was for the poem (if it was something they’d written), or what had inspired them to read the particular one they’d chosen if it were something by another author.  The first two people were sort of taken aback slightly by my question and the need to stay up in front of the crowd after they’d finished reading, but after that, everyone seemed to understand the routine and were more than willing to share about their inspiration.


Debi, Shannon

Some shared deeply personal things about their own poetic inspiration, while some others simply said, “Because it’s a good poem. And I like it and wanted to read it.”

Even the barrista on duty read a poem called A Local Coffee Shop.



There was a lot of laughter, a few tears, and I felt relationships were built as people shared their poems, their art, and a bit of their hearts.  A number of people signed up to be emailed when we do it again.  The owner of Zola’s wasn’t there on Saturday night, but she dropped me a note on Monday and said that she’d heard wonderful things about the Open Mic from the people who were working that night.  She said she hopes it can become a monthly event at Zola’s.  I hope so, too.


Tracy, Andrew


Tina, Carol, Shannon, Debi, Kaitlin, Tracy, Caroline, Nolan

Experiment: “Extra! Extra! Read All About It!”

This week’s experimental writing assignment consisted of creating several word banks and then using the resulting lists of words/phrases and “creating something fantastical out of reality, hiding fact behind mystery.”

We needed to:

  1. Pick something we have some expertise in and then use its specialized language (I chose Charlotte Mason educational philosophies)
  2. List words and phrases related to a town or city where we live, grew up, or are well acquainted with (I chose Auburn, Washington)
  3. Write a dream in exactly 7 words in only 90 seconds.

I used the 7-word dreams as titles/headings, and then used the word lists as word banks to create something true/false and “fantastical.”



Giant black widow spider in the kitchen—

A giant black widow spider was spotted in the kitchen of a mobile home near the library. This proved to be an opportune circumstance for casual nature study.  The students carefully observed the handicraft of the web.  Appreciated the artistry of the wildlife.

But is the spider an illegal?  Where are its papers?

Others see the black widow in the housing projects.  The country club set in this small town is welcoming to the herons.  But not to the crows. Or to the panhandlers, the homeless, or the black widows.

Crime!  Gambling!  Graffiti!  Mexicans!

This composition is no longer in keeping with the healthy historic hometown habitat of the highbrow Presbyterians and Methodists concentrated on Main Street.  Where are the Baptists when we need them?

Call the police.

Pair of barrels fell on their heads—

While working in the Safeway warehouse on the other side of the tracks, a pair of barrels fell on their heads.  The gangs claimed responsibility which was more than the mayor imagined.

In the English countryside, the gardens don’t grow low-income teenage pregnancies.  But here, the casino, racetrack, and Bingo hall breeds crime and community colleges.

The Dream Center does outreach along the White River and under the rocks where the homeless encamp.

Flooding in the riverbed assists the slaughter of the Japanese farmers who began growing strawberries, hops, horses, parks, pajamas, cottonwood trees, trains, and outlet stores.

City Hall is proud of their community.

My Favorite Photos from the Walks

It was surprising how well my cell phone camera visually captured my walks.  I don’t have a smart phone, so the camera on my phone is low-tech.

The only thing I did to the photos was switch them to black-and-white, cropped a couple of them slightly, and on some I adjusted the lighting effects if the images were unclear due to shadows.  Other than that, this is what came from my phone.

I now realize if I don’t have one of my good cameras with me when I’m out-and-about, I still have the possibility of bringing home at least halfway decent photos.

Here are my personal favorites from the series of walks I took in local Auburn, Washington parks this past week.

play area border (4)

Play Area Border – Game Farm Park

climbing wall (2)

Climbing Wall – Les Gove Park

planting area (2)

Sidewalk Planting Area – Isaac Evans Park

trees in the rain (2)

Trees in the Rain – Game Farm Park

rock wall (2)

Rock Wall – Game Farm Park

bridge from below (2)

Footbridge – Isaac Evans Park

girls in rain (2)

Girls in the Rain – Game Farm Park

closer sun circle (4)

Sun Circle – Game Farm Park

hail downpour (2)

Picnic in a Hailstorm – Game Farm Park

ominous clouds (3)

Storm’s Coming – Game Farm Park

grafitti (3)

Graffiti – Roegner Park

trees with a crow (2)

Trees & Crows – Roegner Park

Walk #4 – Isaac Evans Park – Auburn, WA

A Writing Experiment with My Phone’s Camera: Inspired by reading Sixty Morning Walks by Andy Fitch, and by the photographic walks of Richard Long

by Debi

(if you missed the first installments:  Walk #1)

WALK #4 — Isaac Evans Park
Auburn, Washington USA
1:15pm to 2:00pm
Monday – January 19th, 2015

bridge and sky (3)Parked by the bridge.

First thing greeting me as I stepped out of the car were finches.  Lots and lots of finches.  A full flock of finches.  Guess this is the part of Auburn where finches live.  Haven’t seen many finches on earlier walks.  The bushes by the roadside are alive with hopping, chattering finches.  And sunshine.  Did I mentioned sunshine?  Yeah.  Sunshine.  A group of Canada geese (a gaggle? a flock?) is lying in the grass enjoying the sun.

little library (2)Someone put up a Little Free Library here several years ago, but there never seem to be books in it.  Two summers ago I’d thought about adopting it myself and keeping it full of books from garage sales, but promptly forgot about my desire to do this.  Out of sight, out of mind.  This isn’t the side of town where I come often enough for it to remain fresh in my mind.

bridge railing (2)I love this suspension bridge.  There’s something rather industrial about it.  Chain link fencing.  Giant bolts.  Thick twisted wire ropes.  It’s both picturesque and raw.  Sort of like this neighborhood.  Rougher than some of the other neighborhoods I’ve walked in this week, but flanking the beautiful Green River.

After crossing the bridge, I’m greeted by a flock of Juncos, a squirrel, and a couple of crows.  Everyone scatters when they see me walking down the trail, but regroup again as soon as I’m safely past.

bridge from below (2)Take a detour down by the riverside.  It looks so cold.  Glad the sun’s shining.  Only sounds are the river flowing quietly and an occasional car going by just the other side of the bushes.

I remember coming to this park to have a PR photo taken for one of my book covers.  We sat on this very bench, I believe.

tree root crack (2)Cracks in sidewalk everywhere from the tree roots.  Nature wins out.  Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.  I think if I weren’t careful and tripped over one of these huge cracks, I’d break my own back.

woodpecker holes (2)Today’s ear worm (thanks to a commercial just before leaving the car) is the Boat Show theme song.  The Boat Show, the Boat Show, the Big Seattle Boat Show.  My grandfather was in charge of the first Boat Show’s many years ago when they were still being held at Bryant’s Marina on Lake Union.  I spent many days of my childhood at the Boat Show.  I was not impressed.  Even today when I hear an ad for the Boat Show, it triggers this thought, “Oh, no.  Not the Boat Show again.  Ugh.  So boring.”

road trail fence golf course (2)Crows.  Trees.  Bushes.  Litter.  Cars.  Houses.  River.  Apartments.  Tree stumps.  Grass.  Split-rail fences.  Squirrel.  Leaves.  Twigs.  Puddles.

Wandered back by the river.  Footprints and paw prints in the sand.  I look back to see what sort of tracks my shoes left and I can hardly tell where I’d stepped.  Feel slightly disappointed.

gravel art (2)Another play structure my kids grew up playing on.

Art in the gravel.  I can imagine a small child dragging a stick in the gravel and making designs.  Think about doing it myself, but a young family is coming and I don’t want to intrude on their family time by doing a crazy lady thing.

stepping stones (2)More art in the park.  A couple of happy Seahawks fans walk past.

Restroom pun on an outhouse sign:  “HEAD-Quarters.”  Fits with the Boat Show song that’s still playing in my head.

fish on restroom building (2)I enjoy the walk at this park, but the unfortunate thing is the return trip is essentially the same walk as the first half, just in reverse.  Don’t really notice anything new or different.  A dog and owner.  Another pit bull.  I think I’ve seen more pit bulls while I’ve been out walking this week than any other breed.  I guess I hadn’t realized how popular they were in Auburn.

Curb angle (2)Walking.  Walking.  Same trail.  Same crows.  Same squirrels in the same places.  The last half of the walk feels like one long déjà vu.  A man and his dog pass me on the bridge.  We stop to chat briefly while his dog gives me kisses.  “He’s so deprived and starved for attention.  Nobody ever pets him, you’d think from how he acts.”  Laughter.

planting area (2)Thinking about how it’s MLK, Jr. Day and I should really do something to contribute to my community today.  Guilt and self-condemnation and “shoulds” run strong in my family.

Witch of Blackbird Pond (2)Passing the Little Free Library again. I suddenly remember I have some books in my car that I’m giving to a friend’s nine-year-old son.  I look through the book bag to see if there’s something I’d rather donate to the Little Library, and see that I’d included The Witch of Blackbird Pond in the bag.  Wasn’t sure if my friend’s son would enjoy that book or not, anyway, so I leave it in the Little Free Library instead.

When I get home, I’m going to look around and see if I have some other books to donate.  Decide my gift to the community today will be a literary one.  Hopefully I’ll find enough books to fill the Little Free Library this afternoon.

bridge decking (2)Which reminds me, I’ve always wanted to have a Little Free Library of my own next to my driveway so I could share books with the neighbors who walk by walking their dogs, and the kids in the neighborhood.  Might have to look into what would be involved.

Wish I were handy enough to build one of them myself.  The pre-built ones are expensive.  Maybe I could set up a GoFundMe page for supporting the establishment of Little Free Libraries around Auburn?

Oh, dear.  I may be sensing a new literacy project looming in my future.

Walk #3 – Game Farm Park – Auburn

A Writing Experiment with My Phone’s Camera: Inspired by reading Sixty Morning Walks by Andy Fitch, and by the photographic walks of Richard Long

by Debi

(if you missed the first installments:  Walk #1 & Walk #2)

WALK #3 – Game Farm Park
Auburn, Washington
1:00pm to 1:45pm
Sunday – January 18th, 2015

crow and soccer (2)Headed out the door intending to go to a North Auburn park, but the skies in that direction had thick almost black clouds.  South Auburn was sunny, so I picked Game Farm strictly to attempt to stay dry.

Occasional sun breaks.  Funny how people not from the Seattle area aren’t familiar with the term “sun breaks.”  What do they call it?  A quick glimpse of sunshine and blue sky amidst the clouds?  Sun break is so much simpler.  Park is fairly empty.  I’m actually here walking during the Seahawk game.  I know, I know.  How un-Northwest of me.

river (3)A soccer game at the field.  A quiet crow watches me from the grass. Several teenage girls start squealing loudly.  I look and they’re trying to touch a squirrel but every time they get close, they squeal and scare themselves (and the squirrel).

Passing the amphitheater, I remember attending a few church services here on sunny summer Sundays.  Now a garbage can is overturned in the wet grass at the top of the seating area.  A squirrel runs up to me, and stops in front of my feet, staring hopefully into my eyes.  Sorry, no treats today.  He runs up a tree before I can get his photo.  Crows.  A few seagulls.  Several more squirrels.  Sounds of the river, a whistle blowing from the soccer game, a crow.

pathway (2)Choosing to walk by the river.  It’s running high, murky and brown.  The trail is rocky but fairly dry.  Am singing “Eight Days a Week” to myself as I walk. Not aloud.  Just on the speakers in my head.  Has a good, upbeat walking tempo.

Ain’t got nothin’ but love, Babe.  Eight days a week.

S'mores sign (3)Decide to walk on the concrete wall along the grassy area.  See if there’s anyone else walking in the park today.  The three squirrel-squealing girls are trying to find a tree they can climb, but all the trees have branches too high off the ground.  A solitary person in the distance walking on the concrete wall, too.  Can’t tell if they’re heading in my direction or away.  Male or female?  Can’t tell that either.  Almost a shadow person from this distance.

boulders (2)A sign in the storage area catches my eye.  It points to the left and says, “S’mores.”  Why aren’t there ever S’mores when I’m at the park?  For that matter, why is there an official park sign pointing to S’mores?  Hm.  Maybe it’s for that campfire evening of ghost stories that happened around Halloween. My neighbor told me about it.  I think it took place at Game Farm Wilderness Park, though.  Maybe both parks share the same storage area for their signage.  Inquiring minds want to know.

Reached the top of the hill, the clouds parted, and I was standing in sunshine.  For a moment.  A brief bit of blue. A shiny speck of sun.

ominous clouds (3)I sit on a boulder for a moment and remember my kids playing on this hill on a hot summer day.  Must have been a Kids’ Day many years ago.  There were large blocks of ice and the kids were all sledding down the grassy hillside on blocks of ice.  It was a great way to cool off.  The hill seemed so big for my little ones back then.  Now it looks so small.  Seems to be a recurring theme on these walks.  Big hills in memory become small hills when viewed from today.

closer sun circle (4)Dark clouds coming this way.  Ominous.  Not sure how quickly the clouds are moving.  Wonder if I’ll get wet today?  Stop by the Sun Circle sculpture.  So many of our family photos were taken with my kiddos sitting in the middle of this.  Sunny days, cloudy days, spring days, fall days, summer days.  And now today no kids.  Just a cold and empty sculpture.

no pets on fields (3)NO PETS allowed on the fields.  Okay.  I’ll leave my cats and bunnies at home.

Oops.  The rain’s starting.  Close my eyes briefly while I pull on my hood.  Open my eyes to see hail falling all around me.  Heavier and heavier, bouncing off the grass and concrete path.  Bouncing off my hood.  Now getting bigger and falling harder, it stings when it hits my hood, my jacket, my hands, my face.

hail downpour (2)An older gentlemen took cover over by the restrooms.  I run to join him while we laugh about how quickly the hail sprang up.  “I totally didn’t expect that!  Didn’t even see it comin’!” he says.  “BOOM!” the thunder says.  We look at each other and laugh at the weather falling hard around us.

Three young girls come running toward our shelter.  One skips past saying, “This is so cool!  It’s so fun!  I can’t feel my face, it’s so cold!”  The second runs by, “Omigosh, it’s COLD!”  And then the third, lagging behind, saying quietly, “I want my mommy.”  “BOOM!” says the thunder.  “I don’t wanna die!” screams that frightened third child.  She ducks under the eaves with her two friends, the older gentleman, and myself.  The timid one looks at the faces of the rest of us, sees we’re not afraid, and then nervously tries to join in our laughter.

trees in the rain (2)Two men run past in the hailstorm with two white puppies running behind them.  Everyone’s laughing.

The hail dies off.  The rain subsides.  We all smile at each other, and disband our little makeshift group as we head back out from under the shelter of the restroom doorway.  The girls find puddles to splash in.  I find puddles to photograph.

rock wall (2)The older gentlemen decides to go home and watch the rest of the football game.  “They were behind 16 to nothing, so I’d decided to go for a walk in the park,” he told me.

Heading back toward the car, I notice new playground equipment from when my kiddos were little.  I like the new rock wall.  I try to duck underneath the slide when another rainstorm hits suddenly.  This shelter isn’t working for me, though.

play area border (4)I keep walking.  Now I know for a fact that my raincoat is only water-resistant and not water-proof.  By the time I reach the car, there isn’t a dry inch anywhere on my body.  Hailstorm rain is soooooooo cold.  I feel like a walking wet ice woman.

My phone/camera is getting wet even though it’s hiding in the sleeve of my coat.  The lens is fogging.

girls in rain (2)This walk is over.

Now I can’t even see through the water drops on my glasses and there isn’t a dry bit of material anywhere to wipe the lenses.  Crazy rain.  Pass the girls once more.  Now they’re all splashing and playing.  The fear of imminent death must have left the timid one.

Time to head home to a warm bowl of soup, a nice hot shower, some lens cleaner (for my camera and my glasses), and some nice DRY CLOTHES!

Up Next:  Walk #4 – Isaac Evans Park

Walk #2 – Les Gove Park – Auburn, WA

A Writing Experiment with My Phone’s Camera: Inspired by reading Sixty Morning Walks by Andy Fitch, and by the photographic walks of Richard Long

by Debi

(if you missed the first installment:  Walk #1 – Roegner Park)

WALK #2 – Les Gove Park
Auburn, Washington
12:45pm to 1:15pm
Saturday – January 17, 2015

Maybe I should start this off by saying I was planning on taking a morning walk again.  But … rain.  Lots of rain.  So I waited for it to ease off.  Which it did not.  Finally decided to remove the snuggly warm happy purring cat from my lap  (oh, the horrors!), put on my raincoat, and buck it up.  I’m a native Seattle-ite, after all.  I will not melt in rain.

Water Park (2)I parked right by the water playground.  Looks so lonely and deserted on this rainy day in January.  The only person nearby is pacing (doing the potty dance?) outside the porta-potty.  I’m sure he wouldn’t appreciate knowing I was writing about his potty dilemma.  Hey, at least I didn’t take your picture.  Consider yourself lucky.

Another walk in a park in Auburn, another day of memories from my kiddos early childhoods.  We lived a block from Les Gove Park.  Contrary to popular pronunciations, it’s Gove (no “r”), not “Grove.”  It’s someone’s name (a former mayor of Auburn), not a description of trees in the park.

old play structure (2)There are so many new play structures throughout the park.

During the early days of pushing my two youngest in the double stroller while my oldest rode her bike with training wheels, the main play equipment at Les Gove was the wooden structure that’s now off to the side and nearly forgotten.  My kids learned to do the Monkey Bars and to slide down slides and to swing on swings on what is now considered out-dated and boring.  I bet if you asked my now-grown kids if Les Gove was boring back then, you’d hear a resounding, “No way!”

counting rocks (2)But I love the new play equipment, too.  It’s safe, educational, artistically designed, and looks super fun.  I would love to be a child here.

Sorry for that brief digression down memory lane.  Back to walking.  The rain has eased off a little bit, but I’m glad for my hooded raincoat.

teepee legs (2)Several small groups of 20-something men are huddled under trees, perhaps trying to stay dry.  Actually I’m not quite sure what they’re doing.  They eye me from a distance while I take pictures of the play stuff.  Are they worried I’m taking photos of their “activities”?

A squirrel runs by, stops to see if I have anything for him, then scurries up a tree.  No bird sounds right now.  Not even crows.  I can see seagulls in the grass at the other end of the park, but they’re all quietly feeding.  Sounds of rain on my water-resistant hood.

xylophone (2)I wander over to the xylophone in the play area. Attempt to play Do-Re-Mi but it’s not tuned for that.  It’s lovely, though.  Whatever I play sounds beautiful, even though it’s essentially musical nonsense.

A man on the trail stops and listens for a moment.  Embarrassed, I stop playing.  I know if I’d been a small child, having an audience would’ve increased the pleasure rather than motivating me to stop playing.  At what point did I lose fearlessness and become concerned about others’ judgments?

Loki (2)The wood craving of a bear with an eagle on its head reminds me of a shaggy “Loki” when viewed from the back.  Makes me smile.

Passing the Bocce courts. I first learned about Bocce ball from a classmate at Green River Community College a number of years ago who shared a “how-to” speech about how to play her family’s favorite game.  I immediately went out and bought my son a set for his birthday and it quickly became our family’s favorite park game, too.

bocce courts (2)Back on the trail, a woman on crutches walks toward me.  We nod to each other as we pass and I say, “Hi.”  She smiles, glances at the rain, and says, “It’s a nice day for ducks.”

Which is highly appropriate because I’ve been singing in my head the song “Rubber Ducky” this entire walk (thank you ever so much, Facebook friends). Funny how the only sentence spoken to me on this walk lines up with the song playing in my head.

Why, yes, it is a nice day for ducks.  Even the “ear worm” variety.

the hill (2)Wow. Here’s the “hill” we used to play on when the kids were little.  It seems so small now.  When the kids were tiny, this was a giant hill for them and even hard to walk up and down without tipping over.  I remember them rolling down the hill, laughing.  Grass stains, dandelion tufts in their hair.  Ah, yes.  I treasure those memories now.  It seemed at the time those days would last forever.

paved trail (2)When we walked from our former house to the park “back in the day,” we had to go “off-road” with the stroller and our bikes to get to the path, but now there’s an actual park entrance and paved section right where we used to cut through.  Nice for the families in the neighborhood.

Worn out signage about water-efficient plantings and storm drainage.  I appreciate signs like this.  I wonder who’s in charge of upkeep of the signs?  Does anyone besides me actually read Park Rules signs?

climbing wall (2)My youngest daughter always loved climbing the rock wall at the Supermall.  Too bad the climbing wall at the park wasn’t here when we lived in Auburn before.

A couple with their shaggy blonde dog pass me.  The dog wants to give me kisses, but his people pull on his leash and say, “NO!  Heel!”  Doggie and I both look sadly at each other.  No doggie kisses for me.  I think it annoyed them that I was pleased when the dog showed me attention.  They obviously wanted him to just walk quietly at their side and not acknowledge anyone else or be playful.  I’ve noticed parents who treat their kiddos the same way.  “NO, Bobby!  Heel!”

les gove poem (2)Poetry in the park.  Auburn has a Poet Laureate?  Why did I not know this?  Hm.  Wonder what’s involved with becoming a Poet Laureate of a small town?

Two high school aged young men go by on skateboards.  One is being pulled along by his dog.  A modern sled dog.

White River Museum (2)I wonder what displays are at the White River Historical Museum right now?  Love this little museum.  Need to look into what sort of volunteer opportunities they have.  Now, that’s something I’d love to do.  Volunteer in a local history museum and work with kids.  Hm.  Food for future thought and research, me thinks.

Big Daddy's (2)Love the new library, but we thoroughly enjoyed the old one and used it constantly.  It was so nice living around the corner from a library when I was a young mom of little kiddos with no car.  We never felt stranded when the park, the library, and the ice cream was all just an easy walk away.

Here I am back to the water park.  Big Daddy’s is closed down.  I wonder if it’ll re-open at some point?  We used to stop by and get soft-serve vanilla ice cream cones on hot summer days when we were at the park.

car door (2)There used to be a wading pool where the water park is now.  We spent many afternoons splashing in that pool.  I wonder which is more fun for kids?  Splashing and pretending to swim in the wading pool or playing with the spray fountains?

End of the walk.  About to step into my car when I hear overhead a distinctive “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” in the tree above my car.  I can’t see the birds, but it’s nice to know the chickadees are around.

It’s been a quiet walk today.  Just a few people, a couple of dogs.  Contrary to the way I was feeling before I left the house (and the warmth of the sleeping cat), I need to remember that rainy days are actually very good walking days.

Up Next:  Walk #3 – Game Farm Park, Auburn WA