Lost In The World? Seek A Sense of Place

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I’ve been on a rant for a few years now about technology and it’s impact on our souls.

First I read Richard Louv’s book about nature deficit disorder, Last Child in the Woods, and more recently, Florence William’s The Nature Fix. I’ve written repeatedly about the topic, and shared significant recent research in blog posts like this one from October 2017.

In particular, I am concerned that we need to disconnect with technology in order to connect with nature, other species, and with each other, in order to care about and save our planet from climate change and pollution.

Connecting to place, I would argue, is part and parcel to being human, and is as important to us and our survival as a species as is our connection to each other.

As an avid reader, I am drawn to texts that explore our world and our connection with it. When…

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Earth Day: a whale of a tale

Happy Earth Day! Check out this Earth Action Project from students spring 2016!

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Happy Earth Day!

Depicted is a group project by some of my students. I challenged my classes to form a group and take an action during a three week period related to an environmental issues, environmental or social justice.

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Why Participate in Today’s Women’s Strike by Social Movements Scholar Jen Schradie

Why you should participate in #ADayWithoutaWoman on #InternationalWomensDay today March 8.

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“Caminante, no hay puentes, se hace puentes al andar,” writes Gloria Anzaldua.
This translates to “Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks.”

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. There are gatherings, marches, protests, art shows, and other events around the world today to honor the contributions of women, including this installation of this brave girl facing the stock market bull on Wall Street in NYC.

Because of recent political events and actions by the current Republican administration, a call went out for a General Strike– a day to walk out on the job.

Women’s March organizers encourage us to take the day off and avoid spending money as part of “A Day Without a Woman,” to show the impact women have on the economy and society. Through walking out, as Anzaldua points out, we build bridges.

What should you do? Should you strike? How can…

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Never Alone

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“When we sit, we are never alone because all the saints and bodhisattvas… are there with us. Meditating mindfully means contact and continuity with a long tradition. To sit means to be assisted and held. when Buddha sat on the earth, it was as if he sat in a lap. It is the same for us,” writes Donald Richo in How to be an Adult in Relationships.

Life can be exhausting and we can feel like we are struggling through it all alone.

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a panda walks into a bar…


Lynne Truss tells the following story:

A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

“Why?”asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife man ual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“I ’m a panda, ”he says, at the door. “Look it up. ”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves. ”

Truss is the author of several books, a book reviewer for the Sunday Times of London, and she hosted “Cutting a Dash,” a BBC program on punctuation. In her 2003 Penguin book Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Truss advocates for us all to be sticklers for grammar: click on eats to read a brief excerpt.
13882672_10210897048568870_6034783845543033249_nPunctuation is important for many reasons. It provides the musical score for your writing as well as specific, important and sometimes lifesaving information.

A woman, without her man, is nothing.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.






6th Ojai WordFest Celebrates Library’s 100th Birthday, National Poetry Month

Join Ventura Community College Faculty Gwendolyn Alley, Sandra Hunter, Teddy Macker and Robert Porter today 1-2pm at Ojai WordFest!

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Happy Centennial Birthday to the Ventura County Library System and to Ojai’s local library! Happy National Poetry Month!

As part of ongoing celebrations, join local poets and writers at the 6th annual WordFest, a literary arts festival that kicks off Friday afternoon, April 29th, at the Ojai Public Library located at 111 East Ojai Avenue with FREE Writing Classes, and Saturday and Sunday readings and signings by authors including ME with more events scattered around the Ojai Valley. Read on for the line-up. 

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A Letter to the Ventura College Swim Team

Go Pirates!

Cole In One

Some of my earliest memories in life are of walking on your deck at the old pool.

It was where I learned to love the water, it was where I “badly stubbed my toe” twice running on the deck (rule #1) and proudly displayed my battle wound to you, it was where I would play basketball with a bum water polo ball after you took my childhood hoop from me and put it in the back corner, and it was where I looked forward to spending every summer.

Through the years, especially now as your alumni base has come together so well, people tell me all sorts of stories about watching my brothers and I run around your old pool deck when the three of us had those bright, blonde bowl cuts.

I remember when your college started writing the names of those who were All-Americans on the wall, and…

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3 voices in writing: use the right one



This week we’ve been studying sentence style. Examples that we read of authors with awesome sentence style include Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, and E.B. White. Sentence style elevates the author’s writing so it flows smoothly, omits needless words, has parallel construction, and uses active voice.

Most people have heard there’s both an active and passive voice in writing. And they’ve probably been told more than once to “use active voice” — which means to change the “to be” or “passive” verb like “is” into an active verb like “dances.”

But as the image above so eloquently illustrates, there are actually three voices in writing:

  1. Active voice
    “You ate all the bacon.”
  2. Passive voice (as also illustrated above in my sentence)
    “All the bacon was eaten.”
    (The problem is this raises the question of by who? you?)
  3. Passive-aggressive voice
    “You ate all the bacon and no one else got any. Don’t worry; it’s fine. Clearly, you needed all that bacon.”

Please note that in the illustration above, the third voice example has a run-on sentence: “Don’t worry it’s fine” consists of two complete sentences (or two independent clauses). I fixed it with a semi-colon which usually does the trick.

Also note that “voice” can refer to how a writer sounds on the page–whether readers can hear the writer’s voice in the text. That voice is often reflected in sentence style. Revising for this kind of voice isn’t so easy, so that’s a post for another day.

Finding Your Voice: 2 Essays from Gloria Anzaldua

How do you find your way when it comes to writing? How do you keep your wild tongue?


Here’s a link to a pdf of two essays

Tlilli, Tlapalli: The Path of the Red and Black Ink”
“How To Tame a Wild Tongue”
by Gloria Anzaldua
as well as a brief biography of the author where she addresses her writing process and how she struggles to maintain her wild tongue and unique voice and language– how she finds her way out of the box.

How does Gloria Anzaldua’s writing process compare to yours? Can you relate to her struggles?

Here are 4 discussion questions for Gloria Anzaldúa, “Tlilli, Tlapalli: The Path of the Red and Black Ink” from Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Choose at lease one quote that supports your analysis.

1. What distinctions does Anzaldúa make between how “Western culture think(s) of art works” and how Mexican tribal cultures think of art works? About the life of the artifact, for instance? Or the idea of “virtuosity”? Or the idea of artistic “power”? Or about ethnocentrism, “borrowing,” and the role of art in everyday culture? What statement does Anzaldúa ultimately make about the future of Western culture? What solutions does she propose for the problems that “unchecked, could blow us into acid rain in a fraction of a millisecond”?

2. Is “The Path of the Red and Black Ink” a work of nonfiction or fiction? What, for instance, does the line “I write the myths in me, the myths I am, the myths I want to become” suggest about the work itself? Are there passages in which the genre of “The Path of the Red and Black Ink” seems to change, or in which the author’s relationship to something the reader might call “fact” or “reason” dramatically changes? Using the standards for creativity that Anzaldúa offers, what transformation of consciousness (if any) has occurred in those passages?

3. What is a “Borderland”? Anzaldúa writes, “Being a writer feels very much like being a Chicana, or being queer.” How does the idea of a “Borderland” describe a variety of psychological states, and positions within a society? What makes living in a “Borderland” a “numinous experience,” not a “nightmare”? How is writing–and the author’s relationship to her work–“symptomatic of a larger creative process–cultural shifts . . . cultural ambiguity”?
4. Anzaldúa describes the body as a “crossroads,” creativity as painful “continuous multiple pregnancies,” and her writing desk as an altar composed of ceremonial objects. Overall, what relationship does Anzaldúa construct between Western and tribal cultures? What objects, for instance, can be found on her desk? What is the source of her inspiration? And where (and how) does she find resolution?