• Unanswered by Do Nguyen Mai

    As I prepare to return to Vietnam, I found this exquisite poem by Do Mguyen Mai who is from California.

    Unanswered by Do Nguyen Mai

    After Joshua Nguyen

    Em ơi,

    don’t look back

    when my spine snaps

    against the cold click

    of the trigger,

    when my lungs flood

    with the fullness

    of the night sky,

    when my body drops


    when the ocean folds

    its palms over my chest,

    when my ribcage whistles

    with the waking shore,

    when the water ripples,

    when the boat tips over,

    when I become the sea

    swelling beneath your swaying ship –

    em ơi,

    I will carry you

    to shore.

    Do, Mai N. (2019) “Three Poems: Charges Against a Newborn; Unanswered; For the First Generation,” Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement: Vol. 14 : Iss. 1 , Article 3. DOI: 10.7771/2153-8999.1183 Available at: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jsaaea/vol14/iss1/3


  • New Class: Writing a Picture Book, Adult Class

    Terry’s presentation style is lyrical, engaging and her love of the medium was infectious.” Laura Horwood-Benton, Public Programming & Community Relations Librarian, Portsmouth Public Library.

    I’m offering this Online workshop especially for libraries. Thank you, librarians, for doing essential work this past year to keep kids and all of us connected with the books we need. The workshop fee is negotiable.

    “Writing a Picture Book”

    Picture books for children are poems with pictures. They can be funny. They can bring a family memory to life. Maria Popova describes picture books as “stories that tackle with elegant simplicity such complexities as uncertainty, loneliness, loss, and the cycle of life.”

    What makes a story one that children will love?  What are the components that blend and form the structure and beauty of a picture book story? 

    In this two-week workshop with a focus on writing the picture book, participants will explore – by word and image – how one picture book is made. Please join author Terry Farish to explore the narrative components that help a picture book sing.

    Terry will offer prompts and guidelines for participants to write their own picture book in Part I of the workshop. Part II is a Picture Book Writing Group in which participants are invited to share their picture books in progress and join in discussion about the group member’s work.

    Praise for “Writing a Picture Book”

    “Terry was so generous with her time in reviewing and offering constructive comments on all participants’ work, in a warm and encouraging manner that was a joy to witness. Her presentation style is lyrical, engaging and easy to follow, and her love of the medium was infectious. We had unanimously positive feedback from those who attended, and hope to offer the workshop again in the future. Laura Horwood-Benton, Public Programming & Community Relations Librarian, Portsmouth Public Library

    “Terry’s Writing a Picture Book workshop created a spark that ignited a first draft in a week! Her enthusiasm for the picture book genre was evident from the first presentation. As she read excerpts from different picture book categories, I felt the magic between each book’s covers.  She encouraged us to experiment with the structures we heard and to hang our own stories on their hooks. Most importantly, to be brave in the telling. As we shared our drafts, Terry’s questions guided us. We learned more about writing as we analyzed each other’s drafts and benefited from receiving gentle, honest feedback on our own writing.
                                                                Participant, Dunbarton, NH

    “I thought the three prompts provided were helpful and they reminded me that each of us was probably starting out from a different point and that each draft contained the possibility of several different stories–fiction may free itself from fact. The prompts and the comments of my fellow authors helped me identify the central issue to [my story]. Will my character overcome her passive role and assert herself to obtain a treasured pet and then show it off to perfect strangers? The input I received made me realize that [my character’s] triumph was what had prompted me to write the story in the first place. I’m now enthusiastically engaged in reworking the text to do just that. Participant, California

       “Writing a Picture Book” Handout with Reading List

    Here’s an essay that introduces my approach to “Writing a Picture Book” with examples from beautifully crafted stories.

  • New Class: Art of Dialogue

    Dialogue helps writers meet their characters in the deepest way, by how they speak. The writer can open that depth to the reader. Dialogue can include regionalisms, dialect, or turns of phrase that individualize people.

    1.) Read beautifully-created passages of people talking

    2.) Practice in listening very carefully to people talking

    3) Write dialogues to engage two characters.

    Let a conversation tell the story. It’s better to show your characters’ personalities through what they say to one another, rather than describe how they are feeling.” R.L. Stine

    Handouts for the ‘Art of Dialogue’ Class


  • Can You See the Rabbit? Interview with Artist Lisa Laughy

    Rabbit in the Moon by Lisa Laughy in water color and acrylic

    The story of the moon rabbit crosses the globe. I first discovered the rabbit in the Buddhist Jataka tales. Later I found the moon rabbit is celebrated across the Asian cultures. And then found versions of the story in indigenous American folktales. No one has brought the myth so personally to me as the artist Lisa Laughy. Lisa and I are friends going back to days in Bethlehem, NH where she lived and I visited. Both of us were creators, she an artist and writer. I was trying to write a novel. We shared our work with each other. I loved the depth of her art and the way she could talk about it. She had a deep connection with the animals she lived with, her beloved dog, a soulful doberman pinscher, and her chickens who were named. She spoke softly to the animals and I felt a solace that she must have offered them.

    Years have gone by since the Bethlehem days. She has a business now, Ninth Wave Designs that features the work she does as a master wood carver. She creates Celtic designs, many inspired by early medieval Irish manuscripts, and also symbols and myths of animals native to New Hampshire

    Very recently we talked about her image of the rabbit in the moon. I wondered what inspired her image because it was so important to me. We talked about the rabbit and much more. She helped me begin to imagine the well that her art comes from. She turns her own creative process into story. And the story is universal.

    “When the moon was full,” Lisa remembered, “I could look up and see that rabbit. I was never alone. I must have heard the Native American story. ‘Can you see the rabbit?’ I remember the question. I was 6 or 7 or 8. It was reassuring, it’s constancy.

    When she 10, she read Watership Down by Richard Adams, the epic novel of a band of rabbits in the wild who have their own language and mythology. She liked to copy the illustrator’s, Eric Tenney’s, style of rabbit that appeared on the cover of the paperback edition.

    Illustration by Eric Tenny, Watership Down, 1977 Artnet.com

    Lisa said, “The rabbit crept into my artwork. Sometimes it’s tilted this way or that way. It’s this grounding thing to me still.”

    “This version I created of the rabbit in the moon was spontaneous. It’s water color with acrylic ink. Put water color down and it moves. Acrylic makes it solid.”

    What about the symbols on the painting? Were they words? Yes. Lisa had started working with an alphabet she found in an old book of alchemy from the Middle Ages. “Later I invented a runic alphabet. I wanted to use a language nobody understood so that they could make their own meaning. They could project their own inner subconscious rather than, this is what I told them it is.” But on social media people have responded a lot to her alphabet. They recognize the letters. “So there is something archetypal there. There’s a commonality.”

    Later, Lisa created a new site called Tail of the Bear: the Tarot Card Artwork of Lisa Laughy.

    Here, images and words are “on big archetypal themes that influence your soul life.”

    She writes on Tail of the Bear, “The discovery of turning over a randomly selected card to reveal a symbolic image is a unique experience filled with the potential for self-reflection.”

    “It turns out, then,” she writes about the images of the tarot, “that this is a creation story, and it starts with: ‘In the beginning there was anxiety . . .’ But happily, it doesn’t end that way.”

    You ’elp a mouse. One time a mouse ’elp you. You want ’im ’e come.”

    says a mouse in Watership Down who just saved a warren of rabbits

    “I wanted the Tail of the Bear site to be an illustrated story book at it’s heart and it sounds like you felt that way, too.”

    I did.

    “I think I assume,” Lisa said, “whatever experience I have with my artwork will be what I want it to mean. To me, the rabbit in the moon is about my experience with it as a small child. When I was twelve, my father died. His absence left a void.” The rabbit in the moon was a constancy.

    Lisa made her first painting when she was five, a robin catching a worm. The natural world has inspired her art ever since. “It is the greatest of privileges,” she said, “when you find someone who understands the story you are telling, whether that story is told visually or in writing, and to have them recognize it as their own.”

    See Lisa’s art work on Instagram @tailofabear and @ninthwavedesign