For the next few weeks, we are sharing writing that happened during AWA’s weeklong marathon of writing workshops, Write Around the World. This is one way we are celebrating the AWA-certified workshop leaders & writers who joined together to raise money in support of AWA. Thank you to those who shared their voices in each workshop and especially to those who have offered their words to be shared in this space. If you’re inspired by our work and would like to be part of the fundraiser, please donate!

Write Around the World with Amherst Writers & Artists

Writing from Dana Cunningham Anderson’s Writing Alive! Workshops in Manzanita, Oregon

Excerpt from High Desert Painting, 2017

I have lost my acute sense of hearing as I move back into my painting. Dirt from where I stand is on my palette as I mix to capture the color. Complexity is certainty. I’m sorting it out. My blue is tainted by the yellow next to it so the sky becomes a green. I scrape it off, wiping and isolating my colors to try again. I worry that I may run out of white before the end of my time here.

I think of nothing. The paint begins to move around on its own calling to the brush. I am watching, serenely watching. I hear footsteps coming. A figure shadow falls in front of me, looking away from the oils I’m told it is time to leave. Something inside of me Screams as I drag myself away and pack up my gear. We have been here eight hours but it is not enough time. Reluctantly we pack the car and leave. We have one more day.

—Karen LaGrave Small



Whenever I am in need, I find myself at a tree. Sheltered under a high umbrella of boughs, my back and head pressed against the rough trunk, the angle perfect for comfortably gazing up into the branches. With my knees propped up, I enjoy the way the ground heaves upward around the trunk, reclining my body so that my feet sit below my hips, comfortably rooted and heavy with gravity. This points my toes downwards, stretching my heels oh so good.

If I am lucky, many kinds of birds sing and flit about the tree. I do not know my bird species, so I wonder at the song of each one. Is that a big bird or a small bird? A sea bird or a land bird? Their exuberant songs and chirps become my meditation, a woodland ocean roar.

What an ancient activity. How many people sat under this tree, thinking these thoughts? I believe that is why we are drawn to the oldest trees, the largest trees, the tallest trees. Every person and every bird touching it has infused some of their magic, ad we are drawn to that magic.

It is hard not to think, but how long will this tree be here? How long will these birds be here? IN this time when our birds are dying and our trees are burning up, it is too easy to become morose.

The birds are still singing now, and this tree is under my back right now, and its boughs have not fallen yet. If I am to honor this tree, I must stay preset with it and remember that as much as I need this tree, it needs me too.

—Valerie Schafer Franklin


I Hear

I hear the songs of several small birds, chirping to each other as if deep in conversation.

I hear a barking dog—a larger breed. Why it’s barking, I do not know.

I hear a Crow ranting about something, or to some other bird. It sounds displeased, but they usually do.

I hear a large diesel truck, a semi or a log truck most likely—with its gears quickly down-shifting and its engine working hard against the steep grade—makes me believe it is carrying a full load. I strain to listen as the sound of the engine fades and the large truck continues its journey North.

I hear the sound of crunching gravel as another workshop writer rolls in.

I hear a diesel pickup also heading north, up the highway, its automatic transmission shifting and its turbo screaming, a common sound now days. Lots of younger guys like these diesel pickups.

I hear a car or truck with one of its tires slightly out of round. It makes a slight wobble sound as it goes on its way.

I hear the sound of a small airplane flying nearby—a nice day for a flight.

I hear the sound of noisy tires on the highway—most likely heavy-treaded mud tires the hunters prefer.

I can hear the far off sounds of the ocean. I am used to that sound. I listen to it each night as I drift off to sleep.

I hear the sound of what sounds like wind, but I think it’s just another car or truck.

I hear a car drive by with a noisy engine, a Subaru, I think.

I hear dry leaves blowing across the gravel next to my chair, making their cracking sounds as they flitter about.

I hear several Ravens cackling their noisy banter. I find comfort in that sound.

I hear what sounds like bamboo wind chimes or is it just someone’s cell phone?

—Dale Rue


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