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Happy All-Hearted Holidays

“All-Hearted,” painted at the annual women’s conference, Face to Face,
Living Waters, November 2018

May the art of the heart shape us.

May we love with our skinny & big hearts,
our new hearts & old hearts,
our right-side up & upside-down hearts.
May we bless the hearts that beat
to different rhythms,
the lost hearts & the found,
& all those in between.
May we be all-hearted.

Strange Thanks

On the last night of this holiday weekend, here’s a little poem—aka an excuse to share a cat painting! Cheers to gratitude—in all its expected and unexpected forms.

Strange Thanks
The cat stretches
awake after dreaming
of a bigger belly
to fill with birds.
I pet his fur ‘till
purring. Hope 
he’ll remember
how well he’s fed.
Blue jays fly past,
oddly silent,
in a blur of canny
gratitude. 

PS: You can find prints of this and other cats here

Anna Elkins Presents Poetry of Process, Delve November 3 at Willamette Writers

Poetry of Process, Delve by Anna Elkins
Hi, Southern Oregon Friends!
I’ve got a poetry announcement for those of you who love to write–or who just want to try it out. I’ll be speaking & teaching this coming Saturday, November 3, at the Willamette Writers monthly meeting in Central Point.
It’s a two-part day:
10:00-12:00: Poetry of Process :: For the morning presentation, I’ll share my own process, practical tips, & poetry–including glimpses into the stages of my current manuscript–in all its messy reality. (Free for members & $10 for guests)
1:30-3:30: Delve :: During the afternoon workshop, we will all immerse ourselves in the writing process itself and emerge with a poem. Bring paper & your favorite pen or pencil. ($20 for members & $25 for guests)
For more information, visit:
May your week be a good one!
Cheers & joy,
anna elkins
art word spirit
anna elkins logo

We Harvest Hope

October has been a month of poetry for me. I came home from a writing residency at Vermont Studio Center with a pretty-much-done manuscript and a very big smile! While there, I also committed to creating and sharing a bit of micropoetry + watercolor each day as a way to celebrate process in all its unpredictbleand often glitchyglory. 


As I went, I jotted down each day’s line in the back of my journal. A week in, I realized that the single lines were forming a larger poem. So I decided to share the full month here, interspersed with my favorite of the original poem-paintings. Happy harvest!

We Harvest Hope
In the beginning,
the rain came out to play,
& we turned to dreaming leaves—
falling up and lifting down.

We break bread, rules, even, through.
We go where the water falls
& the dark sky rises.
becomes we & other becomes another.
River gets swim
& borders get blurred into union.

Hither & yon,
we grow our spirits,
& send big hope up.
Cross our hearts,
make prints of possibility,
leave traces of grace.
Where we are marks the spot of promise.

We press on in,
we make cider of time.
What comes goes—
onces come undone.

Tomorrow is a maze of maybes 
filled with friends.

Brimming with what-ifs,
we harvest hope.


Of Palapas, Caves & Medinas

Sunset in Moulay Idriss, Morocco from the terrace of Scorpion House
If you use a hardcopy calendar, you’ve probably already begun to write down events for 2019. If you’re digital, some of those pixel squares are likely filling. As you plan your coming year, consider penciling in (or typing in!) a Deep Travel adventure or two. Imagine an afternoon beneath a seaside palapa in Mexico, watching a flamenco puro performance in a Spanish cave, or watching the sun set over the Fez Medina and the mountain village of Moulay Idriss in Morocco. DeepTravel not only gets you to these places, we also introduce you to the artists, writers, and change-makers who live there. As one of our alumni said of her time in Morocco, “I fell a bit in love with everyone I met.” We invite you to do the same.
Deep Travel Mexico: The Art of Tranquilo
January 3-7: Yelapa, Mexico
Come enjoy a writing retreat in the rugged-and-wonderful, car-free village of Yelapa on Mexico’s Bay of Banderas.  Beloved travel writer Tim Cahill will be our instructor, inspiring us in this unpolished paradiso fueled by sun, cerveza, and seafood. After waking in your open-air casita, amble down the beach for a session of guided writing with Tim, and then enjoy the day sketching, swimming, hiking, boating—or all of the above! This trip will balance rest and adventure. Want to sip margaritas in a hammock? Want to salsa dance in the moonlight? Want to enjoy Huichol art? How about fishing? Whatever your interests, you will find plenty of inspiration for your journal. Register here 
Deep Travel Andalusia: In Search of Duende
March 22-28: Granada, Spain
What is duende and where do we find it? The great Spanish poet Federico García Lorca defined it as the dark beauty found in Andalusian art: the bullfight, the fierce flamenco dancing, and the strains of a guitar. You might recognize it closer to home in the haunting chords of your favorite Leonard Cohen song. Wherever we find it, duende can transform struggle into art and sorrow into revelation. This spring, Deep Travel will journey to Lorca’s hometown of Granada, Spain to explore duende at its source. We will visit the gitano caves, hold readings by candlelight, marvel at the Alhambra, and enjoy a sunset paella party with local flamenco dancers in the Sacromonte. Along the way, author and musician Nick Jaina will spark your writing with the cante jondo—the deep song at the heart of duende. Register here
Deep Travel Morocco: The Art of Adventure
March 31-April 8: Fez & Moulay Idriss, Morocco
Can writing about the world make it a better place? It can, insists Lavinia Spalding, author of Writing Away and series editor of The Best Women’s Travel Writing. For this immersive workshop, Lavinia helps us to explore how writing the stories of people and places can seed change—both in others and in ourselves. Our eight-day journey takes us inside the mesmerizing Fez Medina with its 9,000 byways and into Morocco’s holiest city, Moulay Idriss, in the Middle Atlas mountains. We’ll gather with Sufis, listen to the tales of traditional storytellers, connect with inspired artists, and dine with local friends who will invite us deeply into their culture. In daily sessions, we’ll articulate the places behind the headlines and the individuals behind the stereotypes. This trip is for anyone who wants to see inside the heart and soul of Morocco. Join us! Register here

Bonus: if you come on both the Spain and Morocco trips, we cover the days in between: accommodation and transit from Granada, Spain, a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar, a night in Tangier, the train to Fez, and the night in Fez before the workshop begins. Contact us with any questions. 

Vignettes in the Vineyard: Writing Workshop

Hello, Rogue Valley Friends!

It’s official: the second annual Vignettes in the Vineyard writing workshop is coming up!

Last year, we had a wonderful gathering in the scenic Red Lily barn. Glasses of wine in hand, we crafted vignettes—short, impressionistic passages of poetry or prose. It’s one of the best ways to write!

anna elkins Take Heart Greeting Cards

The details:

Time: Thursday, 27 September 2018, 3-5 pm

Place: Red Lily Vineyards: 11777 Highway 238, Jacksonville, OR 97530 (We’ll be meeting in their event barn)

Price: $35: Includes a little set of Take Heart greeting cards

No….

~No experience required

~No pressure to read

~No worries!

Yes…

~Yes to bringing a journal/notebook & a favorite writing pen

~Yes to discovering your inner wordsmith in a casual & caring space

~Yes to getting yourself a glass of Red Lily’s award-winning wine (if you like) to enjoy the writing time!

REGISTER:

Space is limited & advanced registration is a must. Email me at: [email protected] & I’ll let you know how to proceed with payment (check or PayPal).

It would be a joy to write with you!

Blessings of goodness,

Anna

anna elkins
art word spirit

A Penny for Our Thoughts of Thanks

I found a shiny penny on the ground last week—a penny so bright it looked fake. As I picked it up, I noticed it’s a new one: 2018.
Yes, I pick up pennies. They remind me to not take little things for granted—to instead be grateful for them. As I pocketed the penny, I thought of the phrase, “both sides of the same coin” and wondered if a coin might work as a metaphor for gratitude.
At first I didn’t like the coin comparison—it implies commodification. But then again, maybe gratitude is a kind of currency.
As I’ve shared most everywhere, on the first of August, I was accepted for a writing residency at the Vermont Studio Center. Delight! Heel-clicking glee! Small problem: even though VSC awarded me a partial grant, the balance due was still big. Since my residency was awarded at the start of their season, I only had two weeks to pay in full, and that wasn’t enough time to apply for more grants. So I swallowed my pride and asked for help. Art orders, book orders, and donations poured in. (PS: Thanks for your patience on commissioned paintings!)
My Gratitude-O-Meter entered the stratosphere. It was a whirlwind of what Anne Lamott calls the three main prayers: Help! Thanks! Wow!  (The exclamation marks are my addition!)
What I didn’t mention when I shared my news was that I had been accepted to VSC almost ten years before. But that heel-clicking glee tripped on the curb of lack. Or perceived lack. I told myself a residency was too expensive. I invested more heavily in limitation than in gratitude, and I got what I “bought.”
Aside #1: I’ve turned down many opportunities I couldn’t afford. But for those, I didn’t feel a powerful “yes!” followed by a self-imposed, hope-killing “no.”  I’ve learned that though I can’t do everything, I canlisten for the things I am meant to do. Aside #2: I practice gratitude daily, for mostly mundane things. Some days, my gratitude journal is filled with uninspired entries like, “I’m grateful for a roof over my head.” But then, in wildfire season when friends have lost homes, I write that like I mean it, because I do. I believe that consistent gratefulness in the littles leads to exponential gratefulness in the bigs.
In other words: investing in gratitude yields many happy returns—for ourselves and for others.
One of my many freelance jobs is working with my dear friend, Christina Ammon, for her company, Deep Travel Workshops. We take people on writing adventures around the world. This year, Deep Travel was able to do a pretty marvelous thing: at Book Passage’s annual Travel Writers and Photographers Conference, it offered a free international trip as the award for the conference’s essay contest winner. More glee! More bubbly! We were as happy as the recipient.
Within days of receiving big good, I was able to help give big good. Even though one event didn’t cause the other, they were linked by hefty prayers of Thanks!
Some days, we get the chance to up our own gratitude, and some days we get to give that chance—and not necessarily in that order. Gratitude works whichever way the coin is facing when we reach for it.
To get punny, I could say that this year has minted a new coin of gratitude in my life. But I won’t (winky face here).
Speaking of winking, perhaps the coin of gratitude is doing that right now, as if it knows its multifaceted power and is waiting for us to discover it in new ways. Perhaps the rest of 2018 is gleaming with shiny new ways to give thanks—if we’re willing to look for them. If gratitude is currency, then we have bottomless treasuries.
Thank you and you’re welcome,

Anna

A Literary Emergency!

literary emergency - Anna Elkins - If Words Create Worlds, What World Will We Create?A big hello to friends, near and far! This newsletter is a bit of a departure—if you recently signed up, know that this is not my norm 🙂

Yesterday I was (giddily!) accepted for a month-long residency in writing at Vermont Studio Center for this September/October. I’ve wanted to go for two decades, and I’m so grateful for this opportunity! And I’ve been using waaaay too many exclamation marks for the last 24 hours!

VSC is the largest, international artist residency in the US, and in addition to writing time with full room and board, residents get to connect with fellow artists and visiting faculty across genres. It’s a poet’s dream! Not only that, I’ve always hoped to visit New England in the autumn to see the leaves, so this is like a “two-fer” dream come true!

literary emergency - Anna Elkins - Autumn color in New England

That’s the good news. The mixed news is that though I received a grant that covers a small part of the fee to attend, I need to pay the $3000+ balance in exactly two weeks: on August 16. I paid my deposit on faith. I thought; if the dream arrives at your doorstep, you figure out a way to carry it inside! And that’s where I need some help.

Usually, I’d have time to apply for a professional development grant (I put myself through undergraduate and graduate studies on grants, scholarships, and fellowships—I’m always willing to do the work!), but since I was awarded a residency near the start of VSC’s academic year, I don’t have the time to go that route.

So I’m getting creative and inviting you to help me do something I would normally work out by myself. In fact: maybe part of my lesson in this is learning to ask!

And so…here are five different ways you can help:

1) Order from my online gallery

Scroll through my art gallery and find a huge range of reproductions from abstract to illustrative, from traditional prints to coffee mugs and pillows. Many of the originals are also available (click on an image to see if it’s for sale). If you’d like one of the originals, email me for a shipping estimate:  [email protected]

2) Buy my books

I’ve got fiction, poetry, and “children’s books for grownups” on offer! And it’s a bonus if you buy them directly via the links on my webpage. Find books here.

3) Order (lots & lots of!) Take Heart greeting cards

I named my greeting card line Take Heart because I love and live the art of encouragement. The image at the opening of this newsletter is from one of the cards, and you can see all 10 designs here: Take Heart Cards.

The cards feature a micropoem and watercolor image, are printed in Oregon, hand-embossed with my ae logo, and blank inside for you to spread encouragement in the world. They are great for giving or keeping, mailing or framing.

My ordering system is a bit more old-school for these, but here’s the breakdown:

~Any 4 cards for $10 (+ $3 s/h in the US)
~A set of all 10 cards for $25 (+ $5 s/h in the US)
~Two sets of all 10 cards for $47 (+ $7 s/h in the US)
~Three sets of all 10 cards for $65 (+ $10 s/h in the US)

For more sets, email me for a shipping quote!

To order, you can pay through the secure server at my website, here.
*Be sure to type “cards” in the description field and indicate your desired quantity.
Or you can reply directly to this email with any orders: [email protected]

4) Swing by my art show

If you’re in Southern Oregon, join me tomorrow, Friday, from 4-6 pm for my First Friday Art Walk reception at Tail of the Sun (567 Fair Oaks Avenue, Ashland, OR). In addition to the art on sale, I’ll be doing live watercolor painting—come get a favorite word or name on your own bookmark!

5) Donate (aka: create an impromptu community grant for Anna 😉

You can donate directly here (same link as for Take Heart Cards).
*Be sure to indicate “donation” in the description field.

Or send a check to:

Anna Elkins
PO Box 509
Jacksonville, OR 97530

What world will we create with our words? I’m hoping for a good one. And I’m hoping to do some of that creation at Vermont Studio Center. I’m immensely grateful for any and all support!

In delight & love,

Anna

PS: Fun fact: I used frequent flyer miles and got an airline ticket from Oregon to Vermont for $11.20! I figured that’s a good sign that all things are possible….

art + word + spirit

annaelkins.com

The Adventure of Quiet (Or: Sabbatical with Two Gum Grafts, One Unintentional Fast, and Zero Jet Skis)

In the US, July is the big, shiny, monster car of summer, revving up with lots of sparkly, high-octane adventures involving fireworks, waterproof SPF 50, and lifejackets. But my idea of summer fun has always been the quieter kind: a book in the shade. A swim in the lake. I’m a gear-free seeker of quiet where my thoughts can unspool long enough to hear Spirit speak.

You might say poetry is my jet ski. It’s all the adrenaline rush I need. And this July has been my writing sabbatical, so it’s been a good ride.
At the beginning of the month, I had another gum graft over two teeth, and that has meant soft food only. But for the first few days after the procedure, eating anything more solid than a liquid hurt, so I ended up fasting for a bit. Without much energy, I pretty much just laid on a blanket on the lawn beneath the trees, watching the leaves and clearing my mind and heart to write.
Those three days on the blanket are the highlight of my summer so far (even though one of them was spent with a bag of frozen peas on my swollen face). In that time and quiet, I let a year’s worth of worry dissolve in the breezes, caught up on forgiveness, and recommitted to my quietude. 
Alas, I had reached that point I thought I’d finally grown wise enough to avoid; needing an external circumstance to slow myself down. Without the gum graft, I would have written, sure. But I doubt I would have given myself permission to take the lengthy stretches of silence that exponentially fed my writing for the rest of the month.
As of today, my last day of sabbatical, I have a working manuscript of poetry (as in: the poetry still needs work, but it’s a manuscript!). I am positive that much of its inspiration and creation came from those three days of complete chilling.  
Not everyone gets excited about a quiet month to write poetry—or even about quiet itself. But it might be worth trying the mellow way when the chance arises. In the past, I’ve tried a few of the louder and splashier and gear-laden adventures—not my cup of tea, but glad I tried. Hey, if neoprene and wingsuits float your speedboat, knock yourself out (but not literally!).
It’s great to enjoy adventures of motion, but it’s also great to enjoy adventures of stillness. Quiet doesn’t make much noise, so it doesn’t get much press. But oh, the power of it!
I’ll be in motion again soon—a little journey that I’ve been prepping for, like I do all journeys, big or small. That prepping reminded me to put the same effort into planning times of stillness in the future. May I never need another gum graft to remind me!
We all have our ways of moving through this world. Personally, I’m thrilled to lie still and watch a tree on a summer afternoon—a tree so full of leaves, it would take days just to truly see each one, let alone imagine the story of their growth. I highly recommend it.
Here’s to hearing the quiet things,

Anna

Pie in the Sky

The other day, I was hunting for a file deep in the recesses of my Dropbox folders when I found a document from over twenty years ago. It was a self-assessment essay, written for my senior portfolio as an undergraduate.
At some point, I must have transferred it from a floppy disk, and I hadn’t read it since I wrote it. I winced before clicking “open,” wondering what young Anna had “assessed.” I started to scan the double-spaced, Times New Roman font. Two paragraphs in, and it wasn’t as terrible as I’d thought. I read on. In one section, I detailed the then-highlights of my writing education. One was a seventh-grade project on The Odyssey. Calypso’s fire of the future inspired me, and I wrote an essay musing on my grown-up life.  
I was simultaneously back in my college basement apartment writing that memory and back in the grade-school classroom writing the original. Meta-historical-memory, maybe.
Toward the end of my nine-page self-assessment came this paragraph about my post-graduation dreams: “Once I have the diploma in my hands, I could find myself teaching, working on the staff of a literary magazine, publishing, curating…or even traveling as a freelance artist and poet. I cannot predict what will burn in Calypso’s fire this time, and I do not want to. Through serendipity and grace, the right things come. I am willing to wait.”
I blinked. I hadn’t realized my twenty-year-old self had known all the things she wanted to do. And then I realized I had done them all—including the “or even” of being a traveling freelance artist and poet—the least likely element on the list at the time, especially since I had no role model for that in pre-social-media 1997. It was my pie-in-the-sky dream.
Young me just reminded middle-aged me of serendipity and grace: Thank you, Anna.
Let’s remind ourselves of our dreams, live them, and keep hatching new ones. Apparently, it’s time I hatch some new dreams….

And apparently, there’s pie in the sky after all!