Saturday, April 1, 2023

Everyone's Got Something to Say

To get in the mood for my Persona Poetry Workshop on April 8, here's my poem that won 1st place in the Oregon Poetry Association's Spring 2021 Members Only contest.

If you'd like to join the workshop, it's free! You can email me at ljdferguson(at)gmail(dot)com to register.

FREE Persona Poetry Workshop

In this encouraging class, we’ll look at a variety of persona poems (poems written from another person's point of view), then try writing our own.

Saturday, April 8, 2023 10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Taborspace, 5441 SE Belmont All experience levels are welcome. Led by award-winning writer Linda Ferguson, whose most recent collection, Not Me: Poems About Other Women, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2022. As a writing teacher, Linda has a passion for helping students find their voice and explore new territory in a supportive community.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

April 8 Poetry Class


There are three spots available. Let me know if you'd like to join this encouraging group!

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Taking a Break

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. 

Three deadlines this week – poetry and fiction. 

Can she do it? 

No, wait. She stops and bakes a chocolate cake.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

The People of the Other Village


A world of thanks to the participants of my January Zoom class for sharing their writings, which were inspired by Thomas Lux's poem "The People of the Other Village." 

One prompt, five people. 

After teaching creative writing for 25 years, it still amazes me how a group of writers can take an idea and beautifully run with it in such different directions.



Susan Donnelly

The People of the Other Village


They hand out sweet smelling lilacs in January;

dance exotic sambas, pressing their bare feet

into drifted snow, leaving prints

that look like the face of God –

or at least the face of some non-judgmental god

who smiles gently at everyone –

the beggar, the thief, the lost and the found.


Dawn breaks a little earlier in the land of Them;

it illuminates hills and plains;

golden dustings of faith gather in gutters

and near the corners of widely opened eyes.

There is always some reason to rise –

a rainbow, a hungry neighbor,

a mewing calico kitten, a day like any other day,

dishes to wash in warm water,

bills to pay, floors to sweep, footsteps to follow.

These people of the other village quilt blankets

from scraps of worn work shirts, fabric softened

by sweat and washing and love -

the stitches are tiny heartbeats. No one is too old

for a comforter pieced by caring hands.


These people of the other village, they know

not “special."  All is now.  All is here.

These people of the other village live inside us.

They are the mirror of our better selves.


Susan Donnelly, a retired teacher, writes poems, walks her dog, paddles her red canoe, grows tomatoes, and breathes deeply; all practical skills in the autumn of one's life.  She lives in Portland with her husband and labradoodle, Cocoluna. 




Linda Ann Fraser

White Rabbit Bookstore


Small coffee/tea bookstore

Quiet, like a library

Bookcases line walls

and are placed at angles

among shelves of gifts

and journals.

A café in the front.


The soft clink of cups on saucers

as some come for breakfast.

A young man's fingers lightly

click on a laptop keyboard 

as he drinks black coffee 

while working on his project.


Some older ladies eat sticky

pastry and drink their tea while

quietly discussing their latest

poetry find.


A woman chooses some books

and is heard saying as

she leaves, “Preppy Snobs”

as she runs out

banging the door shut.




Linda Ann Fraser



The Hatfields and McCoys

The Irish and the English

How do these feuds begin?


If you read history, it is usually

someone wanting to grasp more

than his share.

Property, horses, pigs, land,

could be anything.


Yet, like Romeo and Juliet,

you find not just bloody conflict

but juicy love stories.


A couple who sees beyond the

petty grievances of old debts

and short-sighted anger.


The lovers look up at the 

moon and embrace.

The moon looks down on them

and all with equanimity.


Linda Ann Fraser’s interest in poetry and writing began as a high school senior in Ellensburg, Washington. Early marriage and raising three girls took a toll on writing but creativity thrived as she sewed for her daughters. After the girls grew up, sewing merged into cloth art dolls and drawing. She thought the dolls needed stories. When grandchildren wanted family stories, she found Linda Ferguson’s writing class. 





Hariana Chilstrom

The Other Humans 


The other humans

Those big people upstairs

Those people who shouted and slammed doors

who seemed, at such times,

to forget we existed—


We the four offspring

We the basement dwellers

We the trouble makers--

since that was all we seemed to be—

since their complaints and castigations were constant

since we hardly knew them otherwise—


We, in defense

We in defiance

We in desperation


Became whisperers

Became liars

Became sneaks

who created what we could

from creatures falling into basement rooms

from leftover party drinks and food untended

from chocolates and cold cream and turpentine.


And the house we shared

became a battlefield

of our evasions to their volleys of anger:

            Where the hell have you been?

            Why did you embarrass us like that?

            What makes you think you’re so smart?


And our bedrooms

became bomb shelters, muffling shouts beneath pillows and blanket forts

became hidey-holes, stashing food against the night’s locked kitchen door

became secret shelters, hiding fallen creatures and precious things prone to theft.


And we learned

that only big people

were allowed anger and blame

were allowed to take what they wanted

were allowed to breach boundaries most parents respected.


And we, in defense, created secret worlds

And we, in defiance, tore down their secrets

And we, in desperation, began to tell our secrets.



Hariana Chilstrom is a science educator and visual artist who is passionate about pollinators and other (mostly spineless) creatures. She has written for the Pacific Horticulture Journal, several natural history associations, and the Seattle Aquarium. Many of her current creative non-fiction pieces have been spawned by experiences on city buses.





Ron Smith

I Loved to Learn Freedom, Early

improv, Zoom, 1/21/2023


The eight-a.m. buzzer buzzed, we scrambled for our desks,

All lined up in rows, east to west.

Of grade-school I recall blackboards and erasers,

And our liberty-loving teacher, 'Sadie' Kaser.

She hadn't carried a gun, or fought overseas,

But Miss Kaser, pedagogue of grade-three,

Hated Communism, dictators and tyranny.

"They are enslaved, but we are free,"

Declared 'Sadie' Kaser, pedagogue of grade-three.

She opened a small red book upon her desk,

Then quizzed us what we'd eaten, and if we'd gotten rest.

"What did you have for breakfast?" she asked Candace Sutter.

"Why, teacher, I had waffles, hot-cakes, syrup, and butter."

"Ah, Candace," said Miss Kaser, "such a mistake,

You should have had fruit juice and corn flakes."

Now, soon, maybe by ten, you'll be drowsy,

With attention wandering, and penmanship lousy."

She placed a mark against Candace, in the red book,

And resumed her interrogation with a sour look.

"What time last night did you retire?" she asked a boy named Ken.

"You know, Dad's a nightly preacher, so I was up until ten."

Said 'Sadie' with a frown, "You're Up Too Late!"

And gave Ken a demerit, with decision, with haste.

"Now, people, let's go watch a film in another room,

Line up single file, no talking, or gum chewed.

They are enslaved, but we are free,"

Declared 'Sadie' Kaser, pedagogue of grade-three.   RGS 



Ron Smith has been playing drums and been in bands for as long as he can remember. His attempts at songwriting led to prose. He loves reading fiction, history and biography and specializes in writing short fiction. His favorite book is Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks. He shares a Woodstock cottage with numerous musical instruments and hundreds of books, vinyl records, and CDs.





Linda Ferguson

Dancing with Myself



are dressed in skirts

 – purple skirts –

how strange!

How can they work?

Or do they?

Maybe they have servants –

or slaves!


Here, we wear pants

in sensible earth shades.

We chop and haul. We plant

seeds and grow new trees. We

think of everything.


And how do those other

people spend their days?

Dancing, of all things!

See how their skirts

twirl about their knees.

Not at all like me, who

gets the muck shoveled

and the porridge bubbling

while they go like this:


Forward, forward, round and round, hands up, cupping clouds, sway, sway, sway.


Very pretty

pretty easy

easy enough

for me to try

and still have time

to toss the slops

sweep the floor

shake the rugs –




first, a bit of color

might be nice –

not purple (purple

is too much) –

but a little blue

could be alright

(if no one here sees?)

I could wrap

some cloth around my hips

like this, and then take a step

and another –


oh –


swish, swish –


my skirt is a bird

with wings dipped

in exotic ink


Is this how the other people feel?


Hush, hush,

perish the thought!

Everyone knows

they are nothing

like us, and your

porridge on the stove

is about to burn.



 *Copyright for each piece belongs to the authors.


Friday, January 27, 2023

What's Love Got to Do With It?

My free creative writing class, Your Portland, is happening on Saturday, February 11, 10:15 a.m. at Taborspace!

In this encouraging group, we'll look at a variety of writings and then use prompts to begin telling our own Portland stories through poetry or creative prose. Feel free to message me for details.

In the meantime, here's one of my Portland stories -- a creative essay that was originally published by Mount Hope.

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Imagine you’ve fallen in love – not with a person, but a thing; not with an object, but an activity. A seed must have been planted some time ago. Maybe it lay in the wisp of a memory from your childhood friend’s recital, in the froth of the white tutu that skimmed her legs. Or maybe it was inside the jewelry box with the pink figurine that began twirling as soon as you opened the lid. Whatever the reason, the desire to dance suddenly blooms inside you now like a riotous plant, and at the age of thirty-seven, you take your first ballet class. In that hour, your muscles burn, your t-shirt and gym shorts are soaked with sweat, and you don’t know a tendu from a grand jeté, but you’re hooked anyway.

After that, you go to ballet class every week. You go when you’re tired, when you’re coming down with a cold, and when you should be at home working. You’re even reluctant to attend your grandmother’s 95th birthday party because it means you’ll miss ballet. Secretly, you think such devotion will make you an exceptional dancer—the kind that lifts the audience with her as she leaps into the air—but that doesn’t happen. It could be your age since most dancers start training when they’re four or five. But to be honest, you were never all that coordinated, not to mention that you have the flexibility of a fence post, and there must be something wrong with your sense of rhythm, because whenever agroup of people start clapping to a song, you’re always a little off. In fact, you can’t think of a single quality that makes you suited for dancing, other than the passion that fuels your persistence.

Besides these physical challenges, ballet is, for you, the ultimate brain teaser. Even after one year of classes becomes three, then five, then eight, there are new combinations to learn every week. Each sequence of steps feels like a high school calculus problem you can’t solve without serious help. As much as you want to believe you’re graceful and accomplished and quick, that you’re smiling as you sweep across the floor, that your body as light as tulle, all it takes is one glance in the mirror to see that your mouth is a tight knot of tension and that you’re lurching forward on the wrong foot. In this sense, your frustration with ballet has brought out your least-attractive qualities. You’ve left more than one class with your face burning with embarrassment, and with your head a snarl of snarky thoughts, jealous of other students who have more aptitude.

Still, you love ballet. You love the soft pink slippers that get all worn and dirty around the toes, the long arms and graceful hands, the intensity of a room filled with dancers determined to master a new step. You love the metal barres with their peeling white paint and the vocabulary of rhyming French words—tombé, pas de bourrée—and the music that beckons each dancer to rise to its challenge, to leap beyond the familiar sphere of home, family and work into a world where sweat and strain and stubbornness can mingle with light and air and grace.

And then there’s performing.

As much as you love class, the spring recital is magic. On stage, in the lights. Costumes, clapping, and the camaraderie of waiting in the wings with the other dancers, who all encourage and compliment one another. Every year your studio presents a collection of pieces performed by different classes. Along with the younger students, who with their smooth faces and slender limbs look like real dancers, the adults also get their time in the spotlight.

As a beginning ballerina, your roles are all character parts, which involve a lot of posing and mugging between relatively simple steps. The first year you’re Raggedy Andy, complete with baggy-blue overalls, striped tights and a red-yarn wig. Another time you’re a harem girl, sporting voluminous hot-pink pants reminiscent of I Dream of Jeannie. In these get-ups, the audience isn’t likely to notice if your legs aren’t completely stretched, or your toes aren’t perfectly pointed, and as you take your bows, you feel the buzz that comes from making people laugh.

The year you turn forty-five is different though. Your class is doing a serious piece set to Mendelssohn’s beautiful “Venetian Gondola.” The dance doesn’t call for posing or exaggerated gestures. It’s just you and the other dancers in leotards, tights and short, sheer dresses performing pretty steps. Fast, difficult, pretty steps that require some expertise. If you make a wrong move, there’ll be no cartoonish costume to cover it.

To compensate for your lack of talent, you’re determined to do everything in your power to make sure you’re ready for the show. You begin by leaving little notes listing the sequence of steps all over your house—upstairs by the telephone, the table by your bed, the bulletin board above your desk. You even make sketches, reminding yourself of the position of your feet, the angle of your head, and which arm to extend. Mostly, though, you practice. Pirouettes (turns performed while balancing on one leg) have always been your downfall, and sure enough, you have to do one at the beginning of this dance. Luckily, you work at home, so you can jump up from your desk at any time and pirouette in your narrow kitchen, again and again.

One evening, you’re practicing at home before a rehearsal, and it isn’t going well. You tell yourself to give it a rest, but you can’t—you’ve decided you have to get in one good turn before you leave for the studio. Of course the more you try, the more tired and sloppy you get, until your arms and legs begin to resemble the appendages of a drunken puppet. After the twentieth desperate try, you finally make yourself stop, realizing that this frantic approach isn’t improving your technique. Any dancer will tell you that in order to execute a difficult move, you have to believe that you have the skill to nail it, and your repeated failures this evening are doing some damage to your psyche. Completely frazzled, you’re driving to the studio an hour later when, unbidden, a picture of one of your fellow dancers pops into your head. Nicola is pregnant with her first baby, and suddenly you can imagine her holding her son. With this image comes a wave of happiness and, strangely enough, love. You’ve made many friends through ballet, but you don’t know her as well. Tall and thin and athletic, she has long, thick, dark hair, and a dignified, almost regal, bearing. While she seems like a nice person, the two of you never talk much beyond the occasional comment on the rain or the difficulty of the dance.

Still, here you are, feeling this strong, unmistakable affection for her as if she is a dear friend.

And just like that, you know how to prepare for the performance. From that point on, you need to stop trying so hard, to stop focusing on yourself so much and just enjoy the music and the movement and the other people in the dance. Ballet teachers are always telling their students to remember to breathe, and that’s what you have to do—to breathe and look around the room, to see who you’re dancing with, and to appreciate them. To take pleasure in Meghan’s graceful lines, Clare’s smile, Birgit’s strength and Rehl’s courtliness. To stop concentrating on your inadequacies and just enjoy chatting with the other dancers as you all walk to your cars after a late rehearsal. Ballet, after all, is as much about love as muscle—the love of reaching for what looks like an impossible goal and the incomparable pleasure of moving in sync with other people.

Now you’re forty-nine. No matter how hard you try, you may never be flexible enough to do the splits, or skilled enough to execute a perfect pirouette. But love is something that comes naturally, the thing that can take us all to the place where Mendelssohn went when he wrote his music, the thing that leaves us all awestruck, like a new mother holding her infant. When you watch the video of the “Venetian Gondola” piece now, you see that love on your face. You didn’t turn into Anna Pavlova the night of the performance, but you weren’t just stumbling through a series of steps, either – you were dancing.