Kathy Martone and Cheryl King both took different roads to different destinations as writers. But they agree on two things: The best way to inspire yourself to write is to read. And the best way to actually write is … well … to actually write.
King and Martone are the featured authors at tonight’s Poetluck, a monthly gathering hosted by the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. Each will read from a recently published novel, and other Eureka Springs authors will join them. Molly Scroges, a linguist-poet who teaches ESL at Green Forest High School, will be the guest emcee.
Like so many other arts organizations, the Writers’ Colony has pivoted to an online format for its workshops and events. And this particular Poetluck fulfills a promise left hanging in March.
“Poetluck has historically been a combination potluck dinner and literary salon held at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow on the third Thursday of every month,” explains Michelle Hannon, WCDH executive director. “It’s an opportunity for writers in residency at Dairy Hollow and local writers to share their work with the public in a relaxed, supportive setting.
“When the pandemic hit in March, WCDH closed its doors temporarily while we developed a plan to re-open safely. We were forced to cancel the March Poetluck, [and] in April, we went to virtual Poetlucks. After several months of simply hosting virtual open readings, we decided we could keep our virtual Poetlucks vibrant by curating them and recruiting readers. I was thrilled when Kathy, Cheryl and Molly [the trio scheduled for March] all agreed to participate in November.
“One advantage of a virtual reading,” Hannon adds, “is we can feature readers from all over. Last month Poetluck celebrated LGBTQ+ talent, and we had a Dairy Hollow alumna read from Great Britain, where it was 1:30 a.m.!”
Martone and King both moved to Eureka Springs after pursuing other careers, and having them as the featured readers opened the door to inviting other Eureka Springs authors — including John-Michael Scurio, Ruth Mitchell, Zeek Taylor and Laura Matson Hahn — for this Poetluck.
“There is so much literary talent in Eureka Springs, it was easy to fill the roster with both Poetluck regulars and new readers,” Hannon says. “You never know what you’re going to hear at a Poetluck. We get to hear poetry, fiction, nonfiction, performance poetry, staged readings of micro plays, even original songs. I’ve been moved to tears and laughed so hard I cried.”
King will read from “Corpocracy,” her dystopian novel set in the near future, and Martone from “Victorian Songlight: The Birthings of Magic & Mystery,” a mystical story, told in part through the dreams of the main character.
Although she started her career as a proofreader for Doubleday when she was 18, King soon shifted gears and spent 30 years in a career in telecommunications. Martone retired from a career as a Jungian psychologist. Martone’s most recent book was published by Dreaming Big Publications, while King chose to self-publish.
“I enjoyed reading both books, and love that they can have so many similarities and simultaneously be so different,” Hannon says. “Both are works of fiction with a captivating story that features Eureka Springs in a positive way.”
Here, King and Martone talk about their lives as writers in an Our Town Q&A.
Q. What is the first book you remember that made an impact on you?
Martone: “Anne of Green Gables” is the first book I remember reading as a child. I loved it and even now have all of the books in that series.
King: The first book I ever remember reading was “The Black Stallion” by Walter Farley. Something sparked, and I fell in love with books. I was 8 when I decided I wanted to create the stories myself.
Q. Did you pursue writing from an early age or did it come along later?
King: It came very early for me. I was convinced well into my teens that I would make a living from the pen. I soon learned life is never that simple.
Martone: When I was about 11 or 12, I thoroughly enjoyed my writing assignments in school, and my teachers thought I had a lot of potential. It would be many years later, after I received my doctorate, that I would turn to creative writing again.
Q. What inspired the book you’ll read from?
Martone: My book was inspired primarily by actual events in my own life. I was also inspired by my dreams — many of which are included in the book — a fictionalized version of my own experiences. The book’s setting (White Horse Springs) is modeled after Eureka Springs.
King: “Corpocracy” came from the age-old “what if” game most writers play when they create. What if lobbyists didn’t have checks and balances? What if corporations really did dictate public policy? What would the world look like? And on the face of things, it might not look so bad. But do our fundamental beliefs align with corporate bottom-line thinking?
Q. What would you say to aspiring writers to encourage them?
King: Write with a purpose and when you don’t have a purpose to write, just write. Make it a habit. I have learned that stories often come unexpectedly and rarely completely so if I “hear” a story developing I’ll drop what I’m doing and write it down.
Reading is a source of inspiration for me. The better the material I read, the more inspirational. Also, letting my mind wander while doing simple tasks like cooking and cleaning, keeping background noise low and unintrusive. I like quiet so I can hear my thoughts. Nature never fails to inspire. Immersing myself in nature always sparks my creativity.
Martone: If someone enjoys the process of writing, I think it is important to just keep doing it, for its own sake. In order to write, one must sit quietly and listen to the inner whisperings of the soul. One must surrender to the inner Muse and not interfere with what arises. Our job is simply to transcribe what we receive, with gratitude. One of the biggest challenges I find is getting out of my own way and allowing the story to unfold on its own.
I find that reading is a great way for me to get inspired. Writing down my dreams and working with them is also a huge source of inspiration for me. Writing is like a relationship to me — a relationship with our divine inner author. Like any relationship, it requires commitment and time spent together.
Q. What’s next for you?
Martone: My next book — “Lady of the Beasts” is the working title at this point — is still in the very early stages. But it is based on a dream I had — a dream about a woman who had a large old oak tree in her back yard. The woman had a special relationship with her tree and often talked to it. Over time she begins having strange, sometimes unsettling dreams, many of which come true.
King: Well, I’ve got my second novel in the second rewrite, and at this point, I can tell you it’s an action-adventure set in the Ozark Mountains. A tornado wreaks havoc, and the residents of my fictional town are left to deal with some unanticipated fallout after the storm moves on.
The Other Writers
Also reading from their works tonight are these Eureka Springs authors.
Laura Matson Hahn
Where you grew up: Northern New Jersey
What you’ll be reading from: My novel, “The Heart Code”
When/where/how was it published? Self-published on Amazon in 2013
What is the message that your book carries with it? That each of us has a unique path that is coded in our hearts — and how listening to the heart is not just a nice saying, it is essential if one is to realize a truly lived life.
What are you working on now? A picture book about the experience of raising guinea hens.
What has the Writers’ Colony meant to you and your work? I’m new to the community but so excited to be involved with the Writers’ Colony.
Where you grew up: Medford, Mass.
What you’ll be reading from: A post from my blog titled “It’s All Drag.”
When/where/how was it published? Sept. 28, 2019 (Bike’s Blues, BBQ Weekend) on my blog, www.iloveureka.com
What is the message that your story carries with it? Everything that we wear is drag. Be yourself and be human in your drag. Your drag is your cover, but what is your book all about?
What are you working on now? I continue to post on my blog within five core pillars that I have established that make Eureka special to me: Cultivating community; making memories; curating culture; spreading joy and love; and living well.
What has the Writers’ Colony meant to you and your work? Proudly, I am on the Board of Directors at the Writers’ Colony. It’s invigorating to me to see the work that comes from a place so special in a place like Eureka — which is also so special.
Where you grew up: Marmaduke
What you’ll be reading from: I’ll be reading from my soon-to-be-published book, “Out of the Delta II.”
When/where/how was it published? The book, my second in the series, will soon be self-published through Keezart press.
What is the message that your book carries with it? My book is a collection of autobiographical short stories. I hope readers relate to the true-life events depicted in the stories, and they come away thinking, “We are more alike than different.” I also hope the book creates laughter, some tears, and that it ultimately entertains the reader.
What are you working on now? The stories in my soon-to-be-published book were written during the past four years. I’m currently doing the final editing, and I plan to have the book in print in a matter of weeks.
What has the Writers’ Colony meant to you and your work? The WCDH’s online magazine, eMerge, has been a valuable outlet for me and for other writers to get our work before the public. I’m honored that a writer’s retreat space, “The Zeek Taylor Suite,” is located at the Writers’ Colony. I’m thankful to the sponsors of the suite, and I’m motivated by their support and their belief in me.
Where you grew up: Little Rock
What you’ll be reading from: “Beyond: A Tale of Discovery on the Other Side of Life”
When/where/how was it published? Soon to be released, it will be available at all retail outlets for books.
What is the message that your book carries with it? “Beyond” is meant to be entertaining, while stretching one’s imagination toward unconventional thinking.
What are you working on now? “The Two Moons of Merth.” This fantasy novel was first folded into “Beyond.” While writing two novels simultaneously helped with my ADD, readers found it confusing to switch back and forth.
What has the Writers’ Colony meant to you and your work?: It’s been amazing to have the support and feedback from other writers.
Go & Do
When: 6:30 p.m. today
Where: Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow via Zoom and Facebook Live
Information: (479) 253-7444; writerscolony.org; or email [email protected]
‘Poetry as Refuge in a Time of Disruption’
What: A three-day online workshop with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, former poet laureate of Kansas
When: Dec. 4-6
Where: Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow via Zoom
Information: (479) 253-7444; writerscolony.org; or email [email protected]
Becca Martin-Brown is Features editor for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @nwabecca.