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October 22, 2016
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Writer’s block

Yarnslinger Ramona Jan is stylish as always, at Cafe Devine in Callicoon, NY

I’d like to say that “it had to happen sometime” but truth be told, my (hopefully) temporary ennui has visited before. “It goes with the territory” one of my colleagues chirped over lunch. “If you’re lucky enough to write for a living, the day will come when words will literally fail you. Ironic, isn’t it?”
It’s not that I have nothing to say (that will be the day!) or that there weren’t events happening all over the Upper Delaware Valley that attracted my attention last week. In fact, as the trees begin to bud, the plethora of happenings springing up in every community is seemingly boundless. High school musicals are tuning up all over and galleries are opening their doors. The Event Gallery at Bethel Woods (www.bethelwoodscenter.org) beckons and my inbox is flooded with announcements.

Picking and choosing what to do and whom to see becomes a challenge at this time of year, and I’m still relearning how to drive, after my self-imposed sabbatical during the winter months. Even before I left the house, I knew that I was in trouble. Never one to shy away from seeking help, I googled “writer’s block” and randomly opened a link, written by someone named Chris Bolton (www.blog.hostbaby.com). Since seeking advice from friends was an exercise in futility, I figured that a total stranger might have something more pithy to contribute.

Running late for the much ballyhooed James Hunter concert at the Nutshell (www.nutshellarts.com) in Lake Huntington, NY, I hit the print button, and raced (I mean hobbled slowly) out the door. I was in time to receive one of Hunter’s “People Gonna Talk” CDs and take my seat with a huge crowd, buzzing with excitement over the band’s return to the venue. The British R & B sensation had appeared there in 2006, and according to the press release, that performance and subsequent New York Times review garnered enough attention to catapult his popularity here in the states.

I glanced at the writer’s block “cheat sheet” I had printed before leaving the house and noticed the first suggestion: “Beg, borrow and steal.” Down, but not out, “stealing” another’s words was not (yet) an option, so I moved on to number two: “Pay attention to what you like.” While opening act Jesse Dee could be best described as, well... loud, I was hardly alone in appreciating headliner Hunter’s (and band mates’) panache and swinging style, and it was easy to pay attention. Performing an all-original set, the five piece band was ( IMHO) on fire.

Number three on my printout was “Pay attention to what you don’t like” but I’ve already had my say on Jesse Dee, so I’ll just note that the Nutshell was vibrating inside and out, as devoted fans and newbies (like me) danced and celebrated the return of “one of their own” while raising funds (and awareness) for Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy (www.catskillcitizens.org), “a volunteer grassroots organization intended to give residents a voice in the emerging energy decisions in the Catskills.” Although the energy level that night was exhilarating, my physician had advised against overextending myself, so I made my way home, wondering how I would be able to express my appreciation for an evening so well spent.

Number four: “Spend some time alone” is never a problem, Catskills pariah that I am, so I made some preliminary notes on a cocktail napkin, thanked Dharma (the wonder dog) for not shunning me, and moved on to number five: “Share your process.” Having committed to joining local storytellers group the Yarnslingers (yarnslingers@yahoo.com) in spinning a tale with them at Café Devine (www.cafedevine.com) in Callicoon on Sunday, number five seemed to be speaking directly to me, so I read on. “We, as artists, relish the idea of unveiling a finished work. Remember that telling the story is often a painless way to develop your ideas.”

Taking my place alongside fellow wordsmiths Marion Kaselle, June Donahue, Maura Stone, Jim Sullivan, Ramona Jan, Ann Finneran and Patti Zinnes turned out to be the tonic I was seeking. Entertaining and lively, their stories (unsure about mine) amused and touched the sold-out crowd who were enjoying the fruits of proprietor Patti Devine’s latest labor of love, the debut of her new “RiverSpace” event room. The writers’ collective is gaining popularity, performing (for lack of a better word) in various locations throughout the region, and there were familiar faces among the new in the audience.

Having a bite to eat and schmoozing with the audience is always something I look forward to after the Yarnslinging, and I was reminded of the number five addendum: “You might even get some useful feedback and direction.” Sure enough, interacting with the appreciative attendees was inspiring and informative, and I left the eatery feeling that I might be (slightly) less hackneyed than previously believed. Throwing caution to the wind, I sat down at my desk and scanned number six: “Let your ideas breathe.” Inhaling deeply, I read on. “The creative process involves much more than your mind. It involves the magical, mystical recesses of your deeper thoughts. Sometimes you need to stop forcing things and let your subconscious take the wheel.” Well. There’s always next week.