Food-color paint in the Congo

A few drops of food color into water, some flour (if it’s available), and voila!  Paint! I took enough brushes for each student in a classroom to have one (they will be kept in the office and shared in various classrooms), and we had a blast!  First time for these kids to do an art project like this?  Almost certainly. What’s in a name? COLOR! We left the supplies there, both at the Universite des Sciences and Technologies and at… Read more

African Storybooks

A couple of weeks ago, while I was in Lodja, Democratic Republic of Congo, I was invited to a huge family gathering in honor of a powerful man who had gone from Lodja to important positions in the country’s capital.  There were at least one hundred people gathered to celebrate him and to greet me.  They danced, shouted, trilled, and otherwise rejoiced. At one point, a little girl came forward with her plastic doll.  The girl was a short-cropped beauty,… Read more

In Tribute: Douglas Heal Thayer (April 19, 1929-October 17, 2017)

“Margaret, are you gríeving Over Golden grove unleaving?” This is how Douglas Thayer often greeted me when we met in the hallway of the Jesse Knight Building, where both of us taught for years.  I wonder if I was the only person who got such a greeting from his rich supply of poems.  I was still in my twenties, newly married to Bruce Young, when he first greeted me this way—in 1985. I had taken advanced creative writing from him… Read more

A photograph essay: Give me this. . .

Based on Joshua 14:12   Give me this chair!         Give me this ramp!             Give me this big rock!             Give me this river!             Give me this mountain!             Give me strength!             Give me wings! Read more

A Gift From Dear Elouise Bell (and Signature Books)

Elouise Bell has died, and I know that she would want people to giggle at some of her humor right now.  Signature Books has made her lovely essay collection Only When I Laugh available online.  This is a collection I assign to my creative writing students, who are to read an essay a day during the essay unit.  Elouise’s essays are pithy and funny, and most of the students can’t stop reading once they’ve started. Elouise was my first creative… Read more

Moon Landings and New Babies

It was 1969.  Dad was training Peace Corps volunteers in Portuguese before their assignments to Brazil.  Mom was pregnant. This pregnancy was rather unimaginable to the Blair kids—the “first family,” meaning we five “starter kids”–the ones who trained our parents in preparation for the “second family.”  In late 1968, Mom and Dad had summoned the five of us kids into their bedroom for an announcement.  We knew it was important.  A move? A promotion?  Dad was going to become the… Read more

Creative Writing Syllabus

Wanna take creative writing?  Then do it! This is the course I’ll be teaching in the fall.  Exercises are at the end.  Find a group of writers to work with and go! All you need is discipline, imagination, and books!   Aims of the course: To make you better creative writers, obviously, and to introduce you to the world of creative writing– including those writers who are currently doing it well and successfully. By the end of this course, you… Read more

My Name is Aselu Celestine Luabeya

This is the life story of Aselu Celestine Luabeya.  The English version, with some basic history of the DR-Congo, follows after. Je m’appelle Aselu Célestine Luabeya. Je suis née le 16 novembre 1965 à LOMELA. Ma mère est TETELA et mon père LUBA. Mon grand-père maternel était le chef du village. Mon père était orphelin, mais a été adopté et élevé par un homme blanc – un belge. Après la mort de ses parents, des blancs sont venus pour sauver… Read more

A Priest and a Mormon Walk Down a Road…

And the priest says: “We’re in a moral vacuum.” The place is Lodja, Democratic Republic of Congo.  There are no paved roads and few cars.  People walk or take motorcycles or bicycles to get from one place to another.  Banana trees, papaya trees, avocado trees, mango trees abound, and the pineapples are twice the size of anything I’ve seen in the USA. The priest is Abbe Veron Okavo, a strong Congolese man who seems sometimes burdened and at other times… Read more

My name is Albert Kashala Nzolo (Part 3)

I asked to marry my wife, Celestine.  Her father said, “If you are a true gentleman and you love our daughter, come here in person.” I was asked to bring them a television and several little things as the bride price. I bought everything, and we went there “Give this, give that.”  Then it was over and we were asked to leave.  Certainly, not everyone was supportive of our marriage.  Celestine got messages asking why she would marry a poor… Read more

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