Teachers Who Help You Be You

Lee's art

Watercolor by Lee Baughman

Thinking today about my art teacher, Lee Baughman, who has made such a difference in my creative life. The best teachers are the ones who support you being you. They don’t insist that you become carbon copies of their work or that you echo their preferences.

Lee has helped me discover my own voice through watercolor, collage, and mixed media. Although Lee is specifically a watercolor teacher, his focus is on helping each student find the tools to develop her own unique voice. With this support, I’ve found immense freedom to grow and play and experiment, and I’ve recently discovered a new teacher who has infected me with the joy of pastels. Thrilled to be learning from Jane Aukshunas.

Teachers and mentors like Lee remind me how much I want to help writers become more themselves. Not to travel the path that I would like or expect, but to lean into their own storytelling vision and follow where it leads.

This is why I get excited when my writers “graduate” from working with me, and move on to other classes, teachers, writing styles, and schools. I don’t own their growth–I’m simply here to witness and boost as they build on their strengths.

No matter where the creative journey takes us, we always hold our first teachers in our hearts. They are our angels.

Similarly, when I run into a student from a class I taught years ago, I revel in our shared connection. It never ends.

Heroes like Lee Baughman have granted free reign to my artist soul, and I’m grateful to offer the same freedom to my students and clients, those beautiful writing souls in my world.

Thanks, Lee!








Working with A Young Writer: Noticing Favorite Things & Play


“The puppy flew out of a cupcake. Her name is Candy.”  –Natalie, age 8

Natalie is the youngest writer I coach. When she walked in with a box of rainbow-colored modeling clay, I set aside my prompts for the afternoon and admired her tiny, intricate creations. As is always the case, what you love is the doorway to your creativity. Your passions are stronger fuel than the instructions of any teacher. Sure enough, when I asked questions and followed her lead, her story was incredibly imaginative and wonderful.

The next time you are hoping to motivate someone to write, yourself included, notice what is already being created but perhaps overlooked. When working with a young writer, pay attention to her play.

Build the writing world on a foundation of beloved things.

Getting Support for Taking A Creative Break

Edee Lemonier, Writer, Community Leader, and Web Wiz


I like what coach and poet Mark McGuinness has to say about Creative Burnout, especially “control freakery.” I relate to the creative rock star who gets to do what she loves and is surrounded by adoring fans – in my case, a community who loves to encourage me as much as I love to encourage them.

And I also relate to the need to sometimes walk away from it all.

But this isn’t easy to do.

As a business owner, I was nervous about the plan I’d made in June, to take September off and walk the Camino de Santiago.  In the eight years I’ve been a writing coach, I’ve learned that business stops when you stop responding to people. My break would mean taking a month off, disconnecting my phone, and allowing my students to sit idle and un-encouraged for thirty days.

But I also began to realize I was modeling relentless activity, and a life leashed to a computer. Unlike Stephen King, who purportedly never takes a vacation from writing, I must take a creative break.

So I left. Crossed my fingers and threw my cares to the wind.

The wind blew on my community while I was gone, rustling up this writer, that encourager, that artist. Groups met without me.  Creativity thrived.

This wouldn’t have been possible without Edee, who hosted Wildfire Wednesday at Cascade Park Library in September. Edee makes my job easy because she is teachable, committed, open-minded yet confident in her talent. She is a people person and yet a solitary artist. Her work astounds the reader. Not only did she take over the library night, but she let me know I wasn’t forgotten while I walked.

It wouldn’t have possible without Patty. Patty rustled up the evening Wildfire Writing Master class, finding a temporary location, sending announcements. This imaginative writer and caring, even-tempered, listener has one of the most amazing combinations of talent that I’ve ever met in one human being.

And then there was Jenna, my fellow coach and dear friend. She kept the enthusiasm going for the artists group I facilitate and roused the troops at Rouse. She listened to my pre-trip jitters and post-trip overwhelm. She wired me support on the airwaves – I felt it all.

Being a creative rock star loses its glitz when you start thinking you have to do everything, all by yourself.  Being surrounded by willing, giving human beings is what it’s all about.

Thanks to these three, and to all of you, the music plays on.


Rules for community engagement: Don’t be a lone rock star. Let shine the leadership gifts of those around you.

Give Your Particulars, Tell Me Who You Are

Thursday Master Class

Students new to Wildfire Writing classes show up full of hesitation. How can they share their work with the others in this community, when the class is comprised of all beliefs and backgrounds?

There are many pieces of ourselves that others might not “get.” Questions of race and religion, of politics and persuasion, of secret ambitions and sexual identity.

What I’ve found is, the more we share the specifics of our particular lives, the less important become our differences. The woman detailing her disordered eating strikes a chord with the man describing his overbearing father. Concerns may seem completely different, but stories find our shared beating heart.

I love it when writers are brave enough to share their roots and ties, exploring what these things mean. Liva Montana’s poem, Communion, for example, makes me hungry for more of the poet’s religious experience and symbols.

Have you found a place where you can reveal your differentness? Keep reaching for that, and do keep putting down on paper all that you are.

(Image: Wildfire Writing Master class, July, by Desiree. These writers are fearless in bringing their whole selves to the page.)

You’re the Writer, It’s Your Show – Don’t Tell Us The Back Stage

Guest post by Wildfire Writer Desirée Wright offers insight and wisdom for every writer hesitant about taking that bow . . .

Back Stage, Front Stage

by Desirée Wright

When my daughter landed her first speaking role in a high school play she was ecstatic, and she should have been. She stuck with auditions and volunteering behind the scenes until the dedication paid off and she was cast.

I picked her up from late night rehearsals and she was non-stop with the theater “drama” and the weird and wonderful things that take place “behind the curtain” as a show develops. Her stories reminded me of when I was in theater.  As her parent I was just happy that she shared her experiences.

theatre wikimedia commons

I went to the opening night performance. It was awesome, of course, and I cried, of course. Since it took the cast an additional hour after the show to clear the set, get out of costume and listen to “notes” I waited in the car. When she came out I told her how great the show was and how proud I was of her. She smiled and then started to tell me all the little details that went wrong or happened differently than they rehearsed.

As a former actor I understood, but as an audience member I didn’t want to hear. I wanted to put my hands over my ears and say “lalalalala” for as long as she talked. I wanted the escapism and journey I just took for two hours to stay enchanted.

After a few minutes I stopped her and said that as her audience I had no idea what was in the script. I was oblivious to the missed cues and props that were glaring mistakes to her. The show was so good and engaging that once I was sucked in  I was in!

The little things went unnoticed. They were big things to her since her blood, sweat and tears (oh so many tears) were invested in the show, but to me, the show was simply great.


As a writer I’ve listened to some amazing, soul touching stories and after, when I’m still basking in the glow of their storytelling the author says “I left this out” or “this didn’t really happen like that.” Kill. Moment. Now.

The rule that applies to actors and their performances also works for writers: don’t tell what happens back stage or behind the curtain.

What you write is your creative gift to the world, true or not. Don’t ruin a good thing by over-sharing and basically telling your reader that the journey they took wasn’t really the right one.

Keep backstage, backstage. No excuses required. If you feel a need to come clean and tell all the dirty details that were changed or didn’t play out like you wrote, find someone other than your readers or audience. Otherwise, bask in the glory of a good story.

You are the writer. It’s your show. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.

Just take your bow.


Small Press Love

3 books


Last week, three volumes showed up on my doorstep – anthologies by lovely, local small presses.

Pacific Northwest small publishers are made up of living, breathing, dynamic, literary heroes.

Drawn to Marvel is a hoot, expansive, and fascinating. It features my prose poem, “Pencil Boy,” which first appeared in Dixon Ticonderoga, a zine edited by the illustrious Stevan Allred of the small press, Red Cat Press.

Because of Drawn to Marvel, I can now say I’ve been published alongside Sherman Alexie, one of my uncaped heroes whose work is featured here.

These are poems inspired by comic books, with all the humor and kapow! you would expect. Edited by Bryan Dietrich and Marta Ferguson of Minor Arcana Press.

Ghost Town Poetry, Volume II, is a collection of poems penned by participants in the Ghost Town Reading series. This is a literary series hosted by the fabulous Christopher Luna and Toni Partington of Printed Matter Vancouver, who edited the collection.

The book celebrates a decade of their caring, brilliant efforts nurturing emerging poets alongside those nationally renowned.

Luna and Partington expand the heart of every poetry lover and community builder in the Vancouver/Portland area. I’m delighted that my poem, “On the Path,” found a home here.

I was also pleased to be a part of Ghost Town Poetry, Volume I.

The Night, and the Rain, and the River is an alluring collection of character-driven, voice-driven short stories, edited by literary powerhouse Liz Prato and published by Forest Avenue Press.

This press is making a name for itself as the place to get published in Portland. Dynamo Laura Stanfill shines a spotlight on every author, and Tuesday’s release at Powell’s was no exception, giving me the chance to autograph my story, “The World, the Flesh, and the Devil.” Below I’m with Tracy Stepp, copy editor.

Guess you could say I’m Drawn to Marvel at Ghost Town Night Rain. Thank you, wonderful small presses.

tracy stepp and christi at powells

Photo by Laura Stanfill.

Gratitude in Motion

I reflect on all the beautiful smiles I’ve seen this year, all the stories that have engaged me, and all the writers and creators who have helped me to grow, whether students or teachers or friends. I feel weightless and free as a falling leaf.

Gratitude leads to expectation; I can barely contain it.

“Every empty space is filling, every fire kindled burning.”

Listening to Writing Students – Even Doodling Celebrates Their Talents

I can’t seem to stop taking notes when listening to my writing students. I doodle, too.

I worried for awhile that the doodling meant I was being inattentive, but at least one study has shown that doodlers retain what they hear better than non-doodlers.

I do remember these stories long after. Listening to writing students crystallizes the moment, turns it magic.

Courageously, a writer reads her work. She may be self-doubting, hesitant, or even terrified, but the beautiful words she has created deserve to be noticed, heard, and even illustrated.

My friend Holly, an art therapist, taught me the value of listening. You can read the story of how she got me started.

A page from my notebook . . . Listening-to-the-Writers (2)

Roosevelt High students celebrate publication of school’s first book at Heathman Hotel

See on Scoop.itWriting

Roosevelt High’s writing and publishing center published its first anthology, “Where the Roses Smell Best: A Literary Companion to Portland,” including pieces from students and prominent local writers, such as Oregon’s poet laureate Paulann Petersen.

Christi Krug‘s insight:

It is wonderful when a publication succeeds on so many levels. This book is all about making a difference for Portland’s youth at Roosevelt High School.


At the same time it features wonderful works by local writers such as Paulann Petersen and Kim Stafford and Jennifer Springsteen. (And I’m in it, too.)

See on www.oregonlive.com

What Makes Me Mad: When Creatives Are Beaten Down

At Wordstock panel, 10/6/13

It makes me mad. In fact, it downright pisses me off.

When creative people are beaten down, bludgeoned, criticized. It is an ugly thing when beautiful geniuses are chastised for coloring outside the lines, for laughing too loud, for crying too much, for raising their voices in song or poetry.

And they listen to this criticism until they fall silent. And stop playing.

When the critical voice – I call him Dr. Codger – gets in your head, and tells you to shut up, or sit down, or put away your paintbrush, or promises you that you can’t, I want to wring his neck.

That’s what I find myself doing as a writing coach: throttling the tyrannical critic. Defying all those negative messages creative people have heard throughout their lives.

I listen to the creative person who says, “I used to write. I can’t anymore. I don’t know what happened. I just don’t think I’m any good now . . .”

And I pay attention to the artist who says, “I just can’t seem to make time for myself.”

And I draw out the entrepreneur who whispers, “I really want to write a book. But I never thought I had the talent.”

And together we get angry at the critic, at the lost chances, at the ruined happiness. And together we recover what is rightfully ours.

My next class starts October 26, a series of three Saturday morning workshops that will release your anger and passion along with your creativity. You will be able to obliterate these destructive messages and start creating again.

I would love to see you there, at Rouse Portland!  (Scroll to October 26 and click for details.)

Whatever is going on for you right now,  do this with me . . .

Get mad.

Next time you hear those messages, defy them. Get your fists up, get your art ready. Rise.

Do your creative thing anyway.

Photo by Chuck Pierson.

Jeff Baker: Portland writer Brian Doyle has four books coming in the next 12 months

See on Scoop.itWriting

Doyle has three books coming out this year and three more in 2014.

Christi Krug‘s insight:

I have heard Brian Doyle speak several times, read most of his books and perused his essays and poems. I can tell you he is an inspiring human being, not just a fine writer.

He will be our guest at the Wildfire Wednesday readings, Cascade Park Library on October 30.

If you are in the Portland/Vancouver area you will NOT want to miss it.

See on www.oregonlive.com

How Do I Get Published?

After class today, two writers asked The Question. “How do I get published?”

They are learning to expertly shape stories and novels, but have never submitted their work.

paperI like their approach: first write. Then publish. Some writers seem to think it should be the other way around. Some write so quickly, in such a fervor to get published (or to self-publish) that they don’t learn their craft.

The first thing, I tell them, is to craft the very best work you can, and that is only possible if you are soaking up examples of stories, articles, poems, or other works, according to what you enjoy and want to write. And if you are practicing. A lot.

My classes are devoted to helping people overcome their critic so they can produce good quantities of work, so that they can practice, so that their skills can improve by leaps and bounds.

If you simply spend your time thinking about writing, or dribbling out a word or two here and there, you are not going to cultivate the skills to excel.

There are no shortcuts for learning the craft. Reading, writing, looking at what works and doesn’t, sharing your work and getting feedback: these things will serve.

Once you’ve traveled that path for awhile, you should submit your work, share it, publish it. As Kim said today, “But there is so much information out there about getting published. How do I know where to start?”

Back when I started freelance writing, in pre-Internet days, the very best resource was the Writer’s Market. I loved that book. I marked it with highlighters, scribbled in the margins, spilled tea on the pages, read all the helpful hints, and followed the guidelines. It made a world of difference, helping me publish short stories and articles nationally and internationally.

pencilToday, you can still get the Writer’s Market in book form, or, you can subscribe to it online. It lists hundreds of publishers, of many different stripes and genres. It outlines what each publisher is asking for.

As you will soon find out, each publisher has different needs and guidelines, as well as their own personality, so to speak. It’s all about finding the right fit. The same goes for literary agents whom you might be seeking to represent your work.

Another great choice for today, especially when it comes to short story markets and lesser known publishers, is Duotrope.com. The submission calendar is a great feature, highlighting upcoming themes and deadlines. I love browsing the quirky themes. They offer interesting story ideas and give you the chance to tailor  work to these markets.

A quick scan today produces “Revolutions,” “Taste and the Tongue,” and “The Beatles.”  As with Writer’s Market, there is a subscriber fee, waived in the trial period.

Studying these resources gives you a wealth of material, but funnels that material nicely. There are a world of places to get published. A galaxy! But you need a systemized approach, determination, and willingness to devour publications. Find the stories that sound most like yours. If the publication doesn’t resonate with what you like to read and write, then go on to the next.

These are a couple of starting options. Let me know how they help you or don’t, and what questions you have next!hand writing

Writing A Book: Wildfire Writers Show How It’s Done

There are so many books being born from the Wildfire Writing community that I’m having a hard time keeping up!



Under the pen name Eileen Danielson, Linda Odenberg has authored a new enchanting, intriguing novel, An Evening with the Captain. This book is both cozy and adventurous and I’m delighted to have been a part of Linda’s team.

 Jerusha Jones has authored three novels in the Imogene Museum Mystery Series. I got to hear from the latest novel just last week–highly entertaining!


Shirley Graybill recounts an honest story of grief, loss, and faith, in Second Chances. This book is a must for anyone who has survived the death of a spouse. As a reviewer notes, this book will strengthen your soul.


Another memoir, which will tickle your funnybone at the same time it inspires you, is Mary DeYon’s What Does Love Have to Do With It? As you can imagine when you read her writing, it was enormous fun to work with Mary on this book.



 Eileen Elliott’s Miles of Pies is a wonderful amalgam of memoir, poetry, history, and genealogy. Every time I read one of the poems, I’m struck by the surprise of its layers.

You’ll find gut-busting humor and plenty of curiosities in The Lining of the Cloud, by Bruce Norman, G.C. Troop, Hillary Brotherton, Morry Butler, and L.B. Arnold.

If you’re writing a book, you can get inspired by others who didn’t give up on their idea. There are many more creations, blogs, stories circulating and I hope to celebrate more of them here in the next few weeks. Thanks, writers.

Contact Christi