Friday, September 1, 2017

#GiveBackGetInvolved: Resources for Activism and Community Involvement

(UPDATED/Monday, September 11, 2017) I reached out to friends and followers for help in creating a list of resources for activism and community involvement. I received a variety of suggestions, including a few that are specific to Chicago or Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma relief. If there is an event, organization, or volunteer opportunity you would like to see featured in a future post, please contact me at!:

Armed Forces Veterans: organization providing aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and their families

Build Chicago: organization engaging at-risk youth in schools and on the streets, helping them realize their educational and career potential and contribute to the stability, safety, and well being of Chicago communities

Charity Navigator: the nation's largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities

Conversation Chicago: monthly conversation series at Women & Children First Bookstore, pairing out-of-town authors with local writers, artists, and musicians

Countable: app that streamlines the process of contacting lawmakers and telling them how you would like them to vote on bills that are under consideration

"Helping Out After Hurricane Harvey: Where, What & How to Donate": article at

"How you can help people affected by Hurricane Irma": article at

"Hurricane Irma: How to Help Storm Victims": article at

Issue Voter: service that makes civic engagement accessible, efficient, and impactful through customizable email alerts on issues that matter to you

Project PSI: a team of remote viewers searching for missing persons and advocating for victims of human trafficking and child exploitation

Supportive Listening: website dedicated to practical tips, insights, and information on the skill and technique of supportive listening

"The Secret to Happiness is Helping Others": article at

United Way: international coalition of charitable organizations aiming to strengthen communities by working to improve health, education, and financial stability

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Guest Post: Thirty, by Onicia Muller

Note from Amelia: Welcome Onicia Muller, writer, comedian, fellow storyteller, and friend. The complexity of this evocative flash fiction piece unfolds with each subsequent read:

Is despair haunting?

She hoped for some petrol so she could make it to an interview. She left home with a busted ride that she hoped would take her to Progeny. Another day. Another gig. Her tank was dangerously near empty.

Thirty for thirty. Thirty miles in thirty minutes. If she got that job on the thirtieth floor, would she make it? Sadly, working for thirty days and barely earning enough to live for twenty...

Roadside. She used to hope for hope. Now she wished that she never had. This mad dash to Progeny. Her poverty was like starting this journey on a tank dangerously near empty, hoping for a petrol station. But like every opportunity, the stations were closed. She was so close to another station, fighting against logic and desire.

The motivational morphine pushers said the universe would conspire to help her. If only she'd hoped for no hope, then she wouldn't be a failure on the super highway.

Onicia Muller is a Caribbean writer and comedian. Her weekly humor column "Just Being Funny" is published in The Daily Herald's

"Thirty," copyright 2017 Onicia Muller

Monday, July 3, 2017

Poem #2: I Seek

A poem reminiscent of summers past. This is another simple self-reflection exercise that anyone can do, using the five senses for inspiration:

I taste the heat.
I smell sometimes flowers, sometimes trash.
I hear barking and a hose running.
Dogs play in kiddie pools, and I reach out to them as they run by, happily chasing each other.
I see brightly colored murals along the El tracks.
I walk home, where it's cool inside and I'm alone.

"I Seek," copyright 2017 Amelia Cotter

Monday, June 5, 2017

Ghost Story #3: Rose Marie

While I was writing Maryland Ghosts: Paranormal Encounters in the Free State, my Uncle Bernie sent me more than 30 stories from throughout his life in the form of hand-written letters. After Maryland Ghosts was first published in 2012, and featured most of his Maryland stories, we turned his remaining letters into an unpublished collection to share with family and friends called The Haunted Letters: True Tales from a Ghost-Storied Life. Here is another one of my favorite stories from that collection:

Altoona, Pennsylvania (Blair County), 2003

Debra and I had just returned from a trip to Chatham, Virginia to share time with our Chatham family. It was the next morning, and Debra and I were having hot coffee in our living room.

Debra sat across from me on a sofa, and I across from her on another sofa, reliving our most recent Chatham visit.

The white form of a lady suddenly entered our living room from the front foyer of the home, approximately three feet off of the floor. Her form hovered, not in between us, but just to my right and Debra's left. The lady was dressed all in white and seemed to radiate/pulsate white light.

I did not look directly at her but kept her in the periphery of my vision. Debra continued to look straight at me and I asked her if she was observing what I was seeing. Her response was, "No. What do you see?"

I responded, as this lady in white stood there, "I am seeing the ghost of my cousin, Rose Marie Meadows!"

She was killed in 1955 in a tragic auto accident when I was eight years old. I told Debra that I believed Rose Marie had come home with us from our trip to Chatham. Her form hovered there for about another 20 seconds, then abruptly turned, heading back toward the foyer, and vanished from sight.

We had actually been to the Chatham family cemetery during our visit, which holds the grave site of seven of my Meadows relatives, Rose Marie's grave being the oldest. When she was killed in 1955, I wasn't allowed to go the funeral. She was 17, and like I said, I was eight. The summer before her death, she had visited and stayed with us on Valleywood Drive in Wheaton, Maryland, for a week. She was kind, caring, and thoughtful, and much appreciated by our family.

Her brother Bill had been driving the car. He was taking her and her date to the prom. She and her boyfriend were both killed in the accident. Her brother, to this day, says he doesn't remember anything that happened. Shortly after her funeral, Bill enlisted in the Air Force and went away for four years. In my opinion, a good thing.

Rose Marie would have been 73 today had she lived. Her death tore a hole in our family's heart that still hasn't healed. I hope she rests in peace.

"Rose Marie," copyright 2017 Bernard W. Masino and Amelia Cotter (first appeared in The Haunted Letters: True Tales from a Ghost-Storied Life, 2013)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Haiku #4: itch

In continuation of a month of surprises, I was named Haiku Master of the Week by Haiku Masters on NHK World! My husband, Jonathan Montgomery Pollock, took the photo below inside the Rosehill Cemetery Mausoleum in Chicago, Illinois. This photo, along with the haiku below (edited for the show to fit three lines), comprised last week's winning submission and are viewable at the website's Gallery with accompanying video and judges' commentary. See my post from May 8 for more details about this and our other photo haiku featured this month on the show:

of old wounds
I pick myself

Rosehill Cemetery Mausoleum in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo by Jonathan Montgomery Pollock.

"itch," copyright 2017 Amelia Cotter (first published with Jonathan's photo in East on Central Volume 14: 2015-2016, 2015)

Monday, May 8, 2017

Haiku #3: confluence

Today is my one-year wedding anniversary! The photo below was taken by my husband, Jonathan Montgomery Pollock, at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois, where we got married. We used this photo, along with the haiku below, as our wedding favor postcard. Now, this photo haiku, along with another of our collaborative photo haiku, will be featured this month on the show Haiku Masters on NHK World (and are viewable at the website's Gallery now, with the edit "his hand in mine"). I didn't tell Jonathan I was submitting these, and of course wasn't sure if or when they'd be accepted. I was going to post this photo haiku today anyway, and then found out early last week that they were indeed accepted. Perfect timing! So...surprise, Jonathan! Happy Anniversary!:

of winding rivers...
your hand in mine

Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois.
Photo by Jonathan Montgomery Pollock.

"confluence," copyright 2017 Amelia Cotter

Monday, April 17, 2017

Guest Post: So What is Haiku? by Charlotte Digregorio

Note from Amelia: April is National Poetry Month and today is International Haiku Poetry Day! Welcome Charlotte Digregorio, prolific author, haiku poet, and one of my haiku mentors:

Many people think they know what haiku is. They think it's really simple to write, perhaps because their teacher had them write it in grade school. But, there's a lot more to it than just a three-line poem about nature. In fact, although it's often nature-related, it doesn't have to be. One thing is for sure: haiku is not a random, cute thought. In fact, it is often not a happy thought at all. (The word "haiku" is both singular and plural.)

In haiku, there is often a communion of man with nature. Haiku often evokes the wonders of nature. Actually, it doesn't have to be three lines. It is sometimes one, two, four lines or more. It is mostly imagist poetry, and it originated in Japan in the 1600s. It's written in the present tense because it captures the moment.

Punctuation is used sparingly, if at all. Haiku is usually no more than 17 syllables, but it sometimes is a lot less. There are no titles, and words aren't usually capitalized. Haiku is poetry. There are often literary devices such as alliteration and assonance, and being imagistic poetry, it evokes a gamut of emotions from happiness to sadness.

A haiku poet strives for using the fewest words possible. Adjectives and adverbs are often avoided, as they describe too much. The haiku poet wants to create an image in a very understated way, in simple language, without rhyme. The image allows the reader to formulate his/her idea of what the poem is about.

Unlike what your teacher may have taught you, in a three-line haiku, you do not need to write five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third. In fact, modern haiku in the English language rarely follows this traditional formula.

Through well-written haiku, the reader can feel the emotion of the poet, even though the poet has written it in a very matter-of-fact way. There is no preaching to the reader, nor are there judgmental words. The beauty of haiku is in the image it evokes in each reader who takes the haiku on both its face value and its deeper level of meaning.

To offer an example, this is a published haiku that I wrote:

through darkness...

The haiku above has deep spiritual overtones in just a few words. To some, it may mean that a path to faith/religion has been found. But, to others, it may simply mean walking through darkness, that is, depression, and finding one's way out.

Today, haiku and senryu–the latter, in the haiku form, but focusing on human nature, and often humorous–are popular in dozens of languages worldwide. Senryu originated in Japan in the 1700s. Often, poets do not differentiate between haiku and senryu, but consider both as just "haiku."

For many people, haiku and senryu are therapeutic, as they help us express our innermost feelings that we have difficulty articulating even to people close to us. Haiku and senryu can be written about anything relevant in our lives.

It is very gratifying to learn to appreciate the art of haiku and senryu. To write them well, poets must read them on a daily basis, and practice writing them often.

Charlotte Digregorio is the author of Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All. She blogs on haiku, and runs "The Daily Haiku" at "The Daily Haiku" has featured thousands of poems written by international haikuists of thirty countries.

"So What is Haiku?" copyright 2017 Charlotte Digregorio