One morning in 2005, Grace Curtis was getting ready for work as she normally did. There wasn’t anything particularly special about that morning, although Grace admits her only child, a daughter, was wrapping up her senior year of high school.
“Perhaps facing change was the trigger,” says Grace.
Or perhaps what happened next was just one of those gifts writers are sometimes given.
In either case, Grace — who grew up in Dayton and New Carlisle, majored in English at Bethel College (Indiana) in the 1970s, and had worked as a technical writer — had not worked on creative writing “other than the occasional attempt at a story in college.” Yet, that morning, a line of poetry interrupted her thoughts and kept insistently repeating itself.
“I knew it was poetry,” Grace explains. “It had rhythm and meter. At first I thought, did I hear or read this line somewhere? But then I realized, no. These were my own words, arranging themselves into this line which wouldn’t go away. So I wrote the line down during breakfast, and another line followed, and then another.”
She wrote down as many lines as she could before leaving for work at Kettering Health Network, where she was director of Community Connect, a data program for physicians. When Grace returned home that night from work, she wrote down more lines. And then she revised them until she had a poem.
“I’ve just kept going ever since,” Grace says with a laugh.
But before we explore where she’s kept going to, it’s useful to rewind and review where Grace had been before that line of poetry stubbornly pestered her imagination and took her on a new creative journey.
After college and a brief stint teaching high school English, she realized that teaching (at the time) wasn’t for her. Happenstance led to an opportunity to work as a crew member on two sailboats, and she cruised throughout the Bahamas. On one occasion, she even crewed on a boat that was hosting Paul and Linda McCartney — yes, that Paul and Linda, of musical renown.
But perhaps more importantly, the big entertainment for crew members was to read. “We read aloud to one another,” Grace says. “And when we encountered other sailboats, we traded books with other crews. Reading aloud forces you to hear rhythms and word choices.”
Later, Grace returned home and became a copy writer and then a technical writer working on maintenance manuals.
In 1983, Grace earned her Masters of Business Administration at Wright State University and entered the medical community, working in marketing and IT administration. Although remaining a reader, she didn’t think much about creative writing until that line of poetry found her.
“I just couldn’t stop,” Grace says. “I took a poetry writing class from Jamey Dunham at Sinclair Community College. I can’t say enough about what a great teacher he is, and what an important influence that class was.”
Grace went on to complete her Master of Fine Arts, with a focus in poetry, at Ashland University in 2008. “There,” she says, “I found my ‘tribe,’ meaning other creative writers who love reading and writing poetry as much as I do.”
Her chapbook, “The Surly Bonds of Earth” was selected by Pulitzer Prize poet, Stephen Dunn as the 2010 winner of the Lettre Sauvage chapbook contest and is available from the publisher (www.lettresauvage.com). Her poetry has been published in such journals as The Chaffin Journal, Waccamaw Literary Journal and many others.
She retired from Kettering Health Network in 2011, but still works on a newsletter for the organization, and puts her IT skills to use as a volunteer for the internationally renowned (but locally based in Yellow Springs) journal, The Antioch Review.
And it turns out that now she has a penchant for teaching after all, facilitating poetry workshops in libraries and community centers throughout southwestern Ohio, including at the library in her hometown of Waynesville, where she lives with her husband.
Learn more about Grace and her poetry at her blog, n2poetry.com.
• Today, 2 p.m.: Joe Hill will introduce his third novel, a dark thriller called “NOS4A2,” at Books & Co. at The Greene. Joe Hill is the pseudonym for Joseph King, the son of writers Tabitha and Stephen King. Line numbers will be given out beginning at 1 p.m. For more information, see the Book Nook article in this section.
• Friday evening: Urban Nights will be held in Downtown Dayton, with many fun happenings, including the release of Mock Turtle Zine’s seventh issue, chock full of poetry, fiction, essays, art by local writers and artists. Support your local literary magazine simply by picking up a copy at an Urban Nights venue and other spots in the Miami Valley. Learn more at the zine’s website, http://mockturtlezine.com/.
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