My First Writing Marathon in Saint Joseph, MO


Ok, so I’ve fallen away from my blog practice for… ugh… more than a year.  In that time, I’ve been on several great writing marathons, so I am going to try to catch up and use this opportunity to reflect on what I’ve been learning. With new fellow blogger-friends in the graduate class I’m teaching now, I feel reinvigorated with new blogging fire.  

My first writing marathon in my new home of Saint Joseph, Missouri, happened in April 2014.  It began with a launch in the “Story House” at one of Saint Joseph’s great public libraries, then spilled out into two cemeteries and one awesome little local deli/bar/music venue/institution.  This was the first of what I hope will be many Open Writing Marathons hosted by the Prairie Lands Writing Project.  I loved my writing group and the adventures we had together.  Here are two pieces that emerged:


11:50 a.m. Mount Olivet Cemetery

“Writers in the Cemetery”

Writers sit
with their backs against
graves warmed in the sun,
journal pages flicking in the breeze.
Squirrels watch behind stones
while plastic flowers nod,
waving frayed ribbons
across the hills.

There should always be
writers in the cemetery.
Just in case.20140405_145159

Like battlefield priests,
writers could be on hand to
comfort the wounded,
hold hands,
call for medics,
hear confessions.

Like Old West telegraph agents,
waiting with their headphones
in the lantern light,
there should always be
writers in the cemetery.
Just in case
the dead decide to speak.

1:20 Ben Magoon’s Delicatessen

20140405_132054Our table of writers sits below an array of dusty hot sauce bottles nearly toppled from overhead by a giant blue Marlin, a framed photo of morel mushrooms, and a Boulevard beer pub sign with a familiar Lewis and Clark silhouette that says, “To those who make maps. Not follow them.” Next to it is a neon-rimmed Gibson guitar with the Jim Bean logo across its body.

Below it a trombone props up the corner of the storefront window with a plastic golden sun resting in its bowl. Next to that is an old-fashioned music stand, a four-foot tall glass bottle filled with green liquid, and a large golden lamp in the shape of a Greek goddess. She’s lifting up the lamp shade and standing on a Schlitz sign, and she is adorned by a single strand of green beads.

20140405_132606Over my shoulder, I can hear the easy laughter and storytelling rhythms of the usuals at the bar, punctuated by the sound of pool balls thunking each other and rolling into their pockets. The bell on the door clatters, and then there is a small chorus of greetings for someone named “Tom.”
Above it all, the waitress is cheerily explaining the specials for the 40th time today: hot ham and cheese, your choice of bread, with chips and a pickle. Chicken poblano pepper is the soup of the day

20140405_143112At the three small tables we’ve pushed together for lunch, seven writer heads now bow silent amid the bottles and cups, pens moving, my keyboard clicking. Ashleigh is crossing something out and then pondering, the pen moving in her hand like a priest working a rosary. Her brows furrow. Mary is grimacing, then writing, then grimacing, then writing. I can feel her brain trying to separate out the bar conversations behind us, pulling them into poetry.

To my left, the “Regular Weekly Music Schedule” taped to an antique icebox announces that on Monday, Colby the Human Jukebox is playing from 6-9, with Double Happy Hour and a Discount for Service Industry with Server’s License. Behind me is a giant green banner proclaiming that the Ancient Order of the Hibernians has declared Magoon’s the BEST BAR ENTRY in the St. Joseph Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.

I want to sit at this award-winning bar for the rest of the afternoon and listen to the music of this cool, weird town, my new home. Last night, Mary challenged the First Thursdays crowd at Norty’s to write Odes to St. Jo for the next Open Mic. I might start with this place, humming right along in the clatter and warm dust.



  1. Your writing always makes me feel as though I have journeyed to another place. It makes me feel home, comfortable, safe…. I enjoy your imagery and your detail. You always seem to catch what I miss and give me pause to reflect: what else have I failed to notice in my distraction and hurry? I am glad you take the time to put together the important pieces that make me remember and to think.

  2. I have always been interested in Saint Joseph and the gems that it hides. I really think that your writing is strong in visual asethics and I enjoyed the part about describing the cemetery. The pictures you have uploaded and added give a value to the writing. I am looking forward to our writing marathon and possible marathons in the future. The deli looked delicious as well, I may need to stop in for lunch sometime!

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