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Monday, September 27, 2010

More Zona Rosa


When Mary Ellen gave me my copy of Rosemary’s book, she was unaware that Rosemary conducted Zona Rosa Workshops. I learned about the all-girl Savannah group from Jingle Davis, a writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and a friend of my brother, John, who also wrote for them. There are also coed Zona Rosa groups. In 1996, there were only three, but over the years, they have popped up and blossomed all over the country.

I attended my first meeting in April, 1997, accompanied by Jingle, who was thinking about writing a piece about it. My darling Mary Ellen died of lung cancer on Christmas Eve of 1996, so she never got to see me grow in the group. She had, for years, encouraged me to write, insisting I had talent of which I was unaware.

Back to the meeting. I walked into Rosemary’s house, which smiles at you when you enter, and I was paralyzed with fear. What was I doing there? Who did I think I was, here among these accomplished women, some of whom were published authors?

Susan Johnson, one of the original members of the group, is a woman of stature and a somewhat forbidding nature - until you get to know her. She made me shake in my shoes. Over time, she opened up to me and made me feel very much a part of the group. She is now emeritus, and I miss her. As for the others, they made me a little nervous but didn’t scare me!

Rosemary was the first person to tell me that my natural genre is poetry, but it would be a year before my work led her to that analysis. I attended the workshops regularly and had some private sessions with her.

My brother was dying of kidney cancer, and I was responsible for my invalid mother, so over time, my attendance grew spotty, but I never thought of myself as anything other than a Zona Rosan. My brother and mother died in 2000, three months apart, and I went through a dreadful mourning that stripped me of my confidence as a writer, but I kept going to meetings, sometimes skipping because I felt like a fraud, sitting there with nothing to present, taking up space and breathing air that a real writer could be using.

In 2002, when I felt ready to put my writing energy back to work, my darling Clint had a knee replacement that led to a cascade of health issues that eventually killed him six and a half years later. There were periods when he was a death’s door only to rally. There were infections and toxic medications and a ruined immune system. He was a functional alcoholic with cirrhosis and had no platelets to help his blood clot. Each time he had another operation, there ensued transfusions. His knee was infected, removed and replaced three times.

My writing took a back seat - except my paper journal. I had a nervous breakdown and spent 10 days in hospital about eight months before Clint died.

For two months after his death, I was unable to write a single word. Then I began my blogs, and the words began rolling out of me. And here I am today, back at Zona Rosa and building strength every day, taking control of my work and feeling strong and empowered.

© cj schlottman


Sue said...

Sounds to me like you and Zona Rosa are a perfect fit. And you need to make sure you get to those meetings!


KeLLy aNN said...

Every time I read one of your posts, I am in amazement how much we are alike. I think the year 2000 was the mostest worstest horrible year for everyone. I lost my grandmother and my dad within 6 weeks of each other; They were my Life.
My art took a back seat for almost two years. But it came back with a vengeance!
for what it's worth, I love your writings. You have a way of capturing the Emotion that I could never do.

Katie Gates said...

So wonderful to read your words in all their raw-ness! It sounds like Rosemary was/is the perfect mentor for you. Speaking of raw writers, have you read any of Mary Karr's memoirs? If not, I recommend them!!!