Category Archives: #AmWriting

Memory Remnants

It’s been months since I’ve written about the Secret Life of an Object (credit due to Dawn Raffel’s book). The other day I needed to make room in a closet and felt I should confront 3 vacuum-seal bags of old fabric scraps.

My paternal grandmother was a marvelous seamstress and tailor. I wrote in the posts, The Love Factor of Dolls and RIP Dreamland, that she was Head Fitter of the 28 Shop at Marshall Field’s flagship store in Chicago. When I was eleven, she moved to Kalamazoo, just down the block from us, and spent her early retirement years sewing clothes for us–especially my mother and me. In junior high, I learned to sew in  Home Ec class, and I began to sew my own clothes as well.

The motivating factor for me to sew was that my father wouldn’t buy clothes for me, but would buy fabric for me any time I wanted it. So if I wanted a new skirt, top, jumper, dress, or scooter-skirt (mini culottes), I needed to make it myself.

I think of the remnants of all this sewing Grandma and I did as Grandma’s fabric scraps.

I decided to unpack one vacuum bag and air them out. You see, some dummy (that would be me) put mothballs in the bag.

Anybody have an idea how to get out the smell of mothballs without having to wash the scraps?

What I found was that a great many of the scraps in this bag were either leftover from items sewn by me or items evoking memories.

In the above pile, you can see a navy gingham and a red gingham. I remember working with these fabrics; at least one item was a smocked top. Either the top or another item used both ginghams together. I wish I could remember it better. The orange floral in the middle was a granny dress with a red border at the bottom. The kelly green with tiny white flowers in the bottom left Grandma used for clothes for my mother and me.

This bright fabric on top with the sunbursts I made into a scooter skirt. It was actually wide-leg shorts with a panel on the front and one on the back that buttoned on.

The hat lady fabric was my absolute favorite. I bought it on sale and made a little flip skirt and bell sleeve top. I wore it all the time. The fabric was jersey, so very comfy and flattering.

Aren’t these fabrics a blast from the past though? Retro, vintage, and ancient haha.

In this pile are fabrics that I remember as well, although most of them were ones Grandma purchased for someone other than me–herself or my mother or my mother’s windows.

Maybe the biggest discovery in this bag, though, was a remnant of the fabric from the curtains of my bedroom when I was very young.

The walls of my room were painted a pale gray. isn’t this fabric great? Maybe these kittens imprinted themselves on me. They could be why I love cats to this day.

Do you have any old fabric scraps?

Since I no longer sew, what should I do with these scraps to give them new life?

***

Speaking of cats, the shelter I volunteer at hosted a 10 year anniversary gala. The gardener and I went with our daughter and her boyfriend.

I had to dress up for this shindig! Guess what? Jumpsuits are in style! So I bought a black jumpsuit, wore it with ankle boots  (for my crummy feet), and was good to go. But some people looked great, including the rest of my family.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Cats and Other Animals, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing, Writing prompt

The Self WHAT?

If you are disturbed by vulgarities and crass language, feel free to skip this post, but please come back next week because I don’t make a habit of subjecting people to it.

I have a nonfiction short story out in a new anthology published by Devil’s Party Press. The theme of this collection is a bad word in the title of each story. Lest you think this is sophomoric hijinks, the writers are all over forty!

Click through the photo if you want to order a copy. My story is called “The Self-Mindf**k.” See, I can’t bring myself to spell it out in public!  As for the title of the anthology, you can read the book cover above.

Seriously, though, my story is childhood memoir, about the way the fear and anxiety of living in my parents’ home over a basement bomber shelter affected my thinking—hence, the self-mindf**k. Here is a little “teaser.”

In the summer I turned six, my father dismantled his cozy basement workshop and built a secret underground bomb shelter out of cement blocks. This intrusion into our home was my first encounter with the Cold War. Television regularly put us through tests of emergency broadcasting via CONELRAD, and at school, duck-and-cover drills were weekly rituals. The goblins in our nightmares were “Commies, Reds, and Pinkos.” The anxiety this threat gave me was palpable and made even more acute because I was supervised by nervous parents. I had to wear a cumbersome lifejacket just to play in the sand at the beach. Overprotective was an adjective created for my mother and father. I don’t know if I would have been a fearful child if I had grown up in a different environment. Maybe part of it was genetic. But a fraidy cat I was–too scared to attempt cartwheels or to ride atop someone’s handlebars. Living across the street from an intimidating dog was one more frightening aspect of life in those days.

***

Thanks to Marie K. Bailey  I discovered I could post a deal on my first poetry collection Doll God on this blog. Ten bucks covers a signed copy and postage to a U.S. address I’m so sorry that I can’t offer the same deal to my friends in other countries. However, if you are interested in shipment elsewhere, please email me and let’s try to work something out.

 

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From Anne Lamott’s Pen

Following a writing prompt requiring the poet to pull words from a published book, I ended up with this poem. I wish I could remember which prompt I used–and how much I varied or not from it, but it was a couple of months ago. And these months have been full of work stress, so my memory looks moth-eaten.

The book I used was Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a popular “writing text.” The subtitle is “Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” and I would say that the instructions are more on point for life–and maybe that’s why it is so popular!

 

WHAT TO NAME A CAT

(in the voice of Anne Lamott)

 

Find God

Propmaster

On Loan

Crazy Clocks

Special Effects

This Effect

Ring True

One Door Shut

R&B

Therapy

God’s Home

Samuel Beckett

Dirty Feet

Tiny Word

Redemption

One Leaf

Wordsworth

Rumi

Personal Drama

Delusion

Gorgeous

Pure Radiance

Way to the Truth

Present Moment

Home

Each one of these names resonates for me with what cats mean to me. Gosh, that sounds like an essay assignment for fifth grade. A fun assignment!

Maybe you can find a name for your next cat from my list haha.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Poetry, Writing, writing prompt

Brainstorming Instagram


Do you like social media? I don’t mean in an “all in” sense or that you view it through rose-tinted glasses. You can accept its flaws. But in spite of its flaws, do you like it?

I really like Instagram. I wish I could “share” Instagram posts from other accounts to my own without using an outside app. But other than that I like it because it’s very visual. That means it is pretty like Pinterest is pretty. And it doesn’t have a lot of opinions ricocheting all over the place like Facebook does. Trust me: I have my own opinions. I don’t need everybody else’s.

More literary magazines are developing a presence on Instagram, and I like that, too. And more poets and writers. But are we making the most of Instagram for our words?

I’d like to put words with images in a more productive way on Instagram. For instance, tiny poems or micro stories.  Have you seen the like? If you do something like this yourself or have seen it done, please share with me usernames.

A concern I do have is that lit mags and writers are posting quotes from new poems and stories on Instagram, and the writing is not tight enough for that purpose. The shorter the piece, the tighter it must be. Here’s an example of what I mean. “The morning sun trembles on the horizon at 7AM.” I made up that lousy sentence, but see how the time is mentioned twice? That is the kind of loose writing I see in some of these quotes.

Next question: I don’t usually post my blog post photo on Instagram when I publish a post. Should I do that? Is it good to do a tie-in like that or is it boring to see too much of the same thing?

One thing about Instagram as social media: I think it might be less social than some others. There doesn’t seem to be a good means for more than two people conversing about a post. You can horn in on someone else’s conversation, but it’s not really in the way you can discuss on Facebook or Twitter. In this way, again, it feels more like Pinterest, which feels the least social of all.

FOLLOW ME AT CAT POEMS!

What sort of photos do I usually post?

  • CATS
  • ART
  • NATURE AND LANDSCAPING
  • WRITING
  • FOOD
  • FAMILY
  • FAMILY HISTORY
  • VINTAGE CULTURE
  • ODDITIES
  • DOLLS
  • TINIES
  • TRAVEL

Pretty much my usual topics haha.

Happy Independence Day on July 4th!!!

One of my tinies

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An Elegy for a Beloved Friend

On May 6 I posted about a poem I wrote for a friend who recently passed away. I had written the poem during #napowrimo. Today I am sharing the poem with you. I don’t plan to send it out. Writing it was the most important experience.

However, it has been shared with others. It turns out her husband loved it and published it as the poem for the pamphlet at Nancy’s Celebration of life. The title refers to Nancy’s way of saying goodbye, whether in person or on phone or by email. And for cards and gifts she used to wish “light and love.”

You Are Loved

 

We were sketches

you colored in with

your box of Crayolas

You were the model

we studied for vision

You were a guidebook

we the letters in line

You were music we

turned up on the dash

You were a disciple

You were the doyen

You were walks with

trees and caterpillars

You were the one

whose arms reached

around the universe

and whispered in one

word sentences because

each one was enough

light

love

###

Live this life in light and with love. No comments please.

I’ll see you next week.

 

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Jury Excuses

Last week, writer and blogger Cinthia Ritchie was called in for jury duty and tweeted about it. I was reminded of what happened to me the last time I was called in for jury duty.

Before I tell you let me say that my favorite grandmother was ALWAYS put on juries. Murders, robberies, everything. She was exactly what they wanted for every case she was ever called in for. Sweet lady who got along everyone. Educated, but not “overly” so. A “housewife” who went back to work when her grandchildren were growing up.

I sort of wanted to be like her because I thought that court cases would be good fodder for writing.

But I was always in a teaching quarter/semester when I was called, so I always had to ask for an extension.

Then one day I was able to go. And you know what we did? Sat in a big group under fluorescents (you know I can’t handle those because they are a trigger for my complicated migraines, right?) and waited

and waited

and waited.

In addition to the complicated migraines, I also have primary lymphedema. Lymphedema is an everyday thing. And it is extremely exacerbated by sitting or standing still for long periods of time. I can practically watch my feet and legs swell up if I am too still (without lying down).

If you want to know more about lymphedema, here is a great blog (The Lymphie Life), written by a good writer who suffers from lymphedema.

Around 2:30 they finally corraled us all before the judge. There were at least 100 people in the room. One by one, we had to go around and tell the judge if there was some reason we could not be on the jury. By that time I could see that I wouldn’t be able to sit still for a trial. What if it went on for a full day? Or two days? Or a week or more? I would need a hospital, and they would need an alternate.

As I waited my turn, I heard all manner of excuses, mainly dealing with work and/or children. I was embarrassed for everyone having to talk about their personal lives in front of all these strangers. When people were done with their excuses, the judge explained that he would keep their difficulties in mind but that they might end up having to serve.

When it was my turn, I stood up and pretended nobody was in the room–or I would have been too scared to say anything. Then I described lymphedema, and why I couldn’t sit still long enough to be on a jury. Keep in mind that I would have loved to be on the jury.

The gray-haired judge looked at me over his glasses and nodded. “OK, you are excused from serving jury duty. You may leave.”

I turned to go, and the entire room erupted in applause. The man next to me slapped my arm and said, “Good one!” A woman raised her voice. “That’s the best excuse I’ve ever heard to avoid jury duty.”

Before the door shut behind me, I heard the judge admonishing everyone to settle down and be quiet.

I’m filing that story in the “life is unplanned” section.

PERRY SAYS HI!!!!

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Organization and Happy Cat Tails

For two years, Tanman and Louise have lived at the shelter. They were born, along with their sister Thelma, in a laundry room, and received very little human attention in the first months of their lives. This means that they came to the shelter in the no-cats-land of not being feral because they had never been outside for a second in their lives and not being socialized either. At the shelter, we discovered that they are great with other cats and love to play. But they are afraid of humans getting too close.

In this photo you can see it says they were at the shelter 600 days, but that was printed in December. Thelma is the tabby and Tanman is, that’s right, the tan and white.

This story takes a good turn, I promise.

A couple of weeks ago, they were adopted together by “Catification Couple,” a couple who have a lot of cats and devote their lives to taking care of them. Their house is designed for cats, in fact.

If you want the fun of seeing Tanman and Louise warm up to humans you can follow their stories on Instagram or Facebook. They do post, as well, but to really see what goes on with these two kitties you have to watch the stories.

So I have been spending a lot of time (that I don’t have) going through files and files of old paperwork–writing drafts, academic papers, business “dead files,” and personal business out-of-date stuff. So far I have 8 banker boxes of shredding :/.

What motivated me is that I am missing a list of items that I know are just misplaced. When you have too much stuff, you can’t find what you really want to find.

But I am reading a few things before I toss them.

 

Audre Lorde is one of my favorite poets. My dissertation (gosh, that feels like such ancient history now–and it really is) is structured on one type of identity for each chapter. Then I focused on one poet for each identity. A chapter I was excited about, but never got to was “the performance of economics,” using Lorde’s poetry. She so often uses images and metaphors of money and math. I suspect it meant that she dealt with feelings about worth.  Reading this poem made me remember how disappointed I was to exclude the proposed chapter from my dissertation, but I already had enough word count and just wanted to graduate.

Going through all this stuff is making me wonder what other writers do to organize all their work. It seems an ongoing time-consuming project to organize well. Right now I have a binder of published poems and a binder of published prose with lists for each. But the binders are full and they seem a bit disorganized. Then I have a binder for all the paperwork related to Doll God and one for Kin Types. Maybe it’s my habit of losing things that make me want to use binders instead of just file folders.

There is still much to be gone through, but I am losing my passion for it. My allergies are in an uproar over the dust I’ve stirred up, and I’m tired of the same project. And have started to feel overwhelmed by how many incomplete poem drafts I’ve found!

Do you do intense organizing like this? If so, how often do you engage in it? I sort of think this is my first time . . . .

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Moms on Poetry: Tricks

Moms on Poetry has reprinted a poem from my first collection Doll God.

Thrilled to be in good company. One of the other poems is by Karen Paul Holmes from her book No Such Thing as Distance.  I reviewed that book for Pleiades. You can find more about it here.

Here is the poem up at Moms on Poetry:

Tricks by Luanne Castle

###

Chewy.com called my girl Kana “furdorable” on Twitter the other day!

Are they right?

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Sacrifice and Service

Sorry not sorry for blowing up your readers and/or email with my posts in the past week or so. I’ve never had so many poems published online in such a short space of time. It was just a fluke.

Today I’ll say Happy Memorial Day, but give you a sad Memorial Day poem. It’s by James Tate (1943-20150) whose father was a pilot in WWII. His father was shot down and killed in combat on 11 April 1944. Tate was only a few months old, so he never knew his father. Thus are the sacrifices magnified through families and other loved ones.

The asterisks between stanzas are mine. I placed them there because WordPress wouldn’t keep the spaces between stanzas otherwise. Sigh.

for my father, 1922-1944

*

Your face did not rot
like the others—the co-pilot,
for example, I saw him
*
yesterday. His face is corn-
mush: his wife and daughter,
the poor ignorant people, stare
*
as if he will compose soon.
He was more wronged than Job.
But your face did not rot
*
like the others—it grew dark,
and hard like ebony;
the features progressed in their
*
distinction. If I could cajole
you to come back for an evening,
down from your compulsive
*
orbiting, I would touch you,
read your face as Dallas,
your hoodlum gunner, now,
*
with the blistered eyes, reads
his braille editions. I would
touch your face as a disinterested
*
scholar touches an original page.
However frightening, I would
discover you, and I would not
*
turn you in; I would not make
you face your wife, or Dallas,
or the co-pilot, Jim. You
*
could return to your crazy
orbiting, and I would not try
to fully understand what
*
it means to you. All I know
is this: when I see you,
as I have seen you at least
*
once every year of my life,
spin across the wilds of the sky
like a tiny, African god,
*
I feel dead. I feel as if I were
the residue of a stranger’s life,
that I should pursue you.
*
My head cocked toward the sky,
I cannot get off the ground,
and, you, passing over again,
*
fast, perfect, and unwilling
to tell me that you are doing
well, or that it was mistake
*
that placed you in that world,
and me in this; or that misfortune
placed these worlds in us.
***
James Tate, “The Lost Pilot” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1991 by James Tate. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.
Source: Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1991)
###
I tried doing a photo shoot with Kana when she wasn’t in the mood. At first she didn’t actively argue about it.
Then she got crabby.

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Debris and Its Inspiration at The Ekphrastic Review

The Ekphrastic Review has reprinted another poem from my first collection Doll God. As I mentioned last week, the journal is a very unique literary magazine. The emphasis is on publishing writing that responds to visual art. Thus the name of the journal. Check out this article for explanation: Ekphrasis

Thank you to editor Lorette C. Luzajic for choosing my poem “Debris.” There is a strong connection between the poem and my mother-in-law’s art.

 

Here is the poem up at The Ekphrastic Review:

Debris by Luanne Castle

The photo above is the cover of the book that is a story of The Birdland jazz club illustrated by my mother-in-law’s Birdland murals. That is where my photos on the journal site originate from–not the actual murals themselves.

That wraps up a full week of five poem publications. I hope you’ve enjoyed them and aren’t jumping out of your tree to get away from my postings.  Closing comments, but you are more than welcome to post at the site. Thank you!

I’ll leave you with the cutie pie Perry.

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