The different ways that family history and genealogy intersect with other aspects of the culture is growing. But I think this project might be a first for family history. Broad Street Magazine, which publishes nonfiction narratives in a variety of genres, has begun a six-week series of feature articles on six poems from my family history […]
Category Archives: Writing
The gardener and I just got back from a trip to Tennessee. We came home Friday night, but our plane was three hours late because a dent in the fuselage meant they had to find us a new plane. Not fun being stuck in the Nashville airport with celiac boy. The restaurants were appalling for the gluten-challenged. He can’t drink alcohol when he’s flying either because of his damaged GI system. So I made up for it with two weak vodka sodas. I asked for two limes in each, but I think each drink ran past a lime.
The non-tedious thing about the trip home was that for the second half of the flight home I actually engaged in conversation with a seatmate. Yup, anti-social flyer me. I’ve only ever done that once before. I wrote about that one a few years ago. You might remember it. Still Photo. That time was a young girl. This time was an elderly gentleman who has an engaging personal history, coming from a family of southern Arizona settlers, and a medical history of 20 years of leukemia. His wife passed away a little over a year ago, and that is why I continued to “chat” with him. Speaking of this momentous event, I recently heard Phoenix writer Susan Pohlman read a piece she wrote on the subject of plane conversation. She Will Dance. It’s published in the beautiful journal The Sunlight Press. When the plane landed, the man I was sitting next to shook the gardener’s hand and thanked him for loaning me to him for the plane ride. Of course, he thanked me, too, and he seemed really grateful. Made me feel like a louse for ignoring him the first half of the trip.
Because of one job put off until afterward and three deadlines that appeared while I was gone, I had four writing projects to work on this weekend. I want to blog about Tennessee, but it will have to wait a bit.
Have you ever heard of the Plath Poetry Project? You can follow along (as you like) with the poems Sylvia Plath wrote in the last year of her life (approximately) and write poems inspired by hers. I did so and submitted it with a little prose piece about how it inspired me. It was published on their site last week. Find my poem ” Near” here and check out the project while you’re at it!
Make it a great week!
When the ice maker repair person was leaving my house the other day, he said something that forced me to think about a writing problem I have. I didn’t bring that to his attention. Instead, I just laughed and responded with “You got that right!”
After discussing the repair to be made with this repair person, the gardener had waltzed off to the treadmill. Since I was pan frying dinner (ahead of time–my favorite time to cook), I was left overseeing the repair. My overseeing consisted of complaining to said repair person that the food was falling apart because it didn’t have any gluten in it. Anyway, when he was done, he shook my hand and said THIS. Watch for my italics.
“Say goodbye to your husband for me. Tell him it was really fun talking to him. You probably hear that a lot. He’s quite a character!”
THAT. He’s quite a character. You probably don’t know he’s a character because I don’t make him much of a character in this blog. Or in my memoir-in-progress. I present him sort of flat and static–not multi-dimensional or dynamic.
Why is that?
Well, I’ll tell you why! It’s because he would overshadow the other characters (including me, of course).
I first realized this when I was around 150,000 words into my memoir (don’t panic–while I have about 400,000 by now, only 80,000 are currently in play). Because my father was quite a character, and my story is about my father and me, the gardener has to be a very two-dimensional confidant. According to yourdictionary.com, a confidant is described this way:
- One to whom secrets or private matters are disclosed.
- A character in a drama or fiction, such as a trusted friend or servant, who serves as a device for revealing the inner thoughts or intentions of a main character.
And, truly, that is who the gardener actually is in my life, along with a whole lot of other things, such as best friend, lover, and most worthy antagonist. But he’s also a pain in the you-know-what to write about–unless, of course, I were to write about him. Putting him front and center. I am not prepared to do that. The thought of that project is beyond daunting.
In case you’re wondering if I am a wilted violet in the face of all that personality, never fear. The kids are waiting for our family reality TV show because they know it’s coming.
The following song is dedicated to the gardener.
On Saturday I participated in MEET YOUR LITERARY COMMUNITY, sponsored by Arizona State University, at the Phoenix Market. I had a table to display my books, and it was fun talking to people as they stopped by. Best of all, I reconnected with someone I hadn’t seen in a long time and met some great new people–most, but not all, writers.
Since I’m kinda an introvert (kinda hahaha) and easily over-stimulated, it’s amazing I even applied to the event. But I’m trying to push myself to get out there a lil bit.
We have a lot of writing events in the Phoenix area, but they are mainly in the evening for obvious reasons. I really do not like to attend meetings and readings in the evening. I don’t like going out in the evening at all, but if I am going to do so it will be with the gardener or other family or very close friends (including house guests). So I figure writers think I’m a hermit or maybe not interested in their events when I don’t attend, but I would LOVE to attend . . . if they were held during the daytime. My non-writing business can be done in the evening to make up for daytime events, so that would be a blessing–if there were more daytime events haha.
The meet-up was held at the Phoenix Market which has booths featuring fresh produce, baked goods (lots of gluten), honey, ceramics, scented items, and jewelry.
Hard to believe, but I had never been to the market before. I’ll definitely be back. Parking is right at the market, although it’s downtown. Or you can take the lightrail.
By the way, I can’t remember if I mentioned this or not, but I am a regular book reviewer (mainly poetry) for Main Street Rag and also have a review coming out in Pleiades. Also on the writing front, the subject came up at the event about the possibility of me coaching poetry writing. I am not interested in a teaching gig (been there, done that), but I am considering offering individual coaching for poetry. I figure with two books out, my MFA and PhD, and years of reading, reviewing, and critiquing poetry, it’s something that I should consider. So I am considering. Any thoughts?
The other day my blogger buddy Merril posted an article by Brian Geiger, editor of Vita Brevis, about publishing your poetry: Publishing Poetry is Like Arranging a Marriage. If you write poetry, take a glance at it.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what Geiger wrote. The main point is that you need to read journals before sending your work. You want to find a good “fit,” like a good marriage. I was heading down that same thought road when I published the article From Creation to Publication in The Review Review. I wrote it in 2014, so a lot has happened with my writing since then. Maybe that means it contains some good advice ;)!
But I did a bit of what Geiger does in his article, and that is to assume that if we read the journals we will automatically see which ones are good fits for us.
Hmm. Yes, as I mention in my article, I did discover that a journal I really wanted to be published in was selecting highly experimental (in an unpleasant way) pieces. So I crossed them off my list. But, in general, (I would argue that) there are similar types of poems in the majority of journals.
So what does it mean to find a good fit besides knowing if you want a journal with traditional or experimental writing?
You have to be honest about your own writing to begin with, and I’m not sure any of us is fully capable of doing that. We are too emotionally invested, having written the dang thing and perhaps having lived through all the ins and outs that are found in the poem. But we need to know if our work is fledgling or some point (what point?) beyond that.
If you are incredibly prolific and are looking for high numbers of publications, send it everywhere if you like (I do mention this in the article), but personally I don’t see the point in being able to say my work was published in over 500 journals and magazines. Who cares? I think the quality of the work is most important–and then hopefully you do find a “matching journal,” but it doesn’t always happen that way.
What I am saying is that part of finding a good fit is that the journal and the poem are a similar level of “quality.” This is one of those statements that seems judgy, elitest, you name it. But there are elements of the truth in it, too. The fact that the statement seems kind of ICK is why people don’t really come out and say that is part of why you should read lit journals before submitting.
Another reason to read journals is for the LOVE OF POETRY. If you don’t love to read it, why are you writing it? To do that is just a form of narcissism and maybe also self-aggrandizement. (Yes, you see the bitchy tone creeping in more and more–I’m going to blame the emotional burnout I talked about in last week’s post haha. I no sooner got the daughter off to NYC than my car needed repair and that sucked up a whole day. Then a slew of other home repairs ate up another. However, the good news is that I DID take a couple of naps and focused on my yard and cats instead of the hubbub).
None of these three reasons has anything to do with the implication articles like Geiger’s gives us, which is that we will read journals and have epiphanies in the middle of the pages of some of them when we see exactly the type of style, subject, and form of poems that we write. HAHAHA. Being completely honest here. Never had that feeling in my life.
The closest I have come to it is, for example, when I read the museum of americana and thought of the material and theme of the magazine as perfect for my Kin Types poems based on history, in particular American history. That is because the journal looks for art “that revives or repurposes the old, the dying, the forgotten, or the almost entirely unknown aspects of Americana.” There have been a few such times, but they are rare because most journals have a broader focus. Most of them just want “YOUR BEST WORK.” Um, ok.
Brand new issue of museum of americana issue 15 is up as of last night!
So I was thinking that when I write a blog post I can ALWAYS write #amwriting since I just wrote a blog post. That kind of makes my day.
Aqua blue West Virgina slag glass
In 2012 I started blogging. Not on this blog, but on the adoption one I shared with my daughter (July 2012) and then, soon after, I started the family history blog, The Family Kalamazoo. It seemed as if I began this blog, Writer Site, many months afterward, but in fact, I began TFK very hesitantly in September 2012 and first posted on WS on October 24, 2012! So all three blogs began in a four month period in 2012.
I had no thoughts to how long this would go on. At some point, we stopped posting on the adoption blog because my daughter and I had done what we wanted to do there. We still keep the domain and occasionally reblog something of interest, but the project sort of feels complete to both of us. As for family history, that will never be completed, especially since people keep giving me old photos and info!
Writer Site is my fun place for writing, reading, travel, and whatever strikes my fancy. I always have lots of ideas for blog posts, but not enough time to write them all. Right now I don’t feel that way. For the first time. So I ask myself why. I think the main reason is that my daughter has been living with us all summer and is still here. There are good reasons for that, and it won’t last forever. But it’s EXHAUSTING to me to have another adult living here.
The funny thing is that we get along great, and I love spending time with her. But her young person life exhausts me. I hadn’t realized how stuck in the mud the gardener and I had gotten. We get tired so easily. We get overtired if we see too many people or if the procession of events moves too swiftly. And it does with a younger person living here.
When did I get so old? And when did everything start to tire me out?
WAHWAHWAH. You get the drift.
I don’t feel like writing with her here. Even when I’ve pushed myself to do so, I don’t get the joy out of it. I feel as if I’m in a holding pattern while she is here.
She’ll be headed for the city to spend time with her boyfriend soon, so maybe I can take some naps. Or write. Or let the world stop spinning for a few days.
ON ANOTHER NOTE . . .
Let me point you up above, where I wrote that it’s exhausting having another adult living here. In 2013, I posted about my discovery that I am a Highly Sensitive Person. Now five years later, I can tell you that using today’s terminology, I am a Serious. Freaken. Empath. An Empath picks up on the emotions of others or, in my case and that of others with it really bad, you actually FEEL the emotions of another person. It’s kind of creepy. I think it’s important to remember that having sympathy–or even empathy–for somebody else doesn’t mean that you have to experience their emotions. So when I say it’s kind of creepy I mean it’s really creepy.
Nature is one of the best ways for people like me to replenish themselves. Probably why I wish I was still in Alaska.
Is an HSP always an Empath? Is an Empath always an HSP? Or are they two different things? I am trying to come to grips with this new revelation about myself, so if you have any insights, please share away!
#amwriting: I will continue to plod away on the gun essay, just don’t hold your breath haha.
Today begins the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the new year. I’m wishing you a good (and sweet) year, whether you celebrate or not.
If you were reading my blog three years ago, you might remember that spring and summer were the seasons of the hummingbird mother and babies, my father’s illness and death, and the passing of my oldest cat Mac.* These events swirled together, as life’s events often do, and I ended up writing a lyrical essay called “Ordering in Four Movements.”
That fall the essay was published in Phoebe (45.1), a beautiful print journal. If I ever put together a collection of prose pieces, maybe this one will find a “book” home. In the meantime, though, I wanted to share it with more readers via an online journal, so I submitted it as a reprint to Ginosko Literary Journal where it was subsequently accepted. This weekend the journal went live. I hope you will enjoy this piece. It means a great deal to me since it covers emotional issues that preoccupied my mind at the time.
Ginosko Literary Journal — “thumb through” to page 33
* The links in the first paragraph are to the original posts I wrote about these events. The one about Mac tells his life story ;).
I’m still working on my gun essay, but I was challenged to try it from a different angle, which has taken me down a muddy and tangled garden path. Oh boy.
May you have a sweet week ahead. And a happy birthday to poet Mary Oliver!
Happy Labor Day. I hope your labors are light today, whether you celebrate or not.
When I left Alaska, I was eager to get home and see my cats and return to my routine. My initial thoughts were that I was so happy to have had the opportunity for this Alaskan experience and that I didn’t see the need for a return visit. The sites were beautiful and so different from what I knew, but it is quite remote in SE Alaska, and I like my city pleasures.
But this week I’ve found myself longing for Alaska. I miss the glaciers, the mountains, the wildlife, and the sparse human population.
The gardener doesn’t understand at all. He still feels that it was a wonderful trip, but he’s “done.” He loves warm weather and sun, and while I do like warm, sunny days, I don’t need it the way he does.
I love the way the mist lingers between the mountains. And how a low hanging cloud can transform a hill into a strange shape, even an animal.
Look through the mountains below to see yet more variety of landscape.
The next photo interested me because the waterfall is not centered. That way it’s possible to see more variety of topography.
Look at the next. Why is the umbrella over the flowers? It can’t be because someone positioned their umbrella there when they went inside. The flower pot is far from the door of the bookstore in Petersburg.
A phenomenon that I noticed in Juneau was that many people decorate their mailboxes. Unfortunately, with a big rear view mirror sticking out in my passenger side view, I couldn’t take a pic of too many of them.
Maybe I’ll have stopped blabbing about Alaska by next week . . . .
One thing before I go: I finished Ellen Morris Prewitt’s fabulous new novel Tracking Happiness. I posted a review at Amazon and Goodreads. Here is my Goodreads review, although I stupidly posted it under the Kindle edition, and I read the paperback. It begins this way:
People sometimes ask me for fiction recommendations, and when they ask for a funny book, I remember that my list is very short. Sometimes they ask me for a feel good book, and that list is also pretty short. But since I just finished Ellen Morris Prewitt’s new novel Tracking Happiness: A Southern Chicken Adventure, I am putting it at the top of both lists.
The review is found here. It’s such a feel-good book you will thank me for recommending it :).
Make this week a good one!
Last week I wasn’t feeling too hot, so I published some photos from my Alaska visit in Light and Color in Alaska. If you take an Alaskan cruise or visit southeast Alaska, here are my suggestions in bullet points.
- Bring a good camera that will work almost telescopically. That is the only way to capture the eagles in the trees and the seals floating on the icebergs. Really be comfortable with it.
- Bring a backup camera of some kind that will actually work (and that doesn’t have a defective SD card). (Sniff)
- Get a waterproof pouch or dry bag for kayaking and rafting so you can bring your camera or iPhone.
- Bring a nice thick hoodie with deep pockets.
- Bring all the outdoor and clothes layering necessities, but don’t bring any extra clothes. If you plan to dress up you are taking the WRONG CRUISE SHIP.
- Invest in a good rain hat. Consider bringing full rain gear unless you don’t mind being wet. You might use an umbrella occasionally, but the hat is much more important. It was all I used–and we had a lot of rain.
- Go beyond your comfort zone. Cross some stuff off your bucket list. Mine included kayaking, riding a river raft in 60 MPH winds, seeing glaciers up close, frolicking with bears (well, sort of haha), taking pix from the outside platform on a mountain train, and seeing the other wildlife and landscapes of Alaska.
- Be happy if you don’t have cell phone access for long periods of time. It means you’re having a real vacation.
I have been too tired to post until now. First I was recovering from my illness and then my daughter’s new boyfriend came to visit. The best part of that sentence is the new boyfriend part because he was her best friend. In fact, they have been friends for twelve years, so it was pretty exciting that they finally figured out what everybody else already knew. And it was fun being around lovebirds for a few days.
Also, I am working on a new memoir piece that has to do with guns, as well as working on some proofing of pieces going out, as well as writing poetry reviews. I have several coming out this fall and winter.
Here are a few more Alaska photos. Have a great week.
from the train platform
a peek at the blue sky
What was that intermission all about? The gardener and I went to southeast Alaska, cruising on a small ship–and also staying in Juneau awhile. Then we got back and became sick almost immediately. How often has that happened to you? Is it the germs on the plane?
Since I’m not feeling so hot, I’ll mainly post some pix to give you an idea of what we saw. Unfortunately, the photos from kayaking are lost, and that was the most fun of all. But we used a lil old camera I had lying around and for some reason those photos did not turn out or the SD card is locked somehow. I didn’t dare take my iPhone with me on the kayak. However, I did take it on the river raft trip we took during SIXTY MPH WINDS. What an experience.
One of the things I took away from Alaska was how different the landscape depending on the lighting. You should be able to see from my pix that sometimes the natural color of Alaska appears to be greyscale and sometimes the color is vivid.
Here we flew into Juneau, the capital of Alaska. It is inaccessible over land.
That is a color pic, by the way. In Skagway we picked up the train that took us up into the mountains. These pix are out of the train window, but at one point I did stand out on the platform, leaning over. You have no idea how much my fear of heights has improved recently!!!
We saw creeks and tall trees and other mountains in the distance.
Bald eagles are plentiful in Alaska, but we saw the most on our terrifying and uncomfortable river rafting trip. This photo was taken, though, not from the raft in that wind, but by someone else through a telescope with an iPhone.
Because we were on a very small ship, we were able to get up close to a lot of glaciers, particularly in Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier Bay. Notice the color changes.
The melting glaciers lead to many waterfalls along the route.
The wildlife was abundant, so abundant I wish I felt like talking about it! Alas, I feel pretty ick today.
Here’s a pretty water pic. No filters.
And on the ship they took pretty good care of our food and drink needs. Crab legs and butter are gluten free.
The liqueurs are for the hot chocolate with giant marshmallows and whipped cream (and candies if you like).
See that white Bailey’s bottle near back on the right? It’s gluten free and dairy free!
I hope to be chattier next week ;). Have a good one!
P.S. OK, I can’t withhold this video. In Juneau, on the last day, we saw first an adult bear run across the road in front of our car–and I mean directly. My phone was zipped in a pocket. Then we saw a cub eating by the side of the road, but the photos are crap because the grasses obscured him. So we stopped at a salmon stream to look for bears. They weren’t there, so we meandered back along the bank and toward our car. That’s when I saw two black bears crossing our parking lot! In the video you can see one of the bears in the way back near the trees and then the low white wall. The group of people and dogs were unaware of the bears until I warned them. The particular concern was that one of the dogs was unleashed and “wandering.”