Category Archives: Writing goals

Playing with Poetry (or T2)

The other day I realized that I do need to be systematic to stay organized and to be organized to feel productive (thank you, Jill Weatherholt). Chaos doesn’t work for me. Neither does too much spontaneity. Some, yes, but not too much.

I keep trying to get organized around poetry, and it keeps fighting back.

I had the possibly annoying brilliant idea that I would come up with a systematic way to share poetry tidbits and trivia (called T2) on a more regular basis. But what structure to use for that systematic organization?

Heh. I tried birth dates of poets. You know, like this: it’s June 20, so I will share something about Irish poet Paul Muldoon who was born on June 20, 1951. Kinda left me cold. Not Muldoon or his work, but his birthdate as an arbitrary choice of tidbit or trivia.

I wondered what happened in the poetry world on a June 20? I found this about Sylvia Plath on Poetry Foundation:

It was during her undergraduate years that Plath began to suffer the symptoms of severe depression that would ultimately lead to her death. In one of her journal entries, dated June 20, 1958, she wrote: “It is as if my life were magically run by two electric currents: joyous positive and despairing negative—whichever is running at the moment dominates my life, floods it.” This is an eloquent description of bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, a very serious illness for which no genuinely effective medications were available during Plath’s lifetime.

I’m sure I read that before because when I was Plath-obsessed I studied her journals pretty, um, obsessively. But I wouldn’t remember that she wrote that on a June 20, would I? And while this is a very important quote for anyone with or touched by bipolar disorder, many other Plath quotes speak to me much more.

What I really like to do with poetry doesn’t have a lot to do with systems or schedules (maybe poetry fights back because it doesn’t like systems). I like to write it, for one. Too hot right now for that (we’re having a dangerous heat wave in Arizona) When I taught future elementary teachers, I had them make big posterboard collages for teaching particular poems.  I like to make collages about poems, too. Too hot for that for sure. I like to read poems and write in a journal the most random idiosyncratic* responses to them.

* When I was a new grad student in Riverside, I had a meeting with a professor about a paper I wrote.  He thought it was good, but very “idiosyncratic.” I had the embarrassment of asking him what that meant. Yes, I was an English grad student and had always read a lot, but sometimes it’s clear I am not an expert on English. If you grew up like I did, this is what idiosyncratic means: “peculiar or individual.”

Yup, peculiar. Hah. Individual. It also means one-of-a-kind. My paper was one-of-a-kind. I had no idea. But I was perceptive enough to realize that it wasn’t good to be “idiosyncratic” in grad school. (It was worth it because now I love the word).

Back to the subject of what I like to do with poetry. Journaling about poetry is therapeutic and creative. It’s lots of fun.

Have I mentioned I haven’t done it in a long time? So it isn’t just the heat over here.

You can see why I want some interesting way back into immersing myself in poetry that isn’t just the poetry I’m writing. I am lazy. And easily distracted. I thought maybe if I shared a poetry T2 on a regular basis, even if it’s within a post about something else, it would be a way of playing with poetry. Like making mud pies or playing with a bucket in the sand. Maybe if it’s just fun, poetry won’t notice that there is a schedule/system in place.

For today, since it’s so hot, how about a quote from a poem I love? I posted a long portion in the fall of 2013, but this passage gets to the heart of my sweet Felix’s nature. From Christopher Smart’s (1722-1771) “Jubilate Agno, Fragment B, [For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry]”. The trivia is that Christopher Smart’s nicknames were Kit Smart and Kitty Smart. Kitty Smart is a good name for some of my cats! The poem is very wide, so be sure to use the slide bar to read to the end of each line if the ends are not visible to you

For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary. 
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.

 

For my cat Felix

Let me know, please, if you have ideas for what kind of T2 you would like for me to share about poetry. Maybe it’s not as hot by you . . . . After all, it did get to 118 yesterday.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Poetry, Writing, Writing goals, Writing Tips and Habits

What Counts as Writing

I went to California for a few days with hubby for work. Not writing work. Survival work.

Life needs to settle down a little, but my schedule seems full for months ahead now. I wish I had more time for writing. I get frustrated about how little time I actually can spare.

On the ride I snapped a few pix of the scenery. I’m always amazed at how entire mountainsides or significant portions can appear dark according to the lighting. They have a damp look although they are actually where the sun is partially blocked. Sometimes they are shadows. They make me feel moody.

While our mountains are kind of small and unadorned–and not beautiful like the Rockies or the Blue Ridge–they are the most interesting landscape around.

When I glanced at my photos I realized that even this mundane view is fuel for my writing and that if I remain aware and observant I am always writing. When a poem seems to write itself it’s because I’ve done my homework by absorbing what’s around me and meditating on it.

For now, I’m curious: how would you describe the mood of this photo?

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, California, Inspiration, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing, Writing goals, Writing prompt

Day 30 of Tupelo Press 30/30 Project: Where Did It Go? #poetry

DAY 30

LAST DAY OF THE 30/30 PROJECT FOR ME!!

Reminding you that I will be taking down these 30 posts in the very near future :).  Maybe you’ll see them in the future in some other form or “location.”

 

 

This post has been EDITED. The disappearance of that last poem: a mystery. It went the way of the other September poems–back into my writing box.

 

If you have enjoyed reading these one day poems, you might like my book Doll God where the poems have had a little more time coming into the world. It’s now a Finalist in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards!!!

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, History, Inspiration, Memoir, Poetry, Tupelo Press 30/30 Poetry Project, Writing, Writing goals

The 30/30 Challenge of Tupelo Press, and How I Proved I Have a Screw Loose

I’ve gone and done it. I must be crazy.

Throughout September, I will be “running” a poetry “marathon” for the Tupelo Press 30/30 project. By donating in recognition of my efforts, you will be supporting a fabulous independent, nonprofit press.

I promise to write a poem a day for 30 days. Since it took me decades to cough up not even twice that for my first poetry collection Doll God, you can see what a feat I am trying to accomplish.

To help preserve poetry as an art, it’s important to support the independent presses and literary magazines. These are the places that publish nearly all published poetry today. It hasn’t been a positive era for them. I’ve seen many lit magazines close up—and when the presses go out of business, we often don’t even hear about it.

Every dollar you donate will go toward the operation of the press, enabling it to continue publishing beautiful books that would not get picked up by large commercial publishers. You can read the daily poems, as well as the bios of this month’s poets, and donate here.

As incentives to donate, I am offering the following:

  • For a donation of $10, you tell me what subject or image you want to see in a poem, and I’ll write that poem.
  • For a donation of $20, I will dedicate a poem to you or someone of your choice.
  • For a donation of $40, I will send you or someone of your choice, a signed and personally addressed copy of my book, Doll God.
  • For a donation of $55, I will send you or someone of your choice, a signed and personally addressed copy of my book, Doll God, and I will dedicate a poem to you or someone of your choice.
  • For a donation of $100, you get two copies of Doll God and two dedications!
  • Remember that if you donate $129 for a Tupelo Press subscription, you will receive the 10 free books of their current series.

For any of the above donations, including the subscription of 10 books, please remember to click or write my name in the honor field. Then email me at luannecastle@gmail.com and let me know what dedication or subject you are interested in. If you “earned” a copy or two of Doll God, please give me your mailing address and to whom you would like the book(s) addressed.

Again, you can read the daily poems, as well as the bios of this month’s poets, and donate here.

If you decide to help keep Tupelo Press publishing its amazing variety of books, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!

Wish me well, please. It starts tomorrow, and I’m nervous as can be!

 

###

If you are not able to donate, the other poets and I would still love for you to read our first draft work. I love feedback. Every day, I will post a link to that day’s poem over here so feel free to critique or pat me on the back (or the head, if you think that is more appropriate after reading the poem), encourage me, tell me what you like or what you don’t like. Or tell me a funny story or something completely unrelated that the poem reminded you of ;). Or just say hi in your own incomparable way so that I remember there is a world outside poetry. Gonna be an intense month!

One more thing: by November 1, I plan to take down all September’s 30/30 posts.

That’s us poets in the photo 😉

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Filed under #AmWriting, Blogging, Doll God, Inspiration, Literary Journals, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, WordPress, Writing, Writing goals, Writing prompt, Writing Tips and Habits

You Wanted to Hear What That Flash Nonfiction Course Was Like?

Marie from 1WriteWay and I completed our Flash Essay on the Edge course. It was offered by Apiary Lit, which offers editorial services, as well as courses they call workshops.

The course instructor was talented writer and teacher Chelsea Biondolillo. Her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Brevity, Passages North, Rappahannock Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Shenandoah, and others. She has an MFA from the University of Wyoming and is a 2014-15 O’Connor Fellow at Colgate University. You can check out Chelsea here or do a search for her pieces in online magazines. Her knowledge of the genre and generosity to share that knowledge with her students was outstanding.

I took the course because I hadn’t written for months, mainly because of my father’s illness and death. Knowing the way I operate, I figured that a course would force me to focus and get a little writing done.

As planned, Marie and I evaluated the course when we were finished. We are both posting a list of the pros and cons of the course, as we saw it. At the end of the list, I’ll give you my additional impressions. Check out Marie’s post because she will give her own impressions.

Course Textbook

PROs

  • The teacher prep was outstanding. She provided a wealth of readings, which were useful in showing me what flash nonfiction can look and sound like.
  • The course was only four weeks, so I found that to be very manageable. If it had been longer, I would have been too stressed during the summer and at this time in my life.
  • The instructor generally gave useful feedback, seemed qualified in the subject, and was very nice. She seemed to love her subject.
  • The instructor was accessible, responding within the same day if there was a question or concern.
  • Other than a problem I will list under CONs, the website was pretty easy to negotiate.
  • The online classroom had various forums that enabled you to share your work with the other students and have discussions.
  • The writing prompts were generally interesting, but I didn’t feel tied to them, which was good.
  • The course was not graded.  I could focus on what I wanted to turn in, not what I thought I had to turn in in order to get an A.
  • The course got me writing without adding stress to my life.
  • I got more writing done in this past month than I would have otherwise.
  • I feel that I know where to go with flash nonfiction now. It would be ideal to get more feedback down the road on attempts at Flash Nonfiction, but at least I feel much more comfortable with the genre from taking this course.
  • Above all, I had fun with the readings and the writing.

CONS

  • Although there were forums available, we had no real discussion of any of the readings. We were not strongly encouraged to interact with each other. We had maybe one discussion prompt during the whole course.
  • The readings and essay examples were available through either some kind of Adobe program that took a bit of time to figure out, or through hyperlinks that weren’t always easy to download.
  • We posted our written assignments privately to the instructor so I had no way of learning from what others had turned in or from reading instructor comments on the work of others. I didn’t care for this method as it diminished what I could learn from the course by a hefty percentage. I suppose this is the difference between the workshop method and a traditional style class.
  • We felt isolated in this class and had little interaction with anyone but each other and the instructor.  In the discussion forum, one other student interacted with us, and another made a couple of independent comments.  Other than that, it was a strangely quiet class.
  • Two platforms were used for the course:  an online classroom and a blog, so sometimes I had a little trouble negotiating the course. Sometimes I had to login in two places. This inconvenience turned out to be less of a problem than I first anticipated, but it could be streamlined.  The blog material could have been included on the classroom platform.
  • Since I don’t know how many people were in the course, I don’t know the instructor’s workload. My belief is that in a course that is short in length, the instructor should return assignments in short order. The lag time between turning in an assignment/beginning reading for a new lesson and getting the instructor’s feedback on my previous assignment was a little too long for my comfort.
  • The price at $199 was a little steep for four weeks and no discussion/no workshopping.

***

 I want to make clear that I am really glad I took the course. Apiary hired a qualified instructor and offered a solid, contemporary course. There was so much that was right about the course. But I think it needs a little tinkering to make it better in terms of both learning environment and the economy of the course.

The above list really hits the main points of what I liked and didn’t care for about the course. The oddest thing for me was working in such an isolated environment. I’ve been in many workshops, and this isn’t a workshop. In workshops, your work is presented to the teacher and classmates. Typically, you receive feedback from both the instructor and at least a fair number of peers. I learn this way from what several people have to say about a piece. And I learn a lot from reading the work of others and seeing what all, especially the instructor, have to say about a variety of writing.

That said, there are people who hate workshops, generally because they have had a bad experience with one. I also find it fun to diss them sometimes. But, overall, they are an effective way to improve one’s writing.

The class seemed eerily quiet, perhaps because it wasn’t a workshop. But if we had had discussions about our readings, that would have provided some connection between students.

One other student (besides Marie and me) did participate in the class as much as possible. The course had a feature that she and I both used. It was called the Work-Sharing Blog. We were allowed to post anything we wanted to and see if anybody would give us feedback. It was not encouraged by the instructor or the course setup, but this other student and I both took advantage of it. I was thrilled to get feedback from her and from Marie on a piece I’ve struggled with.

I’ve taken online writing courses from a variety of schools/companies. They all have their pros and cons. For what I wanted this summer, Apiary’s course satisfied me fairly well.

If you are looking for an online writing course, my suggestion would be to decide how you want to learn and then ask questions. If you want a workshop, ask if all students will be sharing their work with the class and if the class will be providing peer feedback. Will there be guidelines for providing that feedback? The guidelines protect the writer from snarky or downright mean classmates. If you don’t want a workshop, ask those questions, too. Be aware that the majority of online writing courses are workshop-based.

Have fun! It’s so rewarding to get motivation, specialized readings, and writing feedback all in one place.

Once I get my thoughts together on the subject, I’ll post something about the genre of flash nonfiction, to give you an idea of what we were working on.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Creative Nonfiction, Editing, Essay, Flash Nonfiction, Inspiration, Literary Journals, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals, Writing prompt, Writing Tips and Habits

A Poll for Writers that Anybody Can Take

Are you a writer? (Hint: if you’re a blogger, you’re a writer)

Do you write in more than one genre? Do you want to expand to another genre?

Hippocampus Magazine, one of my favorite creative nonfiction lit mags, is advertising their August “HippoCamp.” On the website for the conference, they say this about “genre-hopping.”

Writers often take up creative nonfiction only after having established themselves in prior genres, bringing with them unique strengths that inflect their work, whether in the process of writing it, in the finished product, or both. This presentation features three writers who discuss the close relationship between creative nonfiction, poetry and fiction, as they share observations made in the process of moving from one genre to another, and on what we can gain as nonfiction writers when we make forays into other forms.

It’s true for me that I began with poetry and even fiction before I moved to creative nonfiction. I’ve noticed a fair number of poets move to creative nonfiction–even Carolyn Forché. It definitely surprised me the first time I saw her name as an editor on a volume of CNF.

I’d like you to respond to this poll, if you’re up to it.

Thanks for participating. I’ll post the results in a few days!

Grandma’s buttons

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Filed under Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Fiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Novel, Poetry, Writing, Writing goals

Mourning, Memories, Story, and Reflection

Between extra work, mourning, and a new project, I am wiped out. My cats have sad faces and obviously miss Mac. Felix, my big tabby, hid under the bed during a thunderstorm–something he’s never done before. He’s frightened not to have Mac around to protect him.

Grief has an insidious way about it. There is the past and then there are the stories we create about the past and our reflection upon them.

I’m still trying to rise out of the swamp around me.

To that end, along with Marie from 1WriteWay (yay!), I’m taking a four week course from Apiary Lit in “Flash Essay on the Edge.” You’re right: the title is perfect for me right now.  I’ll keep you posted. When we’re done, Marie and I will review the course.

Have a wonderful fourth of July. When I was a kid, I used to spend it on the lake with my father.

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Filed under Blogging, Cats and Other Animals, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals, Writing prompt, Writing Tips and Habits

An Overheated Incubator

Last week was very hot in Phoenix. A couple of days were 115 degrees and all days were well over 100. Earlier this spring the weather was beautiful, which motivated some birds into filling their nests with eggs a second time. But now that we have a very hot June, the heat has taken its toll on the inhabitants of our outdoor nursery.

It’s way too hot for baby birds.

Thursday afternoon we found a baby bird (starling? sparrow?) that had fallen from a very high nest. He wasn’t quite a full fledgling yet, and he fell onto our upper deck, which was not a good place for Mama to take care of him. We ended up having to take him to the wildlife rehabilitation facility. Friday morning, his sister found herself in the same situation. She was taken to stay with her brother.

Saturday morning, hubby found a baby that was still a nestling, on the ground. Many baby birds do fall out of the nest before they fly, but he was clearly not ready and looked as if he were dying. I rushed him over to the caring rehabilitation and they administered fluids right away.

Humans have to be careful taking baby birds away from their mothers who may be nearby and feeding them. But in these cases, the heat was going to kill the birds first. Baby birds need some heat to thrive, but too much heat is deadly.

So you might be wondering how the hummingbird babies are doing.

On Saturday, almost exactly a month since the first 2015 batch of hummingbirds left the nest, the second batch followed their siblings out into the big world–or, at least, our neighborhood.

In preparation, Mama fed both babies, as she had been doing since they hatched from their eggs.

Although my videos aren’t very good, they will lead you to quality hummingbird videos posted by other people.

The larger, stronger, bolder brother (they could be sisters or a brother and a sister, but I think they are brothers)began flapping his wings, testing them out, and he gave encouragement to his brother. Then, on Saturday, he flew out of the nest, while Mama and brother watched.

He landed on a rock of our fountain, where he stayed for a few minutes until he got his courage. During that time, Mama flew back and forth between the nest and the rock.

After he flew off to explore, Mama spent several hours coaxing the skinnier, more timid baby from the nest. She fed him a few more times and even groomed him just a bit, as if to say, “I want you to look presentable out there in the world. Appearances matter. Show our predators that you are confident and know how to take care of yourself.” In this photo, she has turned her back on him momentarily, maybe to rest?

I was so impressed that Mama spent so much time with her offspring. She showed him what to do by flying out of the nest and returning to him repeatedly.

Eventually it worked and he flew off when Mama was out of the nest.

When I saw the empty nest I was a little sad, but wait: he came back several times, resting on the edge of the nest.

Saturday night and Sunday he didn’t come back. He’s off discovering his world, too.

All four hummingbirds that were raised in this nest have, no doubt, found the world to be a bit different from that of his siblings. I hope they all find it a pleasant place where they are rewarded for their hard work and don’t find any predators that can’t be avoided.

That’s it now for hummingbirds. It’s too hot to be creative here, but I am going to jumpstart the creativity by taking an online course in “flash essays.” I am hoping to learn how to write in a more cutting edge style. And I think I’m going to need the structure as I can see the summer melting away.

What are your summer plans?

 

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Filed under Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Inspiration, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing, Writing goals, Writing Tips and Habits

New Poems and Old Ancestors

Although I haven’t been writing this spring–on purpose, I might add–when I started my new poetry project last fall I focused on creating poems out of the genealogical research that I do for my family history blog The Family Kalamazoo. It makes sense to narrow in this way, as I am always spreading out in too many directions. However, it’s difficult to write poems about a subject that is so personal to my family. It makes sense to write a poem about a maple tree or a new baby because these subjects are universal, but what makes someone else’s dead ancestors interesting to readers? That is a difficulty.

So far I’ve had one poem from this small grouping published, and that was in December. It was in the online journal Blast Furnacebut here is the poem, a prose poem:

When Your Grandfather Shows You Photographs of His Mother

You identify yourself in the antique image. Long slender neck, narrow torso, your face tipped to avoid the light. Your hands rest in the valley between your thighs sharp under yards of stiff calico. Your face long, well-sculpted by a lean diet and youth, nearly but not ascetic. Blue veins clutch the temples under translucent skin, a milky film that just contains you. In the next photograph your black dog Carlo poses at your side.

But Carlo isn’t your dog. Three degrees separate you across the time dimension. You never beat a man with his horse-whip for using it on his horse, though you wish you had that sort of courage and that sort of hands-on life, or burned all the books except the family Bible, praise her lord. And yet you hold your bodies as both shields and thresholds.

Because a face never reflects the same, every photo sees something else. You’re your father under the red star and your mother’s grandmother in the morning sun. But not your mother who is the image of her aunt. You never did let her kiss you. You see Carlo and his mistress in another photograph, and her smile is so familiar. Now the gauzy mask of your mother’s face floats across her-your features. Another light source and hour. Another shift of the hologram that is you.

If you happen to be one of the three people who read this blog from the first post you might find the subject recognizable. I rewrote that first blog post into this prose poem. I am fascinated with how we look like our ancestors and relatives, but in some lights, various shadows, or on different days, we might look like a completely different person–or share his features. It’s as if our general counteance is always shifting.

This is the great-grandmother I wrote about in the poem. Even I find our resemblance (when I was younger, of course) astonishing. The black dog in the one photo is Carlo.

My idea with the poems is to create a chapbook–a publishable collection that is smaller than a full-length poetry collection. Maybe around 20-25 poems. And I want to focus on my female ancestors. These are the people difficult to research because they don’t show up in old documents and newspapers as shopkeepers, dog breeders, or politicians. What was the day-to-day of their lives really like? I am trying to find out by researching and then allowing the material to develop into poems. At the moment a poem is completed, I feel that I have brought to life the experience of one woman.

It’s difficult to find literary magazines to send individual poems to because the subject matter is not contemporary and only universal in the notion of the project as excavating the lives of generations of women. In other words, I need to find places that specialize in or are sensitive to the intersection of history and poetry.

Are you interested in two unrelated subjects that you have been able to connect in your own life?

In case you are wondering why I am not writing on purpose, it’s because I was writing so much for so long that I knew I needed a period where I don’t take on any old or new projects. I’m resting my brain. Except for blogging, of course, dear peeps.

***

I have a DOLL GOD Giveaway going on at Goodreads right now. Hop on over there and sign up if you want to win a free copy!

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR A FREE COPY OF DOLL GOD

 

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Memoir, Photographs, Poetry, Poetry Collection, Research and prep for writing, Vintage American culture, Writing, Writing goals

Read All About It Here: The Work-in-Progress Blog Tour Stop

UPDATE:  just wanted to add in here that a new review is up for Doll God.  Reviewer Gautami says “A few poems also comment on the scientific reality of life, yet the metaphysical and spirituality is never far away.” I love that she noticed that as that is never far from my mind when I write a poem.

Thanks to Sherrey Meyer, who blogs here for  inviting me to participate in the Work-in-Progress blog tour. Sherrey is writing a memoir based on a dysfunctional and abusive mother-daughter relationship. The twist is that, when Sherrey was 57, she discovered that her Southern matriarch mother needed to escape abuse herself.

Sherrey has completed a first draft of the memoir and is eager to begin a rewrite. Sherrey is widely published in various anthologies. She credits her love of words (and her editing knowhow) to her publisher father.

Thank you so much, Sherrey, for thinking of me and my memoir. It helps me get focused back on this intense writing project. You’re an inspiration with your dedication to the craft!

Synopsis of my book:

Secrets create a painful wound at the heart of a family. Dangerous emotions, such as anger, fear, guilt, shame and curiosity, grow from this wound.

Memory must be excavated scrap by scrap, salvaged, and pieced together to create a new story of origins and identity. With the building of the story, the wound begins to heal, and the resulting emotions dissipate.

Thus it is with my family. My book is the story of an old family secret that infects the present and creates a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship–and the quest for answers that allows the father and daughter to learn and forgive.

Status of my book:

Although I wasn’t ready to finish my first draft, I had to pull something together for the final step to completing a certificate in Creative Nonfiction Writing at Stanford University. This step is a tutorial where I am working under the guidance of Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land and A Thousand Lives. She has now read my manuscript and given me revision suggestions, which I am working with. Things have been so hectic with the publication of Doll God and my father’s illness (not to mention that traffic blockage I wrote about last week!) that I don’t get much time to write.

Here are brief excerpts from my first three chapters of Scrap:

Prologue

1966

Dad popped his gray-streaked head into my open doorway on his way to the kitchen. Not much bigger than I, he seemed to fill the space. “Get dressed for ballet class!” His voice was a brief bark.

Chapter One: Frank Talk

Thanksgiving 2009

The drive south from our home in Phoenix exposed the flat desolation of the region. The only sights were the occasional saguaro and the roadside ostrich farm where travelers can stop and feed the animals. Since ostriches have a reputation for being downright mean, we had never stopped there on trips to my parents’ winter condo in Green Valley, twenty-five miles past Tucson. I’d brought up the idea once. My husband of over three decades said, “Sure, I want to get snapped at by a big bird and then by your father. I don’t think so.”

Chapter Two: Nuclear Fallout

2008: the year before

“Doesn’t look like much,” Mom said, as we pulled into the parking lot of the Titan Missile Museum.

The main building was low to the ground. A few small buildings, which looked like garages or tool sheds, and large equipment were scattered throughout the fenced property.

If I hadn’t known where we were, I would have thought it looked like a work site with a few trucks and what seemed to be oil tanks, not a nuclear missile site.

The work-in-progress blog tour rules:

  1.  Link back to the post of the person who nominated you.
  2.  Write a little about and give the first sentence of the first three chapters of your current work-in-progress. Sherrey gave more than the first sentences, and I like that idea, too.
  3.  Nominate some other writers to do the same.

Tag. You’re it!

I was thrilled that these writers have agreed to take part in this work-in-progress blog tour. Please stop by their sites and get to know them and their work.

RENEE at Unpacked Writer  teaches college writing. She has published creative nonfiction and won awards for her writing and is writing a book about her adventures as a young special education teacher in a small and remote Alaskan village. Renee describes herself  this way:

My interests might find me behind a camera, an acetylene torch, spending a day with a legislator, at the farmers market, or with my nose in a guidebook mapping an adventure. Usually, I’m responding to thoughtful student writings and preparing ways to get students to think about writing.

Most days find this mid-life mother of teenagers, behind the wheel of the mommy-taxi, revising writings, volunteering in the community, figuring out how to prepare a healthy meal everyone can or will eat, or shooing our urban chickens from our kitchen door.

I am a mother, writer, traveler, wife, thyroid cancer survivor and writing instructor.

During the work week, MARIE is a public health data analyst.  After hours, she is a writer, compiling a nice tall stack of first drafts that she rather dreads having to sort through.

Marie started writing when she was about 9 years old, but she was never very confident (if at all) about her writing talent, and it was easy for her to “give up” periodically, in spite of the support she got from mentors and fellow writers. Once she got a “real” job (cue public health), it was hard to argue with anyone that she should or could expect to do better by writing. She’s made a lot of detours on her path to happiness, but finally she’s woken up to the fact that she’d rather be writing than anything else (ideally, in her pjs with a pot of hot tea for fuel).

Through her blog, www.1writeway.com, Marie has discovered a truly wonderful community in blogging, one that has been so supportive that  she no longer hesitates to say, “I am a writer.”

A born and bred Brit, SHERRI lived in California for 17 years before returning to the UK with her three children in 2003.  She began her writing career a few years ago while caring for her Aspie daughter.  Since then, she has been published in magazines, anthologies and company websites and launched her blog, A View From My Summerhouse. Today, she lives with her husband, daughter and two cats in the West Country of England where she keeps out of trouble writing her book (a memoir), walking, gardening and taking endless photographs.  Her muse, a garden robin, visits regularly.

You can reach Sherri at these online locations:

Blog link:  http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/about/

Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/aviewfrommysummerhouse

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sherri-matthews/60/798/aa3

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/103859680232786469097/posts

Renee, Marie, and Sheri, thank you so much for agreeing to take part in this WIP blog tour. I look forward to reading your posts in the future.

How about you? Do you have a work in progress?

 

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Filed under Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing, Writing goals