Tag Archives: #amwriting

Searching for the Why of a Memory

I mentioned before that my kids gave me a subscription to Storyworth, which sends weekly story prompts to me. At the end of the year, the family will get a book of the stories. Here’s the prompt and my story from week two.

What was your most memorable birthday? My 21st.

I’m in our tiny apartment living room, and in the middle between the couch and the TV is the ironing board and a basket full of wrinkled clothes. The TV is on, but the incessant drizzle and gray sky outside the sliding glass door overpowers the 24” TV screen. The wet pavement of our cracked patio looks nasty with blown damp leaves. Bedraggled, drooping petunias surround the cement square. It’s my 21st birthday, and my husband is at work. Eventually I get dressed in my new jeans and matching vest with leather trim. Half the laundry is still in the basket, but we’re meeting at Valentine’s nightclub in the Kalamazoo Center. I drive toward downtown. The rain has let up, but there is still a slight mist, and the streets are wet. A 21st birthday is supposed to be a big deal, at least that’s what I’ve heard. But this is a disagreeable Tuesday, and I’ve been completely alone all day. As I get close to the outdoor mall, the sun wakes and a brilliant rainbow spreads it wings across the sky. I park my car in the parking garage attached to the Kalamazoo Center, then I head toward the convention building, across the skywalk nestled underneath the rainbow. I look down the long expanse of hallway. The new sun is glinting sideways through the glass. What’s that lying on the ground halfway across? When I get closer, I stop and look down. There’s a $100 bill, partially folded in half, as if it fell from a large wad of money. Or as if it descended from the rainbow.

Note:$100 in 1976 is $469.71 in 2021

***

I’ve wondered why this birthday was so memorable to me. I’m not a person motivated by money, much to the gardener’s annoyance. A gloomy, gray day with icky ground isn’t my idea of a fun time. Neither is ironing, something I almost never do today.  And I’m sure I had a lot of fun at Valentine’s, a club owned by actress Karen Valentine. They made great Brandy Alexanders, and I loved that drink in those days (drinking age was 18). But the memory of that particular evening escapes me. Instead, I have a very detailed, almost extensive, memory of the afternoon ironing and then the drive downtown and finding the money.  It seems that the effect of a pleasing surprise arriving almost miraculously after a period of feeling depressed was so powerful that I’ve never forgotten it. In fact, it probably contributed to me becoming a more optimistic person than I had previously been.

This memory is involuntary, as described by writer and critic Sven Birkerts. It’s been 9 years ago that I wrote about working on my memoir (hahahahahaha) and how important involuntary memories are to the pursuit of the meaning of our memories. You can read it here: Breaking the Codes of Childhood

Imagine if I hadn’t found that $100 on my birthday. I might be a different person today.

And guess what? I found a photo of me in that jeans outfit in the same month as my 21st birthday! This is a different night, at a friend’s home.

 

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Filed under #amrevising, #writerlife, #writerslife, Flash Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Writing

Giving Back to Poetry

I’ve been reading more than usual lately. For one thing, all my Ann Cleeves (Vera, Shetland, 2 Rivers) books on the wait list at the library have been coming available. Then I’ve got a few fiction and nonfiction books I’m rarin’ to read. Additionally, I’m reading a couple of brand new poetry books that I plan to review for journals or this blog. The best way to  understand a poetry collection, for me, is to prepare for writing a review. So reviewing is actually a benefit to me, not just to the poet who wrote the collection.

Something new that I am starting to do is to read the new issues of journals that are emailed to me. It’s not that I didn’t read any of them before, but sometimes I would hit delete if I felt like I had too much going on and plenty to read. But I’ve decided that that is not good because without all these wonderful lit journals a lot of writers, including myself, would be screwed. Then I am choosing one of my favorite pieces from the journal and sharing it on social media.

I have a belief that underlies these endeavors. Too many poets (I can’t speak for creative nonfiction and fiction writers because I know a lot more poets) are so involved with their own writing or maybe the writing of their “big star” inspirations that they do not put enough back into the poetry community. Of course, I include myself in this number.  There are certainly plenty of exceptions to this phenomenon, including the work that lit mag editors and small press editors and owners do, especially those that continue long past the “it will help my career” period. Two special names that immediately spring to mind when I think of helping the poetry community are Trish Hopkinson  whose website is a treasure for poets and Neil Silberblatt who runs the Facebook group Voices of Poetry. I’ve talked about Diane Lockward’s craft books on here several times. Her books, monthly newsletter, and press (Terrapin) are all important to the poetry community. In fact, she has a new craft book coming out soon. It’s called The Strategic Poet. I’m super blessed to have a poem in the tome (that rhyme is how you can tell I’m a poet hahahaha). The poem is called “After the Call from the Animal Welfare Office: A Triple Triolet,” and it’s a response to a horrific cat hoarding situation in Phoenix last year.

There are many more poetry helpers, too. The work that I am doing for the community is miniscule compared to that of others, but I am trying to keep #poetrycommunity at the forefront of my decisions as much as possible.

Let’s make it a great week ahead!

 

 

 

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Cats and Art Journals Help with Anxiety

All the babies in the yard are grown up, and every so often a hummingbird or dove swoops past me that looks a little familiar ;).

I am winding up the physical therapy now. I had two problems: rotator cuff calcification tendinitis and frozen shoulder. The PT has cured the frozen shoulder at least to 85% usage. The other will take much longer as I need to keep exercising. Eventually, the calcification is supposed to be absorbed by the body.

My brain is a little zapped right now. I’m concerned about health problems my daughter is having, and I am feeling stunned over the condo collapse in Florida. When I’m feeling like I am right now I am convinced that the greed and arrogance of humanity is going to take us down.

Also, I have claustrophobia so I spent days worrying about the people in the collapse.

Trying to cheer myself up, I made this page in my smallest journal. Fabrics from my childhood, and the button belonged to Grandma.

Notice that I’m making a little fun of myself, too, as 19-year-old me thought that big-a** hat looked stylish.

Putting the finishing touches on the first draft of the newly “remodelled” Scrap. 

I’m focused on being a good nursing home nurse for Pear Blossom. She’s doing well getting up and down from the couch with that one seat cushion removed. But sometimes she chooses to lie on the cool floor near her water bowl. Pee pads and water bowl are very near the couch for her convenience. She is still such a pleasure all the time. She’s my little nurse, too. She’s the one who got me through my one-year-plus foot surgery recovery and the Valley Fever. She used to take care of our last dog when he didn’t feel well. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the room and found her in Perry’s blue cube.

Pear wants you to have a wonderful week!

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The Babies and the Stories

Hummingbirds make such wonderful mothers. Six years ago, the hummingbird who raised two nests right outside my door was a good example. When one of her babies turned out to find it more difficult to learn to fly, she spent hours one afternoon patiently teaching the little one. The green hummingbird raising her babies in our oleander right now is another good example. First, before she ever laid her eggs, she completely moved her nest from the windchime/mobile to the oleander tree when she realized the first place was not safe. Now we’ve noticed that because the sun beats relentlessly on the babies in the mornings, she sits on them for protection even though they are now big kids. We expect them to fly away any day now. Here she is shielding them from the sun.

Last week I told you that Kana was enjoying a manuscript box, but Tiger would lie down in it when Kana wasn’t there.

I think I forgot to mention that my daughter gave me Storyworth for Mother’s Day. I had never heard of it before. Every week for a year I get a story prompt mailed to me. The idea is these stories are all about my life. As soon as I email one back, my kids get the story dumped in their inboxes. I am allowed to include photos if I like. And if I hit send and regret something I can easily edit it. At the end of the year, the kids will get books of “the story of my life.” Why is this different from creative nonfiction and memoir writing? These stories are geared for my kids and (hopefully someday) their kids. Some of the stories are already part of family legend, but now they will be written down in a permanent form. If I don’t like a particular prompt, I can change it out, but so far each one (I’ve done four) have been fruitful lines of enquiry ;). I’ve written about my first memory, most memorable birthday, favorite trip, and a time when I was brave. I’m not saying I wouldn’t share any of these on this blog, but not today, folks.

It’s a genius idea that I wish I had thought of before these people did hah. The reason it’s genius is that it’s got to be a money maker as it’s pricey. But I kind of think it’s worth it because who does this anyway? And keeps it up for a year? You could do this completely on your own. But will your loved ones keep writing those stories every week? They will if they know you paid for the subscription!

Make it a fine week!!!!

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My Zoo

My daughter shot new headshots for me the other day. Perry loves his attention so he climbed into my arms and posed. This was complete serendipity, but I might use it for my blog and social media image.  Do you like it?

After maneuvering his way into this photo, he wanted his own headshot.

 

A couple of days ago a new bobcat walked through my neighborhood. This one was skinny with a curly tail. I fear there are too many bobcats in one territory now. One day a friend on Instagram referred to all the wildlife here as my “zoo.” Haha, it feels that way sometimes.

The hummingbird eggs have hatched, and Mama is busy feeding them. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo, but I didn’t want to spook the little mother.

On Saturday we had dove baby drama here.  We had some advice from a volunteer at Liberty Wildlife, the rescue that handled the red-tailed hawk rescue last year. I also learned some additional mourning dove info on Google. For instance, did you know that very often the mother and father both take turns sitting on mourning dove nests? Or if the mother does a lot of it, the father will step in, too? This is what happened. The gardener found a dead mourning dove by our glass door in the morning. Then he realized there was a nest in the hanging pot, and it had two big babies inside. We had a wedding to go to so we were getting stressed by trying to figure out if they were still being fed or not. If the mother was killed, would the father feed them? A few hours later we noticed a small adult or nearly adult bird sitting on the edge of the pot, next to the babies. She was there a couple of times when we looked, but not always. Was this their mother? Were they too big for her to fit on the nest? Was it their father who was killed? We planned to bring the babies to Liberty Wildlife next morning if it looked like they weren’t being fed.

Next morning the nest was empty. The gardener saw one of the babies down in the wash, fine so far. Mourning dove babies are still watched over and fed by parents for a week or two after the babies leave the nest. We have to hope they are being fed as I don’t want to rip them away from a parent that is still around.

This art journal page was fun to make. My art journal pages, like those of a lot of people, are not planned out. I just start putting stuff on the paper and see where it will take me. This time it took me to Dick and Jane and their “lunar understanding.”

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May Flowers

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Characters, Real and Imagined

Yesterday, the gardener, our daughter, and I were sitting on the patio of the front yard. Suddenly I saw a bobcat walking the top of the wall. It kept walking the wall until it dropped down onto the grass of our lawn !!!! and scratched on the tree as if it were a cat scratcher. Then he/she climbed the tree back up to the wall and kept going. Our jaws had dropped to our chests. Something seemed a bit off, so we pulled out my daughter’s video from last week. Keep in mind that the pix of the bobcat I’ve shared have been the backyard. Sure enough, that bobcat in the backyard is an adult with long legs and dominant black stripes. This bobcat was an adolescent, much like the one I saw by the bbq before. I don’t think there were any family jewels on the adult, so maybe it’s the mother and her baby or babies still hanging around our neighborhood. None of us had our phones outside with us so we couldn’t get a pic, but that baby was definitely not concerned with us at all.

***

I’m not sure where the week went! A lot of work, house repairs, and then add in the three physical therapy visits. I have two weeks left of my six weeks, but I am sort of hoping that we can add a once a week or something for awhile after that because my shoulder won’t be completely better by then. I am doing the exercises every single day that I don’t have PT, but it also needs the manipulation by the therapist.

***

Main Street Rag published another one of my poetry book reviews. This one was for Speaking Parts by Beth Ruscio. Here is the beginning of it to give you an idea. You need to purchase a copy of the magazine to read the whole thing :).  Here’s the link: CLICK HERE. There are some amazing writers featured in this issue, so if you are looking to buy a lit mag issue this month, make it this one!

 

***

Speaking of character actors, think of all the regular characters you’ve known in your life. My mother used to say “what a character” whenever she encountered someone eccentric or a little different, particularly someone with a big personality. Here’s a Mr. Big Personality I remember from my youth.  The only title this poem could have is “Walter.”

Walter stopped by my father’s store

on the first day of shore leave every year.

While he waited for my father to finish up,

Walter picked a wallet from a wooden tray

and handed me some cash to start the process

of spending banknotes stuffed in his pockets.

Walter was a sixteen-ton giant, his enormous chest

encased in a turtleneck, his skipper cap snug

on a head like a stone Colossus. I’d ask him

what happened to last year’s wallet, and he’d

guffaw with a joy that at twelve or sixteen

I could not imagine. All these decades

after Walter, I barely understand its origins.

Dad said Walter joined the merchant marines

after leaving the orphanage: what could he do?

His head twitched as if his inside and outside

were at odds. A woman I knew saw him out

one night; after buying drinks for everyone

and every drink for himself, he slammed the face

of a man into the sticky counter. She suggested

he looked confused, maybe he didn’t realize

his fingers were thicker than the broken nose.

I disregarded her story because my Walter

carried the luggage boxes up from storage

for which I earned a paycheck; he bought us

all lunch to eat in the back room, us peeking

out for customers and trying not to choke

when he had us giggling at his silly sailor jokes.

RIP Walter

***

I’ve been very slowly working on the memoir, my current WIP. And I try to work on my art journals every day, even if only for a few minutes. It’s more relaxing than naps, reading, or TV. That said I am watching the Vera series and wishing we got the Shetland series here. I saw one episode when I was in California, but there aren’t any stations airing it in Phoenix.

Here’s a little conversation between the gardener and me this week:

G: There’s a dead squirrel on the road!

Me: Oh no! Why do you tell me something like that?!

G: So you don’t trip on it.

Me: What? Did you make sure he’s not still alive?

G: [Laughing] Perry’s squirrel.

Then I see it: one of Perry’s stuffie squirrels is in the middle of the hallway, right before you get to the bathroom (one place I am always running to).

Make it a great week!

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, Cats and Other Animals, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing

A Mixed Bag Week

While the gardener and I were in California for two days last week, my daughter encountered the bobcat. She was in the back of our house, watering plants. As she turned slightly, she saw the bobcat walking toward her from the side.  She scooted into the house quickly and took this video.

She said that the bobcat actually hung around the backyard for awhile. Then he/she was back again the next morning!

In Arizona our mask mandate is expired, but where I go people are all still wearing masks inside. Not outside, thank goodness. Without a mask mandate, you do run the risk of running into a jerk. When we were in Pasadena, I noticed that everyone has to wear a mask outside, even walking down the sidewalk where other people are a block away.  I thought that was pretty stupid, too. I wanted to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. Dear God, Can we please have common sense back? I promise I’ll take good care of my share. Love, Luanne

Pasadena sidewalk

Not sure if I mentioned that my The Artist’s Way group finished the Cameron book and is moving on to another. We’re starting Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It’s a short book, but so far it has some brilliant ideas. I also think the Cameron is brilliant, but there are things I don’t like. One of those is that Cameron comes from a place of extreme privilege, whether she thinks so or not, and it kind of permeates the book. The Bayles and Orland book has a voice I prefer.

Here’s one of my latest art journal pages. Although it’s not cheerful, I am pretty happy with this messy one. The man’s face is a transfer from a sketch my MIL did of a man at the Art Students League when she was there. His name was Leonard.

I read an article, “Success and the Late Blooming Woman Author,” in a recent issue of Writer’s Chronicle, the publication of the AWP. Late blooming is a subject dear to my heart because I didn’t publish Doll God until I was almost sixty. Look at this passage:

The percentages of women writers 55 and older being published in “the most equitable magazines”  “rarely reached twenty percent.” Ugh. Well, I keep working against that. Never said I wouldn’t take on a challenge.

Leaving you with a little cat chat. This Perry routine has evolved over time, and this is where we are most recently: Every night Perry carries his “babies” up to our bedroom and, one by one, lays them in front of my face and looks at me for approval. His babies are little stuffies we call squirrels and mice. They are not all squirrels or mice, but they are close enough. When I wake up in the morning, I am surrounded with cat stuffies in the bed. Here’s another piece of cat info: when I hold two cat food cans in front of a cat–let’s say, Felix–he will go back and forth a couple of times, sniffing them, and then nudge one toward me. There is no doubt that my cats know they are supposed to choose which one to eat.

Make it a great week, dears.

 

 

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Pear and the Gunnywolf

It’s probably not surprising that I’ve gotten myself really tired, especially by adding in 3x week physical therapy appointments for my shoulder. Therefore, I’m going to keep it short today.

Pear, who recently turned 21, has some lumps growing on her left front leg. I took her to the vet when it began, back in January, and on Friday I took her back, this time to the owner vet. He said it wasn’t cancer and it appeared to be dead tissue. He also said it was funky and not something you see on cats. Then he said if it becomes intolerable to her, he can do a very quick surgery, even at her age. It’s a matter of quality of life. Pear heard the word “surgery,” and when she got home she started working on it. On Saturday I found one of these “furry grapes” lying loose on her blanket. I’ll spare you the photos hah.

I was cleaning out a drawer and found a broadside poem I kept from 2016, written by Megan Snyder-Camp. It’s called “The Gunnywolf,” and it’s the title poem from one of her collections. I realized I had never read the collection, though I really love this poem, and checked it out on Amazon. Temporarily Out of Stock!!!

Here’s the poem–enjoy and have a lovely week!

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Arizona Spring

This has been a three-snake week. All kingsnakes. A baby, an adult of moderate size, and a huge one. Although I’m not a snake lover, I do love that the kingsnakes protect our yard from rattlesnakes. Kingsnakes are not only pretty (black with cream stripes), they are pretty deadly to other snakes–even bigger snakes. What helps is that kingsnakes are immune to rattlesnake venom. Kingsnakes kill their prey by constriction, and they are powerful constrictors. As long as I don’t accidentally get too close to a kingsnake, I enjoy having them here, protecting us from other snakes.

Kingsnakes hibernate in the winter, so I know it’s spring when I see them roaming after months of absence.

I saw Perry watching the biggest snake from the window. He didn’t look very concerned, but I imagine he sees all kinds of animals outside that I don’t even notice. New cuteness about Perry: I am doing exercises at home for my shoulder on the days I don’t go to physical therapy. He copies me by lying on his back on the floor next to me. I hit the floor. He hits the floor. I get up. He walks away.

It’s been difficult to work on my memoir because my vision is so blurry. I’ve been trying to push forward, but it’s getting next to impossible. I have my next eye doctor appointment in a week and half, and I can’t wait.

This week many of our cacti bloomed. Click on the pix and use the side arrows to move from one to the other.

Make it a great week!

 

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