Tag Archives: #amwriting

The Artist Date, Sort Of (Teotihuacan exhibit)

Are you familiar with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way? I really like the idea of Artist Dates, where the writer or artist goes on a weekly expedition to explore something inspiring or enchanting. I like to try to do that as often as I can. (It’s been pointed out to me that Artist Dates should be SOLO, but when I have an opportunity like this, I take it as-is).

While my uncle was visiting, the gardener and I took him to the Teotihuacan exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum. Between 100 BCE and 650 CE, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the Americas. In some ways it was like many pre-Columbian exhibits and in other ways it seemed brand new to me. I can’t quite explain it. I also thought it was fascinating that there were so many “feline” shapes in the art. (Love my cats!) Let me mention that my uncle won two scholarships to the Art Institute in Chicago when he was a kid. He was able to attend the first time, but the second time he had a serious illness and had to stay home for a full year. He had to go to work very young and was never able to pursue a career as an artist, although he certainly had the talent.

It was really fascinating to see how much art was designed to replicate teeth!

The earrings or “ear plugs” the statues wear are the same as those worn by the Aztecs, so that style was around for many centuries (it still is, I guess).

The plaques on the walls described the city in some detail. I found the pyramids to once again remind me so much of Egyptian pyramids. Maybe I’ve heard too many episodes of the ancient alien shows that the gardener likes to watch . . . .

On the way in and out of the gallery, we were met with two beauties. One was the Carlos Amorales piece “Black Cloud,” a swarm of black moths and butterflies.

The other was this dandelion sculpture created by (I think) Josiah McElheny:

I’m a huge fan of big contemporary installations like these as they really set the tone and show me that humankind is still creating amazing art.

A few days after we visited the museum, we took Uncle Frank to California for a few days. I’ll write about that part of the trip later. Mebbe next week, I hope.

BUT a few days after my uncle left for Arkansas, I had the real pleasure of meeting Theresa Barker. She blogs at Theresa Barker Lab Notes. We had a fun time comparing notes on our families and exchanging a few of our favorite poems and discussing them. What a blast! She is as nice and smart in person as in blogland.

I’ve been feeling very depleted and tired lately, so much so that creating new work seems impossible. However, I pulled out a lot of unfinished poems. By unfinished, I mean that they were too complete, too mediocre, and had been filed away. I am going through and revising these poems. Maybe I will find something good in some of them!

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerslife, Arizona, Art and Music, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

Magical Music Box

I forgot about writing posts based on Dawn Raffel’s memoir, The Secret Life of Objects. Joey over at Joeyfully Stated reminded me, so I’m happy to be back at it. I’ve written about the magical bowls of my childhood snacking and the name sign from my grandmother’s mailbox, as well as some jewelry that holds meaning for me.

Maybe the object that I still have that carries my earliest memories is the music box I have had since I was a baby. I know it’s weird, but I am a person with very early memories. I apparently inherited this ability from my grandfather. If you wonder what toddler memories are like, they are exactly like memories from all the other times of your life: vivid and realistic.

When my mother put me down for a nap, she would wind up the music box and set it going. I still remember standing in my crib, looking over the white iron bars, willing the music box to start up again. It didn’t, of course, as it had to be wound by someone.

I think I must have been a hard kid to settle to sleep (undiagnosed ADHD or anxiety?), and I always felt I was missing something. But then again my parents wanted me to nap AND have an extremely early bedtime. As a child I used to play shadow games or read under the covers with my flashlight.

When I became a teen, it was the sixties and incense was very popular, so I used my music box as an incense burner.

Have you ever heard that music is one of the best triggers for memory? Well, my music box–after 60+ years–still works. (Take that you plastic parts in today’s merchandise!)

I did a quick search online for a vintage round metal music box, and there are quite a few that look very similar, even to the color. They are called “powder puff” style. It’s very possible that this music box is from the 1940s and predates me. It could have belonged to my mother or grandmother well before I was born.

Question of the day: what song does the music box play?

Anybody want to play along and write about the secret life of an object? If so, please post the link in the comments here!

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On another note, my uncle has been visiting for two weeks and the kids (daughter and BF) are still living here, so for an HSP like me it’s been Grand Central Station over here.

 

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

First Poems of 2019 Published This Past Week

My poem “How to Create a Family Myth” has been published in  Volume 6 of the esteemed literary magazine, The American Journal of Poetry Many thanks to editor Robert Nazarene for taking this piece.

This prose poem belongs in Kin Types: it’s about Kalamazoo and my grandfather’s stories.

This is the house in the poem:

Additionally, I discovered a cool journal called Defuncted that takes poems that were published in literary journals that are now defunct. They published four poems in one collection and then a fifth poem is separate because it had unusual formatting. I love the photos they put with the poems, too.

You can find the collection here at Collection of Poems by Luanne Castle

To find the uniquely formatted poem, check out Serotonin

If you recall I made a publication goal for myself this year. So The American Journal of Poetry and Defuncted are one and two on my 2019 list.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerslife, Poetry, Poetry reading, Publishing, Writing, Writing goals

The Bitch’s Tail

(Again, apologies to Chaucer. Third up in the series of Cat Tails is that of Tiger)

I’ll proudly claim my B-word title. I am the most petite cat in my queendom and rely on my claws for protection because almost all my teeth had to be removed. Other than my canines–isn’t that ironic?! I have a genetic tooth disease that comes to me from my god-ancestor origins in Egypt (note: the other cats are obviously not related to gods–this is proof). I am special, set aside from the other cats. My power intimidates them, so they don’t even try to get close to me. They have to respect and admire me from afar.

My story begins as a Cinderella tale. Remember that in Cinderella stories, the heroine seems to start from a lowly position, is elevated to a high station, and it is often revealed that her concealed origins were royal or aristocratic.

So when I tell you that my story here begins in a grocery store parking lot, remember that my story-of-origins begins earlier with my royal Egyptian forebears who now sleep forever in the vaults and tombs of pharaohs.

OK, the parking lot. I was young and tiny and hungry. I don’t know how I got to the parking lot because the first thing I can remember is standing there on the pavement, wondering how to avoid all the cars spinning in and out and all around. Before I was smashed to pieces, a young human snatched me up and took me away. She couldn’t keep me, so her friend took me home with him. He was a single college student, living in a one room apartment near campus. He meant well, but he couldn’t really take care of himself very well. I ate better than he did, but sometimes he couldn’t afford litter for my box. And one day he ran an errand, forgetting to put out the candle burning on the table.

He saved my life when he got home, but only after I got a little sick from the thick smoke. I became cautious of life after that, and especially of people, except for my young dad. I slept under the covers with him. He was my world.

One day, he went on vacation and left me with his parents. That was different. I didn’t like them at first and tried to snap at them (I still had teeth at that time). But the father was so good at playing “mousie” that I started to like him. And the mother wouldn’t give up petting me even when I was mean to her. And they bought me so much litter and gave me pieces of chicken. I have a thing for chicken. I asked to stay with them, and my young dad and his parents agreed that I had a better life with them. I didn’t realize until later that “them” came with a few other cats.

I didn’t have to worry about the other cats. My new father is besotted with me. I am his favorite cat, paws down. He won’t allow anyone to say anything negative about me. And when people talk about his love for me, he gets a silly grin on his face. I have claimed the title of bitch because I will smack any cat who intrudes on my territory–and since my father won’t allow anyone to call me a bitch, I will say it myself as it keeps everyone on their toes. [Mother intrudes: “But, Tiger, you are also afraid of other cats and sometimes your own shadow. How do you justify presenting yourself as brave?” Tiger replies: “Mother, this is my story to tell. And if I sometimes lie on my back and cry when someone comes close and stares at me, it’s because I have a sensitive nature. I guess Father understands that.”]

I am the only cat to sleep with Mother and Father every night. No matter how many new cats come to live here, it’s always me. That shows you how special I am. I am also a Tabico cat. That means that I have Calico Cat markings that are made up of Tabby Cat stripes. Tabicos (or, as some call us, Patched Tabbies–or even Torbies) are very rare cats indeed!

I’ve been with my mother and father for years now. I am fourteen years young. The funny thing is that although I know how much Father loves me, I love to curl up on Mother at night. She tries to push me away (careful, Mother, you know the power of my claws!), but I wait until I think she is asleep and climb back. Every morning she has to explain the scent of Tiger on her to Perry, Sloopy Anne, and the other cats.

Maybe you wonder if I still see my first dad. I do. He visits us sometimes with his new wife, and I let him pet me. He’s still one of my three favorite people. And I’ve heard that he’s become a really good cat dad and even a . . . I can’t believe I’m saying this . . . dog dad. Mother and Father think he’s one of the best. You can all thank me for that. I am the one who trained him, the one who had patience with him, and the one who put up with his childish mistakes.

Just remember my motto when you think of me: I AM TIGER, HEAR ME ROAR!

FOR THE OTHER CAT TAILS (SO FAR):

The Dowager’s Tail

The Baby’s Tail

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Luanne here. I was so lazy all year about sending out submissions that I decided to try for at least 15 publications in 2019. Arbitrary number, but who cares. It’s having a goal, not what the goal is, that matters. (If I reach that number with time to spare, I’ll have lied to myself because I’ll up it to 20).

Just as I decided on that goal, I heard from three journals that had had my stuff for a long time. One yes and two nos. That meant I had one publication coming up for 2019. Fourteen to go. So I sent poems out to four topnotch journals on Wednesday. On Thursday I was called by the editor of one, taking a poem for early 2019. Best timing yet. So now two down, thirteen to go!

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Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction

Eastern Tennessee and Me

I promised Tennessee, so here it is. Years ago, my parents gave us a membership to a sort of timeshare thingie. This year, to use our points, we decided we wanted to see the Smoky Mountains. To reserve a week during fall color season, we had to decide last January. Although we chose by what we read online, our stay got bumped back a week, color was late this year, and we ended up before the color had really begun to change. ALTHOUGH. The gardener kept pointing out “color” whenever he saw the faintest hint of rust or red in a sea of green. Very annoying.

I didn’t feel well, so that probably made me crabby.

My left foot had developed plantar fasciitis and hurt, that caused my back to go “out” and that hurt, and my reflux was in an uproar. After a trip to Walgreens, I was set to explore.

Unfortunately, an area we thought would be rustic and relaxing turned out to be the cheesiest tourist trap in the country: Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Gatlinburg. CHEESY.

Fake Alcatraz might have been the most educational place there (from the outside at least). We couldn’t find anything worth doing, didn’t want to do the crowds at Dollywood, and there was no place to eat gluten free food in that gluten-crazy, kid-friendly zoo. (Although we did end up going to one place in Pigeon Forge–I write about further down).

Fortunately, our timeshare was a lovely condo in a beautiful complex, and we ate almost all our meals there and packed cooler lunches to take with us. What a blessing.

View from our condo pool.

We ended up traveling to Ashville, NC, and the Biltmore (largest private home in the country); Knoxville with its history and art museum; Cumberland Falls in Kentucky; and towards Chattanooga, although we didn’t make it that far because we took country roads and explored.

Biltmore

Art that intrigued me in Knoxville

The second painting is from a large collection the museum owns by Joseph Delaney, an African-American artist from Tennessee. He studied at the Art Students’ League in NYC a little before my MIL, and I can see a similarity in their styles. This painting, in fact, is of the lobby of the Art Students’ League.

Cumberland Falls

Two touristy places we went to turned out great. We chose well. One was Parrot Mountain and Gardens in Pigeon Forge. The collection of colorful exotic birds is extraordinary. They also give homes to pet birds that find themselves homeless–and you can find a pet there, too. Although I don’t usually like zoos, this place does seem to do a really good job providing well for birds that could not live independently in the United States.

The other thing we did that is very touristy was a boat ride on an underground lake (in a cave). Called the Lost Sea, it’s located in Sweetwater, TN.

I do think Dollywood “ruined” the general vicinity. The traffic and all the cheesy establishments were such a disappointment. It probably brought jobs to people, and if so, that is good. But ugh. I would never return to that specific area. Luckily, we had a decent time with all our side excursions.

The only thing that was a real dark side for me was something that I’m sure I’ve seen elsewhere, but hadn’t really paid attention to. I had just finished a Rita Mae Brown Sneaky Pie mystery on the plane ride to TN. Those books take place in Virginia, and there was mention of kudzu and the destruction it wreaks. So when we arrived at our destination in Pigeon Forge, I couldn’t help but notice the Little Shop of Horrors monstrosities growing all around me. The large-leafed plant that spreads over everything: ground, bushes, trees, cars, old buildings, you name it. I felt as if I had fallen into Poison Ivy’s Garden of Hell.

I tried and tried to take good pix from the car, but it was impossible–and where I saw it was generally from the car.

 You have to look carefully, but in the photo just above, you can see beyond the first line of trees to the massive section covered with the creepy stuff. It’s actually a pretty plant, so while I was gazing from the parking lot at this view, a woman said to me, “Pretty, isn’t it?” Direct me said, “It makes me feel as if I’m in a nightmare. It creeps me out.” Then she agreed with me. Here is a great link to learn how kudzu got to our country and how dangerous it is (and how stupid people are): HISTORY OF KUDZU IN THE U.S.

On a positive note, we saw deer and lots of cows and sheep, but it was the woodchucks that stole my heart. As we drove on rural roads, woodchucks would be in the woods just off the shoulder of the road. They traveled in pairs or singly, and they were cute. WOODCHUCKS I doubt any of my pix turned out as our meetings were sudden and brief, but follow that link and you can see what we saw.

OK, that, in a nutshell, was our visit to eastern Tennessee.

Most of my writing lately has been working on finalizing the Broad Street magazine articles and writing reviews. There have been a lot of family activities lately, and now the holidays loom ahead. #wishIwerewritingmore My first review is out in the fall issue of Main Street Rag. I reviewed J. R. Solonche’s Invisible, a full-length collection of poetry.

Make it a great week, peeps!

 

 

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Filed under #writerslife, Book Review, Poetry, Sightseeing & Travel, travel

Poetry Consultations

The big news is that I started doing poetry consultations with two clients. I’ve been enjoying their work so much, as well as the analytical process that goes into critiquing and commenting on their poems.

I hope to get the particulars up on my website before too long. In the meantime, if you think you might be interested in getting feedback on your work, feel free to email me at luanne.castle@gmail.com for the details. I will work with beginners or seasoned poets. **UPDATE: You can find my fees listed on this page of my website: POETRY CONSULTING

To give an idea of my credentials for providing insight about your work, here is a brief bio. I have an MFA in poetry and fiction from Western Michigan University, a PhD in literature (analysis–specialty poetry) from the University of California, Riverside, and a certificate in creative nonfiction from Stanford University. I taught literature and writing for fifteen plus years at the university level and have published literary analyses and creative writing in journals and books for many years. I write poetry book reviews as a regular reviewer for Main Street Rag and other journals. I have two reviews forthcoming in MSR and one in Pleiades. My chapbook Kin Types (Finishing Line Press) was a finalist for the 2018 Eric Hoffer Award.  My first poetry collection, Doll God, winner of the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, was published by Aldrich Press. Beyond credentials, my strengths are literary analysis and a technical understanding of poetry. Additionally, I understand that the poem is yours and not mine, and that what I offer are suggestions, not the “only way.” There are a wealth of ways a poet may choose to revise. When I think it makes sense, I will advise about poets or poems to read–or journals to try for submissions.

Make it a good week for you and for others. Here is my Facebook profile pic this week.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerslife, Editing, Poetry, Writing

Six-Week Family History & Poetry Series at BROAD STREET MAGAZINE — The Family Kalamazoo

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 […]

via Six-Week Family History & Poetry Series at BROAD STREET MAGAZINE — The Family Kalamazoo

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by | October 26, 2018 · 2:30 pm

Back Home

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!

The fall/harvest (and sometimes Halloween) decorations were up all over Tennessee.

Make it a great week!

 

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Just Sayin’

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:

confidant

noun

  1. One to whom secrets or private matters are disclosed.
  2. 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.

 

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Getting Out There

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.

Music, too.

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?

 

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