Tag Archives: 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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Second Broad Street Magazine Article on Family History Literature

Week two up at Broad Street Magazine! So thrilled. How did I learn that my great-great-grandfather’s sister was an artist?

The Family Kalamazoo

As I described last week in Six-Week Family History Series at BROAD STREET MAGAZINE, six poems and flash prose pieces from my chapbook Kin Types are being featured at Broad Street Magazine, along with some of the research and research artifacts I used to create the pieces. The idea was first suggested by editor Susann Cokal. Fabulous idea!

Today the second part of the series was published and can be found here: Family Laundry 2: “What Came Between A Woman and Her Duties” by Luanne Castle

This article is about a poem I wrote about my great-great-grandfather’s sister, Jennie DeKorn Culver. If you recall from past blog posts, she is the woman who left Kalamazoo for Seattle with her two adult daughters, years after a contentious divorce from John Culver.

An introduction to the series can be found here.  SERIES INTRODUCTION

The first feature article is Family Laundry: “

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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

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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Lit Journals and Me: But How Do I Know If It Is a Good Fit? #MondayBlogs

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.

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Brand new issue of museum of americana issue 15 is up as of last night!

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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

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New Life Lessons and Naptime Needed

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.

Sun on the mountain
Alaska

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.

 

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What’s Past and The Promise of What Lies Ahead

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!

 

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A Little More Alaska (Sorry!)

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!

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Nothing Says Grandma Like Club Aluminum

My maternal grandmother was a good baker and a good cook of meats (usually beef) and vegetables. Her use of Grandpa’s garden vegetables in stews and ratatouilles came from being raised on a farm by a mother who was a good cook. She loved her Club Aluminum pans, and the one I most remember was the Dutch Oven. Since my grandmother’s father and my grandfather (her husband) were Dutch, as a kid, I thought it was a pot that was original to the Netherlands, not realizing that is its official name. Her pots were “silver,” the color of aluminum. My mom had Club Aluminum, too, and as I got a little older I realized that she had probably gotten the pans from her mother. She also thought they were the best type to cook in, but her pans didn’t seem to work as well as Grandma’s ;). Or, at least, more anxiety made its way into those dishes.

When I became engaged at nineteen, I had never thought about a wedding or wedding gifts. The only thing I ever imagined was a white velvet dress with a red hooded coat like Mary wore for her wedding in Babes in Toyland. Instead, to save my parents money, I wore my mother’s wedding dress that my other grandmother had made, but that’s another story. I know it sounds blasphemous to American wedding tradition, but I didn’t even register for gifts.

My bridal shower was a family affair, to which I wore my favorite outfit, a teal corduroy pantsuit. Everyone had a very similar pantsuit, but mine was special because of the color. When I arrived at my aunt’s house, I discovered that the person I most wanted at the shower, Grandma, was home sick. The whole event paled after that news, but I do remember that her gift was the biggest and splashiest–an entire set of Club Aluminum pans in yellow. Instead of a metal handle like my mother and grandmother’s Dutch Ovens had, mine had a plastic knob.

I still have my Dutch Oven and a couple of the other pans with lids.

You can see the yellow exterior is pretty banged up after all these years, but the inside is still pristine. My pot has seen some really yummy dishes, but it also was what I used to make Kraft mac and cheese in (for the kids), too, I’m sorry to admit.

This link has a little history of Club Alumimum. It explains that it is cast, not spun. So it is cast aluminum, kind of like cast iron.

Eventually, a report came out that aluminum is dangerous for cooking. If I remember correctly, it was supposed to cause some sort of brain trouble. I guess that has been mainly proven wrong at this point. But it was asserted so strongly that the gardener bought me a set of Calphalon pans. Gosh, I hate those things. Everything sticks to them. Grandma knew what was a good pot! I’ve since added some All-Clads to the mix, and those are ok. But nothing is as good as Club Aluminum.

Or a well-seasoned cast iron frying pan. Funny how much less expensive ($14.88 at Walmart) those are than all the fancy frying pan brands sold today!

By my current kitchen standards, Grandma’s kitchen was a little too small, with not enough counter space, a small persnickety stove/oven, and a ridiculously crammed smallish fridge. She didn’t have granite counters, hardwood cabinets, or stainless appliances. But to me it was a wonderland of magic commanded by my gentle, smart, warm, and loving grandmother.

More about Grandma in “Grandma and the Purple People Eaters.”

 

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My Practical Father (Not Always) Repost for Memorial Day Memories

Since my father was a Korean War veteran, I thought I would repost an old blog post I wrote about him five years ago. When you get to the part about him being in the hospital, remember that this first went up in March 2013. He passed away in May 2015.

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My father was born in 1928, and the memory of the Depression is imprinted on his decision-making.

When he has a color choice, he goes with “brindle brown” because it’s practical and doesn’t call attention to itself.  Until I actually looked up this color, I thought it was a term unique to Dad.  And I figured it meant something like “shit brown.”  Now I see that it really means spotted or streaked like an animal’s coat or like the word piebald.  I suspect that my father’s meaning is closer to what I had originally thought, rather than a dog’s sleek brown fur.

I’ll go a step further and assume Dad probably picked up that term in the Army.  Since he was raised by a single mother, Dad’s true “finishing” came from his fellow soldiers in the Korean War.

Dad’s always hated the color black.  It’s impractical–shows dust and lint.  He doesn’t like lavender either.  His mother wore the widow’s weeds of black and lavender, so maybe there is an emotional terrain underneath the practicality.

When I was younger, men owned small leather grooming kits for travel.  They were sometimes called Dopp kits, although Dopp was a name like Kleenex, an actual brand name.  My father’s was brown, and if somebody gave him a black one as a gift, he wouldn’t use it.

His brief case was brown, not black.  So was his squeeze-type coin purse, back in the days when men carried those.

For the past thirty years he’s carried a brown leather magnetic money clip.

images (2)His belts are brown and not black.  And certainly not khaki canvas or burgundy leather and they don’t have a big turquoise-studded buckle.

My father looks practical and shops with a practicality born out of that Depression upbringing.

But don’t be fooled by how he looks.  When a friend or an acquaintance would show up with something to sell, Dad would buy it, no matter how impractical.  He bought things like:

  • An old non-working violin he was told was a Stradivarius (it was not)
  • A silk Oriental rug (beautiful, but impractical)
  • An old motorboat much too heavy for the motor that fit the boat (it never worked right, but I was still light enough that I could water-ski slowly off the back of the boat)
  • An abacus when I started 4th grade (so I could do division on it)

You get the idea.

Do any of your characters (or real life relatives) contain contradictions?

My dad is sick in the hospital right now, and the doctor isn’t quite sure what’s wrong.

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It’s been three years and 14 days now since my father died. I can hardly believe it. He’s buried at a veterans’ cemetery in Michigan, so I can’t be there today. But I’m still thinking about him.

 

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