Monday, August 30, 2010

Why am I not surprised that building a web site with was not as easy as I thought it would be? How many times have I jumped into a project, excited, a little overwhelmed, but certain it was just what I needed to do--only to discover o-ver and o-ver again, that the project is way above my pay grade technically?I'm worse than Charlie Brown trying to kick that football each fall.

If one could only lay hands on a human being in this process after spending hours designing a page, importing photos, shrinking photos, only to lose every smidge of the work with no clue why or how. But if one could get hold of a human, it would not be a pretty sight. So, better to throw things around the empty room or just grind one's teeth.

And then what? Well, I'll just practice here for a bit what I intended to do there: write. Not so much write followed by an object, write a sonnet, a ghazal, a short short, a lyric essay--but write. Simply write. Write. Maybe I'll keep a weather journal as suggested by Ellie Bryant to her students.

The weather has been reading weather today--overcast, occasional sprinkle; yet, I've done a lot of other stuff. Yesterday I had what I thought was a general malaise that really turned out to be chills, fever, and nausea. So, waking up feeling normal this morning after a sick day is the great motivator. I immediately set about to bake four loaves of Healthy Banana Bread. Teresa had provided four very ripe bananas and I had four. Four ripe bananas = two cups=two loaves of banana bread. Easy, peasy. I've done laundry, organized over 150 emails from the past month, read a few stories, cooked some veggies and a skillet of corn bread. Being home all day is motivating as well. On a typical day I go to play with my babies and don't return home until about seven.

I'm reading Olive Kitteridge with a pen in hand, hoping to learn something and to remember what I've learned. Taking notes helps. Strout is the master of timing in these stories. She throws a little teaser of a fact out there about a character, and a few paragraphs later, or a story or two later, you get a fuller idea of why she provided this earlier nibble. I've never read anything quite like this group of stories. Of course, the reason I bought them in the first place is because I'm writing a series of linked stories.

Her setting in Maine is essential and adds such a layer of interest. Picking starfish out of the sea and placing them on rocks to dry. Think of it. Putting dried starfish in fish netting to decorate windows. Think of that. Setting is one thing I plan to work on in revision. Most of my stories are set in Tuscaloosa, but Northport is far more distinctive in a way. I have more emotional ties to Northport, I suppose. Yellow Front Store where Mama bought flour and lard. Faucett's where my first overcoat was bought on credit, I'm sure. The cotton gin. The Warrior River--my old Uncle Bill could remember when it was so clear you could see right to the bottom of it. I know those details aren't in the race with drying starfish, but one has to work with what is there. Right now I'm just trying to get that first draft down.

Elizabeth Strout teaches at the brief residency writing program at Queens College. Would it be possible, I'm wondering, to take a semester of study with her? Funny, I was making application to Queens, Warren Wilson, and Spalding when I met Sena at her first signing for Ahab's Wife. When I told her I was making application to three schools, she said, "You'll do well wherever you go because you're so excited about it." That initial generosity convinced me to go to Spalding; not surprising it pervades her entire program. I've also considered going to Italy with the Spalding folks and studying CNF next summer, but why spring into YET another genre at this point?

In what lifetime will I decide that I simply have to get to the writing itself?? Seat myself here day after day and write. If nothing comes from my writing that anybody on the planet cares to read, so be it. The process is mine: the joys, the fears, the let-downs. Nobody can hold it up to the light and reject it. I own it.

My report on the new web site: I have created two simple pages, the home page, and a showcase page which lists my poetry books for sale. Nothing fancy. Just two pages. I'll report when and if there's futher progress.

Monday, August 2, 2010

"Because I could not stop for Death..."

Emily Dickinson is right. As busy as our lives are, as complicated as our schedules become, there is no avoiding death. Our own, certainly, and that of others as well.

This month has been fun-filled with celebrating birthdays, picking blackberries, teaching children at the Sail Away Cinema in VBS--but like the ticking of a grandfather clock in a still bedroom, Grief is always there lurking on the periphery, ready to jolt us with its savage grip.

Two dear friends have died this month. Another is on the verge of dying. A beloved family member is being robbed of her reason by take-your-pick aging ailments. It all makes me stop and take stock. It makes me consider other losses leading up to that greatest one. It makes me wonder which is worse.

IN MEMORIAM: Jewell Smith, August 2, 1904-September 9, 1993

(Coming soon: where I will be doing more mulling over and more writing.)

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