Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sanity? I Was Sane Once?

Well, actually it hasn't. I don't think so anyway. I've spent the better part of today finishing up my homework for the DFW Writers Conference. Yes, the Romance workshop I signed myself up for in a sudden fit of brazenness.

My pitch session was emailed to me not too long ago and I initially was super excited about it. I looked at it again and groaned. Just from looking at the time my session is scheduled for the end of the day or pretty close to it. End of the day. I can't make up my mind if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I'm leaning toward the latter with various descriptors tumbling through my mind: tired, hungry, thirsty (for a stiff one), and aching (me at least).

Ah, well, as I told the friend who is carpooling with me. "It's practice. You're going to have to do it sooner or later. And there's always going to be a first time so just do it!" I was actually negging on her after she told me she wasn't going to pitch her manuscript. No way was I going to let her get away with such cowardice! Last night we talked for almost an hour and yes, she will be pitching as well. Yes! After all, misery loves company, yes? OK, I didn't urge her to do simply for that reason but it will  be a double learning experience. We debrief each other extensively afterwards I'm sure.

I will not be posting here again until  Saturday night at the earliest or Monday at the latest. In other words, if I hear encouraging words I will probably be posting Saturday; if the words are discouraging I will probably post Monday. All of which means absolutely nothing--------------everyone here knows I'm going to keep writing no matter what is said.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston: April 15, 2013

Just some poems I wrote in the wake of the events in Boston. I think I tweeted two of them. 


Inhuman horror
Such disregard for life
Never. Never. No.

What is to be gained? Not respect
Nor understanding. Nothing



My heart does not want to believe
But my eyes refuse to forget.
A world in grey and black
No color anywhere but scarlet.
Yet the sun rises in the morning
As if it were any other day
The world did not change.
We did.



Love abounds in darkest times

There on a street corner, wrapping a wound

“Here you’re cold.” A cup of coffee

Compassion, humanity, our truest selves

Painted in broad strokes of hope.

This we must remember. . . we must.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Other Dreamers--Life Changes

Some weeks ago on Facebook there was a video posting from someone I follow. I can't say I'm actually a "friend" or acquaintance; we’ve actually never met (and I seriously doubt my name is even known) but I enjoy his postings. Heck, they make me laugh out loud and/or spurt coffee through my nose if I'm not careful. I look forward to them, knowing I'm going to smile or laugh and getting to know him just a little bit better. I like the last part, too. I'm always curious about people.

We have something in common. Both of us have had reasonably successful careers then decided to go back to something we loved but did not complete or follow up on. What makes it ironic, to me anyway, is that what we are changing to. I’m going from a health care profession to a more expressive one---fiction writing ; he is going from an expressive one in the performing arts to--- a health care profession. One of the most demanding ones, too. It is a 180 degree turn for the both of us, from the highly competitive to the highly sought after for him and vice versa for me. I cannot help but wonder at the stories we could tell each other as we pass each other on that road. I know the ones I would tell him if I could.

Some folks might describe such career or life changes as a mid-life crisis but I really  hate the term ‘crisis’.  The term is such a negative one, associated with fear, unexpected change, and other negatives. Pshaw! Yes, it’s scary; I suspect it is for both of us but I don’t think the change came slamming down on us like a full blown code at the change of  shift (a simile from my old profession).  No,  I think completely otherwise.

For myself it wasn’t a sudden, wake-up-in-the-morning kind of thing. I wrote in junior high and high school, even if my teachers didn’t see the half of it. Through first love and marriage to this day I have kept a poetry journal. Little stories made their way into my letters and I was always scribbling first paragraphs.  There are hundreds of nurses who declare they hate to write narrative notes--- I was never one of them. I hated the fact I had to fight for the time to write them. And, yes, I got excited when one of my doctors actually referred to (or complimented me on) one of my notes. You noticed? You read it? Thank you! Would you like my first born or will cookies do?

After my husband died in the early 90’s I started another first paragraph which was followed by another paragraph then another. The next thing I realized  I was writing a story. I also realized it was one of the most satisfying things I had ever done. Oh, I can tell stories about similar satisfaction about specific patients I worked with but it was very different. Several chapters later I had to return to work and the book was shelved under the pressure of everyday life. But it was not forgotten. The rest of that particular story is in the very first entry of this blog.

My Internet ‘acquaintance’? I don’t know if the decision was slow in forming or not but knowing him to be both intelligent and thoughtful I am fairly certain it was not a sudden one. It’s a question I would dearly love to ask. But a mid-life crisis? Bah! I don't think so.
Perhaps some day I will have an opportunity to ask that question. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to exchange stories. I would like that. Life is full of possibilities, is it not?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cookies, Presentations, and Other Terrors

What do cookies, presentations, and other terrors have in common? It doesn't look like there is a common thread or pattern to it but there is.

All of them are focused on one particular weekend, the weekend of the DFW Writers Conference.
  1. I do have cookies to bake. I had major problems with my early bird sign-up and two conference gurus went out of their way to get in the system and get the problems solved. Dealing with a bat-sh*t crazy lady in a totally courteous and prompt manner won them extra points. I gave them their choice of cookies. Chocolate-chunk Pecan cookies it is. Challenge accepted!
  2. I  have an appointment scheduled with a literary agent. I will be pitching Rain. In a well-intentioned fit of either insanity or foolhardy bravery I picked the scariest agent I could find, thinking if I can get through it I can get through any pitch. As the time grows closer I am starting to wonder what the heck have I done? I've read article after article about pitching your work and as many blog entries. I've read everything I can find on the agent, including the agent's blog. I still have no bloody idea what I'm doing! Everything I've read has poured through my brain cells like soup served in a sieve, leaving only the aroma behind.
  3. I also signed up for a Romance Writer's Workshop. This may have been an actual error on my part. I thought I was signing up for a nice little creative workshop. A teacher/facilitator, some blank paper, some writing exercises. After I signed up I got my homework assignment.
    1. Cover Page
    2. Query Letter
    3. First two pages
    4. Plot description
I have seriously thought about withdrawing from that one. Cover Page is no problem, first two pages are no problem, query letter is a bit of a daunting one, but the plot description has me dreaming of anti-emetic medications. Only four sentences allowed in that section. I wonder how compound and complex I can get without making anyone's eyes cross?

I think I will bake cookies tomorrow. Gotta start somewhere I guess.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Family Chronicles: Everyone has a story

I  posted the following on my personal Facebook page:

In Piedmont, MO: Headstone Dedication for my great-great grandfather tomorrow! And the motel has Wi-Fi! Cell phone coverage still exerting negative pressure but Internet seems pretty good. Yes, I will take pictures and post when possible. :) I'm a little excited! Henry Marthad died in 1906. The same year my grandfather married his first wife. I just realized that. But for one hundred and seven years his grave has been unmarked. Now it will be. I may never find my great-grandfather's grave or my grandfather's so I like this very much. I like a sense of continuity. . .history. . .and family. And everyone. . .everyone has a story. :)

Skimming through the web pages of agents and publishers I noted what they were looking for and what they weren't looking for. Family chronicles seemed to make the "don't want" list at very frequent intervals. I guess they've been inundated with such offerings. It kind of makes sense to me. I've remarked before about writing down stories of that nature to my own family and some of my friends.

I can also see, to a certain extent, why such stories bring on a glazed look in the publishing world. At least, I think I can.

Henry David Thoreau said

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.

My ancestors did not live extraordinary lives. I've done enough of a search on ancestory.com to know that. They were farmers, fishermen, and factory workers. They may have participated in history or simply been alive during historical events but they didn't write down their stories and, the bold truth of the matter, the only ones who are interested are their families. . . and that interest is held only by such curious descendants as myself and a few rare others. We don't know the true stories either, just simple facts.

My ancestor served from the beginning to the end of the Civil War as a Confederate volunteer in the Kentucky Calvary. At the end of the war he became a Mason and remained one to the end of his days. He had two sons and three daughters. He farmed and grew old. In his old age he lived with one son and then the other. He died in the home of a family who either simply took him in or was hired to take care of him.

For a man of his time it's probably a very ordinary life story. There is not much I can add to it. I could do more historical research and probably find a story to write but in the simple facts of his existence? I don't think so.
Such a story would only interest me, a few distant cousins, and possibly my older brother who is an amateur Civil War historian. But  there is probably a story there somewhere.

I know--everybody has a story.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Rain": First Draft Completed!

Oh, I've been waiting so long to be able to post this!

a facsimile of what a former boyfriend would call "the chick dance of joy"!

 I just typed the last line in "Rain"!

I've only been writing it, on and off, since 1994. Yes, almost twenty years. I don't really know how to act or what to feel right now.  As some of the younger bloggers I've read would say: "too many feels". So many I can't put them all down right now. They contradict each other anyway.

I will gather all the input from those who have read it and do a rudimentary edit when I come back from a short trip to Missouri this weekend. On May 4th and 5th I will be attending the DFW Writer's Convention---and pitching "Rain" to an agent. Beta-blockers and other anxiety-reducing chemicals will be needed. And no, I haven't written that yet either. After all you can't pitch a story until it's finished and you know who you are pitching it to. O.K. maybe you can do the former but I've been told most agents want to hear about a finished book and I wanted to able to look them in the eye and say I had completed a manuscript.

Yes, lots to still do but time to move on as well. I guess the best way to put it is: weather is changing. . .it's time  for "Snow". . .then comes "Familiar Strangers" then "Summer Heat" then "Fatherhood"----you know the list. Writing. . .it's a chronic, raging disease. . . and the strangest joy.

Note: Yes, I know in my last blog post I expected to be finished in a week. It was very wishful thinking---it was much harder than I expected but that's another posting. My apologies and, if you've been waiting on this posting, thank you so very much for your patience.

Charles: Eulogy

A small note: this is one of my 'old' essays from the nineties but it's not really an essay. It's a eulogy I wrote and gave (as one of three or four speakers) for a very dear friend of mine, the first, last, and only of its kind. If I have my way about such things it will remain so.
Charles. Not ever Charlie or Chuck. Always Charles. The last time I tried to describe Charles I was writing a new email friend in PA a couple of years ago when she asked me about friends I had here in Arkansas. Charles topped the list as he has for the last almost twenty years I think.

Well, he’s just a friend I told her. A dear friend, a confidante. He isn’t pretty but his eyes are warm and thoughtful and I’ve grown fond of his face over the years. He’s a character; I really should put him in one of my stories I told her. He belongs in one. How do I say this without being trite? Charles is unique. . . comparable only to himself. If you met him for the very first time you’d wonder for a moment or two. Is he teasing or not? Believe me. . .he is. Picking up a line of improvisational fussing and carrying it with you until both you and he started giggling. Changing subtly as the subject turned more serious. His voice a little firmer perhaps. You just knew. Listening with a calm, accepting intentness that is so very rare. . .and so. . .just Charles. I don’t think my PA friend knew what to think.  I know when I had written it there was still something missing. Ah, well. . .Charles was always meant to be experienced. And I don’t think anyone ever experienced him exactly like another. . . even though I know there were similarities.

Life never seemed to have enough experience for him, I think. He always seemed to be wanting to do more things. . . explore other things. I remember his stories about his brief career as an assistant to a funeral director. Harrowing. . wrenching. . .yet he told the stories with a deceptively light touch but again you knew somehow. He was horrified. . .not by death. . .but by the pain of those around it. He didn’t. . .couldn’t stay with it. Psychology . . . History. . . Law. . . . . .Justice. Always intent. . . perpetually curious. . . full of questions. . . and always interested in what underlined them all. . .People.

I have always thought in musical terms about a lot of things. It’s a curse really as I have no voice. . .no musical talent whatsoever. . . just an ear. . a cursed appreciation for the beauty I cannot replicate. But perhaps I can be forgiven for working in musical terms. . . making life a song. . . .a full fledged polyphonic chorus that grows richer and deeper every year of your life. One of the voices in my chorus. . .your chorus. . . is still. The cadence reached. And yet I know by its very silence how so much poorer the song of my life. . .the song perhaps of your life. . .would have been without that voice and how much richer that voice has made it.  I close my eyes and listen to my memory of the melody. . .and I feel. . .privileged.


July 20, 1997