A Love Story Reimagined: Part I

Like many of you, I’m having difficulty coming to terms with the new normal of necessary widespread social distancing in light of COVID19. I was going to write about that today, as there are a couple directions I could go. I could share how it reminds me of being on bed rest when I was expecting my daughter, and the lessons I learned then. I could write about how a certified hermit like me feels about everyone else suddenly appropriating the space I occupy (literally and figuratively), but while I was out walking earlier, another idea captured me, so maybe next time.

As I wandered in my neighborhood, appreciating the blooms of the Judas trees and how the temperature of the gusting breeze is just perfect today, I found myself thinking about weddings. Full disclosure: I was listening to an audible book in which the narrator is anticipating her own upcoming wedding. It’s early in the book, but all signs point to the soon-to-be-articulated fact, no doubt, that the narrator’s fiancé is not the love of her life. My mind began to wander and I thought of unlikely pairings, traditional weddings, non-traditional wedding attire, until suddenly I found myself thinking of a great aunt whom I never met (or maybe I did once when I was a child) and her husband. I’ve always thought of their marriage as a storybook romance, but I have nothing to base that on, other than it was such an unexpected and unlikely coupling, given their backgrounds.

I won’t share their real names — let’s call them Amy and Winston. The people who are left who did know them and have memories of them might object to me publicly speculating about the state of things between Amy and Winston, and that matters to me. All families have secrets, and my maternal, paternal, step, marital, and other volunteer families are no different. It’s disquieting to have a writer in the family; I try not to tell other people’s secrets, except for the ones that also belong to me, either because I lived them or because they were shared with me in a way that gives me that permission. Over the course of my life, I’ve been jarred by the revelation of a few secrets that had been kept from me (not just me, but others too), not because I attached scandal to the secrets (though some prigs might categorize one or two of them thus) or judge the holders of such secrets harshly, but because their discovery changed long-held pictures I had had of how things were. It changed the context of conversations I had had. It changed my understanding of things I was told as a child. One revelation in particular made greater my admiration for someone I had admired very much already, and I would’ve liked to have told her so before she left this world. So, my knowledge of Amy and Winston isn’t so much factual, and even if I ever thought it might be, I am so much less sure of what I “know” now. It is inspired by stories I heard, and also by things that were not said in the telling and retelling of those stories. A sense of who they were as a couple was conveyed to me, whether by those who knew them or by my own imagination, I can’t now say.

I will attempt on my next writing to weave a brief tale of the Amy and Winston of my imagination. First, though, I should probably manage expectations. My definition of “romantic” may not be what you think of when you think of romance. There won’t be flowers and candles and wine and soft music. There will be bravery, strength, discovery, and a stout love that results in the pair finding themselves in places they never imagined, doing things they never imagined they would be doing.

Should any of my family stumble across the story, they’ll recognize the real Amy and Winston as the inspiration. I wonder if they’ll recognize anything of the real people whom they knew, and who have long stirred my imagination and curiosity.

Stay safe. Stay home. Thanks for reading.

Begin doing …

I just saw a quote from Walt Disney on a friend’s Facebook page: The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.

So much wisdom is so simple.  Simple, but not easy.  My last post here was over 2 months ago!  That sounds so much longer than it seems to me; so much has happened in those 2 months, that chunk of past time is like a blur.  The “doing” part of my life has had very little to “do” with writing, and more to do with being a parent helping a daughter prepare for college.  Her departure is now just a little over a week away.

Not surprisingly, my focus has begun to shift back to writing, to the “plan” for achieving “the goals” I have set for myself.  Certainly, step 1 is to “begin doing.”

To that end, I am considering launching a new site, and it’s an endeavor that has been over ten years in the making.  Let me explain how a new site might help me (and you) begin doing …

I happen to live in an area that is rife with writers.  These writers are not only talented, but are generous with their time, their insights, and their knowledge.  As one of these talented writers once said to me, “None of us do this work alone.”  When I first realized what a wealth of talent and resources existed around me, I began to explore the idea of what I labeled a “Writers’ Energy Exchange.”

In my mind’s eye, it was a physical location where writers could meet informally to work and to assist one another.  Most of us have trusted groups to which we belong, and to whom we can take drafts of poems or whatever we are writing and get some good feedback.  My two poetry groups have been essential for me in my work.  However, I have always thought it would be great to have that kind of feedback on a more spontaneous basis.  “Workshopping” someone else’s stuff is such a two-way street:  when I am given the opportunity to review someone else’s work, even in draft form, invariably I am inspired to work harder and better.

Continue reading “Begin doing …”

Okay. So if poetry (or MY poetry) isn’t your thing…

Maybe you want to check out some fiction at A Writer’s Pages Annex …  Here’s a sample:

Mickey eventually grabbed my strap again and whispered, “Come on.” But I didn’t want to go with him – I knew he was going in – and yet I was so fascinated I couldn’t not go. He pulled my satchel from my shoulder and laid it in the grass by the road. His great criminal mind must have instinctively known that a book satchel would make us appear suspicious, as though we didn’t belong – which we didn’t – as though we had just taken a detour after school to intrude here – which we had. He grabbed me by the wrist and forged ahead. Somehow I knew I was someplace that neither Rose nor Mama would approve of me being, but the knowledge that such a place was so close to my normal routes in life intrigued me all the more (I only later realized that it wasn’t the place that was to be avoided, but the event).

Knowing and Taming The Enemies

One of the most frustrating things for a writer is not writing.  In my case, I sometimes sit down at my desk or in one of my favorite chairs with good intentions, but the phone rings or I remember the clothes in the dryer or I decide to check out The Weather Channel … in other words, nothing happens.   Why not?

For me, the reasons vary, and it depends on what I am trying to write.

I somehow ritually rid myself of the fear of putting down a terrible poem.  In my world, I no longer write terrible poems – they are “drafts.”  My friend Scott Douglass once said to me, “I have yet to meet the perfect poem.”  Scott meets a great many poems, not only as a poet himself, but also as an editor and publisher, so I found his statement to be quite comforting.  I still do. Continue reading “Knowing and Taming The Enemies”

Wrapping up “Project June,” still obsessing about sleep.

142016In my last post, I pondered whether the absence of creating poetry while on my almost month-long writing retreat might be contributing to my inability to sleep.  My dear friend and fellow poet, Ann, was absolutely right when she wrote in a comment to that post that it sounded as if it was time to write a poem.  She also hit upon the fact that editing and revising are not the same as creating, and I can admit that a good portion of my time here has been devoted to the revision process … which is, as Ann pointed out, emotionally somewhat removed from the project.

A couple of weeks ago, while not sleeping, I came across a program on the Discovery Health channel about dreaming.  It was while watching this program that I got the title for that poem it was time to write.   When I got the first draft of this poem written last week, having to tinker with it was a nice respite from wrestling with revising the snaking prose that had already laid claim to its territory.

The last couple of weeks, I have utterly given in to my natural body clock, staying up until 3:00 or 4:00 and sleeping until 10:00 or 11:00 (when I could sleep at all).  I resent this condition in myself.  However, there’s nothing to be done for it, and since I have been completely on my own here, why not give in?  And yet, there is tension even in that “harmless” surrender.  Thus the poem.  Here is a stanza from the poem, which is still a draft, and is entitled Six Years of Dreaming.  On that Discovery Health channel program, it was said that the average person will spend six years of their lives dreaming.  Stanza 3:

Sleep has come to do an intervention
bringing with him
common sense, conventional wisdom
intuition … history.  All the self-righteous
and smug know-it-alls.
Naturally, I am repulsed.

It is still a draft, but I like the doing of it … and I slept great last night.  Tomorrow I head home, back to my family and, therefore, back to more reasonable and loving expectations.

Running Away

shellCurrently, running away might be exactly what I could be accused of doing.  I am at our small beach house where I have been most of this month.  I have been coming here every year for the past 4 summers, during the month of June, in order to write and recharge.

Some years have been more successful than others in the area of writing, but usually I have been able to rest well, even if I have not been able to write well while here.  This year, oddly, I have not been able to rest quite as well.  One factor has been the weather.  We have had storms rolling in at night and these tempests have managed to intrude on my rest in two ways.  The first way is the most obvious: if I am sleeping, and if the storm is close enough, it wakes me.  The second way is both more appealing and less preferable at the same time:  the storm comes before I am asleep and so I open the blinds or go out onto the porch and become a spectator.  The thrill of watching a good storm, frankly, makes it difficult to settle down enough to later go to sleep.  I simply don’t want to sleep afterwards.

However, for me to blame my inability to rest completely on these acts of God is not the whole story.  Continue reading “Running Away”

“What Fresh Hell is This?”

valentineI wonder if Ms. Parker ever faced the dilemma I am facing this week.  In the last two days, I have written over 20 pages of, I believe, a short story.  However, based on the following facts, I hesitate to use the label “short story:”  this particular story does not seem to want to end; the characters in this story have taken up permanent residence in my every waking minute; the last time I was so inhabited by a character, I ended up writing a novella!

What’s the problem? you may well ask.  Let me list the problems in order of my level of concern:

Problem 1: This particular story is unlike anything I have ever written.  It appears to be a “romance?”  It’s a little steamy, but it may just be trashy!  I have no experience writing in this genre.  For all I know, the descriptions of the close encounters are cliche, the circumstances unlikely, and the plot just plain silly (although, I have to admit, I am liking the dialogue so far).  Continue reading ““What Fresh Hell is This?””