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Archive for April, 2007

My nephew Adam turned 18 this week. A couple years ago I took him and his sister with me to Santa Clara, CA for a week-long conference. I also took along Dee and Em. We stayed at what was then a Westin Hotel across from Great America amusement park. Adam and Beak took the girls to rides during the day while I attended workshops on leadership. Then we met each night for dinner.

I asked Adam to teach me all the latest phrases young people say these days. I wanted to be “in the know,” someone my kids might not be too ashamed of someday when things like that matter. Now, two years later, I only remember two terms Adam taught me. “Sketch,” short for sketchy, is someone or some thing that’s suspect or scary looking. The other is “Your mother,” which is a sort of insult where you respond to a legitimate question such as, “What do you guys wanna eat tonight,” with “Your mother.” Except, well, that one turned out a little more crude than I meant.

ANYHOW, and now, speaking of my mother, I called her today to see how she’s doing. She’s 80 and I like to check in on her a few times each week. Unfortunately, she’s feeling a bit green around the gills, which isn’t surprising given she was exposed to the pestilence the girls brought home last week. Em had the vomiting bug while doing a weekend sleepover at Mom’s, and Dee’s been home three days with the croup. Mom, in the mean time, was in bed all day today a headache, diarrhea, and the shivers. “I’ll lose two or three pounds,” she joked when I told her how sorry I was for sending over a viral grandchild.

That’s Mom for you. We even talked about how sometimes you need a good excuse–something like a mild flu–to stay in bed all day and not feel guilty. And now I’m wondering what color guilt might be. If envy and greed and nausea are all green, and passion and rage are red, and meloncholy is blue, and death black, and faith purple, what color is guilt?

Your mother’s guilt.

Not mine.

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Green Remix with Paint

I remember taking a workshop in Taos with Rob Wilder. He took us in groups into the log cabin at Mabel Dodge Luhan House and had us write down everything we could think of related to certain adjectives. He stood at the front of the room like an army sergeant monitoring our progress. “Don’t stop,” he barked now and then. For the word “yellow,” I wrote lemon, sour, pee, urine, yellow snow, yellow fur, fox fur, yellow mellow, yellow polka dot bikini…and so on. When yellow was done he threw out another word.

I’ve been painting these past three weeks, mixing colors with my Pelikan 12-color paint set. Colors are like words. Maybe there are finite shades of green, but I’ll never know all of them in my lifetime. I used Paint to make a collage of the various greens I’ve dreamed up of late with my real paints. I’m green when it comes to green, I realized.

Olive green and army green, sage and the color of money. Quinces and pears, Granny Smith apples, celery, cucumber skin, canvas (tents and sleeping bags), seafoam green, emeralds. Lime green, Kelly green, yellow-green snot.

I’m not anywhere done with green, but I figured I’d better get started.

-from Topic post, Greening.

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Green Frog Near Indria, August 2006, photo © 2006-2008 by Skywire. All rights reserved.

Guardian Green Frog of Indria, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 7th, 2006, photo © 2006-2008 by Skywire. All rights reserved.


Green is as green does. I wouldn’t be nearly as green without Liz pushing me along. Now that I live in a house rather than an apartment, I see things in a new light – it’s luscious green. I didn’t have many choices in apartment living. I recycled into a bag under the sink and carted it out to the brown plastic bin once a week. The rest was decided by the landlord who happened to be a realty company. I didn’t have a lot of maintenance. Things have changed.

On Earth Day, the local news told me our carbon footprints are sinking into a quagmire. We emit 30% more carbon in the last 15 years. And out of planes and boats and trains, forget miles to the gallon; we are talking gallons to the mile. For a family of 3 to fly to London requires 50% more carbon than driving your car for a whole year.

But enough stats. Here’s what Liz helps me to do around our house to stay green:

  • Paperless billing – no brainer.
  • Pay bills online – another no brainer.
  • Compost – we put a composter together a few years ago. The hardest part was finding a spot out of nose length of the neighbors. The city offered the bins to people at a discounted rate as a green promotion. Once a week, in go all the egg shells, carrot tops, French Roast coffee grounds, brown biodegradable filters, yard leaves, and vegetable skins. In the spring, out comes the fertilizer for the gardens. Slick system.
  • Electricity from wind – Liz says she made the choice to pay a little more for our electricity to be generated completely from wind sources. I think that’s kind of cool. I didn’t know I had the option.
  • Compact fluorescents – we’ve started switching over to compact fluorescent light bulbs. I don’t usually like the cool light. But they are starting to make them with warmer tones. You can save a bundle on electricity.
  • Motorcycles – we own two motorcycles.  This has to be the most efficient way to travel with only a few bucks to fill the tank. The only problem in Minnesota is that springs and summers are short-lived. You have to have a thick, cool weather skin.

That’s all I can think of for now. Liz said we should add a 7th – start collecting the shedding winter fur of Kiev, Mr. Stripeypants, and Chaco and make a pair of long underwear for next season. I don’t know if I’m quite that desperate. But we’ll see.


Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

-from Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – GREENING

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Shoes Stay On 3Shoes Stay On 2Boots Stay On Full

Shoes Stay On 2Boots Stay On FullShoes Stay On 3

Boots Stay On FullShoes Stay On 3Shoes Stay On 2

Inspired by this topic.

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By Teri Blair
 
I thought this directive, this encouragement, this heed applied only when things were going badly. You know, just keep going even though the chips are down on all fronts – when you have nothing to write in your notebook but garbage, when you just keep getting rejection letters from publishers, when you feel like the biggest fraud in the world trying to be a writer.
 
Now, I see it applies to the flip-side – continue under all circumstances even when things are going well. Because I see (in a string of days that are going well), that I am just as apt to toss myself away when abundance is coming into my writing life as when the horizon is bleak. It’s like the discovery a few years ago that I feel the same if I have 50 cents or 500 dollars in my wallet. I have the same sensation either way…always broke, never enough money. It has nothing to do with any dollar reality. Just the pounding voices in my head.
 
I’m in Holcomb, Kansas. I’ve returned for the 2nd time in six months to the setting of Truman Capote’s 1965 masterpiece, In Cold Blood. The first time I came out of curiosity, the 2nd from a series of serendipitous events that led me to discover forgotten and lost and distant cousins. Cousins who were raised here. Ones who knew the Clutter Family whose murder brought Truman Capote and Harper Lee back here to Kansas again and again to research their book.
 
And this time, instead of looking at the town with the eyes of an observer passing through, I am being introduced to people, one after another, who lived through the tragedy of ’59. Any one of them is a story. But there are too many. And it makes me want to hide under blankets or run away and definitely not continue under all circumstances.
 
But I will. Only because I was taught how. I will feel the bottom of my feet when I walk to feel grounded. I will sit still and not talk whenever I can. I will listen. Listen deeply. And I’ll try hard to remember that I don’t have to know anything. Be dumb. Just show up without the answers to any of my questions and listen.
 
To Janice, who sat next to Nancy Clutter in band. And her telling me about Nancy’s new clarinet that played like a dream, and how she was a little jealous that Nancy was going to get to go to college with that new clarinet.
 
To Sandy, who worked in the court room during the murder trial. And because she was so photogenic, she was asked to play Harper Lee in the first In Cold Blood movie.
 
To Marlene, who said she doesn’t want to keep reliving the tragedy over and over again.
 
To Eddie, who described to me Truman Capote’s pecking order of friends here, and what it did to the people when some were invited to the Black-and-White ball in New York City and others weren’t.
 
To Wanda, who looks very old and tired, who kept telling me she was far too young to remember any of the Clutters, but kept producing one yearbook after another from the library shelves for me to look at from Holcomb High School.
 
Continue today. That’s all. Just keep arriving in the next minute.
 
 

Continue Under All Circumstances is a writing practice written from the road while researching a story in Holcomb, Kansas.

About writing, Teri says:  I began writing in a Quonset hut on a farm in Minnesota, dragging hay bales around a blue window to create a little haven where no one could find me…alone with paper and pencil. I was often bundled up in several layers in desperately cold weather. I guess on some level I was really serious, even back then. I wrote in journals and diaries faithfully, always finding refuge in the written word. Instead of sitting up and taking notice of these tendencies, I spent years investing time in things I didn’t care about, like taking piano lessons and jogging. It finally became too tiring to fight what I really want to do. So on most days, I’ve stopped saying writing is for someone else, and I let myself do what I love.
 
Upcoming pieces this spring will appear in
Nursing Spectrum, Teachers of Vision, Liguorian, Senior Perspective, and Mushing.
 

 

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A spare moment, one not accounted for or otherwise claimed. A moment to carve out warmth on the sofa, from sitting here long enough that the heat transfers from me to the cushion, envelops me just so. Just so much that I know when I stand to pick up the pizza crust box and read how to make the dough, the warmth will evaporate, from me and from the couch.

What makes me happy is having no one accountable, me to them, them to me. Hearing the girls talk in their room, no voices raised, no agitation at all except for arguing birds out the half-cracked kitchen window.

Happy for health in all its forms. Strong, vibrant body. Shimmering skin. Em was sick with the stomach bug this weekend. She stayed with Mom, and I have to say I was happy to let my mom deal with my vomiting feverish child, happy it wasn’t me doing the soothing and cleaning, nor the puking. (Yet sad to know how easily I relinquish those duties, still not a mother yet, not the mother I knew and loved.)

Happy to have spent time this morning painting, although with the Open House looming today my quiet patience turned to impatience, especially when I realized I couldn’t scan my drawings without my laptop. Unhappy with technology, the whims of CD-ROMs, how they must be cataloged and saved and pulled out just in case. Yet, the CD with my printer driver is long gone and the blue moon at last arrived.

I can’t say I’m happy this Sunday evening. I’m not sad. I’m content, overwhelmed by owning more than one house, wish the other would find its buyer. Wouldn’t mind a fast forward to June or July, or even September, the start of my favorite, most happy time in New Mexico.

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Mabel’s Lights, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February, 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

-Mabel’s Lights, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, from the Wake Up series, all rights reserved


For all the writers who are meeting soon to write, read, listen, and keep the connections going. Here’s to community.


 Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

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A few nights ago, I stayed up past midnight writing a piece. PBS was on in the background. I wasn’t paying much attention until pre-film credits started to roll and I glanced up to see opening scenes of Native Son.

Not the 1951 version where Richard Wright played Bigger Thomas. It was the 1986 version with Victor Love, Matt Dillon, and Geraldine Page.

I had never seen Native Son. Or read the book. I first started researching Richard Wright last summer when I did a presentation on James Baldwin. We read “Giovanni’s Room” and “Another Country” for the writing Intensive in Taos last year. I fell in love with James Baldwin. One of Baldwin’s mentors was Richard Wright.

After we got back from Taos, a writer friend of mine went to a Twin Cities used bookstore and bought up all the Baldwin books. Some were original paperbacks; they smelled like the 60’s. She gave them to me as a gift.

One was Baldwin’s collection of essays, “Notes of a Native Son.” When she paid the clerk, the woman said, “Oh, there’s been a resurgence of the Harlem Renaissance writers lately.”

I’m not surprised.

I found the 1986 film version of Native Son to be heavy-handed and over dramatic. But I stayed up and watched anyway. Out of curiosity, I decided to research Wright a little more and stumbled on a Washington Post article on poetry.

While taking refuge in France from the fallout of his books, “Native Son” and “Black Boy,” Richard Wright wrote and studied haiku. There are 810 in his collection, “Haiku: This Other World,” published by Arcade in New York.

Not only that, according to the Robert Hass article, 5 Haikus By Richard Wright, Wright’s agent said he wrote 4000 poems during the last 18 months of his life, from the summer of 1959 until his death in 1960.

It makes sense to me that Wright would turn to haiku. Simple. Bare. And elegant. A good place to stop and rest. Shelter from the storm.


I am nobody:
A red sinking autumn sun
Took my name away.

A sleepless spring night:
Yearning for what I never had
And for what never was.

-Richard Wright, from “Haiku: This Other World,” by Richard Wright
(Arcade, 1998)


Saturday, April 21st, 2007

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Local breaking news on Minnesota Public Radio is that Louise Erdrich, one of the most well-known writers living in the Twin Cities, rejected an honorary degree from the University of North Dakota because of the school’s continued use of the “Fighting Sioux” sports team name and logo.

It’s a strong statement from a writer, and one that reminds us that symbols have power. Words have power. And so do our choices. Erdrich grew up in North Dakota and has an American Indian heritage as part of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

I am still thinking about the news. And may post a comment later when it has had time to sink in. But I think it’s important to post information about writers as people, and not just authors.

One thing I do know – writers can make a difference. Someone is always listening.

You can read the full article, Author Louise Erdrich rejects UND honor over ‘Sioux’ nickname, at Minnesota Public Radio.

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Related Links:

WRITERS ON WRITING; Two Languages in Mind, But Just One in the Heart by Louise Erdrich – great article on language, symbols, and culture, from the New York Times archive, May 22nd, 2000

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Mary Tyler Moore’s winter boots, Nicollet Mall & 7th Street, Minneapolis, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

-Mary Tyler Moore’s Boots, Nicollet Mall & 7th Street, Minneapolis, photo by QuoinMonkey, March 2007, all rights reserved



NOTE TO MARY:  When I watched your show every week in the 70’s, I never dreamed I’d someday be living in Minneapolis.

Oh, by the way, I did make it after all!


-from Topic post, These Boots Are Made for Walkin’


-related to post, Shoeless Joe Jackson

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, April 20th, 2007

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When the topic of shoes posted last week, all I could think about was Shoeless Joe Jackson. Remember his appearance in Field of Dreams? I can picture him walking out of a sparkling corn field in Dyersville, Iowa, scuffling over to the bleachers, tossing a baseball, hand to pocket, hand to pocket, talking to Kevin Costner.

True to the novel by W. P. Kinsella, Shoeless Joe, there is even a character in Field of Dreams (played by James Earl Jones) loosely based on the reclusive J.D. Salinger. What’s not to like about the story of a Midwestern farmer (Ray Kinsella), two baseball players (Shoeless Joe Jackson and Archibald “Moonlight” Graham), and the writer, J.D. Salinger?

But this isn’t about the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Or Joe’s blistery shoeless run around the bases in 1908.

We’re not talkin’ shoeless here. We’re talkin’ shoes.

From the week’s discussion of power heels, stilettos, weapons, and height, I find I don’t walk stride by stride with everywoman’s categorical obsession with shoes. I don’t seem to care how tall I look or feel. I don’t and never have owned a pair of high heels. I wasn’t gaga over Sex and the City, though I did think the character development was pretty snappy. And it took me several seasons to even know what a Manolo Blahnik was.Mary Tyler Moore on Nicollet Mall & 7th Street, Minneapolis, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

I did once wear a pair of low, red slingback heels. It was Easter and I was coiffed in Mary Tyler Moore hair that curled under only because I slept the night before on hard, pink, plastic rollers the size of a toilet paper tube, held in place with Dippity Doo and bobby pins. Ouch. The red heels graced a white pleated skirt, nylon hose with garter belt (remember?), white poly shell, and navy cotton blazer.

That may have been the last pair of heels I ever owned. Probably the last skirt, too.

I wonder what kind of shoes Truman Capote wore? I’m sure his skirts were lacier than mine. And somehow I picture Harper Lee in low slung heels clacking across the Holcomb, Kansas library floor. I wonder if she even owned a pair of high heels?

Oh, and have I mentioned that Mary Tyler’s Moore’s winter boots are immortalized in bronze in front of what used to be Dayton’s department store on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis?

Mary Tyler Moore’s boots & purse, Nicollet Mall & 7t Street, Minneapolis, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

Don’t get me wrong about shoes – oh, I  love shoes. But the more I think about it, the more my style rings truer from the Egads! women loving women perspective. Yes, lesbians do love their shoes. But, for goodness sake, comfort first.

Since the headfirst dive into creative writing, I haven’t had the extra cash to throw at my shoe collection. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still covet shoes. I don’t have beautiful feet to wrap my shoes around; they aren’t ugly either.

I have average feet, nicely shaped. The big toe reminds me of a spade on a deck of playing cards. The nail beds are just the right size and angle.

I used to wear a 7 1/2. But over the last 10 years, my feet seem to have spread to Kingdom Come; they are now a size 8. I’ve got no bunions but exactly 2 calluses. They erupted out of a pair of Vasque hiking boots I bought when I moved to Montana in my early 20’s. The boots were stiff and hard but everyone in Missoula was wearing them. Who was going to argue?

My feet. They’ve never recovered. The Vasquean calluses, one on the outside spade of each big toe, have not gone away since 1975.

I’m going to end the unenlightened Foot Journals of QM by keeping it short and simple – an inventory of the not ready for prime time players hiding in my closet.

What could be more engaging?


 Red Wing Boot, Red Wing, Minnesota, July 2005, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved      Red Wing Boot, Red Wing, Minnesota, July 2005, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved      Red Wing Boot, Red Wing, Minnesota, July 2005, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved


  1.  Merrell boots, forest green – bought on sale at an independent shoe store on Hennepin near Uptown. The black rubber toes are separating from the canvas. I’ve had to replace the wide, dark green shoe strings with off-color white. I can’t seem to throw them away. I love these shoes.
  2.  Converse high tops, pink  – I’ve had these shoes since 1985. I played softball in them in my early 30’s. The pink’s turned dirty black, the Converse tag came off the molded rubber trim. I finally threw them away when I moved in with Liz in December. What are they doing in this write? I still see them when I open my closet. 8)
  3. Converse high tops, red – replacement for the pinks. I have to be in the mood to wear them. A very RED mood.
  4.  Doc Martens, black – from art school, when the only color worn was, you guessed it, black. I still wear them to ride the Rebel. They give me height on pavement. But the soles are too slick for motorcycle riding. They have held up well. The leather is supple and has stood the test of time. So has the stitching. Doc’s are worth the money you shell out for them.
  5. Doc Martens, white – oh, wait, those are Liz’s. They’re sitting outside my closet. And I wish they were mine. She got them on sale when I first met her. I told her she needed a pair of good boots before I’d take her riding on the back of the Rebel. They debuted in one of my stories – oh, the Pentagram piece. She showed up on my doorstep the next day with shorts paired with white Doc Martens she’d gotten on sale. That’s when I knew I loved her!
  6.  Target flip flops, cheap & black – for those romps to the public showers when tent camping. They are perfect for that. Trust me, you don’t want bare feet in public showers.
  7.  Handmade moccasins, cinnamon with sunburst pattern on top – a woman named Deborah in Montana made these for me in 1975, sewed them by hand with an awl, and stamped the sunburst into the top. I rarely wear them. But I can’t seem to throw them away.
  8.  Minnetonka Moc’s – I bought these in 1984. They are completely worn out with holes through both layers of leather under my spade shaped big toes. They’ve conformed to my feet perfectly. I just can’t give them up. I bought another pair about 10 years ago, soft leather Minnetonka’s with those ergonomic nubs on the bottom. I’ve never taken to them. I gave them to Liz a few weeks ago. I’m stickin’ with the holey oldies.
  9.  Red Wing boots – the leather was hard as a rock like my Vasque, so I gave them away a few months ago when I moved. They were in great shape. I just can’t take the calluses anymore. They used to only make three kinds of hiking boots. Now there are thousands!
  10.  Skechers sneakers, white – My last pair wore out. Soft, cushy leather, wide and comfortable with the trademark S in silver on the back (yes, dzvayehi, what is that back strip called?) This is my 3rd pair of Skecher sneakers. I love them. I wish they made more simple, white leather choices.
  11.  Bongos, faded brown– I love these boots. They are a comfortable version of the old style Vasque. I can’t afford new Harley boots, so I’ve been making do with the Bongos. They give me the height, are good on oil slicks at traffic lights, and have the sturdiness I need on the bike.
  12.  Lands’ End Moccasins, chocolate brown – these are the latest addition to my wardrobe. Liz got them for me for Christmas. They are comfort extraordinaire. Quilted and cush. Have held up in Minnesota ice and snow. A winter winner.
  13.  Ked’s penny loafers – I bought these at Sears (surprisingly great shoes) about 9 years ago. They are the most comfortable shoes I own. Summer only. The soles are threadbare but the pennies I slide into the top slot are still shiny. A writer friend gave the 1967 coins to me for one of my birthdays; it was the year I first knew I was a writer.


 Red Wing Boot, Red Wing, Minnesota, July 2005, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved      Red Wing Boot, Red Wing, Minnesota, July 2005, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved      Red Wing Boot, Red Wing, Minnesota, July 2005, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved


Finally, #14 (my number when I played sports) in honor of Shoeless Joe, a pair of black cleated Riddells with red soles from my years of playing field hockey. I keep them around with my worn Spalding ball glove. They remind me that I was once muscular, trim, and fit, with the lung power of the goddess, Athena.

My own personal field of dreams.

Things always change, don’t they? Except for the love of shoes. In the immortal words of Rod Stewart, “Every picture tells a story, don’t it.”

So does every pair of shoes.

Friday, April 20th, 2007

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My tiny blue Dell Inspiron 300m laptop finally expired. Bless its heart. It was a lemon. I’ve had it almost three years and in that time Dell replaced the motherboard once, the memory card twice, the keyboard once, and the LCD display twice. The right hinge that connects the screen to the rest of the computer recently broke off; a new one was to be shipped this week.

I cancelled the order at about 7 this morning. I’d been writing for 20 minutes when the computer made a popping sound, turned itself off, then reeked burning plastic smell all over my lap. I run kind of cold, which might account for the fact I didn’t notice anything was melting into my black Spandex pants.

The good news is Dell is going to replace the laptop with a brand new one AND they’ve guaranteed if they can’t give me the model I have, they’ll send me something even better. (At least that’s what Lawrence with the Puerto Rican accent in central Florida told me, and I choose to believe him.) The best thing I did when I got the computer was purchase a three-year service contract. That’s the whole reason I’m getting the replacement computer now.

Dell stopped short of replacing my pants and committing to load all my files from the melted computer to my new one, so I had to take the laptop to Data Doctors to back up the contents of my hard drive. I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to retrieve the data. I hope so. It has all my archived email files, scanned drawings, and writings. Finished pieces. Pieces in process. I hadn’t backed up my data ever since Dell sent over an on-site technician sporting a Real Men Love Jesus button to replace the motherboard.

This time Dell will be sending me a special case; I’ve been instructed to place my laptop into that case and to not turn on the computer between now and then. Don’t even plug in the power cord, Lawrence warned. He said my computer is a fire hazard. Once I ship back the computer, I’ll get my new one.

I wouldn’t have bought Dell to begin with if it weren’t for the fact I got a great deal through work. I guess in the end it’s been worth it. I got two-and-a-half pretty good years and a lot of compliments out of the sleek Inspiron. And now I’m looking forward to having a brand new laptop. I’ll probably let my oldest daughter use it this fall for middle school, and then, if I can afford it, I’ll buy myself a new MacBook Pro. I will definitely purchase the three-year contract. And an external hard drive.

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I saw a post early this week by Janice Harayda at One Minute Book Reviews that reminded me it is Pulitzer week.

I like her philosophy of book reviewing. In her post, Famous Pulitzer Losers – 10 Great Novels That Didn’t Win the Fiction Prize and Which Books Beat Them, Janice compares books that didn’t make the cut, to those who won.

Yet when I read her list, I have to scratch my head and think, “Are there really any losers?”

Here are a couple of samples:

1962
Loser: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Winner: The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O’Connor

1952
Loser: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Winner: The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk

1928
Loser:
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Winner: The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

She also did another recent post that caught my eye about John Cheever who won a Pulitzer in 1979. Remember reading his short stories last year in Taos along with Susan Cheever’s memoir, Home Before Dark?

You can see the rest of the Pulitzer winners at The Pulitzer Prizes.  I don’t know if I feel better or worse knowing many classic books miss by a hair. But then, we can’t all be winners.

I wonder what Joseph would think?

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

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It is another day. I choose to practice. I am not yet awake. My body feels worn out this week. Tired. Can’t get enough sleep. In the evenings, I get home from work, meetings, whatever I have going on, and plop down on the couch. The sun gleefully beams in the windows. It’s my first spring living in this house. I like it.

Finches, cardinals, robins, nuthatches, and downy woodpeckers flit back and forth from the 3 feeders to the ash and juniper in front of the deck. The sun is strong through the fogged picture window. I sometimes have to lower the blinds so I can see my laptop screen. My back is sore. I must have slept on it wrong.

I am in transition. The same as the seasons. The winter was fruitful. There is a noticeable gap in the weeks I used to go to Taos. Last year was full of writing trips to Taos. This year, I make plans to go South to work on my book. And don’t really even understand exactly what that means.

I’m reminded of one writer friend who is flying across the Midwest in her Subaru wagon, mile after mile after mile, gathering details for a story she is writing. Did you know Subaru is the Japanese word for the Pleiades? Information is falling into her lap at breakneck speed: interviews, relatives, old landmark buildings, prisons, diners, prosecutors, and gallows. She leaves me messages daily, connection, and tells me she has no idea where all this is leading.

I feel the same way. Yet her last words to me in her voicemail this morning from somewhere in Missouri were, “I love being a writer.” I wonder if that’s something writers will always experience. Not knowing where we are going. Yet loving that we are writers. I don’t know.

All I know is that my back is sore, I’m exhausted, and I’m also the happiest I’ve ever been. Happiness, that elusive feeling that soars along brain lines with serotonin and epinephrin and pheromones. When I’m down, how much is hormonal? And how much is me?

When I’m happy, how much is hormonal, how much circumstantial? And how much is me? I am glad to be alive. And there are some who do not get to make that choice. I grieve as we all grieve. Wave after wave sweeps the nation. But I choose to focus on hope. For all the single-minded villains out there, there are a million other humans moving the mountain of grief toward healing.

Easy for me to say. I’m never going to know what it was like in Blacksburg. I listened to NPR this morning to an incredibly brave and composed woman walking the interviewer through what started as any normal morning. Then, there she was under fire in the center of her German class. Everyone around her was shot – but her. How do you make sense out of that? I don’t know if I have that kind of bravery in me. She is brave to want her voice to be heard. She is alive.

It is good to be alive on a Midwestern spring morning. I appreciate my life, my friends, the writers that keep me going, my family who never gives up on me. If nothing else, gratitude for what I have will keep me going. I have to focus on the glass half full. It’s an old cliche. But it’s my way of grieving.

What makes me happy? Living each day as fully as I can. The simplicity of playing with 3 cats on the Queen-size bed in the morning while my partner dresses and laughs in the corner, sipping her morning French Roast.
 
Writing makes me happy. It also brings a lot of hard truths. On this spring filled Thursday, when the word of the day in the dictionary I just pulled up online is debauchery, connecting makes me happy. I’ve been craving the safety of home; I have also been needing connection. And love. As corny as it sounds, yes, love.

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

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Shoes Stay On

Boots Stay On FullShoes Stay On 2Shoes Stay On 2

Second in a series. Inspired by this topic.

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As a writer, there is much I could say about Virginia Tech. I’ve been at a loss for words. When I watched poet Nikki Giovanni close the Virginia Tech Convocation commemorating the deaths of those killed on April 16th, I knew it had all been said – I could choose hope.

Nikki Giovanni  has been a professor of writing and literature at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) since 1987, and is now a Distinguished Professor there. It is fitting that Giovanni, a great poet (one of my favorites who inspired several posts: Bookends, Balances, and Hard Rain & 3 Grains of Salt to One Ounce Truth) would end the VT Convocation with a poem:



We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on. We are embracing our mourning. We are Virginia Tech. We are strong enough to stand tall, tearlessly. We are brave enough to bend to cry. And sad enough to know we must laugh again. We are Virginia Tech.



It’s an odd synchronicity that April is National Poetry Month. Poetry distills everything down to just the essentials. It is sparse and moving. If you haven’t seen her read her poem at the Convocation closing, I recommend viewing the full video. It is powerful and inspiring: “We are Virginia Tech” – convocation poem read by Giovanni (MSNBC video)  

Since Monday, we’ve been blasted with issues of gun control, troubled youth, law enforcement response times, “Crisis in America” headlines, and self-directed media coverage. It’s depressing at best. But the comments Amelia made yesterday on red Ravine in Practice – No Topic – 10min brought Giovanni home to me  – we will continue on if there is hope.

Their optimism serves to remind me that writing is about the power of words – but writing is nothing without community. I want to focus on the positive. And write about what pulls us through. Not what tears us down.

In 1999, Giovanni was the keynote speaker at the University of Michigan’s 12th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium. The drive of her speech was that in spite of all obstacles, we sail on. We don’t get tossed away.

Maybe some of the grief we feel is that it could have been any of us. Our daughter, son, parent, sister or brother. In the larger human context, we are all Virginia Tech. But if we believe in hope, we can help each other sail on.


                                                

And you, in this next century, must continue to go on, whether the road is dark, whether you are confused. You must continue to try to go toward that horizon where you cannot see the end, where you do not know . . . if something will gobble you up. Certainly you have every right to be afraid. It’s a vicious world out there.

It’s your life, but you’ve got to do something with it. You might fall off the Earth, somebody might find the end of the Earth, you might fall. But if you don’t, you will have gone to a place few people have seen. You will have found something new. We can’t be cowards, we can’t kowtow, we can’t bend over because we’re afraid of what somebody will say or what somebody will do. All of you have the possibility to do something different and something better. You must sail on.


-Excerpts from Nikki Giovanni’s keynote speech at the University of Michigan’s 12th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium “In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr., Giovanni tells students to ‘sail on’,” By Bernard DeGroat, The University Record, January 25th, 1999


-posted on red Ravine, April 18th, 2007

-related to post: Baldwin & Giovanni – On Truth & Love

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Boots Stay On

Boots Stay On FullBoots Stay On FullBoots Stay On Full

First in a series. Inspired by this topic.

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