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Posts Tagged ‘not being tossed away’

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Mother Mallard, BlackBerry Shots, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, April 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






Day in and day out
humans race from place to place;
nature sits rain or shine, not tossed away
for that one wild chance — ducklings on Mother’s Day.







NOTE: I’ve been checking on Mother Mallard every day since I first saw her little nest of eggs (see Nesting & Resting) in a high traffic area near an industrial complex. She sits patiently through volatile storms, human insensitivity, rushing wind and rain, days when the Sun warms her nest. She never wavers. I learn from her, as I often learn from Mother Nature — don’t be tossed away.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, May 7th, 2011, World Labyrinth Day

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC — LIGHT AS A FEATHER, haiku 4 (one-a-day) Meets renga 52, MN Black Bear Den Cam: Will Lily Have Cubs?

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Mandala For A New Year, BlackBerry Shots, Golden Valley, Minnesota, January 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


A Downy pecks at the suet feeder. Black-eyed peas simmer in a vintage crock-pot in the kitchen. Temperatures hover around zero; it’s 3 degrees and windy. Gifted with unexpected time alone on New Year’s Eve, I wrote in my journal, checked in with the Midwest Writing Group, worked on a mandala, completed the BlackBerry 365 practice, made plans for the New Year. It felt positive to me, this forward thinking.

I am one of those people who mines for specks of gold in old and burly mountains, drags silvery threads of the past forward. Lineage. Writers, artists, photographers. Process. Birth, death, old age. What makes something work? Like The Fool archetype in Tarot, it is with great humility that I embrace the unknown and begin again. Beginner’s Mind. I will miss ybonesy and her free spirited and vibrant creative fire on a daily basis at red Ravine, but I know I have to face forward. It’s one of the things she taught me — take risks. Move into the future. When you collaborate with a person who strikes a balance, one who possesses the qualities you lack, it’s easy to become complacent about that which needs strengthening inside.

I need a strong back, flexible muscles. I will build on the Bones of red Ravine. I have so many dreams I want to pursue; they have not gone away. I will have to be diligent. Courageous. Disciplined. It takes courage for ybonesy to leave to spend more time with her family; it takes courage to stay. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. There are days when the work of blogging feels like it needs a whole army of writers and artists to move it forward. But I believe in the mission and vision of red Ravine and am excited to steer her in a new direction. The winds may be stiff; I will follow the structure we put into place—teacher, practice, community—and see where red Ravine takes me.


Mandala For The New Year Mandala For The New Year Mandala For The New Year


I am forever grateful to Roma who walked up to me in Mabel’s dining room after one of the silent retreats, and asked if I wanted to write together. I would be returning to Minnesota, she to Albuquerque, 1200 miles between us. The Turtle in me had to give it some thought; not for long. The seed for red Ravine had been planted. Now this space is Home, a strong cottonwood by the Mother Ditch, in her adolescent years, still growing. But nothing can thrive without nurturing, play, attention, and time. I have to plan carefully, regroup. Thank you for standing by me.

I am grateful for the 5 years of creative collaboration with ybonesy. She is a strong, gifted woman, a dear friend. I am grateful for a community that keeps coming back. I feel supported. I’ve committed to keeping red Ravine alive through another year. It’s one of my practices. I draw on what Natalie taught me: Continue under all circumstances. Don’t be tossed away. Make positive effort for the good (adding under my breath, Cross your fingers for Good Luck!).

Back to the moment. Time to feed Mr. Stripeypants and Kiev. Liz will be rising soon. We spent part of New Year’s Eve watching Lily and Hope on the NABC 2011 DenCam. They aren’t worried about such things as red Ravine. They are busy being Bears. I focus on my new practices for 2011: (1) a daily Journal entry 365 (2) a BlackBerry collaboration inspired by Lotus (one of our readers) (3) a year-long Renga collaboration. I’ll write more about these practices in coming posts. Happy New Year, ybonesy. Happy New Year to all red Ravine readers. Happy New Year, red Ravine. New Beginnings. The Promise of Spring.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, January 1st, 2011

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Moon Over Taos Mountain, Taos, New Mexico, January 2003, Tri-X black & white film print, photo © 2003-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


December marks a time of darkness and silent reflection leading up to the Winter Solstice. Most Decembers, Natalie holds a writing retreat around the time of December 1st through 8th. In Zen, this time is called Rohatsu Sesshin and marks the enlightenment of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. For those heading to Taos to write, it’s a time of community solitude, an opportunity to go within.

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Slow Walking, Natalie Goldberg, Taos, New Mexico, January 2003, Tri-X B&W film print, photo © 2003-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

This week ybonesy and several other writing friends will be making the jouney to Taos to sit in silence. I find comfort in knowing they will be there under Taos Mountain. When they sit, they sit for all of us. The zendo casts a wide circle. Everything is connected. We can sit and write in solidarity.

There will be long nights under Mabel’s lights and slow walks into Taos. Some will walk the morada, visit the graves of Mabel and Frieda, soak up places that Georgia walked on her first visits to New Mexico. Notebooks will be filled with Writing Practices, later to be reread.

Whatever’s at the surface will fall away. What’s important is what is underneath.  Underbelly.


Sit, Walk, Write. With Gratitude to a long lineage of mentors and teachers. For all that has come before. And all that will be.


Note: ybonesy and I met in Taos at a Writing Retreat. We’ll be forever connected by that thread. And the practice that became red Ravine. We’ve written many pieces on our time spent in Taos. To learn more about Sit, Walk, Write or our experience of studying with Natalie Goldberg at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, check out the links in this post. Or click on any of the posts under Taos. With Gratitude to our readers, those at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Natalie, and all the writers and artists who keep showing up to brave the silence. We are all in this together.


–posted on red Ravine, Sunday, December 5th, 2010

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New works

New works, small paintings done in Caran d’Ache (wax crayons)
with gloss finish, images © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




I love ’em and hate ’em. If it weren’t for art shows, I don’t think I’d ever make art. In fact, making art in the midst of living the rest of my life is the pits. There’s got to be a better way to be consistent.

But the good news is, I love making art again. How did I last however many months I did without it? My friend Laurence turned me on to these wonderful waxy crayons, and I happened to have a bunch of small (3″x 3″ — that small!) wooden canvasses, so I played around with collage and color.  And I did my usual pendants and bracelets.


hand-with-eye-(new)My dilemma: How to make art every day? Or every week, or even every other week?

I love the tedium of it. It’s technical and minute, and even when I’m coloring outside the lines I’m still focused on one canvas. I love how my mind goes from being a net to being a funnel whenever I make art.

There’s a sound associated with that feeling. It goes something like Ffvooom.

That’s my lesson for today. Shows are hard, but shows are good. They make me show up for my art. And if I limit myself to two a year, then I can’t complain. I just got to stop procrastinating.


 

♥ ♣ ♥


Tomorrow I’ll be the featured artist at a wonderful little bakehouse called Cravin’ Cookies. It’s one of those best-kept-secret type places, inside an old house. Barb, the owner, makes the tastiest baked goods. I love her flour-less chocolate torte. And her Key Lime pie. And peanut butter cookies. Yum!

Hope to see my Albuquerque friends tomorrow!



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his and her wellies

his and her wellies


These are the boots we wear to irrigate. Mine are cream colored with koi fish designs. And Jim’s? Well, his are basic black.

This weekend Jim taught me the ropes of flood irrigating our land. It’s no easy task. I have a new admiration for the work he does.

And gratitude.






easter tulips

easter tulips

It never was my intent to learn how to irrigate. I have many passions as it is. I love the land, but its care and feeding—that’s my husband’s domain.

But something happened. The Saturday morning before Easter, I heard Jim calling for me from the bedroom. I opened the door and found Jim collapsed on the bed. Minutes later, three paramedics and two ambulance attendants were in our home.








serenity

serenity (for jim)


Jim is fine. He is alive and better than ever. He had blockages in his heart, which have been opened. He has more energy than he’s had for a very long time.

But it’s going to take him and me both some time before we stop thinking about how fragile life is. Although, perhaps that’s something we don’t ever want to take for granted again anyway.







Postscript: Jim is fortunate. He didn’t have a heart attack on the Saturday before Easter, but he did have a close call. The medical staff at the hospital were savvy enough to know that Jim needed to be treated. They kept him in the hospital over the weekend then first thing on Monday performed an angioplasty and inserted two stents. A main artery was almost completely closed, with only half the heart functioning. There was no damage to the heart. Jim’s healthy lifestyle likely contributed to the fact that he is still here today.

Jim is a tender soul and a genuinely humble man. He told the cardiologist who did the procedure, “Thank you for saving my life.” As Jim now tells the story, the doctor smiled and said, “It was my pleasure.”





acequia

wagon at dawn


jim and rafael

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'Break Me' Music Video Shoot of Alexx Calise, photo by Luigie Gonzalez




You might not have ever heard of singer-songwriter Alexx Calise, but someday, hopefully soon, that will change. Alexx is a young woman who in her short career in a hard-as-nails industry has managed to release a debut album, Morning Pill; rack up over a dozen endorsements from music gear and clothing manufacturers; get featured as a Boston radio’s “Hot Up-and-Coming Indie Artist”; and have one of her songs used in a promo for TV series One Tree Hill. Those are just a few of her accomplishments.

We were curious about how Alexx landed on her unique sound of electronica, hard rock, and urban-edged pop, as well as what drives her to work so hard to achieve her dream. She took time from working on her two next albums to give us these insights.


* * * *




Interview with Alexx Calise, February 2010, red Ravine


red Ravine: By way of introduction, tell us a little bit about yourself and your music. How would you describe your music to someone who’s just getting to know you?

Alexx Calise: Well, I’m a bit of an enigma. I’m too alternative to be considered “normal,” and I’m too “normal” to be considered alternative. Sometimes, I don’t even get myself. I’m extremely introverted in person yet unabashed and raw when I get on stage. I think that my material is an accurate portrayal of my personality. The music is high-energy and adrenaline inducing yet the lyrics are esoteric and thoughtful.


red Ravine: You’ve worked hard toward the goal of being a musician, which is noteworthy given that many people your age are still trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. How did you get so focused and how do you stay that way?

Alexx: Thank you! Fortunately, I’ve known since I was 5 years old that I wanted to be a writer in some form (over the years music started to accompany those writings). Knowing what you want to do early on makes all the difference in the world. Essentially, I had my whole life to hone my craft. Not everyone is that lucky. Being focused and motivated has always been kind of innate for me. I’m always striving for perfection (which is also my downfall), and I’m constantly pushing myself to be better in every sense of the word. No one else is going to do this for me, so it’s up to me to make it happen.


red Ravine: Making it as a musician must be challenging. What specific actions or milestones have you found to be most significant in moving you closer to your goals?

Alexx: There are a few specific things that have helped propel my career, like when my music was featured on One Tree Hill, or when I was Frostwire.com’s featured artist for a while. But I’ve found that hard work, dedication and perspiration created those types of opportunities. The more you put yourself out there, the more you get back. I always have 10,000 different poles in the ocean. If one thing falls through, I don’t dwell on it because another opportunity is bound to come up. I’m constantly moving, and I’m always attempting to generate momentum and interest. I think of my music career as a business, so like Donald Trump or any of these successful entrepreneurs you’ve seen or read about, I’m constantly thinking of new and innovative ways to market myself. I’m always researching and I’m always trying to make my “product” better.


red Ravine: I read in an interview that your father was a musician and an early influence in your musical life. What did he say when he found out you wanted to be a musician?

Alexx: I think my father loved the fact that I wanted to be a musician as well, because it became our way of communicating. We’d spend our father-daughter time playing or talking music, and he even ended up playing a few shows with me when I needed a bass player (by the way, he rips on the bass!). I think some of the most special and memorable times in my life were those moments. You really can’t buy moments like those.


red Ravine: Who are your other musical influences?

Alexx: I grew up listening to silverchair, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, The Toadies, STP, Soundgarden and Buckcherry. My forthcoming album, In Avanti, incorporates a lot of my electronica influences, such as Archive and The Dust Brothers. I think the best way to describe the new sound would be “Alanis meets The Prodigy.”


red Ravine: What do you think of shows like American Idol or America’s Got Talent? Are these credible venues for musicians who are starting out or who haven’t found other means of making it big?

Alexx: I’m personally not a huge fan of those types of shows, but that’s not to say they’re not credible launch vehicles. I don’t have a problem with anything that doesn’t compromise someone’s artistic integrity.


red Ravine: Do you like to read, and if so, what books or authors?

Alexx: I’m actually a voracious reader. My favorites to name a few are Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Janet Fitch’s White Oleander, Downtown Owl and Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman, Girl by Blake Nelson, anything Stephen Covey, and Bully by Jim Schutze.


red Ravine: Describe a typical day in your life.

Alexx: Depends on what you’re definition of typical is! (Ha ha!) Lately my days consist of interviews, recording for either my solo project or Sound of Cancer (my other new album/project with drummer/songwriter Dennis Morehouse), doing photo and video shoots, tracking vocals for commercials, writing, practicing, marketing and promoting, and spending whatever little time I have left working out, hanging with my kitten or sleeping.


red Ravine: Talk a little bit about what it’s like to be a young woman in this industry. Have you had to make any adjustments, or do you find the industry to be equally challenging for men and women?

Alexx: I think it’s a challenge for everyone these days. There are thousands of distractions, like social media and other technologies, so that it’s difficult to stand out and be seen as an artist in general. To be a successful musician nowadays, you need to do some serious out-of-the-box thinking. As far as adjustments are concerned, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that people aren’t buying CDs anymore—hence you have to come up with alternative ways of generating income—and that you have to do everything yourself. No record label is going to save you from a lifetime of poverty and obscurity, and most importantly, no one is going to care about your career (or you!) more than you.


red Ravine: I have a ten-year-old daughter who has been playing guitar since age 7. She’s recently discovered the joy of playing for others. What advice would you have for her (or for me, as her mother) in nurturing her love of music and performing?

Alexx: Scatter as many law books around the house as you can before it’s too late! Just kidding! As far as advice goes, I would encourage her to follow her dreams and to reach for the stars. There is nothing on this Earth that you can’t do so long as you put your mind to it. Sure, it’s a long, hard road, but if it’s in your heart and that’s all that you know how to do you owe it to yourself to give it a try. The worst thing you could ever do is give up or let fear get in the way of your love.





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Live at Swinghouse (Los Angeles, CA), photo by Lucinda Wedge

About Alexx Calise: Alexx Calise grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she spent her childhood mostly alone or in the pages of a notebook, finding comfort only in her parents’ vast record collection, which included everything from Mozart to Led Zeppelin.

At 11, she picked up the guitar to emulate her father, also a talented musician, and began fusing the melodies she heard in her head with her own poetry and recitations.

She lives in Los Angeles, California. You can learn more about her at her website, plus follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/alexx.calise and on My Space at http://www.myspace.com/alexxcalise.

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A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story. The meaning of fiction is not abstract meaning but experience meaning, the purpose of making statements about the meaning of a story is only to help you to experience that meaning more fully.

~Flannery O’Connor, from “Writing Short Stories”


I’ve always been a fan of short stories. I subscribe to The New Yorker just to get a new one each week to read.

Short stories are magical. So compact and full of emotion. The good ones draw you in immediately without you realizing it. They’re a mystery, really. I’ve wondered what it takes to make a good short story work ever since the first time I tried writing one, over 20 years ago.

I can still remember the ancient-seeming Sabine Ulíbarri, one of my favorite Literature professors in college, raising a crooked forefinger into the air and saying that the short story began when something extraordinary happened in an otherwise ordinary life. Professor Ulíbarri’s seminar was held in a dim room—he didn’t like florescent lights—where a dozen or so students sat around a conference table and were so rapt by this physically small yet intellectually giant man’s charms that we endured his chain smoking.

He took his shaky hand and drew on the chalkboard an X in the straight-line trajectory of the life of a typical protagonist. Then he drew a bolt of lightening coming from the heavens above and hitting the X. “This,” he said in his booming voice, “is where the story begins.”


∞ ∞




Loving to read short stories and figuring out how to write them are two different things. The short story is a masterful art form, one that Alice Sebold in her stint as editor of The Best American Short Stories 2009 said provides

…endless access into another world, brought forth by an infinite number of gifted minds. A story about grief can comfort; a story about arrogance can shock and yet confirm; a story populated largely by landscape, whether lush or industrial, can expand the realm that we as individuals inhabit.

The dilemma for someone like me, who would love to comfort, shock, confirm, or expand a reader’s realm, is how to make my stories do exactly that. I don’t have an answer. I haven’t succeeded yet, although, if the truth be known I haven’t tried to hard enough either. However, all that is about to change.



If at First You Don’t Succeed…


I just refused to die as a person who had 30 pages of a novel in her drawer.

~Elizabeth Gilbert, answering a question during an Albuquerque appearance



The rest of this post is targeted to people like me who write and write and write yet rarely venture to send our works out into the world where those who’ve succeeded in the literary arena might judge them. I can understand the resistance. Writing is hard enough. Getting our work published is a whole ‘nother matter. But if like me you want to accept yourself as a writer, you may want to consider seriously pursuing getting your writing published in literary magazines.

Right now I’m focused on the short story, but editors of literary magazines care about all kinds of writing. Literary magazines contain fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry, and some even publish haiku, photography, the graphic narrative, and other art.

Why should we try to get our writing published in literary magazines? According to Poets & Writers, “most writers get the attention of editors, agents, and other writers by publishing first in literary magazines.” Not to mention, many of these venues offer great motivation in the form of cash awards. In fact, this is one of the best times of year to compete in writing contests—the stakes can be anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to one or two or four thousand.

I just spent a large chunk of this past three-day weekend submitting a short story to several contests. I wrote the story a few years ago and even though I wasn’t happy with it then, I sent it out back then to a half dozen literary magazines for consideration. Not surprisingly, it didn’t get picked up, so I stuck it into a drawer where it sat for a few years.

Well, as often happens when you step back and stop thinking about a piece for a while (be it art or writing), I could see the weaknesses in the story when I looked at it anew. I spent several hours rewriting and editing until finally I had a piece I could be proud of. The next step was to send it out in to the world.



…Try, Try Again


I take writing and competition very seriously. I believe that all writers should compete—even if I now know this to be a quixotic quests—on a level playing field.

~Alice Sebold, Introduction to The Best American Short Stories 2009


The Poets & Writers website is an amazing place, well laid out and chock full of excellent information for figuring out where to send your work. The site has a “Tools for Writers” tab that shows deadlines for Writing Contests, Grants & Awards in both a Submission Calendar format and in a searchable database where you can filter by genre, entry fee, and timing. There’s also the Contest Blog, with frequently posted gems, including interviews with authors who have won contests in the past.

NewPages.com—a website that touts the goodness of independent bookstores—also carries a list of Writing Contests categorized by monthly deadline. It has a list of hundreds of literary magazines—aptly named “Big List of Literary Magazines”—so that you can get a feel for those that fit your writing style and vice versa.

A source I didn’t find in either Poets & Writers nor NewPages.com is A Room of Her Own (AROHO) Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps women achieve their artistic goals by providing prize and grants, including a $50,000 biennial grant “to an American woman writer of merit working under financial hardship.”

It should be said, contests are not the be-all end-all of writing. Most important is getting your work published, which these sources provide just as much information about as they do contests and awards. But in the event you need that extra boost, now is an excellent time to vie for prizes.



Your Countrymen (and Women) Need You


It’s tough for writers to write (and editors to edit) when faced with a shrinking audience. Once, in the days of the old Saturday Evening Post, short fiction was a stadium act; now it can barely fill a coffeehouse and often performs in the company of nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a mouth organ.

~Stephen King, “What Ails the Short Story,” in The New York Times, 9/30/2007



When he was editor of The Best American Short Stories 2007, Stephen King declared that short stories were alive but not well. Literary magazines have over time been relegated to the bottom shelves of magazine sections in most big bookstores, and even there only a few titles can be found.

So do your part. Read, write, edit, and submit. Then do it again and again.



Hints & Tips



Poets & Writers offers these common sense tips for submitting to literary journals and/or vying for writing contests:

  • Do research to determine which publications are right for you. In other words, know your market.
  • Each literary magazine has “a unique editorial voice, tone, viewpoint, mission.” Make sure that you read any literary magazine before you submit your work to it. (Many literary magazines have websites with archives where you can read past winning stories or other published pieces.)
  • Read about the contributors to compare their backgrounds and interests to yours.
  • Make sure to read the Submission Guidelines for each magazine. They differ. Some will accept only online; others only accept hard copies sent by mail. Some want 12pt. font with one-inch margins. One might have a word count, another a page count.
  • Specifically look for guidance on simultaneous submissions, meaning submissions of a single work to more than one journal or contest at a time. Most of the literary journals that I submitted to allowed for simultaneous submissions but asked to be informed immediately if the submission gets picked up by or wins somewhere else.
  • Some literary journals request cover letters and others do not. Some contests are done as a “blind review,” meaning that any identifying information about the author is stripped off during the actual reading/review. Poets & Writers suggested that where a cover letter is requested, try not to “discuss the merits or themes of the work you are submitting” but use the cover letter instead to provide a short bio and any past publication accomplishments.

Finally, beware of Writing Contest scams. My advice, and mind you this is only my advice, is to use a source that you trust (the way I trust, for example, Poets & Writers) to identify true literary journals and the contests they run. Others may be designed to simply get your dollars for a submission or reading fee.



Special Bonus: Sabine Ulíbarri


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