"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~ William Wordsworth

The Writing Life Too

And if you're reading this, it means you're not writing.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Dawn is breaking in shades of apricot. A few weeks ago I watched Elizabeth Edwards being interviewed on Larry King. Now, I’m not a Larry King fan, but was curious about how he would handle the interview. It was salacious, creepy, garbage-digging, and sad. I know she’s got a book to sell, but yikes, I’m weary of everyone in this country living their lives in public. And was thus thankful when I read the article Join the shame parade in Salon.com by Carino Chocano and agreed with every word.

In part it reads: "Until recently, standard protocol for handling a humiliating personal betrayal in public was to tough it out. This rule applied mainly to public figures who had no choice but to handle such challenges with all eyes on them, like political wives, who were required to stand by their men in purse-lipped silence, hands folded, eyes cast hellward, or celebrities, who were obliged to pretend to work through their painful feelings in public while carefully drawing the line at revealing anything that might jeopardize future career prospects. In both cases, the same general rule held true: The more painful the humiliation, the greater the need to maintain dignity by refusing to stoop to the humiliator's level.

But those days are over. Thanks to the increasingly public nature of our lives, the ranks of people who might find themselves having to deal with private humiliations in public have now expanded to include basically everybody. And a surprising number of people recently have trumpeted their private grievances against the bastards who done them wrong, using whatever means are readily available to them. Ailing wife of the former presidential candidate Elizabeth Edwards, most prominently, used "Oprah," the "Today" show and "The Daily Show" to get back at the tramp who seduced her husband. In January, Prince Harry's ex-girlfriend broke up with him on Facebook. Tony Blair's sister-in-law Facebook-divorced her husband after a fight. A couple of weeks ago, former New Yorker staffer Dan Baum breached the Kremlinesque secrecy of his erstwhile employer when, in the name of transparency, he tweeted the details of his firing while painting a less-than-flattering portrait. And Veronica Lario, the long-suffering wife of Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, let her priapic husband have it (predictably with a lot more panache than Edwards) when she publicly accused him of consorting with an 18-year-old and supporting the political ambitions of models and starlets. "The impudence and shamelessness of power offends the credibility of all (women), damages women in general and especially those who have always struggled to defend their rights," Lario said to the Italian news agency ANSA. Sisterhood is powerful, but revenge is pretty sweet, too.”

What do you think?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Blue skies as far as the eye can see....I want to wish everyone a lovely Memorial Day and extend thanks to the members of the military and their families for their service and sacrifices. Also want to send good wishes to veterans recovering from battle or any type of injury.

Friday, May 22, 2009

No clouds in sight this morning. Tricia Clark-McDowell, a writer from Eugene sent me a message a few days ago about the Rhythm of Peace project. Tricia and her husband wrote The Garden Sanctuary and have a lovely place, Cortesia, in the foothills near Eugene, that certainly deserves the name sanctuary. They also write other books about gardening, including how to grow your own victory garden.

Back to the peace project. From the website: We're an informal network of individuals, groups, and organizations that cares about peace and strives to make peace a priority in our busy lives. We use the daily themes (one for each day of the month) to cultivate peace in our homes, families, and workplaces. We invite you to join us. Invitation to new visitors.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

It’s almost nightfall here and I was just out walking, and things are settling into a soft, almost-summer feeling and as I walked along I was dwelling on conversations and scenes from the day, thinking about politics and life and writing and a few things I should deal with, but since this hasn’t been an easy week, wanting to avoid. So I was swimming through the neighborhood, simmering in emotions, yet trying to notice the almost-sunset world around me. The sky was an unusual shade of pale blue—unusual here in the spring at dusk when typically clouds are pushed through by the Pacific. People not familiar with this region might not know that the oceanic influences are enormous, that often they arrive with a bluster and amazing cloudscapes as the sun sets in shades of lavender and orange. That is, when the sun is not obscured…..

As I was walking I saw the usual neighbors and dogs and kids and blooms. My neighborhood is a charming mix of bungalows and expensive condos and townhouses, vintage storefronts, historic sites, and yuppie newbie businesses, coffeehouses and bars and pizza places, trendy restaurants, hiking trails, and parks. Lots of trees, lots of flowers and gardens. It feels like a small town in the midst of Portland, and I love that.

So as I was nearing home after spotting the kids in the creek, the dog walkers and joggers, a car abruptly pulled up near me and a woman about 60 jumped out. She then dumped a skateboard on the grass with a flourish and started back for her car. Seeing me she said, “I should apologize.”

I replied, “No apologies necessary, but I must confess, your actions looked sort of like a short story.”

She said, “I’ve raised two generations and this is a thirteen year old’s and I’m tired.” She had gray hair twisted into a topknot and wore glasses and a lifetime of tired came through her words and I said, “I understand.”

And kept walking and was thinking that she must have been at home, comfortable in her recliner in front of the television, when a call came demanding that she drop off the skateboard so her grandson could take it to school.

Earlier I was at a salon getting a pedicure with a friend. Across from us in the oh-too-glittery place were four women chatting and can I just say, way too loudly and expressively. At one point a woman with the worst platinum-blond look I’ve seen in years (think dive strip joint) declared "I told my husband if my face gets as ugly as my feet, just shoot me." She really shouldn’t have said that.

I fear I’m growing catty and I haven’t even started talking about politics. More to come.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

From Adrienne Rich: "Poetry is the liquid voice that can wear through stone."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Clouds are moving in, crowding out the sky and the temperature has dropped about 20 degrees in the past hour. Last night I went to Powells (another reason for living in Portland) to hear George Pelecanos talk about his career and read from his latest book, The Way Home. The segment that he read was so gritty and realistic you felt like you were in the joint (since it was a juvenile prison) with the characters. Pelecanos is the author of fifteen crime novels set in and around Washington D.C. and his stories burn with the life and pain of his characters. And his dialogue…yikes, it’s just amazing. About half the audience were mystery readers; about half were there to ask questions about his writing for the HBO series The Wire. And good news, he’s writing now for a new HBO series set in New Orleans and based on the lives of musicians knitting their lives back together after Hurricane Katrina.

“I always wanted to tell stories in some form. I thought I would be a filmmaker but I got sidetracked by a professor in college who turned me on to books. It wasn't until my first novel was published that I actually thought of myself as a writer. But your point about being a writer-in-training is well taken. I learned my craft while on the job, and I continue to do so.

My subject matter and the attendant language is indeed unvarnished. With the world I'm trying to explore, it has to be or the novel fails; in effect, to back away from it would be akin to a lie. The aim is to make it reportorial without trying to be dark or "street."

Pop culture—music and movies—plays a large role in our everyday lives. You're going to see it creep into the fiction of younger writers with more frequency because it's a natural element of our generation's psyche. Again, it has to be done organically or it doesn't work.”

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Clouds have moved in, obscuring the blue, but summer weather is on the way. Here’s a lovely quote that to me sounds like an outline for a novel:

"In life we all have an unspeakable secret, an irreversible regret, an “unreachable dream, and an unforgettable love." Diego Marchi

And here is information that was sent to me by Dennis Stovall at Portland State:
Friday, May 29, 2009
Portland State University
Smith Memorial Student Union Hall
Portland, OR 97201

Join Ooligan Press on Friday, May 29th for a full day of education on publishing for writers and a free informational open house. Seminars will be offered on subjects including copyright, finding a publisher, polishing your manuscript, self publishing, and graphic novel publishing.

In addition, Ooligan Press acquisitions will be hosting a pitch table.

More details: www.ooliganpress.pdx.edu

Cost Varies- student discount available

Ticket Phone 503.725.3307
Ticket Web Link www.boxoffice.pdx.edu

Or register on the day, at the door. If you have further questions, email: ooligan@pdx.edu.

Monday, May 11, 2009

In case you haven't read Frank Rich's op-ed in yesterday's New York Times, you might want to check it out:The American Press on Suicide Watch
Published: May 9, 2009

"IF you wanted to pick the moment when the American news business went on suicide watch, it was almost exactly three years ago. That’s when Stephen Colbert, appearing at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, delivered a monologue accusing his hosts of being stenographers who had, in essence, let the Bush White House get away with murder (or at least the war in Iraq). To prove the point, the partying journalists in the Washington Hilton ballroom could be seen (courtesy of C-Span) fawning over government potentates — in some cases the very “sources” who had fed all those fictional sightings of Saddam Hussein’s W.M.D."

Rich assures us that “not all is bleak on the Titanic” and concludes with "The real question is for the public, not journalists: Does it want to pony up for news, whatever the media that prevail?

It’s all a matter of priorities. Not long ago, we laughed at the idea of pay TV. Free television was considered an inalienable American right (as long as it was paid for by advertisers). Then cable and satellite became the national standard.
By all means let’s mock the old mainstream media as they preen and party on in a Washington ballroom. Let’s deplore the tabloid journalism that, like the cockroach, will always be with us. But if a comprehensive array of real news is to be part of the picture as well, the time will soon arrive for us to put up or shut up. Whatever shape journalism ultimately takes in America, make no mistake that in the end we will get what we pay for.”
Blue sky peeking out from behind the clouds and rain is in the forecast.

Calling all Writers: Saturday, May 16 is Write Your A** Off Day
John Simpson has posted a blog entry about Saturday, May 16--or Write Your A** Off Day. Here’s part of his post: The blogosphere — or maybe it’s just the corner I’ve been mostly visiting, the one with the writers and other assorted wordsmiths — seems to have been overtaken by despair recently. Or maybe it’s not despair, exactly. Maybe more like anomie, a sort of formless uncertainty about the whole enterprise of getting language onto paper or screen, into lyrics and scripts.

Many people mutter, darkly, about the prospect of ever getting published — traditionally, or even at all. Others just want to take a break. Go on hiatus. Explore other creative avenues. Bug out.


I think we could all use a shot in the arm. Maybe we need to take a page from the New York Writers Coalition, which has designated next Saturday, May 16th, as their 4th Annual Write Your A** Off Day (or, less in-your-face, the Write-a-Thon).”

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sky mostly blue this morning. I'm heading off to Marylhurst University in a few hours because my friend Marian Pierce is teaching a course on how to get published and I'm one of her guest speakers.

From the Writer's Almananc: Today is the birthday of poet Mona Van Duyn who said,
"I believe that good poetry can be as ornate as a cathedral or as bare as a pottingshed, as long as it confronts the self with honesty and fullness. Nobody is born with the capacity to perform this act of confrontation, in poetry or anywhere else; one's writing career is simply a continuing effort to increase one's skill at it."

Friday, May 08, 2009

Pale clouds are brushed across the sky, but I'm giving up on describing the weather here because it's likely to change every ten minutes. Like yesterday when there was a downpour, followed by a sun break, then rain, sun, rain, sun, clouds breaking up, sun, rain, more sun, etc.

Portland is a town of political activists, optimists, and arty types. As I'm driving along I like to spot new bumper stickers, since there seems to be more on cars here than in other places. Yesterday I saw: People who give up their dreams will try to discourage yours.

And Jennie Shortridge sent out an email yesterday that talked about optimism in hard times. It included a quote from Louisa May Alcott: "Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow them." Jennie's upcoming book When She Flew will be published November 3.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Here's a writing opportunity for writers:
Ink-Filled Page quarterly literary journal is seeking submissions of fiction, nonfiction, and artwork.
Literary Submissions

Fiction submissions can be short stories or novel excerpts, and the nonfiction section is open to personal narratives and essays. While all genres are welcome, special interests include:
• travel
• multicultural themes
• feminism
• magical realism
• flash fiction
We are specifically looking for fresh, untold stories and unique voices that draw us into the world of the story. While we know and love many Jo(h)ns, we are inundated by character Jo(h)ns. We ask that you only submit characters by that name if it is necessary for the story.

Limit submissions to 5,000 words, one submission per candidate. Authors who submit more than one piece will not be considered. Electronic submissions only.

All literary submissions must be written for an English-reading audience. By submitting a story to Ink-Filled Page, you confirm that you are the sole creator of the story and that you hold all rights to your piece.

Artwork Submissions

Artwork submissions are open to all mediums, but pieces must be submitted electronically. Winning pieces are selected based on composition and originality. Pieces will be published in color in the online quarterly issue and in black and white in the print anthology. Please submit pieces that will translate well in both contexts. We are looking for pieces that highlight the human experience—show us the good or the bad, be surreal or real, but make sure that whatever you submit connects us, human to human.Limit three submissions per candidate. Artists who submit more than three pieces will not be considered. Submit print-ready digital artwork at 300 dpi or higher. By submitting your artwork to Ink-Filled Page, you confirm that you are the sole creator of said artwork and that you hold all rights to your piece.


Selected authors and artists earn publication and will receive a complimentary subscription to all four quarterly issues in the volume in which they are published, as well as a complimentary copy of the annual anthology when it is released in October 2009. Contributors may buy additional copies of the anthology for 10% off. Authors will also receive professional editing services on the selected story. All contributors will have the opportunity to participate in readings and art shows to feature Ink-Filled Page work.

Submission deadline for the summer issue is May 31.

Winning submissions are chosen by a guest acquisitions editor, who is different with each issue. Authors and artists who submit pieces that are not selected are welcome to resubmit during later open submission periods.

All work must be original and unpublished by any other literary publication. Simultaneous submissions are accepted on the condition that you notify us immediately upon acceptance by another publication. By submitting your work to Ink-Filled Page, you agree to the Terms and Conditions.

For best results, read our publication by downloading the most recent issue and buying an anthology before you submit.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Yes sir, that's my baby--my almost-born baby that is. When I figure out how to make the cover bigger I'll post it because the design is a hoot.
“To publish one story, encouraging and pleasant as that may be, is not the key. The key is to find the place in you where the stories you can write – want to write, even need to write – are. The thing is not merely to get there and bring back a single story, not to find a single piece of glowing amber, but then learn to recognize the glow, to study the route to the place of the stories, so that you can find your way back there again, even if the walls of the tunnel have caved in behind you on your way out.” ~Thomas E. Kennedy

Friday, May 01, 2009

Blue skies and mild temperatures again. For the memoirists who are there out there a new book edited by Jennifer Traig, The Autobiographer’s Handbook sounds useful. It contains the wisdom of 41 memoirists including David Eggers, Firoozeh Dumas, and Nick Hornby.

Quoting The Wall Street Journal review: Esmeralda Santiago, author of "When I Was Puerto Rican," tells us: "My only policies in writing about other people is never to be mean, even if they were, and to resist the urge to get even with all the jerks and ignoramuses that have crossed my path…..
To be fair, The Autobiographer's Handbook does contain some less elevated advice, most of it from hardheaded veterans of the genre. For instance, Anthony Swofford, the author of "Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles," has this to say about the tricky business of actually sitting down to write: "Wake up. Drink coffee.

Write. Ignore phone, ignore email, ignore world. It will all be there when you are done.

Just don't ignore your lovers for too long. They might not stick around." Nick Hornby, whose reputation was made by "Fever Pitch," his memoir of being a soccer fan, warns against being too indiscreet about family members: "So when you're writing your memoir, imagine this: your next door neighbors will read it. Your dad's boss will read it. Your mother's book group will read it. You still think that joke about your sister's acne is worth it?"

Yet even these old hands are reluctant to admit that a memoirist may be driven by less than honorable motives, such as the desire to settle scores, become famous or get on the best-seller list. I've written two memoirs and those three goals were certainly uppermost in my mind. According to the pen-pushing idealists of "The Autobiographer's Handbook," the only personal gain to be had from writing a memoir is the money you'll save on therapy bills. "And when I got it all down, and didn't have a mental breakdown, I knew I could handle anything -- it was so freeing," says Rachel Howard, the author of a memoir about the murder of her father.