West Falls-Colden Library

Writing & Seasons

Yesterday, I got nine unique pieces sent out in hopes of finding a home. I couldn’t find it in me to get out another one. This year has been one of the lowest “submitting” ones I’ve ever had. I know, there’s still a few months, but I’m okay with accepting different years meaning different things. This one was all about a novel I loved, but since the rewrite, I’m worried over it, and worry takes up time.

The steps leading to the backyard have never been “right” so the most recent project is correcting them. We found out the drainage pipe is damaged, so that snag has delayed progress, but there is a solution and if the weather holds, we might finish this weekend. (And if I remember, I’ll take pictures for the next post.)

9.21.2017C

The garden is a disaster – too much rain in the spring, ravenous slugs, and lack of time. I’ve been out there working with the baseball adage of “next year!” in my heart. Not every year of gardening will be bountiful. I did get some nice jalapeños and green beans. I think I’ll have a carrot and parsnip – unless something below the surface has nibbled them away.

I’m not Jewish – that I know of – but this post is sounding like I’m at a new year, doesn’t it? And I’m okay with that. In fact, I think it makes more sense to consider a year right now than at the end of December. I still won’t make a resolution, though. Promising to change isn’t the same as changing.

I do believe in goals and write them out, work toward them, cross them off. There is a list of ten 5-year goals on my fridge and I’ve reached some of them. In fact, seven out of ten is not bad with two years left. The ones not reached? All writing related. Ah well…I suppose I ought to work on the last three so off I go to edit, polish, rewrite and write anew.

Oh! And as a reminder: Saturday, 21 October 2017 at 1:00 there is an author reading. Please join me at the West Falls-Colden Library to hear Kim Chinquee, Barbara Early, Mary Jo Hodge, Gina Detwiler, Mary Akers, Deb Madar and Jeff Schober.

Thanks for stopping by and for the read!

9.21.2017B

(It finally bloomed!)

 

*These are all my creekside reflections. Your experience may vary.

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Fall and Other Elitist First World Writer Problems

r.kv.r.y. is open for submissions and I have my Saturday shift at the library back. The weather has been perfect for sitting out on the patio so I can listen to the creek while I have coffee with my breakfast and read the paper. The leaves are just beginning to change color. I love the fall.

September Breakfast View

I was lucky enough to interview Karen Stefano about her short story collection, The Secret Games of Words, a book I recommend highly. It will be up at The Tavern Lantern on the 28th.

Otherwise, I’m dealing up with a bunch of ups and downs. My cat had at least ten seizures one night. It was terrifying and there was nothing I could do but try to keep her safe. I really thought I was going to lose her.

So that angst went up against the joy brought to me by my incredible son and fantastic daughter-in-law. They had a healthy baby girl. Her name is a combination of middle names–mine and Connie’s. Isn’t that sweet? So is the baby.

Raelynn

The garden is winding down and I’ve brought most of the houseplants back inside. I received a rejection–an inky, flattering rejection from The Minnesota Review that asked me to send them something else. Sure, it’s great, but frustrating. It’s the second story they’ve liked–but not enough… I love my problems. I really do.

Otherwise, I’m debating on the next book. I started sending “Dreaming Lettie” to the group, but got caught up on an information dump I have yet to work out. The beginning of “Life & Crimes” served as a placeholder for which pages I sent, but now I’m in a real bind.

I started a sequel to “L&C” a few years ago, but it went dark, fast and I didn’t want to write it then. Now, a lot of ideas are popping up to carry it through. The problem is that I don’t want to spend time on it if “L&C” gets no love. I don’t know. I have a few weeks before pages are due again. It’s a nice day. I may spend it out in the screened in tent on the swing far from the maddening strum of the phone that lets me know when email has arrived.

 

 

 

*These are my angst-ridden creekside reflections. Your experiences should vary.

Performance anxiety even though I won’t be on stage

So last night I dreamt of even more things going wrong at Local Authors Live! It’s the reading at the West-Falls Colden Library that I’m hosting on 25 April. There were 50 people; I had no food. I borrowed pretzels from Eric Tertinek, then worried if they were all right because he had a half-eaten pan of Jell-O in his cupboard. A woman who wasn’t on the roster wanted to read first. I get her to understand there was a line up and so I go to introduce Stephen Eoannou, but I can’t pronounce the name of his book because his son wanted him to read from the different one. My print out with intros was lost not once, but twice. My mother was selling pop in a tent in the front, while in the back, a storm raged and an owl threatened to break the window. This set of dreamed problems is just as whacko as the other disaster dream I had the day before.

I’m exhausted and there’s still over a week before the reading.

4.16tulip

In other news, I went out for my birthday and well, so much for weight loss goals. The day after, Betty and Angela dropped by with wings and pizza and a gift certificate for the The Meat Shoppe. *Sigh.* I did get these lovely tulips from Angela. I have 9 flats of seedlings growing now. I’ll be getting a workout in the garden soon enough.

After this horribly long winter, the weather has warmed up and the crocuses are out.

4.16Stripe

Husband finished the prototype swing seat. There are a few tweaks we’re considering and then he’ll make it out of cedar.

4.16swing

The Camp NaNo book has stalled out. That’s all I want to say about it. At the moment, I’m in a reflective mood wondering if I even want to write anymore. It is hard and scary. With exercise, I can look in the mirror and see that I’m making progress. With writing, well, I’m a better writer than when I tackled Campus Crimes, but other than that? Eh. If I go farther in the latest manuscript I’m not sure I can write through the scenes well enough.

Why yes, I do have lousy self-confidence. Thanks for stopping by and reading my Creekside Reflections. I trust your experiences will vary.

It’s Not Cabin Fever Exactly… It’s More Like Cabin Anxiety

This past Monday, I attended the novel critique group meeting at Gina’s. I’ve never worked this way, handing over twenty–now up to 25 pages–at a time. As I’m revising “The Life and…” I’m realizing I really have to slow down the pace. The recent installment included an added scene I thought I’d get slammed on, but they seemed to enjoy it–Mary said it felt like I’d nailed the voice. I’m glad of this, as I felt I had lost it and that’s why I had to take it back a few pages so events I’d glided through in the rough draft could be strengthened. I think the end result will be tighter, but I’m only a quarter of the way there. I know, I said I’d send out agent queries for Ellie’s Elephants, and I did get two out after the ambiguous “this doesn’t sound like a form rejection, but I don’t know how to respond either” response from Sobel. Meeting new people is hard enough. Needing to introduce myself and say, “Please, like what I write, too”…that makes me anxious.

So, I had enough “when I” and put brush to canvas. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever made, and I’m nowhere close to finishing it, put it’s a start. It felt good to mix colors and paint. The longer I was painting, the more that came back to me–including the fact that you can’t finish a painting in one sitting. Well, the one guy could, but I’m not him nor do I have my own show on PBS.

2.6

Speaking of that realm…WBFO, my local NPR station is doing an extra pledge week. OMG, enough. Here’s the thing, I love their work, the coverage, etc. However, they are on there telling me if I don’t pledge, my favorite shows will disappear. How many years and how much money have proved that to be a lie? Everything was great until Mark Scott retired. The resulting crapola version of a program lineup disgusts me. Why this station pays for programs that are great but plays them when no one listens and plays boring shows when people are tuned in is just stupid. There was a time when pledge week ended early. The reason for that was simple. They had there shit together; now it’s not worth it. If you also tell me how I have to pay to keep the programs I want to stay on the air, I will recite the ones they dropped when I sent them a few bucks and when I say I, I mean Husband. Whoever is in charge of programming is clueless, or trying his best to kill off this station and the rapid decline in listenablity has me thinking it’s the latter. WBFO, please, hear this and fix it. The person in charge of programming needs to go.

Otherwise, I’m excitedly looking forward to the 15th when I get to do my first official reading. It will be at the West Falls-Colden Library where I volunteer, so I’ll have the home field advantage. I find it a bit strange that they have a signup sheet for it. I mean, that makes sense if it’s a card making class, but a reading? Gary Earl Ross will be there as well as Susan Solomon, George Morse, and Lou Rera. We will be reading from Queen City Flash at 1:00-3:00 on Saturday 15th if you’re up for it. Jeff Schober did a reading there on the 1st while I was working. It was good to see him again. Boneshaker is a follow up to Broken and Profane and he’s working on two more in the series. 

Anyway, I’ve had a few “close calls” on acceptances. I was told one piece made it to the final round of cuts. They only take four stories per issue, so I guess I made their top five or top eight, which is nice, but I then sent that piece to another venue where it didn’t make it past the first cut. *Sigh.* I also got INK!!!! from The Sun. They held it for 8 months, so I’m considering that something. I sent that story to two places yesterday. I don’t know what it is. It’s gotten so many “almosts” but that just makes it more frustrating that it hasn’t found a home yet. I know, I’ve heard the stories yet those don’t make the personal rejections any less disappointing.

So, enough of this ranting about the problems I have because I love them all, including the fact that there’s more snow and I can’t wait to go for a walk in the woods, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Ah well…

 2.6b

(These are my Creekside Reflections. Your experiences may vary.)

Flashes, Novels, and Hope

I’m looking forward to my first official reading. I know, it’s a month away, but I’m excited. It’s a good time in my life for flashes. I’ll be reading “Wildflower Wishes” at the West Falls-Colden library; I was just awarded second prize in the Mary Kennedy Eastham Flash Fiction Competition, part of the Soul Making Keats Literary Competition, an outreach of the National League of American PEN Women, and “I’m Calling Him Skippy” will be up at Matter Press any day now.

If good things come in threes, let’s hope the next good news is about my books because I’ve been having a tough time sitting down to work on my latest. I wrote the first draft for Camp NaNo last spring and let it sit. Now that I’m in the novel critique group, I’ve been going through it twenty pages at a time and that’s been fine, but the last two days, I haven’t made any progress. It’s frustrating. I have until the twentieth, but I’d been hoping I’d be done by now so that I could work on other things.

Deadlines are the way I work best, though. In the past few weeks, I submitted “Campus Crimes” to the Barbara Kingsolver PEN Bellwether Prize, an application for the Rona Jaffe Scholarship at Breadloaf, “File It Under Whatnots” to Disquiet’s International Play Competition, and NYFA packets for both the Nonfiction and Poetry categories. Yeah, I’ve been a little bit busy with those things, and on top of that, I’m taking baby steps toward finding an agent.

Getting used to the dog being gone is taking some time. I wrote Grandma about Tye’s last few days. It was hard, but I know she’d want to know that Tye didn’t suffer. She loved that dog so much–I think she would have been happy just to have Tye visit her; Husband and I were just extra. Regardless, I’ve walked in the house expecting Tye to be in front of the fire and she’s not. She’s been in a few dreams which is sort of comforting. I don’t know. She was a good girl.

Tye

Otherwise, I guess that’s what’s going on around here. And as always, these are my creek side reflections. Your experiences may vary.

Suddenly: My least favorite word

I’m starting this post the day after I found out some sad news. John Vega–Juan to some–my Johnny is dead.

When I was younger, I went through some really hard times. A man who I still love and respect made me promise that I wouldn’t kill myself. I don’t make promises lightly. Scott Greene wouldn’t let me off the phone until I promised. And so far, I haven’t.

Some of the words in that conversation involved his not respecting that choice and how horrid it would be since I’d be leaving a child behind, and that when I was older I’d see what a stupid mistake it was since things do get better, and since he was recently off his psych rotation which involved him saving someone’s life, I decided to believe him.That’s what I remember.

Things did get better, and I’m grateful. 

This is so hard to talk about. I fear Bible Thumpers–many of whom are my relatives and from reading their Facebook updates and likes, are very judgmental–will start throwing stones at me for broaching this subject. I want to throw stones, too–and rocks and ashtrays. This hurts.

Wednesday started with my thinking there were an awful lot of cell phones going off on the NPR shows I was listening to. I’m not a cell phone person. I have a contract with the terrorist network so I buy my minutes at the grocery store and complain about my land line. Living in a valley is not easy, nor pretty. There is no cable and we can’t get a dish to lock on to a satellite, thus many of my texts end up stuck in some sort of a time gnome that spits them out to their intended recipient days, or even weeks, later. 

The chirping I heard was my phone alerting me to a message. Jim had texted me before eight a.m. wanting to know if I was free in the afternoon. I replied that I could be, but I didn’t have a vehicle and I asked what was up. There was no reply. I went on with my day, did Pilates, took a shower, and drank my coffee. Knowing my phone’s idiosyncrasies, I sent an email to him, basically saying the same thing. Within minutes, he replied that he was on his way over. I had hopes that Johnny was over there visiting and had time for a chat. I put on makeup.

What was it? A year ago? Two? Jim and Julie had a drum circle led by Steve Bell at their home. Christ! The night before that I’d been up late drinking with my brother-in-law and I was wobbly hung over, but since I’d already Facebook accepted the invite to the drum circle, I was going to be there, so I was. Aren’t Facebook acceptances to events just like promises? 

Oh, how drumming and throbbing heads do not go together! I did think about making an appearance and disappearing…then Jim took a phone call and I overheard that John was on his way over.

I can think what I want, can’t I? I ended up in a grouping with him and Betty and Jim and oh, I forget who came and went, but I drank a lot of water. The way John would pull out his phone–the way he held it–it looked awkward and wrong. Maybe there was an injury I don’t know about, but regardless of where I was sitting, the phone was pointed at me when he answered it–though I don’t recall hearing it ring or vibrate. In my head, I came to believe he was taking pictures of me. I’m allowed these thoughts, aren’t I? Until I’m proven wrong, at least. NSA? Want to weigh in on this? Slice my experience of electronic reality with a fishing line and divide it as sharply as a piece of cake… 

I ended up staying very late at that party, as did John and Betty.

Let it be known that I think Betty is an awesome, talented, smart woman. I really do, but once it came out in conversation that John was an old boyfriend of mine, it seemed to me that she meant to keep us apart. I could be completely wrong; these are just my reflections and memories–fallible at best. If she reads this, I hope she realizes that too. 

Around the table on the deck, oil lamps were lit and wine was drunk. I had one glass of red. Sans Betty, I think–wishfully–that Jim and Julie would have faded into their yurt and John and I could have patched the tell-tale threads that we needed to have snipped, fixed, fixed up, to fix us and make us more complete. Again, I can’t say this is true at all. Maybe John wouldn’t have stayed so long if Betty wasn’t there as a buffer. I don’t know. It just felt like there was more to say.

Nothing happened except John left, then Betty, then me. 

Arriving home, I found out that my brother-in-law’s flight had been canceled. He couldn’t reach Husband on either the land line or his cell phone. He’d called my cell, but as I’d left my phone in the truck, I’d never gotten his three voice mails. My step-son had picked him up and brought him back to our house. I–high on the experience I’d just had–talked to him and he agreed that yeah, the way John held his phone; he probably did snap a picture of me.

Flattery on top of flattery.  

Within the next few days, I told Husband what happened. I told him I wanted to talk to John again. When I said to Jim that I wanted to talk to John, he hesitated, but it came to be a possibility. John was willing to meet me at Jim and Julie’s house–safe, mutual ground–to chat.

For the longest time, the meeting hung in the air as vague and wispy as spider silk. I nudged a few times. A few weeks ago, at the end of August, Husband and I were driving down Sharp Street when a turkey flew out in front of us. It was scary. I reminded Jim again that night that I might not live forever and I really wanted to talk to John before I was gone.

You’ll think I’m making this up, but it’s true. I’d bought a ticket to Mary Aker’s book launch party the minute I found out about it. Johnny committed suicide on Friday, 20 September 2013. Saturday, I half-assed ironed my shirt and went to the library. After, I came home. I decided to iron my shirt properly. I saw something big in the bathroom window. The biggest turkey with the reddest and bluest wattle I’ve ever seen was circling the windows of the lower greenhouse.  Husband came down and looked at the turkey. The huge bird stuck around long enough for me to slip out of the front door and retrieve the camera that was in the truck. We got two pictures, then he wandered off, like his message had been received. I saw him cross the street.

At Mary’s book launch party, I met up with Jeff Schober. I’d been to his book reading at the West Falls-Colden Library a year and a half ago. After that awesome experience, I found out I could volunteer as a librarian on Saturdays. He and I talked about that, and his new book. The sky was clear when I left the book launch, it grew darker as I drove home. The rain was harsh and I was on unfamiliar roads.

As I’m writing this, the Season Premiere of “Parenthood” is on. It’s not lost on me that Christina’s friend Gwen just consoled her with these words when Christina was hesitating about running a campaign, “If you want to do something, you just do it. You don’t wait.”

I wish now that I had insisted and met up with John but I didn’t. Onward… 

When I found out John killed himself, I announced on Twitter that I knew I wasn’t the only person who had two old flames commit suicide, but it felt that way. “Da Missus”–and by extension, Lx– let me know that they were there for me. I talked to my sister. I talked to my best friend. I talked to my cousin. I’m grateful to them all for their love and support. Thank you Tracy, Sheila, Teresa, Alex, and Yvonne.

The next day, today I found out John used a gun and that there was a note. I don’t know the caliber. I don’t know what his last words were. I don’t think I’ll be privy to that, either. What I did find was an awesome complimentary note from Ken Robidoux on Facebook. He wrote about meeting me at AWP in such sweet terms. Mia, Meg, Greg, and Yvonne congratulated me on the story. I don’t know if any of them know how awesome it was to find that on my Facebook page on Thursday.

Even though John wasn’t actively in my life, I hate that he’s gone. Other people in my life have died, but until him, I didn’t get the outrage and pain that suicide brings to the living. I hate myself for feeling I could have easily have been that selfish when I was younger. I hate that he chose that end. I’m pissed at him, and I feel sorry for him and his children and even his future grandchildren who won’t know what a funny, great guy he was. I don’t know why I miss him more now than if I’d heard that he had a heart attack or got hit by a bus, perhaps it’s survivor’s guilt–that I should have been able to do or say something–anything to avoid that end.  With Mark, I heard he did that and I thought “good choice.” I’d worked past his abuse, I didn’t care anymore. I don’t know, we all make choices…If I hadn’t met Mark, things with Johnny might have gone a different way. But they didn’t and magical thinking isn’t something I want to do. I just want to thank people and be grateful.

Writing, crafting, editing, rewriting, it’s so lonely, BUT it’s not like when I started sending things out in the nineties. I feel so much more connected to the community of artists and my friends because of the internet. In the nineties, I wanted to write a column for a tiny newsletter a used record shop put out. They didn’t go for my pitch, but unless I asked for the opportunity, I never would have thought about writing columns, or trying to connect with readers on a regular basis, and so I thank Burnett for saying no. Had he said yes, I might have burned out with columns. Instead. I’m years into this blog and grateful to every single view, comment and follower. Thank you all. In case I die, I want you to know you’re held in high esteem in my eyes and I appreciate the hell out of you, even if we don’t agreed on politics, religion, or some other silly thing that we won’t even remember should one of us not be around tomorrow.

 

The Obituary

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*These are just my creekside reflections. Your experiences may vary.