Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Taking Time to Relish Acccomplishments

Last Saturday I made a major accomplishment: I submitted a portion of the memoir to a publisher's nonfiction contest. I've spent a lot of time on the memoir - and it's not quite done. And I've put in many hours on this submission. I've written about the different levels of completion of the parts of the book - some were written four years ago and barely touched since. Some have been written in the past couple of months. Some were written before I re-found my voice and some came out in near ready form.

I've printed out a copy of the whole memoir so far, with inserted pages for the missing pieces. Some chapters/stories have been printed several times, as I've found older versions with parts I want to incorporate into newer editions. Or I thought I had the most recent, edited version so I printed it - then discovered there was something better in the other computer or uploaded to my cloud.

So I've also learned in this process about setting up systems. What systems work for me, or work for me now; what was a good idea but wasn't practical; and so on.

And on Saturday I turned in 119 pages of my memoir. With a one paragraph bio that was difficult for me to write. I had many versions of the bio written before I just had to say "enough - that'll do." I cut out a lot. At one point I let myself write whatever I wanted and then trimmed back and cleaned it up; sometimes I'm verbose and say in 20 words what could be said in 5; sometimes I don't say enough. But I figured it out and I was comfortable with it. The submission also included a 3-sentence description of the whole book. The *whole* *book* in 3 sentences; now, that was tough. I'm not completely satisfied with that - and that short "elevator speech" bio could do in my chances - or not. I also had to send a project summary (outline), which included the status of the overall project - which I feel good about.

I was going to wait until I got home from the beach to submit my manuscript and everything - but decided I wanted it out of my hands. If I held onto it, I might start digging into it again. Maybe. I'd wonder, anyway. But with it sent in - it's there; done.

I was surprised to find myself a little tired. Well, I shouldn't have been surprised at that - I was up long hours and late hours (you know: stay up one night late to work on something creative; then you sleep late because of that; which puts you up late again because the project isn't finished - that!). But I was surprised to find myself feeling a little "flat" or a little blue or stuck.

Then I remembered. It's the post-play-opening blues. Or the end of the relay training let down. Or the post-adrenaline slump. Yes.

The good thing is that I realized it. I didn't let the slump take over and start down the drain of "woe is me; what do I do now" path. I thought: I didn't really celebrate that I made this major accomplishment happen - I really, really did it! I have more to go, sure - about another 20% of the book to write or finish editing (no, I didn't submit everything that is editor-ready)) - but I did this big thing. Which was a big deal. I sent a chunk of my memoir to a publisher, in hopes of becoming a winner and getting a publishing contract. But even if I don't, I proved to myself I can do it and I have that much more ready for the final project.

So, I went on a YouTube search for an appropriate video. After viewing many videos and some which were totally not what I wanted, I did find this: Dave Matthews "I Did It." It's a little 'odd' but it's also kind of accurate to my experience. Including being overwhelmed by big blue figures, feeling my legs knocked out from under me, things not always being what they appeared, and more. It's fun, it's a little sexist or maybe not - I guess even some of the guys are scantily clad. It also reminds me of the essence of PICA's T:BA, which is coming up pretty soon (and I already bought my immersion pass) - so I like it for that reason, too.

Yes! I did it!


Saturday, June 25, 2011

New Offering in The Writing Vein Store

There is a new item listed on The Writing Vein Store page (see link below the title bar). You can now purchase "Blood on the Keyboard: Selected Essays from The Writing Vein 2009" at Blurb directly from here. Just click on the store link above and you can see the preview, then click through to Blurb to purchase.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Razor's Edge for 6/24/2011

Today's theme is simple and is in honor of my partner.

Happy Birthday!

The simple directions - watch the video, and animated short film using The Beatles' song, "It's Your Birthday."

After you watch the film, select one of the prompts below it and write - or dance, draw, sculpt, whatever calls to you today - using the video and the words as a starting place. Go, for 15 minutes. Let your creativity lead you where it needs to go today.


She stepped out the door to the sounds of ...

I turned over in bed and then remembered ...

It was his birthday, but he asked me ....

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tonglen - or Tong Lin - for Healing

Pema Chodron has many teachings - I almost typed Buddhist teachings, because she is and the teachings are. But I believe her teachings are not just for Buddhists; and I think she would agree, but I can't be certain except in my heart. There are many books of her teachings and videos. She is wise and compassionate.

I have subscribed to an email list which sends out weekly excerpts of her teachings. Some of these I have in the books I own or have read elsewhere. And sometimes just the perfect teaching shows up in my email inbox.

Today as I searched for a video to post, I thought of her. One of the videos which came up was the one below - about Tonglen (the spelling I've usually seen - although here they spelled it Tong Lin). This is something I needed right now and I need to share this with my readers, too.

She explains what Tong Lin is for those who don't know and then you will do it. It's simple. It's powerful.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Being Unapologetic for Following One's True Path

Thien Mu Pagoda grounds, Hue

photograph by Penelope Gan

Earlier I wrote about my struggles to keep with writing my story my way. As I was putting the pieces together for a contest submission, I was looking at what I'd written, what had yet to be written, and how I wanted the story to flow.

I thought about the contest's sponsors: tried to anticipate what they would be looking for. I thought about what other people have deemed worthy literature. Or worthy of publication. Of what an acceptable structure or format would be, how the parts must be chronological or avante garde or traditional or new. That was the hardest one: thinking I had to come up with something totally unique that no one had ever done before or would ever do again and that would be the "wow" that would win me the contest.

Then I thought - wait. It's my story. I'm telling it my way.

And Bonnie Hearn Hill said, yes, to just write. To not edit and to tell my story right now.

So I wrote.

And when it was time, I put the pieces together as I wanted to tell them.

Then today I was talking about this process. Not this exact process with the book, per se, but the whole process - the process of staying with my truth. Even when it hurts. Even when people tell me it can't be done or it's a bad idea or suddently abandon me without even a so-long. Staying with it because this is what I was meant to do, what I enjoy doing, the path I've been wandering along most of my life and it has deepened and strengthened.

And learning not to equate being on my true path with people leaving; which they have, but it's not a cause and effect relationship. Being in my confidence and my truth is being in the flow and in that I get to take pleasure and in that I know I am on my path. I had a good conversation today about this today.

Today I am not giving up - I know, I didn't tell you yet that yesterday I considered it. Really.  I was in "the black hole" and feeling like all this effort was for nothing and nothing would ever change and I should just stop now. Stop writing, stop trying to change, stop trying new physical adventures and fun. But I didn't; and the truth is that now, even when I sometimes dip over the edge of that hole, I'm not in the hole and I keep a forward momentum - even if I have to plug my ears and shut my eyes and say "lalalalala" to keep going.

Today I had a great conversation and did some energy work with mudras (thank you, Pamela). Today I am letting go of old hurts that are not mine to carry. Today I am saying that I am doing what is right and am on my true path. And it feels good. If people leave or people naysay or people try to pull me into their black holes, I can remember today's conversation and remember how I feel right now.

I am on my path and I'm not saying, "sorry." Because this is real.

And I do have the 119 pages of the manuscript ready to go. I'm typing in my outline and project overview right now. I have a very rough brief bio written and a three-sentence project description. It is almost ready to go. And then I will get back to writing the few unwritten pieces and editing the rough pieces. And I will return to editing the novel and writing new short stories.
picture of Koh Tao from TripAdvisor

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Random Summer Solstice Thoughts

drawing by Stacy at Kidsstuff

The summer solstice - another shift of time, change of season.
A time to honor the earth and to celebrate with joy and respect.
A time when herbs are most potent and for which stone circles have been built through the ages.
Create with whatever medium speaks to or through you.

A few summer solstice treats, from Jennifer Bones (click over to Pagan Poet to read more):

Litha Incense – 2 parts Sandalwood, 1 part Mugwort, 1 part Chamomile, 1 part Gardenia petals, several drops of Rose oil, several drops of Lavender oil, several drops of Yarrow oil

Orange Honey Butter – 2 Tablespoons grated orange zest, 3 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, ½ cup unsalted butter, softened, 1 – 2 Tablespoons honey, Combine ingredients and chill until ready to eat. Yum!

Easy Honey Mead – This recipe can be considered cheating but if you’ve ever tried to make honey mead at home, you’ll appreciate this recipe’s simplicity. First heat 1 part water with 1 part wildflower honey until the mixture is smooth and the honey’s completely incorporated. Sprinkle some rose petals into the mixture and let it cool. Strain the mixture (optional). Mix 2 parts honey water with 1 part grain alcohol and serve chilled over ice. (Alternatively, mix 1 part honey water with 1 part vodka). ...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Oregon Poetic Voices Project 6/24/11

photo from The Goatpoet
...Oregon Poetic Voices Announces Call to Record Local Poets...

Calling all Portland poets! The Oregon Poetic Voices Project (OPV) will host an open recording session at the City Archives building ( 1800 SW 6th Ave, Suite 550) on June 24, 2011, from 1 – 5 p.m. Poets may record up to four poems, at no expense, to be included in the OPV archive, which is hosted by Lewis & Clark College and available on the web at .

All poets, published or not, are welcome to record. This will be a first-come, first-serve event and poets will have about fifteen-minutes allotted to them. Poets should consider these time constraints when deciding which works they want to record.

All participants must be prepared to sign a waiver to allow the recordings and texts to be displayed on the website ( ). Please also bring paper copies of the poems and a biographical statement. All participants will be mailed a CD of their readings.

Recognizing the need for poetry in our lives, the Oregon Poetic Voices Project (OPV) began in 2010, in order to create a comprehensive digital archive of poetry readings that will complement existing print collections of poetry across the state. This sound archive is available online to Oregonians of all ages and geographic locations at libraries, in schools, at home, or visiting the State Library Poetry Room. OPV is funded by the Library Services and Technology Act FFY2011.

For more information, please direct any questions to Poetry Project Fellow, Melissa Dalton at 503-768-8190 or . All local poets are also welcome to schedule an individual appointment to record in the OPV office, located on the Lewis & Clark campus.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Family is Who You Make It

The Family on Rob's 82nd

Today I went to a birthday lunch with my family. The patriarch of the family is Rob who is now 82 years old and who had chopped down 30 trees in the last two days on his wood lot.

My partner and I were, in our usual way, a little bit late. I was up late last night putting what I hope are the final edits on the portion of my memoir which I will be submitting to a book contest within the week. I've been working on the revisions and edits a lot this week. Yesterday I got up early and ate breakfast, then I entered some revisions while I had my coffee. When the class I knew was in the pool at my gym was scheduled to be done, I turned off the laptop and went for a swim. That was a good idea and a nice balance to hours on the computer earlier this week. After showering, I went to a cafe for lunch and typing in more revisions. Then to chiropractic (I'm at the end of treatment for a car accident a few months ago). Afterward to my regular Friday meet-up with a writing friend to write and talk about writing - at which I, yes, entered more edits. Thursday night I closed down a cafe writing; last night I couldn't close it down, as my friend pointed out, because it was a 24-hour cafe. But it was midnight when I headed home - with all of my edits done, the manuscript uploaded as a backup, and a copy emailed to my partner who agreed to read it for edits and consistency.

So I didn't jump out of bed with the sun this morning. And was a little slow to get going. We were only 30 minutes late. And another family member was late due to traffic from an accident on the freeway.

It was a good day. Good conversation and good friends and food and fun.

And it was family. But not family in terms of the law except for a few. And it didn't matter. All of us there today have been family for many years except for the newest one: Susie, Rob's girlfriend since my partner's mother died.

So today family consisted of the birthday boy Rob (82) and his live-in girlfriend since 2006; my partner, who is Rob's step-daughter (Susie is not my partner's mother), and me; Rob's oldest daughter, Diane, and her adult son; Diane's step-daughter and her son. So there was a legally recognized thread in the gathering: Rob, Diane, Diane's son. But mostly we're a self-selected group of people who call each other family - through widowhood and divorces and remarriages and LGBT relationships.

But we're family. And no one can tell us otherwise.

Happy birthday, Rob, and thanks for taking us all on in your clan.
Rob's family invented these typewriters.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sharing an Obsession

A few weeks ago I went to a performance which included a pair of dancers doing contact improvisation. Contact improvisation speaks to me on an emotional, physical, and spiritual level. So I've been on a quest to find good videos and performances. I'm even toying with the idea of trying it out at some point, but I have a few things to get through before I'm ready to participate. But that door has been opened.

So - keep your eyes on the upper left corner of my website. I'll be periodically updating the videos. Randomly. By whatever moves me. I just put a new one up today - and even the title is inspirational and speaks to me :

negative space = positive space

The Razor's Edge for Friday 6/17/11

Thanks to Ariel Gore, I have a new writing prompt source.

I started a couple of posts today around The Razor's Edge, but didn't get very far, because I've been working on the major edits and rewrites of the memoir. Which I know I've written about a time or two or three recently. Today was a big day of typing in those revisions and making more revisions as I moved my notes from the handwritten format to the digital format. And discovered one chapter I thought was done but really wasn't.

I was going to do something clever and come up with prompts which allude to the memoir, but not give it away. Something related to the title. What I realize may only be a working title, but I've been working with this working title so long that I can't really conceive of it being called anything else now. Really. I've even organized the chapter titles in relation to the memoir's working title.

Which has nothing to do with this week's prompt.

Except that I couldn't generate anything myself except edits on the memoir and I couldn't find anything that I thought was inspirational or fun or anything except - well - nothing.

Which is why I'm not doing a video or a song or pictures this week.

I'm passing along this prompt generator. Which is great. And is thanks to Ariel.

This week (and I know I've been a little random with the Razor's Edge recently), I'm directing you to a simile generator. Click on the link below, then follow the instructions - and write!

Your simile might be something like this: "Her intelligence was like a canyon" (oh, I like it!)
...or... "His excitement is like a tavern"
...or even ... "His loyalty was like a swimming pool"

Have fun and let the simile lead you to a stream of words which become a story. Get your simile, set a timer for 10 minutes, and write!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Maintaining Momentum in Editing

I've written recently about some quicksand slogging through the editing process. Not for lack of wanting to do it or because I didn't want to do it. More like "life happens" and then there's the recovery from "life events" and then I might sit down and stare at the page or the screen and say, "huh."

But I keep at it. Little by little. I figured out which version of the contest draft was the most recent - or probably the most recent. And then I decided that it was recent enough and I was going through it all again, anyway.

So. I've put in over 20 hours on the memoir editing alone. And that's actual hands-on time: actively rewriting, editing, adding, deleting. That doesn't include the oh-what's-happening-on-Facebook, write-a-post, check-my-email time. It's actual sit down and do-it time.

Now I'm on a roll. Words are flowing and dropping and appearing and it's coming together.

Tomorrow is almost entirely dedicated to editing and getting this done! I have a massage scheduled tomorrow. It was originally at 11:30, but the massage therapist asked if I could change it to 10 and I said, yes, if I go right to bed after I get home from work (which I haven't yet - but will as soon as I'm done with this).  How that relates to writing is that I will be done an hour earlier which means another hour to write!

I have nothing else except the massage tomorrow. So my plan is to write after the massage (most like type in some of the hand-written edits ... sometimes I'm in a post-massage zone for a little bit) for a couple hours. Then go for a walk or something, depending on where I end up writing. I may go for a swim - that would be a good balance to sitting and editing. Then go to one of my favorite writing cafes and get a latte and edit more. And cycle through the walking, editing, until I've had enough. I don't think I'll get it all done tomorrow - there are still four short chapters that I haven't touched in terms of editing yet.

The great news is that I have 50% of the submission chapters completely edited and ready to go! I was so happy when I flagged them with the hot pink sticky notes with "done" on them in black pen. It is very satisfying to look at the notebook and see all those pink hotspots signaling completion.

I'll talk more about the notebook later. But, for now, I must get to bed so I can get up for my massage.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blonde or Blond?

I consider myself to be a fairly skilled user of the English language. After all, I am a writer and an interpreter. Right? I know my English. But once in a while I knowingly break a rule (or maybe bend it just a little) and sometimes I don't know any better. Or I make a typographical error or just do it wrong.

Generally, I know what I'm doing.

Once in a while a word comes up in my writing or out of my mouth and I think, "Huh! I wonder if I'm using that correctly." Being in writing groups has proved useful for this - when I get feedback on something which could be done in a better way or when I read something someone else discovered. One example of this was the usage of "that" or "which" in a sentence. I know, it seems straightforward enough; but sometimes it is not as obvious for some of us. Several sessions ago another writer posted a great way to know which one was more accurate when, and I believe my writing has improved in relation to those two words.

Today when I was working on my memoir, I decided to add a detail that the upright piano was blond. Or was it blonde? I thought. So I looked it up. I don't know if I ever had this explained to me or not - I don't remember it. I've generally used it with or without the "e" based on instinct and common usage rather than knowing.

So I thought I'd share my new insight.

And, in the way of many modern language considerations, it seems to be in flux and there is not a hard and fast rule. Unless you want to follow more conventional standards. The definitions and etymology are pretty much the same across the internet and books, so I chose the one from to post, for its conciseness and completeness.

Is it Blonde or is it Blond?

World English Dictionary
blonde  (blÉ’nd)

— adj
1.     (of women's hair) of a light colour; fair
2.     (of a person, people or a race) having fair hair, a light complexion, and, typically, blue or grey eyes
3.     (of soft furnishings, wood, etc) light in colour

— n
4.     a person, esp a woman, having light-coloured hair and skin
5.     Also called: blonde lace  a French pillow lace, originally of unbleached cream-coloured Chinese silk, later of bleached or black-dyed silk

[C15: from Old French blond  (fem blonde ), probably of Germanic origin; related to Late Latin blundus  yellow, Italian biondo , Spanish blondo ] 

see blond

—Related forms
blonde·ness, noun

—Can be confused:  blond, blonde (see usage note at the current entry ).

—Usage note
The spelling blonde is still widely used for the noun that specifies a woman or girl with fair hair: The blonde with the baby in her arms is my anthropology professor. Some people object to this as an unnecessary distinction, preferring blond for all persons: My sister is thinking of becoming a blond for a while. As an adjective, the word is more usually spelled blond in reference to either sex ( an energetic blond girl; two blond sons ), although the form blonde is occasionally still used of a female: the blonde model and her escort. The spelling blond is almost always used for the adjective describing hair, complexion, etc.: His daughter has blond hair and hazel eyes.
picture from The Immortal Piano Company

Monday, June 13, 2011

workshop: "Tiny Kingdoms: Writing Flash Fiction"

I received this announcement in an email from a writing group today:

Indigo Editing & Publications still has a few spots open for Saturday's workshops on short form. This two-fer deal brings you three hours of writing insight for just $50. Register before we fill up.
Saturday, June 18
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Tiny Kingdoms: Writing Flash Fiction with Alissa Nielsen

Short, short stories—some have described them as vignettes, sketches, anecdotes; they’ve been given multiple names such as flash fiction, sudden fiction, mini fiction, quick fiction, or micro fiction. Joyce Carol Oates compares flash fiction to “Chopin’s brilliant little preludes,” and Mark Strand claims they “can do in a page what a novel does in two hundred.” In this workshop we will write from prompts geared toward this condensed form of storytelling and discuss strategies for revising longer pieces to create a successful flash. Through exploring several compelling flash fiction examples, we’ll investigate how these authors use lyricism, subtext, and the element of surprise to create tiny kingdoms that contain multitudes.
A Winning First Impression: Making the Most of Your Query Letter with Ali McCart

The query letter is one of the most daunting pieces you as a writer will ever take on. It’s your first impression with the publisher, and the final draft could come across as a soggy handshake or an impressive, firm grip. In this workshop, we’ll examine what makes a well-crafted query letter and what dooms it for rejection. Then we’ll draft and critique our own queries so you can leave with the confidence to stand up straight, make eye contact, and smile wide for your literary introduction.
All classes take place at Indigo Editing & Publications, 519 SW 3rd Ave., Portland.

Ali McCart

Executive Editor & Director of Business Development
Indigo Editing & Publications
Facebook, @indigoediting
Sledgehammer Writing Contest
Facebook, @sledgehammerwri

Friday, June 10, 2011

Razor's Edge: anthology seeking submissions

Two amazing writers - Ariel Gore and Jenny Forrester - are putting together an anthology and looking for submissions. I think this is a very appropriate use of the Razor's Edge space.

Call for Submissions


Do you have plans for the the end of civilization? Did you ever? Is it possible to prepare for the ultimate catastrophe? Leave it to humans to try…

Being part of a religious group preparing for Armageddon
How to can up and store food
Living off the grid & hoarding water for environmental disaster
Urban post-civilization survival
Changing relationships for post-apocalyptic times
How to meditate your way to salvation
Parenting for an unpredictable future
Spending the family savings on an underground bunker
Armed to the teeth or raising chickens for the final catastrophe...


We’re seeking short literary memoir, fiction, childhood memories, d.i.y. instructions, how-to, to-do lists, preparations, photographs, diagrams, comics, illustrations, letters, philosophical truths, on…planning and preparing for the end of civilization as we know it.

Send us your stories.

Write with any questions.
Prefer 2,500 words or less. Will consider up to 5,000. 
Deadline: August 7, 2011 
Editors Jenny Forrester and Ariel Gore 
Submit via email or snail mail
Jenny Forrester/Ariel Gore
P.O. Box 40513
Portland, OR

Thursday, June 9, 2011

People Drift In and Out and I Can't Control the Tide

I've written here about the ghosts I can't escape as I work on my memoir. The ghosts who appear in my life now are not necessarily the same ghosts who are in the memoir. Though some are. And the ghosts aren't all bad.

People come and people go and that is life. I know.

I write about real people and fictional people and people in between. People who fit the pop label of hybrid. Is he real or is he creative non-fiction?

And people who drop out of my life show up.

And people important to me, who've helped me get through positive changes, who've nurtured and supported and helped me heal ... well, they have lives, too. Sometimes they move on. And that is right.

And I have feelings about the change. I wish them well. I truly do. And I am grateful for the time we had together.

I found out today that I my massage therapist/Cranial Sacral provider is moving away in a month or so. She is an amazing healer and from what I heard she has an amazing opportunity in the new location. I wish her well and I appreciate the time I was able to have with her. She has incredible skills as a body worker and I learned so much from her, and she introduced me to PICA's T:BA and re-introduced me to my love and body-connection to dance. I can't say enough about what I feel I owe her and all of my gratitude for the years she's been there for me.

And, no, I don't want to start over with someone new. But I will trust her recommendation, as I trusted the person who recommended her to me.

And I will continue writing about my ghosts and their images, about what happened and what probably happened based on what I do know.

There are many types of gratitude. And I want to say thank you to some of the hard times for making me stronger, to the universe for getting me out alive and whole. And a big thank you to Cydney, as well as the other healers and healing partners who've been there for me over the years.

I'm glad I have another month with Cydney and an appointment next week. And I'll try to get in one more.

And I write. Remembering the past. Writing from the present. Finding healing and balance toward the future.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Making Space for Writing

I get stuck sometimes.

Stuck in commitments. Stuck in work. Stuck in feeling tired. Stuck in laundry, sleep, grocery shopping and meal preparation. Stuck in needing to move my body. Stuck in a book, at a play, watching dance. Stuck because everything takes time and time is what I need for writing.

Energetically stuck is a different thing. I sit at the laptop or at the temporarily shared computer (I still haven't replaced my dead desktop; so I use my partners - which I try to do sparingly) and nothing comes to mind. Or the project I want to be working on is stalled is what I mean. I can type up my writing experience and how the IPRC program will benefit me; I can type the email to my childhood friend, talking about our weekend and a day trip to the coast; I can write about the plans for the upcoming conference where I'll be interpreting; or emails to students and department chair and videorelay manager.

But movement is very slow and progress difficult to find on the memoir right now. I flail looking for the direction I want to go, or to see which version on my computer is the most recent one (is that 500 words difference because I added or subtracted? is the more current date because I uploaded a version rather than it being the most current which was already there?).

Today I was talking with someone who suggested that I might be harboring some anger. And that anger might be blocking my energy to write, because, as she and I have discussed before, anger really sucks up a lot of energy and blocks my flow. She also suggested that writing a letter to that person I'm angry at (whether I send it or not) might free up some energy.

Writing in order to free up energy to write.

She may be right.

I wrote the letter.

And almost immediately after, I found the place I want to focus for this week's writing assignment in the Lit Star Training course, which is a part of the memoir.

Maybe writing got me unstuck to write.

Yes, I think it did.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Battle of Priorities

This is the time when I need to be focused on completion of the memoir. Especially the first 100+ pages, which I'm trying to get edited and ready to submit to a book contest. The manuscript must be in their hands before the end of the month.

Not postmarked.

Not "make a payment," "attach file," SEND.

No. The physical pages, correctly formatted, with outline and personal statement and notes about the status of the final project included, need to be in their hands by June 30th.

And I've stalled out.

That doesn't quite feel like the right label for the process I'm in. It's more like the end-of-the-term duties as an adjunct instructor colliding with the commitment I made to a friend when June seemed so far off colliding with the news that my partner will no longer be teaching the four-credit class at a local university after this summer (read: reduced income from that source) colliding with the online writing class/workshop, the need to have a few days - even a few hours - off from everything, needing to sleep to walk to ride the bicycle to swim. The need to do nothing. For a little bit.

The end of the term issues are real. I have kept up with grading student journals and papers. I've had to do student intern observations and a couple of those were significant time users in scheduling and rescheduling and, in the case of one, drive time. I've written the observation reports shortly after the observation but each one takes me at least two hours. And now it's final journal time and final assignment time and that means more to grade. By the end of this week - the grades will be turned in and I will have five weeks off from teaching. With not quite three weeks left in June. Eeek.

And my commitment last week to two friends actually - one to give her a place to stay, the other to volunteer interpret for an event. The Blind Cafe. Which was a great experience and I'm glad I did it and I'm glad my friend stayed with me and I'm so happy I could interpret for the other friend - and learn that I, indeed, do not have good receptive skills for tactile interpreting although I do okay at being the tactile interpreter. And it took a lot of time. The friend who stayed with me was my best friend in childhood and over the cliff of adulthood - after which we lost contact for many years; only recently reunited. Which meant we stayed up really late talking (yes, even late for me!). And we talked a lot and hang out together a lot. And I did no writing during those three days.

Then it was right back to work.

So these all important things I've committed to do had to be done. And I haven't written much for coming up on two weeks, outside of the online writing group assignments.

I need to change that.

And I need to not get mad at myself for that.

And I need to just move forward. Edit and write and get the beginning chunk done so I can print it out on quality paper and send it, with the fee, and the required information, to the contest.

Editing this memoir needs to move to the top of my priority list.

Well, after I get the grades submitted.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Truth and Memoir

I've reunited with a childhood friend. My very best friend from second grade until a couple or so years out of high school. She was up here in Portland for three days and two nights for a special event where she was volunteering and she stayed at our house. I also volunteered for the event last night. Then today I drove her home.

I think I mentioned a couple of months ago that she and I had scheduled a lunch in Salem and it went great. I was a little nervous at first, because it had been - well, a really long time. We had been out of contact except for a one email each exchange in 2004.

[photo from
Then we were in touch, again. And now we've just spent three days together.

No - we didn't just talk about the past. We mostly talked about the present, or the recent present, with a few little trips to our shared school past.

It's interesting and I'm sure there will be more that comes up. One teacher she particularly mentioned as being mean and hateful and wicked was the teacher I wrote about last year as being very supportive and encouraging and who made a big positive difference in my child-life. I'm not doubting my friend's experience - but I remember that teacher very differently. My friend remembers my mother being very controlling and not letting me sleep over at her house very much (my friend's mother, in particular, was very liberal; my mother was not). My friend only remembered it being, like, two times. I remember she mostly did come over to my house, but I thought I was over there more than two times. Or maybe it's just that I spent a lot of time over there after school on weekends, but not so much sleeping over. And I bet the truth is in between the two.

We didn't touch on the reasons for our separation - which was not a conscious decision. We drifted; I went through a major life change that was harder in the mid-80s than it is now; and we drifted apart.

Her truth and my truth are both true and sometimes they're not the same. And that's okay.

It will be interesting to see what else surfaces as we continue to get to re-know each other and to re-learn about our past and our paths.

I guess it's true that truth can be subjective.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Life Transferred to the Page

As I focus my writing on the memoir I am carried to other times in my life. Other places. People left behind long ago or people who left me. People I don't want to see; people who I wonder what happened to; people who influenced me in ways I could not have predicted or whom I thought had no influence.

My life has had some pretty clean breaks from one time to another. New relationships. New towns. Jobs. College. It is all relative, I know. I know people who have moved more. Who have had far more relationships. Who have had lives more complicated and dangerous and survived unimaginable suffering. And some whose lives seemed way better. Easier. For whom life seemed to fall into place or who were handed whatever they wanted and they never questioned.

But I'm writing about my life. Or a piece of my life.

And people who were important at that time. In one way or another. And the realization sits with me over and again that I am who I am now because of them and those times. Good and bad. Right or wrong or it just was. But that is what has helped shape me.

And my anger. Or the black hole of despair at times. The wanting to work things out and the wondering when a trust is betrayed or confusion when I feel blindsided. The joy at getting on a bicycle after 30 years. The freedom of kayaking on the river. The smell of the ocean inspiring. Remembering falling in love with someone I shouldn't; and saying it.

Pieces of a life. My life. Being transferred to the page.

The writing is easier than the editing. And both are required. As is being present in my life now and traveling to my past.

I searched for images and videos and something to represent this process. This moment. By accident on my way toward something else online I came across a video of Holcombe Waller singing "Hardliners." The description of the video fits, too. And will lead to a prompt!
"Hardliners" follows singer-songwriter Holcombe Waller along a dream-like path from his bedroom to the stage and back. Three friends (featuring the performance and choreography of Miguel Gutierrez) support and shape his journey. The video muses on the relationship between performer, the audience, and all of the friends and family in between.
PROMPT: Watch the video. More than once if you'd like; I recommend it. One beauty of the internet is that you can pause the video if there is something that speaks to you - wait and watch for it.
Some thing that reminds you of a time when ....
or a person who ....
or that thing you had when you were ....

What is your relationship to your audience? Who are the friends and family or memories in between?