Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hawks and Doves

Stumbling into two self-pub houses, I got nearly immediate response. Should have titled this Vultures and Doves. Strong admonishment to get a lawyer if I write anything about abuse, while telling me no publisher will touch a memoir including such material. Yeah. Right. So, would that individual please explain the large number of published memoirs in my personal library concerned with same? And then why push interest in shepherding me to publication under their banner? Am I swimming with sharks?

The second email arrival, not achieving contact with a phone call, led me to his website to fill out a form leading me to a contract. the simple grammatical errors, poor spelling and general sloppiness tell me they don't care enough to be professional in their own work, so what would they do with mine?

Not WINNING yet, but LEARNING, for sure. Chalking this up to valuable experience, and adding in several fab blogs, I have discovered full of helpful info delivered with high good humor and, at last, some irreverance, a much needed posture in this business so fraught with heavy handed overbearing seriousness, like going to bad lunch at a musty, passé and ancient men's club with cheap cigars and huffy self importance.

It's time, folks, to breathe fresh air. The day of secret handshakes and shut-out need to be over, and lest you wonder, no; I have submitted nothing to anyone yet. But I have been around the block of life more than once and know a thing or two when i see it.

In the meantime I am into second draft, building my show/ tell weakness, taking small comfort in the information that says most memoirists have this deficiency. Cold comfort. I want to be better than that. a suggestion from the aforementioned blog asks that I randomly select ten pages and search them for olfactory references. Did that and found three. According to Dave and Bill, that's pretty good, but to aim for five. This was actually a natural, since I lived in a farm town, redolent with the smell of the local cannery...peaches, tomatoes, beans filled the air. And the alfalfa field bordering our lawn and newly mown, fills my nose even today, along with recently cut hay when the car windows were down on a late spring day. And most childhood Sundays found gangs of family crowded around a table full of incredible food, hot and savory,followed by sugary sweet fruits and chocolates and hot bread. Our noses were as alive as our taste buds.

Addressing my story as a reader, not a writer, is my best instruction. Reading out loud is very good but having someone else read my story out loud to me is a stunning revelation. Give it a try. Pick your toughest critic. Let fly.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Having completed the last of the planned classes across two years, I have looked back at my sources for progress. I began with a very long series of essay classes across that whole time without a break and continuing as I took other classes. I used essay form to frame my memoir as a method to marshal the material of excerpts from my memoir. I did that for several reasons. It gave me access to a reading audience providing response to the writing, a very helpful tool showing me my own voice, how to maintain it and how to deliver the story. Was it interesting, did it hold attention, pull the reader in, tell the story real, keep them wanting more? Every month my classmates changed as people did or didn't re-up. Class participation was such a bonus. My mentor, editor and class director was Sheila Bender at Writing it Real, a thoughtful, helpful writer whose insight and skillsets led me through the maize as I developed the memoir as a tool for understanding my own purpose for writing it and then writing it well.adding feedback from dozens of other writers as we read each other's work and then finishing with Sheila's response was affirming guidance asi developed what I needed:a sense of the thing and how to tell it.

For some of that time I attended class at Writers Digest, taking two of their doused, both with Rita Robinson as my instructor. By the second class she told me there was not much more to teach me in this effort. She gave me a gift, saint I need to stop thinking of myself as a student and start thinking of myself as a writer. She further said to write a synopsis,attach a couple of chapters and send it out there to see if there was any interest. I was not prepared for that and while lovely to hear, I was so far from that kind of confidence that while it intrigued me, I still doubted my own ability but not my story. So I anted up ever more money and took a six week course with BArncat Publishing taught by Jami Shapiro.

I learned all about things like story arc, using the film Wizard of Oz as the tool for learning how to identify and present the protagonist, how to line up the story and let the characters tell it. This time it was a webinar which included four to five other students in various stages of progression in their writing, all of us with a book in progress. Classes lasted an hour and a half, pretty crowded time for five. While I learned general and specific ways to build my story, personal time in that course was necessarily short. Nevertheless,I then elected her advanced course with the same format but with the subject of structure, learning the fine details of flow, arrangement of chapters, and the building blocks to get the book out the door and off to a publisher. In the last class of this course, on the list of goals for the hour and a half was the subject of agents and how to acquire one. We learned from the instructor that we didn't have time for that. Too bad. Getting to a publisher and an agent were listed goals to be accomplished in this course.

There is a conclusion worth placing here. There is lots of outstanding help to be found online, including a number of fabulous blogs by folks in the business who give their knowledge and guidance away for free. With simple dumb luck I stumbled across the courses I took and every one of them elevated my understanding where before I had only my story, not much about how best to tell it. I am much better equipped now.

I understand fully that all three of these people offer their skills for profit. I learned something different from each of them. So I didn't pay for duplication. In the end, I intend to stay with the most encouraging person who thinks I can get there, will show me the way and help me to get there. Each of these contributed heavily to my understanding. Each has a different personality. What is really important is the fit. I have been really fortunate to have fallen into the arms of really gifted teachers who taught me so much. What is left is to choose the person whose methodology embraces the subject, fosters the best of my skills and who shines a bright light on what works and what needs work. While sugarcoating is not needed or wanted, neither is resistance without reinforcement. So here i'm talking only about personal style.

Would I recommend online study? You bet. It can't all be about dumb luck, or some mystery of discernment. I think it indicates there is so much help available that luck is the least of it. Adding up the dollars spent in this pursuit makes an ugly number, but in the end I didn't regret a dime because I learned so much from generous people with lots to teach me.

After the first write of my memoir, all over the place, wildly overwritten, poorly focused, Sheila Bender applied her skills as a developmental editor, showing me what works, what is in the way, how to self edit and how to focus and tighten the story for readability. She pointed out my strengths and how to make them shine, showed me I had a voice and how to use it, and set nome free to exercise the innate skills and to apply the lessons of use.

What is prime is to believe in the story, to believe in my own ability, and to believe one person to follow to the finish line building on the positives, minimizing and then eliminating the negatives. I think I have made my choice.

There is flexibility in the rules of memoir writing. Creativity in the telling of a major subject is permissible. What matters beyond the telling is the mind and heart of the reader. Abuse and abandonment has many facets. Comes in many forms. The psychological erasing of a disliked child affects a whole life. Overcoming parental behavior is a tall order for a child, but is achievable. The story is an encouraging one about triumph in spite of attempts to defeat her. In a chaotic time in history, when virtually every household is challenged by war and it's wounding, wounds which by themselves inflict more wounds, broken people stitch up their lives and by hook or crook run or stumble or fall across the finish line of their lives, leaving a blood trail of emotion in their wake.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

And the beat goes on...and on and on...

When I think about the persistence of this thing called memoir, I understand what it means to write because not writing has become impossible. It even means this blog gets short shrift while I mold and shape and come to grips with what I want to say and not to say. It's the"nots"that are assailing me right now. Say them? Don't say them? Do they matter? Not matter? Those things I forgot to mention, did I really forget, or are they relegated to that deep labyrinth of darkness where they are held eternally? does it matter? Should I care? This kind of angst, while irritating, will resolve itself eventually, and in the end the memoir will tell me what it needs, and what it needs to discard. I did not come to this understanding with ease. It was a slow dawning, pierced with resistance. But realizing that the thing is writing itself, that my purpose is only to shape it, I surrender to it even in the times I attempt to take back control. What I have come to understand is that part of me sees the need to let out these truths to others, not as a revealing of myself, like a purging, but to announce in a meaningful way that throughout this writing it can be seen that we are all knitting the same garment, it's colors, size and appearance all shades of the same experience we call life. How we wear the thing we make is perhaps the real tale.

As I read the essays by others in the now many classes I take at Writing It, I see how valuable are the outpourings of writers doing their knitting of a similar garment of many colors, and how they wear their lives for themselves and for others, as we unravel the tangles And knots as we reweave the sorry places, as we discover our true colors, our broken strands, our place on the path of the journey.

As an exercise, memoir is worth the doing, if that is all memoirists did. But the greater, and better goal is to bravely reveal what can perhaps heal others just by the telling. Today I am happy in my work. About time!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

No matter how good my intentions.....

Memoir should come first, but has been superseded by a cookbook, a time eater, absorbing me since August, allowing only brief encounters with my blog. Bummer. Finally imprint, after countless hours transcribing, proofing,and editing, feel as if I have done it all but setting the type. It's not all me;I have a fine marketing team, a good sales person, and behind me sixty contributors who did a fine job to create a money maker that will fund a missionary from our ranks who teaches orphans in Guatemala for the past fifteen years. Very worthwhile, and useful for me too since it can help flesh out my bio along with this blog if only I attended it better. And if more readers would make themselves known I'd be ever more legitimate.

At my current stage I'm analyzing each chapter for it's purpose and it's meaning. Why does the memoir need this chapter...what does the reader need to learn, what action occurs, and does each chapter flow to the next? Or must I surrender it? It's a very informative process for a writer, one I sm truly enjoying. Defining the plot seems to be difficult for me but I'm working through it and beginning to feel comfortable doing it.

What is more joyful has been to work with Sheila Bender of Writing It Real, and Jami Shapiro, a wildly successful movie critic and writer about to seek to publish a novel. Learning the mechanics of building the great story into book sense so a reader can follow the story, remain interested, want to keep turning the page, and learning something from every chapter is a formidable goal, but even more important is to come to terms with the whole reason for writing my life in the first place. And to fall in love with a couple of kids valiant and creative to avoid a toxic mother and her well intentioned but emotionally crippled new husband.

I suppose most of us lose a little interest and walk away, but for me, even after two years, waking up with my head stuffed full of words is still the norm. Writer's block does not happen here. I do not anticipate a sequel, I think my story will be the only one I'll birth. And I am not sorry, though what I will put in it's place is a mystery yet. I really suspect I'm a one book writer. That is deemed to be a limitation. I don 't know. I don't need to know. I just need to getvthis one out of my inner box and send it off to market.

I am getting better at submitting work to editors. Brevity rejected me. That was right after Creative Nonfiction gently let me down. I am surprised, for though not winning contests, nor getting picked up for a mag edition, I find myself neutral about rejections. Indeed a Brevity rejection is a prize framed now and hanging on my wall. Undaunted, I will continue to submit to them because they are quality. High end. I want my work read there. Such a goal is a needful thing connoting some level of achievement on my part.

What does puzzle is the subjectivity that seems based on nothing more than oh, maybe whim, or a bad day, or abiding one, or I just don't like her costume. Oh. Sorry, that's about judging ice skating. You know, when the girl on the blades is flawless in her execution, or perhaps not a blonde enough blonde, or her costume is the wrong color. That day.

I'm sure this must mean I just don't understand the business end of this business.I just know I don't do vampires. Or Amish romance. I simply talk about my life. A child abandoned to an orphanage, a late arrival to same who is identified as a brother she has no memory of, a world war that yields a wounded broken would-be daddy who lacks any parenting equipment go bolster his good intentions. A mother ill suited to a back water town with absolutely nothing to do, working her decades forward to the culmination of employment as the school janitor taunted by the townie snobs who speak of her as Toilet Tilly. What do they know of her overcoming, her dogged perseverance, her sheer will power, her toxic personality? She doesn't care. Her disdain for them is powerful. She has decimated far worse than these two bit penny ante pretenders. She's got their number if only they knew how far beneath her they are.

My own story is richly peopled with women and men of loss and gain, triumph and defeat, in an atmosphere of uncertainty and brokeness that permeates nearly all the world. The stuff tumbles out, rolling in great waves over the pages, needing only the marshaling of the thoughts and the words that gladly tell the story that no longer stays silent, living in the dark place. Light is truly cleansing. My hope is that there will be someone with a brain, who gets it, feels it resonate, can't wait for more chapters, hopes no one else picks it up.

Wow. I've come such a long way. Look at that confidence! Listen to that self assurance! I was not this person two years ago. Way too unsure then.Too frightened, angry,ashamed.

That suppressed, abused and forlorn but very angry child pushed and demanded and muscled her way to the surface and told me exactly where up was. I look at the words I write and know she tells her story through me. I'm just a conduit. And I know the complete pleasure of the work. Plowing the ground of my life at the hands of a whisp of a girl is risk and sweat and a deep desire to know all her aspects.

To come face to face with the child that is me.

It's a journey of the soul.

Monday, November 14, 2011

like I said:Q2wks

Perhaps I just need to percolate on a two week schedule. I spent this day organizing my most recent class assignment, selecting three chapters of my memoir, to determine ifsnd where they belong in this story. Do they add, subtract, contribute or just expand the story, for reader amusement. Two kids loose in a town with a pack of other kids was the norm back in the 40's.but the overriding tale is about monumental things like abandonment and abuse, so I tend to think even a lighthearted lark on a summer day can alleviate the tension.just means I am open to losing some chapters, but will defend their existence first.

There is conference/workshop in Istanbul in May that calls my name and my dollars, but the economy is so rotten that it seems an indulgence even if I can spring loose the bucks. Actually, those are in the kitty but perhaps all loose change now should be squirreled away for the coming rainy day. Speaking of which, it's mid November and there is a howling thunderstorm with heavy winds outside my door. Very wet out there with tornado warnings up. It's a reflection of my current writing mood. I'm still stuck at how to sort what exerpt or what essay to which mag or contest. I sent an essay to the very hard to crack Brevity and have framed my rejection. I just sent it to be brave, but no kidding about it, I dud send one my top four bests, so I had at least a bit of hope. Trust me, rejections from Brevity are coveted.

But under all of this is a pressing need to get on with it, to select an appropriate publisher and send a synopsis and a chapter or three to see if anyone at all would like to publish it.

Such is the writers life. I spend lots of time simply trying to hold the line on my own emotions concerning writing my life. Unlike creating a novel, writing one's life is a whole lot more emotionally risky. But hey, maybe it is simply my own real life novel. Think about it.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Moving right along

It doesn't seem to matter what I do or don't do......I can't get back to this page more than twice a month. No wonder I doubt that anyone reads me. It's not that I don't care about this blog; I do! I do! It's that the subject of this thing in the first place absorbs nearly all my time as I learn about its demands, its truths, its strengths and weaknesses.

So, where am I on this path? In a maze much of the time. Revisiting ad nauseum, I write and rewrite now, slashing and burning through needless words as I hone this down to something more than a brain flush, and in the distilling I am discovering my original purpose: who am I and how did I get this way? What have I survived, to what did I contribute, and who gets blame/credit. I have learned the power of forgiveness, the incredible importance of mothering well, and the immeasurable devastation when that is done poorly or not at all.

I have read umpteen memoirs, have written and rewritten countless personal essays, now coming to be known as small memoirs (thank goodness!) and count among my friends some new people we fondly call editors, but who are in fact guides along the path to self-encounters and then hopefully on to publishing if that's what a writer wants. Oh, I want! The mechanics of same are so daunting as to be a foreign language , the mastering of which is a process, long, and convoluted, but worthy. The guides are, I find, generous, and nothing at all like their bad reputations as holier-than-thou, contemptuous of newbies, and unapproachable. They simply look for quality that is profitable. And they are inordinately busy. That has to be true, for the average length of response from them is three months.

Those at the other end of my thoughts, whether readers or editors, need to be recognized for the work they do. Writers, especially new ones, tend to think of editors as gatekeepers to the promised land, with the power to let us live or make us die to the world of readership. In fact, they are daily inundated with words. Words strung together sometimes with great beauty but saying nothing of real value, words falling all over each other pell mell, without purpose or substance, words without a beginning or an ending, words much like those in this sentence, not knowing where they are going, or what they are saying.....we call that 'free-write"....highly amusing....words that, in spite of our intentions or our lack of skills, sometimes say the most erudite, or astonishing, or profound things, the source of which is often a mystery to the writer.

My own romance with words is an ongoing love story as my inner writer tells me in memoir how those events I recount have shaped me into the person I am, the one who sits here at the computer typing so fast  I can't get it said fast enough. From a negating mother so detached from her offspring as to hardly recognize us as people, even people sprung from her own body, I have a lifetime of finding that I actually have fingerprints, actually exist beyond my own suspicious mind, finally to discover I am.

In this current atmosphere of memoir, with untold numbers of us writing our lives, there is an audience for "how'd they get through that" and even a voyeuristic bent to their interest. But I think we read memoirs avidly because we're all sort of in this together, sitting around the campfire outside the darkness of the cave, sitting under moonlight telling each other our stories of how we killed the bear, or fed the clan or became shamen or simply didn't get eaten by monsters. We are telling the stories of survival of sometimes quite deadly things, of glimpses of intense beauty and impossible triumph over the large things and the small.

I think I have something worth saying. I think I'll get that done. That's a quantum leap from last year as I discover this new world of new people whose lifework is to place what writers have to say in front of readers who avidly, even hungrily, devour words. Learning to say things that need to be said and then heard, and doing that well is so much more than putting words together in a meaningful way. Writing a memoir that captures, holds and absorbs a reader is to put that person right there in my story with me, whether in the alfalfa field flying a kite, or fishing with a little brother, or dodging an abuser, or overcoming orphanage life, the reader must be able to go there, in fact, must want to be running to get there with me, out of breath and expectant for what else could possibly conspire to erase someone's sense of self. To be nobody, and then to stagger uphill, reaching out for helping hands along the way to discover the somebody she has become, that's a story of triumph over neglect, jealousy and silent rage.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Forward Motion

It is a loverly thing when the memoirist gets to the time when organizing the story might mean she knows what the story really is! In such a state one can anticipate if not euphoria, then certainly anticipation of the full meal written with all the t's crossed and the i's dotted.

My too full plate is lighter now, with two writing courses within a week of completion, a new essay group coming along to write with, ...this will be my third year of this exercise, always worth while....and the cookbook that has tied me up for eight weeks is just about ready for the printer. Handing that bugger off will finding me heaving such a sigh of relief that anyone who reads this might hear it!

Looking back at what I''ve written, I see that what's good is really good and what isn't needs to be buried in the back yard as unsalvageable. Those parts need either to be completely rewritten or discarded as unworthy. I'm thinking to put an excerpt up here just for fun. While there is pathos in the life of two little kids from an orphanage, there is pure delight in their adaption to the many joys of complete freedom in a time when the world was a safer place for children, where there was not a predator on every corner, though there certainly was one in the house!

We moved with a new stepfather and a negating mother to a very rural town on the fringes of Amish country in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County. Mother saved negation just for me. We wandered in and out of every home up and down our street, seemingly belonging to every family in a place where everyone looked out for every child. What seems to be a story of childhood innocence is frought with an undercurrent of a sinister presence emotionally funded by highly dysfunctional parents trying to make a life post WWII, with little awareness of their own emotional deficits.

Just writing that invitation to read tells me how far I've come, and to say that at all is a measure of my highly increased confidence, up from, oh yeah, I'm trying to write a I'm writing a memoir with an eye to publishing within a year!

If you're reading, come along with me. That seriously challenged mother was one of those disappointed and frustrated women who showed up to support her nation with her time and talent in exchange for a paycheck in a depression, only to be remanded back to the stove and the apron. She's a piece of work we survived in spite of her shortcomings, despite her dislike of me, despite her controlling suppressing husband, despite her utter boredom, which led her, she with no education to speak of, to eventually take a job as the school janitor to the enormous embarrassment of her husband who found that appalling. Well. Seems there was more than one way to get even. He should have had the good sense to give her at least spending money of her own.....

She didn't drive, so she walked to and from school in all kinds of weather, her husband refusing to take her. She persisted and triumphed....small victories, but her statement was clearly, "Who the hell needs you?" And it continued downhill from there. In truth, she was the better equipped for life, and stronger, in every way.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Progress is a progression

I can hardly believe what I'm learning. Two essay classes and a heavy course for structure snd story arc have kept me stepping. I've gotten so much kind help from invisible classmates in my on-line classes, who lead me through the maze of submissions and query writing. They answer questions about the nuances of the publishing world and then my stumbling around the net has pulled me into wondrous places like a website called Author!Author! Where Anne is blowing out a full college course on everything you will ever need to know about how to write it, how to submit it, how to write anything at all. Go there now. Everything she writes there you need if you write. All her stuff is lengthy because she's churning out so much info. So much that is useful, needful. I can hardly sing her raises loud enough.

Pay attention to Sheila Bender and Writing It Real. Her patient, targeted instruction is amazing and her editing is unsurpassed. Need anything at all to be edited? Find her website. I write essays in her classes online as a discipline and as instruction on how to write tight, making every word count. consequently I choose parts of this memoir as material to develop in essay form to sharpen and polish. It works so well.

I can look back at my first efforts and groan before I laugh, recognizing how far I've come under her sensitive patient hand. There is nothing at all scary about her, nothing ever harsh or negative.

What I know now is that those essays need to be sent out en masse and everywhere appropriate until someone says a resounding yes to my work.

What I can see is that all that time and money invested in study and practice has yielded writing that stands sturdily on strong legs.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Memoir:where it takes us

When I realize that the book I am writing is different than what I'm really wanting to wrte, I face that dilemma common to memoir. It take some serious courage to speak that which has remained so well hidden for so long. One worries and worries about just what it is that triggers the writing of all those feelings, finally, and without warning.

I expect surprise, but not excruciating surprise. Hey, where did that come from? whose idea is that? I don't remember that! Oops, I didn't intend to reveal that! Who the heck is writing this stuff? And on and on, nearly daily as doors so severally locked creak open and ooze out material I thought best left in those moldy closets.

Oh yes, courage is the needful thing. there are dead bodies in my closets, figments, filaments, piles of detritus stored and saved up for God knows what. Memoir is not merely cathartic and self indulgent. It is the scalpel wielded by some inner self that slices open the often healed over wound that needs purging, cauterizing, bled. there is no healthy scar tissue here, but only the stacked cicatrix of twisted soul tissue held hidden from true understanding.

So I can get down to the who and what and why of the endless whine and cry of an early life of discard and trashing of a small child subjected to the whine and cry of an equally damaged mother. In the end, what we all seek is the answer to why. And we hang ourselves up on the barbed wire of an intolerable truth: there is no acceptable answer, no rhyme or reason. No useful explanation that we hope will bring healing. The thing just is, without repair, and still doing damage. Well, where's the hope in that? Finding understanding is perhaps merely panacea for the unfixable. But it can put an end to the why. To discover it's not me who is the perp, not me who came up short, not me who couldn't make a mother love. Worse, it requires discovery of who she is, far more important that what she did or what she didn't. And deciding how much I care, or not.

Memoir exhausts the soul. These are only some of the reasons we are accused, rightly, of not telling our story, but only telling about the story. We often don't know what the story is the struggle to get it said even as we work so hard to not say it. And we can't let it alone. Like picking at scabs, we niggle, waffle, run away, say something else. And try to never tell. Until we tell. until then, the doors slam on all that ooze, we go get a cup of coffee, just long enough to lose the train of thought. We miss the train and give thanks that we are safe for one more dsy from our killing truth, not knowing we have once more missed our chance for freedom.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Putting yourself in the Memoir

Why is this so hard? Telling my story through my brother or my mother or my stepfather or my teachers is so much easier than the "I" who insists on staying hidden. I, about who this story is, works up hill to erase berself from the tale, or worse, to believe her ever-present mother is the protagonist. While Mother looms large, and while she is the author of my shaping, the story is mine. My feelings, my miseries, my Triumphs. My growth. It helps to participate un more than one class. It is great input to be gained from more than one editor, more than one instructor and to recognize that each of them has her own ideas about memoir and how it should be written. The truth is that memories appear unburden and without chronology, and that while structure is necessary, like making some orderly sense of your story for the sake of the story and the reader, in fact, the story does not necessarily occur as all of a piece.

Locating myself in every memory and defining the meaning of the memory is not always a possibility. Sometimes the antagonist overrides the importance of the protagonist, thus mother becomes the story when hers is the driving role. If somehow that tampers with structure, I don't see it. Eudora Pelty implies the whole idea is a bunch of Huey, but the fact is, if a memoir is to be a movie (to which I don't aspire), then it must, like all movies, have a structure, which could include flashback, an effective means of saying to the reader, back then, this or that happened.

Looking at the thing as it now stands, I am inordinately pleased with the plan I'm following, but see that the
memoir mandate of first person, past tense, is quite restrictive. For instance, it is difficult to put my stepfather on a foreign beach, wounded and trying not to die, and put
myself in his head as a conduit for his thoughts out of the mouth of Six year old child. I am already finding that every editor, and I am dealing with three, as his or her idea of not how it should read, necessarily but what they like to read and how they are satisfied. Yes, yes, know that in general there should be a format, but it seems that could be more loose. What we can agree upon is that the story is dynamic, important, and is necessary to tell.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When the Memoir says to rethink it

It's waking me up in the middle of the night again. It nags and nags and says I can sleep later. It says this story is about someone else other than me. And Mama rides the night, pestering, bugging, waking me up. I find her less than frightening now, more intriguing, certainly more honest. She says it's her story not so much mine, and I am suspecting she's more right than wrong. Her story determines what mine is/was/will be.

We know whole bunches about her era, for the Depression and World War II dominate the current curiosities of the time. And we are beginning to know the minds of those men who lived that particular hell, and only a little bit about those women who waited for them to come home again, so life could move on again, so they had their identities back again, for in that time, there is where their identities those men, returning or not. Only problem was, those women who participated in the support of the nation while its men were off trying not to die, were discovering themselves, their abilities, their potential, their trap.

So in the dark corners of the night, I''m learning Mama. Not just her enormous imprint on my life, not just the damage she did with her choices, not just my gratitude for the strengths I possess, but her. What made her who she was and how she got that way Not just the enormities she had to overcome as a very young widow with two kids and one coming, and not just the terrifying time of war and depression with those burdens.

Finding the essence of a woman who permitted no true knowing of her inner workings, is like trying to commune with the dead, but that is not so scary, for she is alive and well in the place where I keep her. Only her bones reside in the ground.

I must look at her straight on and make my peace with who I thought she was and who I am discovering her to have been, and not just in my mind, but in her place, her personhood. I must look at her is if she could be your mother, not mine. Someone separate from me, who made me, molded me, denied me, refused me, feared me.

Who are you, Mama? As I dust and clean the rooms of my heart and reassign you to new quarters, I have the unique gift of new discovery as I peel your layers back to finally recognize you as who you were and then to discover who I am, and why.

I already know this about you, woman: you were one determined, overloaded, monumental-strength female whose life assignment would try the best of us today. Your work was beyond anything I have been called to do. What energy would you have had left to enjoy your kids? Your marriage? Your own life when everyone else's overrode yours? And still you were the most selfish woman on my horizon, more than likely self-absorbed at a level necessary for self preservation. Build the story with me, Mama. Otherwise I can't tell my own.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Memoir is a nag!

It's a bit like the ironing. Piled up in the laundry basket of my mind, beckoning with attitude, ever more wrinkled as it sits, waiting for me to sort it. For some reason, the memoir wants to be written in the wee hours of the morning. I don't want to be a night writer. The memoir doesn't care. Daylight hours are occupied by the cleanup of the spilling memoir of the night hours. You see my problem. Living my life again through memoir is at once cathartic and constipating. There is the outpouring of revelation of feelings I didn't know I had or didn't understand. There is the accompanying restrictive fear of releasing it to the page even though once done, I feel liberated. My husband has asked pointedly, "are you sure you want people you know well to know these intimate things about you?" something in me says it is way to late to worry about that. The story is what it is. Sorry for the ugly parts, but those are the major contributors to the tale. I read them to myself and whisper, "how did I ever survive that emotional battering?" it is the survival that matters.

Memoir is about self discovery. Taking a straight on look at where I began, who I became and how I got that way. The major players in that shaping are alive and textured and understood, however late, for their contribution. I so wish I had been distant enough emotionally to really see them in action. And to have recognized their enormous contribution when they made it. To my credit, looking back, I can now see. I owe them everything.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Where the memoir takes me

Sometimes I can hardly wait to make the trip! Other times I really don't want to go there. Imbedded in the memoir, material living hidden in it's words, I find fragments of myself long forgotten. Memories long dormant whisper up their secrets to overlay the newer truths with which I've labeled them. Dealing with the true story lying restlessly beneath the one I've concocted requires straight-on viewing sometimes through the prism of a quality bourbon.

Writing memoir requires a deep desire to look even if looking through tightly woven fingers, holding one's breath, grinding one's teeth, attempting to not see the thing that must be seen.the peeling back of layers of wrapping to get to the box that holds my truths is not done willy-nilly, not with careless ripping, like at Christmas. with light fingers gently pulling off tightly wrapped leaves laid down over all the decades of my life, I reach the core of that which powers the way I think of life. My life. How I deal with triumph and tragedy. How I feel or refuse joy. How I overcome I finally discard the fictions that permitted living with pain. And come to welcome the "who" I really am, casting aside my armor, laying down my guns.Coming to terms and finally free to be.

Such a journey, all too often placed on hold,back and forthing across the same worn paths, demands a better plan than wandering. Writing memoir builds it, not allowing rambling, dithering, lying, laziness of words, words which, laid out on the page, the truth, ready or

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Time flies!

And before you know it, the end of the month sneaks up on you and that blog you were growing withers....not that I see anyone is reading.

In the time I've been absent I've found a new writing friend, attended a writing group who meets once a month for a few hours, and Mother has made her appearance on the river of my mind. She poles along in the mist like some vaperous being shrouded and aloof as she determines how she will speak. Not if. How. As a discipline, I agreed with my writers group that I would make every attempt to complete her chapter, for she is the antagonist of my whole world and writing to forgive her requires coming to understand her. She is many faceted and impossibly complex. She is enough for her own book, with her own huge story. Until I complete her, the memoir won't move on. She peers from her longboat, asking with her demeanor if I can dare to confront my demon. Bring it on, Mama. I 'm finally ready for you.

With a little bravado and some whistling in the dark, I sent off essays to two contests, with plans for a third one. Contests are really a challenge, but worth doing. Not quite like trying to win the lottery, but similar. Who will judge my essay and in what condition. Did the judge have a root canal this morning? Or facing divorce? Have a hangover? What? Writing and reading are so subjective. Sometimes it is okay to toss the rules, but when? To be edgy, but when? Serious or hysterically funny, but when? And trust me, dear reader, on some days nothing will be worth reading if it isn't about vampires.

And winning contests is not equivalent to being published. Ditto an award. Yek. Meaningless. In the end, it's more about the gut need to write this thing, to wrestle it to the ground. To get it said. And Mother, creeping along in her boat, gliding to my dock, seems to have agreed to come clean and tell me those things I have not been able to dope out myself.

Come in off the water, woman. Meet me here on dry land. Let's talk. Not to put too fine a point on it, we have something to say to the world.

Monday, August 8, 2011

When the Memoir Speaks

Memoir writing is a process with a rhythm of it own, without a time schedule, and with its own mind, like some living thing inside of me finding its way out. Well, that's because it is exactly that.

Removing the many layers that buried all those things that were insufferable, painful, shameful, embarrassingly mortifying and all based on untruths imposed by forfeiting my own power to others. I am discovering who I really am and find I'm not much like I thought I was. "Free to be me" is real. Can be dumbfounding. Revealing. Exhilarating. Sad, though, to recognize the theft of spirit, the robbery of soul.

In the writing of the events of my life, with intense recall, reeling them out without hesitation, even the worst of them, I see how it is possible to so throttle a child to protect the family secret that I am astounded that I never figured that out. So conditioned to being negated, erased and silenced as a general rule, I never once linked that to some kind of power I might have to do any damage at all to the grownups I lived with. I always thought these efforts were about rubbing me out for some terrible infraction no one would describe.

When at last I recognized someone else's explanation in an essay of her own, I had a real "duh" moment, like, "Of course!" How did I not know it? Can a child make those deductions? No. If I had written this memoir earlier, would I have discovered this answer earllier? No. I am totally influenced by the response of my parents to a particular event in my young life. Blinders on. Consumed by the one thing. Not linking everything else about my parents to that thing.  To discover there was absolutely nothing wrong with me that motivated their ostracism, and to recognize it was an effective way to keep me sillent was not just a revelation, but the wide open door to freedom, allowing me to walk through that door into light. I feel pounds lighter!

Into draft#2, and reviewing what I have already said and how I said it, with this revelation I will approach it differently, with a freedom that did not exist before this new knowledge. And writing Mother will now be so much easier. Now that I see her more clearly.....

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mama is the memoir

It is a real trick as an orphan to count the number of complex but fascinating people who comprise my family. It is remarkable to recognize how many places they filled in where my mother did not. In a challenging time in history and with difficulties of intense degree my mother picked up her several crosses and carried them forward without complaint and with terrifying fortitude. This woman could and did move mountains.

The fallout from her circumstances and her choices were not about fault. In a cauldron of depression, war, and widowhood, without the government provided cushions of today, she shouldered her load and soldiered on. Writing her troubles and triumphs I came tO see her beyond the person who was my mother, a strong and capable woman with her own disappointments, bad choices, unrealized dreams.

Seeing her from a child's point of view is very different than evaluating her as a woman looking at the woman who happened to be my mother. When I think upon the mountains she had to climb, the burdens she had to carry, I cannot see any comparison of strength in myself. I am not over-awed by her, but I am impressed by her sheer determination of will. It is possible she did the impossible.

From an early age I could perceive we did not like each other. That persisted to the end of her life and certainly colored my own. Were she alive today and even with better understanding, we'd never be friends. That does not diminish my admiration for her spine, for her bravery and daring. I still can see and grieve for the traps she laid for herself, for destructive choices that left her with even worse choices.

We are shaped by the people who parent us. Mama had a Mama. Her Mama was a world away from the same person who was my grandmother. Here, I have serious sympathy for my mother. Kids, though, don't know this stuff. Is it always the conclusion of retrospect. Hindsight is indeed twenty twenty.

And so with so much stuff dealt with and out of the way, she appears on the page like some phantom I suspect I knew was there but couldn't ever find alive. It is a very interesting process to meet the stranger who was my mother, that person who, though long gone, still influences me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Finding my community

Writing alone is perhaps the norm, and I for one never thought of this activity as community work. Discovering that this is false must mean I've taken a giant leap forward, from blogging to visiting another's blog, to sharing my work, to finding a local group to exchange headaches, joys and ideas with, to becoming the reader for another's work. Community.

I'm enlightened this week to recognize several things without too much effort:

Many of us, some who are, hands down, walking away, are incredible writers who don't seem to know it.
Some of us are out there working without a net, sure we're merely roller skating on familiar cement, but are actually walking a tightrope.

A few of us are so sure we must produce perfection right out of the box, and sure we can't, of course, that we teeter constantly on the brink of despair....I'm a lousy writer, no one wants to read me, I have nothing to say, yadayadayada, or we do have something to say that someone else will reject out of hand, responding to his or her own reality, which has happened to me with this blog....and I don't have enough readers to count on one hand. Followers, maybe, but not commenters. Don't misunderstand, if you're reading. I'm thrilled someone wants to take me on about something, anything at all.

Name them and claim them. I remember as a girl, a teenager, William Warfield came to the local teacher's college to sing, among other things, Ol' Man River. Our town had a pretty nice hotel, and he wasn't allowed to take a room there because he was a black man. WHAT???!!! Even as a kid I knew that was wrong. Who could be such an ass? In truth, we lived in a time full of asses. It meant that when Martin came along, I'd march with him. The President of the college took Mr. Warfield home with him and put him in the best bedroom in the house, his own.

Out of this comes a Constitutionalist, a patriot, an American recognizing we have a lot of work to do, a long way to go to perfection, a muddle of leaders who are no longer sure how to get us there. We need all the help we can get and that includes all those who have been wronged, to show us how to continue now to be right. I don't need to defend myself here; I don't need to make excuses, rewrite my own history, pretend the nation, which still is the greatest on the face of the earth, and possibly doomed to be short lived, isn't besmirched with the fact that we are not currently the best generation. And I reject personal guilt out of hand. I have my own injuries. My own detritus to overcome. My own boat to row. So how about we stop complaining about the boat, our seat in it, and its location, and dip an oar into the water to propel it forward.

How about we get to the basic understanding that nothing purports to be fair, that "fair" is not a rung on the ladder and no one gets to determine what's fair. I only know that for most of us, life doesn't seem fair. Well, that's life. I only know that in this country, we all have the same opportunity, sooner or later. For women, it might not always seem so......take memoir: men write memoir. Women? They whine on paper. Who decided that? Fair? Nah. Not. So for some of us it's harder. But it's not impossible. Used to be impossible. Look back and see how far we've come. And kiss the ground. No kidding.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The surprising paths of memoir

I know what all memoir writers finally know: that what we think we're writing about is actually the path to somewhere else. "What exactly happened" is, you might guess, perhaps not the overriding question. I began with the belief I was writing about abandonment and abuse, no small business of course. Then it morphed beyond just the story of me and my feelings held within a sphere of victory over tragedy. That would be story enough. It began to dawn that I was tasked by more, a whole lot more. Here was the story of a World War and I was intimately acquainted with the major players in my corner of the world. And at last I got down to it: Mama was the villain, and the heroine and the strength and the misery, all at once.

In a world gone at least nuts if not mad, she navigated with her kids hanging on for dear life, not understanding and not informed. The message was indirect but clear: hang on. It wasn't pretty. She had terrible tools encumbered by her own loss of dreams, her own disappointments, her own bad choices. Her life was never ever a picnic. Some folks just know all that. Memoir writng taught me how to learn it.

And so the thing has again morphed and I must recenter the work, for though I am the star, she is everything else in the book. Resurrecting her is a process carefully done. Mother was and is fierce. Was and is warrior material. Was and is the dominance in my memories. My beloved little brother is my comic relief.

We survived her and we did it with her help. I suspect she was multiplied  many times over in the cauldron of her day, filled with women answering the call, broadening their  horizons, discovering themselves and when the job was done, were sent home to be nothing again. The gallons of coffee, the endless unfiltered Camels, the repetitive scrubbing and polishing and waxing of already clean and shining surfaces was only the smallest indication of her boredom, her seeking to find purpose, her recognition that she'd been put out to pasture before she could even enter the race..... all those things conspired to define her days as meaningless.

But this is what she didn't know: Mama and six million women planted the seeds that give today's women ultimate freedom to be, do, have anything their hearts desire. The large majority of them lie in their graves or shortly will, without the solid recognition of what they did and why they did it, and what their legacy is. The boom boom girls of the nation right beside the Rosies of Riveter fame held the world together, provided the ammo and the hardware, the ships and the jeeps to give the win to a great nation fighting for the freedom of strangers on foreign shores. No medals, hardly any recognition, and none in their day of sacrifice, not much marks their passing. But I'll fix that. Mama will bloom in my memoir and probably end up being the star.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The surfacing of things forgotte

As I worked on the rewrite of my memoir, I polished the initial story about my stepfather in WW2 on the beach at Normandy. I read it to my husband who then asked me what my mother was doing while he was trying not to die. I looked at him, puzzled. "You know what she was doing. She was working at the munitions plant in Maryland." He said, "Yes, but what was she DOING?" Ah. Yes. What was she doing?

She was a boom boom girl. She  made explosives for the US Navy. In the strange twist of time and space and generation my husband would later be sending submarine heads to the same proving ground for testing against attack.

He was looking for the detail of her days as, along wth 6 million of the nation's women, she dropped everything to contribute to the nation's war effort. She also needed the paycheck. A new widow with two kids and one coming, she jumped at the chance to tuck us into an orphanage while she took a job so lucrative she could send most of her money home to her sibllings, to pay their basic bills, to repair the roof, to buy their food.

She was trying to survive powder poisoning, the loss of all her teeth, and to live through the numerous explosions. Gun powder and nitro were as dangerous and challenging as the young Lochinvars processing through the Proving Grounds at Aberdeen. Men in uniform were everywhere until the moment they were sent to the front. But until then, they romanced everything female that breathed. The same women, I should add, who kissed them in the evenings and made bombs during the day.

My mother was more senior than the girls she supervised. They were little more than children, most of them eighteen or so. Mom was nearly thirty years old, probably why she got the job she had. She often worked back to back twelve hour shifts for the extra pay. She filled her personal time visiting her children at the orphanage, and dated some of the men who took her dancing at the USO club the governnment finally built just for them. The locals were forever grateful because all those girls on the streets on Friday nights disrupted the place until the weekend was over. The plants worked all shifts 24/7, but with rotating time off, the streets were clogged with kids with nothing else to do and no place else to do it.

There was a hospital on site, which more or less tells you what the danger level was. There was a hospital in town too but by itself wouldn't handle the volume of injuries that would occur if there was a massive explosion. And of course you know there was.

In May of 1943 there was a major blow. Depending on which report you read, the death toll was 15 to 25, with the injuries coming in at about 125. I don't know where my mother was that day. Working? On leave? In some other part of the site? She talked about it, often, but I never knew if she was  in any proximity to victims. The girls were expected back at work the next shift, as if nothing had happened. And back they went.

Current research on this part of her life keeps me waiting for someone else to do their job and glean their own files for data I need. I wish I'd paid more attention to the stories she told when I was little and hurrying to put my roller skates on. Replaying her in my mind has a tale of skips and glitches of memory I wish I could recall. I scramble now to find lively old ladies who were there and still remember such a provacative time in their lives, who want their stories told, and there are a good many. I just need to find them. Because there is a greater story. Their gift to the nation, their freedom to adventure and produce holds the kernel that I believe sparked the liberation of women two generations later. They were sent back to their old lives, a thing impossible. Oh yes, they kept house and had babies. But they harbored a serious interest in the freedom they tasted. Dreams they throttled down. Lives that overrode their own. The Rosies and the boom-booms were forever changed. And my daughter and I are their fine result. Six million women called to something more, something so momentous and so valuable is a lot of women who had to rethink what the female role was and could be. It took a while and we're still trying to get there, but we do know what it is. Nearly 70 years later, we know and we're gaining on it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Looking for the Boom Boom girls

Here I am, whipping along writing my memoir, reading rewrites to my husband, who asked me what was my mother doing while her soldier was trying to hold himself together...literally, on a beach in Normandy. I knew what she was doing, literally. She was making bombs and mega bullets at a munitions plant. Yes, he said, but what were her days like? And just like that, I had a whole new chapter to write. Seems I'm not gaining on this, trying to tighten 120 k words down to something reasonable. I don't know yet where reasonable is.

There are more stories here than I suspected. A day's worth of net searching readily show me there is interest in this period in the lives of a generation of women, but bits and pieces, not hinged together with any completion of a tale.

Six million women kept the nation together while all able bodied men went to war. I'm trying to piece together 900 of them , with few of them still living. Means I'm going to be collecting their conversations from sons and daughters, like me.

Anybody reading this is welcome to tell me anything they ever heard from mom or grand mom or an aunt.

I have my own recall of my mother's conversations about that vivid part of her life, and in fact I was actually in the barracks (she called them dormitories)with her for a weekend as a small child. My memory of that is full of girls and clothes and bandanas and curling irons and all the paraphernalia girls need to convine themselves they're beautiful.

What I need are the stories of others. Any help out there?

Mom made ordinance and lived through five explosions at Triumph. The 1943 disaster killed at least 15 and injured 125 people. Was she working that day? Perhaps not. She was a supervisor, at least ten years older than the average worker, and a widow. She often worked double shifts of twelve hours each.

But she did experience that daner, for she described being blown right through a wall, or across a room, or through a door. She developed powder poisoning and her skin was a sickly pea green for months and all her teeth fell out.

There must remain others with their own tales. I'd love to hear them.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Nation's Birthday

I'm looking forward to July 4th with true passion. In a time when it would seem we have only the weakest of grips on all that we hold dear as Americans, I claim all those sentiments about my country that go right along with Mom and apple pie.

I was raised to revere my nation, my freedoms, and my religion and to see those things as parts of the same whole. Rooted firmly in middle class values, I never saw and don't ever see that elites have anything to offer me except their contempt and their condescension.

This America was founded on valuable principles that celebrate our differences all the while it insists we sing the same songs from the same songbook about  our future and how we get there. Doesn't matter at all what our national origins are, or were. What we hold in common are certain truths to be found in our Declaration of Independence, that marvelous instrument that makes the perfect case for freedom. As a body of believers in that document, we even fight for other countries filled with people yearning to breathe free and want to do it on their own hallowed ground. We have real trouble getting our heads around the very idea of a despot and resist it whenever it tries to hold the stage. We're not about despotism. Not for anyone. Certainly not here.

I'm a Constitutionalist. I don't think it is now or ever will be irrelevant to "the times" or to anything else so pretentious as those who would trash so noble a set of ideas. Even attempting to go there in my presence will label you and call down heaps of hot coals from my mouth to your head. To badmouth this work even while you are enjoying those freedoms it provides for you is my idea of the ultimate contempt.

I treasure my flag, my documents, my freedoms, my nation and hardly abide anyone at all who thinks they can audacioulsy tell mourners anywhere on earth, let alone in the national cemetery that they may not say "God bless you". You and whose army? Get off the planet. Some no-account pomposity in a uniform thought she could fly that airplane. Don't think so. She should be directed to, you guessed it...the Constitution of the United States, her employer, by the way.

I think that each and every one of us should be required to study the history of our origins and take a test to  pass or fail, and if failed, then to take that course until the material is mastered. Better men than those who breathe our free air today fought and died to have the freedoms we abuse without a thought. 

I am a patriot, no surprise, I'm sure. I don't believe our differences of origin matter a fig. Keep your traditions and those things of your nationality that tell me more than just the color of your skin. Share the recipes for Italian cuisine, and tell me where to buy those spices that make schwarma schwarma. Teach me, Muslim woman, to make up my eyes with the cosmetics you use. I can't see much of your face most of the time, but I experience serious envy of your skills with makeup. I believe having you in the mix in America, no matter your background, enriches the delicacy we call the United States of America. But when push comes to shove and the tough stuff begins, and it will, I want you to be standing shoulder to shoulder with me as an American.  You are not my guest here. You are my equivalent, not more, not less. Don't expect or demand your beliefs and your traditions over mine. Freedom is not open to interpetation. Our documents, written by men who prayerfully and with fear of the God they credited with this land, wrote these things, gave us complete instruments to open ourselves to our differences while at the same time defining our common course. No choices here, folks. If you don't like what that means, you need to find a different country.

In a land of so many choices, we have the unique ability to make one choice: to protect and defend our freedoms. That is what July 4 is about. Light a candle. Bake a birthday cake. Celebrate the most unique country in the whole world, a place where is does not matter who you are, what your status, rich or poor, a place of freedom. Don't you dare forfeit what has been so hard won. If you don't understand it, get busy. I can't afford a single person here who does not understand freedom. Where you are free to be free, but not at my freedom's expense. There is only one thing to remember. Your freedom may not be superimposed on that of anyone else.

Celebrate with gusto. If you know nothing about the building of this most special of nations, buy some books and read them. I continue to be amazed at what our own children are not taught about America's origins. Ask yourself who is it that thinks they have no need to know? See, if they don't know basics, you can sell them any truth. That, folks, is a plan. A very ugly plan with a very ugly purpose.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Discoveries in Memoir

I participate in an online essay class with several women as we share our skills, our thoughts and our stories. It is a captivating thing to find so much of your own mother in someone else's story. Young women too soon to motherhood, in a time of no birth control, no resources, no support, and often a sea storm of devaluation. Reading their stories is often heart rending.

Much of my youth was a tale of transition, with staggering changes for the female population. The result for so many of us is unimaginable freedom to be whoever we want to be. While we're not done yet, we are worlds away from the often grueling and entrapping lives of some of our mothers. Those women commonly took their misery out on their children, who couldn't hit back.

It is not an easy maturity to get past the failings of my mother at mothering, to really see her as a person with her dreams denied, her triumphs belittled, her strengths hidden. Granting her sympathy for losses a child can't know in childhood comes only as a child achieves the steadier footing of womanhood, with a more experienced eye, and from the sort of support from the shared writing community.

Writing memoir itself permits the personal forum in which to muster courage and bravery to look at those places so long covered over, buried deep, but such a trove of those experiences so tightly woven to create the "me".

Self-revelation born of honest looking, truth in self-speaking, and unflinching reception of what surfaces produces the inner knowledge about who we really are.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Supporting Memoir

Sometimes it really pays to escape from your captor. Sometimes it makes sense after the fact to deliberately shut it down. Take a breather. Resist the inner writer, though countless how-to's say that is precisely when to stay with it, run at it, not away from it.

I don't find myself resisting the stuff tough to write, not fearful of exposure, not afraid about who might ever read it. No. I fear whining, lack of clarity, uninteresting dullness. I know mine is a compelling story.I know it tells itself. I know I have permission from my deepest self to use my voice.

This is what else I know: I need a hiatus in order to return to my work with fresh eyes. Oh, I know most memoirists know this. But I still respond to those admonitions from the authoritative writer's admonitions to not leave it.

Memoir is tricky. I return to see I forgot a key thing about my brother or my mother or the neighbor's sick son or whatever, that speaks to the story. I look at some of what I wrote and wonder who wrote that! I wonder if this material will be as much fun for a stranger to read as it is for the writer.

I wonder if it's really necessary to do the ironing....

Monday, June 27, 2011

No,Chronicles of the electronic world

Reeeeaaaalllllly  bad day yesterday. Lost my ereader at an Italian Restaurant, certain it stayed weth the dirty dishes on ourt table. Walked, I'm sure. Possible perps: two college age girls sitting at an adjacent table, my waitperson, and the busboy. Let me just say that in this day and age, my ereader now resides at someone else's house. Not much fun for the perp, for the piece is no longer produced and I have the power pack. He/she has about two bars left on the battery and I've killed my book buying account.

Last night sort of as a bedtime surprise, my computer crashed its hard drive. And in some sort of sympathy move, my husband's power pack decided it won't stay plugged into any socket, which means he essentially has no power. Catastrophic for him, it's his employment tool.

I think the big black cloud over our head wears a cloaking device so we can't see it. But we are seeing its effects, for sure. In a few days or so, the computer doctor in my town will make a pronouncement for my magic box and hopefully be able to repair my hard drive and retrieve my favorites list, that hallowed ground that quickly gets me to those special places where I spend my time when dodging work on the memoir. No, I don't remember any of those addresses and I hardly recognize the letters on this keyboard, alien as it is, though I know these are the same keys as on my own computer.

With my husband off the premises, I must wait to have him show me the way to my own emails without his, since this equipment is registered to him, so his fave list is not mine. Nothing on his is interesting. There are no finds here for me. He doesn't have a secret internet life and is the same bland, stable, steady man online as he is in the house. That's so nice. His faves include things like hymns, old ones he loves to hear.

I'm the crazy one in this household. I like to think of myself as his spice. He likes to think of me as eccentric bordering on nuts. But, really, I'm just more animated, with varied interests, major curiosities. A better description of him is that five minutes with him and you'd know he's an engineer. Not a bad foil for me.

I am quite scattered this morning without my familiar tool, without my ereader, with a phone that drops calls nonstop and phone geeks that either don't know any more than I do, or love keeping their secrets. Just means I must go do battle with one of them before the afternoon is out, and hold my tongue, or not.

Add memoir to the mix and I'm not getting the ironing done. Soooo, I've moved this alien computer to proximity to the overflowing ironing board. I absolutely need to push that  heavy metal across fabric or I need to buy more clothes. Between thoughts, a shirt gets ironed, sort of.  I'd best get to it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dancing with the memoir

I am amazed at the number of memoir writing guides I have purchased, but not yet read. Oh, yes, I have read about 7 of them, and the rest of them (maybe a dozen) rest like postage stamps in my ereader, my ipad, my library. Somehow I suppose I think that by a weird osmosis, they will seep into my thinking unopened, but the real truth on really bad days is that I don't care how those authors "did it". I just want to do it.

I became a first rate tennis player in my town, in my youth, by simply standing behind the fence and behind an ace player, watching how he or she did it. I learned by watching how to power into the ball, to get my racket at least as low as my knee, to connect with the ball,and how to run down every ball shot at me. Boy, was I young. Later, I chose my ball battles, forfeiting balls way out of my comfort range, and that's how I knew quitting time was approaching.

I'm a left-handed player, or was, and most of those types have killer serves. I was no exception. As I watched highy skilled players, I learned to volley and hardly ever enjoyed doubles because that's about team work and sharing. I had far greater goals: playing killer tennis meant that every 20 seconds or so I had a brand new opportunitiy to pound the heck out of whoever was my virtual ball on any given day. I got rid of a lot of fury (something way beyond anger) just playing good tennis.

I learned to ice skate the same way. Watching a pro, learning at a small skating studio, practicing, practicing, watching, watching. I advanced rapidly to jumps and dancing, but dancing involved a partner, so jumps were more appealing. I was smart enough to quit before I injured myself, but also because my hip sockets said, "stop the craziness, woman" and there went both tennis and skating. I went to work instead.

I excelled at both those activities because I watched how better, more skilled athletes "did it". I skated and played tennis in my head, every night before I fell asleep. I was totally enamored with my goals. And so I got good at both of them. It was the same with my memoir. For a year I woke up quite frequently in the wee hours of the morning and pushed a nub of a pencil across a scrap of paper as my brain worked through my fingers and deposited parts of my young life I had forgotten. I did it in half-sleep. Over and over again.

Memoir poured out of me like a fountain, as if a phantom was writing and the real me was just its tool. I rolled out 16 chapters, 377 pages, 119,000 words. Yeesh! The best thing I can say about that is that my editor was exceedingly kind and patient and gentle and dogged, to work her way through it and tell me how repetive I am, how much I overwrite, how tight this work isn't. But she also said there is at least one dynamic story here, that I must remember I am a natural-born writer with something important to tell to an audience needing to hear it.

Now, if I can only get out of my own way, stop trying to work it so hard and just let it be told without working for flare, or great insight, or any of those things the new writer thinks must embellish the already valuable story. To just let the story tell itself. So re-write is the name of the new game.

Boy, do I hate this discipline. I worry that I'm cutting away really good parts and leaving the bland parts. I worry I'll never get it done, because I keep rewriting the same three chapters and can't get to the rest. I'm spinning my wheels and making slow progress but not that I feel content with. I slice out every word that does not contribute to the meaning of the sentence, or that doesn't move the story forward. In some places I'm writing myself out of the story. Now, even I can see that's not a good thing. I've so purged what is possibly extemporaneous material in order to not be tedious and thereby have boiled this down to a report with people in it. Back to thedrawing board.

I need to give myself permission to be colorful and stop worrying so much about is there too much "tell" and not enough "show". To concern myself only with certainty that I have provided enough to keep my reader in the story with me, to slow the pace so the reader can rest, but not too long, to make my characters live and breathe and to get them lost in the cornfield with me, to ride a horse who stands 18 hands high, to feel like they are holding the toddler sister so she doesn't fall off, to fall into the creek and feel the wet  and cold pants of my little brother as if it's their own behinds. To recognize an angry and hostile mother who resents that her children might just attain their dreams where she has not. To hear the strafing of a beach and feel shrapnel rip young male skin, to taste fear that escalates to terror, to need to put the book down and catch their breath. That's a lot of writing amition, but having read my way through two back issues of Crazy Horse Magazine, I see that I can and do make a fair comparison, reading the selections there.

For me, the goal now is to not, not, not torture the sentence, but to tell it straight or slant and write it real,  and let the lyric flow when it will. But to not work at it until I have destroyed it. I know I have not reached too high because how else can I explain the groping and uninformed search for good instructors and immediately found them?

The realization of that much blessing motivates me to polish my treasure and trust that publication will be a strong possibility. Not for money or fame. Those things have eluded me for a lifetime. But for the reading audience who needs to hear that from abandonment and abuse can come triumph and victory, understanding, and perhaps a clear witness that the human spirit can rise above adversity. I know from so much reading, that my story is unique and that events in my life pale before other tragedies I have read. That doesn't make my life less meaningful. It will be a fair offering when it's finally finished, useful in the main, and a good read. Even as a new writer, I have that much confidence and that comes from affirmation.

Okay, back to the grunt work.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First Day of Summer

Every year of my life that I owned a calendar, this day was marked with a star before anything else including birthdays and holidays and later, anniversaries and deaths. I have always lived in a humid, muggy, hot state in the season of summer, so don't get me wrong; I love the onset of summer because it means really cold days are behind me. Hot summers which follow leave me prostrate on the couch under the fan pushing air condition breezes over me.

I remember that as a child hot summers didn't phase me, deter me, deplete me, you get the idea. I skated on the cement sidewalks all the day long more days than not. On the "not" days I roamed the fields beyond my house with my brother and his friends. Sometimes we navigated stinking hot and buggy cornfields and the boys often set me up to get lost in there, chortling when I pleaded for help.

Summer meant sippping homemade root beer on the neighbor's porch. Mrs. Buckwalter served us ice cold bottles of the stuff, and with the yeast content we blew up like little balloons, propelling ourselves around with our own gas. We laughed like crazy kids.

Evenngs on the porch found us camped in front of whirling silver blades on a black base churning the air enough to cool it. Not much distance from it, we were again very warm, so the gadget kept us tethered. Such an evening of dalliance was followed by tepid to cool baths before bedtime when we were sufficiently cooled down before night set in. We slept like the babies we were.

On hot afternoons we donned our bathing suits to stand beneath the lawn sprinkler, hooting and hollering as we jumped through the heavy spray, hair sopping and suits dripping water down our legs. We spent hours in that fountain together, making up games and sliding across the soaked grass on bare feet until we fell down laughing. When we wore ourselves out, Mom appeared with large slices of ice cold watermelon and we buried our little faces deep in the pink meat, spitting seeds as we approached the rind. And then it was back to the drenching to clean off.

As I sit here cooling my mouth with a banana icicle, I recall peach ice cream from the crank ice cream maker to be found under my fanny as I sat holding it down while Dad cranked. I'd get up periodically as he added salt. The banana stick is nothing compared to that incredible treat.

Things are simpler for us now, but then, life itself was simpler. Long ago Mom stopped cranking her clothes through the wringer, and a full line of clothing out to dry is a rare sight today. It's a rare attic popping with exploding root beer bottles so warm they pop their corks. You can still buy a crank ice cream maker, but I truly know of no one who owns one. Lots and lots of homes are air conditioned, though how long we'll be able to afford this kind of cooling is questionable. I don't do sponge baths in front of a fan anymore.

If you're reading at my knee, you more than likely have family members who have the same summer history. Go sit on their porch and ask them to tell you what that was like for them. Have lemonade if not root beer. Turn on a fan. Feel your way back to a time you might not ever have experienced for yourself. Trust me. It's cool!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day and Who we belong to

It's Father's Day. I am reminded that I had two of those and still retained the designation of orphan. The question comes to mind: was I rich or poor in daddies?

A wailing child can take me back on the instant to the first day in an orphanage, as I was left there by my mother, wailing my heart out, red-faced and hiccupping, and inconsolable. Even now, when I see a child in such extremis, everwhelmed by grief, and heartroken, I have to look away. Orphanage was right up front in my mind.

I sat on someone's lap there and explained in gulps and sniffles that I didn't have a Daddy so Mommy left me here. That gentle someone said I had a Daddy I didn't know about. As she comforted me, strokng my hair and wiping my messy little face, she talked to me in soft tones about the Father I had. She said the only hard part was that I couldn't see Him, but that He was very near to me all the time. She had a book, she said, that could tell me all about Him, and how much He loved me could be found on nearly every page. She promised to read the stories there if I would listen.

She told me that I could remember some of its parts so that I could tell them to myself whenever I was unhappy and worried or scared. And then she told me how I could talk to Him. She spoke about His character and His attributes. At some point my tears lessened, my body stopped shaking and I nestled against her, less rigid, less frightened.

I was three.

I pleaded for my mother and this kind woman explained that my mommy had something very important to do and I couldn't be with her while she did it. This was the safe place for me, and she went on to tell me that it was my heavenly Father who thought this was so. In fact, she said, this might just be His idea, a thought that restarted tears. But she held up her hand and said, "No, no. Listen to me". And she began to tell me what she suspected about my loving Father, that all things are under His hand and that a safe place was the most important thing for me right now, so He'd know exactly where I was, all the time, while Mommy had to be about her own business.

She was planting strong seeds that would later bear the fruit of my faith, knowing that later I would need this bedrock instruction to build upon. As I sat in church today listening to my pastor talk of community and building relationships within the church community, I was suddenly back in orphanage again, recognizing that I was firmly rooted in the idea, bound to the understanding of sharing a life and a place with others. This pastor gets it, knows the need, recognizes we cannot play in God's arena if we won't belong to each other.

No matter our beginnings, our trials, our foibles, our joys and our sorrows, beneath all that we bear the same burdens. The only difference is degree. Who better to help me carry the baggage I find so hard to put down, than someone who knows that baggage well. Who better to help me put it down? But it means we must necessarily show each other our burdens. And stop pretending we don't have them.

We are made for each other. That is the naked truth. As we more and more isolate ourselves, as we more and more work in our little cubicles, our lofts, our separate places, we lose our connections, and trust me, while the internet calls us quickly, it does not, ....not....bring us closer to each other. So that when the rain falls down, the volcano erupts, the world ignites, we are still separate and alone.

We build those walls with busyness, with work, with mind numbing withdrawal, and find ourselves by ourselves. We long to belong. To keep company with someone. To share thoughts and ideas and laughter, and yes, tears.

Sometimes I hear people say of each other, "Oh, they're dumping. Oh, they're venting". Is that a way to say "shut up already"? When we signal that we are unwilling to listen to the pain or lonliness of another, we miss the whole point of what God intended. See, He didn't make just you. Or just me. He made us both. Made us all. Why do you think that is?

I've been a member of my church for nearly 35years and still feel like an outsider. People are friendly, and even warm,  welcoming and smiling. But after the service is over, the door closes. They do not intend to know me. We all go about our business. This club is closed. Some people walk away in pain, wondering why they are not let in. Tough to build community, let alone mission, with that posture.

Some people have a knack to belong. They just assume it. And with that posture, some of them are permitted. But most of us need to be invited. Some signal that we're welcome. Some belief that we belong here and have value. We want to matter to this place.

So what's that got to do with orphanage? The feelings, you might be surprised, are the same. Where my church is concerned, I think I'm still at the orphanage. And I want so badly to go home.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Abandonment and Abuse

Double A's are a double whammy for a child, and they so often occur together. Not planning to write my memoir on this blog, these are, though, the under story of my childhood. With the review of this part of my life I am aware that so many chldren sustained these blows at levels even more severe than mine and so for some long years I thought, well, what happened to me is not so bad, certainly not worth writing about. No one pulled out my fingernails or chained me in a closet. No one left me alone for days at a time with no care. No one left me by the side of the road.

I left any idea of writing memoir on the shelf in my mind because I thought I had nothing to say.And then I began to tote up the number of folks I knew who grew up with alcoholics, or who were children of divorce, or isolated without friends or friendships, with no idea how to build those nurturing relationships. I began to develop an urgent interest in knowing who we are and how we got that way, particularly, and then incessantly, me.

What surfaced was a surprising intensity of recognition. I saw how insidious psychological abuse is and how very difficult it is to describe on the page. A good hiding is easy. A blow to the face easier. Scars on the heart are so much harder. Even with focused attention to building such a scenario, this kind of abuse comes out sounding like whining, sometimes.  Devaluing, demeaning, erasing a child is done inconspicuously, treacherously, behnd the back, hidden, with subterfuge. It is hard to call out the culprit citing actual deeds.

Children are adept at reading between the lines even when the message is obscured. They are even more adept at denying what they read. Children are unprepared to identify their villains as mommy and daddy, even when they can draw no other conclusion. They don't tend to tell their suspicions to anyone else. But they know what they feel and how they come to feel it. Admitting to themselves that they are the daily target for pain from those very people who are supposed to love and care for them is crippling.

When the abuse is physical, and hidden and sexual, a child hopes for a savior from the thing he or she can't talk about. Little children are not programmed to take on a powerful adult, to call him out, to find safety on that uneven playing field. When the perp is a trusted family member, the child gains a full understanding of how untenable is his place in this hierarchy.

As a young girl in such a position, my weapons were frightening and confusing to parents who had no ability to interpret them. As I acted out my anger and my fear, upping the ante with more and more outrageous and puzzling ehavior, they finally had to come to a clear suspicion that there was something terribly wrong with me, missing the reality that something terrible was happening to me.

Concurrently, my own rage reached such a decibel that I confronted my abuser with killing anger and threat to expose him to my parents, an act I thought could actully destroy me, but was the point to where I'd been driven, finally willing to risk anything to free myself of this person. As luck would have it, a neighbor told my parents that my abuser was harming his daughter. And told them he knew of my harm, too.

Terrible things came from that. I was now the brunt of their shame and then their suspicion that somehow I contriuted to my own sexual demise. At a time when such things were never discussed, when counseling was a word not even known, this was a wound within the family that was never addressed, and sat festering throughout our lives. We were left with a script without words, to play on the stage of our story with no strategy to walk our way to the completion, forever stuck at some chapter we couldn't get past.

I see this scenario played out in so many families, not necessarily with the same stimulus, but with characters unable to work out their pain and inflictions on each other of same. And we abandon each other with, well abandon. I do not believe it is easier, in the long run, to run away from ourselves and those to whom we are forever tethered. I do not believe sores should be left to fester. I do not believe we cannot heal each other. I do know that nothing healing happens without forgiveness and forgiveness is hard work requiring tough visits to th source of the pain. And with all the perps gone from my story, I'm left to write memoir. To write it down, look at it with a cold eye and recognize that these are the components that make me who I am and why.

Fortunately, life is not totally captured by those things.My life has been touched by truly great individuals who took an interest in me, sheltered me, encouraged me and recognized what tools I've been given and how to maximize them. I have come some long time ago to recognize the hidden value of abandonement to an orphanage where really good people planted seeds that grew to mighty oaks in my life, arming me with gifts I might never have discovered, left alone with my mother.

My story is worth telling, for it is in the end, a triumph over suppression, repression, jealousy and cruelty born of a woman whose own demons held her from knowing true happiness, something she could have achieved out of her own strengths, her own dogged determination, with which she survived her own forms of hell. In this walk, on this journey, I have come to know the inner workings of a woman of her time, whose own dreams were throttled by those times, who came from drudgery to elope out of it into a happy marriage truncated by widowhood, three kids, a war and depression to marry against her best judgement. And finally to be buried alive in a nowhere town wtih a nothing life of emptiness and bitterness. She made her kids targets of all that because she seems to have married for their security and found it was an empty gesture.

So many lives contain components such as these. That some of us, perhaps many of us, triumph over these boulders in the stream is testament to the  strength within ourselves to draw upon.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Postponing the inevitable

It was helpful for someone to tell me that James Michener wrote 19 drafts of Hawaii before getting it right, and even then I find him too wordy, though I should tell you at the start, there is no book of his that I have not read, never mind the wordiness. He was a deft and skillful story teller.When I read Chesapeake, a geographical area I'm fully familiar with, I fell off my chair laughing at the guys in the duck blind. For me there is no more tedious,disarming and dedicated character than Hoopoe in The Source. Jump past some of today's new writing and slip back to Michener for a really good read.

I'm currently reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. This is the fourth time in my life I have read it and still find her ability to put me in the middle of really current problems compelling and absorbing, so much so that my shelf full of ereading goes begging, and I must find relief from her in other, lighter writers. Currently, I'm at page 594. Only about the same left to go!

Why does that matter to me? Wellll, I'm dragging my feet about starting over, continuing to whack. Truth to tell, I remain enamored of my own prose, refusing the internal editor who tells me I should know better, must know better, and to surrender what needs to be given up for the greater good of the words that remain. It helps to read other authors and teachers who share the same angst, working to find the true book within all that paper-talk. I know there lies my reward, if I can just bear the work of the knife. Er, pen. It's all too easy to find a thousand different legitimate reasons to not get to it. So I will ignore the bright sunshine beyond my window, forgo the afternoon wine on the porch, order in and skip the fine art of grilling on my deck, and begin the surgery, hoping to get beyond hacking and whacking to honing and freeing to find the thing my heart is saying buried way too deeply in the Michener-esque enormity of size that is my manscript.

Which brings me to confess that, while brand new at this blogging, it is already an addiction that I hope will abate to something more manageable....there are not enough hours in the day!...and I pray to shake loose this all too easy tool for procrastination.

By the way, I shall reiterate, often, the joys and challenges of online class writing and encourage anyone who is reading anyone reading me? join up if you write. And surely you write. Trading thoughts, ideas, helpful responses, especially if you're working under someone as gifted at direction and encouragement as Sheila Bender at Writing It Real, are wonderful tools at shaping, developing and executing really good prose. Writing with others is guaranteed to improve your own good stuff!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Discoveries in Memoir

In slashing my way through a cumbersome memoir, full of too many people, I'm needing to sort through the cast of thousands to discover who the principals are who shaped my life. Thinking the answer is: all of them, the fact is that some of them invested enough of themselves in me to outrank most of the others. Some of them caused me significant damage and earned their place on the stage. Some of them stood in the wings and cheered me on to become more than I could have expected or imagined, and some of them stepped up to rescue me from some of the others.

A solid group of them enabled me to recognize the winners who populate my ongoing life now so that I recognize readily treasures to whom I listen and from whom I learn. These friends and mentors hold me accountable, trust in and encourage me to walk a path to stronger faith and challenge me to grow in their valuable company.

It is through them and often because of them that I brave these unknown waters and write my memoir. I know that the life I have led is a bit different than those they live, that the things I have dealt with were never part of their history. I know, too that they are not just my cheerleaders, but people truly interested in helping me tell my story, a tale not without risk in the telling.

A whole new cadre of supporters were unexpected and a fine surprise. These are the folks, mostly women, with whom I write. We share our writing interests with a strong eye to honing, offering good suggestions, helpful thinkng and gentle observation. I look forward weekly to their hawkeye abilities to help me improve my writing. But it is their generosity that is so amazing. Far from competing, trying to be the best, these writers greet each offering to the class as if the work is their own, as if it matters to them that all writers write well and consistently. That allows each of us to risk, to grow, to attempt beyond what we thought were our limits.

We are blessed with an exemplary instructor whose uncanny ability to get right to the nub of the difficulty, the starshine, the tangles, and the power of good writing delivered, shows us in the end how to make it better, how to polish to perfection, to show us how to get there. In this most recent round of essay writing we have become writing friends, sharing experience, sharing skills, sharing ourselves in the effort. Such a result pulls me to my computer to contribute my very best, however busy, so as not to just toss off something not worth their time. Every week. Under the firm hand of a good writer who believes in developing more good writers, I have learned so much from Sheila Bender, of Writing It Real.

Thank you, followers, for supporting me in this blogging, something entirely new to me. You are major contributors to my encouragement. Some ofyou are beyond busy and still give me time and attention. Some of you continue to take an interest in me and show me the way to be all I can be. You are the reason I write and why I'll achieve the success I seek.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lazy Sunday on the Porch

Breakfast on the porch has carried me right through lunch and on into afternoon wine in the warm breeze and the protective shade. Company consists of two young squirrels robbing the bird feeder and I am so relaxed I don't even care. They are small and hungry.

I've read my way through several blogs of friends who write, trying to determine their preferences for book forms and publishing houses, self publishing, and forums for free or for pennies. While I miss the tactile joys of holding a book, flipping pages, underscoring words and phrases, I find my ereader serving many purposes, not the least of which is the ability to carry a whole library with me to the park, to appointments, to cafes, to the moon if I'm going. It's just too convenient. Books can't compete in this busy life full of so much that sitting curled up on the window seat rarely happens anymore. But I admit to loving my library. Book-lined shelves containing tomes I have not visited in a decade still soothe me, shelter me, make me feel, somehow, word-wealthy. If you should ask me where is my Robert Burns collection, I know, exactly. Ditto my Bawdy Songs and Backroom Ballads. Britain's Backroads. Tell Me You Love Me Junie Moon. The Family, Sex and Marriage. New England Pirates. The Derbyshire Country House. I visit them, dust them, pull them out and read a couple lines. But I sit parked by the coffee pot or the chocolate box with my ebook, needing no space on the counter, when my lap will do. And read and read and read.

I spent the morning slashing my memoir free of repetition, wordiness, low-impact vignettes, over working. Reading myself to myself aloud, in full voice and not whispering, I hear the clinkers, those words that shut down the thought full-stop, the forward movement, the heaviness, using someone's principle that if any word does not elevate or contribute to the sentence, whack it. Ha! I watched whole sentences disappear! Whack! Whack!

Giving up favorite tiny tales within the narrative is hard. Some of them are really, really good, so good that even I, the professional self-doubter, can know it. But they don't sell the story, don't propel it forward, and my trusty instructor tells me they can be part of some essay somewhere else in my writing, but to relieve the memoir of these impediments. She says the dreaded words: they are a distraction.So when the pen in my hand rips through it, I re-read and feel the work to be freer, unencumbered and I surrender the offending part to my trash file, retrieving them for insertion to an essay where they'll lead the band with their color and cleverness. And every day that I do this, the work is as hard as the previous time. I still live in the world of word-extravagance, not the space of where's-the-word-I-need. Words are still like gold coins to me; I loathe letting them go. Whack whack! Slash!

I have developed an imaginary reader. She is very unlike the interior editor some of us recognize. My reader wants red meat all the time. She knows no boundaries, plays no favorites, talks over me, points out her heart's desires, weeps and laughs and shouts "What's the point?" "Where are we going with this?" "NOW can you write it slant?" Who are you kidding?" "Oh please don't put that in there!" And other pithy phrases that tell me you won't like my writing any better than she does if I entertain the slightest dishonesty.

So I write for her. When she climbs out of her seat and starts pacing, I know I've got her. When she's curled around herself, hugging her arms against her chest, I know I've struck a nerve. When she sits sprawled with her eyes closed, chin up, I know she's lost in the story, and taut as a bow string as the tale winds out of my pen. But it is when her breathing's stepped up, and her fists are clenched that she and I have walked together into the swirling mist of memory where we watch our story come alive on the big screen of our melded minds.

Reading this, I see I have escaped from the tough assignment again, and need to return to it while I still have some motivation left, and an editor who wonders what's holding me up. After all, nobody's going to publish a rough draft, now, are they? It's back to the porch for me. And maybe a second glass of wine....