Let’s Say the Break Is Over…

Maybe, let’s say the blogging break is over…

Two years are enough time to let the Internet forget you, and that’s okay. I’ve grown tired of the platform building, whatever click bait blogs became, so let’s just forget everything that I am told will grow an online presence. Let’s chat, pour a cup of coffee or three, and not worry about selling who we are.

Hi, I’m Sarah, in case you forgot. IMG_0267

In the past two years, I have been busy. Busy is always the excuse we give. But I started a new job. I’m back in the high school classroom full-time again. Same classroom for two years soon to be three. Teaching literature and writing and every so often some grammar, and I feel like my old knack for teaching has returned. I think teaching is like a muscle, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

In the past two years, I have traveled. There was the cruise to the Bahamas. The spring break trip to Ireland with my mother, aunt, and sister. Two work related trips to Napa (who would have thought that working for a mostly rural school district that I would get to go to Napa for professional development?) and one work trip to Nashville. Camping in Asheville and Boone. Birthdays at Carolina Beach.

In the past two years, I have written. The work is slow going, but I see the progress. The poetry has suffered since I am choosing to focus on my short story collection. I have no idea when it will be done or ready for publication or even the process to get it published. But I’m working on it. And that’s the most important thing.

So, I am here and writing on the blog again. How have the last two years been for you?

If I Tell You Where I’ve Been

If I tell you where I’ve been… OneWord2013_Ignite

I’ve been hiding behind piles of student essays pondering how one teaches writing. Some days, I have no idea why the words I string together like beads on a necklace create something beautiful; or why some days, I can’t write a coherent sentence to save my life(or use cliches for that matter). Yet, I taught my writing courses anyway.

This is the one strange quirk of being a teacher–I will never know how well or how much of a “difference” I made. Perhaps, none at all save the assignments which allowed said students to pass a required course. I hope for more than simply that, but I know the teacher who first walked into those classrooms is not the same one who walked out. I’m changed. I learned. I hope they did as well.

If I tell you where I’ve been…

I’ve been hiding behind my computer screen clicking-clacking keys into letters and ideas until they form stories and characters and plot lines. Rolling around behind my eyeballs, stories of Southern life and its quirky, beautiful people keep coming like bowling balls down the lane until I must write them down on lose those stories to another writer. Slowly, I’m forming my mish-mash stories into a collection that I will finish by the end of summer (someone hold me to this, okay?).

I’ve labored through drafts and classes and characters who won’t shut up until I finish their story, or sometimes, those characters sigh and step into the shadows for awhile. One of the odd quirks of writing fiction really, I can’t force my characters to speak or show me something knew when they want to nap or sip sweet tea on the front porch. So, I wait too. When they are ready, I put their lives on the page as they would have wished to known to this world.

If I tell you where I’ve been…

I’ve been reading and writing and cooking and living and remembering. This is where I’ve been for the past four months, and now, my words are here again. Thank you for your patience.

31 Days of Poetry{day 12} Support Your Poet

Welcome to 31 Days of Poetry!

Tomorrow, I shall provide the links and topics from this week’s adventures, and Sunday will be a poem from one of my favorite poets. As always if you have any topics that you want to discuss, feel free to leave a comment.

 

When I began writing poetry exclusively here, I would receive lovely tweets or Facebook messages about how nice my poetry is, however, no comments on the blog itself. Strange, right? Well, maybe not. Poetry tends to intimidate most readers(why I don’t know), and so many of you have told me:

“I don’t know what to say.”

And I get that. When I read blog posts about death of a child or rape or abuse or poverty, I don’t know what to say that isn’t trite or worse an “I’m praying for you.” Sometimes, it is easy to skim over these and say nothing, and I have done this many times. But if you’re reading a blog frequently, you and I need to join in the conversation.

How to say something when you don’t know what to say:

  • Start with the obvious: “I really like this.” I have yet to meet any writer who doesn’t like a bit of encouragement. With this caveat, be genuine. If you don’t really like the piece, move on and come back another day.
  • Ask a question: perhaps, a line confuses you or you may be curious about what inspired this bit of poetry. Don’t be afraid to ask a question. While I won’t explicate what the poem means, I can tell you what inspired me to write it or where I was when the muse(before she died) kicked my butt.
  • Focus on the image/experience/emotion: does the poem remind you of something–write about that. does it bring a particular feeling–write about that.
What would you add? Or what prevents you from commenting on poetry blogs or blogs in general?

How You Found My Blog

Some days, I wonder if Google kidnaps common sense, holds it for ransom. 

Every so often, we bloggers check to see how people are finding our piece of internet real estate. We gasp at the horrifying realization that people do two things: search for crazy shit and find our blogs. Being the well-meaning bloggers that we are, we check to see how long the person stayed on our site, number of pages visited, whether or not a spammy comment was left as a calling card.

So in the name of being a good blogger, here are a few of searches that led to this blog(note: insightful commentary is free of charge).

  • Sarah Askins: Now, this one makes sense. It is my name. It is in my lovely blog header. But whoever searched for “sarah askins” didn’t stay long. Wrong Sarah, maybe? Perhaps, you’re searching for a long lost romantic fling. Sorry, I’m not available so look elsewhere. Maybe, you’re some weird cyberstalker, mooching off someone else’s money, sitting on a plastic covered couch, eating Doritos your pet monkey hand feeds you because you don’t like the cheese dust on your fingers. But I could be wrong. I dare you to correct this impression in the comments.
  • Redneck striptease: What’s the difference between a redneck striptease and a normal one? I guess you may get a longer show if the overalls come off, then the flannel button up shirt, next the long underwear. But I’m not a redneck. I just married one, and there will never be any rednecks dancing around in tight flannel shirts on this blog.
  • Black cat pictures making love: Really? You want to see cats getting their groove on…I’m hoping that you were severely intoxicated when you googled that mess. Besides, if you really wanted to see black cats listening to Marvin Gaye and getting funky, don’t you think it would be hard at night when decent creatures do said things to SEE the black cats. Please, common sense, people, common sense.
  • Fortune cookie writer what is good job: You’re not qualified. Consider flipping burgers as an alternate option.
  • I have to read 10 books in a week: Shouldn’t you have started before now? I could easily see you reading 10 children’s books, but 10 Victorian novels, 10 books on economics, 10 books on any adult level may be a challenge. Word of advice…Plan better next time!

For all of you lovely bloggers, share some of you favorite ways people found you blog in the comments.

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A Moment of Soul Care

I refuse my soul to shrivel up

Like a shrunken head

For a new exhibit at Ripley’s.

 

 

I believe in soul care –the kind that stares at the early morning bathed in dew, sips coffee, and learns to breathe again. The soft tendrils of gray smoke curl around the  Tulip Poplars whispering secrets before the wind lifts them too high for tree-ears. Then, dog paws stretch out and yawn in the fullness of the morning. Scratch their ears and flop back down on the earth, dogs understand soul-care. Maybe, this is why I keep a few around my feet–to show me how to take care of myself(it is most certainly not for their smell).

I am learning, 

To pump life-blood

Into this heart, once broken.

I woke up this morning, my life rearranged, and I find myself with new puzzle pieces to fit together. I jamb the old ones down in the back of a drawer because the pain hurts too deeply, but stuffing the fragments of an old life–for now, a temporary one– discredits their existence, their beauty. I pull them out and mingled them with my new pieces, and I find my life, my soul.

For many, today is the first day of school, and today is another chance to care for my soul. Right now, I need to read poetry and write short stories and finish this damn novel, drink more coffee, attend more writing classes, heading to the library for books. This is soul care. I will change my writing schedule for this little blog to a Monday, Wednesday Friday. I am feeling the pull to a bit of prose each week in addition to the poetry. What do you say to that? I ask for a measure of grace as I venture into this brave new world(ah, literary references, no matter how cliche, make me happy too).

Enjoy poetry, prose, and a few musings in your inbox by entering your email address below.

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Saturday Evening Post–April

 

Hello, Saturday. Such a pleasure if I weren’t suffering from allergies. But I shan’t let this bit of irksomeness weigh down my spirits.

Today, my blog friend, Elizabeth Esther, is hosting THE SATURDAY EVENING POST. We link up our favorite post from the previous month, and we get to make new blog friends, learn about various ideas, catch up on the good posts we missed.

For my selection, I chose my poem WRONG. It represents how I feel in the church as a woman and the new direction my blog has taken. Without further ado, why don’t you check out my submission, then head over and link up or read some of the other great writers?

 

And, if you want to really make my Saturday awesome, subscribe to this lovely blog(yes, I’m partial).

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What’s This Blog’s Story?

Where the storytelling happens

We are all storytellers.

Whether we write, sing, click and capture the moment–we tell our stories. I’m writer. Words, my tools, and I share some stories here. Because this is my quiet piece of internet real estate, a small respite, sometimes, a sanctuary. This is my art, my gallery, always a work-in-progress.

Every good artist rethinks her work.

In May, I will have done this blogging thing for 2 years. Most of this time, I floundered and blogged as I felt. But slowly, I know this can’t continue. I need purpose…a reason to keep writing here. I hear rebranding bandied about by other bloggers, finding focus will help gain a following. But as I thought about my blog, I have no idea where my focus should be  or where to go from here.

So may I entreat your help?

In the comment section below, would you share 3 words that describe this blog(or 2 or 1, not particular)? What do I do well? What would you enjoy reading?

Thank you, friends.

So, what’s this blog’s story? Also, why not make this blogger smile and subscribe?

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Remembering to Smile

Saturday night, alone in bed, before 11pm. Officially, this makes me old. Unofficially, it makes me far wiser

Picture courtesy of Mark Askins

because I could no longer keep my eyes open.

With one child off at her mother’s and husband and child at camp, I enjoyed the quiet. I made dinner for just me. I drank one glass or two of 3 buck Chuck and serenaded my dogs with an alto’s version of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On (my dogs are rueing the day when Twitter brought up Titanic’s return to the big screen). I read. I controlled the remote.

But even after good days, we’re grow weary.

The soft evening rain, the groans of an evening storm rising, my body worn out. But a good tired. The kind of tired from plotting and planning and brunching with a friend and colleague. The kind of tired where the body aches for rest, but the mind whizzes from idea to idea like hummingbirds in May. Slowly, I quieted my thoughts. Ideas flew to paper, and night’s power almost won. Sleep comes in soft easy steps.

Before I turned out the light, it happened. Deep down, bubbling up like champagne, the warming glow of face and mouth and teeth–A smile! A real smile, radiant and full, showing only God all of my crooked teeth. I can’t remember when I smiled last. For so long, I forced a tight lip grin, smiled when it was expected, even laughing felt forced for too long.

Life’s stress does that. I carry the heavy load  I should never have to bear. They force my smile into grimness, sadness, and I let them, those worries and cares and burdens. Until I forget how to smile. For real. Not forced or faked.

Slowly, I smile again. Full of crooked teeth upward and God sees. Maybe, tomorrow, I shall smile again too.

 

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My So-Called Glamorous Writing Life

I sit down at my L-shaped desk and fidget with the piles of school papers, Post-It notes, and books. Once my desk is tidy, my overwhelming email addiction demands that I check every single email account and answer every single email based upon importance. I probably need a 12 step program for email addiction, but it can go on my to do list right after my writing. The whole reason that I sat down at my desk is to write. But after an hour, I haven’t written one damn word. Except my to do list which says: “write a good paragraph.” Four words and no more.

But lately, my writing wallows at the end of a mile long list of crap. Despite putting it as number one, I choose to print out coupons(number seven on the list) or check Twitter and Facebook(not even on the list) or random internet searches(I’ll call this research). Next, I check my blog for comments, respond to comments(yes, this counts as writing. Or that’s what I tell myself), then I proceed to comment on my friends’ blogs. Certainly, they need someone to say nice things about their writing, right? Somehow, I meander to YouTube, and I’m sure I could have put off watching the Basset Hounds in slow motion until after writing. But they were so cute.

Five hours after I sat down to write, words meet ink and paper. To escape the noise and whining, I sit on the front porch with my legal pad and favorite blue pen. I bask in the warm sunshine and listen to the wheels whirring on 421. Finally, I wrestled myself free from the distractions—kids, the internet, social media, and myself(sort of). Holding my breath, I waited to see if I would be followed outside, but the doors never opened. I was safe. A few moments of quiet and writing time.

While I should have been thrilled, I berated myself for wasting five hours on stupid, mindless distractions. I imagined all of the words that could have been written each hour pushed towards a precipice. Once the hour passed, they tumbled down into vast nothingness. Never to have lived on paper. They haunt me, fuel my guilt, and strangle my creativity. My muse chokes upon the bile of these undead words.

Like so many unproductive days, I placed myself on trial for wasted writing time. I’m always guilty. Perhaps, I should feel some remorse and shame for all of the time misused. But then again, it’s just another excuse to avoid writing. Yet, I replay this cycle of distraction and guilt too often. Another moment to wallow in self-pity, another moment to poison my muse. Guilt and regret mingled together kill every ounce of creative energy.

But now, I see blue inked out words. Words breathing out their lives upon paper, and I feel a bit of the writer’s guilt melting away. With each new word, I forgive myself. Sentences take shape, and paragraphs lumber along. I keep writing and forming my thoughts, but mostly, I repent of the five hours wasted and work in the hours I have now. It’s the only thing I can do. Until tomorrow.

 Question: What things get in the way of your writing, art, etc? How do you overcome them?

Photo credit: Keith Williams via Flickr Creative Commons

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Silent Story

Walking away from a blog, taking a break always makes the returning that much harder. 

18 days, an almost
blog suicide.

Every day life steals away my heart, a piece of soul. And my writing becomes sporadic; I wonder if I should simply quit this whole blogging endeavor. But some sort of siren song compels me to write. I return the blog updates, pushing back the dusty cobwebs of my small bit of internet real estate. Sitting down at my cluttered desk, I punch the keys for words and phrases and sentences hoping somehow to write what I am feeling, how the burdens placed upon me grow heavier. But I can’t.

Somehow, my story has become a sealed document. The words fester inside, longing for me to give them life on the page. Again, I censor what I want to say. Some days, I write about incounous things of puppies, of sunshine, of books, and of Jane Austen. Deep inside, my heart hardens just bit because I long to share the real life, the dirty, the unperfect. But I am trapped in the “life’s perfect” mask, and I can’t get out.

Maybe, this is why I have been away from my blog for so long.

I have a story to write out, and my blog should be a somewhat safe(albeit public place) to share my story. But it isn’t. I envy blogger who can write about their non-perfect lives, who write beautiful stories of mothering or my case step-mothering, who bleed beauty and brokeness. I feel like I yelling from behind a glass prison cell. Desperate for someone to stop and listen, to tell my story beyond the perfect. But I don’t think anyone hears.

Sometimes, I wonder how a writer survives under such circumstances. Can a writer exist and not write the her story that’s in desperate need of telling? I don’t know. I’m still deeply entrenched in this burdensome silence, and for awhile longer, I remain silent and strong and brave. Well, I put on a mask of bravery. I’ve learned to cry, to hurt, to exist in this oppressive silence. Then, I replace the real with my mask, my battle armor, and head out to stand firm against this unfair thing called life.

This is the only way that I know to be strong, to write out my story for now.