Celebrating Summer’s Good Things

This is my 400th post.

Apparently, I’ve had many, many things to say in these past 3 years of blogging. Probably too much to say, but that could simply be my INFJ showing a bit.

But 400 posts? I will admit that this post gave me writer’s block for a month.

What would be so amazing and special and wonderful to celebrate 400 posts? I really had no idea which is why I waited so long to post anything because I’m super awesome at freaking myself out over something as insignificant as a number. We all know that post 401 won’t be as difficult to write. But I digress…

Today is for celebrating this summer.

Hatteras Beach

Back in May, I decided to take my writing to the next scary level–submitting for publication. I joined Duotrope and scoured the markets and sent my words into the void. And waited and waited…got lots of rejections and waited and waited (Funny, how movies on writer’s lives never really feature this part of the story). In June, it finally happened—

I got my FIRST acceptance!

Believe me, this is when life needs to have a soundtrack playing because I totally heard “We Are the Champions” in my head. My flash fiction piece “Stolen Cake” had been picked up by a great publication called Writing Tomorrow. 

(Click here to go to the current issue with my piece in it)

Even as I went back reread my piece, I still really love it because it represents hours of writing, revisions, second guessing, and just telling my OCD to take a hike. It most certain wasn’t effortless, but so worth it.

I celebrated 7 years with my very own Redneck Romeo.

Wedding

I don’t know where the years have gone. We’ve loved and endured and smiled and laughed and changed and stayed the same. But this is life, my life, and I wouldn’t ask for a different one. Maybe, another trip to Disney World. We headed to Charlotte, NC for a night and explored the downtown or uptown or whatever area near the stadiums. Poolside, fruity drinks, and a good book then fancy appetizers at WoodVine. The braised pork belly in phyllo dough plus triple creme cheese and Spanish wine equals AMAZING! Afterwards, we had Jimmy Johns because tapas will never fill up my Cuddly Bear of a husband. Another lesson learned during these 7 years.

IMG_1087

I got to hang in REAL life with my blogging friend Alise Wright.

During our brief trip to Charlotte, I met up with Alise. While we’ve done the Google Hangout thing a couple of times, countless Twitter conversations, and discussions on our respective blogs, meeting her in real life was a bazillion times better.

Alise and Sarah

We chatted about books and life and blogging and writing. This is one of the great things about the internets–so many awesome people to meet. But it is also one of the sucky parts too because Alise should totally live closer to me along with so many of my internet only for now friends.

So, tell me what you’re celebrating this summer? What kind of posts would you like to see in the next 400 posts?

Celebrating the Small

When I practice silence, I realize how often we over-emphasize the big. These days I’m more interested in the small things. IMG_0070

Epiphanies come to me slowly, in the quiet space between, when I have shut down all excess and choose to be.

I’ve called myself a writer and a poet for a long time now. Well, long in terms of how the internet measures time which means I have probably lost all relevance whatsoever. But I really don’t care. I’m writing my stories and poetry anyway.

The internet likes big victories, big announcements, big anything really, but I’ve grown tired of this constant waiting for that one BIG break to come. I’ve spent too much time on the merry-go-round of I’ll be successful, happy, excited, when… that I have forgotten all those small things that led me to where I am as a writer, a poet. The right now sort of things that sneak past us when we don’t look for them because we have our eyes fixed on a nebulous horizon.

In truth, I want to dance like the happy hippos from Fantasia about my small everyday things rather than some “maybe it might happen…” down the road.

  1. Not killing the petunias in my fancy planters…my home is usually where all plants die except for weeds. And a few rogue sage and oregano plants.
  2. Finishing two books on my 11 Read My Shelves Challenge despite one being so utterly dull I almost gave up…and didn’t.
  3. Writing each day even after receiving all those lovely form rejections…rejection comes with the writing life. Not especially my favorite part, but it makes the excitement of publication even sweeter.
  4. Asking myself–what have I done to make my writing a priority today?  Then, I do something about it.
  5. Learning to place the those little voices of doubt on the shelf and just write.
  6. Totally beasting my To-Do list each day and holding myself to daily word counts.
  7. Allowing  grace when I don’t check off everything on the To-Do list. Life happens. It will be okay.
  8. Being brave and submitting my writing for publication. My natural response is to horde my words, to hide behind my computer screen and just play at being a writer. No more.
  9. Showing up to writing class with pieces that I’m genuinely proud to say I wrote all those words, string images together like beads.
  10. Showing up to writing class with something less than amazing and still being brave enough to read it. Time spent writing isn’t wasted just not always worth pursuing further.
  11. Remembering to eat all of my meals. You would think this would go without saying, but sometimes, I forget that I need to take care of myself too.
  12. Practicing radical self-care. Write, Read, Eat, Cook. Living well despite  life’s shit factory.
  13. Ditching the drama making machine and all those who contribute. If you’re all into drama and being a royal bitch, consider this an eviction notice from my life. I have too much good, too much to do, too much to write to be bothered with petty people.
  14. Not ending my list on a 13 because I’m still a writer who is slightly superstitious  and doesn’t want to anger the fates. Or it could simply be my OCD acting up because I have an affinity for even numbers. I really don’t know…

What small victories are you celebrating today? Share in the comments.

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 15} Create

Welcome to 31 Days of Poetry!

Right now, we are almost half way through the month, and I hope that you are enjoying sharing this haphazard poet’s musings about poetry.

Today, I want us to create something.

A bit of poetry to be specific.

In fact, I’m going to make easy for us, and we are going to put into practice a few of the things that we have learned about poetry:

  1. Gives us an image
  2. Presents us with an experience
  3. Invites an emotional response

 So, take a look at this lovely picture

What do you see?

Write a poem.

What do you feel?

Write a poem.

What memories does it conjure up?

Write a poem.

In the comments, write a short three lined poem about the picture?

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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?

31 Days of Poetry {day 4} Go!

Welcome to 31 Days of Poetry. Coming this Saturday, I will post this week’s links on poetry. If you have a topic that you would like to have discussed, leave a comment.

to be a poet:

you must GO!

poetry doesn’t live

on the sofa,

beige and bland,

it breathes

mountains air,

drinks in the sea waves,

perches on autumn leaves

waiting to tumble down.

to be a poet:

you must

touch the cool sand,

smell the crackle of fire,

taste the wine,

hear the mockingbirds,

see the French impressionists.

but watching images

flash on a screen

never feeds the senses.

 to be a poet:

you will fail

if you hide behind

the comfortable,

the familiar,

to be a poet:

you must live.

On Grace and Story Salvation

“Glory be to God for dappled things–For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow…”

Morning rises early. Dogs bark, paw at the crate “wake you sleeper”, be ready for this day. Some mornings, I mush through the tall grass, dogs wagging around me, and I miss all of the world’s messy beauty. But some days, I walk in quietness. Above my head, the red-orange morning filters down, shines upon the dew, sparkles out upon the hay and grapevines, trickles into the crevices of this poet’s heart so the only appropriate response is poetry. I write out the morning’s lines, its images filling my heart.

I wonder if anyone ever reads my few poems here. Sometimes, the storm clouds roll in and trample down my thoughts. This act, so futile, pushes me toward giving up and settling for the rat race of hasty words. But poetry eats out my soul, and I must write to save my life. Poetry bleeds me dry of myself. This is grace; this is saving me.

For rose moles all stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut falls; finches wings; Landscape plotted and pieced–fold, fallow,and plough, and all trades, their gear and tackle and trim…”

Five hours east, we drive past dunes and sea oats, watch the wind whip the sand into wraiths billowing across the main artery for these islands. The sky darkens back to the west where we were, but we drive onward. Our destination, the sea. High tide leaps upon the shore, and the wind sprays our faces with salt water to purify us. I fight to keep my sundress down, avoid the Marilyn Monroe moment,  watch the sunlight retreat behind the thunderheads. I breathe deep, and I remember what it is like to be alive, to be myself. I had quite forgotten.

We watched the sun drown itself in the sound, never quite waking up in time for sunrise. I sat in the shade as others climbed up Hatteras lighthouse. I leaned over the ferry’s rail to have the ocean steal a kiss. Running to the breakers, we floated on top of the waves until the sea, now just perfect, let us ride it. I couldn’t resist this siren song. The sand wedged deep everywhere. The undertow pulling out the water, then its sudden rush back. The joy of being on top of the wave, gliding into shore. The desperate prayers that I don’t lose my swimsuit bottoms after riding a wave much too big, much too sloppily. The make-shift ties and adjustments to do it all again. This is grace; this is saving me.

All things counter, original, spare, strange; Whatever is fickle, freckled(who know’s how?) With swift, slow, sweet, sour; adazzle, dim…

In my hands, I hold vine ripe tomatoes, coffee mugs, purple ink pens, books like dear friends.I need to hold on to things for a moment. The world, the one I’ve known, loved, built and mothered changes soon. I hate this change. I cry and lament and beg  God whom may or may not give a damn. I pray for vindication, for peace, for my heart to heal from two years burden carrying. Peace trickles in slowly like a leaky faucet, and I try to loosen it but can’t. I rest in snatches of the gospels and Psalms and poets and novels. I spin worlds on the page, stories for the asking. I drink wine and cuss and laugh. I steal time midday to drink coffee and eat cupcakes and write furiously. Once in awhile, I know I’m not so alone. There, I find my hope and my peace.

This is grace, and this is saving me.

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him.”

 (Pied Beauty Gerard Manley Hopkins)

Today, I’m linking up with Sarah Bessey and her syncroblog “What is saving me right now.” Join us here.

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Why I Bother Writing

Why I bother?

Because writing as a vice isn’t quite as bad as drinking, smoking, or collecting cats(my epitaph will not read: she was a crazy cat lady). Writing appeases my OCD personality to have something to create, to perfect, to pursue relentlessly.Or just offers another excuse to ignore the dishes, the laundry, and the unmopped floors. My OCD is fickle and cares not for such trivialities–it longs for something grander; hence, I write.

This is why I bother writing. 

I know there are so many writers that we drown  new books and NY TIMES bestsellers list, and maybe my words are just adding to the noise. But so what? If I don’t satisfy this compulsion to connect my feelings and experiences to words, then I’m not sure how I can make sense of this effed up world(except maybe in a therapist’s office, but writing doesn’t require a co-pay). Somehow, writing unlocks something deep in my subconscious that wouldn’t have come out unless written down. I can write things in journals that I feel but can’t speak aloud. This is freedom.

This is why I bother writing.

True, I vacillate between bestseller and the hack with no talent; punch drunk on the illusions of fame and hiding behind the mask of nobody.  While the comparison bitch screws me over every time always halting my writing process, it takes all I can do to shut her up and just write a few more words.

Perhaps in those next few words, I can free my voice just a little bit more,

feel something a bit deeper, hone this beautifully naracisstic craft.

 

This is why I bother writing.

And quite possibly, I don’t want to be the crazy cat lady.

 

 

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Short Story Beginnings

Today, I’m offering up a bit of a short story for this Monday…Monday should always include a bit of fiction.

Rufus

It was the night of the mosquito orgy. All buzzing, low sultry lovemaking—too bad it would only end in more mosquitos. Every summer evening, Rufus sat on his porch slapping half-heartedly as the humming rhythm intensified and waned then climaxed again. Any sensible person would have gone inside, moved away, but Rufus didn’t mind. His only concern was sipping his whiskey, Jack Daniels Green Label, the only kind he would ever drink. Curled up at his feet, his coon dog Mutt, the only kind of dog he would ever own. Staring across the knee high grass in front of his trailer, he could see the large farm house where he grew up. His mother rented out his room only. She kept hoping his brother Donny would come back, but Donny had been dead for sixteen years. Snaking through the long hay and unkempt yard, his drive way ended at the beginning of Highway 52, the main road in and out of Junction. No one came up this far to his house. The only visitors out this way came from the Baptist Women’s Alliance to see his ailing mother.

Leaning back in his chair, he stared toward the white clapboard farmhouse and watched the hired painters leave. A few lights flickered on and off, and his mother would have by now settled on the couch. She probably gave those poor guys an earful about her alcoholic son living in the trailer over yonder. Looking down at his whiskey, he remembered that first sip. The bitter burning liquor almost drove him back to being a lifetime teetotaler, but a few more did the trick. Like every man, he needed something to piss the Jesus fire of his mother off. Not that she would notice. These days, she rarely moved far from the farmhouse sofa feigning illness. She didn’t notice the maid Eva who cleaned. She didn’t notice all of the school’s phone calls and messages about Rufus’s absences, his official withdrawal forms, and his constant work on the farm.

Spitting his chewing tobacco into an old coffee can, he watched the lightening bugs in his yard. He never apologizing for being a bad country song cliché. He loved the farm. The cattle, the large plot for his garden, his large blue Ford tractor. He always dated the waitresses at Jenny’s. Perky, small town girls looking for a small town fella, just like Rufus. His broad shoulders, bronze hair, and full teeth smile got him everything from extra tea to an extra piece of chicken. And an extra piece of pie to share later after work complete with whipped topping.

Now, his leathery hands scarred from working the land. His hair streaking silver only garnered the attention of the divorcee crowd with their silicon enhanced cleavage, but he was done chasing after those types. Only one woman ever lived up to his expectations, and she was too busy bothering the Bennett twins or batting her fake eyelashes at Dave Pike. Another sip of whiskey, and he would call it a night. His knees creaked as he stood up, but the rumble of a car wheels and door slamming jolted him from his usual routine. Never one for disruptions, he kept going in the house hoping whoever it was would take the hint that he wasn’t interested.

“You Rufus?” A strong female voice hollered from the gravel drive. He turned to see a short, well-endowed teenager with bronze hair and fiery blue eyes. She stood next to her car in a tank top and jeans complete with pink leather cowboy boots. He stared long at her since she looked just like, but no, not really.

 

What do you think should happen next? Who is the young woman wanting to find Rufus?


To My Daughter’s Dreaming

Sunset droops behind knotty pines/ and the hush of wind whispers/ Sleep, Sleep, Sleep/ Tonight, the fan whirrs and small lights flicker in the dark/ You dream/ Pink candyland pony wonder falls/ I wait/ Morning comes too soon/ Robs you and me of our fuschia tinted faeryland/ Plants us in the now/ Book bags, blaring bells, long quiet days/ So, let’s tiptoe past day’s guardian/ Sneak away to the moon dancing./

 

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