The other day, in promoting my vampire novel, I posted links to chapter excerpts. In reading through those excerpts again myself, I noticed places where the sentences could use tightening. I noticed places where I want to replace commas with periods. In reading one of my own stories earlier today, I found an instance where I’d changed the name of a character and missed one of the corrections of that name. These are some of the perils of doing everything myself. I am writer, editor, proofreader. I am a one woman show. Is that an excuse for mistakes? No. There are books on my bookshelf by big time authors published by big publishing houses, that have mistakes in them. Is that an excuse for me? No. The truth of the matter is that I’ve needed to slow my roll, as it were, for a while. There’s a balance between letting go of perfection so that the work gets out there at all, and doing the best job I can do. This is also why it is important to let the work sit (rest) for long enough that you can look at it with “new eyes.” So, while I am working on re-writing a novella, I’m not going to publish anything else until I make some of these corrections to previous work. The good news is, there isn’t anything overwhelming in that, the stories are good, ( I say humbly) I like them, and for the most part, pretty clean. But, I want them to be better. I can do that. Was a time when I was far more ruthless about editing my work. I’d go through a piece removing every “and”, for starters, as a way of determining if I needed to use it. I need to get back to those editing habits. Like I said, I’ve needed to slow down some things for a while. I’ve known that. I’ve learned so much in the last few years about the creative part of writing. I’ve written things I never would have attempted before. Creatively, it’s been a wildly expansive time, one that I am grateful and thankful for. Now it’s time to really try to put all that learning together. I’m thinking of it as taking some time to hone my editing skills. Writing is a learn as you go endeavor. Always be learning.
Giving up Pinterest and tumblr has been a good thing. I’ve been tempted to get back on both of those sites but they are a distraction. ( I’m still on the tumblr. Eh. but I have deleted facebook forever.) I realized, I’ve always been trying to do too many things at once because there’s just so much I want to do. I have so much writing work to do, so many things I want to accomplish. Every minute on Pinterest or tumblr is time away from writing, or reading ( my tbr list is endless), or editing, or a multitude of other more productive things. I have, however, come up with a plan for marketing at least the vampire novel, kind of a fun one. Every time I see a post on social media to do with vampires, I’m going to take as a cue to remind me to be about the business of selling the books too and promote the vampire novel along with one other book. (I can tell you here that Season 11, Episode 10, of The X-Files, spoke to many of my concerns regarding modern technology.)
This brings me to the subject of Marilyn Munster. What started this train of thought was Joan Jett. In the early eighties, Joan Jett couldn’t get a record deal. She had twenty-three major label rejections. So, she formed Blackheart Records with producer/songwriter Kenny Laguna, and the rest, as they say, is rock and roll history. “We didn’t start the label on purpose. We started it because we couldn’t find a record deal.” ~ Kenny Laguna. Can you imagine rock and roll without Joan Jett? It’s an incredibly powerful and empowering, inspiring story. I was thinking about that, how she wouldn’t be stopped from making her music her way. I had a novella that I wanted to see out in the world and it was getting rejected, so I published it myself. What does that have to do with Marilyn Munster?
I was thinking about what we deem to be rebellious, or “different,” or a misfit or an outcast. Who would argue that Joan Jett is a rebel? Was she an outcast? Different? A metaphorical “black sheep” or “lone wolf”, and etc. ad-infinitum? Do you think that was easy, back in the day? But if everyone was, say, a “punk rocker,” if the vast majority of people were “punk rockers,” then being “preppy” could be seen as being rebellious. If you’re from a family of hippies and you go conservative, that could be viewed as rebelling, and vice versa. I was thinking about how Marilyn Munster is the oddball, in a family of monster Munsters, she’s “normal,” and that is seen as being abnormal. Which reminds me of a line from the film “Smokey and the Bandit.” “When you tell someone something, it depends on what part of the country you’re standing in, as to just how dumb you are.” There are a multitude of variations in perspective as to what is normal, what is rebellious, and so on, depending on who you are, and where you are at. When I first started publishing my work traditionally, I had no idea what I was doing. Without rehashing it, or whatever circumstances were at the time, (years ago now), I felt like no matter what I was doing or how I was doing it, the message was that I was doing it wrong. As for my end of that, I didn’t have it together. I do now.( I hope, I think, maybe, anyway, anyway…) Whatever the case, however it went, at some point I made up my mind not to quit. I made up my mind to teach myself whatever I could, to learn whatever I could, whatever I can. Ultimately, for a variety or reasons, I made up my mind to go my own way. But what I realized is, I was always going my own way. Sometimes, I was doing it wrong. Sometimes, I was just doing it my way because that’s what I wanted to do or thought was best, including things like writing a serial novella on my webpage one chapter at a time and letting people read it for free, along with some stories, poems, etc. Sometimes, yes, I so wish it had all gone differently, that I’d had it together, made tons of real-true friends, been everyone’s darling, landed the big mainstream book deal, and, hey, life isn’t over. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a cheerleader too. But, things went this other way. I realized, it’s always kind of worked out like that. It has occurred to me that perhaps there is more room in that, more freedom. I’ve decided that I’m no longer sad about it.
One of the definitions of the word “rebellion” is simply the process or action of resisting control, tradition, authority, or convention. “Conventionality belongs to yesterday.” (from Grease by Frankie Valli) Sitting calmly, can be an act of rebellion. These days I tend to think of it (rebellion) in terms of, thinking for myself. My sobriety is an act or rebellion. What does all that have to do with anything? It has to do with not giving up on your dreams, whether you’re Joan Jett, or Marilyn Munster, not fitting in however, wherever. It has to do with pressing onward despite rejections, mistakes ( we all make those), nay-sayers, and all else. I’m not starting a publishing company, just dealing with my own work is quite enough work, all I can manage, but if I were, I’d call it “Undone Hem,” in reference to something that Joan Didion wrote as she observed a woman who was out of sorts, her hem coming unsewn. To me, that represents everywhere that I was when I set out to do this in 2011. I was a woman out of sorts, out and about with an undone hem. It means something to me. It’s something that I don’t want to forget. I also think that until you’re finished, well, you’re not done. “Undone Hem” is my “Blackheart Records.” I wanted to share that. Find your inspirations where you can. Keep on keeping on.
It is my sincere hope that I’ve many more books to write, to publish, that I am just getting started.
“Do not cringe and make yourself small if you are called the black sheep, the maverick, the lone wolf. Those with slow seeing say a nonconformist is a blight on society. But it has been proven over the centuries, that being different means standing at the edge, means one is practically guaranteed to make an original contribution, a useful and stunning contribution to her culture. When seeking guidance, don’t ever listen to the tiny-hearted. Be kind to them, heap them with blessings, cajole them, but do not follow their advice. If you have ever been called defiant, incorrigible, forward, cunning, insurgent, unruly, rebellious, you’re on the right track. Wild Woman is close by. If you have never been called these things, there is yet time. Practice your Wild Woman.”
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype
One of the most wonderful things within the many fine and good examples that Bruce Lee left us with, is his example of inclusiveness. Despite being met with prejudice throughout his life, he seemed to hold no such feelings in his own heart. He continuously broke with traditions. He fell in and love and married who he wanted to marry. If you came into his studio, dojo, with an open heart, an open mind, a willingness to learn and be taught, he would teach you. It made no difference to him what color your wrapping paper was, no difference to him if you were male or female, his wife, Linda, was one of his students. He stayed true to what he believed in despite being met with continuous opposition and challenges to his ideas, his philosophies, his approach to living. Bruce Lee understood that prejudice is the product of ignorance, and the antidote, is education.
I’m at the beginning of really checking this out thoroughly, but I can show some love for that example for sure.
Have a Happy Valentines Day.
Currently listening to Jackson Browne, discovering T Bone Burnett, trying to catch up on episodes of the podcast “Cocaine and Rhinestones.”
Reading “Cotton Tenants: Three Families” by James Agee with photographs by Walker Evans. Here’s the synopsis from Amazon,
“In 1941, James Agee and Walker Evans published Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a four-hundred-page prose symphony about three tenant farming families in Hale County, Alabama at the height of the Great Depression. The book shattered journalistic and literary conventions. Critic Lionel Trilling called it the “most realistic and most important moral effort of our American generation.
The origins of Agee and Evan’s famous collaboration date back to an assignment for Fortune magazine, which sent them to Alabama in the summer of 1936 to report a story that was never published. Some have assumed that Fortune‘s editors shelved the story because of the unconventional style that marked Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and for years the original report was lost. But fifty years after Agee’s death, a trove of his manuscripts turned out to include a typescript labeled “Cotton Tenants.” Once examined, the pages made it clear that Agee had in fact written a masterly, 30,000-word report for Fortune.
Published here for the first time, and accompanied by thirty of Walker Evans’s historic photos, Cotton Tenants is an eloquent report of three families struggling through desperate times. Indeed, Agee’s dispatch remains relevant as one of the most honest explorations of poverty in America ever attempted and as a foundational document of long-form reporting. As the novelist Adam Haslett writes in an introduction, it is “a poet’s brief for the prosecution of economic and social injustice.” -end quote
I purchased this book sometime ago, was reading another book before the holidays but got sidetracked and never got back to it. This book is of particular interest to me because while it is not literally the story of my grandfather’s family, it is essentially the story of families for whom the circumstances of survival were the same as his. One of seven children, my grandfather’s family had no indoor plumbing, of any kind, they had a well, and an outhouse (eventually), typically sharing only a few rooms, two or three, in tin roof houses. When they didn’t have a mule to plow the fields, when they couldn’t borrow one, which was frequently, the boys took turns pulling the plow. They were the definition of “dirt poor.” And my grandfather would readily say that there were those who were poorer yet.
Growing up I heard these stories, these family histories, on visits to those places that held the spent youth of my grandparents, not fully understanding the larger history and story that I was being told and taught. My grandfather stands as the best person I have ever known. ~ Personal interest aside, the book is, thus far, a fascinating read and account of a particular time in our country. The passion of the author, James Agee, with regard to his subject, is evident from the first page. It is not an unbiased portrait of the times or the plight of the cotton tenants, but in this case, that has not seemed to interfere with the accuracy of it.
Still reading from The Big Book of Joan. “We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live.” Joan Didion ~ The more I read from this book, the more I want to read from it. At 1160 pages, it keeps on giving. I count it as one of the best book purchases I’ve ever made.
I was watching a show called “Mountain Men” but I started calling it “Men Walking in Snow” or “Men Walking in Snow After Something Breaks” and then I started fast forwarding through those parts and decided I had to quit it. What caught my attention about it was that as the commercial for it pointed out, it is a way of life that people are not running to in droves and thus many of the skills, and much of the knowledge necessary to sustain life away from so-called civilization, are going by the wayside. Case in point, I read a BBC story this morning about companies that are selling “Raw Water” (untreated spring water) as the latest trend in… trendy…beverages. For those who really don’t know why drinking “raw” unfiltered, unsterilized, untreated, water is dangerous, I urge you to look that up, ask a healthcare professional if you can, and I would say to you that when they say that untreated water has to be boiled in order to sterilize it so that it is potable, that doesn’t mean that you should drink boiling water or water that is boiling hot, ever. Really, just, don’t. Ironically, “Idiocracy” was running on one of the movie channels last night. My husband said, “Someday ( in the future) they’re going to find a copy of “Idiocracy” and think it was a documentary.” ( I hope not.) Speaking of documentaries, sporadically watching Ken Burns’ series on both “The West” and “The Civil War”, both are excellent. Also looking to get into the new season of “The X-Files”, whilst still keeping up with episodes of “Supernatural.”
Fall was quite lovely. The holidays were hectic, unusually so, as well as being unusually poignant this year. Just before Christmas, we weathered the passing of my mother-in-law after a lengthy illness. Though not entirely unexpected, grief is an exceptionally private matter, and a strange animal, that often reverberates long after its primary impact. It seemed to me that I should wait a time before posting again or, I’m not sure what, but then it is time to be trying to get things moving forward.
I’m working on a variety of projects, none of which I care to discuss any further than that other than to say fiction and poetry. Still planning to release the next collection of poems, “Thelxiepeia” sometime early this spring. I had set up a coffee station in my office ( to make tea with) but that didn’t work out, I didn’t use it the way I thought I would. I need another bookshelf in the space. So I’m planning on moving the apothecary table back to the kitchen and this spring, getting busy with a small garden. I’ll have these grandiose ideas about decorating but then I’ll see something that speaks to my soul and all previous ideas get renounced. This, in one way or another, has been at the crux of much of my existence, the battling of my exceptional brain, and my heart. My ongoing sobriety, as well as my own changing, evolving, ideas about aging, have put me on a path to a healthier existence overall. (though no sooner spoken than I think I might have a cold)
The ability to be comfortable is luxury, to sit at my kitchen table and look out our window is a dream come true. The last few weeks have borne with them a humbling astonishment at, and thankfulness for, every good grace. My life has been so difficult sometimes, incredibly challenging, and really, just hard, but then to think of where my husband’s mother began her life as the daughter of Sicilian immigrants in New York in the 1930’s, to think of where my grandparents began, so many other things, it brings perspective to simple joys, to everyday goodness. I’m so thankful right now. I think that’s a good way to begin the new year.
I want to say something about this year, about 2017, as we head into the final two weeks of it. The thing about that is, I don’t know what I want to say. That being the case, wisdom would seem to dictate that it would probably be better not to say anything. So…anyway…
I think, I want to say that I’m feeling incredibly grateful for any and every good thing in my life, and in life in general. Lately I’m finding myself humbled by that feeling of gratefulness. Lately I’m feeling like I’m incredibly lucky. This year was hardly without its challenges though I felt less inclined to vent quite as much and was more likely to quietly contemplate. I marked one year sober in September. I spent not a little time this year working on healing some relationships. There’s a wonderful quote from the film “Tombstone”, where Doc asks Wyatt what he wanted. Wyatt answers that he just wanted a normal life. Doc says, “There is no normal life, Wyatt. There’s just life. Now get on with it.” I think I began to really understand that this year.
I was thinking about the times when we’ve lived in old houses, the kinds of houses where we had to use the fireplace for heat, the kinds of houses where you have to go outside to “check” things during bad storms to make sure they haven’t come loose or blown away or leaked, how hard those kinds of houses can be to live in and how much we learned from them. That’s probably some kind of metaphor about getting older but really, it’s about actual old houses and being grateful for those lessons but understanding that everything else is like that too. It can be challenging to stay in the awareness of taking nothing for granted when things are good. Thinking about those old houses can help to keep things in perspective. There have been times in my life when I haven’t had much. I am appreciative of every good thing.
This year there were events in the world left me feeling flabbergasted time and again. I used to imagine that once I got to be a certain age, the world wouldn’t be quite so baffling to me anymore. I thought I’d gotten to be pretty jaded. This year proved to me that I’ll never really be all that jaded and that the capacity for human beings to be horrible to one another is endless. In that, my awareness of giving was re-awakened. When a person, any person, is in the middle of a personal storm, then they’ve got to deal with themselves, and make no mistake about that or the importance of that. I believe a person has to take care of themselves and take care of their own first, in order to really be able to give anywhere else. I think sometimes that people under-estimate the value of giving even in small ways and so they don’t “bother.” I thought, well, if I’m going to talk about how shocked I am at the world this year, then I ought to talk about things that are hopeful as well. There are two charities that my husband and I have donated to for years when we can and sometimes it isn’t much but that isn’t the point, or it is because every little bit helps these organizations. One of those charities is the local mission here in town, and I urge anyone who is of a mind to give to a charity to find a good local organization to give to, and the other is St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. It’s another good reminder that every kindness matters, and that there are people trying to do good in the world.
At this juncture of my life, I’ve never been more grateful for my writing, for being a writer. This year I felt like I really understood again the value of it for myself and what it means to me personally to be able to do this and in that, so much nonsense fell away. In the beginning of being a writer, or thinking that I was a writer, or trying to be a writer, there was all this insecurity, I started trying to publish and then there’s all this getting caught up in expectations and what we think other people think or don’t and worries, wonderings, doubts, trying to “succeed,” and feeling like I was perpetually out of my league, and of having to prove something, if only to myself. Somewhere in the middle of all that I remembered the place where I was writing just for me, where I was writing all day and all night and on and on and it had nothing to do with anyone else or anything else, only me, writing. I think every writer knows that place. Along those lines there’s an essay, and article, recently published at Literary Hub, about protecting, really about cherishing and honoring, one’s “inner life” as a writer, and it’s worth a read for any writer. ( Link here.)
I don’t know what to say about the year ahead other than I hope it’s a good one. That might seem kind of dull, all things considered but, all things considered, sometimes a bit of boring is good, sometimes calm is really wonderful.
Late last night I finished work on another collection of poems, “Thelxiepeia.” This group of poems started out with a different title. When I began editing I knew that many of the poems would not make the final cut. They seemed parts of two books jammed together in a way that didn’t fit and so I opted for a cohesive finished selection and a new title. Thelxiepeia, in Greek mythology, is one of the Sirens, creatures whose seductive songs and music lured sailors to crash their ships. Sirens were often represented as being part woman and part bird. How I happened upon this story of Thelxiepeia was that I was watching an old movie called “Xanadu”, in which a muse, Kira, whose real name is Terpsichore, the muse of the dance, emerges from a mural, and falls in love with a mortal. There are fantastic musical numbers, Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, Michael Beck, with music by Cliff Richard, The Tubes, and ELO. I’ve mentioned this movie before as it has most everything in it that an adolescent girl in 1981, one seeking some escape from excruciating pain, could require of a movie. I still think it’s a beautiful film, though from a completely different point of view this many years gone now. In watching it again I thought to look up the names of the Nine Muses of Olympus, one of whom is portrayed, though it isn’t a speaking part, by Sandahl Bergman, who is better known for her roles in “Conan the Barbarian”, “All That Jazz”, and “Red Sonja.” This led to looking up the names of the Sirens, and the writing of the poem, “Thelxiepeia.” Thematically overall, the collection has to do with the subject of muses and myths, with the stories we tell ourselves so that we can find a way to tell our stories, and those things that help us along the way in that.
In writing these poems, in watching “Xanadu” whenever it was, these poems were written several years ago, and remembering again that time of my life, I understood again how it is that I became a poetess, a writer, and how much of that, for me, relates to, or has or is entrenched in, films and music in someway. In 1981 I turned thirteen years old. Over the course of exactly one months time, I went from being a normal, healthy kid, to being emaciated and barely able to get out of bed. Five foot eight, at that time, my weight dropped to ninety-six pounds at one point. I couldn’t go to school, couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t not sleep, and after months of weeks of grueling visits to doctors, specialists, hospitals, they couldn’t find anything specifically wrong with me that they could diagnose as anything other than Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, since re-diagnosed as an adult as Still’s Disease, which is similar to Lupus. That’s back story, it took a year to recover enough, to be well enough again, to really return to school. Point being that I really couldn’t do much of anything other than watch television during most of that time. I didn’t have the ability to concentrate or focus enough to read books during that time as I was in too much pain, though I’d been an avid reader up to then. Being as I couldn’t really do much of anything else during that time other than watch television, many of the usual restrictions on what I was allowed to watch, were lifted. Nineteen-eighty and eighty-one weren’t bad years for film, though my viewing was limited to whatever cable movie channel it was that we had or whatever was making its “Network Television Premier” and that was usually about a year behind whatever was in the theaters. I’ve spoken before about watching the film “Altered States” and feeling a strange understanding of the transformation of the main character while wondering why in the world anyone would willing put themselves through what he does. ( It’s like “Jaws” in that you find yourself just wanting him to get out of the water.) Along those lines I also watched the other werewolf movies of the day, “An American Werewolf in London” and “Wolfen” and the like. The feeling that I had sometimes was very much that I didn’t want to be that, and that I was nonetheless turning into some inexplicable creature and the world was turning into a strange place that didn’t understand me, anymore than I could understand it.
Most of the time, I couldn’t hold a pen or a pencil, couldn’t do schoolwork, wore Ace bandages and wrist braces and homemade splints. I was in so much pain so constantly, the world slips away when it’s like that, for anyone experiencing anything like that I would guess. The way that everyone else keeps time is meaningless and useless and of no importance. On the better days, I’d wish I was at school, I’d think about all I was missing out on, dances, friends, boyfriends, classes I liked. I couldn’t ride my bicycle or play sports anymore and I’d always been the kid that was outside from sunup until dark, though really it was beyond wallowing. Whatever the future was going to hold for me was forever changed. My mother said, “You know, you could still write. You could try writing poems again.” I’d written poems in grade school, and for school, though I hadn’t considered “writer” or “poetess” as a job option outside of possibly being a journalist, a newswoman. And I thought, “I can’t even hold a pencil.” But she got a couple of small notebooks for me and I remember writing what I still consider to be my first serious poem, titled simply, “Alone”, while I was sitting in bed watching the film, “Private Benjamin.” That movie is a comedy, containing one of my all time favorite movie line exchanges.
“Aunt Kissy: I hope my coat’s gonna be good enough. I had no idea it was gonna be so chilly.
Harriet Benjamin: It’s November here, Kissy.
Teddy Benjamin: It’s November everywhere, genius.”
But the film is ultimately about Judy Benjamin finding her sense of self, and the strength to be her own person, there was something in that that spoke to me beyond the ribald, raunchy, comedy, because in that place, the funniest thing in the world, isn’t quite so funny. In that place of so much pain, the funniest thing in the world seems illogical, senseless, and idiotic, I guess one way to put it would be like how the food fight in the film “Animal House” (1978), might not make you laugh if you’re not from a first world country where even waste is taken for granted, and what I was looking for were things that were hopeful in some way, or strong, resilient. It also may be that it was during that time that any remaining sense of humor I had, took a sardonic, somewhat self-deprecating, turn. I looked at the poem that I’d scribbled in the little notebook and that was the beginning, and I hope I never forget that moment. Additionally, it’s become evident to me that my brain might be hardwired for rhyme to some degree, and some of that comes from listening to music and song lyrics all my life. ( My father was a musician, both my parents could sing, there was live music in the house for much of my youth.) Eventually I was allowed to use my mother’s electric typewriter sometimes, when my hands were very swollen, as I could often still move my fingers on the keys for a while even if I couldn’t move my wrists or my hands, however much it hurt. I was a writer before that, but after that, I knew that I was, whether I’d claimed it or it had claimed me, and that was that. I’ve since tried not to be a writer a couple of times and that doesn’t ever work out. I used to say that my writing was my “human’s compensation,” like … yeah there’s all of whatever else there is, but then there’s my writing. God willing I’ll be able to keep writing and writing and writing. Human beings are resilient, and strong, courageous.
Finishing this collection of poems, and it isn’t quite as long as some of the others at only fifty-four pages, I could go right into editing another collection of poems but I found that I didn’t want to, I found myself wanting to work on some kind of story again, some fiction. Though really I am taking some time to organize and edit and clear the decks for the end of the year, hopefully do some fun things, spend some time with family. 2017 has gone quickly, hasn’t it? The last several years for me, I’ve realized, have been about finding myself as a writer again, finding my groove with it all, finding balance and self acceptance, allowing myself to be this and to honor it and the gift of it, to appreciate, and accept, and let be, my own muses. “Thelxiepeia”, I think, speaks very much to all of that. I hope to release it sometime next year, in early spring. I’m so grateful for this gift of being able to write, and I do consider it to be a gift. We all find inspiration or ideas in a lot of different things, people, places, it’s important to honor your muse(s), one of mine led me to Thelxiepeia. I’m uncertain in this moment if these poems were a farewell to the girl that I was or an homage, I feel like I can write about her, but I can’t ever again be her. I’m not sad about that, only grateful for having had the chance to be that girl, and to be looking now to the future as this woman. Becoming is ever ongoing.
great song from the film “Xanadu.”
I’ve worked hard the last couple of years to get some books published, I’m thinking of them as there were “the first five,” and now there is “the magnificent seven.” I also have stories in three print anthologies, and I’m going to get those linked up with cover pictures, as well as having been published thirteen times various places online during the last six years. In the spring of 2018, I hope to release another collection of poetry, tentatively titled “Thelxiepeia”. After that, well I wouldn’t say what was next even if I had figured that out. I am a prolific writer, and that has always been the case. Even when I think I’m not really writing much, I’m always really writing something. I had a tremendous back catalogue of manuscripts, books, to publish. “Thelxiepeia” is work that was composed from 2011 to 2012 or thereabouts, so I’m getting closer to being caught up.
The books I’ve released in the last week, “Gold Mine” and “Maybelline Raven and The Wolf”, both came out of a nervous breakdown that began in 2008. Fact is, I’ve gotten a lot of writing, stories, out of that breakdown though I’d just as soon not got through anything like that again. “Gold Mine” is really, I think, something that was written, compiled, jammed together, like a panic attack during a panic attack in 2009. That book was very much the moment at the beginning of an avalanche. The title “Gold Mine” came out of some remembered fragment that life experiences are a writer’s gold mine, to which I thought “go mine your own business,” and then thinking that I might have thrown a gold mine worth of writing into a fire. “Maybelline Raven and The Wolf” was written during the first months of 2014, when I was recovering from the worst of it all and really at the beginning of sorting things out. Most people cannot put their house back in order in the middle of the storm. I’ve said before that much of my work is catharsis in that it is something of a coping mechanism, as much as it is a way to dream, it is also a way to understand things, to reason things out in some way, and sometimes, it’s very much a way to get rid of the poison. I’ve written some horror stories that aren’t anything I want to read, writing horror was way outside of my comfort zone as a writer, so if someone tells me they don’t like horror, I can respond honestly that I understand that completely. I’ve also used the “input/output” analogy on that one, the world isn’t always a nice place, all my experiences in this life haven’t been good, sometimes the writing is way to git rid of bad emotions or baggage, we’ve all got stuff. I’ve written some super hopeful, sappy, in love and in love with life stuff too. We learn to appreciate the balance between the “good” and the “bad,” to understand that sometimes those things change, and to sift the wheat from the chaff.
“Maybelline Raven and The Wolf” began as I started to sort out my own ancestry, to research my own family tree. One of the biggest lessons to come out of that has been not to jump the gun. I started out with family stories, finally got to the 100% bottom of some things, researched the actual genealogy and family tree, did a DNA test only to then further read that such a test might not tell you what you want to know or even reveal the truth of your lineage because with each generation the bloodline thins, so to speak, and people migrated and mixed and so on. I learned that the descendants a person can verify and trace are generally the best indicator. I am of English, Irish, and Cherokee descent. It was ultimately easier for me than some as my parents are no mystery to me and I did grow up with a grandparents who were interested in the family history though there were discrepancies and oddities to be sorted out. For example, I grew up with a story that we were related to George Washington, as well as to an “Indian Princess,” to which my grandfather would say, “She wasn’t a princess. That wasn’t her real name.” When you hear stories like that as a kid, it’s ridiculous. Yeah right, sure. In researching the family tree, I found a George Washington, not thee George Washington, but a George Washington. From there I thought, “Okay, what other of these stories are true, and what have I had wrong?”
On my mother’s side of the family, I am able to trace back to the 1500’s in England, to Scotland and to 1800’s Ireland and a young man named Joseph Creighton, aged thirteen years, traveling alone, who arrived in New Orleans in 1847 aboard The Berlin, to Reverend David Caldwell and the Revolutionary War, and to Civil War soldiers who fought on both sides of the conflict. On my father’s side of the family, I am able to trace my ancestry to 1500’s England to Sir Robert Bell, Speaker of the House of Commons, to 1600’s Colonial England to Thomas Burgess whose affair with Lydia Gaunt led to the first ever divorce in Plymouth and to Cherokee Chief Doublehead ( a sixth great-grand-father), whose daughter, Cornblossum (Princess) Doublehead married Big Jake Troxell and their daughter, Margaret Troxell married James Bell in 1809, whose great-grandson, William, a great-grandfather, who married Lena Burgess, one of my great-grandmothers, and the sixth great-grandaughter of Thomas Burgess and Lydia Gaunt. There were also family stories of a relation to The Younger Brothers, of the James- Younger Gang by the marriage of a cousin, connected through the Carson family, though I was unable to verify those stories.
I went on my first cross-country trip to Mississippi and Louisiana before I was quite two years old, and I remember the highlights, including getting bit by a dog. These stories were swimming around in my head as I wrote the story of Maybelline. Maybelline Raven is a woman who has witnessed and experienced something horrific. As a result, her mind has found a way to compartmentalize and deal with the trauma as she remains terrified and trying to protect her children. Set in 1762 in a fictional village along the banks of the Mississippi River, this story was an important turning point for me, it is a story about courage, about strength, about the incredible power of the mind and the heart to heal, it is a story about resilience, survival, and love. Maybelline Raven is also a story that I believed in so much that I was will to roll the dice on publishing my own books, though it wasn’t the first book that I published. Creating “Maybelline” helped me understand my own processes of coping and healing.
I’m going to be taking a bit of a rest ( I already am, caught a bug, needed to sleep, etc.) and hopefully enjoying the holidays, sober,while trying to avoid eating too many delicious baked goods. I’ll probably be working on something. I’ll probably post again before the year is out, or not. Until then, “Gold Mine” and “Maybelline Raven and The Wolf”are available on Amazon. The paperback of Maybelline should be available any day now.
During the fall months of 2008 and on into 2009, and on for a while, reality slipped away from me. Amid the avalanche of dissipating solidity descending into complete confusion and chaos of thought, I threw more than twenty years of writing, of work, into a cauldron of flames. Two file boxes of poems, stories, notes, one completed novel, and two poetry manuscripts, went into the fire. One of those manuscripts was for a book of poems titled “Winsome Vein”, that I thought was darker than anything I’d ever written, so much so that I was afraid of the direction my writing seemed to be taking. The truth is that I’ve always written darker words, as much as I’ve written hopeful ones. However, having filed that copyright on “Winsome Vein”, saved that work as I had set fire to all other copies. ( Some might say that was the right thing to do.)
Within days of having burned so much of my work, I experienced a moment of clarity, and panic. I became terrified that I might destroy more of my own work. I gathered the bits and pieces of what remained, jamming them together one after another in whatever way they seemed to make sense to me, along with other fragments that my mind had latched onto in the unraveling. Those salvaged bits became this book, “Gold Mine”. I filed my copyright on it as soon as it was finished, thinking that I was filing a copyright on a pile of scraps, of bits and pieces of salvage. I was trying to protect my work from my own want to destroy it. I later found an old notebook with many pages missing that I remembered rifling through one night in a fit of what I was thinking of as “editing”, as though all sentimentality and heart had taken leave of me along with my senses. The poems still intact in that notebook remain something of a godsend to me. I destroyed twenty years of work, of scraps, of notes, of stories, early rejection letters received when I was in my teens and twenties, journals, it all went, as I tried to deny myself, to say, “I am not this.” I looked at what remained and thought, These are the words I managed to save.
Coming out of that time I didn’t know if I would ever write anything again. For nearly two years, I didn’t. It is the only time in the last thirty-three years that I’ve ever ceased writing.
All my words are not always the best words, they are, however, the encapsulation of the moment in which they were written. The merit of a thing is sometimes the moment. I’ve learned as much from the bad poems and stories that I’ve written as I have from the good ones. Whether they are all worth publishing isn’t the point, they are all worth keeping and learning from.
I hadn’t looked at, read, much of this work since that time. In writing and editing this now, I’ve realized that I was leaving a message for myself for the future, for whenever I would get back to this. A message to not give up, not to quit. I found my guts again with this book.
I am a writer. ~ Teri Skultety, September 12, 2017, from “Gold Mine”.
Paperback coming soon!
A Sampling from the seventy-eight pieces of poetry and prose that make-up, “Gold Mine”, now available on Amazon.
I hope you buy this collection of my salvaged scribbles, I hope you read it and enjoy it. I hope it rocks your socks. Thank you so much for stopping by. Sincerely, Teri Skultety
I pulled these quotes from other authors from facebook.
From Author Elizabeth Gilbert….
Dear Ones –
I’ve always loved this quote, from WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.
There is such deep truth in this statement — that all of us will have to choose at some point in our lives whether to become bitter or not. And she is right — the choice usually comes in middle age.
Why? Because if you have been around for three or four or five decades, the fact is — some really crappy things have probably happened to you…just by EXISTING.
You’ve been dumped; you’ve been lied to; you’ve been betrayed; you’ve been physically harmed; you’ve been disappointed; you’ve disappointed yourself; you’ve had people fail you and you have failed yourself; you’ve been fired; you’ve been discriminated against; you’ve been unfairly blamed; you’ve been taken for granted; you’ve been stricken with disease; you’ve been impoverished; you’ve lost the people you loved most in the world; you’ve been screwed and sued and abused and used…
I don’t care who you are, or how pretty your life may look from the outside — after a certain number of years, it’s just a fact: some shit has gone seriously wrong for you.
But this is where the interesting part begins.
Because now you have choice.
What kind of a person are you going to be, from here on out?
What’s the rest of your life going to look like?
If you decide to become a bitter person, who could blame you? Chances are, you have a list of offenses as long as your arm to justify that choice. The world is a hellhole full of liars and scumbags, and you are its victim, and you can produce 87 reasons to prove it — and nobody can dispute your claims, because it’s all TRUE.
Or, you can become something else.
There are two kinds of happiness, after all. There is “innocent happiness”, and there is “weathered happiness.”
Innocent happiness is the sunshine happiness that comes (usually in youth) when nothing bad has ever happened to you. This is the easiest happiness there is. It’s the gift of not knowing better. It’s sweet and naive and blessed. It’s lovely and sugary…and guaranteed — eventually the world will beat it out of you.
After that, you have a choice. You can turn bitter, or you can embrace what I call “weathered happiness.” There is nothing naive about weathered happiness. It is fought for. (It is often even fought AGAINST.)
Here is how you earn weathered happiness — by fighting for the light, even when all signs points to darkness. You dig through your history with tweezers and you pull up every single scrap of evidence of goodness that has ever happened to you, and build a lifeboat for yourself out of that goodness.
And there is goodness, when you stubbornly search for it.
You hold onto EVERY bit of evidence of grace that the world has ever demonstrated to you — no matter how small or glancing — and you build your new life upon it.
Every person who has ever shown you a kindness – you put them in your file of evidence. (Because even when you were being betrayed by everyone, you were not being betrayed by EVERYONE; there was someone, at some moment, who showed you a kindness…even if it was just for a day. Even if it was just for five minutes on the bus.)
Every act of generosity you ever received, or witnessed, or participated it — you file it away, and cling to it.
Every tiny bit of luck that ever happened to you — even if it’s just finding a penny on a sidewalk — you stuff it in your pocket and you say THANK YOU.
Every moment of beauty you ever got to see — you hoard it.
Most of all, you grab every scrap of evidence that life has MEANING. And if none of the standard paradigms of meaning (standardized religion, for instance) work for you — then you create your own damn meaning.
You take all this evidence of goodness, and you put it in your boat, and you sail that boat away into the LIGHT. Most of all, you absolutely and categorically refuse to become bitter, no matter what the hell WHAT. You leave that to others.
After all that has happened to you, you may say, “My innocence is gone. I will never be the same.”
That is true. You will never be the same
But it’s possible that you will be BETTER.
Up to you.
ONWARD, LG” ( author, Liz Gilbert )
What also sometimes happens in life is that we get bombarded, too much at once, or too many things in a row, and that can make it feel or seem like a difficult or trying time is never going to end. And then there are all of the issues of forgiveness.
To say that I’ve been through the proverbial wringer more than once would be something of an understatement. It takes time to get to the place again of understanding and knowing that forgiving other people isn’t about them or for them, that that is for me. It takes time after that to be able to do it, to forgive, to let it go, to let go of the hurt.
And then is the place of forgiving one’s self.
Having cut loose of every other thing of whatever else whoever else did or didn’t do, then there’s dealing with myself and forgiving myself for being human as well, for being fallible and imperfect. I’m quite good at pin pointing my own mistakes so it makes things acutely clear in some instances though hopefully that will help in avoiding those same mistakes in the future, and for being afraid.
You would think that after going through so much of whatever it is in life and being alive for this long and surviving…What is there to be afraid of?
Believing again that things will be good, that it isn’t all going to go to hell in a hand basket again the moment that I let myself believe in something good or trust someone or allow myself to enjoy something or be happy. Believing again that life can be good again, that it is good, and that it’s all right to forgive myself for not having been perfect, for not having lived up to my own expectations.
The idea of believing again is terrifying because it wasn’t the first time that the rug’s been pulled out from under me, or that I’d been blindsided or betrayed or any of the things that happen to a person after however many years on planet earth, far from it. I think that maybe I had hoped that the time before this time was the last time, though really, that might mean that life were over. There are no guarantees in life for anyone, no matter what you’ve already gone through, and no matter what or how much you have or don’t have materially, no matter what you manage to achieve. I was living in fear without realizing it. Perhaps I’m lucky though, that the fear that I most need to conquer is of being happy, or that if I am, that it won’t last.
In all of those things, those times when things were going wrong or went wrong, there were good things too, things so wonderful and amazing that they left me in awe of the beauty that there is in this world, and those are the things that matter. Get up, go on.