writing

Changed

This is a good write-up by author Autumn Christian as to the changing nature of one’s writing as it relates to the changing being of one’s person, “I’ve Changed and So Has My Writing” by Autumn Christian.

Along those lines, of note, sometime ago I watched a documentary about author J.D. Salinger, author of “The Catcher in the Rye.” Salinger had already been in seclusion for some years when this young man, a budding writer, filled with the romanticism of his youthfulness, whom, having traveled across the country, tracked Salinger down at his home. Salinger met the young man at the end of the driveway to his home and at first, wasn’t completely un-personable, only cautious, suspicious. The young man then began to go on about Holden Caulfield. Salinger yelled at him, used an expletive or two, told him that he wasn’t Holden Caulfield, it was just a story. Salinger then turned away from the young man, retreating to the solitude of his self-imposed seclusion.

Some twenty plus years ago now, a young man who had stolen some of my poems some years before that, presented them to me, saying they were his own. At first, I didn’t recognize them though they seemed strangely familiar. There was one, however, really quite bad, that struck me immediately as being the product of my teenage angst as I recalled what it was that had prompted me to write it, a Peter Gabriel song. Circumstances were such that I thought it the wiser option to not confront this individual, and so I did not, choosing instead to let whatever else was contained in those pages go. The point of this anecdote being, now, that I did not immediately recognize my own words, my own work.

I can’t speak for other writers with regard to how prolific they are or aren’t. I’ve been writing all my life at this point, having shredded or burned as much writing as I’ve kept, at least, and who knows what all else was ever anywhere when in my youth my ideas about the world, my romanticism about being a writer, sent thousands of pages flooding through the mail, or left file boxes overflowing with prose sitting in some corner somewhere. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of pages, maybe millions of pages. I certainly don’t remember every word of it, and wouldn’t want to. While some pieces become sentimental or retain meaning, writers “release” their work, their words. I just told someone the other day, “I’m writing to get rid of it” in some regard. We move on, because stagnation is death. It’s a wonderful thing when something you’ve written speaks to someone, resonates with them, that’s part of the point, but J.D. Salinger was never the fictional character that he created, Holden Caulfield. And, even if he was, it was only in that time of the writing of it. (This is where I demonstrate how I’ve learned not to waste a lot of time trying to explain being a writer, what is to be one, etc.)

Writers, most writers, I think, are changing, growing, learning, as people, and that changes the writing, or should, in every way.  People remember us from whenever they knew us, or thought they did, and even then it is through their perception of us which is only that. I’m not sixteen and still filled with naive, overly-romantic, longings and pining about the world in general. I’m not in my twenties, or thirties, or any of the things, stages, changes, phases, that went with those times, and I’m about to be done with my forties.  I sometimes, though less and less, miss the physicality of my nineteen year old self, I sometimes wish I’d spent more time playing cars with my son when he was little, but other than that, I don’t sit around lamenting the previous decades of my life or longing to relive them. I’m glad of where I’m at in my life now. I fought hard to get here. (I’m also not going to get into, at the moment, how I feel about being middle-aged, this time of my life, or whatever else, etc., etc., etc., because hopefully I’ve learned not to blather all that away.) How wrong is it of anyone to expect me, or anyone, to relinquish the present moments of my life, my learning and experience, to suit whatever their “stuff” is? Think about that.

There are a few writers whose work I truly love, things they’ve written that I completely cherish. But, because I really truly love their work, I’m wanting to read what they’re going to write next.  I certainly wouldn’t expect, or want, them to become stagnant or to cease to grow as writers, or human beings, in order to suit my expectations. I wouldn’t want to begin to take apart everything that’s wrong with and about that idea. There were some important lessons in that Salinger story, not only as a writer, but as a reader. It’s one I remind myself of often. If other people become stuck in their perception of you, you cannot take that on yourself. To that end, perhaps ironically, a recurrent theme in my writing is transformation and transcendence. Butterflies, werewolves, etc., metaphors for becoming, for transforming. Perhaps some people don’t change, and as to whether that is “good” or “bad” is neither here nor there. But, I do certainly know, I have changed.

Keep moving forward. Just do you. Don’t go trippin’ on spiderwebs.

TS

The Edges of the Rain

Some thoughts on current events in the world, I don’t know how other people deal with trauma, cope with reality, with being in the world. The doors to madness are too much reality, and not enough of it. The doors into madness are laced with too much philosophical contemplation about existence, not enough letting one’s self be. What that means is, each of us is finding our own way. I hope we can all do that with as much decency and kindness as possible.

Work continues on the sequel to The Slick Furies. It’s slower going than previous writes as I am plucking all the good bits from other beginnings of this novel. This book has a different tone, historical, a different degree of seriousness. Certainly there will be humor. I’m not in a rush with this write, it’s important to me to get my vision of this book, this story, onto the page as I’ve imagined it. As with any sequel, building on the first book’s history, characters, some of the emotional bonds are deeper. I feel like, think, The Slick Furies really had a sense of connection between the main characters. It’s important to me to make sure that carries on, that I capture that with this second book as well, though some of the dynamics have changed, and that’s what keeps stories like this interesting. These characters aren’t stagnate, they’ve been affected by the events of the story of their lives.

I’m about to begin proofreading, making corrections to, “The Edges of the Rain.” This is one of the novellas I wrote in 2011, rewrote earlier this year. It was easy to write, I wrote the original draft in two weeks. It was tougher after the fact when I read it and realized what I’d written. I’m hoping to release it this fall. This book is a psychological thriller, a nightmare of greed, a horror story of human nature, and all the ways we compartmentalize ourselves. I’m ready to get to publishing it, to be moving on to other things. So, there will be updates on this book as things progress.

 

Those two books should keep me busy for the remainder of the year. I haven’t been able to really write for a few days after crashing my bicycle, one of my better spills, jammed both wrists/hands, one side of my body is dinged up. It hurts to ride. It’s always something. I get up limping every day as is. But, if I give in to all the hurts and park it on the sofa indefinitely, then I’m done. So I do what I feel like I can, as I can. Living with the arthritis for as long as I have, it’s a balancing act of rest and motion, when possible. The last few days, not so much doing. I say that not in complaint, but as statement of fact and appreciation for those things I can do when I can do them. Something I’ve learned from this, is that in all our commonalities, the things we can empathize with another about, there’s very rarely any actual comparison one human to the next, what is the same about each of us is that we are individuals. Part of why I don’t ever compare what I can do ( or be) on any given day, or ever, to anyone else. ( At least, I try not to.)

Rest in peace, Margot Kidder, Ms. Lois Lane. A story about her from someone who knew her for a time was making the rounds, said she loved the wolves inhabiting the area around her Montana home and would regularly leave meat out for them. According to this chap, she said she hoped that when she died, her friends would find her, tell no one, put her on a bed-sheet and drag her up the mountain so she could be the last meal she gave to the wolves she loved. I don’t know if I’ll ever be quite that at peace with myself in this world, but that’s one of the coolest stories I’ve ever heard.

TS

Zen, and the Art of Poetics

“Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book, your composition of yourself is at stake.” ~ E.L. Doctorow

In the bottom of my beach bag, I found a notebook full of poems I wrote last summer, along with a copy of Town and Country magazine from one year ago this month. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to undo me, or perhaps remind me is a better way to put it, of what I thought I was doing, or who I thought I would be by this time in my life. Sometimes it’ll be some other writer-woman ( who is in my peer group) that I see who obviously has it more together than I do, in every way. I’ll think, “What the hell am I even doing?” What I’m doing after that is reminding myself that I don’t live my life by comparison and it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. I have to correct myself to keep myself from letting my thoughts go down the road of “what might have been… if only…” I don’t finish that sentence because the rest of that sentence is “… I’d had my shit together/hadn’t still been falling apart when I started trying to be a professional big-time writer woman.” etc. There’s no point in that whatsoever. Really.  I will tell you, I shouldn’t have been trying to pursue a writing career at the time when I started to because I was still having some serious post-nervous breakdown issues, and at the same time, as always, the writing proved to be my salvation in that, if only because, it gave me something to do, to focus on. I also did a lot of praying, a lot. I’m pretty sure I still manage to say one prayer a day at some point, or just, “Thank, God.” So, there’s no point in dwelling on any of those things or concerning myself with what might have been if only. There’s something to be learned from everything, however, and always room for improvement. So when I see those, I think, better examples of adult women writers, in my age group, those whom are emotionally mature, who look to be getting things done in the way I thought I would be, it is inspiring, and that is helpful. ( Keeping in mind that being a writer is such a completely unique job, existence, way of being, that there are no other “examples” that are in any way helpful. It makes no difference to me if the woman who owns the bake shop is a prime example of womanhood with her life completely under control, she still isn’t a writer, I am, so none of it applies, unless I’m baking pies.) Of course then I have to remind myself, so I don’t start going over all my own faults with a fine-tooth comb… if I were more personable, charming, had more grace, whiter teeth, a better car, hadn’t been crazy, wasn’t getting so many damn wrinkles… that their lives likely aren’t perfect either, everyone has “problems” or something they’re dealing with or “things.” This is also part of the point, however, because they’re still getting it done, with style, with grace, with dignity, winning awards, earning the respect of their peers, living the dream. (It is also where I remind myself to let go of any momentary feelings of envy because if we knew what all any other person had dealt with in life, was dealing with in life, we’d never ever be jealous of one another, or anyone, ever, we’d all still choose to be who we are with the lives that we have…most of us.)

The other day I was trying to figure out what kind of story I’m in, what genre. As in, what kind of story is your life in. I could say for certain what kind of story I know I’m not in, I’m not in a noir story, it isn’t science fiction, not a western, and so on. The conclusion I arrived it is that I’m in some kind of romance/love story, fantasy, fairy tale, horror, myth legend, inspirational, etc. or any of the related sub-genres, all of which sort of falls into the category of something Gothic, something sort of 19th Century meets the modern world. That’s looking at what I know to be the complete story of my life up to this point, something with Gothic overtones. I say that because it’s been part nightmare at times, and part complete joy with times of wonderful calm and happiness, Gothic. I was all set to have an interesting discussion on the topic with my husband when he said, in usual Jess fashion, “I’m in a biography.” And that was quite a good laugh. But in his saying that, I realized I’d forgotten what it was that I thought my life would be like at this point, kind of the life you have, have really been having, versus the life you thought you would be having, and that brings me back to some of those examples of women writers that have ( look to have ) it together in the ways I thought I would. I thought I’d have nailed a six figure book deal, or two, have one or two real friends, the most awesome relationship ever, etc., I’d be glamorous in an understated way, well-respected, just a completely fabulous life without any real problems. Keeping in mind that this fantasy of my life as a writer was likely first conceptualized when I was somewhere between the ages of seventeen and twenty. Suffice it to say, I’ve learned a few things about reality in the three decades since then.

None of this is to be taken as any kind of complaint. I’m pretty happy with where my life is at right now. I really enjoy my sanity. I had to fight to get it back to this. I’m grateful, incredibly thankful, for every good thing, for every good moment. What I’ve realized, however, is that it’s likely none that of us are living the life we thought we would be living, but not only that, none of us are likely living the lives we think we are. I thought I was going to live this glamorous life as a writer, I’d wear beautiful silk shirts with coordinating slacks, high heels, silk pajamas and lounge wear, drive a Mercedes or a mid-80’s Jaguar, and this was going to happen based upon the fact that I’m so talented, amazing imagination, and phenomenally prolific, it couldn’t not happen. ( I guess I thought I was going to be Danielle Steel, from the sound of that. Who knows.) At no time did I consider the realities of my own story. (Danielle Steel is from a wealthy family and grew up in Europe.) I used to imagine myself wearing plaid skirts, tall boots, and a turtle neck under a tweed jacket with elbow patches, walking across some Ivy League campus in New England in the fall, as well. Despite my “humble beginnings” it would “just happen.” You can be whoever you want to be. You can live whatever life you want to live. I wear dress pants more often than jeans these days, around the house. I’ve many style/fashion intentions and plans. (Really, the idea was to be able to live decently and create art, to be able to write. Because I was, I am, going to write anyway.)

Sometimes it’s my own work that reminds me, found in the bottom of a bag, in a notebook I was carrying around so as not to be carrying around my actual notebook, that reaches up and hits the reset button. Reminds me of who I thought I wanted to be, what I thought I was doing or going to be doing. Sometimes, it’s something that makes me painfully, if only momentarily, aware again of my own foolishness.

In my beach bag, I found these poems I wrote last summer. Some of them are pretty good, I think.

TS

Zen  written on 5/21/17

I am reading Sandburg by the pool
and longing for Joan Didion’s ease and access
to vocabulary.
I think I remember
what an aardwolf is
and contemplate the word
“venerability”
and a world that neglected me
and a society that doesn’t seem to know
its own behind
from a hole in the ground.
But, I remind myself
I was out of my mind for a while
So I cannot blame it. (the world)
People think crazy is contagious,
like a list of symptoms
and side effects
at the end of a commercial,
for what cures you,
can kill you.
Roll the bones.
Worry about Skylab (it fell. hit no one.)
Worry about Skynet.
Learn to love the bomb,
and don’t worry.
You could be a championship motorcyclist,
and get hit by a car while riding your bicycle.(*)
You could eat salad every day
and still gain weight
because you’ve got to think
thin
think thin
THINK THIN.
Admit your vanity still matters
and make it matter more than
your gluttony.
It’s your hormones.
if your hormones are off-key
out of tune
in December
you may need more bikini
in June.
They make a pill for that too.
How to remedy humanity
in daily doses,
just don’t take too many, or
any.
These days
I prefer my chemicals be only diet Pepsi. Usually.
I’m reading Sandburg by the pool,
and Raymond Carver,
and Town and Country magazine, and
“How to Take A Bullet”
and “Streaming”.
I’m writing poems
for a new generation
to remember.
Keep your personality lean,
and the bullshit
to a minimum.
Turn the music up,
and the noise down,
so you can hear the sound
of your own being.
Forgive them.
Forgive myself.
They don’t know what it’s like,
to have to learn how to exist again.

Teri Skultety

 

*reference specifically to championship racer Nicky Hayden who was hit by a car while on his bicycle on 5/17/17, he passed away on 5/22/17

When You Become Yourself

In some moment, when you least expect it, you will cease to be the expectations, the perceptions, or idea, of any other soul on earth. In some quiet hour you will know yourself for the first time completely as you’ve always existed, you will know what and who you are and be only that forever after.

This evening has been a revelation. I think that paragraph will find its way into the book.

TS

Baudelaire, Metamorphosis of the Vampire

 

Metamorphosis of the Vampire, 1857
Charles Baudelaire
Translated by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Meanwhile from her red mouth the woman, in husky tones,
Twisting her body like a serpent upon hot stones
And straining her white breasts from their imprisonment,
Let fall these words, as potent as a heavy scent:
“My lips are moist and yielding, and I know the way
To keep the antique demon of remorse at bay.
All sorrows die upon my bosom. I can make
Old men laugh happily as children for make.
For him who sees me naked in my tresses, I
Replace the sun, the moon, and all the stars of the sky!
Believe me, learned sir, I am so deeply skilled
That when I wind a lover in my soft arms, and yield
My breasts like two ripe fruits for his devouring — both
Shy and voluptuous, insatiable and loath —
Upon this bed that groans and sighs luxuriously
Even the impotent angels would be damned for me!”

When she had drained me of my very marrow, and cold
And weak, I turned to give her one more kiss — behold,
There at my side was nothing but a hideous
Putrescent thing, ail faceless and exuding pus.
I closed my eyes and mercifully swooned till day:

And when I looked at morning for that beast of prey
Who seemed to have replenished her arteries from my own,
The wan, disjointed fragments of a skeleton
Wagged up and down in a lewd posture where she had lain,
Rattling with each convulsion like a weathervane
Or an old sign that creaks upon its bracket, right
Mournfully in the wind upon a winter’s night.

 

Le Vampire, 1857
Charles Baudelaire
Translated by Atti Viragh

You who, keen as a carving blade,
Into my plaintive heart has plunged,
You who, strong as a wild array
Of crazed and costumed cacodaemons,

Storming into my helpless soul
To make your bed and your domain;
— Tainted jade to whom I’m joined
Like a convict to his chain,

Like a gambler to his game,
Like a drunkard to his bottle,
Like maggot-worms to their cadaver,
Damn you, oh damn you I say!

I pleaded with the speedy sword
To win me back my liberty;
And finally, a desperate coward,
I turned to poison’s perfidy.

Alas, but poison and the sword
Had only scorn to offer me:
“You’re not worthy to be free
Of your wretched slavery,

You imbecile! — For if our means
Should release you from her reign,
You with your kisses would only breathe
New life into the vampire slain!”

 

You may read other translations of Baudelaire’s poems here, Les Fleurs du Mal.

 

Les Fleus du Mal, 1857, Charles Baudelaire, is the book of poetry I am secretly always looking for a vastly under priced first edition/early edition copy of, one with a beautifully embossed cover, in every scouring of every thrift or antique shop I enter. I have a paperback copy, Penguin Classics, containing the original verses in French, in addition to the English translations. I don’t know quite what it is about these verses that fascinates me so, as their lines do not seem to stay with me long after reading them, at least, not that I’m aware of. They are beautiful, horrible, poems. Influenced by the work of Edgar Allen Poe, Baudelaire was convicted on obscenity charges, for which he, the printer, and the publisher, were fined. Quite the interesting literary character, credited with coining the term “modernity,” about whom I am still educating myself. Interesting to me in this moment, however, as I am writing about vampires, are these two poems composed by Baudelaire about a vampire, that I’d read before however had not realized were written forty years prior to the publication of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” in 1897. Forty years is a lifetime when you consider that Baudelaire himself did not live beyond age forty-six… that we know of.

This has led me to a poem by Lord Byron, The Giaour, 1813, these lines are known as “The Vampire Passage”, said to be the first reference to vampire lore in English literature ( I’m learning some things) according to that site/link. ( I found a pdf copy of the complete poem, it’s fifty-one pages long. Later for that, eventually.)

“But first, on earth as vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;
There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
At midnight drain the stream of life;
Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
Must feed thy livid living corse:
Thy victims ere they yet expire
Shall know the demon for their sire,
As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
Thy flowers are withered on the stem.”

 

Quite frankly, I’m reminded of my own first scribbled poem (along with several other of my poems and not at all to compare myself to Lord Byron other than talking subject matter) when I’d no idea whatsoever who Lord Byron was, or knew anything at all about writing poems. I thought poems had to rhyme and when pressed to produce one for a school assignment, I figured all poems were depressing or had to be “lofty” somehow. (Yes, this is well covered territory.)

“A flower starts out very small,
Then it will grow to be very tall,
then it will reach down and die,
Upon the ground, there it lies.”

It wasn’t fifty-one pages, but it got the job done, got an “A” for that in 1977. I had no emotion about that poem whatsoever other than wanting to be finished with the thing and being glad that I was. Looking at it now, that third line is strange to me, as though a flower were not wilting, as though it were tired of all that stretching upward toward the light. It rhymed. However, in some way, perhaps everything was right there in that first poem, these recurring themes in my own work. Perhaps it was always going this way, writing about vampires, and such.

I used a quote from Lord Byron’s poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”, in The Slick Furies to begin Part Two of the book, “Among them, not of them, in a shroud.” Not because I was, or am, terribly familiar with that poem, but because I remembered that line, that quote as being something somewhat paraphrased or nearly so, from a scripture, “In the world, but not of it.”

I think, perhaps, what is of interest to me is the willingness of these writers to write such dark things at all. What is the light without the contrast? I feel at home with these discoveries, new to me.  I am fascinated. The work continues.

TS

 

 

Les Metomorphoses du Vampire
Charles Baudelaire

La femme cependant de sa bouche de fraise,
En se tordant ainsi qu’un serpent sur la braise,
Et pétrissant ses seins sur le fer de son buse,
Laissait couler ces mots tout imprégnés de musc:
— “Moi, j’ai la lèvre humide, et je sais la science
De perdre au fond d’un lit l’antique conscience.
Je sèche tous les pleurs sur mes seins triomphants
Et fais rire les vieux du rire des enfants.
Je remplace, pour qui me voit nue et sans voiles,
Le lune, le soleil, le ciel et les étoiles!
Je suis, mon cher savant, si docte aux voluptés,
Lorsque j’étouffe un homme en mes bras veloutés,
Ou lorsque j’abandonne aux morsures mon buste,
Timide et libertine, et fragile et robuste,
Que sur ces matelas qui se pâment d’émoi
Les Anges impuissants se damneraient pour moi!”

Quand elle eut de mes os sucé toute la moelle,
Et que languissamrnent je me tournai vers elle
Pour lui rendre un baiser d’amour, je ne vis plus
Qu’une outre aux flancs gluants, toute pleine de pus.’

Je fermai les deux yeux dans ma. froide épouvante,
Et, quand que les rouvris à la clarté vivante,
A mes côtés, au lieu du mannequin puissant
Qui semblait avoir fait provision de sang,
Tremblaient confusément des débris de squelette,
Qui d’eux-mmes rendaient le cri d’une girouette
Ou d’une enseiga’, au bout d’une tringle de fer,
Que balance le vent pendant les nuits d’hiver.

 

The Zombies, She’s Not There

If you’re looking for me on facebook, I am not there.

I took my leave of it a couple of days ago. I will say this, it’s a kind of odd… feeling? I was a participant on facebook for seven years, that’s quite a chunk of time to be engaged in such timesuckage. I won’t discuss precisely what my habit was in terms of my social media usage, however, as with any habit, when you give it up “cold turkey” there’s something of an empty space where the habit was. There was a little bit of a feeling of free-falling for half a day, however, it passed quickly enough. Suffice it to say, it was the right decision for me. I do not regret deleting my facebook page. It is highly unlikely I will return to that particular social network. I will also say that if you use facebook and you are enjoying your use of it, well then good for you. I mean that sincerely. I figure we’re all finding our own way around in this here world, to each their own.

In other happenings, the editing/correcting of previous work continues. Let that be a lesson to me to proofread better. (It isn’t terribly exciting as a topic of conversation either but, there again, let that be a lesson to me to proofread better.) I’ve decided I will no longer publish poetry collections on Kindle. The formatting of poetry is different from novels/stories. I don’t like the way it looks on Kindle no matter how I’ve adjusted it. Editing poetry is particularly tedious as is. I gave it the old college try, as they say. I prefer to publish the poetry in paperback form. So shall it be. I will continue to publish my fiction, novels, novellas, stories, etc., in both paperback and on Kindle.

Something has changed. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I don’t know that I’d explain it if I could. I find myself wanting to say something about the things that make us happy, the ways in which we all find our ways of being in the world, but it seems to me in this moment, better not to break the spell of any such thing with too much deciphering. Perhaps that is some of it, that with eyes wide open, or “woke,” if you prefer, one realizes that awareness is a personal matter of which there may be no such thing as “fully aware” in that isn’t there always something somewhere one doesn’t know or isn’t aware of? Certainly. So it seems to the open eyes that the demystification of the world, is, in some regard, overrated. On the contrary, however, one may then engage in the making of at least marginally informed choices. One might make the comparison between drinking ( intoxicants) because one doesn’t know any better, and drinking because one does. ( I remain sober.) Or, if one were to wear “rose-colored glasses” as a matter of choice, rather than unaware oblivion, or naiveté, or frivolity. (Not that I just woke up, not hardly.) As I said, I can’t quite put my finger on it.

So pleased, excited, to have so many stories, books, to write, so much to do. On I go.

TS

Undone

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.

The Munsters

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.

TS

 

“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

Be In Love With Your Life

I took about a two-week break from working on anything at all writing wise and that was about as much of a break from writing as I could manage. As for what I’m working on, the thing about that is that it doesn’t matter, until the work is completed. There are many things that I want to write, hope to write, and some of those things are more difficult to write or will be, than others. If you’ve ever actually completed the writing of a book, then you know first hand that it’s easier said than done. I think, I hope, I’ve finally learned to stop spouting about what the next project is because the truth about that is, there are some things that I want to write that I don’t know if I can write them. I don’t know if I have the skills to write what I want to write to the fulfillment of my ambitions about whatever it is. There are some things I want to write that now, having written a few books, I understand exactly how much work is involved. I don’t want to talk those things into the ground, and be all hat, no cattle.

Taking a break, for a minute, gave me a moment to think about what it is that I want to be doing. For me, there’s always a moment of, “I wonder if I can write this _______.” And then challenging myself to. In that, there are also moments when I’ve looked at something I’ve written and realized what it could have been, what it could be, the potential beyond what it was at the moment of creation and that’s always a pull to get back into something, to try to meet the challenge of one’s own vision. I find myself less interested in talking about the process of it all, or that, perhaps, the process is less interesting to me. I think, I hope, I’ve finally learned to let go of self-judgement with regard to my writing. There are some who never struggle with that, with accepting themselves as writers and what that ultimately means for them. Would you write if no one in the world cared anything about it other than you? I would. And I would write without placing any limits on my writing other than those dictated by what it is that I find to be interesting, what it is that I want to do. I don’t know if I will release another book this year.

I’m always writing poetry. I wrote this one today…I don’t know what the title of it is yet It might be “Falling In Love With My Mid-Life Crisis” or “The Last Time I Fell In Love When My Hair Was Turning Grey” or “I Remember the Last Time I Fell In Love When My Hair Was Turning Grey”… I think that’s the one.

 

I Remember the Last Time I Fell In Love, When My Hair Was Turning Grey

I am too old to have been this naïve.
But then, I’ll always remember this time.
Some days, I have the most beautiful heart,
and the most brilliant mind.

 

I love the complexity in the simplicity of this poem, it’s the old adage of “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” ( Alfred Lord Tennyson), bittersweet, coupled with the implication of “Some days” implying that “other days” I’ve been neither beautiful nor brilliant, some days I’ve been perfectly foolish, to say the least. I’ve fallen in love with writing again, and I’d just about fallen out of it! I’ve been thinking about that a lot, love, in general. They used to say that before a person could, or can, really understand and accept love from someone, they’ve got to learn to love themselves. I think a person has to learn to like themselves first, to know that it’s good and fine and okay to like yourself, and go from there. That means learning to appreciate one’s own imperfections, one’s flaws, and folly. Perspective, and other ten-dollar words.

“Be in love with your life, every minute of it.” ~ Jack Kerouac

 

Teri

The Next Voice You Hear

 

 

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.

Son of a sharecropper (not a photo of my grandfather but it could have been) working near Chesnee, South Carolina, 1937, photo by Dorothea Lange

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.

James Agee     Walker Evans   Dorothea Lange

 

 

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)

 

coffee station that didn’t work out

apothecary inspirations, from pinterest

current reality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

TS