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Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Easter Wreath

Victorious cross with laurel wreath, Chi Ro, and grieving Roman soldiers.
WIKIPEDIA: "Anastasis," symbolic representation of the resurrection of Christ. Panel, Roman lidless sarcophagus, ca. 350 A.D. From the excavations of the Duchess of Chablais at Tor Marancia, 1817-1821.  /  One of the oldest Christograms is the Chi-Rho or Labarum. It consists of the superimposed Greek letters chi (Χ) and rho (Ρ), which are the first two letters of Christ in Greek. Technically, the word labarum is Latin for a type of vexillum, a military standard with a flag hanging from a horizontal crossbar. A Chi-Rho Christogram was added to the flag by the Emperor Constantine I in the late Roman period. Therefore Christogram and labarum were not originally synonyms.

9:00 p.m. What a lovely Easter Day it was . . . I posted this image elsewhere, and it's interesting to see what people chose to comment on--the symbology of birds and wreath, the spread of Christianity (Roman soldiers), and also the Chi Ro said to be dreamed or seen by Constantine before the battle of Milvian Bridge. The accounts by Lactantius and Eusebius vary, and they are interesting--see the Wiki-version here.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Magnolia Girl

Reading at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, North Carolina, 2012

"The Magnolia Girl" originally appeared in Books & Culture Magazine.
Last summer it was reprinted in the collection The Foliate Head (UK: Stanza Press, 2012.)

Since it is Holy Saturday, or Black Saturday, or Easter Eve, I thought a poem involving the curious items of the Devil and repentance might just be in order... Enjoy!

from the back cover of THE FOLIATE HEAD
Artwork by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
(UK: Stanza Press, 2012)

The Magnolia Girl

She climbed the great magnolia tree 
To learn the ways of bird and bee,

And there the Prince of Darkness came 
To tempt her with delicious shame.

He bore her up and bore her down, 
He let her try his royal crown

While leaves went clattering-a-clack 
Like gossips warning at her back.

A burst of starlight from his face, 
His every move a sigh of grace—

Could you resist his lightsome wiles, 
Or stop the arrows of his smiles?

What was a tendency to hiss 
When set beside a glowing kiss?

In long-ago and far-away,
She danced her dance the livelong day—

She showed him all her naked skin, 
And what they did was mortal sin.

When boredom dulled his passion’s rage, 
The Serpent Prince desired a cage;

He jailed her in the blooming tree 
And spread a lie that she was free.

Addicted to the streaming light
From which her lover once took flight,

She now repents those leisure hours 
Misspent among magnolia flowers. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Glass for Good Friday: Ken Carder

Here are my pictorial musings about the glasswork of Ken Carder, who came to glass by a path through painting and sculpture. Ken Carder developed a method of glassmaking that unites the two traditions into something new, using stencils and "painting" fine ground colored glass over sculptural castings. Pictures were taken at North Carolina Glass 2012 (October 28, 2012 - February 1, 2013, Western Carolina University) with my tiny digital camera. I love these small shows where one can discover new artists, and where the gallery allows you to record a visit with diary-like photographic notes. 

Alas, I did not record all three titles, but this one is "OH NOVEMBER," 2011,
glass and metal 30" x 12" x 9"

Ken Carder: "Over the past 30 years or so I have done my best to develop a method of using instinct rather than formula in my approach. This leads to less predictable outcomes and much greater room for original invention."
Quotes drawn from North Carolina Glass 2012: In Celebration of 50 Years of Studio Glass in America, a catalogue
for The Fine Art Museum at Western Carolina University

Take a look at this one.

See more work and a biography at the Asheville Art Museum site.

Ken Carder: "I think of my entire body of work as an ongoing theatre piece that runs 
parallel to the world I inhabit. The characters and sets sometimes reflect my world but need 
not adhere to any particular rules or fall victim to any constrictions of logic."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Rabbit with a pocket watch--

Tenniel's White Rabbit
It's barely Maundy Thursday, the taxes are not complete, sleep is needed, and there's a heck of a lot of choral singing lined up for the next four days. I feel like a panicky soprano White Rabbit headed for an appointment with the Duchess. I must say that though I resisted being part of a choir at first, I have learned a great deal about music and added a new gallery to the chambers inside my head.

Despite the fact that the snow is still deep around town, the afternoon sun burning on the front of the house has warmed the beds and revealed snowdrops and aconites. Little shivering souls, my heart goes out to you. You are so desperately sweet and brave. I hope it is your time to drink in the sunshine, although it may be time to be covered in another white blanket.

In important No'then news, I saw two titmice perched in the broken lilac, looking adorably as though it might be time for spring.  Juncos and cardinals and mourning doves and the ever-enduring sparrows pecked at the snow for dropped seed. Lovely.

Illo from Clive Hicks-Jenkins
In personal news, I heard six bubbly-sounding words from my husband and two from my youngest, coming from deep inside that giant rabbit hole of the Grand Canyon. So that's good. Bit small, but good. I am guessing that they'll finish the rim-to-rim climb late tomorrow and be back on top of the world after four days in the canyon.

Also, "An Incident at Agate Beach" appeared on one of the 10 Awesome lists yesterday. (Timely, as it will be online soon, in its fourth anthology publication, first online publication.) Thanks for fb-tagging, Jeff Ford!
. . . . . . .       . . . . . . .       . . . . . . .
Meeting me elsewhere: excerpts from 2012 books (A Death at the White Camellia OrphanageThaliadThe Foliate Head) at ScribdThaliad at Phoenicia Publishing. See page tabs above for review clips and information on those brand new books plus The Throne of Psyche from 2011, and more.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Being culture-makers--

Creation, courtesy, and change

detail, "Maternity"
Mary Boxley Bullington

A possible delusional, middle-of-the-night post from the depths of the great tax-gathering night... Now my tax materials are sorted into little happy heaps. And the dog woke me after four hours of sleep. 

Here's a comment I left on a facebook thread Monday that relates to some current issues with publishing. I left it in response to a number of writers and readers who complained about people posting poems and images on the facebook pages of others without asking permission. 
I just imagine there is a lot of desperation around these days as people try to adapt or don't adapt to changes in the publishing/art world. Perhaps that feeling of being helpless in the grip of change overrides careful courtesy at times. I've never gotten quite so many requests as I have recently--requests from writers that I help a certain book in some way, or that I buy a copy of a certain book. When you know a lot of writers, you can't buy their every book, even if you exceed your book budget. Because of those requests, I recently started a book announcement/information site for friends and e-friends. In addition, I do think it's important to share work you find wonderful. We still see mainly the books that are anointed as lead books from publishers, and that is not very helpful to either readers or writers; the internet (with a bit of courtesy, one hopes!) can help make books visible.
Caring for culture

We need to "care for culture," as my friend Mako says. One thing caring for culture means is that we need to share work we find beautiful and meaningful, that we not allow it to be obliterated by the roaring tides of twilight and 50 shades of grey.

Really, we know that such a swamping of worthy art happens all the time.  We know that not many people care for culture, and that many beautiful things are lost or nearly lost in the tide of what's pushed by publishers and the media. There's nothing revolutionary about admitting what we know but mostly ignore.

But we all may be culture-builders if we allow ourselves to be so. Here in the age of the internet, we can wrest the making of our culture from those who would use it for primarily material ends. And isn't that a revolution, a turning away from a lesser thing and toward a better one?

We can battle against the promotion of drek by lauding what is beautiful and true and valuable to the human heart. We can ourselves share what is a good and living art, and not a handful of dead leaves and maggots. In this way, we can bring our world closer to the heart's desire.

"Maternity" by painter Mary Boxley Bullington,
a friend of mine from long-ago college days

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Stems, shoots, and leaves--

The image is a large detail of Agnes II. The colors are much better in the original, so go see!

The Foliate Head
Last year I published a book called The Foliate Head (UK: Stanza Press) and another called Thaliad (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing), both decked with foliate-head art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins. So I can't resist linking to Eyes Big as Plates. Here are wonderful elder faces as foliated heads and elder bodies decked in leaves and seaweed and flowers and reeds by two collaborators, Ritta Ikonen of Finland and Karoline Hjorth of Norway.

These magical figures are descendants of folk culture and of Andy Goldsworthy in their out-of-doors, make-do-with-the-landscape beauty. The mythic quality that often accrues to Goldsworthy's pieces becomes dominant in these, as suggestions of narrative enters in, story and ceremony hovering like an ancient, rural halo over the heads of characters emerging from the natural world.

Yet where Goldsworthy often gives one the feeling that an infinitely precocious child has been celebrating and playing with the materials of the natural world in a timeless realm, these pieces make a contemporary art by going back through folk tradition and the past, and it seems exactly right that they focus a lens on the elderly, who are our living embodiment of the (more recent) past.

As with Goldworthy, the record of the art event involves a collision between two kinds of time, the quick instant of the photographic medium and the time of a piece that invokes a more mythic time. But here there is a stronger knowingness about what is happening--a knowledge of that very collision--that often emerges from the pictures and lends many of them a kind of whimsy and playfulness. This air seems to come from the artifice of costuming, which turns traditional "greening" costumes (like Jack o' the Green or the Green Man) into something more graceful and artful, but also emerges in the expressive faces of a few of the models.

The foliated, crowned faces and decked torsos are marvelous. It's impossible to pick a single favorite. But I know what to do with rhubarb this year!

* * *
Hat tip to the nimble-minded writer Haddayr Copley-Woods, whose name neatly and appropriately combines art (John Singleton Copley) and forests. Later addendum: Being a foliate-head lover, I'd be interested in what people especially like--which ones and why.

Samples of The Foliate Head poems and excerpts from Thaliad are at Scribd.

* * *
Meeting me elsewhere: excerpts from 2012 books (A Death at the White Camellia OrphanageThaliadThe Foliate Head) at ScribdThaliad at Phoenicia Publishing. See page tabs above for review clips and information on those brand new books plus The Throne of Psyche from 2011, and more.

Monday, March 25, 2013

"Death and taxes," or, The problem with cats--

photo by Rebecca Beatrice Miller
The house at 5:00 a.m.: it's finally a day when I can sleep late. I am sleeping dreamlessly, not remembering my name or face or that my husband and youngest are hiking into the Grand Canyon today. Then Theodora the beauteous (but like many beautiful, long-haired creatures, sometimes grumpy) calico decides it is surely the right time to wake . . . and chase her tail. To go all merry-go-round on the end of my bed, mind you.

So I wake and immediately remember taxes. This is slightly better than remembering death, but I manage to be like Woody Allen and think about that too, having a list of things To Do that must be done, sooner or later. Much later for the latter, please. Taxes today.

The cat, all silky and purring as though the queen of innocence (rather than the queen of hairballs and enormous white whiskers and sproinging! eyebrows) jumps down and sharpens her jaw on the corner of the dresser. She comes back and snuggles, purring so loudly that the dead just may waken. She has done her work, and believes the world is in the very finest fettle.

I lie there in semi-comatose state listening to her purr until it occurs to me that I may as well put up the next Lady Word of Mouth post, which is late because one of my gmail addresses is evaporating the incoming mail. (Why? What should I do? Get a new one?)

And so here it is, this time an announcement of a recent novel, Tiffany Trent's The Unnaturalists. Lady Word of Mouth is calling our names.

* * *

Meeting me elsewhere: excerpts from 2012 books (A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, Thaliad, The Foliate Head) at ScribdThaliad at Phoenicia Publishing. See page tabs above for review clips and information on those brand new books plus The Throne of Psyche from 2011, and more.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Glass for Palm Sunday

Robert Stephan is a glassman born in California but now resident in Western North Carolina--a great place for arts and traditional crafts. The pieces shown below were part of a show at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina Glass 2012 (the pictures snapped with my little pocket Canon.) In graduate school, he worked with Kent Ipsen; earlier he taught himself the basics of how to work with hot glass "with a furnace I constructed out of an old 55-gallon steel drum." His sculptures are in collections at the Corning Museum of Glass, the Mint Museum, the Chrysler Museum, and others.

At the Blue Spiral 1 gallery site, his work is described this way: "Robert Stephan’s glass sculptures illustrate the infinite possibilities that light, transparency, and iridescence can be used to create vivid color and subtle texture. Stephan’s glass encompasses a variety of techniques including the application of high-tech optical filter coatings. These are added to the surfaces and/or interiors of his blown, carved and laminated glass sculptures. The coatings produce color shifts where one color is reflected and another transmitted."

I thought Robert Stephan a good choice for the day because of his stance toward his art. In the catalogue to the show, he describes his goals: "It's my desire to involve the viewer in exploring the interior/exterior design. I see the chromatics and configurations as a reflection of a redeemed creation with its order and vibrant energy, from God who thought it good to give beauty to humanity."

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lux aeterna: Paul Stevens

Alas, there is need for a second post today--alas, for it too is about a death. Poet and culture-maker and lovely man Paul Stevens died this morning in Australia, with all his family about him. Thanks to poet Janet Alexa Kenny for letting his many fans and friends know. I'm thinking of the close of his poem about Tasmania: "At last to sail free / Between southern capes / Thick with kelp and wild foam, / With wave awash, surging, / Late sun on the headland,  / And shadow down valley / Past all memory."

The Flea.
Cover image by Mark Bulwinkle.
Born in Yorkshire, Paul Stevens lived in Australia for most of his life. He graduated from the University of Sydney with an Honours degree in Early English Literature and Language, and studied history and archaeology as well. He taught history and literature in New South Wales, where he lived with his wife and family. He was a wide-ranging reader and thinker and generous to many.

Many of us are grateful to his work in founding magazines of formal poetry. The Shit Creek Review. Chimaera. The Flea. I tend to think the marvelous Flea his crowning glory as a magazine founder, as it is so very different from all other poetry magazines and so interesting in its relation to literary history--binding his love of Renaissance and metaphysical poetry to his love for his contemporaries. Artist Makoto Fujimura has talked about "caring for our culture." Paul Stevens was an example, a caretaker of culture.

Pax tecum, Paul Stevens, father and teacher, maker of poems and marvelous 'zines. I wish that I had known you sooner; I am glad that I knew you in the marvelous aether of the internet, where minds brush against one another despite all distance in space. Even now your words and your poetry 'zines touch us, although we are severed from you in time.

The Relics 

Archaeologists in Italy have unearthed two skeletons 
thought to be 5,000 to 6,000 years old, locked in an embrace. 
Their sex has not yet been determined. (BBC)

Mother to daughter, softly touching, is it?
Sister to sister's delicate embrace?
Friend to friend, companions past corruption?
Brother to brother, face to well-loved face?

The wheat crop rippled in the heat, the cattle
Grazed sweet grass, milk splashed in bowls of clay;
All fell to dust; from dust these rise, recovered
As brush and trowel lift slow time away.

Lover to lover, holding all that's dear,
They gaze into each other's eyes, long blind,
Stripped back to bony gesture: stubborn relics,
So much of earth, so much of human kind.

     Originally published in Poemeleon, reprinted in The Hypertexts

The grief for three children--

I'm guessing this detail is from a piece by Justin Guerard,
but I am not entirely sure. Help welcome! Photographed
at North Carolina Glass 2012, WCU
Georgia, Georgia... My childhood's summers in heat and flowers. The freedom of running down the pink dirt lane between cotton and tobacco, the tenant shack at Lexsy, the high white Queen Anne house at Collins, the old-fashioned shop with its silver fixtures for mixing soda, the moonflowers floating in a green dark, the still-hot figs from the tree like tousled blossoms in my mouth. How could you crack my heart this way? Child-killers. A baby slain. No. No!

Am I more tender-hearted than I once was, or is the news of the day, bruited across the world, more terrible, more tearful? Hasn't the world always been shattered into sharp pieces? When I was a little child, our teachers made us crouch under our school desks. This, they said, would save us. Obediently we made ourselves like turtles, pulling in our arms and legs, bowing our heads.

Is this more dreadful than the events of the past century--men and women and children taking refuge in a church and being burned alive, somewhere in Rwanda? Is it worse than children being made to wear black uniforms and toss the bodies of other children on a heap of flesh and bone, somewhere in Cambodia? Is it worse than the raped and murdered and torched Armenian martyrs? Is it worse than the ovens of Europe, so close to villages and towns where people went on with their lives as though nothing strange ever blackened the heavens?

No, it is not worse but somehow the same, and here at the end of Lent I touch the edge of glass, the brokenness. I feel the pungent, oily human smoke in the sky because of a murdered baby in a stroller. I sense the spirits rising from the warm bodies of people no longer divided by tribe or language or religion or color. I know the ongoing sluice of murder and martyrdom around the world because of a mother attempting to shield a child with her arms, because of a bullet in her leg, because of a casual bullet flown to the child's head.

Love did not save that child. Day by day, love is martyred. Love is pegged to the cross, its arms out to the world. And we do not go out in the streets with ashes on our heads, we do not wear sackcloth and repent. We do not open our mouths in a universal howl of grief.
"You see what I am: change me, change me!"

Friday, March 22, 2013

A golden glance--

Robert Stephan, glass detail
North Carolina Glass 2012, WCU

Today I am having lunch with a longtime friend from out of town, going to an 85th birthday party for a vigorous, lively woman, and seeing off my husband and my youngest--they're going to the Grand Canyon while I stay home and do . . . taxes! All my facebook friends have declared this terribly unfair and worse that sharp rocks. Although I do not have to sleep on sharp rocks (yes, I think the sharp rocks still win over taxes), I also do not have to feed and care for 41 Scouts or thereabouts. And maybe the combination wins over taxes. Not sure. They will have a jolly, exciting time.

Instead of a proper post, I leave you with a glimpse. Above you see what I saw when I peeped inside a piece of glass by Robert Stephan at the North Carolina Glass 2012 show at Western Carolina University. Lovely golden complexities that shatter and break inside an outwardly smooth and simple object . . . I love these smaller shows where you can get very close to the art, scrutinize it, take pictures, and wander around and around without being bothered.

Meeting me elsewhere: excerpts from 2012 books (A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, Thaliad, The Foliate Head) at ScribdThaliad at Phoenicia Publishing. See page tabs above for more on those brand new books, The Throne of Psyche from 2011, and others. See prior post new review and comments.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Light twice: on Thaliad


Writer Jeff Sypeck friended me yesterday in the curious realm of Twitter, and today I find a lovely, long post about Thaliad on his blog, Quid plura? Here's a slice from the introduction:
But if we [Americans] don’t currently have an epic, the people who will live here someday may. That’s the premise of Marly Youmans’ eerie and beautiful Thaliad, a 24-book poem about seven children who survive a fiery apocalypse—and how one of them becomes the founding matriarch of a lakeside tribe in upstate New York.

Recounted 67 years later by Emma, a teenaged librarian who roves the wastes with sword and gun in search of unrescued books, the Thaliad fuses several out-of-vogue elements—formalist verse, narrative poetry, classical epic—to a familiar science-fiction trope. What grows from this grafting is a weird, fresh, magical thing: the story of a new world rooted in the ingenuity and optimism of ”one who / Was ordinary as a stone or stem / Until the fire came and called her name.”
Please have a read, as Jeff Sypeck sees the book clearly and has fine things to say, concluding:
If they’re willing to take a chance, fantasy and science-fiction fans and even the “young adult” crowd might all find much to love here. The Thaliad is rare proof that verse need not be difficult or obscure—and that even now, narrative poetry can still leave readers, like Thalian children eyeing strangers in their orchard, “[e]nchanted into stillness by surprise.”
As there are a great many writers in the world, and I am busy with a great many things (three children and so on) other than books, I somehow have missed the wisdom of Jeff Sypeck until now! He is the author of Becoming Charlemagne: Europe, Baghdad, and the Empires of A. D. 800, the new Looking Up: Poems from the National Cathedral Gargoyles, and a translation of a Middle Scots poem, The Tale of Charlemagne and Ralph the Collier. Doesn't that sound like a fascinating mix? And his bog seems full of intriguing posts. I am infinitely grateful to him for writing about Thaliad.


Clive Hicks-Jenkins, the artist who decked Thaliad in her fabulous artwear, has gathered up some facebook comments from novelist-illustrator-graphic-novelist James A. Owen and made them into a post at his Artlog. They focus on Thaliad, and I would never have been so bold and cheeky as to gather them and share, but I am glad that he did. James Owen had some spectacular things to say about the book. See the comments at the Artlog.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reading the tea leaves--

Here's a second post for Wednesday, this time of clips and links to thoughts related to changes in the book world--if you have thoughts of your own in response, please leave them in the comments! And please don't forget to drop by, where a new author is featured.


Tina Brown: You said in an interview that you don’t think novels are going to be read 25 years from now. Were you being provocative or do you believe that to be true?

Philip Roth: I was being optimistic about 25 years really. No, I think it’s going to be cultic. I think always people will be reading them, but it’ll be a small group of people—maybe more people than now read Latin poetry, but somewhere in that range.

Tina Brown: Is there anything you think that novelists can do about that or do you think that it’s just that the narrative form is going to die out? It’s just the length of them or what? Is that what’s dictating you writing shorter books now?

Philip Roth: It’s the print. That’s the problem. It’s the book. It’s the object itself. To read a novel requires a certain kind of concentration, focus, devotion to the reading. If you read a novel in more than two weeks, you don’t read the novel really. So I think that that kind of concentration, and focus, and attentiveness, is hard to come by. It’s hard to find huge numbers of people, or large numbers of people or significant numbers of people who have those qualities.


Successful writers understand the marketplace they are working within, and they understand that digital copying and file-sharing, like all disruptive changes wrought by technology, create as many opportunities as problems. The digital economy operates on the model of the long tail, and copying is part of how a book or any digital creation moves up the tail. Copying and file-sharing are the internet's word of mouth – and as all good booksellers know, it's word of mouth that really sells books.

It's at the confluence of file-sharing and self-publishing that a new kind of "artisan author" is emerging. In his guide to self-publishing, Guy Kawasaki with co-author Shawn Welch coins the term APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. Kawasaki argues that by fulfilling all three roles, writers open tremendous new creative opportunities for their work that major publishers are too slow and cumbersome to meet.


On his webpage, the Left Room, Steve Mosby argues that Doctorow's status as a pioneer in the field means there is no way any subsequent author can hope to have the same impact, especially as so many people are now giving their work away. Over at Tor, Niall Alexander roundly agrees with Damien but feels the piece overlooked the plight of mid-list authors. Bob Lock at Amazing Stories has a different response: that for authors who don't make a living from their work, piracy is a way of putting their name out into the world, at least while building their career. Clearly, the issue is complex and sensitive. For me, the piece overlooks a third approach: Creative Commons licensing.

* * *

Meeting me elsewhere: excerpts from 2012 books (A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, Thaliad, The Foliate Head) at ScribdThaliad at Phoenicia Publishing. See page tabs above for more on those brand new books, The Throne of Psyche from 2011, and others.

Birds by snow-light--

It snowed all night on Sunday. It snowed all day on Monday, and then on through the night. And now it is snowing still, and the heart of the big rugosa is cheeping like mad, its branches shivering but not losing snow as juncos and chickadees and sparrows take lovely, dipping flight. They practice evasive maneuvers against the shadow of the kestrel, quick-sailing in groups from rose to hemlock. The rose hips hold up toques of snow, and the canes are thickly outlined. Lighting and pecking, the birds rock the feeders. Now and then a chase weaves right through the densely-packed rugosa canes, more marvelous and intricate than any CGI speed chase through a film-forest.

I woke to the strangeness of snow-light through my lids, feeling that all was hushed and stopped. And I had a weird feeling of being alone, the only person awake for miles. Perhaps I was still dreaming because I had some dim sense of being a medieval monk, holding up his little candle against the dark and the barbarian hordes, that everything I cared about was beautiful, gracious, and full of light but under assault by the world.

And then I surfaced a little more, and rolled out of bed to pack lunch for my youngest and roust him to do a little chemistry homework before school. So now I am having a cup of tea and watching the wandering snowflakes and the birds puffing themselves up against the cold. For now, the kestrel is nowhere in sight.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

the Lady

The second feature at Lady Word of Mouth is here. And this time it's a novel, just out...

Monday, March 18, 2013

New judging stint--

The Aldrich Press Poetry Award 2013

Deadline: May 31, 2013.
The winner will be announced on October 1st 2013.  

Winner receives a print publication, 12% royalties off Amazon sales, $200.00 and 50 free books (a retail value of $700.00). Finalists will also be considered for publication. 

Final judge: Marly Youmans 

Initial screening by Aldrich Press editor, Karen Kelsay.

More information here.

Lady, lunar, etcetera--

The Lady has visitors

Lady Word of Mouth progresses... Glad to say we are getting lots and lots of visitors on the first post to feature a writer's new books. Please take a look, as it's meant for readers or writers, and if you are here you must be one or the other or both at once. (If not, you are a Spam Bot and will be eaten by roaming Balrogs.) I am contemplating Lady Word of Mouth as a twice-weekly activity but am still unsure about many things.

Lunar book madness

I've agreed to judge another contest. You'd think that being on an NBA panel last year and reading 316 books (plus the rereads) would have done me for life, but evidently not. I must have looked at the moon over my left shoulder some time in the past month. This one will be a poetry contest, and I'll only judge the finalists, so I'll only see a few books. More about that later.

What I am writing

A number of people have written to ask what I am doing at this juncture. I'm a bit stretched right now with a very active teen at home (ferrying, sports, etc.) plus my adult children returning to the nest for a year. After they fly, I'll start a new novel. At the moment I'm writing a poem (or sometimes more) each day. All day I'm fishing for poems while drudging or gather taxes or helping children, etc. I do have some prose work to revise, if I ever get the time--if unexpected minions rush in and relieve me of all drudgery! As I am dubious that minions will appear, that's all the writing I'm doing at the moment. Fiction in fall, I imagine.

Elsewhere, in related work

I am trying to help my 2012 books--the wild adventure of Thaliad, the novel A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, and the collection A Foliate Head. All three are from small press or university presses, and I am finding it somewhat a challenge to get the world out about so much at once. I'll be doing more events later in the year but right now am more dependent on the internet and word of mouth. Here's one of the innumerable how-to-be-a-book-minion lists available on the web for those of you who like assisting Lady Word of Mouth.

I like transformation...

“And the walls became the world all around.”
        ― Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The why of Lady Word of Mouth

The first featured writer is up on North Carolina poet Jeffery Beam. He is much published, but as he is a poet, he could use some more visibility. Please go take a look and enjoy--lots of links. Jeffery is a real-life friend of mine, a poet who combines the spiritual and the earthy in lovely, spare poems.

Why do I like the whole Lady Word of Mouth project? I do like it, and I hope it works. And I'm pretty clear on why I like it.

First, it's a little tiny disrupter of the way things are normally done. The status quo does not work all that well for most writers, so I tend to like that idea. Interrupting the way things are done is often a good, and even if it fails, it's a positive good.

Second, I like the idea of making a little community. Here it's a community of people I know and e-know who write. Some of them write poetry, some literary novels, some fantasy or science fiction or horror, some nonfiction, and so on. Some high fences segment those areas. But in my little world of Lady Word of Mouth, they can all meet without judgment being passed.

Third, it's fast. You have a new book of poetry out, and there's nothing on the web to signal that aside from its presence in e-shops and your own website? Here's one more place to put up your signposts and information and increase the book's presence on the web.

Fourth, much of the labor of the website is shared, a thing that is good in my busy life.

Fifth, it adds to the sum of beautiful information in the world, setting up signposts to what is of value in the culture.

Sixth, it's just a good thing to do for friends. There's little enough one writer can do for another, and I've always liked the idea of helping other writers. It does not hurt me to help you; in fact, it makes me feel a little less lonely in my corner as I write. And it's not intended as a site for judgment or reviews, though I've asked people who are featured to come back and leave a comment about another book some time.

Seventh, as I'm drawing from my friends and e-friends, many of whom are now friends with one another, there's already a built-in audience.

Friday, March 15, 2013

the great Lady

Here's an experiment--Lady Word of Mouth--that I shall continue if people like it, or drop if it does not seem to work. It started with a facebook post asking friends to post information about new books, and that seemed interesting to writers and also to readers.

Right now there's an explanatory post and another that copies that original facebook thread.

I'd like to help friends with new books more and not sit around waiting for "somebody" to do "something." I'd like to be a somebody who does something, and although I don't have reams of time to donate to the cause (having three children at home, my own writing, many commitments--the usual!), I could do this.

If the site functions as intended, it will have posts about new books with links, and jackets will appear in the sidebar. It can work as a place to collect review clips, jacket images, summary information, and so on--a place that has an independent life from the author's sites, that adds to information on the web, and that draws readers to a central spot.

If it does not, well, it'll be another one of those little internet experiments that sprang up, flourished for an instant and then vanished--something ventured, and little lost.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The dream of fair minions--

Today I am my own minions. (Every day I am my own minions, though I dream of small minions of a pale green color, useful and loyal and quick, with mellifluous voices. Or without mellifluous, so long as they take great delight in household drudgery and secretarial duties.) For this reason you may imagine me dashing about doing ornery tasks so that I can sit down in the great flood of words later on.

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Meeting me elsewhere: excerpts from 2012 books (A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, Thaliad, The Foliate Head) at ScribdThaliad at Phoenicia Publishing. See page tabs above for more on those brand new books, The Throne of Psyche from 2011, and others.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Thanks to everybody who shared or posted news (especially my dear friend Paul Digby--the one who makes videos for me--with his facebook screenshots and entourage of sharing friends) about the BOTYA finalists yesterday. I am especially grateful when people are sweet about helping Lady Word of Mouth for a simple reason, which I will now confess.

As a writer attached umbilically to a so-called career, I am ridiculous.


I do everything the wrong way round.

What do publishers want? They want consistency. I write short stories, an epic, novels, lyric poems, historical novels, narrative poems, and a few Southern fantasies for children, and more. And you should see the plans in my head--you might even say I have a rage for inconsistency! In fact, you might just say that I am inconsistent to the point of the . . . ridiculous.

Although my first two agents tumbled into my lap and then out again (bless them), I was too uninterested or perhaps downright lazy to look for a third. Ridiculous.

As a result, I chose my last four publishers out of the seven who, in my first year without an agent, happened to ask. Oddly, I wanted to be wanted. I enjoyed being asked. In some ways I liked it better than the old process and my fancy publisher, though it was not practical. Ridiculous!

Yet I'm happy about how my life in words works. Oh, I might like to have a bigger readership. In fact, I very much would--who wouldn't? And I might like sales to go so easily that I don't have to spend so much time fussing with marketing.

But I'm writing exactly the books I want to write, and I don't worry about whether my wild adventure in blank verse will find a publisher (Thaliad--I didn't send it out because I thought it too unusual, and then received two requests anyway) or whether my orphan boy (Pip in A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage) who sails away from disaster on a steam train will find a home and love with readers.

Because I do what I love. It feels joyful, as if I am doing exactly what I am meant to do. Ridiculous.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

BOTYA finalists--

ForeWord Reviews

"is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2012 Book of the Year Awards. The finalists were selected from 1300 entries covering 62 categories of books from independent and academic presses. These books represent some of the best books produced by small publishing houses in 2012."

A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage 
is one of 17 finalists 
in the category of General Fiction

The press release is here, trala!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Golden joinery

Please tell me if you know the original source for this photo.

Kintsukuroi (金繕い?) is a Japanese technique of repairing broken ceramics with metal lacquer, usually gold or silverKintsugi (金継ぎ?) (Japanesegolden joinery) is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a lacquer resin sprinkled with powdered gold (Wikipedia.)

Kintsugi, or restoring with gold, is a grand symbol.

You take a heap of brokenness and repair it with gold, so that visible veins run through a ceramic. The vessel repaired is a wholeness, a completion, redeemed by the gold lacquer binding the pieces like a strong, bright spirit.

Yet the breaks are not forgotten, are not wiped away.

All things are bound into one, the whole and the broken. The object may well be much more beautiful than it was, lifted from the pedestrian and prosaic to the extraordinary.

How infinitely evocative this idea is...

To me the image of the is most fruitful when thinking about two things: stories--I love the kind of story where the worst possible thing happens and yet in the end, the event turns into some kind of blessing, however strange; or the progress of the soul, restored after breakage. The human form has long been seen as a kind of pot, thrown by the master potter from simple clay. The Adam of Genesis bears a name that suggests man, red coloration, making (Akkadian adamu, to make), and earth (Hebrew adamah.)

As a symbol, though, the image of the broken pot joined with gold or silver is both simple and capable of bearing enormous freight. No doubt it means many things to many people.