Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Breachog (portmanteau for "breach in a blog")

Taking another small break, as I am overwhelmed by carpenters, paint scrapers, painters, children's classes and their messy rooms and their job hunts and visits, days of long-distance camp ferrying, car repairs, and more--and all must be complete before I leave on the August book tour. If you want to travel around in my head, please find me in my books, particularly the three 2012 books, A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, The Foliate Head, and Thaliad (and also the 2011 book, The Throne of Psyche.) Links and tabs abound...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Books at Woodside

I'm packing my bag to mosey over to the Cooperstown Book Club. Evidently we're meeting at Woodside Hall; it's not so far from me, but I've never been inside, so that will be interesting. I'll take my camera and post some pictures... The Greek Revival mansion was built by Judge Samuel Morehouse in 1829, and I've heard that he lost it gambling, but maybe that was just a rumor. I'll find out. Supposedly President Van Buren became lost in the gardens, though I don't think they have survived. I want to take a good look at the Egyptian-style gate... That was built 1895 or after when the house changed hands.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thaliad and the artist's path--


Thaliad (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing, 2012) involved a good deal of work by Welsh painter Clive Hicks-Jenkins. I've been meaning to collect a sort of index to all his labors on the book. With the links below, you can follow his making of the art for the book from his first day, cutting out leaves from painted papers for the collage. I am leaving out the work he did on the bookplate, which we gave to the first people to purchase copies, and some ephemeral pieces.

1. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/thaliad/
An initial sketch, some birds, some leaves... Clive is pleased about the project:
 It is a work of staggering beauty and imagination, and I’m enormously proud to have been asked by the author and her publisher, Elizabeth Adams, to create the image that will speak for it on the cover. As with The Foliate Head, I’m also responsible for the page decorations inside. I’ve roughly laid out the cover design and today have been painting collage papers and snipping out leaves and tendrils from them. The foliate is present in the design for this cover as it was in my last for Marly, but this time presented in a quite different way. I shan’t reveal much today other than a handful of leaves, a sketch of a detail and a couple of trial birds.
2. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/thaliad-2/
Lots and lots of preparatory sketches!

3. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/yellow-bird/
The little yellow bird appears. The collage for the jacket of hardcover and cover of paperback is already taking shape.

4. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/the-foliate-girl/
Clive shows two sources for the cover--one in fabric, one in paint.

5. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/title-lettering/
Lettering for the title.

6. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/marly-youmans-on-the-cover-for-her-book/
Clive shows the finished cover art and has a long excerpt from me; I talk about needlework and family, and end with this quote: "Or we might well call her The Quilted Girl. This Thalia is an interesting solution to the difficulty of making a cover/jacket image for a long blank verse poem that travels widely in time and space, portrays some ferocious events, and clings to the shape of the epic while moving toward the character and scenic development of the novel. Clive settles on the child and matriarch-to-be, Thalia, and he gives us an image that is startling, almost shocking (that eye!) That she is foliate reflects the intense natural world of the poem. That she is “quilted” suggests the return to knowing how to do things by hand that occurs in the narrative. That Thalia is flowering and fruiting is also an essential property of the protagonist…"

7. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/page-decorations-for-thaliad/
An abundance of page decorations for the interior.

8. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/clive-writes-to-beth-at-phoenicia-publishing/
Clive contemplates the mode of interior decorations in a note to the publisher.

9. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/more-page-decorations-for-thaliad/
All the Thaliad interior art to date (June 25th, 2012.)

10. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/thaliad-emerges/
The first matching of text with images by Elizabeth Adams, who is an expert designer.

11. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/beths-scriptorium/
Clive admires the preparatory work of publisher Elizabeth Adams.

12. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/another-for-marlys-thaliad/
A new collage... a farm on a winter's night.

13. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/tinkering/
The artist tinkers with the collage of the farm to improve it. That one's illuminating to see his method and perfectionism.

14. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/another-image-for-marly/
Horse collage! Clive is a great lover of horses, and not long ago made art for Equus for Old Stile Press.

15. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/the-process-of-preparing-the-thaliad-page-decorations/
Clive reveals how he makes the collages for Thaliad, using a Noah's ark vignette. This post is the best one for a revelation of "how to."

16. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/grey-glove/
Clive shows the last vignette--to see more, one has to look at the book.

17. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/leaf-litter/
Sifting through the images on Clive's work table... Thaliad and more.

18. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/pre-order-thaliad/
Clive reflects on his 17 vignettes and cover for Thaliad, as well as other work we've done together.

19. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/thaliad-is-icumen-in/
Head of Thalia, interior. A letter from Beth Adams to Clive.

20. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/thaliad-in-paperback/
Thaliad in paperback.

21. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/making-a-cover-for-thaliad-the-publisher-and-the-artist-in-e-mail-correspondence/
This post is especially good on the evolution of the jacket/cover, and has lots of correspondence between artist and publisher.

22. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/a-review-from-the-red-room/
Tomcat on Clive's art!

23. http://clivehicksjenkins.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/james-artimus-owen-on-thaliad/
Clive pilfers remarks from novelist-illustrator James A. Owen on my facebook page: "It's a high water-mark of what's possible . . . It's old school book-crafter perfect. With that book you leapt from being one of my favorite writers to a game-changer. The literary sphere will have to catch up to what I and others have already seen--but there is no doubt it is a remarkable achievement."

There it is, a long and beautiful progress from dream to book. If you want to see the Phoenicia Publishing page (how plosive!), go here. If you want to see some more review clips, go here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Small hiatus

I'm taking a brief break and will be back on Tuesday, I think. I'm just a little over-busy with the usual, plus helping my eldest get settled in another state (found him a good house-share close to downtown and with a lovely setting), visiting another who is away for the summer, and some out-of-the-usual events--singing at an ordination today, assisting at a funeral on Monday, etc. Life is a wee bit brisk. Back anon.

In the meantime, be kind, read my new books if you miss me, and don't get in a Marsh Wiggle sort of mood!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kickstarter for special fathers and families--

Gary Dietz's Kickstarter project focused on very special fathers--those parenting children who are disabled in some way--still needs more backers. Please go here to take a look.

And if you're a poet or an essayist or a parent with a good story related to the topic, why don't you read the anthology plans? I'll be winnowing poems for Gary later in the year...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New in the word-shaping world--

Ari Karple, How to Be Prolific: Guidelines for Getting it Done from Joss Whedon.

I read this piece because my filmmaking-drawing-writing daughter is a Whedon fan and tends to be a bit slow and overly critical of herself at times, and I thought she might like it. But I think it might be useful to many people in its against-the-grain advice on how to make art despite time's winged chariot rattling and thundering at one's heels.

Eratosphere Sonnet Bake-off

I've never followed one of these bake-off competitions before, but I am trying it this time and enjoying it. A large number of sonnets were sent in, and guest editors Catherine Chandler and Gail White have picked what they see as the ten best, two every day for five days. Eratosphereans pile in daily and comment on each. Winners and honorable mentions appear afterward, but what I'm really enjoying is the process, and seeing a bunch of intelligent people who love form comment and discuss. Some people are more soft-hearted or less critical; some are ruthless. It's an interesting batting about of the badminton birdie, and you get to know Spherean characters pretty quickly. Each poem has its own thread, so you can pick out a poem and follow comments to the end. You can comment if you join, an easy process.

Using Scrivener

Thinking about it--not sure, but I think that I got the link from Cat Rambo on twitter. Should I switch?

Hot-weather harpies

It's supposed to hit 95 in normally cool Cooperstown . . . As few of us have air conditioners, we have been feeling so good, old-fashioned, unmediated weather. So it's still a perfect day for meeting up with harpies. Slide down to the prior post if you desire such an encounter.

And a late addition: Who edited Shakespeare?

"And while it might seem gratuitous scepticism to doubt the integrity of Shakespeare's text, it is clear that someone edited the Folio. It is Florio's linguistic inventiveness – as well as his links to Jaggard and Blount – that would seem to single him out as the most likely contender." Love Shakespeare? This is fascinating!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A good day for harpies--

It's hot; it's a bit humid and nasty. The raspberries are shriveling on the vines in the blazing sun. Perfect day for harpies... Yet I just realized that the harpies have appeared here before. Never mind. It's not that you can never have too many harpies; it's that harpies are persistent...

Marly Youmans, THE FOLIATE HEAD 
Amazon; Stanza Press; find an Indie

THAT WHICH SNATCHES
      from The Foliate Head (UK: Stanza Press, 2012)


Vulture-like, the harpies wheel on updrafts
Or settle in the grove of wind-whipped trees,
Their small, secretive faces looking out
Without sign of interest or passion,
As pinched and harsh as soul heads on a stone
Propped up by mourning Puritans on land
Unused to buried bone: winged skulls that glare.
One is singing, Turn away, my bonnie,
Turn away home, and yet there is nowhere
To turn, no home when such weird sisters sing.
In Cretan caves they hang like ungroomed bats,
Letting locks hang, letting the lice parade,
Their molting feathers like some nightmare bed
Where no man fancies lying—that’s a truth
That galls, for only breeze that glances here
And there and then is gone could bear to kiss
Their shriveled, wicked purse of privacies.

Bedraggled, murderous, entirely foul . . .
If they had hands, the fingers would be small,
As leathery as paws for throwing scat
At queens or prophets. No respect, no cheer,
No proper sentiment for the flawless
Horses of Achilles, their own offspring,
That wept to smell the battle-scent of death.
No sisterly devotion to Iris
Tricked out in sunstruck iridescent drops.

They’ll shriek the dawn awake and howl for flesh,
Heraldic frights so ignorant of evil
They could be us—so self-absorbed, so free.
On branches in the bleeding wood of souls,
They shift their talons, sigh in sleep like doves,
Dreaming of men like birds of paradise,
Of leaf-winged forests tumbling in a storm,
The phoenix burning on her nest of myrrh,
Who found this harpied world worth dying for.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Kickstarter projects by friends



Gary Dietz 

"A book of stories for, by, and about fathers of children that experience disability. (And the women who love them.)" This one is a very worthy project that has not yet reached its goal. Please share with anyone who might be concerned with the topic! And if you are lucky enough that this issue has not touched you or your family, think about dropping a few dollars in the kitty.

I am choosing a few poems for the book as well. See here for more information on the associated poetry contest.

Ruth Sanderson 

"The book will span my career as an illustrator and fine artist, reproducing both published and previously unpublished paintings, as well as showing my process.."

James Artimus Owen 

"The 20th Anniversary Nearly Complete Essential Starchild"

Makoto Fujimura 

The Golden Sea.

This one is over, and I'm looking forward to receiving the book!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A gift outright--

I hope to never again write a post like this one. But every time a friend of mine has quit writing in drought and despair, I have written one.

Too long a sacrifice
Makes a stone of the heart.
   -Yeats

A light rain is blowing past the window, and I can hear the Grateful Dead, playing in Doubleday Field. I'm thinking about a friend of mine, far away, who is a poet. He has had a long journey, holding fast to the arranging of words, but now he has changed.

He has fallen into silence.

Why? He feels the lack of the strong support that readers give to the poet, the sense that there is someone out there and that the poem is not a tree falling in a dead forest. He feels an ebbing of the support that bookstores give--the knowledge that the poet is welcome to read in his home region. Even with all the wonders of the internet, he feels too solitary. (I should add that poets can use another kind of support; that is, their publishers need the encouragement of book purchases saying that others find the poet worthwhile. Without that encouragement, a poet may soon go unpublished no matter how much the publisher loves the work.)

Here's a piece of a letter from my friend. He has published many, many books and chapbooks of poems, but here is what he says:
If I were really rich I’d just buy thousands and give’m away [. . . .] I know it’s a rough business now, but I remember those glory early days of the independent bookstore and their championing of local authors, poetry, and the small press. Not any more. 
It really is one reason I haven’t been able to write since retirement. It seems so fruitless. Hardly any way to reach an audience – and though one would like to think the glory is in the doing (I can remember my youth when I wrote endlessly and didn’t care) but you do want to feel like someone is listening, can listen, has access to listen and ultimately after 50 years it has deadened me.
This poet has been published in book and CD and on the internet, and his words have been lauded and set to music; he has had the affection of many publishers. He is at an age when he ought to be honored and welcome in his home region, often invited to read. Yet he is discouraged, "deadened."

Surely there is still a place for face-to-face encounters with a mature poet who has achieved and published widely, particularly in his home region. Surely there is still a place on our shelves for the book. Part of making the world we want to see and cherishing the best of what already exists is supporting the work.

I'm going to order some books of poems. In the words of another poet, "I shan't be gone long.--You come too."

Friday, July 12, 2013

"Wildly successful"

I adore "The Heroic Absurdity of Dan Brown" by the often-late-lamented Clive James (he lives!), and you will too. It's nearly as much fun as reading Mark Twain's "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses," only a great number of people are reading Dan Brown and only a few are reading James Fenimore Cooper (mostly graduate students and the occasional visitor to Cooperstown.) Both pieces have wonderful energy.
“Outside his window, hidden in the shadows of the Via Torregalli, a powerfully built woman effortlessly unstraddled her BMW motorcycle and advanced with the intensity of a panther stalking its prey. Her gaze was sharp. Her close-cropped hair—styled into spikes—stood out against the upturned collar of her black leather riding suit. She checked her silenced weapon, and stared up at the window where Robert Langdon’s light had just gone out.”

That counts as a long paragraph for Dan Brown. Generally he believes that a short paragraph will add pace, just as he believes that an ellipsis will add thoughtfulness. Groups of three dots appear in innumerable places, giving the impression that the narrative … has measles. This impression is appropriate, because the famous symbologist and the pretty, young [comma in the manner of Dan Brown] woman are actually impelled by their mission to save the world from plague. It isn’t just because the heavies are after them that they are always in such a hurry.
Clive James, you are joyous. Please do not give in to all these people who keep announcing your premature death. Deny them! Thwart them! Live! Be a Methuselah, despite all . . . plagues of ellipse and eclipse.

As for you, my very dearest reader, you must go read "The Heroic Absurdity of Dan Brown" immediately. I think there are things in it that might even be oddly pleasing to Dan Brown. It is full of charity and the milk of human kindness, as well as penetration and slaughter and downright hilarity.
Do they get together in the end? Alas, or perhaps hooray, [Langdon] realises that he is too old for [Sienna]. But hooray, or perhaps alas, she offers herself anyway. There is something … irresistible about the tall symbologist. He is a bit like a wildly successful American author of brain-teasing thrillers, but he has taken another course.
Then afterward you might read a poem or two by Clive James. Perhaps you might just go and read this review of Clive James's new translation of Dante. And then you might just buy a book. Oh, which one?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Insomniac frolics

List
In the middle of the night I have been tweaking my links list, mostly adding friends in the arts or the occasional reviewer or blogger, but now I am sleepy and will stop. I haven't nabbed everybody by any means, and if you are a friend and indignant not to see your name, drop me a line.

Sexy clockpunk with Southern or Arctic goblin monks (diverse and did I say sexy?)
Lately I've heard more writers complain about how depressing this agent-editor wish list is than anything else--and that's amazing, given all the recent upheaval and changes. I expect the good ones will all forge on doing what they are doing without paying any attention.

Sexy ephemera versus
Makoto Fujimura: What is the five hundred year question? Well, it’s a historical look at the reality of our cultures, and asking what ideas, what art, what vision affects humanity for over five hundred years. It’s the opposite of the Warholian “15 seconds of fame.”

Genre + age categories
Can't we get it through our heads that these are marketing categories? Once we get past separating good books from the others, nothing else matters.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Closure of "Thaliad"--

Poet Lesley Wheeler has some very interesting comments on Thaliad and other "speculative verse novels," as she calls them. (Although I don't have much concern for genre and categories, I'm still interested to see what people call my books.) She is very positive--a thank you to her!--but has one criticism. It is one that does not particularly surprise me, though I don't agree. If you've read the book and have an opinion, please comment.

Many dramatic and sometimes terrible things happen in Thaliad, but the narrative does end on a glad we-are-not-alone note that suggested "the marriage plot" structure to Lesley Wheeler. I'm not one to end in that direction lightly, and a novel I've written that does appear to end that way to some degree--Catherwood, soon to be back in print--ends with the figure of a man and a woman holding a cloak wrapped around human bones. That's just not your average romantic embrace... (Val/Orson also has union at the ending, deliberately borrowing inspiration--and twins and Arcadian landscape--from Shakespeare's romances.)

Nor is this a typical romance; we catch glimpses of a much older Thalia as leader of her realm through the memory and eyes of the young woman, Emma, who serves as narrator. Thalia and the narrator have large roles in their community, though both would very much like to have children--that is, to continue a fragile world. They want a man, yes, but not for reasons of romance. There is nothing of yielding in their desire, nothing soft. A man is no figure, one of many, to dream after and fancy, but a piece of the post-catastrophe puzzle, a vital part of renewal of the world--and not just of the world but of the world as a better place than the one that died. The last words of the poem are not the end of Thalia's story by any means, and we know it because we have seen her leading the members of the community--we don't see her man again, but we know he fulfilled a role as father, that children were born. The sequel to the story is seeded in this one.

If I had left out the necessary man (we must have fertilization in order to have any kind of society, much less a matriarchal society after apocalyptic events), then the glimpses one has of Thalia as the matriarch of her small, renewed world would seem utterly impossible.

However, I might have nabbed the man and then had a different ending. But then it would not have been a closure that foretells new beginning; it would not be the sudden knowledge and surety and joy to Thalia that it is.  She will enter in to her rightful inheritance and live out her role as leader; this she knows, bone-deep.

These issues are elements I thought about when making the narrative. But that is as nothing to whether the poem's closure works or not.

As the internet is a lively place, I've already gotten several responses. Here's a younger reader who shall remain anonymous:
I see what [Lesley Wheeler] means about the sudden implication of romance at the end after [Thalia has] already caused the death of two men over refusing to choose between them. But what I think she's missing is the mythic aspect of it. It's not about "marriage," it's about Adam and Eve... if that makes sense.
And it does make sense to me. The poem ends with beginning: it makes an arc from destruction to further shattering to hope for a new world. It's an ouroboros. We've already glimpsed patches of sunlight; this is the dawn.

That is, we know that hope was confirmed in time because we have the narrator's word and her account of the older Thalia. What strikes me is that there is no other beginning possible at the end, unless one wants immaculate conception or the discovery of a sweet little sperm lab in good, frozen shape accompanied by clear, easily comprehensible directions on retrieval and thawing...

Any other ending does not fulfill the promise of the beginning or make sense in terms of what we already know about Thalia; without Thorn, the blossoming of Thalia's world is impossible, and yet the whole book from the very first lines proclaims that it has already happened.  The very fact that Emma is narrator declares it. It does not matter if Thorn remains a minor character. He is a needed foundational figure for the tale Emma narrates.

Here's Beth Adams, who published and designed the book and knows it well:
...she's the only one left! How does humanity start over if she doesn't become the new matriarch? Perhaps the reviewer's feminist axe is ground to too fine an edge.

I always saw it as more of a Virgin myth grown up: the girl who wants to remain virgin and dedicated to her vocation who then, by virtue of actually growing up and seeing What Needs to be Done, also becomes matriarch. It's not like she was going to spend her life being somebody's little wife!
It's an interesting question Lesley Wheeler brings up.

If you've read the book, please weigh in... I promise to have zero prejudice against those who are critical. Writers must have skins that endure slings and arrows, and they need to be able to question their own work. And learn. And grow. Like Thalia, they need to come into their inheritance as best they can.

 * * * * *
 Review clips for Thaliad here.
     The book has had some spectacular, bright reviews,
     and there are links if you want to read more.
Amazon reviews here.
     So far, the book has nine 5-star reviews.
     Alas, books of poetry often have none at all, so I'm glad of these.
Phoenicia Publishing Thaliad page here.
     If you want a paperback, that's easy--available in the usual spots.
     If you want a limited edition hardcover, go through Phoenicia.
Looks for an indie bookstore here.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Glimmerglass, again--

Credit: go here
I have been commissioned twice to write lyrics for a hymn. One of those hymns was for the bicentennial of Christ Church Cooperstown, the little country church that novelist James Fenimore Cooper turned into an intricate Gothic church on his return from Europe.

To my surprise, the congregation has sung the hymn every year since on the Sunday nearest to the anniversary of the church's consecration. The hymn tune was changed to Crimond a year or so ago, and that choice has worked much better than the first one.

So the bicentennial hymn was sung this very morning at Christ Church. And I learned today that the choir at a church in Florida has been singing it was well--although it is very specific to Cooperstown in its title and lake, I suppose it must fit elsewhere as well.

Judge William Cooper (James Fenimore Cooper's father) obtained a land grant in 1785; the first Anglican sermon was preached in Cooperstown in 1797. Work on the current church began in 1807, and consecration of the church was July 8, 1810.

If you want to read more about the making of the hymn or about some of the strong links between the church and U. S. literary history, go here, where I first wrote about the hymn.

  Glimmerglass: A Bicentennial Hymn

 In ice, remember rampant green
   And dawns that seared the night;
Within the winter of the year
   Recall midsummer's light.

 All things are passing like a mist
   That rises from the lake
And floats, dissolving into sun
   As heat and hue awake. 

In Eden, they knew face to face
   While we through smoky glass
Must peer--and as in sun's eclipse
   May see a brightness pass.

In time beyond recall, a pane
   Of glimmering was laid
'Twixt us and Him who knew our names
   Before the worlds were made.

The angels standing in a church
   Who watch with eyes that glow
According to the changing light
   Have seen us come and go,

And we would be quick-eyed as they,
   All night and mourning done,
Annealed in glory like a fire,
   And brightening with the Son.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

In which we have an adventure--

Although this blog is a books blog, I can't resist talking about the occasional ridiculous event. Yesterday my husband and I and our eldest went out of town to look for a used car, as Ben is moving back to North Carolina. I had researched places in the region and picked one I thought was especially informative and had prices that seemed quite fair. My husband has a great sense of direction, so I didn't pay much attention to where we were going...

We get there; I mention my surprise at finding that the online cars were already sold. There's one that's in the right price range. I don't feel that it looks quite as substantial as I thought that price range would look. In fact, it looks like a little blue tin can and reminds me of my family's Opel Kadett from a zillion years ago, when I was a mere sprat of 15. I have never even heard of the model. The brand is vaguely familiar. We chat with the salesman, and Mike tells a funny story about his grandfather buying a Cadillac, and how it caught on fire on the way home.

We get in with the friendly, large salesman. We head out, accompanied by the noise of several lawnmowers. We go a mile or so and then veer toward the interstate. I always find it a wee bit disconcerting to be driven about by anyone whose diapers I recall changing, and so I jumped a bit at a loud, ratcheting noise when we moved vigorously to the left.

A wisp of smoke passed my window. More wisps. Or was it steam? I write DUBIOUS on my printout of cars and show it to be husband. He looks at the word for a moment as though considering and then looks at me. He is wearing sunglasses so I can't see his eyes, but I know what he means. Then more and more wisps sprout from the hood, and I start to wonder if we should stop, and all leap from the little blue car. I wonder how quickly the salesman can leap, as he is wedged into the rather small passenger seat with little space to spare.

But we putter on with the not-terribly-musical noise of lawnmowers, the right side of the car streaming with smoke or steam. I am glad Ben cannot see all that whatever-it-is too well from the driver's seat. In the distance, I make out the car lot. Finally we are back! The car dies halfway into the parking spot and will not budge.

How'd you make out, the manager begins to say as we are enveloped in clouds. The little blue dragon car steams--it is steam, not smoke--mightily, oozing scarves all along the hood's edge. I start to laugh but manage to control myself. Then we all laugh, taking turns and trying to be polite in between. Mike says he must have jinxed it with the Cadillac story. Then they drag open the hood, and whoosh! steam geysers into the sky. Ah. It's the water pump, snapped right off.

We are all very friendly, but Mike and Ben and I pile into my little Corolla and zip off. We stop at the next car dealer, just to walk around and stare at the cars, even though it's too late to talk to a salesman. As we are walking, I begin to grasp what happened. The thought creeps into my head that there was a reason none of the cars were on the lot--that the place we went was entirely the wrong spot, that this is not the right road. I laugh. And I laugh some more. I hold hands with my husband and laugh it all out. Nearly. Every now and then I laugh again.

I feel absurdly happy.

We survived!

We find the right place at the very start of twilight, somewhere in the country and surrounded by fields, and there are most of the cars that I had looked at online. We like an Accord and an Alero, which Ben likes especially because . . . well, it is red. This morning we go back and test drive them both and then put down a deposit on the silver Honda.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

My 4th

How I celebrated my fourth of July: finished reading a novel-in-manuscript by an old friend; had a barbecue at Glimmerglass State Park, near the swimming beach; skunked my husband and boys at croquet by the lake; ate homemade raspbery ice cream at Tunnicliff Creamery; and stopped on a little road by the lake to watch fireworks from the Busch compound... It was altogether pleasant (aside from missing my daughter--I might have skunked her as well!) and celebratory. I hope yours was as well, if you are a celebrator of the day. Thought for Independence Day: "The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty." --John Adams

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

4th publication of "An Incident at Agate Beach"

"Ocean Sky" by Nathan Allworth.
On the Oregon coast. Courtesy
of the photographer and www.sxc.hu.
An Incident at Agate Beach is online! The story originally appeared in James Artimus Owen's handsome Argosy Quarterly 3 (2005) and has proved popular. It was reprinted in the anthology Northwest Passage: A Cascadian Odyssey (Windstorm, 2005) and in The Year’s Best in Fantasy and Horror, edited by Ellen Datlow, Gavin Grant, and Kelly Link (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2006.)

Today the tale is published for the fourth time at weirdfictionreview.com, a site (what an attractive home page!) dreamed up by the well-known-for-weird team of Jeff and Ann Vandermeer and managed by also weirdoholic Adam Mills. It is, indeed, a strange, fantastic thing, and I hope will find many new readers.

The day I visited Agate Beach in Oregon, I knew that I would write a story about the place. But this is not the one I expected. If you have comments, there's a spot to leave them at the close of the story. Enjoy!

Oh, and thanks to Rebecca Beatrice Miller for that leading-with-the-chin, uncanny eyebrow portrait...

Monday, July 01, 2013

More reading, more writing--

Think of someone like Frederick Douglass, who brought himself up out of slavery by sneaking out and teaching himself to read. Books weren’t some idle pursuit or pastime to him, they were survival itself. And despite this dire situation, he managed to read and, as the writer Thomas Sowell once put it, “educate himself to the point where his words now have to be explained to today’s expensively under-educated generation.” --Ryan Holiday, "How To Read More--a Lot More" (hat tip to Prufrock)
Phoenicia Publishing, 2012
This little article answers a lot of questions people ask about reading--how to make reading an integral part of your life, how and why to spend money on reading (although he misses the thought that buying mid-list books supports the writers you care about, since new contracts depend on prior sales these days), and the purpose of reading. This last is a thing I see the government trying to explain and justify, often poorly. Holiday does a better, more convincing job than most.

The "trick" that people expect to underlie Holiday's extensive reading reminds me of what people say about writing. People often ask me about quantity when it comes to writing. It's probably the most frequent question I hear. "How do you get so much done?" It usually seems like a silly issue to me because writing is not in the least about quantity. For one rather lurid example, the young Chidiock Tichbourne--wonderful name--is remembered for a single lovely poem, written just before he was eviscerated, hanged, and drawn and quartered. Two of his other poems survive. Meanwhile, poets who wrote hundreds or thousands of pages have vanished into oblivion, with none of their words remaining for later times.

For once, though, I'll take the question seriously.

On the inside, what I accomplish doesn't feel like so much, particularly of late when I had all my usual duties plus serving as a judge for a national award and having the surprise of two adult children returning to the nest for a year. As a member of a busy family with five members, I decided to let go all thought of writing a novel; I didn't want to feel resentful about any increased work that would prevent daily writing. In fact, I decided that I would only write poetry, and not a long, sustained poem like Thaliad but poems under three pages. Still, on some days I am drowning in errands and old-house repair and drudgery, and my three children have needs that must be addressed. It seems impossible to be a writer then.

UK: Stanza Press, 2012
But I am really never away from the act of writing; I'm always looking, sifting, or dreaming, even while I do something mundane--while I fold clothes or mop or weed my unruly garden. (Bishop's weed is my green Yankee nemesis!) It's like the famous Pauline injunction to "Pray without ceasing." On the surface it's hyperbole, surely; an impossible call. But it demands a determination not to give up. With writing, gumption and persistence are essential. That is, even if you are over-worked and feel you have little time, it's about being attentive, listening and looking, open to little motes of possibility, and conscious of what's in and beyond the moment. For me, that's the way to fruitfulness. It's the path to delight, and delight makes us hungry to find out more of the same.

It's not so very different from Holiday's advice to readers...