Experts say that if you misplace your car keys, you’re probably just forgetful. But if you forget what the car keys are for, you may have dementia. Just thinking about that makes me feel a little less foolish – and yes, stupid.
I went to the Book Project informational session at Lighthouse Writers’ Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, the Book Project informational session was held on Saturday afternoon. I was only precisely 24 hours late. Forgetful? Demented? Not sure.
The warm and talented Erika Krouse was leading a writing group, one segment of the Book Project, and they were finishing up as I arrived. Erika explained I had missed the session but invited me to sit down with her and chat. In about 15 minutes, she explained the Book Project in terms I could understand. Erika is a talented writer and I know she would have preferred spending that time reviewing class notes, doing her own work or being at home with her 6year old son. But she curled her feet up under her in the chair and answered my questions and gave me information to make an informed decision about the Book Project. She did not make me feel foolish – or stupid – for missing the session, she just jumped right in to help me.
You can bet I’ll keep track of those car keys from here on out.
Robin Black was at Lighthouse Writers’ Workshop here in Denver yesterday. I hadn’t seen her in awhile, not since her novel Life Drawing and her book of essays on writing Crash Course came out. And here she was on a rainy day out west. Here she was brightening up our day and invigorating our work.
I don’t remember the title of the course but it was close to two hours of Robin’s sharp, insightful take on the use of words. She talked about rhythm and led a writing exercise that gave us an example of the power it can add to our writing. She talked about verbs – thought you knew all about verbs, didn’t you? – and we learned something new about that part of speech. She talked about the flow of the sentence leads the reader to the flow of action in the paragraph – “the structure of a sentence mirrors what’s going on.” She said to us, “Be daring, experiment, find your unique voice, find your distinction.”
Most of all, she encouraged about 40 of us in our own writing. This woman whose life is words – well, along with her husband, three nearly adult offspring and a black dog named Watson – helped us understand how she uses words, how she shapes her stories with the language, how she takes the same words we might choose and arranges them so they become the lives of her characters, the stuff of her writing life.
“A story is finished when you can point to any word and know why it’s there.” With Robin, I hope the story is never finished. Her warmth, her angst, her knowledge, her creativity – she shares it all and her audience – that would always include me – is the one who benefits.
Let me help you, Bernie. The correct word is, “YES.” When Gwen Ifil asked you if you are standing in the way of history, the correct response is “Yes.” You are. You are standing in the path (perhaps not the way) of Hillary becoming the first woman POTUS.
And I also want to ask all of you, what will you tell you daughters and your granddaughters? Will you say, “I didn’t vote for the first woman President of the United States of America?” Really??
The correct word here is “YES.”
I’m voting for Hillary.
You know I am interested in words – they mean a great deal to me and I try to chose mine carefully. I just got back from a week in Cuba and the power of words was pointed out to me time and again.
I studied Spanish in high school for three years, my teacher was a Cuban. I really liked it but rarely use the language these days. My vocabulary is very good, my conjugation is not so great and my sentence construction is poor.
It didn’t matter in Cuba. I used what words I know, made gestures and smiled. Every time, the person I was communicating with did his/her best to understand and respond. I don’t think the lack of language skills was the biggest issue – wanting to communicate and making the effort was. So remember that whatever the language, whomever you are communnicating with, words are important. When it comes to bridging the gap between you and another human, words count.
I’ve just spend 20 minutes – ok, 40 minutes – lost in Pintrest and hundreds of gorgeous table settings. Long tablecloths, table runners, cloth napkins in every color imaginable, elegant silverware and sparkling glassware stand out against centerpieces of lights, flowers, fruit, candles on tall candlesticks – all just stunning.
And as I look at the wide variety of these table settings – most of them labeled “wedding” – I think they should come with words of warning. “Use only if you do not have grandchildren or neighborhood kids attending this event.” Can you imagine a sweet little child putting legs under the table only to have the long tablecloth get caught and all the dishes and glassware tugged toward him/her? Can you envision little fingers that want to stick themselves into hot wax running down a beautiful pillar candle – and how hot that wax is and how upset that child would be?
I buy all my white dinnerware at The G Boutique (The Golden Goodwill) because when a china plate or mug is dropped – whether by a child or husband – eh, I mean, adult – I literally brush it off and brush it up. We use cloth napkins (it’s environmentally sound and keeps red or green dye from showing up on kids’ clothes) and I throw them in the washing machine regularly so no real maintenance. And I don’t have 42 matching cloth napkins in a blush pink color. Most of mine are bandanas or material featuring a cowboy motif. All our silverware came from a Macy’s sale and once used, goes right into the dishwasher.
So thanks, Pintrest. You’ve given me great ideas and just looking at your lovely ideas is totally relaxing. I could spend hours viewing Mason jars with electric lights inside, centerpieces of lemons in a clear vase and flowers artistically arranged in them, charger plates with gold trim and of course plates that all match exactly. It’s lots of fun but now I’m off to The G Boutique – I need to buy another white dinner plate and the sale is on.
As many of you writers already know, the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference was held in – you guessed it – Taos, New Mexico, for 17 years. Sharon Oard Warner and Eva Lupton-Ormond did an amazing job of coordinating accomplished writers/speakers, independent book stores, learned instructors and those of us who were fortunate enough to attend.
And as you also may already know, the conference is moving. In 2016, the conference will be held in Santa Fe, NM. Santa Fe is a colorful, fun town with lots to do and see. Even the governement office buildings of the capital city are adobe in style and boast charm and color. I love visiting Santa Fe.
And after five wonderful, creativity-sparking years of hearing speakers like Wally Lamb, Natasha Trethaway and N. Scott Momaday and studying with Annie Dawid, Antonya Nelson, Robert Boswell and Minrose Gwinn, I’d love to attend again. But I’m just not sure. I might but I might not attend “The Conference Formerly Known as Taos Summer Writers’ Conference.” We’ll see.
The printed invitation arrived in an envelope hand addressed to me. It should have been my first clue. The Lighthouse Writers Workshop was to be held at the Denver Mayor’s residence, Shangri La. That should have been my second clue.
Unfortunately, my clue-receptor wasn’t working. I arrived at the event (valet parking) to find every woman there in a black dress with lovely jewelry around her neck. Even Laurie W. who usually wears jeans, was dressed for the evening in black slacks and a black and white top. I was wearing an orange/white cotton top and a cotton skirt and carrying my huge yellow tote. Granted, there was one woman wearing black slacks and a blue top and one in black slacks and a green top – but they were as elegant as women in dresses.
So what did I do? I ate the catered food (elegant and delicious) and drank red wine and chatted with old friends and met some new ones. I decided there was nothing else I could do — so I ignored my seeming lack of social awareness of how to dress for an Elegant Lighthouse Evening and just had a great time.
Oh, David Wroblewski read the last seven pages of his second novel, a pre-quel to The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. When it appears, you will buy it and you will love it and it, too, will be on the best seller lists for weeks and weeks. You read it here first.
As most of you know, I am committedly into the agent search. I know there is an agent out there who will get my novel published. Since December 2014, I have received a number of rejection letters and emails, most very kind, some just short and sweet. But this one which I received today is without a doubt, the absolute best so here it is in its entirety.
“Thank you for writing. I appreciate your thinking of me, but have to decline. I have a full and demanding list and haven’t been taking on new clients. I have found the last several years to be difficult for fiction publishing. Books like yours, considered “literary, upmarket, quality fiction,” are consigned to the “midlist” category and frequently forsaken by the big publishers in favor of fiction that is high-concept, commercially marketable as a blockbuster, franchisable, which usually means it contains a zombie, an extraterrestrial, a videogame, BDSM or a drunken unreliable narrator who turns out to be the murderer. I wish I were joking. I’ve had a hard time selling good fiction and haven’t been willing to stretch myself to take on new writers who would require my care and attention when it’s been a struggle to maintain the careers of those to whom I am already committed.
Your book sounds promising. I’m sure another agent would be pleased and honored to have you as a client. I hope you find the right person who can help you get published with the attention and care you deserve.”
Now, be honest. Did you laugh? Cry? Shake your head in wonder? Yeah, me, too.
The Festival evidently began in Jaipur, Inida, and spread to the US. It is several days in duration and events take place at various venues, including some under pop-up tents in the Boulder sunshine.
I went with one purpose – see my friend and fellow writer Jan Ellison. Jan moderated a panel discussion which featured three authors, all of whom had begun their careers in journalism and all of whom, possibly coincidentally, were off different countries of origin.
I took notes and the ones that stuck me include: Voice should respond to the grit of the story. Find the personality who will take us into the larger story. You cannot write if fear is sitting on your shoulder. Writing comes from some sort of passion, the urge to tell our own story or someone else’s story.
Great discussion. But the best part was getting to spend five minutes with my lovely, genuine, bright, creative friend Jan Ellison. If you have not yet read her A Small Indiscretion, go get it now. You will love it – and you will not meet a more down-to-earth author and friend.
With Jan Ellison in Boulder, CO
Yesterday was Special Persons’ Day in our granddaughter’s first grade class. We were excited and so, it seemed, was almost everyone else. The room was packed and buzzed with voices and energy. As we sat down near our granddaughter, a little girl came over to us.
“My daddy and stepmother are at work. My mother is in Paris. Can I be with you?” It was obvious her front tooth was loose and the braid in her hair was frazzling already.
“Of course! Come here and let’s take a selfie!” Her name is Sarah and she is 6 years old.
We had a wonderful time. The girls showed us the gold fish on their work table, read to us and performed their exercise and singing routine. Their sweet first grade teacher welcomed everyone but then wisely let the kids and the excitement take over.
“Will you send the selfies and the video to my mother? Her name is Estelle.” We assured Sarah that we would. When it was time to go, she hugged John and said, “Good-bye, Papa” just as our granddaughter had done. Both girls waved to us as we left.
And that’s how I learned from a 6 year old that if you want something, you ask. Sarah didn’t sit lonely and crying in a corner. She walked over to us and asked if she could join us and we all had more fun because she was with us. I hope I remember this wonderful lesson – if I want something, I need to ask. The fun will follow.