Monday, July 30, 2007

Faith vs. Discipline

I just read a great blog on faith vs. discipline by Sage Cohen of Writers on the Rise.

She found this quote from novelist Alice Sebold in the May issue of O Magazine:

“A difficult lesson, which I fought at every turn, is that what often must substitute for faith is discipline. Faith has a lovely ease about it, an ethereal ring. Discipline is the rod, the staff, your insecurities internalized and sprouting rules and limits on your life. Why can’t I just have faith that books will be completed? Why isn’t faith alone enough? I hear my Southern roots respond. Faith doesn’t dig ditches, they say; faith doesn’t scrape the burn from the bottom of the pot. Ultimately, faith gives freedom, and discipline, its sister, makes sure the job gets done.”

Read the full entry here.

* * *

Now that July is coming to an end and the School Supply Sales are hitting the stores, I'm thinking about fall and my writing life, which returns then. Even b.c (before children) I never wrote much in the summer. It was sort of my relaxation time, traveling time, just hanging out and enjoying life time. And now, with this last week of clouds & rain (now which seems to be gone), I'm looking forward to my wool sweaters, hot coffee, and reentering my writing cave. I love summer, but I love autumn even more and how it gives the gift of rain and no reason to be anywhere else except at my laptop or on the sofa with a book.

This I Believe: I Feed Monkeys on my Birthday

A friend told me about this "This I Believe" essay by Harold Taw, a Seattle writer (one who I believe just received an Artist Trust GAP grant).

Here's a sampling of it:

I could say that I believe in America because it rewarded my family's hard work to overcome poverty. I could say that I believe in holding on to rituals and traditions because they helped us flourish in a new country. But these concepts are more concretely expressed this way: I believe in feeding monkeys on my birthday -- something I've done without fail for 35 years.

You can read the whole essay here. Or click the link on the title of this post.

I hope you are each considering something you believe in to submit to this fantastic series.


Friday, July 27, 2007

This I Believe

If you haven't heard it before, This I Believe is a fascinating NPR Project.

Here's a summary taken from the This I Believe website:

This I Believe is a national media project engaging people in writing, sharing, and discussing the core values and beliefs that guide their daily lives. NPR airs these three-minute essays on All Things Considered and Weekend Edition Sunday.

Anyone can submit an essay on anything they *believe* in. They just need to be 300-500 words.

Here's mine from their website. (I believe in passion...) It tells the backstory to my life and I wrote it as this August is my ten year anniversary of quitting my job, moving from the city, and starting a new life that focused on writing, family, simplicity, nature, and lollygagging.

Good News: Diane Lockward is Blogging...

A favorite poet of mine, Diane Lockward, author of EVE'S RED DRESS and the WHAT FEEDS US, has a blog now. You can visit her here:

In celebration of a new voice in the blogosphere as well as it being POETRY FRIDAY, a day I just learned about, I'm posting of Diane's poems below. Enjoy!


The heart wants what the heart wants,
and what it wants is fire.
My friend Roz, six months into a relationship
with a seemly man, dumps him
and says, There’s no fireworks.
Roz wants the full-scale Grucci display—
her lover a licensed pyrotechnician,
Roman candles manually fired,
multi-color scenes, a barrage
of illuminations, the sky pulsing,
and always the Grand Finale.

Think of that woman in Colorado,
a forest ranger, who goes into the woods,
a letter from her estranged husband
clutched in her fist, a firestorm in her heart.
She reads the letter one last time,
strikes a match and kindles his words,
watches them shrivel.
Think of the entire forest in flames,
the blaze billowing and consuming,
trees surrendering to fire,
skeletons of timber, and charred remains.

And now I learn that silicone in the breasts
must be excised before cremation
or it blows up, liquefying to a dangerous substance,
destroying the crematorium.
I’d like to have breasts like that—
round and full, earth-tipped and tilted
heavenward, the kind that ignite and explode.
I’d like my breasts to burst into flame,
spreading like wildfire,
tongues of scarlet licking the walls.
I’d like breasts just that white-hot
as once they were under the touch
of my lover, so recently departed.
I’d like to burn the crematorium down.

—from What Feeds Us (Wind Publications, 2006)
first published in Prairie Schooner

* * *

File Name: I'm Not Surprised

In the News--

Just as Evian is "naive" spelled backwards, Aquafina is combination of the prefix aqua Latin meaning "water," and fina, American for "sucker."

NEW YORK - So you thought that water in your Aquafina bottle came from some far-away spring bubbling deep in a glen?

Try the tap.

PepsiCo Inc. is the latest company to offer some clarity about the source of its top-selling bottled water as it announced on Friday it would change the label on Aquafina water bottles to spell out that the drink comes from the same source as tap water.

Aquafina is the single biggest bottled water brand, and its bottles are now labeled “P.W.S.” The new labels will spell out “public water source.”

Full Story at MSNBC

* * * So basically, if you're buying Aquafina, you are paying for the bottle and the temperature of the water (if you purchase it in the cooler of your market), but the water, why that's pretty much free anywhere. Water: free at a tap near you.

* * *

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Smart Talk -

I saw this on Deborah Ager's blog who found it on Elizabeth Gilbert's website:

Gilbert writes:

"The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.”

She also writes this on her thoughts about writing:

"We need more creation, not more destruction. We need our artists more than ever, and we need them to be stable, steadfast, honorable and brave – they are our soldiers, our hope. If you decide to write, then you must do it, as Balzac said, “like a miner buried under a fallen roof.” Become a knight, a force of diligence and faith. I don’t know how else to do it except that way. As the great poet Jack Gilbert said once to young writer, when she asked him for advice about her own poems: “Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say YES.”
* * *

Isn't the the truth, it's not about writing brilliantly, but just writing.

And I love the line about needing more creation than destruction. Yes to that. I remember Li-Young Lee saying imagine if more people wrote poetry and what kind of world we'd have. And I remember thinking, "Yes, what a *kind* world we'd have."

So everyone, go forth and create.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mother Writers -or- June Cleaver, You Have No Idea. . .

I've started reading A QUESTION OF BALANCE: ARTIST AND WRITERS ON MOTHERHOOD. Even though it was published in 1995, the issues surrounding being a mother while being a writer are artist are pretty much the same. There are issues with guilt, worry, frustration, balance-- so much with balance. These essays and interviews could have been done last week, each woman seems to be coming up against the same challenge--how to mix writing with motherhood or how to be a good mother and a good writer/artist. Twelve years later, same issues, different decade.

In the introduction, Judith Pierce Rosenberg wrote about how she had a career crisis after they moved and she lost her home office. She writes, "We had just moved out a cramped two-bedroom cottage into a ranch house with a fenced yard, and a room for each child--but no office. My husband quickly nixed my idea of converting the dining alcove into a workspace, saying that it would look too messy. And I believed the childrearing experts who insisted that my son and daughter were too old to share a bedroom. . .

Why didn't I insist on taking my old desk to our new home and using the dining alcove as an office? Why were the perceived needs of my children more important than the demands of my work? In retrospect, I think the reason lies in the fact that I was earning very little money as a freelance writer. In fact, my work was a financial drain on the family since I did not make enough money to cover my work-related expenses, especially child care. It was difficult for either my husband or for me to consider my work as important as his."

The end result is that Rosenberg takes on the life as a "traditional mom" and feels frustrated and resentful. She began read articles by artists and writers who were also mothers on how they integrated the maternal and artistic aspects of their lives.

Alicia Ostriker made time for her writing, and had this to say about writing poetry when her children were at home:

"Poetry was always in the interstices of everything else, the nooks and crannies. It was always time stolen from other responsibilities. Everything else in my life was being done for someone or something else: someone needed me to do it or I was being paid to do it. Poetry was the one thing that I did for myself alone with the sense that no one on earth except myself gave a damn whether I did it or not. In my early years, I didn't make other things move over very much for it; it was always on the run."

I still struggle with the mother/writer balance, but as my daughter gets older, it becomes easier. And there is less room for excuses if I don't write. We each have our challenges we face as writers--some are created internally, some are external. We write through them. We have to if we want to continue to keep that part of ourselves. We try and we move forward.

New Book by David Wagoner.... & new technologies

I thought this was interesting. There's a new book out by David Wagoner called MAD HAT. What surprised me about it is that it is self-published by Book Surge, which appears to be an company.

We have arrived at a new era of publishing, yet many of us are old school about it (print out manuscript, write large check, submit, lather, rinse, repeat). Yet here's DW, self-publishing his own book.

I don't know too much about BookSurge, I'm guessing the pro/cons would be much the same for as a press that uses POD (Print on Demand), but I'm interested in writers finding new ways to get their work to the world.

I don't understand poets and writers who poo-poo the internet & ezines. A poem on the internet is seem a thousand times more than a poem in most literary journals. A poem on the internet can connect you with someone in another country, most poems in print journals never make it that far. I'm not saying either/or, but that we can learn from the younger generation who doesn't debate whether people should blog or not, be on the internet or not, but accepts it and sees it as a resource or another way to connect.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Inspiration - The Beginnings of a Story

This morning in that shadowy place between sleep and awake I had the inspiration for a story. It's not a poem, I'm sure of that. There are characters and bus stops involved. I stayed in that place going through the story in my mind until I had enough of it that I wouldn't forget and not so much that I would fall into a dream and lose it all.

There is a bittersweetness to writing down the idea for a story because in the half-awake time grabbing a pen, eyes cracked open, I can't get it right on paper. All the bright images in my mind, the bus stop, the man with the red handkerchief, just sort of fall flat. I just try to capture the idea and the details, I am not writing the story.

I hated to write it down because I knew the moment I started writing I'd be out of my imagination and back into the world of dust bunnies and unwashed laundry. But I didn't want to lose it. I didn't.

Next to me as I type this are three pages ripped from the journal I keep next next to my bed. I can hardly translate my morning handwriting. I return to my mind's image of the woman at the bus stop, her name is Mary. She is waiting for me to write her into life. Right now, I can't. Right now the world buzzes and the coffee pot groans hello hello. For the next day, I will keep Mary in my mind until she becomes someone I know, I can't say "friend" here, because if Mary becomes a friend, the story will never be written. I cannot take a friend and put them through the twists and turns that happen in a story. If Mary becomes a friend than the story is lost. So I have to keep Mary at a distance as I watch her. She is holding an umbrella. She is stepping onto the bus.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

No easy pleasures in life of a poet - Campbell McGrath

In 1999, the poet Campbell McGrath won a $280,000 MacArthur ''genius'' grant, which is good, because the last royalty check from his publisher was for $2.10.


Just a reminder that the value of art has never been measured by dollars. (Though I'd make a good argument for that genius grant...)

Another good article. Read the full story here.

Art is Not a Luxury

Great essay by Dana Gioia in the Wall Street Journal Opinion Page:

The Impoverishment of American Culture
And the need for better art education.

"American artists, intellectuals and academics have lost their ability to converse with the rest of society. We have become wonderfully expert in talking to one another, but we have become almost invisible and inaudible in the general culture.

This mutual estrangement has had enormous cultural, social and political consequences. America needs its artists and intellectuals, and they need to re-establish their rightful place in the general culture. If we could reopen the conversation between our best minds and the broader public, the results would not only transform society but also artistic and intellectual life."


Gioia makes a point later in the piece that people who are actively involved in reading for pleasure and who participate in the arts are much more actively involved in life & their community, than the other group who he calls "passive consumers." (Insert image of person watching television here.)

I truly believe that though it is harder to measure what "the arts" do for individuals and communities, what the arts bring is only a positive for society.

Intriguing article. What do you think?

Sad News....

I just learned that poet Sekou Sundiata passed away July 18th from a heart attack. He was 58.

I saw him last year at the Skagit River Poetry Festival and he was a huge presence with so much to offer.

Here are links on where to send cards or a donation to the kidney foundation in his memory.

Here's an interview with him on NPR

Here's a link to more information on him at

Monday, July 16, 2007

New Letters - On the Air

There's a FANTASTIC interview with Anne Lamott on NPR's New Letters show & you can listen online or download it to your i-Pod.

"You develop the habit of being a writer...that you never wait for inspiration...waiting for it is a way to avoid it."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Networking vs. Connecting

Great essay by Christina Katz, author Writer Mama (here's a link to her blog), a book I highly recommend for anyone writer interested in mixing motherhood with the life of being a freelance journalist. I carry my around with me constantly just to inspire me in uninspiring places.

In the essay above, Katz talks about the difference in networking vs. connecting. I feel the same way she does, that "networking" lives a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe it's the combo of "net" and "work" --you're working someone into a net as opposed to "connecting," which to me suggests that two people may have things in common and ways to help each other out.

She's definitely an inspiring woman, writer, and mother.

J.K. Rowling's First Interview


* * * * *
From the UK Telegraph, interview by Elisabeth Dunn:

She meant to leave Edinburgh after Christmas, but somehow never did. One rainy afternoon she told her sister, Di, the story of Harry and gave her those first chapters to read. "It's possible that if she hadn't laughed, I would have set the whole thing on one side," Rowling says today. But Di did laugh - and there followed six months of writing in conditions of poverty.

"I had no intention, no desire, to remain on benefits. It's the most soul-destroying thing. I don't want to dramatise, but there were nights when, though Jessica ate, I didn't. The suggestion that you would deliberately make yourself entitled . . . you'd have to be a complete idiot.

"I was a graduate, I had skills, I knew that my prospects long-term were good. It must be different for women who don't have that belief and end up in that poverty trap - it's the hopelessness of it, the loss of self-esteem. For me, at least, it was only six months. I was writing all the time, which really saved my sanity. As soon as Jessie was asleep, I'd reach for pen and paper."

She eventually got a part-time job and received a grant of pounds 8,000 from the Scottish Arts Council. Coming at a moment of penury, that meant more than the multiple noughts from her recent American publishing deal. Rowling hasn't received that money yet, but she has already spent pounds 100 on a jacket for television appearances. . .

READ the full article here

* * * * *

This article was from the mid-nineties. Who knew where this little wizard was going to lead us.

I remember the first time I heard about Harry Potter was either 1998 or 1999. My co-worker's son wanted to be Harry Potter for Halloween and there were no costumes, in fact, not many people even knew who he was. She said she was thinking of using a graduate gown and needed round "Where's Waldo" glasses. I remembering asking if anyone would know who he was when he went trick or treating. She said, "The kids will know, but the adults will have no idea..."

And now, in 2007, who doesn't know who Harry Potter is. I have never read the book or (dare I say it), seen a movie all the way through. I've seen a lot of the first movie because we have it on DVD and my daughter was obsessed with owls when she was two. So that owl scene in the first movie where the letters are delivered? I've seen that about two hundred times.

But what I love about Harry Potter has nothing to do with the book and everything to do with the author. I think this is what makes writing magical--the "you never know what can happen" element. Had someone said to me in 1990 that there would be this kid's book that contained wizards that was so good that kids would read it and adults would read it too, and they'd even go to their local bookstore at midnight dressed as wizards to get it and there would be big book parties and bracelets with the next date of the next book on them, I would have said, "No way. America doesn't go crazy for books anymore." I can tell you that I am happy to be wrong.

I love that children and adults stay up all night to read the book. It's completely romantic and encouraging to me. On every level, I love that a woman felt strong enough to bring her baby to a coffeeshop to write with the faith that her words would be enough and that fact that it did work out.

My daughter is wearing a t-shirt today that reads: Living the fairytale. (There's a certain poet --Jeannine Gailey-- who I'd like to send this shirt to!) But I'd love to send a shirt like this to Rowling, of course, she's dressing better than this these days. But when it all works out, the idea becomes a book and we are someone in a coffeeshop and then we are an author, I find it inspiring and I am so thankful that this month the world will be giddy about a book (a book!) and we can forget our troubles for awhile in the pages of someone else's words. We can tuck ourselves into our beds and read under the covers with the flashlight or late into the night listening to jazz with a glass of red wine. Whatever we're reading, be it a poem or the last book you've been waiting for, the one you have to read before you hear the ending, how it all turns out, I’m thankful for those who still turn to words.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Welcome Back, Jack Kerouac. . .

All Things Considered, July 5, 2007 ·

This September marks 50 years since Jack Kerouac's On the Road hit bookshelves, stirred controversy and spoke — in a new voice — to a generation of readers. Today the beat travelogue continues to sell 100,000 copies a year in the U.S. and Canada alone.

Legend has it that Kerouac wrote On the Road in three weeks, typing it almost nonstop on a 120-foot roll of paper. The truth is that the book actually had a much longer, bumpier journey from inspiration to publication, complete with multiple rewrites, repeated rejections and a dog who — well, On the Road wasn't homework, but we all know what dogs do.
But the scroll: That part's true. . .

(Click on the link above to read the full story...)

Poem of the Day: Julianna Baggott

Here's a poem from a new book I have published by Louisiana State University Press-- Compulsions of Silk Worms and Bees by Julianna Baggott.

Q and A: Do you have any tips? Answer #2
by Julianna Baggott

How many times to I have to say it: Listen,
a whine in a bulb,
its hiss of life,
the fragile sister of the mosquito, the electric life of wings.
There is a wheel rut for each of us somewhere.
Look closely at the skein of eggs,
root the mud for a clamped oyster
fallen from a truck. Cover your nose and mouth
with both hands, and there,
in that shallow cup,
feel a buffalo's breathing steam.
A toppled stone, its face veiled by weeds—
crouch. The blooms become helmets.
Allow for delirium, a thirst. Take in
so much sun that you feel a cold absence,
as if you’ve sipped a hole into the world.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Poem of the Day: BERRYMAN by WS Merwin

by W.S. Merwin

I will tell you what he told me
in the years just after the war
as we then called
the second world war

don't lose your arrogance yet he said
you can do that when you're older
lose it too soon and you may
merely replace it with vanity

just one time he suggested
changing the usual order
of the same words in a line of verse
why point out a thing twice

he suggested I pray to the Muse
get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally

it was in the days before the beard
and the drink but he was deep
in tides of his own through which he sailed
chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop

he was far older than the dates allowed for
much older than I was he was in his thirties
he snapped down his nose with an accent
I think he had affected in England

as for publishing he advised me
to paper my wall with rejection slips
his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled
with the vehemence of his views about poetry

he said the great presence
that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention

I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can't

you can't you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don't write

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July!

Are You a Cultural Creative?

Something I've been thinking about lately---

The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World

From the Amazon Review:

Do you "give a lot of importance to helping other people and bringing out their unique gifts?" Do you "dislike all the emphasis in modern culture on success and 'making it,' on getting and spending, on wealth and luxury goods?" Do you "want to be involved in creating a new and better way of life for our country?" If you answered yes to all three of these questions--and at least seven more of the remaining 15 in Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson's questionnaire--then you are probably a Cultural Creative.

Cultural Creative is a term coined by Ray and Anderson to describe people whose values embrace a curiosity and concern for the world, its ecosystem, and its peoples; an awareness of and activism for peace and social justice; and an openness to self-actualization through spirituality, psychotherapy, and holistic practices. Cultural Creatives do not just take the money and run; they don't want to defund the National Endowment for the Arts; and they do want women to get a fairer shake--not only in the United States, but around the globe.

On the basis of Ray and Anderson's research, about 50 million Americans are Cultural Creatives, a group that includes people of all races, ages, and classes. This subculture could have enormous social and political clout, the authors argue, if only it had any consciousness of itself as a cohesive unit, a society of fellow travelers. The husband and wife team wrote the book "to hold up a mirror" to the members of this vast but diffuse group, to show them they are not alone and that they can reshape society to make it more authentic, compassionate, and engaged. It is an idealistic call for a new agenda for a new millennium. --I. Crane

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Garden View

Like the good Capricorn I am, I quickly deposited the money I received from the Atlantic Monthly prize. Someone asked me if had I bought anything with it and I said, "A chai tea and a cookie." So yesterday at the Farmer's Market, I fell in love with this little guy, handmade by another in a small town. I decided to use a small bit of the money I had tucked away--squirrel-like--for a little piece of beauty. I paid for it (he threw in a stone frog for my daughter). He loaded it in the passenger seat of my car and home we drove.

It's the first thing I see when I open my garden gate. The peaceful face. The flowers. And this small slice of perfect makes me happy.

While the back garden is in chaos--butterfly bushes argue with rose bushes, lilac tree nudges alder tree who moved in without permission--there is peace for all who enter here. Peace in the details. Peace is in the wallflowers, the blooming hosta, a stone statue holding my world together.

Happy Canada Day!

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