Monday, September 05, 2011

My Blog Has a New Home

From now on I'll be posting on my new blog platform, which is part of my web domain,

Within a week or so I will have set up a permanent relay so that readers will be transfered over automatically, but for now, I invite you to visit by clicking HERE.

My first post on the new blog, "Before Writing Pays the Bills," is waiting for you there.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In Memoriam: from this morning's walk

I often walk through a park when I'm in Boston. As the sun was rising, I took off and found this portrait--along with a stray baseball cap, a notice about lost sunglasses, and other local info--tacked to the park's bulletin board.

Not sure if you can read the words. The bullets note how long the dog was a member of the park community and squirrel patrol. Moxie's political views favored off-leash legislation. Moxie was named for the drink, not for courage.

In just a few bullets we get to know Moxie and the humans with whom the dog shared a long, joyful life. Last bullet: Best Friend

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Mother's Bad Advice

When I was in high school, my mother told me: "Don't take typing. That way you won't end up being a secretary."

This is probably the worst advice ever. I had to pay friends to type my long papers in college. Remember: back then white out ruled and carbon paper. Cut and paste? Didn't exist. One mistake and you had to retype the entire page, sometimes the entire manuscript.

My husband says typing was the most useful course he took in high school. "No homework." He even enrolled in Typing II after a year of Typing I.

One summer in my 20s, I finally taught myself on a machine like the one pictured here. My husband and I were working on an estate in northern Maine--a remote spot where I had afternoons off. We had no car, nowhere to go anyway, and I had a series of interviews to type up. So I found a touch typing book and got started.

A traveling typewriter sales and repair man actually made house calls, bringing me new ribbons and taking machines away for repairs. Typing took a lot of finger strength.

My daughters say: "Mom, you bang so hard on your poor Mac."

And I say, "Yeah, and you girls learned how to type in high school."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Book in Hand and a Reading Tonight

The journey started a few years back when I offered a reflective writing workshop for a group of burned out women ministers and Christian educators--they gathered each month for a restorative morning together. We met again, and again, and began to envision a book of their writings. And now, voila! The first group reading from the book is tonight.

None of us had any idea on that crisp fall day back in 2007 that in 2011 we would be offering readings, reflective writing time, and workshops based on a book of their writings.

Writing begets writing. Meaning grows on the page.

Keep going. Even when you have no idea where you're going. Even when pages--and the hair you're yanking out--litter the floor.

Hang in there. Content yields to form, eventually. And the writing will take you places you never imagined.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I'd Rather Be Teaching

“Devote myself to my students, my teaching," writes Joyce Carol Oates in her raw and oh-so-real memoir, A Widow’s Story: A Memoir. "This is something that I can do, that is of value.”

She writes these words in the desperate weeks after her husband's death, when she can barely leave her bed but can’t stand being in her house, or anywhere, alone.

She continues: For writing—being a writer—always seems to the writer to be of dubious value.

Being a writer is in defiance of Darwin’s observation that the more highly specialized a species, the more likelihood of extinction.

Being a writer is like being one of those riskily overbred pedigree dogs—a French bulldog, for instance—poorly suited for survival despite their very special attributes.

Teaching—even the teaching of writing—is altogether different. Teaching is an act of communication, sympathy—a reaching out—a wish to share knowledge, skills; a rapport with others, who are students; a way of allowing others into the solitariness of one’s soul.

Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche—so Chaucer says of his young scholar in The Canterbury Tales. When teachers feel good about teaching, this is how we feel.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cats Get a Bad Rap

Walter had never liked cats. They’d seemed to him the sociopath of the pet world, a species domesticated as an evil necessary for the control of rodents and subsequently fetishized the way unhappy countries fetishize their militaries, saluting the uniforms of killers as cat owners stroke their animals’ lovely fur and forgive their claws and fangs. He’d never seen anything in a cat’s face but simpering incuriosity and self-interest. . ." from Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Excuse me, Jonathan Franzen. Cats are curious.

No sooner had I set those blue manuscript files on the couch and turned away to sharpen my edit pencil than Lucy curled up on them.

Both of our cats make our business their business. Always. Get out a suitcase? Lucy is in it. Tune in to the French Open Tennis on TV? Lucy's got her eye on the ball. Meet with a client? Lucy is there. That's not curiosity?

And as for self-interest: Well, living creatures no longer experience self-interest only when they're dead.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Forget what you learned in high school English

Like everybody else, I had plenty of topic-sentence obsessed English teachers and I've had plenty of students who have trouble breaking out of dreary opening beats.

Listen here to "This American Life" genius Ira Glass show how to drop that bad beginning and get to the guts of good story telling.

I found this on Jane Friedman's newsletter. Check it out.