Of mice and men and trying again

Gheyn-muisjeWhen we last left our heroine, it was mid-March and she was going to try to post once a week going forward. But, as Robert Burns said, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley…,” and my plans went pretty agley for a few months.

However, I’m willing to try again. I think it will take a bit to get back to once-a-week, as I’m under deadline for a couple of writing projects (including a rewrite of a paper on animals and uplift…which is fun, but totally off-topic for this blog), but I will promise to be here more regularly, as lots of exciting things are coming up.

Speaking of which, the one thing I want to do in this post is encourage poets, especially people who haven’t tried this before, to join the August Poetry Postcard Festival this year. As long-time readers know, this event has made August my fave month. It’s a truly freeing experience as a writer, and as a human being – well, I love getting mail (who doesn’t?) and getting see the work of some truly phenomenal poets. If you’d like to know more about the experience:

  • Here’s where you sign up
  • Here’s a blog post ruminating on last year’s fest
  • You can find one of Paul Nelson’s lovely mini-essays on the effect of writing poetry this way – freely, spontaneously, and with the internal editor set to “off” – here
  • And a guest blog post by Paul on postcard poems, the origin of this event, and why it matters

Wood Mouse
I’m really looking forward to this year’s fest. I hope you’ll join the community, too –

Ina

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Slacking…and a kitten

1024px-RELAXED_CATIt’s a pity that the use of the term “slacking” has gotten so…well, slack, since it regained popularity in the late 70s/early 80s. But for lack of a better term, I’ll use it here: I have been slacking on this blog. There’s a lot of things behind said slacking, some Inevitable Life Stuff (ILS, should be a thing), some personal angst, some real life health issues.

Being in the process of recommitting to creative writing (long story, I’ll tell it once I can have a sense of humor about it), I’m hoping to post once a week and keep it up until even my mighty pen can’t cut through the crises that will pile up (because ILS, you know?). And for my first post of2015, what better than to start with World Poetry Day?

Someone who has not been slacking, poetically or otherwise, is lovely Linda Hofke, who wrote a better post than I could about the day today. So I’m just going to link to it here with no further comment:

http://lind-guistics.blogspot.de/2015/03/world-poetry-day-2015-is-today.html

And to make sure your World Poetry Day goes well, here is a kitten, slacking1024px-Wikipedians_cat:

How I learned to love August (and you can, too!)

I am not a summer person. My version of the book would start “Now is the summer of our discontent.” I’m sure that there’s some deep seated reason for it…or maybe it’s just that I don’t like being hot all the time.California Desert Landscape 35

And of all the summer months, I used to think of August as the worst. The dregs of summer. The scrapings of the sunshine barrel. The flowers are blown; the grass is wilted; vacation is over but school hasn’t started. Everything is weary and jaded.

Two years ago, I discovered the August Poetry Postcard Fest. And lo! Now August is my favorite, favorite month – not just of summer, but of the year. Postcard AlbumSeriously, I think it edges out December, and that’s going some. It’s the combination of getting personal mail (I mean, it doesn’t get more personal than a poem written by a real person that your eyes see before ANYONE else’s)  and poetry! Amazing, personal, varied, creative poetry.

If you want to join the fun, it’s not too late. You can sign up until this Friday (July 26th), so just click THIS LINK and ask to be added to the mailing list. I guarantee that as a writer (even if you don’t think of yourself as a poet) this will be one of those experiences you’ll never forget.

See you there 🙂 ~ ina

Inspirations, exhortations, and announcements.

Pounce! (383617744)My son had a preschool friend with  a huge vocabulary that didn’t fit in her little mouth. Sometimes to get past that, she used her own versions of words. Instead of “announcements,”  she said “a-pounce-ments.”

“I haf a apouncement about my bithday party!”

It’s been a few years now, but I secretly hope she still uses “apouncements” sometimes.

Opportunity is supposed to knock. Sometimes, though, it feels more like a little chance that hangs out on the lawn, waves to passersby, maybe sends a few texts…So instead of waiting for it to knock, we have to pounce on it before it wanders off to get a Slurpee or something.

Having material ready for those opportunities is half the battle. I got a  jolt of energy from Margaret’s  interview with Joan Hamilton. Joan’s someone who can make moments into opportunities; it’s worth reading the interview if you’re in need of inspiration.

In our poll a few weeks ago, the most frequently mentioned creative goal  for the summer was to write/paint/act/film/ more. Summer prompts and practices abound. I’ve been using some of Poetic Bloomings’ Life’s a Beach prompts – it’s only day 12, and there are already so many great things to write about. I also think I mentioned one of my  fave annual writing events is coming up, the August Postcard Poem Festival; it’s a freeing, connecting experience that helps me create a lot of new writing. And Poets and Writers’ Weekly fiction and poetry prompts – really thoughtful and you can go through archives to find extras.

Gillie pouncing (2292639076)Lastly, a couple of a-pounce-ments from inourbooks. If you were one of the young authors in the Brighter Light contest, keep an eye on your mail the next few weeks 🙂 And if you contributed to the Brighter Light Summer Prompt challenge, I haven’t made a final decision because I pretty much like every poem that came in, but I’ll be contacting you-all before next Wednesday. And next Wednesday, we’ll have an interview with author Barbara Vaughan, whose first novel was just released this week by Black Opal Press, on how she made it happen.

And now, I’m going to listen to my own advice and write ~ Ina

Monday coffee: Creatives in their Summer Shoes

Childe Hassam - Summer Sunlight (Isles of Shoals) - Google Art ProjectWow, it’s summer. One minute I’m putting away New Years’ party hats, and the next minute Spring has one foot out the door and that foot’s in a sparkly, beach-worthy sandal. Posted word counts on a favorite writers’ groups are rising as if reaching for the sun; Facebook and Twitter are filled with exuberant verses about newly-fledged orange-throated finches, nights of stars and cicadas, and tip-toes rushing over hot sand.

Eudocimus Ruber Wading KL

InOurBooks is also jumping into summer. We’ve got a special event for the Brighter Light challenge participants. Wednesday connections are in the works; we’ll be posting info on places to send work over the summer. AND we’re fortunate enough to have some unbelievably fun interviews with writers including novelist and Stanford teacher Ellen Sussman and writer Joan Hamilton, courtesy of guest blogger Margaret Young (@MargaretYWrites on Twitter).

But most of all:  we’d love to hear about what you’re planning for your creative life this summer; we’d want to blog about what’s most on your summer-mind. Our poll is below, so put on your favorite summer shoes (even if that’s no shoes!) and let us know what’s upcoming for you! ~ ina

" 12 - ITALY - Ice Coffee 2

Connecting Over Monday Coffee: “The Next Big Thing”

Wilhelm Schreuer Kaffeekränzchen In our previous post, we mentioned that we were invited to participate in a blog chain called My Next Big Thing.  This blog chain isn’t a chain letter but a chance for writers to connect with with one another over the blogosphere – and isn’t connecting what writing is all about? I want to say “thank you” again to our lovely friend Dr. Pearl Ketover Prilik for this chance to share what one of us is up to these days. Please check out Pearl’s Next Big Thing at this link. And after you’ve read Andrea’s description of this *amazing* project she’s working on, please stop in and say hello to the talented people with whom we’re next sharing this chain! – Ina

The Camino near Burgos

The Camino, near Burgos

Andrea’s Next Big Thing

What is the working title of your book or project?

AH: The Tartan Pillow Lead

What sparked the project/book/work off?

AH:I walked the Camino in Spain in 2006 – and why did I? I needed to explain to myself why I did it but after I did it, I most of all wanted to preserve a beautiful picture of the wonderful people I met on the road, The Camino.

The Camino! The Way! People from all over the world walk the Camino every year, and we are following a trail of hundreds of kilometers up north in Spain. There are around 25 kilometers in between the towns and the beds where you can sleep, so for many people the options make it possible. A lot of men wrote about their external sufferings and inner revelations walking these hundreds of kilometers, and I don’t understand this because the majority of people I met on the Camino back in 2006 were women. Women from all over the world losing weight.

I never intended to walk the Camino, but a friend of mine wanted to go there. She had breast cancer, and in a hospital bed without breasts, she cried, “Now I can never walk the Camino.”

And I said, “Of course you can.”

And she said, “Will you bring me?”

And I said, “I’ll carry you all the way if necessary.”

My friend recovered, and every now and then she reminded me of my promise, so one day we were there. “Hello 500 kilometers ahead of you,” I thought one day in Burgos in Spain. It turned out to be a painful nightmare for the first couple of days because I did not know anything else than walking these 500 kilometers (approximately 300 miles) to reach the airport in Santiago to get safely home to Denmark. How would I ever succeed?

I got lost from my Danish friend after two days. Only I met a lot of other people. People from all over the world. People from Holland, Germany, England, Ireland, Canada, America, Australia and yes, all over the world.

I walked all those hundreds of kilometers mostly with three Australians, but I met my Danish friend after 19 days in Santiago. When sitting in a restaurant with my Australian friends, whom I walked with for what felt like a lifetime, my Danish friend asked me, “Andrea, why do you speak in English?”

And what did I say? Likely that it was important for me that everybody around the table understood what I said – only the fact was that I felt more or less Australian. I become “a mate.”

When I returned to Denmark, I started writing about all the experiences with all those hundreds of people that I’d met. I wrote in English, and after three months I ended up with a book manuscript of 72,000 words, now wondering:

Who doesn’t need to follow a long-haired, American anorexic pilgrim walking out there with her plastic bags?

“Being a Franciscan believer doesn’t allow me to own anything,” she said. Only I for one would have loved to buy a rucksack for her. Listening to her endless packing and unpacking of her noisy Spanish plastic bags at 5 o’clock in the morning was hell.

“Sorry, but I need to arrange all my stuff right,” she said.

Or the polite British pilgrim who wore his trekking trousers inside out, explaining to me that the trousers belonged to his dead friend who had wanted to walk the Camino.  He promised this dead friend’s wife that he would wear these trousers along the entire journey, and there he was, “saving” these trousers for Santiago where he would put them on right.

“What an odd promise,” I said.

“Yes, you might say so,” he said, “but that’s how she wanted it, and I do it because she promised me his old car when I return to England.”

How would you describe your project/book/piece of work?

AH: I guess my problem is that I don’t know how to describe it. When you just write like a mad for 3 months and then polish, polish and polish – then you end up wondering what you wrote.

Only basically the genre is non-fiction. I describe poignant incidents but most of all I hope that I meet my fellow pilgrim, Susan, who said: “On my first Camino, I cried – on my second Camino, I laughed.” And I met Susan on her second Camino, luckily, and it should be impossible to be mistaken about cathedrals, towns, roads – but we went lost all the time – in fact we found a cathedral which turned out to be a flamingo dance hall.

And why did we get lost all the time? Because we were two middle aged women who had long lives behind us and needed to tell each other all about them so we missed towns, cathedrals and the arrows on the road because we were so engaged in our conversation. We didn’t see a thing until it was kind of dark or the road, the trail, suddenly stopped.

Only wherever we went, we always were rescued. We, I, were part of a team and we followed Susan who had a tartan pillow so when we saw that pillow in the hostels, we knew that we found the right place, so we booked and stayed there together.

How long did it take you to find your own style and voice?

AH: I love a short and fresh style and I love when I can break it when I need something poignant to be added. And how did I find it? I guess it’s just me like I’m born with this style of mine.

In what ways do you think ‘writer you’ differs from or has similarities to the everyday you?

AH: These are two different characters, sort of. Being a writer, I’m a lot of things but most of all, I’m sharp. In my everyday life, I’m not. Once I wanted to be but life taught me that I’m just a very ordinary kind of quiet person but when I’m writing, well, I’m normally nice but I can be horrible. You see when writing, I am completely honest.

 Who or What makes you pick up that pen or start typing at the keyboard?

AH: I guess that you, the reader, make me want to write. When I was twelve I wrote an ongoing story for a school magazine and when my fellow students protested when the editor wanted me to stop my ongoing story, I felt fine.

I don’t know, really. I’m not much of a speaker, so I guess that writing is a way for me to express myself and when I created something, I always feel fine.

Imagine someone waved a magic wand and you were only able to write one book in your lifetime and you knew it would be perfect and say exactly what you intended and be understood and appreciated by everyone; what would you write about?

AH: I always wanted to create the perfect love story. I’d say “The Tartan Pillow Lead” is a kind of love story so maybe I already wrote it.

So yes, a love story.
Photograph of Coffee Break at National Archives and Records Service (NARS) Conference in the Late 1970s

And  with that perfect ending, here are InOurBooks’ pings for the My Next Big Thing blogger chain:

  • Regina Swint, author of The Other Side of 30
  • Amy Harke-Moore author of poetry, short stories, and non-fiction and editor at The Write Helper [click her link for more info]