Saturday, March 30, 2013


For the past couple of days I've felt kind of low. Besides the fact that I've been dealing with a kidney stone, there seemed to be something emotional going on. I think I've figured it out now.

I saw on Facebook where people were going to be with their families for Easter and it hit me that we don't gather in the spring anymore.  Most of the time we would travel to my dad's house, dresses, white socks and shoes bought at Hecht's for the occasion packed in girly suitcases, Easter basket contents either hidden away in the back of the car or purchased with my sisters once we got to Greensboro. We dyed eggs on my dad's kitchen table and the kids hunted for the plastic ones in his back yard.

We would go to one of the churches we went to when I was young, one that my grandmother still attended, or the new-ish church that we joined when I was an adolescent. It was a reunion of sorts, those visits back to the churches, seeing the people my dad's age getting older, their children with children just like mine.

Then we would go back to my dad's house where he had fixed a wonderful lunch.  Other relatives might join us, just as they did at his house at Christmas.

This is the first year I've felt this way and I  know that it's part of the grieving process.  The part where every day gets easier but the holidays are concentrated sadness. I'm grieving not just my dad's death of almost three years ago, but also the loss of this family tradition that he orchestrated. I'm grieving the fact that my daughters are grown and that our time together is now limited to the Christmas holiday and a couple of visits home and to their towns at other times of the year.

I need to start a new tradition for Easter. But this weekend I'll remember the old ones. It's all part of the healing.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The nays have it

Since January 17, 2011, I have sent out my stories ninety-eight times.  I have gotten a "yes" six times.  I have withdrawn stories (because they were accepted elsewhere) three times.  That adds up to eighty-nine rejections.

In a normal week, I get one or maybe two, but last week I got five of them.  One of the rejections was for a story that I really thought would be accepted by a magazine that I really want to be in. I was feeling pretty low.

In our writing group last night, I shared my frustration.  Our teacher was already planning to talk about revision with us. I've heard it again and again: A writer must be good at revision.  A writer must LOVE revision. But I have a deep dark un-writerly secret: I'm just not that into it.

I have a fertile imagination (confirmed by my teacher last night) and write story after story.  I have talent, I think, and a rudimentary understanding of the craft of writing.  I could learn more, no doubt about it. But every time I look at the stack of stories that I have waiting to be turned into something wonderful, I turn away.

Every writer says at one time or another, "Why the heck am I doing this?" And I said that last week.  Why am I wasting time putting these stories on paper if nobody will accept them?  But that is not the question.  The question is why am I birthing these stories and not nurturing them until they're grown?

When I get a rejection, even if it's an automatically generated email, I always write back, saying thanks, re-affirming that I have confidence in my story and will submit it elsewhere, letting them know that I will submit to them again too.  I do believe in my writing, in the stories that bubble up and beg to be written.

So I'm going to make a commitment to revision. I'm going to take each story and groom it until it's the best that it can be.  I'm going to start reading more books about the craft. I'm going to deepen my characters and spruce up the landscapes. I'm going to study subtext so there are more layers to my plots and people.

Otherwise?  What the heck am I writing for?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pointing Fingers

Michael Moore says in one of his recent emails: 

"....I have a prediction. I believe someone in Newtown, Connecticut – a grieving parent, an upset law enforcement officer, a citizen who has seen enough of this carnage in our country – somebody, someday soon, is going to leak the crime scene photos of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. And when the American people see what bullets from an assault rifle fired at close range do to a little child's body, that's the day the jig will be up for the NRA. It will be the day the debate on gun control will come to an end. There will be nothing left to argue over. It will just be over. And every sane American will demand action.

"Because the real truth is this: We do not want to be confronted with what the actual results of a violent society looks like. Of what a society that starts illegal wars, that executes criminals (or supposed criminals), that strikes or beats one of its women every 15 seconds, and shoots 30 of its own citizens every single day looks like. Oh, no, please – DO NOT MAKE US LOOK AT THAT!"

He goes on to describe what the shooter's gun did to those children.  Horrible beyond comprehension.

I ask you this:  Do we have to look at something like that to know that it's horrible, to realize that we cannot continue to allow young children to be killed either purposely or accidentally by the guns of adults?

I keep having this image of people sitting in a circle.  One represents the media.  Beside that person is a representative of the mental health profession.  Then a teacher, then a parent, a gun-owner.  And at the end is a politician. Each of them is pointing a finger at the person beside them, absolving him- or herself of the responsibility and of taking action.

I say that in the middle of this circle should sit you and me.  And we should go around that circle one by one and ask, "What can we do to make a difference in your arena?"  How can we influence you, Ms. Politician, besides waiting another three or four years until we can vote you out or re-elect you?  How can we help you, Mr. Dad; how can we support you as a parent?  Teacher, what do you need that you're not getting from us? Ms. Movie Producer, what is it going to take for us to convey our dislike of the mounting violence in the media; or if we can't stop it, how can we stop it from being available so readily?  Mr. Therapist, how can we help raise awareness about the things you see that can be changed? Mr. and Ms. Gunowner, what rules do you think are reasonable to protect our children?

On May 28, we're bringing some people together in a town meeting who can hopefully help us ask these hard questions. In doing so, our goal is to have every person walk out of the bookstore armed with tools for change.  

Please stay tuned.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I've got to get some clarity on a few things. Monday I woke up at four a.m. worrying about my week ahead.  I had lunches and dinners with friends, a program on the bookstore to present to a civic organization, taxes and bills to pay at work, a workshop to get ready for, a women's group meeting, reading to do for a book club presentation.

I walked into the kitchen and started getting a little crazy talking about it all to my husband. I even got off on worrying about what is going to happen to all my stories that are waiting for revision: Is someone going to have to finish them after I die? I asked.  He's mostly calm and objective so he just listened. He didn't say, WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO YOURSELF? or tell me that I was making too much of it all.  His serenity was no match for my madness though.

At work, we met with our computer person and insurance person.  Both of them seemed stressed.  At dinner my friend was talking a mile a minute and that's not really like her.  All day I kept running into people on overload. I wondered if my stress was contagious.

I started thinking about ways I could eliminate the parts of my life that stress me out and increase the time spent on what I love -- writing mostly and getting groups of people together to learn things.

I know the things that take up too much time with not much payback.  I justify them in all sorts of ways but I'm realizing that the bottom line is they aren't making me happy.  As my friend said at dinner the other night, we're too old to be doing things that don't fill us up.

I'm doing the Deepak/Oprah 21-day meditation challenge.  Yesterday I meditated at the end of the day and realized that it helped some. Today I decided to put the meditation first in my day.  We were told that we innately know what is right for us.  I'm going to tap into that intuition for a few weeks and see what floats to the top. Not so deep down I know what those things are.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Thinking About Myself

Things I've been exploring about myself:

1. I've noticed that a lot of times when I'm talking to someone on the phone, we talk over each other.  I think it's me that's the problem.  When someone makes a statement and pauses, I step in.  Nine times out of ten they're not finished -- maybe talking a breath or thinking about what to say next?--but I take the silence as a cue to continue the conversation.  It doesn't happen with everyone, but it happens consistently with several of my friends.

2. When someone talks to me about a situation where I see both sides clearly, I will often take the opposite view from them, playing devil's advocate. By bringing up the opposite viewpoint, I might come across as unsympathetic or even antagonistic.

3.  I am too eager to solve other people's problems.  Again, because the answer seems clear to me, I want to give the person advice.  The other person doesn't always want my advice.  Sometimes, when told that, I will give my advice anyway.

4.  I 'pre-worry' much too often.  What-if statements come up in my conversations at least once or twice a day.

I think being more conscious of my behavior will help me quit doing these things.  Or quit doing them so often.

At sixty-one years old, I thought I'd have it all figured out by now. Shoot, I'm just beginning to be aware. I've got a ways to go before it's all figured out! I'm going to be gentle with myself.

(We are working on our panel discussion about guns, mental health issues and the media...stay tuned!)