Five on Friday: Almost Spring. Right? Am I Right?

By Photo: VOA - A. Phillips - VOA, http://www.voanews.com/english/news/usa/arts/Poet-Embraces-Late-in-Life-Love-Tender-Sorrows-132785243.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17186104
Jane Hirshfield

What I’m Reading:  The Couple Next Door,  by Shari Lapena, a book I picked up on a whim from the “Lucky Day” shelf at the library. I started reading is Saturday evening after teaching all day, read after two small boys I babysat that night went to sleep, read with breakfast Sunday morning, and finished after church that afternoon. It is a page turner!

I’ve also been working a bit with Story Genius: How To Use Brain Science To Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel. The author, Lisa Cron, had me at brain science. I love that stuff. But in truth, there’s not a whole lot if in there. I have mixed feelings about this book.  I love the first part of it, in which she has you dig deep into your protagonist’s inner journey.  But I get a little nervous when people tell me exactly how to structure scenes and plot.  I always welcome guidance on this, but I don’t want to follow any one system slavishly. There’s a lot of great stuff in this book, though, and it is well worth reading, if you complete her exercises or not.

What I’m Watching: Same stupid sitcoms from last week. However, I’m happy to report that many of you also watch them. I feel vindicated. And, in the Department of Confessing How Pedestrian My Tastes Are, next week my favorite show starts up again. That’s right, its time for The Voice.  One of the reasons I love this show is that it demonstrates what it takes to make it.

What I’m Loving: The Writer’s Almanac, which is a daily newsletter you can sign up to have delivered to your inbox. For the love of all that is good and holy, why haven’t I known about this before? It features a poem, and a quote about writing, and then a couple longish almanacky-type  articles about something of interest–a person born on that particular day, etc. Bonus: you can listen to Garrison Keillor read the whole thing. One newsletter this week featured the poem Recuerdo, by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Again: why don’t I know about this kick-ass poet and the amazing life she led? (Okay, don’t answer that, it’s because I tend to ignore poets and poetry. To my detriment.)

Another Thing I’m Loving: This line, from the poem Sweater, by Jane Hirshfield:

Lucky the one who writes in a book of spiral-bound mornings

a future in ink, who writes hand unshaking, warmed by thick wool.

Yes, the Writer’s Almanac has done the impossible–gotten me reading poetry again. (And yeah, I go from the sublime (poetry) to the ridiculous (The Voice) not just here, but everywhere in my life.)

What I’m Happy About: Wonderful new clients on my roster who are doing good work. I love working with them! (If you are interested, book a connection call!)

What’s going on with you this week?

Photo from Wikipedia.

Stepping Up

Stop the presses for this news flash.Turin_torino_antmoose_968007_l

I've been watching TV.

Specifically, the Olympics.  I often write about what a time waster watching TV is and I truly don't watch much of it myself, except, for reasons inexplicable to me, American Idol.  But one thing I love is the Olympics, specifically, the winter Olympics.  So I've been finishing my work in time to sit in front of the TV every night.  (Okay, sometimes I take my computer with me to sit in front of the TV, but still.)

Last night, I was struck by two different athletes and what their efforts represented to me on a larger scale.  And, of course, as with all things, I saw an immediate relationship to writing.  Because, well, when you are a writer, everything relates to writing.  So, today, I'm going to write about my first observation.  The second will be covered in a post tomorrow. So here goes:

Stepping Up to the Plate

At the 2006 Torino Olympics, Bode Miller was an ass.  He stayed up all night partying, talked trash, didn't really seem to take the whole thing seriously.  He had a sense of entitlement, as if he were the anointed one.  Bode fell victim to hubris, otherwise known as, pride goeth before a fall.  Because he bombed out and didn't do nearly as well and predicted. Going in, they said he might win up to five golds.  He won none.

Flash forward four years and Bode is a changed man.  He's been training hard, speaks humbly in interviews.  He seems to get how amazing and cool it is that he's at the Olympics this time.  This is a man who, for whatever reasons, has been given a second chance and he knows it.   And this Olympics, he's a winner.  First he won bronze, then silver, and last night, a gold medal for the men's combined skiing.

I think he's an example of what happens when we put all our crap aside and step it up.  Instead of letting fear rule us, we meditate for a few minutes before our writing session, so that we can bring our full selves to the page.  We take the chance on a speaking engagement, even though we're afraid of talking in public, or we go back and edit our novel one more time because we know in our hearts that we really need to.

Stepping up to the plate is doing whatever it takes.  When I was at my first residency while studying for my MFA, we had an assignment to write a poem based on one of the pieces of art we'd seen on a visit to the museum.  I'd written a rough draft of a poem that was okay, but not quite there yet.  I mentioned my struggles to the program head, Sena Jeter Naslund, and she said to me, in her charming southern way, "Why, Charlotte, why don't you just go work on it some more, then?"


So, while everyone else went off to lunch, I went to the computer lab and worked on it some more.  And it turned out to be one of the poems which was read in public as a successful example.  I'll never forget that the poetry mentor wrote on it, "This is a poem!"

Stepping up to the plate is that simple and that hard.

**Photo courtesy of antmoose, via Flickr and Everystockphoto.

A New World, Where Nothing is Impossible

I'm home from Nashville.  I actually got home Monday night, but I went right from being picked up at the airport to see my Mom, and came home exhausted.  Its a long drag across the country.  I know, I know, people fly much longer distances all the time now, but I don't care, it is still a long flight to me.  Despite being exhausted, I awoke at 5 AM, which seems to be my new default time at the moment.  Its actually fun to be up so early, and boy oh boy, does it give me a lot of time to write. 

Yesterday it was great to be awake at 5 AM, because it was a GREAT DAY.  I set up two TV trays in the family room, which is lacking in tables, and placed my laptop on one, and my journal and pen and the remotes (for some odd reason it takes two to operate our TV) on the other.  And then I sat in front of the television all morning–that is, when I wasn't running to the bathroom to grab kleenex because I was crying so much.

Obama and Michelle pulled up at the White House, Michelle with gift in hand, I started crying.  The limousine taking them to the ceremony pulled onto the crowd-lined streets, I was crying.  Hilary was introduced, I cried again.  And so on throughout the day.   It was really an amazing day.

A note about that present Michelle gave Laura Bush: rumor (or NBC) has it that the gift was a journal and pen for Mrs. Bush to begin her memoirs.  Here's what really interests me: it is said that ole Laura did not keep a journal for the entire eight years Georgie was in office.

She did not keep a journal.

Can you even imagine such a thing? Of course you can't because you are a writer and writers process everything through writing.  But so do people who are living through extraordinary times or events, and Laura qualifies there.  I can't understand how she would not have felt even a slight impulse to write something, anything, down.

While we're discussing the inauguration from a writerly point of view, how about that poet?  People on Twitter were making snide comments but honestly? I think the average American (myself included, alas) is just not that familiar with what is good poetry and what is not.   That being said, I liked her.  Her name is Elizabeth Alexander and I thought her poem hit just the right note–balancing the every day concerns that make up the lives of the citizens she addressed with the momentous aspect of the occasion.  Some of the lines I liked:

We encounter each other in words

What if the mightiest word is love?

Love that casts a widening pool of light

Praise-Song for the Day will be published in book form by Graywolf Press and sell for $8.  Oh, and they are printing 100,000 copies of it.  Not too shabby for a poet.

Finally, I leave you with the words of one of the NBC commentators (alas, I didn't catch which one, I don't watch TV often enough to recognize the voices):

"Nothing, now, nothing, is impossible."