Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer Writing Residency

I attended the Squires Summer Writing Residency in Swannanoa, NC. this weekend. Cathy Smith Bowers was the instructor for the poetry class. I had not heard of her or read her poetry but I’m certainly a fan now. She teaches creative writing at Queens College and teaches workshops.

As you can see the dorms were bare necessities and the whole floor shared two bathrooms;thankfully there were several showers and toilets in each bathroom. My bed is the one on the right. This was an interesting college that is ecologically minded for sure. The meals were tofu and orzo style, vegetarian and one meat choice for those of us who dare. The students have to work at the college for part of their tuition. I thought that was a wonderful idea.

I learned so much simply from seeing how she critiqued my work and those of my fellow workshop attendees. We all critiqued each other’s work after Cathy first critiqued it herself going by certain criteria that she gave us.
The following are things to look for when writing, critiquing, or judging poetry.

1. Feeling – she reads it aloud the first time just to see how the poem makes her feel. If it doesn’t have feeling, she’s not interested in going further. She hears it with her heart before she reads it with her mind.
2. Story – What’s the story?
3. Language – words chosen.
4. Line – How the poet puts the work on the page; words, lines, stanzas.
The idea is to create tension or enhance tension that’s already there in each of these categories as you write.

You start out with an abiding image (not idea) and write everything you can down; directional stream of consciousness that has to do with that image. Then you take that hunk of stone (like Michelangelo) and make a poem of it. Lots of editing and drafts involved to make it into a poem. It doesn’t just happen.

That was her basic message and then in our critiques we used that technique.

I am really glad I went to this residency and I have rarely felt that way. I always love meeting and being with other writers and that’s why I want to go but this workshop really added a lot more.

I had a reading on Saturday night at Sutton Hall and it went well I think. At least people who approached me that night and the next day said my work really touched them. I was on cloud nine and so glad I did the reading. I was so nervous before because I had never given a reading at a college before but it turned out that just the residency students were there, creative non-fiction, fiction, and poetry so I was in good company.

Cathy Smith Bowers said my work touches her. What a compliment from a poet that I really like now. I love her poetry. I would go again if I had the opportunity to. She and another professor from the college she teaches at gives workshops periodically in Black Mountain. She said they wanted to reach people who did not go for their masters in literature or creative writing to get some of the information. Wow, I’m ready.

The first night we heard an author, Keith Flynn, who gave an interesting talk on what he thought was necessary to be published. He said every time there is an opportunity, read your work. He said we writers were an egotistical lot; we felt like we had something to say that was worth hearing. He said we should act like it when we go for a reading. He said there are very few authors who make money from their craft. He said if you expect more than free copies of your book for your work, you are probably going to be disappointed. You might make a few bucks if you sell to a huge journal magazine. Do what you have to do to get published in any publication, that's building your resume so the next one will be easier to sell.

Rich Rennicks is a marketing associate and he told us that even if the author is a very good writer, if he or she is not personable, they won't bother. You have to get out there and sell yourself, sell your work.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Brenda and Becky


My sister in law, Brenda and my niece, Becky spent the night here before continuing their trip to Tennessee to see Brenda's Mom, Gladys, who is 93 years old now and more of their family. It's always nice spending time with Brenda and with Becky. They took me out for a birthday dinner (my birthday just keeps going I know.) and we went all out and had dinner at "Butts on the Creek".  

Posted by Picasa
It was fun catching up and we found out that a bunch of people from Florida were in the restaurant and some from Plant City. So many Floridians here take advantage of the cooler temps in the summer. We finished the evening on the deck with drinks and the view as night set.

They got to meet Harley.
  Becky has a Harley, dog not cycle, too. That's where I got the name for my Harley. Harley sure is active and had fun playing on the floor playing keep a way with Becky.

This morning we resumed our talk on the deck with coffee and sunrise over the mountains. The morning was cool but the sunlight fell on us as it filtered through the trees and we warmed up enough to stay out. Brenda brought SC peaches and nectarines and we had a taste before we finally decided to make our move and go out to breakfast.  Naturally we went to Joey's Pancake house and gabbed some more and make plans for future meetings. It was SO good.

As you can tell there was lots of food, talk, food and talk. Love it~

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Birthday

This is my social security year. There are a few benefits for the aged. LOL
I had such a nice birthday with so many good wishes and calls from Bill and Jeni, cards and emails and birthday wishes on facebook.  
Posted by Picasa

Then when I got to knitting class that night, the woman had a surprise birthday party for me. Eunice made some to-die-for dip and we had a scrumptious cakes, hilarious cards, and gifts from everyone. What a great group of women and what fun they brought to my birthday.
Bill met me in St. Simons Island for the weekend. He brought the puppy, Harley, and we had a spectacular time on this island. We had never been before but what a treat it was to discover. We will go back. There are memories of the gazebo, the light house, the ocean and the beach. We stayed at Sea Palms Inn and it was nice, especially for a hotel that accepts dogs. What a clean, lovely town this was, very beachy and so many unique shops and things to do that we never got around to.It was just a perfect place for us and we have some wonderful memories there already. There was even a wedding going on at the lighthoue and that was really neat to see.
Bill went to check out Jekyl Island after we left and he said it wasn't as nice as St. Simons. He also got me some perfume. Jeni and Tom were going to give me my gift when I got home but decided to send my gift to me here so I am looking forward to seeing what that is now.
I didn't take many photos at St. Simons. None really accept the photo of me with both dogs. I hope they will get along and so far it's been OK this time.
Thanks to all who had a hand in making my birthday so special. I am so blessed and I know that. Thank you.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 10, 2009

Knit and Paint

A bit of my life here in NC as far as classes go.

Posted by Picasa
I love knitting classes though I’m still not much of a knitter at all. I love meeting at least once a week with this wonderful group of women. Eunice is the patient instructor and good friend to us all. We have so many laughs and talks, treats and more talks, and of course we learn a lot, too. I decided to do a garter stitch shawl to get gently back into knitting after being away so long. Well, I was convinced I wouldn’t need to ask Eunice a question every five minutes; that I could do this one easily. I tried to start with the help of one of the women there, and then I realized I wasn’t sure what a garter stitch is. We all got a laugh out of my blasphemous statement that I wouldn’t need Eunice this time. LOL We has a great time every time. I go Wed and Fridays there to Yarn Paradise in Asheville. Don’t you just love that name? It is good to get back.

Posted by Picasa
Then there is the art class in Waynesville with Mark Menendez. It has been a couple years since I was there and it was like picking right back up. It was wonderful seeing Mark who lost his brother in May, whom I also knew. He was my age; another sobering thought. Mark is a great artist but also a great teacher. It’s wonderful being with these people again. Life is good. There’s so much of this in the NC Mountains and you just have to make choices about what artsy things you have time for. I love that about this region. I finished the daisy that came to mind after Jeni’s wedding so I was ready to start on something I have had in mind since Scandinavia. A bike. I’ve never seen so many in one place. Everyone there rides bikes! I also want to paint a scene from Tallinn streets because that was one of my favorite towns. Lots of ideas. I love when this happens after I have had quite a dry spell in inspirations to paint. I’m back in the groove already.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My brothers, sisters-in-laws, and I went to SC to celebrate Mom’s 83rd birthday. We had such a great celebration that started the 4th and went on through the 5th. It was nice being there together to celebrate for the first time in decades I’m sure. Mom looks good; like she feels even better than the last time I saw her. She wasn’t in the best of moods though. I overheard her on the phone telling someone how we all came to celebrate her birthday so I think she was glad we were there but maybe she’ll have to look back on it to be happy.LOL When she gets like that (cranky), it’s really hard to be around her and I don’t know why she doesn’t know that. She doesn’t understand why people don’t come.
She made a wonderful ham (her claim to fame, that and peanut butter fudge)and Brenda, my sister in law made potato salad, squash casserole, and honey bun cake, blueberry pound cake, and peach cobbler. I made some baked beans and got Mom a birthday cake that turned out to be a good one. Brenda is an incredible cook and she made it really special for all of us really. Mom got a lot of gift and cards.
My niece Mary and her boyfriend and his two children stopped by and we got to meet him for the first time. My niece Lisa and her husband, Scott came by with their two boys, Hudson, and Harrison. Hud and Harrison are growing up so fast and are so precious. The most moving moment of the day was when Al, (Papa), got out his harmonica and also Hud and Harrisons and they played. It was too wonderful for words.
Mom picked a sprig of her crepe myrtle and put it on the table in a vase; that was also a moment.
It was so nice being there with everyone and I’m glad we were there for Mom. I just wish I knew better how to deal with her moods. I think I have a handle on it mentally and emotionally but then I don’t. I sometimes think she could use an anti depression med or therapy but I doubt she would go for either one of those options. I worry about her sometimes, especially when her irritability seems to get worse. She seems so full of rage and it comes out at the strangest times over the smallest things.
Onward to the mountain home in NC.

Fourth of July

The fourth was a nice day. I arrived at Mom’s in SC and two of my brothers and sisters in law were already there. Al&Brenda, Mike& June had waited for me before going to the Lexington County Peach Festival. There was an antique car show that the guys really enjoyed. When I think antique car I’m thinking a 30’s, 40’s car. Well, surprise for me, they are all cars from my childhood and young adulthood. What’s up with that???

We went through the arts and crafts part of the Festival but the shows were nice because they were under lots of shade and very pleasant. The O’Kaysions were good and sang the oldies.

The best part was the homemade peach ice cream, peach smoothie ,peach tea, peach shake, peach cobbler, peach muffins, peach bread, peach pound cake, and the plain old juicy tasty South Carolina peach…yum!

We arrived back at Mom’s and Wayne arrived shortly. We had a huge dinner. Mom had made a ham that was wonderful and Brenda made potato salad and she had made several cakes and a peach cobbler that was to die for.

We heard the fireworks going off from her porch but couldn’t really see any. It was nice sitting out on the porch on this summer day filled to the gills with ham and cobbler and enjoying being together on this holiday.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What a Trip

What a trip, figuratively and literally. Bill and I went to places we have never seen before and have a stock hold of memories to enjoy for always. We met so many people from so many places. We will remember them in times when something will trigger a memory. From Cabin Stewart to family member we met for the first time, they come in view from time to time and we smile or laugh at something they did or said. Jeni’s new family members that were able to come, Kay and Alan, Chris and George, Lynne and Dave, were incredible. We felt right at home, even on this huge ship because they were there and they were family. I felt like it was always so. We look forward to meeting more of Tom’s family in October when we will travel to PA to see them and celebrate Jeni and Tom.We met so many of their friends that became ours as well on this cruise. Barb and Dale , Jeanette and Jim, Clarke, Evlyn, Doris, Yvonne and Phillip, and the two other women’s name have escaped my memory as names often do but I remember them and thankfully, I have their names written down at home.
We danced, we went on shore and took in the sights and sounds, smells and culture of these places that we now have great memories of. Amsterdam, Netherlands; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; St. Petersburg, Russia; Tallinn, Estonia; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Amsterdam again. When we hear the names we will see the cities and countries in our mind. That is truly priceless. I’ll think of bikes, canals, lovely parks and flowers, town centers, all the history in these places just speaking to me as I walked where great and infamous people walked and where the good people of these lands lived generation after generation loving the places I saw with my own eyes. We dressed up and dressed down, dressed for cold weather after being in 90degree weather, took umbrellas and raincoats everywhere ready for the rains that eventually came. We watched the people of Scandinavia and Russia and tried to see who they were and how like us they were in most ways; they just live in another place. That shouldn’t surprise me but it usually does. I expect the differences, the likeness surprises.
I was surprised at how fit and green Scandinavia and its peoples are. They ride bikes, have a lot of organic grown, I didn’t like their food but I know that was because it was so healthy in comparison to how we eat here in the states. I think they exercise more, eat better, think more about the environment and life on the healthy side. They take pride in that as well. They recycle power, use windmills, find ways of powering their worlds in a more earth friendly way. I am talking about Scandinavia in most of these descriptions, Russia was a whole different place in my mind and I have to process that more. I know we only saw very small pieces of these countries and we can’t paint the whole country in that light, but I have a better idea than I did. I see why traveling is such a good education.
I was ready to come home but I just wanted to bring my new family home with me. I miss them and think about them often now. I look forward to going to PA. We had hoped to go this month but it was just too soon after our three week absence. Bill had to get back into the business and get caught up there and I had to take off to SC for my Mom’s birthday and then on to North Carolina for the summer. Ah, the life we live: I am thankful.

Some of our wonderful memories:

Doris, Yvonne, and Bill became thespians or showed that side of them. Some singers chose Doris to sing to and then Yvonne and Bill became actors in a skit that had us rolling in the floors. I did not know about this side of my husband. He really cracked us up. “I’m going to KEEL you with venom” was his famous line. LOL The comedian kept calling him Phil which just made us laugh harder.
Kay showed a side to her that I think her children were more aware of than we. Pam said she sent them to catholic school as a ruse to cover up. LOL I laugh every time I think about this. Don’t you just love how she coordinates her clothes with her ride? What a stylish lady, er, x-star!
The dance lessons were harder than I thought but something clicked enough times to make it exciting and the desire to be able to do it was stronger than the ability. We learned that it takes a lot of energy and thought and practice, practice, practice to do these dances. The seed has been planted and we do want to learn more. It’s wonderful to have an in-house dance instructor(s) in our family now. It’s our own fault if we don’t learn with all these benefits. This is a secret dream of both of us, to dance. Bill has always been able to move around on the dance floor, nothing formal, but I feel like two left feet and have always been that way. I am convinced now that I can learn though so that is a gift.
Bill and I had acupuncture on board. We had some laughs over that I do think it might have helped some but it was more the act of trying something new that was appealing and fun. I even came away with some Chinese herbal remedies for my knees so that will surely mean I won’t have to have surgery if I take them. This trip could have saved us a lot of money.  Bill did not listen to the woman’s promises and so he came away with just a relaxing time spent in the darkened room after the needles were inserted and considered himself ahead.
This trip has enriched our lives for sure. I’m so thankful for the opportunity and the benefits we received. I even won $85 at the casino but promptly put it back in and lost it. I have to learn to stop while I’m ahead.
After our cruise from hell that we took 30 years ago, this is as different as night and day. I’m so glad we went.