Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Discussion Education I: Learning to Listen

"The individual is all you ever have and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures."

I have my degree in writing, but because I switched into the major my last year in college, I don’t like to say I studied writing, mainly, I spent college studying Rilke, the little waterfall nearby, and the direction of my own life, which changed even more often than my major. Academically, I started out in Theology, added philosophy, then dropped them both for humanities, which I quickly lost interest in when I learned the program called for commitment. I considered History, but didn’t want the required economics course. My longest stint was a year and most of a semester in classical languages, but my own personal drama and my tendency to skip classes caught up with me junior year - I realized too late that the professor’s rule of dropping a letter grade for every 3  missed classes brought me down to, at best, a C. And then I forgot how to spell ‘led’. Not the Latin, not the Greek, the English. A huge part of the quiz involved a randomly chosen word, translated in all it’s forms. At first I was thrilled, to lead, simple, basic, and then I blanked. All I could think of was lead (the metal), which is the same as lead (present tense ‘to lead’). He has lead, he lead, they used to lead..I tried explaining the next day, because during class I couldn’t figure out exactly what was wrong in my mind. I dropped Classics after that semester, no one can take a Classics degree with a C in Latin.

   Senior year I lived in a rush, the only class apart from writing and Literature I took was Political Philosophy. It was supposed to be a mental break, but my professor was a monarchist who hated Libertarian, and I was a libertarian who failed miserably in controlling her reactions, we didn’t get along. I loved the English program though! I spent the whole year wondering why I hadn’t started this sooner. I learned to edit, and to write papers in advance. I learned self-discipline, and a little humility. The writing program was good for me.

    Like most people who study writing, I learned that writing can only be taught up to a certain extent. Beyond that, the writer needs something else, something not taught, but given. We’re very passionate about education in America, we like the idea of everyone going to college. But, while I do think college can be helpful, it can also be in the way of developing as a writer. Flannery O' Connor reminds us that "there's many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher." A bad teacher can form a writer in all manner of vices, and the best way to learn writing, through extensive reading, is something we can all do outside of university. I'm not against education, I just prefer not to see it idealized. A while ago in this conversation, Jenna referred to this as a very educated society, and I guess, thinking it over, that we are. But what does that education really mean, what does it bring to us as individuals? Next week I want to begin delve into words  like educated, literate, intellectual, and scholar, primarily as they relate to us as writers, but this week, I just want to open up the topic a bit for your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Night Noises

    Last night I couldn’t sleep. I lay in bed listening to the family’s sleep sounds: my husband’s calm breathing, Yarrow’s nightime chatter, and Luba’s neurotic sighs. Outside, I could hear the pig’s snoring, and occasional soft clucking from the chicken coop. Farther away, I heard voices speaking in the woods. The forest carries sound well. I can hear chainsaws worked a long way off, hear the neighbor’s cows about a mile off, and day or night, I can hear the trucks go by down on the main road. But the night-voices are new to me, and I’d rather they weren’t out there. I think it’s someone’s television, maybe our lonely neighbor has been staying up late these days, or maybe the trucker’s wife is watching the long nights go by alone. But sometimes the sound seems to be coming from the deep part of the woods, where we have no neighbors. I imagine a collection of tramps tenting out there, with their little dog and a small cook-fire. They become so real to me that I begin to worry about them facing the winter out among the trees and wonder if they have enough blankets; but then the sound changes, the channel’s been switched and I can hear new voices and music. It’s a television, I abandon my tramps to the wilds of Maine and let my mind drift back to comfortable old worries.

   When I had finally settled in, I heard a bird die. A small bird, right behind the house. I feel asleep dreaming of hunters, grateful I was not alone.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Daily Life and Other Distractions

My parents are up on another visit. I ends today. I’m hoping to fall back into a routine when they go. I can feel the summer slipping away. The nights are chilly, we still have the windows open, but we bury ourselves in blankets and drink our coffee in bed. Oatmeal is once again an attractive thought. I have so many fantastic recipes for jams and jellies to make and store away for winter-time teas. I haven’t made them, but when I’m back in my routine I will. If I ever get back in my routine.
Luba has been feeling even more neglected than usual. She’s been destroying everything when we’re gone, and now spends all our time away locked up. I think she feels safer in her cage, certain to do the right thing, with no other options. Yarrow’s been giving her reassuring pats and little hugs of love whenever she can.

I have a bunch of new fabrics to use in making pillowcases, sheets, and a cover for our old, ugly feather-bed. The feather-bed was gift from a lovely aunt of mine, but after a few years of use camping and yurting, the thing looks awful. I found some green and white fabric to cover it with, so we can put it on our bed this winter without shame.

It’s a misty morning, I spent the early hours drinking coffee with milk and stealing an hour of peace before the rest of the house awoke. It’s amazing that my Saturdays are now spent waking early and cherishing my lonely hours. I used to love sleeping late and doing nothing Saturdays, before marriage, and before moving into a home that welcomes in the early morning light.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Spinning Straw Into Gold: Fairy Tale Contest

My submission..

She’d been warned against the sky
eating her like dust
in summer - but when the ladder fell,
offering her up to where
devils wait: sooty black, round-bodied,
chuckling to hide the sun.
Magdalene’s seven and more;
singing the mist, she climbed.

They promise too much, dancing
‘round her. Dry-lipped smiles
shifting in half-light.
She can shake her head,
but cannot fly;
just wander the mist,
frighten the babes with half
sobs and devil’s songs; ‘til finding-
hidden, the holy leaf, she takes
three in her teeth - to blow
the devils back up and fall
into daylight.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book List

I 'stole' this list from The Nerdy Wife, because I thought it'd be interesting, and I'm looking for something new to read, so here it is! I adjusted it to reflect my reading though.  I'm wondering why some books are on the list, like the 'people you meet in heaven' book, I mean, really?  But it was a lot of fun!

"So I've seen this book meme around for a long time, and finally decided to do it in the form of a blog post. It was eye opening for sure, and gave me some ideas on what books to pursue next. The titles in bold are the ones that I've read in full, and italics mean I've partially read it. "
1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
 3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy.
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth.
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt.
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
 95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Resting: Coffee, cigarettes, and cheap white wine

The discussion rests today - just for the week. I hope nobody minds, but I am trying to write something for Christie’s Fairy Tale competition, something else for Soul Gardening, and something else entirely for no market at all. I’m also entertaining moja matka again, throwing pots, and trying to simplify at the same time. I’m leaning toward leaving O’ Connor behind, spending a few weeks discussing lived experience: education & literacy, introversion, and the lifestyle of the writer. Thoughts, requests, and whatnot would be greatly appreciated!

      So briefly, how do you rest, and why do you rest? Do you rest with an easy book and a cup of coffee, do you rest at a table with good friends and long conversations, do you rest with a big bowl of popcorn and a movie you’re sure to like? I’m resting today. My feet are up, Yarrow is sleeping and I’m alone with my thoughts. I’m not talking to anyone, and I’m listening as Tori Amos rocks me back to the nineties. I spent most of the day resting, at a cafe while my mother wandered with Yarrow. I didn’t write anything, or post any blogs, I got into an argument on facebook about the nature of sin and bought my husband a random gift on Amazon. Now it’s dark and I’m drinking coffee in candle-light. Candles are a part of my rest. Even when we had electricity, in our apartment in the city, I would light candles in the night and rest in the light they gave.

I feel like rest is an under-appreciated and under-pursued essential in the artistic life; in any life really. We like to be busy. I like to imagine my mind busily dealing with it’s own creativity, too busy to rest in the darkness. It’s an attractive thought, to me who likes the image of genius un-hindered by it’s burdens. I think of Tolstoy, lost in the distractions of his brilliance and passion; of eerie, miserable Virginia Woolf; of Joyce’s desire to be someone other than who he was and I’m thankful to be un-encumbered by genius, to be full of a restfulness and a love of simple opulence. I have no intention of letting my life slide by. But rest is a part of life, isn’t it? I write better after throwing, and throw better after writing. I enjoy people more when I’ve had a good block of time away from them, and I enjoy my silence all the more when I have long periods of time to rest within it. Being alone is almost always essential to my rest, except for ideal moments with ideal people: camping with my husband, catching up with a long-lost friend.. Let’s rest together this week. How will you do it?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

3 things: Random and fun

I saw this and thought it’d be fun! You’re not supposed to think much about it.

3 people I love: Seth, Yarrow, Gretchen (my oldest friend)
3 drinks today: coffee, Muscato, water
3 books this month: Beowulf, Looking for God in Harry Potter (finally, Jenna, finally), Untamed Hospitality (amazing!)
3 things I wish for: a passel of children, a month of semi-solitude, self-discipline
3 things I fear: devils in the night.. I can’t really think of anything else, actually. Devils are pretty overwhelming, and the over-enthusiastic "bold" button on blogger :(

Best Introductory Posts - to my blog, and to me..

From A Light Inside:

10 blog posts that best introduce me and my blog! Here they are, a bit rushed, I now know why most bloggers tag each post, it would have been so much easier.
An introduction to how I think about the world:
1. Myth: I wrote these to semi-explain my issues with modern fantasy writers, and to explain myself, and probably in part to understand myself a little better as well
2. Magic:

What is Cyganeria, and some random facts about me:

Faith and Imagery: Mary Magdalene,

Life, roles, and loves:

Art: Part the continuing discussion with Jenna St. Hilaire, who has convinced me it is possible to find kindred souls on the internet, and Mr. Pond, whose schedule, based much more on reality than my own, demands he abandon much of the conversation, it’s thanks to them I reflect on my ever-fluid artistic convictions at all…
Conclusion: I’m a very serious blogger. Do I discuss anything fun - ever? It doesn’t look likely, does it?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Out of my League: discussing practicality

“..go on and send this one out..I am not so sure that any place will take it..however, the purpose of sending it around would be to show various people that you CAN write stories. After reading this they will remember you and be interested in the next one. Somebody might even take it.”
    ~Flannery O Connor

“fewer people possess the combination of determination, skill and lucky timing to sell their attempts (and that's the problem that'll get me, if anything does.)”

Both Jenna and Christie (of Spinning Straw into Gold) inspired this - more practical turn in the discussion. How do we meld the practical side of making art with the creative side? Do you think about audience, about saleability, about all the non-artistic aspects of writing, or do you just write and hope for the best? I really only consider it when I’m writing particularly for money - trying to sell a magazine article or something like that. When I’m working on something more creative I tend to ignore thoughts of audience and sale - which is one reason my poems are in a perpetual state of rewriting.

I don’t have a practical mind. I’m working on it, really, I am. But I don’t have one. That doesn’t mean I can’t be practical, can’t attend to the details necessary to write for a sale, it just isn’t natural to me. I’m impressed with writers like O’ Connor, who write artistically and know how to market those stories - especially when, as with Flannery, they fall outside the norm. So, I don’t have much to say in this post, but I feel it’s important to discuss, because whether I like it or not, the ability to sell writing is an important aspect of the writer’s life. Do you carve out a special time for this aspect of writing - say, Wednesdays afternoons to research and marketing? Do you wait for inspiration to strike? Do you dream of something working out without any effort on your part (as I do more often than not)?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Call Only the Present Your Own

I have trouble living in the moment. The past and the future are never far out of mind. I used to think that Petka could ground me, but she, too, is blurry. I feel as though I’m seeing her in many dimensions, wrapping what was and what may be in one tiny body, in one moment of time. It’s difficult to follow the world when it shifts constantly. I forget the fruit trees have not yet been planted beside the road, the fences are not built, and I am confused to see leaves after dreaming snow.

The other night I dreamt her in the soft colors of memory, a big girl with brothers and a front yard to play in, all a glow with flowers: Hollyhocks, roses, lilies of all shades, and sunflowers. I like to think it’s the future peeping back at us, but dreams are such uncertain things. I only know they’re true for certain when they come in threes, one night after another, or when there’s something under my head - like wedding cake - to feed prediction.

       Tonight I think my dreams will be slow, meaningless things, with the sounds of late night radio running through them. I can’t wait to welcome them in.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dream Tea

I am mixing up some tea today. Bee Balm from our bright pink stand beside the garden, chamomile, and lemon balm from the front yard. I want a batch to give me dreams, not dreams of the ever-shifting future; happy, restful dreams. Dreams of beautiful mystery. Anticipatory dreams. I think this tea will do it - with a bit of lavender honey in the evening.

Everyone has their own tea ritual, I’m sure. I like to boil my water well before steeping the tea, and I like a wide-mouthed mug or a porcelain teacup, to see the color of the tea when it’s brewed. In the evening, I love tucking my legs up in my rocking chair and curling around my teacup - sipping and rocking until my whole mind in wrapped in scented steam. If I have an absorbing book, I like to hold it - sometimes reading, sometimes just having it near. These days I’ve been switching between Beowulf and Jenna’s essay - both are an escape in some way from the drama I’ve brought on myself - Facebook is not a place of peace for me.