Writers retreat and beach memories

Home again!

I’m home after a week away. It was a fantastic week: sunrise over the ocean, the sky tinted pink and baby blue with whitecaps rolling against the shore.  Coffee, drifting to our self-appointed stations, everyone working on her project from a published writer meeting deadline to a novice working on her first draft. Ice cream breaks, walking along the beach, feet crunching over  broken shells or seeking balance on softly shifting sand, claiming the reward of sweet, cold strawberry or salty caramel. Silent afternoons, then laughter as eight women work together to prepare an evening meal.

It was a fantastic week in the company of women who got me, who understood what it is to create a story from nothing but our imaginations, what it means to select the right word, to bring a character to life.

They say writing is a lonely life. It is. It is the nature of the profession. Oh, we have critique partners, beta readers, editors, and hopefully, publishers, who help us along the way.  But the essential work is done inside our heads.

That’s why writer’s retreats, such as the one I just completed, are important. We remember we are not alone on our journey, that others are traveling the road with us. Some are a little ahead, and they look back and hold out a hand to help us along. And we do the same for those behind us.

I confess I was a little reluctant to go.  Live with strangers for a week? How did this work?

But I’m glad I did.  Within 24 hours, the doubts had fled. The strangers became friends. When the week was over we hugged goodbye with real emotion and pledged to meet again next year.

Did I accomplish the goal I had set? Yes, I did. I finished my edits. Others finished their drafts or met their deadlines. We all did what we came for, but for me, it was more than that.

It was realizing I was in good company. That I was not alone. That I was a part of a sisterhood of writers.

Of course I was glad to get home and accept the welcome meows of Spooky, Jack and Frenchie. There was mail, telephone messages, and the inevitable dirt to be swept up because my cats love to dig in the houseplants. Bags had to be unpacked, laundry done. Every vacation — even working vacations —  end.

But the memories remain.

 

 

 

To Free a Man to Fight… and other BS

Yup, welcome to more than 3,000 words of venting… long overdue.

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This memoir is my response to the latest Marine Corps scandal involving male Marines treating WMs with disrespect. I want to share what it was like for me. It is only my experience and from my limited time as a Marine. I do not in any way understand the challenges of the new combat women Marines but they have my utter respect and support. Does it deserve a place on a writer’s blog? Well, I’m writing it. Consider it a study in character and behavior of a segment of the military no one really talks about. More

View from my window

imageI don’t usually like to write that I am visiting somewhere, or on a trip. I feel it tips off people that I am not home, and that isn’t a good thing. But I am so excited about this trip, and I have someone watching the house (plus three attack cats!) so here goes.

I’m at a writing retreat at Emerald Isle. I don’t know how much writing I’ll get done, what with the beach to walk on and the stunning view from my bedroom window. But I will try to stay on courses.

There are eight women here, (seven writers and one reader) and we all have projects. I hope to edit my WIP and whip it into shape to submit.  If I need a change of pace, I can work on the genealogy project I’ve been promising my kids to write for forever. And, I do have a Sunday School lesson to prepare for the Sunday I get back–which is also the Sunday the hour hand skips forward.

I had some trouble signing on the the Internet here, but a little prayer and a threat t0 throw my iPad over the balcony into the swimming pool convinced it to behave. My iPad doesn’t adjust well to new surroundings. Sorta like me, but I think this is going to be a good week, and a productive one. Nothing like being around other writers to get your creative juices flowing!

Above is the view from the bedroom window. And yes, I can walk right out onto the deck. If it weren’t so cold, I’d have my coffee there in the morning, but we’ll see what the week brings…hopefully warmer weather!

The writing life has its ups and downs, but this is one of the ups for certain.

 

My New Little Black Book

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I spend a lot of time with a special group of dear friends and a few frenemies who have local addresses but they aren’t in any phone book because I invented them. Two of the towns, exist only in my books. Yesterday, I tried to remember the name of a nosy neighbor in Mount Merryhill and the name of a cantankerous potter living in Fast Creek. It took me an hour to find the names. I sarcastically told the dog at my feet that I wished I could just look them up in an address book. More

Ah, spring … Ah choo!

If you looked out my window you would think it is snowing. After all, it is still February and snow would  not be an unusual happening.

But the “snow” is petals from my neighbor’s pear tree which is in full and glorious bloom.

And I have been sneezing and coughing with seasonal allergies, as has everyone I’ve spoken to from store clerks to my hairdresser.

Folks, the weather is messed up.  Call it a fluke or call it global warming, it just isn’t behaving like it should. And I have spring fever ( not to be confused with allergies) several months too early. This morning  (if you are reading this on Sunday, it was yesterday morning) I decided to clean the windows in the den because it was warm enough to keep them open. Then I decided to wash the blinds and curtains as well, because…the windows were clean. Except for the few inches at the very top that I can’t reach.

Years ago, a nice spring day (even fake spring day like this one) would inspire me to clean the entire house from top to bottom. Rugs were scrubbed, windows washed, furniture moved, drapes hung out to air. It took the whole day, but when I was done there was a deep sense of satisfaction.

Nowadays, I can only clean one room at a time, not the whole house. But there’s still that sense of accomplishment.

I don’t know why we clean in the springtime. My guess is because the sun shining through the grimy windows shows up all the dust that has accumulated over the winter. Or in my case, because my mother did and her mother before her. It has become part of my DNA.

Other people greet the arrival of spring differently. My husband used to pour through seed catalogs and plan his garden. To some women, Spring means it’s time to head for the mall to buy a new wardrobe. Their husbands decide it’s time to get out the lawnmowers and sharpen the blades. Students discuss where to go for Spring Break.

I just want to say, it’s too soon! Winter isn’t over yet! We should be curled up in a quilt, reading and sipping hot chocolate, not sitting on the deck wearing shorts and drinking iced tea.

The world is out of sorts and I’m wondering what next. Ice skating in August?

I wouldn’t be too surprised.

 

 

Falling off the Horse, Means Getting Back On

When Writing Slips Back Into Hobby, Get Back to Business

I love learning. I take course online to keep my skills relevant and to learn new ones. I am a firm believer that working in the arts is a business. I was an illustrator, graphic designer, digital developer when I ran my own web design business. I loved getting a check in the mail. I had no problem charging money for my work. Although, I often say I was a bad business woman, the truth is I hated being a bill collector, books keeper and administrative dogsbody. More

The stories we don’t tell

As writers, we see stories unfold all around us. Sometimes we can use them in a novel, but some are so sad, or so horrific, we know we will never turn them into fiction.

I know a woman: bright, young, eager. I’ll call her Nancy. In her early twenties, Nancy fell into a bad crowd and committed a felony. As crimes go, it was relatively minor, but she came out of prison with several strikes against her. The biggest one was that she now had a record and had trouble finding a job. However, she did find employment and was determined to make something of her life.

She became a part of a program I’m a volunteer with that has as its goal empowering people to escape generational poverty. Nancy came to every meeting. She was the most eager, the brightest student in the class. Because she was so obviously trying, we found her an apartment near her work. She was our poster child of success.

But Nancy had a friend from her past. I’ll call him Bill. Bill accompanied her to the classes. This might have been a good thing, but I suspected that Bill wasn’t there to learn; he was there to keep tabs on Nancy.

When Nancy decided to attend the local community college, I was happy to give her rides. (Transportation and child care are the main hurdles for folks trying to get ahead.) Bill insisted on riding along. Bill made me nervous. There was just something about him I didn’t trust.

Nancy got A’s in all three classes she enrolled in. But Bill didn’t like her going to school, I guess because he couldn’t accompany her into the classroom. She dropped out and I lost track of her for awhile.

Then Nancy called me.

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Bill Sikes, the villain in Oliver Twist.

Bill had not only robbed and beaten her, he’d caused her to lose her job because she lied about why she didn’t turn up for work. She didn’t want anyone there to know what had happened. Unfortunately, if she had told the truth they would have helped her, but shame is a personal and private emotion.

He was arrested, but when it came time to go to court, she didn’t show up and he was freed. It happened again. And again. Finally she testified and he was sent to prison. Nancy began to get back on her feet. She found a job and was considered for a management position. Things looked good.

Then Bill got out of prison. And Nancy fell back into the same old pattern of letting herself be used and abused. Finally Bill was arrested and sent to prison for a longer time. Nancy tried to get back on her feet–again.

But she met a new guy. I’ll call him Bill 2 because he was the same type of man. He beat her and then made promises that it would never happen again, that he loved her, etc. etc. etc. And she believed him. Until he robbed her and beat her so severely that he was charged with assault inflicting serious injury.

Is he in jail? Nope.

She called me. I always know she is desperate when she reaches out, but she knows I will do anything to help. I offered to take her to the Domestic Violence office. She agreed.

When I went to get her at a friend’s house where she’d taken shelter, she wasn’t there.

Three days later, she called again. This time she met me and we talked to the counselors. They offered to take her to a shelter, provide counseling, and eventually a place to stay and a job. The main idea was to change her environment and get her away from her so-called “friends.”

They offered to take her right now.

She hesitated and argued, her legs shaking. Not a good sign. I knew she was lying when she agreed to go the following morning, but I still held on to a shred of faith.

I was to pick her up at 8 a.m. She wasn’t there.

She’d gone back to Bill 2.

I went to the DV office and explained. They told me this could happen as many as 12  or more times. It’s hard to change your life. It’s hard to start over–and over–and over. It’s hard to imagine you deserve something better.

She’ll call me again when the abuse becomes too bad. And she’ll be offered the same deal.

Hopefully, she’ll accept before it’s too late.

Because we remember what happened to the original Nancy and Bill.

 

 

 

 

 

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