Friday, June 29, 2007

Try This Tomorrow Morning!


1. Open a new folder on your computer
2. Name it "George W Bush"
3. Send it to the trash.
4. Empty the trash.
5. Your PC will ask you, "Do you really want to get rid of "George W. Bush?"
6. Firmly Click "Yes."

Feel better already don't you?

If you feel better, you can thank Cliff Schecter. It was posted first on his terrific blog.

PS: Tomorrow name the folder Dick Cheney!


Saturday, June 23, 2007


There are rules I can make for myself or choose to follow willingly.

• My head goes where my body goes.
• Read a poem every morning
• A writer doesn’t have to write every day but a writer has to notice every day.
• Speak quietly from my heart with love to all creatures
• Rest when I am tired
• Save my own life
• Tell the truth as I believe it
• Listen more than I talk
• Stick with the winners. I become the people around me. And the corollary:
• Choose teachers wisely and choose wise teachers.
• Hold onto my dreams – and let them take me into and out of the labyrinth.

And there are the rules the publishing industry makes. Those rules are about genre and query letters and 30 second commercials and the synopsis. None of their rules are my rules but I will follow them if it means my book will be published.

I am proposing a multi-generational novel titled Pungo Creek of 52,000 words which is complete.

Following the murder of her father, 9 year old Clara finds herself on Pungo Creek in an old house shared with her Great Aunt Sarah, her mother Rose and her younger sister Ivy. Rose sinks into alcoholism and is unable to shield her daughters from the volatile tempers, destructive behavior, incest and bleakness that have permeated the lives of the women of Pungo Creek for generations. Their grandmother silently endured her husband’s rage. Her Uncle Benjamin molested his sister Pearl. When her cousin Kate is raped and murdered by her own brother –the same person who is assaulting Clara - the defenseless girl, having no refuge and no protector, makes a horrific choice.

Clara drowns herself to escape the cycle.

My work has appeared in Photo District News, Washingtonian Magazine, Solutions and Rough Notes. I founded InPrint Magazine, a magazine for professional photographers, for which I was honored with the Federal Photographers Award for Excellence. I am an active member of the International Women’s Writing Guild and the National Writers Union. Pungo Creek, my first novel, was inspired by my own childhood in rural North Carolina where I lived in a house shared by three generations.

I have a synopsis, character sketches and sample chapters ready to send you.

It doesn’t matter that the query letter makes the book sound flat and lifeless. Those are the rules.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fork in the Road

I am a creature of habit. I always put my left shoe on before my right. When I come to a fork in the road, my tendency is to be logical. I have to fight that because there are many, many forks in my road and if I always turn in the same direction I will end up going in one big circle and I will never make any mistakes and if I never make any mistakes how am I going to learn anything new. This write wants to be a poem but it is too early for poetry. I haven't had my coffee yet. Or brushed my teeth. Or decided what I am going to wear today. High 79 degrees. Chance of rain this morning. A motor whirrrs outside my window and if there are birds I don't hear them. I write, wrapped in a green bath sheet. Fork in the road. Choice. I could finish this write. Send it. Get dressed and walk up the hall to the sunny room where Pat, Stephanie, Cora, Inge, Carren, Barbara, Diane, Bunny, Ann and I gather each morning to read our writing to each other. Or I could stay here in my room and write. Or I could get back into bed and fall back to sleep listening to the whirring until it becomes a waterfall or an ocean and I dream I am a mermaid who has forgotten how to play the piano, or I could dress quickly and hurry over to Case Center and put my name on the list for tonight's open readings. As I delay, my choices disappear. And, as usual, I will do the logical thing. The safe thing. The comfortable thing. Or will I?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Second Homecoming

Another poem that was born in Myra Shapiro's class

I could be in Belhaven
singing hymns, gathering brown eggs
and looking collard greens.

I could be spoiling grandbabies
while their mama works nights at Toppin’s
making pure pork country sausage.

I could be Page Sparrow
with an apron girded belly
and pear preserves in the pantry

I don’t want to go to sleep yet.

I could be Belhaven
Wisteria blocks the view from the front room window
White rose on a blue suit for Mother’s Day

I could be teaching Vacation Bible School at Sidney Freewill Baptist Church
An army of plaster of paris Jesus’s stand side by side on a shelf
ready to be attacked with tempera and determination

I could be Nelma Linton
limping through life in a cloud of Vicks Vapor Rub
and regret

I don’t want to go to sleep yet.

I could be in Belhaven
riding past row after row after row of corn,
tobacco, soybeans, pine trees and barefooted children

I could be rushing through supper
to get to Wednesday night prayer meeting
where I’ll talk to God and Blanche Burgess

I could be Katie McClese Foreman. A Methodist.
Going to bed early with a sick headache
leaving Roswell and the children to tiptoe around her immaculate house.

I don’t want to go to sleep yet.

I want to go down to the old house one more time.
Mama’s standing in the kitchen
Daddy’s singing about that old gang of his.

I want milk and honey.
I want faith and grace.

I want to wrap myself in mystery and an eight pointed star quilt
and rest beneath a moonless sky.


Monday, June 18, 2007


Another poem from Myra Sharpiro's Class:


I could be in Belhaven
singing hymns, gathering brown eggs
and looking collard greens.

I could be spoiling grandbabies
while their mama works at Toppin’s
making pure pork country sausage.

I could be Page Sparrow
with an apron girded belly
and pear preserves in the pantry

I don’t want to go to Hell

I want to go to Heaven
and walk through pearly gates
to hear the angels sing

I want milk and honey.
I want faith and grace.

I want to love the mystery.
To wrap my self in flour sacks
and sleep with summer stars.


A Dialogue with my Writer

This is from an exercise in Eunice Scarfe's class.

Brenda: Why do you disappear so often?

Writer: I'm always around. You just ignore me. You don't have time for me. You're too busy making beds and online shopping - sudoku puzzles and television constantly come between you and me.

Brenda: You're just so - so...intimate. It's like you expect me to unclothe myself and drop immediately into uninhibited and unbridled truth. Online shopping is much more satisfying and I have something to show for it.

Writer: You mean you have nothing to show for the time you spend with me?

Brenda: Sure. If you count half filled notebooks and endless versions of my novel...all titled "final version"

Writer: Why do you always invite the critic to join our conversations. Do you let the critic into the bed when you and your husband are making love?

Brenda: No. Just the dogs. It amuses them.

Writer: That is disturbing in so many ways.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Open Doors

Doors opened before her. She wondered if the universe was talking to her. Yesterday the message was "choice" but today's message seemed to be "open doors". Doors opened by invisible hands and the path ahead was unobstructed. She decided today would be an easy day. The product of a good night's sleep and a clear conscious.


This is a poem I wrote in Myra Shapiro's workshop after the "portrait exercise". This year the them is "what shapes us" and our poem is Romanesque Arches by Tomas Transtomer.

She is a rose.
Once her roots snaked down into dust and sucked hungrily.
She grew wise without growing old.
She is a rose.
Plucked from the ancient garden
from earth loosened by loving fingers.
Now she will bloom forever
behind a glass
encircled in gold
bejeweled with precious thorns


My Deep Dreams

I don’t know if I slept deeply but my dreams were vivid. But disjointed. I began to walk home barefooted but remembered I had a pair of flesh-colored trotters in my bag. Someone handed me a folded twenty dollar bill. I knew it wasn’t mine so I let it drop to the ground. I met a man from New Mexico. He asked me questions and became enthusiastic when I answered. My friend said I was flirting but I wasn’t. Sprinkled between these unrelated scenes were visions of city squares. Were they piazzas? Plazas? Drug stores.

I skipped the open readings last night and retreated (yes that was a retreat) to my room to write and sleep – but mainly to be alone. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing. How many friends does it take to revise a query letter? How many friends does it take to decide how many characters are too many. I can’t combine characters. The whole point of the novel is that history repeated itself. How can that be if the events are only happening to a single protagonist?

My first few times here I enjoyed the critiquing groups. Have times changed or have I. Now the atmosphere feels very competitive. Do I still write for the love of writing – for the silent echo that comes back to me from other writers? That is the query I should focus on today.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Skidmore - Day #2

It's all about choices. When to wake up. What to have for breakfast. Who to have breakfast with. What class to go to. Then there are the choices about the writing. What do I leave in? What do I take out? Who do I listen to? So many women. So many opinions. When do I just walk away and give myself time to think - to come to my own conclusions? I don't want to be rude - though there are some women here that seem to have made a career out of being rude. What will I choose to do with this one precious week? I certainly have choices. I hope I can make wise ones.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Skidmore - Day One

I'm an old timer now. I see more familiar faces than unfamiliar ones. I'm tired from a day of travel and arriving. My room is in Jonsson Tower. It's bright and airy and thanks to a few comforts from home - quite livable. I plan to do some serious writing while I am here this week. Emmy suggested I think about my intentions on the flight up. I intend to be open but not so open that I exhaust myself. I managed to find my way to a grocery store and came back loaded with fruit, water, soda, tea and various snacks. One cannot write on an empty stomach. I have just enough time for a quick nap before dinner.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Life as Nursery Rhyme

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.
So she gave them some broth without any bread
And thrashed them all soundly and put them to bed.

The old woman’s name was Frankie Mae. But she wasn’t really old. She was weary. And she didn’t have so many children – only three. But she didn’t know what to do. She didn’t really live in a shoe. She didn’t even wear shoes most of the time. Too many bunions and broken toes. She lived in a clapboard house on a creek where the plumbing didn’t work and the cupboard was bare. (I think that’s another nursery rhyme where Old Mother Hubbard’s dog goes hungry.) Frankie Mae’s children had a dog. His name was Waggles. Waggles fended for himself just as the children did. The thrashing was real. Spanking. Whipping. Switching. Frankie Mae used her hand most of the time but when the punishment was pre-meditated or when her hand was sore from previous spankings she made her children go out and cut switched from one of the fruit trees in the back yard. The children often went to bed hungry and crying and too tired to dream. When the oldest child grew up she made sure she never had a bare cupboard. She never had any children either. She didn’t live in a shoe but she owned lots of shoes. She had a pair of dogs that ate much better than she and her siblings ate when they were children. She never went to bed hungry. While she watched what she ate the rest of the day, just before she went to bed she became the little girl who went to bed each night with an empty belly and she would raid the refrigerator before she turned out the lights and went to bed.