Residence at Write On Door County Productive

September 23-29

I spent a productive week at Write On Door County, a fantastic non profit organization that supports writing and the arts. The week there was part of my Hal Prize award for my poem “The Obligation.”

During the day the quiet, respectful staff worked in their office spaces, while I inhabited “my space” in the house where I spread out my work at the kitchen table. From there I had a view of the deck and the back yard. I went to Door County with the intention of finishing my second novel, On Summit Road. Except for an epilogue chapter and a couple of tweaky things, I accomplished that goal, working about six hours a day.

But I did not chain myself to the computer. Every morning I took my coffee outside, at noon my lunch, and when I needed breathing space, I walked the trails on the Write On property. In the northern woods, a poem began to write itself in my head.

One day, after the hot weather had moved out, I took a picnic out to The Coop, the coolest little writing space (once the personal writing nook of Door County’s best known writer, Norbert Blei). While out there I returned a wasp to the wild instead of ending its life, I ate my picnic lunch, and I worked out details for the climactic scene in my book. I wished there had been a padded bench, for besides writing, the little coop with a woodsy breeze blowing through the screens would have been an excellent place for a little nap.

I met three very nice Door County poets at their monthly gathering in Ellison Bay and spent a second evening in Ephraim at my friend’s condo, where she was entertaining three friends from home. Both events were fun, but it was my solitary time that I cherished the most. Each day I did not fail to remember what a remarkable gift I had been given.

But by Saturday I was ready to come home. I had accomplished what I had set out to do.

Would I do it again? ABSOLUTELY!


Here’s the poem I wrote about the woods.

Whose woods these are

–for Write On Door County,
with gratitude for your woods and more

The spindly limbs of young beech trees
arch o’er the path’s wild strawberries.
The breeze alive above my head
sings in the leaves what needs be said.

A fallen tree, a withered brook,
the stone an ancient glacier put.
Acorns fall into the dark
and bounce against blackened bark.

A graveyard made of fallen trees
reposing at each other’s knees.
A weathered fence a poet’s book,
angles nearby a meadow nook.

And now and then peeks out the crown
of granite mountain underground,
that chills the glacier springs below,
renewed by rain and winter snow.

The birch king rules his woods with grace
though time has settled him in place.
In youth his limbs reached to the sky,
inspiring those who passed him by.

His withered bark now curled and gray
has long since tired of woodland play.
When sunset rests upon his lap,
I’d climb him gladly for a nap.

But I have miles to go it seems,
the way ahead is full of dreams.
So I emerge back into sun,
where grasshoppers and crickets run.

My Hal Prize Arrives in the Mail

Who would have thought a little poem about picking currants could mean so much?

In the mail today came my Hal Prize, the tangible prize beyond the honor and the publication: a monetary prize, a week’s stay at Write On Door County, and a lovely hand-crafted mug from Clay Bay Pottery, which may be, after all, my favorite thing.

As you can see by the photograph, the mug screams Door County: pottery, art, nature, even its implicit humility, as far away from pretension as can be. I will use it for my coffee tomorrow morning and cherish it forever.

About my poem “The Obligation,” which you can find on page 11 of the digital version of Peninsula Pulse, the poetry judges Alessandra Simmons and Tobias Wray of cream city review, wrote:

“In direct, clear language ‘The Obligation’ draws a scene of surprising depth. The speaker of the poem carries out a mundane task that reveals how we relate to others. With lines as lush and insistent as the fruit they describe, this poem serves up the simple solitude of circumstance and, in the last line in particular, transcends the poem to implicate the reader.”

Book Launch for A Hollow Bone is a Success

It may have been raining–downright stormy–on August 10, but over thirty people turned out to hear me read selections from my debut novel, A Hollow Bone. The Plymouth Public Library was the perfect place for me: plenty of room and the staff were so gracious and helpful.

I choose three pieces:

  • The first chapter, which I like because it sets the tone for the novel and gives readers a good idea of June’s conflicted personality.
  • Part of the chapter where June and Frank move to 10th Street after Frank comes home from the war. I like the frustrated domesticity of that chapter as well as how layered it is. There’s the “fun” scene when June meets her neighbors and the heart-rending scene when Angelina is forced to accept her parents’ move away from her beloved grandparents.
  • Lastly, I chose the Easter Egg Hunt chapter, as it gives us a glimpse of Angel as a mom, Sophie as a child, and it was one of the very first pieces I wrote in this novel.

Thank you again to everyone who was able to attend. I hope to do more events like this one in the future.

On Summit Road update

On Summit Road is well underway. My second novel set in Sheboygan County, WI, features Marion Goodman, a woman whose company I am enjoying. It has been fun getting to know her. She’s in her early sixties, a former middle school teacher, a relatively new widow, who probably sees her life playing out quietly in the country where she lives. Of course, I can’t give her any peace.

One view from Marion Goodman's back porch.

One view from Marion Goodman’s back porch.

I’m about a third of the way through the first draft, but I’m not sure how this novel will end. I read recently that Toni Morrison always knows her endings; then she goes from there. I don’t think I know with certainty where this novel will end. I have a few ideas, but I’ve not written an ending.

Probably every writer’s process is unique. On Summit Road came to me one day, the idea for the main character, her main conflict, and a couple of minor characters. Once I decided the idea was worth pursuing, I began taking notes. Once that process begins, it seems I’m almost obsessed with my new universe. The more the characters live in my mind the better. Writing does not always mean pushing a pen or keys, though of course, at some point it comes to that. The process of imagining cannot be undervalued or rushed.

I am at the point now where I must set a deadline for myself as I did with A Hollow Bone. Without a time goal, I’m too likely to procrastinate. But unlike this experience, A Hollow Bone lived in my head for many years before I starting plunking on keys. I’d like to speed up the process this time.

New ways to keep in touch

I’m nothing if not optimistic about the prospect of my novel being published, so with a view of the future and the need to have a broad platform for marketing, I began a Facebook page for the “writer” me.

Take a look and “like” my page to stay up to date with my books.

In addition, I’ve customized my author page at Amazon, which you can follow.

 

Accomplishment

Last night at 11:30 p.m. I finished A Hollow Bone and emailed it to my local editor who will read it a second time and give me her thoughtful feedback. This is beyond an exciting accomplishment for me. In the 1980s I dabbled with a romance novel. Twenty years later I developed characters and a plot for another novel that still lies in digital and paper files unfinished. Sometime during the years I worked on that novel, Angel Miranda, the main character of A Hollow Bone, came to me with a nugget of a story. She would not leave me alone, nor would her daughter Sophie. So I began to see what might become of them through a few fragment stories, stories that satisfied me but did not spill beyond their separate borders. Angel and Sophie waited patiently for over ten years for me to wake up.

a-novel-byIn the spring of 2014 I reached a reckoning point in my own life, and I decided that if my long-held desire to write a novel were ever going to be fulfilled, I would have to actually begin writing, not just several times a year, but several times a week, even daily. I told myself that if my life goal were ever going to be met, the time was now. So I set a deadline and started writing.

I know there are writers who rise early each day and write for an hour or two. My discipline is different. I can’t seem to establish any daily consistency regarding time or task.  When I start writing, no matter if I begin at nine a.m. or nine p.m., I can write for hours. But then after the marathon, I need time off to let the brain dust settle. I need time and space to see where I have been and where I want to go.

The most exciting thing about finishing A Hollow Bone, beyond the fact that I finished it, is what I have discovered over the past year about myself as a writer:

  • The ideas will emerge just by writing. Last night, I worked on one chapter for three hours. I knew in general what I wanted it to be. I’m not an outliner. I go in knowing my general direction and try to listen to whatever voices and forces feel right. Throughout the past year, I have been amazed with what I have been able to come up with, just by writing.
  • The story will guide me.  At some point the story told me that my two women needed a family. Before I knew it, mothers, fathers, and grandparents were born. These new characters play integral roles in the story. They are the story in ways my two main characters cannot be. One of these new characters is my favorite. He’s my quiet hero, but he is not my protagonist.
  • Hiring an editor is well worth the money. I cannot thank Signe Jorgenson enough for her professional and insightful feedback. After her first look, I made a few powerful changes that allowed me to find the best ways to give my characters their full voices.
  • Finally, I learned that I can be disciplined, I can be driven, I can take on a gigantic task and accomplish it.

 

 

A new artist and poet alliance in the works

paintbrushYesterday I submitted three poems for the newest incarnation of an alliance between The Mead Library Poetry Circle and The Sheboygan Visual Artists (at EBCO artworks in Sheboygan, WI).

Here’s more information from the call for submissions (limited to members of the groups listed above):

The show, called “Intersections: Art/Poetry,” will be one of their Final Friday events (moved up one week to avoid Good Friday) and will open on Friday, March 18, 2016, from 6-10:00 p.m., with one or more poetry readings during the evening (our reading was much too long in 2014, and we will have to shorten it). A meet and greet reception, for participating poets and artists only, will be held prior to the show’s opening, from 5:30-6:00 that evening.

The show will be on exhibit through April 10th. There will be daytime gallery hours (11-3:00) on these Saturdays and Sundays: March 19-20, April 2-3 and 9-10.

I’m happy to announce that books that include all the poems and the artwork will also be available for purchase on March 18, as well. The book from Making it Speak is beautiful, and I have no doubt this one will be just as lovely.

Mark your calendars for this visual and cerebral treat. I’m excited to be involved.