A Sabbath Summer of Zen

“Trust the wait.  Embrace the uncertainty.  Enjoy the beauty of becoming.  When nothing is certain, anything is possible.”

From mindsetofgreatness

Those eleven words are the most I’ve written all summer, and – obviously – I didn’t write them.  It’s been a strange two or three months.  I’ve felt like I’ve been in a trance of some kind.  When I need to, I can accomplish something like doing the dishes after supper or going to a meeting, but I have not been able to write.

Rather than get frustrated or anxious, I’ve learned to ‘go with the flow’ and not question what’s going on.  When I went back to school as an adult, the mantra among the professors and other students was ‘trust the process.’  Sometimes it was uncomfortable, but I did it then, and I’ve done it ever since.  For some reason my body must need this rest, so I remind myself to ‘trust the wait.’

At the same time, I miss being here, I miss writing and the current stalled work-in-progress.  So, after wracking my brain almost all summer for something positive to post here, at least on occasion, I may have had a mini-brainstorm a few minutes ago.  I think maybe I burned myself out with the daily writing prompts of the Prompter Room, but so many folks responded positively to those posts I don’t want to stop them altogether.

Here’s what I’m going to try: I will post something much more simple, and only two to three times a week.  The posts will consist only of a saying or quote or inspirational message – in other words, I won’t insert any of my own words that might get in the way.

If I had the technological expertise, I could dress up the words as a banner or poster with appropriate backgrounds and the like, but I can’t.  Each post, then, might seem sparse and spare, especially compared to before – but maybe that’s a good thing.

Of course, if you’d like more wordage or encouragement, you’re always welcome to browse through the almost-year of earlier posts.  And the tabs up in the menu bar are always available, too.

Thanks to everyone who’s stuck with me here, or followed me anew, through my summer of silence!   I appreciate you all, and I hope this has been a good season for you in health and words and blessings.  More soon!

~~ Genie

The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, July 26, 2016:

 

“I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.”

Oscar Wilde

Oh yes, I have done this!  More than once.  One poem in particular, though, stands out.  Here’s the poem, written many, many years ago:

Communion

The trains of misty, foggy nights

entice my thoughts to go along.

Each night they call to me

of where they’re going

and of where they’ve been.

Each night the whistles cry,

and then the silence

holds the echoes

for me to hear again.

 

I wonder: is there one inside

who sees,

and wonders, as they pass,

if there is one alone out there

who hears,

and wonders too?

 

© ERR

 

Poetry is hard to punctuate because it’s so subjective and based, usually, on the writer’s speaking style and breathing patterns.  But sometimes punctuation can make a point or guide us in a direction by its very presence or absence.   I think this is one reason some people have a hard time with Emily Dickinson’s poetry.  Her famous dashes can be hard to translate to our modern ear: where do I stop, where do I pause, when do I slow down as I read?

‘Communion’ is one of those poems that comes along rarely, at least for me.  I could almost see the whole of it at once in my mind’s eye as I transferred it to the page (it helped that it’s short).   In the 25-30 years since that night, I haven’t changed a word, I haven’t changed the order of anything.  That, too, is rare for me.  I usually change something the next few times I work on a poem.

But every single time (almost) that I look at it, I try to decide if that blasted comma should stay in or be deleted.  It makes a difference, too, if I’m just reading it to myself or if I plan to read it aloud somewhere.  (Hint: it is – or isn’t – in the second stanza.)

I’m at the point now where I think this might be a good candidate for no punctuation at all.  That way the reader can make his or her own decision and I can finally let it go.

Review of A Proud Little Town!

Friends, I don’t want to fawn too much in public, but I can’t tell you how thrilled, gratified, and humbled I am to receive this unsolicited review of my recently-released novella A Proud Little Town.  A prolific writer and creative studies pioneer, Margaret was one of my advisors in the MA program I was in several years ago, and I am honored to call her friend still.  Thank you so much for your generous words and for the opportunity to share them!

 

Hi, Genie.  Just wanted to let you know that I just finished reading your Arlington novel and really enjoyed it.  I couldn’t believe it when I read at the end that it’s almost all fiction.  Having driven through Arlington several times … I was totally convinced you were practically a native.  I was impressed how redemptive the outcome was for everybody (no villains) and how cooperative the townsfolk were.  I particularly enjoyed Bud’s point of view, the discovery of the ancient bones, and the ritual at the end.  I could imagine other books in the series presented from the viewpoints of other characters.  Your writing certainly captures the spirit and life-detail of living in Vermont.  And the nature descriptions with the focus on the effectiveness of collaboration to protect our environment are really wonderful.

Brava!

 

As I wrote back to Margaret, I am currently working on the next book in the series – I’ve actually made decent progress in the last couple of days – but if you want to check out A Proud Little Town now, you can click here.  It’s also available on Kindle here.

Thank you, Margaret, and bless you!

~~ Genie

The Prompter Room

For Thursday, July 14, 2016:

“No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence or whose attitude is patronizing.”

E. B. White

It’s been a long while since I’ve been here – a month from my last post that thanked you all for your patience, and probably another month since I posted anything of substance.  It’s been so long that my stats page flickered while it was trying to load, probably because it had to go back so far!

While there are still many and myriad medical things going on, there are now some down times and I’ve felt words coming back a few at a time, so I thought I’d make a stab at some brainwork and ease back into my blog.  It probably won’t be every day, but I hope it’ll be a lot more frequent than the past couple of months.  Again, thank you for your patience.

One of the goals I set for myself during this somewhat-enforced hiatus was to read books that really stretched me in some way.  The book I finished a few days did just that.  When I saw A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin on the library shelf, I grabbed it because I’d read Canin’s earliest couple of books and was very impressed.  When I read the inside of the book jacket, however, I almost put it back on the shelf.  This was a thick novel about a mathematician.  I opened it and glanced through some of the pages.  To my dismay, though not surprisingly, there  were mathematicians’ names, formulae and concepts that made my eyes glaze over – and that was just from a quick glance.

To understand my dismay, you have to know that I almost didn’t graduate from high school because of my abysmal math grades.  I found out decades later that I have dyscalcula (I think that’s the right term), the equivalent of dyslexia with numbers and figures.  At the time, though, all I knew was that I had to promise not to enroll in any college classes that required math.

As I lifted the book back to its shelf, I reminded myself of my goal … so, against my better judgment, I took it over to the check-out desk.  I figured I could always take it back to the library if it gave me headaches.

Well, far from it.  It didn’t take long before I was entranced – entranced! – by the storyline, by the writing style, by everything I was learning.  Yes, some of it was over my head, but only a little.  I was surprised at how much I understood.  Most of all, I was amazed at Canin’s gift of writing about such a dense subject and his complicated character in such a way that actually compelled this reader, at least, through to the last page.

Canin obviously doesn’t distrust his readers’ intelligence.  He had a story to tell and he did so in such a way that encouraged growth rather than going for the lowest common denominator.  And he made it a good book at the same time.

I’m glad I decided to stretch myself.  I think this is probably what has enabled a few words to flow ever since.

Thank you for your patience

It’s taking longer than I anticipated to get physical and brain energies back in my hiatus necessitated by medical issues in the household.  Thank you for your patience!  I appreciate the continued views and visits, and especially the new followers who have joined this little community while I’ve been missing in action.

hope to be back here  week, as things are starting to ease up some.  In the meantime, I hope you’ll continue to visit and check out my pages up top – don’t forget the Zen koans for meditation and writing prompts – and some older posts.

One thing I have managed to do is join the 21st century – I now have a Twitter account.  If you’re there, too, I hope you’ll look me up at @GenieWrites2.  And don’t forget to check out my new novel A Proud Little Town.  The link is above at the Bookshelf tab and in the most recent post before this one.

Thank you again!  I miss being here and I’m looking forward to being back as soon as possible.

Blessings!

~~ Genie

A Proud Little Town

Greetings, friends!  I’m popping in for a few minutes to announce that my novella, A Proud Little Town, is now available in paperback and on Kindle!

Thank you for sharing some of my 15-month journey as I crafted this, my second work of long fiction.  Book Two of this new occasional series is in process, so I expect you’ll see more as the year goes by.

The following is the back cover blurb.  If this interests you, the links to order are below.

Early praise for A Proud Little Town

“ … This is the kind of book I would buy, the kind many people want to read.  Everybody right now is so bombarded with horrible news, this comes as a fresh, uplifting, joyful mystery where people change and heal …”

– Christine Greenspan, MA in poetry therapy, author, and founder of Flowers and Flutes at www.feelbetterphotos.com.

***

Welcome to Arlington, Vermont – a small town with a famous history, a lot of stories to tell, and a bit of a problem.   The idyllic Lye Brook Wilderness Area and its small rookery of great grey herons are under threat from development, which Dr. Abby Phillips’ group actively opposes.  While the developers and the townspeople are at loggerheads, voices from beneath the earth start to speak.  Only one person hears them, but even he doesn’t know what they are at first, or what they’re saying.  Will he understand in time to make a difference?

A Proud Little Town, the first in the occasional Arlington Town series, introduces the reader to the unique history and landscape of Vermont and its people through the characters of Abby, Will Putnam of the Putnam Academy, resident shaman Bud Belanger, the widow Elnora Rushlow, recent transplant Flora MacDonald, and all the good folks who gather at Gina Frost’s diner on behalf of their beloved little town and the herons. 

*** Continue reading “A Proud Little Town”

Apologies

“The best way out is always through.”

Robert Frost

My apologies for being missing in action recently … The last two or three weeks have been taken over by ‘life’ and medical and health issues.  I had hoped to stay on my daily prompt routine throughout – though I did take the respective weekends off to recoup some energy – but that didn’t work out.

This week is more of the same, including drives to and from doctors’ appointments that are five hour-long round trips.  Sometimes this part of the world is a little piece of heaven.  When it comes to some medical specialists … not so much, thereby necessitating the long, tedious, painful drives.

But in life, as in writing, we forge ahead, sometimes creeping (and creaking!), other times with resilience, but always through.

I hope to get back to the daily Prompter Room as soon as possible – at this point, it looks like sometime next week will be my earliest chance.  Things should settle down a little by then.  In the meantime, I hope to be able to announce some good literary news in two or three days.

Many blessings and thanks!

~~ Genie

The Prompter Room

For Wednesday, May 18, 2016:

 

“The accomplished hermit stays in the town; the immature hermit hides in the mountain.”

Zen koan

Some decades ago, advice columnist Ann Landers responded to a question about loneliness and being alone with the statement that one does not equal the other.  She went on to say (I’m paraphrasing) that if you don’t like yourself enough to be alone with yourself for half an hour, then few others will either.

It makes sense, then, that immature hermits don’t realize they can’t lose themselves in the paucity of company in the mountain.  Accomplished hermits know they don’t need to lose themselves in the town.

A familiar stereotypical image of writers, of course, is that we are solitary, reclusive, or eremitic folk.  Many may be one or more, but there is a big difference among the three types.  We tend to work or live by ourselves, solitary but not necessarily alone – family, neighbors, or colleagues are frequently nearby.  On the other hand, a recluse is usually one who removes him/herself from people and doesn’t want to interact with people, sometimes going to great lengths to keep others away.

Mystic hermits such as Dame Julian of Norwich and the Desert Mothers and Fathers actually welcomed company when it came around and were as hospitable as their circumstances allowed.  They knew the point of going off alone is not to lose oneself.  The point is to find the best of one’s self.

Usually that is done in community, working out and through our difficulties and differences in such a way that benefits both and all parties.  At the same time, though, we must work through the darker, uncomfortable parts of ourselves, and often that means taking what I call ‘hermit time’ as we live and work to find those places.

This hermit, for instance, always struggles to reconcile myself to the noises and disruptions of the town – such as the neighbors’ leafblower that whines all day at least once a week for three seasons of the year, and delivery trucks, and loud cars – while, at the same time, I enjoy the people around me.  I love getting to know people, about their lives.  Just this morning I enjoyed meeting two evangelists who came to the door.  We had a good, substantive conversation – so much so, the two women asked if they could come back.  I look forward to seeing them again so we can talk some more and I can get to know them better.  These are, after all, the instances from which we often glean fodder for our writing.

We don’t need to hide in the mountain for a mountaintop experience.  As much of a hermit as I tend to be, some of my own best ‘mountaintops’ have come when I’ve been in the company of others.  Other people are where we most often find the Other, which will – when we put in the effort to make it so – lead us to that place of otherness within ourselves that we want to spend time with.  Even Ann Landers would want to be with us then.

The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, May 17, 2016:

 

” … The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Sylvia Plath

“Your only responsibility as a writer is to be true to the story that has chosen you as its writer.”

Jean Little, via LiteraryLighthouse.com

A story sits before me right now: the hardcopy proof of my novella.  This is my last chance to catch typos and make changes before it’s released to the world, so I’ve been going through it with what I hope is the editorial equivalent of a fine-toothed comb since Friday.

I loved the story and its characters as I wrote and when I went over the digital proof.  I still do.  Now, though, as I progress through the physical copy, I find myself wondering if it’s any good after all.  Is the writing as good as it can be?  Is it effective?  Does the storyline make sense?  Did I tie up all the pieces, connect all the dots?

This is where I have to trust.  I have to trust my early readers, all of whom say it’s a good story – and yes, according to them all the pieces come together, everything makes sense.  I have to trust my instincts now.  I have to trust the characters and their parts in the story.  They definitely chose me, not I them – and they’re still speaking as I embark on the second story in their collective series.

Another thing I have to do is not compare this story to other novels.  It’s not a thriller, it’s not jam-packed with action or brilliant technological details or sex or horror or … whatevers.  I can’t write those books and I don’t want to.  There are plenty of others who can and do, so I’m not going to get stuck wishing I could.

I can edit such books – I have, and I enjoy doing so – but I’m just not called to write them for some reason.  Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert, but I tend to hear the voices and the stories of the shy, quiet ones, and that suits me fine.

Well, there’s a new insight – I’ve never thought of that before!  If I’d not been talking myself out of my self-doubt, I don’t think I’d have reached such a realization.  Thank you for bearing with me as I wrote through to this point.  Now I can say with conviction that the story is good, and that it seems to have chosen me for a reason – perhaps to give voice to some of the more reserved and taciturn among us.  I can do that.

That being said, I’m not sure how quiet I’ll be when it’s time to announce the book’s release in a week or two … but that won’t happen if I don’t finish going through the proof.  It should go a little faster now that I’ve worked through the doubts.

The Prompter Room

For Monday, May 16, 2016:

 

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”

Vincent van Gogh

Tomorrow and Wednesday my best friend will debut a new creative enterprise and I am so proud of her I could burst!   Chris is one of the most courageous people I know – I always think of her when I need a dose of courage myself – and the way she has embarked on this whole process doesn’t surprise me.

I will share specific details here as soon as I can, but for now I will say how impressed I’ve been as I’ve watched Chris create this new venture.  She’s faced her technological fears and frustrations to design and implement a beautiful Website.  From the start, she’s found personal, digital, and business resources that have helped her to develop an endeavor that will serve others who are unable to leave their homes or are in nursing and veterans’ homes or rehabilitation facilities.  She has navigated territories and will go to places that are literally and figuratively unfamiliar to her, all because she is dedicated to helping others.

Creating anything new always takes courage and inner strength, and my beloved BFF is my example and role model for both.  Good luck tomorrow and Wednesday, dearest Chris!