Sunday, May 30, 2010

My family history - written by my husband

As promised I began the long process of reading through and commenting on my husband's writing of  the story of my family and my roots. He derived this document from conversations with my now deceased uncles, aunts, and mother and from various other interviews and materials written by some of the older family members. This has been his labor of love for the past 20 years, and finally he feels it’s almost at the point of distribution to the family at large for comment. The most fantastic part is the number of photos in this almost 100-page document. Of course, I found some inaccuracies – especially in stories about my immediate family and myself – but that was to be expected. All it takes is a little rewriting on my part. I certainly won’t attempt to edit his writing. He has a voice all his own, and he should keep the history in his voice. It’s like he’s an outsider looking in although he’s integrated himself into my large extended family very well over the 40 years we’ve been married.

How he works: He writes, he comments, he shows a photo and describes which family member(s) is in the photo, and then he moves on. Though he concentrated the most on my mother and father’s families, he has also written subchapters about  my aunts and uncles. I must say the whole draft is beautifully organized and almost spot on. It’s  like the author, my husband, actually experienced what he writes about he is so knowledgeable about his subject matter. In fact, I kind of tiptoe into a confront with him about an inaccuracy. I don’t want to hurt his feelings. Perhaps like most artists, I am sensitive to an artist’s buttons and which ones not to push. But I push on anyway. He asked me to read and critique, and he left it wide open. I can critique as much as I care to, and he can accept or reject anything that I have to say. This is his book. I have other books to write.

I must also note that he has already published Volume 1 – the story of his immediate family.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Buddha Collection

“The dead we can imagine to be anything at all.”
Ann Patchett, Bel Canto

He sits cross-legged in a tree
deep in concentration,
the way he would sit on the floor of his room
leaning against the bed doing homework, 
composing music, talking on the phone.
His closed-mouth grin shows
he is pleased to be where he is.
No longer a skinny rail, his cheeks filled out,
his skin clear, his eyes bright.
His tree has everything – soft jazz sounds
flowing from all directions,
deep vees and pillows for sitting and reclining, 
the scent of incense and flowers,
branches of books by Miller, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky
the music of Davis, Gould, Bach and Lennon, 
and virtual communication to those he loves.
He needs no furniture, no bedding, no clothes, no food.
Those necessities are for worldly beings.
The passing clouds give him comfort
and the stars light his way.
Heaven takes care of him
as he imagines himself
to be anything at all.  

(recently published on The Survivor Chronicles online magazine)          

From the poem “Buddha” you can tell that Paul reminded me of Buddha – his way of sitting, his calmness, and how his face and head with closely cropped hair radiated a quiet wiseness. In homage to Paul, I collect Buddhas. I find them all over, and recently Bob and Ben and Marissa have given me several as gifts. I think it’s because Buddha’s serene face and body language give me peace. It has nothing to do with Buddhism as a religion, I just like the Buddha’s meditative quality.

I’m always on the lookout for more Buddha figures. Just yesterday I saw a large one covered in gold leaf, standing up and wearing a long flowing robe. Its fingers of one hand looked like it was holding out its skirt getting ready to curtsy. Not likely, but that was my impression. Unfortunately that Buddha was much too large for anyplace in my home. I concentrate on small to medium sized one.

One of my new Buddhas sits cross-legged hands folded face up cupping a lotus blossom. It is the Buddha of long life, called Amitayus, cast in Nepal out of gold colored metal. Amitayus, also wears a shiny crown lined in crimson instead of the neat rows of snails chiseled on my other Buddha heads. I purchased Amitayus at Nepenthe’s store, Phoenix, at one of my favorite getaway spots – Big Sur, CA. The workshops and sulfur hot springs at Esalen in Big Sur also bring peace to my life.

Not a one of my Buddhas is exactly alike. One that I bought in Ojai, CA stands in my garden carrying his sack of candy to offer children as they pass by. I can see him clearly from the writing desk in my office. He laughs as he overseas the birds that dip into my round cement fountain. He brings me joy as I write at my desk.

Among the many small Buddhas on my desk – some with full bodies, some just heads – is a healing Buddha, draped in red and orange. He points his right hand to the ground. Another carved in white stone faces his palm out to give a blessing.

Another Buddha kneels on top of my bookcase in our family room. It’s cast in plaster and painted a deep brown. He holds his hands together in prayer.

Some of the other Buddhas that inhabit my kitchen, my living room, my yard, and my bedroom are cracked with age, made out of alabaster or simple and well carved plastic, and are overgrown with slimy moss. No matter. They comfort and calm the almost constant knot in my belly as they keep my son’s memory alive.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Another reminder

I am happy to say my writing is going well this week. The laptop set back is over, and, my novel characters seem to be living a life of their own. I must only be their vehicle for getting their words and thoughts down on the page. Amazing!

And here's another reminder and a plug for "The Survivor Chronicles":

Please read my poems at 

a small independent magazine that seeks to represent art and writing as therapy and tools for trauma survival.

I am pleased to have played a part in the successful launch of this new online zine. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Progress report

I have to admit I've been a little lax this week. But, like all slackers, I have an excuse. My laptop was stolen  and I had to replace it, download umpteen hours of software on to it, and then figure out where I left off. I had backed up my stuff up to two days before the theft, so I only lost a few pieces -- a journal entry, a poem, a piece for Red Room, and about a day's worth of novel work. I have since rewritten most of it, so I'm in pretty good shape. The scary part is that there is someone out there with all of my writing. I hope the thief just cleaned off the hard drive before he got rid of it (I know it was a he).

As a result I've learned some lessons: put my name and contact data on every piece of hardware I own, backup continuously (I'm now using Mobile Me religiously), and install a security system on every traveling computer (I have LoJack on my new laptop).

But all is not entirely bad in the writing department. This weekend The Survivor's Chronicles, an online zine published four of my poems: My Jazzman, Mania, The Dreaded Question, and Buddha. I may have posted them here, but if you haven't read them, please visit: and check them out. I'd really appreciate your comments.

And, one more thing for today. A few posts ago I stated I wouldn't post poems here anymore for fear of being unable to get them published elsewhere. Many publications these days do not want previously published work and they consider publishing in personal blogs and websites as being published. However,   Berkeley Literary Press seems to give authors a little breathing space. It states:

For the BLR, “published work” means published in print in North America, or published on the Internet in electronic journals, e-zines, academic websites, and other “public” or “official” websites. Works posted on personal blogs or websites will be considered on a case-by-case basis. We ask that authors be honest about web postings. (If a work is discovered to have been posted or published elsewhere--and not openly acknowledged by the author in advance--we will remove it from consideration.)

It would be great if all publications would follow suit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A new bucket list focus - my writing projects

Now that I'm a week and a half into my retirement it's time to lay out a plan for my writing projects. I've identified five so far:

My novel. First of all I need to begin by opening the files that have laid dormant for over a month and see if I can rejuvenate my interest in it again. Then, I commit to writing 300 words a day. This really doesn't seem like a lot since I can type away for 10 minutes on my journal and I'm already at over 400 words.

Two chapbook submissions. My Jazzman and The Emerging Goddess poems. I have a good foundation here. I have the current My Jazzman manuscript. However, I've decided to take out the non-Paul related poems and add some of the earlier and later poems I've written about him. That will take a little work -- deciding which ones to add and then revising as necessary. The goddess poems are what they are. I think they'll make a nice collection for a small chapbook.

The memoir revision. This task is more daunting. But, I've already begun the work here. My dear friend, also a writer, gave me some very good suggestions on how to proceed and she's agreed to read the manuscript and give me some notes. She is absolutely perfect for this since besides being a wonderful writer in her own right, she pretty much lived through this experience with me. I've also gotten Bob and Ben to agree to let me interview them. Their input will definitely help mold the survival aspects of the book.

My poem a week commitment. Since January I've been writing a poem a week about my imaginings about someone I don't know. I'm committed to keep that going

Blogging here and on my Red Room site. Blogging about my progress on the new bucket list will keep me honest. Just writing down the list here and barely outlining my plan of attack makes it seem more like a contract than a wish. So, I'll be back here from time to time to let you all know how I'm doing.

I'm also committed to continuing my poem and prose submissions. And, once in while these submissions pay off. Three of my twitter-length poems were published last week @unFold_mag on Twitter and four poems were selected for publication in the Survivor's Chronicle first issue. Not bad for one week's work.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Recovery celebration - April 2010

Twelve of us celebrated our New Trier High School friend's miraculous recovery from a new fatal automobile accident she was in last December. She broke her neck. But, the doctor said had she been two inches taller she would not have come out of the accident alive.

Now, after 69 days wearing a crown screwed into her skull, many other days of tender loving care by her doctors and husband, she only needs a cane to get around. There she is second from the top!

We had a party at my home to celebrate. Plus four of us celebrated our May 70th birthdays. Can you guess who in this great looking group is that old?!?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The dreaded envelope arrived

The dreaded big envelope was waiting for me in my mailbox when I returned from doing a morning of errands. The small press publisher sent back my manuscript with the thanks but no thanks message. At least she wrote – in long hand – what she thought of the book, though she didn’t give me any suggestions for how to fix it. She admits that she wouldn’t know how to write it another way. She did say she thought the book doesn’t know whom it’s written for, and that it’s written a little too carefully. I’m not sure I know what either means.

So, if I am going to continue with this project I need to find an editor who can give me suggestions on how to fix these problems. 

But not right now. I need to let this rejection sink in for a bit. I really had some high hopes for this one because she sounded so optimistic after reading my query and other material. At least she said she liked the poems in the book. That gives me encouragement to submit them as a chapbook. I’m going to submit "The Emerging Goddess" poems as a separate chapbook as well.

And, I got a start this afternoon. I submitted five (I had to select 5 out of 30 - no easy task) of my April PAD poems to the PAD contest and five of my Paul poems to a site Marlene suggested, the Survivor’s Chronicle. Now that sounds right up my alley. 

I'm going to submit as much as I can in the next few days, and then forget about all that for a while. It’s time to regroup and rethink and reenergize. And, get to work on my novel.