Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Long-hand or Type

I was asked the question at an authors’ talk the other night, “Do you write in long hand or do you type?”
That is a question often asked and yet, I was taken by surprised. My rambled answer felt to be a mumble of words that were not taken in. Maybe it was because the expected answer was for one or the other and not an explanation.

But for me, an explanation is necessary. Writing is not a simple process. I cannot just say, “I’m a writer” and leave it at that. There are layers, complexities, and purpose to be considered. I cover a variety of aspects of writing and each one has a different process. “What” I am writing affects “how” I write.

My mornings start out in long hand as I record highlights of the previous day and plan the current day in a journal. There are a few reasons why I feel morning journal writing, done in long hand, is important.

I love the art of writing. I’m a pen-aholic with an array of colored gel and ball point pens. Writing with the various colors is an art to me. Sometimes it’s just drivel, but often the writing takes on life and will go in a direction totally surprising. The journaling is a way of recording my life, thoughts, fears, and accomplishments. It also serves as a reference to the past.

The morning pages are also a way to get all of the previous day’s… thoughts, garbage, what-have-yous… out of my head so that I have clearer thought for the coming day. There’s something about putting the words on the page that frees me. Also, there are times that seeing the words written helps me to understand myself and my perceptions better.

Another aspect of writing in long hand is that there’s something about the process that opens my mind to a myriad of ideas. This is where the adage of “sleeping on it” totally comes true. When I crawl out of be 5-5:30 in the morning, words are already flowing. I have to hurry to get coffee and get to the writing desk. When that writing muse is present, I have to get the words down immediately. I’ll write down a statement someone made or comment on something that happened and the next thing I know, my mind is gushing like water from a faucet turned on full. The words flow and I go back and forth between the journal and making lists on scrap paper of ideas to pursue or things to do.

This journaling usually lasts an hour, then the switch is flipped and I’m done. The words stop flowing. My routine settles in regular chores and taking time for Pele play. If I don’t take the time to give kitty attention, she intrudes on my work and gets in the way being quite a nuisance. I finally settle at the PC to begin the day’s real work. Here I divide time between typing and writing in long hand. The long hand (a recording of the day’s accomplishments) came about because I’d fret over not accomplishing everything on my “to do” list. More things would be added than crossed off. A notebook of accomplishments gives me a visual of what I am able to get done each day. Being able to see how much I really do get done has been a big boost to my self esteem and quells the old “you’re so lazy” voice critic in my head.

The final piece of long hand writing is in the notebook I carry whenever I leave the house. There is always the potential for a story, interviews for the newspaper, or poetry. The notebook also comes out when I’m waiting for the food at a restaurant, if I’m waiting to meet someone, or when I find an interesting place to photograph. (I’ve even occasionally tried to jot down a couple of thoughts when driving which is not a good thing to do, but if I don’t write immediately, I don’t remember.)

Typing, on the other hand, is a different mind-frame. This is the more formal stage of writing when spelling, grammar, and punctuation are important. These days I keep a copy of the “AP Stylebook,” a “Webster’s Dictionary,” and various other notes on writing guidelines beside me or I might refer to www.grammarbook.com. I am always referring to the references to make sure the writing is correct.
Drafts and final versions of stories, articles, meeting notes, and more are done on the computer. Typing is how I write the actual stories. What I love best is the ability to easily make corrections. I am glad for spell and grammar check which help me to be even better at writing. I can write, read, and reread. I can have an immediate word count. I can save the writings for better accessibility and they don’t take up physical space. And the finished pieces can be easily shared!

It’s the typing that brings the writing to a more professional look and will help make errors more noticeable. When I see my words neatly typed out and I reach that point of feeling the piece is “done” then I have accomplished my goal. I am a REAL writer. I am a professional.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Change in the Song

This week there was a change in my perspective in how I see myself, in how I perceive others as seeing me. I truly feel I am coming into my own. I am achieving and have achieved some of my goals; goals so many years in coming, that I hardly recognize them now that they are near. Oh, I will never be perfect, but I can settle for “being perfect at being imperfect.”

“They Will Never Write Songs about Me” was a poem I wrote 20 years ago. This was my signature poem; a poem that stated how I felt about myself and how I was learning to understand and accept who I was/am. To this day, I cannot read or recite this poem without tears:

They Will Never Write Songs about Me

Sometimes I feel so insignificant
so useless, so unimportant.
I am certainly nobody’s hero,
never one to be looked up to
never to stand out in a crowd.
I will never BE somebody.
I am destined to stand in periphery
and they will never ever write songs about me.

Sometimes I get a glimpse beyond;
a glimpse, a fragile glimpse
of parted curtain, thinning veil.
What is it I see beyond the beyond?
clouded view of what could be,
cannot tell if it’s really me;
fear pulls the shade, no longer free,
and they will never ever write songs about me.

At times I am uncomfortable
when I look upon myself.
Who do I think I am
to dream I can be different?
So I continue to live in shadow
hovering between fear and wanna be.
I know that no one will ever see,
know too, they will never write songs about me.

But, to know I have a purpose
in the greater scheme of life,
to dare to make my stand,
to know I have a choice.
I AM one who lives in both worlds,
I guess it’s my destiny
Living in the periphery
is why they will never write songs about me.                       

Out of the well of darkness
of heartache and despair,
comes words to release the pain, the grief
and it’s these I wish to share:
fame and fortune care not for me,
open heart, open hand for all to see,
Letting everyone know it’s okay with me
that they will never ever write songs about me.
                                                   ---Sasha Wolfe

It came to me as I drove around that I have to be careful when out and about, especially in Bradford. Yes, the vanity plate on my Ford Escape gives me away, but it’s not only that; people know who I am. Those who read the “InterTown Record” see my name as editor, on articles, in my weekly Bradford Neighbors column, and under photos. They’ve seen my artwork displayed at various venues. They’re coming to know me (and I, them) as I search out people to interview.

Yesterday, I realized from the greetings I received that the poem is no longer accurate. I am recognized about town and if people don’t know me by sight, they know my name. (I remember how I felt a couple years ago meeting Laura Jean Whitcomb, editor of “Kearsarge Magazine.” I felt I was meeting a celebrity.)That was a big revelation, an eye opener. Oh, it’s been slowly building, but yesterday’s conversations made me feel a bit like I am a local celebrity. (It’s also humbling to think that. Who am I to think that of myself?)

However, before I get too big of a head, I am also very aware of my short comings. How wonderful it is when people nod greetings with smiles and often speak, but I am terrible with names and it’s embarrassing to admit it. I wait for a hint while they are talking to give me a clue to their name. I recognize the faces, know I’ve met them before, but the names or who exactly they are elude me. It makes me feel guilty. They know me, I should remember them!

I talk about the need for editing and proofreading and yet, I still make mistakes. Every time I write an article for the paper, I worry if I got the facts right, that people will like what I wrote, and I feel bad when I make a mistake. And of course, no one realizes how hard it is for me to actually “go out in the world” to get the interviews or cover a story or event. I struggle with groups. Still, I am making the effort and getting better at it.

Yesterday’s revelation is putting me into a whole different awareness. I want to be more careful how I act (and react) – and I realize that’s exactly what I need to do – act. The acting doesn’t mean I am pretending to be someone I’m not. I would never be comfortable in that kind of a role. This acting means that I have to shine my inner light, not hide behind insecurities, and always be courteous and friendly. I want to appear upbeat and positive. I want to hold my head high and exude a confident, but humble, attitude.

I always want to be nice, but now I am more aware of that need. I have to remember to smile when, for the most part, I am a somber person. I’m happy and content on the inside mostly, but I don’t always portray exuberance. I want to be a courteous driver and smile and wave at people I pass. I want to take my time, let others go first, etc. I want to be known for being a good writer, artist, photography and an all-around good person.

Most of all, I just want people to like me. I want them to like and admire my work. I want to sell my books, drawings, photographs, and other work; not only because of the need to make a living, (which I do need) but for the joy of sharing what I love.

“They Will Never Write Songs about Me” is changing… I am changing, have changed. They never will write songs about me, but people know who I am now or they’ve at least heard my name. I can no longer say, “I will never be somebody…” because I AM somebody. We are all somebodies and we need to know it and own it! I am “living the life of an artist” and that makes me so happy. I love what I do.

A new poem will be forthcoming…

Monday, September 8, 2014

Official Book Signing

Today I worked on what to say during an authors’ night program at the Brown Memorial Library in Bradford on Thursday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. I’m sharing the spotlight with another author who recently published a poetry chapbook. We each get half an hour to talk.

The subject of writing is a passion of mine and being limited to half an hour won’t be easy. The time has to also include reading, selling and book signing. Do I talk just about the book itself and the journey? Do I talk about the writing process and getting the book published?

The audience will need to buy a book before getting it signed, and because the library has a policy of no selling inside, the purchases will have to be made outside. (Or they could purchase one online or previously through me.) This is a bit awkward, but rules are rules. I am hoping that locals will pre-buy, bring their copies to be signed, and listen to the talk. I am also wondering if I ought to arrange to show up early (if the weather is good) and sit outside with my books for a bit.

Writing and selling my books is not my first go-round. I’ve written previous books and have participated in library events in the past. My latest book, “Too Cold for Alligators” is more professionally published. (I improve with each.) It’s my first “real” book as the others have been poetry and/or photography. I’m very excited about this latest adventure. I hope Thursday is a good turnout.

Hard copies of the books can be purchased through me, www.amazon.com or www.authorhouse.com. The two companies also offer an ebook version. Type in the title and it will take you to the book. You can even read an excerpt. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Changes to Mowing the Field

The morning sun peeked through the trees sending long shadows across field. The air was brisk, refreshing and the wonderful smell of fresh cut hay filled my senses. Remnants of the predawn fog slowly dissipated in the sunlight. It didn’t take long before my feet were soaked and slipped in the wet crocs as I took photographs of the round hay bales and tractors.

The big field is usually mowed the first week in July and that didn’t happen this year. A couple weeks ago, familiar tractors and other equipment were brought in and the very far end of the field was done. A couple days later all the machines were gone. I wondered if there was something wrong with the field or if the hay wasn’t any good. My neighbor had told me that my little field is the wrong kind of grass. Did the big field somehow get contaminated?

Two days ago there was a tall green machine down the far end. What was that? From here, even with binoculars, I couldn’t tell. I’ve never seen anything like that before.

Yesterday I came home to hear a dull constant roar and upon looking out back, saw the field was being mowed. I was surprised and pleased. For some reason, I love the sound of tractors and mowing equipment. To me, that’s a highlight of summer (which is unusual because I normally don’t like the sound of loud machinery. Maybe it’s because farm equipment is a deeper rumbling roar.) Maybe it’s because it reminds me of childhood and how we used to play in the fields before and after mowing.

Near the stone wall to my property was a huge round hay bale. That was something new; usually this crew does the old rectangular bales. I grabbed my camera and hustled out to the field to photograph these new round bales. I couldn’t believe how much had been accomplished in a morning! An entire crew usually takes four to six days doing this one field with the mower, fluffing, raking into rows, baling, and finally a team of three or four would go around hefting by hand the rectangular bales onto a flat bed. In the four hours I’d been gone (and there wasn’t anyone in the field when I left) half of the field had been mowed and baled.

Now I saw that the tall green machine (green, John Deere, I should have realized that) made the round bales. The operator would stop the tractor, the back door of the baler would open, and the bale rolled out all neatly wrapped with blue twine. I was fascinated and took many photographs. I waved and gave the guys thumbs ups as they came around, one with the mower and one with the baler. They returned the waves. I felt like a little kid.

Later, I looked out to see some of the bales wrapped in white and being lifted onto a flatbed by the tractor. I couldn’t see the apparatus on the front of the tractor where the bucket normally would be, but I figured there must be some kind of gripper… maybe similar to those used to lift barrels.

They didn’t get all the bales wrapped and loaded. There is some work left for today, but this is a big difference and quite a time saver from previous years. Yes, I am impressed.