Writing is no small feat.  It takes discipline, a willingness to be rejected, and a tough exterior that can withstand comments from family and friends that writing is not a REAL job.  Giving yourself the title of writer is a ballsy move when everyone around you giggles or looks askance at the very idea.  Sitting alone in a room, closed off from the world for hours each day invites the imagination to take flight, but the soul to wither once in a while.  Writing is scary as hell, delightful as the laughter of a child, and simply amazing.  So if it’s all these things and more… why do I write? 

 

Sinclair Lewis said, “It’s impossible to discourage real writers—they don’t give a damn what you say.”  He got it right for the most part.  I began writing as a child in bed with the covers pulled up just enough that I felt like a secret agent uncovering something no one else knew.  In the bed across from mine, my older sister slept like a baby.  I wrote on one of those yellow tablets with bluish-green lines left over from the year before.  Often using a nub of pencil I sat with the tablet perched on top of my knees writing frantically.  Back then, I wrote about how cool it would be to be in high school, date, and go out like my older siblings.  What I wouldn’t give to find one of those stories that I wrote among a bunch of old papers. 

 

In third grade, the students of Mrs. Throne’s class were asked to write about an adventure.  Thus began several years of dreaming of becoming an archeologist.  My essay took place in the desert of an exotic land.  I rode a two-humped camel sitting between the humps.  Dear Mrs. Throne became my most favorite teacher because she liked my story, told me it was funny, and gave me an A.  I kept that story for years, but after several moves, it’s come up missing along with a box of childhood memories and treasures. 

 

Shortly after getting married at a tender age, my mother gave me a journal.  I found it not so long ago and read it.  It took me back to the angst of being 20, trying to be happily married, and figure out life With the birth of a daughter, it was time to put childish toys away, and I stopped writing anything more than grocery lists, cute remembrances of little ones in baby books, and once in awhile, letters to family and friends flung far and wide across the country.

 

It took the death of my mother to shake me out of a fog that engulfed me for years.  Suddenly, I couldn’t wait for the children to get on the bus and go.  Like a maniac, I waited until they were on the bus and then I set the tea kettle on the stove, grabbed paper and pen and wrote at the dining table, looking up to peer out the bay window that overlooked the expanse of front yard.  I didn’t stop to eat, I didn’t stop to pee, I just wrote.  Only Gwennie, our boxer, brought me out of my imaginary place with a cold nose nudging my leg. I got out the old typewriter and began typing until the ink on the ribbon dried.  During this time, I wrote in secret, designing worlds that I wanted to visit populated with people I wanted to be.  When I heard a car driving up the lane, I’d toss the papers and pens into a drawer.  I didn’t have to be secretive, but I found excitement in keeping my writing life hidden. 

 

My mother’s death was also the catalyst for life changes.  After the finality of a divorce, I needed to reinvent myself.  I wanted to write.  I took myself to the place of my dreams, Cape Cod, and set about writing.  I journaled, I worked on novels, and I licked old wounds that needed to heal.  I didn’t have the know-how or the worldly sophistication to point myself in a direction that would make me the writer I wanted to be.  I didn’t understand the need for networking and getting to know people who can help lower the ladder.  So I took retail jobs, but continued to write.  I went to Cape Cod Community College in Barnstable pursuing an English/Creative Writing degree.  Two years there with a goal of two years at Mount Holyoke would surely get me to the writing place I yearned for.  One year at 4 C’s was all I could afford. 

 

A circle needs to come around to the point of its beginning and I did just that.  I moved back to Ohio and once again found myself in a position of needing to reinvent myself.  This time I became a bull-headed terrier refusing to let go.  I stumbled upon a site that claimed to publish anyone’s writing.  I jumped in and started writing.  When I received money for writing, no matter how meager, I was ecstatic.  Finally, finally someone besides third grade teachers and creative writing profs believed in me. 

Writing is a coy lover.  One moment inspiration hits, followed by frenetic activity and the next it recedes into a dim room of emptiness.  I’ve read numerous times that writing is not a chosen vocation…it is an obsession, a part of who the writer is, and I join ranks in this belief.  I cannot turn my back on writing.  I cannot just walk away.  Writing beckons, no demands that I follow.  I found great delight and wearisome tears in the journey so far, but  I can’t wait to see what lies around the next corner because I am a writer.

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Writing has taken a back seat in the last month.  In fact, I’ve not even bothered to post a blog.  Uncertain of where my mind lingered, I decided to take a break.  The angst over an ill loved one, the return of a loved one, life in a cold spring, and certain uncertainties kept my hands idle, but my mind spinning.  Easter whirled in and out with the bustle of cleaning, cooking, and a house full for dinner.  Instead of drawing from the angst of life, I chose to shutdown.  Rather than gather my delights and celebrate them, I tucked them away for safekeeping. So here I am today, more than half way through the month of daffodils, musky earth smells and the song of robins finding my way back. 

 

“It’s not the world’s fault you want to be an artist…now get back to work.”

                                          –Elizabeth Gilbert paraphrasing Werner Herzog

When do you give your writing away?  Sometimes?  Never? Why do you give your writing away?  For publicity?  Because you don’t think you write well enough to be paid?  Lately, I’ve read numerous ads looking for content providers, but only for the exposure.  When writers are willing to be paid a penny per word, one eyebrow goes up, but when the fee for hard work is glossed over with statements like, You’ll get the exposure you need…  You’ll have a great clip to add to your portfolio…both eyebrows go up in shocked wonder.  How the hell do you pay rent and buy groceries, not to mention that new pair of strappy sandals that haunts your dreams with exposure?   

 

I know this is a hot topic that has been argued, put in rants on blogs, and kept message boards lit with flame wars, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen someone dive into the topic of writers writing for free on YouTube and with seething passion.  Take a look at Harlan Ellison’s, author, screenwriter, and way beyond curmudgeon, raging rant on YouTube about writing for free. 

Check out N. C. Winter’s cartoon on Freelance Switch.

Madeleine Albright said, “There’s a place in hell reserved for women who don’t help other women.”  Each of us can help another by being pro-active and celebrating the success of each other.  My friend, MJ, introduced me to Rebecca Golden, a recently published author.  While we sipped coffee to the din of three preschool boys running, jumping, laughing and screaming, we talked and got to know each other.  I had read Rebecca’s memoir, Butterbabe: The True Story of a 40 Stone Outsider before meeting her and found it touching, irreverent, and splashed with humor.  A good mix to keep the reader reading.     

 

Rebecca took me on the journey of her childhood, teen years, college days, and early adulthood as an obese woman navigating a world where skinny rules.  As I read Butterbabe I laughed, cried, and found myself angry at times.  Several chapters compelled me to put the book down and escape the ire that welled up inside me.  The book has a happy ending of sorts when Rebecca decides that she must do something NOW about her weight.  She puts herself into the hands of a gastric bypass team. She articulates the series of events before and after the surgery.  My pink feather hat goes off to Rebecca; a writer who evokes emotions has done her job well.  She opened her soul and allowed the rest of us to peer into her wounds in her own quirky way.    

 

Read more about Rebecca Golden and Butterbabe on her blog.  You can also find articles she’s written on Salon.com.  If you’re a woman take some time to help someone coming down the pipe chasing her dream of becoming an author, writer, artist, teacher, scientist, or whatever passion haunts her.

I like change.  I like to change the background on my desktop every month.  I’d change furniture around more if I had the floor plan that allowed it.  What I can change is the header on my blog.  I’m trying to build my own Website by using HTML, CSS, etc. I can’t afford the WYSIWYG software like Dreamweaver, so everything has to be free or CHEAP!  I’ve been searching for just right images to use.  I hang out at stockxchng, scrolling through photos and vector images that show some possibility.  

Last weekend while on the stockxchng site I came across the image I now have in the header.  I fell in love with it immediately.  The vibrant red flow of the design caught my eye and set my mind in motion.  My fertile imagination saw the folds of  a satin dress moving to sensual rhythm and pulsing beats.  The hot taste of cinnamon on my tongue as I licked a candy red apple at the fair came to mind as I continued looking at the light and shadows of the photo. 

The creator of the image, Designus, has many more to share with those interested in viewing more of his art.  You may need to set up an account to view Designus’ art, but it’s free and you’re under no obligation to purchase.   

Seeing the image made me smile and I thought… this is what joie de vivre is all about.  What images pop into your mind when you look at the sleek, red header?  Leave a comment and share your thoughts about the gentle wave of red.

I attended a pizza party/game night at my brother’s home one Saturday evening.  The attendees were two brothers, one sister, two sisters-in-law, and one brother-in-law.  MIA was a sister who lives in Montana and a sick brother nursing a sore throat and a cough.  We each brought our favorite toppings and libation of choice. 

I’m a plain Jane sort of eater, preferring food that doesn’t make me weep, gag, or gasp in pain.  My favorite pizza sports a topping of mushrooms and loads of cheese.  It’s not that I won’t eat a deluxe or supreme pizza, I will, but I’m a purist at heart. 

The two brothers in attendance have a penchant for anchovies swimming in pizza sauce.  I have to admit, until that cold night in February, I’d protected my olfactory and tastebuds from the love ’em or hate ’em fishlets.  Soon enough I’d put another tried-that-notch on the belt of my culinary life.

After a ball of yeasty dough landed in the middle of a pizza pan, I bragged about my pizza making skills while adroitly patting out a perfectly formed, pinched edge crust.  Meanwhile, my youngest brother pushed his dough around the pan willing it to stretch to the edge.  Being the first to finish, I had time to peer into the jar that held tiny strips of fish flesh floating in oil. 

With a twist, the small jar was open.  I picked it up and took a whiff of the contents.  The smell was similar to sardines, which I enjoy once in awhile on a Town House cracker.  I’m thinking…this isn’t so bad, I might even like anchovies on pizza.

Dough kissing sides of the pan, sauce slathered on the raw dough…it was now time for the salty suckers to come out of the jar. 

P's dipping into the anchovy jar

P dipping into the anchovy jar

I watched as sliver after sliver dropped from P’s oily fingers onto the pizza, a gleam of anticipation lighting his eyes and a smug smile twitching at the corner of his mouth.  

The mind works in mysterious ways and I wondered who the heck has the patience to wield a fillet knife that small and how long it must take to fillet the weensie fish.

My basic mushroom pizza loaded with mozzarella, parmesan, and asiago cheese was the first out of the oven.  The simple, yet delicious flavors played on my tongue in a muted lullaby of savory flavors that delighted my tastebuds.  I was happy…satisfied…smiling.

Anchovies swimming in sauce

Anchovies swimming in sauce

A pie or two later, the anchovy pizza rested on the counter waiting to be sampled or devoured, depending on who was eating it.  My brother-in-law slapped a slice on his plate unbeknownst to him that beneath bubbling cheese lurked a lurid flavor surprise.  He took a forkful and immediately stopped chewing.  I can’t recall his exact words, but it went something like this, “OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL IS IN THIS THING?”  He was about to throw the plate in the trash when I stopped him.  I figured, what the heck we’re all family, I’ll take a bite off his slice.  I may not like tons of spice, but I’m always fair game to try something new.  My children know all about taster bites and it was time I tried anchovy pizza. 

I sliced off a bite from the triangle piece.  I hate to admit this, but I’m a sniffer.  I’ve been known to sniff food before allowing it to enter my mouth.  I know… it’s a disgusting habit.  With trepidation I took a sniff, still ok.  Before the cheese dripped cheese, I quickly pulled the bite from the fork. 

First chew…mmmm, tastes pretty good.  Second chew…I can do this.  Third chew…my jaw never made it full bite.  The gob of pizza sat on my tongue, while salty, oil trickled down my throat, and my tastebuds screamed protesting the strong, fishy fish taste. 

My mind panicked.  What do I do?  Spit it out?  Swallow?  Mother of Dominoes, Little Caesar, and Pizza Hut!  This is not just bad, it’s foul.  Across the way my brother savors each morsel saying, “It’s an explosion of flavor…”  I’m thinking where to run before an explosion occurs out my mouth.   Finally, I take one humongo gulp and the fishy pizza slides down the gullet leaving behind a greasy trail.  My face screws up, my tongue waggles inside my mouth and I grab an Amstel to put the taste to rest for good.    

Both brothers relished the anchovy pizza that night, but they were the only ones.  I am in awe of their refined tastes or are they just vulgar enough to eat any ole anything?  The two of them lurk somewhere between the two extremes, where all fascinating folks do, with my admiration.  They do something I cannot…eat anchovies. 

I learned something that night.  I learned I don’t  like anchovies on my pizza and I will never eat an anchovy laden pizza again.  I’ll stick with my purist pizza attitude and leave the formidable taste of anchovies to the connoisseurs…my brothers.

Through the Sea Grass

Through the Sea Grass

My last post focused on a moment in time and the photography of a friend.  Alan recently posted galleries of photos on zenfolio.  I took a look at his newly uploaded photos of the Outer Cape and the Islands and wiped away a wistful tear or two.  Familiar places sadly missed captured through the lens brings back memories and a longing that grips my soul.  I miss Cape Cod every day, like a friend that I don’t know when I’ll see next. 

Take a look at Alan’s photography on zenfolio.   

“As I gaze upon the sea!  All the old romantic legends, all my dreams, come back to me.”    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow