Monthly Archives: August 2016

How do I know what I think until I see what I say?

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This much-used quote has been attributed to E.M. Forster, but actually he was making fun of what most writerly folk today call “pantsers,” writers who don’t do much outlining, but rather start with an idea and let it grow organically. Forster did not approve of this approach. Don’t believe me? Read this excellent blog post:

https://rjheeks.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/discovery-writing-and-the-so-called-forster-quote/

But never mind. I’m a pantser, as in writing by the seat of my pants. Though some of my blog posts might look that way, I assure you that I never actually sit on the keyboard.

“What’s your blog about?” That’s become an embarrassing question. Just for fun, I looked over all my blog entries so far: there are twenty-four different topics.

I started out in 2013 with the intention of blogging about being in my fifties. I was looking for inspiration on how to fully enjoy this new era in my life. And that is one of the topics I’ve written the most about, though not my most frequent topic. I continue to enjoy looking for role models my age and older, and am very interested in the anti-ageism movement. Most of the midlife female bloggers I’ve found so far   are writing about topics that interest me not at all: cosmetics, what not to wear, dating, empty nests, moaning over lost youth. Meh.

Then I lucked into early retirement in 2014, and resolved to write about that journey. I didn’t—at least, not much. I’ve actually written more book reviews than entries about retirement. Having lots of time to read is one of retirement’s greatest blessings.

I love reading about real food, cooking, and food’s effect on our health. I’m also interested in frugality, voluntary simplicity, avoiding the excesses of consumerism. Food blogs are so much fun to read, and I thought I might eventually become a food blogger or cookbook author with a focus on reducing food waste.  My blog entries under “The Leftover Project” have been a good way for me to keep track of my culinary experiments but, given lots of free time, I find I don’t think about that topic all that often. Oh well.

My greatest focus has been twofold: entries on writing, and entries on happiness. The former makes sense, since I spend so much time writing fiction. I enjoy being part of the conversation among writers, but there are so many of us, so many good blogs on that topic. I get more juice from the direct conversations I have with other writers, whether face-to-face or online, in genre-specific discussion forums.

The rest of my musings turn out to be about my efforts to achieve happiness, and what I’ve read/learned from others about that topic. Who ‘da thunk it? I’m a practical philosopher. It turns out I’m most inspired by questions about the meaning of life and how to enjoy this gift of time and good fortune. And things that I thought would matter, such as wardrobe, diet, and travel, don’t really take up all that much space on my mental bookshelf.

So there you go: this seems to be a blog about a middle-aged writer’s search for the good life. We all have our personal recipes for the good life, and this is my test kitchen. Bon appétit!

 

Summer Visits and Visitors

San Francisco

One of the main reasons D. and I chose to retire when we did was to spend more time with family, and this summer was rich with visits and travel, though we haven’t gone far from home. We’ve lived in Tacoma, Washington, for over two years now, and I’ve barely begun to explore the interesting places this area offers. Having guests helps. Have you noticed how often we neglect the tourist attractions in our own home territory until there’s a visitor to share them with?

Our summer actually began in late May, when I popped over to the Bay Area to visit with my mom and daughter. The three of us spent lots of time walking about, and found a path behind the ruins of Sutro Baths that led us to the view above. There’s something soothing about walks in Golden Gate Park, especially when the afternoon fog rolls in a patters my face with tiny kisses. The smell of the pines and eucalyptus trees sings to my heart of home.

Next we gathered with the G. clan near Phoenix for D’s son’s graduation from medical school. We were able to rent a house big enough for the lot of us, and there are a lot of us. The heat was fierce, but spirits were high as we celebrated a new beginning in the lives of M. and his marvelous girlfriend.

View of Lake Chelan from a hiking trail on the south shore.

View of Lake Chelan from a hiking trail on the south shore.

Back in Washington, D. and I celebrated our second anniversary at Lake Chelan in central Washington. It was bloody hot, but the views are gorgeous. We’d hoped to rent a canoe or small boat and putter about on the lake, but all we found were Jet Skis and speed boats–not at all conducive to leisurely rides. (There were kayaks too, but I’m allergic to any craft that’s hard to exit in an emergency. The point of a boat is to stay on top of the water, right?) To soothe our disappointment, we visited wineries. Nice.

USS Turner Joy

Back at home, D. and I visited Bremerton and toured the USS Turner Joy, a destroyer-class ship that played an important role in the Vietnam War. We had the great good fortune to meet John F. Keift, author of The Saltiest Ship in the Fleet, who gave us an extensive tour. Keift showed us the control room where the men who controlled the big guns watched radar blips that represented heavily armed Vietnamese fishing vessels zooming toward the ship. He spoke with gravity about pushing the buttons that erased those blips from the radar screen, knowing that each blip represented many lives.

In July, my mother came to Tacoma, where she and I explored every quilt shop we could find. We weren’t allowed to take photos of the art quilt exhibit in the Washington State History Museum, alas. I was expecting quaint bedspreads; instead, we were amazed by the depth, detail, and texture of the artwork on display. There was even a 3-D forest scene sculpted from cloth and fibers.

We also braved the hellish traffic to visit Seattle’s Museum of Asian Art in Volunteer Park. Lovely spot, and Capitol Hill is a lovely neighborhood, with beautifully restored historic homes and mature trees. In fact, a huge branch crashed to the street just outside the Volunteer Cafe, where Mom and I were eating lunch. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but what a shock to come home and find that a third of your tree has fallen into the street, blocking traffic. Anyway, the exhibit was entitled Mood Indigo and featured textiles and clothing from around the world colored with this precious blue.

Modern clothing is so boring compared to this.

Modern clothing is so boring compared to this.

Shorty after Mom left, my daughter came with her boyfriend. Nerds to the core, they enjoyed the Pokemon hunt at the fairgrounds in Puyallup. The state fair doesn’t open until Labor Day weekend, but the grounds were crawling with people intently staring at their phones–very funny to watch.

Hunting Pokemon at the Fairgrounds

A highlight of their visit was Seattle’s Experience Music Project Museum, where we saw sacred relics at the Star Trek exhibit,

Model used in filming the original Star Trek TV series

Model used in filming the original Star Trek TV series

wearable art,

Wearable art at EMP

and a tower of guitars that plays music for visitors.

Tower of Guitars at EMP

You haven’t really experienced Michael Jackson’s Thriller until you see it on the EMP’s ginormous screen. Why was I the only person dancing? The horror movie display is also not to be missed–delightfully creepy.

Closer to home, we finally visited Tacoma’s Union Station, now converted to a courthouse, which houses several works of Dale Chihuly’s blown-glass art. He’s a Tacoma native, and has richly decorated his home town.

Tacoma's Union Station

Summer’s winding down, despite our current heat wave, and I’m getting ready for a few mini-jobs in the local schools, plus the writing I’ve put on the back burner during all these visits.

I hope you’ve spent a restful summer with your nearest and dearest. What was your highlight?

 

 

Blood-Red Ink

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

It’s ISWG Wednesday again. The first Wednesday of each month, members of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group answer a question about writing and then hop about the blogosphere, checking out each other’s answers.

From the ISWG website: “The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a home for writers in all stages; from unpublished to bestsellers. Our goal is to offer assistance and guidance. We want to help writers overcome their insecurities, and by offering encouragement we are creating a community of support.”

ISWG offers an impressive number of resources for writers. And this month’s question is: What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

In Writing Fiction from Point Zero, June 6, 2016, I wrote about my first act of murder on paper, a story inspired by a crazy student during my early teaching years. I never finished that piece. Further literary murders followed as my then-marriage descended into nastiness. Just last week I found two short stories from that era than involve the demise of a scornful, demeaning husband. So therapeutic! I had no intention of publishing back then; I was just flexing my muscles, enjoying the creative process.

The first piece I wrote for publication was a cozy mystery entitled Murder on Principal. It’s the tale of a high school teacher who finds her principal dead in his office. Of course, she falls under suspicion, and when a second staff member is found dead, she tries to find the killer’s identity before s/he can strike again. You can read a sample in this year’s Guide to Literary Agents, in the section where a panel of agents critique first pages. Their comments were mixed; it’s a first novel, after all.

While my goal is traditional publication, I had a pretty realistic idea of my chances for getting this first novel published—that is, slim. Whisper-thin. Like, one cell thick. I used the revision and submission process as my training ground for future, more salable novels. I’m still entertaining notions about self-publishing it, though. There must be teachers like me who would enjoy reading about the demise of a sadistic principal. For now, my first novel is waiting patiently on the shelf for further attention.

Meanwhile, the blood-red ink continues to drip from my computer, as well as from my revision notes. I’m happily remarried and retired from teaching, and yet I can’t control my murderous impulses. I guess once you’ve tasted blood, there’s no turning back.