It is people’s secrets that we want to know…

CAM01162

(pic snapped at our local branch of Sno-Isle Libraries)

“God preserve us from writers who regurgitate what they have learnt from books! It is people’s secrets we want to know — it is the natural history of the human heart that we have been trying to put down for a thousand years and everyone must and can leave their contribution.”

AUGUST STRINDBERG

Many presents under the tree. Days (and even weeks) of anticipation, and then the bonanza Christmas morning — the joys (and chaos) of having three daughters, all home for the holiday.

And this lovely quote from Advice to Writers in my email in-box. So perfect.

Merry Christmas to you!

“Lost,” a poem by David Wagoner

P1050320I came across this poem misattributed to another David in a book I’m reading (a book I otherwise love). So I looked it up and found it on the web with typos, mistitled, etc. But it also appears (correctly) on Best American Poetry.

The whole process made me reflect on how mistakes can add emphasis in our lives, reminding us of where we are, and what our assignment is. The whole point is to stand still and pay attention. Take a deep breath. Look. Listen. Remember to breathe.

Lost

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

— David Wagoner
(1999)

The Wednesday Sisters

tws_boookcover_offwhiteI just finished listening to this novel by Meg Waite Clayton, and I wish I could get print copies and give them to all my writing friends for Christmas. Beginning in 1968, this novel about women’s friendship (and writing!) hit all the right notes from my late childhood memories.

If you click on Meg’s name (above) you’ll go to her website. Watch the short video clip. I think I have a new goal of having a video clip for my novel.

 

 

What’s Your Gift?

 

christmas-trees-collection-for-geeks_2I  love getting my daily email from Advice to Writers. It reminds me that I am a writer, before I even open it, and the advice is so often spot-on to what I’ve been thinking about, that it’s uncanny.

So, this, from John Green, author of Looking for Alaska, The Fault in Our Stars, and other novels, just when all of us are thinking especially fervently about gifts,and (especially) just when I am fussing over what I can do for my next act, and why I should do it:

“Every single day, I get emails from aspiring writers asking my advice about how to become a writer, and here is the only advice I can give: Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.” -John Green

This might be true for all of us. Think of the parable of the talents from the Bible. First, they’re your gifts, given to you. Second, you share them with the world. Where’s the need for anxiety?

Rereading Green’s advice, it strikes me that part of my task is to not get all tangled up in trying to imagine what people will notice and like. Focus on the gift, Bethany. Do the next thing. Most of all: Do what you love to do and trust that it’s needed

 

Under Lockdown

CAM00807Yesterday I once again got the dreaded, automated call from my daughter’s high school — the third time this school year — “under lockdown.”

My gut twisted and the muscles in my shoulders and arms seized up. I had that weird fight or flight adrenaline rush, weird because there was no where to go and nothing to do.

This call came late in the day (the last one took up a 3 1/2 hour chunk in the middle of the day), and when I texted Emma she was able, almost immediately, to report that she was safe, and they were being allowed to leave the school. She called it “being evacuated,” but just leaving the damn place was good enough for me.

This morning, at work in my writing cabin, I found myself reflecting on how context changes everything. Kind of like what I used to tell students about point of view. A new point of view = a new story.

I can be frustrated to the point of — I don’t know what — with this kid, ready to wrap her up in duct tape for the duration of her teen years, at the minimum, and then something threatens her safety, and I — just — want — her — to — be — okay.

During the last lockdown, the 3+ hour one, the kids had to use a bucket in their classroom for a toilet. They had water bottles to drink, and a few kids had packed lunches in their backpacks and were willing to share. Twice the police banged on the door and entered, making my daughter and the other students stand along the walls with their hands on their heads. (The most terrifying moment in the whole day, for Emma.) In Emma’s eyes, they were innocent teenagers locked in a room with a bucket for a toilet and not enough to eat. For the police, they were potential terrorists (I guess), or hostages harboring — in fear — some menace hiding behind a cabinet door or pretending to be one of them. See how the context shifts?

Emma says “it’s no big deal.” But yesterday, she went to bed about 5:00 and slept until 5:45 this morning when I woke her…to go back to school.