Haiku Friday: Gossip

Here’s my haiku for today, on the subject of Gossip:

gossip from the past
still loaded with shiny bits
of acid and spit

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Writing Tip: Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself

Whenever I get fed up with my work not going well, and feel inclined to erase it all and send it into cyber-oblivion, I think about the Roman poet Virgil. He’s the poet who wrote The Aeneid, which he worked on for over ten years. We know Virgil was not satisfied with The Aeneid, because he caught a fever and died before he could finish it, and his dying wish was that the manuscript be burned. He felt it just wasn’t any good and didn’t want his name associated with such a poor piece of work.

The Roman Emperor Augustus disagreed so he ignored Virgil’s wish and published this epic poem about the founding of Rome. The Aeneid has been in print now for over 2000 years.

So maybe I won’t chuck my WIP after all. Maybe I’m like Virgil, and not the best judge of my own work. Don’t chuck yours, either.

Ghostwriting for a Dog: Not Funny

Yesterday my human called me and Alex “Sister Goody” and “Brother Alex.” She thought she was being funny. I didn’t laugh. (Yes, dogs laugh, just not out loud.)

We’re not Sister Goody and Brother Alex because we’re not Catholics, for one thing. And even if we were Catholics we would not be monks and nuns, because we like living in the world and neither one of us wants to give up anything. Giving up does not sound like fun. It’s not a dog kind of thing.

For another thing, Alex is not my real brother, he’s just my housemate. My real brothers are all beagles.

I think the human should give up trying to be funny.

Haiku Friday: Sharks

Here’s my haiku for today, on the subject of Sharks:

Sharks teach how to eat
don’t mess with appetizers
go where the meat is.

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Yet Another ReRun

This post appeared on my blog way back in 2006 – I’ve been writing this blog for SIX years! So hopefully you will forgive me for reposting a few this month, especially since I think these posts bear re-reading. This post is called “Nursing Winston Churchill” and it’s a brag about one of my ancestors. We all have them – maybe you have some semi-famous ancestors too?

Nursing Winston Churchill

I want to write about my Great-Great-Aunt Julia, who according to family legend and a somewhat vague reference in a letter she wrote to her mother, nursed Winston Churchill through pneumonia when he was a young man. This must mean that Great-Great-Aunt Julia is one of the saviors of the modern world, for if Winston Churchill had poor nursing he might have died, and then “blood, sweat and tears” might never have been said. Along with a few other things he accomplished.

I would write about Great-Great-Aunt Julia’s steady eyes and stern mouth, and how she pulled her hair into a chignon every morning and kept the part in the middle a perfect straight line. Did Great-Great-Aunt Julia ever mess up her hair, pretending she had a lover whose greatest delight was running his hands through her curls and make her sigh with pleasure? Did Great-Great-Aunt Julia give up the hot-blooded promises of her youth in exchange for the sterile power of a London hospital and the commanding title of Sister?

No one knows much about Great-Great-Aunt Julia now; everyone who ever knew her is dead, and so is she. All I have is a studio portrait of a straight-backed woman in a nurse’s uniform, and that one surviving letter dropping the name of Winston Churchill.

Maybe that’s enough.

Compost – More Memoir Writer Wisdom

I work with many memoir writers (and am one myself) and I know that we have things to say that may help other aspiring memoirists. Every month I feature excerpts from my interviews with those who have written and published a memoir, and here’s the next one.

This month my interview is with Hadiyah Carlyle, author of Torch in the Dark: One Woman’s Journey published this year. You can buy this book online at Hadiyah’s website, www.torchinthedark.com or Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com.

Torch in the Dark: One Woman’s Journey tells the story of how Hadiyah Joan Carlyle, as a single mother, pioneered as one of the first women since World War II to enter the trades as a union welder. Beginning in a Jewish immigrant neighborhood in New Jersey, the story moves through San Francisco’s colorful Haight-Ashbury in the sixties to arrive at last at Fairhaven Shipyard in Bellingham, Washington. For Hadiyah, welding became both a path to self-reliance and economic survival, and a metaphor for healing from early childhood trauma.

Q: Why was it important for you to write your memoir? (ie, leave a legacy to your descendants; educate, enlighten, or inspire others in similar situations; heal your emotional wounds; entertain; make money; etc.)

Hadiyah: It started out that I just wanted to tell my story. It ended up being a healing for me and for my family.

Q: Does your memoir cover your entire life up to the present day, or a particular portion of your life? If a portion, why that portion?

Hadiyah: My memoir covers twelve years of my life from 1964 to 1978. These are the years that had a great impact on my life and also a great impact on the country and world.

Q: What was the most challenging part of your memoir to write? Why?

Hadiyah: The most challenging problem was the structure. There was a crucial and emotionally charged childhood rape scene, which was buried in my unconscious mind at the point where the story begins. It was difficult to decide how and where to put it in the story.

Q: What part of writing your memoir came easiest to you? Why?

Hadiyah: I wrote my memoir in writing groups using writing practice designed by Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones. I just wrote. One part wasn’t easier than another.

Q: How long did it take you to write your memoir? Did you write every day?

Hadiyah: It took more than ten years. I wrote regularly but not every day.

Q: What is your favorite memoir, other than your own? Why?

Hadiyah: I read many, many memoirs. Most of them touched me in some way. One of the outstanding ones was The Color of Water by James McBride. I like the structure, alternating his mother’s story with his. I was touched by his mother’s story.

Q: Which element do you think is most important in a memoir – setting of time and place; underlying theme or focus; storytelling plot; characterization? Why?

Hadiyah: For me, the underlying theme is the most important in a memoir. That’s what pulls it together.

Q: What years does your memoir encompass? Do you relate the happenings in your own life to historical events of the same period? How did the events of “big history” impact your life?

Hadiyah: The story takes place in the 1960s and ’70’s. Yes, I was in Haight Ashbury. Yes, I was a hippie. The world was changing and I was a part of it. I truly believe that it is because I came of age in the ’60s that I am alive today and have had a meaningful life. I defied the system, which would not have been possible the ’50s.

Q: How did/do you make use of sensory details (smell, touch, sight, sound, taste) in describing the people, places and events in your memoir?

Hadiyah: I developed a lot of my ability to use detail in descriptions in classes with Priscilla Long. Her teachings are available in her book, The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life.

Q: How did you handle sensitive subjects with the other “characters” in your memoir? Did you preserve their anonymity? Disguise them in any way?

Hadiyah: I thought about this, conferred with my son, and decided to keep the real names of most of the people. A couple of names of “minor characters” were changed to prevent any possible issue.

Q: What publishing options did you consider for your memoir, and what were their pros and cons? How did you eventually publish your memoir?

Hadiyah: I sent out queries, many, many of them to publishers whose names I got through writing magazines and the internet. The responses I received convinced me that very few existing publishers are open to work from unknown authors, and I didn’t want to spend more time looking. I decided to self-publish through Book Publishers Network, which enabled me to use their imprint and distribution channels. Book Publishers Network is a Northwest publishing house, and I wanted to be able to promote the book here in the Northwest.

Q: How did/do you promote your memoir?

Hadiyah: I had a very successful launch at Elliott Bay Books, a well-established Seattle bookstore. Many of the people who came were from groups I belong to—the Jewish community, yoga, writing and hiking groups. I’ve had several other readings since then and plan to do more. I have a radio interview coming up and will be on a memoir panel at the upcoming Northwest BookFest. I also plan to promote the book to women’s studies programs and women’s trade organizations.

Q: What do you wish you knew before you wrote your memoir, that you know now? What advice would you give someone who wants to write the story of their life?

Hadiyah: Publishing now is a minefield. It has changed and changes all the time. There are so many new options—ebooks, print-on-demand, social media, online marketing. It’s important to know the audience you want to reach and make the choices that will help you reach them. I’ve been learning as I go. I could have saved some money if I had started out knowing everything I know now.

Haiku Friday: Dancing

Here’s my haiku for today, on the subject of Dancing:

old women dancing
stomping down the conga line
shouting yes! yes! yes!

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Another ReRun

Just in case you missed it, this post appeared on my blog November 16, 2009, about one of the best ideas I ever had — The Thought Jar. (Which I still have, by the way.)

For many years, I have kept a “thought jar” in my house, and another one in my office. The thought jar contains strips of paper on which I’ve printed quotations from all sorts of people; quotations that made me think, or made me laugh, or even made me angry. Anyone who comes into my house or my office is welcome to pick a thought out of the thought jar. The only rule is that you can’t put it back. Once you pick it, it is yours. Perhaps it has a message that is only for you. Perhaps the universe is talking to you. Or maybe it is just random chance and means nothing at all; but even so, the thought is now in your head, and you’ll probably have to do something with it – think about it, at the very least.

One of my favorite stories about the thought jar was many years ago. I invited a man who I had just started dating to my house for dinner. I was very attracted to this guy – I mean weak-knees and drool attracted. And I hoped he had the same feelings for me. He had not been to my house before. When he arrived, one of the first things he noticed was my jar full of little strips of paper. I explained what they were, and that he was welcome to pick one. He did.

He picked a quote from Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne. It said: “Time for a little something.”

Oh, the magic thought jar. I just love it.

Ghostwriting for a Dog: Basement Ball

Goody Beagle here. I don’t like rain and neither does Alex. Our human wants us to go on walks even when it’s raining, but we would rather play Basement Ball. That’s when me, Alex, and our human go downstairs into the basement, which doesn’t have too much furniture and is kinda messy, and our human throws the ball for us from one empty room to another.

Alex chases the ball and I chase Alex. We both have fun, even though Alex is a cheater. There’s a bed in one corner and after he gets the ball, he jumps up on the bed. There he hunkers over the ball and gnaws on it a bit, until our human makes him stop so she can throw the ball again.

He knows I can’t jump up after him because I’m 10 years old and my jumping days are over. Also I have a little too much extra around my middle. My human says this is because I eat too much, but how does she know I’m not just made that way?

Anyhow, the human has to keep on buying more balls because Alex chews the balls until they lose their bounce, and leave little pieces of rubber or fuzz all over the basement floor.

But that’s what humans are for.

Haiku Friday: Hoops

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Hoops:

don’t jump through those hoops
unless who’s holding the hoops
wants you to make it

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.