Whoopemup

Floyd 1961 appx0001I’m in the middle of writing a family history. The other day I googled my paternal grandfather Floyd so I could find out what year he died, because although I knew it was in the mid-sixties sometime, if you are going to write history, correct dates are handy.

Google obligingly directed me to a website which told me Floyd died in 1965. Well, that was good, but it wasn’t all. I learned some other interesting things too.

First, this website claimed Floyd had a bunch of children whose names I knew – they were my father’s siblings and my aunts & uncles. But my father’s name was not listed. Huh? In addition, according to this website, Floyd had a daughter named Winnetta and a son named Billie B – who I certainly never knew or heard about. Huh again. Now my father’s family is full of secrets and lies, so either my father, Winnetta and Billie B are some of them – or the site is incorrect. Since my father and his siblings are all dead or extremely old, I don’t think I will ever know which.

The site also showed an image of Floyd’s selective service draft card, issued to him in 1942 – when he was FIFTY. What? Fifty year olds were drafted? I discovered the answer was Yes, they could be drafted. There was something unofficially called the “Old Man’s Draft”, a law passed in 1942 that mandated men aged 45 to 64 register for service, in case they were needed. I have degrees in history, yet I had never heard of this. How did I miss it? (BTW, I’m pretty sure Floyd never was called up – he had 10 children, after all. Or maybe more.)

Finally, I learned that Floyd was born in Huntsville, Washington, a city I thought was only in Alabama. So I googled Huntsville Washington and found out it was a teeny town way out in the sticks, on the way to Lewiston Idaho. As I gazed at the map of these sticks, I was charmed to discover a road nearby called “Whoopemup Hollow Road.” (I am not kidding – google it yourself if you don’t believe me.) I would love to know the story behind that name, but it too might be lost in the mists of time.

One of the reasons I was so charmed with the name Whoopemup is because my grandfather Floyd was quite a character, and Whoopemup sounds just like him. I didn’t know him well; he died when I was a child, but his somewhat seedy reputation lived on after him. He was good-looking, quick-witted, charming, and intelligent, but according to the stories I heard from those who knew him, more than anything Floyd loved gambling and fast women who were not his wife. He also had a tendency to flit from one failed enterprise to another – a mink farm that failed because few people during the Depression could afford mink coats; a pig farm in which he bribed his sons to do all the messy work by promising them a share in the profits (which never came because he spent the profits himself); a street-corner preacher for the Salvation Army who was successful at bringing many good-looking women to God; a strike-breaking scab on the railroads, where he took his 10-year old son (my father) to work with him at night as a shield because Floyd felt that the union strikers wouldn’t beat up a child; a Bureau of Indian Affairs agent on a reservation, where he seduced some Native American women and fathered some of their children; and an excellent teller of stories of doubtful veracity. In short, he was colorful but not exactly trustworthy.

Whoop Em Up!

Vowels

WritersToday my haiku is from February 26th of my book A Haiku Book of Days for Writers, Painters, Musicians, and Other Artists, one of a 7-book series. The haiku topic for today is “Vowels”:

practicing vowels
sounds from a cooing baby
we all love learning

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.

If you’re interested in the story of how The Haiku Book of Days series came to be, check out my previous blog post here. You can purchase this book on Amazon here.

Arthritis is Not Always Bad

tendon knee joint problems on woman leg indicated with red spotAlex Terrgi here. My human doesn’t walk very fast because she has a condition called Arthritis. When she wants to be funny, she calls it Mr. Arthur Itis, but I’m not sure why that is funny. She says she is going to get new knees soon. I am looking forward to that because our walks will be longer. But that’s not the only reason I want her to get new knees. It will make her happier, and when she’s happy, I’m happy.

But I don’t really care that she walks slow. For one thing, it means I spend more time with her. Also I get to explore more smells. So when she’s in pain I remind her that even arthritis has its good points.

Promising

WritersToday my haiku is from February 19th of my book A Haiku Book of Days for Writers, Painters, Musicians, and Other Artists, one of a 7-book series. The haiku topic for today is “Promising”:

it’s that time of year
crisp winds blow through soggy brains
promising the earth

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.

If you’re interested in the story of how The Haiku Book of Days series came to be, check out my previous blog post here. You can purchase this book on Amazon here. LINK http://bit.ly/HaikuWriters

The Origin of Flowers

Red rosesYesterday was Valentine’s Day, symbolized by roses and other flowers. Who doesn’t love flowers? (Grouchy people, that’s who.) But where do flowers come from?

They come from garbage, decomposition, and death, that’s where. In short, they come from compost, which is the name of this blog.

Every morning I write my morning pages, which are made of both garbage and roses. I write whatever comes out of my pen, and out of the discarded boring self-centered rubbish sometimes blooms words and thoughts of enormous beauty. I have been proving this to myself for twenty years and yet I am still excited and amazed when it happens again.

Thank you, compost, for giving me roses on Valentine’s Day.

First

WritersToday my haiku is from February 12th of my book A Haiku Book of Days for Writers, Painters, Musicians, and Other Artists, one of a 7-book series. The haiku topic for today is “First”:

the first time you leap
perhaps you’ll land, perhaps not
either way it’s new

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.

If you’re interested in the story of how The Haiku Book of Days series came to be, check out my previous blog post here. You can purchase this book on Amazon here. LINK http://bit.ly/HaikuWriters

Window Watching

Alex in chair 2016Alex Terrgi here. Sometimes my human goes out and leaves me in the house all alone. She says she cannot take me to her Writers Group meeting, although I don’t see why not. So I’m left by myself. By MYSELF! Torture. Surely she should be turned into some dog-protection agency, and forced to never leave me by myself. Before The Cat died, at least I had some company. The least she could do is to get me a new companion, another dog preferably, not another Cat. But I’d take a Cat over being left alone.

So sometimes I sit by the window, ALL BY MYSELF, in the big red recliner chair she won’t let me sit on when she’s here, the one that looks out the window onto our street. All I can do is watch the people walking their dogs down the street. This makes me so sad my mouth hangs open and slobber drips on the red recliner.

Serves her right.

Spurt

WritersToday my haiku is from February 5th of my book A Haiku Book of Days for Writers, Painters, Musicians, and Other Artists, one of a 7-book series. The haiku topic for today is “Spurt”:

a gush and a roar
ideas like lava plumes
spurt into the sky

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.

If you’re interested in the story of how The Haiku Book of Days series came to be, check out my previous blog post here. You can purchase this book on Amazon here

The Power of Intentional Words

Nebula IllustrationTomorrow is the traditional date of Imbolc. Imbolc is an old European festival traditionally celebrated February 2nd. In Catholic tradition this date is known as Candlemas, and is sacred to Saint Brigid. In popular culture it has come down to us as Groundhog’s Day. This holiday marks the first stirring of the seeds, deep within the womb of earth. Nature is beginning to wake up. The days are visibly longer. There is a sense of freshness in the air, and a feeling of possibility. Imbolc is the traditional time to set new intentions and begin new projects for the coming year.

I celebrate Imbolc by setting my intention for the coming year. I actually write my intention on a little slip of paper, roll the paper into a ball, and plant it in a pot that I have decorated myself. I also plant a real seed in the pot too, and boy do I take care of that seed and make sure it grows and blooms.

This year my intention is to take a yearlong sabbatical from ghostwriting in order to write my “own stuff.” It feels very scary to write that and put it out there.

I’ve been a ghostwriter for 17 years now. It’s been a wild wonderful ride filled with the most amazing stories. I was privileged to hear them first and help get them out into the world.

I’ve blogged before about the joys of ghostwriting and how much it has given me. I’ve been fairly successful. I’ve been involved – mostly as a ghostwriter, sometimes as a content editor – in nearly 50 books in those 17 years. I finished the last one just last month.

But there are some downsides to ghostwriting. The biggest one is that I’ve been so busy writing other people’s stories that I’ve neglected my own. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t written my own books – I have. Over ten of them, in fact – fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Nearly all of them published before 2010.

But for the last five years or so, as my ghostwriting business has grown, my own work has languished in drawers or my laptop file folders. I had and have plenty of great ideas, and have worked on most of them sporadically, some more than others. Over time, this list of “almost finished” and “just starting” books has grown. Right now I have thirteen books in various stages of completion. Some are just notes and plans, others are halfway done, a few are mostly done, and one is completely done but is just sitting there in my files waiting for me to submit it for publication.

As the time has gone by, guess what else happened? I got older! I started to fear that if I didn’t get moving on my works-in-progress, I would die before those wonderful ideas could be born.

Battling with this fear of never getting around to my own work was the fear of stopping ghostwriting altogether. On the most practical level, what if I ran out of money or ideas, what if I never get another ghostwriting job? What if the “book biz” people I know stop referring potential clients to me? What if the reputation I worked so hard to build will go down the drain? Most importantly, I love ghostwriting! I don’t want to never ghostwrite again.

I was moaning about this battle of fears to a friend of mine, when she said something wise. “You don’t have to quit ghostwriting – why not take a sabbatical instead?”

Ah, the power of words. Sabbatical sounds so much less threatening than quitting. I could write my guts out this year on the thirteen book ideas, and perhaps I might finish one or two of them. Then I could make another decision. It’s not all or nothing!

So as 2015 was ending and I was finishing up my ghostwriting projects, I started refusing new ones. That was so hard! I am such a sucker for good stories. Have you ever noticed that when you make a bold declaration of intent, suddenly offers or situations arise that challenge that intent? Almost like the mysterious Universe is saying, “Oh yeah? Do you really mean it?”

Nevertheless, my plan for 2016 is this: I am taking a sabbatical from ghostwriting for one year. In the months to come I’ll let you know how it’s going, and perhaps even give glimpses into those thirteen wonderful ideas that are itching to be born.

I hope the Universe will wait until 2017 to tantalize me with new ghostwriting opportunities. Are you listening, Universe?