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A Shaky Reading

On Sunday afternoon I went to a poetry reading. When I stood up to do my thing, Both my voice and knees began to shake.

What was going on? I performed as a storyteller every day in the school library for seven years. Then I remembered. That was thirty years, almost a lifetime, ago.

We all live so many lives. (I know if I walked up to my younger self, I’d scare the pants off her.)

The poem I botched on Sunday was from a sequence of dramatic monologues I wrote when we were living in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. (Yes, LA does have distinct neighborhoods. I’ll tell you more about them another time.)

I composed the piece in the late eighties or early nineties for a group of actors who teamed up with the Arroyo Arts Collective to do cold readings of local authors’ poems, short stories, and novel excerpts. The title was “The Marriage Bed.”

Mostly invented, the sequence drew on things that happened even earlier in my life, in the mid-sixties.

I was nineteen. I’d just run away and married my husband, a guy I’d dated a month.

On our first morning together the phone rang. One of my husband’s friends, Jim Ashley, lived in Ouray, a tiny nineteenth-century mining town in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. He worked for the Idorado Mine, the village’s economic engine.

The afternoon before, Jim had stepped on a rotten board just inside the mine entrance and plummeted down through a dark vertical tunnel all the way from the Red Mountain entrance to the Telluride entrance, hundreds of feet.

I didn’t know Jim, but that secondhand experience drilled itself into my mind. Every so often I fall into it, just as I did on Sunday.

There was one more layer to my shaky reading. After its first, last, and only cold performance by the Arroyo Arts Collective players, “The Marriage Bed” disappeared into my files. I made a few half-hearted attempts to send it out, but knew it was destined to be one of those things I did just for myself. (There are a LOT of those.)

Then I saw a call for an anthology in Coda (which later became Poets and Writers.) It was for ghost poems. The voice in one of the monologues in The Marriage Bed, “Frank,” was a ghost, the long-dead father of the husband in the story.   I sent it.

It was accepted. I’d forgotten about the book, Ghost of a Chance,  until Sunday. Looking at it, I was amazed. There I was, hired-gun ed writer, with Rita Dove, Billy Collins, and others famous for their poetry.

Then I remembered, huddling in the back seat of my dad’s ’41 Chevy, playing with the sounds of words. I must have been two or three.

We live so many lives. So many layered lives. Sharing them with others can be a shaky experience, but we only have the stage for a few minutes, so why not?

 

 

 

The Role of Practice in Writing

Here’s a great blog post (I recommend subscribing to this blog, by the way) about the nature and value of writing practice. It doesn’t mean the same thing as morning pages, though those are valuable, too, for different reasons.

Does the Write Practice Work?.

Writing Advice Treasury from Jane Friedman

Here’s a treasure trove of articles for writers from an industry professional. If you want a personal writer’s conference without leaving home, take an afternoon and browse.

Jane’s Writing Advice Archive | Jane Friedman.

YA Debut Author Anne Blankman’s Route to Publication

How do you get published? The answer is different for every writer. Here’s one author’s story. Your route will not be the same, but you will pick up some valuable information about the road. Don’t forget to check out other interviews in this excellent blog’s archive.

Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire: An SAT with YA Debut Author Anne Blankman.

To Be a Successful Author, Use Social Media Wisely

I met this author on Twitter this morning. He offers amazing practical advice for writers. This post is about avoiding social media trainwrecks and it is a must-read for newbies to the social media scene. It’s good for veterans, too.

Take a look at this post, and the rest of his excellent blog by clicking on the link below.

The Social Media ‘Train Wreck’ That All Authors Must Avoid | Bestseller Labs.

Critique Groups and Grains of Salt

Critique groups, in person or online, are invaluable. They give you another view of your story and can find problems you wouldn’t have thought of. They also prepare you for facing an editor. They are not perfect, though.  Members of your group can only tell you what they would do with the story if it were theirs. You have to remember that it isn’t theirs. It is yours. Here’s an interesting little essay on the topic from Alayne Kay Christian.

WHEN “MY” STORY BECOMES “THEIR” STORY | Alayne Kay Christian.

Starting Your Writing Day

The post featured today lists some ways other writers shut out the world and settle in to work.  Everybody has different techniques. I must admit I have trouble with this. I need to develop a more formalized approach. I do fine once I get started, but getting started is not easy.

The Write Routine: Wednesday Writers Weigh In: Rituals of Preparation.

Don’t Publish That Book! – Forbes

If you’ve finished your NaNoWriMo novel and are tempted to self-publish now, here’s some food for thought from people who know.

Don’t Publish That Book! – Forbes.