Monthly Archives: April 2011

There’s Healing in Those Riffs

My twenty-ninth birthday just passed this week.  This was the first birthday without him.  Without the bottle that was a standard birthday procedure.  Without that joke about me getting older, and my old stand-by response, “I’ll never be as old as you,” while smiling sweetly.  Without that playful interaction that made me feel like part of the family, instead of an outsider.  I miss him, more than anyone could ever have imagined.  Though the blood wasn’t there, the bonds of family were placed upon us that very first day we met.  He was never afraid to be mad at me, just as I never hesitated to tell him what I thought.  We never pussy-footed around like the rest of our family does.  Maybe I wasn’t his blood sister, but he treated me just like one. 

Tonight, I’m going to see Avenged Sevenfold in Wilkes-Barre.  The tickets were a part of my birthday present, although I got them well in advance.  It seems fitting to me.  After all, A7X holds a very special place in my heart.  I bought their album, Nightmare, the night Donnie died.  I watched this nightmare of a scene unfolding, while thinking how ironic it was that I just bought an album with a startling connection to what I was experiencing.  Any Avenged fan knows that Nightmare is a tribute to The Rev, who also died a senseless death.  The things you think of at a death scene.

A month after he died, I saw them at Montage as part of Uproar Tour. The fourth ticket, meant for him, went to my niece.  I spent that night missing him; the kind of missing someone that makes breathing impossible as the weight of every heavy thing you’ve ever said sits down in the middle of your chest.  But, when Avenged came on, some of that weight went away. The energy and honesty in their music is how hard rock should be.  They’ve always displayed an intelligence in their lyrics that question some heavy things, like politics and now the absence/presence of God.  They are the type of band that makes you believe again.  Believe in the music, and the power it has to heal you, to change things, and to make a difference.  I wish I could explain how connected I felt, through the raw feelings they displayed on stage.  They were missing a band member, and I was missing a brother, and for a moment, I felt as though I could reach out and touch the music when they put it out there.  It was real.  It was healing.  I’m looking forward to that feeling again.

Donnie, I’ll be thinking of you again tonight, and the night after, and the night after.  I wish you could see the impact that you’ve had on others.  I think you’d be amazed at how much difference you really did make.

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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Life


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I Have Two Left Feet & Two Right Boots

I don’t fit.  Anywhere.  I’m not sure I ever will.  I’m not even sure if I want to.  I like being different, in a random sort of way.  I have two left feet, and two right boots.  Some days, I can’t even find my damn boots!  I don’t fit into the blue collar world that I live in.  Sure, I can drink with the best of the guys, I can fix my own car if I need to, and I throw hay all summer long, and actually enjoy it.  I love horses, country nights, and dive bars.  I don’t fit into the academic world, even though I was taught Emily Post manners, and I’m well-read, high-minded, philosophical, and damn it, I’m smart!  I feel confined at the academic functions, longing for a t-shirt and a beer, and restless for stimulation when I’m drinking that beer in the garage, listening to metal.

Everywhere I go, I’m out of place.  No one wants to talk poetry while swilling beer, and no one wants to swig Jack Daniels while dissing Hemingway (God, how I hate that man).  No one in the academic world appreciates my talents as a grease monkey, while no one in my family cares about Robert Frost while they’re trying to put enough hay in to feed the animals over the winter.  I just don’t fit. 

Normally, I’d shrug it off.  It’s no biggie, I’m just an odd-ball.  A little eccentric, but that’s to be expected since I’m a writer.  However, sometimes my worlds collide.  Today, I will be presenting my poem, “I Never Said Thanks,” and a section of my short story, “Healing Speed,” at the Undergraduate Research and Creativity Celebration at Keystone College.  I was told, at the last moment, that I needed to dress somewhat “professional.”  You know what?  I don’t even know what the hell that means.  And there’s nothing like embarrassing yourself by showing up in jeans when everyone’s wearing dress clothes, or dressy clothes when people are in jeans.  I always get it wrong.

Then, it dawned on me.  I’m always going to be out of place.  I can’t help that I live in a world that doesn’t exactly lend itself to dress pants, and nice blouses.  I spend my summers digging in the dirt with my three children.  I’d never even own a blouse that sticky fingers, and spaghetti mouths could ruin in five minutes.  I destroy jeans on the exhaust pipes of my dually diesel, and my days in the garage.  I’m just not made for the academic world of nice clothes, and high heels.  But, there’s a part of me that wants to attend these events, and actually make a good impression. And then there’s the matter of my family.  Most of them couldn’t tell you the meaning of  a poem if you gave them five years.  It’s just not their bag.  I don’t see anything wrong with that.  Except, when I have to read my work in front of them.  Sometimes, they don’t get that poets lie, that fiction writers are writing about something they have never experienced, and half of the time the only criticism I get is that my poetry doesn’t rhyme.  And they get bored at academic functions, quickly.  Yet, I want them there with me.  Not only to share my experiences, but so they can understand what I go through when I step out of our blue collar world.  The confusion, the self-consciousness, the feeling that I’m never going to be good enough.  I spend a lot of time wondering if they’re really excited to be with me, or if they’re just humoring me.

It’s tough living with a foot in both worlds.  Sometimes I feel like I’m going to lose my tenuous grip that’s helping me hover between the two, and fall into one or the other.  I don’t want to lose the experiences in both worlds that allow me to be a well-rounded writer, and person.  Now, I’m realizing I don’t want to fit.  I don’t want to lose my hold on the reality that is me.  This is who I am.  I may have two left feet, but I sure can dance.  Now, I only have to figure out what to wear today!

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Posted by on April 27, 2011 in Life


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Dumb Dog

Last weekend, I bought the Nintendo Dogs game for my DSI.  I figured it would be a cheap, easy way to have a pet, since I am in no way ready to have another real one.  My best friend of eight years, Snickers, died this winter.  I think a little of my love for animals died with her.  The last days were horrible.  The cleaning up after her, the constant worrying if she was going to die in front of the kids… I’m just not ready.

So I buy this game, and I’m thinking, yeah, great, this will be funIt’ll be easy for technologically challenged me, and I’ll get some laughs. Ok, I’ve never encountered a more frustrating game!  My dalmatian, whom I named Sparky, is the stupidest animal on the face of the virtual world!  He forgets his name within seconds, he licks himself when I call him, and I still haven’t figured out how to feed or water him.  I sound like an idiot, calling to this damn dog for what feels like hours, with the kids repeating me, only to make no progress.  This game that I bought to relax me is instead driving me bonkers! 

I think I may have been better off just buying the real animal.  At least I’d get the comfort of a warm, wet nose and soft fur to comfort me when I get frustrated.  And, puppy antics are just adorable.  My point?  Electronics may solve a lot of problems, but they are NEVER better than the real thing!  🙂  Cheers, and enjoy the day, with or without furry friends!

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Posted by on April 26, 2011 in Life


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Mixed-Up Genres

So everybody knows that I love all of the writing genres. But, if I was pressed to say which one I love best, it’d be fiction.  It’s much simpler than writing, say a screenplay, or a poem.  (Not that fiction is simple, it’s just easier for me.)  Anyway, Keystone College holds two writing contests every year: The Cameron Poetry contest, and the Cogswell Fiction contest.  Like every person who wants too much, I decided to enter both about a month ago. 

Yesterday, I got an email about the contests.  My poem, “I Never Said Thanks,” won the poetry contest!  I was pretty surprised about it, especially because writing poetry is not my schtick, even though I’m told I’m good at it.  My eyebrows arched when I got to the second line in the email, stating that my story “Healing Speed,” was first runner up in the fiction contest.  It came as a shock to me, not because I think that I’m so great and should win everything, but because it seems that I may have mixed up my genres along the way.  It’s ironic that the next publication credit I will be getting is a poem titled, “I Hate Writing Poetry.”  This poem and two others will be appearing in the Spring edition of The Plume, Keystone’s literary magazine.  I think that says it all.  🙂 

This whole thing makes me laugh when I think about my first Creative Writing class.  It was an introductory class in the summer session, with poet Brian Fanelli.  My first couple of poems were such a disaster; they weren’t pretty.  I remember telling Brian, “I hate writing poetry!”  In fact, he uses that line to introduce me whenever we read somewhere together!  But, like all type-A’s, I decided I just HAD to learn to write poetry.  I took an advanced poetry class at Keystone,  an outside poetry workshop with Brian, and attended a writing group at the Vintage Theater.  I worked really hard, sometimes to the point where I’d want to bang my head off of the desk in frustration.  I know I never thought (in a trillion years) that I’d ever win a poetry contest. 

Over-all, I’m pretty honored that my work was so well received.  I’ve been asked to read “I Never Said Thanks,” and an excerpt of “Healing Speed,” at the Undergraduate Celebration of Research and Creativity this coming Wednesday, and I’m excited to do so.

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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Writing


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Thoughts on Adapting

A couple of weeks ago in my playwriting class, we were assigned to adapt something, be it a short story, movie, poem, or song lyric, for the stage.  It was an excercise in cutting, twisting, and shaping something already in existence into a form that would be acceptable on stage for a live performance.  I picked my own short story, “Strangers,” (first published on and thought for sure that I would butcher it.  After all, who knows better than the author what the story is trying to convey?  Apparently, I didn’t.

Over-all, I am shocked at the twist this story took on the stage.  As a short story, “Strangers” reads like a piece of pop fiction.  Not that I have anything against pop fiction; I happen to love it.  But it wasn’t conveying the larger message that I had wanted it to.  It’s a neat story because so many people can relate, although I have to admit, as the author I am slightly bias, as it is based on real people.  I’m in love with this story because it has so much to do with forgiveness, and acceptance, even though the original didn’t quite come across that way.

In the adaptation, I added a few characters, changed some story, and wow, does it come across differently!  This story was meant for the stage.  It’s so much more real, the thoughts are sincere, and I believe it speaks better than the original story ever did.  I’m very happy with the adaptation.  I’m nostalgic for the feelings that it has dealt with for so long.  It’s bittersweet.  The adaptation has given me closure on a real event, but I miss those private moments now that I’ve shared them.

All together, I can’t explain how happy it makes me that I took the chance on this.  A few years ago, I would never have thought to write a paragraph, let alone a short story or play. I would not have believed that I would be good at something.  I wouldn’t have believed in me.  I’ve adapted.  I’ve adapted from the girl who hung out in bars, searching for that feeling that was going to stop the fire inside.  I used to try to drown that flame, not knowing that the burning was a desire to free the creative side of me.  Who knew that a bar fly could turn straight-A student?  Who knew that this little girl that had been kicked so many times could be a writer?

One person knew, and it’s to him that I dedicate the final version of Strangers, now adapted for the stage.  I will eventually produce this play, and the printed version will read, “Trace, you picked me up out of the gutter, and handed me back my life even though we didn’t stay in touch.  I want you to know it matters.  After all this time, it still matters.”

Keep on writing!

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Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Writing


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Fear of Commitment

Today was my last Creative Non-fiction class with Amye Archer.  I’m so sad about that because not only is she a rockin’ teacher, but our class was truly awesome.  We had such a good mix of people, and by the end of the class, I wasn’t the only one admitting my screw-ups!  It was really awesome to see some of the class develop into amazingly sharp writers.  Others were already good when they came in, but just needed a push to get them started.  Anyway, I’m going to miss the comaderie we all shared.

I’ve made a lot of discoveries over the last year, but none so huge as the one that I made today.  Amye asked us to write about where we are going as writers in the coming years.  I have a plan to go to grad school and all that, but I couldn’t write about it.  Why?  Because all I can think of is, Oh my God, I’m going to have to commit to a genre! But I can’t do that!  I love them all!  What’s a girl to do? 

I’m afraid to commit to a genre.  I’m afraid to commit to a project.  I can commit to a relationship, a child, a friend, or a job, but I absolutely can not commit to a writing project.  I wonder why that is?  Is it because I’m afraid it will consume my life, and take me away from the responsibilities of children, marriage, and schoolwork?  Am I afraid of success?  Maybe I’m afraid that I might actually be good at something; good enough to make people stand up and notice me.  Or, maybe, just maybe, it’s fear that I’ll finish something, and then have to go through the hell of trying to sell it.  Maybe I’m afraid that commiting to a genre for a project will limit me.  Who knows?

The point is, I’m running out of time to commit.  Truly commit to a project, not only for a semester, but until it’s done.  I’m having panic attacks about Capstone (2 semester graduation project) in the fall.  I literally feel like I’ll propose something, get approved, and then want to get out of it.  I need to get my butt in gear, get over the fear, and just commit, damn it!

Share your commitment fears with me.  What is it that you’re afraid to commit to?

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Posted by on April 17, 2011 in Writing


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I Want More Than I Should…

It makes me sad to see so many cynical people in the world.  I always thought I was a downer, a pessimist of the worst sort. After all, I don’t believe in myself, I don’t expect to win the lottery any day, and I face reality head on, instead of living in denial.  But, then I went to college.  Compared to some people that I’ve run into, I guess I should consider myself the worst sort of dreamer in the world: an idealist.  After all, no matter how jaded I’ve become, I still want things.  I want a lot of things. 

I want to own every great rock album ever produced.   I want to read a million books before I die.  I want to affect someone’s life.  I want to love, whole-heartedly and without reservation.  I want to see my kids succeed.  And, I want to write the great American novel. 

How many of these dreams will come true?  I don’t know.  But that doesn’t mean I should give up, and not want anything, right?  Should I give up on impossible dreams, simply because it may hurt to fail?  Should I give up writing all together because my book may never compare to The Great Gatsby or Huckleberry Finn?

I think not.   I hate to resort to cliches, but whoever said “youth is wasted on the young” was right.  When I hear half of a college class has no dreams and/or goals that make them burn with a passion to succeed, it fills me with a sorrow I can’t describe.  These kids don’t know what they are missing!  Isn’t it better to burn for something, to pine for something, than to want nothing at all?  Isn’t is better to feel the pain of having failed, than to feel numb for not having tried? 

Find your dream.  Find that thing that makes you burn.  Follow it with all of your heart.  I guarantee you’ll never be the worst for it.  Call me an idiot.  Call me an idealist.  Ten years ago, I might have been offended.  Now, I’ll wear the label with pride.

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Posted by on April 12, 2011 in Life


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