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New Visions Reading

So I’m really excited to be reading again next weekend, at New Visions Gallery in Scranton. I was really happy to be asked, and truthfully, it’s been a while.  I was kicking around the idea of reading some fiction, but the trouble is, I haven’t been writing any.  I still love fiction, and I will continue to write it, but lately I’ve been so focused on my Capstone project, which is a chapbook of poetry.  I’ve written quite a few new poems over the break, and I will continue to do so throughout the semester.  Why not read poetry?

Well, I’m going to.  But, let me tell you all, I’m scared to death.  It’s always a little jarring to share a new piece, but to do so in front of a crowd, terrifying.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve got a good mix of published poetry thrown in, (so I know at least SOME of it is good), but I’ve also got about five or six un-critiqued pieces. Now these pieces are strong, they’ve got imagery and emotion, they’ve got hours of drafting and revision, but they are still lacking the criticism I’ve become used to in my writing.  I’m half excited to share them, and half shaking in my boots.

See, this is really stepping out of the box for me.  Not only am I writing and revising on my own, I’m also going to share this work.  While I strongly believe in outside criticism, (workshops are essential!) I also believe that I tend to rely too much on outside opinion.  I tend to bash my own work until other writers that I respect tell me it’s good.  At the end of last semester, I had to present a portfolio and my proposal for my Capstone project to a committee. The only criticism I received in the entire presentation was that I need to believe in myself and my own work.  So, I’m taking the committee’s excellent advice, and I’m going to jump off the ledge with these new pieces that I believe are good.

Normally, I hate public speaking, but sharing my work is a little bit different.  I still get nervous, but it’s not the same, “Oh my god, I’m going to forget everything I have to say, and look really stupid” nervous.  Mostly, I have little flutters about standing up in front of people, and I get the whole, “What if I look really stupid in front of these authors or what if my work sucks?”  I mean, I consider myself a writer, and I have a smattering of publication credits.  Do I consider myself the next Kim Addonizio or Gary Jackson?  No way!  It’s humbling to read the work of great poets, both new and old.  But I keep trying 🙂

So, if you’re in the area, looking for something to do, why not come to the reading?  New Visions Gallery, 201 Vine Street in Scranton, January 14th, 7:00 p.m.

 

 

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Posted by on January 6, 2012 in Writing

 

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Some Updates and a Big Pat on the Back…

"Scene 20: Bad Company" by Danielle Lynn Herron

…to my talented best friend, Danielle Herron, who deserves recognition not only for her artistic talent, but her amazing talent at being a friend.  This is the kind of friend you want to have in your life time, and I’m so lucky to have her!  Last week, I approached her in a panic…”D, I gotta pitch my screenplay this weekend and I’m freaking out about the visual aids!”  She, in turn, based on a very limited portion of my screenplay, produced this wonderful interpretation.  The best part?  She goes out of her way to Fed-Ex it to me, a day before the speech.  Is she priceless, or what?  My best friend, the girl who went out of her way to talk to me in Junior High chorus about 15 years ago.  A girl, who like myself had some problems at home, and a lot of  amazing things to give this world.  I hope she realizes her talent matters.  I hope she soon realizes that she matters.  Love you, D!

I must admit that I’m also rather proud of myself lately. I have been moving right along this semester. I’ve produced a number of projects, one of which was a pitch presentation for Professional Speech, which included the above storyboard as a visual aid. I’ve got three speeches down, and two more to gut through before I am free from public speaking courses forever.  I’ve prepared a portfolio with a body of my work for presentation to my Capstone committee in two weeks, and also a 23 page proposal to create my senior project.  This is the book of poetry I talked about previously.  It took a lot of work, but I impressed the small number of people who have seen this proposal, including the COMM Division Chair, who told me it was the “best proposal she’d read.” (This semester, obviously.  I’d never assume to be the best ever)  Anyway, I’ve been accomplishing a lot, in addition to my everyday duties of diapers, parenting, and advocating for my two boys.

I sent out my application to Penn State University, in the hopes of getting accepted to their highly competitive graduate Creative Writing program.  I’ve got my fingers crossed, as I did well on my GRE’s and sent them a writing sample that I’m proud of.  Whether I am accepted or not, I am really impressed with myself for trying.  I never used to put myself out there, but I’ve learned lately that you will never succeed if you don’t try.  I’ve missed out on a lot that way.  My words of wisdom for the day: life might continually suck, but if you don’t do anything about it, I guess you’d better get used to it.   

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2011 in Life

 

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Courage in Them Boots

Whenever I need courage, I  think of my six-year-old son, Lucas.  Lucas has an Autism spectrum disorder, and is one of the shyest kids you could ever meet.  As a baby, he didn’t like to be touched, held, or cuddled.  He was afraid of everything, and I mean everything!  The vaccuum cleaner could set off tantrums of terror that would last for hours, and the sight of a stranger would send him into hysterics.  As he grew, the fears grew with him.  He was afraid of dogs, doctors, his grandparents, his therapists, other kids, and bugs.  Especially bugs.  The sight of one flying past the sliding board was enough to make him jump off of the side, regardless of whether anyone was there to catch him.   Fears are a large part of Autism.  Autistic people don’t see the world the way that we do, and as a result, things get blown out of proportion. 

One thing that Lucas never feared (and this is simply amazing to me) were my father-in-law’s draft horses.  Belgian horses are certainly not the largest of the draft breeds, but they are way bigger than dogs.  From the first time Lucas saw these monsters, the kid was in love.  At a year old, he was sitting on them.  At eighteen months, he was riding alone while my father-in-law voice commanded.  At six years, he’s feeding them every night, often going inside the fence and walking them through the muck into their stalls.  Of course, he’s got his feet in a pair of trusty cowboy boots.  He got his first pair for Christmas when he was two; he wanted to be like Mommy, and Uncle Donnie, who wore their boots constantly.

The only time he ever smiled...

   

The first time I heard Lucas say, “There’s courage in these boots,” I was dropping him off at a friend’s house so that I could attend my brother-in-law’s viewing.  She was virtually a stranger to my son. My trusted babysitters (my in-laws) were obviously unavailable.   That line struck me then, and I remember it often, always wondering, Where did that come from?  He never answered me when I asked; instead, he gave me a shy smile and walked away.

I’m a big scaredy cat myself, and I think about that day a lot.  Everytime I have to do something distasteful to me, such as giving a speech, or taking a test, or meeting a new person, I look down at my cowboy boots with the gold tips.  I think, there’s courage in them boots, and I do what has to be done.  I think of my Autistic kid, and how he overcomes his fears every single day: getting on the bus to go to preschool, then kindergarten, and now first grade, the constant struggle of keeping up with the work, and how he’ll approach a dog now, when they used to scare him so much. 

The other day, I had to give my first ten-minute speech for Professional Speech at Keystone.  I was terrified, talking a mile a minute to my husband about standing in front of the class, forgetting my speech, and just generally feeling sick.  He reminded me that I could do it; after all, I was giving a speech on the history of Harley-Davidson.  How could I go wrong?  He said that Donnie would be proud of me.  Then, he told me to go look under our bed.  There, in a box hiding under my side of the bed, were a shiny new pair of cowboy boots, black with silver tips.  I brought them out, and slid my feet in, one by one.  He told me, “Donnie always said there was courage in those boots.”

Then, it dawned on me.  Where my son had learned it, and where he had gathered so much of his strength from.  I fought back the tears that threatened to overwhelm me because I had forgotten such a vital part of my brother-in-law.  How could I have forgotten his strength, and the chuckle in his voice when he asked my son, “There courage in them boots, buddy?”  How could I forget the warm look in his eye when Lucas would excel at something, and the steady hands that guided him in fixing the broken porch step when he showed an interest in tools?  How did the everyday become today?

Life moves so fast.  The wound heals with a shiny, pink scar, but underneath it festers like an abcess, ready to burst through at the worst of times.  I gave that speech, and although I froze during my introduction, and I forgot some things I wanted to say, I gutted through with pure grit and a tapping boot.  In the coming days, as I have presentations to make, graduate school applications and possibly interviews to complete, and the GRE’s to take, I’ll take Donnie with me; I’ll draw strength from my son, and I’ll have courage in my boots.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 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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Stage Fright

Keystone College teachers, Dr. David Elliot, and Amye Archer are hosting a joint reading tonight at the Vintage Theater in Scranton.  6:oo p.m. 119 Penn Avenue.  There will be poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction being read.  I’ll be reading an essay about how I became such a hard-rock fan/metal-head. 

Thank God I’m not an actress, because I suffer from stage fright.  My knees knock, my heart pounds, my mouth gets dry, and I literally feel like I’m going to pass out when I’m giving a speech, or reading my work.  I had to take an elementary public speaking course a few years ago, and let me tell you, I had to get drunk to pass it.  I literally drank Jack Daniels before I went into the class.  I used to bitch to my friends about how I was never going to use the damn class, why should I be required to take it?  Never say never…

Leave it to me to pick a career where self-promoting is the biggest success/fail factor.  My first public reading  was last October,  when I was invited by a teacher to read a short story at a reading that he put together with Barrelhouse, a D.C. based literary magazine.   I agreed, knowing full well that I was going to be terrified.  I stood up there (with 3 vodka shots under my belt) and somehow managed to get through it.  I thought, ok, now I’ve done it, it’s no big deal.

But, you know what?  It’s a big deal.  Whether it’s a crowd of 50 or 5, I feel scared.  I feel small.  And, I feel as though I never want to do it again.  Something keeps me coming back though.  I think it’s the desire for success.  It’s the drive that makes me give up nights out with my friends to attend a class, or skip the family get-together to get my homework done.  It’s that dedication that made me finish the short story that I was working on for my fiction class, the day after my brother-in-law died.  It’s the desire to succeed, no matter what the cost. 

Stage fright is a fight that I will someday win. Both my second, and third readings were done alcohol free 🙂 .  This will be my fourth reading, and although I’m still terrified, I am also looking forward to it.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2011 in Writing

 

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