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Dry Summer

No, I’m not talking about the weather.  Have you ever felt that the well is dry and any amount of pounding will not produce water?  The well of creativity that is.  For the last month or so, I haven’t written anything new.  Sure, I’ve jotted down some lines, written some paragraphs, even madly typed three pages of what could turn into a novel.  But, I don’t feel satisfied with any of these pieces, finished or unfinished.  I’ve been flat, and my writing is flat.

In my opinion, writing is personal.  Even if the subject isn’t personal, the writing is.  Human beings have emotions, and I believe it is impossible to separate them from our work.  We may not be writing about ourselves, but pieces of us still enter into the work.  For example, I have a strong dislike of vegetables.  You’d never find one of my characters eating a plate of green beans.  My hatred is that intense.  I know that this is a silly example, but it’s true.  I don’t know that it’s vanity when writers put pieces of ourselves into our work.  I just think it’s the subconscious connection between our emotions and our work.  It’s a very personal connection.

Lately, there’s been this huge withdraw of emotion from my work.  I really can’t say why.  Maybe it’s the question of, what’s next for me?  It could be the anxiety of starting a new school in the fall.  Maybe it’s the constant on-the-go mentality of three exuberant kids under seven.  Maybe it’s any and all of these things.   Maybe it’s the pressure that I place on myself to be successful instead of writing for the sheer love of it.  I think that could be why I chose not to apply to an MFA program when I looked at graduate schools.  Sure, they have wonderful results.  The problem for me is that they focus too much on getting published, and writing what will sell.

Do I like my work published?  Absolutely!  I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t. I have two poems coming out in separate journals over the summer: “Curfew” in Yes, Poetry, and “Resurrection” in Adanna Literary Journal.  It’s thrilling to see your work in print, or online, especially when someone comments on how much they enjoyed it.  But, sometimes I wonder if some of us (I’ve been guilty of this as well) focus too much on what a journal will like or want, versus what we really want, or NEED to say.  For me, writing is a need.  I have to write, or explode with all of the thoughts, words, and ideas that run through my mind like wild horses in an open field.

So, I’ve decided to forget about what is “literary” or “correct” in my writing.  I will write what I want to say, and go from there.  I will flood the emotion back into my work, and then revise accordingly.  If I come up with something journal-worthy, I will send it out.  Otherwise, I will write for the sheer joy of expressing my ideas.  I will feel, and feel, and feel some more, until I have to pour those feelings onto the page.

If you disagree, or maybe think writers don’t put emotion into their work, I urge you to listen to Patricia Smith read her poetry sometime, or pick up a work by Tim O’Brien or Sherman Alexie, and then tell me writers don’t feel.  In order for the audience to feel any emotion, the writer must first put it there.  Keep on writing!

 

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Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Writing

 

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The Scoop

I guess I should preface this by saying how sorry I am about abandoning my readers during the last couple of months.  I really enjoy getting my thoughts out there, spewing about the things that are going on in my life, jawing about the things I love like writing and music.  The past two months have been crazy and hectic, what with writing and revising every spare second for my Capstone project (it’s almost finished!), registering Whalen for Kindergarten, CC for preschool (sob), and fighting for extra help and attention for Lucas at school, normal duties like dishes and laundry, family obligations, class three days a week, and homework. Not to mention graduate school applications.  Just re-reading that exhausted me!

Seriously, I like to stay busy.  I think all of the extra things I have going on make me slightly crazy, but very well-rounded.  The juggling keeps me sharp.  And sharp I’ve been.  I’ve probably written about fifty new poems since January, and now I’m in the process of fine-tuning those, writing more, and choosing which ones fit in the poetry manuscript I’m putting together for my Capstone.  The due date is coming up!  Approximately four weeks will see it cranked out and turned in.  Let me say that I’d much rather write than put it together.  I’d never make it in the layout department.  I put together a rough copy of it though; I just couldn’t resist!  To see it, even unfinished, put together was the most incredible high.  I’ve never seen an entire project like this through right to the end.  It amazes me, and also proves to me that I can do it.  I had my doubts if you all recall.

Speaking of highs, I just got the most amazing news yesterday!  I was officially accepted by SUNY Binghamton for the fall 2012 semester.  After the crushing rejection from Penn State (due to program finances, nothing I did), this really lifted my spirits.  See, I recall a certain person who told me to look at smaller schools.  That maybe I wouldn’t hack an intensive graduate program, I might not have a good chance at getting in… I guess you don’t know it all, do you?  Anyway, I’m thrilled that I’ve been accepted to this program, and really looking forward to graduate study.  Provided I survive Biology this semester, of course.

Anyway, I’m glad I’ve pushed myself to the brink of exhaustion and madness in my quest to be the best that I can possibly be at any given moment.  People tell me I worry too much, that I’m too uptight.  Maybe I do, but look what I’ve accomplished… I’ll leave it at that!

 

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Life

 

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Out of the Dark Comes Light?

Over the Winter break from school, I wrote a lot.  Mostly poetry, a few sentences of what could become a short story, a few letters.  Some graduate application essays, and very few blogs.  I’ve been told I’m a very serious person.  I also put myself down for that.  I tend to dwell on the darker times, record the black images for further exploration at a later date.  Is there anything wrong with being obsessed with the dark?

Lately, my thoughts are telling me no.  “Write what you know;” that’s common advice from established authors and novices alike.  I know darkness, I’ve lived with it for a very long time.  I also think that writing about the dark brings light.  I’ve been turning that theme over and over in my head.  Light/Dark.  Sun/Shade. Two halves of the whole.  This is no new theme; authors, artists, and musicians have been exploring this for centuries.

It’s interesting to me that my darkest writing is also my best writing.  I fight with myself a lot over this issue. Don’t worry, no one wins these arguments, in case anyone thinks I’m nuts!  I’m constantly trying to force myself to write something happy.  Guess what?  Anything I write that has a remotely happy theme also sucks in a big way.  My best stuff comes from the dark, the shadows that I filter through to reveal slivers of light.   So what, right?

Over break, I also read a lot.  I mean, a lot.  I finished several books I had in progress, and started several more.  Currently, I’m reading a biography of Kurt Cobain. There’s a happy story! (Snort)  Seriously, the man was a genius with music, and he was one dark person.  Tortured genius? I don’t quite go that far, but it comforts me that I’m not alone with my obsession with the dark.  I think I needed to be reminded that many people have gone over to the dark and produced light.

I also finished The Shadow of Sirius, by W.S. Merwin.  Wow, what a collection of poems!  Dark, melancholy, but enlightening as any that I’ve read.  I’ve got a total of seventeen pages marked in this collection, which in my opinion is huge for a collection of poetry.  Normally, I’ll find one or two in a manuscript that I mark for future reference, or just because they struck me in some way.  This book spoke to me in such a positive way, even though it has a dark tone.  Again, out of the darkness comes light.

I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s OK to be dark. I need to stop being so picky with my writing, and my subjects.  So what if I want to write a hundred poems about death?  Dylan Thomas probably wrote at least that many about it, maybe more.  Why should I care if  I’m inspired to write yet another poem about people breaking up? It happens.  Life happens, and it’s not always nice, or easy.  Why not write about it?  Why drive myself nuts writing happy things?  That is the question of the day. If I find an answer, I’ll be sure to share!

A final thought before I hang it up for the day.  The New Visions Showcase was extremely awesome, shame on anyone that missed it!  There were many incredible stories and readers.  My work was well received.  Dark it is, but it is also filled with a tangible emotion, and I think that’s what counts. I read Donnie’s poem, “Faded,” and it never fails to make me choke up.  Maybe people noticed, and if they did, it’s OK.   If it affects me that way, maybe it will affect someone else. I think I forget that.  Thanks to Brian and Jason for having me!

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Writing

 

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Dear Gram,

It’s been eleven years now, and I still miss you.  I think of you often, especially while I’m holding Courtney in my lap, reading stories like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and But No Elephants.  When she follows along with the words to Geraldine’s Blanket, her long, blonde hair in pigtails, holding her blankie, I’m bombarded with images of us.  I hold her the way that you held me, encourage her the way that you encouraged me, and love her the way that you loved me.

Every day, we listen to great songs by The Beatles, Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, and The Eagles, and I introduce her to newer bands, like 10 Years, Godsmack, Avenged Sevenfold, Art of Dying, and Five Finger Death Punch.  I remember how you loved Humperdink, but how you put up with some of my bands like Guns N’ Roses, Damn Yankees, and later, Nirvana, just so you could be more involved with what interested me. Years ago, I heard about the time you were Christmas shopping, and you bought me two of the greatest albums ever made. I could picture the shock on your face when you saw the cover of Nevermind, (that’s tame these days) and I know you winced when you heard the Black album for the first time.

Along with great music, I teach her about books.  You’d be so proud of the full-to-bursting bookshelves in my home.  Classics and popular fiction, poetry and biography, plays and naturally, children’s books. When I see the careful way she holds them, reverent, turning pages ever so precisely, I remember the books that you bought me, and how much I loved them.  I remember the way you fed my passion for books. I remember the time you saved the money that Grandpop gave you for things you needed, and how you spent it on a set of dinosaur books for me.  I remember how you kept my most favorite novels, on the shelf next to yours, when I asked you to keep them from mom and her book ban.  I remember how much she hated me reading, and I remember how you told me to never stop.

We read every day.  Sometimes, when she won’t stop pestering me, I read her my assignments for school.  I doubt she understands that she’s been exposed to some really great literature, like Steinbeck, Ibsen, O’Brien, Vonnegut, Frost, Plath, and Eliot, but I know.  I know that I am imitating something good, something that I was taught by an amazing person with a special gift: you.

Yes, Gram, you were gifted.  You were talented and influential.  You loved me.  You loved a little girl who probably drove you nuts with 10,000 questions per day. You encouraged a young child to learn everything she could, about everything she could.  You taught her to expand her thoughts and reach for impossible dreams.  You were my first teacher, and I think you deserve credit for all of the things I’ve accomplished.

Gram, I’m graduating from college in May! I’ve applied to graduate school, and even if I don’t get in, I’ll keep trying anyway. Not too shabby for a girl who grew up in a trailer, had a bum for a father, and a mom who went to ninth grade…  I’ve published several pieces of my writing, too.  The first acceptance letter I ever got made me nostalgic; I had clear visions of the stories I used to “write,” how you’d staple them together, put a title on them, and how you saved them until the day you died.  I only hope that I can live up to the example you were.

I am the most influential person in my daughter’s life, the way that you were the most influential person in mine. She’ll remember that, even if she remembers nothing else.  She’ll remember that someone will always accept her decisions, encourage her dreams, and dream them with her whenever possible.  She’ll know that she has somewhere to go, the way I always went to you.

I miss you terribly.  Those words seem so inadequate for the empty place I have in my life without you.  Someday, I hope that I’ll get the chance to hug you again, throw my arms around your neck the way I did when I was little, and the way that Courtney does to me now.  No matter how busy I am, I have never forgotten you.  I have such a clear picture of you in my mind, and sometimes it’s as if I could extend a hand and touch you. If only I could reach…

Hugs

 

I love you,

Tricia

P.S.  Could you give Donnie a hug for me?  I think he knows how much I miss him, but it never hurts to say.

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Life

 

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Confessions of a Small Town Girl

I’m not the confessional type.  Normally, I’m bold and brash.  I’ll tell you what I think in a flat-out truthful way.  Sometimes I can come across as hard; I’m a survivor and it shows in my attitude and demeanor.  However, I have a secret, and the secret is this:

Sometimes, I feel small in this world.  There’s not one day that I feel the confidence that I display. There are things I want so bad, but inside, I can’t ever get over the feeling that I’ll never be good enough.   Most of the time, I gut through with pure grit and stubbornness.   My work ethic saves me, every time.  There’s this fire inside of me, this burning need to prove that the girl from the sticks, the one who grew up in a two bedroom trailer and wore hand-me-downs can make a difference in the world.  In my world.  The world of blue-collar jobs, and Friday night drinking.  The world where education for the sake of knowing something more, and not to get a job, is looked upon as weird.  Where I live, and honestly, the world that I love.

Yeah, I love coming from this kind of area, this kind of life-style, and this kind of background.  It’s where I’m comfortable, even though this life has its issues.  Even though I love my blue-collar world, and the people in it, I’m at odds with it constantly.  The reason?  Education.  I’m that weird girl, the good-looking redhead with the rockin’ body that spends her Friday nights at school instead of at the bar.  I’m the odd girl that talks about authors like Sherman Alexie and Tim O’Brien instead of Sandra Brown and Nicholas Sparks.  I’m the strange one who reads poetry for God’s sake!  So it’s always been, and truthfully, unless someone changes it, it’s the way that it will always be. 

Honestly, I’m still not the most educated person.  There’s a lot of things I don’t know, and there’s a lot of ways to make me feel stupid.  And, I’ve experienced every one of those ways at the hands of so-called educators who don’t realize there’s another world out there.  The one where education is actually frowned upon.  The one where opportunities for learning don’t exactly grow on trees.  I hang in there because I feel this responsibility to my world and to my talent for writing.  In a way, my talent saves me.  It gives me  a shield for the times when I don’t fit in, the times that my social graces may be lacking, and it drives me to share it with my world.

Here’s where I come to the whole point of this confession.  The other day, a friend of mine was awed by my blog post, Courage in Them Boots.  He told me, “Trish, I honestly never read, but I was amazed. You made it real.  You made it hit me.” That touched me deeply.  All of the comments, and the shares of this blog post have touched me.  Why? Am I on a narcissistic trip?  Nope… I am so touched because I am making it happen.  I am bringing my experiences to my world, and I am touching other people.  People who wouldn’t normally pick up a book are reading my stuff, and are being touched by it!  That is my dream, that is my goal, and that is my reality. 

I always said, “I want my work to MATTER to someone, the way that others’ work has mattered to me.”  My reasons are my own, but I want to matter.  Music and literature have saved my life more times than I can count, and since I’m not musically talented, I choose literature as my way to matter.  Maybe I’ll never be as famous as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, and others, but I have touched a life with my words.  I can’t explain what that means to me…

I still feel small in the world, but that’s ok.  I’ll keep the thoughts of you all with me, and that will be enough.

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2011 in Life, Writing

 

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Graduation Project Underway

I finally made a decision.  A big decision.  I’ve decided on a project for Capstone! Remember my fear of commitment? Well, two weeks ago, I had no choice.  I had to choose a project, and get going on it.  Being the raging Type-A that I am, I decided on poetry.  From my past musings, you all know that poetry is a pretty tough genre for me.  I write good poems, but the final product doesn’t show my blood on the page,  the struggle to find the right words to find out what I don’t know, and the rampant revision that accompanies each draft. 

So why did I pick poetry?  Well, for one, I can’t stand not being good at something.  I always want to be better than I am.  If I’m not good at it (name said activity) right away, I grit my teeth, and dig my boots in until I force myself to become accomplished and proficient.  I freely admit that I’m stubborn.  Secondly, I love to learn.  If I had picked a project that would be second-nature to me, I don’t think I would learn as much.  I’m one of those “learn-by-doing” people.   I’m excited about putting this project together.  I’m sure at some point, it will become overwhelming, and I’ll ask myself why the hell I love to torture myself.  Until that point in time, it’s an exciting rush!

This semester, I’ll be preparing a 20 page proposal for approval to begin the project next semester.  I’ll be presenting a portfolio and the proposal to the amazing committee I’ve chosen, and hopefully they’ll be wowed!  🙂  Again, that damn public speaking invades my life!  In all seriousness, I’m looking forward to it.  I love the work, and thrive on the pressure.  I feel alive!  This is where the bi-polar creative euphoria comes in handy… More about that in a future blog.

I apologize in advance to anyone I might ignore this semester, and next.  I don’t have time to breathe right now, and I’m only five weeks in.  In addition to my course load, and responsibilities as a parent, I’ll also be taking the GRE’s next month (can you believe October begins tomorrow?), and applying to Penn State University, SUNY Binghamton, Wilkes, and maybe Rutgers.  Wish me luck! 

Stay tuned for future updates as I move through this exciting process.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Life, Writing

 

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New Poem for Review

Just a poem I’ve been working on, in its un-revised state.  I would appreciate any comments, suggestions, and/or criticism.  By the way, I’ve figured out how to single-space in WordPress!  You have to hit shift+enter between lines. 🙂

Birthday Bottles

This year, the candles snuffed out,
the empty iced tea pitcher tipped
by the breath of the coming storm,
and the remains of of a homemade cake
were left in the center of the warped picnic
table.  I sat alone under wizened maples
with growling thunderheads
blacking the moon and stars.
Other birthdays came to mind
when the first lightning crashed
from ground to sky, thrashed
through thick  clouds and beyond.

Your present’s in here, he’d say with a wink
then head off toward the garage,
a slight limp in his left stride.
When I’d follow, there’d be a bottle
of amber sitting on a workbench,
sporting a multi-colored bow
on black label with pride.
I used to crack the seal, lift the glass
to silent lips, swig a large swallow,
then slide the bottle to his side.
While family noises sounded outside,
we’d celebrate with fiery shots,
that misted and distanced us
from the burning on our minds.

This year, the lightning flashed as I
played our ritual in my mind, then
thought of the broken people
he’d left behind.  I glanced at the Coke
in my hand, raised it rueful
to the sky and whispered, Thanks, buddy
as I headed inside.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Writing

 

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