What I needed was a little accountability–a wee bit of momentum to light my fire. All I asked for from my Facebook friends was for encouragement to write a page or two every day in May, with the intent of jump starting a middle grade novel. What I received was amazing–a new group. Our members are both established and newbie writers. In a matter of seconds, friends were piling on the band wagon. Soon someone suggested forming a group and, for momentary lack of creativity, we formed The May Days. Now thirty + members strong, we are working toward the same goal–word production and daily creativity. And, if it doesn’t work out now and then, we keep one another going. More than anything, I am amazed by the heart these writers. When a dear friend in our group learned of her mother’s passing last night, everyone immediately sent their sympathies. One thing we all know, solace and healing can be found in the word. Here’s to many new and fabulous creations coming from The May Days.
— Henry Ward BEECHER
For those of us who have experienced the hard winter of our souls, we dip our toes cautiously into the spring waters. Maybe we don’t trust those cold swirling ripples quite yet. As writers it may be that we’ve been waiting so long for a bite from some editor out there; we’re certain our manuscripts will never be reeled in again.
Yes. It’s been a while again. I think this is my monthly blog. I had to share about the strange fall we’ve had. Warm now in December. A snow storm before Halloween. All the trees that had fallen are still being trimmed and gathered by the roadsides. It reminded me of a poem with the same title that appears in my chapbook, Coming Unfrozen.
No big thoughts today, only an inspiring youtube from my lovely friend, Theresa Rizzo. Hope you enjoy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BUJdV9gS0A
A few weeks ago I was dining at one of our favorite restaurants. Our friendly waiter told us that he was exhausted. His wife’s family had immigrated from Shanghai and he had 17 people living in his tiny house, including one very bossy two-year-old. We marveled at his generous spirit, having put aside his own comfort for the needs of many. But his story is my husband’s as well. Without the generosity of his Aunt Sally, he would have never escaped from Communist China to a better life.
For several summers I was privileged to attend the Frost Place Poetry Festival in Franconia, New Hampshire. We were poets on the move, upwardly bound. We had talent, by God. Soon our words would be found in the likes of Poetry and the Atlantic Monthly, if only the famed guest poets would escort our poems to another level.
One man challenged our outlook with a gentle daily reminder. Donald Sheehan was the Director of the Festival and the embodiment of humility. I’ll never forget his understated wisdom: Take care of each other. Listen carefully. And if it comes down to heart vs head, sympathy vs intelligence, choose heart. While you are here for this week, it is your job to make one other person’s work stronger.
Whether author or artist, teacher or student, we are called to have a generous spirit. Yes, we want to make it in the world of publishing. Yes, we want others to fall in love with our work and to fall asleep with our words on their tongues. But to give back to another—whatever your talent, there is nothing nobler than this. The generous artist works to make another person’s work stronger….at least those are my words for today.
In memory of my mentor, Donald Sheehan
As a visiting author I often talk to students about the art of writing. I include this quotation by Mary Oliver in my Storing Up Treasures presentation. This is what is required of writers—to pay attention. We observe the tiniest details in life, things that others may pass by or over, and we hold onto them, treasure them, until we find the perfect place in our stories, poems, essays, where that detail will shine. Often I ask the students about their busy after school activities. They play soccer, basketball, baseball; they are in girl scouts or boy scouts. Then I ask who goes home and does absolutely NOTHING. A few raise their hands. They are reticent to let their classmates know that they “don’t have a life.” I surprise them. I tell them they are the perfect candidates for being great writers. Not that writers don’t have a life. Not that we shouldn’t be out there doing and observing and journaling. But sometimes we need quiet time. What are words without reflection? And when we have these still moments, we can pull out our journals and begin to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. As Mary Oliver said, we cannot help but to “pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
Just thought I’d share the article I wrote last week for the Norwood Transcript. I know some of you can relate. You can also find it here: http://norwoodlibrary.org/uncategorized/m-is-for-mothers-day-by-nancy-ling/
M is for Mother’s Day – by Nancy Ling
It happened again tonight. I went to feed our parakeets and fish and frogs, started a bath, decided to make pancakes ahead for tomorrow’s breakfast, put away the dishes, forgot all about my bath water getting cold. You know how it goes. Writing always takes a backseat to life. And yet that is the irony, isn’t it? Without that every-day nitty-gritty stuff of life, we would have little to say as writers. In 2006 “Literary Mama” published this poem of mine. I think it sums up tonight’s feelings. I know it has struck a cord with other writers, especially mothers, because we are sometimes too tired to even “dream a poem.”
By Nancy Tupper Ling
Cream of tomato soup singed the sides of the double boiler. I bathed the girls,
bubble smiles on their tummies, zebra fish on the walls. I dressed them in pink pajamas.
dried their hair; it curled under dark like violet petals. I read Moo, Baa, and Laa,
Laa, Laa. One last water call. A prayer. A kiss. A favorite blankey lost, then found.
I followed crumbs down the hallway, under the table. Imagined Gretel, the witch,
her graham-cracker shingles and jelly bean path. I scrubbed the pan: its liquid sienna
mess, its sweet acidity. Lined chopsticks, knives and spoons in the washer rack.
Thanked God for gas and light when cold pushes hard on night’s black sills.
I paid the bills, arranged sandwiches in boxes: triangle shapes with carrots and chips.
I phoned Kate in Orlando. She holds her baby near her black eye — her lover leaves her
every five months. How to make it right? Come home. Come home to this place.
It’s 12:27. I’m gathering batiks and teacups for tomorrow’s workshop. I’m slipping
into bed. My husband turns. Groans in his sleep. I want to dream a poem.