48 days, day 25-27: deep in the thick of it, warriors

{{ I am chronicling 48 days of writing before my July 31 travel. If you are chronicling your summer writing/days and would like to share, please link or comment so we can all cheer one another through. Strength to your sword arm! }}

The thick of it for me means daily life and daily work, right here at home:

:: Scribbling, scribbling, working on five different projects, a line here, a thought there, allowing the stories that bubble up to dictate where they want to go. There's Book3 of course, always book 3. Trying openings. None are working. I don't get bent out of shape about it. I move on. I keep reading and researching and trying to find my way IN.

There's also, in those five projects, an essay about the demolition of the family I grew up in, a story about Rachel Carson, another about Virginia Durr, and a revision of a picture book ms. I wrote many years ago that went to committee at two different publishing houses after several revisions with two different editors. It has been over 10 years since I've seriously looked at this story, and now I can see what was wrong with it, and what my editors were trying to tell me. Can I revise it well enough to sell it? Let's see.

A sixth project is creeping up on me, has been waiting for years, so I'm writing about gardens and food and hand work, for.... I don't know what yet. I call it "the home economics project" right now, and I've long been labeling photos on Instagram that way. I've got a chapter of something. I have inklings, and right now I'm just following where they lead me. I've created a Pinterest board for them as well: This is Cambria Bold.

ALL OF THIS IS COMING FROM SEEING -- and believing -- THAT I HAVE A VISTA OF HOME AND WRITING TIME AHEAD. Honestly. When all I can see is the tangle of travel and time away from home, I shut down the creative part of me that needs time time time. I turn on the warrior part of me that needs to prepare for teaching and speaking and traveling and meeting and navigating and the demands of being present and "on" at all times.

It's hard to express how grateful I am for that work, and how much I need it, in order to pay my way in the world. I am good at it, and I know that, too. It's just as hard to express how much I miss the creative space. I'm grateful for it, too, in this year of exploration.

:: Listening to Krista Tippett's Feb. 2015 interview w Mary Oliver. I knew she had had lung cancer (Mary) but did not know she was still smoking. Her voice and her energy sounds so very different from her poetry! And I love her work so much. She reads several poems in the interview.

Also listening to this Playing For Change rendition of "Ripple" by The Grateful Dead. Friends are trying to help me appreciate The Dead, since I am writing about 1969 in Book3, and I can't seem to "get it" about The Greatful Dead. I don't know that I ever will -- don't hate me! But I do love this, and am glad to add it to my ongoing effort.

:: Ordering a slew of books from my library systems on audio, ebooks, and hard-copy. After listening to Mary Oliver, I want to read more about Lucretius, so I ordered THE SWERVE, a book I tried to read a couple of years ago but never got to. For work, I've ordered PRIME GREEN: REMEMBERING THE SIXTIES by Robert Stone, and Lisa Law's book (I mentioned her here on day 17) FLASHING ON THE SIXTIES. I'm reading about bugs in the garden (and capturing some doozies so I can figure out what they are). I've downloaded NIXONLAND many times as an audiobook (and hard-copy book) and listen to it when I'm driving. It makes me crazy and I yet know what it posits is important. Sometime I will quote from it here.

I love my libraries, and cannot say it enough. My open letter to DeKalb County Libraries resulted in our truce and my paying the foreign-national fee for my card (you'll see that my protest was over something else entirely, but it got conflated with the fee which I continue to protest as well) and I am happily checking out books at the Tucker branch one mile from my house, now, in addition to using the Gwinnett County system ("my" system) which is almost 9 miles from my Tucker house. Insane but true.

:: Reading online some amazing writing. This essay (excerpt from his new book) by Ta-Nehisi Coates is shattering. It's long. And it's worth your time. "Letter to my Son." As I said on Facebook, it makes me ask myself what I can do, as a writer, as a human being, and it leaves me desolate, and yet with gritty hope. Somehow. Because what alternative is there?

I am a huge fan of Longreads, do you know it? I follow them on Twitter and on Facebook, and I love a good long read. A recent long read was Sally Mann's piece (which I think I linked to earlier) in the New York Times Magazine about the cost of photographing her family so intimately over the years. I love her work. I am on a long hold list at both my library systems, for her memoir HOLD STILL. (I have a long hold list, always.)

:: Attending a birthday party for 7-year-old Elvis, who you may remember in long-ago posts as Andy or BeBop. A long story with a beautiful ending. He was my dog in 2008 and then he was my son Jason's dog, and now he belongs fully and wholly to Jason's daughter Abigail, my 4-year-old muse, who planned the party and called each of us to give us our marching orders for the event. Limbo, cake, ice cream, pizza, presents, exhaustion. Dog and kid. And grown-ups. I love that I've chronicled Elvis's little life-trajectory here on the blog, with photos.

:: Remembering that I have been blogging for ten years, ever since I went on book tour with EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS in April 2005. Back then, blogging was so new, and Harcourt asked me to keep a journal of the tour, which I did, on email, no photos, and we sent it out to folks in the children's publishing industry at the end of each day. The whole thing is archived on my website, here.

So. My first blogging in 2005. Then, when ALL-STARS was published in 2007, I began a blog with photos, at Harcourt's request... they helped me set it up. I didn't know enough about blogging at the time to know I could have just continued with that blog to today... so I started this one, and left that one behind... but you can find it here. Some day I want to consolidate them, but I don't know how right now. That last entry directs you to this blog, and gives you some photos of the real Aurora County, Mississippi I write about in RUBY, LITTLE BIRD, ALL-STARS and FREEDOM SUMMER.

:: Watering the garden and the new grass we foolishly planted in late May/early June. Trying to keep everything alive. Making notes about what-grows-best-where, now that the 14 trees down have opened up the sky in our yard and the sun shines on the ground, drying it up for the first time in years, and I am able to garden again.

The routine is to work inside, writing and researching and even napping during the heat of the day, then going out at dusk, when there are a couple of hours of light left in long summertime, to water and pick and plump and whisper and encourage and champion and nurture and clip and coax.

The outside work is like the inside work, come to think of it. All good and all welcome and all hard at times. I am so lucky. I know I am. I have come a long way in the world, even for such a late bloomer.

Long may I be able to do the work I love, surrounded by the people I love, in a place I have come to love. A place -- metaphorically, physically, spiritually, emotionally -- I fought for and didn't even get that at the time, and didn't understand I was fighting against, sometimes. If that makes sense.

I think we are all warriors, even peace warriors, staking our claim to live our lives in some meaningful way, with enough ease and enough safety to create and exist in whatever way our hearts ask for expression. Ta-Nehisi Coates. Mary Oliver. Abigail Wiles. Lisa Law. The Grateful Dead. Sally Mann. Me. You. Shanti, shanti, shanti. Peace, peace, peace.


  1. Thanks for sharing the Longreads site. I'm now addicted and it's competing with BrainPickings for my favorite insomnia read. Also, listen to Ripple by the acapella group the Persuasions. I'm not a big Grateful Dead fan, but the Persuasions did great renditions of some of their songs.

  2. I know! It's ridiculous. But I segued from Brain Pickings to Longreads some time ago and haven't looked back. I follow Longreads on Twitter, so I know when they've got something new up. Thanks for the Persuasions tip -- I have it on my list now.


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