MaMoMeMo
May is motherhood memoir month

writing

From Bees to Rats

The bees of yesterday are still outside the hive we put them in-deciding whether they want to move in, or cleaning out the hive and repainting for the Queen? We don’t know. We watch and wait. Such diversion. Meanwhile, I write, some. Not a lot. I often think, “This is going to be a writing day- get lots done! I’m not going to do much else…” But then life happens. Today, our youngest daughter is making inroads toward getting another pet. We have a Maine Coon, but he is not a very affectionate male cat. He mostly tolerates us, and we are amused by him, but Ari is pining for a small pet. She’s been trying to trap a mouse with a friendly trap, to no avail. Being quarantined or sequestered can be lonely for a 13-year-old, so I find my “no more pets” stance softening. I don’t want to…

When Bees(&Words) Die

The bee swarm we “rescued” last week off the curb at the corner of a main thoroughfare didn’t make it. And I don’t know why, although I have some theories. And as writers, not all the words we write are going to make it out into the world. It doesn’t stop us from trying, from stringing words together into sentences born of observations and ideas, some cohesive and some less so, knowing that many written words will be left behind, or left off the final stories. As a writer you just have to be okay with that, right? And as you get better at it you may be able to save more original words, but writing that first draft will always be an act of exploration and discovery. That’s part of the fun. It was fun, and a bit inconvenient to go get bees. Stop what you are doing and…

Seurat and Social Distancing

In Seurat’s pointillist painting, La Grande Jatte, notice how everyone is arranged in small groups with some distance between them? I never saw it quite like this before, but living through a pandemic changes your view on just about everything. Is there a piece of art that represents how life has changed for you since the onset of the pandemic? A painting might inspire a story or poem, or vivid imagery in a poem or story might inspire a painting or sculpture (reverse ekphrasis). Using art as a starting point, describing what you see until the story or idea behind the objects or scene reveals itself. That’s ekphrastic writing and it can bring new layers of meaning, along with new ways of seeing, to your work. Give it a try. And stay safe this Memorial Day Weekend. Writing, generally done alone, is a fairly safe activity.

First Drafts

The process of writing first drafts is a lot like climbing a mountain for the first time according to C.C. Humphreys, an author who spoke to Willamette Writers recently. He’s written eleven novels with more to come and he speaks with that charming British accent, easy listening. I heard the Nietzsche quote (post from two days earlier) from him, but he said it like this: You must have chaos within who gives birth to a dancing star. I have chaos within and without, so I felt rather encouraged, how you want to feel when you are writing a first draft and listening to one who has gone before you several times. This is not my first draft. But it is one of the first I am close to finishing, or so I hope. The thing about calling a first draft finished is, how do you know it is finished? It…

When Writing Disappears

That happens from time to time, right? You forget to hit save like I did yesterday after starting today’s post… At least I think I wrote a post. I’ve been writing a lot lately and dreaming, both day and night, so I realize it’s possible I only dreamed I wrote a post. At any rate, it has not reappeared in my drafts folder where I thought, or dreamed, I wrote it. What I love is how comical this seems to me, when before, maybe last year, it might’ve caused stress or anxiety, like a bee swarm before I knew much about bees. When I’m writing a lot, I know I can just write some more. When I’m not writing much, every word feels precious, no matter how bad it might be. And when I’m writing a lot the writing seems better somehow, like I’m hitting more of the right notes,…

Embracing Chaos

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” -Nietzsche There’s nothing like a swarm of bees to remind you of the joys of embracing chaos. Today the bees (from yesterday’s swarm, see post) are happily building a cozy comb while the rain pelts the outside of their log hive and we are all pressing on with our work. I’m finally getting comfortable with the chaos of life, the pandemic, and writing, all swirled together. I’ve spent much of life pushing chaos toward order; who doesn’t love order more than chaos? But I’m learning to appreciate chaos as inevitable, and a good sign when it comes to creativity. I’m finding inspiration in the bees. When bees swarm it looks chaotic and makes people nervous. But if they’ve learned about bees they know it is the least dangerous time, after the bees have…

Secrets of the Writer Bees

Late afternoon on Sunday, a day that began with a hike to several waterfalls in a forest nearby where we live in the Columbia Gorge, I got a text about a swarm of bees nearby. They were congregating at the Moose Lodge in Camas. Sunday afternoons are lazy, dinner over early, and lots of outdoor time if weather permits, but also reading, writing, relaxing. Having already been on a 45-minute hike that turned into a two-hour slosh through mud, but an adventure nonetheless, we were well spent. But the weather was lovely, so once we had brunch and revived we pulled blackberry vines and stinging nettle from the bank in our backyard forest. And now it was evening, time to relax. The hub did not want to add a bee venture to the end of this day, so I said the thing that will usually rouse him. “I’ll go by…

A Year of Going Nowhere

Were you planning on traveling this year? We were going to Chicago in June, meet up with our oldest son’s family, head down to the Henry County fair and watch the harness races for posterity and writing research; my grandfather owned the world champion harness racing horse in 1926 and I’d like to write him into a story. Last year I visited cousins in Geneseo, where my grandmother is from, a re-connection brought about by my mother’s death. In July, we planned to head to Germany through Amsterdam with a stop to see the van Gogh exhibit. Now travel plans appear precarious, if not impossible. I love to travel, but it’s difficult to imagine a relaxing experience, even if and when places open again, at least this year. And that’s okay. Lately, through reading and research I’ve been revisiting Arles, Paris, and Auvers with van Gogh through his letters and…

Collage Words into Your Writing

What are your reading? Let it bleed a bit into your writing.When you run across a phrase or word you love, write it down. Then when you get stuck in your own writing, try collaging in a random phrase or word. I keep some of the beat poets handy for this. But I also find echoes to play with in books on writing or painting. Novels too. And non-fiction. Everything.You’ll be surprised how much fun this is. It can take your story, essay, or memoir in whole new directions.That’s the fun of it. Experimenting and exploring.Try it. I dare you.

Paper doll Mom

Have you ever imagined a character you’re writing, or your mother, as something you might play with, some relic from your past? I’m going through my dead mother’s artifacts when I find a youthful head shot of her, colored and cutout, like the bust of a paper doll. Back before color photography, my mother painted her sepia photos with a set of Marshall’s photo-oils, bringing a rosy glow to her cheeks, shading her lips to set off her straight white teeth, dotting her eyes deep blue, and adding a touch of auburn to her hair. In the 50s, my mother was starlet pretty, a once-upon-a-time model, so the tinted head shot of her, taken before she stood next to the wrong man, is easy to imagine as an iconic paper doll I’d dress with my youngest daughter, the last one left at home. She’s 11, on the cusp of adolescence,…

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