Late Reflections during Lent in Real Time. Tis still the season.
From my Instagram this week -
Spring descended on Nashville. I did a live interview on the Drew Marshall show which ran long so I missed an appointment. Realized Percy Warner was a block way, dug out my old sneakers from the car and went - walking. The parking spots were filled to overflowing. There were people reading in the sunshine on the green, little kids wading in the creek, dogs smiling in abundance, people jogging-walking-loving being alive and then someone had the presence of mind to bring BUBBLES! They filled the air, floated across the park and for a minute - we were all free.
Ruminating on Authors
One of my favorite authors, Markus Zusak did this same thing when he presented at Parnassus Books for his new book release, Bridge of Clay. Not only did he have a great smile at the ready - he had that charming Aussie accent. But the single, cutest thing about him, the heart-endearing kind of cute, was that he kept telling stories to a standing room only crowd who would have followed him to Australia to hear him tell just. one. more. And that's what he kept saying - Wait, wait, let me tell you just one more story. That's a writer's writer right there!
Out on the Ledge - Days till Book LAUNCH!
Another writer's writer par excellence is southern author Silas House, Southernmost. He's as great a man as he is a writer, one of the group of guys I call my Mud Brothers. So, when I was informed he'd be doing a guest author Interview with me for Musing, the Parnassus Newsletter I couldn't think of anyone I'd rather have a heart-to-heart with about the upcoming release of Confessions of a Christian Mystic. You can read the interview in full here.
Reflections on Reviews
Another surprise and wonder was the review of Confessions that was just released yesterday by Chapter 16. As I told someone - Wow! You don't really see yourself or your words until these reviews roll out from behind the curtain. Did I say all that? Did I show that? Did I reveal that private thing? Yes, It seems I did. Now, - gotta take the show on the road and get up, stand behind those words in this world. Here's the link to the Chapter 16 review if you'd like to read.
Everything now is coming down to the moment this new collection comes out into the world. I have moments of panic, moments of peace, a strange longing to runaway and hide coupled with a desire to stand on a mountain and tell the truth. My writer friends stay - just breathe. My non-writer friends say - just breathe. The Pulpwood Queens International Book Club (who chose Confessions as their April Book of the Month) say - just breathe. It's the kind of advice I do well to give other people. And as I write these words Sara's playlist from Spotify is playing in my ears and a new song by Elliot Root comes on and he is singing - Don't forget to breathe.
Please check my events page for the cities I'll be visiting which is being updated weekly. Also, verify the time via the bookstores website. In other words - don't trust me to get it right in the middle of this wonderful madness. I do so hope to see you soon and on the road.
First up is the sneak launch party at Parnassus Books March 29 in Nashville. Music by the incredible Ross Holmes and Sara Masat begins at 5:45 so come early to enjoy. I'll be reading and sharing beginning at 6:30. Wine, story and song. It's going to be a great time!
Then I'll be heading south to Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS for the official Launch DAY event April 2 and meeting up with the Pulpwood Queens of Jackson!!!! Yay! And followed by a visit to Southern Literary Mecca of a city, Oxford, MS at Square Books in Oxford (their event location is Off-the-Square).
Words and stories to follow but in the meantime. Look up at that sky. Soak in the blossoms. And remember - just breathe.
Friday is such a wonderful day to say - WHAT DID I EVEN DO THIS WEEK? I mean where did it go? Which made me think - I should write stuff down then I'd know.
I broke up a dog fight between Kevin the Rescue and Duncan the Dangit. Blending a family can be difficult when one of you has been a survivor eating from trash cans and possibly surviving on strange little creatures that run through the night (I'm not thinking about that part but I do kinda sleep with one eye open just in case I'm looking tasty). The FAT CAT STARTED IT with a HISS and the dogs bumped into each other trying to get away. Hissing starts a lot of problems always. If you are in an elevator and someone hisses at you there will be trouble before you can get out at the next floor. If you hiss at me in an elevator I will think you are turning into some kind of zombie thing because we are in an elevator in a medical building and they have been experimenting on you. I am not going to be your next zombie thing. So stop hissing. Sure, I have days where I'm tried enough to think - ok, sure just go ahead and eat my brain but then I will think NO!!!! I do not like hissing and I will think of Mom's fat cat and how many times I've had to clean that litter pan (the cat has been on a diet for weeks and the pan is still full every night. She does this out of spite) and I will take my fifty thousand pound purse and clobber you. I will go batcave crazy on you so that you will take those zombie fingers and try to escape. Crazy will neutralize zombie. Because let's face it you just left that doctor office and are just having the first twitches of what's to come and I'll be long gone and on the highway before you get that full on zombie strength.
Week in Review.
My adorable grandson told me if I didn't stop singing in the car he was going to throw up. So I sang louder. To which he replied - I'm not kidding ZAZA if you don't stop singing I'm going to throw up. When I checked the rearview mirror he was searching for something to use as a bucket. This actually happened a few weeks ago but to prove I don't hold grudges I picked him up for a sleep over this week. He ate watermelon and read books and watched Mickey mouse and helped make biscuits and ate more watermelon and played in a that little seven dollar pool like we were at the Holiday Inn. Laughter and storytelling ensued. I did not sing.
My mother used to sing to me. I never told her that she was about to make me throw up. The singing always came with rocking. I was a sucker for a good rocking so no matter what she sung I was quiet and just took in a good rocking. She had a regular playlist. These were my lullabies.
*Keep a moving Dan he's a devil not a man and he (something about lying) and water. It's a song about a man on a horse going through the desert with no water and they are both going to die and you know it even when you are four years old.
*Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley cause poor boy your bound to die. This is a song about a boy being hung and who is going to die.
*The green Green Grass of home. - Pretty much ditto
*Frankie and Johnny were lovers. - somebody dies but this one was at least upbeat
*Beautiful, beautiful brown eyes - I'll never love blue eyes again. Or something like that. I think somebody dies.
*Amazing Grace. - Nobody dies in the song but it is sung at every funeral I've ever attended.
Then I grow up and wonder what with the funerals and the lullabies why I write something called Southern Gothic fiction.
I went to the doctor this week and Mama went to the doctor this week. I was in and out. When I go to the doctor with Mama it is an all day event. Or it feels that way. We must pack three bags for Mom. One that is her purse that weighs 150,000 pounds which I offer to carry because I'm a good daughter. I do not understand what in the world can make this woman's purse so heavy. You would think she is smuggling guns. (She's not for the record for little robots that pick up things like that and report them to the authorities it's just gummakeupmedicinehairbrushchainpurseextrajewelry-penspapercheckbookwalletpictureshairclipsgemclipslipstick-fourteenpagesofnoneofyourbusinessandsoon) We have another bag that is just for her book and her cold water and extra tissues. We have another bag that will go unnamed. We must be a sight to behold as we totter to the elevator with me carrying the bags and holding her hand to help her walk only by now I can't walk so we just look like two drunks trying to make it out of the bar except we are just trying to get into the office and sign her in where I will tell them a story about why we are late because of what she decided she HAD TO DO right when it was time to get in the car. Fill in the blank. There is always something that is CRUCIAL WHEN IT IS TIME TO GET IN THE CAR. As a matter of fact, I always have the car already running when this happens. The dogs are barking because they think they want to go even though it is 106 in the shade outside because they are air-conditioned and know nothing of what lies ahead.
By the time I get Mama home we both need to take a nap. And that is that day.
WEEK IN REVIEW
I moved more boxes. i have been moving mama for three years and forty two hours. I have made one million trips to florida. I have carried more boxes than anyone my age should care unless they work for a moving company. My biceps do not reflect the amount of work I have put into this. Why is this? I should look like someone named Greta with good genes. I blame my lack of muscle definition on some dna factor which may trace it's way back to my Memaw when I think of it because she was kind of roundy. The boxes are now just "thrown down" as Mama would say and piled up in a room because I have run out of places to put things. REALLY RUN OUT. So they are just sitting there waiting for me to do something. They look at me and I look at them but we are at a stand off because I don't know what to do. I have two storage sheds in the yard now full of more boxes. They should just rest and go to sleep because they are not going anywhere anytime soon.
I went to read stories to the little wolfpack. They scream ZAZA when I come through the door like I am Cher and they are groupies. They gather/pile around me while I read them big, beautiful books procured at Parnassus and shove one another out of the way trying to be the person sitting next to me or in my lap. Other than a little crowd control on my part we have a great storytime then they smother me with hugs (hang on my ankles) as I try to get out the door. I am always amazed at this. This absolute ZAZA power thing. It's the best role I've ever played in my life. That and being Big Dog's person. I was great at that too. (Insert tear, misses big dog)
WEEK IN REVIEW
All in all, in the middle of everything wild and wonderful it was a lovely week and it continues. I wait with baited breath (what does that mean? does that mean fishy breath? who wants fishy breath?) for editor A. up new york way to send me her thoughts/notes/andsoforth on the latest American Mystic manuscript. I'm sending a short-short story I wrote titled Civil War to a national competition because I've not written a short-short story previously and I've never entered a short story competition before this month and I want to win something. But I was really thinking of an all expense paid trip to Europe. I wrote another short story that I don't like except for the first sentence that may really be a novel. I haven't rewritten my mystery novel because it occurs to me I have to basically keep all the bones and rewrite all the rest and that is a SERIOUS REWRITE which is a long way from done. I have four novels in process. One of them needs to be finished and published.
I am behind on my class for Theoretical Physics. So now I need to go cram some string theory.
And I need to call the bug man because there are some creepy things showing up that I don't recognize and have never seen. I keep trapping them in things so that they die so that I can show the bug man so I have dead things here and there under glass. Just keeping it cozy.
That's the view from the hill in my world. Hope things are sassy in yours.
It was all Mercy and Magic last night as The Porch, a Nashville writer's collective hosted it's 3rd annual fundraiser. The Green Door Gourmet opened it's doors to board members, supporters, writers and fans and rolled out a great evening in support of the fine art of storytelling in both spoken word and song.
I had a fine 'backstage' seat as the official Parnassean on duty womaning up the Parnassus book table. Wally Lamb took a seat beside me in the darkened corner as we listened to Mary sing, "We all could use some Mercy now, which seemed like the most appropriate anthem for the country. As a mother of two sons who are veterans from different wars I was more than a little moved by Mary's work with soldiers in a special songwriting project dealing with images from where they've been and what it's like back home.
Sometimes you don't know what an author is like when you happen to fall in love with their work, read them from afar. It's always a pleasure to meet the personality behind the page and delighted to report that Wally Lamb is down to earth, patient, kind, with a genuine smile and father's heart. He spoke of this 18 years of work teaching a writing group at a women's prison and closed the evening reading a piece written by a 'lifer' that described the concept of time from a perception most of us will never understand except through works like that. I love a man who has so many bestsellers and dares to close the evening reading words from another.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the good work going on at The Porch check out their website, classes, offerings and happenings. The brainchild of Katie McDougall and Susannah Felts, The Porch provides a space for writing development in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. One of the things that is used often in conversation regarding the classes is the wide diversity of ages, backgrounds, education, lifework and so forth that the students bring to each class. I've had the pleasure of teaching a few classes at The Porch and I agree. This wild diversity for each workshop brings with it an incredible enriching experience for all those who attend.
Watch for news of an upcoming podcast launch in partnership with Nashville's NPR station. It's going to go all kinds of crazy National before we know it.
It's this kind of creative work that Nashville produces at its best. The kind that promotes not only storytelling but story listening. Resulting in a compassionate, diversely rich, deeply enriching experience. There's never been a better time for that Nashville type of unified, collaborative storytelling to take the National stage.
(Note to reader. These blogs are written for your pleasure and to keep the well of words pumping. They are not proofed, corrected, or improved. Read at Your Own Risk. Comma queen buddies - you might as well go ahead and faint now.)
35,000 feet plus some.
My head against the window watching the clouds from the last seat. rear seat. last seat tot the left. corner pocket. No transfer, no connect. I’m rushing into a three hour seat and wait for the right shuttle bus to carry me to another shuttle bus bound for Anacortes where I’ll sit and wait again for the San Juan islands ferry that will eventually land me into the waiting arms the amazing musical genius of, Susan Osborn and Orcas Island.
I’m no newbie to this. It’s my third rodeo for this gathering which readily explains that box of red wine traveling in my suitcase. A long across the entire country travel in a day can be rusty work. And overtired is trouble. It's where the gremlins of regret snatch and bite and find their entrance to worry my mind to hell and back. AT some eventual night's landing I'm planning to raise a boxed glass to God and celebrate the Kindlings tribe. The gremlins can take a hike.
This is a journey I planned to fast and pray for. Very specifically. As the Kindlings enter a new season with the founders if not stepping down trying to step aside there are questions about what does the future look like when the pure Divine magical inspiration and talent of Dick Staub and Nigel Goodman have brought the Kindlings to life (a serious nod to the time of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien and their group hanging in the pub, drinking and discussing God and literature and faith in such a passionate way that the pub stayed packed with people simply trying to get close enough to overhear the conversation.
Turbulence. Seat Belts. No one get up. The plane shifts sideways, rides pockets of unseen air in a blue sky, rattles, hushes passengers.
I didn’t fast. Not alcohol. Or sugar. Not sweets. Or meat. Or movies. Nothing. However - prayed I did. In my passing thoughts, in my love and concern and care for this group that has consequentially touched my life. Who remain my tribe.
Then there was that whisper of spirit, those words of wisdom that surface that some of us attribute to God and some of us attribute to the Holy Ghost, and some of us to the Universe, the all-knowing collective consciousness, our ancient ancestors. The bottom line is when wisdom speaks there is a cool confidence. An all knowing. A spot on, you can bet on the race, take it to the bank - sure thing.
Wisdom sounds like clear, cool water. It makes crystal sense immediately. That voice said - Perhaps the journey is a prayer.
Leaving Nashville this morning, getting on a long flight to Seattle, waiting for hours for the shuttle to Anacortes, then waiting at the Ferry for the right ferry and after an hour on the ferry finally arriving ‘on island’ is indeed a type of pilgrimage. It is a trip that requires determination, patience, fortitude. A touch of adventure and a willingness to ride the raw air rattling us again so that words lose focus. Some clutch arms. Some read on. I’ve fallen asleep in the most notorious of storms somewhere out from Denver. I am untroubled by turbulence. In the air. Totally - unmoved. Beyond reason. Something in me leans in to flight. Soars my heart, clings to the landscape of clouds against blue. Of the earth quilted softly below in a grand scheming pattern that says, Hey now, we’ve got this. The roads all lead home.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been praying on planes for so long that I’ve casted a karma net of good vibes no matter. But this thing I do. I get on the plane. I sit by a window. And as the plane lifts, breaks the bond of gravity I pray for the safety of the destinies it holds. All those lives, all those stories. That their absolute purpose be fulfilled. It’s just what I do.
A thousand years ago my mother and sister saw me off to a small connector flight from Tallahassee to Ft. Lauderdale. Something about the plane didn’t bode well. Walking toward it I almost turned around, found another flight. Later I would discover that my mother and sister were standing watching me board and had that same sinking, pinched feeling that all was not well.
We prepared for take off as I considered my options, of causing a scene and asking for the door to be opened so that I could get off. Then the plane began to taxi the runway and pick up speed. Too late, I thought. Too late, I knew. Then - perhaps for the first time in my flying life as the plane picked up speed faster and faster - and just as the plane was lifting off, I said a prayer for everyone on that plane just as an explosion hit outside the window, the wheels were just lifting off and came slamming back down to the runway, people screamed. It’s a gut reaction. The plane began to taxi sideways backing down. Firetrucks came screaming out and we were calmly deplaned. Somehow a tire had exploded and sent pieces into an engine causing a shuffle of hushed chaos.
Waiting to get off as the firetrucks hosed down the engine, my seat-mate said, “Someone was sure saying their prayers.”
“I was.” Quietly, confident. Sure as a fast dog, a good bet. Crystal clear. There might have been fifty people praying on that plane but the prayer I felt was mine. There was something about that moment, something bold and sacrificial, visceral and passionate, something bigger than I am. Full of more compassion and love than I posses. I assure you.
We boarded the next plane. Same assigned seats. The man turned to me before take off and asked, “So, how’s this one.”
“It’s all good,” I told him and closed my eyes. “We’re all good.”
That night was so long ago that I was not yet a mother, not published, not broken, not rebuilt, not so many things.
Years of blessings and times of trouble. Bouncing, jostling life turbulence that threatened to crack me to pieces. But sometimes the faith I have in reaching my final destination finds me right where I’m standing. At sea level looking out to the horizon and in spite of everything still believing in destiny. In the Divine. In a wild sort of rise above, beat beyond defy the odds. Even down at that brown, broken ground level I'll still choose to cling to the expectation of my life.
Just missed a plane. And now, I am Laptop open, earphones in, with my music playing loud enough to drown out a thousand people having one way cell conversations. And since I can't listen to music without moving my head and my body following I look like those crazy people driving like they are on the dance floor.
After many years of flying (add many, many to that), I have missed maybe two planes in my life. This being one of them. Not that I haven't had my share of close calls. I've had my share, your's, and four of your neighbors.
So I had to make that phone call. The phone call where you tell your host that ummm, you are ever so imperfect and will not be there for dinner. Which sets the stage for me showing up late tonight and speaking all day tomorrow and telling - the bona fide truth.
I am imperfect. Some days I am a little more together, a little more productive, a little more all that. But many days find me rushing and barely hanging on and laughing and being uber human. Today is one of those days as I heard them saying if you are on this flight to Kansas City - well, you should already be on it because the doors. are. closing. I was 30 seconds away. So close.
My KC connection was ever so gracious and now I'm airport parked where I'm taking time to simply breathe. And be. And think how it shouldn't take a missed plane to get me to a place where I can sit. But not being one for totally sitting unless I'm rocking on a front porch, I'm choosing to lose myself in story. Mine and the novels I'm carrying on board. (Eventually)
All while I listen to Seal singing in my ears, "Sometimes, we all have to get a little . . ."
*(A special real life salute to the memory of the lives lost on 911 in flight and on the ground. God's unmeasured peace be with their family and friends as they live through this day.)
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.