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.
Last night was the Oscars. I had seen if not all of the movies nominated at least some of them so I was interested in more than the fashions of the evening. I was pulling for a few underdogs and personal favorites. Yes, I loved Spiderman, Into the Spiderverse getting Best Animated Film of the evening. There were plenty of moments I loved and a few things that seemed just right. I don't have a big must have for the Oscars as an evening. Although, over the years I've always had a few moments that stood out to me. Usually, that was the acceptance speeches. The part that many people think of us blah, blah, blah yeah we know - they thanked their Mama and their families and the director and the guy that held the ladder for their 7th grade school play. But to me - that's the moment that counts the most. The thank you's. And the moment where someone gets their due although I'm sorry for the people who didn't. I'm still stinging over Bill Murray not getting the award for Lost In Translation so I feel it when the hurt comes. But - back to Last night.
My highlight Oscar's moment was when Lady Gaga won for best original song. I loved when she said "There is a discipline to passion." Then she went on to speak to people sitting at home about getting back up after they've been knocked down. Once, twice, three times. She said that she had worked very, hard to get where she is. I believe her. Because art is work.
There may be days that are gloriously inspired but even those require finger to the keys, pencil to sketchpad, smile to face. For all of us. All the creative work that we do and I include the art of being human in that. Maybe, mostly in that. But then there was that word - passion. It's a buzzword of mine. When it comes up, I listen. When I say it, I mean it. When I live my life from that passionate place I am spot on, following my true north, and answering the call that is my life. But it still requires me showing up. Although I am extremely passionate about the novel in progress that I am STILL two weeks away from finishing - it requires that other word, Discipline. That word is not one of my favorites in my workbook of words. I've tried it on for size from time to time. For instance - little known fact - for awhile in my life I was what I'd consider a gym-rat. Funny thing that. Day one, day two, day three - not so much of a difference. Day sixty-two, day ninety-one, day two hundred - mind blown what you can accomplish. What things can emerge, change, develop - find their way to completion.
I've always been good on the lock-down. The retreat. The all or nothing. Today -we will move that mountain over there and put it over here. OK. Good deal. Let's go move a mountain. I'm in. But instead if you say to me - today - we are going to go over there with this little shovel and move one shovel of dirt to this spot to that one - I'm out. I'm not a one shovel a day kind of girl. It's why I don't like housework. Because most of it has to be done everyday. Some. A little. Everyday. I don't mind Spring cleaning and painting the shutters and working hard for days or weeks on end. But every, single, day. A little bit. Where you have to get up and do it again. What is this but some strange turn the wheel insanity. It's like saying River, do you want to drive to Clarksville, Tennessee? No, I do not Sam I Am. But hey - River? Do you want to get in the car and drive insanely across the country so that we can watch the sun drop and set into the Pacific. Yes! I'm in.
Back to Gaga. And to Divine Timing because that was in the title up there somewhere.
I have a new book coming out April 2. (The sneak preview kick-off party is at Parnassuss Books Friday March 29 at 6:30 and the whole world is invited.) That strange, peculiar little, genre-busting book is about being a southerner, a novelist, about believing in signs and wonders and it looks like it just appeared from thin air. No book. Ta-da! Book!
But it was actually four years or more in the writing. One draft. The editor liked it and said it just needs a re-write. I rewrote it. The editor liked it and said it just needed a slight tightening and a rewrite. I went through some life changes and when I returned to that draft I didn't like any of it. I threw out the entire book. The whole thing. I sat down and wrote a different book. The editor loved it. And, said it needed a rewrite to just clarify a few things. I rewrote it. Then line edits. It amounts to - a lot of work but it's the work I was born to do. I'm a storyteller. But I can't just lie in bed and the stories find their way to the page. In spite of the fact that the new novel runs through my mind twelve hours a day - it doesn't get the words to you unless I write them down.
If you are a writer, an artist, painter, musician, songwriter, toy train maker, then your work is the same. We must return to the space, the place, the moment, the studio, the sunbeam whatever it is that is the gym of our creating. For a little while in my life I was that girl lifting weights and running on a treadmill six days a week in the gym. That was discipline. For a number of years (not one but many) I said a prayer for a stranger everyday and most days I told someone they were my stranger. That's a different kind of discipline. We'll call that one - inspiration.
What I'd like to live is a passionately, inspired, disciplined life. To realize that the word discipline doesn't distract from the passion because I can't stand the idea that something - anything - would water down my passion.
When Gaga stood up there and said those words I realized, Yeah, when you are as passionate as I am about story, it takes a certain amount of discipline to contain and direct the fire, so that the power ends up where it's meant to be. Maybe, and here's a crazy thought, the more passion present, the more discipline required.
Let me try to connect that Divine Timing thing.
Here's a story of me finding a book at a used book store that had been cast aside. Just lying there. A really old library book from another state. No doubt headed to the trash bin. But when I saw it I knew it was mine. That little free book. Something I wouldn't have bought, ordered, picked up or even read if a friend had pressed it into my hands and said read this. I'd have thought - nope, too old, too outdated, too conservative. Not my cup of Christian - thanks - I'll get my cup filled over here.
The book I found?- Harry Emersons Foskick's The Meaning of Prayer. It was first published in 1949 by - get this - the National Board of the Young Men's Christian Associations. You get my drift on why I wouldn't have bought this book, right? I have a reprint that looks as old as that mountain I was moving earlier in this story. It was reprinted in 1962 and again in the 70s.
The first line of this reprint has a preface that begins,
"This book was first published forty-seven years ago. I was then a young minister in my first parish, still bearing the scars of a nervous breakdown which I had suffered in seminary days."
Stop. the. clock. When honesty abounds in a story, I listen. The preface goes on to talk about how Mr. Fosdick sent off his manuscript saying he didn't think there would be much demand for such a book on prayer and thought if they could ever sell even two thousand copies they'd be lucky. Almost fifty years later he wrote the preface when it had been translated into eighteen languages, and sold close to a million copies. Then this battered little, old copy that was taken from a church library in Kentucky found it's way to me. I have read and underlined and highlighted portions. I have feasted on the words in small portion because they are serious words full of wisdom.
And they were the first thing I thought of during Lady Gaga's speech.
How can you possibly take a cultural icon like Gaga and partner her up with a some old, pastor of Christian theology. Passion. Discipline. Hard work. Faith and fortitude.
Fosdick wrote about a few examples in his work unanswered prayer. About how God has given mankind the ability to pray, the power of prayer but also given us intellect, the ability to think and to work and that one is not to be substituted for the other but to work in Divine partnership together. Like inspiration and writing novels. It still takes some thinking. And some working. I imagine that Lady Gaga has seen a few ups and downs in her life. I actually know very, little about her. But I do know a lot of authors who are either famous, well-known, or on the verge of being discovered. They have all paid their dues and put in their time at the page. They have employed - and here's that word I don't like - discipline.
Today - as I wrap this wordy blog entry - I am praying that your passion finds a new discipline. Because I pray for you what I need for myself. Should you be lacking in passion for any reason, I'll give you some of mine. I've got more than enough to go around. Fosdick quotes The Book of Nehemiah from the Bible which happens to be one of my favorite books from the Bible which surprises people. (I'll tell you why later to save us both some time.) About how Nehemiah prayed to God - and set a watch day and night. About how Cromwell said, "Trust God and keep your powder dry." And, how Spurgeon said, "Pray to God but keep the hammer going."
For writers maybe it means we keep our laptops charged, our pens and notebooks at the ready. Whatever our tools may be I know that it requires that same discipline those gym-rats use to get great biceps. It requires that we show up at the page. Not just on weekend of that wild, wonderful full moon but each and every day. Shoveling that mountain of a novel, one sentence, one word at a time.
I've been doing stuff this morning. And trying not to post anything to facebook because I have numerous deadlines crashing around me today. BUT I woke up feeling just like I did last Monday except I wasn't as spry with the hope and making myself turn the boat of my emotions around. It was more like - God, I'm sorry but I'm depressed. Yes, I think maybe I'm a little depressed. Or maybe worried. Or maybe anxious. And then I thought of you guys because of all of your comments from LAST MONDAY and I thought - Maybe they feel that way, too. So, before I go off slaying the dragons of my deadlines I want you to know that I'm thinking of you. If you woke up with a little cloud hanging over your head your still not alone. The news of Paradise, California has been heartbreaking and soon the news will move on. Just as it has with my beloved Gulf Coast that still needs prayers, money, hands. Not a word in the media and still roofs are missing as it rains, people are homeless, nothing is normal. That enough gives me reason to be blue on this Monday but it's something more than that. It is a ball of mistakes that have rolled up in my front yard and are screaming at me in my sleep. It's been piling on for days. And no matter where I turn, no matter what I do right (and I do plenty right) it's not that voice that is the loudest. It's some ancient internal voice of judgement that has followed me around since I came out of the womb. It is not God's voice. This I do know. But this voice can be powerful in its condemnation. You should have turned left instead of right. You should have, you could have, you would have. If only you had done this or not done that. You've made a mess of everything. This is all your fault. All of it. What's interested me from the standpoint of being able to be intelligent enough (or maybe spiritual enough) to observe this voice is man, has it been piling it on lately. Every day bringing on a new mountain of mistakes and moments newly discovered or old and revisited added to the previous days list.
In J. Philip Newell's Celtic Benediction book of morning and evening prayers Monday looks like this - "In the turbulence of my own life and the unsettled waters of the world today let there be new birthings of your Spirit. IN the currents of my own heart and the upheavals of the world today let there be new birthings of your Spirit."
I reread those words a few times because the turbulence of my own life, the unsettled waters of both the world and my life all seemed very appropriate. That's what I felt and also like my mistakes were threaded into my bone and muscle and then hanging from my skin like odd ends of frayed thread for all the world to see.
My Monday. Your Monday. They may have some shared similarities or maybe you are skipping around singing, OH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING, OH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL DAY! If so God bless you and could you toss up a few notes for the rest of us that are struggling. Could you sing a verse for those of us who just can't sing this morning?
If you have been bombarded lately with feelings of - less than, not enough, too old, too over, too fat, too thin, too tired, too unkept, thin-skinned, wrong color, bad code, no clue. If every time you turn around you just knocked something over, broke somebody's something, tripped on your own tongue, made one more new mistake to add to the mountain that's seems to be crushing you. If you just realized someone just doesn't like you but you don't have a clue why, if you take horrible selfies and then erase them because they all look as old and tired as you feel. If you don't measure up to your own standards much less anyone else's and things don't seem to be getting better but honestly worse by the day and you think - ummm, this doesn't look good. And, then you go out into your day and you SMILE anyway and you like other peoples post and you try to do your job, be you, take care of others, drive another mile, do another thing, sell another widget, cast out another demon and get up and do it again - This prayer is for you.
A New Day
May the light of a new day unfold in your life beginning the moment you read and receive these words. May they begin in you a new work that opens your eyes to the glory of the truth of who you really are. May those old sins of youth or yesterday fall so quickly you are left astonished. May there be in you a smile that defies the gravity of your life situation. In the midst of your battle may you raise your head high, hold out for the strongest kind of magic, and believe with all your might not only in this unseen God but in the power that was gifted you at your birth. That with each continued breath that allows you to remain in this world you may reflect a holy habitation from deep within your soul. May you make eye contact with those around you today and when you do allow them to see the real majesty called - you. May you cling to knowledge that you are a fellow traveler on this journey and were not now or ever meant to be cast off and alone on this wild, ride that is your life. May this day bring with it the surprise of joy. And may that inner voice that declares you broken beyond repair submit to the silence of one final truth, in blessing and beauty you shall continue.
Wishing you an impossible, supernatural peace in the middle of this turbulent world.
Remember when I said I would introduce a new blog called Go Ask My Mama for Friday'. Well, I did. So pretend it is Friday.
You can send your questions for MY Mama who is full of wit, wisdom, sugar, spice, experience - and stories your questions by emailing me at email@example.com but put Your MAMA in the subject line so I can catch those easily.
First question to Mama was from me because I said so. I thought I'd get the ball rolling. My question to Mama was
Question: Mama, who is the bravest person you have ever known?
Mama: Bravest? Of all time?
Question: No, bravest you have personally ever known. (Mama is 80 something years young so she has known a lot of people)
Mama: You have asked me something that I've never thought about. Ask it a different way.
Question: Who have you known in your life who is fearless?
Mama: Nobody. Everyone is afraid. But I can tell you who was the most afraid of anybody I ever knew and that was your Uncle Billy.
Question: How did you know?
Mama: Everybody knew but nobody better than he did.
(Now the storytelling will begin in earnest.)
Mama: One night Billy was sittin outside drinking a beer. Just sittin there when he saw something white moving around in the air that spooked him. He kept calling out - If you are somethin, say somethin - but he didn't get an answer so he took his gun and fired all bullets in the air. Next morning his wife found their white sheets, or what was left of them, hanging on the clothes line full of holes.
"If you are somethin, say somethin." (Mama says this again and laughs. I make a note to steal this real, true line to use in a story sometime. If it shows up in your story I will know you stole it from me.)
Then one night he was riding his old horse home when he heard a rustling up ahead of him in the dark. The bushes were moving and a sound coming from him. In a little while the bushes were rustling on the other side of the road ahead of him and it scared him bout to death so he kept trying to get the horse to gallop to his house but the old horse wouldn't pick up speed. (Mama is rocking as she tells this and as she is talking her rocking gets faster and faster) Cause it wasn't nothing but his dog that had heard him coming and come down to meet him walking along thought the bushes. But he didn't know that. (Now Mama starts laughing again and she is laughing so hard she is having a hard time telling me the rest of the story) He thought it was something come to get him. Finally, he was so scared he slid down off the horse and took off running full out. He got home before the horse did. He was always like that. Jumpy and scared of everything.
Thanks Mama for a great story.
PS - My Mama is the bravest, most fearless person I have ever known.
Wow! It has been way too long since I took time to write and share with you a little news from the hill. In my mind I'm always talking to you, sharing stories and the odd, quirky little things that fill my days. If only you could read my mind. And, I believe some of you can. :)
The green has come in so thick it's wrapped it's arms around the house. Near bout. Almost. The grass is so high out front and going down the hill that the rabbits have moved in. And they have to practically STAND UP to see them. Yes, the grass is that high but did I mention that now the rabbits have moved in and there isn't much more peaceful in the morning than seeing the rabbits nibbling out front while the rooster crows. Not my rooster and I don't have to feed him but I sure would miss him if the folks down there somewhere got rid of him.
My mother missed the sound of a rooster crowing in the morning at the house where I grew up in Panama City. So my uncle got a little rooster and put him in the backyard for her. You just can't take the country out of people who grew up in the country. The rooster would sit up on the chainlink fence every morning and get his crow on. Which is steady and starts when the dawn cracks the edge of light. Mom could hear him bright and early from her bed and it sounded like good old home days. Until the morning that she also heard some neighbors feet running fast and furious past her bedroom window. Then the rooster went missing. No more crowing. Some people just can't appreciate when country comes to town.
I can see Nashville from my porch. Kinda. Well, at night I can see the lights of Nashville as a glow in the eastern sky. That's how close I am but also with all these big trees and birds and raccoons and rabbits and owls and roosters you would think I was a hundred miles away. I have put up bird feeders for Mom and there is a chance that the birds around here have gotten lazy. If the seed runs low they bang on the window and go, Whazup? The hummingbird wars begin right after the rooster sounds off so we have lots of wildlife activity. Some nights the coyotes take up a howl and it stirs me with a wildness. They are in sync and they know something. I think they sing the lament of their people. Of the woods going away little by paved little. And, like that rooster, it's hard to bring a coyote home.
Recently, I took up walking down by the river. There the breeze if there is one will find it's way and the water always brings me back to where I began. It's not salty and it's not the gulf but it's more like my Daddy's creek. It smells some the same. Last afternoon I was there about three or four people stood at the edge with their poles in the water and lines stretched out. Just their profiles, that scene, at once so familiar and a tug on my heart made me smile. I was raised with that simple refrain, What'chu catch? Usually preceded by my Daddy's whistle as he wandered down to meet a boat pulling in at the landing. You can while away a day looking at what people caught and what they used for bait and be the better for it.
Father's Day approaches. I saw a card that read - Still Daddy's little girl. If I could only give it to him. But I have to settle for whispering - Still your girl Daddy. Always will be. And then go on about my business.
That business has been a whole lot of Make Momma Happy Mode. Now, I know what you might say. You can't make anyone happy they have to be happy on their own right. BUT - surely you know some things that people have done for you that has brought love to your door and brought a smile to your face. Mama's soft spot is her plants! OF which she gave away and left many behind when she moved to the hill. So, I have spent some days helping her pot new ones and fixing up the porch for her and she has rocked some and smiled some and so I look at Daddy's picture and since he always loved my Mama something fierce I feel like he is smiling at me just cause I stepped out of my laptop box and did the dirt thing.
Ok, to tell the truth I lost my laptop. That is, I hid it from myself. No, I hid it from any laptop crooks that might break in and steal all my hard work. But then I could not remember where I hit the thing. Hide nor hair. So, I was forced to be constructive in some other way. It never would have happened if I had been able to put my fingers on the keys.
Alright, much more news afoot but I know you have things to do. I'm back on the radio live on Wednesday's at 1:00 on WRFN 107.1 and 103.7 in Nashville. Check out the link for the show to stream live under the ON AIR in menu. I'm working on the final edits for CONFESSIONS which will be out March 2019. The Undercover Reader Posse is such a good time it should be illegal. I'm loving our Secret Saturday calls and you can learn more about that in the link under Reader Posse. The Phonebook Writer Series is about to kick off a great Summer Session so for anyone interested in writing fiction or creative non-fiction stay tuned and check it out. PLUS I have promised to finish my Patreon page and intend to do so by Saturday morning. Mark my words.
Blogging - I am so proud of my students that kicked off their blogs with a bang. More on them and their links soonest! And I am introducing a new Friday Blog series titled - GO ASK MY MAMA! So that you guys can get some of that winning wisdom that anoints my life everyday. :) Get your questions ready. Move over Dear Abby and Lucy in her Psychiatrist box. No one breaks it down like my Mama so you have problems? Issues? Life little balls of string that you can't unwind - Don't worry - You can now GO ASK MY MAMA!
In the meantime - till tomorrow! Love and blessings Ya'll.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.