Monday, June 30, 2008

Bear Hunt

On our trip we went on a bear hunt. Twenty-five bears were given to local artists in Cherokee to do with what they wanted. Fifteen can be found by driving around town. Here are four of my favorites. You must see them in real life to get the full beauty. 

I will write more later about encountering the muse and where she took me.  For now there's a glimpse of the cabin we stayed in during the trip at the top of the page.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Not One Minute Too Soon

Did you ever get the feeling that the walls are closing in on you? I've spent the past few days with the tedious part of writing. I've been going cross-eyed looking over proofs of my introduction and story that will appear in Literary House Review. I have to go over these several times, searching out typos or formatting problems. When I'm proofing another writer's work, this is not such a tough job, but on my own work, that is another story. Those nasty little mistakes such as new when I meant knew hide out in plan view. The whole time my artist child is screaming to write, really write. 

Part of this weekend I spent revising a book review that will appear in Internet Book Review Magazine. Dear American Airlines is the name of the book. I'm not at liberty to talk about it, but people you must read the review when it's published. Making editor changes, once again, makes my artist child throw a tantrum. She is very angry at this point. So, angry she is insisting on listening to Sheryl Crow's Best of Music on my I-Pod. Rebellious to the core.

And this brings me to the best part of this post, the part artist child is itching to tell you. We leave for a four day trip to the Smoky Mountains this week. This trip hasn't come a minute too soon. I can already feel the cool, crisp morning air. The rows of mountains, resembling ocean waves, gives artist child a peace she can't find anywhere else. The important tools are ready to be packed away in the car. A writer never leaves home without her laptop and writing notebook. And, of course there is the I-Pod. Artist child needs her music to create. 

We will stay in a little cabin not far from Raven Fork River and only three miles from the entrance to the park. Artist child is the boss on these trips. She insists that all writing projects are left at home. No work allowed. What she takes is imagination and of course the muse is somewhere hiding, waiting for just the right moment to reveal herself. There seems to be a trend among artists, especially writers, not to believe in muses. I'm of the old school. My muse is both my best friend and enemy. She flirts with me and then disappears, leaving me to do the hardest part of my creative work. But always she knows best. And always she channels some delicious character or scene my way.

I know not to wait on her because she'll never show. Instead, I begin to string words together into sentences, paragraphs, and pages. But she never fails to appear. She especially loves when I give artist child a trip. Her visits are then full of insight and inspiration. They are such good friends after all. When artist child and muse play together, I'm reminded of why I turn down that lunch date with friends, or unplug my phone so I don't get caught up in conversations. I'm brought back to pen and paper. To images and silly poems. To Sheryl Crow and funny jokes. 

Sometimes we can get so lost in the career part we lose sight of the art. My trips to the mountains refill the well. Have you ever slept in a tent beside a rushing creek? Or dozed on a warm boulder, absorbing its wisdom? The Cherokee believe rocks hold wisdom and teach us. Have you watched the mist settle in the mountain valley for so long, sprites and fairies begin to appear in the dusky light? This is the magic of taking artist child along. She makes up for all her whiny ways. 

We're packed and ready to hike to that one waterfall that allows us to walk behind the wall of water without getting wet. While there, we'll stand still on the edge of a world we only visit. We'll explore the old cabins and cemeteries. Scenes, characters, images will paint on our canvases their own unique stories. Imagination will be the rule of the day. 


Monday, June 16, 2008

Workshop, Father's Day, and The Muse Speaks

Last week I faced one of my biggest fears in the face. I taught a writing workshop to thirty rising 3rd graders to teens. It's one thing to teach adults what you know about writing. It is quite another to approach a large group of children that possibly 'had' to be there. It didn't take me long to fall in love. The group was so creative. We made friends as they revealed their wonderful imaginations. It was a magical night as we built a story together. We concentrated on character, setting, and plot. We hung out long past our allotted time. I will teach a writing workshop to the adults in the fall.

On Sunday we did what most fathers in our area wanted to do for Father's Day. We played hooky from church and took to the road. Here's my hubby and daughter, spending quality time together at the lake. Please notice the bunny ears that have appeared close to Hubby's head. Mom is on shore taking time to finish her latest book review. 

Everyone must buy Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek when it comes out on August 26th. It is one the most profound books I've read. Watch for my book review. 

Next week we leave for a trip to the Smoky Mountains. I'm already planning on what to take: my hiking boots, i-pod, and laptop. Who needs clean clothes and food? :). When I a new project is stirring, several things happen. The first is the giving birth dream. I always dream I'm giving birth. I can feel the child kicking in my womb. It is weird. Then not so long after the dream I get an antsy feeling. You know like something is about to happen but hasn't yet. Sometimes it takes a few weeks but I'll be somewhere doing something and I see a picture, a friend is talking, or a sentence will shoot through my head. I never know what will trigger the yearning, but when it hits, I know a big project is brewing. Yes, I've had the dream, the antsy feeling, and last week I picked up a book on churches in the Smoky Mountain Park. Bam! The yearning feeling nearly knocked me to my knees. I pulled the book off the shelf. One picture from 1915 keeps calling to me. It is a picture of an old bridge crossing a river. The bridge is full of people and the banks of the river are dotted with several people. The women are wearing long dresses and the men suits and Sunday dress hats. In the river stands who I presume is a preacher and a man about to be baptized. 

More than once this weekend I've been moved to look at this photo. I've learned when all this happens, I just wait, bide my time, and soon the character begins to speak. The exciting thing is I will have the opportunity to visit this very bridge next week. I can stand on it as long as I'd like. I can also walked the quarter of a mile into the woods and visit the church nearby. Maybe if I'm lucky the character will choose then to speak to me. 

Stranger things have happened. 


Friday, June 13, 2008

Would You Know A Ghost If You Saw One?

We leave for the Smoky Mountains in less than two weeks. I always look forward to making the trip. The rewards are wonderful. But today I'm thinking about the first visit I ever made. 

Hubby has been going to the mountains ever year since he was born. For the longest time they went to the same place, a campground just inside of the park, called Smokemont. My first tagging along on this trip took place when I knew Hubby almost a year, 1992. He was so excited to take me camping. Now you guys got to realize my idea of nature back then was walking around the block of my urban neighborhood, but I went. And it rained. It always rains at this campground when it's not raining three miles down the road. 

On the fourth night of our seven night stay, the stars were out and the temps were cold. Hubby and I stayed up past all the family, eight more members, had gone to bed. Remember we were still young and romantic. We just needed time to stare into each other's eyes and be in love. He He. That night we just sat in front of the fire until it turned two in the morning. No one in the campground was stirring. I was so tired from all the hiking I couldn't move from my chair. Hubby was awake watching the fire. 

I looked up and saw a figure moving toward us from the little road. Now, this is a National Park with no electricity except in the bathroom. A bathroom stood several campsites over from us, but its outside light could be seen. It did not light our campsite. The figure came closer. I looked at Hubby, who looked back at me. On its path, the figure would walk right through the middle of the campsite instead of down the path that took you to the bathroom. I remember thinking of all the nerve. The figure did not carry a flashlight or lantern. As it came into the campsite I saw it was a woman. Her hair was piled on her head in a ball with lots of little wisps curling around her face and down her neck. She had no shoes. I noticed this first because the direction she had come took her over gravel and through some tangled brush. She looked to be in her early thirties of spanish decent. She wore an old fashion slip that hung to the ground. Not what one would wear to sleep in while camping. The slip was edged with what looked to be handmade lace. I know my antique clothes and this looked like a slip from the mid to late eighteen hundreds. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. 

She walked in the middle of our campsite, right past the big fire, stood, looked at me, but more like through me. Around her neck was a tiny cold chain. The expression on her face made me think she had to be sleepwalking because she wasn't there with me and Hubby. She turned away and continuing walked toward the bathroom. 

This particular bathroom had a door that screeched so loud when it was open it woke me in the night. 

I looked at Hubby. "She was weird."

"What was her deal? She gave me the creeps." 

I kept waiting for her to open the bathroom door, but never did I hear the sound or see her walking away. 

A few minutes later I looked at Hubby. "She never went to the bathroom. The door didn't squeak." 

He shrugged. 

"Let's go in the tent." And we did. 

The next morning I still couldn't get the woman off my mind. I decided to walk in the same direction as she had come. If she were real, she had to cross a rushing river and walk through heavy woods, not to mention the afore mentioned gravel and tangle of brush. 

Who was this woman? I did some research when I got home and found that two cemeteries were on the Smokemont property. A logging camp had settled there in the late 1800s before the land became part of the park.

I told my future mother in-law at the time and she only smiled and said, "Child you've seen what my granny would have called a haint." 

I've been back to Smokemont countless times. The woman has never showed up again. I have not camped in the campsite either. I refuse to test fate, and mostly I go to bed around ten. 

But the woman is always remembered. The kids and adults alike ask to hear the story each time we stay, always in front of the campfire. 

Would you know a ghost if she came walking up to you? 


Monday, June 9, 2008

Too Hot For Wilbur

This weekend it was so hot in Georgia, even the pigs came to the beach! We spent the day at the lake Saturday. The water felt like a warm bath, but it was better than sitting in the house. You have to be careful in this kind of heat. The lake can fool you into thinking you're cool when your body is getting too much sun. I know because I spent most of my time in the lake and didn't drink as much as I normally would. I could feel the effects by the time I left.  We did get a strong storm on Friday that dumped lots of rain on us, but the temps still remained high. They are calling for a break in the temps this week. Chance of rain is in the forecast too. We leave for the mountains next week. Yeah!

This week I teach my writing workshop. I always get nervous when I stand up in front of people. I also am on a book reviewing roll. I have four great upcoming novels to review. 
  1. Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles
  2. Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek
  3. A Dangerous Age by Ellen Gilchrist
  4. The Plague of Dove by Louise Erdrich 
It so happens two of these authors are my favorite authors and I own all their books. Along with pay, I receive a hard cover book instead of the customary advanced copy in paperback. What fun! 

I also have a new Black Mountain story coming out in Literary House Review. This is a annual print journal that is a beautiful anthology of stories and poetry. I will also write the introduction for the book. 

Novel work is coming along. I am submitting chapters to my writing group. They are wonderful help. All writers should have a group where they can go to get trusted feedback on their work. No matter how good the writer, they always need another set of eyes. 

So, there you go. This post has mostly been about me, but I'd like to mention the sand art is once again Hubby! 


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Artist In The Making

As I said in early posts, we're getting slammed here with the humidity and temps, but mostly the humidity. It feels like August in early June, but that is the weather in Georgia. Yesterday one of my dear friends called. We hadn't talked in weeks, so I settled Daughter with her supper in front of the TV--I know I'm bad--and started playing catch up. We talked about I-Pods, writing, family, the amount of water that is needed to make it through the day. It was glorious. Then, I remembered Hubby's supper in the oven that by the way did get just a teeny bit overcooked. I entered the kitchen and there sat Daughter, who is eight, scrubbing at her legs with wet paper towels. The empty paper towel tube sat next to her on the white floor. 

The scrubbing was only spreading a white substance up her legs. It also covered her arms and hands. She took one look at me on the phone and said, "Don't tell 'Friend's Name' about this."

Now normally this would give me a melt down, especially when I saw the little white footprints on my hardwood floors. The look on this child's face and maybe the heat caused me to begin to giggle. I giggled until I cried. Maybe I was hysterical. 

"What have you done?" 

Daughter, catching on that she would live another day, smiled. "I painted you a picture." 

And that she did. I received a lime green paper with white hand prints and foot prints. She painted a memory that will stay with me forever. This is one of those stories I'll tell when she is grown and married. The ones we tell our grandchildren to get our children back, to plant ideas in their little minds.

I read somewhere that an artist suppressed her art for years because her mother threw a fit when she painted on her bedroom wall. Well, Daughter doesn't have to worry about her creativity being blocked this time :). 


Monday, June 2, 2008

Stimulating The Economy

Well, Hubby and I got our stimulus check. I swore I would not spend any of it, but you know it was our patriotic duty to boost the economy, so we compromised and took a third to spend. Yeah! Now, I've lusted after a new i-pod ever since the new design came out, but I just couldn't justify buying one since my daughter bought me a shuffle Christmas of 2006. It was everything I needed, and she had it engraved. 

What to do with my spending money? I could go on a book buying spree! This was tempting, but I just couldn't get that slim, sleek nano out of my mind. So, you know what happened. I broke down and bought one. What else could I do when I saw it behind the locked case. I could put all my podcasts, audiobooks, and music in one place.  I can even watch videos if I wear my strong glasses and store my favorite photos on it for showing off. It's a beautiful thing. 

Hubby bought a new tent. Yes, camping at its best. And we still put two-thirds of the check in savings, so we're feeling good. We are off for a vacation to the mountains at the end of the month with Jack's side of the family. This will be our first all-family vacation in years. I'm looking forward to the mountains. I will take my writing notebook and maybe my laptop. Who knows I might get some good fodder. That's how the Black Mountain series began. 

Did I mention that I hate summer :). The temps here promise to be 89 today. It's the humidity that kills us 84%. It causes chaos. This morning we're nearing eighty and it's not even nine o'clock. My morning started early. Little Daughter woke up at seven again this morning. So, there goes quiet journaling time. Older Youngest Daughter called as Hubby was going out the door to work. She is going to have a baby in October, and the whole situation is beginning to sink in, along with our damp, oppressive heat. Hubby decides to come back up to the front door to tell me something he forgot. Little Daughter is yelling to get Older Youngest Daughter's new phone number.  Older Youngest Daughter is still talking, and I'm crazy! 

This is summer! Gone are the quiet mornings where the neighborhood empties out and leaves me to the birds and hum of the traffic on the nearby highway. Gone are the days when I don't speak a word after seven-thirty until I pick Daughter up at school. It is culture shock at its best. 

But this morning I will buckled down and work on another novel chapter. The whole summer stretches out in front of me. This is the time of year Publishing takes a breath and relaxes a little until August. I have time. I will write, just not in long stretches.