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Monday, January 26, 2015

Winter Passages

I’m not sure if this will last, but I’ve decided to try to photograph at least one sunrise or one sunset a week in 2015. If I do, I’ll have 52 photos to stack side by side.  The effort is helping me to recognize how much beauty remains, even through these dark days of winter.    

But while making my way to the water before sunup in January is doable, oh Lord, it’s cold.  Last weekend, at eight degrees, plus a wind chill off the water, I’m pretty sure I was close to frostbite--which is what happens when one forgets to check the thermometer before leaving.  I climbed back into the car after five pictures and sat blowing on my hands for what felt like forever, before I could bend them enough to hold the steering wheel.  And, yes, I was wearing mittens.  With that, only one picture turned out marginally good. Even with a tripod, the wind wiggled the camera.

As a result, this week I went for the sunset. In weather still cold enough that tears poured out of my eyes, but nothing compared to the weekend before, I headed up to our reservoir, where I’ve never been in the winter.  It was worth it, not only to catch the light, but to witness a skate sailor zipping around the pond.  That was new for me too.  The writing hasn’t been going well, but when I strap a camera on and hike somewhere to capture an image, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Found . . . and Lost

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the calendars my husband has taken to giving me for Christmas each year.  Every month displays a scenic view of, or from, a front porch, with a literary snippet posted underneath the photo.  Each time I turn a page I find stunning images, language to inspire me, and fodder for my reading list.  

One of the excerpts from 2013 was a book called Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Anne Burns, which I couldn’t find in the library, or any book store.  It never occurred to me to download it, so it sat on my list, waiting. Then, in December, while picking through the cardboard boxes at the used book fair held during our annual Festival on the Common, I found a copy and snatched it up.  Oh, gosh. This author scooped me right up and plunked me inside the head of a fourteen-year-old boy from a hundred years ago, and kept me there for over four-hundred pages. Me, middle-aged Liza from 2015, seeing the story through Will Tweedy's eyes, and even more so, his heart.
A few days ago, after I turned the last page, I sat for a while, experiencing that quiet grief that descends when a wonderful book is over, wanting more. What else had Olive Ann Burns written?  I need to know more about this  woman, whose words yanked me to the middle of a dusty southern town in the early nineteen-hundreds, a place where folks still used privy’s,  lit kerosene lamps, where a glimpse of an automobile was an event to chew on over supper.  

I Googled and discovered Olive Ann Burns was born in 1924.  Before writing the novel, she’d been a journalist, and it took her eight years to write Cold Sassy Tree, her first book, published in 1984. She died in 1990, before finishing the sequel.  It was published posthumously. 

After reading that, I grieved for real.  The world has been without her for 25 years, and I’ve just discovered her.  That talent is gone.  Oh, I suppose I'll find the sequel.  But the loss sank way down inside me, far beyond the desire for something to read.  Like I'd missed something so very big.  Days later, I still feel the hurt.  

So, in honor of Olive Ann Burns, here’s a snippet.  And let me tell you this. When I decided to include some of her writing in this post, I turned the pages of the book again.  The scene below is only as good as all the others.  Every single paragraph in the novel demonstrates the skill this lost writer had for her craft.  

She’s gone.  But she’s left such a legacy.

The engin’s roar pierced my eardrums anyway, making awful pain.  I was so scared I could hardly breathe, and there was a strong smell of heated creosote.  Hot cinders spit on me from the firebox.   Yet even as the boxcars clacked, knocked, strained, ground, and groaned overhead, it came to me that I wasn’t dead.  If there wasn’t a dragging brake beam to rip me down the back, I was g’on make it.

Boy howdy, I did some fancy praying.  All it amounted to was “God save me!” Please God save me!’ And then it was “Thank you, Lord, thank you, God, thank you, sir . . .” I guess what made them fancy was the strange peaceful feeling I got, as if the lord had said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” or something like that.  I wasn’t dead! Boy howdy, boy howdy, boy howdy!  I was buried alive in noise, and the heat and the cinders stung my neck and legs and bottoms of my feet. Still and all, that’s what kept reminding me I wasn’t dead.  Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Point and Shoot

I’m at a funny place right now.  I’ve begun querying and recognize it’s time to get busy on another project.  Dutifully, I started working on something new, only to get stuck about three thousand words into it. I know the bare-bones of the story, but none of the tissue and sinew, and that’s ground me to a halt.  In the words of author Lynne Griffin, “Thinking is writing, too.”  It’s time to let things percolate a bit.  

Thankfully, Santa brought me a new camera for Christmas.  I confess.  Ever since we started using digital cameras, I've barely paid attention to apertures and shutters speed, and instead have relied on automatic settings. That, and my environment.  In truth, I can't go wrong with that.  But still, in my mind, I'm kind of a phony as a photographer, and I've decided to see if I can change that.  So, instead of pacing the floors when words are a struggle,  I’ve been out watching the sun rising...and setting.

Words are awesome, but pictures can be kind of cool, too. I just have to wake up in time.

Sunrise, December 27, 2014

Sunrise, January 3, 2015
Sunset, Friday, January 9, 2015

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Just Keep Writing

It's IWSG Wednesday, our friend Alex Cavanaugh's brainchild wherein writers help other writers.  It's an amazing group, and if you want to read more participants, click here.  The ninja captain requested we include our bios this month, along with our IWSG posts.  Here's mine: 

I'm pretty sure I write from my bones.  Now a freelance writer, blogger and developing fiction writer, I spent a lifetime in the corporate world before a job elimination forced a long awaited change in priorities.  The next morning, words broke out and I've never looked back.  My freelance articles and essays have appeared in Boston Globe Magazine, South Shore Living, Adoptive Families Magazine and Writersdigest.com and I'm currently querying a novel. 


I’m not a resolution girl.  I don’t make them, not out loud anyway.  I prefer private goals, being superstitious enough to think if people hear (or read) me say something, I’ll fail. Which leads me to formulate rather ordinary words for my first IWSG post of 2015.  Things like, keep plugging.  Get up every day and plan to write and stick to the plan.  

Admittedly, it's not much.  But if you are looking for more, Writer's Digest posted fifty essays that might offer assistance, and perhaps, inspiration.  I will say this out loud and in print.  I'm planning on reading them all.

 Happy New Year.  Shall we make it a good one?