Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tea Goes With Writing Too

"...let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines are heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things." ~ Kakuzo Okakura

Isn’t this a beautiful piece of writing? I love “soughing of the pines”, but mostly I am just hearing rain race through the gutters the last few days. Rainy days make for two things: many pots of hot tea and writing. In my case, the last three days have been writing, editing, editing, print, and edit again. I wanted to try a western for an upcoming contest…a romantic western in my case.


I wanted to do a story of place, to capture the Old West. But the story took a turn and I ended up with a story of a cowboy and woman instead. Hum, what happened here?  Well, for one thing, I decided to enter it in a western short story contest that had a limit of 3,000 words. Wow, there went a lot of my lovely details of the land. I can always go back and rewrite it another day with another market in mind I guess.

I think of Jack Schaffer’s writing. He was one of the greatest western writers ever, and he had never traveled further west than Ohio! His book, Shane, was a small but mighty volume. Who can forget the little boy calling Shane…or Shane’s devotion to Marian? It is a simple tale but packed with morality lessons.

Already I am looking forward to tomorrow when I can put the kettle on. I am not tired of the cinnamon and orange smells wafting through the house from my favorite brew. The forecast is for clearing a day or two, then more rain by the weekend. Tea before a trip to the post office to mail manuscripts in the morning, and then I will restock my reading basket for the next rainy days…or maybe I had better stock up on paper for writing? Either way, it sounds like divine time to me!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Red Kimono

I pay my dues to OWL (Ozark Writers League), but I have never made a meeting, just like I have never attended a Missouri Writers’ Guild meeting. Some reason always sets me back, keeps me from attending. I have never met Jan Morrill who is presently the OWL president, but I did just finish her novel, The Red Kimono.

The title alone tweaked my imagination. When I kept seeing references made to the book, I decided I had better check it out. I was not disappointed in the story I found set in an era I favor. The characters are introduced and the story unfolds just as WWII begins for Americans. When Black American Terrence Harris’s father is killed at Pearl Harbor, his anger and anguish lead him to join two  White boys in an attack on a Japanese American man who happened to be the father of his friend Nobu Kimura.

The novel moves back and forth between events of the Kimura family who are rounded up for Japanese internment camps and the Harris family. The novel shares a quiet but vivid picture of how lives were altered here at home, not just in the battles of war. Morrill subtly and sometimes not so subtly raises questions for readers to answer in their own minds.

What about prejudice and hatred…where do they begin? What is right and wrong; is everything black or white? How do we handle forgiveness? Are forgiving and forgetting the same thing?

The story is a solid tale told in frank terms, but the author does not rely on vulgar language, graphic details or sex scenes. My first thought when I closed the cover was how I would like to teach this novel to young students. I think the story is ripe for discussion for any group though.

Morrill did a fine job with this novel, and the book jacket says she is already working on a sequel to the book. I think we will see lots more out of Jan Morrill…and maybe someday I will meet her somewhere besides on the page.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Are You Writing Today?

If you are a regular reader of Natalie Goldberg books, then you are aware she mixes Zen, sitting meditation, and journals filled with free writing into a mixed stew of thoughts and outlooks. Her basic tenet espouses one has to  stop talking about writing and just do it. This is good advice for any writer and if followed, will produce some filled pages at least.

I was disappointed in Goldberg’s last book and thought she was repeating things she had said before but for a new dime. I told myself it would be the last book I bought by this author. However, I waffled and bought The True Secret of Writing. What I found was an enticing attitude  towards both writing and life. I enjoyed most of the pages. I will probably read it again someday.

On the book's pages, I found a few gems worthy of notecards on my writing wall:
It’s exhilarating to write!

…loving to read, even when you don’t have enough time, is a sign of a writer.
Freedom is not rejection, a getting away, but rather a resolution, the sand of our cells settles right down where we are…

Don’t struggle to understand practice; show up, be there, and, like osmosis, the teachings will enter your whole body.

You are the treasure you are dedicated to.
We are deluded to think we can find a solid island of safety and forever hold on tight.

Lists can be simple but…they are one of the true backbones of writing.          
No matter how you try to orchestrate your day, it seems to have its own composition.

The returning over and over builds the spine of practice. Can you have the heart for that?

Shut up and write!

Thanks, Natalie!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer's Scarlet Globes

Messy you say? Yep, a tee-total mess here with tomatoes. My days are often disjointed, interrupted, wasted messes, but today it became worse than usual when I bought 30 pounds of tomatoes at the farmer’s market. They were supposed to be thirds, not even as nice as seconds, but I pulled out about 8 pounds of nice slicers. Some of the others I chunked up were so nice, and a good tomato right now can cost a dollar a piece.

But chunk I did and then cooked them slightly before running them through the ricer. So far I have five quarts of juice beaten out with the wooden “pusher”. I have another five quarts cooking down. Nothing like homemade tomato juice in January. Put in an added dash of salt before drinking and um, um good.

My mother processed tomatoes and other things all summer long when I was a kid. I did a little of it myself when I had kids at home. Lately, I’ve let most things go by and just enjoy what I can during the season. But I could not pass that bargain of 30 pounds of tomatoes this morning. I will pop mine into the freezer rather than bothering with a pressure canner.

Some people count religiously their quarts and even their pints. My mom’s goal was always at least 100 jars not counting the pints if possible. A pint of tomatoes or juice would be one breakfast for me! I love tomatoes!

Yesterday threw us a curve when the heat index jumped up to 106 in the afternoon. Storms with hail were forecast. Storms and hail had already come through on Tuesday night so this was a repeat. This morning the deck was washed fresh, nothing was hail destroyed, and tea felt good in the early air. Then came the tomatoes…a good summer day!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Places to Visit for Writers and Readers

I love to visit the places where writers worked or lived. Here is a site that might interest you if you feel the same. Many of the places listed are in Europe so they are out of reach for me, although I did hit a couple of their favorites here in the United States.

We have been to Hannibal, Missouri several times to visit the land of Mark Twain. I remember one of my small sons calling out "Mark Twain" one night as he raced ahead of us in the dark on the levy. When a voice hollered in from the river saying, "Yes, I am and who are you?", he stopped dead in his tracks and no longer wanted to be alone in the dark.

Again while the boys were pretty young, we visited Robert Frost's home in Vermont. Oh, how I loved it there, a small house tucked in under pine trees with a poetry path soft with fallen pine needles. The boys were not interested in anything but getting on down the road. DH and I returned years later and I lingered there.

Another family vacation involved Red Cloud, Nebraska and the home of Willa Cather. Now the boys were big enough to laugh at me. WHO would want to stop in Red Cloud where there was NOTHING. Once they were home, they continued to tell people how Mother wanted to go to Red Cloud for Pete's sakes! Why did she always want to go to houses of dead people? DH and I again returned later to Red Cloud. The town is small but wonderful allowing visitors to feel the characters and times from Cather's work. Of course, the surrounding landscape is also a character in her writings.

I have been to Faulkner's Rowan Oak in Mississippi and through Flannery O'Conner's town in Georgia. Unfortunately, her Andalusia was closed the day we were there which was a big disappointment to me. Also I have been to Kate Chopin's home in the South, although I think she was originally from St. Louis.

I also visited Carl Sandburg's tiny house near the train tracks in Illinois. While I have favorite poems of his like "Fog", I have not studied a lot of Sandburg. He was an interesting man, and I have a reprint of his signed poem "Fog" on my office wall to remind me tiny lines can live long!

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

How about you? What author sites have you visited?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Stomp Dancing, I Love It

The Mid-America All Indian Center sponsored the American Indian Festival Pow Wow in Wichita. It was a great event. It might be smaller than some, but it is only three years in tradition. I think it will grow. It was an amazing event from beginning to end.
We arrived when the doors opened so we could visit all the vendors before the dancing started. There were local vendors and vendors from as far away as New Mexico. All things were lovely, and I chose to bring home something quite different this time. I almost always choose turquoise, a stone of balance and peace. This time I chose pure stone ear rings made by a person in the Santa Domingo Pueblo near Albuquerque. Each color represents a natural stone ground and inlaid in to fit the pattern. Yellow is different for me, but hey, it is time to spring out a little!

One of the first programs was presentation of the painted horse. A man showed how a war pony was painted and what the symbols meant. The horses used were far from a lithe war pony used by war parties. Instead Percherons, a draft horse, that pull visitor wagons at Cow Town were used because they were used to crowds. Those horses never blinked an eyelash while being painted. I think they are beautiful animals; their coats looked like brown velvet stretched across their broad beamed frames.

Once we had shopped, we noticed the line for Indian Tacos was getting quite long. The poor hot dog vendors were lonely, but it wasn’t even noon yet. So we got our Indian Tacos; they were wonderful! They were worth the trip for sure. You haven’t eaten a taco until you have eaten one on fry bread!


                                              Chief Dancer, leads entry
The announcer then called for people to line up for the grand entry. He said the events were starting right on time, not Indian time either! Grand entry is so moving. There is a Chief Dancer who leads the entry, followed by American, MIA, state and tribal flags. The National Anthem is sung in a Native tongue while the center drum accompanies the singers. Then a series of contest dancing and inter-tribal dancing starts. You can’t hear the beat of that Southern drum and not want to pound your feet!
                   Picture by Michaela Myer, note beautiful swing of fringe

The clothes and dance regalia is vibrant and unique to each person, each tribe. The women dances are slower and use jingle dresses or shawls or both. I talked to one woman who was wearing a beaded shoulder cape that shined under the lights. It had been in her family for over a hundred years.

                                     Picture by Michaela Myer
The men wear more feathers, more colors, and spin and stomp. I liked the men’s dancing best of all. These dances are now for competition and awards like they used to be for war or hunting preparation and recognition of honors as a warrior.
So many tribes were removed to Indian Territory during the Western expansion. Many tribes lost a large part of their people to disease, hunger and the elements, not to mention murder. The people who survived were just that-survivors. Their story is sad but rich in history and pride. Many Native Americans served in World War II, and they are justly proud that they could be true warriors when needed even if for the people who lied and cheated them. As Will Roger is reported to have said, he was mostly Indian but had enough White blood he couldn’t trust himself to tell the truth!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mini Trip to the Prairies

The middle of July and wanderlust forms while heat dampens the real urge to move. Like an elk in rut season, the Ruby Sliver snorts in the garage with sights on the West. A mini road trip was in order.

We headed for Wichita but by dropping down into Oklahoma first. We headed west out of Bartlesville (yes, a shame we did not stop!) for Pawhuska. This small town we passed through a few years ago on our way home from New Mexico and always wanted to see more of it. We were too tired then for looking. So we did it on our mini trip.

The town has seen better days, has that down at the heels look for small town America right now. I’ll wager soon it will on the map again for this building as Ree Drummond is restoring it right in the middle of town. Followers of the author/cook will not find this news, but I did .

Pawhuska, named after an Osage chief, is the home of the Osage Nation. We looked up a small museum in the collection of Osage Nation offices. It is small and their claim to fame right now is ten busts of Osage citizens done by the Smithsonian in the early 1900’s. The Native American sculptures are in storage, and the Smithsonian is selling to tribes as their money allows. They are beautiful busts of noble living people from that time.

I know the Osages from history here in Missouri before they were pushed into Kansas. I grew up in Kansas about ten miles or less from Osage Mission which was founded by St. Louis Jesuits to educate the Osage. Also north of my town was a settled of Osage who lived near the Neosho River. My farm boy buddies often found arrow heads when they plowed. When the Osage were again pushed in to Indian Territory, they bought their own land rather than be beholding to the government. Ah, and there was oil under that land later.

The land around Pawhuska is gorgeous rolling hills for grazing. I was so enthralled I forgot to take pictures until we were almost at Ponca City where the land turns a bit, gradually forming the rich farm ground for row crops leading into Kansas. I always love the prairie and the plains where you see vast horizons of sky.

                                      Mock up of a wrangler's bunkhouse
I hated to leave the Osage man who was telling me Osage secrets, but we had to move on down the road. Once over the border into Kansas we stopped at the Cherokee Strip Land Rush museum. A very small museum also. One wall had a picture of Native Indians with a title of A New Beginning referring to the land rush that opened up lands for settlers. Somehow I think that should have been Endings as far as the indigenous people were concerned since now the White Man would be settling land once used for hunting and passing into other hunting lands.
                                         Old cracker tin in prairie home display

It was the end of the day and 102 as we headed into Wichita traffic. We found the Watermark Bookstore with ease, had a sandwich, and to show our exhaustion, I could not even look at the books! We headed on to our son’s to rest up for the American Indian Festival Pow Wow the next day.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Who Was That Masked Man?

 I was so tiny I hardly remember the stories, but near lunch each day I used to listen to the Lone Ranger on the radio while my mom fixed lunch. Once he said, “Hi yo Silver and away!”, I knew lunch was about five minutes from the table. Clayton Moore’s Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels’s Tonto on the television is my stronger memory. I sat on my living room floor in front of the tube waiting for the famous white steed’s heels galloping across the screen in “cloud of dust and the speed of light”. I have waited over a year for the new Lone Ranger movie. Even after I learned it was a tongue in cheek version of how the legend came about, I was anxious to see the movie.

I wanted to be sure and see this movie because at least twelve of the filming locations were set in New Mexico. I wasn’t disappointed by what I saw. The film had beautiful scenery capturing the thrill of the Old West. When I saw the characters pounding out the spikes on the railroad, I could almost feel the red dust on my face.

While I would have preferred a real western drama, I was not disappointed in the film since I knew what to expect. I mean a bird on a Comanche’s head? I don’t think so. But Johnny Depp did a fine job with that crow on Tonto’s head, although my favorite roll of Depp is still John Dillinger. (Women would consider becoming bank robbers for sure if they followed Johnny Depp’s Dillinger!)

I was entertained all along, even during the scenes that rang of mediocre melodrama, the kind where the damsel was tied to the train tracks. The ivory leg hiding a soiled dove’s gun was believable to me But the final chapter of the story was outstanding and worth the ticket price. When that William Tell Overture began to pound in my chest, I felt like standing up and waving our heroes onward.  Runaway train, impossible escapes, thrilling maneuvers to match any Bruce Willis stunt was engrossing and even finishing off with a silver bullet! It was a summer movie after all, the kind where you engage your willing suspension of disbelief, gorge on popcorn, and come out trilling the Lone Ranger song; I got my money’s worth!


There are a lot of markets opening up right now. I think I got the following from the OWL web site for those writers who are interested.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Maine writer seeking personal essays and poems on grief/grieving for loss of person, pet, or figurative “loss” of someone to Alzheimer’s and the like for anthology in progress. Essays each no longer than 2,000 words; poems any length each up to 4 pages double-spaced. No limit on number of submissions; cutoff date, Sept. 30, 2013. All submissions acknowledged. Queries and submissions by USPS to M. Leamon, PO Box 113, Casco ME 04015, or e-mail to:


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry."

                                                                   William Butler Yeats

Friday, July 5, 2013

When the Smoke Cleared

The nice thing about the Fourth of July is seeing family and friends gathered together for food and laughter. When the sun shines and water sports are involved, it is nicer still. However, I am getting old enough to see firecrackers as just money going up in smoke. I have to wonder what makes men (usually men) love to hear a rib-rattling kaboom in the middle of a lovely July day.

Yesterday while the neighbors slept in, I ignored the call to exercise and toted a tray of tea and muffins to the deck. I knew that both the quiet and the cool would not last so I wanted to linger in outdoor tea time while I could. It seemed like a perfect time to start two new books, vastly different stories.

Alice Hoffman’s Skylight Confessions was a bargain book and started off with the usual peculiar voice that Hoffman writes in. All of her books have a touch of the mystical while being anchored in a realistic setting. This book was no different, and it kept me reading for several pages before I switched to non-fiction.

By the time DH joined me at the table, I was well into Chris Kyle’s American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms. This seemed a perfect Fourth of July read to me, but DH looked at me shaking his head. He, who thinks reading means Forbes, Baron’s or a stodgy book on investing, was amazed at my reading a book on firearms. But this country was formed by the “shot heard around the world” and right now guns are a hot issue with our lawmakers so it seemed fitting to me. The first gun discussed is the Kentucky rifle bringing up visions of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. I am anxious to read more.

By noon the air was sounding and smelling like we lived on a gun range. I decided to blow my own smoke and came inside to submit some pieces I had ready to go. It felt good to toss myself out there once again. One was a piece with dialogue only which was a real challenge. For writers wanting to try their hands at the same, go to to learn more about this contest sponsored by some Oklahoma writers.

While on the internet chasing down some things, I found a delightful picture of my Dad’s cousins from WWII. How appropriate to find this on a day we celebrate freedom. Through a related essay, I located one of the men’s sons, a down-the-line cousin who lives in Canada. I am excited to exchange emails with this new found relative, to share stories.

The day ended with a covered dish supper with friends. The food was excellent and the company was good. It was a nice Fourth of July…..

Monday, July 1, 2013

Monday On The Deck

It was cool enough for a flannel robe this morning as Storm and I once again headed out with a tea pot under a cozy and an oatmeal muffin. I also took a stack of “work” along. I set up my laptop, put cell phone at the ready, arranged notepad and pencil, and I began to wade through magazines and saved articles while jotting down ideas I wanted to pursue. No one was mowing and neighborhood was quiet. I gave up on attending a morning meeting, and once “free”, my mind got down to business generating ideas and possible paths for exploration.

The August issue of The Writer was extraordinary with so many great articles. An interview with Elizabeth Stroud really primed the pump of my brain. I love her novels for the most part, but I think Olive Kitteridge is the best. The voice this author found to write in is challenging and unique.

I learned Natalie Goldberg has a new book out. I loved her Writing Down the Bones but have been disappointed in some of her later works. However….my fingers and Amazon went to work to get the new The True Secrets of Writing on its way to me.

Interesting lines about internet use from the magazine:

“If we stop exercising our mental skills, we do not just forget them: The brain map for those skills is turned over to the skills we practice instead."

"...the Internet can become the antithesis of creativity."

I studied True West and found this issue of that magazine great too. With eighteen train rides in the West, I think I have one or two we might want to check out soon. DH loves steam trains! We have ridden at Chama, New Mexico; Alamosa, Colorado; Van Buren, Arkansas; and Durango, Colorado to name a few.

A writer group in Edmund, Oklahoma is running a unique contest. It is 750 words or less in NOTHING but dialogue. I want to try this.

I never got to novel reading today, but there is always tomorrow which is to be a cool day too. I am already making my plans, writing my list!

What about you? Have you ridden steam trains?

Writing OpsThe After Coetzee Project, an anthology of fiction, seeks short stories that bring forth a new kind of writing about animals, one that disengages from speciesist fictional strategies (animals as metaphors and allegories) and reimagines animals as subjects.

Please see the full call for submissions at Deadline to submit is December 1, 2013.
Minerva Rising is an independent literary journal celebrating the creativity and wisdom in every woman. We publish thought-provoking fiction, non-fiction, photography, poetry and essays by women writers and artists. We are now open for submissions for Issue #4.

Minerva Rising Literary Journal is seeking short stories, essays, poetry, creative non-fiction, original prints, graphics arts and photographs for our next issue themed "Mothers". Please visit our website for additional submission guidelines:
Deadline: August 15, 2013
Award: $50 for literary works, $35 for poetry and artwork, plus contributor copy
Reading Fee: $15 per single literary work, 3 poems, or three photos/pictures

Feel free to contact us with any questions at infoATminervarisingDOTcom.