The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Winner and Hopefully a Loser

        I am a few days late announcing the winner of Paige Adams Strickland's book Akin to the Truth, but I am trying to keep to a Monday and Thursday posting schedule. (I'm really trying, Lisa. ;)

       It's an ebook version, I believe. I will be sending the winner's email address to Crystal Otto over at WOW.

       And the winner is----Bookie. Congratulations!

       As for a loser, we're hoping that our 43-pound miniature pony named Radar (sometimes  Radar disguises himself as a six-month old golden retriever puppy) loses the piece of plastic he ate yesterday. It was one of those vegetable labels/signs--about 2 or 3 inches long. The plastic is flexible, but is it flexible enough to twist around his intestinal tract as it heads to his poop chute? We'll see.

       Either I will have dug that bit of treasure out of one of his piles today, or we'll be talking to the vet.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Serenity Now!

The Pyrenees are in the background.
Skiers say that if you can ski the Pyrenees, you can ski anywhere.

       One of my favorite places on this planet is southern France. I've been three times, and hope to take my daughter and granddaughter next summer.

        Strange as it sounds, the only part of Paris I've seen is the inside of the airport. I am sure Paris is lovely and lively and alluring, but the peace and serenity of the southern countryside is what I love.

        The long, leisurely meals where conversation is just as valued as simply-made, everything-from-scratch dishes. The rolling hills. A lifestyle that is so much less stressful than ours.

         What is your favorite place? Why does it draw you? I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, August 25, 2014

This Much I Know is True...

        If you're from out of town, and you wonder what Ferguson is really like, this much I know is true...*

  • It's a tiny town with parts that have a small-town flavor. Ferguson has a thriving farmers' market. There are some small, independently-owned businesses that have sprung up and are flourishing. There's a large, sprawling park with at least six ball fields and during some seasons and many days, each one is booked with baseball/softball/kickball leagues.

  • One of those independent businesses that just celebrated its first anniversary is Cathy's Kitchen (home of the best fish tacos in St. Louis, in my opinion). Cathy Jenkins had a vision, found a property, spent months and months renovating it (it has a Route 66 theme, with countless personal/family connections) and her landlord was so generous, he told her, "Don't start paying on it until you're up and running." They began with just lunch and dinner...and now they even offer breakfast. It's a place where a school superintendent can sit at one table with friends/colleagues and a parks employee--after just finished mowing the fields--sits at another. You scan the crowd and--every time--there is diversity and harmony.

  • It's a place of pride. Parts of Ferguson have large, century-old houses; most of the community is full of small, two-bedroom and three-bedroom homes, inhabited by families who love where they live. The yards are taken care of. The parents flock to school events and do everything they can to stay in their neighborhood school because they know the teachers care. The school that is closest to all the heartbreak has a community garden.  It has evening events for the families, including fun lock-ins for the students. The teachers have stood outside on street corners, jumping and dancing around, begging for cars to honk to show their Ferguson pride and begging them to stop by for free lunches ...since the start of the school year was delayed by seven school days.
      There are lots of things I don't know. But this much I know is true ...

* And if you have not read Wally Lamb's This Much I Know is True, you should. It's an incredible book.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What Do You Count On?

       Writing is hard work. Being able to count on certain tools is critical.

     On a daily basis, we have to dip into our tool box as we craft our lines.

        One of the tools I occasionally use is a rhyming dictionary. (Mine has a boring cover, so I'm borrowing Bart Simpson's for a moment.)
        Rarely do I write poetry with a rhyme scheme. I mean, do you think I even want to dabble in the same arena as Fireblossom or Mama Zen? Fuhgeddabodit.
         However, sometimes I am forced drawn into writing a poem with a particular rhyme scheme. Sometimes I'm a scribe as my class writes a group poem. Very occasionally, I write a rap (and horrors! Yes, I even perform it. What's that you say? You haven't heard of Reddiculous Redd? You're missing out on something hilarious rich.)
        A rhyming dictionary is a tool that is always sitting on my shelf, waiting and ready...

 Here is a tool that ensures I don't sit too long. Radar. Whiner Extraordinaire. The Yipster. The Gnaw-er. We thought we were adopting a dog, but we were hoodwinked. Radar is a miniature pony. He's all legs right now, and weighs close to 40 pounds. And he's only five months old.

          Okay, admittedly, this is not a writing tool--at least not in the strictest sense. Aquarelle pencils are really tools of diversion. Using a brush and water (or a finger you slobber on), your drawings are transformed into looking like watercolor art. This year, I've vowed to filling my writing journal with doodling and ticket stubs and photos along with the writing. 
        However, as I'm sketching or zentangling (type "zentangle" into your search box, but beware: doodling with zentangle patterns is highly addictive and is a wonderful way to while away the hours during day-long meetings) I'm also thinking about what I'm writing.

         The delete key is another tool I rely on. Getting a story down often means there are pages/paragraphs/lines/words that need to be deleted as revision happens.
          'Cause if you're a writer, you know that writing is usually more deconstruction than construction.

       What writing tools (or tools of diversion) do you rely on?    

Monday, August 18, 2014

Stranger in a Strange Land

       (No, that is not me in the above photo, air-brushed within an inch of my life, resulting in this gorgeousness. It's Paige Adams Strickland...memoir-writer and a sister from another two mothers...)

      If you aren't an adoptee, you don't know what it's like to be a stranger in a strange land. I knew--from toddlerhood on--that I was adopted, and I was loved and doted on. But I also knew I shared nothing genetic with my family, and when I passed by people in the street, I'd wonder...

       Is that my birth mother?
       Is that woman a cousin of mine?
       Did that guy know my birth mother? 


       Reading Paige Adams Strickland's Akin to the Truth brought back (to me) the black hole full of the unknown.
        Strickland's journey is like a stream of consciousness. One memory bumps into another and into another. She bravely bares the dysfunction of her family, she shares her lovely grandmothers with the world, and admitted--through her actions--that she was always striving to make her parents proud.
        The tiny tidbits tossed to the reader, of life growing up in the 60's and 70's, will bring the reader back in time. The television shows. The songs. The clothes. The sayings. (My father said, "Hell's bells" as well, just like Paige's. And my dad has his "cocktail hour" every evening, too.)
              Like every good writer, Paige Adams Strickland makes us wait until her story is almost finished...before we find out what we are desperate to find out. Does she find her biological parents? Does she discontinue the search, because rooting around in the unknown sometimes gets messy? Does she get rejected by her birth mother or her birth father? 
          You'll have to read the book to find out...
          At the very end, in the last two paragraphs, Strickland gives us something extra-satisfying. In those final lines that flow like poetry, she's found her rhythm as a writer and as a daughter and a woman. 
          And at the very end, it's also apparent: Paige Adams Strickland has another story to tell...a story that picks up where she's left off in Akin to the Truth.

          Via a drawing, an electronic version of Akin to the Truth will be given away on August 28. Leave a comment...and keep your fingers crossed. 

A description of the book:  In 1961, adoption was still one of those private and taboo topics. Not much identifying information was provided for adoptive families or for birth parents by the agencies. In Ohio, records were sealed forever. Adoptees and birth mothers were supposed to be thankful for the adoptive family and never look back. Adoptive parents thought their deal was signed and sealed.

As a child and teenager, growing up adopted was like a Scarlet Letter "A" if anyone ever found out the truth. At least, that's the way author, Paige Strickland felt as she muddled through social situations and other interpersonal relations. She always loved her adoptive family, but realized she wanted not just more, but what other "regular born" people had: real roots, accurate health history and authentic family lore. She wanted freedom from shame, more dignity, authenticity and a full identity.

Then, through random chance, a local TV talk show in 1987 revealed that certain records were open if you were born before 1964 in the state of Ohio, and the author's life would never be the same after that program.

During her quest, (pre computer), for her identity, her adoptive father struggled with his own self image and sense of belonging, so both father and daughter embarked on separate and unique parallel missions to find what was missing in their lives.

This is the story of how being adopted affected Paige growing up in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s. It shows how one adoptee has embraced and learned to view family more globally. She tells the saga of a loving but dysfunctional family of both blood and choice, trying to cope with typical and not so typical life alterations during the decades of social revolution and free love. She learns that the most fascinating family stories are discovered by those passionate enough to question and search.

Paige Adams Strickland is a teacher and writer from Cincinnati, Ohio. She is married with two daughters. 

About the Author: Paige Adams Strickland, a teacher and writer from Cincinnati, Ohio, is married with two daughters. Her first book, Akin to the Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity, is about growing up in the 1960s-80s (Baby-Scoop Era) and searching for her first identity. It is also the story of her adoptive family and in particular her father’s struggles to figure out his place in the world while Paige strives to find hers. After hours she enjoys family and friends, pets, reading, Zumba ™ Fitness, gardening and baseball.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Intertwining Reality With Fiction

       Today I'm going to weave a little fact with a bit of fiction. Hopefully, the intertwining will be a tad entertaining...

       School is about to begin in my school district. My school is two blocks from the looting that was going on in Ferguson, and less than 1/4 mile from where a young man lost his life.
       As the investigation continues, some of the residents have taken to the streets to clean up and show the pride they still have in their neighborhood. And it is a wonderful neighborhood.
       The road to healing and repairing frayed connections is a long one...

        My current WIP is slowly growing. Around six months ago, it was "finished" in my mind--at 84,000 words--but of course it was only an incredibly rough draft that had to be chucked. Now, the conflict is a stronger thread (at least I hope it is). Conflict in a novel is a good thing, a necessary thing. Conflict with real people and real bullets...not good at all.

        This year (lucky, lucky me) I am teaching only writing (and just a little social studies). I am thrilled beyond belief. Three sections of writing every day. (I keep pinching myself, to ascertain if it's a dream or reality, so my cellulite's getting some extra attention.) This is a totally new groove for me to get into.

            As far as my WIP, I'm working on fictionalizing reality. Making it funnier. Making it more cohesive. Making it--yikes!--first person. It's sending me in new directions, and my friends have morphed into different people. It's slow slogging. But, it's evolving into (IhopeIhopeIhope) a more satisfying story.

          In my classroom, I'm stepping more and more out of my box this school year. I bought a hardhat and decoupaged it all up (with writing phrases) and will wear it often during the school year as we construct and deconstruct our writing pieces. I purchased a tool belt (that thing will really accentuate my poochy belly) and we will be adding tools to our tool belt as we grow as writers. Hopefully, the kids will get a kick out of it.

         I've grown as a writer in the last two years I've been a WWWP. There are times (not all the time) that I put myself into the shoes of my critique group members and cut out the unneeded words/parts instinctively. Sometimes enough of the persistence that flows through the other women rubs off on me. Sometimes I'm even able to come up with a decent title. (Usually, I have not a single idea when it comes to titles.)

               How about you? What fiction or nonfiction are you reading right now? What kind of fiction are you weaving into your everyday reality? Do you think a hardhat will adequately cover the horror that is my hair on bad hair days every day?

       I wonder...