field notes (5.27.16)

I forgot to mention last week, the awesomeness of this web site, TPE (The Photographer’s Ephemeris) a great tool for helping make your photographs as amazing as possible.

“Your sole mission is to articulate your suffering in a way that emancipates you and empowers other women.” – Carole Radziwill

N.B. I’ll build my novel scene by scene, brick by brick. (Building steam for my June 1 start date. Y’all, I’ve got miles and miles to write this summer. And I am ready.)

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

“Midlife: when the Universe grabs you by the shoulders and tells you “I’m not f-ing around, use the gifts you were given.” – Brene Brown (You guys, so many people complain about aging, but let me tell you, there are some mind-blowingly positive benefits. Knowing your gifts, for example.)

Polishing, polishing, polishing a manuscript and query letter. Sleeping and not rushing and being quietly over this project. So that we are both ready when the time comes. Which connects to this next quote which resonates now: “Listen to me. You need to be a home for yourself and your work. You need to be the safe place to present things to be admired and loved.” – Elizabeth Berg

This poem, My heart is a diner that never closes… by Shaindel Beers and published in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, is simultaneously splitting me open and inspiring a new work. Why does the best poetry hurt so good?

Listening to Righteously by Lucinda Williams and Little Red Wagon by Miranda Lambert

Finishing SOMETHING RICH AND STRANGE by Ron Rash: I do not want these stories to end, and yet, I cannot stop reading.

“I can never get my theology to sound right and true on paper or in conversation, but sometimes, I can get it to feel right in my life, in my living.” – Kelsi Turner

field notes (5.20.16)

Made a pilgrimage to Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City, Iowa. I gathered a tottering stack of books, headed to a sunny window seat and lost myself in the words and images for two hours before my tummy told me it was time to eat. The entire experience was delightful. (And then I spent too much money!)

Visited the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum and was amazed by this tiny gembox of a museum. I have driven past this museum dozens of times, always eager to stop and explore, but either a deadline to get to our destination or the museum’s limited hours prevented me. Not this time!

Took a basics photography class with Bryan Hansel at North House Folk School this weekend and I finally understand aperture settings, shutter speed, ISO settings and other photographic mysteries. This is so satisfying after years (!!!) of trying to figure all this out and failing. I’m hoping I can get my photographs to more accurately portray what I see.

Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center is a jewel: hike out to the rocky point, face into the wind and breathe. What a place.


Digging in deep to prepare the workshop I’m offering at the Bemidji Public Library in July. So excited about this event! More details to come…

field notes (5.13.16)

I visited Parnassus Books! When I was a child living in Tennessee, Davis-Kidd Booksellers was the most magnificent bookstore imaginable. I had never seen or experienced another bookstore like it. Each visit was magical. When they closed, even though I was living in Arizona at the time, I was devastated. Some vital part of my childhood was dead. But then Parnassus came along and picked up the baton. And last week I got to stand inside Parnassus bookstore and bookmobile and rub my hand along the book spines and touch the counter top and it felt as if Parnassus was also magical.

While in Nashville, I had the chance to visit the Parthenon and Athena and also, Katherine Ace’s swooningly beautiful exhibit of her Grimms’ Tales paintings.

My essay, WEATHER OR NOT, was published in the Bemidji Pioneer last week. I hope you like it.

Reconsidering and tinkering with my summer writing schedule….hoping to add a babysitter once a week so that I can make some big progress on my latest writing project.

Overwhelmed at all the notes and ideas that came with attending the WWMW 2016 Conference and the research road trip I took immediately after: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

field notes (5.6.16)

attended the Wild, Wild Midwest SCBWI Conference 2016; it was brilliant, inspiring and so much fun

woo hoo! I won the runner-up award for my picture-book biography manuscript in the nonfiction contest at the Wild, Wild Midwest Conference. I am surprised and grateful and take it as a sign to not quit writing just yet. Thank you, judges, for the nod

during my drive to Chicago to attend the conference, I listened to ECHO by Pam Munoz Ryan and it was brilliant. I lost track of time as I listened. You can read it too, of course, but then you miss the excellent harmonica playing

enjoying a solo road trip through Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, Iowa and Minnesota. Ladies, solo adventure is the answer

visited Parnassus and enjoyed speaking to the booksellers about classic and contemporary Southern writers. Left with a stack of books and a list of more titles. Reading SOMETHING RICH AND STRANGE by Ron Rash to begin

reading MY FRIEND FLICKA by Mary O’Hara: this novel is a comfort object for my soul and perfect to restore peace to my sometimes anxious heart when I am away from home

reconnected with a dear, dear friend after a 20-year absence. Grateful does not even begin to describe how I feel about having this woman back in my life

feeling grateful, also, for my writing buddies Annette and Rose

loving sweet tea, being called darlin’, blooming magnolia trees, having doors held open for me, eating fried okra, talking from my soul with my dearest friends, walking barefoot

realizing that the only way to get braver is to do things that are profoundly scary

field notes (4.29.16)

reading Amethyst and Agate: Poems of Lake Superior and it’s just right, right now

in CHICAGO! for a writing conference

cleaned and purged and refreshed my (tiny) writing studio so that when I return from my travels, I will be ready to write

I’m not sure where the idea of “paying your dues” came from, but for my entire writing life I have bought into it. Until now. I AM DONE PAYING MY DUES. (Do you hear me, universe?) DONE. It is time for me to produce and produce and produce and submit and submit and submit

sleeping and sleeping and sleeping (gathering my strength for all to come)

Wondering about story structure: I took a class this autumn that was all about following the W story structure. And I have spent the last few months unsuccessfully trying to get my novel to fit into that form. In the depths of my frustration, I read a beautiful essay by the accomplished John McPhee in the New Yorker and he basically said that structure is essential, but that each story has a unique structure. As a writer, you’ve got to figure out what structure works for each story. This was so liberating. I went through my picture-book biography manuscript and all my columns for the newspaper and drew diagrams of each essay: none of them fit the W form, but they all had a solid structure. Now, as I think about the structure of my novel, I’m keeping this in mind. This is not to say that I am throwing out the W form, it just means that I’m considering other forms. And wondering…

field notes (4.22.16)

Made it to the Talley Gallery to see the McKnight exhibit. Brilliant. Especially Kip O’Krongly’s work.

Finished WIRED FOR STORY by Lisa Cron. So much insight contained within this book. Now, going back and attempting to make sense of my notes and create a cohesive vision for my novel.

Planted mesclun, spinach, radishes, gemstone and DMR lettuce mix. And they have started sprouting!

Reading Jim Harrison’s trilogy of short novels – REVENGE, THE MAN WHO GAVE UP HIS NAME and LEGENDS OF THE FALL – and absolutely hanging on his every word. What a ride! Also, slogging through A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN by Virginia Woolf and now that I’ve typed that I’m pretty sure I’m going to stop the slog, because life is short and there is such great writing waiting for me to read it.

field notes (4.15.16)

The theme here this week is S L O W

Slowly reading and writing and thinking my way through WIRED FOR STORY by Lisa Cron

So many events I was looking forward to have been cancelled this week: my visit to the Talley Gallery, the Kerlan Collection Archives, the Loft to hear Helen Macdonald speak. Schedules changed and now I can’t go. Boo.

The sun is shining. The mineral smell of the soil surprised me this morning when I stepped outside. It’s been so long.

My Palomino Blackwing 602 pencils arrived. Swoon.

I reconnected with a friend I hadn’t spoke to for 20 years. You guys, it was so lovely and reaffirming to hear her voice, hear her story. We’ve got plans to see each other in early May. But also, after I spoke with her, I cried on and off all day because I have missed so much of her life. She got married, had babies, built a career, lost a sister. And I wish I could turn back time and stand with her through all of that, maybe help carry her through some of the hard things. I comfort myself with the thought that I’m back in her life now. I can’t undo the past 20 years. But I can do the next 20.

More watercolor painting and pencil scribbling and chalking and oil pasteling happening on my kitchen counter. Makes me incredibly happy.

Steady on with my essays!


field notes (4.8.16)

I wrote another essay: Ode to an Ugly Quilt

Reading: LITTLE BRITCHES by Ralph Moody, a Carl Linnaeus biography (whose title escapes me), THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Finished H IS FOR HAWK in preparation for Helen Mcdonald’s upcoming visit to the Loft Literary Center

Enjoying some mindless knitting. I’ve been chipping away at a new pattern that has me looking up every. single. stitch. and it is soooooo tedious. And, for a break and as a way to renew my knitting faith, I am knitting simple washcloths. Lovely. I don’t even have to look as I go! Also, enjoying the yarn color names so much: River Run, Pewter, Deep Turquoise, Copper Spice.

Discovered flavored San Pellegrino – blood orange!

Credentials measure what is quantifiable, they represent results. A call, on the other hand, is pure process; it cannot be measured, quantified, or controlled by institutions. People who are called tend to violate the rules in annoying ways.” – Kathleen Norris

This is a strange time for my writing: I’m chipping away at some essays and that’s about it. But I’m not writing miles and miles of words and scenes for my novel. I am craving sleep and reading novels and craft books and freewriting and knitting and painting and so those are the things I am pursuing. It makes me a bit nervous. I am trying to be OK with this. Trying not to panic. But trusting that God has a plan that will use all this for good. I feel a big shift coming.

field notes (4.1.16)

Truth. “People like us do things like this.” – Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux

I’ve read Austin Kleon’s books, STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST and SHOW YOUR WORK, and now I’m considering purchasing them.

Thinking hard about my in-the-flesh and my in-the-world women mentors, the qualities they possess that I most admire and how to add those to my life. Full-on, full-volume dreaming and scheming happening between my ears.

Painting in watercolor every day. I set up a work station on my kitchen island and I’ve not taken it down. I work a little bit throughout the day. This practice is feeding my soul, my inner artist in so many beautiful, powerful ways. But. It’s also got me thinking. I believe that making art and calling yourself an artist makes you an artist. But there is this nagging little mosquito-pitched voice in my head that says that I have to make money with my art to be called an artist. This is not true. But I act like it is. Trying to change this thought pattern. Making art makes me an artist.

Reading: H IS FOR HAWK by Helen Mcdonald, WIRED FOR STORY by Lisa Cron and JESUS FEMINIST by Sarah Bessey. (What a mix!)

I’ve gone back to my storyboard this week. Haven’t glimpsed it since October 2015, when I first started writing my novel. In that time, everything about the novel has changed, particularly my thinking and my lens. And I feel as if I need a new map. So, I’m working on creating a new map. It is difficult. I’ve been crying as I work. But, I love the work. I feel it is leading me into lands I’ve only imagined.

Discovered Palomino Blackwing 602 pencils. I love pencils and had no idea that such beautiful tools existed. (Will order soon.) Also, discovered the Blackwing Long Point sharpener which sharpens using a two-step sharpening process in which the first step sharpens the pencil’s wood case and the second second step involves sharpening the graphite core. My heart flipped when I discovered such a grand thing existed.

Every few years, I am compelled to write a letter to myself. I started doing this when I was 24, then again at 27 and 33. And I’ve been resisting it this past month or so, but the need to write a letter to myself again will not let me rest. And so, I am writing. You guys, I have a lot to say to myself. I hope I will listen well and be BRAVE.

Also, thinking about trying Blackout Poetry.

field notes (3.25.16)

“Frustration is not an interruption of the process, frustration is the process.” – Elizabeth Gilbert (keeping this in mind)

Crafting a playlist for my current WIP: so much fun. This is the first time I’ve ever done this for a project and it’s incredibly helpful. It’s remarkable what the right music can do to evoke a time period and recall memories.

“Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.” – Cheryl Strayed

Reading: JESUS FEMINIST by Sarah Bessey and WIRED FOR STORY by LISA CRON (both books are so insightful that I purchased them both so that I could just go ahead and write in them.)

Making hotel reservations, pre-purchasing tickets, checking hours, making lists, checking them twice, niggling over all the little details in preparation for my upcoming road trip.

Epoch: a period of time marked by distinctive features, noteworthy events, a change in conditions.

I’ve got some intentional letting go to do. And I’m not sure how to do it. I need to do something physical to mark my release of old thoughts, ideas, heartbreaks, anger. So, I’m carefully considering what this may look like. Trying to close an epoch in my life.