Saturday, June 21, 2014

Readings and Greetings: The Invention of Wings

I'm missing Handful, her mauma, and Miss Sarah.  For four days this summer I spent time in the early 1880's in Charleston, NC with these three strong-willed and talented women;  two slaves who are denied their freedom, and a young white girl who is denied her life's dream of becoming a lawyer like her brothers.  Their lives, though fictional to some degree, touched my soul and perspective on the freedoms we take for granted.  Some characters rise up out of the pages of a book, like Scout and Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Now through the skilled hands of Sue Monk Kidd we have another classic filled with the will to survive, courage, pure stubbornness and defiance, intellect, guilt, and the limitations imposed by society on women and slaves.  

The Invention of Wings is loosely based on a real life character, Sarah Grimke, who later in life did become an active abolitionist and wrote letters and gave speeches on the rights of women to vote, but the gut of the story is the relationship Sarah develops with Hetty (Handful), the slave given to her on her eleventh birthday.  Even before Sarah took it upon herself to teach Handful how to read, they had already crossed a dangerous line with the times they spent locked behind doors with Miss Sarah reading to Handful and the two of them sharing secrets.  

Sarah confessed to Handful that her speech troubles began when she was four, after she'd witnessed a slave being whipped.  After sharing her secrets that couldn't be shared with anyone else, Sarah went on to explain the meaning of her silver button that she kept hidden.  "Do you know how an object can stand for something entirely different than its purpose?"  She (Handful) looked at me blankly..."You know my mother's cane, for instance--how it's meant to help her walk, but we all know what it stands for."

"Whacking heads." After a pause, she (Handful) added, "A triangle on a quilt stands for a blackbird wing."  .... "I have a thimble and it stands for pushing a needle and keeping my fingertip from turning sore, but I could let that stand for something else."  (p.59)   The two young girls are forever linked by their secrets and their intelligence.  Quilting is stitching that holds the story together as all three characters take wing in one form or another.  While reading this story and the power of story hidden in the seams of a quilt, I was reminded of a children's book I loved called Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold.  It, too, is worth the time to read or perhaps reread.

Sarah's story begins to change directions after the death of her father,  when she writes,  "One Sunday when the air was crisp and razor-cut with light, I walked ankle-deep in fallen leaves all the way to Arch Street, where I came upon a Quaker meetinghouse of such size I paused to stare..."  (p.192)  As much as the characters and their separate journeys drew me into their lives, so too did the writing style of Sue Monk Kidd.  After years of a haunting relationship with a Quaker man Sarah writes, "I thought, oh Israel, and a tiny grief came over me.  Every time it happened, it was like coming upon an empty room I didn't know was there, and stepping in, I would be pierced by it, by the ghost of the one who'd once filled it up.  I didn't stumble into this place much anymore, but when I did, it hallowed out little pieces of my chest." (p. 339)  

*In the author's note I once again took flight and discovered a woman and her artwork, Judy Chicago.
From this artwork and gallery showing Sue Monk Kidd learned of many other unknown women who had made important contributions to history.  "Sarah and her sister Angelina were arguably the most famous, as well as the most infamous, women in America in 1830's, yet they seemed only marginally known, even in the city of their origins.  My ignorance of them felt like both a personal failing and a confirmation of (Judy) Chicago's view that women's achievements had been repeatedly erased through history." (p. 361, 362)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

My Writing Process Tour

One day while enjoying the spring sunshine in the backyard of our new home in Oklahoma, I read an email on my Iphone from Linda Hoye asking me to participate in a writing process blog.  I was stunned and honored that someone as well known as Linda, through her work with Story Circle Network, would consider me in this venture.  I immediately went inside, turned on the computer to read more.  By Googling “My Writing Process Tour” I was thrilled but intimidated by the well-known authors, such as Dian Curtis Regan, who have been part of this international tour.  “Yipes,” I mumbled, “I can’t do this.  I’m not a professional writer.”  The minute those words went through my mind the challenge line was drawn. 

I’ve never met Linda, but I know her well through correspondence, and writings.  In her work with Story Circle Network she’s encouraged me to write more and to submit my stories.  On her blog “A Slice of Life Writing” she gives glimpses of her life.  Weekly she shares “Photo Friday” where she explores and shares her life through stunning photos.  She has published a new memoir Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey through Grief to Gratitude.  On her website you can read more about her memoir and other writings. 

What am I working on?
Two pivotal karmic events have occurred in my retirement years that have led me to this blog and these questions.  I took a class called “Who Let the Blogs Out?” from my friend Rosemary Miller.  I merely wanted to learn about blogging, like what was this thing??  Instead, with her encouragement I set up my blog that day and literally began my new adventure in writing in 2010.  Since then I’ve committed to writing weekly, writing about a moment in time that has sparkle and life to it. I also knew deep down inside that I had heaps of stories to tell but not the writing skills to make them enjoyable for an audience.  It’s so much easier to orally tell my stories than to write them, but my goal was and is to be a better writer and eventually turn my stories into completed books.  

So what am I working on, my blog stories.  Look for future stories on: Nadal, the focused gorgeous body of a man who lights up the tennis court; The Golf Gypsy and friends;  the Lady who Sculpts Hands; or my Readings and Greetings.  Even though all of my blogs are on the internet, I copied each one to make a yearly book for myself so I can see my progress in literally learning how to be a better writer.  Now the stories that bobble in my head have an outlet, and I can now hold those stories in my hand and my heart.  
The other karmic moment happened when I took a three day workshop on Memoir Writing from Lisa Dale Norton  By the last day I was hooked.  I’d found that child in me who had grown up in the golf shop, where my father was the golf pro, and I spent my years observing every member, every action, and every reaction. 

“Boggies Don’t Win” will one day be a completed memoir.  To say I’m working on it now, is not quite true, but my childhood story stays in my heart every day, waiting on me to give myself permission to finish it.  The idyllic childhood days have all been written, even the early teen years are finished, but then I hit a brick wall when the tumultuous years of golf tournaments, peer pressure, sex, alcohol, and my place in the world all collided.  I know the truth, but can I tell it correctly or will I soften it?  When I can deal with those questions I will be completing my memoir. 

Why do I write what I do?   
I write my blog to share light and uplifting stories that resonant in many of us.  I occasionally have to deal with depression in the winter months, and so I’ve found that by focusing my energy on writing on the lighter side my depression disappears, and
Rabbit's know to exit here.
sometimes a friend leaves a comment that lets me know I’m on the right path. If I have a writing muse, it's our Lucy dog, who drags me on long walks, and whose nose can sniff out a good story to tell.

I began my memoir with the intent of honoring my parents and all of the many club members from the Miami Golf and Country Club (Miami, OK), who influenced my life.  My father was seriously burned as a fourteen year old, and as a result his hands were clubbed.  Thanks to a dedicated doctor and nurse my father did not grow up to be the janitor like people thought he might, since his hands were useless except to hold a broom.  Instead, his hands learned to hold a golf club, and his life was forever changed. Those are the stories yet to be shared.

How does my writing process work?
In my dream world I’m organized and work on a schedule of writing every morning for an hour before the world awakens and then venture off into a new day with my husband, dog, or friends.  The reality is random writing times work for me. The best days are when I awaken just at dawn with the birds chirping, and then stay in bed allowing my mind the freedom to wonder, to imagine, to dream, to create.  On those days I can write, take notes, explore techniques of writing, and read.  My mind is happiest when it’s being challenged by a story that needs to be told.   
The actual writing process used to take place on yellow legal size pads.  I read and acted on nearly every idea in Julia Cameron’s book The Right Way To Write.  Her style and process matched my mind.  One day when I’d written a rather sensual scene I read it aloud to my husband at lunch.  He smiled.  I asked him to bring home a stack of colored legal sized pads after work, so I could write more.  That evening he brought home six colored pads and a new laptop, just for me, not for paying bills, not for reading the Drudge report.  So now I let my fingers follow my imagination and don’t stop to correct or change my words until I’m out of story.  Then I go back, delete, change, edit, and save, but some days I hit ‘don’t save!’

Through blogging I’ve met new friends.  Now I’d like to introduce you to them.
Michelle Pond

Michelle and I met on the golf course, and immediately discovered that we both love to write.  Then I discovered that she is a poet and a photographer who likes sports, jazz, and art inspired by other art.  Since 2001, she has attended and/or volunteered with a bereavement support group; and grief is a recurring theme in her poetry.  She has collected some grief poems into a chapbook, I Keep You With Me.  Her work also has appeared in Thorny Locust, Rusty Truck ezine, and the Salon anthologies, poetry from Kansas City's longest running open mic.  Her visual art pieces that combine poetry and photographs have been exhibited at The Writers Place and PT's at the Crossroads. Her poetic blog site is  "Buried Lies", a poem posted on May 22, 2014 is one of my favorites.  I wonder what favorites will be found as new people explore her sight?

Renee Hutchins Roberts (R.H. Roberts, Writer and Speaker)

Renee and I met this spring at the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. conference,  We
Renee Roberts
chatted, exchanged cards, listened to the speaker then parted ways.  She recently found me through face book, and we are now getting acquainted in the small world in which we live. 

As a busy mother of six children Renee began writing while pregnant with her last child, as a means of preserving her sanity. That I can fully understand.

As a result of her decision to write she is the award-winning author of The Underwater Witness Protection Program, Gypsy Moon, and Jellica’s Pot of Gold.  Her website is   On her blog she shares fantasy thoughts:  Happy is boring.  Characters should be driven by obsession, guilt, an unreachable dream.  A quest for happiness?  Well, that could work.;  walks in nature; adventures in writing; traveling stories.  You can find her blog at  How fun making connections with new friends through a common thread—writing.  

Vicki Adrian

Vicki and I share a common thread--we love to laugh, make other people happy, she loves to buy neat clothes for her boutique, and I love to shop there and buy those items.  I've written about her on my blog and about the small town
Vicki Adrian and Ann Armstrong
where her store has thrived for nearly three decades, Buhler, Ks.  Her blog is about foods and recipes that delight our taste buds and about the connectedness of living in a small town.  Recently, at a writing conference (OWFI) I sat at a table with three women from Wichita, Ks and rather than connecting through writing we connected through shopping at Adrian's Boutique.  It might be easier to go to her blog to find out why people love her store and her smile  Most recently, Vicki is branching out to create a new blog.  Stay turned to her site for further development of a new idea.  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Miami Memories: Heroes

Johnie F. Stapp
The news of the world
celebrates the Invasion of Normandy
and the strength and determination of
our troops on this day 70 years ago.

I awaken to crackling lightning
rolling thunder and gushing rains.
I'm thankful for this blessing from nature
and for those men and boys who
walked this earth 70 years ago.

This life I've lived, this life I know
dramatically paved by the efforts and
bloodshed of the Armed Forces throughout
 a second war
to end all wars.  I'll never forget you.

My father, Johnie Stapp joined the Army
December 23, 1940.  He went to war a Sargent,  came home a Lieutenant.  He toured the Pacific from the Aleutians to the Philippines.
He came home.

My father-in-law, Albert Watt, joined the Marines, a rifleman.  He saw the bloodshed and fought for the beaches at Iwo Jima.
He came home.

I heard stories of those Japs the good and the bad from my dad.
On a tour in 1995 of Japan I met a man, older
and more crippled.  He asked to touch
our hair.  I knew from his eyes he'd seen the death on the beaches.

Forever and a day my father kept his secrets.
The young men whose lives we'll never know
are buried deep within each of us whose father's
were the Greatest Generation.

Now in silent reflection we must carry on the values of
dedication, resolve, and patriotism
handed to us through the lives of our youngest
and bravest men and women.

Letty Stapp Watt
Johnie Stapp's daughter and historian