Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Hey, remember that drought we had a few years back?

Well. Not this summer. And I for one am pretty happy about that. Even though it made for a wet evening at THE MIRACLE WORKER. It also made it an adventure complete with umbrellas and wet britches and frizzy hair. We had a blast!

And who remembers being young and dashing out into a late afternoon gullywasher? I've written poems about just such a scene:

And what about fun in a creek? These pics were taken at Butler Creek where the rocks are slippery, the water warm and the leeches only a little bit thirsty... Eric, who lives by superlatives, said it was "the best creek ever." And the adventure contined when Ronnie went to back the truck out of there and the wheels spun and spun, then sank into the river gravel... yep, took a boom truck to get that baby out. Fun!! Big thanks to Pat for making it such a memorable time. xxoo

Thursday, June 24, 2010


So. Lots of fun stuff in store this weekend, thanks in large part to dear writing friend Pat Weaver.

Pat's an amazing gal. And I love going to Florence to visit her, even when nothing else is going on.

This weekend I'm taking the whole family with me -- first to eat supper with Pat and her husband Ronnie and niece Amy, who is a new high school graduate and an amazing writer. I'm super-pleased to be publishing one of her poems in an upcoming issue of Birmingham Arts Journal!

Then we're seeing THE MIRACLE WORKER, at the ampitheater that sits behind Helen Keller's childhood home (called Ivy Green).

Saturday morning Pat is cooking a big country breakfast for us -- anyone out there had biscuits and chocolate gravy?? Anyone out there had PAT'S biscuits and chocolate gravy? Mmmm-mmmm, good!

We'll visit the barn and hang out at the festival and then in the afternoon I will join some other fabulous authors at Cold Water Books for a signing.

I'm excited! And you know what else is cool? Ludelphia and Helen Keller have a little something in common. Those of you who have read LEAVING GEE'S BEND know what I'm talking about...

Sunday, June 20, 2010


For nearly two years my father has been living with cancer. Emphasis on LIVING.

He's an inspiration, and I am so proud he imprinted me with the philosophy found in the piece of writing that follows: an essay written by my father that will soon appear in the Bismarck Cancer Center newsletter.

Thanks, Papa, for so graciously allowing me to share it here. I love you, and Happy Father's Day!

Faith and Hope…Choices?

It’s not at all strange that those of us who are cancer survivors generally report that we have found great comfort and encouragement in words and concepts like “faith” and “hope.” In fact, it is clear that both the quality of our lives and, often, the degree of our “healing” is tremendously impacted by our ability to tap into the unlimited reservoirs of strength, fortitude and peace provided through “faith” and “hope.”

However, as important as these words and concepts are to our healing, they quite often fail to convey a critically important truth—You don’t just catch faith; you aren’t simply given hope. Instead, you first have to consciously make the decision to live, and, having chosen life, then you must choose to live your life with hope by faith.

As odd as it is, many people never get to the point where they make the distinction between merely existing and really living. How many people do you know who tend to simply tolerate their day to day lives while they long for something that will happen in the future?—they’re just marking time until they can go on a trip, meet the ideal mate, win the lotto, buy something expensive, become cured of an illness, travel, retire, etc. And what about those who live in the past or worry constantly about the future? It seems to me that all these folks are so busy just waiting to live some vague notion of “the good life” that the lives they’ve been given will probably be over before they get around to it. None of us has asked to be born. Our lives are a gift to us…and, like all gifts, if life is to be meaningful, it has to be fully accepted by the recipient—and that’s a choice.

So how do we seize the moment, how do we choose to really live, even in the face of something horrible, like cancer? Well, for one thing, we’ve got to get past the unpleasant but inescapable fact that life isn’t always fair. One of my favorite songs is by the Eagles, called “Get Over It.” Not everyone likes it—the message is a bit uncomfortable. It includes the lines: “…Victims of this, victims of that, your Daddy is too tall, your Mama is too fat…Get Over It!...” Not a soft, sweet, comfortable message, is it? But, realistic it is. Life is sometimes unfair, bad things do happen to good people, and we sometimes feel powerless to do anything about it.

But that doesn’t give us license to sink down into despair. We can choose to savor life—by focusing not on the routine, “getting by” stuff, but by concentrating on the people we truly love, the things we are passionate about, the beauty that surrounds us, the things that bring joy and happiness. I think that living—and especially living with cancer—involves accepting responsibility for our lives by making those choices necessary to ensure that in each and every moment given us we experience life to its fullest. We won’t be perfect, but we will endeavor to do the very best we can, by repeatedly choosing to feel the very best we can, to savor the good and the joyful, and to uplift those around us…And our lives will be enriched and those around us will be blessed because we choose it to be that way!

Living life to its fullest is a choice. You can choose disappointment or contentment. You can choose to focus on the people and things you love or the things you detest or fear. Leave no room in your life for anything that does not bring fulfillment…and, if you’re fighting cancer or any other horrible circumstance, choose faith and hope!

- Kenneth E. Dykes, Sr.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Good news: computer is back in black! Or blue, as the case may be... and I am woefully behind on celebrating the successes of some of my fellow Class of 2k10 classmates and Tenners whose books are now seeking readers everywhere. Congratulations to all of you!

Starting with the ones I've read and loved:

And now for a few that I am dying to read! Don't these look delicious??

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


So, what have I been doing this summer?


Apart from bemoaning the absence of my beloved laptop (still not fixed! Holy moly, will I survive???), I have been teaching.

And teaching.

And teaching.

I taught middle schoolers about writing poetry and writing voice at Red Mountain Writing Project. (Ever tried to define voice? Yeah. Not so easy.)

Last weekend at Southern Christian Writers Conference I taught a whole slew of wonderful folks about writing poetry and marketing novels (except I called it "Book Promotion in Ten Easy Steps!" Yeah, that statement is about as true as the billboards on highway 280. But come on. We gotta have a little fun with it!)

Anyhoo.... to borrow your word, dear Jen #1...this weekend I am at it again: I'll be teaching high school kids attending Journalism camp at University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. We'll be talking poetry, fiction, literary mags, social media... I'm excited!

Unfortunately I will not have my helper with me this weekend. I'll miss you, Eric. xxoo

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Happy Poetry Friday! Kelly Polark has Round Up.

So what's up in my poetic life?

I'm sorry to say I've been a bit of a slacker in the submission department. In the past month I think I've only submitted to two journals and one contest. MUST DO BETTER.

I did, however, speak earlier this week to middle schoolers at Red Mountain Writing Project about writing poetry. And this weekend I am on the faculty at Southern Christian Writers Conference, where one of my sessions is also on the topic.

AND (this is big): I registered for Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference, where I will meet real live poetry editors from such esteemed presses as Graywolf and work super-hard to improve my current manuscript.

What's it called, you ask?

Well. I should say right away that I am completely enamored of this title. So if you don't like it, don't tell me. Yet.


And for Poetry Friday, here is an excerpt from a poem that appears in the collection and is titled "True Things Learned from Cats:"

"Remember: the bag cannot
hold. Everything looks grey
in the dark. Warmth is more
lasting than softness.

And nine lives
will never be enough."

- Irene Latham

Cat art found here.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Ever since I was wee, I've loved the mountains. And ever since my Senior Trip to Maggie Valley, NC, I've wanted to go back.

It's changed a bit in 20 years, but all the things I remember loving are still there: Sliding Rock, Grandfather's Mountain, those twisty, turny mountain roads. We ate fudge and shopped for art and got caught on a trail in a rainstorm. And when we got back to our chalet, we threw open the doors so we could listen to the jolly little creek gurgling and laughing like a two year old.

It was awesome. Completely invigorating and inspiring. And here are a few of my favorite pics: