February 18, 2019
Poet Laureate of Oregon
Yesterday, I went to a program put on by the Willamette Writers on the Coast that featured Kim Stafford, Poet Laureate of Oregon. It was an interesting program. The man has bounds of energy that he pours into his work. His father was also a poet and traveled the country doing readings, selling, or giving away his books.
He started his program by singing a song that comes from deep within Oregon’s past. No one knows who wrote it, but it managed to survive those pioneer days. It talked about the rains that seem to plague Oregon. It’s true we in the coastal areas get deluged every year, especially in winter.
He had a few items to offer for us in the prose world. Things that can go a long ways toward achieving our goals:
When you are writing and get stuck, LOWER YOUR STANDARDS and keep going.
A snake going trying to go straight doesn’t get far. (For me this works well. If your M/C is going in a straight line, nothing much is happening. He needs to wiggle a bit to gain momentum.)
Write hard and clear about what hurts.
He dissected part of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech.” Noting how the Reverend’s choice of words added muscle to the speech that might otherwise have been mundane by someone else who haphazardly threw it together.
Something that I took away is that we as writers should make our voices heard. I’ve heard this many times before, but he added another aspect which I found fascinating. Think about whom our writing serves.
Do we write to serve ourselves? Hoping to earn a living from the fruits of our minds? Or do we write for others, to entertain them, to enlighten them, to uplift them?
I can twist this a bit and find the question of ‘who is our target audience?’
He proposed that being a poet is a great thing. The first and foremost reason: as a poet he would never get rich. The public isn’t willing to pay for poetry. His rationale for this particular item being first: “It makes me free. It gives me the okay to do and say what I want. I am not bound by rules or by conventional wisdom.”
He went on to talk about a poem his father (William Stafford) wrote about a deer he found on the edge of the road. It was dead, but there was a fetus moving inside her belly. In his poem, he shoved the deer over the side of the road. –He was told he could not print that. It was mean, it was heartless, it was against the norms. Instead of changing to meet the desires of the editors he kept it. It was rejected 17 times. It won a prestigious prize and became the lead in an anthology.
Somewhere near the start, he said something about Mahatma Gandhi being asked by a soldier, “When should I put down my gun?” I heard nothing else for a while because it sent my mind in a whirl. I am not a poet, I claim nothing in the way of skills. Even so, the beginning of a poem jumped into my head. This morning I researched a little, cleaned it up a bit, and ended up with this:
Guns don’t kill People
Friday five fell in Aurora. (1)
In a solitary year,
Twelve hundred children died
by guns every one. (2)
You proclaim, we need no controls.
Its people who kill people
On this, we agree.
Guns do not think
Often, neither do people.
Outlaw guns and only outlaws will have guns.
But outlaws already have guns,
So you suggest
Take up arms and stand our ground?
Meaning we should surrender to fear?
With training, guns are safe;
Five people stand at a bus stop
A sixth hides within.
Police appear, so does a gun
Even the best-trained miss.
Blood flows on New Orleans Street. (3)
Thank you for the training
How would I have known?
Yet, still I must question:
If as you say people kill people
Why would you sell them guns?
Links to the stories:
- 1 https://www.cbsnews.com/news/since-parkland-project-profiles-1200-children-killed-by-gun-violence/
- 2 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47261314
- 3 https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2019/02/18/five-wounded-police-suspect-shootout-new-orleans-vosot-vpx.hln
Wow, we are in February already. January is barely a blur. I’ve been busy with going to the Gym, Writers Groups, taking a Photography Class, and working to reconnect with my wife of forty-six years. For a while, writing seems to have fallen to the wayside, only occasionally jumping back to the forefront of thought, only to be interrupted by some planned outing. The past month has reminded me of the requirement for balance in life.
Nevertheless, I have made a bit of headway. I’ve started a new story. Probably will be novel length. The working title, for now, is Gelas. My story Plots is at a standstill though I have managed to come up with an outline of what the first book should look like. For the most part, written and what needs to happen is the first true rewrite. I anticipate new pieces will have found their way to the screen, some of the old stuff will end up where cut pieces go when separated from the whole. But that’s the way of writing. And I’ve learned some hard lessons from some old stories.
It’s funny, that when I submit stories to a writers group, I get all kinds of comments, mostly good, one or two take the time for in-depth analysis, and for these, I am greatly appreciative, even when the cut my story to pieces. This group is made up of people who concentrate on different genres than mine. These are people who have lives some still struggling to earn a living. Yet, when I submit the same story to a greater critique group, people who are writing for publication, people from my genre, I get a different taste on my writing.
I submitted a story I was particularly proud of, only to have it shredded. “Lack of plot, not enough character building, issues with Main Character’s inability to handle grief. At the same time had others who loved the story, got the morbid humor, and said I hit the “fog of grief right on.” I’ve learned that with critiques, one must throw out the extremes at either end and focus on what the majority of people see. When three people of fifteen see something of concern, I should pay attention. When that number reaches five, I will probably need to do something. Certain pieces got strong praise from five or more, so I leave those pieces intact more or less (correct spelling, fix commas, etc.).
I’ve been reading on Facebook, yes I know it’s a brain-sucking distraction that I don’t need. Even so, I have learned a bit from a few of the people there, all the while dodging the hucksters, the self-promoters, the trolls who only want to start a fight, and the poor-me, who have some issue and want someone else to fix it for them. (For this latter group, there is always an abundance of enablers who will give up their time to help someone else.)
Writing is what it is. If one wants to be a storyteller, local libraries, senior centers, and schools are always looking for programs for its clientele. If one wishes to be a published author, there are two routes. Self-publishing which offers the highest financial return, (If that is, you can do all the pieces required to sell your work.) And traditional publishing is more challenging to break into but offers the best support system for a new author. I’ve seen lots of people publish stuff that should have found their way into the hands of an editor at the least. I’ve been struggling to get something put together to present to a publisher. I’ll not jump the gun and self-publish something I don’t feel is ready, that hasn’t been through at least one beta reader, preferably two or three. Right now, I’ve one book out with a beta reader Prince’s Stone. The lady who works on it in her spare time. (In a month, she made twenty pages. A bit slower than I had hoped for but considering her busy life, I am not complaining — yet.)
Ah well, I guess I’ll stop here. I do need to be working on a story instead of reflecting on life.
My wife and I have decided this year will be a ‘get healthy’ year. Our focus will be on changing our lifestyle, getting more exercise, eating better and losing weight. It’s a big goal. She has jumped in with both feet. Counting calories, keeping a log on what she eats and when, and planning meals for a week in advance. Me, I’m a little more sedate. I have embraced the exercise regime. We joined the local recreation center, and since our start on January 9, we have spent about two hours a day five days a week working out.
Their pool has been a godsend for me and my bad knee. And since we committed to an annual membership, we had an instructor teach us how to use the machines. I had some vague ideas before but knowing how to set them up and use them properly is important towards not hurting more than I’m helping. But since we’ve added the machines, I believe I am getting a more balanced work out than using the bicycles and the pool alone.
Oh, the diet part, well it will happen. But I like to do things one at a time. I’ve tried making major changes in life before; taking on several changes all at once. The result was I gave up because I became overwhelmed by the drastic nature of the changes to what I was used to. So, my goal is to institute one change at a time, make the change a habit, (usually about 21 days) and once comfortable add another. If I stick to this, the diet changes should start in about a week to ten days.
I am finally getting where I have a life after the gym again. The first week, I felt so wiped out all I wanted to do was go home and crash into the bed. Naturally, this interferes with my sleep schedule. If only I could find a way around the sore muscles. Things would be so much easier. I know I need to give it some time.
On the writing front:
With the above changes, I’ve stalled a bit on creating. I’ve spent my time working on the website and doing critiques on Criters.org. I put up a post on Facebook I had Writing Prompts available on my website. Seems not many people use them, even though a few weeks back I read a post from a person searching for a good source.
I’ve had no word back about Prince’s Stone from the beta reader yet. I know, I must be patient. It is a five hundred plus page book for Pete’s sake, and the woman has a life other than reading my story. Still, I can’t help but be anxious to see what she says. I will see her in a couple of weeks during a writers group, I hope she will have an update.
In the meantime, I am considering putting my second book in the Prince’s Stone series out to strangers, as beta readers. I found a couple of lists of questions to pose to them. I will consolidate those into a single list of questions I find pertinent about what I want to learn.
Seems like the older I get, the faster time flies. I cannot believe we are here in 2019. To me, it seems like we just hit 2010 such a short time ago. When I was a kid, a week seemed such a long time but a year, OMG that was like forever. Now, a decade has passed, and it seems like yesterday.
My wife and I joined a gym this week, all part of a get healthy year. I suppose that it’s natural that when one hasn’t worked out in a very long time that when given the motivation and the opportunity, one overdoes it. We went two days in a row and on the third, I could barely move. We took a day and then yesterday went back, and things seemed easier. Mind you, we both are trying to go slow at this. Neither of us wants to be so sore that we quit. An hour a day is all we are putting in. I’m limited in what I can work on, torn rotator cuff says no weights, so instead, I tread water, mostly using my arms and hands. The wife stays in the pool the entire hour.
On the writing front, I’ve been going over critiques of one of my short stories, and I am absolutely amazed at the variation in what people see and like and don’t like. One lady ripped the story apart. It was genuinely hard for me to read, but the very next person loved the story the way it sits. It can be quite confusing on how to proceed. Fortunately, there are seventeen critiques, that gives me a broad view of what works and what don’t. I’ll take all those and where a consensus exists, I will most likely make some changes. Where one person screams this is an issue, I will look at it, and if I agree, there could be some change. I feel good that there were several who liked the story and loved pieces. There’s enough of the positive that I will do a rewrite and start again with submissions.
I don’t mind tough critiques. Actually, I value them much higher than the “Great story,” or “I liked it.” To me, a tough critique means someone actually took the time to look deeply at the work and while they may have taken issues with it, pointed out their concerns. Whereas the ones who liked it didn’t take the time to say why they liked it or what worked for them. I admit I’ve given the great story kind of critique before, but I always try to say what made it good at least in a general sense.
As a writer, I need that extra input. How else am I to improve? How else do I know that I am on the correct path? How else do I make the decision to put away my pen and say no more?
I hope that everyone has had a joyous holiday season. Our trip to Sacramento brought most of our family together in one place again; something that gets harder as everyone’s lives progress. It was nice to see the grandkids and hear of how their lives are developing. My son and his new wife were the only ones who could not come. We had seen them earlier this year, and they weren’t completely absent, they spend the time with us on the phone when we opened gifts.
Chloe, who had hip surgery last month is progressing very well. I had a hard time even noticing she had any difficulty. If anything she was a bit more reserved in moving around, but a lot less so than I would have expected.
Today, some of us, those who do not have to work or go to school are going up into the Sierras to play in the snow for a little while. Afterward, I will probably leave with Jennifer (youngest daughter) to go birding until dark. Tomorrow we visit with friends who have been out of town for Christmas to visit their family in Redding. It will be a game day. We sit and play board games and talk and eat.
Sunday, I suspect we will visit the light displays at Cal Expo, something my wife has wanted to do over the past five years and for a variety of reasons has been unable to do so. This year the plan is posted for all, and regardless of who goes. So, for any last minute dropouts, they know they will be left alone to do what they need to do.
Monday is New Year’s Eve. I have a hard fast rule. I do not travel on that day. There are entirely too many people who believe that they can drive after having a few drinks. There is nothing in our schedule that requires we return home before January first. But we may travel on the first or second to return to Oregon.
I’ve been productive in writing as well. I have begun a new story, though it is way too early to say much more. I like the beginning. It may be a little too far out there for me; I don’ know yet. Let’s see how things progress.
Two other developments on the writing front
First: I have an outline for Plots Book One. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it will require me to write a few dozen pages to meld everything into a coherent story.
Second: Prince’s Stone is in the hands of a Beta Reader. I am anxiously waiting for that to get back so I can go the next step.
It has been a bit since I’ve given an update to what’s going on in my world. Let’s say the past month has been hectic. The RV issue has reached its conclusion, I hope. I will be picking it up tomorrow.
A good friend has had a heart attack and underwent quadruple bypass surgery. The man is 82 years old and faced significant risk he would die from the surgery. That has taken up a lot of our time and energy. We stayed two days in a hotel in Portland, Oregon to be near while he underwent surgery. The good news is he came through with flying colors. He’s still in the hospital, been there for better than two weeks already. He is slated to go home by Tuesday. Our fingers are crossed for his complete recovery.
On the writing front, I’ve finally organized “Plots,” my current Work in Progress (WIP). So far, it has somewhere in the range of 150,000 to 180,000 words, and I have no ending yet. Even in the Fantasy genre, that is way too much for a single book. At this point, I recognize that it will be at least two books and likely three. I suppose the final count depends on how much longer it takes to reach a conclusion. In the story yet to be written, I can see quite a bit of conflict that must take place before things can settle down; before the final resolution can be found. Do I know what that looks like yet? I haven’t a clue. Maybe next November I will add another 50,000 to 80.000 words to this behemoth, I don’t know. After my month of binge writing to reach the goal of 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo, (I actually wrote 72,000) I’ve enjoyed a bit of a break to organize the work I’ve done, and now, I will try to separate out the first of the books.
I think I’ve come to a conclusion about another item. I have several books I’ve completed over the past decade. It is time for them to start seeing the light of day. I am going to approach a friend and see if they will do a beta read with comments on the first of another series of three books. If so, that might become a priority when I get it back. The priority is to get it looked at by a publisher or to self-publish.
Well, it’s day 11 of NaNoWriMo. I’ve exceeded my expectations. I had assumed that since I had pretty much stopped writing for almost six months, only beginning again just a week before, that I would get going then peter out after a few days. To my pleasant surprise, I’ve done well.
My daily average is well above the 1,667 words per day called for to finish in thirty days. In fact, at my current daily average, I’ll cross the 50,000 goal line on November 18th. I can attribute this to my being retired and quite driven to make the numbers. I can spend lots of time writing. It helps that I got into a plot line that worked and have seen it through and still have a few tendrils to follow before I need to change direction altogether. Even if things slow way down, I only need to make 1,000 words a day to finish the month with the full 50K words.
What’s better than the above is that the plot line I’ve been following has been fun and exciting. I am looking forward to continuing the quest to whatever conclusion I find myself tumbled into.
On other items, We’ve been visiting friends and family this past two weeks. I can say that I am happier here with them than I am at home, five hundred miles away. Don’t misunderstand; I am glad when I’m at home too. But I have missed my kids something awful. Shoot, they don’t need us anymore. They’ve all done so well financially that they have far surpassed our efforts in the workforce.
Considering some of the conversations I’ve had with friends. I have lots of pride for what my kids have achieved. What my friends have seen is that the millennial generation has proven to have no work ethic. I know, that’s too big a generalization. I am going by the experiences they’ve had. One friend is a contractor, he brings on helpers on occasion and has found that most of the 30 to 40-year-olds are incapable of listening to instruction, pooh-pooh advice from those who have done the job longer than they’ve been alive and are flat out undependable. Another is a systems administrator, and he has found that that the same age group and those just coming out of college have a lack of loyalty or desire to see a project to an end. One young man they hired worked two months and decided one morning that he wanted to travel. He walked out the same day, no notice and never looked back (Or so my friend assumed.)
I fear for the future of our country if this is the way of things for the workforce. True, it isn’t my problem, and I am certain there are just as many positive stories about the millennials as negative. I do have kids and grandkids who have to live with what is happening in the world, long after I’m gone.
It’s day two of this year’s NaNoWriMo event. I’ve gotten off to a decent start. My two-day total word count is 6,428 for an average of 3,214 per day. Wow. Don’t normally average that high. But when I’m on a roll, things just flow out of me.
My wife and I are off on a little adventure, babysitting four cantankerous cats, a house full of plants for one of our daughters, and visiting our other daughter and friends. Don’t know for certain how long we will be gone from home. As usual, things tend to be somewhat fluid on return dates, maybe next week, maybe next month. But we will likely be here on December 4th as my oldest granddaughter is having surgery and I cannot imagine that we would be anywhere else; even though the only thing we can do to assist is sit with our daughter while her daughter is being worked on.
The website still has a glitch. I can’t seem to force it to accept comments as I expect it to. If one scrolls from the home page down to the blogs, there is no issue, and the comments box greets the visitor. But if one clicks on the menu to arrive at the blog posts, there is no comment box. Doesn’t make any sense to me at all and it may require me to change the theme for the site once again so that I can get things the way I want them. I hate to keep switching the website around. It makes it hard to grow a following when everything seems to remain in a state of flux. On the other hand, I like things to work correctly, and they don’t.
10 23 2018
Today has been one of those emotional days where things seem pretty bleak. We learned that our RV, the one we lived in for five years, that had sit in storage for the better part of four years has a problem. First, we knew that the thing would not move. The engine started just fine. Put it in gear, and it would not go. The brakes were locked. It has air brakes, and there could be a large number of things to cause that. We got hold of a mechanic who, three days ago sent two guys over to pick it up and they could not make anything happen. Yesterday, the manager went to the storage lot and got it moving.
Getting it moving to the shop and learning there is nothing wrong with the brakes is the good news he had for us. The bad news: There is an electrical issue that is affecting the transmission. Or a transmission issue that is keeping the thing stuck in gear. It will no longer start. The local shop doesn’t work on electrical or transmission issues. Now, we have to have it towed from his shop in Newport to a shop in Eugene, Oregon, 96 miles away. Towing a thirty-seven foot RV is not inexpensive. The lowest quote my wife got was $450 per hour. The towing company is in a town called Albany, 60 miles away. The fees start the moment the driver pulls off his lot. Hmm, 1.3 hours from Albany to Newport and another .75 hours to load the 17,000-pound monstrosity onto a truck; plus1.75 hours to get from Newport to Eugene and then of course .75 hours to unload said monstrosity; oh and the tow truck driver has to return to Albany, add another hour. Towing would work out to $2,700. This is before any work starts.
Then there is the repair shop, they quoted a mechanic rate of $140 per hour. Who knows how much time will be required to figure out what the problem is? Electrical issues are notoriously difficult to find. And then, how long to repair? What parts are going to be needed? Last time I had an automatic transmission rebuilt it set me back $6,000 That included a rebuilt transfer case and replacing a wiring harness that had caught fire. That was on a Jeep Grand Cherokee, back in 2010. I fear we may be talking about something more substantial here. Truth is we don’t have $6000 to do a rebuild, nor do I have any way to come up with that kind of money.
Through the day’s darkness, a real piece of good news surfaced. I am so happy my wife thought of it because I never would have. Our insurance on the RV covers necessary towing fees. I would have thought that was only in the instance of an accident. Turns out that is not the case. Our insurance lady called into the company and got verification. We do have to the insurance company who will call a tow company whom they will pay directly. Oh, last time I had the RV towed, the tow truck driver broke the windshield, that was $500 out of my pocket to pay a deductible on a $1,500 piece of glass
My thought at this point, especially knowing that the tires are ten years old, there is an odor of mildew running through the rig’s living space, and that we are unlikely to use it much anymore, costs are too high, I’d like to get it running, take it to an auto auction and sell it to the highest bidder. It is worth between $18,000 and $25,000 probably closer to the low end of that. So at auction, we should get something in the range of $9,000 to $12,000. I could let it go at that. And even if only pulls in $5,000 we are better off. If I can’t get it running or sell it at auction, we probably will donate it to NPR or something. Either way, we are rid of it and $135 a month in storage and insurance fees.
I’ve made my thoughts clear to my wife. She favors selling it to an individual, says the only auction she can find is eBay, but I can’t see us taking the time or stress go through that. I’ll wait and see what she decides, that will be tomorrow at the earliest. Whatever, we have to move it in the next forty-eight hours.