A nerdcation, if not obvious, is a trip that some people might consider pedestrian, strange, boring. I took such a trip this winter, and I found the trip quite the opposite. Perhaps, it’s because the recipe that is me includes one-part nerd.
Anyone who knows me, understands I’m a Poe – addict. January 19th 1809 is Poe’s date of birth, making this past Monday the 206th anniversary of his birth; hence, his birthday. The Poe Museum in Richmond, Virgina, planned a celebration. I decided, almost last minute, to fly cross country to the chilled Eastern U.S. to do my very own Poe Tour.
His mothers are buried there (there were two), his first true love’s house (he was 14, she was his friend’s mother) is a landmark, his first and last fiance (Elmira), the places he grew up, schooled, played, worked, proposed. I marked all of the locations and addresses, a walk in a dead writer’s footsteps that would culminate with the day long event at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, which promised to include readings, discussions, and cake.
If some of you find this boring, you’ll find what follows probably even more banal. Unless, you’re a visual person and browse the photos
My first stop was E.A. Poe’s birth mother. Her body lies somewhere on the grounds of St. John’s Church. St. John’s is famous for Patrick Henry’s “Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!” speech. I’m told Henry is buried there, as well as numerous other revolutionaries.
Poe’s Father, David Jr, purportedly said, the day that ruined my life was the day my son was born. He never wanted to be a father. After Edgar’s sister, Rosalie, was born, David Poe disappeared. His parents, Elizabeth Arnold and David, were actors. By the time Edgar was two, his mother perished.
Because her profession was considered a mere step above prostitution and no respectable person would agree to be buried near an actress, she was laid in the ground without a headstone or location notation. It seems three different organizations pulled together, built and placed a marker to honor Poe’s mother.
The day I arrived, the sun shined, melting the ice from the streets. The lovely magnolia tree nearby the grave dropped melting ice, giving me my own personal rainstorm.
I meandered around the cemetery. Remembering, honoring the dead.
Across the street from the Church is Elmira Royster’s home – or what was once her home.
She was Poe’s first fiance, her father disapproved of Poe, so they met secretly at the gardens (which is now the Lindon Row Inn – where I fortuitously reserved a room. My room overlooked the back garden patio where Poe is supposed to have taken Elmira’s hand and asked her to marry him, to wait for him until he returned from college).
Poe’s letters never reached Elmira (thanks to her father); she thought she’d been abandoned and entered the marriage arranged/approved by her father.
Many years later, after she’d been widowed, her maid involved herself in an argument at the front door, refusing entry to the tall, dark, caped stranger at the front door who insisted he be allowed to see Ms. Elmira on this Sunday morning. The lady of the house admitted him, listened to his argument. Anyone who’s seen someone they once loved knows what she was feeling, understands those “no, I shouldn’t, yes, I want to,” back and forth feelings she may have been experiencing as she told him, “I have church this morning, you may return another time.” No doubt she watched him go through the window slats and hoped he’d return. His cape blew back in the wind as he walked determinedly away, formulating a plan, even then, to win back his first love.
Poe did reappear, and too soon asked for her hand in marriage. She was one of the last people to see him before he left Richmond…. She was, officially, Poe’s first and last fiance.
Poe’s first true soul love (his words) was his friend’s mother; she supported his writing whereas his adoptive father did not. Mrs. Jane Stith Craig Stanard’s house is not far from either the church or Elmira’s house.
Coming home with his friend on an average school day, he met the lovely Mrs. Stanard. Maybe they said just a few words, but Poe was smitten and returned again and again. They talked of poetry. It was a gentile relationship, an appropriate one, even if possibly it made his friend uncomfortable. (She died when Poe was 15).
It’s known as the Craig House, is privately owned and boasts the original structure, although it has been restored. The house stands as the second oldest structure in Virginia.
Poe was never officially adopted, but the Allan’s are referred to as his adoptive parents. Edgar’s middle name Allan comes from their family. His adoptive mother, Francis Allen was a great love of Poe’s. She passed in 1929. His adoptive father doesn’t come across as a nice man. He didn’t appreciate Poe’s writings, his mannerisms, reminded him often that Edgar lived off his charity. There’s some evidence that Allan cheated on his wife, he had illegitimate children with another woman (even left them $ in his will). Poe didn’t seem to respect the man, and I believe that is part of the reason why. There are some allegations that Poe involved himself with married women and single women as well; however, when he married Virginia, and loved a woman, he seemed to be wholly involved and didn’t consider turning to another.
Mrs. Stanard’s headstone is closer to downtown. The cemetery is larger with long, winding, dirt roads, which supposedly are labeled A, B, C. Navigating it curiously, I found, by luck the intersection.
I must admit that in some strange way, I didn’t care to see Mr. Allan’s grave; however, his family plots were close to his the Stanards. I walked the ten feet from Mrs. Jane Stith Craig Stanard grave to the Allan’s. It further made me dislike this ghost of a man whom I could never know. Crazy, I know.
Allan married and had more children after Francis’ death. His marker is large, looming over Francis’ marker, his second wife’s marker is larger than his first wife’s. I’m not certain why that annoyed me so much, but it did. How could his first wife merit a headstone half the size of his second wife’s? Seems somehow – assholish.
The weather was getting the best of me. I’m a thin blooded creature, the eastern sun moved fast toward the west, the sky grew gray, and the sketchy neighborhood where the cemetery lies isn’t a place a woman should challenge her fears.
I searched for at a more modern venue for refreshment. Not knowing the area, unable to locate a Starbucks via my gps, I parked in the city center and opted for a 7/11 coffee.
A block to the north, much to my surprise, laid Capital Park. With another hour on my city meter, I walked up, coffee in hand, to see if I could locate the Edgar Allan Poe Statue. Although I was lead to believe the statue was difficult to find, hidden in some far off corner, I found it quite easily.
I’m searching for Poe. I’m searching for connection. To pick up the remains of the past, make certain it’s real. Fortunately, the Edgar Allen Poe Society has done much more than I.
The house Poe grew up in is long gone to a history we can only read about: wars, fire, reconstruction. The Poe Society has marked the building. The building is currently condemned.
A few weeks after Poe’s mother passed, the show went on without her. A new stage play drew in the city’s patrons which filled the seats. It grew quite warm inside. The actors took note, the patrons noticed. They turned to one another, “it’s quite warm in here tonight.” The play was exquisite. The lighting extreme, as if a real fire burned in the background. When a single actor yelled “Fire!” The audience laughed, applauded. When more actors screamed, “Fire!” The theater goers turned to one another, nodded, “quite realistic.”
Until some astute actors and patrons made for the door, then others realized that, indeed, this was not part of the play. By then, the theater was already engulfed. Both, actors and wealthy patrons, died together. They are sealed in the same crypt under the new church built over them. Monument Churchl. Poe’s adoptive family, the Allans, worshiped there.
How might it have been for the young Poe to have his mother’s friends, his adoptive parents’ friends under his feet as he sang hymns?
Next Stop – Poe Museum. They programmed a 206th Birthday Celebratioon – a day long event of readings, museum tours, music, walking tours (Poe – related spots), CAKE! and a champagne toast at midnight.
The small building on main street is easy to pass without notice, but it is the oldest residence in Virginia, built in the 1700’s. The residence became the Poe Museum in 1922 (I believe).
The museum is made up of four small buildings and an enchanted garden. The pergola in the back of the garden which houses Poe’s bust was built from the bricks from the Southern Literary Messenger where Poe once worked.
Friday, the museum was completely empty except for the curator, the director, and those who were setting up for the celebration. I had the museum to myself, completely alone with Poe.
It featured many of his personal items, a bed, vest, cane, etc, among other artifacts. It boasted portraits of the period as well as modern work. I’ll let you check out this pics on the museum website (although their pictures are not current) as I don’t think I was supposed to take pictures. 😉
Music. Tours. Art. Poe Lovers. It was a lovely day, a soul enriching day, (even if it was too chilly for my California tolerance).
There’s little in this post that you won’t find elsewhere – as far as information about Poe and his family. The pictures are mine. (please give credit if you copy them).
Why does someone leave the warm sunshine of a winter in southern California to go to the too cold city of Richmond, Virginia in January? And why?
It’s history. It’s literature. It’s a passion of mine to know more, see, touch, be in the presence of. I am filled up, revitalized. I learned more, enjoyed discovering my penchant for boutique hotels led me to the grounds of the garden where Poe once stood declaring his love for his first sweet heart. I stood where he once stood, walked a path he may have walked (yes, with thousands, possibly millions of others. but that’s okay with me).
Sometimes, one must get out of their own head, get out of their comfort zone, do something new, something questionable, something that will add to their life experience.
I’ve swam with sharks, now I’ve walked with the dead in a city rich with literary history, with American history.
If you’ve read this far – THANKS!
This is a reblog from January 2015
Thank you so much for having me on your blog. I’m very glad to be here.
As I’ve been reading over the questions you ask, I’ve decided the best way to begin answering them is to start by telling a bit about myself, and why I write.
As you read, you’ll also see that I’ve included Campbell my Seeing Eye Guide Dog and why I chose to do so.
My name is Patty L. Fletcher. I’m a single mother with a beautiful daughter, of whom I am very proud. I have a great son-in-law and five beautiful grandchildren. Three girls, and two boys. I own and handle a Black Labrador from The Seeing Eye™ named Campbell Lee—a.k.a. Bubba Lee or King Campbell, to give just a couple of his nicknames.
I’m multiply disabled. I not only suffer from Bipolar Disorder, and Fibromyalgia but I’m totally blind as well. I was born premature and my blindness was caused by my being given too much oxygen in the incubator. I was partially sighted until 1991, at which time I lost my sight due to an infection after cataract surgery and high eye pressure. I used a cane for 31 years before making the change to a Guide Dog, which was the inspiration for my first book, ‘Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life’ CN-2014.
When I began my writing career with the publishing of that first book, my purpose was to tell the story of how going to The Seeing Eye™ and getting Campbell, learning to love, handle, and work him, then coming home and adding him to my life, gave me true freedom. I told of how changing from being a 31-year cane user to being a guide dog handler taught me things about myself I had never known before. I told of the wonderment I experienced when I finally took that chance.
Continuing onward, as in the beginning, a major goal of mine is to help others who find themselves in domestic violence situations. I also want to help others learn more about mental illnesses and how different situations and environments can drastically affect those with such challenges.
As I write I focus on bipolar disorder, on how it can go horribly wrong and cause a person to behave in ways they normally would not.
Another thing I have attempted to show in these many years of writing is how, in certain institutional settings, attachments can develop—and how those attachments can become unhealthy for all concerned if they are not handled correctly. Most simply, I want others to know more about me.
I’ve written a second book as well. Campbell and I wrote it together.
‘What do you mean? What was the purpose of this book?’ You ask. Let me explain.
The book is, ‘Bubba Tails From the Puppy Nursery At The Seeing Eye’
In Bubba Tails From the Puppy Nursery At The Seeing Eye, it is King Campbell Super Seeing Eye Dog A.K.A Bubba’s turn to tell his tale.
While helping to ready a group of pups to go and meet their puppy raiser families, so they too, might one-day become Seeing Eye dogs, he tells of what it was like for him, to grow up and become a Seeing Eye dog.
As he speaks to the wee pups, he speaks about the importance of facing one’s fears, of honesty and how telling the truth no matter how hard, is always best. He speaks of love, faith and of believing in one’s self
Because Campbell and I are together I feel it is important for you to know him as well.
WHO IS CAMPBELL AND FROM WHERE DOES HE COME…?
Campbell was born in Chester N.J. November 28, 2008.
He lived with his Dog Mother and Litter Mates until he was approximately eight weeks old, and then he went to live with his Puppy Raisers.
Then, when he was just over a year-old, he was taken away from his Puppy Raiser family, to be trained at The Seeing Eye.
After only four short months he was chosen to become the guide of his now human mother Patty L. Fletcher.
One more important thing we must add, because of The Seeing Eye being the first ever school of this kind and due to its continuing to be the largest and oldest school in the world, before we continue, we’re obligated to post the following information. We’d love it if you’d visit the site sometime to learn all about how this wonderful Guide Dog movement began and what it takes to continue today.
Legal Notes THE SEEING EYE® and SEEING EYE® are registered trademarks of The
Seeing Eye, Inc.See: www.SeeingEye.org
What do you think the publishing world needs to do more of in order to meet the needs of those who are differently-abled/disabled?
I must say I am quite pleased to have an opportunity to answer this question. Being a multiply disabled writer most certainly can be extremely challenging. So much so that I wrote an article about it. Which, I might add was well received by many in the self-publishing world. If readers would like to have a look they may visit: https://campbellsworld.wordpress.com/2018/02/07/challenges-of-a-disabled-writer/.
In the article which was also published in the Indie Publishing Magazine, I talk about the various challenges disabled writers face. Things such as:
- Photos, Screenshots, and Memes which have no descriptive text.
- The challenges of correctly dealing with words which sound the same and are spelled different, and:
- Books that aren’t TTS (Text To Speech) enabled, websites that aren’t accessible to those using screen reader or voice over technology, and lots of other things the general writing world just doesn’t consider when dealing with writers who have special needs.
I must say the next question you ask is my favorite and comes to me at a time in my life when I find daring to be different whether by design or choice is hard as the devil to do.
What do you think the world in general needs to do in order to understand the needs of those who are differently-abled/disabled?
The best way I can answer this is this…
Be open minded. Don’t put people into boxes. I’m a multiply disabled person. I think, act, and work differently than anyone else.
That’s not all due to my disability and I see a lot of this going on.
The world needs to be more accepting of things that aren’t the “Traditional way of doing things.”
One of the biggest reasons I gravitated to Indie Publishing and especially blogging was so that I could go my own way, do my own thing and be OK doing so but of late I don’t seem to fit in.
Honestly, it’s starting to seriously drag me down. Seems like no matter where I go or what I do someone somewhere disapproves.
Well, to be blunt I’m quite tired of it. No two people are the same. We’re all “differently abled” All of us no matter who we are have things that are hard for us. If people stopped and seriously took a good, long, look at themselves they’d realize that no one is without some kind of disability and I just get tired of there being all these pigeonholes that I’m supposed to fit into.
I just want to be allowed to be myself, write in a way that makes me happy, tell my stories in a way that feels comfortable to me and not have all these other people telling me what I should and should not do.
I am not them and they’re not me. They don’t live my life and I don’t live theirs.
I am a 51-year-old totally blind woman who suffers from other types of disorders as well and these disorders cause me to think, feel, and process life around me in a way that is unique to only me.
Is that not true of everyone? Do we not all deal with life as it comes to us in a different way? If you read something and I read that same thing are we both going to receive the very same message?
If you choose one way to put your work out there for the world to enjoy and I choose another is your way any better than mine?
I guess I’m just tired of the “world” thinking it knows what’s best for me.
I’ve a favorite affirmation it goes like this…
“The world is not perfect, so there-for I need not be perfect.”
If I were to sum it all up into one word it would be, ‘allow’
‘Allow’ me to be who I am. ‘Allow’ yourself to be who you are.
In closing let me share these words a dear friend once wrote to me during a time in my life when I was doubting my ability to succeed. He wrote…
Congratulations on your success! Yes, success. All successful people (writers are people too!) get criticized – a lot. There is an entire industry based on criticizing books, movies, plays, sports, cars, etc.… the list goes on forever.
Don’t let the criticism get to you. You put in the work, you made it happen – only you get to decide if it turned out the way you intended. No one else is qualified. Forge ahead, do what is in your heart, write your books, sing your songs, dance your dance – be you. Everyone else can worry about being themselves!”
Thank you very much for this opportunity to speak about myself and what it is to be a disabled writer in a world in which it can at times be hard to work and belong in.
Thank you, Patty!
Do you go into a coma when someone starts talking about commas?
Don’t get bit by the deadly comma coma bug! Figure out how to make the comma work for you, not against you!
The purpose of all punctuation is to clarify your thoughts and ideas so readers can enjoy and understand the book!
Did you have a teacher that told you, “whenever you feel the need to pause, insert a comma”?
WORST ADVICE EVER!
When we are writing, we naturally pause to think. That is not necessarily where a comma needs to be.
Commas have a number of rules. My favorite site to use – and to introduce to my students – is the Owl at Purdue. Their comma usage explanations are clear and detailed.
One of my editor-friends believes the comma used for introductory words, phrases, and clauses is “going the way of the dinosaur.” While I agree that some people and publications seem to think so, I think it’s still a valid and needed use. [I’ve used introductory commas in this blog – one was in the previous sentence, “While I agree…]
The Fanboys rules is the easiest to remember; however, because of the number of teachers giving the pause advice, I get sentences that look like this:
The Rams won but, not everyone was happy.
We sometimes punctuate our speech this way for emphasis, but you can’t hear tone in these words, and it’s just wrong. < this sentence contains correct use of the fanboys rule.
My students often ask me to explain the whole “Oxford Comma” disagreement. Well, it goes like this: There are people who use the oxford comma and then there are monsters!
Commas are confusing, but they’re not impossible to learn. Any editor is going to appreciate the correct use of commas regardless of how much they appreciate or introductory comma. 🙂
66 days –
That is what a new study says it takes to form new habits. The study participants reported a range from 2 to 254, with 66 being an average.
It depends on the person. With me, it takes 3 to 4 weeks for me to stick to my commitment. And every year my teaching schedule changes, so there’s two to three months a year for me to recommit.
The holidays, however, throws many people off.
However, once the commitment is made and the habit is in place, it’s much easier to get back into the mind space. The secret is to jump right back into the habit after a holiday or change.
Also, I think you have to make an effort to guard that commitment. Don’t be tempted to make lunch plans on a writing hour, make it for later or for a different day.
Life too easily distracts us and, without habits firmly in place, we are easily swayed.
Tell the readers a little about yourself:
My name is Ann Harrison-Barnes, I am the proud single mother of a beautiful little girl. I’ve been blind from birth. I love spending time with my family and playing with my nieces and nephew, when I’m not reading, listening to podcasts, writing or crocheting.
Tell us a little about your writing – genre, publications, etc.
I write Christian fiction with a bit of mystery and suspense. I guess you could call my first full-length novel a Christian mystery. I have also written a children’s book and I’m working on a few others. I’ve not only published my own books through Amazon KDP, two of which are licensed under the Electric Eclectic Books brand, but I have been featured in four anthologies. Three of which are online, and one I’m figuring out how to offer as a giveaway. One of my books is a small short story collection that has a bit of everything. I am currently working on revisions for a how to book for aspiring authors who want to self-publish their own books through KDP
Do you have a favorite character, story, setting that you’ve created?
My favorite novelette is called Inner Vision, an Electric Eclectic book. I loved adding a bit of mystery, intrigue and a bit of romance to this Christian fiction story.
How long have you been writing?
Well, that’s a hard question to answer, because I started when I was in fourth grade, then I dabbled in it when I was in high school, but to be honest with you, I have been writing professionally for over eight years now.
What was and is your motivation for writing?
After I suffered emotional abuse from my first husband, I had dreams of climbing. And I turned to music. Those dreams gave me the inspiration and motivation to write A Journey of Faith: a Stepping Stones Mystery. Since then, I have been compelled to write stories and novels to share the message of God’s love through entertainment.
What do you hope readers walk away with after they’ve read something you’ve written?
Each book has its own special message, for example, I hope that people get the message that they shouldn’t give up on their life long dreams. I hope they learn to face their fears and not let fear hold them back from doing the things they love, when they read A Journey of Faith.
What is the biggest challenge your blindness has presented in your writing?
Adding photos to blog posts, formatting my books, creating covers, and sometimes having the necessary funds to seek the services of an editor. As for marketing, transportation to events can be a challenge.
What do you believe or hope your writing future holds?
I hope that I can at least touch the life of one person through my writing. If I can bring them closer to God or give them a brief moment to allow their inner child to be fondly remembered through my Children’s books, then I’ve done my job. If I take on professional clients, I hope to give them high-quality work. However, I also want to find writing jobs that I know I’ll enjoy.
Please visit my website for more about me and my books. While you’re there, be sure to hop on over to my blog.
Thank you, Ann! Best of luck to you!