A Poe-cation

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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I meandered around the cemetery. Remembering, honoring the dead.

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Across the street from the Church is Elmira Royster’s home – or what was once her home.

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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).

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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.

20150116_113611_Richtone(HDR)_resized_1Coming 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.

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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.

20150115_124956_resizedSadly, I couldn’t find Elmira’s plot.

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.

20150115_135858_resizedIt’s small, not indicative of his metaphorical presence in the city or in literature. However, designed in the 50’s, perhaps it’s the best that there was at the time.

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.

20150116_103146_resized_1With that  color blue, I can see why 😉

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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If you’ve read this far – THANKS!

This is a reblog from January 2015

 

Eddy was published after:

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Book Signings!

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Interruptions…

I’m going to interrupt the flow of this blog , but windex1.jpge really should talk about how we deal with interruptions to our work.

I try not to take phone calls during my work time; however, sometimes I have to. A doctor appointment, a work call – all important, can’t wait until later. At least with those, you know you won’t be on the phone long.

The other day a friend called me. I hadn’t talked to him in over a month, so I wanted to see how he was. We live in different times zone, which makes scheduling time for a chat rather challenging. I told myself, even upon answering, that I wouldn’t talk long. But we did get carried away in catching up.

Set boundaries. I finally did tell him I needed to get back to my writing. He understands. Many people don’t, so I don’t regularly say that. I do tell them I can talk to them later or that I’m in the middle of something – both of which are true.

Phone calls and text messages are easier to put on hold – put the phone in the other room or turn it off. It really is not that hard.  Having children or spouses is a whole different topic, which I’m going to talk about during another blog.

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Right now, as I said, I need to interrupt the flow of this the gold tooth.jpgblog with an announcement.

You can win my short story, The Gold Tooth! Click here. This is only for a limited time.

Long lost sisters are reunited at the reading of their mother’s will. Celeste who has cared for their mother in her declining years is awarded a small, broken music box. The force of nature, Nancy, who hasn’t been seen they were teenagers, is awarded the entire estate. Before they leave the office, Nancy is given the option to exchange the estate for the box. Nancy laughs off the incredible offer and moves into the estate. What’s discovered in the music box could cost one sister her freedom and the other her life.

Reader Response

Some authors are unhappy when readers see something in their story, novel, or poem that was not intended.

I subscribe to the theory of reader response. Our work is going to touch different people in different ways; readers are going to get out of it something related to what they bring to it, so if they don’t see what we originally intended, they are not wrong, nor did they read it wrong, they are merely giving the writer an insight.front-cover-small

I, personally, am thrilled when readers see something I hadn’t intended. For my novella, West End, one reader said the melancholy of the main character haunted her. Other readers believed some of the characters might have actually been spirits or ghosts. One of the characters, I left open. His questionable appearances deepened the story and the effects on the main character who is dealing with depression.

However, when another reader felt that the son might have been a ghost – it made me go back and reread my own work!

Once the story, novel, or poem is out there, readers are going to take away or put into it whatever is in their own toolbox and we can not control it. We may not like it – I had one person mistake me for one of my characters – but we do have to accept it. I usually thank the reader for their insights, regardless of what I feel about the response.

All readings are good readings!

If you’re interested in reading West End – it’ll be on sale Saturday and Sunday. And – then let me know what you think!

Writing Exercise

malcolm-gladwell.jpgI’m a big fan of Malcom Gladwell, writer for the New Yorker and author of The Turning Point, Outliers, and many others.

A writing exercise from Malcom Gladwell:

Begin a correspondence with another writer. Each of you take turns sending and responding – and respond immediately with something interesting or intriguing.

It’s a good way to practice intelligent conversations so you can learn to chat with just about anyone.

 

Writer Wednesday: Can the Can’t!

cantI don’t like the word “can’t.”

I don’t like people telling me I can’t do something. I’ve experienced some person  or another throughout my whole life telling me I can’t do this or I can’t do that. For too many years, I believed them.

Now, it just annoys me.

I made a goal to write six short stories in a month. Someone, another writer, said, “You can’t do that.” Their point: writing must organically develop from inspiration, forcing it unnaturally would create work which was unpublishable.

Three of those six stories have already been published. Can’t? HA!cant2

I spend time on photography, just because I like it. Unasked, another person inserted their opinion: “You can’t do that!” They had the idea that a person can only be good at one creative pursuit and I shouldn’t waste my time on another. I took up photography for the pure joy of capturing visual beauty, but I’ve had a number of photographs published now too!

Why are people so wrapped up in “can’t”?

Some people judge themselves based on how they know you. When you change or move forward or do something they never thought you would or could, it changes how they see you and, therefore, how they see themselves.

cant1Others have limited views of what they can accomplish and, therefore, what anyone can accomplish, so they believe their guiding you away from an upcoming failure.

Whatever their reasons, never let anyone keep you from spreading your wings, doing what you want, need, must do to achieve what you want.

Writers must be brave. Depart from the naysayers and live your fullest life. Travel. Love. Experience. Write. Try something new.

Do not listen to the “can’t”!

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Writer Wednesday: Sharing is….?

climbing helping  team work , success conceptIn a writer’s group, I asked a specific person how one would use a certain program. They responded with, “I’d be glad to show you; my rates are very reasonable.”

I was shocked into silence. I asked a simple question, and they wanted to charge me for their answer?

But, then again, they have the right to earn a living by selling their knowledge.

How often have I given my knowledge for free? I could charge, I thought, for all the information and skills I’ve accumulated over the years.

But – wait a minute – writers really don’t make that much money, and we’re all strugglingshare3 in the same boat of trying to get our books, articles, short stories, or other out there to larger audiences.

Think of being on a life-raft and you are the one who has the clean water, or maybe the secret to cleaning the water, would you really sell it to another passenger? Some people would.

There’s a story from a Gladwell book about how post-its came about. (To simplify:) One worker in the paper department bumped into someone from their glue department, they both talked about what they were working on and the problems there were having. If only we could….   and boom – two collaborators came up with an idea worked together to bring that to fruition by sharing their expertise and invented something we all use (and made billions for 3M!).  Companies like 3M, Apple, Google, and others now use that theory to come up with new ideas, products, and solutions for every day problems!

shareWhen we all work together, we all become better humans. I want to share my ideas and experiences and share other writer’s with you, other ideas with everyone who desires to listen.

I have a job; I have many jobs. I’m not about to take advantage of others who are students in life or in writing and try to make a buck from them. I’d rather share my knowledge. I’d rather help my fellow passengers on this journey.

Thanks to all who have shared their knowledge with me. Thank you to those writers who give of themselves and their resources to make a better writing community.

When we work together, we can all benefit.

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