Wellness Writing Prompt

When I first came to yoga, our instructor made fish pose a regular part of our sequence. And for so long, I disliked it. It was uncomfortable – and I thought possibly unsafe.

matsyasana or fish pose

Fish pose, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is a pose in which the person lays flat on their back, but then lifts their upper back and head to place the crown of their head on the floor.

This pose, or rather the dislike of this pose, inspired a story titled Matsyasana. It is the very things which make us uncomfortable, which may (or may not) be connected to other, deeper things, that we must explore.

When I started looking at Fish Pose from a different point of view – thanks to the story – I understood what the pose could be. For me, it became about looking at life from a different point of view. Sometimes we get stuck in our discomfort. If we don’t or can’t move past it, we will never find what is on the other side. And nothing is as bad as being stuck – anywhere or in any way.

The first writing prompt for the group Writing to Wellness is to approach this topic in some way. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a yoga pose, but consider a position which makes you uncomfortable and write about it. If you’re perplexed, begin by attempting to describe the pose or position, then delve into the part of it that makes you uncomfortable – either in a fictional or non-fictional way. The point is just to start thinking about it and writing about it. This group is a safe place. We will support one another in our individual journeys. Feel free to share or ask for feedback.

Interview with Jo Rousseau, author of Tourists in the Country of Love.

I can not tell you how much I love Jo Rousseau’s writing. Her book, Tourists in the County of Love, is prize worthy. Her writing is sensitive, thoughtful, reaches into the depths of the individual soul, searching for the reasons for immoral acts.

Her previous awards include a first place essay, “Becoming Rousseau.” “Dead Dog Blues,” won the Writer’s Digest Short Story Competition. “Why Can’t We All Play Guitar like B.B. King” won the Seattle Magazine Short Story Contest.

Her book, Tourists in the Country of Love, features stories of men and women who make decisions that are sometimes beyond their own understanding. The first story is “Reading to my Mother.” A tender story of a mother who is no longer able to care for herself and the question arises – who will care for her? It’s never an easy answer, but added complications make it even more difficult in this story.

This interview with Jo Rousseau focuses on her story, “Maurissa takes the F-Scale.” (The F-Scale was a test after World War 2 designed to measure fascist tendencies.) There are questions and answers about the novel as well as her writing style. I hope you enjoy watching as much as I enjoyed speaking to her.

Here’s where you can take the F-Scale

Happy Birthday, Mr. Poe

In 1809, a baby boy was born. I imagine his mother knew he’d change the world; we mothers know those kinds of things. He triumphed over numerous challenges that made his writing deeper, darker, stronger. He created a truly American literature that separated us from the mother country, transformed literature at the time and formed what literature has become today. We owe a lot to Edgar Allan Poe.

My tributes to Poe include Eddy. Eddy was born from my passion to understand his darker urges. In 1848, he bought two bottles of laudanum (morphine, heroin) from a pharmacist and seemed intent on ending his life. Eddy is the imaginative version of those moments – and what brought him back from the brink.

I was interviewed about Poe’s Mysterious Death on SuperNews Live – Dark Times.

In 2018, I read Eddy at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Virginia.

My other blogs include A Poe-Cation, The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe, Fast Facts about Poe, and check out my Poe page.

Charles Baudelaire, a French Poet and Poe’s contemporary, recognized Poe’s genius and gifts then, acknowledging that American audiences didn’t know what they had.

We do now. We have for a long time.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Poe. Happy Birthday.

The Ghost….

My short story, The Ghost in Her Room, has been published by Dreamers Writing.

The editors were very sweet. Kat mentioned in an email how much the story touched her.

Working with Dreamers Creative Writing has been an extremely pleasant experience.

Thank you!

Friday Motivation

Motivation has been hard to come by of late.

I’ve taking out my frustration in other ways – painting, drawing, and creating new and exciting things. But I am getting back to writing – I swear!

So – some updates:

I found this great review for Harvey Levin Can’t Die.

The story was originally titled, Harvey Levin Must Die, but I couldn’t get it published! Then someone mentioned the title was less than desirable. Ahhhh!!!

So.. presto, chango, accepted and published. And, although people like to email me their kudos and tell me their reviews, I have a hard time getting people to post them. Soooo… here’s one from a gentlemen in Germany. Whoever you are – thank you! I’m glad you liked it!

Other exciting new things is ReadLipsSwag.com – some of our titles and literary inspired shirts and accessories. I find this quite exciting.

It’s on sale too… through fathers’ day. Use code DAD101 if you find anything you like.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re read any of my work – please review, review, review. It helps – even with just my motivation!!

Character (and human) Motivation

Learn How to Find the Motivation Within to Succeed | Inc.com

Recently someone did something for me. I did not ask, she volunteered. I was apathetic for a few reasons: I didn’t know her very well; when someone does something for us – there are usually invisible strings that will sway our way at some point.

Many of us operate on societal, cultural, and sometimes puritan programming that is mostly unconscious. Expectations seem ingrained in our very being.

What she expected in return was for me to behave a certain way given her grace. When I did not, she claimed to be hurt and upset, frustrated, why had she bothered?

She was entitled to a “Thank you,” which she received. But she was not entitled to control or to judge. She didn’t understand this. She didn’t realize (and denied) she was making judgements based on her own expectations. If her motivation was to “help,” she had accomplished her goal. But, then, why was she upset?

As writers, I think we see things more clearly. Maybe differently. We are observers of human behaviors. If we’re good, we’re looking for motivation.

This person, like our character, didn’t understand her own unconscious motivations and was, therefore, disappointed by the outcome. It is a rare character who can see their own faults, analyze their misguided or unclear motivations before they act. It’s only with reflection, and maybe help from their besties, that our characters grow to understand themselves and their own actions, motivations, and goals.

In Dreams

There is some magic that happens between midnight and three a.m. Words fall like rain, ideas bloom like tulips in the spring.

That state, somewhere between alpha and theta, when the mind is past meditation and drifting – freed.

Many nights, I wake filled with story. Sometimes I sit up and write, capturing those dream images and ideas. Other times, I hang on to the sweet theta mind and scratch notes to myself that I’ll decipher in the bright light of day.

There’s something quite lovely about theta, about that time of night. The world is soft and quiet. The world is ours and ours alone.

Writers are powerful in the dark, in the aloneness, capturing ideas that flutterby like butterflies.

Once, I fought a poem. The poem lay incomplete, begrudgingly sitting there refusing to become complete. I placed the notebook on the bed and fell asleep.

In a few hours, I sprang to wakefulness when the line in full form drifted by. I snatched it out of theta air and pushed it onto the page.

There, the poem complete.

*

*

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I woke up one morning with this story playing in the theta playground. I got out of bed and wrote until I had to go to work. When I got back from work, I finished it, edited it, and had it accepted to Pilcrow and Dagger almost immediately.

What’s a girl to do when her ex gives her a stray dog?

Of Strays and Exes – on Kindle

Success Stories

I didn’t grow up with a lot of positive role models. There were not many (if any) people in our neighborhood who were looked up to as success stories.

I can see my neighbors, even now, from the concrete steps of our four unit blond brick building on S*** Avenue in Collinwood. Across the street, Francis. She had Lucille Ball red hair and sat on her porch from 9am to 9pm, beer in hand. Next door, a single mother who worked at a bar and brought work home with her – in all sorts of ways. Next to her, a retired old man who sat across from Francis with his own beer in hand. His wife, Goldie, was a sweet woman whose toes twisted around one another, feet mangled, she said from twenty years of high heeled waitressing. On the other side, a retired railroad worker, no patio, so he sat in his kitchen hand wrapped around a cold beer.

There were bars on every corner. T & M’s could be seen from the porch. Strangers and neighbors stumbling out with the music pouring onto the street.

The teenagers went to high school, married the boyfriends who beat them, and set up house on the next block. A few got away, I’m sure. But I can list many more who died young or ended up in prison. My teenage crushes are dead now. One was shot in the head, the other crushed under the wheels of a truck. I never got into drugs, thought those who smoked and drank acted silly, stupidly, dangerously. Girlfriends recall tales of waking up half naked, uncertain if anything happened. That wasn’t the memory – or lack of memory – I wanted.

Mostly, I felt limited. I felt outcast. I didn’t seem to belong with any particular crowd or group or gang. I wanted something more, something different, and I didn’t know where to turn. Getting out and getting away seemed the only answer for me. I didn’t know what might meet me beyond the borders of the familiar, but there was no safety and no options in the familiar.

Someone once said – it was very brave of you to travel across country on your own and start over alone. I hadn’t considered it was “brave.” I’d believed it was my only choice, my only chance. She offered, the world is a dangerous place for a young woman to do such a thing. Sometimes home is a dangerous place. Limiting yourself is dangerous. Not fulfilling your potential is dangerous. Living a life in which you’re completely unhappy is dangerous. Sometimes, saving yourself, however scary the unknown is, is your only choice.

 

Citizens

Imagine going to a therapist who works out of her home. She tells you to use the side entrance, through the gate. But the gate is locked, so you go to the front door and knock.

The therapist, who specializes in trauma, whips open the door and screams in your face “GET AWAY FROM MY HOUSE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY YARD?”

If you’re seeking a therapist with a specialty in trauma counseling, it’s because you’ve experienced trauma.

How do you react?

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Maybe part of that trauma is that you’ve been ignored your whole life, described as a criminal, pulled over and searched for no particular reason. When you walk by, people pull their purses a little closer. People say things to you that seem aggressive, yet they smile while they do it.

If you haven’t experienced these traumas, then perhaps you react. Ask the woman what her problem is? Ask her if she speaks to all her patients like this? Maybe you curse her out. And I’m definitely guessing, you don’t go in and pay her exorbitant fees.

But if you have experienced microaggressions and this is maybe just the third one that day, and it’s still early, you go in.

It’s not one black man who was brutalized by cops that hurts and angers large sections of our population. It’s the thousand little microaggressions that happen on a daily basis and it’s repeated brutality by those who should be setting an example in our society which makes it seem okay to other parts of our population. Further, it is those in charge who seem to shrug and say, oops, as if a cop didn’t just kill someone by kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes, but rather ran a stop sign or some other insignificant infraction.

Claudia Rankine describes hundreds of microaggressions perpetrated by colleagues, “friends,” strangers, and society. Citizen: An American Lyric is a book of poetry. I saw it enacted as a play at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Los Angeles some time ago – and it made and left an impression.

I’ve used it in nearly every literature class since. It is a work of art.

Articles, excerpts, and videos:

New Yorker

An Excerpt from the book Poets.Org

The New York Times

You are In the Dark

From Granta 

Stop and Frisk – video

More from Youtube

 

Silent, Not Silent

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I was going to say I’ve been largely silent in the last weeks, a post here and there, but I don’t want my lack of posting to be confused with silence about what is happening in the world these days.

I am left speechless at the horror of this year, of this last month, of these last days. But not silent. Not neutral.

To compound the coronavirus horrors, my only refuge – as with all of you – my house was invaded, my dog got skunked and brought the smell into the house.

Stay with me here….¬† this grows.

If you are unfamiliar with the smell save for passing a kill on a country road, the smell leaches into everything in a matter of moments. It’s not a matter of opening the windows to release the odor. The smell is thick, it has claws. It sticks around. Even with fans going, windows open, it lingers in corners.

The spray is an oil type substance that is embedded into my dog’s fur. The skunking is meant to do harm; therefore, it causes burning of the eyes, rash on the skin, nausea. And it is not easily scrubbed out.

I don’t only mean the dog. I was sick for days.

Now, let’s add to that a passing of a friend.

Layer that with the death of George Floyd. This hurts me because it hurts my friends, my students, my family. The brutality Floyd experienced is the brutality people of color experience EVERY DAY!

Top it with the protests, which would have been peaceful except for the agitators who want to use the protests as a front, to cause problems, and commit crimes.

So add looting and violence, the armed national guards, police, and curfews.

Do not take my silence as a neutral position. I am horrified.

Racism is that skunking. It is meant to do harm. It is an odor not released by opening a window. Racism is a stink that has claws, it has bite. It is a sickening, stinging, lingering presence. And it needs to be scrubbed out of the system entirely.

And the scrubbing needs to begin at the top.

 

I am an educator. I teach. One of the classes I have taught is The History of African American Literature. For the next few weeks, my posts will center around what I have learned and what I teach my students about communication, history, and growth.

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Sending loving and healing thoughts to all.