Monday, January 13, 2020

A Thousand Mountain Streams

"Once I rented the small writer’s cabin in the woods of Massachusetts. I had my mother’s old Volvo. Everything was fine until I drove the car down a short, steep hill to the cabin and couldn’t get back up. A tow truck came and hooked the thick chain to the car. The chain snapped at the first tug and the car came crashing toward the cabin. I tried holding the car back, arms on the trunk, but it was too much. It hit the side of the cabin, a tire blew. I don’t remember anything about the writing that weekend. Alone in a cabin in the woods at night, far away from my family, I wondered what I’d been thinking, trying to keep a car from moving downhill with my bare hands."

from Please No Life Stories

Reading that snippet, I have a physical memory of putting all my body strength into keeping the car from hitting the cabin. As if I could? Lucky I didn't get crushed. It's funny to me now, and yet car-holding woman is still alive and kicking and trying to crush whatever comes her way.

Last week I was back east to see family and friends. I got sick (everyone was sick). I hardly saw a soul. My cousin called to tell me her father, my beloved uncle, had died. Before that, two childhood friends buried their fathers in December. What to do with the news of loss? Of change? We cannot hold it back. We must try arms wide open. At the very least, unclenched. Questions we might ask:

What am I trying to hold back? Why?
Can I let my arms,heart/mind fall open and simply allow? 
Can I go with the river? 
Am I willing to relax and float?

It is winter, post-holidays, January. An in-between time for many of us. Some days it's hard to gauge my feeling-o-meter. 

Am I depressed? Quiet? Tender? Filled with longing? Joyful? Lost? Found?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

 Rum wrote, Be grateful for whatever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. 

Back in California the lemon tree keeps giving. The sun is a gift.

Elizabeth Lesser writes: We can relax and float in the direction that the water flows, or we can swim hard against it. If we go with the river, the energy of a thousand mountain streams will be with us. 

May the energy of a thousand mountain streams be with you. ☀️

xo b

Thursday, December 19, 2019

in memory of my mother๐ŸŒ€


         That summer Mom painted the walls in our house like a tropical bird: deep blues with white trim, the dining room a kind of parrot green. Mom said, the house is big enough to hold all this color. Mom said, when I get tired of green, I’ll roll red raspberry over the walls.
         That summer Mom and I danced in our house on the edge of New York City. Records, Hello Dolly, The Fantastiks, flopped like pancakes onto the console. We’d sway, then twirl across the bright navy rug splashed with red and white. Sashaying into the hall, then running leaping laughing, arms flung out like wings. One two three one two three, dipping whirling into the dining room dipping ourselves over chairs dipping our heads down, toes tearing air. We circled back through the kitchen for a swing on the chin-up bar, then up the stairs, up two three, down two three one two three, waltzing our way back, ending in each other’s arms.

         Mom said, in my next lifetime, I’ll come back as a dancer.
                                               Dorothy Southam Jackson
                                          July 7, 1926 - December 19, 2001

                                            Thanks for the dance, Mom. xo 

Monday, December 9, 2019

I'm So Glad You Asked The Question

December 9. 2019

This is the message my pen gave me this morning. Here's a little tale about asking ~

Last week I sent an email blast to people from my MFA program. Some were friends I'd gone through the program with, others new students I didn't know, faculty. My plan had been to send an email to one, maybe two people tops who had published their books and get some advice. But then I thought, cast the net wide. See what happens.

Here's some of it:


Hello MFA friends,

It’s me, Betsy, Cedar Crest MFA Vienna 2015, writing to say hello + also seeking help, support, guidance, ____________ regarding getting my memoir, Please No Life Stories, published. 

I’ve sent pieces out, had a couple of stories from the book published, most recently Little Witch, in Paris Lit Up 7.  Admittedly, my submission practices are lacking. I go through bursts, then feel lost (and lazy?).

I sent a story to Catapult in NYC, the editor liked it (didn’t publish it) but was “keen to hear more about my memoir." So I sent her the manuscript - she told me it would be best if “my agent” sent it. 

I don’t have an agent. 

...The writing part comes easily for me, but the “business” of writing continues to throw me. I get easily stymied. Some of you have gotten your books published. How did you do it? Where did you start? I'm casting my net wide to see if any of you wise and wonderful writers will share your experience with publication, or writing in general, or simply to say hello.

With gratitude,

With a mix of relief and trepidation, I hit send.

Relief because I need help with the business of writing and honestly, even though there are a million blogs and books about how to do it, it's awfully nice to hear from people you know with some first-hand experience.

Trepidation because who wants to look like they don't already know? But there's so much I don't know about so many things, who's kidding who? Why not ask? I'm happy to help people with any questions they have about all kinds of things. I tell my college students @ the beginning of the semester:  Ask. No question is a dumb question... (except maybe if the due date for the assignment  is clearly posted on the Assignment Board and you want to know what the due date is)

I don't know
I don't know
I should know                           really?

Not even five minutes after sending my help email, this arrived.

Hi Betsy,

I don’t know you but I’m so glad you asked the question. I too struggle with the publishing piece, even just sending single pieces. I look forward to the discussion this generates. 

Another person wrote: I am interested in hearing what others have done. Thank you for having the humility to cast this net so wide to seek guidance from the group. 

Most of us don't like to ask, yet we all have questions, daily. This is true of little kids in second grade, college students, teachers, doctors, gardeners, painters, accountants, crossing guards - everyone. We learn early that it's probably best to keep our head down and fake it until we figure it out, somehow. No one wants to look like they don't know. No one wants to get found out.

From my humbling SOS, I heard back from a lovely crowd. Some emails were long, some short. All wonderful that they took the time to respond to me. Some snippets:

• The story of my own publishing experience is a long and tangled one. • I just emailed out what I had to say, but I know the frustration and it is a long haul. • As far as actually getting the published, I can share my story (if it helps). If you want help with your query letter, you can send me your letter and your first 20 pages and I can have a look. • While I believe writing is a life and not a career, there is still a job aspect to it. • You already know these things: perseverance is critical, writing keeps you motivated, keep your best work out   to publications (can’t win the lottery without a ticket), don’t let rejection discourage you. • They're not paying me, except for royalties, and I'll do all the promotion, but the book will be in the world.


The book will be in the world ๐ŸŒ€

We need to remember that we're not alone. That we don't need to know everything. We can't so let that one go. Everyone deals with joys and frustrations, no matter your life or calling. You don't need to be a writer to get something here. Whatever you're working on, wanting to work on, whatever you desire to create, or do, it's so worth the ask.

Mark wrote,

Don’t lose heart, Betsy. In the end, it’s all about the writing itself. That’s what we have, and its rewards are not slight! T.S. Eliot: “But perhaps neither gain nor loss. / For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”

xo b