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

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

You Are My Sunshine ~ In Memory ☀️

after our road trip from the Cape...

I was to give Dad's eulogy.

After so many wonderful, heartfelt stories shared by my brothers, nephews and nieces, friends. My brother, Rob in his kilt, offering a kind of timeline of Dad's life adventures. Dave, laughing and weeping at the pulpit telling a travels with Dad story I'd never heard before. Pete had O Happy Day by the Edwin Hawkins Gospel Choir cued up at the end of his story. The Church of the Mountain filled with music, people swaying. 

O Happy Day! Dad loved that song. 

When it came my turn to speak, I fumbled so much with my glasses, one arm snapped off, rendering them useless, unless I wore them cockeyed on my nose. 

I can't remember having anything written down, maybe a list of ideas? 

I'm good at speaking from the heart, words usually come easily. 

But my throat stuck. 

The pews were a blur of kind faces.

I didn't say how he took us backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, or across the ocean to Scotland. I forgot to tell about the time Dad and I went out on our tiny sunfish sailboat in Little Neck Bay and got caught up in a rough storm, the two of us shouting over the thunder at each other, We're fine, we're fine, he kept saying, as we made our way back in and the storm calmed. 

Broken glasses in hand, and so many friends and family listening intently, I didn't tell about his love of ice cream. He and I would stand in the kitchen digging for the pecans in the carton of Butter Pecan. Did I tell about his writing and love of books, so many books, his penchant for hats and colorful clothes? I honestly don't have a clue what I said that day. He was a peaceful man.

Dad would say, You're beautiful. It was beautiful. I'm so grateful for all of you. 

I left out his way with an autoharp, me and my brothers singing in the living room. I left out his singing voice. Clear and booming.  

The car ride from Cape Cod with me and Dad and Claire took six hours, most of it filled with singing as we sped through Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York State. On 84 East through the Pennsylvania landscape, we sang Won't You Stay in my Red River Valley, Go Tell Aunt Rhody, Michael Row the Boat Ashore, and then Claire burst in from the back seat with Jesus Take the Wheel by Carrie Underwood. 

Dad made himself (+ me and Claire) giddy with his radio announcer voice, 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Sister Claire says Jesus Take the Wheel, why not?! Welcome to the Gospel Hour. Send in your requests, and offerings. Yes, we accept donations to keep this fine show on the road. Checks, money orders, Jesus loves you. 

How fun would it be to have your own radio show? 
But we did have it. 
Right there in the car on the highway. 
We opened our mouths and sang for miles. 

Thanks for the singing, Dad.

You Are My Sunshine ๐ŸŒž

In Memory of Sunny Ellsworth Erskine Jackson, Jr.

July 5, 1926 - November 6, 2015 

xo B

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

All Her Dresses Float Up


 On the occasion of Claire's 20th Birthday ๐Ÿ‚

          Bear wears four dresses, layering one over the other, her fine silks and tulle. The purple one, her favorite, a faded cotton, is frayed at the hem. She will not let me mend it. The nightgown, a fairy blue, is flouncy and full. See how it spins, she says.
         She throws her arms out, turning in the patch of morning light catching glimpses of herself in the teapot cabinet and the glass of the fireplace doors. At three, she is small enough to make these her mirrors, no need to bend down.
         The third dress is deep blue, with straps wrapped over her shoulders. She wears it like a cape, streaming behind while she races through the kitchen. The long pink one gets tied around her waist. It has to be tight, she says, cinching it with little hands. She watches over her shoulder, as the long train of pink sweeps across the cherry floors.
         Bear wears no panties, no socks. Her pink satin slippers, trimmed in gold, scuffed and dirty around the edges slip easily onto her feet. The plastic crown rests on her round head. Quietly, she gathers up all her dresses in one hand, and dips herself into a curtsy.
         Bear and I get married, most days. She wears the dresses, pink shoes with gold trim, the crown. She is always the bride. We stand before the fireplace while I hum the wedding march. Bear watches herself in the glass, tilting her head to one side.

         We hold hands and say our vows. They are simple and easy to remember.  I promise to be kind and good. We kiss, on the hand and cheek, on the lips. We hook arms and the wedding dance begins, a kind of square dance with leaps and skips. Bear likes it best when I spin her around.  All her dresses float up around her legs.

                - from my memoir, Please No Life Stories 


Such lucky ducks. We've kept our vows.