Friday, August 24, 2012

Ranges and Clouds---Friday Fictioneers

Hi readers and writers,
Here is the photo prompt for the Madison Woods photo challenge this week.  My 100 word response is below.  I welcome any comments or critique.  Join in, and do read all the others.  I am always amazed at the range of responses to one photo.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What Not to Have

Hi readers and writers,

Because my arthritis is really bad right now, I'm thinking strange thoughts about whether or not we really need joints.  Have you seen nudibranchs?  Just saying, they don't have joints.  Well, they don't have bones either.  Invertebrates don't worry about arthritis pain.  I'd love to be a gliding marine organism with no joints at all.  I used to like to dance, and when I watch the nudibranchs they look like they're dancing.  Anybody know why it's not a good idea to become a nudibranch?  At least for a story?  I've written as a tree for Friday Fictioneers recently, so being an invertebrate for the Point of View seems quite good to me.

Here, for example, is a photo of two nudibranchs (perhaps on a date arranged by Invert Ecstasy?) eating tunicates.  A cool fact about them is that if they eat something with a shootable stinger, they can just stick that thing into their own skin and use it on another organism later.  I feel a story coming on.

PS Thanks to Nick Hobgood and Creative Commons/Wikipedia for the photo.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

#FridayFictioneers Fork

Dear readers and writers,

On Friday, people all over will post their responses to Madison Woods' photo prompt, which you can see here. Do write something and join in!  Mine is below the photo, which is copyrighted by Lura Helms.  I'd be interested in any reactions and/or critiques you have of mine.
People eat with forks.  They use forks with two, three tines so they can easily lift or stab their bites.  Humans call a split between two of my branches a fork too.  Well, what about a fork in my trunk where some stupid old man wedged a hose joint twenty years ago, forgot all about it, and now I've grown around it until it's almost a part of my structure?  Almost, but not quite.  The hose is rotting and the metal ions leach off and run up and down my xylem, subtle poisons that make me creak in the wind.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This too shall pass.

Dear readers and writers,

I have been feeling a bit panicked about taking up teaching writing at SDSU along with my three MFA courses there and the first year seminar I'm teaching at my home institution.  So, after working on some of my course materials,  I opened a pdf of Writing Your Way Home by Fiona Robyn, hoping to find a little peace and happiness.  Here's the first thing that struck my eye: "Writing is an immediate mirror: it reports back to you. You can't fool anyone, especially yourself. Here you are the doer and the done, the worldly person and the monk. It's an opportunity to unite the inner and the outer, both being the same anyway, only in illusion two. A great challenge, a great practice.” ~Natalie Goldberg"

I took a workshop with Natalie Goldberg in Sedona, AZ two years ago, and it slowed down my "monkey mind" so I could connect with important deeper ideas.  So, as I read on, I looked for more ways Fiona might use Goldberg's ideas.  And, soon enough, I found this: "Acknowledging that we don't always know who we are (or what we're capable of) reminds us of our ultimate transience. Everything is impermanent, including our own selves. The writer and Zen practitioner Natalie Goldberg says this 
very well: “To have an intimate connection with the world …[is]… to know about its passing.” 

Ah, yes.  At times of great joy, accept and soak it in because it won't stay with you forever.  At times of great stress, know too that it's not going to stay.  Someday, you may wish you had so much to think about.  But whatever you have, the moment is precious.  This too shall pass.

That's another memory.  My daughter has that phrase tattooed on her foot where she can look down and see it, but it isn't all that obvious to people she passes each day. When I heard from her why she had it, it made me want to cry, but it's a very Zen idea, I think.  Give up the bad, give up the good, but don't give up the moment without seeing, feeling, tasting, smelling, hearing its essence.  If you pass this way again, it will not be the same.  The molecules won't be the same, the people won't be the same, the animals won't be the same, you won't be the same. This "now" is all we have.

Photo credit: Monarch butterfly in May, Wikipedia Commons with thanks.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

#FridayFictioneers: Cherrystones

Hi readers and writers,

This week I am off to St. Louis on Friday, so I'm posting my #Fridayfictioneers 100 word piece a bit early.  Am I always early or late? No, once or twice I've done it on Friday!  But summer is a time of travel, so dates must bend and sway to accommodate my schedule.  Do visit Madison Woods' blog to read more and join in to Friday Fictioneers. She always welcomes new Friday fictioneer writers!
I would like criticism and/or comments.  Cheers, Laura


On the beach below Nobska Lighthouse we built a fire.  In flat pan with an inch of water and a handful of Fucus seaweed strewn around rested dozens of Cherrystones, small clams in white shells, tightly closed.  We put the pan on the fire.  Mickey and Royce capered around doing cartwheels while Zooey and I melted butter with a squeeze of fresh lemon in it.  As soon as the clams opened into butterflies, we snatched them off the fire, pulled out the meat, dunked it into the butter/lemon mix, and ate a bite of heaven.  The shells went back into the water.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Interview with Kay Murphy on Dogs Who Saved Me

Hi readers and writers,

It gives me great pleasure to post this interview with Kay Murphy on her new book, Lessons I Learned from The Dogs Who Saved Me.  This book is a memoir and it's also a love story to some great dogs in Kay's life.  She is donating all proceeds from the book above expenses to animal rescue efforts.  Best, Laura

The title of this book is very enticing.  How did you choose the title?
The idea for this book came as I was sorting through photographs, putting together an album which included all my dogs.  I placed the photos in chronological order… and as I did so, I began to recall the stories that surrounded these dogs and how, at one time or another, in one way or another, each had been instrumental in saving me from harm in some way.  ‘These are the dogs,’ I thought, ‘who saved me.’

How many dogs did you write about?  Did you include every dog you’ve had, or did you pick and choose?
The book profiles six dogs, but others are mentioned.  Rufus, Sapo, Alex, Ian, Ellie and Osa were the dogs who companioned with me from the time I was 15 until I was 50.  They each have a unique and heroic story to tell.

What are your feelings about cats?  Are they too independent to save people in the same sense?
Actually, two of my cats, Boo and Sugar Plum, have been featured in two separate Chicken Soup for the Soul books.  Due to my current living situation, I cannot have a dog, so I don’t know what I’d do without Sug and Luna, my two current feline friends.  They make me laugh and give me love every day.  And in fact, there is a memoir, Homer’s Odyssey, which recounts how a very valiant blind cat saved his human companion from an assault.  It’s an amazing read!!

I remember your excitement when you first talked about this book, but during the writing process your words about it turned pretty dark.  Was it harder to write than you had expected?  What happened along the way to take the experience to the dark side?
I was wholly unprepared for how difficult it would be to re-live the experiences of my teen years.  My step-father attempted several times to molest me, and I never felt safe once he married my mother.  I have never talked about that, certainly never written about it, and recalling those days of anger and depression brought all those feelings to the surface again.  When my mother and wicked step-father (I’ve always called him that) divorced, they went to court over one item: Rufus, my dog.  His story—and their fight over him—is included in the book.

I know the focus is supposed to be on your relationship with dogs, but did you find yourself writing a memoir about your relationship with other people who were around at the same time?  Did you struggle to keep the focus on the dogs, or did you just let it flow once you were writing?
I tried to keep the focus mainly on my dogs, but it would have been difficult to describe to the reader how important each dog became if I didn’t explain my relationship to the people who wounded or betrayed me (or attempted to assault me).  I could have written much, much more about the men to whom I was married… but that is water under the bridge now, and not unlike the stories of many other women out there who find themselves trying to make a marriage work with no support from the other partner.

Do you outline before you write or do you sit down and let come what will?  How much did you know about the whole shape of your book before you started to write?
Usually I outline in my head.  This time, I walked outside with a notebook, sat down on the front deck in a comfortable chair and started writing the story out longhand.

Do you write in tiny bits of time like Barbara DeMarco Barrett advocates, or do you need bigger blocks to make progress?  Do you write every day?
Boy, this is a tough question.  Yes.  No.  Sometimes.  Often.  When I wrote my previous memoir, Tainted Legacy, I wrote in big blocks, sometimes four or five hours at a stretch with no breaks—but I had been researching that book for several years, so when it was time to write, I completed the entire manuscript in one summer.  With Dogs, I found I could only write for an hour or so a day.  In truth, I wrote until I was crying so hard I could no longer type.  Then I would walk out the door and into the forest, just wandering and crying and taking deep breaths until I regained my composure.

Have you ever faced writers’ block?  If so, do you have strategies that overcome it for you, or do you have to wait it out?
There are times when the writing is stalled, but this never makes me anxious.  It’s all about problem solving.  If I find I can’t go forward, I walk away for a while and let my subconscious mind take over, unraveling the knot and looking for a way through.  Sometimes I brainstorm on a separate sheet of paper if I need to.  Writing nonfiction is much easier (for me) than writing fiction.  I enjoy story-telling, and man do I have some real-life stories to tell (such as those in Tainted Legacy).  Fiction… dang, fiction writers work hard!

What’s your impression of the process of publishing today?  For newbie writers who are considering how to approach publishing a first book, what would you suggest?
I would suggest that anyone who has done the work of completing a manuscript should invest time in finding an agent or conventional publisher.  I know it sounds like heresy coming from a self-published author, but I’ve also published a book through a conventional publisher, and there are parts of that process that are great (instant, national publicity, for one).  But… take each “No, thank you” with a grain of salt.  Simply because someone doesn’t see your vision does not mean you’re not a good writer.  Find a critique group.  If a group of good folks tell you they love your work and would buy it, start looking at your options for independent publishing.  (Oh—that group should not be your immediate family members….)

You’ve decided to donate the entire proceeds from this book to animal rescue.  Have you had personal experience working with them?  How did you decide to do this?
During the time that I was working on Dogs, I was also seeing the business model of some companies who are donating ten and twenty percent of their profit to certain charities.  I liked that.  Then I encountered young Michala Riggle at and my heart just cracked wide open.  She beads bracelets, then sells them to raise money for autism research.  One hundred percent of her profits go to that cause.  (She has a brother who is on the autism spectrum.)  She’s an absolute inspiration.  As I believe that my dogs saved my life and there’s really never enough I can do to repay them, I decided that, since I’m already donating to several rescues, the net profits earned from Dogs will go to help other shelter and rescue dogs.

Please let the blog readers know about your blog and where to buy your book by giving URLs they can look up.
I’m on blogger:  Mostly, I blog about living in the forest, but sometimes I offer book recommendations (and there is the occasional post about professional cycling, a sport I have followed for some thirty years).

The Dogs Who Saved Me is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers.  Here is the Amazon link:

Thanks, Kay for sharing your thoughts with the blog readers.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Vote for Your Favorite Writing Book

Dear readers and writers,

I've collected writing books for years.  Some have lived on my shelves for a while, then gone to the library for their book sale.  Others have been used over and over and as far as I know may stay with me forever.  I'm curious if you have the same favorites I do.

I wanted to run a poll but I've tried the Poll gadget on Blogger from three different web browsers and it won't work.  I get a message asking me to correct my nonexistent errors, or it won't save it after repeated tries.  So, I'll put my list at the bottom of this note.  Comment with your choice (blog is moderated to exclude Asian smut and drug offers, so it may take a few hours to appear).

If you have others to suggest, please put them in the comments.  I'll probably try them out and someday they may be on my top choices list, but meanwhile you'll share them with a lot of other writers here.  BTW, if you've rejected King's because you don't read horror, give it a try.  I was glad I had stopped avoiding it the minute I began to read.

If you have advice about the Poll function, I'd love to have that too!


Photo credit: Wikipedia, with thanks.

1. Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
2. Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write
3. Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
4. William Zinsser, On Writing Well
5.  Stephen King, On Writing
6. Barbara Abercrombie, Writing Out the Storm

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Silent Scream #Friday Fictioneers

Hi readers and writers,
This week, Madison Woods' posting is gruesome but surprising. Her photo shows the results of a vertical series of cutbacks of vegetation along her road by a road crew...kill or cure this plant invasion seems to be the message.  Such a painful looking response to a cut of a grapevine!  Anyway, by Friday I had to write 100 words about this. They appear below.  Visit Madison's website to join in the #FridayFictioneers fun.

Silent Scream
I welcome criticism or any kind of suggestions for improvement.

They told me I would understand the animal when I wore this ring.  But this is stranger, more painful, not at all what I bargained for.  Those road workers just wanted to keep the woodsy road clear for vehicles I'm sure.  But the wholesale hacking got these reactions from the plants, especially the grapevines, reactions that felt just like they were screaming with pain.  Can a cut be like a burn?  I don't know, but that's what I'd describe it as, after listening to these agonized vines for two days.

I know I could take off the ring.  But I bargained to get it so I could get a message from the birds, and I don't have it yet.  I'm stuck listening to any being with something to say.  Please, vines, heal yourselves fast.