GETTING THE FORK FROM WORDPRESS

DAILY PROMPT:  Morton’s Fork

If you had to choose between being able to write a blog (but not read others’) and being able to read others’ blogs (but not write your own), which would you pick? Why?


I wish this were about Morton’s salt rather than the fork. I could get my head behind the salt, that cute round container and logo with the little girl and her umbrella.

morton-full-size

A no-brainer for any writer, I should think. I need to write. Because I’m a writer. If I could not write, something in me would die. What’s with the questions to which there’s no reasonable answer? These prompts have gone from uninspiring to depressing.

When asked “what are you,” I never say I’m a wife, mother, grandmother — or even a woman. I automatically answer “I’m a writer.” Because I am. Being a writer is embedded in my concept of “self-hood,” if I am not that, then I’m not sure what else I am. Writing was my profession, but I was a writer before I earned a salary doing it. I will always be a writer, and it has nothing to do with whether or not a sell my words … or even whether or not anyone else reads them. Whether or not I am still a professional writer is a different question.

Unlike other professions … probably this is true of all the creative arts … what you do is more than how you make a living. It’s the way you synthesize your world and experiences. It stays with you as long as you breathe, long after paychecks stop coming and often, even if the paychecks never start arriving. Writing is so deeply embedded in who I am that I cannot imagine not needing to write.  I think only death will stop me … and depending on how that works out, maybe not even then.

If there’s an afterlife, I’ll be writing and blogging about it. But not on WordPress. By then, I’m sure there will be a platform which actually wants its customers to succeed and won’t keep making it harder and harder to get the job done. But that’s another post for a different day.

Reading blogs is fun. Often inspirational and it lets me connect with other people … which has become an essential part of life. But there are other ways to connect — email, telephone, letters, etc. As for reading, as long as there are books, life goes on.

Writing can’t be replaced. Accept no substitute.

THE TEEPEE – I REMEMBER

Once upon a time, I built a teepee. I painted the door and filled it with things I loved. I made the poles, sanded each by hand, peeling the bark from the 16-foot saplings we had cut in our own woods.

cropped-jun07-tipi-043.jpg

Then I wrote a book about building it, and about life, transformation, and other things, some funny, some sad, some just whatever. The manuscript for The 12-Foot Teepee took me about 7 months to write, about as much time to edit, then a few more months to design the cover and book. Getting it published, well … that’s another story.

This was my teepee.

It stood, through all seasons, for five years. Through snow and ice, drenching rain, hurricanes and hale, it stayed solidly anchored. This past summer, we realized the poles had rotted through. They could no longer support the canvas. And the canvas itself was mildewed and tears had appeared in various places. Its time was done. We took it down.

You can find the book on Amazon, both as a paperback and in Kindle format. It is The 12-Foot Teepee,  by Marilyn Armstrong.  My life has moved on considerably since then but writing it was a turning point in my life.

And for the years the teepee was mine, it was the one place in the world in which I always felt safe and at peace. I will always miss it. It was also the only space I’ve ever known which was entirely, completely, absolutely mine.


Oasis – A sanctuary is a place you can escape to, to catch your breath and remember who you are. Write about the place you go to when everything is a bit too much.

IF ONLY

For Posterity - My blog just went viral. My assignment? Write the post I’d like new readers to see and by which I’d like them to remember me. Write that post right now.


75-Books and stuffNK-1

Talk about a tall order. Golly gee whiz. You mean … like … right now, here, no prep, no thought. Write the post of posts, the one by which the blogging (and maybe literary) world will remember me. I’m not trying to be argumentative, but that’s like telling me to sit down and produce a best-selling book. Now, this minute.

Writing doesn’t work that way … and even if it did, I don’t work that way. Writing is a process. Idea or concept, followed by roughing out a draft. Wait a while, then come back, have another go at the draft. Maybe get someone else to read it.

Click publish. Will it be a hit? It’s a crap shoot. You may love it and think it’s the best piece I’ve ever written, but maybe no one else will like it. Or maybe I’ll think it’s mediocre, but you think it’s fantastic. Maybe I’ll read it tomorrow and the whole thing will give me a monumental headache. I’ll realize it’s a total piece of shit and delete it, too embarrassed to even keep it on file.

Art to order. Brilliance on demand.

Tombstones

If only.

If only I could decide to write that best-seller, just sit down and do it. After which a publisher would agree, then promote, market, and publicize it. But of course, I’m still stuck on the “writing it” piece of the equation. Like today, now, this minute, I’m supposed to write the one post I’d like new readers to see and by which posterity will remember me. Just like that.

Does anyone know what, if anything, posterity will choose to remember? Because I sure don’t know. I’m not sure anyone will remember me at all, for any reason.

72- Marilyn-Hyannis-GAR-11

What I know is each post I write is the best I can write on that day, in that moment. Maybe it will be a great little post. Maybe it will be popular and viewed by many people. Maybe no one will notice it at all and it will disappear. Probably, I won’t remember it either.

I’ll continue to do my best. And that will have to suffice.

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG WITH THAT?

When I lived in Israel, there was a story in the news about a family who sold their house and used the proceeds to buy lottery tickets. They figured they had to win. Win big. After which they would buy a new house. It didn’t work out as planned. They ended up with a giant pile of worthless lottery tickets and no house. A perfect example of “what could possibly go wrong?”

Watching television gives one many opportunities to ponder “what could possibly go wrong?” Last night, on CSI, a show whose time has come and probably also gone, what’s-his-name played by Ted Danson is using his lovely daughter as bait for a serial killer. Really.

What could possibly go wrong with that?

It took all the creativity of a team of writers to come up with an unbelievable happy ending. Unbelievable in the sense that I didn’t believe it. Garry didn’t believe it. I bet even the guys who wrote it didn’t believe it.

I try not to take this sort of thing personally. It can’t be that the people who write scripts for television shows think we are that stupid, do they? When I worked at Doubleday, many long years go, we wrote about books because, you know, Doubleday is a publisher. There were very few rules about how we were to write. We were allowed a great deal of creative freedom, one of the many pluses of the job.

The one warning we got was to never, ever, write down to our readers. Because you never know who is reading that book. As the editor in charge of the Doubleday Romance Library, I got to read the surveys on who actually reads romance novels, an oft-maligned genre of literature.

CSI-danson

These light, fluffy stories — all pretty much the same plot — always sold extremely well. It seemed that fans of the genre could not get enough of them. Yet survey after survey showed that the readers of romance novels were, of all of our reader groups, the best educated.

How could that be? Well, it turns out that many people in high-pressure professions don’t want to read serious books. They want to be gently entertained. They like books with no ugly deaths, no tortured souls. They appreciate knowing there will be a happy ending and if they forget to finish the book, it doesn’t matter.

Whoever is in charge of the story lines and scripts for many current television series, seem to have forgotten about not talking down to us. They obviously think we are stupid. The result? I stop watching their shows. When the stories get ridiculous, when the “what could possibly go wrong with that?” factor outweighs its entertainment value, we move on.

For me to accept a story, to suspend my disbelief, you need to give me a hook. Something that lets me accept whatever is happening as “possible.” Like, there you are on planet Alphabetazoid in the far away galaxy of ZYX900042 and everyone speaks colloquial 21st century American English. You want me to believe it? Tell me they are using their “Universal Translator.” Or have babel fish in their ears. I want to believe, but you need to offer me a little help.

Of course, that’s useless when confronted by the vast sea of true-life human stupidity. People who really do sell their homes to buy lottery tickets and other “What could possibly go wrong with that” scenarios. I will need to continue to deal with the depth and breadth of human stupidity as best I can.

At least on television and in the movies, though, give me a break. Help me believe. Because I am not stupid. Really. I’m not. I just like stupid television shows.

IRRITITABLE VOWEL SYNDROME

Marilyn Armstrong:

Off to various doctors and hospitals today, so I thought a spot of humor might be in order. I got a kick out of this one and maybe so will you!

Originally posted on DCMontreal: Blowing the Whistle on Society:

Irritable Vowel Syndrome – something has to change yventually!

©DCMontreal 2014 ©DCMontreal 2014

 Cause, Meet Effect.

Me DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

View original

NEVER BEEN BIG ON BINGO

So, the Great Minds of WordPress asked: “What’s the longest stretch you’ve ever pulled off of posting daily to your blog? What did you learn about blogging through that achievement, and what made you break the streak?”

Well, now that’s a fine question. I was reading CHRONICLES OF AN ANGLO SWISS and realized while I was answering her, I was writing the whole answer (more or less), so really, she was my morning’s inspiration. That and discovering the new little Shark rechargeable vacuum cleaner I bought really picks up the dog hair. I was dubious about their claims, but by golly, this little machine has balls!

Shark Bagless Navigator

I digress and apologize. It’s hard to keep on point this early in the day. Well, maybe it isn’t all that early. Never mind. I need more caffeine before I can properly focus on being witty.

First of all, blogging is my current profession.

Otherwise, life as a senior citizen is 24/7 tech support to family, friends, and sometimes random strangers. I admit, I get a buzz when the young whippersnappers ask for my help because they don’t know anything about their computers except how to turn them on and off. Oh, they also know how to plug them in. They grasp the finer points of supplying electricity and charging batteries, but that’s as far as they can go.

I don’t know exactly when I started daily posting. More than two years ago. It’s not a statistic WordPress provides. My streak was rudely interrupted by a vacation at a Cape Cod dump where WiFi didn’t work. While I was in the hospital, I had to send in substitute authors while I did a little pas de deux with death. I was very lucky that Garry and Rich were there for me or this blog would probably have died, even if I didn’t.

It turned out, Garry got better stats than me, which is embarrassing. What a guy. He didn’t let popularity go to his head , which might have something to do with other prizes he won over the years. I think he only counts success if it comes with a statuette or plaque.

There I go, digressing again.

In any case, the moment I could write, Garry retired. My husband is a noble man.

And so, with all the flaws in the system, I forge (forage?) on ahead (a head?).

72-MorningCabin-10-6_22

The more interesting question is why? I don’t know why I started posting daily. I know I’m as addicted to writing as I am to the coffee I drink while I do it. It keeps my brain ticking along, keeps my writing skills from fading into something I “used to do”. Writing stimulates all those electrical impulses in the cranium. Because I blog, I have a use for the strange thoughts that pop out.

In retirement, blogging is a healthful activity. The alternative would be sitting around the local senior center waiting for the next bingo game. I’ve never been big on bingo.

What did I learn from daily blogging aside from the satisfaction it gives me? Here it goes:

  1. Write often.
  2. Write well.
  3. Post good photographs.
  4. Be nice to the people you meet online.

That’s it. That’s all of it in a nutshell. And beware of enraged squirrels.

HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT: THE OTHER PEOPLE IN NORMAN ROCKWELL’S AMERICA – JANE ALLEN PETRICK

Freedom_from_WantThis beautifully written book about Norman Rockwell, the artist and his work focuses on the non-white children and adults who are his legacy. The book will be an eye-opener for many readers despite the fact that anyone who goes to the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts — or seriously looks at Rockwell’s body of work — can see that Norman Rockwell never portrayed a purely white America. This country’s non-white population have always been there, even when he had to more or less sneak them in by the side door.

These people — Black people, Native Americans and others — are not missing. Rockwell was passionate about civil rights and integration. It was his life’s cause, near and dear to his heart. It is merely that the non-white peoples in his pictures have been overlooked, become invisible via a form of highly effective selective vision. Despite their presence, many people choose to focus on the vision of white America and eliminate the rest of the picture. Literally.

The author tells the story not only of Rockwell’s journey and battle to be allowed to paint his vision of America, but also of the people who modeled for him, both as children and adults. She has sought out these people and talked to them, getting their first-hand experiences with the artist.

It’s a fascinating story and I loved it from the first word to the last. HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT is available on Kindle for just $3.49. It’s also available as a paperback.

InPlainSight

From the Author

Whether we love his work or hate it, most of us think of Norman Rockwell as the poster child for an all-white America. I know I did. That is until the uncanny journey I share with you in this book began to unfold.  Then I discovered a surprisingly different truth: Norman Rockwell was into multiculturalism long before the word was even invented.

Working from live models, the famous illustrator was slipping people of color (the term I use for the multi-ethnic group of Chinese and Lebanese, Navajos and African-Americans the artist portrayed) into his illustrations of America from the earliest days of his career. Those people of color are still in those illustrations. They never disappeared. But the reason we don’t know about them is because, up until now, they seem to have been routinely overlooked.

For example, in her book, “Norman Rockwell’s People,” Susan E. Meyer catalogues by name over one hundred and twenty Norman Rockwell models, including two dogs, Bozo and Spot. But not one model of color is named in the book.

Another case in point? “America, Illustrated,” an article written for The New York Times by Deborah Solomon, art critic and journalist In honor of (an) upcoming Independence Day, the entire July 1, 2010 edition of the paper was dedicated to “all things American.”

“America, Illustrated” pointed out that Norman Rockwell’s work was experiencing a resurgence among collectors and museum-goers. Why? Because the illustrator’s vision of America personified “all things American.” Rockwell’s work, according to the article, provided “harmony and freckles for tough times.” As Solomon put it, Norman Rockwell’s America symbolized “America before the fall.” This America was, apparently, all sweetness and light. Solomon simply asserts: “It is true that his (Rockwell’s) work does not acknowledge social hardships or injustice.”

The America illustrated by Norman Rockwell also, apparently, was all white. Seven full-color reproductions of Rockwell’s work augment the multi-page Times’ article. The featured illustration is “Spirit of America” (1929), a 9″ x 6″ blow-up of one of the artist’s more “Dudley Doright”-looking Boy Scouts. None of the illustrations chosen includes a person of color.

This is puzzling. As an art critic, Solomon surely was aware of Norman Rockwell’s civil rights paintings. The most famous of these works, “The Problem We All Live With,” portrays “the little black girl in the white dress” integrating a New Orleans school.

One hundred and seven New York Times readers commented on “America, Illustrated,” and most of them were not happy with the article. Many remarks cited Solomon’s failure to mention “The Problem We All Live With.” One reader bluntly quipped: “The reporter (Solomon) was asleep at the switch.” The other people in Norman Rockwell’s America, people of color, had been strangely overlooked, again.I have dedicated Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Norman Rockwell’s America to those “other people”: individuals who have been without name or face or voice for so long. And this book is dedicated to Norman Rockwell himself, the “hidden” Norman Rockwell, the man who conspired to put those “other people” into the picture in the first place.