Not embarrassed writing

July 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm (Uncategorized)

I am most embarrassed about writing about being embarrassed.  These things are either so inconsequential that I can’t think of them, or so revealing that I won’t share them with you.  So – let me talk about the playhouse.


When I lived in Berkeley, home to the World Dryer Corp., my father built a shed-like structure that was to be my playhouse until I outgrew it.  This was a monumental step up from the refrigerator and dryer boxes that had served the purpose before.  Dad situated it first near the sandbox behind the garage, and I ran there when I cut my wrist playing tag. The front storm door makes a very poor ghoul.   Then, Dad moved it to a spot directly underneath and between the twin weeping willows in the back yard.


The playhouse was very tall, and had empty windows and a door that would not bar a bear, however I hung little cloths with thumbtacks in the window per my mother’s suggestion, and dragged a lawn chair in for furniture. My play consisted of tossing willow flowers and seeds in a dented camping mess kit over an imaginary cooking fire while pretending to be a pioneer.  Sometimes I sat and wrote poems or stories about nature.


Gina B. and her brother Michael teased me about my playhouse, and often hinted that something might happen to it. They had cousins from Chicago, Gina had warned me, who would and could do violence to a playhouse. My family was heading home from two weeks of camping at Kentucky Lake, when I saw the sun reflected in a shine spot on the family griddle, which was sticking out of a bag wedged between the front seats and the middle bench of our VW bus.  I knew then the playhouse had been destroyed.


“The playhouse is gone,” I said quietly.  I repeated this for my Mom when she asked what I had said, but she told me to go back to sleep – it was my imagination.


When we pulled into the driveway, before donning my white anklets (flea catchers – another story) and rushing into the house, I ran around back to check on the playhouse.  It had been smashed and turned on its side.  The playhouse went away quietly over the next few days – Dad was never one to let jobs go.


I am the only one who remembers the playhouse, except for my Mom, who at least pretended to remember it for my sake.  Now she is gone, too.


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The Writer’s Workout Book

July 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm (Uncategorized)

Picture of  The Writer's Workout Book

Sometimes there are books that you’ve just got to add to your own collection, and this book by Art Peterson is one of them.  Every page is full of writing ideas, not only for myself, but some that I can use directly or in modified form with my students.  The fun thing is that they have enough meat on them to engage most writers or wannabe’s.

Right now, I’m reading a chapter about adding detail to your writing, and I love his examples: some are plainly outrageous, and others are more serious.  I have finished chapters about how to come up with topics, how to see things around you so that you can not only add those details to your writing, but that you might have something to write about to begin with, how to break through the cliche, know your audience and now to think about the creative choices each writer makes.

I think that I like this book more than any of the other kinds of books about writing.  It actually helps get you writing.  Sure, it’s important to know the arguments supporting writing instruction at the middle school level, and it is somewhat interesting to know the theory behind why we write what we do.  However, when you are part of the choir already, why not actually work to perfect your own craft?  I could read how to books all day.

I guess, then, that the test of the book is whether or not it inspires the reader to write, write more, or write better.  In my case, I will say that the book has helped me to write, and write better.  I haven’t made a secret about my writer’s block during this SI. Pretty painful stuff when it hits.

I was left writing about navel fuzz. (A term that is used to refer to introspective writing that doesn’t look beyond the personal experience to the broader human experience.) Yes, I always try to keep in mind the universal themes, but must admit that there is little time to think about universal themes when I can barely get my fingers on the keyboard.

So – did this book help?  Yes, I think so.  When Peterson discusses the  joys of writing so openly (hey – giving up the mystery to outsiders) it’s hard for me not to want to write.  And if I like it again, I will be a better writing teacher.  Gotta get this book.  ISBN 1-88390-11-6

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Candice’s Demo – My Writing

July 5, 2011 at 4:54 pm (Uncategorized)

Inspired by Let it Be

Some of Us

By Judith Pece

Some of us are stronger than others,

We do what must be done,

You will not cry in public either

When you have buried your love

Nine years after he has died

And you have tended his shroud

As you bathed and fed him

Protect him from thoughts


Disconnected from speech

He was severed in the instant

When too much blood

Or too little

Let all hell loose inside

his brain.


And they finally came to take him

When you could not keep him

Safe at home alone each day


That is when he really left me


You will push me away, too

The hug too painful for today

And stories from strangers

Who knew him when

Irrelevant not comforting,


I am not here to receive you

In this line for your sake

But we have traveled

And we gather

Tend to his adult children.

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Fourth Dimension – Gene’s Demo

June 24, 2011 at 4:15 pm (Uncategorized)

I am your invisible friend. I have been living with you, although you do not always see me. I am that eerie feeling you have in an old building, when the corners where the walls meet the ceiling are slightly off. Sometimes I am, like many of my compatriots, mistaken for a ghost, you know – when the chill passes right through you? That is me – going right through you. I do not do it maliciously; it is the way I have to exist. I knock things off your desk – you think I am the wind. I pass through your dreams, running my fingers through the soft substance contained within your skull. Your headache is me. I steal the tomatoes from your garden, and the tulips from their stems – you blame the rabbits. They are like me – a blur that you sometimes catch.

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Even In the Library

June 24, 2011 at 2:43 pm (Uncategorized)

Even in the library,

Workmen come to work their drills

They boldly break the silence

Piling wall upon wall

And window upon window

The quiet rooms are gone

With brief raucous squirts of sound

They complete the task

Then walls and windows

Are wheeled away

And we are left wondering

About the meaning of it all

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June 21, 2011 at 1:47 pm (Uncategorized)

I have to admit that I was perplexed by the writer’s block that hit me last week. I tried to think of reasons to explain it, and finally, on Thursday, just decided to start writing. The first attempt:

Bananafamine, brain envy, just write, just write, just write. Cuaderno. Words. Tell about the bus splashing the puddle on the girl on the sidewalk. Tell about the inconsiderate bus driver stopping on the grass instead of the driveway. Don’t edit, spell check or anything but keep the writing coming. Listen to the songs you like. Admire the green ring; wonder if it is emerald, olivine or peridot. Wonder why you picked it. … listen to the contractors until 10 pm, fall asleep in the car after the drive home. … stop editing, correcting typos – listen to the sound of the keys between Come What May and Roxanne Del Tango. I should be thinking during these down times, but I can’t think. The beat of the song is perfect and the angst is real. …Okay just listen to the music you have tried you have tired you are done.

Then, on the ride home, I started to collect images and sensory details, and compiled a list, and turned it into a 14 line poem (my conceit – a free verse sonnet):


One Day:

Fireflies in the yard at dark
Youth magical and powerful
One leaf ending its life in a dramatic fall
From a tall tree, followed by a whirly-gig
A wombly ride down Race Street,
A petite, immaculate, woman whose perfume fills the bus,
Makes my head crawl with pain
A stiff woman: trying too hard to talk about the weather
Homework to practice socialization
Me thinking about the weather,
But not speaking my desperate hope for clear skies
Pine needles drying in my yard,
The hot smell of pine – quintessentially summer
The steady beat of hammers reassuring,
Upstairs snug under new plywood and felt
I am waiting for windows so I can look out

Then Monday, I added to it, from sensory details and images from Friday and the weekend:

Another Day:

From the back of the bus today
Hostage to the perfume, I want to tell her
(She would stop, I think): I am disabled by scent
It’s hard to see, unlike her cane
View the moving world from stadium seating
Something is different: something has started.
An empty route is now full; I recognize three.
At home the dog huddles, shivering against the storm
Not knowing the shelter of shingles has been renewed
No water ravages the plaster. Impulse purchases
Shift from chips to wallpaper, and drop cloths
big enough to cover a room
fireflies still float up out of the magic of
a weathered grill and a circle of chairs
and still the beat of hammers reassuring
I will have windows, I will look out.

Today, I’m feeling the fatigue of my fibromyalgia, and an article about primary progressive aphasia from Brain in the News is all it has taken to get me worrying about the changes in my language and memory. I try not to dwell there, but acknowledge that this may be the most profound thing I have to write about today. I keep the 14 line form, but am concerned that this stanza focuses only on yesterday’s bus ride, and does not include any images from home. I purposefully bring the window image back in. I am literally waiting for the window installers this week – but am also aware of the metaphoric image that windows create.

And yet another:

At the front of the bus, the stiff woman
Converses freely in her own language, smiling,
With an older man, who departs,
Quickly lopes to an Ag building.
I think of language then as the stiff woman retreats again,
The assumptions I have made,
as I ponder the changes to my own words:
the ‘boats’ and ‘bowls’ that leap from my mouth
instead of ‘basket’
I wonder if I will sit quietly on the bus
Waiting for someone who speaks my language
Or who will let me sit silently
Terrified that I will not be understood
Alone at a window, looking out

The 60’s-and-70’s-part of me wants to leave the reader with this forlorn image. I think there may be more, though. I’m at a point in my life where I think pathos is somewhat boring and a waste of time. Maybe the fourth stanza should be based solely on images from home. Maybe a free-verse sonnet should have 14 stanzas . . .

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June 30, 2010 at 3:03 pm (Uncategorized)

I have been told that there are days like this – when the cosmos seems to work in concert to frustrate. I have them rarely, being an optimist and skilled at making my own reality flesh. However, today (and this is the second time I have written this since the first draft popped out of existence ten seconds ago) seems to be an exception.

The trouble started this morning when I sat down to check my email as I ate my cereal and blueberries. So far, I was on time. The problem is, I started answering emails rather than focusing on eating, and before long I was running late.

I knew that I would be a few minutes late, but thought I could get away with taking I-74, even though I had been whizzing past “Construction Begins …” signs for two weeks. The bridge repairs were over the eastbound lanes. Besides, I could cut off at St. Joseph if the traffic was slowing considerably by then.

Three minutes past St. Joseph, I knew I had made a tactical error, and as I popped on my hazard lights and slowed to a crawl, I knew that while I would not be here on time, I’d have a good excuse. I even began to feel like I was on a mini American road trip, with the smells of diesel and hot asphalt mixing to create that singular longing for fast food breakfast sandwiches that is strongest when I am on the road. Waxing nostalgic, I realized that I expected the Smoky Mountains to grace the scenery at any time. I had a hankering for souvenirs and hills.

But, alas, this brief interlude into summer freedom was not to last, as I cut off at University Avenue and proceeded to stop behind every red light, every left turner, and even every right lane sightseer on the road between the exit and my parking space. I’ll just have to be patient, I thought. Timeliness is not going to happen today, another, wiser voice added.

With relief, there was no truck blocking the drive to my narrow parking lot, but as I turned the corner, I did see that spot # 6 was already filled. So, heeding the advice of my inner dialogue, I stayed calme, walked around the building, and explained the problem to the maintenance man, who told me that I could park in # 4 for today and he’d talk to the driver of the other car today.

I didn’t see any point in walking fast from my car to the library.

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On: the end of worlds

June 25, 2010 at 2:59 pm (Uncategorized)

SPOILER ALERTS FOR The Road and Castaway

At the end of the world, will I be able to loot? We think of looters as the criminals of the world, but when the whole structure breaks down, looting becomes a matter of survival. Who will repopulate the earth, given the possibility of repopulation? In the movie, The Road, the “good guys” – presumably the ones who don’t consume human flesh – must loot to survive. And so I wonder, will I be able to loot at the end of the world? Or will I be like the wife who exposes herself to the frigid night and dark woods rather than face the future?

I think that I would not be able to abandon my child in that situation. But I guess clinical depression could occur at the end of the world with or without the doctor’s pronouncement. She seemed depressed in the movie – loss of interest, suicidal – especially when they had to burn the piano to stay warm. Chronic pain can cause depression – would loss of beauty? Would the days be too short, too sad, to both survive and sing, or tell stories? Would it be too painful to do these things as the world burns around you?

It is true that this apocalyptic view of the future is dark. However, at the end, the boy starts his life over with a family; people who don’t eat human flesh, and who are by his father’s definition the “good guys”. Here at least is one girl who is not related to him who might someday grow to be the mother of his child. He’s not thinking of that, I’m sure, but as an adult watching the film, I am looking for any sign of hope that we will go on, even if we are “looters”. As an adult, I know that the boy will be protected, as much as an intact family unit can provide protection at the end of the world.

On Saturday, September 15, 2001, my husband and I watched Castaway. The date is significant to most of us at the first Saturday after 9/11. The movie is one that I can never think of watching again because it is so intimately caught up in the falling towers, the fires, the ashes at the end of an era. You know the story – a UPS delivery guy (Tom Hanks) is stranded on a deserted island when his plan crashes. He lives alone on the island for several years before he is rescued. Once he is rescued, he delivers one crucial package with his trusty sidekick “Wilson,” the soccer ball, at his side.

I don’t know if I would deliver the packages. I don’t remember the movie well enough, I think – because I’m thinking there was something about the final package that was significant. I remember that he sat in his truck at a rural crossroads before deciding to deliver the package. Metaphorically, we all sit at the crossroads for personal and national or world-wide disasters. The question is: which road will we take? According to Robert Frost, it really doesn’t matter. The will both take us into the future. And then, to quote Scarlett: “Tomorrow’s another day.”

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Embracing the Mystery

June 24, 2010 at 2:40 pm (Uncategorized)

Last night, my husband and I watched A Serious Man. I have been thinking about the ending of the movie trying to decide if I like it or not. I mean, I understand the ending, and appreciate the bravery it took to end the movie that way, but I’m not sure I like the ending. And, since, like he frequently does, my husband abandoned the movie about 20 minutes before the ending for bed, I can’t even discuss it with him.

This was definitely a movie with a point. My question is whether or not the point was worth making. Maybe it’s funnier if you’re Jewish. The advice that the Rabbis gave corresponded exactly with the ending, which is, in my opinion that we ‘ll know how the story will end, so what’s the point in worrying about why things are happening?

The truth is that Larry’s trials and tribulations wax and wane. We know that he might get back together with Judith, we know he probably will achieve tenure, but will the pot dealer be swept away in the tornado? Will they all? Is this God’s hand, or is it chance?

What will the X-Rays show? I half expected the doctor to pull him into the office only to tell him that everything is fine – everything seems dire and dramatic these days as we put our individual sense of importance into play. We have weather, and the “W” is up on the TV screen. What is important? Does the person who conveys the information wield power? But this isn’t a movie about today. It’s really not about the 1960’s either: it’s about embracing the mystery. That’s eternal.

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Monday Morning

June 14, 2010 at 6:29 pm (Uncategorized)

Well, here we are, starting the UIWP.  I’m excited about this beginning.  My favorite part is the free writing in the morning, so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow morning.  But, I also savor the discussion of the Professional Readings, and we get to start this afternoon! Yay!

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