It’s always nice to have snow for Christmas. Living in Mississippi means waiting ten to thirty years for such an event. So this year, we decided to stack the deck and headed to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Mother Nature did not disappoint.
I have to ask.
Do the owners of Billboard Ministries or those who run the isheinyou.com website (oh yes, that’s the actual name of the site) have a wickedly sharp sense of humor, or are they just clueless? And who, pray tell, is the intended audience for this message? Continue reading
“I’m giving thanks that we don’t have to go through this for another year. Except we do, because those bastards went and put Christmas right in the middle, just to punish us.” –Home for the Holidays
For a bibliophile and writer, there are many advantages to living in a literary town. Not the least of which is having a built in group of people with whom one can talk about books and writing. I participate in these conversations all the time with friends and acquaintances and even, sometimes, complete strangers. It would be a reasonable expectation that I, on occasion, have something to offer in these conversations. And, occasionally, I do. But most often, the conversation looks a lot like the one I just has this past Monday night.
Girl’s night in Oxford, Mississippi generally involves drinks and nonstop chatter about writers, writing, reading and publishing – at least, with my girlfriends it does. Since we are all writers and former students at the University of Mississippi, and since we have a hard time finding people willing to indulge our obsession with words outside of Oxford, we try to get together once or twice a year to gorge ourselves on word talk. Monday night, I walked into City Grocery, Oxford’s most literary bar only because it happens to be where Oxford’s writers tend to hang out. The girls were in mid sentence about something when I arrived, the last to the gathering. They each stood in their turn, giving me hugs and smiles, as we did the hello-how-are-you-how-have-you-been dance that we do once or twice every year. Then we all sat back down and the conversation resumed.
“So, anyway, Jack is obviously vying for the Barry Hannah role,” said one girl who writes both fiction and poetry.
“Jack who?” I wanted to know. The true poet in the group looked at me like I was from another planet.
“Pendarvis” she said, as if that should mean something to me.
The reactions were a mixture of disbelief and excitement. They all started talking at the same time. “You know…he’s been the writer-in-residence here for years.” “He wrote that book, Awesome.” “He has that blog with the funny title, what’s that blog called? Oh yeah. The Place Where Jack Pendarvis Has a Blog.” “He’s kind of average height, brown hair, you have to know who we’re talking about.”
I didn’t. And this is nothing new in my life. For someone who fancies herself a writer, I am oblivious to who’s hot. I’m oblivious to even those that are luke-warm. It’s not that I haven’t tried to remedy myself of this embarrassing deficiency. I have. I scan the web for lists of books that I “should” be reading. I ask friends in-the-know for suggestions. I hear about blogs devoted to the very subject all the time. But somehow, I forget the name of the author I just heard about who wrote that really great book about something I can’t recall and, truthfully, I’m too busy with my own blog to spend too terribly much time reading other’s people’s blogs. And this is a fault. I’m aware of that. And I’m working on it.
It’s not that I don’t read, mind you. I’m reading all the time. It’s just the relatively new, up and coming writers that I can’t seem to stay on top of. And it’s no wonder. According to the WorkProduct blog, there are something like 100,000 new English language novels published every year. If you say, okay, I’m only going to read contemporary literature (from 1975 to today, for example) – that’s 3.5 million novels to read before the end of the decade (15 days to go and counting). If you don’t quite make it, go ahead and add another 100,000 books to the list.
Score one for my ignorance.
Still, I need to be more proactive in attempting to read at least the books that are making some sort of splash in the literary world. A splash that it would seem everyone knows about but me. And really, I’m just talking about fiction here. The same dynamic lives and breathes, like a daunting monster in the closet, in the poetry and creative nonfiction worlds. What’s a girl to do? I suppose I could buy a book a week from Square Books – but even that doesn’t guarantee that I’m getting the most bang for my buck. Because, let’s face it. I don’t want to read crap. And there’s a lot of crap out there. Make no mistake. Even some of the splash-makers are crap. In fact, it could be that most of them are. I wouldn’t know because, as I’ve already admitted, I have no idea who the splash-makers are.
So here’s where I attempt to make the internet work for me. If you have a tried and true method of staying on top of the latest, greatest books out there (fiction, nonfiction, poetry), pulease share! Here’s your opportunity to stamp out ignorance and illiteracy, to save the future of print publications and thousands of starving puppies, to finally make the world a prettier, happier place. Or, at the very least, give me something to talk about at the next Oxford Ladies Poetry Society.
The holiday season is upon us, whether we like it or not. I’ve gotten off to a late start this year. Late for me – a person who generally has holiday cards in the mail the day before Thanksgiving and all gifts purchased and ready for wrapping by the first of December. Today is the 12th of December. The cards just went out a couple of days ago and only half of the gifts have arrived from the various online locations from where they were purchased. I haven’t done the dreaded Black Friday mall-walk for many, many years. What’s the point? Most things are cheaper online anyway. And they’ll usually ship things to your house for free. Why go out in freezing cold weather and wrestle with a harried woman over the last just-released-director’s-cut-of-fillintheblank-movie? I pre-ordered that film a month ago online.
Okay. It’s officially been six months since leaving my tenure-track position at Delta State University where I loved working with students, hated the bureaucracy, and barely had a moment to breathe – let alone write something. Since then, I’ve had good intentions. Words have been slowly creeping back into my head. My eyes are gradually readjusting to actually seeing what’s in front of me. When I was overseas a couple of months ago, I actually wrote something new. Whoop di doo!
As the year (and, let’s face it, the decade) comes to a close, I’m beginning to feel some pressure. And it’s coming from inside. By the grace of all that is good in this universe, I’m blessed with people in my life who, just by their very nature, give me ample time and space. No one has asked what I’m working on or, that dreaded question, “How’s your writing going?” Not one person has said, “Hey! What have been doing for the past six months??” Thank god. Because if I had to answer that question honestly, I’d be forced to admit that I haven’t done much of anything but think about what I should be doing.
Well, alright. That’s not totally fair. The first two months of my “writing life” were taken up with packing up the old house and moving in to the new one. Then, of course, the dreaded renovation, that was supposed to last eight weeks but is already into week thirteen and counting, began. I travelled some. Smoked a lot. Put out some feelers for “future” projects and started blogging. But I had a conversation with a friend the other evening that has me thinking. This friend, wise and serene by all outward accounts, suddenly stated that she was unhappy with her life. If only, she said, she could quit her job. Then she would finally have the time to do all those things she’s always wanted to do. Like what, I asked. Oh, you know. Meditate. Read. Write. Take Yoga. Play Piano. That kind of stuff. Ah. Yes. That kind of stuff. Basically – everything that was on my own list when I left teaching.
I’ve accomplished none of those things. And while the writing is beginning to come, painfully slowly, the rest of my list sits and collects dust. I’m forced to wonder if time is really, in the end, what we need. I want to go back to my grad school days when I was living art. I mean, really eating, sleeping, dreaming art. The writing was always there. My camera was always out. I attended every reading, read voraciously, and barely uttered a sentence that didn’t have something to do, in one way or another, with poetry. Even the meditation group I belonged to (and regularly attended) was centered on writing. I don’t know. Maybe I was obnoxious back then. But I was connected to something, some muse (if you’ll forgive the drama), that I lost along the way.
For several years now, I’ve been blaming my lack of creativity on the fact that, after finishing my MFA, I entered a PhD program in American literature. The creative brain does not survive well in a critical environment. Or so I told myself. Then, after the PhD, it was the job. My first job centered primarily on teaching literature. Not creative at all, I said. So I left that job and took another that centered primarily on teaching poetry. Hmmm. That didn’t work either. And so here I sit. With nothing but time and a blank screen.
I don’t think it’s time that we need. I think it’s focus. Too much time means too many options. What shall I do today? Oh, I don’t know. Well, there’s always laundry and dishes to do. The animals need feeding and attention. The bills have to be paid and, would you look at that? Those files are in complete disarray! After that, well, I need to attend to my relationships – so I’ll spend some time on Facebook commenting on people’s walls so they know I’m thinking about them. Maybe I’ll have lunch with so-and-so or drinks with the girls. It’s actually quite easy to get to the end of the day and look back and have absolutely no idea what you did. Even though you were doing something at every possible moment. And I’m not even a TV watcher. And I don’t like BonBons.
So, here is the solution of the day. I’m going to attempt (NO) – scratch that – I am going to write something on this blog every day until the end of the year. Yes, I know that’s only 23 days. But one must start somewhere! It will be a challenge because the holiday is quickly approaching and I have travel plans and guests arriving and a party to throw. But that’s just the point, isn’t it? There is always something else to do. There will forever be something else to do.
Consider it my own little NaNoWriMo – only I’m not nearly ambitious enough to even try to write a novel. For now, at least, I’ll settle with dribble.