30 November 2010

Words, words. A writer again

I got some new software for the computer and there are a number of issues and I can't upload any photos from my photo program. I get a bit nervous wondering if I've lost some of the photos, but I can't deal with it tonight. Technology is such an interesting thing, making a blog and photos possible, yet always threatening to gobble it up, or make it unworkable.

Without photos, I guess I'm a pure writer. Just words to get me through. I'm still separating from the "Rose In A Storm" experience, although the book is still out there selling for Christmas. No book unfolds the way one expects. A lot of people were shocked that I returned to fiction, and it's tricky to jump venues. I am so glad I did this book, so grateful for it and fond of it. I have a short story collection coming down the road, but I am sort of itching to return to non-fiction for awhile. Fiction requires a particular head. I'm not sure I have it at the moment.

So I am thinking about writing about the farm again, now that I am staying here and seeing that it is under control. It is a different place than it was a few years ago. It is not as dramatic a place as it was a few years ago, and I am not alone here, but it is a richer and more spiritual place, and I am more connected to the animals here and the people around me,  and perhaps that is the story for me.

So for the next few hours at least, the blog returns to its original form words, and as much as I love photography that is nice, too. I will figure it out in the morning. It is cold and raining, a bleak November night, a good fire going and my former girlfriend checking her e-mail. Life always jumps around, brings challenges and surprises. The trick is to stay grounded at the center.

The Mad Farmer Revolution. No apologies

The Rouse Farm Hay Barn

"I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my

inheritance and destiny, so be it. If it is my mission to

go in at exists and come out at entrances, so be it.

I have planted by the stars in defiance of the experts,

and tilled somewhat by incantation and by singing,

and reaped, as I knew, by luck and Heaven's favor

in spite of the best advice. If I have been caught so often

laughing at funerals, that was because

I knew the dead were already slipping away,

preparing a comeback, and can I help it?"

— Wendell Berry, "The Mad Farmer's Revolution."

Hay barns are cathedrals to me, sacred places, the wind and dust carrying more stories than I can possibly grasp. (me)

Barn kitten, Rouse farm

Barn kitten

Barn cat, Rouse Barn. I think I will write a book about barn cats, one way or another. There are no other animals like them that I can think of, and they live in a strange and mystical world between the wild and domestication.

In the barn. Family farms

Judy Baldwin, Milking Chores

Family farms are struggling all over America, and the conventional wisdom is that they can't survive. Judy Baldwin and her family say otherwise, and they are working day and night to prove it, and to give their families the opportunity they had to farm. We have signed Bedlam Farm Family notecads, including a series on the very admirable Judy available at Redux. A portion of these proceeds goes to benefit family farms, including the Washington County Farm Bureau. Other signed notecards are available as well. Personally I'd rather live in a world that has family farms.

29 November 2010

A new way to write. With engaged readers. A dialogue.

Different way to write

I stumbled across something pretty powerful this evening, at least for me, a new and somewhat collaborative way to write, to engage my readers, to get help, and to learn. I was writing a short story about a women who has to decide whether or not to put her aging Golden Retriever down. The dog was very old, and fading but not critical, so it was a tough choice for her. I am never happy with the names I come up with for dogs, and I like to use real names in my stories – makes them feel more authentic to me. So without thinking much about it, I posted a message on my Facebook wall asking for the real names of any Golden Retriever owners, and then I could sift through them and pick the one I like.

I posted this query in the late afternoon and then I went out to dinner. When I got back a couple of hours later there were nearly 200 messages on that topic on the Facebook page. They kept coming in all evening.  I was shocked. They were very useful to me. Good names – "Gus" and "Ralph" and "Honey" and "Nikki" names I would not have thought of and the messages were very useful and revealing to me as a writer as well. From the stories, tone and brief anecdotes I learned a lot about the love of dogs, things I can always use and that really help my writing. And about grieving, too.

FIrst, it was touching to me how viscerally helpful people are, not something you would believe from listening to the news.

Secondly, I realized belatedly that this was a very helpful and different writing tool. Lots of other names, voices, sentiments for me to relate to and grasp. The blog is a monologue in one sense, but Facebook has added another dimension: a dialogue as well. There is a sense of community, and encouragement that means a great deal to me. And I share as much of the creative process as I can, which, to my surprise, is meaningful to book lovers and readers of my books. It seems a good deal all around, a place interactivity has led me that I wouldn't have thought of myself.

It is fashionable for writers and academics to whine and squawk about the death of reading and culture, from the Internet and e-books. I don't think so. I think we are seeing the rebirth of both in many ways.

Readers can participate in the construction of a story. They can shape it, own it in a way, and follow it as it evolves. I would imagine they might very much want to read it when it comes out in book form. And it is stimulating, and enhances my creativity. Instead of just relying on my own interior whirlings, I can interact with people who love my subject matter and can give me a sense of energy, creativity and authenticity. I loved reading these messages. They keep me fresh and current I think.

So I will think more about how to use this tool, perhaps working with my readers (not turning over the story but opening it a bit) to come up with names and even some characters and voices.

I don't want to lost control of my stories. But I'm willing to share, it seems exciting and creative to me.