Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Alice Graduates!

I graduated from NC State with my MA in English December 20th 2006 and boy am I happy!

My husband, Keith, and friends Jane, Beth and Nancy were there to cheer me on, and later that day I picked up my son from daycare wearing my cap and gown. Daniel kept saying, "I'm so happy!" echoing my feelings.

So I made it happen. I managed to balance family, work, school and graduate on time. I think the key to my success was enjoying my work in English and having the necessary support to make it happen. For instance, if Daniel had not been in daycare/pre-school full-time, I would never have made it, because I hardly did any schoolwork on weekends, if that's any indication.

A Long Time Goal

Ever since I was out of college back in the pre-Internet days, I wanted to go to grad school. I remember this phone interview I had the co-owner of the Moultrie News in Mt. Pleasant, SC (near Charleston) about a job as an account exec and he asked me what my 5 year goal was. Naturally, I said grad school. He then told me that was the wrong answer. The right answer was that I should want to own a home in 3-5 years. Why? I thought. I wanted education and a chance to be in front of my career. Much to my disappointment, my dad agreed with this fellow, but that's another story (and, no, I didn't get the job). Now, I didn't know what I wanted to do in grad school, only that I wanted to go. Not until 5 months after Daniel was born did I position myself for an MA in English and then I decided in June '04 that I wanted a concentration in Rhetoric/Composition. Some folks may say, why didn't you go for your MFA, since that's my focus. Well, I didn't have a good enough writing/English background for the MFA back in 2004 since my undergrad was in Finance, not English. The MA was perfect for me and maybe someday I'll go for my MFA...

Looking Back...

Fall '05 sucked. 11 credit hours, 6-7 tutoring center hours a week, 3 sessions of speech therapy/OT for my son. And I took all hard classes in rhetoric and critical theory. I think French was the easiest. But, I sure did learn about Plato, Aristotle, Foucoult, Zora Neale Hurston and many, many others. My classes were Tuesday and Thursdays from 1:30-4 and I had my rhetoric class which was a night class from 7:30-9. I worked from 10-1 in the tutoring center. M, W, F were speech therapy days and I also worked the occasional Friday for Lancome makeup, too. It seemed that I never had enough time to read my assignments. I would fall asleep in my critical theory book at 11am and then wake up at 3am and keep on going. I pulled an all-nighter for my 2-credit research class. And Keith and I mashed in a vacation in late October, so I missed all my classes for a week. It turned out that things actually got better for me after the vacation (I think I had about 2 hours of sleep the night before we left so I could get some work done ahead). I sure rejoiced when that semester was over and I had managed to survive it with all As and an A-.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Journaling Class Photos

My "Journal from the Inside Out" workshop series met Nov. 1, 8 and 15 (all on Wed) at Ideas! Coffee House in Durham. We shared our entries, reflected upon our lives and experienced great fellowship! My next workshop is FREE and it's Wed. Jan 17th in the Greystone Office Park in N Raleigh on 901 Paverstone Way, Suite 8 from 7-9:30. We'll be prompt writing and making the creativity flow!

Pictured: (from left) Deborah, Alice and Carol

Monday, November 13, 2006

Right Lane Ends at the 2006 Writers Conference

Beth Browne, Alice Osborn and Jane K. Andrews -- all part of the Right Lane Ends phenonmenon!

The three of us wore our RLE T-shirts to generate enthusiasm and excitement for my new book of poetry, Right Lane Ends -- it worked! I sold many books and now more writers know where to find me. I also gave away 4 shirts.

I think this year's conference held at the Sheraton in RDU (Raleigh-Durham) was one of the best North Carolina Writers' Network Conference I've ever attended!

If you'd like a T-shirt -- contact me via www.aliceosborn.com -- there's only a few left!!!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Check out these writing blogs!

I've gathered a few fellow womens' writing blogs. Please check them out and feel a part of the writing community -- we all go through the same things (i.e. finding the Muse, writer's block, rejection and sometimes success!)

Peggy Payne: www.peggypayne.com
Author of NY Times Bestseller, Sister India
Blog: http://peggypayne.blogspot.com

Christy English
Blog: www.christyenglish.com

Therese Fowler
Blog: http://theresefowler.blogspot.com

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ideas Coffee House Reading

Here are a few photos from my reading/signing at Ideas Coffee House on Friday, October 20th .
To open up the night, we had talented singer/songwriter La'wren'ze perform, followed by Alice Osborn reading from selected poems from her new book, Right Lane Ends.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Launch Party Pictures

Photo by Michael Graziano

Here are a few pics from my Right Lane Ends Launch Party held at the Royal Bean Coffee House, Friday the 13th of October.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Prompt Writing Workshop

Thank you everyone who came out to my free Prompt Writing Workshop at the Royal Bean Coffee Shop Wed. Sept. 27th. We had a great turnout, as you can see (photo by Michael Graziano). We did 5 timed writing exercises, made new friends and collaborated!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Why Be Normal?

I’m complicated. When I was younger, no one could figure me out. How could I like Phil Collins and Nirvana? How could I love cars, yet couldn’t drive? How could I major in engineering and be learning dyslexic in math? How could I bake scrumptious brownies, yet not be able to fold a T-shirt to save my life? How could I live in Myrtle Beach and not have a tan? Let’s say I confused others and myself for a long time. My favorite question these days is how could I major in finance and now pursue my master’s in English? But, why not? Why can’t a business major switch to writing if that’s what she’s been doing her whole life anyway? I wrote newsletters when I was eight and decided to be a novelist when I was nine. Then something happened: I wanted to get a “real” job when I graduated from college and I didn’t even consider teaching or writing as a career. But, I still wrote on the sly for my high school’s paper and my college’s yearbook, and then later on for my sailing club’s newsletter. I became a shadow artist — I admit it. According to Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way, a shadow artist doesn’t admit she’s an artist, but wants to be around artists in the worst way. No wonder all of my dates were photographers. After college, I worked for Belk Department Stores, first in their advertising department, then in store management, and lastly in the buying office. Near the end of my career with them, I remember buying a book on writing your first novel and thinking I still needed to do this. Then, life happened when my son Daniel was born four years ago.
The fact is, I love change and complication and am not afraid of it. Change is good and it wakes up the soul. For without change, I wouldn’t be a writer, I wouldn’t have a new poetry book published, and I wouldn’t be within inches of earning my M.A. I’d probably still be in retail management, still believing that Saturdays are the worst day of the week. However, before we can change, we need to let some things go to free up the space for new people and experiences. Daniel made me realize that I’d done a lot of things over the years to please my parents, but once he was on the way, my parents decided to break off our relationship. Of course, I was disappointed and it still saddens me that Daniel has never met my parents, but if I think that my parents left a vacuum for me to change and grow, and now I can see their estrangement in a positive light. When they let me go, I was forced at twenty-nine to define who I was and where my life should turn. My husband and I got married, I kept my name and my 1996 red Mustang, and released myself from my retail career to find out what I really wanted. When on maternity leave, I signed up for correspondence course writing classes at UNC-CH, became more active in my book club, joined a writers’ group and plunged into motherhood — the hardest job on the planet. Slowly, but surely, I wrote bad short stories and sent them off to contests and then took advantage of all the North Carolina Writers’ Network conferences. I also read writing books and novels to study the craft and improve.
This summer I learned a lot and opened myself up to new experiences that were a little scary. I designed and uploaded my website. I published my first chapbook, Ghostcards. I wrote a blog and learned how to upload photos onto this blog. I created a MySpace page and think it's a great networking tool. I read poems and wrote poems, getting two of them published in literary journals (I’ve only started writing poetry since February). I taught a free writing workshop with fifteen participants. Then, I taught a fee-based workshop on creative nonfiction, and that was also successful. My first perfect-bound book of poetry, Right Lane Ends, will soon be hot off the presses and I can’t wait to keep my first dollar from the first sale. I should have started writing earlier. Maybe. But, the time wasn’t right and I didn’t have anything interesting to say. Now I do.

Friday, September 15, 2006

More Pictures from Write from the Inside Out Class

Write from the Inside Out was a course designed to create creative nonfiction in a supportive environment.
The workshops were all held at the Edible Art Bakery on Hillsborough St in Raleigh across the street from Meredith College. All of the classes took place on three consecutive Wednesdays from 7-9:30 pm. All of the participants received a workbook and gourmet dessert and coffee with each session.

Here are a few more photos from the workshop.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Write from the Inside Out Workshop

Thanks, Nancy, Conrad, James, Ida, and Suzanne for making Write from the Inside Out -- CNF (creative nonfiction) be such a great experience!


Friday, September 08, 2006

Writing Groups

We hear a lot of talk about writing groups being like marriages, and it's true! It's very important to find a good fit with the 2-3 people whom you share your writing, your thoughts, your concerns, and a lot of your life with. Because writing is so much in our heads, so much of us will come through on the page -- well, sometimes your writing group can be a little like a therapy session, and you know, that's OK! But, if you do this with the wrong group, and/or the energy level is different from yours, then watch out. You may need to move on and find you a different group. Right now, I'm in a fantastic writing group with Jane and Beth. We support each other, share info on upcoming contests in both poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, and we listen to each other when we need a sympathetic ear (usually not writing-related). I feel this was a long journey to get to this point, though.

Three years ago, I met with my first writing group. I was very new to writing then and was inspired by the NC Writers' Network Conference in Wilmington to find fellow writers. Well, one woman approached me from a historical fiction workshop -- Meagan -- and then she connected me with Sandy, who was completing her second novel. Meagan was writing a memoir on her coming of age which involved a lot of abuse, both physical and mental. And me? I was working on a short story (really creative nonfiction) about a young woman who reconnects with an old flame, who is also dating her sister. Then all three of them get stuck in the sister's apartment during a hurricane which hits Charleston. Fantastic stuff, I tell you.

Meagan, Sandy and I all exchanged numbers, e-mails and manuscripts and before long, we met at Meagan's house. I was a little late because my husband stopped at the gym first and I had brought cookies. I remember Sandy saying, "I don't eat sugar." I never got good vibes on her after that. We didn't talk much about my work (we focused more on Meagan's), but they both gave me suggestions (Sandy wrote all of hers in red ink).

The next time we met was at my place on a January Saturday at 11:30. Daniel was just starting to walk (he was 16 months) and I knew that once everyone got settled, D-boy would go down for his nap at 12:30. In the meantime, I would put on his "Little People" video while Keith was out grocery shopping and getting in his workout. I even planned on getting Panera bagels for us. First, Meagan showed up, a little lost, and then Sandy came in with a Hardees bag. The first thing out of her mouth was, "You didn't tell me you were bringing bagels!" Sorry, maybe read your e-mail next time. She may have felt cheated because she spent $6.24 on a Hardees burger.

My short story was the first to go and it was ripped apart before we even got to the 2nd page. Sandy didn't like how I used brand names to describe tea ("Celestial Seasonings") and told me that I write "like Danielle Steele." Then Meagan chimed in with "you write about rich people too much -- show some diversity." I don't remember a single positive comment. Was this how a writing group was supposed to work? Then we discussed Sandy's story about a talk show host who picks up empathy and starts acting nice. It was good, but the tone was very angry and sarcastic. Meagan's piece was fine, except Sandy quibbled with Meagan till the end about how the speaker would not have folded her clothes that neatly. Meagan responded that she as a troubled young girl was seeking some order in her life (Duh!). Sandy didn't buy it.

Three and 1/2 hours later, Sandy and Meagan left, just as Daniel woke up from his nap. I felt worn out and a little despressed. I recall not looking over Sandy's notes on my story for about a year.

Later that night, Sandy cc'ed me on Meagan's e-mail telling her that she found my home to hold too many distractions for a writing group. I think the "Little People" played for 15 minutes with Daniel being very quiet and Keith's coming in and out for 2 seconds bothered her. I was furious! I expressed my concerns to Meagan, who didn't respond to them, but later one she e-mailed Sandy to tell her she disagreed with her point about the speaker's orderliness.

The writing group disbanded after 2 sessions and it took me a positive critique from Quinn Dalton at the 2004 NCWN Spring Conference at Peace College to have confidence back in my work. A bad group can do that to you, especially to a new writer, like me.

My advice is this: don't jump into a writing group. Get to know the members as people before you meet and then see if your styles and goals are compatible. If not, run to the door. Your writing and your self-esteem deserve better. Also, see what level the other group members are at. I was at a lower level than both Sandy and Meagan (at the time), so we were never going to match. Find a group that wants to make their writing better and is at pretty much the same skill level.

Tell me about your writing group experiences -- good and bad!

Till next time,

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Writing Rituals

This has been a great week for me. One of my poems, Sex Ed, will be published in Jonathan K. Rice's Iodine Poetry Journal (Spring 2007 issue). I also found out I'm the local winner of the Raleigh Jaycees "Write Up" Contest. I wrote an essay of 500 words last month about writing and how my writing projects with the Jaycees has influenced participants. So I get to compete with the other finalists in Asheboro next Sat the 9th. I think it's a timed essay situation. Never been to Asheboro, so it should be something to blog about.

Also this week, my husband, Keith found this car keys that had been missing 7 days. Turns out our son scooped them off of the counter and hid them under the living room couch, where we never go. But, Daniel found the keys, so that was good.

Here are some rituals that may help you focus before you start writing:

Light a scented candle or incense
Listen to instrumental music
Wear a special outfit or hat
Brew up tea or coffee before you write
Read your favorite poems
Take a walk
Clear your desk of odds and ends
Take a few slow, deep breaths

In Light & Love,

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Body, Mind, Spirit Show

this is an audio post - click to play

This is a my little summary of the Body, Mind, Spirit Show Sat. Aug. 19th

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Tips for Writing Success

I'm hard at work on my thesis, detailing how first-year students can generate first drafts. I spent all of yesterday and the day before writing/revising my 8-pg syllabus.
Here's few tips for you writers out there that I'll share in my Prompt-writing workshop Wed. Sept. 27th at the Royal Bean Coffee Shop.

In a Writing Workshop, when your work is getting critiqued:

1) Listen to all comments -- take what you want from the group, but you're the final authority
2) Allow everyone to finish their comments, then feel free to respond
3) Take notes on your copy

When you Critique others:

1) Be respectful and courteous
2) Always begin with a positive
3) Flesh out your answers -- don't just say "I liked it" or "I didn't like the story" Explain what worked and what didn’t work for you

Revision is crucial
You can revise as you go or revise after you complete your draft
Revision helps you find the right word and "look again" at what you've written.

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug" — Mark Twain

Try to write in 15-minute increments. Have a piece of paper/pen handy in the car, bedroom, computer, kitchen, or bathroom so that when a great story idea hits, you'll be ready!

Start a notebook for freewriting and start a journal for your early drafts of your work

When you revise in fiction watch for:

Structure/flow: Don't take too long to get into the story. Need action early on.

Characterization: do we know the basics of the characters early on? Make the characters unpredictable.
Reveal your characters through their clothing, actions, dialogue, gestures, bodily reactions, values, and possessions (also valuable for creative nonfiction)

Characters must be credible and consistent (Sally Buckner)

Setting: readers need a sense of place to feel grounded

And also check to see if you have a(n):
Ending that resonates with the reader (not one that just stops!)
A plot twist that has some suspense

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Hikes

Day 5 -- July 20th
We had another solo breakfast (I loved the croissants) since we were the only guests staying at the Forest House Lodge, which was nice since the bathroom was not attached to the room (it said in the brochure private bath!)... this was a good thing since Keith could stand up and extend his arms to touch the walls. I exaggerate, but it was a tiny room with a double bed that wasn't the most comfortable, but still better than the Book & Blanket's bed.

The first hike: Snowy Mtn: 7.4 miles
We cruised down the road past Indian Lake and hiked up the muddy stream bed of Snowy Mountain. Very muddy and in one place, the foot bridge was 4 inches underwater. We only lost the trail once, but I found it again and then we made it up to the summit. This photo shows Keith overlooking Indian Lake and its little islands. There were lots of black flies and other flying pests, but my sunscreen/bug repellent helped (although it did make me break out in huge welts).

Up Snowy's Fire Tower
Fire towers exist to monitor forest fires and we'd never seen one before, much less climbed one in all of our hiking travels. Snowy's was bolted down into the granite, so it wouldn't topple in a strong breeze. The tower had stairs that were broken up into multiple landings, so the climb wasn't a big deal. We had lunch inside the tower, which was bug-free and when I sat down, I only saw clouds. Quite the peaceful setting. Keith found out he had cell phone reception! (we couldn't use our phones to call home while in Blue Mountain). He called in at the office and talked to one woman, but then he lost his signal. Lots of messages were scrawled into the steel like, "Seth Merklinger is a fag" and other people indicating their existence. While Keith was talking, I was pondering how to go about structuring my thesis curriculum, and in fact had thought about it all the way up the hike. I now had a plan! I just have to write it (my problem this week).

We descended and cooled off at the Blue Mountain Lake beach. The water was so clear and cold when you first jump in. There was a diving platform and swimming lanes -- we vowed to come back after the Blue Mountain hike, so we could scrub the dirt off before we drove south to East Greenbush near Albany.

Day 6 Blue Mountain Hike -- 4 miles
I thought this hike would be a snap becaue of its length, but it kicked my butt. First of all, my boots kept slipping on the sheer rocks of the stream bed, and second of all, the rocks were all pointy. Going up wasn't a problem, but I wasn't looking forward to the descent. My legs were sore from Snowy and I proceeded to get more sore as we climbed higher. Nothing to see but forest, forest and rock, rock. After a sweaty climb, we made it up to the Blue Mountain Fire Tower, but this one was closed and we couldn't see the views because of the fog. Darn!

I changed out of my T-shirt and took a few deep breaths, preparing for the down-climb. As predicted, I slipped and prevented about 105 disasters, while Keith wondered what was taking me so long. The rock did win, when we were almost at the end. I cut up the heel of my left hand (I still have a mark a month later) and used an old napkin in my shorts pocket to staunch up the blood. The lake swim made up for this hateful hike, and then we were on the road again.

We found East Greenbush pretty easily after a two-hour ride and I noticed how stairs were a problem for me, both up and down. We swam again in the hotel's pool and my wedding band slipped off, but I recovered it without a problem. We had to rack up our swimming time because at home we don't belong to a pool and our friends have stopped inviting us to theirs (why is this?) After pool time, we delayed our Cracker Barrel dinner to watch "Death on Everest," all about the fateful May 6th, 1996 climb that Krakauer made into his book. It was fascinating stuff and I wish I had time to read "Into Thin Air" -- Please comment if you've read it.

We drove back to Long Island the next day and we were shocked by gas prices -- in CT, the prices were $3.40! After not finding any gas in the Bronx, we finally found a place 1 mile from JFK, but then adjacent to Hertz there was a gas station with reasonable prices.

What I learned on this year's trip
  • My body is not used to fruit
  • My hiking boots don't do downhills
  • I don't do well in busy New York traffic while Keith's driving
  • Sunscreen/bug lotion combos make huge pimples on my chest, neck and back
  • Pedestrians don't have the right of way in Saratoga Springs
  • Many Adirondack trails are in danger of being permanently damaged because of overuse. I wonder way NY hasn't implemented a permit system, because one's sorely needed to limit trail wear and tear!
  • We sleep better in a queen-sized bed
  • If your Advantix camera conks out on you, yet still advances, it's already dead (Yes, I wasted a whole role of film thinking my camera was still working and it wasn't)

Well, this concludes my Adirondack travel blogs -- hope you had fun reading about our trip.

Till next time!


Yoga Mind, Yoda Body

In August, Jenny and I always go to The Mind, Body, Spirit Expo at the NC State Fairgrounds in the Kerr Scott Building. Jenny is a Republican who believes in Reiki. I am a Democrat who believes in hedging my bets. I am as spiritual as the next person. Oh, okay. As superstitious as the next person. But I have a baseline skepticism I find it difficult to move past. My mind is open, but not enough to let the cat out.
Since I returned from England not quite a month ago, I have been more or less on vacation until classes resume at State on August 23rd. I’ve been using this time to read books I won’t be tested on, watch escapist videos, have coffee with friends, work in the yard and purge my bedroom and desk area of junk. My friend Mickey and I agreed to be fitness partners and get into shape by walking three miles, three times a week at Carmichael Gym. He is gorgeous, but wants to lose some weight and I want to lose some weight, gain some energy and pretend walking will make me gorgeous. He is my very good friend so he pretends with me. Or did until, one week into our program he reached down to pick up a piece of paper and threw his back out. He drives three miles to see the chiropractor three times a week. I told him that when his back is better, yoga or tai chi will be integrated into our weekly routine so that he doesn’t keep jamming himself up. In anticipation of his healing, I have returned to taking yoga classes at the YMCA after a lapse of 2 years. I can appreciate the flexibility and relaxation that yoga provides. I invited my daughter, Phoebe to come with me.
“You could reach Nirvana,” I told her. “You could find Enlightenment.”
“I could be on the couch with a bag of chips,” she said.
My friend Lucy and her son Ethan came with me.
“Think about why you are here today,” Graham, the yoga instructor advised, as he sat on his mat folding his fair-trade fabric legs into what I think was Lotus. I folded myself into Wilted Camellia.
“My goal,” I said, “is first to do no harm.” Meaning I didn’t want to hurt myself trying to achieve Horse Swimming Through Swift River pose.
Graham smiled his yogic Mona Lisa smile. “Ahimsa,” he informed me. “Very good.”
In the darkened room with flutes warbling and chimes tinkling on the CD player, Graham led 20 of us through a variety of balance, strengthening, opening, and flexibility poses. Each pose seemed to be punctuated by Down Dog. Down Dog is to yoga what pasta is to Italian food. Vanessa, to my left was a 20 year old AKC registered Down Dog with the symbol for Om tattooed on her right shoulder blade. She probably has a microchip in her neck so she can be returned to the ashram if she gets lost. She grimaced in very Western contempt when I couldn’t do Crow Eating an Insect. She probably thought I was leaking polluted chi and it might get on her hand silk-screened mat. I hated her. When Graham told us to visualize inhaling light through our left nostrils and exhaling any tensions or emotional sludge out through our right nostrils, I built a dam around my aura so Vanessa would be caught barefoot in my root chakra sewage. Finally, we did the pose where you lie on your back, pull your knees to your chest, grab your ankles and rock around your sacrum. I don’t remember the name for it---Sandinista? I always think of it as June Bug on its Back. I love June Bug on its Back. From the bug Graham directed us to settle into Corpse Pose. I did this much better than Vanessa because I am over twice her age and came in the room at least half way there. Graham tiptoed on little cat feet between the mats and dabbed our temples with sage oil and ylang-ylang or something. All the while he was crooning about world peace and inner peace and channeling energy yada, yada, yada. An earnest young man in his early thirties who has a political science degree from Duke.
Ethan and I gently held hands across the 3 inches of indoor/outdoor carpet that separated our mats. I felt contentment settle on my abdomen like my pet guinea pig Buster. I shine at Corpse Pose. Gradually, Graham had us roll on to our right sides and push ourselves up slowly with our left palms to a sitting position. Just as the nurses at Rex Hospital had me do after Dr. Manley removed my gallbladder. The gallbladder resides somewhere in the vicinity of the Manipura or “jewel city” chakra. It is the seat of willpower, which would explain why, since I had my gallbladder removed I cannot stop eating and need to go walking with Mickey.
When we sat facing him, Graham pressed his palms over his heart, thanked us for our attendance and mindfulness. He wished us a peaceful week and bowed, saying, “Namaste.”
“I like how I feel after yoga,” I confessed to Lucy and Ethan as we drove home from the Y. “But while I’m doing it I am bored out of my mind.”
Ethan popped a gum bubble. “That’s the point, isn’t it?”
“Being bored?”
“No,” Lucy said. “To stop multitasking. To monotask. Just do yoga.”
“Was I multitasking in yoga?” I asked her.
Having just heightened my intuition, I could sense her rolling her eyes even though she was driving and I was in the back seat viewing only her short salt and pepper hair.
“Duh. You brought a pocket notebook and a pen.”
I assumed the defensive pose of the Killer Bee. “Hey! I put them in my shoe with my socks.”
“Yes,” she said slowly. “But you brought them with you to the yoga room.”
“Oh,” I said.
I did feel taller after our session with Graham. Flexibility and Enlightenment might take a little longer. My date to go to the Body, Mind, Spirit Expo next weekend with Jenny will give me a head start before Mickey comes back.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

To the Heart of the Adirondacks

Day 4 -- Central Adirondacks
Wed. July 19th
We did not have a great night at the Book & Blanket due to the fan's poor air circulation, but at least the temperature did cool down a little at night. Breakfast was quite sumptuous with blueberry pancakes/crepes and fruit salad. We ate alone since Kathy and Fred prepare breakfast when their guests want it; not the other way around. Then we were off to the Ausable Chasm ("Casm" you don't pronounce the "H" -- maybe everyone knows that except me).

In the Chasm
We opted to go on the river "white water" tour, knowing full well that the white water would be like pond water. It was but that's OK. Dylan paddled us down the river and we helped him navigate the 2 seconds of "rapids". The website offers tubing for the adventurous visitor -- I mean, how slow can a tube go down this river? We saw one woman tubing and thought she should have brought a paddle. I think the scariest parts were climbing down the metal steps to get into the Gorge and how bad my Birkinstocks smelled after the boat ride.

The Chasm was founded 400 years ago by Samuel de Champlain and the gorge was formed 500 million years ago. The best part of the Chasm is going down to the Gorge via steps and walking along the river to see the old rock formations.

We bought Daniel a black bear (later christened Yogi) at the gift shop and headed south to Blue Mountain Lake.

Blue Mountain

The road to Blue Mountain was wavy and almost made me sick the way Keith drove -- so I reluctantly put away my book. We had sandwiches at the Long Lake Diner after passing nothing on the way there -- just woods, a little gas place and a bar/convenience store combo with motorcycles out front.

Then we stopped at the Adirondack Museum, which is actually 10 museums in one and a must-see for anyone who visits the Adirondacks.

  • The Canoe Museum -- We first stopped at the canoe museum and chatted with a volunteer interpreter who explained that a hand-built canoe takes 9 months; a baby! We also saw canoes with sails.
  • The Rustic Privy -- a couple of kids, 10 and 12, didn't know what it was! And the outhouse was a double-seater. Now how would this work?!
  • The restored rooms. Some were rustic and some were very ornate with fine woodworking and glasswork. Lots of chamberpots next to the beds and I was relieved to find out they came with lids (I always wondered how they kept the room from stinking)
  • The One-room schoolhouse --Built in 1907, our volunteer interpreter lamented the fact that parents aren't taking kids to museums anymore and when this happens, kids don't know any history (and they don't find out what outhouses look like). The school room chalk board had 'riting and 'rithmatic on it in traditional cursive and on the desks were the leather-bound McGuffy Readers. A riff: My grandpa gave me a set when I was about 9 and they were the worst; all full of moral and Christian imagery. I remember looking at the drawings and that was about it. They were very dry and made kids out to be bad and how kids needed proper schooling and discipline in order to find the "right path". Ugh. I remember this one story where a girl has a fight with her sick mother and the girl goes away angry from the house. When she gets back, the mother has died. What a horrible story! I guess it's supposed to teach kids not to argue with their sick parents because, who knows, they could die! End of riff. And the volunteer was doing a lot of side-research to find out more about how the children and teachers went about their daily business and she's trying to locate alumni who were children in the 30s and 40s to come speak at the 100-year anniversary.

We found our B&B: The Forest House Lodge and met our hostess, Ann La Forest who showed us where the public swimming areas were and where our hiking trails started. We picked up our sandwich-making material at the Indian Lake Grocery Store and had dinner at this Mexican place which was quite good. I felt ready for our Snowy Mountain hike tomorrow -- it was a mere 7.4 miles!

Next time: Up Snowy and Blue Mountain (the conclusion of my trip postings)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Northern Adirondacks

Day Three July 19th

Next on the itinerary was Jay, NY and possibly Lake Placid. We cruised down I-87 and found the humble hamlet of Jay rather quickly. There was nothing there, except a post office and a crafts store and the town just before it , Ausable Forks, at least had one or two restaurants. What made Ausable Forks special was that the Ausable River flowed off to the left side of the road and it looked larger than a tubing river, but a little too calm for white-water. It made you look and want to take pictures.
At the Jay B&B -- the Book and Blanket -- we met our host, Fred, who is a freelance medical writer. He told us that Leonard Bernstein's brother had stayed there while he was doing research on James Thurber, who had lived in the town (a nook in the dining room is named after Thurber).

The Jay Book & Blanket
Our room was the Jack London room and it didn't have A/C -- just a tall floor fan. But, it did have a big bathroom where I could lay out all of my stuff (that's important). I've read a few of London stories in middle school, but once I learned he was a racist (he reported on Jack Johnson during Johnson's prime) -- I was done with him. He died very young due to kidney failure after years of punishing his body and he left his 2 daughters and his wife for a slightly older woman who became his life partner and they did travel and writing together (well, he wasn't all that bed). The room, of course, had about 20 books on London, along with a snow shoes and other rustic Adirondack "stuff". But no A/C -- whoops, did I already say that?

John Brown's Farm
We left Fred for Lake Placid -- the site of 2 Olympics 1932 and 1980. Near Lake Placid is the John Brown farm, which Brown purchased and tried to have free blacks run, but the farm and the project were both failures. His wife and kids (the ones who weren't in his famous raid) ran everything, but the soil was poor and the farm was soon abandoned. Keith took some nice shots of the farmhouse. Near the farmhouse is the grave that Brown shares with most of the 21 Harper's Ferry arsensal raiders. Sheridan Leary is one of them. Leary was Langston Hughes's maternal grandmother's first husband and he was 24. The former Mrs. Leary would place her dead husband's shawl over young Langston every night before he went to sleep -- talk about having to fulfill a legacy! But Hughes did through his remarkable poetry. We didn't visit the museum in the farmhouse because it was closed that day, so we shooed the obnoxious black flies away and drove off to see Lake Placid.

Lake Placid
This famous Olympic town has a very cozy main street which juts up against Mirror Lake (we didn't have a chance to see the real Lake Placid). The Olympic Stadium has a lot of flags out front and even has real snow by the main flagpole. Keith thought it was too touristy, but I thought everyone was tasteful -- reminded me a bit of Sedona -- lots of visitors, but the visitors are cool and the townspeople are welcoming. Lots of bars, shops, bookstores, and coffee shops. In one of the bookstores, we learned about the "Lady in the Lake". This woman was found in 1982 perfectly preserved at the bottom of Lake Placid, but she had died 30 years before. I guess that lake is pretty cold.

And there's even a multiplex on Main Street. After dinner at the Adirondack Brewing Co (we qualified for the Early Bird Special at 5:29 pm), we saw "An Inconvenient Truth". Our first movie together since March. Every year on our vacation, we hope to catch a movie and this year was a good one. Al Gore got personal and we found out that his older sister died of lung cancer (the Gores ran a tobacco farm in TN). Everyone should see this movie -- Comment and tell me if you've seen it~ It was so persuasive. Made me shut down my computer at night.


Monday, July 31, 2006

Montreal Part Deux

Montreal: Part 2
July 18th

The next day we got up and had our continental breakfast: only the croissants and chocolate pastries were good, but I had to beat back the fruit flies. The eggs, pancakes, and bacon were all cold. We got our car out a tight squeeze in the gravel lot and drove down to Vieux Montreal (Old Montreal). We parked in China Town and tooled around the peer and ventured up to the Notre Dame Basilica and ran into a Swiss band warming up. Having nothing better to do, we followed them down the street till they disappeared, but they later turned up in a parade on the Main Square: Rue St. Jacques by the Hotel Ville. I don't know if everyone knows this (probably not) but one of my heroes is Lord Nelson, the fellow who whipped Napoleon's ass and died at Trafalgar aboard the Victory. Who knows why there's an old statue of him in this square, since he's British and Montreal is a French city, but maybe he did a good deed for the city. The inscription said he helped in a Copenhagen campaign. Looks like I need to do more research on this one.

Border Crossing

I sighed with relief after leaving Montreal without any car damage -- those bikes were a little close for me and Keith ran a red light ("Oh I did?). As we waited in the Customs line at the border and munched our day-old Dunkin' Donuts chocolate chip muffin, we mused that we couldn't get any tax money at the Tax Exchange. Turns out you have to spend at least $20 and have $200 in receipts. Oh, well. Then as Keith was trying to merge into the lane, a maroon mini-van nudged our side mirror with his mirror! Keith got out of our car and said, "You're doing everything in your power not to let me in!" I was impressed he didn't say something stronger, but there were lots of border guards with guns and knee pads around. Luckily, there weren't any scratches on our car. I couldn't wait to leave Canada.

Next time -- to Jay and Lake Placid!


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Montreal -- the City of Sin! (and lost hotels)

Montreal, Monday 7/17
The Auberge Loft fiasco

The next day we rode on to Montreal via Northern Vermont. The roads were full of potholes and made me think of driving on Hwy 17 from Myrtle Beach to Charleston. I always had to avoid the right lane because it was too bumpy. Once in Montreal (at Customs, we presented our passports with no problem) we saw lots of "Witness"-looking scenery outside. Think granaries and silos and little gas stations announcing that they have beer and wine. It was close to 100 degrees outside and my back was soaked despite the A/C.

On the bridge to get to Montreal we saw a bilingual sign, "Road Rage Won't Make You A Winner". I need to tell Keith this periodically.

The Fiasco:
My mother-in-law, Bonnie, had booked us a month ago at the Auberge Loft & Suites on the Rue Ontario. When she booked it, I tried pulling its picture up on Expedia/Travelocity, but I just got a bare-boned listing. I remember having a funny feeling about this, but soon forgot about it. However, I had a hell of a time trying to locate it on MapQuest so we could get there from VT without getting supremely lost. Using Keith's North American atlas, I located a major road off of the bridge and drove towards Rue Ontario. No problem, I thought. We'll be in our hotel room by 6pm and we'll have our showers and then go out to eat. AHHH.

Alas, it wasn't to be.

We went up one street (Rue St Denis) and I saw a lot of European fellows with long hair, bicycles and construction boots and a fireman washing his truck with leather loafers on. I cringed everytime I saw the cyclists edging towards our vehicle. They were everywhere. Then we went down Rue Denis again in the other direction, found our street and parked. Couldn't find the hotel, though, but we did find the correct street address: 335, which was a gray apartment building with a bicycle up front! First, we called the hotel's number on the intinerary, and all we got was, "The party at this extension is not available. Please leave a message." That's not good. So, we went inside the coffee shop on the corner and I asked the barrista in French if she spoke English so we could find this hotel. She hadn't heard of it. We did some more driving, it was getting hotter. Then Rue Ontario merged into another street as it got closer to the downtown. ARGGGH. So, we called Bonnie and told her the situation and she called the number, got the same lax response and said she'd try to book us at another place. Meanwhile, I ran to the Hyatt at the Place des Arts, while avoiding dirty, loud homeless men to find out if this hotel was for real. I check on a map, checked in the Yellow Pages, and asked a very nice Hyatt front desk person. She said, "I've never heard of this place."

So, we bagged the Auberge and stayed at the Best Western, which was a great deal -- although we did have to pay for parking across the street. The place was almost across the Bell Center, where the Hurricanes beat the Canadiens last month.

Looks like we ran into a scam with this hotel. Luckily, Keith's card was never charged because he lost his wallet in a car wash (it was later recovered) and he subsequently canceled all of those cards, including the one he made the reservations with. Talk about luck!!! When we got home, I checked the Auberge on the Internet, and it turns out they did a good job of faking themselves with phony pics from another hotel with almost the same name. So, when booking your trip to Montreal, please avoid this place: The Auberge Loft and Suites!

Now it's 9pm and we're hungry. We changed our clothes and headed out towards St. Catherine St. a main drag filled with chain stores, coffee shops, restaurants -- looking very much like Greenwich Village. Unlike NYC though, every 5th store was a Dance Club featuring full-contact lap dances (they've been legal here since 2001). One place was even called "the Chateau of Sex" (the House of Sex).

The Dinner and the mean waitress

I pick a place called Reubens and order a beer, hamburger and Keith orders a spaghetti/meat sauce plate (looked kinda gross) and a beer. Three seconds after he twirls his noodle, a big flea-like bug squirms into his fork! Keith kills the crawling insect and speaks to the manager, ("Hope it's not a problem in your kitchen) who apologizes profusely and gives him the SAME DINNER! Keith did manage to eat it though, but it was painful to watch. My dinner, however, was yummy.

Our waitress was named Lisa with tight yellow curls, and she never smiled. Her eyes were cold and heartless and when Keith suggested we have coffee, I said quickly we needed to leave this place. Well, since Keith's dinner and beer were free, rude girl decided to look at what Keith left her in the bill wallet to make sure she wasn't shorted because of the bug. Unbelievable!!!

Coffee shop

We walked on, avoided more homeless men -- the urine-soaked ones didn't move, while the more active ones were soliciting on the crosswalks when people were crossing. Montreal's poverty is 27.3%, which is the highest percentage of any Canadian city.

We decided on the Second Cup coffee shop and what was cool about this place was that the bay window opened into the street (with no window), so you could drink your coffee while looking at the passersby, like being on a little stage. I ordered 2 caffe lattes in French, feeling very proud of myself and we got the wrong size and the wrong drink. Apparently, the barrista didn't know French. Although I kind of liked my green tea coffee, it was too sweet on the 4th sip. When I asked another barrista where the restroom were, she had to buzz an iron door behind me and I had to go downstairs. Guess they're serious about only wanting customers!

And soon after we called it a night.


Writers' Market

Jane Andrews
July 30,2006

At the NC Writer’s conference, guest speaker Bridget Lacy said that before doing anything she always asks herself, ‘Will this help Bridget.com?” Writing is a business, she insisted, and writers must consider themselves business people. My friend Jenny and I talk about this often over coffee.

“chante’ is not that brilliant a poet,” I tell Jenny. “But people love her and buy her books.”

Jenny takes a sip of her iced Americano. “It’s because she has a costume.”

I recall the last time I saw chante’ (no last name, just chante’ in all lower case) when she was reading at a poetry and spoken performance evening in Charlotte. She is a tall, slim, African American woman who wears beaded hair extensions that clank like battery cables. Her long flowy garments seem to fill with air and waft around her even inside crowded, smokey coffee houses. chante’ smells like patchouli and Vicks.

Jenny leans over her stapled pages of poetry. “I have more range. I have a bigger vocabulary.” She leans back again crossing her arms over her chest. “But,” she adds, “I don’t have a costume.”

I nod at her. She is right. Writing is about marketing. It’s about Jenny.com. Jenny needs a uniform. A costume. Poor Jenny. She is not African American. She looks exactly like what she is: a Scots-Irish-German descendent of people who came to the US on their own in the 1830s to farm tobacco. She could go to open mic nights dressed like the St. Pauli girl or Braveheart but I don’t think it would send the message “Poet” to the house. “Poser” maybe. “Pathetic” possibly. I have the same problem. If I brought my ethnic heritage to the Emerging Writers Potluck it would be Velveeta on Wonder Bread with Duke’s Mayonaise. Not even cut on the diagonal.

Jenny breaks off a corner of a chocolate hazelnut cookie the size of a Frisbee. “Caroline has a costume.”

I smile. Caroline’s costume is shreds. Silk shreds, suede shreds, nylon shreds. A walking weeping willow is Caroline. In pink ballet flats. She could read poetry, dance, and wash your SUV at the same time. She probably has. She probably got paid an honorarium for it.

I chug my triple espresso iced mocha, then say, “I don’t think that’s your style.”

Jenny flaps her hands in the air. “I know. But I need a style.”

“Maybe,” I suggest looking at her shell and seed necklace, “You could show up to readings in natural stuff. Burlap. Shells. Feathers. Driftwood.”

She shakes her head at me. “Gabriel has that one.”

She’s right again. Gabriel the gay poet has more fiber than Kashi cereal. He makes a crunchy sound when he walks past the wine and cheese table. Jenny can’t be gay either although it has a certain marketing cache’.

“Tattoos are taken,” I say. Jenny has one, but you’d have to be her doctor or her husband to see it. I’ve never seen it. “Animal skins? Pelts? Fur?”

“Ewwwwww. Anyway I don’t want people throwing blood on me, I want them to buy my chapbooks.”

I lick my finger and pat it into the crumbs on Jenny’s napkin. I don’t eat cookies but crumbs are calorie-free.

I consider other costumes Jenny and I could adopt to promote ourselves and our writing, to make us memorable after the page is turned, our voices fade, and the podium is turned over to the next poet whose eyebrows are linked together with bicycle chain.

I remember poet James Seay wears an eyepatch. For legitimate reasons that I would never want to deal with. But it raises the idea of prosthetics as artistic props. I like the Flannery O’Connorness of it, but if I’m found out it would be worse than faking a drug addiction memoir. Neither Jenny nor I have police records. She has allergies and has had a bout with pneumonia this summer, but it would take someone more sleazy than either of us to turn allergies into a marketing tool. I am unwilling to contract a disease to sell my writing. At the Festival of the Book at Duke this year, Barbara Kingsolver talked about the Bellwether Prize. Pretty much an award given to writing with a social conscience. Writing to make the world better. I listen to Jenny chew her cookie while she marks revisions on a poem about her lawnmower. I wonder if we each took on a cause----pet neutering, spider preservation, crop circle defending---we could parlay it into grants and interviews and readings. I ask myself what I believe in. What I want to promote. What cause am I passionate about? I sit at the vintage red Formica table open to the Universe like my friend Mickey told me to do, a spiritual slice of white bread ready to be filled with inspiration.

And it comes. Same as always. I am filled with ham. I am a ham. Deviled ham. Invented in 1868 and still selling. What I believe in is me. What I am passionate about is writing. What I want to promote is people reading my writing. I sigh and see myself reflected in the aluminum ductwork behind Jenny. White woman, brown hair, glasses, kind of starchy, unremarkable.

But, and my crooked toothed smile shines back at me---a classic. Since 1959. Forty-seven years. Maybe all I need to do is wear red.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

It's a hot one in Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs and Fort Ticonderoga

We left Merrick, Long Island NY at 9:30 after kisses and hugs to our son, Daniel, and to Bonnie, Keith's mom. This was the latest that we had left for a vacation: usually we have to catch a plane at 7 or 8 am on the Sunday of our trip. It was a hot drive up I-87 and we gave out a lot of money for tolls -- something we don't have in NC, but maybe it would help get our roads done faster, or contribute to the highway cleanup. The interstate was clean and I didn't see anyone toss cigarette butts out of the driver's window. We drove a new Chevy Equinox (rental) that looked a lot like a Ford Escape and it only had a CD player, no tape deck (we did bring enough CDs for the trip). I learned that "Radar Love" by Golden Earring is one of Keith's favorite songs.

We crossed the Throgs Neck Bridge or "Frogs" Neck bridge after lots of pitching and sharp turns on the Cross Island Expressway (Long Island) where I thought I would lose my life. We then stopped at this HUGE rest stop with a food court and Roy Rogers before passing more granite rocks on the side of the highway. Then we made it to Saratoga Springs in 3.5 hours and I saw two cyclists with oat sacks slung across their bodies trying to cross a road.

It was about 92 degrees that afternoon and we ate our sandwiches in our hotel room -- the Saratoga Inn, which had seen better days, but it was smack-dab in town and had a very courteous staff and a great continental breakfast, complete with eggs, sausage and danishes. Saratoga Springs is a well-planned town and every street light had a basket of purple flowers in it. There's also a lot of horse statues since this is racing country (the annual races start July 26th). Local CD shops, restaurants, bars, bookstores, and clothing stores line both sides of the main street.

We stopped at the Saratoga Automobile Museum and saw a bunch of British cars, along with a 1969 Boss 429 (hemi-head V8 engine) Mustang with original cream-white paint and Charles Lindbergh's 1928 Franklin, which he drove non-stop from Englewood, NJ to Detroit in 1940. He donated this "air-cooled" car to Ford Museum. There was a 1971 Pinto -- built for racing?! and a racing car called "Poison Lil". Keith said, "Are they talking about my grandmother?"

Then we walked up and down Broadway, the main street, taking in an art fair at Congress Park, sampling kettle corn (it's both sweet and salty) and the Franklin District, which is being rebuilt. One of the houses we saw had a crumpled roof that housed three pigeons and an old man who sat on the front stoop staring across the street with blank eyes. After this walk, I observed an interesting historical marker:

Solomon Northup -- a free black man who was born in Minerva, NY in 1808, but
then he was sold into slavery in 1841, and later rescued in 1853.

We missed his celebration day, which is July 24th where his descendants gather in Saratoga to celebrate his life and accomplishments. He wrote the book,Twelve Years as a Slave, about his slavery experiences in New Orleans and how he was tricked into slavery when he took a job for the circus in Washington, D.C . Go to http://www.americaslibrary.gov/cgi-bin/page.cgi/es/ny/slave_1 for more information on Northup.

That night we had an Italian dinner at the Ripe Tomato, where our waiter gave us generous portions and kept saying "You guys ready to order?", "Everything OK, you guys?" and so on. We get that a lot in NC, too. Afterwards, we tried to check up Cafe Lena, the oldest operating coffee shop in the nation, but they were charging $14 for the jazz band. Instead, we strolled the very lively streets (for a Sunday) and stopped at the downtown Borders which had a good selection of literary magazines and poetry books (not like the Six Forks Borders which has nothing of this sort!). When we walked back to our car, we passed a boy of about 10 singing and playing "Lola" on his guitar in front of a karaoke bar. He was pretty good! His voice carried for about 5 blocks, "Oh, oh Lola..."

Next day, we got up at a reasonable hour and drove north to Fort Ticonderoga which is a pretty big fort in the shape of a star. They had live renactors playing in the fife/drum band (see above photo) and later they gave a canon demonstration. The museum was housed on multi-levels and has been opened to the public since 1908 -- so it's been a tourist attraction for almost 100 years. We saw Benedict Arnold's trundle bed and George Washington's razor. The Americans took over the fort in 1775 through the efforts Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, but and it later lost its military presence in 1778 when the British controlled Lake Champlain. The fort information was both in English and French and I found that I could read the French, which was to be good practice for our Montreal visit.

Next stop: Montreal -- the City of Sin!!


Keith in front of a glittered horse in Saratoga Springs

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Back from vacation/25th Reunion

Well, we're back in Raleigh after a week up in the Adirondacks where the weather wouldn't cool off until mid-week. We had a great time despite driving 1100 miles, looking for a non-existant hotel in Montreal and dealing with no A/C in our bed & breakfasts. I'm going to attempt to transcribe my travel journals for this blog. Here goes:

(left to right) Keith, Steve, Martha, Macy and Ann
Saturday, July 15th -- The Reunion

We got out of Raleigh OK and our son was fantastic on the plane. We had a celebrity sighting: Mark Jacobson of Toyota of Durham was checking in his baggage for San Francisco. We took naps when we got to Bonnie's house (my MIL) to rest up for Keith's 1981 reunion.

Keith was a bit nervous. It was held at a very large Hyatt in the middle of Long Island that was very far away from the water. He hadn't seen any of his former classmates since 1981, although he and his best friend from East Meadow High School still keep in touch. It cost $85/person and I thought that would include a wine/beer bar -- Nope! All cash bar with hotel prices. We drank Coors Light ($5) all night, but the food was great, but not $50 worth. Reunions Unlimited organized this shindig and they overcharged. They published this shitty 10-page directory that only included 20 alumni names without e-mail addresses. AND they mispelled our street address and called Keith a "she". Not a good start, but the evening got better as about 60 people trickled in through the doors. Keith ran into his old elementary school pal, Frank, who drove down from the Syracuse area (Baldwinsville, NY), he also ran into this guy who almost beat him up, and we met three of Keith's female classmates who remembered Keith and were nice to chat with: Ann, Macy and Martha. Martha flew all the way from Seattle. One classmate, Steve Stein, remembered everyone's class ranking and he told Martha she ranked 3rd out of 529! Sadly, Steve was hit in a car accident and spent 10 weeks in a coma two years after graduation. He has some trouble speaking/walking, but that didn't slow him down at the reunion! He made time to chat with everyone and cut a rug to Blondie and other early 80s tunes. It was cool that he remembered so many people, because Keith sure didn't (we had name tags and that helped).

I thought everyone looked pretty good, although a lot of the women had too much dark hair, dark lips, dark eyebrows and wore stockings with dress sandles/high heels. ACKKK!. It was pretty funny when the DJ announced, "The Buffet is Now Open" and "The Buffet is Now Closed". We kept to the back of the room because Mr. DJ was blasting the music, not considering a crowd of 40-somethings might like a lower volume.

We walked to our car and who should be parked right next to us? Macy and Martha! They were flipping through the yearbook and we laughed at bad, big hair. Macy said to me, "You remember the feather style, right?" And I wanted to say, "No, I was only 8." (I guess I look good for 43).

Next post: It's a Hot One in Saratoga Springs!


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Let's Get Writing!

Last night, I had a fantastic turnout at my free creative writing workshop held at the Royal Bean Coffee Shop acrosss the street from Meredith College -- 14 people came and although I ran out of handouts and evaluation forms, the workshop was successful! We did a 10-min prompt, then did introductions and had two writers share their fiction with the group (Next time, we may have another writing exercise in place of a critique) and then I talked briefly about writing resources, magazines to get started, writing groups, blogs, websites and showed the group my notebooks and submission journal. I left the group with this final thought: READ!! Especially what you want to write. I'm going to call my next free workshop "Prompt Writing" and it'll also be held at the Royal Bean (kudos to Amanda, the owner for having her shop open till 10pm). Check it out Wed. Sept. 27th 7-9:30pm. And before this workshop, I'm holding my Write From the Inside Out Workshops starting Wed. 8/30 at the Edible Arts Bakery, which is in the same building as the Royal Bean.

Next week, my husband and I will be on vacation in the Adirondacks, while our son will stay in Long Island with my in-laws (he'll have a vacation, too!) I don't have a laptop, so I'll write out my journal longhand, and then do a series of post-trip posting accompanied by photos (but not with my 5-year-old Advantix camera, the sucker died when I was trying to take some shots last night, but Michael Graziano had his camera ready and took this lovely shot on this page).

Also next week, my Mustang will be at the mechanic's in Fuquay Varina (a very long car trip from downtown Raleigh) and we think maybe a door hit it and caused that hideous dent -- I know they'll do a good job (it's already been hit in that area before and the paint is too shiny for the rest of the car). I hope Mustang will have a good time at the "Car Spa" -- So everyone in my family is going to be on vacation!

Till next time,


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Shubuta, Mississippi poem

This is my Shubuta poem and this photo of the Hanging Bridge was taken by J.D. Mason in the mid-1990s.

(Dedicated to Charlie Lang and Ernest Green who were lynched in Shubuta, Mississippi in 1942)

The white girl's eyes are gray,
The boys scared her
So they wouldn't be invisible anymore.
She told and now
Their prison cell is gray,
The new paint slow to cover chipped walls.

Gray Zeros bombed
The Arizona last December.
Gray is the ash from Auschwitz
Seeking the sky for final release.
Gray is the dove's breast,
As she bleats: You die! You die! You die!

Gray in their grandmothers' shawls,
Gray hair sliding from thin buns.
The white girl's father spits gray tobacco juice
After he knocks down the fat sheriff,
And throws a gray blanket over his swollen head,
He couldn't stop the twenty men.
The mob wanted the boys right there and then.

Gray is the pavement outside
Manny's garage where they stole the tires.
As a joke! Rubber's such a war treasure.
Gray is Charlie's house sitting
Up the muddy banks of the flooded creek.
Gray is Ernest's uncle's suit,
He'll wear to the hasty burial.
Gray as Robert Johnson,
Singing "Rambling On My Mind".

Gray is the Hanging Bridge,
Whose camelback through truss span,
Works gray bile to the boys' mouths.
Gray is the coiled rope,
Cutting their fourteen-year-old necks,
Two pendulums swing over
The gray Chicksawhay River,
That gushes and churns in the moonlight —
A gray tornado of memory and spite.

My web site is operational !

Yes, after 3 days of heavy work and only 1 call to technical support -- my website is operational!
Check out www.aliceosborn.com. I have my workshops, editing services, favorite links, an extended bio, and writing prompts. I tried to make it as complete as possible. I feel great, like I've finally entered the 21st century :) Now I have to get to work and let everyone know it exists!


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy July 4th!

Well, Ghostcards, my chapbook (a chapbook is a small book of poetry) is out in print and I've already sold quite a few -- I'll be at the Raleigh Jaycees meeting tomorrow promoting my free writing workshop next Wed. the 12th and will be on hand selling copies. A portion of my proceeds will go to charity.

This week I attended Meredith College's Women's Only Focusing on Form workshop for the third straight year. I took poetry with Betty Adcock and she was wonderful, helpful and taught a great class. We didn't chit chat among ourselves and worked our butts off. Everyone in my class of 6 people produced strong work and we were at all levels. Way to go, guys! I wrote 3 new poems and revised 3 more. Here's my "Mosquito" poem:

Fresh wings scatter waves from the gutter water —
Little vampire, she flies over the juniper,
And he swats her away this July night.

She comes around for another pass at the boy,
This time, she hits her favorite spot —
Behind the knees where the hot moist air
Triggers her spit so the slender proboscis
Can suck up the blood, soda in a straw.
So much tastier than flower and fruit juice!
Her belly swells as she dwells in her spot.
Intending to mother 400 more eggs
In the still, brown water.

The boy smacks his leg,
Rubbing insect and blood in a swirl
Of winged gossamer.

Her sister swoops from behind —
Boy, your ankle is mine.

Of course the same week that I'm attending my writing workshop, I have to turn in my Independent Study 20-page paper on Shubuta, bridges and lynching. Thank goodness, JD Mason gave me some additional information on the 1942 lynching which gave my paper more punch. But I rushed it at the last minute and had Keith look over typos/run-ons/repetitions (there was a lot here). Stayed up late almost every night, but it got done. My final conclusion: we need to use literature to inform others about lynching trauma. In fact, I used a poem I entitled "Ghostcards" to illustrate the boys' lynching and to give them a face. I'll post this poem, along with a photo of the Hanging Bridge either later today or tomorrow.

OK, great news! Got a poem published! In the Mom Writers Literary Online Magazine -- originally titled "He Runs Away" , which I changed it to ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). http://www.momwriterslitmag.com/ will be in the Winter 2006 issue. My son was diagnosed with ASD last summer, but he's doing great now, but at the time I wrote this poem, things were VERY stressful. Also have developed a system of sending poetry out, which I was meaning to do for quite some time.

Local star spotting! I met author Tim Tyson since his mom, Martha, was in the Meredith workshop and I'll send him my thesis curriculum when I'm done on Blood Done Sign My Name. And I'm calling my curriculum a cultural studies/rhetoric program w/the theme of race in America.

And then the bad news
My car (my beloved 1996 Mustang) got hit either at Meredith or Quail Ridge on Wed in the middle of the day --- BIG dent in front of the front tire, passenger side. No note, no witnesses. ARGHHHH! Stupid turkey. So I'm driving around with this big dent and it's not the first time I've been hit. My passenger side has been hit/run 3 times since I moved to Raleigh 6 years ago -- What's up with this? And the rudeness of not leaving a note. OK, just writing this is making me MAD!!

And the sad news...
The fellow who developed my film at Eckard at 540 and Falls of Neuse, Sean Johnson, died in a car accident June 20th on Atlantic Ave going to work at 11am (I found out later from the N&O's "What's Up" section on Friday). I was so sad since he was such a great guy - African American, same age as me, wore a cowrie-shell necklace-- felt a connection w/him, even though we exchanged but a few words. He was someone who cared about customer service! Always gave me free Advantix film as part of my order, cut coupons out for me and we talked about the retail life and what he really loves to do -- DJ, but he still needed a day job. So I went to a benefit night at Aries Lounge (across the street from Flying Saucer, where he DJed part-time). His friends were auctioning off his record collection and getting donations so that his parents can pay for his funeral. I got one of his mix CDs (very fun stuff), a silver lighter from his collection, and an old Blues tape of his -- Howlin Wolf. I felt much better after I went and after talking to a few friends of his. An older folk song couple was singing Amazing Grace, Woman No Cry and a couple other traditional songs. He'll be missed.

This Sunday, my husband, son and I went to the Festival For the Eno in Durham, which featured great food, music, crafts/clothing (couldn't stop at all with Daniel in tow) and toe-dipping in the Eno River. Keith liked Katryna Nields's music, so he got her latest CD, but didn't realize until I told him that it was all children's music! Song titles like "Hop up Ladies," "Going to the Zoo," and "Farewell, My Pants," didn't clue him in. Daniel liked it at least. It was very hot, but not buggy at all. Daniel had a bit of a trantrum when we had to get off of the shuttle bus, since he wanted to keep riding, but we managed to leave OK.

Hope you're having a happy and safe 4th of July and I'll chat with you soon!


Saturday, June 24, 2006

What customer service?

So after my bee-stinging incident on Wednesday evening, I was all set to have a website done by Thurs -- but that didn't happen since the composer we're using kept screwing up and I have a big web learning curve to master. I want my website to happen soon! But, the longer I think about it and figure out what I want on it, the better it'll be. Poets & Writers magazine has a great article about writers getting website and some basic design tips -- check it out!

I got another big wrench in my publishing plans when Office Max called to say they couldn't print my chapbook because the B&W printer broke down. WHAT?!? How could they let this happen and aren't they a little mad that they're losing my business? I guess not. Kerri the "I don't give a sh*t" associate let me know the bad news and to tell you the truth, I had a feeling that they wouldn't complete the job. So the afternoon she called, I picked up my flash drive and decided to go to Staples instead after calling them. Well, at 8:50am the next day, Staples was closed!! It was supposed to be open by 7am and the store associates were left waiting outside for their store manager to open up the store. Now I worked in retail for 9+ years and I NEVER let this happen at my store. ARGGHH! So I decided to go Sir Speedy, on Hillsborough St. across NC State where I was heading anyway for my Independent Study meeting (to finalize my Shubuta paper). Sir Speedy had two knowledgable employees: Eddie and Wendy who scanned my flash drive and let me know they needed my image files on the drive, too. ARGHHH. So I had to drive back home and get those and then come back down to State. Well, I got it all done, and Sir Speedy will have my books done this Monday afternoon! Yay -- "Ghostcards" will be out this week. Let me know if you want to buy one at avosborn(at) earthlink(dot) net only $7!

Then the day started turning around. I found a wonderful location for my trio of "Write from the Inside" workshops: 8/30, 9/6, and 9/13 all on Wed evenings 7-9pm at the Edible Art Bakery on Hillsborough St in the same complex at the Royal Bean Coffee shop, Playmakers and Ben & Jerry's. Owner Bobby Reynolds and I worked out the rental details and we're all set. Dessert and coffee will be provided for the participants as well as a take-home writing manual/journal filled with tips. $130 for the workshop and I'm offering a 20% discount for students. The shop is wood-paneled with Art Deco touches and very quiet. This will be a creative nonfiction workshop designed for writers at all levels to help find your voice and write with passion and power - and hopefully get published soon. I believe it's a lot easier to publish nonfiction than fiction and anyone can do it, with the right tools. I'm also having a free workshop Wed. 7/12 at the Royal Bean and that will be a fun-filled evening of writing prompts and sharing each other's work.

I believe that my experience with bad customer service gives me the edge for my own programs. Plus, I've had so many years of practicing good customer service in my various capacities with Belk. You can bet everyone who attends my workshops will get a personal Thank You card.

This week I'm attending Meredith College's (Womens Only) Focusing on Form workshop, which is the place where Jane and I met 2 years ago. I'm taking poetry with poetry great Betty Adcock. Promise to give you some highlights this week!

Till next time,

Friday, June 23, 2006

Building Bridges revision

Jerry D. (JD) Mason let me know that the Charlie Lang and Ernest Green (the two 14-yr old boys who were lynched off of the Shubuta bridge in 1942) that "the boys did not get hung from stealing tires. That got hung from "raping" a white woman. Actually they just scared her as she was walking home on just south of Shubuta. But the boys had been in trouble before for having tires, which as a rationed item." Sorry JD for the misinformation. I started a riff on tires being black and rolling and how these boys wanted to roll, but were trapped. JD's book on Shubuta also shed some much-needed light on how the boys were forcibly extracted from the Quitman jail and how the City Marshall, G.F. Dabbs, tried to hold off the mob. The Mississippi governor, Paul B. Johnson, dismissed the lynchings and wanted to find who did it. Definitely, by 1942, lynchings were not public spectacles anymore like at the turn of the century, the teens and the twenties. This lynching occured in the early morning hours when darkness could cover the lynchers' trail. The FBI also investigated.

More soon!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Backyard stingers

I'm working right now on my Shubuta, MS/Hanging Bridge research while scratching SEVEN yellow jacket bites. Yesterday, after I picked up my son from daycare, we threw his ball around outside and then my husband came home. At that point, I tried to round up Daniel, but he was admiring the neighbor's A/C unit in back of our yard. The property line between their house and ours is divided by scrub brush, twigs, old pots, old firewood -- general nature trash. Then Daniel starting asking for ice and I assumed a mosquito had bitten him, and where was his ball? As I soothed him and looked for the ball -- the swarm descended. The stings began in my shoulders, stomach, legs and left wrists. I didn't know where they were all coming from and the little buggers were sticking to my clothes and Daniel was clutching his ear. Big white mounds with blood red tips soon formed. Now he was really screaming and I wanted to scream too. Thankfully, I protected him from the worst, but they got me pretty bad and I'm allergic to wasps, bees, bugs, etc. We're talking a 6-inch swollen mark on my wrist and two huge welts on my stomach. In fact, my bites woke me up at 5am, so I got some schoolwork done. Ouch! Maybe Daniel won't go in the backyard today.

So, as I'm doing the Shubuta/lynching bridge research there's a lot of contradiction. I thought that the Hanging Bridge had a historical marker on it, but it doesn't -- another one does that is its sister. Hopefully, my Shubuta friend, Jerry, will help me figure some of this out. But, he did send me his book and a good photo of the Hanging Bridge. It looks kind of scary to cross, with an overhead metal span and it's maybe 50 feet from the Chickasaway River -- which I know floods.

Today, I'm getting my website done - wish me luck. This is a completely new enterprise for me. I'm also picking up my chapbook, "Ghostcards" from the printer today, and I'm nervous because maybe they didn't do it right or maybe I made a major editing gaffaw. Well, we'll see how it goes. Only $5 (that's $2 off the cover price if you're reading this blog).

Till next time,
Alice "I need some itch cream" Osborn

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Vacation planning

With everything going on with graduate school and work, I was avoiding digging into our vacation, which starts mid-July. But, fortunately, my in-laws were paying a visit in mid May and you know what that means! I cleaned, cleared out the Goodwill clothes, and bought 2 books on the Adirondacks. My MIL is a travel agent and will be taking care of our son while my husband and I are on our week-long trip to NY State. I felt the pressure and could hear her say, "All the good places will be already booked!" The weekend they visited from Long Island was also our 4th anniversary and I brought the guidebooks to dinner (so me and my husband, Keith, would have conversation fodder, if you're wondering). Well, it happened that our server's grandparents were from the Adirondacks and he gave us wonderful suggestions on where to go and what to see. We had a focus now and the trip wasn't just a green blur on the map.

Keith studied the map and I studied the places that had historic interest like Saratoga Springs and Fort Ticonderoga. We finally had a gameplan of sightseeing and hiking. Maybe a day trip to Montreal was in the mix. Keith said, "We're so close to Canada, why not?" I could see we would be moving around a lot, but that's what we do on our vacations -- we're active people.

I easily booked our room in Saratoga Springs on Expedia and our first B&B in Jay, NY was also an easy booking. Jay is a very small town 17 miles east of Lake Placid and it has a broken covered bridge. This B&B is called the Book & Blanket and the owners include their Basset Hound Zoe in every correspondence. Many B&B's only have 2-3 units, which makes me wonder 1) how did they house people for the 1980 Olympics and 2) how do these B&B owners make any money? I called another place while waiting to hear back from our first choice (the Forest House B&B) at Blue Mtn Lake, owned by Ann LaForest ("the forest" in French) and it turned out Karl's B&B was little more than a basement apartment serving cold cereal and coffee. Bev ran the outfit, while Karl is disabled. I spoke with Bev (very nice lady) and later when our first choice emailed me back (the Forest House B&B), I called Bev again to let her know not to pencil us in. Bev asked where we were staying instead, and I told her. Then she informed me that Ann's brother had gone missing in late April and no one had seen him since. Shocking. His body still hasn't turned up. We're still staying there, though, because it's the best (and only) B&B at Blue Mountain and we plan on hiking 2 long trails there. So sorry, Ann.

Next post -- my new friend, Jerry Mason, from Shubuta, MS gives me the scoop on the Hanging Bridge and the lies told around his town.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dandelion Days

June 15, 2006

Jane K. Andrews

I walked for the Cure for 3 reasons. 1.) I like to walk and sometimes I like to walk with friends. 2.) I get a tee-shirt that declares me a good person. 3.) My friend Gail’s mother has breast cancer, but Gail doesn’t know how she is faring because her mother has been estranged from Gail and her two brothers for 4 years. Disease did not draw the ties of family tighter. Still, I wrote Becky’s name on my tag. I wrote my friend Stephen’s name as well although he has thyroid cancer. A breakthrough in any cancer treatment I figure spells some hope for all cancer treatments. 4.) I am ridiculously superstitious and walking for the Cure makes me feel like I am propitiating the malevolent spirits of cellular chaos who may take it to mind to metastasize into terrorist cells attacking vital organs unless they are duly acknowledged with respect, awe, and a blister on the ball of the right foot.

Last summer I had my first mammogram. My friend Beth made me. She went with me to keep me from being nervous.

The technician, Jenny, said, “Sling ‘em on up there, Mrs. Andrews.”

I slung what I had and waited to receive the postcard Beth told me the radiologist would send me telling me everything was swell. I did not get a postcard. I got a letter. Not good. Any news from the radiologist that won’t fit on a postcard cannot be good news. I did not open the letter. I still have not opened it. I stared at it. I moved it from the dining room table to the buffet and back. I held it and tried to imagine that it was a letter praising my magnificent (if diminutive) mammaries. Finally, George, my OBGYN called me and said there was an “anomaly” in my mammogram and I needed a second one. Holy shit. I was ready to sign up for a drive-thru mastectomy. I am not vain enough to die fjust to look good in a sweater.

“I have a blip on my mammogram,” I told my friend Elaine.

“I’m going to think of this blip,” she said, “as a dandelion.”

I waited.

“You know how a dandelion goes to seed and you can just blow the seeds away? I am going to think that you will just blow this blip away like a dandelion.”

I was silent.

“Poof,” she added.

For the 6 days I waited for my retake appointment I took long walks and thought about breast cancer and dandelions. Whenever I started to panic, I blew a little puff of air, like a tiny Lamaze breath to make a wish and send the anomaly on my film floating away as harmless as down.

It wasn't until this Monday after the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure when it was time for another mammogram when it was time for another mammogram that I remembered the down of the dandelion sends seeds on the wind to bloom the next year.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Bridges, Part 2

So, here's my update on the Hanging Bridge in Shubuta, MS, which is part of my research for my Independent Studies Class. I called the Clarke County Chamber and got a call back the next day from Miss Anne who told me to contact Jerry Mason, who has done a book on the Shubuta Bridge. Great, I thought! So I called him in the early afternoon yesterday after finding nothing on Google. Jerry did call back and immediately knew which bridge I wanted to know more about it. He sure knew his stuff. He said his book on Shubuta took 9 years of research and he used old newspaper clippings and tried to get first hand accounts, but many of these people said, "Don't you dare use my name!" on account that they didn't want to get lynched, too, I imagine. Mississippi wasn't very safe back then if you were on the other side of the color line. Jerry and I talked and it turns out his father witnessed the dead boys in 1942 being dragged through town and he also said they were put in jail (then the mob took them out of jail and lynched them under the bridge) because they stole tires! But back then, this was a big deal because rubber was rationed. If you came across a tire, you had to turn it in and these boys didn't bother. I'm getting Jerry's book for only $20 and he says it has lots of before and after (restoration) pictures of the Hanging Bridge. Now the bridge is closed to the public and this happened after they found a dead women's body in a car -- I say this bridge is cursed!

Yesterday, I started laying out my poetry book and hit a few snags with Adobe Pagemaker, which I hope to resolve this afternoon. I want to include photos on the pages since my book is called "Ghostcards" -- makes sense to me anyway. Looking through my old photo albums is a little scary-- Ack! I have bad hair! and what about those bangs~ I also am next to people that I don't see anymore; we've all gone our separate ways.

I also sent out an email for my free writing workshop in Raleigh at the Royal Bean and have gotten several responses! It'll be from 7:30-9:30 on Wed. July 12th and all writers at all levels are welcome.

Till next time (which will be about vacation planning)

Balancing bridges

Well, here's my first blog post. My summer's been pretty busy since I'm a 2nd year graduate student at NC State. I'm done with my academic courses, although I'm taking an Independent Studies class that only meets 2hrs a week. The class is African-American literary response to trauma. It's a little depressing because I'm researching why bridges were popular lynching sites. I'm studying lynching photographs from James Allen's "Without Sanctuary" (Yes, people took photos of actual lynchings, they were made into postcards and Allen collected them). My job is to find out what the Shubuta, Mississippi bridge looks like because I'm relating Langston Hughes "Bitter River" to my bridge topic which is dedicated to two 14-yr old boys who were lynched in 1942 on this bridge that's also called the Hanging Bridge, since in 1917 5 people were also hanged there. So, I'm calling the Clarke County, MS Chamber of Commerce tomorrow to see if I can get a copy of this infamous bridge. I'll keep you updated.

Along with this course, I'm designing my website www.aliceosborn.com along with Jane's husband's and son's help. Thank goodness! I've already set up my domain and host. I'm hoping this site will bring writers to my workshops and retreats and will advertise my editing services, as well as my books-to-be. I'm also hard at work on my first poetry chapbook, "Ghostcards," but need help getting my Word documents loaded into a pdf format. I'm hoping to have these two big projects done by June 26th, the start of Meredith College's Women's Only Focusing on Form, which is week-long writing workshop. I'm taking poetry with NC poet Betty Adcock and I can't wait.

I wish I could get more motivated to get my thesis done. My project is on "Creating Communication in the Composition Classroom" by writing personal essays that are framed by transformative creative non-fiction texts. I may even switch around some of the texts since one of my selections may be too long for my hypothetical students to finish. But I have to get my draft done by Aug 1st -- wish me luck!

So on top of all this I also write technical articles for the web and my editor/publisher, Will (aka Webman) gives my weekly deadlines. My last 800-word article was on the 7 non-security uses of video cameras and finished it before midnight on Sunday (my deadline). Whooo Hoo! Every week it's something new and trying to get these articles done over the weekend is tough since I have a husband and very active 3 1/2 year old. So I work Fri and Sat nights and pinch time where I can. Daniel goes to daycare/school during the week, so my days are spent writing/reading/researching and I'm fairly productive. I also started a p/t job with Katharine Giovanni, a business owner and self-publisher and is giving me wonderful tips. I got this job through my hairdresser, who is another fantastic person. Here's my philosophy: create a circle of terrific people and you'll become terrific yourself!!!

Alice out!