When I was growing up in northeastern Kentucky, I was fortunate enough to know my grandfather, who lived deep in the heart of Appalachia. He lived only until I was 23 years of age, but I was lucky enough to be old enough to have talked to him. Really talked to him. Conversations that, to me, were important. He was a fine man. Moral, ethical, smart. I’d like to write about him and men like him some day.
There were so many things that I never had the chance or knowledge to talk to him about. My mother, his daughter, told me stories about him. Not enough stories. I wish I knew more. One story that she told me was that my grandfather was determined that she and her seven siblings would never be involved in two endeavors that were prominent in those days in southeastern Kentucky. They would never work in the coal mines and they would never be engaged in the production of “mountain dew.”
Mountain Dew. Not the soft drink. Mountain dew is the slang term for homemade liquor or moonshine, corn liquor, hooch, and a dozen other names. Southeastern Kentucky was “dry.” In other words, liquor could not be sold legally. People made their own and made it for other people. There were stills to make the liquor hidden all over the mountains that were characteristic of the area. Moonshine is 100 percent alcohol and is still made in those mountains.
My grandfather was successful. All of his children left the area, at least long enough to get a college education. My grandfather, himself, got what passed for a college education in his day and was an advocate of higher education for his entire life.
When a writer is running hot on a writing project, it’s easy to write. The ideas are coming hard and fast. Creativity is at its highest. Everything is going well. You’re not always running hot. Sometimes, either you or the project grows cold for no particular reason. Burnout may be the case if it’s a long project. When that happens, it may be time to switch projects for a while. Writers usually have several going at once. A couple on the front burner. A couple on the back burner. Several in the desk drawer. That’s the case with me.
I’m in the middle of a long writing project that’s grown a little cold to me. It’s sagging. I’m not sure of the direction I want to take. I feel my creativity flagging. My ideas are not flowing as freely. My characters are getting boring to me. So, I’m going to shove it to the back burner for a month or two. I’m going to see if I get my enthusiasm back for the project. It’s a project that’s important to me, so I am, in fact, sure that I will. I need some thought, some new sources of inspiration, some time to sleep on it, some time to think of the direction I should take. Such a thing often happens to a writer in the middle of a novel or in the middle of any long writing project. You lose your way. Particularly if it is a complex story, with lots of characters and subplots. Mine is that – a complex story.
While I work on getting my mojo back for my long project, I’m going to tackle a shorter project. I think it’s going to be a novella. Novellas seem to be gaining popularity among the reading public as we have less time and more commitments. After doing my market research, there are new publishers out there for this shorter work. I’m not going to give too much away about my project, but I’m excited about it. I have a good idea which may actually dovetail into my longer project.
Gratitude is an emotion I don’t think I express often enough. Tonight, I feel gratitude, but a range of other emotions as well. I’m grateful that I’ve been lucky enough to find out that my little home in South Florida only sustained minor damage from Hurricane Irma. There was some minor outside wind damage. Nothing that isn’t fixable. I hope there isn’t any damage on the inside. It, according to a friend and neighbor, doesn’t seem to have had any roof leaks. I think I dodged a bullet where some, where I live, weren’t so lucky. The infrastructure on my island is having a little more trouble getting up and going. The National Guard has been called in to help folks out with issues like food, water, and ice, along with getting the power and water back on. This is on one little island off the Florida Coast. Extrapolate that to the entire State of Florida, very little of which was spared. When we can go back is anyone’s guess.
Along with grateful, I’m also puzzled. I’m hearing very little news coverage of the cleanup and fixup efforts in Florida and Texas. Considering that Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey affected something close to 15 million Texans and Floridians, not counting us snowbirds, I don’t quite understand this. Where is the national news coverage? Cities in Florida were devastated. We all know about Houston. The Florida Keys are a news story themselves. If I’m missing something, including the right news coverage, someone please point me in the right direction. I watch very little television and almost no frivolous television, so maybe I am missing the coverage I would like to see.
I’m also sad tonight. I have heard some disparage others who have second homes in South Florida that they either lost or that sustained damage. Maybe that seems like excess to some folks, or conspicuous consumption, but as someone who has a very small and modest second home there, I would like to say a word about it. I worked very very hard for many years in order to be able to afford to live in Florida during a few winter months each year. It took a lot of education and even more years of hard work. I’m sure I’m speaking for many people with second homes in another state. Others could have worked as hard as I did and reaped the same rewards. It is unnecessary and cruel to celebrate loss of property for people who spent their whole lives working for it. Rant over.
What a bad time for me to write a stream of consciousness blog post! There is only one thing streaming through my consciousness and that is the situation in Florida and the Caribbean islands due to #HurricaneIrma. I suppose my motive for writing this post at all is a bit of catharsis. You see, the hurricane is about to come roaring up through the Florida peninsula, clinging to the Gulf Coast, and I own property on a barrier island off the Gulf Coast. Chances are, nothing will be left after being touched by a Category 5 hurricane.
My own property isn’t my only motive in writing this blog post. I also want to call attention to the 5.6 million people who have had to be evacuated out of Florida. That is a huge number of evacuees for me to wrap my mind around. There is going to be massive property damage in Florida and many of these people may not be able to go home for a while. Just like the people of the U.S. have helped the people of Houston after Hurricane Harvey, please help the displaced people of Florida who are victims of Hurricane Irma.
Now to continue to sit, wait, and watch the Weather Channel (and the weather online). It’s a bit like watching a train wreck and not being able to look away.
When I saw that the prompt for this week was the word “berth,” I was reminded of this.
He and I got on a ship in Bergen, Norway. It had been a wonderful trip across Scandinavia, ending in this beautiful city with all the fjords. Now we were on our way to the British Isles. That meant crossing the North Sea, always rough and always an adventure. Our ship was big enough, but not too big.
We set off on our journey to northern Scotland. It was an overnight adventure. In the salon, we had assigned seats, but otherwise, we could wander through the ship. During our wandering, we found a large room with lots of seating, gambling tables, food, and a group of elderly ladies. They invited us to join them. We talked with them, played some blackjack.
The captain of the ship came into the room and invited us up on the deck. He had something he wanted us to see. He warned us that the seas were rough that night. We already knew that. We climbed the stairs to the deck. When we got to the top of the stairs, the Captain pointed toward the sky.
“Look,” he said. We did. There was a sparkly glow against the dark. We went on up to the deck and leaned on the railing so we wouldn’t fall with the roll of the ship. Out of the water lept these fish. They glowed. In the sky, they sparkled and glowed and, amazingly, they were flying. The Captain explained their species of phosphorescence flying fish. It was a sight I never expect to see again.
Later in the evening, after drinking too much creme de menthe with the elderly ladies, we retired to our berth in the ship. The next morning, those fish seemed like a dream. My hangover from the creme de menthe was not a dream. I’ve never drank it again.
What is on my mind as I write this post? The ocean. The way I feel when I look at the ocean, when I’m near the ocean, when I breathe the salt air. I’ve never understood how someone from a landlocked state like me, who didn’t even see the ocean until I was 21 years old, could feel so connected to it. I felt like this the first time I ever saw the ocean, that time the Atlantic. After a time, I had occasion to spend significant time in South Carolina, off and on. Looking out at the great Atlantic was as much of a thrill as it was the very first time.
Later in life, I saw the beautiful Gulf, both from the Florida peninsula, the port of New Orleans, and the port of Galveston. I then spent a very special day, once upon a time as if in a fairy tale, on gorgeous Catalina Island in the Pacific, a visit I will never forget with someone I will always remember.
In 2009, I was fortunate enough to happen upon, totally by chance, an island in the Gulf of Mexico and I fell in love with it. It’s not the type of island most people might find appealing. It sits below the frost line and is tropical in most ways. But, it doesn’t have the requisite sandy beaches. It has beautiful sunsets, incredible birds, an array of wildlife, rampantly growing tropical vegetation, and incredibly temperate winters. I feel more myself when I’m there than anywhere else in the world. The Gulf waters surrounding my island are usually calm and full of fish that I’m just learning about.
This year, I will have guests visit me when I’m at my island. Family, friends, and several friends live nearby. Fun!
What draws me to my island is the feeling in my soul when I’m there. I seldom find myself at peace. I have a restless soul, a restless heart. I’m at peace when I stand and look out at the ocean from the shores of this magical island.
I can’t wait to return.
It’s always interesting for me to write a stream of consciousness post. My writing is always so planned that stream of consciousness is hard for me. But, I’m guess I’m going to give it a shot. Let’s see. What’s on my mind this Saturday morning?
I’m a political animal, so the first thing I’m thinking of is the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA. I believe in freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. When the assembly is a bunch of neo-Fascists, then I think an exception should be made. Fascists were the downfall of most of Europe during World War II. We don’t dare give an inch when it comes to Fascism in the United States. I would call for the Fascists currently occupying the White House (Steve Bannon) to be fired immediately. If he is not fired, then I would call for the impeachment of our President, Donald J. Trump, who apparently condones Fascism. Steve Bannon is one of his closest advisors. Fascists would not feel free to congregate in our streets without a person like Steve Bannon in the White House. If you have read any of my articles on our current President, you know my feelings about this.
I’ve heard, just now, that the Governor of Virginia has called for a State of Emergency and the Fascist rally has been broken up. I am waiting to see if our President will make a statement. If he doesn’t, then I will know he does indeed condone Fascism.
The other thing on my mind is writing. I won’t be blogging as much as usual over the next few months. I’m working on the “meaty” part of my novel and I have about 60,000 words to write before I leave for Florida at the first of November. I have a lot of other things I have to do on a daily basis besides write. I can usually only grab two or three hours per day.
Have a good week!
The #SoCS prompt this week is high/low:
If you’re a writer, you’re accustomed to experiencing the highs and lows of the profession. Think of the lows in the form of all those rejection slips from print publications and emails from online publications you may have received. If you’re a novelist, make that form letters from agents or publishers. You undoubtedly have a portfolio of unpublished material in the bottom drawer of your desk.
The highs. The obvious ones happen every time a publication accepts an article or a story you have worked so hard to write and source to appear on its pages. It’s exciting to have a story or an article to appear in a publication that is unpaid, particularly if you are a new writer. When you start getting paid for your work, receiving those checks, no matter how small, is truly exciting. If you work really hard, you may be able to make a living as a writer. Perhaps you can become a staff writer for a publication. I prefer to be a freelance writer.
If you write a book and an agent represents you so you can get it published through traditional publishing, it’s a real high. Finding an agent is just as difficult for a novelist or a writer of non-fiction books as finding a publication to accept a non-fiction article.
Self-publishing is becoming increasingly acceptable and if your work is marketed correctly, you can do very well selling your book, although there is no doubt that it is more difficult than traditional publishing.
All careers are full of highs and lows. I contend that a career as a writer, whether non-fiction or fiction, staff or freelance, is particularly so. With the ease of using email to query publications and agents, there is more competition in the marketplace. It takes hard work and long, hard hours and is not for the faint of heart.
All of my life, within my family, I have heard the term “double-jointed.” That’s because on my paternal grandmother’s side of the family, this rather rare characteristic ran in the family. It was passed down to my dad, then to me.
Being double-jointed doesn’t really mean you have two sets of joints. The proper name is hypermobility syndrome. A person with this syndrome looks like they can stretch a limb farther than they should be able to. Instead, it actually is the ability to stretch the ligaments and tendons around the joint that cause the hyperextension of the bone possible. The person can hyperextend the bone without the pain that a person without the syndrome would feel.
An example is someone who can easily touch their toes. In both my dad’s case and mine, we could/can lay our palms flat on the floor with absolutely no effort and no pain. Sometimes, this “double-jointedness” is due to shallow hip or shoulder sockets. People with this syndrome are often very limber and move very easily.
Often, as a person with hypermobility syndrome grows older, arthritis becomes present in the joints.
The Art of Letter Writing
I have many books on my desk, most of them have to do with writing and novels. I do have one novel by Annie Proulx called Postcards. When I saw that novel’s title, I was reminded of a conversation a friend and I had some time ago. We discussed the lost art of letter writing. Baby boomers, like my friend and I, have written a lot of letters, on paper with a real pen, in our time, though perhaps not for a number of years. If you are a millennial, for example, you may have never written a letter except electronically. Maybe I’m doing you a disservice? Maybe you have written traditional letters? I would love for you to comment if you have!
Back to the subject. One of my first experiences with letter writing was when I was under ten years of age and had a pen pal. Francois lived in France and we wrote each other as soon as one received a letter from the other through high school. I often wonder what happened to her. As I grew up and went through undergraduate school, I wrote various cousins, boyfriends, and friends. By the time of graduate school, it was the early days of the Internet and everyone was fascinated by email. Letter writing for me was gone. It’s been gone ever since.
Life got busy. Electronic communication was quick and easy. In its defense, I would not have had time to keep up with many of the people I have without it.
I do, in some ways, miss letter writing. It’s a very personal way of communicating. You have to choose your stationery. Some people prefer to use a fountain pen, which you have to fill with ink. The person on the other end of the letter gets to see the person’s handwriting and feel their emotions more distinctly. New forms of electronic communication – email, messaging, texting, social media, chat rooms – aren’t nearly as personal. That, in fact, is why emoticons and stickers were developed. They try to convey the emotions that letter writing used to convey.
Reach out and touch someone by writing a letter. They will appreciate it!