Monday, December 23, 2013

dreamings ~ in medias res ~ in miniature

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Friday, September 27, 2013

She reads around the world |
Get a global perspective

Take a look at your bookshelf. Are most of the titles written by US or UK authors?

Mine are.

Ann Morgan is a reader much like you and me -- a writer and editor with a college degree under her belt, a healthy amount of curiosity, a love of the written word, and the self-awareness to know that globalizing her perspective would take a certain degree of radical commitment.

In this case, a 365 day challenge to read 196 books from around the world.

Her personal  challenge:
In 2012, the world came to London for the Olympics and I went out to meet it. I read my way around all the globe’s 196 independent countries – plus one extra territory chosen by blog visitors – sampling one book from every nation.
Morgan started with a quest to solidify The List. No easy feat, this. How to go about finding legit books, quality books, from sometimes obscure publishers with hard-to-discover titles by lesser-known authors?

She took the quest to the net:
...I asked for your help. I invited you to tell me what’s hot in Russia, what’s cool in Malawi, and what’s downright smoking in Iceland. The books could be classics or current favourites. They could be obscure folk tales or commercial triumphs. They could be novels, short stories, memoirs, biographies, narrative poems or a mixture of all these things. All I asked was that they had some claim to be considered part of the literature of a country somewhere in the world — oh, and that they were good.
"Good," of course, is subjective. But that wasn't the point.

Picture by Diane Cordell
The point was to look out from the eye-holes of people whose worlds look entirely different from ours --
from hers.

And isn't that why writing (and reading) is so important? Literature tracks the human experience. Books magic us into the existence of those who are not like us. The Other, the academics call these people for whom many of us lack empathy -- whom we might even fear -- until we strive to toward understanding, compelled by their stories.

I grew up in white bread Daytona Beach, Florida. After finishing undergrad in Central Texas, I hiked over to Tucson for an MFA and a tech job. No world traveler, that's for sure. I'd never consider myself cosmopolitan. And I don't have the money or time to go abroad and globeallivant in any deliberate way.

This challenge may be just the thing for these state-side-bound toes.

For 2014, I think I might take a crack at it.

What are your thoughts about this challenge? About the power of writing? How have you attempted to globalize your perspective?

Learn more about Ann Morgan:
Publishing Perspectives
BBC Culture

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Join the I Write Video (Repost)

A year ago, YA science fiction writer Imran Siddiq took submissions for the empowering and evocative "I am a Writer" video. Its launch connected writers across the globe.

Now, it's your chance to join the "I Write" video.

If you're not a writer, you can still be take part. Submissions are open to editors, cover designers, formatters, and proofreaders.

As Imran says...

Read the guidelines.
Submit by August 31, 2013.
Email the video to
Join the "I Write" video!
Imran on Twitter

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The wilderness has a way of dealing with your ego...

This past Saturday, a night hike by myself. Started at 10 PM, back down at dawn.
Glow worm!

There were 6 miles of trail and 2 of bushwhack and 3,200 ft of elevation gain. A coral snake I didn't quite step on. Javelina and deer and tarantulas and red-spotted tree frogs and something with great big shiny-reflective yellow eyes at the top of the peak from which I was able to send a text to my check-in: In a bit of a pickle, er, won't you please call 911 when you wake and haven't heard from me. Hoping I'll be okay.

Also, a cloud that decided to descend on the peak just as I was deciding to try to scramble back down from where I'd climbed up. Three points of contact. It was that steep. Shitty footing. Couldn't see more than 2 yards ahead with the spot light on once the cloud settled in. And all because I was too stubborn (and stupid) to turn around at the End of Trail sign. Too wanting to get lost, maybe. Too longing to be consumed.

I learned some things about myself. So that's good. And it was beautiful. The lower part of that canyon is something made of magic, for sure. The upper part, too, is crisscrossed by game trails, mice, rabbits, garter snakes, shin dagger, grasses, ocotillo, oh! and then there was a lone alligator jumper -- the world all so scrubby and wonderful.

It's just wise not to be too stubborn out there. The wilderness has a way of dealing with your ego.

Like the climbers' saying, Gravity has a way of dealing with those who repeatedly defy it.

In the moonlight, washed milky by humid, dense clouds, I lost the sound of the city for the calls of the poorwills and other nightjars and crickets and owls. And sometimes, for timeless moments, I lost my own sounds and my own human thoughts.

Good. Good to be lost that way.

But better not to do it for reasons that tempt the desert. Never tempt the desert. It will readily remind you who's bigger, who's been here much, much longer, and who will be here still when no one remembers you or your species, when even those scars your species left behind are too old for naming.

Monday, May 20, 2013

you are right where you need to be...

Gaan Canyon, first waterfall 

you learn a certain thing about a certain person. you realize anew that you are someone to be proud of, that you have come a long way, and that you will go far in the years to come. that in this moment you are someone special. that you are right where you need to be. right now.

Friday, May 17, 2013


Kim Harrington Photography
It happens sooner now.

Your feet are steadier than they once were as you boulder-hop downstream between high canyon walls. You pass through splashes of sunlight and shade. You are small. The pressure and force of water that has carved out this passage is mind-boggling to you, as are the house-sized boulders through whose shadows you must sometimes slip. You hold your breath as you do, knowing that once, this 60,000 pounds of granite fell out of the sky, dislodged by who knows what large or small mechanism -- the expansion of frozen water in a crack the size of a fingernail, perhaps, followed by that icy fingernail's inevitable melting away.

A shiver ripples down your arms, mapping your skin in goosebumps. You tuck a strand of wet hair behind your ear and squint through a shaft of bright waterfall. You have just rappelled 80 feet into chest deep canyon water. You have swum out of the pool. You are cold.

Canyons are not friendly places, despite their beauty. They are harsh and treacherous, boulders loose underfoot and poised deadly overhead, rappels and down-climbs steep and slick along water-polished rock. Your trail is a bushwhack through cat's claw and poison ivy tangled among innocuous vines.

You are here to do business with your true nature.

You imagine it like this: You stand in a suit and dress shoes, your hair neatly combed, your eyes sharply focused. Your true nature sits reclined behind an uncluttered cherry-wood desk. Casual, unconcerned, your true nature stands and shakes the hand of your eager, ambitious youth. Smiles. "You're here to learn."

"Yes, yes. Teach me."

"You'll need to go away from here. Go and undress and walk naked in the deep places. You must forget your own name."

The dry-rot log collapses under the weight of your right foot. You slip and catch yourself on a sharp rock, cutting your hand. The blood is like the flash of a cardinal's red wing caught in a sunbeam, beautiful.

You laugh quietly -- everything is quiet in a canyon, noise being appropriate only as appointed. Your blood delights you. The pain is a sweet, throbbing reminder of how alive you are.

More quickly, the chatter in your brain grows quiet now. You do not push out the voices exactly -- the ones fighting for real estate in your mind, the ones that whirl through your insecurities, that question your timetables, fight your dreams and longings. You let the voices clamor. You let them fade into the sensual curves of rock, striated with color from layers of sediment. Fade. Into the dense fecundity of this riparian oasis, nestled in the folds of a land of desert cacti and vast blue sky.

Here, fish leap in the creek's clear blue water. The scent on the air is wild and ripely sweet. The longer you move, the softer your own voice. Your feet feel more yours, and somehow also less. Each step is more difficult, in spite of the mineral-thick water you guzzle at momentary pauses, in spite of the nuts you chew and swallow for their energy. Each step is also more sure. Your arms move through snarled foliage without hesitation, thorns raking your arms as an artist's brush drawing beads of red along your skin. Your legs are heavy with fatigue but steady and resolved. Sentences form only vaguely now in your mind and do not slip past your lips. There is no need for words. You are beginning to think like the canyon.

Inside its walls, you are beginning to disappear.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Guide to Understanding Your Workplace


When to Quit Two Jobs in Two Weeks

Do you notice the following practices being observed at your place of work?

  1. Providing break room chocolate is a positive workplace gesture, to be availed of in addition to providing break room cockroaches.
  2. Workplace basements should avoid giving quarter to squatters, haunts or spooks. This generally is easier in theory than in practice.
  3. It's a good policy in bookstores to hire employees who can count.
  4. It's a poor policy in bookstores to hire employees who can count in order to perform manual yearly inventory. It is, however, acceptable to task an employee who cannot read with such a counting project. 
  5. When assessing items at the trade counter, employees are expected to refrain from raising eyebrows in the face of:
    • dead rats
    • dead beetles
    • dead human parts (hair, skin, nails, etc.)
    • live rats, beetles, scorpions, etc.
    • knives, guns, bombs
    • complete collections of McDonald's Happy Meal toys
    • condoms, dildos, S&M toys
    • bad self-portraits
    • self-pornography
    • child pornography
    • blatant racist artwork, etc.
    • stashes of empty liquor bottles
    • stashes of half-full liquor bottles
    • drug paraphernalia
    • drugs in little plastic baggies
  6. It is appropriate to smile at the trading customer and suggest that they take their valuables down to one of the nearby thrift stores, as "we aren't able to use any of your treasures at this time, I'm afraid."
  7. Being caught filching "treasure" from the trade counter is strictly prohibited.
  8. When in need of personal favors:
    • DO preface your question in a private place and then ask politely of a trusted coworker
    • DO REFRAIN FROM the urge to enter your trusted coworker's office, close the door, and remove your clothing (jacket, dress, bra), before asking your question.
  9. Female employees are expected to dress professionally; "remember that you are representing the agency." Translation: Female employees are expected: 
    • to turn heads as they enter the workplace
    • to be complimented and to compliment others on their appearance at appropriately frequent intervals throughout the workday
    • to blush when complimented or otherwise act demurely if unable to blush (lower eyes, flutter hands, murmur rather than enunciate gratitude)
    • to present polished fingernails and toenails (if clients, customers, and/or male coworkers might be otherwise offended or uncomfortable)
    • to wear makeup (if clients, customers,  and/or male coworkers might be otherwise offended or uncomfortable)
    • to wear dresses or skirts whenever feasible; legs must be shaved or covered by stockings, boots, tights, leggings, etc.
    • to wear perfume, lotions, and scented deodorant if and only if your body odor could offend or discomfort clients, customers, and/or male coworkers
    • to laugh at jokes, but not too loudly.
  10. Break room coffee creamer can be a point of contention; provide individual non-dairy packets to prevent the forming of hostile cliques.
  11. Encourage employees to take frequent advantage of smoke breaks: to strengthen morale and more importantly to allay financially encumbering mental health incidents, such as panic and anxiety attacks, which can often precipitate reputation-costly events.
  12. Above all, encourage employees to say "yes."

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dear Writing Bracelet,

I know you are not much for all this seriousness, but bear with me.

I was reading a book the other day and getting excited about revisions: Blueprint Your Bestseller by Stuart Horwitz.

I came to the first action step, and in rushed anxiety.

Why? Why all this fear just thinking about doing something that once brought so much joy?

Then I realized: When I'm doing the work of a writer, I am outside my body. Writing, I'm in my head, talking to people who don't exist, working in worlds that aren't real.

Dear writing bracelet, I have spent the last 12 months intensely focused on being present in my body to recover from certain traumas from which I used to escape by writing.

Now, writing is terrifying. To write, I must intentionally extract myself from the present. What if I don't come back? What if I can't come back? I don't trust myself to be careful and to listen and to return . . .


Writing bracelet, you're going to help me.

When I slide you on my left wrist -- in my culture the left hand is reserved for promises -- you will give me permission to leave the present, to leave my body. To enter a new world.

With you, I will be safe. I will be true to the many Parts of me who each needs nurturing and care.

When I slide you off my wrist again, your departure will free me to return to this body I have learned to love. To this place where I am safe.

Perhaps, I will not need you forever. But for now, my muse thanks you.

Lora (and all her many Parts)


To the reader:

This concept of the self being not one but many, and my reference to "Parts," draws on Dr. Richard Schwartz's IFS therapy model. It's helped me process a lot of hurt and trauma. It's still helping! The model was intuitive enough for me to work through on my own, without professional guidance. I read this book.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Dream By a Wedged Muse in What Feels Like a Great Tightness

“Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?”
-- Pooh-Bear


"Right, and who are you?" The pixie-haired, androgynous-looking woman turned her sharp brown eyes on me after nodding the others into her home. Her well-muscled shoulders were bare beneath a leather tunic, and out from under camouflage cut-offs poked a pair of strong legs girthed in muddy military boots.

Rebel's home was carved out of a hill, like a hobbit's. Except mammoth. The size of a museum.

I cleared my throat and said in a pert, small voice, "My name is Lora Rivera. I am an aspiring writer." I smiled and extended my hand. She declined to take it.

To be clear: I was dreaming.

Rebel's bright eyes took in my schoolgirl appearance and white tennis shoes. "Follow me."

We entered through the waterfall and passed into her home.

Photo credit to Filip Kulisev's Amazing Planet

Everywhere, I saw art, living, twisting, branching art crafted of plant matter and earth, windows made of spun spider silk, light spilling in from great cracks between smooth boulders, slender shafts of warm sun filling the halls of dirt and foliage with the yeasty golden smell of growing things.

In the real world: After the State of Arizona cut our funding, I was given notice of my separation from Aviva Children's Services where I have been writing children's biographies for the past three years.

My divorce will be final April 28, in a month and a half.

Without family, I am suddenly living alone in a newish town, with an upside-down house and a great load of debt. No credit. No job. I am not writing.

Crossosoma Bigelovii
In my dream: I traced a finger along the ruddy walls as I weaved through the corridors after this fiery but quiet young woman -- Rebel was her name. She was me, I was her. But I felt small in her home. I longed for her to come see the library where I lived. The glossy wood floors, the dustless windowsills on which sat blue vases holding single white Rock Flowers. The ever-sharpened pencils.

I wanted her approval.

My hand snagged a root that was growing wildly out of a wall. A large portrait fell to floor, cracking the frame. Rebel swiveled.

"Oh!" I bent to pick up the portrait. "Oh, look, I'm so sorry."

Rebel squatted beside me. The portrait was of a young woman, an artist-hunter whose face was set in profile. She had a bow drawn to her cheek. The arrow was a feather-fletched pen.

"The frame's broken," I said. My shoelaces were untied. Shame spread over my cheeks and neck.

Rebel took the portrait and held it against the wall. The root I had touched came alive, snake-like, or like a sea serpent waking from some dark depth. The end of the root sprang out and lashed the portrait against the wall. Then, the wall opened and consumed the piece, canvas and frame, until what was left was raw dirt.

Crumbled clumps of grassy earth lay at Rebel's feet. She picked up two clumps, and handed one to me. Her nails were short and grubby, but smooth and well-trimmed.

"You're the writer," she mused. "You and Art, y'all aren't really tight, are you?"

"I'm an aspiring writer," I repeated, sure of only that one thing. Where had the portrait gone? I felt lost, confused. I held out my portion of dirt. "What . . . ?"

Rebel took the second handful and pressed it to the wall. Sweetly, I thought. Her hand to the wall, as if to a lover's cheek. The clump of earth stuck there. The wall sucked the dirt into itself and seemed to murmur, seemed to pulse, grew still again.

She looked at me. "Now you."

I obeyed. The blank wall felt warm under my fingertips. It felt alive. Not like a pencil, a bit of dead wood veined in gray graphite, capped with rubber.

"You didn't make any of this, did you?" I gestured around at the mossy arches, the leafing vines forming figures like statues in the doorways.

Rebel smiled tightly. "I don't fight what I know I can't win. You coming? The wall'll figure out what it wants to be soon enough."

I blinked.

"You just gotta stop staring at it," she said.

I am an aspiring writer. The mantra was comforting but felt out of place.

Rebel looked exasperated. "You like people breathing all over your creative process? No? Didn't think so. Come on, then."

I turned toward the soft sound of her leave-taking boots. Mushrooms and flowers spiraled up around her feet. I thought, from farther on, I could hear the sound of water trickling among rocks. The quiet was rich, sleepy, and I felt it like a full stomach, like a truth, or permission.

"I am . . ." I said aloud. No one seemed to be listening. Rebel's footsteps had grown still in the corridor beyond. "I am . . ."

I couldn't remember what I was. What I was supposed to be.

I went forward into the living house, into its warm glow.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Old Shepherd's Song

Old Shepherd's Song

Come and watch the red tide turn
And blue your eyes with the cold of the night
Say to Death, hush now, and hang your scythe
Your mouth is a shell with an empty hold on forever
Here you are safe, here you are home.

Dark is the clay in the canyonlands
Dip your lips to the water where the ghosts have all cried
A star takes a bow, fall on! hold your breath
As the sheep find new pasture
Grass brittle as glass blown in heaven
This is your wander, this is your home.

Do not look for the wink of your kindred above
Nor grasp for your mother in the red clay below
Watch for her rise! follow your umbilical cord
Then cut it. And follow a trail faint with laughter
Where I will keep you, where I will feed you

Where I will drink of you
And kiss your cheeks with my lips made of sand
Fill your mouth with my wordless stone
Where you will shelter, where'ere you wander
Where you will follow, where you are home.

Baboquivari at Sunset ~ Photos Courtesy of Steven