What does a girl do when she’s had a blog for six years and now she has a hard time being regular with it? Well, she gets another blog.
It’s kinda not working out so well yet, but I hope to change that. So in the coming days, if you see I’m still not doing well with it, drop me an email and tell me to get my act together. I don’t mind at all.
I hope to do one or two posts a week on my blogs — this one and rememberthedragonflies.wordpress.com. Come follow! Come push me along! Come and criticize. I don’t mind.
Here’s the dragonfly post: http://rememberthedragonflies.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/please-come-with-me/
Now, the best I can do today for Kathy Rhodes at WordPress is a guest blog I recently did for my friend Tracy Lucas and her Writing for Your Supper. It’s a blog on writing, titled “Yanking the Door Open.”
I’ll be headed out later this week to the 2013 Oxford Creative Nonfiction Conference in Oxford, Mississippi. This is the third conference I’ve attended, and there was also a creative nonfiction workshop in 2007, and this is the second conference I’ve co-directed with Neil White and Susan Cushman. I’m familiar with the returning faces–Dinty W. Moore, Lee Gutkind, Michael Rosenwald, Jessica Handler–and I’ve known River Jordan, who’s new this year, since she came to Tennessee and read from the galley of her first novel at the Barnes and Noble Writers Night prior to the Southern Festival of Books where she was to be on a panel. And Lee Martin is new this year. I haven’t met him yet, but I like what I hear.
Lee’s blog today is titled “Teaching at Writers’ Conferences” and gives a glimpse of what we can expect this weekend in Oxford. He writes:
“At the end of this week, I’ll be in Oxford, Mississippi, teaching a memoir workshop preceding the Oxford Creative Nonfiction Conference and then sticking around to be on a panel during the conference proper. Thus begins the season of writers’ conference teaching with other visits to Rowe, Massachusetts; Yellow Springs, Ohio; and Montpelier, Vermont, to come. I love teaching at these conferences where folks are generally passionate about their craft and eager to pick up some little tidbit to help them along their writers’ journeys. I also love meeting folks I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to know, and getting to have some small part in the work that they’re doing. If I can share what I know in a way that will be helpful, maybe I can save someone a bit of time in the development of his or her craft. By so doing, I can pay back all the wonderful teachers who did the same for me. Like the handyman character, Red Green, used to say on his television show, “Remember, I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together.”
I was first drawn to creative nonfiction by memoir. I was a fiction writer who decided to turn his skills with narrative into storytelling about the self. I quickly learned that I loved being able to dramatize moments from my life and arrange them in a narrative thread of cause and effect. I also loved being able to reflect upon those moments, interrogate them, use them to think more deeply about the person I was/am and the people around me. This is all to say that I’m very much looking forward to my trip to Oxford, and the conversation I’ll have about memoir with the folks in my workshop…” Read more:
It’s not too late to register! Join us for a full and inspiring weekend on the Ole Miss campus. The creative nonfiction community in the South is growing. Come join us!
When I was ten and riding in the back seat of Dad’s Ford on Highway 61 out of Memphis…
Suddenly, from the top of a ridge, the road went down—straight down into unending flatness. That last hill always caused a stir in me, a funny feeling in my stomach. I believed Almighty God started digging here and scooped out a big basin of rich land so farmers could plant cotton and kids could grow up looking at it.
The Delta began here. It was bordered on the east by the Yazoo River, born of the confluence of the Tallahatchie and Yalobusha near Greenwood, and on the west by Old Man River, who “must know somethin, but he dont say nothin, he jes keeps rollin along.”
Cotton fields stretched out before us all the way to the end of the sky. The fields parted just enough for a road to pass through. Highway 61 cut straight down through Delta cotton—two lanes with just enough room for two cars to pass, one going north, one going south. The whole earth outside my window was cotton. Row after row, pressed against the road, running all the way to where the earth stopped and the blue of heaven started. Nothing but cotton as far as I could see and I could see maybe fifty miles. I smelled the dirt, I smelled the green, I felt the hum of growing things. I thought it was mine, all mine, because I was born of it. When it was cotton-pickin time in the fall and the fields were white, I knew God was on his throne and all was right with the world. …
COME TO THE DELTA! COME TO CLARKSDALE! COME TO CREATIVE NONFICTION AT THE CROSSROADS!
Neil White will be teaching a workshop on writing true stories, September 21-22 at Shack Up Inn. Message me for more details!
COME AND EXPERIENCE ALL THAT IS — OR WAS — THE DELTA.
“CHARACTERS IN MOTION”
A 3-session series for writers of fiction and creative nonfiction
in the convenient Davidson County office of TurnStyle just north of Old Hickory Blvd. in Brentwood near I-65
Sessions: Three Thursday Evenings
January 12, 19, and 26 (Snow date: Feb. 2)
6:30 p.m. — 8:30 p.m.
Early-bird fee for those who sign up by December 1 is $90.
Authors Mary Buckner and Kathy Rhodes will explore how to bring story characters to life. Come for discussion, hands-on practice, and fun! We welcome all area writers!
To sign up or get more information, please email Mary: (marymbuckner at comcast dot net) for a registration form or call 6159455076.
The cicadas are back.
Fly. Sing. Mate. Die.
Every thirteen years they emerge from underground where they have been feeding on roots. They crawl up tree trunks or fence posts and then draw themselves out of their nymphal skins. They fly a week, the male cicadas sing to attract females, they mate, the females insert their ovipositors into tree branches and deposit eggs, then the five-week-old bugs die. The nymphs drop to the ground and bury themselves for thirteen years, and then the next generation climbs to the light to do it all over again.
What kind of a life is that? What’s their purpose, other than providing a steady month-long diet for raccoons, skunks, and possums every thirteen years.
I remember the last time they were here. May, 1998. In the middle of their chaotic screeching, the veterinarian told me that the swelling on my golden retriever’s jaw line was a malignant tumor that could not be surgically removed. “Just let her live out her days. Could be a year, maybe sooner.”
Needing to ground myself, I took the dog to the northern edge of my neighborhood where a tributary of the Harpeth River runs and stepped out onto a wet rock in the water. She sprawled in the cold flow. She’d gone with me on walks, helped me raise two boys, supported me through a divorce. I sat on the stone and let the river move on without me and let its whooshing sound block out the pain of the real world.
There at the river, vines crept and crawled, and exposed tree roots twisted across the banks, as time had washed away their mooring. Leaves from seasons before covered the sides of the creek, as did clumps of coreopsis, patches of clover, and wild roses. Cicadas screamed their primal sounds.
I wanted to scream, too.
All the while the river rushed onward, gushing around slabs of jagged rocks, hell-bent west toward sunset.
Life is like that, too, and so there at the river, I thought about death and how the present is such a brief moment and the future is forever beyond the curtain of that final sunset.
My world would change when sunset came, and I feared the emptiness without her.
I was afraid of death.
There at the river, I asked questions, sought answers. How do I let her go? How do I say good-bye to someone I love? How can I accept the finality of death, save crying with clenched fists and crusted heart at the fiery embers of sunset or recoiling in a fetal ball and closing my eyes to sunrises beyond?
And I knew the whole time I was grieving for her, I was really grieving for my father. His five heart bypasses were twelve years old and he was having other health issues and I knew I was going to lose him. I’d never lost anyone close to me, and I didn’t know what I’d do without him. I couldn’t imagine life going on, the sun ever coming up again.
My retriever died six months after that cicada event.
Now they are back. I step out my door and one swoops down against my neck. Their exoskeletons are clinging to the decking and the arbor, and I step around them as I cross the patio. They are stuck to the ivy, azaleas, and thyme. I can’t let my cocker spaniel, born six months after the last swarm, outside because she eats them—all the transparent shells that have encased the red-bulging-eyed bugs for thirteen years. Apparently, they taste like popcorn. Only they are not digestible.
I am a prisoner to the bugs—forced to hear the swell and ebb and flow of their mating cries and forced to keep the doggy-door closed, not giving my dog access to the yard, which means I can’t go anywhere for a long period of time.
Six years after the last cicadas, my father died. I had already grieved him because I grieved for the retriever. Yet I still felt the loss and it weighed heavy on me and then two years after I buried my father, my husband died and this was uncharted territory because I’d never lost anyone my life depended on, one I was with every single day, and I didn’t have enough time to forge through this grief before my mother died and I went to a deep abyss where there was no light and I was closed in and cocooned and separated from what life here on earth is supposed to be. If I could just scream and call them all back, I would.
So now the cicadas are back and all I can think about is that the last time they were here, so was everybody else, and I wonder if they were heralding death, and now once again their dizzying screams fill up my head.