Friday Five: The Color Edition


I’m currently reading R.A. Nelson’s DAYS OF LITTLE TEXAS, and came across this line:
The next morning the sun comes up like three-day old orange juice. 

And I thought, wow.

Later, I was hooping while listening to Regina Spektor, and heard this:
Blue lips, blue veins
Blue, the color of our planet
From far, far away

So then I started thinking about colors
and how they can create such powerful imagery.

I grabbed a book off my nightstand, Laraine Herring’s WRITING BEGINS WITH THE BREATH,
and found this:
The yellow, diamond-shaped sign with the words "SNOW ZONE" on it was covered with snow,
revealing only "S  W   NE" to drivers.

From my bookshelf I opened T.C. Boyle’s THE TORTILLA CURTAIN to this:
His hair was red, for one thing — not the pale wispy carrot-top  Delaney had inherited from his Scots-Irish mother, but the deep shifting auburn you saw on the flanks of horses in an uncertain light.

Besides his workbench and chair there was a heavy safe in the corner, a lavatory with a greenish mirror, and shelves full of boxes and worn-out clocks.

Can’t you just picture all that?
Wishing each of you a glorious weekend filled with COLOR and life!

That’s what she said

said, "Carol Lynch Williams has created some kind of miracle in the THE CHOSEN ONE" and she was right. I finished reading it yesterday and could not stop thinking about it. High stakes and lovely writing.

said, "A beginning is filled with so much hope." Jeannine was referring to the blank page at the beginning of a project and I realized that that hope is what keeps me in the writing game. Each time I start a new book, I know the sky’s the limit on what I can accomplish.

Zippy’s mother once said "We’re talking about rulers and we end up talking about blue-green algae. Isn’t that strange?" I dug that 12/23/91 gem out of my old quote book because this past week I spent the day with my in-laws and was reminded how odd yet fun it is being a part of that family. (Although sometimes the odd outweighs the fun).

Anne Lamott said, "Hey, who fucking cares?" when she was in the bathtub, feeling down on herself as she stared at her post-pregnancy thighs. I think Anne’s wisdom applies to an awful lot of stuff in my 47-year-old life. Feel free to remind me of this sentiment when I fall into a shame spiral.

Creativity Reminder

For any and all of my creative friends out there, some wise words from
Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day songwriter, singer-guitarist……..

"If you’re at that place where you’re working hard
but don’t feel like you know what you’re doing anymore,
then you’re on to something."

Sounds as if he knows a bit about the muddle in the middle.


Naked Dreaming

When I was going to school here for my teaching credential, I took a class on dream interpretation from a soft-spoken professor named George Jackson.  He taught us the Jungian approach to working dreams and told us to drink a glass of water before going to bed and to keep a notebook and pen next to the bed so we could write down our dreams when we got up to pee.

George said an unworked dream is like an unread letter.
I think about that a lot.
Which isn’t to say I work all my dreams.
I don’t.
Not for quite some time.

This morning I had a dream between waking with Zippy and when it was time for me to get up.
Don’t worry.
I won’t bore you with the details.

Suffice to say it included
a slide
swimming pool
and an LJ friend who recently sold two books.

The dream was rife with symbolism.
And at first I thought it did not bode well for me and my career.
But as I let the symbols and feelings flow and connect,
I realized it was a perfectly wonderful dream.

And not just because it included a tall, super-fast slide.


Writing at the Intersection of Past and Present

I feel guilty sometimes.  Forty-three years old and I’m still writing war stories.  My daughter Kathleen tells me it’s an obsession, that I should write about a little girl who finds a million dollars and spends it all on a Shetland pony.  In a way, I guess she’s right:  I should forget it.  But the thing about remembering is that you don’t forget.  You take your material where you find it, which is in your life, at the intersection of past and present.  The memory-traffic feeds into a rotary up in your head, where it goes in circles for a while, then pretty soon imagination flows in and the traffic merges and shoots off down a thousand different streets.  As a writer, all you can do is pick a street and go for the ride, putting things down as they come at you.  That’s the real obsession.  All those stories.
                                                                        – – – from THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O’Brien



The most significant dreams came to me shortly after my friend Pete died.  He was actually murdered.  One night I entered into a dream and Pete was there.   He said, "I want to take you to this place where I live."  I thought, Well, that’s interesting.  When we arrived, I saw it was a wonderful idyllic setting with a lot of creatures flying around: elephants, camels, people.  I said, "I’d like to try flying myself."  And he said, "Sure, but since you’re not dead, you have to go over to that booth there and rent some wings.  They’re only a quarter."  I said, "Great," and I went and rented the wings.

I took off, and I was flying around with all the other people, having a wonderful time.  All of a sudden, I realized, "This is ridiculous.  How can I fly with these twenty-five-cent wings?"  Immediately I started to fall.  I was terrified I was going to die.  Then I thought, Wait a minute, I was just flying a minute ago, and I started flying again.  I went back and forth with this — falling and flying, falling and flying — until it finally dawned on me what this was about.  I said to myself: It is not these wings that enable you to fly, it’s your own confidence.
                 – – – Amy Tan in WRITERS DREAMING: Twenty-six Writers Talk About Their Dreams
                        and the Creative Process


Apropos of Nothing

“As an autobiographer I don’t seem to have to dream. There’s a place I get to that’s a little like dreaming. Almost dreaming but I’m awake. It’s an enchantment.
You know, from the age of seven and a half to twelve and a half I was a mute. I believed at the time that I could make myself, my whole body, an ear. And I could absorb all sound. Those years I must have done something to my brain, or with it, so that the part of the brain which would have been occupied in the articulation of speech and the creation of sound, those electrical synapses, did something else with themselves. They just reinvented themselves so that I’m able to remember incredible amounts of data. I would say I get along reasonably well in about seven or eight languages. I have spoken as many as twelve. I have taught in three. I seem to have total recall or none at all. And so, when I need to get inside myself, I can do it without going to sleep.”

—Maya Angelou in WRITERS DREAMING: Twenty-six Writers Talk About Their Dreams
and the Creative Process

(Sometimes I pull a book off the shelf and see what jumps out at me. This is what I found today. Possibly the universe is suggesting I shut up and listen a bit more. Today’s goal: become an ear.)

Agnes Tames the Voices

I’m fortunate enough to have R’s raspy voice as my secret weapon for keeping the nasty voices at bay. But if anyone out there still needs help getting the cranial naysayers to shut the beep up, you might want to try this approach:

AGNES by Tony Cochran (8/20/08)

Mature Writing Advice

Paging through WRITING IN FLOW by Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., I came across a passage from author Tom Robbins that I’d highlighted (with an ! in the margin) during an earlier reading.  I’m going to share it here not because it’s a practice I share (really!  truly!) but because the whole thing makes me laugh:

        “You should spend thirty minutes a day looking at dirty pictures.  Or thinking about sex.  The purpose of this is to get yourself sexually excited, which builds tremendous amounts of energy, and then carry that into your work….Keep yourself in, not necessarily a frenzied state, but in a state of great intensity….You should always write with an erection. Even if you’re a woman.”

Having read his books, this advice shouldn’t surprise me.  In fact, it explains an awful lot about how Sissy Hankshaw came to be. 

And I’m thinking there might be other fun advice out there in LJ-Land on losing yourself so completely in your writing that you enter some altered state in which time disappears and you’re tapping into the creative core of the universe.  

Anyone want to share?



I’ve set a running goal for myself to place in the top fifteen in my age group this Memorial Day in the Bolder Boulder 10k.  I’m dedicated to making that happen; I participated in a winter training group and am now in a 10k spring training program.  I’m following the weekly workouts.  I have a coach available to answer questions and boost my morale when necessary.  I’m confident I’m going to reach my goal.

And now I’m trying to figure out how this whole confidence thing works.  The good thing about running is the results are objective; the clock doesn’t lie.  So when I’m running intervals until my lungs burn I try to remember that the pain is an investment in my 10k performance, and I push on through.  But it’s more difficult pushing myself in the writing life.  Lately as I work on revisions, it’s easy to falter and second-guess.  I know my writing has improved in the ten-plus years since I began my first novel but instead of measuring up against a stop watch, my performance is evaluated by editors.   So far I haven’t placed, much less in the top fifteen.

My hope is that as I continue to train, getting stronger and faster, my runner’s confidence will overflow into my writing life. 

“If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Name that Book!

I got this from

.  The following first lines are from books on my nightstand and in the bookcase next to my desk in the office.  Here’s hoping you do better guessing the sources than I did with Melodye’s list.  (Sigh).

 1)  In the fall of 1995, after resigning from my last academic post, I decided to indulge myself and fulfill a dream.

 2)  When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind:  Paul Newman and a ride home.

 3)  You grow up with a kid but you never really notice him.

 4)  First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey.

 5)  To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.

 6)  “I thought you said you read The Book,” said Sam.

 7)  Mum says, “Don’t come creeping into our room at night.”

 8)  A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head.

 9)  All you fish, listen up.

10)  Popularity is a drug.

 11) Jewel and I come up from the field, following the path in single file.

 12) I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I’m old, and you said, I don’t think you’re old.

13) In one of my earliest memories, my mother and I are on the front porch of our rented Carter Avenue house watching two delivery men carry our brand-new television set up the steps.

Find the answers here:

 2)  THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton
 3)  LOSER by Jerry Spinelli
 5)  THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
 6)  THE NOT-SO-JOLLY ROGER by John Scieszka
 7)  DON’T LET’S GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT by Alexandra Fuller
 8)  A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES by John Kennedy Toole
 9)  HARRY SUE by Sue Stauffacher
10) SO NOT THE DRAMA by Paula Chase 
11) AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
12) GILEAD by Marilynne Robinson
13) SHE’S COME UNDONE by Wally Lamb


Not Knowing

Readers suspend disbelief and writers suspend disbelief because writing and reading are acts of faith along the path to knowledge, not just one particular knowledge but any knowledge that is part of the essential truths lurking to be shared by the reader and the writer and all those people in that story, that are coming not to just one conclusion but many conclusions, that follow not one path but many paths, because the writing and the story are not just about one thing but many things, and in this essential multifarious way writing is an embrace of all the complexity of not knowing and wanting to know and getting to know and all the contradictions that reside therein, and that has been our task, on these paths, all of us – writer, reader, character – to embrace those contradictions.

                            —Fred G. Leebron’s “Not Knowing” from THE ELEVENTH DRAFT:           Craft and the Writing Life from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop



Just pulled Eudora Welty’s ONE WRITER’S BEGINNINGS from the shelf and opened the book to a page (p. 17) I’d marked when reading it several years ago.  This was highlighted:

The future story writer in the child I was must have taken unconscious note and stored it away then: one secret is liable to be revealed in the place of another that is harder to tell, and the substitute secret when nakedly exposed is often the more appalling.

Eudora Welty wanted her mother to tell her where babies came from but the mother always spoke around the issue, never coming out with the facts.   But one day Eudora happened upon a small white box that held two nickels, and she ran to her mother for permission to spend them.  That was when Eudora learned a baby had been born before her, a brother who had died.  “And these two nickels that I’d wanted to claim as my find were his. They had lain on his eyelids, for a purpose untold and unimaginable.”