Home Is a Handstand

Dear Writers:

I spent part of Thanksgiving break at home in Idaho, staying at the condo of my former gymnastics coach. I slept on a huge air mattress in his office; the mattress is like a big crash pad, so I felt right at home. In the morning, I sat on the comfy “crash pad” in my sweats, hair uncombed, teeth not brushed, and tearfully told Coach how much I still miss IT after all these years.

IT meaning being up on the balance beam, swinging around on the unevens, or flying over the vaulting horse.

IT meaning hanging out in gyms, working out barefoot, owning more leotards than other clothes.

IT meaning the athletic life I’d always thought I’d have as a coach/dancer/choreographer/fitness guru—the specifics weren’t formulated in my teenage mind, but I’d known my career path would be an outgrowth of being a high-level athlete.

I could have still done some of those other things, but along with losing the ability to land my stunts, I also lost my belief in myself.

Idaho Statesman Bars

Me back in the day

I often tell writers that they can get away with anything in a story—as long as they do it boldly. For example, not bothering to have a transition but just hopping over to another part of the story. Poof, we’re there, without even an “and then.”

Actually, please not an “and then.”

Because you have to be enough of a smartass writer to break convention often and wisely. What’s critical though is to understand and to be able to effectively employ the convention that you’re breaking. That’s what I think, and I think I’m right. I’m a pretty skilled editor, especially when it’s not my own story and I’m therefore not traumatized about it and can get in and diagnose its issues.

It’s incredibly fun to figure out what’s not yet working with a story and how to maximize its potential. Because there’s always potential, and there’s always that one awesome thing that made the story worth writing and will make it worth reading. And there’s that awesome author behind the story, who sometimes just needs a little thoughtful coaching to help them keep their stride in the home stretch of their revision.

I crashed on my bar dismount and blew out my knee. Back then, there wasn’t a surgery that could fix it. There was what I call my “I don’t give a rip because I can no longer do gymnastics” era. I took a lot of risks and am alive out of sheer dumb luck. I suppose I was seeking an adrenaline rush. Continue reading

November 2012 Open Mic

Dear Writers,
Stories + Art at November’s Open Mic!

This month we welcomed poet Keith Moul to our midst. He writes poetry that pairs with his photo art, including this gorgeous road-in-the-desert scene. Thank you, Keith, for giving us a lovely backdrop for your reading. (The other backdrop is the half-built holiday sleigh at Village Books.)

Jim Milstead was the night’s opener with a holiday-themed, oh-so-slightly sarcastic poem discussing shopping for the season. Lest we be lulled by a seasonal greeting, next came “Land of Milk and Honeybucket.” Susan Cross followed with traumatic and hilarious memories of prepping Sunday schoolkids for a pageant—Who moved baby Jesus? Nancy Canyon had us in stitches with a new story, “Holy Spirit Delivers,” featuring a character who has a go at a revival meeting in her living room, by herself. Continue reading

September 2012 Open Mic

Dear Writers,
Mopping, I discovered that my kitchen floor is actually light brown.

So how is your floor like your character? It’s not, but if you do the work to fully render the little moments that gradually strip away the layers obscuring your character’s true self, the critical scene in which the last of those layers falls away has potential to be extremely powerful on the page.

On to September’s open mic recap! Continue reading

October 2012 Open Mic

Dear Writers,
October’s open mic was spooky good, frankly.

image from the dabbler.co.uk

Being born on Halloween, I was uniquely qualified to emcee this particular open mic. A few witches showed up to help me cast a spell that called for some eye of newt and toe of frog as well as some scale of dragon, tooth of wolf, gall of goat and a tiger’s chaudron. All of this they stirred into a cauldron. If you haven’t guessed who they were by now, you need to go read your classics. Continue reading

August 2012 Open Mic

Dear Writers,
The talented crowd at this month’s open mic at Village Books did not disappoint! Congratulations to the writers who shared their newly published works and to those joining our company for the first time. Here’s the recap:

C.J. Prince

The smashing C.J. Prince started us off with poems evoking images of mariachi bands, film stars, and the joy of dancing. She is a co-author of the story collection Catching My Breath and will feature in a reading in October. Peter Rust grabbed our attention with a tense scene of discovery from a sci-fi manuscript he’s developing. You can check out Peter’s blog Unashamed Studios. Memoirist Shannon Hager delighted us with an excerpt entitled “God Spoke to Pastor Taylor” from her work Five Thousand Brothers-in-Law. Continue reading

July 2012 Open Mic

Dear Writers,
Our midsummer ensemble at the July open mic at Village Books was a hit! Thanks to Village Books for providing us with a great venue and for its regular support and nurturing of local writers. Here’s the July recap:
Photo: Intellectual look!

Nancy Lou Canyon

Nancy Lou Canyon treated us to a short piece “Jeannie Ann” from her e-book Dark Forest. Her quietly moving prose evoked a past that heavily informs the future. Kudos to Nancy as well for having her beautiful art adorn the walls at Village Books. Rae Ellen Lee, who we all look to for hilarious guidance on spotting geezers, tonight showed us a beautifully different style with a vignette from her childhood, published in Sea of Voices, Isle of Story (TripleTree Publishing 2003). Sporting a Periodic Table of the Elements t-shirt, Jim Milstead amused our group with his clever response to e.e. cummings, but then also turned wonderfully reflective, reading “Appointment.” Dick Harris read from “Midstream,” his blogged work, and not to be outdone on t-shirt night, Dick had on his shirt from the 2000 Iowa Summer Writing Festival, where he is an eleven-time alum! Continue reading

June 2012 Open Mic

Dear Writers,

We got mobbed by the geezer gang at open mic! Here’s who was there and what they read:

Her astrologer determined that CJ Prince would write about sex and death, so no surprise that she launched the night with pieces titled “One Night Stand,” “Hot,” and “Vanity.” After we broke for cold showers, Carol Hunter resumed with a very moving piece on the fallout of the drug war in Mexico. Dianne Meyer shared a beautiful and humorous tribute to a writing friend, “Ethel, When Last Seen.” Vince Laudi offered two protest pieces—”The Gun Lobbyist” and “Our God is Better than Your God”—along with “Coal Train,” a spoken song in search of a melody. Janet Oakley beautifully read “Technicolor Dreams,” published in the anthology A Cup of Comfort for Women.

Continue reading