12.17.18

Holidays Drawing Near

Posted in Animals, Life in general, On writing at 10:59 am by Marion

Winter means quieter days, especially this time of year. It gives us all a chance to reflect, to plan, and to appreciate what we have right now.

This year is different, as I have returned to my novel. It means spending hours a day in that world, disconnected from this one. I have to keep up with regular responsibilities, freelance, bills, banking, returning calls. I also have my critters to take care of.

In the end, I hope I’ll have several hundred pages to share with you.

Guiding me are three principles:
What is the story
Is it important
Can I tell it

I also struggle with my overall approach:
Sweeping, broad, complex (Russian novel)
Succinct, moving, lean (du Maurier)

I tend toward writing like the Russians. The only concern is I may not finish if I cram everything I’d like to in there.

12.14.18

Dog Days … are Every Day

Posted in Animals, Buddhism, Cats, Dogs, Life in general at 6:54 pm by Marion

Tony, a gentle Walker hound at the Pitt County Animal Shelter

Yes I am a writer, but as most of you know I am a fierce animal advocate. I’ve joined as a volunteer shelter dog walker, through an amazing program at ECU (led by Dr. Melanie Sartore-Baldwin). Dr. Baldwin enrolls students in the program to study kinetic movement, and its effect. But the real treat is for the dogs … who get out of their pens about three times a week.

The community can join too. That’s how I participate. Often on Sundays after my long runs, I’ll head to the shelter in my running clothes. It was hot last summer, and today I walked in the chilly rain.

The doggies are not perfect, and indeed, they often have never – EVER – been given human attention. So they simply don’t know what to do. Champ is a big pittie who loves to hump my leg. He just doesn’t know better. He chases cars, too.

I always love to spend time with the hounds. Today, I sat in the pen with Tony and stroked his sweet face. Another hound girl was in quarantine. I’ve named her Sheila.

Animals lack the ability to choose evil. That’s why they are “innocent,” and we are not. We are fallen. We are born into a sinful nature, because we will intentionally choose to harm another being.

That’s why it’s incumbent on us to protect animals, children, the elderly, the poor, and other vulnerable people.

Do you have a nearby shelter? If so, why not go find your new best friend! Or maybe take a few dogs to walk.

12.12.18

More on Writing

Posted in Life in general, On writing at 4:05 pm by Marion

Writers share many traits but if I had to guess … I would say losing track of time is high on their list of commonalities.

How do writers lose time, and why? It’s nearly an occupational hazard for writers. That’s because writing – especially a novel – requires us to sit down and genuinely work at disconnecting from the world around us. Indeed, it’s necessary if we are to write.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve worked on my novel. That’s because to start means to lose about four hours. Yes, to review my notes, read what I’ve written so far, review my plot outlines, characters, and motivations … well that’s a couple of hours. Then to have their next actions come to me, along with the weather that day, other people and their actions, dialogue, and feelings, clothing, colors, landscapes … that’s several more hours.

And like all other writers, we labor under the need to publish. That’s for the basic reason that we need income, but most of all, we like finishing a beautiful project.

So for me, it’s been better and more accessible to wrap up an analysis, presentation, or freelance project, rather than pick up my novel.

It’s coming though. I’ll take those four hours to get back in the bath. Then I’ll race against time and my own impatient nature to get a few chapters written.

Thanks for tuning into Fiction Daily.

08.08.18

My World and Jack’s

Posted in Kerouac, Life in general, On writing, Writers at 10:06 am by Marion

This morning opened with a 6.2-mile run, begun before sunrise and ending just as the day warmed. My friend remarked the moon’s cusp was so bright, the dark half also shone. I get a sense of the physical sphere up there, the Moon as object, when the Dark Side is illuminated. Looking up at the Moon I feel my own life more concretely.

After many years focusing on research, data, and analysis – and really forcing all my right-brain creativity into a narrow left-brain chute – I have emerged on the other side. I opened up the novel files to see if I still cared. Imagine my astonishment: Not only do I still care, but I have so much narrative stored inside that took shape over the last eight years.

Yes, opening those files and reading that opening, I felt my own breath, my own life, return. I am different now than when I started the novel in 2002. Among many other life changes, I am now eight years divorced – as compared with two years’ married. 16 years is a long time, and yet for the life of the novel, what matters is not the years, but my own understanding. And for that, I am grateful. My artistic vision now is more polished. Thanks to many years as a data gal, I am also more focused and disciplined. My thoughts still unmoored in many ways, and yet they are no longer so fragmented and unconnected. I see the thread of narrative now. I respect the tedium of explanation, although it’s still not a strong point.

Back to Kerouac. I revisited his home with a friend in June. I am revisiting that time in his life, roughly 1952-1957, or the years prior to On the Road’s publication.

I’d like to explore those years more, define them. I’m not sure that’s been done. No, I’m not Ann Charters (the amazing Kerouac scholar). But I feel affinity with Kerouac for any number of reasons.

His first language was French, my second, nearly native, is also French. I think, feel, express myself, and experience the world differently in French. I believe he did, as well.

We also share a Christian mysticism, along with curiosity about, and dedication to, Buddhist principles.

Last, there is the mystery of nature which Kerouac embraced. Indeed, it may be at the heart of his travels. His road stories focus on the surroundings, the freedom of space and setting. His stories about Big Sur, his letters about writing often focus on the woods. There’s usually a trail nearby, especially in works outside of On the Road.

I’ll post chapters as I complete them, unedited as they are. “The secret of writing is the rhythm of urgency,” Kerouac said. With this window in my life, there is urgency.

06.16.18

Visiting Kerouac 3.0

Posted in Life in general at 8:48 am by Marion

Kerouac in Rocky Mount, Eight Years Later

It’s been almost a decade since I contributed to this blog. That happened for a number of reasons, primarily my divorce and the precarious situation I found myself in, at times, taking care of myself, my house, 6 to 8 animals at the time, and running marathons. I can’t say I’ve perfectly found my footing, but without question my life has exploded in all the best ways. I completed an advanced policy degree, the Master of Public Administration at East Carolina University; I have work that I love; and a home full of animals who give my life structure and fill it with joy.

But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about heading to Rocky Mount on a familiar pilgrimage to the house where Jack Kerouac lived and wrote during the years 1955-56. He finished On the Road in 1951, but it wasn’t published until 1957. He did most of his living and writing in those in-between years.

01.15.10

Till-ing Time

Posted in Life in general at 11:33 am by Marion

Figuratively Speaking

Today, a long-overdue look at an Old English word written in many ways and having many meanings.

Yet it’s a simple word of four letters, sometimes three.

Till allows us to dig in the ground, since it means to prepare and cultivate land for planting crops. My grandparents would till their land each spring to raise food crops for the summer.

This form of “till” comes from the Old English “tilian,” which means to strive for, or obtain by effort, from German, zielen.

Till also reflects our interest in money — a word I learned working in restaurants (along with “chit,”referring to money owed and in the restaurant business, the money totals for each wait staff. It comes from the Hindi word for note).

The till is the cash drawer in a store, bank or restaurant. We know the expression to have one’s fingers in the till — meaning to steal from the place where one works.

This form of till comes from Middle English in a general sense of a drawer for valuables.

Interestingly, till also refers to boulder clay or unstratified sediments, from a Scots word for shale.

Last, I’d like to mention till as a short form of until, which is often shortened to ’till or written as ’till.

I never know how to write this shortened form. I always vacillate between ’til and ’till, feeling that ’til is just to short. The dictionary says till is a short, informal variation of until, and that until usually appears in writing.

Until is a composite of till, which came from the Old English til, related to Norse til. Until came about when we tacked on und, meaning “as far as” from the Old Norse.

By the way, this sense of until — “up to (the point in time or event mentioned)” comes from the combination of und, as far as + till, cultivating the land for crops.

Back to till and til, ’till and ’til — a look at the AP Stylebook cleared things up. Till, but never ’til.

Too bad I waited until today to figure that one out.

12.23.09

Miracle on 40-Second Street

Posted in Computers & Technology, Events, Life in general at 8:26 am by Marion

Launching into the routine this morning of warming the kettle, dishing the coffee and the fairly tedious act of filling the coffee maker without spilling water all over the counter and myself, I waited for the reassuring sound of coffee brewing.

Hildegarde the cat was meowing (and it’s quite a lot of racket). I’m scooping food into three tiny cat bowls, pouring oats into another one for me, and I peer up at the counter, listening for the popping, steaming and dripping, the coffee miracle.

That sound did not come. I don’t know what would be worse, going without coffee, or driving in Christmas traffic to a retail store to buy a new one. The blank shelves, stripped of their contents, the half-opened boxes and shelf models all that remain. The sheer panic of seeing all the strangers that emerge from their hiding places at Christmas, that remind me the South is still a bizarre and Gothic place.

Fortunately, we have a press pot on hand for times like these that needs no filter or electricity. In the end, it’s the fail-safe option for coffee.

Never one to give up, I unplugged the coffeemaker for a few minutes, then tried again — after I’d had coffee from the press pot — and waited, my hand on the hotplate, for warmth. And got it! Yes, the coffeemaker seemed to come back to life.

Of all the Christmas wonders, this one may top the list this year. A working coffeemaker!

Santa, you’re too good.

09.03.09

A Book, Two Dogs & Thee…

Posted in Book reviews, Life in general, Writers at 8:53 am by Marion

In Which the Writer Takes a Vacation

Greetings from the top secret vacation spot of yours truly. I had no idea how great it would be to get away with the dogs … and spend a few days looking out a window at the ocean.

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Yesterday I purchased a fresh new First Edition of Thomas Pynchon’s just-released novel, “Inherent Vice.” What a dreamy read, so far. This reclusive writer knows how to craft a sentence.

Here’s an example

Doc took the freeway out. The eastbound lanes teemed with VW buses in jittering paisleys, primer-coated street hemis, woodies of authentic Dearborn pine, TV-star-piloted Porches, Cadillacs carrying dentists to extramarital trysts, windowless vans with lurid teen dramas in progress inside, pickups with mattresses full of country cousins from the San Joaquin, all wheeling along together down into these great horizonless fields of housing, under the power transmission lines, everybody’s radios lasing on the same couple of AM stations, under a sky like watered milk, and the whilte bombardment of a sun smogged into only a smear of probability, out in whose light you began to wonder if anything you’d call psychedelic could ever happen, or if — bummer! — all this time it had really been going on up north.

He sparingly drops in those sentences — perfectly wrapped creations — so they stand out in eye-popping wonder. Other, shorter, sentences ring sonorous with far more melody than they hold in meaning or plot.

Will keep you posted in Fiction Dailyland … and wishing all a Happy Labor Day.

PS
… My step dad, Sim Wilde, retired academic dean, essayist and fiction writer, has begun a blog. You can check it out here. Expect his personal flavor of salt-of-the-earth stories, poems and reflections.

08.17.09

Mayberry Monday

Posted in Events, Life in general at 10:44 am by Marion

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Just a happy photo of Mayberry Walker Hound for Monday. Photo by Greg Eans

08.11.09

Mayberry: The True Story

Posted in Events, Life in general at 9:18 am by Marion

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I’ve had Mayberry for a few months now, and he is showing himself to be a wonderful dog, and a truly worthy successor to Annie. I couldn’t have imagined I’d luck up twice now, but it seems I have.

Readers of this blog know how I first met Mayberry, coming across his listing on Petfinder.com one weekend. I arranged a rendezvous with his foster mom, who had also rescued Annie nearly 10 years ago. Though he appeared a wreck of a dog — lumbering, scarred, with an uneven gait — he placed his big whiskery head in my lap, and I fell for him.

I brought him home about a week later. Since then, I have marveled at his stature and his stubbornness. This dog will stop in the middle of the road on our walks and refuse to budge, forcing me to either pull him by the neck or push him from behind. Treats thrown down the street will work, but not always.

Last weekend, however, I learned more of the big guy’s story when I ran into his foster mom and other animal volunteers at PetsMart.

One person told me Mayberry was at PetsMart every weekend for a year, hoping for adoption. People passed him by, week after week, as he looked out at them from the big pen.

She also told me how kind and patient he was, never growling or fussing with the other dogs. How he tried to sit in her lap every time she rested beside him in the pen.

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A year waiting for adoption! Rejected time and again!! The thought just broke my heart.

The heroic lady who rescued him also told me how when she took him from his previous owner, in addition to having nearly starved to death, he was in a filthy pen and covered with “everything,” she said.

He has tested positive for Lyme antibodies, and I think he must have been exposed during his previous life. She agreed that since he has not shown symptoms of the disease in the 1 1/2 years she had him, I can feel pretty good that he was exposed to the disease, but with any luck will not contract it.

When I got home I couldn’t wait to give him a big hug. It’s pretty certain this guy has won the lottery.

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And he’s earned it too. Not just with his previous years of suffering, but also with his behavior these days. As I write, he is sharing his big bed with our cat Garbo, who is hogging the lion’s share of it, so to speak.

Over the weekend, I was visited by one of my favorite neighbors, a 10-year-old girl who comes over to visit the animals from time to time. She sat on the floor with Mayberry, petting him, ruffling his fur, patting his head and doing everything short of pulling on his tail. I kept a close watch to see if he was getting annoyed, but to the contrary, he curled up beside her as close as he could get.

So while no one can ever replace dear Annie, the great Bodhisattva and Zen dog, I feel overwhelmingly blessed to have found Mayberry.

And, he might say, the feeling’s mutual.

ON THAT NOTE, if you haven’t seen it yet, this article describes new research showing dogs are at least as smart as human 2-year olds. As I’ve always said, any animal that I have to spell words around has got to be pretty smart.

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