living the life I want

Taught a writing immersion workshop at the Visual Arts Center this past weekend. Mostly, we sat at different places around a large conference room table and wrote for the better part of six hours. Whenever someone needed a new start – I pulled out another prompt or fiction-writing prompt. In between we talked – mostly about the writing life. I wouldn’t mind offering this class every month or every other month. It’s the sort of structure that would help anyone working on a sustained project who needs or wants the support.

My afterlife play is revised and off to the Firehouse Theatre Playwriting Contest. Tomorrow I do another interview for the oral history project. I plan to launch an Eastern Shore Stories blog next Thursday, with excerpts and photographs from the project.

Everyone thinks I’m off for the summer. Doesn’t feel like it to me – but it’s all work I enjoy. Can’t ask for more than that.


friday art moment

Jeanie Finlay is a UK artist who uses documentary work in an interesting way. Enjoy!


What she says about Home-Maker: “Home-Maker explores what it is like to be housebound, to live your life alone within four walls, focusing on the artefacts that the interviewees collected over a life time and how these objects represent memories and stories from their history. Often the stories are about the person who used to share their life who is no longer with them. The films also document in the intimate nature of the interviews, the close relationship that developed between the artist and the subjects.”

more about Home-Maker

living a life unplugged

I’m where I want to be – away from paint fumes and plaster dust – in a farmhouse where we lack television and internet, where our cell phones don’t get reception. The only reason I’m blogging is that my brother now has wireless at his house … which is down the lane from my unplugged farmhouse … so I’m living a few “wired” moments at their dining room table.

Of course – we watch DVDs on our laptops – so we’re not intentionally fasting from media. Both my brother and my parents have satellite television – thousands of channels for my kid and her cousins to watch. And now – wireless at my brother’s dining room table. It’s hard to live a life unplugged anywhere.

photography antidote

I’m grateful that my biggest problem today is how to expand my afterlife play into a full-length piece of theatre, that my daughter’s biggest problem is learning to ignore a few older kids who will probably tease her later at her Nana’s house, that my husband’s biggest problem is matching the paint we’re using in the living room when he goes to get another gallon, that my mother’s biggest problem is to rest and allow her body to respond to the antibiotics that are killing her infection. We really are fortunate.

Here are some links to pictures of world events from The Big Picture on – the site that prompted my thoughts about gratitude and perspective this morning.

Israeli Settlements in the West Bank

Iran’s Disputed Election

Children in Pakistan

work as a cure for doubt

Questions at the end of the Playing with Words workshop … so familiar, but I’m thinking now of what I didn’t say … that work is the cure for doubt. I write because writing is what I do. And the outcome – publishing or getting it out into the world in some way – is impossible to control. Collecting rejections seems to be part of the process.

I do believe that it’s important for me to send the work out into the world, if only to clear space on my desk and psychic space in my head. So I find deadlines for submissions and treat them like assignments. I’d like to be more businesslike about it – have a set amount of work floating out there all the time – but with school that’s been hard.

The best cure I’ve found for the paralyzing doubt and snipe-y inner critic that emerge viciously when I’ve just slipped work into a mail slot to go out … the best antidote is to have other work to turn to. So I send out a set of three to five poems and then turn to the next deadline and work on that.

I teach another writing workshop in two weeks at the Visual Arts Center – an all-day writing immersion workshop. I need to remember to address the danger of sharing unfinished work … the risk of sharing work early. It is possible to talk away a writing idea. Or to abort it with feedback received too early. Best to let work gestate in darkness and silence, like a seed. Share work when it’s ripe, but not before. That’ll be a very important concept to float around at the all-day writing immersion workshop.

brewing a business

Who knew that getting a business license to operate PirateMom Tutoring would involve a zoning permit? I spent about an hour this morning down at Richmond’s City Hall building, learning what papers / numbers I need to have in order to apply for a business license. Getting the IRS number & the checking account was the simple part.

The woman who waited on me in the zoning office was fantastic – it took about 40 minutes, but now I have a permit I can post in my living room if I want. Mostly it says I plan to use my phone and email, at home, to arrange tutoring sessions with clients – which is exactly what I do.

What’s wild is that my vision for this business is so small … the most I want to tutor is six hours a week … and I’ll definitely be tutoring less than that in the summer and around holidays. If I earn less than $5,000 a year, my business license costs me $0. That’s right – nothing. But I still need to have one. I guess.

I keep thinking that pirates don’t need to have their papers in order. So what am I doing waiting in line at the zoning office to get this nonsensical permit?

Maybe I’m there because I’m gathering material for a writing project that’s brewing as I go through my day, taking care of the mundane details of starting a business and other life minutiae. My creative antennae are out – I can feel them vibrating – so even trips to the post office and to city hall are feeding the idea.

on living the "unblogged life"

To steal a phrase from Neil Gaiman’s blog, I’ve been living the “unblogged life”.

It’s not that I don’t have stuff to blog about. I actually left our house renovation project for about 24 hours and took myself to the Eastern Shore to work on the oral history project. I’d been trying to get there for weeks – between my husband’s surgery, my mother’s surgery, the end-of-the-year-stress in a household of students & teachers, and now the house itself in the turmoil of plastering and scraping and caulking and painting and the displacing of furniture – phew, it’s been hard to pull away.

Isn’t this photo great? This is my grandmother’s brother Tom as a teenager – looking proud, and young, behind the wheel of what is probably a Model T Ford. Our guess is that he’s about 18 years old here – so this would be about 1919 – but it could be earlier. I’m working on another blog for the oral history project. Sometime in July I’ll start posting an excerpt a week from the interviews, hopefully full of pictures like this one. This guy didn’t want to be a farmer – can you tell? He wanted to “go places, to live in town.” His father told him he’d be hungry … his son says that sometimes they were, especially during the Depression.

What do I want this blog to be? That’s the question – it started out as a professional blog, but I don’t know if that’s what it will remain. I’d like to write more about my life as PirateMom – the writer, the mother and wife, the teacher, the country-girl-turned-city-dweller – the one who careens around Richmond, Virginia, in her aging Saturn station wagon with an 80-pound lab/hound mix riding shotgun and a precocious 8-year-old emoting in the back seat. Doesn’t that sound like fun?