Archive | writing

so I wrote a book…

Last year, at the tender age of 49, I was delighted to be included in two fantastic anthologies: You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth, edited by the brilliantly funny Leslie Marinelli of The Bearded Iris and In The Powder Room; and The Herstory Project, edited by the equally talented Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger.

What’s that you say? You don’t have either of these books on your shelf? Get thee to a bookseller pronto, my friend.

And now –well, not quite now, but soon — my very own book will be joining those books in the hazy labryinth of amazon.  Yes. The Time Locket will be available in kindle format this week, so you can order this time-traveling, history-bending adventure story just in time for Valentine’s Day.

TheTimeLocket_Cover

Continue Reading · on February 10, 2014 in Abu Dhabi, Books, writing

The HerStories Project

It’s been a big week out here in the ‘Dhabs, I have to say, starting with the Rain Day two weeks ago.

What is this “rain day,” you ask? Well, my dears, that’s when the serene desert skies bust open and it pours, like a veritable rainpocalypse.

Or at least, that’s what you think it is if you grew up in the desert. For those of us who grew up in parts of the world with, you know, weather, it was just kind of wet and windy.  But the schools closed at noon because people were afraid of flooding. Or getting wet. Or something.

Big Event Number One.

Then? Less than a week later, schools were closed because Dubai won its bid to host the World Expo 2020.  We got the notification that schools were closing at 10:15 PM on Wednesday.  Schools closed Thursday, which was Thanksgiving Day in the US but here was — theoretically, anyway — a work day.

Big Event Number Two.

Then the day after Expo Holiday, our dear friends and neighbors hosted the fourth annual expat Thanksgiviing, with many small children, several new babies, three turkeys, the best sweet potatoes I’ve ever had in my life, and way too many pies. (Although really, can you have enough pie? )

Big Event Number Three.

Then? National Day Weekend, which meant two more days off from school and work, plus parades, air shows, decorated cars, fireworks, and of course, silly string. (All you want to know about National Day: here, and here, and here.)

Big Event Number Four.

And now? As if all of that isn’t enough? Now, I’m going to blow the horns and bang the gongs for the publication of a wonderful anthology, edited by Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger.  These two writers have put together The HerStories Project (Histories, HerStories, get it?), and have included an essay of mine in this volume, which includes writing from Alexandra Rosas, Galit Breen, and an introduction by Jill Smokler, aka Scary Mommy.

And THAT is Big Event Number Five, which pretty much trumps all the others.

Guess what? You don’t have to admire the book from afar — oh no,  my friends, you can get one for your very own self.  Plus it’s holiday season, so you can get one for pretty much everyone else you know. See? Holiday shopping, fait accompli.  You’re welcome.

 

 

Continue Reading · on December 6, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, Books, expat, Feminism, reading, UAE, writing

in defense of poetry, with apologies to Percy Shelley

I spent about six weeks this semester teaching and talking about poetry with my students.  Almost to a person, they started the term with “eh…I don’t much like poetry,” and “I don’t get poetry,” and “what the hell is poetry even about, anyway?”

All reasonable questions, I guess, for students who have grown up in a world where they almost never encounter poetry, other than in song lyrics or spoken-word events.  Poetry, they tell me, is intimidating; it doesn’t make sense; it’s too complicated; it’s weird.

Full disclosure: I spent most of high school and all of college writing poetry. Whenever I’d get too philosophical during those late-conversations about Life that seem only to happen between the ages of 18-22 and only between the hours of 12-4AM, my friends would say “oh go write a poem,” as a way to get me to be quiet.

I kept writing poetry even after college—-poetry workshops, sending things off to magazines, the whole deal—-and stopped only when I got to graduate school, which pretty much thrashed every creative bone out of my body. Took me decades to get the graduate school’s pinched-face editor in my head to stop saying things like “maudlin!” “derivative!” and “you call that writing?”

All of which is to say is that although I knew my students wouldn’t be excited about spending all this time reading poetry, I was looking forward to spending time with words, nothing but words.  Someone said once that poetry is language calling attention to itself, and while I think poetry can be much more than that, that idea isn’t a bad place to start.  Poetry gives us a chance to think about how words feel in our mouths and sound out loud; poetry’s language works by compressing, distilling, wringing an experience or idea to a kind of essence that works on us in ways that we might not ever really understand.

We roamed through Seamus Heaney’s “Digging,” in which a gun transforms to a spade transforms to a pen in the hand of the poet; we looked at John Donne’s “Batter my heart three person’d god,” in which faith becomes a kind of ravishment, a physical experience; we talked about the bleak beauty in some of Anna Akhmatova’s lines; and marveled at the incandescent anger of Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy.”  The students put aside “it’s weird,” or perhaps, actually, they began to embrace the weird; they let themselves roam around inside the poems and not insist on absolute meanings.  And I got, perhaps, a little carried away by the whole thing and put a sign on my office door that said “Today’s Poem,” and then every day, I would post a new poem — a famous poem, an obscure poem, prose poem, haiku, nabati lyric — all kinds of poems.

One of the poems I put on my door is Ezra Pound’s imagist poem about being in the French Metro, called, fittingly, “In a station of the metro.”  It reads like this:

The apparition       of these faces       in the crowd:
Petals      on a wet, black    bough.

And yes, that’s what it looks like on the page, and yes, that’s the entire poem.  And yes, it’s a little weird.

But you know? Think about being in a crowded subway station, on a rainy day. Think about the blur of faces. Now think about the blur of wet, say, cherry blossoms on a dark branch.

See?

In his essay “Defence of Poetry,” Percy Bysshe Shelley (every time I say his name in class someone giggles, and I totally get it), said “Reason is the enumeration of qualities already known; imagination is the perception of the value of those qualities, both separately and as a whole. Reason respects the differences, and imagination the similitudes of things. Reason is to imagination as the instrument to the agent, as the body to the spirit, as the shadow to the substance.”

I guess the student who scrawled this comment at the bottom of the Pound poem wanted to live in a world governed entirely by reason. That strikes me as incredibly limited, and not a little bit sad.

IMG_7485Doesn’t make sense. Quit wasting paper.

Continue Reading · on November 13, 2013 in Books, Education, language, NaBloPoMo, reading, teaching, writing

NaBloPoMo: Day 10

Erica, over at yeahwrite, asked me to write a guest post for Day 10 of this month o’blogging.  My post about wrushing into writing (see what I did there?) is up at yeahwrite today, so click over there  — and while you’re there, click around on the grid and read some of the other writers who have committed to posting every day (and may well end up being committed by month’s end).

Continue Reading · on November 10, 2013 in NaBloPoMo, writing

in which I try to avoid cliches about Italy

Memory works in peculiar ways, doesn’t it? I mean, I know that when we were traveling in Italy a few weeks ago, I was tempted to leave my bickering children at the top of Vesuvius as an offering for the gods but now, weeks later, what remains in my mind is a blur of ancient beauty, tiny streets, motor scooters, and meals comprised exclusively of variations on cheese, tomatoes, and bread (which is, I think, what gets eaten in heaven, if there is such a place).

But in trying to write about this trip, as was the case when we went to India, I find myself frustrated.  If I talk about laundry hanging off balconies, sheets flapping against the bricks, it’s as if I’m describing the opening shot of an old Sophia Loren movie.

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If I tell you about the Mediterranean light splashing across peeling pastel buildings, I’m channeling every bad romance-in-Italy movie ever made.

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Should I tell you instead about walking out of our lovely little hotel in the Piazza Decumani in Naples, on a Sunday morning with bells ringing across the city to call the faithful to Mass?  And that further down the narrow cobblestone street (awash in garbage, it being Naples), we heard glorious opera pouring from an open window, a secular celebration of the morning? By the late afternoon, however, the morning music had been replaced with the scents of cooking garlic and onions, so fragrant that we were stumbling with hunger.

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Maybe instead I should describe a narrow street in Rome, where cars bump alongside pedestrians shopping for vegetables and people sit at cafe tables sipping wine, a barely functional chaos?

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See what I mean? Italy has been a subject for millenia, long enough to make me glad I’m not Italian: I’d be paralyzed by all that history, all that beauty, all that language.  (Frank Bruni offers a somewhat bleaker view of history’s weight in a recent op-ed piece, here).

Instead I’ll go with these pictures taken inside a church, San Giovanni Decollato, in Rome. It’s a private church and gaining access can be complicated, unless you know someone with a key, and keys are only given to those in the brotherhood or descendants of those who were in the brotherhood of the church. It’s straight out of Dan Brown, isn’t it? And unbelievably, our friend G., whose family belonged to the order, and his wonderful wife, unlocked the church with a satisfyingly big key, and let us walk around inside.  There was a lot of decollato; I couldn’t decide if going to a church with decorations like these would hold my interest during dull sermons or terrify me into leaving the church completely.  Probably the latter, given my heathenish proclivities.

IMG_1059above the altar (Caleb was very fond of the bleeding neck detail)

IMG_1062head on a plate (detail from ceiling fresco)

IMG_1058skulls were everywhere in the church: memento mori

The church was beautiful, a tiny gem tucked into a corner of Rome we never would have found on our own.

I don’t know. I’m beginning to think that Rick and Ilsa may have had it wrong: maybe everything would’ve been different for them if instead of having Paris, they’d had Rome.

 

 

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Continue Reading · on October 29, 2013 in expat, family, Kids, Travel, writing

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