Each semester I look around the circle of young writers gathered for one of my writing workshops, smile, and say, “So I have a little homework assignment for y’all.” They always dutifully pick up their pens and start to open their notebooks, but I stop them, laughing, “You don’t need to write this down. I think you’ll remember.” I smile, lean forward, teasing them with a deliberate dramatic pause, and give them my favorite assignment ever. “I’m sending you to Dirt Church.” “What? Where?” Yep. Dirt Church. A phrase my mama used to describe her … Continue reading Struggling With Details? Try a Little DIRT CHURCH
Charlottesville’s own WriterHouse just celebrated its fifth anniversary. For any organization, five years is a nice healthy stretch of time. In a virtually all-volunteer one, it’s exemplary. I say this with a certain amount of pride, because I’ve been an active member of WriterHouse almost from the very beginning. That is, it was founded in May and my membership dates from August of the same year. I’ve taken classes, attended readings, heard from visiting authors, and for the past couple years, volunteered with a group that helps keep the building open for use during … Continue reading Write Locally
A few days ago I was in the Ramada Inn off Interstate 4 in Altamonte Springs, somewhere in central Florida. My son sat on the bed surfing the web and my daughter, her back against the headboard, legs stretched out under the sheets, balanced a Mac on her lap. From out of my son’s computer came a little boy’s shrill cry, “Charlie bit me.” And again, a high-pitched wail, “Ouch, Charlie bit me.” “What in the world?” “Mom, it’s Youtube,” my son said, “Watch this.” He clicked the play icon and a video of a … Continue reading House of Mirrors
[frame align=”right”][/frame]Here on the eve of a noisy election, I am experiencing what some have referred to as media fatigue. There was a song in the Sixties about “useless information” and lately I find myself talking back to the TV journalists, snarling at the screen, mouthing and mumbling like an adolescent at the back of the class. “So what?” and “Who cares?” Well, I do care, but right now I long for white space. In my life and on the page. I flip through travel brochures and stare at the photographs—the lost city of Petra, … Continue reading Are We There Yet?
[frame align=”right”][/frame]I missed the most recent big weather event in Virginia, the wall of wind storms that swept through several states, tearing down trees and power lines. As a child spending summers in the Mississippi Delta I was always perplexed when my uncle and aunt, cotton and soy bean farmers, would demand immediate quiet the minute the weather report came on the TV. A solemn silence, an almost sacred dread and expectation, filled the room. In recent visits, I have noticed a square computer like machine, called a data transmission network that relays weather pattern … Continue reading Derecho
[frame align=”right”][/frame]This morning I sit on my porch and gaze across the bottom lands and pastures of the James River valley. I open up my journal, swipe my fingers across its soft green leather cover, the embossed Celtic design like a brail pattern slides beneath my fingertips. A green satin ribbon curls in the journal’s crease. The pages measure five and a half inches wide from the seam of the spine to the paper’s edge. No more, no less. Lined. For a long time I would not write in journals with lines. Lines forced me … Continue reading On Keeping a Journal
[frame align=”right”][/frame]Sometime after Streetlight published the 5th issue, I met Browning Porter. The staff of SL had just heard bad news. Our printer Lexis Nexis was pulling the plug. It was during the financial crash of ’08 and we were a bit stunned. What to do to keep the magazine alive? None of us had the stomach for knocking on doors with our tin cups. Someone thought to call Browning. (He had not been active on the magazine since I had joined the staff). After more than a few meetings, plotting and paper, he helped … Continue reading How To Start A Magazine