November 24, 2017

LOL: Hortatory Humor

Humor, unlike hubris, ranks high in the hierarchy of hortatory writing. But where does alliteration alight in such alignments? Whether in allegory or analysis, alliteration can sometimes suggest subtlety in craftsmanship. But too many of the same letters or sounds falling close together on the page may ring clumsy or clunky instead.

Humor and alliteration have formed an unexpected and delightful couple for me. I have laughed out loud more than once, not because I finally learned what LOL means in text messages from my adult daughter. Why not “lots of love”? The alliterative arrow that found my heart came with, I promise, the letter “q.” [Read more…]

Award – Validation and Connection

Book Award“2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards – Important Announcement!” The subject line on the May 3 email grabbed my attention, and the text was even better. “Your book has been named a Finalist in the MEMOIRS (Other) Category.” I took a deep breath and kept reading. “Your achievement will be published in the next few weeks at www.IndieBookAwards.com along with the other Finalists and Winners.”

I jumped up from my chair and pumped a fist in the air with a whoop. This award not only filled me with joy and validation but it also helped me clarify the connection I feel with my memoir, The Crane Dance: Taking Flight in Midlife. And, the award reminded me that writers don’t work alone.

“Your book will be listed as a Finalist in the 2017 NGIBA [Next Generation Indie Book Awards] catalog and distributed at Book Expo America in New York as a countertop handout at registration desks.  Your book will be promoted to book buyers, book lovers and library reps along with media and industry professionals.”  [Read more…]

The Power of Telling Our Stories

Bill discusses his book and the power of stories at a reading in Raleigh, NC.

Bill discusses his book and the power of stories at a reading in Raleigh, NC.
Photo by Georgia Springer

Mary Karr, in her book The Art of Memoir, says, “In a great memoir, some aspect of the writer’s struggle for self often serves as the book’s organizing principle, and the narrator’s battle to become whole rages over the book’s trajectory.”

In writing my memoir, The Crane Dance, I did struggle to understand my core identity. As the drafts unfolded and finally formed a coherent arc, my narrator’s battle did in fact help me “to become whole.”

The writer and memoirist Joan Didion says, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live… We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of narrative line upon disparate images.”

In The Crane Dance, disparate images bounced about from India to Boston, then to North Carolina, back to Mississippi, to Atlanta and Mendocino, Cairo to Stonehenge, the beach to the mountains, then finally back to Jabalpur, with home in Raleigh the center of this crazy journey. What drew the line straight and true, finally, was the journey of the heart, determined to find the right compass coordinates for the larger story. [Read more…]

Joy and Sorrow

16 02 02 labyrinth at Brookgreen Gardens

Photo by Georgia Springer

How can pain and happiness sit together in our heart at the same time? The poet William Blake made this paradox more understandable, even inviting: “Joy and woe are woven fine, a clothing for the soul divine.” The next lines contain the paradox: “Under every grief and pine, runs a joy with silken twine.”

In recent months, I have noticed this juxtaposition of joy and sorrows as I review parts of my life. One of our ministers thought it was a good topic for a Sunday evening vespers service. In helping to prepare the service, I came across the famous Blake verse, which I vaguely remembered from high school English perhaps, but had never absorbed. Working with the Blake phrase opened up layers of another gift for healing, the power of music.

Growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s, I sang in the youth choir at the large downtown Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. The youth sang in most Sunday night services, and our introit was nearly always the beautiful and familiar hymn, “Now the Day is Over.” [Read more…]

What’s In a Title?

The Crane DanceThe Crane Dance finally arrived as the title for my new book. Like a savory soup, options simmered for a long time. I tasted it, smelled it, spiced it with new flavors, and sought opinions as trusted readers took a sip.

One of my favorite stories about titles comes from Doris Betts, the long-time teacher of creative writing at the University of North Carolina before she died in 2012. “I overheard someone in a store asking for one of my books,” Betts told her students during a class I was covering for a profile on her years ago. “Instead of The Gentleman’s Insurrection, the customer asked for The Gentleman’s Erection.” Before the slightly embarrassed students quit laughing, she pushed on, telling them about a television interview she was about to do after publication of her short-story collection, Beasts of the Southern Wild. Just before going on the air, her long-time colleague at UNC, Max Steele, “leaned over and said, ‘Doris, don’t call your book, breasts of the Southern wild,’ trying to make me do just that of course.”

Betts knew her audience – college students who loved a touch of her bawdy wisdom, mixed with her quirky and steel sweetness. And she knew how to tell a story. The students loved her and her anecdotes. But they needed to find their own voice, their own titles. [Read more…]

On Writing and Memory

Bill as a boy, at his deskA memoir, after all, hinges on memory. What do I recall and why? What do I make of the themes in my life? How did my choices lead to inevitable or perhaps surprising outcomes? How much did circumstances limit my options compared to the degree of courage or vision I exercised? What about the battles of nature and nurture, including social norms in my time and place? What is the best way to engage in memory – for me, for you, for the world?

I’ve been pondering all of these questions and more as I prepare to launch my memoir. Focusing on midlife transformation in The Crane Dance provided a time parameter, but flashbacks to my childhood cried for attention, as did “bookend” trips to India as a 22-year old Peace Corp volunteer and a return to my India family at age 56. [Read more…]

JourneyCake Spirit

JourneyCake SpiritIn 1989, the poet Robert Bly and mythologist Michael Meade led a weeklong conference that I attended along with 110 other men. Meade told a fairy tale that more than 25 years later has now led to the naming of this new website: www.journeycakespirit.com.

The hero of the story, a pig herder, had encountered many challenges on a long journey. Finally, with the help of his animal allies, he won a magical horse from an old and tricky hag. The horse would take him out of the forest, but the evil sorceress sabotaged the deal. She snuck into the corral and drained the marrow from the legs of the horse on the morning of his freedom. The pig herder set off for the edge of the forest and as he approached the last tall hedge to navigate, the horse collapsed.

Another piece of fate had entered the story, as fairy tales are sometimes prone to do. That morning, a protective elf in the forest had watched the wicked ways of the witch. The elf captured the drained marrow and made it into a cake, which she packed in the hero’s bag. [Read more…]