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Lots of writing, reading, signing, and painting going on around here...

Help Me Out

Sorry Travis, no pets are allowed at Wildacres.
OK friends, I have a request. In a couple of weeks I'll be heading off to Wildacres for a week's retreat. It's an incredible opportunity for me - I'm the recipient of one of their residencies! Wildacres provides a solitary bit of time away from it all, in a cabin in the woods, with meals at the dining hall if you want them, and the solitude in which to accomplish something.

Here's where you come in... I've got some thinking and writing to do, as you can imagine. It's time to quit fooling around. I need to organize ideas, prioritize (and delete) projects, and outline a work plan for going forward...

Here's my request: If you were me, what would you bring along to your Wildacres residency?

P.S. In view of the many excellent suggestions I've so quickly gotten from y'all, I think I shall publish a packing list on this blog before I go! Read More 
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Fun at Wildacres

I've been at Wildacres Retreat in Little Switzerland, NC, this week. It was the Spring Gathering when about 100 people from all over the country come to write, think, paint, make pots and jewelry and music. It's a wonderful place with miles of mountain trails. I wrote this essay on Monday, after Henry and I went on our first hike of the week along Deer Lick Gap Trail. I read it at the open reading Monday night, too.

(You'll also want to check out the picture to the right -- it's what Henry was up to while we were there.)

The Backs of Your Boots

This morning on the Deer Lick Gap Trail I said, “I know well what the back of your boots looks like. I’ve walked many, many miles behind you, seeing them ahead of me.” Hundreds of miles in fact.

You’ve got on a pair of Asolos today. They are the same brand and style as the ones you had on for that walk along Hadrian’s Wall path in England with Nick. You probably remember what the back of Nick’s boots look like. That’s our usual order on the trail. Nick first, Henry next, me brining up the rear. It’s a pattern we always seem to fall into naturally. Considering the trouble you had with the Hadrian’s Wall boots, it’s a puzzle how you would end up in another pair a few years later.

Your boots today have a beige color bit in the middle of the back, framed by black, with an orange slice across the top. The Hadrian’s Wall Trail version had a big vertical orange stripe of nubuck leather on them that formed the back of the heel. It was that orange piece that was rubbing the back of your right ankle one early morning, making each step along the road painful for you.

Try as I might, I can’t remember which day of the six-day trek the dreaded problem showed up. It wasn’t the first, or the last. It was one day during the vast-seeming middle -- where the initial excitement of the adventure had worn off, and the end was not yet in site. The middle of a days-long hike like Hadrian’s Wall tends to get all mushed together in your mind and it’s hard to place yourself along the landmarks of the trail in any kind of chronological order.

I do remember that you were frustrated and pissed off and wondering whether or not you could make it that day with this impediment. Nick and I really didn’t know what to do to help. Saying “Suck it up you pussy” or “just walk it off” weren’t going to help. I bet that’s what Nick was thinking. I went with sympathy, which was maybe a little helpful, but not much, and probably a little forced.

Nick and I just stood there looking at you for a while. Your stupid boot and your stupid ankle had us in a spot.

And that spot was “in the middle of somewhere.” That is to say, not “in the middle of nowhere.” There’s really not much of England anymore that could properly be called “the middle of nowhere.” Still, it’s not like we were near a town where we could get a bus, a train, or rent a car, either.

What do you do when you’re hiking point-to-point on a linear trail and someone has to drop out? It’s not like you can just say, “screw it” and get in the car and drive to the next planned stop for the night. And what do the others in the party do? Nick and I couldn’t just park your ass and go on… we couldn’t all just sit there… we couldn’t go back to the place we’d stayed the night before, because - what good would that do? We did not bring spare pairs of boots. We didn’t even have our main packs with us – we were using a service to send them on ahead to our evening’s destination each day – so who knows where on the road they were at that moment.

I remember fishing out some blister prevention band-aids or something from the daypack - a half-assed attempt at magically fixing your ankle and your boot. I honestly don’t remember there being a moment where a solution obviously presented itself. Ta da!

We simply limped on ahead. One foot in front of the other. One painful step at a time. After a while, it just got easier for you to put up with the pain and, anyway, what choice did you have? You went on, picking up the pace little by little, and pretty soon you stopped talking about it all together. (Yay!) Eventually, by late that morning, all three of us forgot about the problem. The morning’s drama having concluded, we got on about the rest of the day’s hike, enjoying the landscape, the stones, the fields, the sheep poo, and the welcome breaks for good food, welcome company, and a place to put up our dogs that night.

You probably remember it differently.

The two things I remembered this morning, when I was walking behind you along Deer Lick Gap Trail, were the orange strip of leather up the back of your boots, and the way you just went on that day on the Hadrian’s Wall Trail. Read More 
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Night of the Spoken Word

Ashe County Arts Council holds a "Night of the Spoken Word" each year. They invite area writers to read the latest of their work to a very nice audience of 100 or so. The event, which is very well-received, and which I participated in last year as well, was the inspiration for me, Julie Townsend, Scot Pope to create "Wordkeepers" writing salon during the winter months, which I've posted about here on my blog.

Last night was 2011's "Night of the Spoken Word" and as in years past, we all had a wonderful time listening to area writers. I read an essay about Soap Operas, the reading version of which I'm posting here. (Those of you who know me will have to imagine me reading it aloud.) Sorry I don't have any pictures of any of the writers, once again, I forgot in my nervousness, to bring my camera.

NIGHT OF THE SPOKEN WORD MAY 14, 2011

I see many of you here tonight who have joined Scot Pope, Julie Townsend and other writers from around the area at Wordkeepers – a reading salon we started over the winter months at Bohemia coffee house. Back at January’s Wordkeeper’s, I read a confessional essay about watching soap operas. At the time, I WAS a reformed soap opera watcher – a bone fide member of ABC Daytime Anonymous. I’m sorry to have to report back to you all now that I have fallen off the wagon – but it’s for a really really good reason… Read More 
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"wordkeepers" this Saturday

Come on out to Bohemia Gallery in West Jefferson, NC, this Saturday (1.15.2011) for our next "wordkeepers" salon, 4:00 p.m. See our groovy poster at right.

We'll be featuring Julie Townsend reading from her new novel "Seafood Jesus," which is coming out in March. We'll also hear from me, Scot Pope, and folks on our open mic portion of the program. Read More 
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The Pressure's On

There is no end to how I can pressure myself. I have successfully done it again royally.

On Saturday, November 20, a couple of writer pals here in the neighborhood are getting together with me to do readings of our latest stuff. Read More 
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CHECK OFF THAT JOB FROM THE LIST OF STUFF TO DO

Today I mailed off a set of excerpts from my manuscript "No I Don't Want to Hold Your Baby." Along with those 20 pages was a newly constructed cover letter and a one-page synopsis. The package with its two crisp and clean copies is now on its way to the NC Writers Network Manuscript Mart folks. They will assign them to an agent who I'll meet with for an assigned half hour at the upcoming NCWN conference in Charlotte. Read More 
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It Was Great!

The On the Same Page Literary Festival was fabulous in the extreme. I enjoyed it so much that going back to work on Monday was difficult. It was an extraordinary line-up of writers who were generous with their time and attention. Not a diva among them, and check out this list! Robert Morgan, Daniel Wallace, Fred Chappell,  Read More 
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On the Same Page

We're hard at preparations for this year's (the 3rd annual) On the Same Page Literary Festival which begins next week, September 14. OTSP brings a fabulous array of out-sized talent to our little mountain corner of the world: David Wallace, Robert Morgan, DG Martin, Fred Chappell, Georgeann Eubanks -- are you kidding!?

Organizing and minding  Read More 
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Blocking the Notion of Blocking

At the On the Same Page Literary Festival last fall here in Ashe County, Jill McCorkle told us about the box she keeps in her office. It's her writing stash. The clips and drips of thought that might someday turn into stories - even novels - she deposits in a box of idea treasures.  Read More 
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Seeing Midnight

I'm not usually up at this hour. It's after midnight and normally I'd have been wracked out for a few hours by now. A crap cold and a medicinal paradox effect seem to be at work.

You'd think I could find a cheesy Christmas movie on cable this time of year/night, but I  Read More 
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