March post on The Aspiring Author Blog

Hello dear readers,

You can see my first monthly post on The Aspiring Author Blog today. I’m so happy to have been given this opportunity to share my thoughts on poetry, nonfiction, and the writing life.

Go on over to see it on the blog > click here

And while you’re there, check out more great posts from the other contributors. Each of us represents our favorite genre, and there are fabulous tips from writing in each.

Love,

Nora

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a little snow poem

in honor of the first snow – November 15th 2018 

 

a little snow poem

 

now it has snowed
and I am peeking out
for when the squirrels with their
tender, agile feet
hop lovingly into drifts
then freeze and snapshot their eyes
at any sound, their paws to their chins,
as though any disturbance to this
quiet must mean wolves.

Friday Reading Rainbow

I’ve hardly been reading at all since the school year started. I think this is a fairly normal bump off the priorities list — as opposed to the doldrum depression of summer when it seems only books can save me from my despair, the school year brings new energy, movement, and a restructuring of time. There don’t seem to be long afternoons for cafes anymore, and at night I work out puzzles in my head: how to help that student, how to introduce a lesson I’m excited about, what to write next. My eyes are more tired now, and my brain is more manic.

I talk to my kids sometimes about stamina and volume in reading. I tell them that they need to work on their stamina and focus now so that they’ll be able to keep up with the huge volume of reading they’ll encounter in college. And I admit to them that I struggle with this sometimes. I remember when I was a kid, able to read for hours straight without moving, getting so focused on the story that I’d miss my dad calling me to dinner. Now, 20 minutes of focus on text is a lot to ask of myself. And I haven’t been asking for it much. Since the school year started I’ve started two books but not finished them, either disenchanted with the writing or unable to keep up with the story after picking up the book for too little time with too little frequency.

What fixed this was my best friend, Hammy. He visited this past weekend and suddenly my solitary little home and my normal quiet Friday night was full of another (wonderful) person. With the temporary death of my loneliness and the departure of my alone time, I found my brain keeping up this pattern of darting around without focus. We visited one of my perennial favorite places, a gorgeous local bookstore (check them out – Paper Nautilus) and after looking at stacks upon stacks of interesting used books, I felt the guilt of not reading twisting around a strong urge to read. So we went home, and we sat together on my couch, and we each read about 30 pages, companionably silent, chuckling and reading out good lines. And with that commitment of focus, my reading life has been restored.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org
The book I picked up that day was Brass, by Xhenet Aliu. I’m really amused and delighted by the way this book is written. It feels so real and gritty, yet intimate and sensual in some moments. The story is a mirrored one of Elsie and her daughter Luljeta, both lost and struggling in their youth as working-class, immigrant-born women. Where I am in the story, the mood is one of dull despair, and I’m doubting that Luljeta or her mother will “make it out.” I’m interested to see how Aliu grants agency and power to her seemingly powerless characters. I highly recommend it: Find a copy at your local indie bookstore

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org I’m also continuing my reading of the posthumous collection of Marina Keegan’s writing, The Opposite of Loneliness.  I’m amazed by how much her work speaks for my specific generation. I feel like she’s heard me, given voice to me, and I want to reassure her that we are something and that she was someone. It’s so hard to feel the fact that a gorgeous voice is gone.

For my older or younger friends, if you’ve ever thought that millenials are annoying or spoiled or entitled or gutless, you might want to read this essay, “Song for the Special”. Feel how fundamentally human it is to want to be somebody and then try to judge us.

Now that I’ve officially turned the heat on in my little apartment, I think I’ll be able to find more quiet time. I love autumn rainstorms and chilly late nights and early mornings with blueberry muffins. Reading and writing (which I am attempting to practice daily) fit nicely into that niche.

What’s next? I have far too many books and very little inkling of which ones I’ll enjoy next. Anyone have recommendations?

the medicine of silence — Robin K. Crigler

Reblogging this beauty from my friend Robin Crigler. Best essay I’ve read in a while (and it’s my business to read essays).

—i— you are here for not twelve hours and you say “i want to write a book about silence”: this is not appropriate, it’s not in the spirit. 2,487 more words

via the medicine of silence — Robin K. Crigler

Writing these days

I have been writing! I say this with some triumph because it seems hard enough to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard every single day, much less produce something that exists as a piece of writing. But yes, I have been writing, and it’s become part of my life such that I don’t feel quite right if I’ve neglected a day. And I suppose I’ve produced some things that I like, or at least that I will like. But…… these days….. it kind of feels like I’m not getting anywhere.

I feel that now we’re settling into the doldrums of summer. If this were a naval adventure novel, we’d be becalmed. Getting agitated in the heat of the South Pacific’s sun, starting to hate the faces around us just for their familiarity. Mutiny might be stirring if we toiled under a tyrannical captain who applied the cat-o-nine-tails too liberally. Yet the worse agony would be staring out at the unchanging sea, wishing we were fish to at least feel the cool water moving against our scales. Will the wind ever stir itself and blow this July into motion?

Yesterday I got gravely stuck, and it brought me right down to the darkness under my bed (where at least it is cooler). I was stuck on this: why am I here? What is the purpose of all this doing and scheduling and trying to make my intellect move into work and writing, and my body move into anything but a sweaty blob indented into the sofa? Why am I doing anything, really? I always think to myself that the great purpose of life is love. But I’m rather alone, rather often. Love is there (it’s always there), but it seems a little distant at the moment. I feel purposeful when I work for my students, but my whole life can’t be dedicated to teaching work (especially during the summer). I hate the feeling of killing time. I hate days with nothing to do. If the purpose of a life is to make that life a happy one, why does that feel like so much work? Am I missing something?

—-

The pay-off of having established a daily writing mandate is that when I got into this foul, self-doubting mood, I wrote something. I thought it might get me on better footing for the rest of the day.

That didn’t happen. I napped for like three hours. It was terrible.

But at least I wrote something! And I think, if I can once again perform my most famous trick of taking messy notebook writing and play with shapes and make it into something worth continuing, I might have an essay.

The idea would be this: sometimes it might be worthwhile to stop looking so clearly through the air for goals and signs and finish lines, and to instead live our lives underwater so that even if things are blurry, we are conscious of the watery world around us. We are submerged in life, and can move forward without waiting to reach something.

That’s an idea that might be worth writing.