The Scent of Rain

Lately, when I catch the scent of rain and earth rising up, I am ten again. It’s Easter morning, the forsythia just blooming, and I sense my Mother moving somewhere nearby. I am innocent. Now, an old man packs my groceries, repacks the eggs with a tsk at a carton fallen on its side. I read his name: “Art.” My sweet grandfather’s name. He regards me with a look of satisfaction, finished his task, and returns my smile. I am twelve, maybe, riding in the middle seat of an old red Ford with the stick shift knocking my bare, bony knees. My grandfather turns his face to me crinkled into a grin (I see every line, the shade of his blue, blue eyes), “Hungry for some ice cream, SusieQ?” Oh. My daughter sends me a video of her baby daughter talking to her, sounding out “hello,” and, I wonder how it […]

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Join Spalding at the Southern Festival of Books, Nashville, Oct. 12-14

In the current era where arts and humanities programs are threatened with a hard shove to the sidelines, The Southern Festival of Books: A Celebration of the Written Word is a bold and bright voice booming atop the Nashville landscape. For three days in October, the SFB gathers together book lovers and the nation’s and region’s prominent writers, offering dozens of panels on the writing arts in downtown Nashville. Spalding will debut a booth this year with program advocacy and honoring our writers in mind, including faculty member Silas House and his recent novel, Southernmost, and alum Charles Dodd White with In the House of Wilderness, both featured on the main program, as well as faculty member Jeanie Thompson and alum Juyanne James, who are featured in panel sessions. After a year of researching MFA options, the integrity and depth of the Spalding program and a 45-minute phone call with a […]

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Love List 2015

I love beauty. I can’t figure my exact definition of it, but I love it. I love interesting faces. Throaty voices. Belly laughs. Auburn hair. White hair. Blue eyes. Nung. Rodin’s sculpture. Leaves floating atop a brook. Poetic weaving of words. Melodies that ache. Belonging. The sound of a lake lapping against a shore. Pine needle and moss forest floors. The smell of a baby. Climbing waterfalls. Wind on a summer day. Witty conversation. Deep conversation. No conversation. Hope. Wood floors. Stone fireplaces. Leather couches. Creaky steps and screen doors. Porridge with strawberries and milk. Moments. Memories. Resolution. Wind chimes. Pieris Japonica. Poppies. Being 17 and 33—and now. Giant oak trees. Colorado. First sentences. Last sentences. Impressionist and Post-impression paintings. And Claude’s Camille. I’ve forgotten a thousand things… ©2015

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Love List 2017

I started writing a Love List a few years ago. Maybe we should all have “love lists” to remind us on overcast days of beauty and how it speaks to us. I’m letting my mind go again. Here is this year’s addition to my unending Love List, for Love Month 2017. I’d love to read yours… I love a crisp wind and warm Spring sun. I love talking about writing and Story with teenagers. Love seeing their eyes alight with new knowledge, at discovering humor, lightness, and darkness in the words someone else has woven together. I love chocolate—85%, specifically, and preferably with some crunchy something buried in it. Love the wash of nostalgia when an old, painful song comes on (and all the regrets it nudges out of place). Love silence in the car just as much, just like my Mom did, but I didn’t understand then. I love the […]

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Writing Spaces

Tools for my trade…words that wring the Truth out of the why writers must write, a hand-spun pottery mug from a friend (it has a dent for my thumb), an hourglass with shimmering black sand to keep me on task, a stack of little journals I’ve half filled with ideas and thin places found, and layers of warm sun or moonlight…I can write anywhere, but I’m beginning to love my new spot. Maybe because there’s a balcony beside, and a fireplace and stuffed bookshelves behind me. Oh, and my writing chair is three steps away. None of these make me write, but they are like hands from the forest as I run half-blind down the trail following crumbs. Hmm…come to me, you wee voices and fill my alabaster pages.

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Shapeshifting

I feel a shapeshifting coming on. Like a slow trickle at the beginning of a landslide after which everything changes…shifts slightly to the left. To the right. The push of a breeze on the small of my back. A hint that, soon, all will be propelling down the mountain to warmer places. Scattered about and rearranged. Exposing roots. Turning over rocks. Pushing air deep into the soil. The slide creates space for a thing once buried, dormant; it slides atop another something that had been so urgent for so long that it became normal, everyday. However, this new thing pokes its nose back into my line of vision, gulps, then lies back to loll in the sunlight, breathing deeply and smiling at its great fortune at having come uncovered.   2013, 2017

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Tune-up Your Soul With A “Small Pleasures” List

Make a small pleasures list. frozen branch with leaves closeup

Small pleasures…getting lost in a book, buying a new book, getting back in the car from wherever and listening to the next part of an audio book, Facetiming with my granddaughter, reading my daughter’s wise, pithy posts, watching my son’s newest adventure on Instagram, eating outside, standing with my back to a fire, laughing out loud, hearing a Truth that makes me sigh, petting a dog, having a conversation with a child…the silent morning ritual of making coffee, clean hair, a good haircut, a classroom of college students laughing and talking amongst themselves about a story, my Mom’s voice and my Dad’s laugh, a faraway friend’s voice, almond butter…watching a classic movie in an old theater, hiking in the woods, planning a new adventure, eating fresh fruit, doing a TRX handstand, creating something, writing a new scene, starting a new short story, getting an old story published, hanging out with […]

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Create on.

Rise. Draw out from within you what is begging to be created. Is it painting? Is it singing? Is it word weaving or gardening? Photography? Is it child or puppy training? Organizing? Business building? Touching the sick or anguished or old? Coaxing your horse to jump? What is it? What well do you tap to express your inner most? This is where healing begins and our armor is restored, battle after battle. We yearn to create, we heal in our creating, because we are like our Creator. It is in the giving that we find our wonder. For me? It is word weaving. Pulling the threads of thoughts and phrases, images and stories from the deep, shuffling and shaping them until they tremble with something je ne sais quoi. Our words lift us up into our true emerging, shifting selves. Create on.

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Spalding MFA Alumni Interview – A Day in the Life

On this episode of A Day in the Life we meet Summer 2014 graduate Karen Chronister, a fiction and travel writer based in Franklin, Tennessee. When Karen isn’t working on her own writing she’s helping other creatives to market their writing.  Karen has a wholistic approach to life and writing and I know I could definitely take a page out of her book to put into my daily routing. Now, let’s hear from Karen: When did you graduate? July 2014 (Berlin/Prague Residency) What are your favorite books? Oh, wow. Charlotte’s Web, The Essays of E. B. White, Rebecca, Pride and Prejudice, The Forgotten Garden, Olive Kitteridge. It’s more about authors and stories…Elizabeth Strout, Daphne du Maurier, Victoria Holt, Kate Morton, Jane Austen, Frank O’Connor, my Spalding professors…I read a lot of print travel magazines, too. Do you hold a full-time job other than writing? I have a freelance marketing business, […]

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A Cuppa In Celebration of Jane Austen’s Bicentennial

So much of what I long to see, smell, eat, or experience when I travel, I first discovered in a book. It’s an understatement to say Jane Austen’s whit, whimsy, and wisdom have influenced my life. Because of her, I have a fascination for lofty manor houses, Elizabethan architecture, the art of taking tea, British literature, the Cornwall coast, observing society and all of its mores and double standards with both a nod of reverence and twist of mouth, and asking for “porridge,” instead of oatmeal, on my first trip throughout the whole of England. Today marks the bicentennial of Jane Austen’s death at the premature age of 41. To my fellow Janeites, I say we should lift a cuppa to honor her. I never fully moved into my little cottage two and a half years ago (who can move in completely to 860 square feet after years of thrice the space?), […]

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Night Sounds #19,098

Oh, my…the crickets. And now, my neighbor is putting in a pond—so, come next, the frogs! Every night the train whistles a long, soft shrill, humming like smoke hovering just above the water. I lay here, still and thankful for sounds I love. I’m so happy. Now, if I could only smell manure, I’d be ten again, barefoot, flat-chested, and fancy…funny the things we miss when we grow up.

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AMÉLIE’S: A FRENCH BAKERY AND COFFEE SHOP In Charlotte

DOWNTOWN CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, looks a little too planned for this North-easterner. I’m absolutely not bragging about Philly, my nearest big market metro, but I’ll use it as an example of what I expect to experience downtown: winding, hilly, brownstone and rowhouse-crowded streets that test even the finest non-directionally challenged drivers, wisecracks and secrets thrown down at every turn, and cool little Mom and Pop food joints within an arm’s radius. In other words, unfiltered personality written all over the skyline’s wizened face. So, when I drop into a city like Charlotte, NC, that feels, well, a little too neat for comfort, it reminds of the “Mary Kay” face. Everything is in perfect order, with a rich color-coordinated palate, precise lines and plump curves, and more than a few illusions. I lower my expectations at finding much below the surface, since it is the surface that is demanding attention. This is […]

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A Writer’s Self Portrait at e.e. cummings’ Joy Farm in New Hampshire

Joy Farm, poet e.e. cummings’ New Hampshire Summer retreat, is full of mysteries and treasures, winding trails that lead to burnt-out ruins, and a growing collection of literary memorabilia. We are staying at Steep Acres, a three-season cottage on the property. My convives are a small, merry band of fellow Spalding MFA grads (and a professor or two we may have writer-napped). We’ve gathered for at least the purpose of writing, wine, and chatter. We yawn our minds wide and embrace whatever ghost or good vibe or energy floats close by. It’s just before dinner. I’m alone for a bit. So, I, the moth, climb wide wooden steps to the literary flame to an upper room in the original house. It is an unheated attic room replete with rough-hewn, aged timbers enveloping everything from floor to ceiling. It holds countless literary gems, including a September 1, 1952, issue of Life magazine. On […]

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