Inspirational Nostalgia, or Why I Owe Terry Petersen a Bag of Marshmallows

There are few things odder than realizing that the man sitting a few tables over in the intensive MWW writing workshop you drove six hours to attend is the kid you used to babysit twenty-something years ago.

Open MikeAnd that he has a book out. A good book.

It would be counter-productive to feel jealous of his talents, so I’ve decided to take partial credit for Greg’s success; the influential strength of letting kids stay up late to watch Star Trek and allowing maybe a few extra snacks from the stash on top of the fridge* clearly cannot be stressed enough.

His mother, who is a good friend of my mother** and writes beautiful short stories, was also at MWW, and while we took different intensives, he tracked her down and we were able to talk a little during the break.

He’s a lot taller than I remember and she’s slightly shorter.  But I’m wider, so it all evens out.

And speaking of degrees of separation, the girl Jane runs around with whenever she visits her grandparents in Cincinnati—the one she’s still begging to have over for a sleepover, despite the 8-hour drive—is Greg’s daughter.

I know I knew that—I’m sure Mom told me multiple times—but the weight of passing time didn’t actually smack me upside the head like a bagful of lead calendars before he nodded at the picture I offered and said, “Ohhhh, yeah, I know Janie.”***

And then break was over and we all went back.

About a week later, Terry Petersen sent me a nice e-mail that included a flyer for the annual fiction contest run by the Hamilton Writers’ Guild, of which she is a member.

Ten bucks gets you a two-thousand word buy-in and a deadline of October 21. The top prize is $250, second is $125, and third is $75.

Rules are here.

I haven’t written short fiction in a long time, unless abandoned first chapters count, but I’m thinking this would be an opportunity to try.

Maybe a heartwarming story about a babysitter, two brothers, and the Statute of Limitations . . .

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*Though to be fair, some of that was Steve’s fault—he was a climbing ninja.

**Which is how I got the sitting gig in the first place, and I’m sure she’s pleased about hiring me now . . .

***I get this a lot.  I never know whether to smile proudly or wince, so I generally freeze until the other parent gives me more clues.

Poetry Wednesday: Time Problem

My girl came to the study
and said Help me;
I told her I had a time problem
which meant:
I would die for you but I don’t have ten minutes.

(Time Problem by Brenda Hillman)

My time sense has been doing odd things, lately.

I’m in that sort of anxious limbo between drafts, waiting for my betas to offer feedback and making preemptive notes on problems they could find but not daring to make any actual changes in case they don’t.

Time weighs heavy while I drift along, pretending to be absorbed in other projects.*

I’m also trying to get everything done that needs doing at work and home before I leave for Bouchercon next week: updating documents, ordering books, clearing my work desk, cleaning my writing space, answering e-mails, signing off on projects, packing, panicking.**

Time is going very quickly while I rush around like a madwoman, leaving trails of scribbled lists in my wake.

So naturally, when the time came (see what I did there?) to chose some poems for today’s post, I chose accordingly.

A lot of classical poems equate the passing of time, at whatever tempo, with the death of dreams, love, or plain ol’ Death death, and there are several more modern poem that deal with the entire human race rushing over cliffs like headless chickens with lemming-esque priorities, but aside from the irresistible quote at the top of this post,*** I felt I wouldn’t be doing myself or my blood pressure any favors wading through that lot.

So I found a few with more positive outlooks, including the James Whitcomb Riley one I shared last month, which supplies the perfect antidote to that strident voice in the back of my mind that keeps asking, “Haven’t you finished [insert goal here], yet?”

Go ahead and re-read it, if you have the time (HEY-o! Sorry, I’ll stop).  It seems to say that being present in each moment is more rewarding than going at full speed.   This is a tough concept to believe, but he might have a point—serenity isn’t precisely underrated these days, but no one seems to have the time to pursue it . . .

Reagardless, Mary Mapes Dodge has supplied the perfect answer when my children ask me why they aren’t old enough to do what those other kids are doing over there—or when my friends and I start moaning that we’ll never be on those ratzen-fratzen Thirty Under Thirty lists:

Taking Time to Grow
(Mary Mapes Dodge)

‘Mamma! mamma!’ two eaglets cried,
‘To let us fly you’ve never tried.
We want to go outside and play;
We’ll promise not to go away.’
The mother wisely shook her head:
‘No, no, my dears. Not yet,’ she said.

‘But, mother dear,’ they called again,
‘We want to see those things called men,
And all the world so grand and gay,
Papa described the other day.
And – don’t you know? – he told you then
About a little tiny wren,
That flew about so brave and bold,
When it was scarcely four weeks old?’

But still the mother shook her head;
‘No, no, my dears, not yet,’ she said.
‘Before you see the world below,
Far bigger you will have to grow.
There’s time enough to look for men;
And as for wrens – a wren’s a wren.
What if your freedom does come late?
An eaglet can afford to wait.’

And then there’s Thomas Moore, who understands that wasting time isn’t always a waste of time—and, frankly, I wouldn’t have thought the old boy had it in him, but I’m tickled to find out he did:

The Time I’ve Lost in Wooing
(Thomas Moore)

The time I’ve lost in wooing,
In watching and pursuing
The light, that lies
In woman’s eyes,
Has been my heart’s undoing.
Though Wisdom oft has sought me,
I scorn’d the lore she brought me,
My only books
Were woman’s looks,
And folly’s all they’ve taught me.

Her smile when Beauty granted,
I hung with gaze enchanted,
Like him the Sprite,
Whom maids by night
Oft meet in glen that’s haunted.
Like him, too, Beauty won me,
But while her eyes were on me,
If once their ray
Was turn’d away,
Oh! winds could not outrun me.

And are those follies going?
And is my proud heart growing
Too cold or wise
For brilliant eyes
Again to set it glowing?
No, vain, alas! th’ endeavour
From bonds so sweet to sever;
Poor Wisdom’s chance
Against a glance
Is now as weak as ever.

If Thomas Moore has no regrets, why should we?

And for a last reassurance, I offer you a link to Stephen Dunn’s “Poem For People That Are Understandably Too Busy To Read Poetry.”

What have you got to lose?

And now, having calmed my time anxieties, at least for now, I’m off to hit the bank and hunt down some lunch—I was so busy this morning hustling everyone out the door with theirs, I left mine in the fridge . . .

Wow. That didn’t last long.

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*To my wonderful, understanding betas: this  isn’t a complaint about your reading speeds at all, this is me being my usual neurotic self.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am for any time you extremely busy people can give my stuff.

**Check that one off the list.

**Brenda Hillman is, among many other things, the Poet Laureate of Real Motherhood, and just because I made that up just now doesn’t mean it isn’t true. “Time Problem” is sort of about helping a kid with math homework and sort of about trying to do everything else that needs to be done and why it’s impossible and why are we doing this and how do we breathe again?  Please read it and then read all her other stuff—you can thank me in the comments.

Poetry Wednesday: Little Lamb

Sunny and Jane started a new school year today. I belong to a fourth grader and a kindergartener, now.

This would normally have me reaching for my vast assortment of Time Keeps Slipping, Slipping Away poems, but Sunny was so excited, from her sparkle-toe gym shoes to her curly hair and Janie was so protective this morning that I couldn’t resist going for the happy, especially when I saw the images I took this morning:

I’d like to note here, that the poet of this familiar nursery rhyme was not Mother Goose, but a self-educated widow with five children who supported her family with her writing skills—in the 1820s.

After publishing poetry and several novels, Sarah Josepha Hale became the editor of Ladies’ Magazine—which in 1837, became Godey’s Lady Book, the spiritual ancestor of all influential women’s magazines—and remained so for nearly fifty years.

She promoted female writers and higher education for women throughout her career.* Her book, Woman’s Record; or, Sketches of All Distinguished Women, from “The Beginning” till A.D. 1850, was the first book solely about women’s accomplishments throughout history.

Plus she wrote a little ditty** that has become so entrenched in American culture, that I’ll bet most of you who grew up here have the tune stuck in your head right now.

Or someone’s tune, anyway:

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*Though she did think they had better things to do then vote or run businesses. Nobody’s perfect.

** I like to imagine she wrote it for her kids, to keep them from torturing the cat.

Poetry Wednesday: Biding its Time . . .

Long post, short poem.  Bear with me.

Last week, I mentioned to someone that I didn’t know when my little engine stopped chanting  I think I can, I think I can  and started in on You should be done, you should be done, but it was getting to me.

It’s still getting to me, because—as those of you who aren’t keeping track of my every waking hour may not know—I’ve been working on a novel for so long that even my father, who has been my biggest fan* since I could draw my name, has started reminding me that he’s not getting any younger.

This . . . is not so helpful to someone with a history of White Rabbit-level time anxiety.

But then, I read something on this very subject—time management, not disordered Lewis Carroll— from the brilliant and extremely busy Stephen Jay Schwartz, who said, among other things: “I’ve been active, I just haven’t finished my %&!$ing novel.”

And I thought, hey, I know I haven’t been sitting on my hands, because I can’t type that way **  and I’ve written a lot of words these past (cough) years.  Many of them made my novel better, even if I deleted them, but a large amount had nothing to do with it at all***—and not a single one of them was wasted.

Even the ones about “The Rape of the Lock” and Thomas Hardy.

And not all the time I’ve spent not writing has been wasted, either.  That one was tougher to understand, since I do waste time, quite a lot of it.  But the main cause of this, oddly enough, appears to be my attempt to force an exhausting, self-imposed, obsessive, 90,000-plus-word dash that makes me want to take the solid writing time I do have and explore I Can Haz Cheezburger, YouTube, and Avenger fanfiction instead, as a form of self-medication.^

But last night, I tossed all the guilt and desperation over my shoulder and went to a semi-spontaneous^ baseball game with my husband, my MIL, and the kids instead of hermiting at home, as is my wont.  And, as none of you seemed to notice, I didn’t even bother making an announcement or apology about it here.

No post on a Tuesday?  You rebel, me!

Sure, okay, I facebooked a little and Worded with Friends until my phone battery died, and scribbled a few notes about something that could make chapter 29 either fabulous or drag the whole thing down, but I also enjoyed myself in the moment and had a great talk with Janie until the eighth inning, when both teams decided to actually start the game.

It was different and fun and relaxing.  Plus, our team won.

Not wasted at all.

We got home late, too late to write a post or type up my notes or do anything but decant the kids into bed and shuffle off to brush my teeth—which is when I realized that the next day was Wednesday and I didn’t have a poem.   And people do seem to show up around here for those, even if they don’t comment (ahem, hint).

But then I remembered one I’d found two months ago that I’d given an oh, please snort to in passing, because it flies in the face of everything I’ve been taught about chasing the clock, lest it chase me.  At the time, I wasn’t in the mood,  because serenity is one thing and finishing a %&!$ing novel is quite another and the clock and I were locked in a sort of tail-chasing, hamster-wheel holding pattern that I actually thought was time management.

As it turns out, that poem was just waiting for me to fall off the hamster-wheel and get it:

Who Bides His Time
(James Whitcomb Riley)

Who bides his time, and day by day
Faces defeat full patiently,
And lifts a mirthful roundelay,
However poor his fortunes be,–
He will not fail in any qualm
Of poverty — the paltry dime
It will grow golden in his palm,
Who bides his time.

Who bides his time — he tastes the sweet
Of honey in the saltest tear;
And though he fares with slowest feet,
Joy runs to meet him, drawing near;
The birds are heralds of his cause;
And, like a never-ending rhyme,
The roadsides bloom in his applause,
Who bides his time.

Who bides his time, and fevers not
In the hot race that none achieves,
Shall wear cool-wreathen laurel, wrought
With crimson berries in the leaves;
And he shall reign a goodly king,
And sway his hand o’er every clime
With peace writ on his signet-ring,
Who bides his time.

This isn’t about waiting for things to happen.  This is about working a sane, comfortable amount every day until they do.

I found the poem in my folder without too much trouble, turned to my laptop to write this . . . and then laid the clipping on the keyboard and went to bed.

It could wait until morning.

And it did.

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*As in, he finds everything I write fascinating even if he doesn’t have any idea what it means and I’m not too sure myself.  I like that in a reader.

**Actually, the first thing I said was “I’ve got to render that in cross stitch and frame it over my desk.”

***I remember a lot of potatoes, octopuses, and physics . . .

^My SIL would say I’ve been zap-frying my pop-tarts again, and she’d be right.

^^Eight e-mails and three text messages to negotiate it all:  if the weather wasn’t horrible and if the kids wanted to go and if my MIL wanted to eat out or at home . . .

Random Thursday: Time after Time after Time after . . .

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā):  the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s acquired during the week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as actually sitting down and creating real content.

You know how when you’re on a diet and no longer have a supply of chocolate/doughnuts/pie/Pop Tarts around,* that’s pretty much all you can think about?

This is one of those posts, but without the sugar rush flashbacks.

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epic win photos - Humble Request WIN
Technically, we’re all time travelers, but someone’s removed the reverse gear—though, oddly, not neutral or park . . .

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I’ll have my WIP done in three treesloth days . . . 

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The Captured Manifestation of My Road Rage

epic win photos - Construction Sign WIN

We have a bumper crop of orange cones blooming this year, because of the elderly sewer-pipe-related sinkholes that have been opening up to swallow whole Volkswagens along my commute.*

Gonna be a long, slow, teeth-gritting, profane, aneurism-inducing summer . . .  But at least I’ll get some blog rants out of it.

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I want a Time-Lapse Camera for Writing

And a Zamboni.

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May I leave him a message?

funny science news experiments memes - Fringe Science: Time Travel
Do you think Mr. von Hogflume does children’s parties?

Because I’d like to go back to the one where Julius Whathisname told me I was too fat to eat a piece of my own birthday cake and tell myself to tell him exactly what he could do with his piece—and then punch him in the nose.

Which is exactly why someone removed my reverse gear . . .

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Idealism vs. Honesty

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A Subtle Reminder

I have four poem entries now
Please write yours right away
‘Cause contests about purple cows
Don’t come along every day!

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* Because you consumed every single icing crumb a quarter to Midnight the day before the launching of your new Lifestyle . . .

*I’m exaggerating, slightly. It was a Hyundai and the Heimlich wasn’t necessary.