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Publication news!

Heroine: Eowyn 1
Last month, I shared an amazing-for-me accomplishment: I had written a 1500-word short story--and very much enjoyed both the process and the product. Well, after that, I remembered that I had, a number of years ago, managed to write another short story that I was basically pleased with. So I dug it out of my files, and found that I was still happy with it, and even happier after I did a little editing and polishing. Then I sent it out into the world--where, lo and behold, it almost immediately found a home! I am delighted to say that you can now read this story, "The Look in Her Eyes," in Luna Station Quarterly, together with a number of other very fine stories:
http://lunastationquarterly.com/issue-010
Happy reading!

May. 13th, 2012

Rose
This is my first Mother's Day without my mom, and it's been a hard one. Along with the sadness, though, there have been a great many happy memories--and some not entirely happy, but nonetheless comforting. Among these are the memories of Mom taking care of me during all my childhood illnesses and after my surgeries. This selection from my verse novel Arise, Fair Sun is based largely on my memory of waking up to my mother's care after my second open-heart surgery:


The first thing I see
when I wake up again
is my mother's green dress

The first thing I feel
is thirsty
like I've been in a desert where noon lasted a week
and my throat is sore
like I swallowed a sandstorm

Mom looks so far away
her edges blur
she could be a mirage
the green of her dress
could mean an oasis, a promise of water
if only I could get to her

But I am drifting away

________________________


The next time I open my eyes,
Mom is beside me,
her edges solid,
her green cotton sleeve brushing my cheek
as her hand strokes my hair,
her touch light as if
I am some stray, hurt bird she's found
and she is afraid of frightening me.
I try to say, "Mom"--
it comes out a crowlike croak:
"Maaaaa,"
with no strength left for the m on the end.
And Mom whispers,
"Lizzie,"
and that's all she manages to say
for a long time.

_________________________


Mom holds a paper cup,
spoons an ice chip out of it,
holds the ice to my lips,
and oh, that ice,
that little cold sliver
of crystallized water--
it's the best thing I've ever put in my mouth,
and as it melts it slides down my throat
and makes the desert inside me
sigh away into a calm clear pool.
Mom feeds me another ice chip,
and another,
and I am greedy for more,
wanting the whole cupful
now, right now,
but Mom will not be hurried;
she sticks to some ice-chip schedule
that only she knows.
A little at a time,
a little at a time.
And finally
I am not thirsty.
Now I can just enjoy the fact
that I am breathing again.

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A short story!

Medieval me
Yesterday I did something that, for me, is remarkable: I wrote a 1500-word short story. This probably seems like it's not a very big deal; I've written more than fifty books, after all. But my tendency--my proclivity, even--has been to write long. In my YA nonficition, I have always had to cut and cut and cut to fit the required word count. The 16,000-word manuscripts were not such a huge challenge, but getting manuscripts to come in at 10,000-12,000 words--painful! Then there's my novel: 120,000 words. And that's after lots of pruning. So to tell a whole story in only 1500 words--and to write the whole thing in a single day--feels like quite an achievement, especially as I had pretty much convinced myself that I was incapable of writing a short story. But I did it, and I really enjoyed the process, too. Sometimes it's nice to be proved wrong!

And now, I have to reread the thing to see if it's actually any good. :-)

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Austen and Pratchett

Bookworm
A few nights ago I read Terry Pratchett's delightful homage to Jane Austen in his latest, Snuff. As I've continued with the novel, I've come to a surprising realization: while Pride and Prejudice is still my favorite book, Jane Austen has become my second-favorite author, displaced by Pratchett--who in a great many ways is, after all, Austen's heir. Like Austen, Pratchett is a keen observer of the subtleties of human emotion, motivation, and folly, and is simultaneouly an ironic and incredibly humane writer (much like Thackeray, as well). Both Austen and Pratchett mock human pretension yet have a deep empathy for human frailty. Both celebrate the virtues of intellect and clear-headedness, while also believing in the powers of love, art, and beauty. And, of course, both are deliciously artful in their use of language, and both have the marvelous gift of making us laugh. Pratchett, though--mainly through accidents of history and fate, it must be admitted--is able to paint on a much larger canvas; his work as a result has a kind of Shakespearean scope. And then Pratchett has the twist he gets from working within the fantasy genre, which allows him both to play with the genre conventions and to poke at contemporary society from a bit of a distance. So at first we think we are laughing at Discworld, and by the time we realize we are actually laughing at ourselves, wisdom--the beginning of which is self-knowledge--is already creeping in under cover of mirth.

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Jul. 22nd, 2011

Medieval me
As I was coming home from a doctor's appointment and bout of errand running, a doe and her little spotted fawn crossed the road in front of me, less than a quarter mile from my house. They must have been on their way down to the little creek for a drink--it's certainly a thirsty day! Whatever the reason, though, it was an enchanting sight.

laughter

Medieval me
I love the quotation, "Blessed are those who can laught at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused," and I got to wondering who originally said it. So far as I can discover, nobody knows. But in the course of my search I found several other quotations about laughter (thanks to http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Laughter) that I particularly like:

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."
--Edmund Burke in the Preface to Brissot's Address to his Constituents (1794)

"You grow up the first day you have your first good laugh--at yourself."
--Ethel Barrymore, as quoted in 1,600 Quotes & Pieces of Wisdom That Just Might Help You Out When You're Stuck in a Moment (and Can't Get Out of It!) (2003) by Gary P. Guthrie

"Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not."
--Vaclav Havel, Disturbing the Peace, Ch. 2 (1986)

"Against the assault of Laughter nothing can stand."
--Mark Twain, "The Chronicle of Young Satan" (ca. 1897–1900, unfinished)

"The highest forms of understanding we can achieve are laughter and human compassion."
--Richard Feynman, in What Do You Care What Other People Think? (1988)

"You can't laugh and be afraid at the same time—of anything."
--Stephen Colbert, Parade interview, September 23, 2007

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The New Moon

Medieval me
In honor of today's new moon and the coming spring and returning life, here is an old poem/hymn/prayer from Scotland (Carmina Gadelica #305):



Hail to thee, thou new moon,

Guiding jewel of gentleness!

I am bending to thee my knee,

I am offering thee my love.



I am bending to thee my knee,

I am giving thee my hand,

I am lifting to thee mine eye,

O new moon of the seasons.



Hail to thee, thou new moon,

Joyful maiden of my love!

Hail to thee, thou new moon,

Joyful maiden of the graces!



Thou art travelling in thy course,

Thou art steering the full tides;

Thou art illuming to us thy face,

O new moon of the seasons.



Thou queen-maiden of guidance,

Thou queen-maiden of good fortune,

Thou queen-maiden my beloved,

Thou new moon of the seasons!

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Medieval me
Today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but the rights we won on that day thirty-eight years ago are under serious and sustained threat. I understand that many people in the anti-choice movement equate abortion with killing babies. But as they argue for a "culture of life," they seem to think only of a fetus's potential for life and to take no account of a pregnant woman's life.

Moreover, depriving a woman of choice is depriving her of her rights as an American citizen, as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment: "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

As a woman who developed life-threatening complications during pregnancy and who could probably not survive another pregnancy (and even if I could, the baby would have serious birth defects because of the medication I'm on), I take this issue very personally. Forcing me to continue an unplanned pregnancy would be tantamount to giving me a death sentence. And pregnancy is inherently risky--for all women, not just those with underlying health issues. Complications can occur at any point during gestation or labor. How people who value freedom--and, for that matter, life--can think forced pregnancy is acceptable is beyond my understanding.

And please don't take this as an opening to try to "help" me understand why a fetus has more of a right to life and liberty than I do. My belief in women's right to self-determination is one of my absolute core values, and is also thoroughly grounded in my religious faith. I mention that last bit because opposition to reproductive choice is, very often, explicitly grounded in religious faith--which makes forced-pregnancy laws a First Amendment problem, too, as they endeavor to enforce a particular religious viewpoint on the general populace and to keep many of us from acting in accordance with are own beliefs and values.



Here's a note from Credo Action, with a link to one of the petitions you can sign to help preserve our rights:

Representative Chris Smith has introduced the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" -- a chilling bill that will greatly reduce access to safe, legal abortions for women in this country.

And while Republican control makes it likely that this bill will pass the House, weak or fragmented opposition from Democrats will only invite more extreme attacks on women's rights.

As House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi has the ability to bring Democrats together against this radical expansion of abortion restrictions. But she needs to know that we have her back as she goes up against the extreme anti-choice members of Congress, including members of her own caucus.

I just signed a petition calling on Minority Leader Pelosi to bring Democrats together to fight against this anti-woman and anti-choice legislation. I hope you will too. Use the link below to take action.

http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/pelosi_choice_leadership/?r_by=15467-2548236-9I6NPxx&rc=paste2

Rhyme and Reason

Medieval me
The other day I came across an interview with one of my favorite poets, A.E. Stallings, in which she says:

Rhyme is not an “ornament”—it is essential to a rhyming poem; without it, the poem would not have happened. That is, the poet does not “know” exactly what the poem is going to say and “translate” it into rhyming verse—or shouldn’t, in my book. On the contrary, it is the strange dream-logic connections of the rhymes themselves that lead the poem forward, perhaps into territory the poet herself had not intuited. Rhyme is a method of composition.

I just love this, and it perfectly articulates the experience I have when I'm composing a sonnet--and why I so love writing in that form.

The full interview is here:
http://www.valpo.edu/vpr/v12n1/v12n1prose/stallingsinterview.php

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cool vulture stuff

Medieval me
Over the last several years, turkey vultures have become an important symbolic creature for me--but I'd never done much research on them. Tonight, though, I happened upon the "Vulture Shamanism" webpage (http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/cienciareal/esp_chaman_08.htm), where I read the following, which is making a lot of pieces fit together in my brain:

The scientific name for the Turkey Vulture is CATHARTES AURA which means GOLDEN PURIFIER because as it goes about its lifetime business it purifies the landscape and environment in its own natural way, ensuring the continued health and life of other living things. The Vulture is a promise that all hardship was temporary and necessary for a higher purpose.... Vultures live and work together, both in cooperation and friendliness. They communicate with friends and neighbors when they find something to eat. They let the others know where the food is. And when there is a big feast they communicate with neighboring flocks in distant roosts. Also, Turkey Vultures that range within California Condor habitat areas, when they find food they will go to the Condors and lead them to it.

and:

In Buddhism the Golden Purifier is COMPASSION, Karuna in Sanskrit. Compassion works for us in allowing us to perceive the pain, anguish, affliction, agony, torment and distress of others clearly, through allowing it into our experience also. It is then something that has moved further out of the realm of the ignored or the unconscious into the realm of the included, the accepted, the conscious. Compassion is spacious, allowing the way things are to exist, to change, and to end. Particularly it allows pain to end. This means that it must be patient, not in any hurry to force pain to end or to try officiously to get rid of pain. It is the active side of wisdom....


Not all of the above may be true, of course (for example, I'd like to read the part about the condors in a more scientific source) but still, I am marveling at the wonderful interconnectedness of things!

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