Poetry is home to me.

A friend of mine, Brian Fanelli, recently hosted a workshop as a part of a local poetry series I’m running.  His topic was about home and place.  These settings are the breeding ground for creative ideas, and even creative voices.

He asked the question:  Does where you’re from effect your writing?  My answer was yes.  Where you come from, whether the ghetto or the up-and-coming subdivision, is your “stomping ground,” and the place that shapes your interests, your friends, your memories. Of course it effects your writing.  We cannot write, even the wildest of fictions, without having some part of ourselves, our pasts, our memories infiltrating the finished product.

A place is a location.  Home is everything attached to it.  You may not like the place where you live, be it the actual dwelling area or the town/city/state as a whole; nevertheless, there is some place you call home.

What does home mean to you?  Home to me is the peace I feel when I walk through the door of my new apartment.  I’m finally away from this crazy neighbor/negligent landlord situation. My new town is one square mile of peace.  Occasionally, there is a speeding car or a loud neighbor stomping up the corridor steps, but nothing compared to the unsettling feeling of sneaking into my house or feeling trapped in it because my neighbor was harassing me with drug-induced soliloquies of her kind of, for lack of a better term, Jerry Springer Show life.

Home is here, finally, where I have set my bags and committed myself to each moment and to my writing.  Pennsylvania was never my ideal locale.  I was in love with southwest Virginia and its rolling Blue Ridge Mountains, small hippie shops, local fair trade coffee and sprawling wilderness.  But, being an unfailing optimist, I found peace and home here at last.

Will I be here for the long haul?  I feel it’s not to be, but it’s God’s plan, not mine.  Each peaceful moment at home breeds a new sense of contentment and joy in the life I’m currently living.  Home should be exactly that, no matter where it is.

Where is home to you?  How do you define it?

Be well and keep writing,

Rachael

For more information on my poet-friend, Brian, visit his website:  www.brianfanelli.com  or his WordPress blog here:

http://brianfanelli.wordpress.com

The Memorial Tattoo

This is more about me wanting to write about my first tattoo.  It is relevant to the writing life, though.  When we, as writers, experience something, almost anything, we feel the need to share it through the written word.  Here’s the story:

The Life and Times of An Almost Human Cat

The Memorial Tattoo

November 29th 2011 6:57 pm
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Snakes’ Mom, Rachael, here. I thought I’d write a bit about the memorial tattoo I got in honor of her life with me. I got the tattoo, (my first one ever) in March 2011, about six weeks after she passed.

Bella and Cecilia are with Mom and Jeremy, of course. This was in a time before Cinnamon and Sugar came into my life. (Cinnamon I got from a rescue shelter on what would have been Snakes’ 17th birthday.)

One of the nights shortly after she “went to see Jesus” I came home and sketched a picture of a stick-ish tree with stars and hearts, and a cat beneath it, looking up at it (from a back view.)

It was random and fast. Sitting in grief on my kitchen floor, I felt good about it. It was almost like she drove me to do it. Here’s the weird part:

A few days later, I thought to count the items. There were nine stars, seven hearts (the number of perfect order) and one cat. The sum of these items is 17. She would have been 17 on 03/25/2011. As I sketched it, unaware of the fated number, I thought it might be a good tattoo.

Mom and my best friend, Lindsey, went with me. Usually Mom is squeamish, but she was smiling and looking the whole time. I had a small picture of Snakes that I looked at the whole time. Oddly, I felt peaceful and found myself smiling during the process. It didn’t hurt. The tattoo artist, Liaa, said, “It will actually feel like one long cat scratch, ironically enough.” (I traveled all the way to DC and you should check out http://www.britishinkdc.com if you are interested in a good tattoo by great artists.)

The tattoo is situated right on my spine. Liaa explained this was a good choice that I made because it symbolized strength and eternity.

I always said when Snakies passed, I’d save her ashes and bury them to help a tree grow in my backyard. I don’t have the tree or the backyard but one day, I will. When I pass, I will have my ashes mingled with hers. She was with me for more than half my life, and was, without any doubt, family. She was my best friend.

As other feline friends pass, a coworker suggested I add them to the art on my back. I think I will.

Be well and kiss your kitties,

Rachael

This is the link to the Catster page to learn more about the cats if you are interested:

http://www.catster.com/cats/487324/diary

what’s your writing sin?

I’ll preface this blog entry with quoted song lyrics from one of my favorite bands of all time, Toad the Wet Sprocket “I won’t repeat myself again, I will not repeat myself again.” (“Come Down”, from the album, Coil, 1997.)  

Well, apparently, repeated words and phrases are my writing sin.  I attribute this to being excited about the ideas themselves.  You know how when you get really excited you repeat yourself?  I imagine that good editing and a second pair of eyes on my writing will help.  I’ve decided, however, not to be too harsh on myself during the first draft of things.  

Often, I kill ideas before they even start if I start wondering about my mistakes and hangups and reasons I should/shouldn’t be doing this/writing this/going there, etc.  As writers, it’s easy to blockade ourselves into a corner and tear down all the drive we have to write instead of just writing.

I said it just the other day on Facebook:  “Why do we postpone writing when it feels so damn good?!”  Even if it’s not terrific writing, and you know it isn’t, there’s something to be said about the magic of keys clacking away or ink flowing onto the page, whichever method you prefer.  Something transforms and takes the wheel.  You might be present, but you’re only watching as the thoughts, ideas, plots and characters mold you into their vessel for expression.  

So what is your writing hang up and what have you found helps to remedy it?

Be well and keep on writing,

 

Rachael

Doubt

Then you realize, which can be a good thing, or not–that you have this bad writing habit.  Mine?  I repeat repeat words.  Too often.  Sometimes I will even repeat ideas in the same paragraph.  On a read through, after the initial writing, it’s painfully obvious.

Funny…the writing feels so good but when you step back and look at it, you’re consumed with doubt.  I’ve been in a funk lately and this new realization has slowed my writing stamina a bit.  Yes, forge on, rah, rah, I know.  But do you ever have those days when doubt shadows your writing confidence like the late afternoon sun in November?

Right now, I’m going through a big doubting phase and I haven’t been this down in a while.  In fact, just a few weeks ago I was on this euphoric, “Wow, poetry is great and I am a poet and surely I have talent of some kind.”  Maybe it was the rejection from a publication other than my own literary magazine.

Maybe it was three different editors telling me I make the same mistakes over and over again.  What is the cure?  A closer reading?  A new approach?

I still get up most days of the week and write in the morning hours.  Do you ever write, all the while knowing it’s not good writing?  Sometimes it’s just important to get the stream of consciousness (however repeated) on the page before you fix it.  I like to think that way you can glean the gem from the mess of repeated debris that lies on top of it.

But lately, I’ve had a hard time seeing through the debris.  Any suggestions?

Be well, embrace poetry always, and keep writing,

Rachael

Creative Community

We tend to overlook root words in the English language.  Every time I think of the word “community” I break it down:  common unity.  In particular, today I’d like to talk about the creative community, especially when it comes to creative writing.

It’s no secret that writing is a solitary act.  The cat stares at you in the pre-dawn computer glow.  You turn down social engagements to work on your novel.  You wish you had someone to give you some feedback on your latest attempt at poetry, hoping that maybe, just maybe, it will be something you like.

Recently, I joined/started a small writer’s group and it has been incredibly inspiring.  As writers, sometimes I think we isolate ourselves too much.  The reward of writing is not in publication, I don’t think.  The reward is in SHARING our writing with someone, even if it’s just one other person.

It is essential to have other creative people to convene with.  This sharing of creative works is often infectious.  For example, I am used to the creative writing community through Wilkes University, but I started a small poetry series at my public library this fall.  It is great to meet new people at all skill levels, and to see their response and appreciation for having a creative community in which to share and grow in their talents.

If you don’t have a creative community, seek one out or start one in your town/city.  I promise it will be worth it!

Be well and keep right on writing,

Rachael