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Writers Resisting Trump

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Writers Resisting Trump

I can’t let this weekend go by without writing. First of all, today marks one week until the unthinkable happens and an arrogant, greedy, pu**y-grabbing, power-obsessed man-child marches up Pennsylvania Avenue and then gets his DNA all over The People’s House.

Which means of course that we are also saying goodbye to Barack and Michele and Joe and Jill and oh, I can’t bear the thought.

From class to crass.

Also next week the Congress continues its three-ring circus to decide how and when to gut my health insurance (along with twenty million other people’s) and replace it with . . . what? Nobody seems to have a clue. A bunch of tweets telling me what a loser I am? A premiere Russian healthcare plan? Something Ben Carson dreams up — oh wait, he’s a housing expert now, I forgot.

The Resistance

In addition to all the fun in D.C., this Sunday is Writers Resist day. While I sometimes have trouble thinking of myself as a real writer, I have no trouble at all calling myself a member of “the Resistance.”

To resist means to withstand the action or effect of something, in this case a Putin-approved, race-baiting, Muslim-hating, fear-mongering, planet-threatening, money-worshipping . . .

I guess if I’m playing a writer today I should limit my adjectives, or so the experts tell me.

But you get the idea. You know who the guy is. Bottom of the barrel. Even his supporters know who he is. They just don’t seem to care. I can’t imagine that the Russian black-mailers have anything on the man-child that could possibly surprise any of us. Kellyanne Conway says that if we want to know the real Trump, we should look into his heart and not at his words or actions.

No thank you, Kellyanne. What a horrifying prospect!

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45

#WriteOurDemocracy

Writers Resist is a national network of writers concerned about the “growing public cynicism and an alarming disdain for truthfulness” that is eroding our democracy. The group understands that writers “have tremendous power to bypass empty political discourse and focus public attention on the ideals of a free, just, and compassionate society.” 

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This Sunday, writers all around the nation are gathering on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday to share their words of resistance. If you’re a writer, visit this website and join others at an event on Sunday. Or invite your friends for coffee or wine and host your own event!

Word By Word

Throughout our history, writers have used their craft to resist illegal, immoral, unethical, unthinkable situations. The British taxation of tea, women’s suffrage, slavery, child labor, civil rights, poison-peddling tobacco lobbyists, fake reasons for going to war, black lives not mattering, climate denial.

Letter from a Birmingham jail.

Word by word, we write our democracy.

And we resist.

I can imagine some small hairy Neolithic guy carving himself a sharp chisel and then finding the perfect smooth rock and gouging out, “Hell, no!” before throwing it an alpha male’s head.

Just Write No

No, we’re not registering people by their religion or ethnic background. And no, we’re not paying millions of tax dollars to build a wall around our country, pretending that Mexico is going to pay us back. And no, we’re not going to reject science and common sense and abandon the progress we’ve made slowing climate change. And no, we’re not going to “punish” women who make the heart wrenching decision to end their pregnancy.

No, no, no, and no.

Hell, no.

{Author’s note: I recognize that I am not yet in a place to expound on the ideals of freedom, justice, compassion and the like. I am still astounded and angry and terrified. But I’ll come around and share something edifying at some point. I trust that God will not let me live in anger and fear for four years.}

Waiting for Willa

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Today I’m headed to Jaffrey, New Hampshire to wait for my muse. She often visits me at the grave of author Willa Cather.

Willa never meant much to me growing up, just a writer that my father liked, but I’ve developed a deep appreciation for her since writing an odd bit of memoir/biography about her in grad school. Our lives meshed in my mind. I tried to understand who she was, what motivated her, what she feared, why she wrote. I think she appreciated my respect and curiosity — bordering on obsession — and she has since come to live in my heart with my Dad.

So I’m off on my pilgrimage. The forty-five minute drive is glorious in the fall, even on a dreary day like today. I will sit on the stone wall that surrounds Willa’s grave and talk to her about my life, about my writing, about my aspirations, about my frustrations.

She listens. So does Edith, her life partner who is buried next to her.

And I’ll wait. Because Willa usually answers me. No kidding. And I need talking to, most especially about my writing and where it’s going. Or not going.

Here is the story of my first visit to her grave, taken from the grad school essay that I have yet to publish:

As I step into the Old Burying Ground and pull the gate closed behind me, I am completely alone. There must be a thousand monuments covering the hillside, and I wonder how Ill find Cathers grave. I begin wandering among the granite slabs, some standing askew, others lying broken in pieces. Small American flags flutter in a slight breeze, and a few polished stone obelisks reflect the setting sun. I read the worn names underneath patches of gray and green lichen: Spofford, Pierce, Worster, Brigham. A large square stone marker standing in the lowest corner of the cemetery catches my eye, and somehow, I feel certain its hers. As I walk toward it, I can see dozens of small rocks lining the top of the gray marker, and I know Ive found it. Admirers have left talismans to honor her. I realize its quite possible that my father made his own pilgrimage to this simple shrine during one of our stays at the farmhouse down the road.

Her grave is next to a low stone wall that marks the southwestern corner of the cemetery. Just outside the wall grow gnarled rhododendron bushes and towering pine, beech, and maple trees. The marker itself is about three feet tall and the same across. Around it is a small garden of impatiens, encircled by rectangles of cut granite. The sun casts shadow branches on the face of the gravestone, and I have to lean in close to read the words:

WILLA CATHER

December 7, 1876 April 24, 1947

THE TRUTH AND CHARITY OF HER GREAT

SPIRIT WILL LIVE ON IN THE WORK

WHICH IS HER ENDURING GIFT TO HER

COUNTRY AND ALL ITS PEOPLE

“…that is happiness, to be dissolved

into something complete and great.

From My Antonia

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Recovering From My Social Media/Trump Addiction

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RECOVERING FROM MY SOCIAL MEDIA/TRUMP ADDICTION

I’ve decided to take another fasting day from social media and Donald J. Trump. Yesterday I got just a glimpse of what I’ve been doing to my psyche. I felt as if I’d been set free from an abusive imprisonment after just a few hours away from Orange Man and his tweet-world.

I read the Bible, read a book called Courageous Gentleness, and took time for prayer and meditation and napping. I prayed for Haiti. Every five minutes, I would absentmindedly flip open the cover of my laptop and see written in pencil across the top: “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” (Annie Dillard.) Then I would close it.

Yes, I watched the VP debate, and then I and stayed up late watching pundits and tweeting about it. Not at all how I want to spend my life. I’m not even going to add to the ruckus by commenting on it here.

This morning I am journaling, which I neglect more and more as I get sucked into this social media/electoral addiction. I will share with you a few snippets from my first week here at my little haven in New Hampshire:

September 28

Arrived & well-settled at Quiet Hills. I took off Monday, watched the first presidential debate over pizza and wine at the Scottish Inn in PA and then made it here with an hour to spare on Tuesday evening before the Garrison Keillor show with E.

What a gift for story he has! It’s beautiful and touching. He started out just by humming a note and without using hand gestures or anything, he soon had the whole theatre humming it and then started us all in singing, “My Country Tis of Thee,” or whatever it’s actually called. Lovely. He went on for two straight hours, digression after digression but somehow tying it all together. No notes, all memory, flawless. He talked about the beauty of words and language, went from high-brow to low-brow, sonnets to limericks, funerals to urination. Remarkable.

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On the way home, E & I saw an owl standing by the side of the road (probably over an unfortunate mouse) and it took off and flew right over our windshield. I am here.

September 30

I’ve started my time up here not too well — too much computer, obsessing over political articles and polls. I’ve committed to post a blog every day while I’m here. Yipes. Tomorrow the calendar turns over its page and I can see the end of my time here already. Mustn’t think that way! I have three weeks left. Smile. What a stretch!

Kind of funky weather. Cloudy, rain possible for the next four days, in the fifties. Humid. Not good house-airing weather.

October 1

Honestly, I am the luckiest. Quiet, early evening. The sun sets twenty minutes earlier here than in D.C. — 6:30. It’s 5 now, tea time. (When is it not?) Want to light a fire, but I’m going in to town for a cello/piano concert at St. James.

I’m thinking about doing a story on Badger Balm. At the pizza party they hosted last night, I met Bill, the founder. I joked something about “All you need is a dream right? No work at all,” and he responded, “There are invisible forces at work.” What a fun interview that would be! KInda want to do it, pitch it, and get it published in one of those “good news” magazines. Lot of work, but it would be good to get back into practice. Know what? I have the chops for this.

October 4

Dearest Book, how I neglect you! That dreadful laptop takes all my attention. Today I am fasting from it, and hence from Donald Trump. This morning I checked polls (Hillary 72% chance of winning) and headlines: Trump & Hillary stuff and nonsense and a massive hurricane hitting Haiti right now. Really, God? How much farther into the ground can those poor people be driven? I read that they don’t want to evacuate because their few belongings will be stolen. Hard to fathom. I am so grateful to have been to the slums of Nairobi so that I can *begin* to fathom and empathize. Prayers.

I have kept my commitment to blog every day. Not even sure why. I thought it might get my writing muscles moving each day, but it clearly peters out and turns into wandering the internet and falling into social media.

So very ugly in the Twitter world. I fear for my country. Such contempt & disdain & viciousness. I felt it from the Hillary people when I supported Bernie; now I feel it from the “still Bernie” people because I support Hillary. And the Trump people, OMG. It’s like a bunch of sociopathic middle schoolers have taken over adult Twitter accounts.

Afternoon:

Oh, this is *so*  much better! I can’t believe I’ve been living like that, trapped inside my computer, held hostage by mental busyness. I was mistaking that for life. I’ve read the Bible some, written prayers for church after reading the upcoming sermon, and read a bit of Frederick Buechner. 

I note in my gmail that there’s a debate going on about race and police on my Facebook page, but I have not clicked to see what’s up. Have at it. I think it might behoove me to turn off the modem. Gmail is also unhelpful.

Oh! There is the sun on green-gold maples leaves out the window! And that sweet goldfinch song. And a pileated! It’s been drizzly and dreary for days, but we’re at the beginning of a nice stretch.

I have a candle lit, signifying my intention to be present to Jesus, and I’m going to meditate now. Sweet.

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Day Eight in my daily blogging adventure

Daily Writing: Discipline or Drivel?

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I don’t know how this will go, but I’m considering blogging every day while I’m hidden away here at my New Hampshire writing retreat. The theory is that blogging will get my pen moving and words of some sort flowing, and the moving pen and flowing words will continue beyond the blogging and miraculously become a full-length memoir. 

 

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Could happen.

Or more likely, the blogging will siphon off just enough creative energy each day that there’s nothing left to flow elsewhere. Worst case — which happened yesterday — is that I post a blog and then get lost in articles, political blogs, pollsters, and youtubes and end up blowing the whole day. Although the video of Ellen DeGeneres and Michelle Obama shopping at CVS was pretty funny. 

So consider this fair warning. I have no idea what you might find on this page over the next month. The good news is, it will likely be shorter than my usual offerings. There may be reflections and photos after a walk in the woods, a poem or two, a to-do list with commentary, struggles with my sermon prep, snippets from my journal, snarks about Trump. Who knows the places we’ll go!

I will be volunteering for the senate and presidential campaigns while I’m up here, so you’ll hear about that. Volunteering in my very-blue home state of Maryland makes me feel virtuous but probably doesn’t do much else. Here, though, every vote counts towards keeping the old red, white and blue from being tainted with orange hair dye and tanning cream.

Sorry, that was mean. Donald Trump does not bring out the best in me. Or anyone, for that matter.

Anyway, I’ve volunteered to make scads of food for busloads of volunteers coming up from Massachusetts this weekend. So who knows? Maybe I’ll share some “recipes from the campaign trail” with you. The possibilities are endless! Got any suggestions for topics?

Day two. Short and (mostly) sweet.

Photo attribution: Woman Writing Letter by Gerard ter Borch. Public Domain, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Poem in the Closet

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I’m trying to be grown-up writer. I wrote a poem today in response to a prompt: closet. It’s a good poem, with potential. I want to post it here, right now. But I learned this weekend at the Festival of Faith and Writing that our brains dose us with dopamine when we get views and comments on our blogs. I didn’t know I was getting a chemical rush every time I posted, I just knew I liked watching my stats go up when I pressed “publish.”

If there’s an addictive aspect to something, I will find it!

So – I have decided there will be no immediate gratification for me today. I will not share my new poem with you. I will read it at a local poetry reading tomorrow night, after which I will put it in the closet for a time.

In a few days or a few weeks, I will bring the poem back into the light and polish it until it shines. I will read it out loud and ask it questions; I will caress it and cuddle it and play with it. The crease between my eyebrows will grow deeper as it does when I concentrate, but I will also laugh when the the Divine Poet presents me with a precisely perfect word. I will rearrange and reinvent my poem until at last the sublime syntax rewards me with a waterfall of joy that washes away any wish for a simple dopamine high.

And then I will submit my poem for publication. Because I am a grown-up writer.

Thanks for the closet word prompt, WordPress!

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Festival of Faith & Writing: Day Three (kind of)

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I tell myself that losing my wallet on a Christian college campus is less problematic than doing so in Costa Rica, which is where I was the last time I became separated from my wallet. At least I speak the language. Nevertheless, I spend the morning in a mild state of panic with attendant upset stomach until a friend texts at 10:30 to say that my wayward belongings have been found in the back seat of his car. Thank God. I’m not sure what happens if you try to board a plane without a driver’s license these days, but I’m thinking Guantanamo.

At any rate, day three of the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College was just as full and fascinating as were the first two days, but today I also wandered in a cloud of grateful bliss after I was reunited with my identity and my cash and credit cards.

I want to do the sessions and the speakers justice and fear that I won’t be able to, given that it’s almost midnight, I’ve been up since 7, and I’ve just had a couple of glasses of wine with some new friends. It’s about time to curl up in bed with one of my new books.

So tonight I’ll just share a favorite quote from the day. That’s about all the bandwidth I’ve got. I promise to do a proper part III soon, but probably not tomorrow because that’ll be my birthday and I’m going to celebrate at Meijer Sculpture Gardens in downtown Grand Rapids, and then I’ll be flying home (now that I have dodged Guantanamo).

The gardens will be glorious — this trip has gifted me with a second spring this year: hyacinth, daffodils, and tulips all over again.

Birthday Blessings

Birthday Blessings

Anyway, without further ado, here is my favorite quote of the day. It came during a session on being a good “literary citizen,” which means participating in literary communities, going to public readings, supporting your libraries, promoting other’s work, etc.

Writer and editor Laura Turner said that for her, “being a literary citizen is about becoming a better person — becoming more Christlike if you’re a Christian.” The she paused thoughtfully and added, “It’s hard to be an asshole and still be a good literary citizen.”

On that note, good night, dear readers.

Related posts:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2016/04/14/festival-of-faith-writing-day-one/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/festival-of-faith-writing-day-two/

Festival of Faith & Writing: Day Two

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Would anyone miss my blogging if I went to bed instead? I learned today that there are about two million blog posts issued every day. But I promised myself I would do a daily blog from the Festival of Faith & Writing: so be it.

Blogging or Blathering?

I learned the above factoid at a panel discussion entitled Blogging or Blathering: The Current State of Personal Online Writing where participants addressed the question, “Is there still a legitimate place or need for blogging in a writers’s life?” A magazine editor, a publisher, and a former and current blogger spent an hour disagreeing with each other and sometimes with themselves, saying first one thing and then another. The answer seems to be maybe, sometimes, for some people, yes and no.

I may share more about this workshop when my brain re-engages on some far distant day, but for now I’ll just share the one aspect that became clear: if you are trying to build your writing “platform” through following, commenting, and a ubiquitous online presence, don’t waste your time. No editors or publishers read comments anymore and many have shut them down completely. People are too mean and nasty, they say. Sigh.

I also learned that a nice blog length is 500 words — about half of what mine often are. So for the sake of brevity and a good night’s sleep, I’m just going to pick something that struck me from each session I attended today and expand on my experiences later (maybe).

I also learned that blogs must have pictures. So here are some pictures of life on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids:

under tree

 

 lawn2Angling for a Book Deal

Stephanie Smith, an acquisitions editor at Zondervan Publishing talked about developing an angle for your book that will appeal to editors. While “there is nothing new under the sun,” according to the Bible (I think “my book” has already been written by 1,000 people), Stephanie says that all truths are like diamonds — if you look at them from a different angle the light will strike them differently and they will be beautiful every time.

Writing as Caring

Author David Dark is . . . well, I think his brain is differently ordered than the norm. But what a fascinating ride! We bounced from his grandmother to Godzilla to Star Wars to zombies to Mr. Rogers. This guy is scary-bright, so it’s not easy to keep up with him, much less find one nugget to share. How about this: “Writing is an expression of self-care and an expression of communal care. Ask yourself, ‘what do I have in me right now that might be of help to someone?’” He’s just written a book called, “Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious.” Great title! Sadly (for me, not David), it was sold out just hours after his talk, so I will reserve a space on my shelf for it. 

David Dark

David Dark

Poet and teacher Marilyn Chandler McEntyre bemoaned how hard it is to maintain civil discourse in a political climate where stakes are high and well-funded spin campaigns rule the airwaves. “Where half-truths are common currency and discourse is dumbed down, speaking life-giving words can be particularly challenging.” Amen to that! She offered examples of authors who do this well, including Wendell Berry, Naomi Wolf, Naomi Klein, and Chris Hedges. I love Berry, but I need to check out the other three. Two nuggets: “Neutrality is complicity,” and “Laugh when you can.”

Author Shauna Niequist was very generous with her tips and insights into the memoir process. I’ve got pages of notes to digest from her talk. When asked about vulnerability and where she draws the line on what is “safe” or “appropriate” to share, she answered, “I will always throw myself under the bus if it helps you {the reader} know that you are not alone and you are not crazy.”

Last Words

After eleven hours of words and more words, it’s amazing that I could retain anything from the last session, which was a talk about fiction by George Saunders and Tobias Wolff. Two nuggets, both from Wolff:

“Most of us walk around in an unintentional cloud of self-absorption. Literature is the thing that woke me up to the absolute. adamant reality of other human beings.”

And: “Death is in front of all of us. It should tell us something about how we spend our time.”

Here’s a cheerier thought to end on, because I’m told you should never leave your readers hanging on the edge of an abyss:

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Carrying love through the shadows

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