Can you say it in six words?
A recent contest by the online storytelling magazine SMITH asked people to write memoirs in just six words. Think about it. What would you say if that's all the words you had? Check the online SMITH magazine website, Smithmag.net, for details and more challenges. Here are couple examples to whet your interest. The spring 2008 winner by Kathleen Ett of Brooklyn was "I'll never know mom's meatloaf recipe." Runners-up included "Party of one, many tried crashing" by Lorri McDole of Renton, Washington; "I was a statue; life's a pigeon" by Jim Chappell of Louisville, Kentucky, and "Saying 'I do' …completely undid me" by Nadine Scjiff of Los Angeles.
If you like these, you can buy a whole book of them. It's called Not Quite What I was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure. The publishers are currently working on a book of six-word memoirs by teens. Plus they have a never-ending list of other contests and ways to contribute or communicate with other folks who like this kind of brief but poignant writing.
So what would I say? My first attempt: "Two husbands, two dogs, no babies." But you can go in all directions. "I was automatic; he was stick-shift." How about "Jesus called, but I wasn't home." Or "I snored. He drank. We quit." These are not necessarily autobiographical. One more: "Cash all gone, charged and ran."
What would you say? Give it a shot and I'll print them next month if you want me to. Remember: six words. No obscenities, please. I don't want my newsletter to get stuck in the sp*m folders.
On the Homefront
August has been all about dog surgeries. Chico got neutered and Annie got spayed, so we have no more worries about brother-sister babies, and in theory they'll calm down. Hah. Stitches or not, both were ready to rumble the day after their surgeries.
Between the surgeries Chico and Annie graduated from their first obedience class. Straight A's for both. We had "Pomp and Circumstance" on the boombox, gooey white cake with sugary dog-bone deocorations for the owners, and biscuits and diplomas for the dogs. What I find interesting is that both pups are perfectly obedient now while we're in training mode, but when I take off the leash, they're still chewing up the furniture, jumping on people and spreading mud all over everything. "Down?" "Off?" I can't hear you.
While each dog was recuperating, the other spent some days at doggy daycare, giving us wonderful relief from the effort to keep the dogs apart. Because daycare closes at 6, Annie went to church choir with me one night. She sang along. Unfortunately it was a different song, but who doesn't love a puppy?
Neither dog will be able to count on the cute puppy advantage much longer. Both are approaching 50 pounds—at six months--and they haven't grown into their feet yet.
What else is new? Rain, fog, thunder, wind, all that stuff we're not supposed to have in August. The clouds got lost on their way to February. But at least today we have sun and blue skies.
We spent lots of TV time in August watching the Olympics and then the Democratic National convention. The Republications come next. What's going to happen in November? God only knows, but it will be interesting.
On Oct. 17, A Cup of Comfort for Families Touched
by Alzheimer's will be released. It includes one of my
essays, "Respite from the Storm." I am currently
setting up booksignings, readings and talks to promote
the book. The publishers especially want to focus on
November, which is National Alzheimer's Awareness
month, but if it needs to be sooner or later, that's okay,
a piece in the book, which is edited by Oregonian Colleen
asking about it at your local bookstores. The more buzz we create,
the more books we will sell and the more people we can help.
My Freelancing for Newspapers challenge continues at Writers on the Rise. Check the blog for that and other articles of interest to writers. My Everything But Writing column continues at The Scriptorium, with a two-part series on office ergonomics for writers.
There's more to come, but I'll wait until I have all the details.
Oregon coast writing events
Willamette Writers coast branch hosts nonfiction writer Mark Blaine on Sept. 2 at the Newport Library, 7 p.m., admission free. If you miss that one, try the October 7 meeting, when we welcome Ingrid Wendt, a terrific poet, same place, time and price. Fiction author Scott Nadelson will be our guest on Nov. 4 and then we'll wrap up the year with a publication celebration and open mike. For information, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dorothy Mack, email@example.com. Meanwhile, Writers on the Edge keep going with great Nye Beach Writers Series programs. On Sept. 20, their guests are novelist and musician Willy Vlautin and poet Tim Sproul at 7 p.m. on the second floor of the Newport Visual Arts Center at the Nye Beach turnaround. Admission is $5 at the door and students attend free. Check the website for upcoming programs.
The Reluctant Caregivers by Anne Hendershott, Bergin & Garvey, 2000. I was drawn to this book by the sample page on Amazon.com that noted sometimes you just wish the Alzheimer's patient would hurry up and die, but overall, this skinny book was a disappointment. Hendershott bases the book on her own experience caring for her mother-in-law, Katharine, in her home. Katharine was severely ill by the time they realized she had a problem and that first year was really tough, but the following two years, they got her on good meds and enrolled her in a six-day-a-week all-day adult day care program so they could work and have a fairly normal life. Then she died. So it really didn't address what I and many others are going through with spouses or parents who are sick for a decade or more. A sociology professor, Hendershott also intersperses dense chapters on the effects of an Alzheimer's relative on children and on the genetics of Alzheimer's Disease. I skimmed those. She has some good resources listed in the back and a detailed study of the existing books about the disease. Things are a bit dated because even in only eight years, drugs and treatments have changed. It's an interesting book, and I'm glad for her family that Katharine died happy at their home. But it's not the universal experience. The Majesty of Your Loving: A Couple's Journey Through Alzheimer's by Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle, Green Mountain Books, 2008. This is the story of a journey, told in a way that makes it a gripping story, much like a novel. Harrison Hoblitzelle, known as Hob, is diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease as we begin. His wife tells the tale, but shares a great deal in his words of what he was experiencing. Both are teachers and practitioners of Buddhist philosophy and meditation, as well as fans of great literature. The book is laced with famous quotations, guided meditations and visits to spiritual leaders for help dealing with what is happening. Hob hangs on as well as he can, but the disease erodes his memory and his ability to speak. Often he considers suicide to escape the late stages. Olivia shares her own struggles to live in the moment and to give Hob all the help he needs without losing herself. Hob does die in the end. The reader knows that from the beginning. The question is how it will happen. This is a beautiful book, very comforting to those living with the disease, and loaded with helpful exercises and resources. Church of the Dog by Kaya McLaren, Penguin Books, 2008. You'd think this was a book about dogs, but it's a book about people and the dark clouds that haunt them and about a woman who knows how to chase those clouds away. Mara comes to a small town in Oregon to teach art in the public schools. She finds an elderly couple, Earl and Edith, with a cabin on their ranch. In exchange for work, they let her live there. Life has not been easy for Earl and Edith, who lost their son and daughter-in-law in a car crash and raised their grandson Daniel. The latter fled the sorrow of his home to fish in Alaska. But now Earl is dying and begs him to return. Mara has many gifts. She visits both the living and the dead in her dreams. She's an intuitive who can read people's auras and help them find happiness. She brings that happiness to all she touches. This is not a plot-driven book. It's the subtle changes in the characters and the sheer sunshine of Mara's character that carry us along to the unexpected ending. Cup of Comfort for Writers, edited by Colleen Sell, Adams Media, 2007. This book is just what it says, comfort for writers. It is filled with short inspirational stories about writers who found ways to deal with rejection, insecurity, children, and other obstacles to their writing. The writers are mostly women, many from the Northwest, where Sell lives, and they all share one common trait: they love to write. I wouldn't recommend reading it all at once. Dip into it when you feel lonely in your writing world. The book is nicely put together and well-edited, encouraging because I have a Cup of Comfort submission coming out in October. (See above)
So, it's September already. People are bemoaning the end of summer, but for folks like us who aren't involved in school, it doesn't matter. The weather on the Oregon Coast has a better-than-average chance of being great until mid-October, when anyone with any common sense joins the Canada geese migrating to somewhere warmer. As long as we can stretch out on the deck without getting wet, it's summer for me.
We're looking forward to both dogs being healed and healthy so we can let them wrestle and run and go crazy again. We may try another obedience class. There's such a thing as too much crazy. Ask my white shirt with the paw prints all over it.
Happy birthday, Suzanne, Mariah, and anybody else doing the birthday thing this month. For all you folks going back to school, study hard, get smart, and if you can't afford it, don't buy it.
All contents copyright 2008 Sue Fagalde Lick.
If you would like me to send you a link to this newsletter every month, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to forward the newsletter to friends who might be interested. Also contact me if you want me to stop sending the link.
Note: I have taken the 2003-2005 newsletters offline, but if you see something interesting in the list, I will provide free PDF copies on request.