Saturday, July 21, 2018

Random Bits of Nature (Snake Warning)

A very tiny toad -- less than in inch.

Blacksnakes kill by constriction. This was an ex-chipmunk by the time I saw it.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Wildacres Reading

Some of the reading I did in my free time at Wildacres included two books by workshop participants and two by faculty members.

If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss introduces Sadie Blue with this first sentence: "I struggle to my feet, straighten my back, lift my chin, and he hits me again. Set in Appalachia (in the county next to my own,) the novels chronicles Sadie's struggle in an abusive relationship and is told, not only from her point of view but from many others -- all sharply delineated charcters. Creek has garnered many well-deserved accolades since it was published last year. Read it for the strong female characters and the satisfying ending.

Amy Willoughby Burle's The Lemonade Year is the story of  Nina, who has a bad habit of making lemons out of lemonade. She also talks to an invisible chorus of Facebook friends who LIKE or comment or her various actions. Her marriage is failing, her sister Lola (my favorite character)has a brain injury that makes her memory unreliable, her brother Ray is an unhappy enigma, and there's a secret that needs to be addressed. And there's a younger man . . . This is a good read -- a feel-good novel about second chances and redemption. 

Lee Zacharias leads a non-fiction workshop at Wildacres and The Only Sounds We Make -- a collection of essays -- has caused me to revise my opinion (based on some tedious reading in high school) of the essay form. Lee addresses
 various subjects -- photography, the Grand Canyon, buzzards, the nature of light, and other diverse topics, all the while interweaving personal matters -- her father's suicide, her difficult mother -- to form a sort of memoir told slantwise.

The writing is crystalline clear and intensely beautiful . And though I finished the book a week ago, I want to read it again.

Tommy Hays leads a novel workshop at Wildacres and is also the director of the Great Smokies Writing Program. I've read and talked about some of his other novels  (What I Came to Tell You, The Pleasure Was Mine) but was interested to see what his first effort was like. Sam's Crossing, which came out in 1992, is the story of a young unmarried couple in Atlanta. She wants a baby; he can't make up his mind. Missed opportunities, an alluring redhead who keeps turning up unexpectedly, and a near tragedy eventually bring matters to a head. Tommy's gentle humor and easy writing style make this one a pleasure to read.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Wildacres Report

That was the week that was.  About a hundred writers convene on the mountain for a week of workshops, music, partying, and quite a lot of silliness. 

There are student readings and faculty readings, a costume night (the theme was Outer Space and I went as a Hitchhiker as in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was a great costume for someone who's resistant to dressing up -- I carried my Kindle with the words DON'T PANIC in large friendly letters on the cover and also a towel "one of the most massively useful' things a galactic hitchhiker can carry. ) And on the last night is the legendary Gong Show -- extreme silliness.

There were nine in my novel workshop and all of them were great at critique. Each participant's 4,500 words got thoroughly examined and we all learned from one another. The students caught lots of things that I had missed and by the end of the week, everyone had not only revisions to consider but a lot of things to think about concerning the direction of their work. 

It's a grueling (wink) schedule. Five class meetings (half a day) and the rest of the time free to audit other classes, write, play music, wander around taking pictures of flowers, nap, or practice for the Gong Show.

I admit to some naps. I also read a lot and will report on my reading in another post.  Three walks a day helped offset the three meals that someone else cooked.

And best of all, I wrote. One very short piece about a place we lived in Florida, most of a piece about my accident two years ago,  and something that may be the beginning of a novel tentatively titled THE SPARROW WITCH, set in Appalachia in the present day and the Twenties..

Wildacres Writers Workshop was recently listed by The National Geographic as one of a hundred places that will change your life. Students come from all over -- as far away as California, Hawaii, and, this year, even Australia.

Highly recommended for writers!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

I'm Back and the New Camera Is Here!

It was waiting for me when I arrived home from Wildacres but I resisted even opening the package till I'd unpacked, done my laundry, watered some plants, looked at my email and Facebook,  made granola, and gone to the garden to pick stuff for dinner. 

Then I opened the package, only to discover there was no user's manual (my friend Cory says probably they've quit printing manuals because no one reads them.) There were a couple of CDs. but my laptop won't take them. So I found a manual online and proceeded to follow the directions. 

I got as far as charging the battery, removing the lens from my old camera and putting it on the new one, and attaching the strap (not as easy as it sounds, at least for me.)

After dinner I managed to switch the readouts from Japanese to English (whew!) set the date and time, and a few other minor adjustments. Then I took a picture. It was dark by now and I just snapped this from where I was sitting and reading the manual.

Hoorah! A picture!

I'm pretty sure I'm going to love this camera. It has a lot of  things that are an improvement over the old one but essentially much of it is familiar. I was working my way through the manual when I discovered the Special Effects! 

My old camera didn't have this feature -- a feature that I expect most smartphones have. But I am easily amused. I played with this Color Sketch mode for a bit. . .

Josie will be with me Sunday --  I'll explore the setting designed for photographing children. Maybe I can get down to the garden early and capture the butterflies on the zinnias.

Wildacres was wonderful, as usual. I'll post something about it tomorrow.