Good morning.

For those of you who are younger than I, the title of this post is from the 1974 film “Blazing Saddles.”

I’ve been working. And I’ve missed you.

Ten months. Ten months almost to the day since I last posted anything. How sad.

But here’s a happy update. That class I worried about on my last post all those months ago? The college class? Worked, worked, worked. I rocked it and got an A! This week, while doing a bit of research for an idea, I went back through all my old report cards (thanks my parents, for saving every little thing), and discovered that my suspicions were true. I’d only achieved an A on one other occasion. In seventh grade, I rocketed from a C+ in Social Studies to grab the carrot dangled in front of me. Bring up your grade and you can get your ears pierced. And there my shining moment remained. All of my elementary and secondary school efforts were a sorry reflection of my then undiagnosed ADD.

But I’m better now!

In other news, I submitted some work to the Yale Summer Writer’s Conference. I’d stumbled across the website quite by accident toward the end of the bleak and seemingly unending horrific winter. The discovery created a dismal internal dialog…

Yale. Holy shit. How awesome would that be? But are you nuts? You suck. No way could  that ever happen. And the expense. Forget it.

But I couldn’t get it out of my head. The thought kept creeping back.

Yale…Yale…Yale…

Still-

You’re not good enough. It’s too expensive.

But after a week or two-

What about submitting something to see what happens? It would be satisfaction enough just getting accepted, even if you can’t go.

Maybe.

Yale…Yale..Yale…

So I started. It snowballed. I couldn’t stop. I wrote. I revised. Wrote and revised some more. Lunchtime. Evenings. Weekends. I was obsessed. Hours and hours and hours. The deadline approached. I think I was delirious when I said to my husband,

“If I get accepted after all this work, I don’t care how much it costs, I’m going.”

I hit send one day before the April 30 deadline. They would respond, they said, by May 18. A Monday.

By Saturday, May 16, I hadn’t heard anything and was resigned to the fact that no response would be my answer. I consoled myself with the knowledge I’d done lots of mental and written exercise. But on that fateful day, while attending a writer’s workshop, I sat next to an older woman, meticulously dressed in a timeless black suit, silver hair piled on top of her head, her look polished off by elegant jewelry. During the break, l told her my Yale story. She listened closely, without interruption, and when I was finished, leaned into me and practically poked her finger into my chest.

“You call them!” she said taking me aback.

“What? It’s Yale!”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Yale is an exceptional institution of higher learning. But they can make mistakes. And besides that, you worked hard on that piece and you deserve a response.”

Neither of those thoughts had occurred to me. Yale? Mistakes? I deserve a response?

She handed me her card. My mind was spinning as she spoke, but I think she said something about being affiliated with them. Call her if I had a problem. But call them. Today. When I get back. Leave a message on voicemail if I can’t get through.

Holy shit.

I went home, looked up a couple of numbers and took her advice.

One mailbox had not been set up, the other was full.

Nice,Yale.

So I sent an email to the director of the program and on Monday morning when I got to work, I received this response;

“Dear Dennie, My records show that you were accepted on May 4. Did you not receive that information? Please let me know immediately.”

My records show you were accepted on May 4. Did you not receive that information? Please let me know immediately.

What? What, what, what, what, what?

I re-read the message. Twice, three times. It was true. I had been accepted into the Yale Summer Writer’s Conference.

Thank you workshop lady.

I called Dennis. Holding back the tears, I was talking so fast, he couldn’t understand me.

But when I finally made myself clear, the enormity of this opportunity hit him too.

“Congratulations, baby. You call them right now and tell them you’ll be there.”

And that’s my story of a serendipitous encounter with a wise and lovely lady. And how a barely average student finally got into Yale.

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Posted by: Dennie | September 4, 2014

Irregularity

Not talking about bowel movements here. Sorry.Some people, who will remain nameless (you know who you are) like to talk about shit.

How vulgar and gross am I tonight?

Anyway-this irregularity topic has to do with—surprise–my extended absence from here. My speck of a spot in the cyber world. How many times have I stated I’d be back — writing with regularity then fizzled out?

Too many.

But my absence has not been due to laziness or not writing. Oh no. I’ve had a very busy and productive summer…writing workshops, memoir classes, contest entries (no cigar yet) and the biggie is yet to come—I’ve enrolled in a writing course at my local state university. Me–who hated school. Taking my first dip on Monday night. “Intro to the Creative Process.” 

I’m excited. Scared. Nervous. Homework? Lots of reading?  And my biggest fear-tests and exams. I used to freeze and blank out when taking a test. Will that still be the same? What if  I fail? What if I hate the teacher? What if the teacher hates me?

Jesus.Fifty-eight and going back to school. Sort of. 

But Grandma Moses started late. Maybe I have a chance, too.

Posted by: Dennie | April 23, 2014

Learning To Love Learning

I had an intense dislike of school.

It began on the very first day of  my stellar and productive education.  In kindergarten. There was no formal program in those days, so my parents enrolled me with Miss Barton, an ancient, cranky woman who ran a  pre-first grade out of her house.

I was four or five. The weather was cool that day and  the sky was as gray as the hair of the three spinsters waiting inside the dark and dreary home of Miss Barton.  As I stood sobbing on the sagging front porch of the house, my mother drove away, leaving me alone and afraid with Miss Barton and her two accomplices.

Since that long ago day, I’ve had difficulty with school. I’m beginning to suspect that my struggle wasn’t so much in the learning, but in the method of teaching. An analyst might attribute my lifelong problem to my early experiences; old biddy teachers with zip for personality and patience that could fit on the head of a pin,  young teachers who seemed to think the way to get through to me was to scream at the top of their lungs and keep me in at recess,  and all the others in-between including men who had no business teaching young girls.

But as I jump-start my writing career, I’m discovering a  new side of me. One I never knew existed. I like to learn. Really, really like it. I can’t read enough, can’t absorb enough. It’s like eating ice cream-sweet, delicious and satisfying and I  just want more.

This feeling is totally foreign to me. Go upstairs and study rather than watch television? Stay at home on Sundays and  devour the New York Times instead of going to a flea market? (Okay, so I did go last week, but I wanted to stay home.)  I feel like I’m trying to catch-up on forty lost years.

I’m taking this eagerness as a very good thing. It’s the same excited feeling  that comes with a new car. Flying along with the moon roof open,  wanting to drive forever.

But unlike a new car smell, I think this is going to last.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Dennie | April 17, 2014

“Remember The Mouse”

So I’ve chosen a genre.

Where do I go from here?

Not up, that’s for sure.

I think a lot of myself. I write and write, then spend hours editing and rewriting. And it’s awesome. I can’t believe how good it sounds. It brings tears to my eyes. I’m so proud.

I take a writing seminar, facilitated by a professional writer and editor. After the session, she offers to review and critique one page from each of the attendees. I’m excited. I know my page is far from perfect, but it’s good. I fire it off and wait.

I stink. She didn’t say so, but  her edits make the page look like a bloody road map. Literally. So many red lines I could barely read my original. My stomach knotted up and my mood took a giant nose dive.

Realistically, I know I’m  a novice with  no formal training, education or experience. One who talks too much and writes the same way.

“Excuse me, madam, your ignorance is showing.”

I’ve had work read by two professionals now, each reciting the same three words.

Show don’t tell.

I thought I had.  How does one do that? Nobody’s showing or telling me.

My husband sent me a “keep your chin up”  email  not too long ago. And when I get into a funk, he reminds me to remember the mouse.

I will.

 

Remember the mouse

 

 

 

 

 

Going back to school isn’t an option right now.

 

Posted by: Dennie | April 15, 2014

To Tell The Truth

To Tell The Truth

A television game show where three contestants attempt to Bull S*** a panel. The object was for the panel to figure out who is BS-ing and who is telling the truth.

Days Of My Life”  “Observations and commentary based on a real life non-soap opera.”

The name and sub-title of my blog, which, like the show, has had a lot of BS-ing. Not lies, just not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but.  I’ve offered bits and pieces of surface stuff, yet held back. A lot.

But things are about to change, ladies and gentlemen.

Let me count the ways.

Number One. I’m living a self-imposed deadline in which I have twenty-seven months to establish my writing and supplement my income. My plan is to eventually quit my “real job” and write full-time.

The goal: reach that accomplishment by the time I’m sixty.

Thus the twenty-seven months.

Number two. In order to reach said goal, I’ve been doing a lot of reading to educate myself. And in doing this I’ve realized the genre of my preference…

Creative non-fiction.  A form of writing used to present factually accurate,  well told stories. About anything.  As long as they are true. Which, as you’ll soon read, has been a conundrum.

I’ve been pushing myself. I joined a writing group.  Entered contests. Attended a couple of seminars. And applied for acceptance into writing programs.

Applied for acceptance. Whoa. I feel like I’m back in school when my stomach churned at the thought of  attending classes and studying.  But my stomach churns now because I want this so badly I think I’ll barf if it doesn’t happen.  And these programs are the real deal. I can’t just fork over money to have people teach me stuff. The people have to read my stuff first and decide if they think I’m teachable.

Number Three. The applications to these writing workshops and seminars include questions and requirements such as:

“Have you been published?”

“Send your résumé.”

“Include a writing sample.”

“Website.”

“Blog.”

Ummmm…let’s see…

“No.”

“I don’t have a résumé.”

“I can  send a sample.”

“Don’t have a website, either.”

And…”My blog needs to be dusted off and polished up.”

So here I am, dusting and polishing. Just in case anybody important stops by, I don’t want them to see nasty old cobwebs.

My blog needs to look fresh. And clean.

And new.

Which brings me to…

Number Four. I’ve gleaned something really important from all this reading and studying. And in a nutshell, it’s really quite simple.

Tell the truth.

That’s the new part.

Sounds pretty easy. And it seems to be for some people. Those people who do creative non-fiction so well. Anne Lamott. Dani Shapiro. Joan Didion. Elizabeth Gilbert. The list goes on.

As I have learned from Lee Gutkind, “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.” It has to be real. It has to be truthful.

And there was my problem.

I was afraid.

I was protecting myself, and in many ways, people in my life.

I was afraid to put it all out there.  To express my opinions, especially if they are converse to others’. Especially they might cast people in a less-than-shining light.

But I’m learning that that’s where the good stuff is. That’s what will release me. Allow me to be myself. And tell it like it is.

My own truth. My own perspective.

It’s risky. That’s what the pros say. People might get pissed. Hell, not might, they will if I really write what’s going on inside. But I’ve discovered that unless I do this, until I do this, I will never move forward.

I’ve found the answer. I know it to be true because I felt it. I felt the blockage, like in an artery. My words couldn’t flow freely. I was holding back. I couldn’t let go.

I couldn’t tell my truth because I was afraid.

But the blockage has begun to dissolve.

Brene Brown, a  writer and research professor at The University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work has written a book entitled, “I thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)” and sub-titled, “Making The Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough.””

I am enough and it doesn’t matter what people think. My heart is full. Full of emotion and need and truth that must flow out.

It’s time.

I asked myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

And then I answered back, “Nothing. At this point everyone knows my shit. And some think they know more because they made stuff up. Maybe people won’t speak to me. They don’t speak to me now, so how much more can they hurt me?  This is my life, full of characters and experiences and  material for stories and I’m going to write it.”

This is “Days Of My Life. Observations and Commentary Based On A Real Life Non-Soap Opera.”

I’ve been observing.

The True, Real Life Commentary will begin.

 

 

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Posted by: Dennie | March 3, 2014

Facebook

I am seriously considering dropping off the face of Facebook. My husband recently de-activated his account as did his niece and I may well follow suit.

It’s not like I have a million friends that I keep in touch with. I don’t even have a hundred, or fifty for that matter. By my own choice. It’s really time-consuming reading all that stuff about everybody else’s life.And I don’t have that much to read. I can’t imagine how people with thousands of “friends” keep up.  And while I’m reading about everybody else, the precious free time I do have gets sucked away into Facebook oblivion.

I’ll admit, when I’m bored, I will sometimes troll around and stalk people, especially those I may not have seen for years and who, for one reason or another, popped into my head…

“Hey, I wonder whatever happened to so and so…”

Then there’s the six degrees of separation thing. It always blows my mind when I find someone who knows someone that I don’t know. It makes me wonder how they know each other.

But why should I care who knows who? Or who has hamburgers for dinner? Or got wasted last night? Yeah, it’s fun and frivolous sometimes, but really, there are much better things I could be, and sometimes, should be, doing.

Like writing in my blog. Or just writing. Or reading. Or washing the kitchen floor.

Not.

I don’t know. I’m going to have to give this some more thought. There would be a few things I’d miss–The David Sheldrick posts, for instance. But more often than not, I won’t  read them because they upset me.

I’d miss keeping up with our friend in South Africa. If not for FB, I wouldn’t have known he authored a book about leopards.

I won’t miss the agonizing posts about abused animals. Or children. Or cancer. Or any other of life’s horrible things.

I will miss keeping up (sort of) with my high school friend….you know who you are. FB is the only way we keep in touch.

And the same for some other old friends. It’s nice to see how they’re doing.

But sometimes, it’s just better not to know other people’s business.

For the most part, I waste too much  time when I get started on Facebook. Before I know it, and hour, or two is shot. I should just take a sabbatical.

I’m just not sure if I can do it.

Maybe.

Posted by: Dennie | February 26, 2014

Mistakes

“We all make mistakes. But hopefully, as we apply the Al-Anon program and continue to grow in self-awareness, we will learn from those mistakes. Amends can be made for any harm we’ve done, and we can change our behavior and attitudes so that we don’t repeat the same errors. Thus, even painful past experiences can help us learn to create a better future.

The greatest obstacle to this learning process is shame. Shame is an excuse to hate ourselves today for something we did or didn’t do in the past. There is no room in a shamed-filled mind for the fact that we did our best at the time, no room to accept that as human beings we are bound to make mistakes.

If I feel ashamed, I need a reality check because my thinking is probably distorted. Even though it may take great courage, if I share about it with an Al-Anon friend, I will interrupt the self destructive thoughts and make room for a more loving and nurturing point of view. With a little help, I may discover that even my most embarrassing moments can bless my life by teaching me to turn in a more positive direction.”

Today’s Reminder

Today I will love myself enough to recognize shame as an error in judgement.

The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Today’s reading from Al-Anon Courage To Change was so beautiful that I had to post it. If I keep an open mind, I get exactly what I need.

Posted by: Dennie | February 24, 2014

Dreams

I dreamt about my father last night.

I wonder if he dreams about me.

Posted by: Dennie | February 17, 2014

The Days of My Life Are Flying By

…and it while it seems like months since I’ve been here, it’s actually only been a few weeks. A few weeks too many.

The “baby” has been in the incubator all this time,  with me carefully and patiently  tending it, helping it grow.

Oh, hell, I sound like an idiot, referring to a piece of writing as a baby. They are words on a screen that required tons of effort and patience. They’re a part of my story.  But truthfully, I feel like it’s consumed almost as much of my time as my kids did when they were infants.

I don’t think I can do much more to get it ready for submission.  Somebody, I think it was Anne Lamott, said revise and edit until you can’t do anymore, and that’s what I’ve done. I’ve had some (good) feedback and it’s getting close to the time to hold my breath and jump in. What’s the worse that can happen?

Rejection. “Thanks, but no thanks”.  But I’m bracing for that response. I’m a newbie, newbies have to attend the School of Hard Knocks. So throw it at me, people. I can take it.

Writing is tough. It’s harder than I thought it was going to be.And it’s so damn time-consuming. But the time flies when I’m writing. And when I hit on something really good, a sentence or a paragraph that just….sings, I get this fluttery feeling in my stomach–like the way I feel minutes before a race, nervous but excited. Up for the challenge.

And that, boys and girls, is the reason that I’m pursuing this like I’ve never pursued anything before in my life.  Yes, it would be awesome if I were to be published, but the feeling, the out-of -body experience is better than any drunk or high I’ve ever had.

I’ve sent a few magazine queries also. And I will continue to send more.  I’m not quitting. Somebody’s going to say “Yes.” I just have to keep asking.

Posted by: Dennie | January 30, 2014

A New Baby

I just gave birth to my third baby.

My first were humans-each arrived here without sedatives or pain meds,  and they were a walk in the park compared to this delivery.

The labor was intense-thirty hours? Forty? Sixty? I have no idea. After a while I became delirious with the effort. But I plowed forward thanks to my newest mentor, Diana Burrell (every time I think of her name, Paul Anka starts singing in my head)  with whom I became acquainted  through The Renegade Writer E-course,  “Become An Idea Machine.” She encouraged me, like a helpful and forthright midwife,  to push forward  without fear and work through the pain. And I did. All the effort has produced a one thousand, five hundred and thirteen word bouncing bundle of joy.

Turns out, sadly enough, that the baby was premature and needs to stay in an incubator until it is fully cooked. Apparently, after some examination by the midwife, the poor little thing is missing a few parts. But not to worry, with tender love and care, I think it will be alright.

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