48 days, day 47: celebration

{{ I am chronicling 48 days of writing before my July 31 travel. If you are chronicling your summer writing/days and would like to share, please link or comment so we can all cheer one another through. Strength to your sword arm!}}

The Year of Exploration is here.
On Being a Late Bloomer is here.
My speech at Vermont College (moments, memories, meaning) is here.
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We don't have a picture of us in the sixties. We met when our mutual friend, Jimmy Murphy, who lived down the street from me and drove me to school in his family's Corvair, asked me one morning at pick-up, "Can we go by and get my friend Jim?" and I said sure.

Turns out, Jimmy and Jim worked together (if you could call it that) at Biff Burger in Charleston, South Carolina. My Air Force dad had been transferred to Charleston in 1968. He spent two years mostly flying C-141s into and out of Vietnam while my mother held together a family of three kids and a dog and teenager-hood in the late sixties.

As Jim loped out of his house, trombone case under one arm, spiral notebook spilling papers out of the other, I knew my life was about to change. You can't define it that way at the time -- it's a feeling you understand only later, looking back. I got out of the passenger seat and crawled into the cramped back seat, not because I was a girl and that's what girls did, but because Jim was 6'6" tall and I knew he wouldn't fit in the back.

I don't know where the trombone went. Maybe there wasn't a trombone.

"Hi," was all I managed. "Hi," he said back. He had gigantic lips (good for kissing, it turned out). He smiled with his whole face, hiding nothing, including how amazing he thought I was, this creature who occupied the front seat of his friend Jimmy's car.

And that was the beginning. Things went very fast. I was a good girl. He was a Billy Graham good boy. But we were very good explorers, and we became inseparable, and such good friends, too. He was a good listener. I was a good talker. For the first time in my life, I had someone to really listen to me, to intently listen, looking me straight in the face, paying attention. It was heady stuff!

The music in his life became the music in mine, as I sat at football games in the bleachers in freezing November, watching the sousaphone player at halftime marching in the St. Andrews High School Marching Band. He loved band, he loved the piano (his strength, still today), he loved jazz, and he loved rock and roll.

My dad was transferred to the Philippines in 1970, and through a series of events too long to go into here, Jim and I lost touch for a few decades. When we reunited in our late forties, he still looked at me with that grin and those lips and those eyes so intent on my face, listening. I was so far gone before we even got started again. "I can't believe you never got married," I said, "that you never had kids..."

And do you know what he said? "I waited for you." Well. Here I am, me and my decades of living, my four children all grown now, who have been folded into Jim's heart, too, a heart that has room for anything Debbie loves. It's downright inspiring.

I am pouty, where he lets go. I am critical, where he is understanding. I am self-centered, where he is selfless. I could go on. Perhaps I have him on a pedestal. Perhaps he puts me there, too. Maybe that's as it should be.

We are two artists trying to make our way in a world that is not sympathetic to artistic temperaments and making a living. We manage just fine. We like being together and say that's what counts. We both like simple, silly adventures. He makes me laugh. He likes my faces. He likes my snoring. "I can't sleep until I hear you snore." He will go with me to France one day -- a dream I had even when I knew him in high school.

Is it all good? We both find brown sugar cinnamon frosted Pop Tarts hard to resist. There. Something not so good? Nah. It's all good.

Today is our 8th wedding anniversary. We'll spend it getting ready to leave on our trip that begins in tomorrow's wee hours.

This jazzy-rock brass-infused song was number 50 on the Billboard Top 100 for 1969. I'm listening to a lot of late sixties music in preparation for writing Book 3 of the sixties trilogy. I'm looking for anchor songs for scrapbooks, and for story inspiration. This song reminds me so much of that amazingly innocent and yet powerful Charleston time we had together in 1969. Here's to you, Sweet Jim, to the 14 years we've spent together again. I hope we get 14 more.
(the hair! the suits! the dancing while playing guitar! the lip sync! where are the trumpets? hahahahaha. oh, sixties, you are so weird. thank goodness.)

The Spiral Starecase
More Today Than Yesterday

I don't remember what day it was.
I didn't notice what time it was.
All I know is that I fell in love with you.
And if all my dreams come true,
I'll be spending time with you!

Every day's a new day in love with you.
With each day brings a new way of loving you --
Every time I kiss your lips my mind starts to wander...

I love you more today than yesterday
But not as much as tomorrow!

48 days, day 44-46: almost time

{{ I am chronicling 48 days of writing before my July 31 travel. If you are chronicling your summer writing/days and would like to share, please link or comment so we can all cheer one another through. Strength to your sword arm!}}

The Year of Exploration is here.
On Being a Late Bloomer is here.
My speech at Vermont College (moments, memories, meaning) is here.

It's that no-man's place where I've got one foot in the work I'm trying to do, and one foot in my suitcase, trying to make sure I remember to pack everything I'll need in California this weekend... not very effective for doing anything requiring concentration, but it is always like this before travel. We leave Friday morning and return late Monday night. Then it is August. How did that happen?

I took 7 weeks this summer to write, just write, and to see what it might bring me to have no outside obligations or travel. I haven't read back through these entries, but I will at some point, and I bet I'll see a trajectory of some sort.. something that happens when we give ourselves the time it takes and aren't pushed by deadlines of any sort.

Life still happens, of course. This last few days it has been hard to concentrate on anything for long, so I sat with my work -- all these stories I've dragged out in this seven weeks -- and said, "what would just plain make me happy?"

A story about a little girl who is full of the joy of living -- that's what grabbed me. And so I began playing with her story. One morning when I woke at three, wide awake, I went through old mss and found her. It's been so long that I've been writing about her -- let's call her Cambria -- that I'd forgotten all the little vignettes and all the beginnings and all the possibilities I'd sketched out for her over the years.

I still love her. So much! And so she has been keeping me company today, while I write a while, pop up to put in a load of laundry; write a while, go get the dry cleaning; write a while, clean up this section of my office; write a while, go water the tomatoes.

The days are also somehow filled with Vaporwave music, bathing caps, goggles, and ear muffs and laughter. It's all good. We have beans, sweet peppers, tiny tomatoes, and new haircuts.

It's almost time to go. Almost. Almost... 




48 days, day 41-43, we are stories surrounded by stories

{{ I am chronicling 48 days of writing before my July 31 travel. If you are chronicling your summer writing/days and would like to share, please link or comment so we can all cheer one another through. Strength to your sword arm!}}

The Year of Exploration is here.
On Being a Late Bloomer is here.
My speech at Vermont College (moments, memories, meaning) is here.


Wesley, my granddog, hoping for scraps.

My friends at Turnrow Books in Greenwood, Mississippi always wrap my books in brown paper. I love that.
I am surrounded by the stories behind the stories as well...
The past three days were full of good writing energy. And, as so often happens when you prime a pump, not only did I work on the two mss that were full drafts, I worked on Rachel and the ms that wasn't (isn't) finished and is made up from whole cloth (let's call it PAPER CHAIN, as I am getting confused on the blog, at this point), AND I worked on an old biography idea that was sketched out and abandoned (let's call it SONNY).

There was also brunch with my youngest girlie -- a treat -- and the first squash of the season in our yard, and the last of the beans, and the sunlight that filtered through the blinds and onto the dusty banjo in the corner, showing me how long it has been since I played it.

This last three days has felt like play -- go figure! And I want more play. I talked with a writer friend over the weekend about this very thing. Next month, I want to take two art classes (I mentioned them here), and I want to dust off my banjo, and I want to finish -- and submit -- some of these stories I've worked on in this 48 days. That's the plan.

We leave for Los Angeles on Friday. REVOLUTION has won The Golden Kite Award -- HOORAY! -- and I'm heading to L.A. to accept it, to teach a workshop on structuring your novel, and to soak up our peeps who live there... I am beginning to turn my energy and attentions to travel now. Here's a Q&A I did with Lee Wind and the lovely SCBWI folks about REVOLUTION.

My writing energy will be dissipated this week with the travel planning, but I can still work. I've just picked up my library's Emily Jenkins holdings. These are the books of hers I don't have on my shelves, and I want to study her work. I am captured by how she writes about everyday life, how she has a different illustrator for each picture book, and how she now has a picture book to go with the  TOYS GO OUT chapter books trilogy. I'm intrigued. What is she up to? What can I learn from her?
I could ask her, I guess. But I'm much more interested in studying the work on my own. I have learned that there is so much to discover when I immerse myself in the work. Mine and others.

Writing them, reading them, living them: I am surrounded by stories, and the stories behind the stories... we are each a living story -- you know that, right? Our job is to sing them, dance them, write them, draw them, paint them... to tell our stories and to listen to others tell theirs. As I tell kids in schools all the time: It's hard to hate someone when you know her story.

We are stories surrounded by stories.