Tag Archives: Lafayette Flats

Running Amok is Underrated

new river gorgeMy friend Beth (no the other one) is having a birthday this weekend. Both husbands are busy with guy things, so she and I are taking off for a girl trip with great scenery.

Er, no, not that kind of scenery.

We are headed back to Fayetteville, scene of last year’s January-March writing residency for me. (It’s the place where I wrote the manuscript currently in the lap of the NYC publishing gurus; word is there are edits coming soon. Yes it’s Beth’s birthday, but I still get to be elated.)

Also coming soon: food and fun, although with any luck, no arrests. Both husbands have made clear that no bail money will be forthcoming. “Perhaps you should just walk amok,” as Jack put it.

Still, even within bounds, there’s boundless energy around two professional women who spend a lot of time NOT saying things going off into the woods and letting the trees hear it all. Knowing that a nice vegetarian pizza on cauliflower crust will follow.  Letting it all go, but not quite. We can break the rules without breaking our healthy regimens.pies and pints

We’re going to hike Endless Wall with Karen, which is fun for two reasons: I couldn’t do in residence because ice makes this gorge-hugging trail a bad idea; and Karen and Beth don’t know each other but are a lot alike. We’re going to drink craft cocktails at The Station with flat owners Shawn and Amy, and shop Maura’s camping store. We’re renting rooms in Lafayette Flats (not my beloved Eddy, but the bathtub-magnificent Nutall).

Beth isn’t the crafty type, but since it’s her 50th she wanted to try something new, so I am packing materials to make bath bombs. This is my idea of something new. She made reservations for us at the Bridge Walk, 700 feet in the air on a narrow plank with a safety harness inching (me) or running (go on Beth, see you later) across the infamous Gorge. This is her idea of something new.

We all move through the world at our own pace, and that’s just fine.

It’s good to have friends that broaden your horizons, even if one of them thinks 700 feet is too broad. Getting away from it all doesn’t HAVE to include one’s safety zone, but it might be more fun if it does.

Right….?

And there’s one more part to this weekend: since her hubster Jon was concerned I would be a bad influence on Beth, we had to convince him she was kidnapped. I think we did a very good job of it, per below. Don’t you?

KIDNAP NOTE:

70659619_2788439951167051_7588227276588711936_nDeer Mr Prawdlee

Yeer wif is goings 2 B kidnappered. Do not atemp 2 find her. She is ben taked by fairies so do not blaim the dog. He had nothing 2 do with it.

If U tri to reskew her I I meen we. Do not tri 2 reskew her. She will be reternered when we are done sellebracing her burtday. We can smell U from way far away so dunt try sneeking up on us. We will 2 B hidden far away in Wesver Ginia so U wont find us.

But sins this is a kidnappering, U need 2 giv us sumting in ret—back 4 her. Bonez is good. Lots of boneZ. Fairies luvs bonez.

Thank you.

Sinseerlee.

The Fairies.

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Filed under humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

Things I Learned during Writing Residency

19226005_10154761056583505_1735351353313373426_nThings I have learned (some about myself, others about writing) during this residency:

Crocheting is as important as writing. Find your BECAUSE YOU LIKE IT thing and do it. You don’t need any more reason than that, so long as it’s not killing the household budget. If what you like is expensive or takes time your family can’t give you, see if you can pull a little dangling thread somewhere to get a small marked bit of time and space. You need it in life even more than writing.

The value of silence: it is tempting to tune into online TV during crochet time, the radio while we drive. Do without every so often. Sit and listen to what you’re thinking about, and be surprised at the connections that form because of the silence.

Don’t lose sight of places you like to be. Until I got to Fayetteville, I had forgotten how soothing, how inspiring, being in the woods is. Church, ball game, bathtub: wherever you go to get your writer on, don’t let anyone keep you from it.

Do new stuff because it’s new. This could be writing, finding a new place to hike, visiting a different town, cooking something weird, trying an intense craft pattern. Bust out of your comfort zone.

Know what you believe. I believe in Jesus. After that I’m listening. Right now polarities are oppositional in politics, religion, even how to cook lasagna. Every idea space is full of debates and hurricanes. Listening is good. Keeping one’s mouth shut is good. Usually people don’t want to know what you think; they want to tell you what they think. Let them; it’s grist for the writing mill, and not difficult to shake off what they will enjoy as a power move. It makes GREAT character study. Don’t get excited; get a notebook.

Draft fast; edit slow. My latest manuscript of 65K words drafted in three weeks. It was crap but had great bones. I set it aside for three weeks, then edited, sent to readers, edited again. The polished draft is with NYC’s publishing deities. Time plus chair plus keyboard makes drafts; fallow time plus finessing makes books.

Work with other writers in a bordered capacity. I’m fortunate to teach for Memory2Memoir and mentor writing educators with American NewMedia Foundation. What other people struggle with, how other people choose to tell stories, invigorates your writing. That said, offer too many consults and your time will disappear. When I sat down to do “other writer stuff” besides drafting or editing my manuscript, how much “other writer stuff” there was startled me.

Enter contests carefully. Writers can spend their lives looking for and finding them at $25 entry fee per. Like a plot itself, getting sidetracked to tell a wonderful story about some minor character may be fun, the writing great, but it doesn’t advance the overarching narrative. Entering contests because you don’t know what to write about yet? Awesome, keep going. Entering contests as avoidance to writing your book? Nope.

Have simple foods on hand. Peanut butter and apples were my staples, plus Trader Joe’s frozen polenta for hot meals. When you’re knee-deep in plot yet hungry, you can keep going.

Hope these are useful to you. I’ve loved my time at Lafayette Flats.

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Inspiration vs. Perspiration (or, The Games Writers Play)

The time when inspiration is most likely to strike is twenty minutes before you have to be somewhere, while you’re brushing your teeth. You will not be dressed for this event, nor will any household dependents be in progress toward getting out the door or setting up to stay home.

This is why God invented notepads. And cellphones with that voice dictation function. Depending on which is easier for you in your time crunch, jot down the idea, or grab your phone and send yourself a voice email. “JoAnne, self-protection, dogs and doctors” is one I just sent myself at 8:50. I was due at 9 am to help the local churches pack for the food pantry distribution, a thing I have wanted to do since arriving here in Fayetteville.

28235827_1906944399316615_289168906_nI’m in Fayetteville because of a wonderful program at Lafayette Flats, run by Shawn and Amy. You can look it up with that link. The point being, at 8:50 the link to how Chapter 14 related to the rest of the story so far, the way it could be shoehorned in to being a part of the whole, not a side journey, flowed into my brain as I brushed my hair.

Those key words will get me back to where I need to go (as soon as I finish writing this blog). They will not get me past the BS games writers play with themselves that “if we only had time, what glorious things we could write.” Now I have time, and now I have the note that says how to do it. Now my butt and the chair need to be best friends for awhile. Writing is 90% butt sloth and finger exercise, 10% inspiration. This is why many writers have big bums and you should never offer to thumb wrestle with one. The wrist of a writer should be registered as a deadly weapon.

Big bums, strong fingers, notepads (or iPhones) and time: that’s how writing gets done. Plus a little human interaction now and then. I loved helping the team at the food pantry.

Back to writing now….

 

 

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Fighting with Time

Exactly half-way through this three-month writing residency, I’m aware that the hours left in which to write tick down the slope now. While this is motivating, it’s not a big deal. I’m feeling really good about having drafted the book I’ve always wanted to write, and getting the first feedback from the very helpful beta readers. (Mostly: good idea, bad execution – this is fixable and fun. It’s those bad ideas in good writing that make one ashamed, because you might try to sell it anyway.)

That’s not the kind of time fight I’m having, the fear that I won’t get enough done while here. I’ve been diligent.

No, the problem is the other book I’m working on as the feedback rolls in from the January draft. I’m trying to write a memoir that doesn’t run chronologically, but around ideas related in clusters. When you’re trying to string your smaller narratives, your pearls of storytelling, onto a connecting thread, time is the simplest one to use. It only makes sense, doesn’t it, to tell a story in the order in which it happened?

Until it doesn’t, and those of you who write know the frustration. That didn’t happen then, but it relates, so it gets put there, and then you realize you’re relying on a character in Chapter 3 who doesn’t come into his own until Chapter 8. Or a setting that hasn’t been built yet.

It’s part of the fun, putting faces to people and places without using the face of a clock. Meticulous fun, one might say, but fun nonetheless.

The transitions of time can be the most poetic pieces in a book. The Cost of Hope by Amanda Bennett comes to mind; she hops between 1980 and 2010 like there’s no tomorrow OR yesterday. And it works, hooking concepts together and increasing irony with her juxtapositions of then and now. I’m learning a good bit from her.time

And from trial and error. As Ira Glass says, if you’re making mistakes, you’re learning. Fair enough. I’ve got time to make the mistakes–six weeks left–and I’ve got time to write about, and time to write in. Who could ask for anything more?

Later.

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These Boots were made for Writing?

26943464_1870425129635209_1410684589_nAbout this time last year, my friend Cami Ostman and I were tucked up four days near Naples, Florida. We’ve been friends since we were about 18, and writing buddies about ten years.

When I sold my writing cabin in Tennessee, we lamented that our usual retreat couldn’t happen, holed up with pre-made casseroles and wine, knocking out our latest narratives and reading them to each other to smooth the rough edges. Cami and I both find that drafting a book’s bones is best done in an intense huddle of anti-social time hoarding. To everything there is a season, and when writing time gets smooshed between all the other pulls of normal life, it gravitates toward the back burner. Better to start the year with a dedicated blast, upping the stakes to keep going.

Cami wondered it it were a plot for a horror novel when I sent her this message: “I’m sure there’s some nice person out there who’s read one of your books or mine, who’s got a she-shed or a rental property we could borrow for a week. Lemme ask.” But the response from Cynthia Piwowarczyk and her husband Jim sounded like heaven. She was a voice-over actor, he director of a non-profit. Two spare bedrooms, a pool in the backyard, a few blocks from a running trail around a lake, and don’t bring any wine or snacks because her husband’s job meant he had about a hundred gift basket items left over from Christmas, and they didn’t drink.

Cami messaged me: either this is set-up for the scariest movie ever, or we just hit the jackpot. Indeed we had. The worst moment of that time with the sweetest, smartest couple in the world was trying to spell their last name on the thank-you card.

We followed our usual pattern: three days of intense writing, emerging evenings to socialize (read: drink wine) and chat with the couple. And then a day of gleeful reward: Cynthia took us to the beach for the morning, and arranged to meet us in the afternoon for girl time. We got frozen ice juices, we ate crepes, we went shopping.

Cynthia and I shared a penchant for thrift stores, so left Cami in a cafe with her laptop to careen through a few big places, chatting and impulse buying and talking each other into and out of silly things.

Mindful that I’d flown with hand luggage, when I first saw the boots, I passed. But Cynthia had a good eye. The second time she saw me glancing back, she asked, “What? Those plaid waders?”

My guilty secret came out: I’d always wanted a pair of decorative gum boots, Scottie dogs or polka dots or some such. Cyndi studied the red and yellow lines of the pattern. “I don’t think it gets any more decorative than this, dear.”

So I flew home from Florida with second-hand knee-high rubber boots stuffed into my bag, dirty knickers stuffed into the boots. Security waved me through after one disgusted look. The officer changed her gloves.

And for a year, those boots sat in the back of my closet, because winter was mild and summer was dry in Southwest Virginia. They survived several closet purges and a Maria Kondo phase, because they brought me joy. Even if I never wore them, now I had a pair of cool hipster knee-highs.

Fast forward to the invitation to be writer in residence in Fayette, West Virginia from January-March of this year. As David, a long-time friend said, “You want to go where, WHEN?!”

I arrived when the weather had reached -4 just from temperature, windchill dropping it another few degrees. People were warned about freezing times of exposed flesh. No one was driving–except Amy and Shawn, owners of the flat that sponsored the residency. They took me on a scenic tour of the New River Gorge in their jeep. Nobody out there but us and one lone runner we encountered at the bottom. He stared at us like we were crazy.

And for the next three weeks, any time I stepped outside the apartment, I needed the boots. At last. I packed them more as a memento of the previous year’s week of glorious productivity, but also they were the only weather-proof shoes I owned. I tend to be a minimalist footwear girl.

So I guess these boots are now a connective theme. Next year, if I get the residency I’ve applied for in Yellowknife (yes, in the cold part of Canada) they’ll get use again. Meanwhile, they’ll sit in the back of my closet, a reminder that, to everything there is a season.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

Packing for Residency

quote-the-first-thing-a-writer-should-be-is-excited-he-should-be-a-thing-of-fevers-and-enthusiasms-ray-bradbury-82-52-80In just over a week, I will be installed as resident writer in Lafayette Flats, a luxury apartment by the New River Gorge National Park in WV. It is a writing rather than a teaching residency, three months all expenses paid (sans food) in the top floor by myself, writing. Just writing.

I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to this time.

In preparation to which, I have begun to pack:

1 case wine (one bottle per week, including two good bottles for sharing if WV writers want to get together, the rest cheap-and-cheerful for a glass with dinner most weeknights)

2 cases fizzy water (club soda and seltzer with flavors, the stuff of daily consumption, because burping helps ideas rise)

1 large box Trader Joe’s boil-in-bag or heat-n-serve vegetarian fare – cooking up ideas, not food

8 pair pajama bottoms, sweats, or scrubs with assorted non-t-shirts and five fuzzy cardigans – I ain’t going out except daily walks. Heck, I may not even pack a hairbrush. 3 MONTHS OF WRITING TIME!!!!!

1 box work papers, because even though they gave me a leave of absence, there is one project I have to keep an eye on. That’s okay – they gave me a leave of absence!

9 books to read, all Appalachian Studies Association’s Weatherford Award nominees

6 pair fuzzy ballerina slippers; if we’re playing truth or consequences, some days I’ll cop to not exiting pjs

1 CD of funny cat songs and 1 cat coloring book with markers, to lighten up once in awhile

All the underwear I own – because doing laundry is a time sink and it will sour in the washer anyway if the ideas are going well, and get meticulously folded should things go badly; don’t give that kind of avoidance space

My new Himalayan salt lamp I got from Beth and Brandon for Christmas – because I’ve always wanted one and it will glow in the dark during quiet nights

The card Jack gave me the day we got married, because Jack won’t be there but once a month.

My underheated mattress pad, because Jack won’t be there but once a month….

The lacy red cup stolen from a summer arts camp I taught in years ago, which I intend to leave in the flat as karmic retribution. (Actually, I did pay for the mug. Just after the swiping. It’s okay; that director knows. And I’m not stealing anything from Lafayette Flats, Amy and Shawn, I swear! Tell you the mug story sometime.)

1 nice outfit, which I will wear repeatedly to church until they assume it’s the only clothing I own, and will wear to any writing events and the reception for when I get there and such.

My harp, for when writing isn’t going well

My 8-pack of crochet hooks and a basket of yarn, for when writing isn’t going well

My plaid Wellington winter snow boots, for when writing isn’t going well

1 bottle port, for when writing is going well

My computer and back-up zip drive, because writing is going to go well

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing