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April 30, 2007

What’s Wrong with the News and Who Cares?

Narrative is what I come up with when I put my niece to bed and she says, “Tell me a story.” I tell her a story, I don’t tell her an article. ~ Janet Rae Brooks, Salt Lake Tribune

My friend Mara who is studying creative writing at Hollins University (VA) tells me that the style of writing I’ve been freelancing to our local newspaper is “narrative journalism.” I knew it was more personal and conversational than traditional reporting, but I didn’t exactly know that’s what I was doing until Mara's comment prompted me to do some research on this genre.

Unlike today’s more accepted standard of objective journalism, narrative journalism is done from a first person perspective. Also known as “literary journalism” because it demands a quality of writing that goes beyond simply reporting, narrative journalism blends reporting with storytelling. It doesn’t overload its readers with facts and figures. The ones it does use are blended in with scene setting, dialogue, and first-hand sensory descriptions.

Nancy Graham Holm, from the Danish School of Journalism, writes in an article titled “Subjectivity: No Longer a Dirty Word,” that narrative journalism is non-fiction writing that “doesn’t try to be objective but does try to be fair.” She explains how information alone doesn’t necessarily inform. “Participation in events and subsequent interpretation are required to break down the psychological barriers of apathy and cynicism. Numinosity – Jung’s term for emotional attention and heightened psychological awareness is necessary for understanding.”

With roots in the oral tradition, narrative journalism can also be entertaining to read. After the 2004 election, I closely followed the results as described by MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann on his blog. For months, I visited Olbermann’s blog every day. Initially, I went because I wanted to understand why the final election results didn’t match the exit polls that determined Kerry had won. Olbermann didn’t just report, he put what was happening in context. The more I read, the more the back story and Olbermann’s witty writing pulled me in. The fact that he posted a few blog entries from a motel room while on vacation and revealed some conversations he had with his co-workers as he reported, made the news more interesting to follow. Good personal narrative is part of what makes blogs so appealing.

Some of the articles I read on narrative journalism pointed to authors like Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson for popularizing the style. Others emphasized that the model is much older. “Generations ago, narrative journalism was the rule in reporting and not the exception. Stories (sometimes rather subjectively reported and quite long by today’s standards) in magazine and newspapers led the reader through a gripping tale told entirely from the view and experiences of the author,” says explorewriting.co.uk, a site for writers.

Holm and other proponents of narrative journalism believe that the more we identify with a story, the more impact it has on us. The more we are impacted, the more chance we’ll be motivated to act on what we’ve learned. But even before identification and impact can happen, a piece of writing has to compel us to read or listen.

Americans are known for complaining about how negative the news is, but maybe it’s not the news as much as the way it’s told that’s so discouraging. I believe most people want to be informed, but receiving a litany of disjointed facts that fill up the mind can be overwhelming and, ultimately, un-empowering. Even more frustrating is when a reporter makes an authoritative statement and then, in an effort to be fair, counters it with a contrary view. Presenting two views is a common journalistic practice that when over-used can cancel out all meaning. Point and counterpoint journalism can encourage division by perpetuating the myth that there are only two sides to every story and that people should align themselves with one side or another.

When it comes to getting readers’ attention, news outlets are competitive. While there are many excellent traditional journalists writing today, the companies they work for have been known to resort to marketing trends that aren’t necessarily in the best interest of the public. Sensationalized headlines and stories that play on my fears might initially get my attention, but they don’t hold it. I’d rather invest my time reading or listening to a well-rounded story that I can draw my own conclusions from.

As a writer, I like to place myself in the stories I write so that readers can see through my eyes. Details that can be visualized are more memorable than those of statistics. In spite of the trouble I had memorizing dates in high school, History was my favorite subject because the teachers I had were engaging, loved history, and told stories.

Now that more people are getting their news online and traditional news outlets have been forced to make changes, it might be an ideal time for a resurgence of narrative journalism. According to Bill Kirtz in an article entitled “Newsroom Politics: How to Make the Case for Narrative Journalism,” it may already be on the rise. He, a professor of journalism at Northeastern University in Boston, cites the following sentence as evidence: Susan Love focused on the blue eyes of the man who lay before her on the floor of the Hennepin County courthouse, almost oblivious to the haze of drawn guns, shouting and deputies swirling around them… “It ran on page one of the Star-tribune, above the fold,” Kirtz said.

Now wouldn’t you want to hear the rest of that story?

April 28, 2007

Feathered Treasures

redbesm2.jpg The following was inspired by a Sunday Scribblings prompt "Wings."

Back in the 50’s, before ipods, video games, and Disney World, skipping stones and feeding ducks was a common weekend activity in our family. We piled into a car without seatbelts and ended up somewhere that seems dreamlike to me now. My grandmother’s husband, Frank, was a fisherman who new all the best duck ponds. Dressed in my Sunday best church clothes, which back then included a bonnet, I remember being fascinated with the shimmering green heads of the mallards. I didn’t like it when they misbehaved, fighting for the chunks of stale bread that we tossed in to them. I didn’t believe that the pretty ducks were males and the females were plain until someone pointed out the baby ducklings following behind their brown feathered mother like cars in a train.

The adults in our group usually huddled together to talk. Some smoked cigarettes. Absorbed in studying the baby ducklings, I could hear the peripheral sounds of rocks splashing, sticks swishing, and the excited voices of my brothers and sisters playing. I was impressed with how ducks could both swim and fly and watching them is what probably gave me the idea to later answer “a duck” whenever someone would ask the proverbial question ‘if you could be any animal which would you be?’

Sometimes Sunday donuts were passed around and we were instructed by the adults not to feed them to the ducks. Skipping along the pond shore with a jelly-filled donut in one hand, my other hand would be collecting the downy wisps of feathers strewn along the bank. A blue iridescent one would be worth finishing off the donut to free up my hands for a closer inspection. Inevitably my black patent leather shoes would get mud on them. Occasionally some would splash up on my white socks that were neatly folded over at the ankle to show off their frilly laced border.

Post notes: Feathers continued to play a role in my life. For a long time a mobile of seagull wings hung in my living room. I made feathered earrings, sold them, and wore them. One summer I wore a crow feather in my hair for weeks in a row. Feathers have also been dropped in my path as if from angels during times of upheaval or grief. You can read about such feathers HERE and HERE. Read more Sunday Scribblings HERE.

April 27, 2007

Tulip Talk

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Pink tutu
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Tightlipped
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Siesta
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Two lips

April 26, 2007

Thirteen Thursday: Lighten Up

13tulip.jpg1. My camera is becoming like a second pen. I pick it up and snap almost as much as I jot down notes. Taking pictures is a lot less work than writing is. With one good click you get an instant story.

2. Every time a bird lands on my birdbath angel’s head I think about the Queen of England because it looks like the angel is wearing one of those big hats that only the Queen and Camilla Parker Bowles can pull off.

3. Unlike butterflies and birds, when I photograph tulips they stand still while I snap.

4. Now that global warming and the reasons for it are out of the bag, and right wing Republicans and corporations can no longer keep it in, Earth Day is going mainstream. It took 37 years. Last week Oprah dedicated a whole show to going green and Diane Sawyer hosted an Earth Day special the next night.

5. If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a compact fluorescent one, we would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars, says a site co-hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy That’s very impressive, but I clicked all over the site looking for a warning about the mercury in the bulbs and information on how to dispose of them, and discovered that it wasn’t mentioned.

6. Can you dig this? I was recently talking with a woman my age who mentioned losing her thongs. I immediately thought underwear, but then she reminded me that when we grew up flip flops were called thongs. Our generation came up with some pretty "cool" lingo that is still used today, including ripped off, freaked out, bummed out, mind blown, a drag, a blast, a crash, and turned on.

7. I think of a light bulb as a moon wannabe.

8. Our best personal assets tend to also be our worst liabilities when overused, like my husband Joe’s sensitivity is his best asset as a counselor, but it can also be his downfall if he feels so strongly that he carries other people’s pain for them.

9. Mara says: I have a date. I answer: Oh, not like a fig, but like a boy and girl date? Knowing her last partner was a woman and the one before that was man, my next question was the obvious: So is it a boy or a girl? Mara says: That depends. He hasn’t had any surgery yet. I answer: Oh, this could be complicated.

10. Will those who continued to listen to Rush Limbaugh, even after he said that those involved in Abu Ghraib were just letting off some steam, finally turn him off now that he’s gone so far to say this about the Virginia Tech mass murderer: This guy had to be a liberal. You start railing against the rich and all this other -- this guy's a liberal. He was turned into a liberal somewhere along the line. So it's a liberal that committed this act.
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11. Along with debates about gun control that are sure to be discussed in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, as a country we also need a serious dialogue about THIS.

12. Can you see the above image both ways, concaved or convexed like I can? I found this wonderful artist via Kenju. You can browse her gallery HERE.

13.What would you do if you were riding on a subway and THIS happened!?

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

April 25, 2007

The Weekend Porch Vacation

sunbather3.jpg The weekend porch vacation was moved to the yard. It involved sunbathing and flowers and bees buzzing on the bright heads of dandelions. There was the scent of wild onions in the air. A woodpecker tapped, a phoebe protected her nest, and two yellow finches politely waited for their turn at the birdfeeder. A green and white striped umbrella was used to keep those who attended from burning. Someone was wearing something pink. Someone else dozed off. To be continued ...

April 24, 2007

The Poets Weigh In

ardebwindow2.jpg Sometimes it takes a poet to speak the unspeakable in a way that is pointed and yet melodic enough to make us hear with more than our ears.

Our April Spoken Word night at the Café Del Sol in Floyd took place five days after the Virginia Tech shootings in Blacksburg. With Blacksburg being only 40 minutes from Floyd, I figured some of the readings would involve more than the expected seasonal and Earth Day fare.

I was right. Mara read a prose piece about when she was fourteen and first heard Nikki Giovanni, the Virginia Tech professor and poet who recently brought the Tech community together with her rousing words. Later, as a budding new poet at age of sixteen, Mara met Nikki and asked her if she had any writer’s advice to offer. “How old are you?” Nikki asked before answering Mara’s question, “Go live awhile, for God’s sake."
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Mara leaned into the mic and looked out at the audience as she spoke: “My grandmother made food when there was a tragedy. Many women who I have known resort to that, hands-on care of those who are still alive … there is comfort in a bowl of rising bread, in layers of lasagna, in new sprouts of spring greens in a fresh garden salad.”

Then she grabbed two baskets full of home-made chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and passed them out to the crowd, saying, “This food will not heal you. It will not make the tears go away; it will not bring anyone back. There is nothing, really, that anyone can do. But this is my heart, my tears my grief, and my relief that all of you are still here to share this with me.”
sallymic.jpgMy poetic offering did not involve food, but did relate to the Tech shootings. “The Poet’s Lament” was written the day before as a sub-conscious journey, which began with my complaining about forgetting how to write poetry and led, clue by clue, to the truth of what was really bothering me.

Arden (first photo), a Hollins University creative writing student who is about to graduate with a Master’s degree, might have wondered why I was snapping so many photos when he was reading. It was a pleasure to hear his original poetry, but I was also taken by the outline of the large tree outside the large café window at sunset and the reflection of the café lamps that seemed to go on forever. cafeduet.jpg

It was uplifting to hear the sweet voice of young Janie. Because of her disability, which I was guessing was cerebral palsy, she was assisted by Joyce (her mother or guardian) while she sang. “I have butterflies,” she confessed before beginning a duet of three songs. (Of course, we all shared that we had butterflies as well, after that.)

Young Chris wheeled over in his wheel chair and told a few jokes. Rosemary read Rumi, Greg read about motorcycling, and nine year old Kayla added some comic relief, reading the poetry of Shel Silverstein, such as "The Battle." Would you like to hear … Of the terrible night … When I bravely fought the---- No? … All right.

Case closed. We all broke for cookies and poetic fellowship.

Post note: Mara was still carrying around her basket of homemade cookies and sharing them the next day at our Writer’s Circle meeting. Photos: 1. Arden reads. 2. Sally, cafe owner, introduces a reader. 3. Greg reads. 4. Janie and Joyce sing. Click and scroll down to read more about Floyd's Spoken Word Night HERE.

April 23, 2007

A Poet’s Lament

I forgot how to write poetry
like I forgot high school French,
shorthand, and fractions
I don’t know the date of the Magna Carta
I don’t remember my old locker number

Forgetting how to write poetry
isn’t like forgetting where I live
It’s more like forgetting
my own phone number
how many two’s
what comes after the four
where to put the dash

Prose has overtaken my poetry
Like nettles in my friend Jayn’s garden
A nourishing enough spring green meal
but what about the peas,
string beans, and basil for pesto
The nettles sting when she pulls them up
It’s easier to leave them alone

Some things I can only say with poetry
I need lines that aren’t sentences
stanzas that aren’t paragraphs
I don’t want to think about punctuation

But I’ve forgotten
like I forget what to buy at the store
because I don’t have a list
like I keep forgetting the name of the actor
who lives in Kingston Massachusetts
who lost his disabled teenage son
and won an Oscar for his role
in American Beauty

I spend too much time thinking
about Emily Dickinson
because I get her confused
with Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Both were reclusive and lived in the 1800’s
but only one was ever married
to a poet

Missing lost poetry
isn’t the same as missing my dead brothers
It’s more like being lost in a city
forgetting where I parked my car
or losing my keys

I don’t know how to make the whole thing go
or make it go away

I’d like to forget cold facts
the image lodged in my mind
deranged lost soul
with vest full of bullets
pointing two pistols
to kill me – or you
projecting self hate onto innocent others

I’d like to forget
what happens next
I’d like to go back
to writing poetry

~ Colleen Redman 4/20/07

April 21, 2007

The Greenhouse

Spring%20Street%20house.2png.pngA Sunday Scribbling:
Like the broccoli and kale starts I’ve been planting in my garden, I was taken from the safety of the greenhouse of my childhood and transplanted somewhere else.

I used to lie in bed at night as a young girl and think about life. Why in the world would I want to go out and find someone to marry to make a new family with when I already had a good family? Why would I want to find a stranger to live with when I was happy where I was?

Pulled up by my roots, I didn’t want to go, but eventually I yielded to something larger than myself and made the move from Massachusetts to Texas in 1978 because my husband at the time had work there.

The Texas transplant didn’t fully take, but I was nourished for the years I lived there. I loved the fields of bluebonnets, but not the hot weather. I loved my first husband’s family, but not the lack of hilly landscape and seasons. I loved the early days after my sons were born, but not being so far away from my own family.

After seven years and with two young sons, my first husband and I set out for Virginia. Drawing on my love of Annie Oakley and Daniel Boone, we headed for Virginia to homestead and home school our sons. We were young and adventurous and sought like-minded souls rooted in a vision of community.

Like a goldfish that was taken from a bowl to a fish tank and then to a river, in Virginia I was out of the pot. With acres of green space and others who were plowing and planting in the same garden, I have grown in ways that the girl could not have imagined. Although, the first marriage wasn’t meant to last, the move to Virginia led me to Joe, the true love of my life who I would not have found had I stayed in Massachusetts.

My sons are rooted here and I am rooted to them. But my own roots trace back to the place of the green house, and so the theme of my life has become being town between two places. One has mountains, one has an ocean, and both have family.

I dream of Hull the way I imagine my Grandmother dreamt of her homeland in Youhal, Ireland. I have a recurring dream of walking the length of Hull, the way we used to as kids when we spent all our money, including our bus fair, at Paragon Park and had no way home but to walk. I think I’m the only kid in my family, or all of Hull for that matter, who grew up when Paragon was still there and never rode on the roller coaster. I always played it safe, not like my reckless brothers.

My childhood home was green. It was taken by our town through eminent domain and burned to the ground. Like our green house at 10 ½ Spring Street, the sewage plant building that now stands in its place faces the Hull Village Cemetery, the place we played and sledded as kids before it was so filled up with gravestones, the place where two of my brothers and my father are now buried.

My brothers feel so far away, not because they’re dead now but because they are buried in Hull and I’m in Virginia … Danny and I shared a dream of buying a beachfront condo in Hull, so we both could spend extended time there. I’m still in Virginia, but Danny is home now. If you stand at his grave, lean forward and look to the left, all the way down Duck Lane, you can see the ocean.

I am rooted in two places, but in one place my roots go deeper.

Post Notes: The following was written via the Sunday Scribblings prompt “rooted.” More Scribblings are HERE. The italicized excerpts were taken from The Jim and Dan Stories, the book I wrote in the first six months after losing my brothers. More about that is HERE. My other Sunday Scribblings are HERE. Spoken Word tonight at the Café Del Sol.

April 20, 2007

New and Blue

AKA: Word for the Wise
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1. Resiliency
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2. Possibility
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3. Community
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4. Renewal

Photos: 1. A cut-above tree branch seen at the New River Valley Mall. 2. My Garden as it looks right now. 3. Chairs in the country store before they got filled with Friday Night Jamboree attendees. 4. New sculpture on the Harvest Moon lawn in Floyd.

April 19, 2007

Thirteen Thursday: Boggled

13boggle.jpg 1. I have three re-occurring characters on my blog; my Asheville potter son, Josh, my Scrabble playing poet friend, Mara, and my pink sneakers.

2. THIS chair is pretty strange, but THIS crooked house in Poland is truly mind boggling.

3. Blogging has been a good remedy for my shyness. My camera is like a press pass into life.

4. The word blog is in boggle.

5. President Bush uttered the word “blogs” recently on national TV when he was talking at the Virginia Tech Convocation Service in Blacksburg about how blogs brought people together after the shootings there.

6. It feels as if Virginia Tech was hit by a tsunami. The shock waves of the violence perpetrated there have rippled out to the rest of the country and the world, but those closest to the center (whether by personal involvement or proximity) are feeling the after-shock waves most intensely. Some will need help keeping their heads above board.

7. I’d like to think that #1 is a sign that my sense of humor is returning, but I pulled it out of my journal and it was written before the events of Monday.

8. I believe there’s a relationship between our country’s foreign policy and what happens domestically. In the same way that we are shaped by what we learn from our parents, when our leaders model that killing is an approved way of solving problems, I think it can’t help but be mirrored by a rise in violence at home.

9. I don’t understand why military recruiters are given free reign in our high schools when it is known that teenagers brains aren’t developed enough to fully understand the long term consequences of their decisions.

10. I think human beings are part of the environment we exist in and that we can’t help but affect it and be affected by it. The idea that all of creation is one is a religious tenant as well as a quantum physics one.

11. The death and destruction that climate change is predicted to cause is mind boggling. Some people think President Bush’s worse impeachable offense is not the elected invasion of Iraq but his denial of the reality of global warming. During his presidency he has cut funding for environmental initiatives, pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, given power companies more of a free reign, blocked states from acting on their own to reduce carbon emissions, and generally wasted six years of time that would have been better spent facing this major global issue.

12. I believe goodness is our natural state. When we are healthy our goodness is intact. When our health is thwarted by neglect, violence, mental illness, and bad habits it’s harder to access the best in us. I believe that violence breeds more violence, just as love breeds more love. We have to choose which one we want to spread.

13. What boggles your mind?

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

April 18, 2007

Notes from the Neighborhood

No one was running for anything. They came to express sympathy and to support those who are grief-stricken. I appreciated and was comforted by the words of our Republican President and our Democratic Governor spoken in Blacksburg today, but it was the words of a poet that made me weep.

I tried to avoid turning on the TV after the emotional glut of watching yesterday. I kept up with the latest news on my muted computer with only the howling wind as background noise. By late afternoon I received a phone call. It was my husband, Joe, letting me know that Virginia Tech professor and renowned poet Nikki Giovanni was speaking from the convocation ceremony live on TV. She, whose office I have sat in before, whose creative writing class I once audited, whose handwriting I tried to decipher in a note she sent me (only because I sent her one first) was worth bringing sound back into my life. She was even worth turning up the volume.

I tuned in too late to hear the religious speakers console and uplift the Blacksburg community, but because I think of the poet as part preacher, part teacher, part prophet, part jester, and always the truth teller, I was consoled and uplifted by Nikki. Maybe because of the force of her feisty reading or because her words brought the world community to mind, I received something I needed. She closed the event by leading the overflowing crowd in a rousing Virginia Tech Hokie cheer.

We do not understand this tragedy … We know we did nothing to deserve it … But neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS … Neither do the invisible children walking the night away … To avoid being captured by a rogue army …Neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory … Neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water … Neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night … In his crib in the home his father built with his own hands … Being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized … No one deserves a tragedy … From “We are Virginia Tech” by Nikki Giovanni

I was touched by Governor Kaine’s address to the crowd. He was very genuine as he told of what it was like to get word of what happened at Tech while on the other side of the world. Later, while fielding questions for the press, he became emotional as he put down a question regarding gun control by saying that he loathes anyone who would try to turn this tragedy into a “hobby horse crusade” as if it was a political campaign. (There will be plenty of time for that).

It’s odd how what brings me to tears is also part of what makes me feel better. Does it always feel better to be touched emotionally than to feel alone with unexpressed feelings? My tears of sadness are mixed with a welling up of pride for how those involved have come together to support each other, especially because some of those faces are familiar to me.

I’ve appreciated the ability to get ongoing professional reporting by way of local and national media these past two days. Individually all the newscasters and other authorities have been conducting themselves sensitively and appropriately, but something feels wrong. The intense media interest in my own backyard feels supportive and at the same time leaves me feeling exposed. It’s hard to watch the place I know so well be held under a magnifying glass. Even worse is the slick national news packaging and labeling of “The Virginia Tech Massacre,” complete with emotional still images and a background soundtrack that feels too much like a TV movie in the making, even as the drama is still unfolding.

I fear that school shootings are becoming such a part of our lives that a formula media reaction is underway. I wonder if I’m being over-sensitive. Is it any wonder?

We are not moving on … We are embracing our mourning … We are Virginia Tech … We are strong enough to stand tall tirelessly … We are brave enough to begin to cry … And sad enough to know we must laugh again … From “We are Virginia Tech” by Nikki Giovanni

Post note: An earlier post about Nikki is HERE. "We are Virginia Tech" in its entirety is HERE.

April 17, 2007

To Blacksburg with Love

Katie Couric is in Blacksburg and President Bush has uttered the unlikely words “Virginia Tech” and "shootings" in the same sentence on national TV. Governor Kaine has cut his Tokyo trip short to fly home to be here. My son Josh called from Asheville, my mother and brother Joey from Massachusetts to see if I had heard. Everyone is talking about it on our family group email, The Love-link.

For nearly ten years I worked at the Seeds of Light bead shop in downtown Blacksburg – a 45 minute drive from Floyd. The building they keep showing on the news was just part of the scenery for me back then. Most of our bead business was from Virginia Tech students and faculty. When my sons were young they often came to work with me. They roamed the streets of Blacksburg and felt safe, buying magic cards at the game store, playing video games at the corner store, looking at the skateboards at the Greenhouse. My parents sat on a park bench facing the campus when they visited once, and I snapped a picture of them.

I usually got a Paco Taco Pound at Gillies for lunch or a sub from Soulvakis. Annie Kays, Eats, the YMCA thrift shop, Four Winds, Mish Mish, Books Strings and Things, The New River Free Press community, laying on a blanket with Joe at the Duck Pond, sleeping over Alywn’s in the trailer park, free concerts on Henderson Lawn, peace vigils in front of the post office, craft booths at Stepping Out, window shopping at the Fringe Benefit, trees full of starlings, big lit up Christmas tree, movies at the Lyric, and a hot pot of tea at Bollo’s. I’m thinking of you tonight, Blacksburg, and sending my love. 4/16/07

April 16, 2007

Tour De Jour

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1. Escape
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2. Innocence
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3. Easy Come
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4. Easy Go

Photos: 1. Riding home from fluffing a friend’s pillow who is recovering from a hernia operation, I saw a red balloon. 2. Kaylee’s new bedroom. I’m jealous. Joe asked if her bed had a mosquito net around it. I told him, no, it's a princess net. 3. Blue sky, dogwood, and a patio umbrella. I saw this in Roanoke on Sunday while visiting my son, Dylan, and his family. 4. Two hours later I was back on the mountain in Floyd. My tulips had been brought to their knees from the cold and unexpected snow.

April 14, 2007

Secret Identity

shadow%26rock.jpg If you google the word “secret,” you’ll discover, like I did, that the Law of Attraction DVD “The Secret” has overtaken “Post Secret” for most popular clicked on site. You’ll be surprised to learn that Secret Deodorant is more popular than Victoria’s Secret. You might start repeating the Secret Deodorant jingle … but secret is for women … while you consider whether or not to click on the Victoria’s Secret site and see what the models are wearing … or not. You follow the trail of intrigue on to pages on the secret service, secret worlds, and secret recipes. You might whisper the word “secret” as you click and remember the time you were someone’s Secret Santa or the time you fooled everyone on Halloween with your disguise.

If you google the word “secret identity” you could uncover a video of the same name and be held captive for five or ten minutes watching while thinking about Superman and Clark Kent and wondering what it’s like to live a double life. If your husband comes in the room you can ask him, “what’s your secret identity?”

“What do you mean? What’s yours?"

"I don’t think I have one.”

“Neither do I."

"But I know what Victoria’s Secret is?”

“What?”

“Most everything they sell is made from polyester but priced as if it was silk. You pay a high price just to look at their models.”

All of this leads me to deduce that my secret identity is a detective.

Post secret: The above was the result of a lead found as Sunday Scribblings where more secret identitites are revealed.

April 13, 2007

An Easter Hike: Path to the Past

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1. A ladder that allows hikers to bypass a barbed wired fence seems to separate one world from another.
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2. Once we cross over, our mood becomes somber, as we discover and explore an abandoned house site.
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3. We come upon an old bed of springs from which a mass of bramble bushes is growing out of. Next to it is the rusty outline of a couch. I think about all the forts and outdoor clubhouses my girlfriends and I used to build when we were kids.
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4. “Here’s the matching chair,” Joe shouts from further up the path.
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5. “The family car!” I shout back. The road it drove on to get here is no longer visible.
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6. I’m excited to find a patch of pink phlox growing nearby the metal remains because I know it had to have been planted there. The hands that planted it have long ago left this world, but the beauty of their efforts still returns in the spring.

Post note: More Easter Adventure is HERE.

April 12, 2007

13 Thursday: Fa la la la la

Word_Puzzle2.jpg 1. My poet friend Mara called and wanted me to look something up for her. “Pool hours,” she said, but I heard something like poolours and thought it was a new poetry form like pantoums!


2. Did you know that belly laughs are like pain killers?

3. Seen at Fire Cat’s on Easter Sunday – Words from my pagan friend Hollie: I've told my co-workers that I don't believe in Easter, but chocolate is nondenominational and therefore I believe very strongly in easter eggs and bunnies.

4. THIS was the best Easter photo I came across in my blog travels.

5. Mara says that sonnets are like poems wearing neckties, kind of corny, but demanding respect.

6. I thought about naming my first collection of poetry “12 Items or Less: The Cash Only Line” or maybe “Mutant Haiku” because of my love of small poems.

7. Poetry is like wine. We start out drinking Ripple, then move on to Mateus, and then graduate to something much better, I hope. Even though I’ve acquired a taste for a variety of poetry and understand more of it than I used to, I still go for the short poems when faced with a whole book of them. I do this with the same logic that causes me to choose a short line when I’m in a store waiting to check-out. ~From the real name of my first poetry collection, which is THIS.

spokenwordflyerx.jpg 6. April is National Poetry month. I guess I’ll celebrate it this way: There were green clothes and Irish brogues, blarney and ballads, latte and brew at Café Del Sol’s March Spoken Word Night on St. Patrick’s Day. Floyd’s April Spoken Word Night, scheduled on the 21st from 7-9 at the café, promises a spring fling of prose and poetics in celebration of National Poetry month. Come on out and see what the latest crop of spoken word performers will come up with. ~ Ad in the Floyd Press about April’s Spoken Word.

7. I consider the cardinal that has been repeatedly banging itself against our living room window a metaphor for “fear of the other” or fear of one’s own shadow. The bird’s bird brain behavior is apparently contagious as witnessed by all the unproductive time I’ve spent trying (but not succeeding) to get a picture of it in the act.

8. Poets Against the War is an online site begun by poet Sam Hamill a couple of months before the Iraq invasion. From January to the start of the war, he collected 13,000 poems and presented an anthology of them to the US Congress and the Bush Administration. A couple of my poems were included. See them HERE.

9. I’ve been meaning to change the line in my “100 Things About Me” that says I’ve never gotten a SCRABBLE BINGO because since I wrote that I’ve had two. I’m less inclined to push for an update on my Poet’s Against the War bio though because it says that I’m (still) 51.

10. Neil Young’s blog “Living with War,” (named after his most recent CD), hosts the posting of war protest songs. There are 1,680 songs so far. Last time I looked, number 190 is Floydian Joel Vendetti.

11. Neil Young on Cobert! You know it’s going to be funny. But don’t stop THERE. HERE’s a blast from the past.

12. Do you have a bizzaro-world blog with the same name as yours? I do. LOOK.

13. This was my shortest (non photo) blog post: "If no one will quote me, I’ll quote myself. Is that a quote?"

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here.View more 13 Thursday’s here.

April 11, 2007

Unpredictable April Weather

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Which will it be today?

April 10, 2007

Blogs are for Reporters

sidewalktohotel2.jpgLast week when I was in town hanging flyers for the April Spoken Word Night, I saw an interesting scene. Two workers were laying a new sidewalk in between the old Rake’s mansion property and the new Village Green site and leading to the Hotel Floyd construction. It looked like an elaborate production. I was curious about how a sidewalk was built, so I pulled my car into the Village Green parking lot to get a better look.

Over the last two years of blogging, I feel like I’ve been gradually earning the right to indulge my natural curiosity. As a blogger, I don’t go out without my camera. It’s sort of like having a press pass, and recently I’ve been getting more comfortable with taking photos and not worrying what people think (and believe me, with some of the things I snap photos of, I get more than a few stares).

When I’m out, I’m not consciously looking for news. I’m drawn to what is interesting or out of place, whether it’s a bright red cup in the middle of a grassy field or a newly constructed sidewalk where there wasn’t one the day before.

The first few stories I sold to the Floyd Press last year were initially interest driven blog entries. The first one was about two travelers sitting in front of the town courthouse with a sign that read “Want to Talk Politics?” In that case, a fellow blogger called me to suggest that it might make a good story. The second piece I wrote was a review of a play about the life of a historical Appalachian midwife. As I was writing it, I knew it would adapt well to local news, and after that piece I paid more attention to blog entries that might have that kind of application.

I didn’t fill out a job application to write for the Floyd Press. I just approached the editor and told her that since retiring from full-time foster care I was writing a lot and would like to float stories by her for possible publication from time to time. It was a natural progression to what I was already doing. She looked over that first piece as I spoke and nodded her head. “It’s good … conversational,” she said.

Bloggers can be an extra pair of eyes and ears for news reporters, covering stories that might otherwise go unnoticed. All of the seasoned bloggers in our small town of Floyd interface with the local paper in one way or another. Fred at Fragments from Floyd does a regular column, A Road Less Traveled; Doug at the Blue Ridge Muse (the real journalist among us) covers local sports and county government; and some of David’s Ripples blog posts have also appeared in the Press.

In a recent editorial, the Floyd Press editor thanked local citizens for contributing news to the paper. She was also interested in using the photo I took of the new sidewalk being built (which appeared in the Press on April 5th)

Post note: Blogs are for Storytellers HERE.

April 9, 2007

The Easter Adventure

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1. The other people in the dining room probably thought Joe and I were food critics because we kept taking pictures of our plates of food. It was the Chateau Morrisette’s Easter Brunch, and we couldn’t resist. It was a feast, and the food was not only very tasty, it was pretty and photogenic.
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2. Joe sampled two types of red wine and then worried about drinking a whole glass so early in the day. “Why don’t you just get a glass of Sweet Mountain Laurel (my favorite white)? You can drink that stuff like it’s water!” I lobbied. We decided to share a glass of it.
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3. It’s not only the food we like at the Winery. Whenever we go, we get to visit with the latest crop of young Floydians who work there, many of whom we watched grow up. Our server, Logan, talked soccer with Joe. I remember when his mom was pregnant with him. We caught up with Alicia, got the latest on her and her family, and reminisced about the days when my son Josh worked there. “I’m so impressed. They all turned out so well,” I kept saying to Joe.
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4. Anna, Winery hostess and my friend Mara’s youngest sister (pictured in #3), took me over to lobby to see the orchids before we left, which turned out to be a highlight of my day. “Orchid orchids!” I said referring to their color while snapping close-ups of there exotic flowered faces.
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5. “All-you-can-eat buffets are wasted on me, even gourmet ones,” I said to Joe as we strolled around the winery grounds hand-in-hand, working off what we had mananged to eat, "because, like my mother used to say, my eyes are bigger than my stomach." The Winery mascot trotted by. It was the black dog whose image is plastered all over the place and who is the namesake of the Black Dog Jazz Festivals in the summer, as well as a variety of wine.
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6. Although it was a little colder than we would have liked, the fresh air and sun felt good, so we went on a hike, one that eventually took us on the trail down to Rock Castle Gorge. The waterfalls and moss covered rocks we came upon mid-way reminded us of Glendalough, Ireland. “This one will be called 'Place of Worship,”' I said to Joe as I snapped an Easter photo of him wearing my purple scarf.
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7. We found some wildflowers peeping up through the brown oak leaves and spotted some phlox near an old abandoned house site. I stopped to take a photo of a row of icicles under a wet log and picked up a few pieces of glittering quartz, dropping them in my overcoat pocket.
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8. Because Joe and I both live far away from most of our family, our Easters are usually pretty simple, which is fine with me. Even so, there were a few minutes earlier this morning when I felt sad not to have young children to fix Easter baskets and egg hunts for. But by the time we left the gorge (no pun intended) our wide smiles reflected the renewal we felt. The bright sun, grass greening, flowers blooming, and waterfalls rushing were having their effect. “Now this is resurrection. This is spring!” I shouted. What a blessing, we both agreed.
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9. And look what the Easter Bunny brought me. It’s not a basket. It’s a doggie box full of delicious desserts left over from the Winery Brunch.

Post note: The Blue View - More Winery adventures HERE.

April 7, 2007

In the News

old_tv_set_rc.jpgIn the 1950’s, when our TVs were black and white and the antennas that sat on the top of them were called rabbit ears, only men reported the news. They weren’t like anyone from Howdy Doody. They were different than Ralph Kramdon or Perry Mason. They wore suits and talked as if they were right in our living room. I was sure they could see me and they were saying something bad, and so I hid behind our couch.

Now I’m grown up and I know that reporters read from teleprompters. They have ratings to worry about and products to sell. They have theme songs that sound like ones from TV’s most dramatic series. Women sometimes report the news. One, in a skirt and high heels, recently sat on her desk with her legs crossed while she did it.

Even so, I click around all four channels, as if the news was a sport and the newscasters where referees. I watch to see how they’re calling the game. Is it too far to the right or to the left? Is it true? Is it fair? What? Diet sodas actually cause you to eat more? Hey, is anyone writing this down? What? Hormone Replacement Therapy increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes in women? My friends and I knew that 20 years ago.

I don’t have to watch every day. The news is like a soap opera. You can tune in and catch up pretty fast. Sometimes they repeat the same story day after day. I watch to not only to hear what the newscasters are saying, but to hear what they aren’t saying. They all seem to say the same thing, and they leave a lot out.

Everyone remembers the Iraqi women in headdresses holding up their purple thumbs after they voted. No one at the dinner party I went to last week believed me when I said that women under Saddam’s rule before the first Gulf war and the sanctions were modern, well-educated, and held positions of power.

There are good guys and bad guys, we’re told. There’s rhetoric that sounds good but I know it isn’t true. There are too many commercials. Drug pushers seem to have taken over the airwaves. What are they trying to sell us now? A little purple pill? Another war?

Sometimes when I’m watching the news I like to step back for a moment and pretend I’m a Martian who just landed on earth, and I ask myself ‘What would a Martian think of all this?' Other times I remember something I heard during a recent presidential election. An African American man who had every reason to be discouraged about modern voting problems said, ‘But we have to vote. People died for the right to vote. If you don’t vote, you might just as well be saying to the people in power ‘do whatever you want with me.’

Post note: “In the news” was this week’s Sunday Scribblings writing prompt. More in the news scribblings can be found HERE.

April 6, 2007

Thinking (about) Bloggers

thinkingbloggergold.jpg My writing is an extension of and a way to organize my thinking. I'm more of a thinker than a writer. For me, writing is the natural final product that results from thinking. I think! ~ Comment recently made by Colleen to Kim (a thinking blogger).

I’d like to thank Blue Mountain Mama – who said my writing helps keep her in touch with her inner bohemian free-spirit – Ruth, and Carmen for naming me as a recipient of the “Thinking Blogger Award.”

The award, which has been traversing the blogsphere and originated HERE, comes with a challenge. Those who have been awarded are asked to name five others to pass the “thinking blogger” torch on to.

I read other people’s blogs for many reasons. I enjoy good quality writing, appreciate humor, and love it when the two are mixed. Sometimes I’m drawn to a blog to get a glimpse into a lifestyle unlike my own, or because I’m attracted to the blogger’s personality. I also read to learn, to be inspired, and to look at pretty pictures. Here are the five blogs I’ve chosen for the Thinking Blogger award because they make me think:

Simply Wait: Patry bakes pies for the muse and hosts the 3rd day book club. I first came to her blog through the lure of her waitress poetry. She got my attention when she revealed in her first comment on Loose Leaf that she remembered Paragon Park, the now defunct amusement park in the small Massachusetts beach town I grew up in. When I discovered that she grew up in Brockton, my maternal grandmother’s hometown, our blogging friendship (from my point of view) was sealed. I walk the Cape Cod shoreline vicariously through Patry, and recently followed her on a west coast book tour to promote her first novel, Liar’s Diary. She ponders life’s questions and encourages dialogue with her readers. This waitress turned novelist has an infectious sense of play and her writing is flawless.

Humanyms: Pearl has fun with words. She plays a glad game, loves poetry, architecture, and cooking. She passes on an endless supply of interesting links and thoughtful quotes. Her words skip, skim, and sink-in because of her playful poet's perspective. Where else would you find the following: Brain runneth over. It bobs about. Maybe it’s the rain from all night and all morning displacing it like a cork. Thank goodness for the cap of bones or the brain might wash away entirely and we couldn’t have it running down the streets on its own, its grey getting all gritty and salty in the sopped rivulets getting carried away downhill. The lobes might get lodged in the sewer grate with it mutely wiggling and jerking to free itself before the crocodiles.

Chronicles from Hurricane Country: Elissa’s range of interests span from as far up as the night sky to as low as the smallest bugs that crawl at our feet. Creatively prolific, I view her as part scientist and part poet. I love to go on virtual walks with her and her partner Mary by way of her photographs. She, a one time Bostonian now living in Florida, sings, makes beautiful collages, and has been a published writer since she was a teenager. She recently signed a book contract and was posting about her writing background when she made this wise remark: “I've always felt my freelance work is better than a free education because it's an education I get paid for.”

Carbon Press: Josephine’s current blog mission statement reads: “I'm going to drive my beat up old Honda Civic until it dies.” She’s a cancer survivor and advocate who has offered her help to others navigating through the ordeal of cancer treatments. She doesn’t shrink from revealing her real and sometimes raw emotions. Her writing is fresh. It surprises and makes me want more. In a recent post called “Ectoplasmic Is My New Favorite Word,” she wrote, Green tinted the breeze as a stormfront moved in yesterday. Chartruese pollen. Ectoplasmic green. My black car has been margarita green for two weeks. Live oak trees have thousands of neon green chandelier earings dangling from budding branches. Loblolly pines are puffing tufts of mitochondrial green clouds like crotchety old dragons huffing out snorts of smoke.

Open Book: Jennifer was voted 'Most Mischievous' her senior year of high school, has never seen a Star Wars or James Bond movie, and was once introduced to a drag queen by her uncle. “She was stunning. I was stunned. For a moment,” Jennifer explained. Her blog is “based on a true story,” and her writer’s voice is a natural one that entertains and engages. Her inventive blog titles tease you to read and you’re never sorry when you do. The last time I looked, Jennifer was on a blog sabbatical, but you can flip through her spilled ink archives, listed on the margins of her Open Book.

Post note: Oh! It's 11:00 and I haven't had breakfast. All this linking has stopped me from thinking and eating. I'll be back soon to proof this!

April 5, 2007

Thirteen Thursday: Spring Foolery

13ticke2xt.jpg AKA: That’s the Ticket!
1. I’m a sucker for an online generator. When it comes to generators (like this ticket found at Tales from Creekistan), I’m like the kid in school who had to stick her hands up in front of the movie projector to make shadows on the screen when the lights went out.

2. Like a moth is attracted to a flame, my eyes go to the forsythia bushes in my yard. In the past week, I’ve photographed them from every angle at every time of day.

3. But now the forsythia is on its way out. My consolation is that the dogwood trees are about to bloom. As a young girl, I remember thinking that “dogwood” was a stupid name for a tree. I recently checked on how the dogwood got its name and discovered that the word dogwood comes from dagwood, from the use of the slender stems of very hard wood for making 'dags' (daggers, skewers).

4. Back in the year 1969 I went to many concerts at the old Boston Tea Party, a church converted to a club where we sat on the floor and watched light shows as the bands performed. I saw Led Zepplin before they were famous and Rod Stewart when he was lead singer of the Small Faces. My sister Sherry and I thought Joe Cocker had cerebral palsy because of they way he contorted himself when he sang. LOOK what I found!

5. You don’t need a ticket to get THIS inside glimpse into Floyd’s famous Friday Night Jamboree, thanks to my blogging friend Doug Thompson.

6. I’m psychic when it comes to blog comments. I often think about certain bloggers at the same time they are visiting my blog and leaving a comment, but I can’t tell if I’m having a premonition or if I am attracting the bloggers to visit because I’m thinking about them.

7. If I don’t feel my emotions during the day, they wake me at night. A few nights ago gratitude woke me up. I was feeling thankful for what fine adults my sons have grown into, and for the fact that they both have recently purchased their own homes. But what really caused my sense of gratitude to swell over the top was feeling how much it means to me that my husband, Joe, has volunteered long hours of his time to help both my sons work on their places.

8. Number 55 on my 100 Things About Me says: Sometimes I use a tarot deck. It’s like taking my psychic blood pressure.

9. Acting foolish is sounding better all the time. According to my Motherpeace tarot deck, the Fool represents the magical child within each one of us; the pure impulse that causes us to act, the infinite possibilities that exist with every moment of life.

10. Like poets, fools have played an important role in societies. Whether is be by way of the court jester or the Lakota Heyoka (aka the sacred clown), humor and satire has always been used to ask hard questions and to say what others are thinking but aren’t able to say.

11. Speaking of thinking, here’s what I wrote last year in a post about why blogging came natural to me: It seems that my mind thinks in excerpts from a larger text that fills my mind. I don’t think in linear “start to finish” ways. I’m one of those people who thinks in flash bulletins and browses through books from back to forward. Or I look at a word like “thinking” and see “thin king” or maybe “king thinking.”

12. Don’t forget that “Play is the highest form of research,” so says Albert Einstein (the one who discovered The Theory of Relativity and not the comedian who changed his name to Albert Brooks.

13. Can you say this five times fast? FRIENDLY FRANK FLIPS FLAPJACKS

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

April 4, 2007

High Jinx

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1. Bring me a higher love
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2. High five
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3. Keeping a high profile
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4. High minded or head in the clouds?
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5. the sunset is the highlight of my day.
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6. High and dry in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Photos: 1. My husband, Joe, at the top of the stairs of a shop in Cedar Key, Florida. 2. Floyd County high school glove on the top of a truck antenna seen at a recent soccer game 3. My great niece, Samantha, jumping on my trampoline. 4. My reflection in the back of my car 5. Evening sky behind the Cafe Del Sol. 6. Empty red cup seen while walking on Morning Dew.

April 3, 2007

A Floyd Writer's Room

hotelfloyd.jpg The following was originally published in The Floyd Press newspaper on 3/29/07 as "Hotel rooms to showcase aspects of Floyd's talent."

It’s official. The first item for the Floyd Writer's Room, one of the themed guest rooms planned for the Hotel Floyd, has been purchased. It’s an antique writing desk with lots of interesting drawers, slots for letters, and a hinged work space that opens and closes.

After our Scrabble game at the café last week, Kathleen Ingoldsby and I walked over to the hotel building site, located downtown and just behind the Old Jacksonville Cemetery. There, we met with Katherine Chantal, who took a break from her job at the Harvest Moon to join us. We, all members of the Floyd Writer’s Circle, hoped to see the location and size of the actual room. Because of the unfinished construction, we soon discovered that wouldn’t be possible, unless we wanted to climb up one of the long metal ladders. So, we headed over to the nearest antique dealer and picked out the desk.
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The Hotel Floyd, contracted by Jack Wall and Kamala Bauers, is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2007. Jack and Kamala are the directors of Wall Residences, an agency based in Floyd that provides foster care options for adults with developmental disabilities.

Besides the Local Writers Room, other themed rooms planned for the hotel include: The Crooked Road Room, The Blue Ridge Parkway Room, The Country Store Room, The Jacksonville Center Room, Floyd Fest Room, Harvest Moon Room, Winter Sun Room, Jeanie O’Neill Room, Malawi Room, Bell Gallery Room, Old Church Gallery Room, Floyd Figures Drawing Room, and the Chateau Morrisette Bridal Suite. All the rooms are being designed to showcase Floyd talent. Everything from what will hang on the walls to the furniture, most of which will be locally made, will highlight what our county and region have to offer. With environmental sustainability in mind, the hotel is being built using green technology. Eco-solutions, a small business that sells environmentally friendly building supplies in the Copper Hill part of Floyd County, will be providing much of the construction materials.

When Jack contacted me in February, inviting me to get involved in the themed room project, I immediately had ideas. “It should look like a study, done in warm earth tones. We’ll need bookcases, a desk, an old typewriter and Scrabble board displayed,” I told him as I jotted down the beginnings of a list. Soon after our conversation, I spoke with other members of the Floyd Writer’s Circle, contacted a couple of other local writers, and a small brainstorming group was formed.

With the input of others, my list of ideas grew longer. Kathleen, archivist for the Floyd Historical Society, envisioned a collection of books by Floydians and about Floyd that would span the past 100 years. Fred First, author of Slow Road Home suggested the room have audio capability on a computer for guests to hear local writers reading.
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Simple, classic, warm, and uncluttered were some of the words we used to convey our vision to Jeanie O’Neill, interior decorator working on the hotel project. Jeanie, artist and owner of “The O’Neill Gallery and Boutique” agreed to hold our first brainstorming session at her house.

By the end of that first meeting, the long list of ideas I had been collecting had shortened, as we divided up tasks among us. Katherine had a tip for fair trade oriental rugs in Buchanan that she agreed to check into. Kathleen would begin looking for books for the bookcase. I would research the purchase of an antique typewriter, and Jeanie offered to bring swatches of paint colors and samples of tiles to our next meeting.

We hope as the creation of Floyd Writer’s Room unfolds other local writers will come forth with ideas and historic resources. Those who have something to share can contact me at credman@swva.net.

Post note: An article about the Hotel Floyd, written by Wanda Combs, the Floyd Press editor, which appeared the same day that the above one did can be found HERE.

April 1, 2007

The April Porch Vacation

aprilporchfor.jpgThe menu consisted of basmati rice, steamed greens, and venison sautéed with onions. The conversation mostly revolved around garden plans. “We’ll have to risk being woken up by Jasmine’s barking,” Joe was saying, “because she needs to stay outside and chase away the deer that have been coming around.” An image of a family of deer devouring our garden popped into my mind as he spoke.

Since Joe has been coaching high school soccer, he’s been more interested in the sports section of the newspaper. I read the Floyd County soccer scores (that he had called in to the Roanoke Times the day before) out loud before I handed him the page and moved on to commentary and letters to the editor.

The silence that followed was broken with the song of birds. We took a break from reading to watch the resident woodpecker at the birdfeeder. A mother phoebe nesting in the porch rafters sat oblivious as a male cardinal aggressively and repeatedly confronted his own reflection in the living room window pane.

“Do we have any sandpaper?” I asked Joe as I pointed out the spot on the porch where hot oil spilled the last time I burned a skillet on the stove and had to run out of the house and toss it in the grass. “I’m going to try and sand down that stain,” I told him.

Sipping my tea, I glanced at my hands and noticed my fingernails were still outlined with dirt from weeding the asparagus bed before lunch. I was picking at my fingernails when Jasmine returned from one of her dog adventures. She ran up, stuck her nose in the grass near the birdfeeder, and immediately found the venison bone I had thrown there 15 minutes before.

There was too much to hear, see, and feel to continue with my reading. “Don’t forget to take some time to enjoy the forsythia blossoms,” I said to Joe who was absorbed in the newspaper, “because by next weekend they’ll be gone.”

And that’s no April fooling.