This week's Tinderbox meeting produced some really interesting pieces after a 25 minute free-write with members. We decided to delve into the idea of our first impressions of ourselves - and then we turned it all around and wrote about someone ELSE'S first impression of us. Some of us wrote from the point of view of relatives, friends, pets. Some of us wrote about our very young selves - even birth memories! Some of us wrote from the perspective of mothers filled with hopes for their children. Some wrote about the desires in their adult lives. Some wrote from the point of view of a secondary character of their current fiction project, seeing the main character through fresh eyes. It was FANTASTIC! And I want to share some of this revealing work because we all left feeling so revitalized! And...well...kinda naked.
Vulnerable is good in writing. (tweet that)
In that spirit, I've offered to publish my own, unedited piece here today to give courage to the others who will share their writing with you in the next few days.
This piece is written from the point of view of my maternal grandfather shortly after my premature birth and the loss of my twin sister. It's pretty stark. I cried when I read it for the group. It's amazing how our grief connects us. The experience of putting words to these emotions was powerful, emotions and thoughts I imagine coming from my grandfather that will absolutely make their way into my current fiction. But more than that, they reveal ME to MYSELF. That's the magic of a good prompt to strip us of our excuses and get us unblocked so the EXPRESSION flows and we discover the unique voice we have to bring to the world!
If your creativity is blocked, maybe take a chance on this writing prompt. I'd love to hear how it works for you. ...More things will be revealed!
So, enjoy. But grab a hankie, dude. xo
By Kimberly Brock
Children are supposed to be gifts, but they aren’t supposed to be angels. They aren’t supposed to be saviors. This little girl came into the world, barely a wisp of life, barely breathing, entirely the wrong color, the color of desperation. She is a gasp.
I watch her mother and grandmother wrestle over the death of dreams and they look at this child like she will be a magician. They expect her to open her eyes and see them as they wish they were, not as they are. The need her to suckle and grow on their love, dependent and full of tireless appreciation. They need her to make up for disappointment and death. Instead, she is sickly. She is limp. She is feverish and fitful and uncompromising in her misery. She will not be their joy and they want to shake her until she is compliant.
Instead, she sucks all the air from the room and still struggles to breathe. She gives them weeks with no sleep. She demands more than their grief can provide. She cries. She is weak. She is failing to thrive. They are failing. I watch them wrap her too tightly in soft blankets that overheat her skinny, strange body. They are trying to make her a fat, happy Gerber baby and angry that she can’t make the best of what they have to offer, all their best efforts and she hates them. They are not what she wants and they’re mortified.
She is a lonely thing. She is my own holy trial by fire and the great love of my life. I know because she quiets when I rock her through the night. I pat her bottom til she stops bleating and even as her sweet, warm breath makes my neck sweat, I think she will die, too. I think nothing we have to give will ever fill her up. She is grief. She is a black hole that asks everything and throws our incompetence and guilt back at us. She is greedy and terrible and beautiful in her selfishness.
I wish I could take her, bundle her, get her in my truck, tucked on the seat. We’d drive far from here. We would find the light some place that would warm our blood, away from graves and ice storms and cold women. We would fill our bellies with biscuits and butter and watch crows on wires, talking and cackling. Her first smile was with me. I want to hear her laugh at those crows. I want her to grow up wise as those birds, sharp and slick and black. I want her to fly away from here. I want her to take a deep, deep breath and grow in all directions until she is larger than all of us. Until she won’t fit in that impossibly small hole in the ground.
November brings lots of tradition, memory, and emotion with it. Some of us embrace autumn and the coming holiday season and some of us fear it. This guest post is from a blogger I've enjoyed reading and getting to know over the last few weeks on her blog, I MIGHT NEED A NAP, Mama said they make me nicer. When she posted this original poem, I really wanted to share it with you here and she graciously agreed to allow me to post it to the Tinderbox Society Blog. The language is beautiful and poignant. So here's a gift from Tara Joyner Haussler.
Tara would love to hear from you! Please share your thoughts on November in the comments.
And so November begins,
pushing the door open gently
and entering, smelling of cinnamon
and cloves and things roasted over the fire,
bringing all of her
stories and memories
and celebrations in with her
The birthdays and the changing leaves
drifting down to the earth that
no longer welcomes bare feet to
wander and scamper about
The magnificent sunsets and
the brisk breezes that bring
out the scarves and hats
and mittens and fires in the hearth
November plays across the days
like a haunting melody,
familiar and comforting,
always known and sometimes sad,
as the days grow darker and the memories
remind us of the Novembers of years gone by
and how different they have become
Comforted by the rhythm of the seasons
I welcome her in
and offer her a place to be
and while I love her and all her colors
some of her stories are hard
and don’t seem to get any easier with the passage of time
Love etched in my heart
our stories intertwined
names etched in stone,
the echo of laughter and
the silence of last breaths,
tears of welcome and tears
of letting go
the tears of remembering
The pages of the calendar will turn
and the days of November will pass
and she will take her leave as
demurely as she came in,
backing out and pulling the door to
And I will close her story
and whisper goodbye
until we meet again
Tara Joyner Haussler is a Georgia girl, a connoisseur of peaches, and a lover of long naps and hot buttered grits. A graduate of Wesleyan College, she is a Mama to the Zoo Crew--one in college and two whom she homeschools and learns from every day. Tara's best memories are of the places that built her--home, Granny's farm, and her Great Aunts' houses. She is a writer who shares the stories of her people--past and present. Her favorite things in life are books, her family, a good cup of coffee, crocheted and knitted blankets she rescues from thrift shops, books, comfy socks, a good pair of blue jeans and boots, listening to folks' stories--and books. Tara has a special place in her heart for those who have no roof over their heads, foster children aging out of the system, and those who need a safe place to grieve. Her dream is to become a superhero with the superpowers to right all of these wrongs. Until then, she continues to share her stories through written and spoken word--in the hopes that we can see how much we have in common, appreciate the beauty in our differences, and just love on each other. In addition to writing, Tara serves as chief cook, bottle washer, teacher, headmaster, artist, laundry folder, and porch sitter. When she grows up, Tara wants to be.....well, she's still working on that. In the mean time, the writing and porch sitting are suiting her just fine.
Find Tara's blog here: http://imightneedanap.com/
Connect with Tara on Facebook, here.
Today's guest post is by Tinderbox Society member, Georgia Lee. After our first meeting this week of the Fall workshop series, she offered to share a sublime blog, which is also posted on her own site, Georgia Lee Says. I hope you'll be inspired!
The full moon pulls me outside and I rise or fall, like the obedient tide. Last night, early October, the Hunters or Harvest - each full moon has a name, you know. I don't feel like looking it up, but I'm going with Hunters. It suits my current mood. And Harvest Moon gets too much attention.
I feel sorry for the other moons, unsung by, uh - Neil Young? - prolific Southern Manhater? I hope Neil Young will remember, a southern woman don't need him around, anyhow. If only I'd stuck with my own kind, flawed though they all are, I might not be out on wet grass after midnight, alone. Alone!! With vampire mosquitoes, out for a last taste of blood before we all sink into our winters' underworld.
My friends, I am a hopeless DRAMATIC. My backyard - The Fountain Theater, is an Al Fresco cross between the Globe and the Kit-Kat Club. In its heyday: Drunken Pagan Players; Shakespeare's Bastards; 500 Megahertz Revue and Versailles A'flame drew raving reviews, from teenage vagrants, neighborhood vigilantes and the Dekalb County Police. As founder, I directed, produced and starred in most.
The 2014 Summer Season never made pre-production. Shut down, as death, unemployment, breakdowns, assaults and stalkers plagued the theater, its owners and backers.
Last night, through a rotting patio door, I entered the sad, neglected ruins. Is anything more ominous than a darkened theater? Three rows of burnt out stage lights sagged the stage, where the Italianate eponymous Fountain is a cesspool of disease-carrying vermin. Virginia Creeper and dead mimosas sling long arms over ghosts in empty seats. A breeze carries a whisper of dialogue. Smoke of dry ice slithers through weeds. Sweet, decayed gardenias swill in spilled beer.
Into this wreckage, with lavender candle, three quartz crystals and an I-Pad, I stake my gray yoga mat in the ground. Brian Eno's "Music for Airports" is near silent, drowned by the thriving cicada/cricket stereo.
For thirty minutes, I sit. Breathe in. Breathe out. Only breath. It doesn't hold me, my own breath.
I hear my father's automated coma breath, 120 hours of it as I hold the powerful pulse steadfast - on and on, the wrist. I see my mother two years ago. The last scene calls for grace under pressure - Hemingway, Gary Cooper. Even this will not touch me, within me. She rises above.
These two stars dazzle my life.Comedians. Tragedians. Quick chameleons, as all actors must be.
But...this? Are they capable of portraying the the awe, the grandeur of death? Am I, front row - suspending belief, brought to tears, or not, staying until the curtain drops? They are. I am It's over. The End.
I wait. For them to bound back out onto the stage, take several energetic, role-busting bows, applaud me, the audience, and then, with a jaunty wave, exit. Thank you, goodnight everybody!
I wait, with no script. Out for a drink, discuss the end? No. This was one night only, never repeated never duplicated never forgotten.
Tomorrow tomorrow and tomorrow. Last night. The constant moon is my Mother. She reflects shape and light, forming a mosaic of my broken pieces. Full center stage, or hidden behind scenes, in clouds, over horizons.
Dad is the stars - mystery of dreaming constellations, never judging, receiving all that is undiscovered, our surprising universe.
Lured last night into the dead Fountain Theater, I expected nothing but 30 minutes of the full Hunters Moon. I already knew the setting, the characters and the story.
I did not know the message that came behind it. I did not predict the tears. I do not pretend to understand it now. Am I bringing my own bias to it? Probably. It doesn't matter. The dead, once on this stage with us, are with us still. The sheer curtain is opaque. Life and death are equal and both are illusions, stories - a dream within a dream within a dream. There is no Third Wall.
*Save the date: The all-new, fully-renovated, 2015 Fountain Theater, will kick off its Summer 2015 Season Saturday, June 20 with a Summer Solstice Celebrations. Calling all playwrights, actors, musicians, costume and set designers, creatives, rapscallions, art and even sports enthusiasts. Step into the light - all are welcome. Please RSVP. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.
DATE: June 20, 2015 EVENT: Summer Solstice Celebration WHERE: The Fountain Theater, Decatur, GA TIME: 8 p.m. until...(we don't follow Time's Arrow) Rain or Shine.
The Show Must Go On.
Georgia Lee directs Writing Center – former Bureau Chief WWD, contributor to every publication in the known world, yoga guru, psychic, Beatlemaniac, milkshake addict.
I met guest blogger and Tinderbox Society member, Jodi Burrus, a few years ago when a friend and I drove to Birmingham, Alabama to meet a mutual friend and fellow author, humorist Robin O'Bryant. We sat around a table for dinner and laughed ourselves silly, talking about our families, our writing and everything in between. I left that dinner wishing those women lived closer to me. I felt recharged. I felt my energy and confidence return. It might have been the wine or the artichoke dip, but I think there's something about sharing our stories that feeds our souls. I wanted Jodi to share her story here with you so maybe some of that magic could be recaptured and spread over your day today.
If you've ever struggled to make time for yourself, time to be still and quiet in a crazy busy life, time to listen for your own voice in all the hubbub...this one's for you!
Jodi's blog speaks to the power of friendship in our lives to nourish our creativity. Find her at thedrunch.com.
"When you meet a friend for Drunch, you know you’re going to kick back, unwind and say what you want to say. Whether it’s Marriage and Family or Nips and Tucks, no topic is off limits. Stop by The Drunch to catch up on what’s being said around the table today."
Jodi's doing a great giveaway, too, so leave a comment for her. Your going to really connect to this post and want to chat about it. Share your thoughts and yourself here and you'll win, either way!
by Jodi Burrus
Writing…until you’re a published author, people will refer to this as your “hobby,” not realizing It means so much more than the word “hobby” implies. It's not a pair of fuzzy slippers knitted at Christmas.
Still...I've not published a full-length novel, and my writing isn't a source of income. Not a "real" job. So where does writing fit in my crazy, mixed-up life? It doesn't...there's just no room.
I should explain...I'm a mom. Not just once, but four times over. Boys -- ages 9, 8, 8, and 8. That's as real as it gets.
I juggle the schedules of all six members of our family. I cook a healthy dinner (most of the time), and pack lunches, and do laundry, and remember karate outfits, and clean up dog hair, and mop the floors (sometimes). We go to school. We go to church. Sure, it looks like multi-tasking, but my focus is ALL on raising 4 boys and maintaining a somewhat sanitary/sane/livable home environment. All my eggs are in one basket. There is no TIME for writing.
But I do it anyway.
I can't help but think of my writing as the bloodletting treatments of old, where the tumultuous humors were drained away in order to leave their host healthy and sound. Sure it's junk science, but as a metaphor for writing -- it's good medicine.
Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. You just sit down at a typewriter and bleed." For me, the words build day after day, night after night, until the pressure demands an outlet. I struggle with allotting a set time every day to write. Sometimes it just doesn't work out. Kids get sick. I get exhausted. Life happens. So I've given myself permission to play hooky.
Sometimes, the laundry sours in the washer. Dinner becomes takeout, and guess what? You guys need to buy lunch at school tomorrow because I didn't make it to the grocery store today. And you know what? Life goes on. There may be some rumbles from the peanut gallery, but the earth continues to spin.
So the words flow...in fits and starts. Disjointed scenes, disrupted voices. Pages I want to burn, and phrases I wish the world could see. Is it a pointless exercise? I don't think so. I'm simply being who I'm supposed to be. Will I publish a full-length novel someday? I hope so. But if it never happens, I'll still be here...my pen dripping words onto the page.
Need a little encouragement to get your own creative juices flowing? How about a copy of the anthology “Winter Wonders” — a collection of short stories that includes Jodi's very first published YA Fiction, “The Fat Files.” Leave a comment here or on her blog at www.thedrunch.com Or send a tweet to @thedrunch saying, “Count me in!” for a chance to win.
What is this Tinderbox Society all about?
JOURNEYS + TIPS
It's a community blog featuring some of the women I've met along the way - and all of the women I am continuing to meet - who are JUST LIKE YOU!
They're moms, grandmothers, teachers, accountants, small business owners, artisans and...
women who've found themselves burnt out or shut up at some point in their lives and they're sharing their journeys and tips about
finding their voice
expressing their passions
and writing their way back to their creative core.
These are their stories. These are their voices. They're daring. Taking risks. Expressing everything inside and inspiring everyone around them.
They're gonna blow your hair back.
Tinderbox Society's FIRST GUEST BLOGGER is Susan Sands.
Susan writes romantic women's fiction and blogs at Sweet Home Alpharetta. I met Susan at an event for another author at Foxtale Book Shoppe (one of my favorite places on earth) and we hit it off talking about kids and writing and writing and kids and how are you finding time to write?? Her post today makes me take a deep breath and find gratitude for one of the toughest lessons for anyone with a plan...waiting. I'm not a very pleasant person when I'm waiting. I'm going to try to be more like Susan!
If Susan's story rings a bell for you, leave a comment for her. Welcome her. Cheer her on!
It's what Tinderbox is all about. Celebrating the truth inside each of us and creating something unique and perfectly flawed.
Tell it, Susan!
My name is Susan Sands, and I’m a failure. Well, not exactly a failure. I’m just not a published author of a full-length novel after seven long years of trying unsuccessfully the old-fashioned way. Seven years ago there wasn’t a new-fashioned way to speak of. So much has evolved in the industry since I began this journey that I’m not even certain what I want anymore from this dream of mine.
Having someone tell me I was good enough, I mean, someone who knew what he or she was talking about was my first goal. My name in print on the cover of a book, by a real publisher, was my true objective starting out. Money? Yeah, I thought I’d get some of that too.
How it all started:
I woke up at forty years old and decided that I wanted to write. Didn’t we all at some point? I bought my first laptop, craft books on fiction writing at my local Barnes and Noble, and then I figured I should attend a first novel writer’s conference way out in California, having no idea how much opportunity to learn I had so close to home. But as fate and luck would have it, there were real live agents in California and one of them wanted my book when it was finished!
She suggested I first join my local chapter of RWA, Georgia Romance Writers, and the national chapter as well. I think I’d gotten online and done that within the first fifteen minutes of meeting her.
I was fifteen thousand words in on my first Southern romantic women’s fiction novel. But having this agent fervently waiting for my book (ha!) spurred me to write like the wind. I finished the book and had it professionally edited. I printed out the three hundred plus pages and sent it to Cali. And waited. Don’t hate me, but that well-respected agent offered me representation on my first submission. I believed I had a gift, y’all!
After some revisions, she shopped my novel through New York City. I waited. No dice. Looking back, I realize now how truly unworthy of publication that first book was. Why did she offer representation? I believe she saw something in me that she thought would eventually bear fruit. But not yet.
I wasn’t mature enough as a writer; my work wasn’t ready, which was a terrible thing. Fact: Sending out unfit material hurts your good name. If you’ve tried to get an agent lately, you realize how hard that can be. I had a tough decision to make. Keeping an agent who wasn’t a good fit vs. taking time to grow and develop my craft, and when I was ready, try and find an agent who was a better fit. It was a tough breakup on my part.
When in the thick of it, we never think we’re not good enough. That bird in hand is very hard to let go. I wrote new books. I won a few contests. I found a new agent. That book didn’t sell either. Again.
Failure. The burning desire and confidence that I could succeed dimmed. The first goal was achieved. Someone did tell me I was good enough. They even offered representation, twice.
There are those who tell us that selling a book is a combination of good writing and storytelling, who you know, hitting the right editor at the right time with the right project, etc. I truly believe it’s mostly fitting a great story with an editor who falls in love with it and connects with the author’s style. If you can get them to read it initially. I still have a few no-responses, which baffles me.
I’ve continued to write, though not with quite the same thrilling anticipation of submitting the next project to my agent. Thankfully, she still represents me, bless her. I’m wiser now, knowing this time could also bring frustration and defeat, but I do remain hopeful. I don’t thing anyone continues writing with the belief that they will ultimately fail.
The true beauty of this journey has been the people I’ve met along the way, both at conferences and through both GRW and RWA. Only other writers understand the nature of rejection and the growth that we undergo, whether we are novices or multi-published best sellers. And there are always more highs and lows waiting around the next corner.
Best to everyone currently on submission with agents and editors. It’s a tough wait!
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Life lived from your Creative Core.