From my very first post I wanted to pay homage to the speech which inspired the title of my blog, Ain't I a Woman? by Sojourner Truth. Such a beautiful speech, such a beautiful name, such a beautiful woman. It is one of my favorite pieces. I strive to emulate this style in my own work. Poetic and powerful. Honest and unafraid. Memorable. And I like brevity. It too is beautiful. This is the standard I wish to be held to as I explore the question with you ~ ain't I a writer?
"Obliged to you for hearing me, and I do have a few things more to say..."

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

"Don't Fight Life"

      Today I attended a memorial service for a woman that I had a great deal of respect for. Her name was Joyce Volk. It was a beautiful celebration of a life well lived, by many people who cared for and admired her. It occurred to me while I listened to the speakers, that in the end there might be nothing better than having your grandchildren read from great prose and poetry that you had inspired them to love. Except maybe to have your ashes co-mingled with your life mate's and buried on a beautiful piece of property of your choosing under a rock inscribed with only one word - LOVE.

      Joyce was one of my beta readers. I valued her opinion about my historical novel not just because of her deep appreciation and knowledge of American and Portsmouth history, but maybe more so, because I knew she would tell me the truth, without sugarcoating, about what she thought of my book.

      She spoke highly of my novel and had even offered to write a blurb for it. She said that no one had written about slavery the way that I did, and that it was an important story that needed to be told.
We never got to the blurb, but I am glad we had that last discussion. It was a good one. And so was she.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Notes of Late

      I have been hard at work the last two months; getting my daughter settled into her dorm, settling into a new job, and traveling to writing retreats.
      I spent a weekend in Brooklyn at the Slice Literary Festival. It was a wonderful gift and I am very thankful to the Maine Publishers and Writer's Alliance for the generous scholarship. The highlight for me was pitching to my dream agent. She asked for my manuscript and I have since sent it to her. Please cross all your crossable parts for me.

       Last weekend I attended the New Hampshire Poetry Festival. Had lots of fun checking in with old friends and meeting a few new people. I was particularly happy to participate in January Gill O'Neil's workshop, called Note to Self. Her prompts brought up some hard stuff for me. Stuff I've left unwritten for forty years. I don't think I could have done it without her soft-spoken midwifery.

      I can't share that one. At least not yet.

      But I can share this one, a found poem from words seen outside January's workshop on  simply splendid September afternoon.

       The Corner of Chestnut and Lowell

Victory Park
Farmers Market
Weston Terrace
Child and Family Services
Pay Meter here
Pay and Display
Alley Cat Pizzeria
Police Lives Matter

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Day at Canterbury Shaker Village

    I was thrilled to have my prose, an excerpt from a historical novel in progress about the Shakers, selected to be part of the show Shaker Traditions: Contemporary Translations. It was the first time I've ever been part of a juried art show. I went to the opening a few days ago and had the pleasure of reading a bit of my work while also being inspired anew by my surroundings. Inspired to get back to work on the book which I had set aside awhile ago to work on something else. I will return to it soon.

      While at opening day I took advantage of the opportunity to work with other writers in a poetry workshop led by a lovely poet and pediatrician named Kelley J. White. She has published a book of poems (link below) inspired by shaker artifacts and challenged us to try it. We were shown a number of artifacts from the museum's collection and it was a little girl's shaker cloak, white with a satin lining, that caught my attention. Our instructor challenged us to write a quick haiku to share with the class. I share mine with you here.

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                 A lovely white cloak
                 A pretty smiling girl
                 One I created

         The show at Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire will be up until December and is worth a visit. You can find some gorgeous goods in the gift shop, but here are the souvenirs that I brought home. Picked the beans myself in the Shaker garden, where they still grow things to share with those in need as the Shakers always did. It is still a sacred place in so many ways.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


On writing, Hemingway said: "From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality." from the Writers Almanac...

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Slave Pen

      I wrote about the slave pens in (and under) Washington, DC in the novel I am sending out to agents now, but I didn't really know what they might have looked like. I wrote the scene from my imagination. Today this photo came across my Facebook feed. I guess a slave pen doesn't really require much imagination. I did not think up having a soldier on duty, but these photos would have been taken at a later date than I was writing of.

Friday, July 15, 2016

It's me, Tammi

      She is one of my heroes. Seeing her last night was moving and memorable. And there are legions of me. The Music Hall last night was filled with fans, and she has adoring readers all over the world. I wasn't surprised to see that last night, but was really touched by the amazing age range of her fans. I think that is something few writers have achieved. To fill an auditorium with devoted readers from ages 7 to 70 is truly remarkable.
      Judy Blume is a beautiful person, inside and out; a gifted storyteller, a serious censorship activist, and now too, a book store operator. Her life is the envy of many a writer like me; bungling along trying to keep the lights on, sometimes with no one at all believing in our work. But oh how she gives me hope, ~ that it can be done, with grace and beauty and fearlessness.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Jonesing for a little less McConaughey

     Last night I went to see Free State of Jones (directed by Gary Ross who also wrote the screen play). I had been looking forward to seeing it, and went expecting to like it, because I tend to love period drama, especially when it is about American history. I also went knowing it was getting some criticism for being yet another white savior film. I kept that in mind throughout my viewing of the film.
     No question - Matthew McConaughey definitely portrays real life figure Newton Knight as a white savior. I left the film, fairly satisfied with the overall movie experience, thinking that whether or not the criticism is fair could only be determined by knowing how accurate the portrayal of the real man actually is. Was Knight a savior?
      So as is my way, I've been doing some morning after research. Conclusion - most definitely a white savior film.
       Knight was an unusual and controversial man while alive and accounts of his life are too. They are also highly contradictory depending on who was doing the telling over the years. He did lead the rebellion and did present a declaration of independence to General Sherman. Definitely was a ballsy guy. His personal life, though, sounds a lot shadier than the pious gentleman portrayed in the film. He fathered many children with his white wife Serena, and with Rachel, his love interest in the film, and the two women were not likely to have had the very amiable sister-wife relationship the movie implied they did. There is at least one allegation that he also had children by one of Rachel's children. It all sounds like a cult figure who was trying to establish a kingdom while playing, quite deliberately, with the color of his creations. Seriously, icky.
     In what I admit was very limited research my conclusion is that there were real saviors in the story of the Free Jones State. And they were the women. Black, white and mixed race women, both free and enslaved, who kept the men of the rebellion alive with their heroic acts of bravery, sacrifice, and risk, in both helping them survive in hiding and in keeping the failing Mississippi farms going by themselves.
      What a different film this would have been if Rachel had been portrayed as the primary hero, and Newt was the secondary character. The movie does give her some credit, and she is brilliantly portrayed, by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, as a strong and kind woman but she too is shown as being saved by Knight in a number of ways.
       I would have loved to see the stories of the women explored more fully, and more fairly. Newt and his men could not have done what they did without them.
      Having spent the last five years writing the story of a self-emancipated black woman I do understand how hard it is to do so accurately because of the lack of recorded information about their lives, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. And we all know the real reason Hollywood keeps making movies with a white male savior. It is because they think that white audiences require the trope. They think this for a reason, they want to make money. I don't think it is true for all white viewers. I know I want accuracy, but based on the number of white people I heard say they refused to see Twelve Years a Slave, (citing violence as if they never watch films with violence) showed me this really is a problem for many. Still I can't imagine anyone seeing this film that wouldn't agree McConaughey dominated the screen to excess, but that is just my take. I do concede that the battle scenes, pertinent to Knight's story, are the least interesting part of the story to me, and that effects my assessment.
       Newt's final actions may tell us that he thought Rachel something of a hero too, as he did chose to be buried beside her when mixed race burials were not allowed. She had died much earlier at age 49, by some reports from bearing too many babies, one every two years from the age of thirteen.

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       There is no proof but many believe this image to be the woman known as Rachel Knight.

Here is something from the Smithsonian with the official trailer for the movie: