Calling local creative souls!
An artist friend and I have decided to help each other to move forward in our respective creative careers, so we’re going to start meeting once a week (in San Jose) to set goals, discuss ideas, and be accountable to each other each week. Let me know if you might like to join us and I’ll send you more information. It’s going to be a daytime meeting because we’ll do it right after art class. And no charge.
If we can figure out how to make it work well for all involved, I’ll consider offering a virtual community.
Writers, artists, musicians, dancers, creative thinkers – all are welcome!
Thank you again, to all the Webbs who have welcomed me with open arms, but most especially my brothers and my sister Lori!
I think this might be done. I’ve tried several times to do a small bird in the upper right corner but can’t seem to get it to come out right. Will ponder it.
Wondering how in the heck to sign my long name on it.
(If you want to see the picture in various stages, click over to the Flickr album http://www.flickr.com/photos/poppiness/sets/72157624184528960/)
I wish I had thought to take pictures of the beginning but since this still has a ways to go to be finished, I thought I’d start documenting it now. This is all done with paper.
This project is teaching me a lot about scale (whoops) and that doing water is hard and that doing the leaves on trees is great therapy.
After I finish the leaves on the tree on the left I’ll go back to the water and try to figure out how to improve the little rocks. Then some bushes scattered around.
I walked out back with the video camera going to take pictures of the yard and was surprised by a Cooper’s Hawk heading for the bird bath. I moved the camera really fast and while you couldn’t see him much on the video, when I extracted them frame by frame, he was there.
You can click over to Flickr to see the frame by frame shots. Not the highest quality of pics but since we’re in the middle of the city, this makes me happy.
Flickr album here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/poppiness/sets/72157624184262960/
I confess, National Poetry Month wiped me out, but in a good way. I met the challenge of writing (and posting) a poem a day about the father I had never known, even though my memories to mine from were very thin. I’m proud of myself for that accomplishment and of course, still rejoicing in the unexpected bonus the project brought me by helping me make contact with so many people from my father’s side of the family, most especially, my sister Lori, who oddly enough has the same last name as me even though Brown is not the family name.
I want to thank each and every one of you who read and commented on the series of blogs posts and those who read and didn’t comment and those that sent emails. Your support of my emotional project really helped and for those of you who have asked, yes, I am working on pulling the poems into a book.
I hadn’t intended to take a week off to recover but it looks like that’s what I’ve done so I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’ve been poking around the Blogosphere, catching up on all the great poetry posts that have happened while I was in the midst of my own. So if you didn’t get the chance to read all the poetry posts last month, there’s still time. There’s no expiration date on blog posts.
Thank you to all the great poets and poetry lovers that made National Poetry Month such a success.
30 Poets/30 Days @ GottaBook
New GLBTQ Teen Poetry @ I’m Here, I’m Queer, What the Hell Do I Read?
Poems about Teaching @ A Year of Reading
Poetry Book Giveaway @ Irene Latham
Poetry Makers @ The Miss Rumphius Effect
Poetry Potluck @ Jama Rattigan’s alphabet soup
Poetry Tag @ Sylvia Vardell’s Poetry for Children
Poetry Postcard Project @ Jone MacCulloch
Thirty Days, Thirty Students, Thirty Poems @ Jone MacCulloch
Share a Poem @ Laura Purdie Salas
Original Poem-A-Day Challenge: Mary Lee Hahn; Andromeda Jazmon; Jone MacCulloch; Elizabeth Moore; April Halprin Wayland
I can’t believe it’s been a week since an update. I missed this week’s Of Dog’s and Writing post. Sorry folks. I’m a little scattered lately.
I’ve been back working with my first group of incarcerated teens and had every intention of posting after each visit but like I said, I’m a little scattered lately. I hope to update more tomorrow.
Write on, right now.
I won’t post every art journal entry from my class here in my blog because that would be overkill. But if you want to see what I’ve done so far, you click over for the full album. Only a few so far but by the time I get done with the class there will be 180 pages.
See the rest of the album.
1. I didn’t get a poem up for Poetry Friday but I’ve been darting all over the place reading great poems. This week’s Poetry Round-up is at Wild Rose Reader. Favorite stops for me today were
2. Which means this is possibly a good time to mention that next year I will be starting something call Poetry Push that I think will run on Tuesdays.
3. Recently I had the pleasure of reading my picture book, Oliver’s Must-do List for the local television show Willow Glen in Motion. You can watch it with a child on your lap.
4. We have lists, lists, and more lists. At Chicken Spaghetti you can read a constantly evolving master list of "best children’s books" lists!
and then MotherReader shares 105 Ways to Give a Book and Abby the Librarian gives us Twelve Days of Giving.
5. Yesterday I took my first collage class with the talented Lori Krein who inspired me to try something similar to her landscapes. Hopefully I’ll finish it next week. I was inspired after reading about Melodye’s creative journaling here and here. I have a vision in my head of doing one of my own but I’m not quite there yet. I wish I had a local coffeeshop to gather at with friends to do just that.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you’ve probably learned a few things about me.
1. I love writing poetry and books for kids, my dog, my native plant garden, Santa Cruz, and chocolate.
2. A little over a year ago I was laid off from my day job and have spent the last year adjusting and enjoying being a full-time writer.
3. I’m filled with all kinds of doubts and insecurities about who I am, what kind of a writer I’m supposed to be, and if I am ever good enough whatever task is waiting right in front of me. (In other words, I worry a lot about things I should quit worrying about.)
But probably the single thing that tells you the most about me is that I have never known my father. His name, yes, but that’s all. I’ve never met him or anyone in his family. The only pictures I’ve ever seen were of him as a gawky young man in a white suit at their wedding. He was gone before I was born.
As I kid I used to bug my mom all the time for information about him but she never really said much. No one in the family talked about him and when they did, they never painted the prettiest picture. But here’s the thing, I didn’t want them to tell me whether the picture was any good or not. I wanted to see for myself. Still families do what they can to protect what they feel needs protecting and by the time I was in the 4th grade and someone asked me if I was Tommy Webb’s daughter I said no, without hesitation. I had been trained well.
When you have a hole like that in your life it’s like a scab you can’t let heal. And people who don’t have the same kind of hole often find it difficult to understand why just can’t leave it all alone and move on. I can’t explain the why. I can only claim the hole. It’s grown smaller over the years but it’s still there.
Last week I wrote about the distance we need between real life and our stories before we can write about them. In the past I’ve written about feeling safe enough to write the truth of your story. I believe we should always strive to write with emotional honesty, even when (or especially when) that seems like an impossible task.
That’s where Flyboy comes in. Every question I’ve ever had about my father, about my worth as a person, about how I felt something missing when there was no reason to feel that way because my life was just fine the way it was….all of that has been pouring into Flyboy for, well, over 25 years now.
Characters and plot, I’ve got them. But to take that emotional plunge into the ice water of my past…I just couldn’t make myself do it. I give myself a lot of sleep suggestions about my books, hoping my subconscious will take me where I need to go.
Four years ago I had a dream about my father. In my dream I went to answer the front door and there was a man there, kind of old, his short beard was gray but he had some black hair on his head. He wore a suit that had seen better days. He handed me a box, a white box, like one you might get clothes in or a little bigger. It was tied with string, not a ribbon. I asked him what was in the box. He shook his head. I asked him again to please tell me what was in the box. Nothing. I don’t know why I didn’t just open it myself but I didn’t. Then he walked away. I asked him to wait. He kept walking. Then I asked him who he was. He turned around and said, “I am your father.” And then I woke up without opening the box.
Last week for some random reason I decided to check for my father on Classmates.com. I knew where he had gone to high school so I kept hoping that he might show up there. It was a far-fetched hope since people in his generation aren’t as into the Internet as I am. Once I had gone there and found nothing I went through my normal little routine, putting in his name, the town he went to school in and the state where he was born. I’d never gotten anything back with that combo before but it was a familiar search I had done many, many times.
This time was different. This time an obituary popped up. I read it and burst into tears then almost as quickly I chastised myself for crying over someone who had never wanted me.
I’ve pieced together a story from my mom over the years. My father Tommy Webb was born in Arkansas and went to high school in Vallejo, California. His family eventually moved to Concord, to Bonifacio Street, into the little duplex across the street from where my mom lived. He worked at a service station in Walnut Creek, back when they had guys who pumped the gas for you. My grandmother’s name was Tina. She was pregnant with my uncle Robert at the same time my mom was pregnant with me. I had an aunt Kitty who was two years older than I am. There was another aunt Janette. That’s about it. Except for the not so pretty stories that I’ll keep to myself because, as my mom told me today. He could have changed. Turned his life around. People do it all the time.
My father died in Missouri. In January. This year.
In January I was still recovering from being laid off, trying to piece my new life together, trying to figure out how to create a life that nourished my creative soul. I was whole but with rough edges that still needed smoothing. I think if I had found him then it would have been too much. Much too much. Sometimes distance is a good thing. Even if it means we never get the chance to say goodbye.
His obituary mentions my aunts and my uncle. Where they live. It also says he has two sons and a daughter. My half-siblings. And lots of grandchildren. Aunts and Uncles. Bothers and Sisters. Nieces and Nephews. Family or not. It all depends on your point of view. The kind of picture you want to paint.
The obituary does not, of course, mention me.
I keep thinking about that dream I had. How odd to think that my father, who never paid a dime of child support, might give me a gift I’ve always wanted. Answers to questions that have haunted me for years.
The Internet makes things easy sometimes. Really it took no more than a few hours of searching to locate most of the family. They’re not active online. No websites or blogs or Facebook profiles. But mailing addresses. Phone numbers. I have some of them now.
It’s a chance. A chance to see at least part of the picture for myself.
There have been some things going on in my life lately. Some things that have me thinking those deep, dark thoughts that keep you up at night. I found this old post from a few years ago that touches on it somewhat and I thought I’d share it again, (with some editing) because it explains a lot of where my mind is at of late . . . though it helps if you can read between the lines.
* * *
Hemingway said, and I can’t remember the exact quote so I’ll try to paraphrase it, he said that he couldn’t write about Paris when he lived there. He had to leave Paris before he could put the words on the page that would describe his experiences. While living there it was too much, too intense, too something and it skewed his vision. He needed distance and the passage of time before he could tell his story.
Some stories, while not easy, can still be written while you are in the midst of living them. When my kids were little I wrote about events within weeks or months of them happening. It was fun, like putting things in their baby scrapbooks. I recorded their awkward moments, their growth, and many of our special family memories. I told stories about our family and I got paid for it. Now I can go back and reread those old articles and it’s like picking up an old teddy bear and paging through a scrapbook of their childhood.
But other stories, perhaps those that touch the most painful parts of us, lay fallow for many years before the words begin to venture forth. I believe our emotions go into self-preservation mode and give us time to heal before we’re strong enough to attempt share a piece of ourselves through the telling of a story. My first picture book, Can I Pray With My Eyes Open? rested deep beneath the surface for over 25 years before it burst forth, near fully formed in one sitting. I can tie that story to an exact moment in time, when I was 10 years old, and I know that the book was an answer to a question asked long ago. Another picture book, Oliver’s Must-do List , seems, at first, to be a simple story about a mother and a child have a playday together but I can tell you now that it was born of guilt – immense guilt that my children were grown and I couldn’t go back and spend more time with them. Hugging the Rock is a novel about fathers and daughters, but more than that, it is about making peace with things you cannot change. I never knew my father and I wondered about him for many years. I can’t remember when I finally stopped searching but when I did, I realized that my own story was inching closer to the surface, closer to being ready to be heard.
Hugging the Rock is also about picking up the pieces after a divorce. Though many friends advised me to, I couldn’t write about my own divorce in the years immediately after it happened. The pain was too immense, the emotions too raw. But time was a helpful balm. Eventually my emotions bubbled to the surface telling me when it was time to write the story. In the process of the writing there were still some deep and painful moments but because I had waited, I was strong enough to go to the dark places and still come out alive. Enough time had passed that I could accept the blame for what was mine and let go of the blame for anything else. I could see the details through the tears.
There are other childhood events I want to write about someday but they’re still simmering and I’m still healing. Those stories will have to wait a bit longer. It’s been almost a dozen years but I know I am not yet ready to write about my time in New Orleans. I don’t know how long it will take before I am brave enough to face those demons head on. Not all my writing is tied to a piece of my past but I am making an effort to mine the treasures I have within because I do believe that’s where the juiciest stories wait to be told.
As many of you know, I’m working on Flyboy’s story right now. This project began over 25 years ago when my then-husband and I spent weekends out on the tarmac, our necks straining as we watched the sky at the air shows the way film buffs watch the movies.
What part of my life is like Flyboy’s? Where’s the connection? What makes it so hard to write? I don’t fly planes. I’m not adopted. My dad wasn’t famous. But I know what it’s like for the main character to obsess about planes the way I obsess about writing. I know what it’s like to wonder where you came from and how that might affect where you’re going. I know what it’s like to feel lonely even in the midst of a family.
When you’ve been working on a book for over 25 years, like I have with this one, the story becomes so wrapped up in your own life that sometimes it’s hard to remember what happened to me and what happened to Flyboy. Was it Flyboy or was it me that found the box that held so many secrets? Was it Flyboy or was it me that met someone who knew their father and answered questions held silent for so long? Was it Flyboy or was it me that finally realized the true meaning of family?
I hope it is both. I hope I can tell that kind of a story, one that feels like it happened to you.
I hope that helping Flyboy find his answers will help me decide what to do with some questions of my own.