Posts Tagged ‘Colonial Williamsburg’

The Gift

March 7, 2008

Sometimes when you are feeling very “full of your own power and worth” it helps to be reminded to be humble. If you think you’ve seen it all and know it all, consider the tree below. It might look like the shattered remnants of a tree, not very useful and certainly not pretty for landscaping. But remember that in life, all is not what it seems. Sometimes the most important things come in humble trappings.

The tree below is from Colonial Williamsburg. It is well over 250 years old. It witnessed the beginning of our country’s struggle to be free and shaded British and Colonial soldiers alike. It’s leaves blossomed over hostile residents of Williamsburg on their way to besiege the Governor’s Palace when his soldiers stole their gunpowder from the magazine. In fact, it witnessed the dark figures of those same soldiers stealing that powder in the early morning darkness, just hours earlier. This tree watched George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Peyton Randolph, and Patrick Henry walk by. Actually, “saw them” in the flesh.

So this strange-looking tree – missing most of its insides – is still here with us, nursed along by the Colonial Williamsburg staff. Strange-looking maybe, but it’s life history gives one pause. It has witnessed so much. A reminder that sometimes the overlooked broken silent things in the background just might have amazing stories if only they could talk, and carry a value beyond money.





The Gift

March 7, 2008

Okay, the gifts have been deep and meaningful all week. Humor is good meditation too. Here is an “excuse” shot – one of those you take just as an excuse to try out your new “macro” camera lens. I am sure everyone is familiar with “road apples.”

They are appropriate I think for a Friday, the end of the work week. For one, people often take off to visit places on the weekend and in that regard, these are special road apples. They come from one of our trips to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, left behind by the specially trained horses pulling the handcrafted colonial carriages. So, this should feed that “weekend wish to get away from it all.”

More to the point for a Friday, whether you were an 18th century farmer, or you work in a 21st century office, by the end of the work week, everyone has probably gotten their fair share of this stuff…. 🙂 Happy Friday.


The Post – A Sidetrip to Essays – But the Bus NEVER Came Up This Far on the Curb Before!

February 16, 2008

Before I start talking about the Under the Pier process, I need to address the one side that calls to me in a big way – essays. I’ve sold a couple already and I yearn to do more. While this blog is a collection of all the bits of me, perhaps the one area of my soul most fed, is the ability to “speak in essays.”

I have spent most of my time over the last 12 years calling myself a children’s writer, though I have noticed that a lot of my focus is geared toward adults. Is this a contradiction or betrayal of a certain writing path? I don’t think so. Perhaps Madeleine L’Engle handled it best. She used to hate it when she was referred to as a children’s writer, as if that was all she was or it was a special category considered “not quite a writer.” She insisted on being referred to as a writer and considered her children’s writing just one aspect of her career, though certainly not the easiest or least important. Her observation there was: “If I have something that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children.”

So in the same vein, I am first drawn to writing for children as there is the very alive open child within me who wants to speak. However, like everything else in my life, I do not fit neatly into categories. The label “children’s” writer is not totally accurate because I find, I just write. Who it fits, I leave for the readers to determine.

As to my essays, they run the range – spiritual, humorous, nature-based, flippant. One current essay is a list I keep of irreverent things to put on my tombstone: “But it was HER fault, really!” “But I had the right of way!” or “But the bus NEVER came up this far on the curb before!” – the last one from a moment at Colonial Williamsburg where my husband and son expressed concern at how close to the bus stop curb I was standing. When I reassured them the bus never comes that far up, they offered to put that one on my tombstone. 🙂

I love to write essays because my right brain revels in being able to take a single quote or line of dialogue, a comic, photograph, painting or a life question, and just write. Something that starts in the specific and ends up at a universal truth. A journey where I start with the concrete and wander around always surprised where I end up, usually someplace emotional.

In a lot of respects, though I’ve started this blog in the midst of writing a novel for upper middle-grade/Young adult readers, a lot of it so far has been more essays, journaling, unearthing the soul of the writer, rather than a lot about the Children’s Writing business. That’s okay. I need to have that soul of the writer to do that novel. The reality is, that novel has been a journey to answers in life. Maybe in a way, novels are just one long essay because the characters in those fictions worlds still ask the same life questions we all do.

This blog is also my “raw material” that I can mine at will for whatever projects come along. It’s my toy box of thoughts that I can spin into something for adults or children. Truth, is truth.

My “internship of the essay craft” has involved continuing education classes at nearby Duke University, as well questions. Always, questions. They are the catalyst for life, for growth, for wisdom. At least to me, if I stop asking questions, I stop growing. I lose the path to peace

The internship has also included reading countless books. Fiction, philosophy, spirituality, nature guides, and of course, books on essay writing. One in particular is my favorite, and has been the most useful for seeing how to first collect, then transform life experiences. I recommend it highly:

Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal – The Art of Transforming a Life into Stories, by Alexandra Johnson. She teaches memoir and creative nonfiction writing at Harvard and has been published extensively. The book is divided into three parts. It’s possible to only use one of the three at a particular time in life, or ever. The first is about having a journal – creating one, the various types, what raw material to collect; the second part is about transforming your life – finding the patterns and meaning in what you’ve collected; the third section is called “Crossover: Moving a Journal into a Creative Work.”

Whether you just collect raw material, mine it for meaning, or use it to create fiction and nonfiction works, the process changes you. Like that overly used cliched example of a rock thrown in a pond, change one thing and it touches places unseen. Even keeping a list of favorite phrases over a lifetime does something deep inside to your soul and alters your outlook on life.

So I am a writer for all ages. I love to write essays, whoever reads them. They are my journey to answers. They are the playground of the right brain, and the compost pile that fertilizes the rest of my works.


The Gift

January 29, 2008

Can you tell I hate the cold of January? A reminder of summer – a “resident” hard at work on the thistles at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, a place I’ve loved since I was 10.