I’m Sorry, Writing

I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting you. I’m sorry I’ve pushed my notebooks into the corner. I’m sorry I’ve let my laptop sit unused. I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long. I’m sorry I left the words swirling around in my head until my emotions get the best of me.

I’m sorry I’ve kept all my words to myself. I’m sorry I’ve let shame, pain, anger, and confusion keep me prisoner. I’m sorry I’ve been letting myself get overwhelmed without coming to you and using you to cope. I always have and haven’t been lately. The last few months of my life have been proof.

I’m sorry my pens have been sitting in cups without so much as being used for a signature. I’m sorry I’ve let myself get to a sorry state of not being as consistent. I’m sorry I’ve let life dictate what my writing hours are used for and letting it steal them away.

I’m sorry I’ve let unimportant things take your time.

I’m sorry I’ve been unavailable.

I’m sorry, writing.

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The Avett Brothers

Toward the end of 2012, someone recommended that I read a book by this new author, Colleen Hoover. She was becoming very popular on her debut novel. It was a romance, and at first, I winced. It was called Slammed. I imagined an E. L. James scenario. It was a YA romance. Before I could tell her that it wasn’t for me, she simply said, “I know you like poetry. It’s about a couple with slam (or spoken word) poetry woven into their relationship. Trust me.” I gave it some thought and put it off. She asked repeatedly if I’d started it and what did I think. I think it’s a bad idea is what I didn’t say.

I finally gave in one day when I was sick and at home.

The first thing I read in this book was a quote from The Avett Brothers. It read,

 

“…I’m as nowhere as I can be,

Could you add some somewhere to me?”

-The Avett Brothers, Salina

I have to admit, by this point, I was intrigued. Early on the main character describes her love for the band. She bonded with her father through their music. Her description of them sounded terrific.

My father and I would stay up at night and sing some of the songs together as he attempted to work the chords out on his guitar. He described them to me once. He said, “Lake, you know a band has true talent when their imperfections define perfection.”

I eventually understood what he meant when I started really listening to them. Broken banjo strings, momentary passionate lapses of harmony, voices that go from smooth to gravelling to all out screaming in a single verse. All these things add substance, character and believability to their music.
-Slammed, Colleen Hoover

As I read, I found more and more of their quotes at the beginning of the chapters. Another character is a poetry teacher and describes them as poets. I found this to be true with every quote I read. I finished the book in no time and loved it. A quick Google lead me to an amazing discovery. They were a real band. I read through lyric after lyric. I pulled up one of their songs on YouTube and only listened for a moment. It didn’t sound like something I’d be interested in.

I asked my good friend, who also happened to be my boss at the time, if she had heard of The Avett Brothers. I hadn’t heard their name out loud, and mispronounced it. She said, “If you mean The Avett Brothers, then yes. They’re great!”

We sat down at her computer, she pulled up a song and played it for me. It was The Ballad of Love and Hate. It was sad. It was sweet. It was a story. It made me love The Avett Brothers. We listened to a few more songs. I was hooked.

That night I listened to everything I could find. Some songs, I didn’t know if I could get into. The first listen just wouldn’t catch me. Then, I would listen again and find what it was I needed from it. I read about them, their beginnings, their lives.

I listened over and over to all their songs. The forums I read said that their live shows were something to behold. They danced, jumped, celebrated, got emotional, and everything between. A friend of mine’s husband got to see them live and said it was the best live show he’s ever been to.

A few months ago, I found out that they were doing a show in Brandon, MS. So close.

I talked about going for a solid month. Tony being Tony, just said, “Well, let’s do it.” I had to do my normal process for what I consider a big decision. I had to overthink, analyze all angles, and doubt every detail. I finally gave in and got tickets with the help of a friend. I was ecstatic.

The tickets were purchased on March 2. I couldn’t wait.

“Well I’ve been locking myself up in my house for some time now

Reading and writing and reading and thinking
and searching for reasons and missing the seasons
The Autumn, the Spring, the Summer, the snow
The record will stop and the record will go
Latches latched the windows down,
the dog coming in and the dog going out
Up with caffeine and down with the shot
Constantly worried about what I’ve got
Distracted by work but I can’t make it stop
and my confidence on and my confidence off
And I sink to the bottom I rise to the top
and I think to myself that I do this a lot”
-The Avett Brothers, Talk on Indolence

Saturday night, I got to see my favorite band perform some of my favorite songs live. I found that my husband also likes them. I was surprised when he wanted to go to the concert with me and my friend. I didn’t think they were his type of music but found him singing along to most of the songs.

The experience defied my expectations. From the moment they stepped onto the stage, the air was electric. The whole crowd went through ups and downs. The emotion that the entire band emitted was incredible.

We laughed with them, loved with them, hurt with them, mourned with them, and were joyful with them. It was an experience I’ll never forget, but one I mostly definitely want to repeat. My friend and I danced and sang at the top of our lungs. I screamed until my throat ached and clapped until my hands were sore. I can’t imagine a better performance. My only regret is that I didn’t find them sooner, but like all things in my life, a book lead me to something great. I’ve said it a thousand times, but I’ll repeat myself again. Words are my most favorite thing, and The Avett Brothers have a way with words.

My favorite quote from my favorite Avett Brothers song reads, “Decide what to be and go be it.”

Short, simple, and to the point.

They give good advice. They tell great stories. They teach me about life. They see a different perspective. They feel everything they sing. They weave magic into their words. They tell the truth. The Avett Brothers are wordsmiths of the first degree. That’s why they’re my favorite band.

November Blue by The Avett Brothers Brandon, MS

Writer’s Block

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I’ve been frustrated lately. Creatively frustrated. I’ve been mad at my computer for something it did not do. I’ve been angry about it’s blinking cursor and blank pages without words. I’ve felt dried up and uninspired. I thought maybe if  I went back to the fundamentals. You know, pen to paper. I put pen to paper and waited for something to happen. The only thing that happened was that I scribbled and scrabbled and got even more frustrated.

I’ve words and stories a-plenty in my brain, swirling about in a never ending vortex. I just can’t get a good connection between my brain and my fingers. I’ve tried all the usual suspects to no avail.

I’m discouraged with my inconsistency. My last blog did really well in terms of views and visitors. I think I’ve gotten intimidated by it. Doubts and insecurities can wreak havoc on one’s creativity. I came to the conclusion that I should write about being uninspired and insecure and all those things going on with me.

I’ve sat down numerous times with my computer and determination only to be let down. I’ve put on my game face, tightened my ponytail, and set my teeth only to give myself a headache. In this case, headache leads to heartache because I am disappointed in myself.

After searching WordPress, I’ve found I’m not alone. There are lots of creators out there with brains and hearts on hiatus. I found I’ve been more inspired these past few hours from the one thing that calms and helps always. Reading.

I wish that I could say I’ve been reading something new, but I can’t. I’ve discovered in recent years that I am a rereader. I’m not sure that’s a word. Microsoft Word says no, but I’m going with it. I’ve been reading something that I’ve already read and using it as a comfort. There’s no anxiety, no rush, no suspense. It’s just me and old friends I’ve known for a while taking a stroll down memory lane. It’s reading words that are familiar and seeing something new in the pages.

Stress is more than likely a factor in all this. I find the best stress relief is to go from cover to cover. It’s like a salve for achy head and heart.

I’ve been writing more fiction in private than things I wish to share on my blog. I love my blog. I’m proud of it. However, I’ve recently alienated myself from it. I’m not happy about this and intend to change it. Hitting a brick wall when you want to be on an open highway is frustrating to say the least. I’m slowly taking a pickaxe to it. Please be patient. I’m undertaking an uphill battle in my writing life. There is so much I want to say, and my brain is failing me.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Our book club has always been a great group of girls. Our newest member, Kim, is proving to be a wonderful addition. She came in at the perfect time. We’d just finished a full rotation of each existing member choosing a book. When Kim chose The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead for us to read, I knew in that moment that she’d fit right in.  

I am of the belief that everyone should diversify their reading with stories of other times and other cultures. Kim really brought this to the table.

The Underground Railroad was a hard read for me. Being of an empathic nature, the treatment of slaves described in the book really got to me. I’d read for a while and have to put down the book to cry a bit.

The book is based from different point of views. The main ones are of a slave named Cora, a slave catcher named Ridgeway, and a slave named Caesar. There are others throughout the book that feed the storyline and give better understanding to the inner workings of the characters. Cora was born a slave. Her mother and grandmother were slaves on the Randal plantation. The Randal brothers are a hateful duo. The most despicable brother takes over the plantation with all slaves included at his brother’s death. He makes an example of the slaves, subjecting them to horrifying methods of torture. To make matters worse, if a friend or family member of the tortured slave shows any sort of emotion, they are beaten along with their loved one. All members of our club agreed that this was how a slave owner would discourage relationships among slaves so that they would not band together and/or plot runaway attempts.

We discussed how the slaves in the book almost had a social hierarchy among them. There was social standing as well as survival of the fittest. The weakest links were sent to live in their own house called the Hob.

When Cora witnesses an especially vicious beating of a slave, she decides she’s had enough. Caesar had come to her before and asked her to leave with him. At the time, it seemed ludicrous. However, the more she mulls it over, the more sense it makes. When she was a child, Cora’s mother escaped the plantation and was the only slave so far to successfully to do so.

As Cora and Caesar make their escape, another slave named Lovey tags along. A series of unfortunate events leads to Lovey being taken and an even bigger man hunt gets underway for the escapees.

Cora and Caesar make it to South Carolina using The Underground Railroad. This brings a bit of the fantastical to the book in that the railroad is an actual railroad that moves through tunnels from location to location.  

Under assumed identities, they are allowed to learn and hold jobs. While everything seems to be going great, an unseen storm is brewing on the horizon.

In a turn of events, Cora has to flee and is unsure about the fate of her friend Caesar. Just as she is unsure about the fate of Lovey and her mother.

Ridgeway is a slave catcher. The only slave thus far to ever evade him is Cora’s mother, Mabel. It has been his humiliation and what has kept him up at night. This makes him all the more determined to catch Cora and her running mate. He and his men catch up with Cora and have her in their grips when things shift from their favor. The author does a nice job of switching perspectives and seeing things, however wrong, from Ridgeway’s point of view.

This book is ripe with nail biting scenarios. You find yourself rooting for Cora and hoping that her life has some semblance of happiness. Her story and the supporting stories in the book are some that everyone in our book club agreed will stick with you. It is a raw, honest view of slavery and what those in that time period lived with.

Learning the fates of Mabel, Caesar, and Lovey bring suspence and some closure to the book while others leave your heart in turmoil.

It is a great group of stories that intertwine  to make up a powerful book. History books tell us about the evils of slavery and the horrors endured by those who lived it. Seeing it from the perspective of a slave leaves necessary wounds on your heart and helps tie what African Americans have dealt with in their ongoing quest for equality. The Underground Railroad makes you think, makes you feel, and while not to be undertaken lightly, is an important read. 

Quotes:

Stolen bodies working stolen land. It was an engine that did not stop, its hungry boiler fed with blood.

The whites came to this land for a fresh start and to escape the tyranny of their masters, just as the freemen had fled theirs. But the ideals they held up for themselves, they denied others.

The world may be mean, but people don’t have to be, not if they refuse.


Words

“She had always wanted words, she loved them; grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.”

Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

Words are easily my favorite thing. They make up all my other favorite things: books, stories, and poetry. They seem to be the fastest way to my heart. Words can make something from nothing. Empires have been built on words.

Laws are created with words.

Love has bloomed from words.

Wars have been started over words.

They are used to motivate, to militarize, to organize, and to separate.

I hear people say all the time, “They’re just words.” I’m living proof that some of the most painful injuries can be caused by words.

Life is described by words.

I’ve read articles and stories of the blind and how they are better able to perceive the world because of being able to read braille.

The deaf are able to learn where they have not been able before. The animated teacher’s mouth movements can make sense when they are transcribed. Words are made into motion as someone translates speech to ASL.

I use words in everything. I use them to explain, to understand, to evoke, to heal.

Words make up the sonnet, the manifesto, the suicide note, and the battlecry.

Emotions and worlds come to life as words pass the lips or spill across the page. They are a confession of love, an apology, a last chance, a request, and sometimes, the last memory people have of us after we’re gone.

Whether in ink, by mouth, on a screen, or locked away and confined to your heart, words are my most favorite thing. 

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Stephen King is known for horror and suspense. However, for me, The Gunslinger is more a mystery of sorts or maybe the building up to a grand mystery. It is a different creature than the King books I’ve read in the past. It has a lot to offer the reader; like a really great gun fight scene that your imagination can run wild with. It still has the powerful descriptions, a bit of gore, and the wonderful macabre things we expect from the mind of Stephen King. For me, it is his rabbit hole.

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” – Stephen King, The Gunslinger

Roland Deschain is not a hero. He is not a good guy, but he’s not a bad guy. He is a determined guy and a very complicated guy. He is everything I could ask for out of a character. He is the last Gunslinger. In a world that seems to be an alternate or dystopian future of ours, he is on a journey to seek out the man in black and kill him. The Gunslinger’s world is not so different from our own. You have those on drugs or devil grass as it is in The Gunslinger. You have a religious leader that makes me think of Westboro Baptist Church. You have crazies who follow the insane religious leader, and you have those who are possessed by something unknown. Sometimes, in our world as well as Roland’s, those last two intersect.

“My name is John Chambers. You can call me Jake.” – Stephen King, The Gunslinger

On his journey, Roland meets many people. He finds a town, he finds a lover, he finds a hippie farmer, and after all this, he finds Jake. I swear if I could pull a character from a book and into reality, it would be Jake. I would adopt him. He is a young boy who got mixed into something he can’t understand, and all he has in the world at this point in his story is Roland, the rough gunslinger who will not be deterred from his mission. Jake was in his own world, in his own time, minding his own business when he is shoved into Roland’s path.

Roland became a gunslinger at a very young age. He did so in a fit of rage that led him to the challenge to receive his guns. Roland relives stories about his childhood while traveling with Jake and gives us a glimpse at how he became who he is.

“I am the furthest minion of the Dark Tower. Earth has been given into my hand.” – Stephen King, The Gunslinger

The man in black is part of the mystery. He is always just out of the gunslinger’s reach. When you read of the actions of the man in black, you realize how truly evil his character is. He brings a drug addict back to life just so that he can prolong his suffering. Being a seer, he gives a barren woman a child that he knows will face an end. He does both of these things without a second thought and only to bring destruction. Roland seeks to end this and end him.

“Go then, there are other worlds than these.” – Stephen King, The Gunslinger

I hope after this review that you are standing at the rabbit hole. I hope you are intrigued enough to take the plunge. Make no mistake that this book is only the rabbit hole, though. This is only the beginning of the journey to rid the worlds of the man in black and finally see The Dark Tower. I am not half done with this series of books, but it has been a fantastical and suspenseful journey thus far. Be ready if you intend to venture into the rabbit hole. I recommend that you do, and if you do, then go, for there are other worlds than these.

***The remainder of this post contains SPOILERS. Plot and otherwise. If you intend to read this book, please stop at this point.

The Gunslinger begins with Roland trailing the man in black across the desert. He and his donkey are worn to the bone and suffering from dehydration and heat. Stephen King uses some of the descriptive writing here that I am so fond of. They come across a small house where a dweller lives. He offers shelter and food. Roland accepts and sleeps. The dweller, Brown, wakes Roland to let him know that the donkey has died. The man has a raven named Zoltan that mostly spews nonsense and silly things.

While visiting, Roland tells Brown the story of himself and the town called Tull. Entering town, he finds that it is not much more than a few buildings and a saloon. He goes into the saloon and meets the local druggie who is on the wasting drug they call devil weed. He takes the barmaid as a lover, and she fills him in on some of the locals. She tells him how the man in black came in on the same day the druggie, Nort, died. She explains that the man in black brought the dead man back to life.

Roland’s lover, Allie, tells of the local crazy religious leader whom she says preaches poison religion. The woman, Sylvia, calls Roland an interloper and turns the town’s people against him. She has been touched by the man in black. Between the living dead druggie and the crazy religious lady, the trap set for Roland is set into motion and ends with the one of the best written gunfights I’ve read to date.

Roland moves on and comes to a way station where he finds the boy, Jake. He goes down into a cellar and faces a demon. He leaves with Jake and travels through mountains and tunnels. They come across slow mutants and other issues. Roland tells Jake the story of his youth and how he earned his guns and became a gunslinger at an unheard of age. Jake comes to realize that if he continues on with Roland that he will die. Roland knows this as well.

In the end, Jake is lost and Roland faces the man in black, but this is far from the end of the saga. Read on, my friends.