Welcome to my blog Upstate Girl, (a.k.a Follow Your Bliss Part II), I am an independently published author. This blog is all about writing and the stuff that inspires me to write, the joys and obstacles that come along with the writer's life, and my fascination with the psychology of people and what makes them tick...the human condition, as is...and my love for words, playing with them and making sense of them...and I throw in a few photos from my acre of the world just to make things pretty...sometimes there are things I have no words for, only pictures will do.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

My thoughts regarding "Weymouth Sands" by John Cowper Powys



The sea lost nothing of the swallowing identity of its great outer mass of waters in the emphatic, individual character of each particular wave. Each wave, as it rolled in upon the high-pebbled beach, was an epitome of the whole body of the sea, and carried with it all the vast mysterious quality of the earth’s ancient antagonist. – page 1 (When I collected these words to include in this reflection, I started to read the book all over again!)

The realm of John Cowper Powys is dangerous. The reader may wander for years in this parallel universe, entrapped and bewitched, and never reach its end. There is always another book to discover, another work to reread. Like Tolkien, Powys has invented another country, densely peopled, thickly forested, mountainous, erudite, strangely self-sufficient. This country is less visited than Tolkien's, but it is as compelling, and it has more air.—Margaret Drabble The Guardian, The English Degenerate, August 11, 2006

John Cowper Powys is adored by a loyal type of reader who once they’ve found him will be forever grateful, yet he is often scorned by other readers with the trite accusation “Nothing happens!” Indeed, reading Powys is like taking a long rambling walk through a landscape—if you enjoy lingering over mosses and funguses, meadows and forests, absorbing birdsong, the wind through the trees, the rattle of pebbles on the beach, and becoming immersed in mysticism, psychology, and the legends from long ago, you will love Weymouth Sands

It is enchanting—haunting—provocative; the complexities of the human puzzle, made up of eccentric misfits and lonely monsters. There is a beautiful sense of place, the wonders of nature, the transcendence of the ordinary; the passionate love of home, the reassuring familiarity with landmarks; obsessive-compulsive behaviors, emotionally overwrought to the point of being tenderly maudlin. The epic longing for a cup of tea at most times equals the yearning for the attentions of a woman, or the overwhelming desire to cave in the head of the miserly richest man in town with a pebble stone—all this in the day-to-day lives of the population of Weymouth. There is more going on in the lives being lived—much of the antics of the residents could be considered madness—and apparently, it’s chronic enough that a place dubbed “Hell’s Museum” exists. It is a place where unsettling rumors about a laboratory in which vivisection is secretly performed on dogs is a worrisome outrage that lingers in the back of most of their minds.  There are moments of bawdy comedy, perverted and hilarious, that mesh with the intimate dramas disseminated throughout this human document. No one’s perfect, on the surface they put on a proper façade in order to exist in society (such as Perdita Wane, Magnus Muir, and Mr. Gaul and the assorted elder ladies of the town), while some are clearly of the “fuck it, I am what I am” sort (such as Jobber Skald, the brothers Jerry and Sylvanus Cobbold, and Gipsy May) who have embraced their nature and go about with a ‘come what may’ attitude.

Only he could write such a formidable tale with such intense characters—he is a writer’s writer. The words flow from his pen, coming into existence—Powys followed his bliss. Can you imagine, the constant vision, the outpouring of thoughts, the compassion, the persistence, the intensity of his mind (the exhaustion) to create everything he wrote? (I can.) Turning on the creative spigots and leaving them on is a deluge with an understanding that human nature is complicated and not everything is going to be resolved from beginning to end—tho’ it is certain that Weymouth Sands is a story in which a pebble stone starts out riding in the Jobber’s pocket as a bludgeon with intent, to becoming a paper weight with a final resting place—everything else that happens in between is incidental.
A few moments from the dog-eared pages.

How well he knew this spot! It was one of those geographical points on the surface of the planet that would surely rush into his mind when he came to die, as a concentrated essence of all that life meant! –Page 10 (Magnus Muir)

…as if by the mere hugging of her knees between her arms she could return to that unconscious state in which twenty-six years ago she lay, an embryo-mite, before she was born into a world like this; a world in which for a woman not to be beautiful, not to be seductive and appealing, means after all a series of futile desperations, of shifts and make-shifts, of pitiful and sorrowful turnings to the wall. (Perdita Wane) Page 49

Sue Gadget suddenly felt as if all the waves of the sea did not contain water enough to wash out the pity and trouble and pain and weariness of being alive in this world.—page 578
For further indulgence you may enjoy this lovely website “tour” of Powy’s Weymouth—I didn’t come upon it until after I finished reading the book, upon finding it this morning, it confirmed my vision:

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Manuscript




This is what a work in progress looks like, not a tidy stack at all…this is my other life…the writer life…this is the complete, printed copy of my work in progress, Drinking from the Fishbowl, 704 pages (double spaced) and approximately 240,000 words…a doorstop.

What do I do with this? Read it, mark it up, clean it up, get it ready to publish…at this stage of the process, the idea is to read it beginning to end without stopping…

I’ve been working on this one for so long, there are chapters I have not seen for two years! So far, so good, minor changes…some surprises as I still recall parts that I cut out in the editorial red ink blood bath of 2007, and have been pleasantly surprised by the newer work added since then. I’m somewhat relieved that it seems to be working for me. It’s such an exciting, yet uncertain time knowing I’m so close to finishing this one at long last!

It is fiction, overall, it is a human comedy, it is a book about dreams and realities…

The first line: "Why do you want to be a poet, Georgia Sullivan?"

From that point on, Georgia's life will never the same...

Sunday, January 4, 2015

My thoughts regarding "The Art of Asking" by Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer is one of those rare bright spirits that humanity is blessed to have existing amongst us—there are many artists who are of that unique cut—but there’s only one Amanda Palmer. This Christmas, I treated myself to the audio release of her book The Art of Asking only because I wanted to hear it—to listen to it like I do her recorded music—to hear her telling it is part of the experience. It was like a conversation, really—I listened, I nodded, and replied—pondered, relishing in the idea that someone else understands what I see. I laughed big belly laughs and I flat out cried my eyes out more than once. I also reminisced my “when” I noticed things differently, connected the dots, and “when” I wanted to be an artist and that I wanted to write books—I always wanted more out of life than being stuck on survive. Sometimes that gets me into trouble because what I want rubs against other people’s expectations—love her or hate her, Amanda Palmer does this too. I love her—and I don’t have to agree with everything she does or says.

I’m late coming to the Amanda Palmer/Dresden Dolls party, but better late than never. I’m always in search of new music, preferably the stuff with an edge to it—and I don’t care if it is played on the radio or not. I found her on Tumblr of all places—someone posted a Youtube video of her cover of Lua by Bright Eyes and then I found the Ukulele Anthem, one video after another, I was hooked. But before that, I tripped across her name on Neil Gaiman’s blog when I was looking for new books to read. It was shortly after they were married, and he talked about how proud he was of her, which I thought was so wicked sweet, and its sweet how smitten he is with her. And of course, I heard some grumbling about the song “Oasis” and some other shit, probably the Kickstarter thing, by then, I bought Theatre is Evil, and was playing the shit out of it, and totally thought it was cool that she did it independent of a record company—as a fan of the little folk singer Ani DiFranco, I’m a fan of anyone who will thumb their nose at “the establishment” and do it themselves. 

The major thing I dig about Amanda—she’s the lady who sings songs about the truth—you know, like Phoebe in Friends, little kids loved her because her songs didn’t gloss over stuff like death and life—or smelly cat. Amanda’s fans love her because she sings about the real stuff that connects with them, the things that hurt and the things that are awesome—life is messy and thankfully, she ain’t afraid to tell it like it is. Some people can’t handle the truth, whether it’s a poem about empathy toward an alleged terrorist, or a song about an abortion, or a blog about having her period, or of all things, armpit hair, to shave or not to shave. There’s always the contingent out there that cringes—my own mother, god bless her, was always on me about—“Why can’t you paint (or write) something nice?” Honestly, I can’t, because that wouldn’t be true. Sorry, Mom, my vision is different from yours. I’ve always had my own vision—my own way of doing things. Everyone does, but of course, not everyone’s vision fits everyone else’s so these differences of visions is divisive and if I find myself in a room or a town full of people who do not see things my way I’m set back to the usual “Okay, who brought the weird girl?” dynamic that is the fucking story of my life. 

Amanda has this amazing, genuine vision that is as old as time, yet as innocent as a babe—she’s following her bliss. I want to hug her. It makes me happy to know there’s another inspiring young woman out there sticking her neck out and following her bliss. Lots of her fans tell her they think she’s brave to do what she does—she says no, not at all. Well, sure, she’s got her own dose of uncertainty going on just like the rest of us, and some of the noise she makes has as much to do with being afraid than being brave—this is why her fans love her so intensely—she’s one of us, she dives into the crowd naked and trusts us to take care of her. The Fraud Police and all the assholes who spend their breath or time ticking away on keyboards to tear her down with words—they’re just hypercritical bullies with nothing better to do.

The Art of Asking has to be one of the most honest assessments of human nature—why is it so hard for us to ASK for help—in any form. In this book, she’s shared insight in her inner life—what makes her tick—and her “how come?” Unfortunately, when any public figure (or anyone for that matter) especially artists, open up to allow people in, they open themselves up to some of the most unpleasantness humanity has to offer. At the same time that Amanda is genuine and willing to help—she is loaded with self-doubt and vulnerable. I was new to following her while she was writing the book and when I happen to see that she posted questions on Facebook, I pondered my own answers.

"WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU'D ASKED FOR?"

There are times, looking back, I wish I had asked for help more often than I did—life might’ve been easier, but less interesting, I suppose. I just never asked for enough of anything—I rarely asked questions—unless I was really confused because I mentally stepped out the window during the critical moment when I needed to listen. As soon as “Any questions?” was spoken aloud, if I had any at all, they ran away. (Fuckers.) It’s just weird how things work out—if I opened my mouth and asked for help, I might’ve had a much different life—but because I kept my mouth shut, spent time absorbing or being absorbed, head down doing my own thing, I probably wouldn’t have the creativity that I possess to write books and make art. Go figure. 

I was always drawing and making stuff, writing stuff, and took pride in what I did, and I loved showing the things that I made to people. I was showing around a drawing of a horse I made and one kid yelled at me “You’re such a show off—you just think you’re hot shit because you can draw!” Why on earth does that still sting after all these years? It just does. It wasn’t a death threat, but for a little kid—it might as well have been. So I was pegged early as a narcissistic asshole by a mouthy little jerk—whatever. Fucking que sera sera.

The Art of Asking is Amanda’s experience with Asking—it’s not an academic treatise—it’s personal and a personality, like a diary—it is multi-layered and structured in fragments of time, events, stages, junctures, and phases (the audio is awesome because it has related music in it that makes it even more special, especially “Bigger on the Inside” which is so emotionally crushing, I cried my eyes out.) Inspired by her TED talk, she’s offered her story to give basic tools for contemporary artist survival, but it’s not a how to manual—it’s inspiration, it’s encouragement, it’s insight. The lone artist in the garret doesn’t have to wait for the big break anymore—unless they chose to remain the lone artist in the garret, that’s their choice. It’s true that not everyone is going to have outstanding success going it alone—and a great deal of it does have to do with networking with people, generating interest in what you do, which means sticking your neck out there and presenting what you have to offer to whoever wants to check it out—or not. (This is where shameless self-promotion comes in, but be careful how you do it, cuz people will jump on your sorry ass for filling their email, twitter, dashboards, forums or whatever social media network with your obnoxious advertising.) There’s a dance to learn, a delicate balance to attain before you can even begin to collect a core group of invested followers. It’s not easy. I know that as a self-published-indie author, I am thankful for the deposits that are made to my account from time to time—it’s pocket change—but it’s better than sitting on my manuscripts and receiving rejection letters. Not everyone is going to like what you do, and some are damn mean about it. Sometimes I’m just about crazed with worry about what others think as I put my offerings out there—sometimes I just say “fuck it.” I have to, otherwise, I’d be paralyzed and I’ll never accomplish a single damn thing. 

Amanda worries too much about what others think too. Fuck it, Amanda. Do what you gotta do.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Out with the old year, in with the new year

The Christmas Reboot...after the flu...
 
This year has got to be better...but it could be worse...who knows, I'll take it as it comes...

Christmas was put "on hold" while I was sick with the flu...I came down with it on Monday before Christmas, battled the up and down fever, Sunday was the first morning I woke up without a fever. New Year's Day, I had the family over for the Reboot, dinner and presents...thankfully, everyone was well, another year older...it was a minor miracle that my Fred and our son did not catch the bug from me. I'm still hacking and blowing my nose, but every day is a little bit better, tho' I'm extremely fatigued (this too shall pass.) Too much time spent on the couch. It was suspicious that I got sick less than a week after receiving the flu shot. I've been assured that you can't get it from the shot, it was just a coincidence that I got sick, who knows where I picked it up...(anyone else have a fairy tale?) My immune system has taken a beating, I had the flu last March, then a bad case of the Shingles in April, which dragged on and is still causing me grief, tho' much less since I stopped taking the pain medication (if that makes any sense.) I've had a cold here and there, now the flu again. I'm hoping for a healthier new year...

The Little Monster

Through it all, this little black cat that nobody wanted has been my comfort kitty...he's with me right now as I write this, napping. He's been a puzzle since he arrived almost two years ago...we still wonder about his past, a broken kitty with a chip out of his left ear. He's such a happy little fellow now, a first class cuddle bug, and we adore him.

The Crows, 12/22/2014
My work on Drinking from the Fishbowl is moving along...I'm on the last three chapters, shuttling back and forth between them these last two weeks, making everything tidy...reading backwards, forwards, skipping through, landing in random places or seeking out the paragraphs that bother me, cutting, pasting, deleting, adding (two more pages), tinkering with the timeline, making sure everything is as it should be, that the milestones are firmly in place. I do enjoy the puttering around, and there's a part of me feeling anxious to finish this stage so I can move on to the next, yet I'm not ready to end it just yet...I have to go with my gut on this and linger over it until I feel it...the words are as unsettled as the flock of crows I photographed one morning before going to work...some have landed while others are still taking wing...sometimes I'm amazed by what I've done, sometimes I'm terribly uncertain...it's a complicated book...the human condition is complicated. One minute I think "You must be crazy" and then the next minute "You did all right, this is a good thing...you wouldn't be doing it at all if you didn't think so..." And so it goes...


A Donkey Nose
Elizabeth is not complicated...she's a sweet little donkey who loves people, loves attention, loves to be brushed, loves to have her ears rubbed, loves to eat, and especially loves carrots...a bucket of sunshine...when I missed seeing her one day because of the flu, she was very clingy the next day, that soft, curious nose knows more than you can imagine...

Thank you for noticing me...
 I do not need Pope Francis to say that animals have souls, I knew about this already...they have feelings, they love, they mourn, and they can express an opinion...sweet things...


The Cornfield Tree
I remember when I was in First Grade, back when I was learning the simple task of writing the day's date at the top of my papers along with my name...and the fuss being made about "The New Year." and when we came back from Christmas, we'd have to remember to write 1969. (Do little kids still learn this basic skill? I wonder.)  For some reason, I got it into my head that things would be different with the changing of the year. That morning, I was afraid to open my eyes because I didn't know what to expect, would the sky be a different color or something? When I finally did open my eyes and looked around, everything was the same, nothing changed. Just the number. 1969. I was disappointed. Same old shit, different day. Already, at a tender age, I was cynical.

The passing of time.
Milestones...

Happy New Year!

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout



The quiet horrors of ordinary life…in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, until death do we part…yet life goes on in spite of things, like it or not, we adjust, we manage, we make do—along with joy there is sadness, one can only hope for moderation, but sometimes for some people, shit happens in clumps—“Things happen in threes” we often declare during tough times—with a slim hope that it would soon be over. As complex as life can be, much of what we do while living is simple—after awhile we’re on autopilot as our routines become ingrained and any deviation from those routines send us into a tizzy of upset that can be akin to the end of the world. 

The book is bittersweet—it is much like the vine itself, each story twining around the next, sprouting delicate fruit with seeds. Olive is honestly direct, and for some folks, especially children at the school where she taught, she’s intimidating, scary, or mean.  I knew teachers like her—some were tried and true old battle-axes that instilled dread and fear by the mere mention of their name and you hoped that you didn’t have them for homeroom. Then there were the tough ones that shared their wisdom freely, did not suffer fools, and ruled the classroom with an iron will that kept the wiggliest of children pasted to their seats listening because if you didn’t you were going to catch it for sure—but if we were lucky, what we needed to know was provided to us in an engaging and entertaining manner that made it memorable—and we were successful because of that (back when teaching had little to do with standardized tests.) We remember these teachers with a bittersweet fondness because they made the effort to teach us something. Sometimes they had to say the things to us we didn’t want to hear—thank goodness later, they gave a shit enough to say so.

Again, I’ve latched onto a book at the right time in my life—my current thoughts about life and death, being a wife and mother—or just being a woman—have been echoed back to me and further enlightened. As sad as it could be—there is comfort there—and I often laughed out loud. It’s a bittersweet book. 

“Don't be scared of your hunger. If you're scared of your hunger, you'll just be one more ninny like everyone else.” P. 195