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.

*Copyright notice* All photos, writing, and artwork are mine (
© Laura J. Wellner), unless otherwise noted, please be a peach, if you'd like to use my work for a project or you just love it and must have it, message me and we'll work out the details...it's simple...JUST ASK, please.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Another Trip Around the Sun...

Lake Ontario, the View from Chimney Bluffs
  I recently celebrated my 55th trip around the sun...otherwise known as my birthday. It was a happy one, my Fred surprised me with a trip to one of my favorite places in the world, Lake Ontario...specifically, Chimney Bluffs. I was born in Lyons, NY so Sunday drives with the family often brought us to the cobblestone beaches of the big lake. Our weather is often dictated by this lake...in winter it's the Lake Effect snow, even rain falls into this special steady category...our persistent gray clouds, great ethereal boulders that tumble overhead, or the layered sedimentary slate stratus. This lake is special to me.
Me at Lake Ontario, c. 1969
Chimney Bluffs.They have eroded quite a bit since I last saw them...still spectacular.
Beach Stones, their colors and shapes are so beautiful to me.

The Wave
 It was such a treat to be at the Lake and hear its voice again, I can't explain it, but it's one of those places that makes me extremely happy. One of those things I have no words for...

Beach Stones
Beach Stones
Beach Stones and Driftwood


Beach Bones
Then at the top of the bluffs, the woods...and the wildflowers...oh the Trillium and Jack-in the-Pulpits were beautiful! I haven't seen Jacks in a very long time.

The Stars in the Forest

Jack in the Pulpit
Jack in the Pulpit
The specially marked beach stones. I love finding these, and will get my feet wet fetching them out of the waves!

I had such a lovely day.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Going with the flow...

Going with the flow, sketches, artist book, ink wash on rag papers, 4/23/2017

Today. April 29th. Oh – today – it’s been 18 years since I started writing my books. I opened up a salt n’ pepper notebook and started writing the first novel that I would ever complete. (I finished writing it on October 29th 1999.) I had a lot of stories that I started and discarded before this, but this is the day that I became more certain about what I must do. The first one, Washed Glass – is not yet published. Being the first one, it’s a bit of a mess. (I know it is a mess, but it’s a good kind of mess, my sitting on it for almost 20 years has granted me to become a better writer, so I can do it right this time around.) Without that first book, there wouldn’t be the others, while writing it, I found the other stories that became Dusty Waters, a Ghost Story, The Fractured Hues of White Light, and Drinking from the Fishbowl, and there’s also the drafts of Layers of Illusion and Wish that are waiting their turn for my attention. They’re all connected, kind of like Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, the characters know one another, and everyone has their story, but the books themselves are independent, they’re not a continuous series with a specific order. It’s complicated, but not. Anyway, it makes me extremely happy when I reach this day and look back and remember that first day, that old notebook, and the ink stains on my fingers from the pen that started to leak.

I'm still puttering my way through the first page proof of Drinking from the Fishbowl,  I’m taking my sweet old time. I’m looking the spots off of it. I found a few flubs-ups, but nothing too awful. And as always, while I’m working on a book, I’m insecure about it, my inner critic is being a real asshole to me along the way, so the inner battering has been a bit rough going. I expect to make another dent or two in it today.

The artwork in the photo above is an artist book that I made last weekend and had the best time making it - just going with the flow - ink, brushes, water, paper, and randomness, accidents, and inspiration. There is no top or bottom, left or right, front or back, this or that - it's probably one of the most personal pieces of artwork I made in a very long time - it's made from the things that I have no words for...

Saturday, March 11, 2017

An end of an era, Crouching Tigger-Hidden Pooh 1998-2017

One of the best of tabbies I’ve known passed away in the early morning of March 5th. God speed old friend, we will miss you, but we’re sure to meet again someday. At first, he was just named Tigger, because it was easy to name a ginger cat with stripes after the bouncy-pouncy lovable tiger from the world of Winnie-the-Pooh. We also called him Tiggy for short. At least, the record at the vet’s office said that was his name when we brought him there for his first shots and then to be neutered. It felt foreign to us when they insisted on calling him “Tigger” when we brought him by for the various things over the years, because his name evolved beyond the initial christening out of necessity...you see, when he was born, it was the year of the "Horrible Horde" - the litter of 1998. (Actually there were three litters, three feral mom cats, plus the remaining roamers from the litter of 1997, and our original three we brought with us when we moved from the city to the country, there were thirty cats out there - yes, 3-0, 30!) But I digress... we had noticed that he would "coo" a lot and it sounded like he said “Pooh!” So his name melded to Tiggy-Pooh, and then his full name became Crouching Tigger-Hidden Pooh, which we ripped off from an episode of Whose Line is it Anyway? Funny, isn’t it? Tiggy-Pooh, Tiggy-bug, Pooh-bug, Burbles, Pooh-wow, Meer-meer, little fellow wearing yellow, Mellow Yellow, Bumblebee…some of the many names he was called over the years. Mostly he was Pooh or Tiggy, whatever name came to the lips when talking to or about him, he responded to both.

His passing is an end of an era because he is the last of the litter of 1998. The remaining four former wandering paws are all drop offs that arrived after 2002, and one came from the city that my son brought home one day. (I really need to compile these cat tales into a book someday.)

He was a catnip addict...but what cat isn't?

 Nineteen years ago Pooh was squirming around inside his mommy’s belly—she was Calico. (It’s what we ended up calling the little wild mamma cat. She was very sweet. She eventually came inside to live with us when the winter came and she decided she had had enough being wild.) His father, probably the ginger and white tomcat who never stuck around to be named, but his calling card lingered on our screen door letting us know he had passed through. The last time I saw him, he looked rough like he had been in a fight, he still had enough grit to look at me over his shoulder with a foul stink-eye that I knew to leave be. The classic old country Tom cat, big round head, scrawny and brawny, busy fighting and fucking, scratching fleas, and catching a fur-covered snack-pack for a meal. 

Calico brought around her little brood of six kittens to our side of the road—they were born in Bill’s barn on the other side of the road, that deadly broad piece of asphalt—there were six of them, cluttered underneath the lilac bushes on Memorial Day weekend, wary of people, hissing and running away, skittish. A black and white tuxedo kitten, one solid gray, two gray with white mittens and tums, and two ginger tabbies with white mittens and tums, Tiggy-Pooh was one of them. It’s amazing that I can still remember each one. All boys. I watched Calico teach them to wait at the end of the driveway, look and listen before crossing the road. They’d tumble along after her when she knew it was safe. When we were giving away kittens that year, one of the neighbors came by to look at them, Tiggy-Pooh, his twin brother, and one of Charlotte’s little gray and white girls (Mittens) were left. The twin was chosen, Tiggy-Pooh was too shy. Mittens, although the lady thought she was very beautiful, felt she was too freaked out, and was not at all cuddly. It was a relief to find a home for one of the six. The others died by car, coyote, or just disappeared without a trace. One little gray kitten I gave to two people out for a walk, and he was a tiny guy, and was hanging around down by the mailbox, and since I heard them  talking pretty to him, and I said “You want him, he’s free.” Who knows how his life turned out. I have to hope it was fine. (They didn’t try to return him.)

Willy Big and Tiggy-Pooh
The Big Three...Fatty Woo Hobbes, Tiggy-Pooh, and Willy Big

Pooh has had a good long life—I figured his birth happened in April for him to be toddling around by Memorial Day, his eyes were already changing to the gold/green, so considering that, he was a passenger 19 years ago in his pretty calico mamma’s fuzzy belly, he’s been with us a very long time... I remember seeing her trotting down the snowy driveway one day, her belly so round, I scooped her up, and felt the kittens in there. As I sat watching the light leave his eyes, I thought about his friends who have gone before him, and how he would mourn their passing, carrying his tail low behind him, almost as if it was broken. I even Googled it, wondering if it were a strange symptom for something I’ve never seen before. Having as many cats as I’ve had in the last twenty + years, I’ve seen a lot of things. No. He was grieving in his own way. His tail was always expressive, and it was his buddy. He loved his tail. He’d hug with it. 
Pooh and Max
 He always had to touch, if his paws didn’t reach, he’d use his tail to touch a buddy sleeping near him on the bed. If two cats were sleeping on the bed separately, he’d insert himself in between the two and would have to touch them both.

This is Max's bed, always covered in cats, especially the Big Three.
Pooh with Charlie...and my shoes (I didn't need them.)
He knows how it works, he just doesn't have thumbs.

 He loved begging to go outside, he’d rattle the doorknob, touch it with his front paws, sometimes even wrap his paws around it—he knew how it worked (if only he had thumbs!) If any cat deserved to have thumbs, he did. We’re certain that he had blue prints and volumes of notes regarding his theories about how the doorknob worked. He was a smart little fellow. He also recited his Pooh-ems, his most famous ones were Singing for My Supper, Nite-Nite Snack!, and the rollicking I Want to Go Outside.

 He loved popcorn. (Pooh corn) Trust me, he didn't contemplate that for very long.

September 2016, an outing on a sunny morning
 He passed away after I went to bed around 1AM almost a week ago, I had a feeling he was letting go soon and didn't know if he'd be still with us in the morning. I held his paws, and the little toes curled around my fingers, they were toasty warm, he was nestled in by the woodstove on Max's old bed, and was quietly dozing, making a soft rumbling purr. I had a feeling the light was keeping him awake, and thought maybe he wanted to be left alone. His friend, Charlie, was sleeping next to him, so he wasn't really alone, Charlie had been sticking by him all day, as if he knew that his old friend needed him. I kissed him goodnight, told him that I loved him, his paw curled around my finger. He left us with dignity and on his own terms.

Monday, January 16, 2017

My thoughts regarding "Batsof the Republic" by Zachary Thomas Dodson

A book—a novel—an illuminated novel—an art object. The attention to detail is simply amazing—I’m green with envy and loving it. This is the kind of book that one must take the time to look the spots off it—if you know what I mean—if you don’t you might miss something. It’s magical when a book is so well done, multi-layered like Russian matryoshka dolls and so full of a wealth of the story, a story within a story, within a story—a storytellers book. I will want to read it again before too long. There are many theories about what is real, what is history, there are possibilities of temporal loops—time bending-mind bending—the bats and maps, diagrams, letters, transcriptions, drawings, pictographs, symbols, descriptions, motivations—a sealed envelope inscribed “DO NOT OPEN”, and instructions inside how to read the contents… A book—a novel—an illuminated novel—an art object. It’s all good.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

My thoughts regarding "The Plains" by Gerald Murnane

Twenty years ago, when I first arrived on the plains, I kept my eyes open. I looked for anything in the landscape that seemed to hint at some elaborate meaning behind appearances. (P. 13)

And so it begins…this novel made me think a great deal about our own country—even tho’ I finished reading it well before the 2016 election results were decided, I was already well aware of the division between the coastal, urban areas and the rural areas, especially the open plains. You know, those “fly over” states in the middle—the Great Plains, the “Bread Basket” of the nation, amber waves of grain and all that salt of the earth stuff. I know there are some who look at that part of the USA map and think, “those red state people who love Jesus, take the Bible literally, and don’t believe in evolution.” Whatever. To each his own, they’re not hurting me none, and I mean them no harm. You’d be surprised, we are more than what we seem, more than anyone can imagine. Being from Upstate New York, I’ve seen a similar difference between town and country—Upstate vs. New York City. There are Upstate people who would love to cut off from NYC, many of the “us” up here resent the audacity of those city slickers trying to impose their highfalutin ideas on us simple folk in the great, lake effect, cold, white north—take that as you think best, it can go either way. The people of the Midwest and the people I bump elbows with outside of the realm of the academia bubble in the Upstate regions are pretty much from the same cloth. And they feel left behind, the forgotten America. Even though, I’ll never fit in with them, I do admire them for their honest, hardworking ethics. Even the ones who are a hard scrabble lot who don’t know better, they chronically do dumb things, and wind up doing time in jail for petty nonsense they shouldn’t have done. I always sympathized with the ones on the outside, even if they didn’t understand me at all, the ones who I befriended, tipped their heads with curiosity and gave up on figuring me out. I wasn’t a threat, just different. They’d talk, I’d listen to their stories. For as long as there’s civilization, there will always be differences, factions, groups, and each has their own ideas of how things are, and what is right—or wrong. See…this is what I love about books, they get you thinkin’ about stuff…even if the stuff has little to do with the book, there’s something about reading that turns on the brain to travel in and around…

The plainsman’s heroes, in life and in art, were such as the man who went home every afternoon for thirty years to an unexceptional house with neat lawns and listless shrubs and sat late into the night deciding on the route of a journey that he might have followed for thirty years only to arrive at the place where he sat—or the man who would never take even the one road that led away from his isolated farmhouse for fear that he would not recognize the place if he saw it from the distant vantage points that others used.

There were historians who suggested that the phenomenon of the plains themselves was responsible for the cultural differences between the plainsmen and Australians generally. The exploration of the plains had been the major event in their history. What had at first seemed utterly flat and featureless eventually disclosed a countless subtle variations of landscape and an abundance of furtive wildlife. Trying to appreciate and describe their discoveries, the plainsmen had become unusually observant, discriminating, and receptive to gradual revelations of meaning. Later generations responded to life and art as their forbears had confronted the miles of grassland receding into haze. They saw the world itself as one more in an endless series of plains. (p. 18)

Wow—think about it. Ain’t it beautiful—universal truths and all that—can you dig it? I thought you could.

The same landowner began to describe other influences that he felt late at night in the more remote wings of his house. He sensed sometimes the lingering persistence of forces that had failed—of a history that had almost come into being. He found himself looking into corners for the favourite pieces of the unborn children of marriages that were never made. (P. 23)

I spent some time west of the Mississippi—a friend and I drove 13 ½ hours on Route 10 from Houston to El Paso once, (that was enough.) I saw a changing landscape along the way, from humidity drenched heat to baked desert dry—a big sky, a broad expanse all around with the ribbon of highway cutting through, and then the shimmering haze of distant horizon—the horizon, the future, the place you’re trying to get to—or get away from—depends on how you want to look at it, I guess. I was far from home, and passing through, looking for something outside of myself. I hadn’t written a book yet, but wanted to, I just had to find what I was looking for out there in that horizon—that periwinkle blue future distance.

…the famous ‘tint of the horizon’… what moved them more than wide grasslands and huge skies was the scant layer of haze where land and sky merged in the farthest distance…talking of the blue-green haze as though it was itself a land—a plain of the future, perhaps, where one might live a life that existed only in potentiality on the plains where poets and painters could do no more than write or paint….a landscape that was wholly illusory…the zone of haze was as much a part of the plains as any configuration of soil or clouds…they esteemed the land of their birth for the very reason that it seemed bounded continually by the blue-green veil that urged them to dream of a different plain.(bits n’ pieces stitched together from P.27)

…an “art of the horizon.” (P.29)

Anyone surrounded from childhood by an abundance of level land must dream alternately of exploring two landscapes—one continually visible but never accessible and the other always invisible even though one crossed and recrossed it daily.(P. 36)

This obsession with explorers. Please don’t misunderstand me; it’s a worthy task we’ve undertaken. But that vision of the plains we’re all looking for—let’s remember that the first explorers may not have been expecting plains. And many of them went back to their seaports afterwards. Certainly they boasted of what they had discovered. But the man I want to study is the one who came inland to verify that the plains were just as he’d hoped for. That vision we’re all looking for… (p. 46)

It depends on what you’re looking for—the filmmaker who proposed to make a film about the plains—The Interior—it never happened, at least, not realized in a tangible way that was initially proposed—he was really a writer not a filmmaker, and got caught in the trap of expectation.

…I learned in time that I was considered by a small group to be a film-maker of exceptional promise. When I first heard this, I had been about to reply that my cabinets full of notes and preliminary drafts would probably never give rise to any image of any sort of plain. I had almost decided to call myself poet or novelist …or some other of the many sorts of literary practitioner flourishing on the plains. Yet if I had announced such a change in my profession I might have lost the support of those few people who persisted in esteeming me…A few of these men argued even that the further my researches took me away from my announced aim and the less my notes seemed likely to result in any visible film, the more credit I deserved as the explorer of a distinctive landscape…It suited the purposes of these men that I should continue to call myself a film-maker; that I should sometimes appear at my annual revelation with a blank screen behind me and should talk of the images I might yet display…No one afterwards could point to a single feature of whatever place I stared at. It was still a place out of sight in a scene arranged by someone who was himself out of sight. (bits and pieces stitched together from pages 109-110.)

He came, he saw—he stayed. If he left, something would’ve come of it.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Rumor has it they lived happily ever after...

Drinking from the Fishbowl, 2017

I finished it. Well, it was finished on 12/30/2016then the next day I added that “one more thing,” which you know always happens

So I’m just telling you now, it’s finished.

For the rest of the story...https://laurajwryan.wordpress.com/