Friday, January 30, 2015

Bicycling Saved My Life

Bicycling saved my life. I wanted nothing more than to go somewhere.

It started early—this obsession to explore. One of my earliest memories is of my father affixing wooden blocks to the pedals of a tricycle so that my feet could reach. I’m sure it was a tricycle passed down, a one-size-fits-all. I eventually out grew the tricycle and into a small two-wheeler with training wheels. I really wanted to be able to ride without the aid of the training wheels. I can actually remember to this day dreaming—or was I scheming, it was perhaps an awake dream—of gravity and the natural puzzle of how a bike, those skinny tires—how does it stay up? It didn’t make sense. Back then the boys my older brother Steve’s age rode Schwinns with turned down handle bars and racing tires.

The inventors of the airplane, the Wright brothers, had a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. As a school kid we were taken on field trips to see it. Huffy bikes were manufactured in Dayton. That was another era.

Once the training wheels came off I, too, took off. I must have been pre-kindergarten when one day I wandered off on my bike across the highway and ended up in the tangled streets of an apartment complex. It was starting to get dark. Just when I knew I had to start back across the busy road my pedal fell off. I ended up having to push the bike home. I really didn’t want to tell Mom where I’d been; besides I hadn’t exactly known where I was anyway.

My next bike was a banana seat Stingray. I also began to go further afield. One morning I woke up early to help my sister deliver newspapers and afterwards we decided to go for a ride—to Xenia, Ohio, I don’t think we got that far, maybe to Spring Valley. I remember passing a dilapidated “ski” resort. That must’ve been really wishful thinking for an entrepreneur. Anyway, a single-speed bike wasn’t meant to go that distance—over 40 miles. I was exhausted by the time I got home. I’m sure I had to stop at Bill’s Donut Shop to fortify myself.

I advanced to a ten-speed Huffy Scout after that. 
image from Internet, not the actual bike
I absolutely loved that bike. I kept with the name Scout. I have an old friend from way back then. Sometimes he and I will reminisce—remember Scout. He still called her/he/it by its given name. I literally rode that bike everywhere. All summer long I’d be out on that bike. My mother would assume I was upstairs sleeping in—instead of on a backroad in Indiana. I rode wherever I could in a fifty to seventy-mile radius of our house in Centerville. It was nothing to put in 40 miles before lunch—and typically, I’d run out of gas on the way home and end up calling from a payphone somewhere that I was too exhausted to get home on my own. Invariably my father would leave work early and come and pick me up.

Circa 1975
Middletown, Germantown, Trotwood, Lytle 5 Points Rd, Social Row Road, Waynesville, Oregonia—these were all places I rode to. To New Burlington before it became Ceasar’s Lake, before they sank the town beneath a reservoir.

In college I had a blue Motobecane, an Italian brand that to be honest was a little to big for me. When I moved to Chicago I left it with a friend who locked it up on the front porch where it thereby got stolen. I miss that bike still. Since 1989 I’ve had an ’82 Trek. What would now be considered a vintage model.

It is this bike that I am taking with me to Florida.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Blogosphere--Asking a Favor

Those of you who have found this blog--thanks--I have a favor to ask. If you also blog or contribute to a page about writing or for writers (am I leaving anyone out?) please download (tech talk--right click and save image) my ad for 365 Affirmations for the Writer and add it to your widgets (tech talk! for those images that show up on the left or righthand side of your page) with a link to amazon (tech talk! can be embedded)

link to Amazon:

THANKS so much to the world-wide blogosphere.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Glimpses--part 3

This week I’ve been talking about glimpses. Actually I just didn’t know what to call a collection of tidbits I’ve been meaning to write about. What are they?

I keep a notebook where I might jot down random ideas “for later.” And, that later might end up diminishing the memory or else expanding it. Often I’m like—what in the world or why did I think that was significant?

As I render words into flash, short stories, prose poems, there is also this parking lot of lose ends, that place where the snow piles up and is left to dwindle down even in April and May. That’s a glimpse, a start, that later might become a detail in something much longer—or stay exactly what it was—a passing thought.

There is a moment, and only a moment, at dusk called the magic hour, when the sky goes golden, and the air is thick with golden light, and the gnats hovering above the golden swaying grasses become glittering golden specks, and the surface of the lake absorbs the sun’s golden rays, when all around me the world is filled with gold. And suddenly my heart leaps. But, only so for a second.

And then the shadows rush in.

For more about flash memoir go to: Freeze Frame: how to Write Flash Memoir

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Glimpses--it's as simple as . . . .

Places I still see newspapers:
--left on the commuter train
--at Starbuck’s
--my parent’s house
I naturally reach toward them,
drawn in by an old friend.

Also I am in the current issue of PMS=Poem, Memoir, Story out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham. It is a journal that celebrates and encourages women’s writing. LOVE IT! Kerry Mad­den is an editor there and she has several really great non-fiction books: Up Close: Harper Lee  "I encourage my students to delve into their own lives to mine for material."

Sound familiar? 

Check out my story entitled Heartbreak Wall

Monday, January 19, 2015


When people think of memoir they tend to think lifetime events, the biggies. By the time they get around to writing about them their brains have gone into shock, their memories paralyzed with self-doubt, fears of not getting it "right."

In FROZEN they sing about letting go. In my book Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir, I encourage readers to let go and write in the smallest, briefest of glimpses. A moment may not have a beginning, middle or end--often it just is.
 In 2015 I am resolving to write more of these glimpses. Even if it is just to pause and smell the roses or observe a sunset or the lighting of a lamp, the flame reflected in a darkened window. Dig below the surface of lethargy and tell yourself, all I have is NOW.
Lighting the Lamp
At the dune shack with the blue door, the light subsides, blue has left the sky, and there is a stillness within the insect-infused dusk, a veil settles, softening the sand peaks, yet sharpening the pinpricks of stars, the outline of the Pilgrim monument in the distance.

And, when the last ounce of sun has left the sky and the shadows have all fled, I light the lamp.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pig Park

What happens when a neighborhood begins to die because a major business closes down and jobs move away? Economically squeezed the citizens of Pig Park decide to take their destiny into their own hands. Masi and her family operate a bakery that has fallen on hard times. Both she and her parents need to be revitalized. By using traditional and contemporary tools, whatever is at hand, they set out on an entrepreneurial enterprise, to build a mysterious La Gran PirĂ¡mide.

But is it a scam or a scheme? Will the people of Pig Park be able to overcome their sense of despair and blight? 

Pig Park is the story of a community coming together and how a group of kids help to save their neighborhood.

Come to find out the main ingredient in turning around a failing bakery and neighborhood is hope and faith in themselves.

Pig Park
Claudia Guadalupe Martinez
Cinco Puntos Press and at Amazon
254 pages

Monday, January 12, 2015

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

And . . . she’s back!

Over the holidays I had a head cold and two weeks off to do nothing but blow my nose and read up in the bed. Except I could find NOTHING that held my attention. I tried to self-diagnose if it was because of the Dayquil or my clogged sinuses—yet I told myself I read with my eyes and not my nose.

I started 5 books and couldn’t get past the first 50 pages of each.

I also worried if perhaps culture ie the Internet had impacted my attention span—was I no longer capable of reading 3 or 4 paragraphs strung together without closing a book and turning on my Kindle?

Finally, I wondered if perhaps I was getting too old for fiction. Would I end up like several old people I once knew dozing off in the middle of a page, or succumbing entirely to non-fiction because of the ability to skip massive uninteresting sections and still feel like you’ve “read” a whole book.

Imagine my delight then when I started reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. I’d had this book on hold at the library—possibly off of a list of recent award winners (I tell you—I cannot remember half the time why I put a book on hold). I picked it up on Wednesday and was immediately sucked in—by Saturday I’d finished it.

It’s the VOICE. Fowler immediately brings the reader in—and then twists us up with plot turns and finally with emotional content that caused me to start to worry about the characters I was reading about.

I cannot go into the plot at any length without giving away stuff best left for the reader to discover. I even asked myself at a certain point—did I not see this coming, or, should I have known what this book was truly about? I had no idea—since I couldn’t even remember why I’d put a hold on it. From a NY Times book review: “a novel so readably juicy and surreptitiously smart, it deserves all the attention it can get.”

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2014, winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award, and winner of the 2014 California Book Award for Fiction. I’m not going to say who else endorses this book because that might give something away.

Anyway, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves had restored my faith in my sense of reading. That I can indeed fall in love with words and care deeply about characters, that my imagination did not get blown out of my nose during Christmas vacation.

What a relief!