Friday, December 29, 2017

In 2018 Write Your Memoir


Start off easy by tackling your life story in small, bite-size pieces. Here's a how-to on how to get started.

Wherever you download books!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2018 Will be Your Year!



From wherever you download books!

The book is 365 days of inspiration—quotes from writers and writing prompts. Here is a what you might expect, from the first week in January:

January 1
You Determine Where You’ll Go
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go...
― Dr. Seuss, from Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

January 2
Books
Books are the grail for what is deepest, more mysterious and least expressible within ourselves. They are our soul’s skeleton. If we were to forget that, it would prefigure how false and feelingless we could become.
― Edna O’Brien, from It’s a Bad Time Out There For Emotion

January 3
Books
A room without books is like a body without a soul.
― Cicero

Can you recall the first book you read? Right now write about that experience and what keeps you coming back to books?

Monday, December 25, 2017

That After-Christmas Let Down


Empathy and New Year
 
 

A notion like that of empathy inspires
great distrust in us, because it connotes 

a further dose of irrationalism and 
mysticism.
Lévi-Strauss
Whitman took the cars all the way from Camden and when he got here or rather there, said, “Quit quoting," and took the next back, through the Jersey meadows which were that then. Butwhat if it is all, "Maya, illusion?" Idoubt it, though. Men are not so inventive. Orfew are. Not knowinga name for something proves nothing. Right now it isn't raining, snowing, sleeting, slushing, yet it isdoing something. As a matter of factit is raining snow. Snowfrom cold cloudsthat melts as it strikes.To look out a window is to sense wet feet. Now to infusethe garage with a subjective state and can't make it seem toeven if it is a little like What the Dentist Sawa dark gullet with gleams and red. "You come to me at midnight" and say, "I can smell that afterChristmas letdown coming like a hound." And clarify, "I can smell itjust like a hound does." So it came. It's a shame expectations areso often to be counted on.
New Year is nearly here and who, knowing himself, would endanger his desires resolving them in a formula? After a while even a wish flashing by as a thought provokes a knock on wood so often a little dish-like place worn in this desk just holds a lucky stone inherited from an unlucky man. Nineteen-sixty- eight: what a lovely name to give a year. Even better than the dogs': Wert ("…bird thou never…") and Woofy. Personally I am going to call
the New Year, Mutt. 
Flattering it will get you nowhere.
                  II
Awake at four and heard a snowplow not rumble— a huge beast at its chow and wondered is it 1968 or 1969? for a bit. 1968 had such a familiar sound. Got coffee and started reading Darwin: so modest, so innocent, so pleased at the surprise that he should grow up to be him. How grand to begin a new year with a new writer you really love. A snow shovel scrapes: it's twelve hours later and the sun that came so late is almost gone: a few pink minutes and yet the days get longer. Coming from the movies last night snow had fallen in almost still air and lay on all, so all twigs were emboldened to make big disclosures. It felt warm, warm that is for cold the way it does when snow falls without wind. "A snow picture," you said, under the clung-to elms, "worth painting." I said, "The weather operator said, `Turning tomorrow to bitter cold.' " "Then the wind will veer round to the north and blow all of it down." Maybe I thought it will get cold some other way. You as usual were right. It did and has. Night and snow and the threads of life for once seen as they are, in ropes like roots.


p.3 in The Crystal Lithium; p.51 in Selected Poems, p77 in Collected Poem

Friday, December 22, 2017

Order Your Inspiration TODAY



From wherever you download books!

The book is 365 days of inspiration—quotes from writers and writing prompts. Here is a what you might expect, from the first week in January:

January 1
You Determine Where You’ll Go
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go...
― Dr. Seuss, from Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

January 2
Books
Books are the grail for what is deepest, more mysterious and least expressible within ourselves. They are our soul’s skeleton. If we were to forget that, it would prefigure how false and feelingless we could become.
― Edna O’Brien, from It’s a Bad Time Out There For Emotion

January 3
Books
A room without books is like a body without a soul.
― Cicero

Can you recall the first book you read? Right now write about that experience and what keeps you coming back to books?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Solo Woman Cyclist: Training

Well it’s that time of year—to either go on a diet or let yourself go. This year I turned 59. Not only am I solo woman cyclist, I’m an out-of-shape middle-aged solo woman cyclist. But I have a plan!

After the New Year.

Yadda, yadda, yadda. We’ve heard it all before, but this time I’m for real. I’m joining a bootcamp run out of the Chicago Park District. Three times a week for one hour. I can already feel my muscles ache. Every time I stuff another cookie in my mouth I say to myself after the new year: bootcamp.

Yet, how do we assure ourselves before taking off on a long-distance cycling tour that we have what it takes?

I’m not sure if we have what it takes, meaning you don’t know until you go.

The biggest part of conditioning for a LD ride is. . .  your fanny. This is super important and why it is important to have miles in the bank. If your butt gets blistered within the first 12 hours then you will have to take time off the bike—and might not ever get down the road. A blistered butt is serious. The wounds open up and can get infected. So this is the first part of the body you have to get in shape. And, the only way to do this is to be in the saddle. You have to put in the hours.

It’s not about speed or how well you eat, though those things do impact the overall trip, but you first have to have a happy butt.

Secondly, knees. Many a trip has been brought to a halt because of sore knees. Not just sore, but unable to take the torque. Unable to propel you uphill or across the intersection. Again this is all about time in the saddle. Suddenly thrusting your knees into handling so much pressure can ruin them. You have to do this months, years in advance. They have to know that when called upon that you are the boss.

Most of the time it is mind over matter.

Of course, the obvious losing weight and cardio is also important. There are people who are toned and fit yet haven’t had enough practice. I know people who decide to tour and buy all the right equipment yet nothing can save them from the eventual pain if they haven’t simply done the time.

So this winter I’ll still be on my bike—riding to bootcamp in the cold.

My best advice is not to psych yourself out about your upcoming trip or goal to cycle tour. Try taking a spin class during the winter months. This will help your fanny to get used to the saddle. During spin class set your levels to mimic hill climbs. Put some tension or resistance on the pedals so that you have to push.

Then if planning a spring trip, plan in extra days so that you can slowly build up. Look over your itinerary and make sure you are not starting right off on epic hill climbs—unless you don’t mind walking up.

See you out on the road—after the New Year!


Monday, December 18, 2017

7 Deadly Words

George Carlin had a routine he did about the 7 words you can’t say on television, which prompted a Supreme Court decision concerning First Amendment rights.

Under the current administration we now have a list of 7 deadly words that are being struck out of reports, erased from government websites. The forbidden words are: "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based" and "science-based."

Specifically the CDC, Center for Disease Control, the people who work to prevent the spread of Zika and bird flu, who fight ebola—are being told what words they can and cannot use. In the bigger scope of things I would much rather have people in place to react aggressively against the plague than those same people worrying about or busy cutting and replacing in their reports the word “fetus”. In ten years’ time that fetus will thank you, for ignoring the list and simply doing your job.

I can’t imagine Trump made up this list. I can’t imagine him even using the word vulnerable. No, this has Mike Pence’s fingerprints all over it.

But let’s think about this for a second. I’m a word person. Words mean a lot to me, and lately I’ve been ravaged by words. Just the mention of certain words trigger something inside of me.

What if we let them have “fetus” if Trump promises not to grab pussy. What if we ban “pussy” from his vocabulary? How about vulnerable, they can have it for the word “loser.” Trump likes to Tweet that certain people are losers—let’s just put an X through that one right now. He also overuses “weak” to describe those on his hit list. Hmmm what if they were just vulnerable? If he gives us SAD we’ll toss out science-based. Maybe use a euphemism for it like SB. Same thing with evidence-based. I mean there will still be research, data that underlies decisions (I hope) so they might want to consider some kind of shorthand. Besides is the White House actually reading these reports?

“Transgender” is a tricky one. Are they saying there are no more transgendered, do they mean they don’t exist? Or if they exist do we acknowledge them. Do we recognize the special needs of any one group? Medical oversight of hormonal treatment programs, gender reassignment surgeries will these be banned, how about stringent psychological analysis that are used to deter rather than support or access patients with gender dysphoria. Or maybe they might want to get rid of the word gender. We can negotiate!

Terrific, amazing, tremendous, bigly—you can have those if we get to keep diversity. Entitlement is a head scratcher. I mean isn’t this latest tax bill—the one they’re trying to push through Congress before the holiday break—isn’t that an entitlement for the richest of the rich.

Here’s the rub: who gets to define, who gets to say what words scientists can use, cite in their reports? Republicans and Libertarians like to rant about governmental over-reach—isn’t this an intrusion? A politicization of language?


I for one when the zombie flu breaks out do not want to be quibbling about words while the CDC gets overrun and the world wiped out by flesh-eating bacteria—or, yes, it could be 7 deadly words. 


Flash Memoir: nice review

on December 5, 2017

Friday, December 15, 2017

Flash Memoir: another nice review

on November 15, 2017

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Flash Memoir: some nice reviews

on November 21, 2017
While Jane Hertenstein’s book Flash Memoir is ostensibly geared toward writers, this book is a must-have for anyone who is creating art of any kind. Filled with amazing historical factoids (check out Hemingway’s lost valise or Wordsworth’s almost-permanent houseguest, Samuel Coleridge) as well as the writer’s personal examples of following her own advice, the main thrust of the book is to get the reader’s creativity flowing, and boy howdy, the author succeeds at that.

Each little chapter or section describes something that can be used as a prompt for creativity, be it old postcards, newspaper headlines, websites filled with breathtaking photos, or basic, evocative stimuli such as certain smells or sudden memories. The author then gives an example of how this prompt can be used, frequently using her own posts to illustrate her point. And what a collection of riches she offers, from exploring deserted or “ghost” houses, as she calls them, to thinking back to old TV commercials that can jog a specific memory loose and give rise to a slew of unexpected and forgotten memories.

As a writer, I found this book to be an amazing discovery. I have had my own methods for getting past writer’s block, or the brief moments of panic I always experience when starting a new work and having nothing to look at but a blank screen and a flashing cursor. But this book offers a startling and insightful way of looking at the world we live in, as well as the worlds we carry within.

I would highly and enthusiastically recommend Flash Memoirs for writers, artists, photographers, fabric-art creators, poets, gem artisans, musicians, and everyone else who is using their creativity to explore and understand the world. Creating is tough. It’s hard. But Ms. Hertenstein hands anyone who reads her book a skeleton key to the treasure chests of imagination that all of us possess.
ORDER A COPY TODAY!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Solo Woman Cyclist: Aren’t you afraid?

 I get this question a lot, so thought I’d dedicate this blog post to answering that question—

Well, who isn’t?

I wake up every day afraid. Afraid I won’t be able to cope, face the unknown, to step outside the house. And for good reason—

Maybe I’m simply a fearful person, but to me every day is fraught. The possibilities for failure are endless. Is this pessimism? Depression? Or an acute awareness, knife-sharpened by my childhood? The sense that one must be hyper-vigilant because no one else has their best interests at heart.

I’m even afraid to write this.

Writing is fear, to face the blank page, to pull words out of the invisible universe and conjure up a notion residing inside my head. To evoke a scene playing out in my imagination. To physically emote onto the page. And, this is scarier yet, with the hope of communicating, connecting with others. To instill in a reader the same emotions I’m feeling. That is an achievement usually unrecognized and definitely under-appreciated.

In other words: Art.

So, yeah, I’m afraid and face my fears daily, on a moment to moment basis. Cycling alone is scary, but it's also empowering.

Let’s also acknowledge we never have control. So when people say to me, Do you ever think about what can go wrong? I simply nod my head.
--What about crashing? Yup.
--Cars running you over? Got it!
--Rapists? I’ve never once forgotten this is a reality, always has been.
--A breakdown?

As a writer, a creative, I can imagine all of this in great detail. That crash—it’s run through the movie screen of my head over and over, careening downhill and hitting a fist-sized rock and then skidding into oncoming traffic. It’s one of the reasons I wear a helmet because I envision my brains splayed out on the pavement every time I pull out onto the street. About the rapists—I consider myself lucky. The number of women who can’t walk down the street without comment or being objectified is crazy. Something men don’t have to worry about.

Yet, astride my bike, pedaling along I feel not only safe but a sense of power. I’m doing it! Things will happen, but I can tackle the problems one-by-one.

For example on my last trip I got a flat, a thumbtack stuck in my rear tire. There’s nothing I hate more than changing a tire. That’s why I’ll constantly keep pumping a slow leak until I can make it to a shop. I was on a back road when I heard and phish and felt my rear pull to the side. I found a safe place to pull off, tossed off my bags, and turned the bike over. The hardest part of a flat is after I’ve installed the new tube and not pinching it, thereby creating another flat. Getting the tire to stretch over the last bit of rim just by pushing with my fingers: impossible. So I went out to the road and hailed a passerby. He got out and did the maneuvering and then had a regular pump in the back of his SUV. He helped me quickly inflate and was off. Thanks!

A few days later I threw a spoke on the rear wheel. At first I thought, oh no another flat, but then saw that wasn’t it. My brakes grabbed weirdly and things felt squishy. I figured it out and then pulled out my phone to see where the nearest bike shop was. I had to cycle 7 miles to Blue Hill where a nice lady gave me a ride the rest of the way to Kingdom Bikes (located out in the boonies on a gravel road). Each of these times I worked the problem.

Yes, I’m afraid, mostly though I worry. I’m so vulnerable. But isn’t that the human condition.

One more thing to take into consideration: I live in Chicago. If I can survive the streets of Chicago then a bike tour should be a piece of cake. Just this week in my neighborhood, on my street, just a few blocks away 4 people shot in front of a jerk chicken place and then a few hours later a body discovered in one of those bins where you drop off clothes. How???  Then set on fire.

So riding is a stress release, a way of escape. After a hard week of Trump news, neighborhood crime, allegations of sexual harassment, it’s nice to get away and get my life back. A long ride is exactly what I need.


Friday, December 8, 2017

Advent by James Schuyler

"Advent" by James Schuyler

Open my eyes on the welcome
rosy shock of sunshine.

Open the first little door
of my Advent calendar:

a darling hobby horse
on wheels. Open

the window a crack: and
quickly close it against

a knife-like draught. The day
looks warmer than it is.


I’m not sure how I made it through this year. With all the Trump triggers. The mashup every Friday of an executive order that disenfranchises some segment of the US population. The frenzy of weekend tweets sure to distract. How did I manage to accomplish anything!

Yet unbelievably I’ve had more success this year than ever. Not only a book contract for a novel I’ve been trying to sell forever, but 13 acceptances of “Other Writing” plus an eBook, Flash Memoir: Writing Prompts to Get You Flashing. Whew!


Nevertheless, glad to see the end of 2017, and the advent of 2018, opening the little window on a new year and hopefully some surprises.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cycle Touring: It’s about problem solving

When I tell people about my various bicycling tours they usually blurt out, That doesn’t sound fun! They’re right. A lot of it is simply crazy. As a solo woman cyclist my tours are mostly about problem solving. One after another.

Take for instance my very first solo international trip. I figured England: they speak English! It should be flat! Not sure why I thought that. Maybe I was contemplating that saying about being led down the garden path. That phrase refers to being deceived, by the way. So I booked a flight.

I practiced taking the bike apart for the box and quickly reassembling it. I planned how I was going to get to and from the airport and manage check in and odd-sized carry-on, explaining to TSA what a spork is and that it isn’t lethal. Yet nothing prepared me for missing the international leg of the flight. The hurry of arriving early at O’Hare Airport had no impact whatsoever on the fact that my Air Canada plane would be late thus a stopover in Montreal turned into a layover. I asked if I could get the next flight out to London. Sure. That would be in 24 hours!

Really. They only flew one time a day. So I spent a night at a hotel courtesy of Air Canada. This did not assuage my fears. I had train reservations. Lovely hard-fought tickets for a night train to Thurso, Scotland where I was to begin my trip at John O’Groats. This was my first problem.

I spent the next day tooling around Montreal on my own, realizing how difficult it was to access GPS when one’s phone no longer received data. You have no idea how hooked you are to your phone for info and directions until—nada. I started off walking in the wrong direction, away from Saint Joseph’s Oratory. Once straightened out, I then had to work out how to leave the oratory and walk the paths of Mount Royal. One decision led to a panic-racked next decision. I made it back from my adventure in the city of Montreal with only minutes to spare before catching a hotel shuttle to the airport. I arrived in London a day late.

No problem. I’d just get new train tickets (a later article to detail how my travel insurance came in handy) and be on my way. I made it to Euston station for the 9 pm departure to discover that the Caledonian Sleeper didn’t run on Saturday. By now it was dark and raining and cars drive on the left! I rode away from the station and, of course got lost. I stopped at a Starbucks! Got WiFi and with my phone booked a hostel. I felt proud of myself. I was doing it. I’d worked through already several unforeseen hiccups. I got directions, made it to the hostel, carried my loaded bike up a flight of stairs, got buzzed in the door—only to be told I was too old for the hostel. This is ageism I stated, but they didn’t relent. I should have made them carry my bike for me and then tell me I’m too old. I rode around looking for a vacancy somewhere/anywhere. I found a slightly rundown family-operated hotel. Isn’t the pound like two American dollars? I was freaking out about how much this was going to cost (after paying for brand new train tickets without the advantage of advance reservation). When the proprietor answered the door and saw me with a loaded bicycle in the rain I didn’t give him a chance. I need the cheapest room you’ve got. He said he only had a triple available. It was as much as a Jaguar. I countered with half that amount—cash, I said.

Unbelievably I got in. So I spent the next day exploring London. That evening I got off on the train, now 2 days behind schedule. My entire trip I was playing catch-up with my itinerary.

All this before even putting on bike shorts. All this before encountering the expected hardships of touring: headwinds, rain, detours, sheep. Those were coming, but this is just an example of how one woman, alone ran the gauntlet of bike travel and persevered.


More stories to come.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Black Friday Sale

5 out of 5 stars  Great for writers and teachers of writing.
ByMichelle Schaubon November 15, 2017
In this clever craft book, Hertenstein outlines a plan for busy writers to build a memoir in little flashes- those seemingly inconsequential moments that, when strung together, create a powerful memoir. Hertenstein provides a series of accessible yet thought-provoking prompts that can be completed in "the time it takes you to brush your teeth." Great for writers and teachers of writing as well.


5 out of 5 starsExcellent#
ByMel G.on June 18, 2016

I have read this book twice, and highlighted extensively. As a new memoir writer who works in slice of life and brief moments, I find her approach helpful. Highly recommend to all writers of memoir. Enjoyable read!

Available from wherever you download books. Also you can click on the icons and go straight
to Amazon

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Catching Up--my latest story now posted online

Check out my story “Catching Up” at Sunlight Press. A tiny slice of life about how we slowly fall out of shape and that it’s never to late to catch up.


Black Wednesday Sale

5 out of 5 stars  Great for writers and teachers of writing.
ByMichelle Schaubon November 15, 2017
In this clever craft book, Hertenstein outlines a plan for busy writers to build a memoir in little flashes- those seemingly inconsequential moments that, when strung together, create a powerful memoir. Hertenstein provides a series of accessible yet thought-provoking prompts that can be completed in "the time it takes you to brush your teeth." Great for writers and teachers of writing as well.




5 out of 5 starsExcellent#
ByMel G.on June 18, 2016

I have read this book twice, and highlighted extensively. As a new memoir writer who works in slice of life and brief moments, I find her approach helpful. Highly recommend to all writers of memoir. Enjoyable read!

Available from wherever you download books. Also you can click on the icons and go straight
to Amazon

Monday, November 27, 2017

Hannah Arendt: Don’t Kill People


We’ve imbued our political parties with morals. For example, Republicans care about life. Thus, they will appoint pro life judges. Democrats care about human rights. Thus, they’ll be better at foreign policy—saying NO to Russia.

Bviously this is simplified. Also obviously I have no right to write about Hannah Arendt. A brilliant thinker.

This weekend I watched the movie Hannah Arendt. I knew about her peripherally like in the sense she was one of the people (émergie who fled Nazi Germany) who helped ferment The New School where my daughter went.

Once I saw the movie I was able to sort her into—Oh you thought that up, that line of thinking, about the question of evil. The movie released in 2012, Hannah Arendt died in 1975. Some of her books are:
The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951). Revised ed.; New York: Schocken, 2004.
The Human Condition (1958) Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). (Rev. ed. New York: Viking, 1968.

I was surprised at how relevant and timely the movie felt. The notion of evil and abdicating what we know is right in order to achieve a particular outcome that we believe is ultimately right. For example voters in Alabama. Voting for a man who likely if elected will be thrown out of the Senate or at least censored because they
1)      Cannot bring themselves to vote for a Democrat
2)      They feel Judge Roy Moore will be a moral leader and see to it that the “right” people get on the Supreme Court
3)      Some believe that he’s God’s chosen (more on that later)

Belief is a tricky thing because in some of these cases people have abandoned their beliefs wholecloth. They’ve left off thinking all together.

Hannah Arendt in her pursuit of understanding evil in a post WWII, post-Hitler, post-Auschwitz, nuclear world struggled with alliances and fealties. She would not sacrifice what she believed just to keep things normal, to protect the status quo, or to satisfy family, friends, or country. That isn’t how philosophy works. Philosophy isn’t nationalistic or gender-specific. It has affairs and dabbles in various camps in order to get a reading, a report of what that space occupies. Thus, she angered many Jews.

When she wrote that evil was ordinary and that given a chance we would—all of us—sell out our mother, our tribe, our deepest sense of right and wrong for a higher purpose—or in Eichmann’s case, per someone’s order.

It’s how Trump got elected.

The very people who need a tax break, healthcare, housing, recovery treatment, safe food and drinking water, who care about family, the unborn voted against their interests. Against the published news reports, even against the candidate’s own words—they decided to believe in an alternative.

So we are at a crossroads. Of fake news, fake facts, conspiracies. The Russia Thing, if you will. People have decided to believe whatever they want because either there are no facts or they chose to believe in alternative facts.

Hannah Arendt got into trouble by blurring the edges of what the Western world fought and died for, by diluting their mottos and deconstructing their manifestos. We all have the ability to be evil. It is an individual choice and one frankly not all of us are able to acknowledge, myself included. I’ve held my nose and voted for someone I didn’t like just because they’d make the trains run on time.

Thus, some good Christian people are going to vote for Judge Roy Moore.


I think what Hannah Arendt was saying is that we are all capable of killing, of supporting killers, that we will find a way to justify genocide, and rationalize mass murder. Just don’t make us think about it too deeply or have to explain why.


Friday, November 24, 2017

Last Tab

Last Tab

Lastly, in closing up the tabs: an article at the BBC website: (Credit: Edouard Taufenbech)

And


Both articles are basically profiles of people who file away data/memories. Who can never forget. Some of us have excellent memories, some of us—mostly husbands—cannot remember what they went to the grocery for.

Researchers are not yet certain what forms the basis of memories. The assumption is that most memories are language based—thus, it is unlikely to have memories pre-verbal. Yet, I know I can recall certain images—an overhead light over my crib because I associated the seemingly glazed spiral with a honey bun, even though I still didn’t have a word for honey bun. I guess looking at it made me hungry. I wanted to eat that thing over my crib.

I remember climbing out of my crib. I wasn’t tall enough to open the door, so I would fall asleep in front of the door, making it difficult for mom to come in and check on me. Now some of this memory could be stuff Mom later recounted. Like the sleeping part. I suspect I was under the age of three.

The subject of the article, her memory stretch all the way back to being a baby. “I’d always know when it was Mum holding me, for some reason. I just instinctively always knew and she was my favourite person.” She has been diagnosed with a rare syndrome called ‘Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory’, or HSAM, also known as hyperthymesia. This unique neurological condition means that Sharrock can recall every single thing she did on any given date.

The second article has to do with the ability to hang onto every random date and memory and retain it at the fingertips of recall. The blessing and curse of this kind of memory is that it can be an anvil weighing you down. Every regret, mistake, coming back to you to be rehearsed all over again. Scenes of sadness, grief replayed over and over. It is a tremendous burden to bear.

‘Highly superior autobiographical memory’ (or HSAM for short), first came to light in the early 2000s, with a young woman named Jill Price. Emailing the neuroscientist and memory researcher Jim McGaugh one day, she claimed that she could recall every day of her life since the age of 12.
The subjects themselves find it hard to put their finger on the trigger, however; Veiseh, for instance, knows that his HSAM began with meeting his first girlfriend, but he still can’t explain why she set it off.

I remember applying mnemonic strategies before a test. In order to remember A I remember B. The whole house of cards can easily come undone. One presupposes the other. Very tricky. There were even courses you could send away for to help improve memory. For the person who cannot escape their memories they would gladly change places.

Two of the people interviewed with HSAM: “It can be very hard to forget embarrassing moments,” says Donohue. “You feel same emotions – it is just as raw, just as fresh… You can’t turn off that stream of memories, no matter how hard you try.” Veiseh agrees: “It is like having these open wounds – they are just a part of you,” he says.

It is a narrow road we travel, the tension between recall and what the memory represents. We don’t want to live in the land of memories 24/7. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Autobiographical Songs, Taylor Swift Hitmaker

This week I’m closing tabs. Those needling articles I’ve clipped or stuck a pin into and left open on my desktop hoping to get to later. One had to do with Taylor Swift. I know only what the Internet tells me about Taylor Swift as I have not followed her career or spent time listening to her music. Except to say some of the earlier Youtubes of her music seem really simple.

She’s a sensation. According to the radio her latest album, Reputation, has blown up the universe. On track to have the biggest sales ever. “Swift on track to sell more than 1 million records in the record’s first week.”

If only this kind of success could transfer to books. Not since Harry Potter has a new release made such a splash.

From the beginning she has been writing autobiographical songs, inserting herself as a character into the ballad/narrative/soundscape. From the BBC article:

Take, for example, her first US number one, Our Song.
Written for a high school talent show, it's a fairly typical tale of teenage romance until the final lines: "I grabbed a pen / And an old napkin / And I wrote down our song."
That's smart, self-assured songwriting for someone who wasn't old enough to vote. Notably, the lyrics insert the musician directly into the narrative - something she developed into a tried and tested trope.

Well, she must be doing something right. The reviewer went on to say that she’d also mastered the one-note melody—a bit of fast-talking rap/gush of words she piles up on notes. What could on paper be awkward, confusing, clumsy turn into (hits, yes and) conversational songs that are accessible to most listeners.

I’ve written here at this blog in the past about conversational poetry. Poetry that rejects form, that feels more like prayer, intimate revelations straight from the heart to the ear of the reader. The reviewer observed that by mimicking the cadence of speech, her lyrics are effortlessly conversational and vernacular. This must be a recipe worth repeating.

Also as someone who writes flash—it cannot be denied that Taylor Swift can work a whole story into a one-line lyric.
"She wears short skirts / I wear t-shirts / She's cheer captain / And I'm on the bleachers" (You Belong With Me)
"We're dancing round the kitchen in the refrigerator light" (All Too Well)
"I never saw you coming/ And I'll never be the same" (State of Grace)
"Darling, I'm a nightmare dressed like a daydream" (Blank Space)
"Remember when you hit the brakes too soon? / Twenty stitches in a hospital room" (Out Of The Woods)

So no matter if you’re a fan, there’s a lot that can be gleaned from studying pop hits. And, perhaps, we might hit just the right note.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The core of it is true


I’ve been catching up on news, on the tabs open on my computer, the articles I’ve been saving to read. Actually I was embarrassed into doing this by my daughter who immediately seized upon my psychotic condition: the inability to let go. I always think I’ll come back to finishing that story, article etc later. Then later turns into 37 tabs on my laptop.

Mom! What’s going on!?

So today I dedicated my morning to determining if the open tabs are something I really want to read, have expired, or no longer relevant. With the dozen or so tabs left I began plowing through them, skimming or actually reading.

In the middle of this process I ended up opening a few more doors. I stumbled across an article in Vanity Fair online about the new movie Lady Bird. One of the pieces had to do with the art director and how he was able to make the movie look like a memory. He simply took it down a generation like a Xerox making a copy of a copy. Which is a good way of describing a memory. Essentially an open tab in our brain that gets corrupted by neglect, diminished by layers of overcopying, wish fulfillment, projection.

An interviewer asked the writer and director Greta Gerwig about her autobiographical movie. She had to backpedal. It is not autobiographical. At its core it is autobiographical. But also a work of fiction. This is a lot how I write—both memoir and fiction. Blurring the genres.

Because I try not to get stuck on definitions, or hung up on truth, I can keep going—hoping something sticks.

As many times as I close a tab, a new one opens.