On Reflection

Looking like a duck in my yellow babydoll swinsuit, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1968.

Looking like a duck in my yellow babydoll swimsuit in Honolulu, Hawaii, 1968.

I may as well come out with it because it’s there. And if you look at me long enough, you’re bound to see a trait I first noticed when I was four or five and understood at thirteen.

I didn’t think about it much at the time, but it resurfaces now and again to buoy a notion that my father was a swan, and I am a duck.

To continue to read “On Reflection,” dive in and swim over to Tweetspeak Poetry. The water is roiling.

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In the Beginning

Every time I begin a new piece, I forget how to write.

To remember the process, I read work I’ve put away or published to find my way back into a world of words, sentences, paragraphs, stories.

It’s never easy because experience is useless in front of a blank page.

Repetition has made me a faster typist, a better speller, more alert to punctuation errors and weak verbs.

I enjoy editing.

Not so with the first draft of writing.

It’s agony.

I’m miserable in the beginning and downright joyous for an hour or so at the end.

Until fear calls to tell me I’m washed up.

Emptied out.


And then I start over.

With a word.

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New Orleans Book Event Update

Sonny Brewer playing "The Boxer"

Sonny Brewer playing “The Boxer”

I’ve often crossed the Atchafalaya Basin and Lake Pontchartrain to meet favorite authors at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.

It’s where I first met Sonny Brewer a decade or so ago when he signed my copy of his novel, The Poet of Tolstoy Park.

I’ve been pestering him ever since. So he joined Deirdre Gogarty and me for our Pugilism & Prose book event there. And he brought his guitar.

As promised, Deirdre worked mitts with two young boxers.

Deirdre working mitts with Tabby Grebinger

Deirdre working mitts with Tabby Grebinger

And with 14 -year-old Jesse Fletcher, a 4-time National Champion

And with 12-year-old Jessie “The Giant Killer” Fletcher, a 4-time National Champion

Award-winning author, Tom Piazza, dropped by. And so did French-born Crime Fiction author and former boxer, Ro Cuzon. Dee and I were thrilled they made it.

Darrelyn Dee Ro Tom

Darrelyn, Deirdre, Ro Cuzon, and Tom Piazza

I’m not sure I would’ve made it without my friend Pamela Benham Cooper who drove and then housed me in New Orleans. Outside Baton Rouge, traffic swelled and then stopped. Somehow, she found a back route to get us there. And her daughter Emmeline reserved us a table at Herbsaint, a restaurant you may want to put on your try-before-you-die list.

Thank you Pamela, Emmeline, Sonny, the wonderful people who showed up on such a cold night, Garden District Book Shop, and Heather Holland for taking so many great photos of our NOLA book event. Click on the first one to scroll through the rest.

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Garden District Book Event

While working on My Call to the Ring: A Memoir of a Girl Who Yearns to Box, my inner life often resembled the above photo by Lyla Willingham Lindquist. The writing life is a self-inflicted solitary pursuit, and it can be lonely at times.

Talk to me when I’m working, and I probably won’t hear you. I may nod yes or no, but I’m miles away.  Most of the time, I’m following an unknown track and trying to figure out where it’s going.

Tonight, I know exactly where I’m headed because Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans is hosting a book event for Deirdre Gogarty and me from 6-8 p.m. I intend to enjoy every minute.

If you’re in the New Orleans area this evening, I’d love for you to drop by and meet Deirdre Gogarty, a champion boxer who learned early to “be so good they can’t ignore you.” 

We will be signing books, and Deirdre plans to demonstrate that women can box. Author Sonny Brewer will be there, too. And word has it—he’s bringing his guitar.  

Hope to see you in the Garden District.

Posted in Guest Posts for Word Candy | 26 Comments

The Breaking

Photo by Herman King

Photo by Herman King 

When Laura Barkat asked me to pen a few words about Purple, I thought I’d write about Mardi Gras or my niece Jenny (it’s her favorite color).

Imagine my surprise when a murderous man named Wendell showed up instead.

If you’re curious and enjoy flash fiction, grab your mud boots and follow me down the Mississippi via Tweetspeak Poetry to read “The Breaking.”

Posted in Guest Post for Tweetspeak Poetry | 12 Comments

Breaking Bad for Writers

Bad Night

The sky’s been spitting rain for long stretches this winter. I no longer walk my dog—we run. I don’t want to be outside any longer than necessary, so I’ve been watching too much TV. Or have I?

In “Commodity Publishing, Self-Publishing, and The Future of Fiction,” VQR digital editor, Jane Friedman, touts television’s excellent storytellers:

Personally (after a couple decades of being a very devoted reader of novels), I have all but stopped reading fiction. My storytelling fix comes from watching TV, which, for my money, is where the best narratives are told these days—Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Breaking Bad, many others. I know I’m not alone in this.

She’s far from alone. The programs listed are popular and include a few of my own guilty pleasures. My habit began innocently. After Saturday dinners, I took in two or three episodes of Six Feet Under. Before long, my viewing escalated to additional shows watched on multiple evenings. Instead of reading novels for hours every night before sleep, I’m often perched on the couch next to my husband to quench my “storytelling fix.” Breaking Bad is my latest drug.

From the first episode, the characters’ performances aroused buried shadows as they carried me from a soggy Southern farm to a Western desert. One taste of their inner warzones, and I wanted more. I’m drawn to fiction writers who can inflict pain and reveal deep truths about people by throwing them bombs. In Breaking Bad, cancer bombs, money bombs, and meth bombs are aimed at the main characters, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.

Because the show’s writers are expert bombers, I’m absorbed and held by flickering light and explosions of drama on my TV screen. Like reading a great novel, I’m entertained yet forced to question my own human frailties (addiction may be one). Unlike reading a novel, TV has an audio and visual advantage that raises the bar on print.

It’s why I’m convinced shows like Breaking Bad (and many others) offer additional storytelling instruction for writers. Literary gatekeepers and fiction lovers might call it a mindless habit, but television scriptwriters are delivering powerful stories. And this writer is grabbing the remote to murder the night by watching and watching and watching.

Posted in Stories from the Farm | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments

Malone’s Mad Love

swirling wind

Photo by Claire Burge

My first reader is a poet, playwright, fiction writer, editor, teacher, and friend. His latest collection of poems is called Seasons In Love.

We met online after he left a comment on a guest blog post of mine for Writer’s Digest.

I sent a note to thank him four years ago. We’ve been working together ever since.

He reads my early drafts, and I read his. We push and prod and nudge each other to write better sentences.

I no longer scribble or type a word without hearing his “voice in the swirling wind.”

If you’re curious to learn more about my writing partner, follow me over to Cynthia Newberry Martin’s blog, Catching Days, to read about a day in the life of Dave Malone.

To make Word Candy (pictured above) with quotes from Dave’s poems, he has a catagory of his own called “Malone’s Mad Love.” Or go here to send someone a ready-made card.

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Few Words

sit with me in silence


Few words are coming.

So pull up a chair.

We can sit in quiet.

To begin the new year.

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What Is Feminism?


My granddaughter Mary-Jane on Thanksgiving Day 2012

Today I am sharing my thoughts on feminism in a blog post for the Virginia Quarterly Review.

My granddaughter Mary-Jane inspired the piece on Thanksgiving Day.

To read, follow me over to “What Is Feminism?” Feel free to comment or share your views.

For more on the subject, Jane Friedman has gathered VQR blog posts published throughout the past two months in A Range of Perspectives on Feminism & The Female Conscience.

Also, be sure to check out VQR’s Fall 2012 issue on The Female Conscience.

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Drawing Memories

Photo w/ quote created at http://wordcandy.me/

Before I ever crossed the border into Louisiana, I scribbled words and drawings on the bedroom walls of a rent house in South Texas. But I stopped my wall art three months after my fifth birthday, on a cold Saturday in December after a frightening experience when the landlady paid us a visit.

I allow the memory to awaken in my senses. I first hear quickened footsteps, a door slam, and my mother instruct my two older sisters to empty ashtrays and dust end tables. I then feel the recollection in my body, in a shift of emotion from calm to fear of eviction if my graffiti is discovered.

To view the action, I close my eyes and see Mama’s slender, pink fingers wring a steam-breathing mop; my sisters rush about with white dust rags in their small hands. I sit with the vision a long time, and the clean smell of lemon oil bubbles to the surface of memory.

Before the front door is opened, the mop and dust cloths vanish. I’m hustled into my room and told to stay in bed and not come out until Mama says so. My final instructions: “Be quiet!” and “Don’t open the door!” I then hear my mother greet the rent collector and begin a tour of the tiny bungalow.

It seems I have a deadly virus and high fever, I learn, as the women stop in front of my closed bedroom door to chat. My mother is so convincing I feel chilled and my face flushes hot. I wrap up in a blanket and stare at walls covered in crayoned drawings of rotary telephones and words my sisters have taught me to spell, such as cat and dog and my proudest: Mississippi.

Sweating, thirsty, and confused, I wonder if I am doomed. Until today, my artwork has been a source of pleasure in our household. My mother never scolds me about it and seems to approve of my doodles, and my sisters cheer me on like the teachers they imitate when they slam in from school. Now, I may be dying.

Moments before my impending death, my mother and sisters swoop in to retrieve me from exile. It seems we have foiled the homeowner. As everyone cheers and giggles, I have one last glimmer of recall: I push my lips outward over a lack of concern for my “deadly virus” and touch my forehead in search of heat.

As I begin to handwrite the story’s details into a notebook, it occurs to me that as a grownup, not much has changed. I’ve simply replaced bedroom walls with lined sheets of paper to draw memories and write stories about cats and dogs, telephones and Texas. And a family that crossed the Louisiana border to settle beside her neighbor, Mississippi.

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