Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Last Post

The title of this post makes it sound like it's a Western set on the open prairie at the end of the trail. Well, it sort of is. I've been blogging for over half a year because everyone in the world told me I should blog.

But the truth is, this method of communication doesn't feel right to me. I only have so much writing I can do in my life and I don't want to waste any more of it on trying to think up clever, insightful things to say on my blog so people will like me and think I'm funny and ultimately buy and read all my books.

I like writing poems much better. They give back to me.

But I think I gave it a good shot and I'm pleased about that and I feel honored to have gathered a loyal group of followers and other readers who dropped in from time to time. Please stay in touch--send me an email if you want or better yet, show up on my doorstep and come in for tea.

Because, besides writing poems and stories, I really like to have long, deep conversations with people about life and snow and flowers and dog poop and toenails and what the weather's going to be.

So call me a former blogger or just call me.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Poem for the Solstice


Every year I write about snow

and every year it surprises me.

If no snowflake is the same,

then certainly no blizzard is either.

How scary when hail pelts the windshield,

How charming snow is nestled on the bird feeder.

There are storms that catch you unaware.

In your nightgown you watch

flakes bigger than fists fly at the windows.

Know it will all melt, the ice,

the piles at the end of the driveway.

Even now it is moving toward liquid.

Know you will stand at the window again

watching green pulses push from the garden.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Just a picture

I'm busy grading papers and reading theses and trying to finish up everything so I can think about the solstice and the end of the year and all.

So here's a picture of me and a small rug I hooked for an event called BIRD X BIRD in which artists making art and donate a portion of it to a silent auction for the Audobon Society.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Last Image

The other night in class I had my students write the last image in their books. At this point most of them are only three or four chapters into their novels. I wrote my last image too. We pay so much attention to the beginning of books, as we should, that I think the end is often neglected. This is our last chance to give our readers a gift. We have traveled a long road with them and they deserve something memorable. We build these fictive worlds out of images--so I think that's where to start with the end. What image do you want to leave them with?

I was surprised by my image--a pair of tail light disappearing around a bend. Seemed very mundane and a little cliched. But then I had them all write scenes that lead up to their image and the scene I wrote pleased me and surprised me and felt right. And it led to the tail lights disappearing.

Also, I think it's exciting to have the ending to head toward. Even if it doesn't stay the ending. It has a kind of weight that can pull you along when you're struggling with the middle, etc.

So try it. Write an image that a novel can head toward and then aim at it. Might even be the first thing you write in a novel.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Thanks to all my readers.

I have a short list here of things I'm thankful for on this sunny, but nasty cold day (10 degrees) in Golden Valley.

I'm thankful that:

--Jacques, my 7-pound toy poodle, caught a short-tailed shrew today, but still prefers eating apple

--I have a head-to-toe down coat that allows me to go outside in this weather and, because it's brown, acts as a solar collector when there is sun

--I made it to the library and have a huge pile of books that I want to read

--I finally finished hemming the velvet winter curtains after four years of hanging them with pins stuck in them

--there are only two more months of this limited light

--Thanksgiving isn't at our house, but Pete's cousin's

--holiday music will start playing on the classical music station (I know, I'm a sucker)

--my friends and family are safe and healthy after a couple scares

--I'm back to writing poetry, the ground of my writing life

--I like turkey, but I really love pumpkin pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I got very wound up this fall--lots to do, talks, classes, manuscript work, my own work, never enough time. Forgot about walks, about friends, about quiet moments.

Now I'm starting to unwind. I can almost feel my body twirling around in the air. This process is so physical and emotional. Letting go of tension, letting go of things to do, lists, letting my shoulders drop, the email go unanswered for a day or two.

I recommend it. I'm reading more, which the dogs love because we all get under the same fuzzy blanket on the couch, I'm walking more even though it's getting a bit frigid here in the upper Midwest. I'm gazing out the window more. Watching the trees move is a lesson in unwinding. I try to copy them, swaying back and forth, letting my arms hang like willow branches.

Children's books (not so much YA) are great for unwinding. Gentle and human, often humorous, thoughtful, they tell stories that help us grow--not matter what age we are.

I'll end this short post with a couple lines from my new poem:

"Turn around as many times as you need

to finally see. Like a top you blur into a hum."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stories that Haunt You

I'm teaching a class on plot in the MFA creative writing program at Hamline and I asked my students—after having them bring in their favorite picture book and then pick their favorite Grimms fairy tale—to write a short essay on what stories they carry with them—both from their own lives and from books. Then I asked them to write about what stories they want or need to tell and how this all relates.

We are close to Halloween and the sense of stories haunting us I think is worth exploring.

I was so inspired by what they wrote that I think I will try to write such an essay myself. You might too. Make a list of the stories that you come back to again and again. A few for me are: Daniel Martin by John Fowles, Leaving Cheyenne by Larry McMurtry, The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong, Anna Karenina by Tolstoy.

Make a list, add to it, let it brew. Think about what these stories are about. Where is the energy in them. You will learn more about yourself and your writing.

Sit down on the floor among your own personal library. Pull books off the shelf and absorb what they have to tell you about your own work.