musings, musings on creating, musings on people

where we live & stories we tell & who we are

Spring does not often come early to my neck of the woods. Early May and the trees are only just gently feathering their leaves into the world. Mystical pockets helped along by Mother Nature鈥檚 alchemy remind us how unfurled but not quite fully formed leaves look. April鈥檚 showers linger in humid air.

Occasionally we鈥檙e treated to a day as hot as late June. Instead of grumbling, we revel in the sweat. Thankful to put away down coats and heavy scarves, everyone seems to have grown taller. No one hunches against the cold wind but beams upward at watery sunlight instead.

Birds chirp and chatter, building nests, mating, and laying eggs. Dogs decide to bask in sunlight and dewy grass, wet up to their bellies from exploring all the smells winter dulled with ice.

Gumption returns, too. Projects and improvements that lay fallow all through the cold get started and finished. Minds grow warm again with use, looking for new new new, fresh and happy and not yet slowed by summer鈥檚 heat.

My brain whirs and chirps and hums along, excited as a bird, looking for new projects and new ways of thinking. Thinking of a life to build and the lives all around me. Passion projects come and go, but the passion for a project stays and stays.

In the brief moments between reading in bed and sleep, in between discussions and dissertations, while knitting and sewing, and chopping, cooking, baking, cleaning and painting, I think about this place I live. I think about the lives led here and the one I鈥檓 leading here now. I think about the stories we tell and the ones that need telling. The little ones, the true ones.

I think a lot about writing. That itchy feeling in my fingers that comes just before the thoughts coalesce. The snap I feel with an ah ha moment. That choked up feeling I get when I read something so true, see something performed so right. That鈥檚 the story I want to tell, I tell myself.

I drive around with the windows down. Thinking. Thinking about this place and who we are. I sing along and I wonder. I wonder who we are in this little corner of Western Pennsylvania. James Carville famously said our commonwealth was Pittsburgh on one end, Philadelphia the other, with Alabama in the middle. It resonates because it鈥檚 true.

But it isn鈥檛, not exactly. Our foodways are rather less lush, our words shorter and more to the point, our ways and feelings held far closer to our chests. We mistrust outsiders and won鈥檛 exactly be inviting a newcomer directly to our homes before she proves herself. You do your work, and why are you complaining because we all have to work hard to get by. Your life鈥檚 no harder than mine.

We think of ourselves as Northeasterners, and I never thought I held that distinction more dear to my heart than when I had to talk Midwesterners out of thinking Western PA is part of the Midwest. I鈥檝e been thinking, though, and reading and pondering, and letting my mind whir and chirp along. We aren鈥檛 Northeasterners here, either, not really.

We鈥檙e rural people, and forest people, and hill and holler people, even if we do try to fancy it up and say holler but spell it hollow. We鈥檙e crick people, which means creek, and river people, and we鈥檙e pickup truck people, and we鈥檙e a people still in a place that hasn鈥檛 had an industrial boom since they finished cutting all the trees down in 1900. We鈥檙e still here, but not exactly stuck here, though we鈥檙e stuck here, too.

I鈥檝e been trying to figure us out, as one does, to be objective but not condescending to the same people I went to high school with, and not pandering to the people who left to get a job different than the ones left here. What I keep coming back to, what I keep feeling a kinship with, is that we鈥檙e Appalachian people.

I鈥檝e tried it out a few times, with people who have lived here and gone away and come back and people who have never left, and no one has liked hearing it. Every single person has instinctively recoiled a bit. If we can鈥檛 mock West Virginians and Tennesseans and Kentuckians and all the rest, they鈥檒l be mocking us, seems to be the mindset.

Then we talk about it for a bit, we really think about it, or maybe I push it a bit, and, shit, if we aren鈥檛 Appalachian. Our hills and ridges are technically part of the range, if evened out from the peaks further south.

We don鈥檛 do kil鈥檛 greens, but we do do wilted lettuce, which is the same damn thing. Our seasonings are all salt and black pepper and vinegar. Spices are foreign and expensive and why don鈥檛 you have a slab of meat with that? Now, not that we haven鈥檛 evolved, because we do have the internet and food blogs and fancy coffee鈥ut if you wanted a cappuccino, couldn鈥檛 you have gotten one of those from Sheetz?

We get our taciturnity from our Scotch-Irish and German ancestors. Thank god for the Italian immigrants and the Eastern Europeans that came to work the coal mines and steel mills farther south, or no one would invite anyone else to a party. We鈥檇 just have one and be pissed only our kin came. That鈥檚 alright: we didn鈥檛 need them anyway.

We talk a bit funny, even if we don鈥檛 stretch our vowels out, and we don鈥檛 bother with the letter g at the end of words. We鈥檙e mistrustful of outsiders and the government as is the way of rural people the world over, but we鈥檙e pretty sure we鈥檙e right anyway.

If you haven鈥檛 lived here, and by here I mean on the same street in the same town, for generations, you aren鈥檛 exactly from here. Your grandfather was from here, but he moved your daddy two towns over, then he moved you back, but not into town, outside of town. I suppose you鈥檒l do. Let me tell you a story.

I鈥檝e been thinking, letting my mind wander driving around with the windows down. I鈥檝e been waiting for those itchy fingers and knowing what story to tell. I鈥檝e been waiting for some sunshine and gumption and heat and passion.

Spring has sprung. The green haze of the treetops grows less ephemeral every day. I think of sweat and toil, labor physical and mental. My brain whirs and chips and hums. I think of this place where I live. I think of the lives we have led here and do lead here and will lead here. I think of the stories we tell. I think I know the ones that need telling.

musings, musings on creating

a week on: how do I get published?

Tomorrow makes it one week since I finished the first draft of the book. {see the first few pages here.} I ran off to take care of exciting personal, non-writing related things this past weekend, and am now ready to settle in and give what I’ve written a good once over.

I’ve a list of things I know need working {each character needs a proper voice, as things turned out remarkably talky, some characters need a bit more development, the setting could be more fully fleshed out, etc.}, and I’m sure I’ll find a million more big and little things to fix. All of that, I know I can do.

Where I have no road map is on how I get published. It is all well and good to be able to say “I’ve finished the first draft of my first novel,” but no publisher in her right mind is going to just hand me some money and offer to publish…or even just offer to publish and pay me if copies are sold. I could self-publish, but right now I have already taken enough time off work to write this thing. I do not want to sink my own money in just yet.

And, so, I research. I beg information from anyone I know who has any contacts that might know how to go about getting published. I Google. I blog, hoping some editor person will like what she reads. I do what I can, and what I can right now is get stuck in on some edits and ask for help.


words: convivial

there are some words that simply are not used as often as they could be. Convivial is one of them, one I spotted in an article on costume design nominations for the Oscars, used to describe Amy Adams’ character in American Hustle.

“con路viv路i路al” >con路viv路i路al [kuhn-viv-ee-uh-l]

1. friendly; agreeable: a convivial atmosphere.
2. fond of feasting, drinking, and merry company; jovial.
3. of or befitting a feast; festive.

1660鈥70; 聽< Late Latin conv墨vi膩lis 聽festal, equivalent to Latin conv墨vi ( um ) feast ( conv墨v ( ere ) to live together, dine together ( con- con-聽+ v墨vere 聽to live) + -ium)

definition from