Category: Forthcoming Work

underpetalsWhen I finished the last chapter of the novel draft I’ve been working on, I took a walk on a trail I used to know very well. Things have changed. I pushed through sage, oak and manzanita, whose leaves, branches, and even roots have made the path nearly invisible, but I didn’t mind. Loving the smell of native plants close to my face, I thought, perhaps, it’s best the trail is now so overgrown. I stopped at a point where I have sometimes gotten lost in the past. Wilderness still exists, and this gives me hope.

I returned home to read the last paragraphs of the novel once again. Will these words survive another draft, if there is one? At the time I wrote the ending, I find myself, unexpectedly, crying. If emotions are transient movements, then, does that create the best exit for the book?

That night, I woke up before 5:00 am with a word on my lips from the novel manuscript, and I knew from which chapter the word came. The word came to me, because the word was the wrong word. I was acutely aware, in that moment, why I had been writing and editing so intensely. I wanted to hold the novel inside my being like a poem. Each word in a poem carries water. With the novel such an endeavor has not been totally successful, but the intention to do so was there, nevertheless.

A Novel Excerpt:

             I do not talk about the part of last night’s vision that appeared to foretell a meeting with phoenix. I don’t feel the need to try to explain….Instead, other words come out. ‘Thank you everyone for coming. I had a dream last night. In the dream, there was a part where I saw nothing but light, and the light seemed to chant: I am coyote singing. I am the lion, the vulture, I am all that endures, all that roars, all that is strong, and, most of all, I am grateful to be alive.’ As I repeat these words, light shines around all the walls in the room, along the ceiling and along the shapes of the celebrants. I see myself standing inside the light.

Forthcoming Work The Process of Writing

photoblogI have been contemplating a problem with one of the characters towards the end of the novel. Eventually, I realized that the troublesome character faces similar challenges that I recognize from my youth. When I look back in my life, I see that self-knowledge has been hard won. The ability to self-reflect is a skill that has developed over time, and I am still working on it.

In examining this particular character’s evolution in the book, I am able to see my own life more clearly–areas of weakness, areas of strength and the constant need to keep learning. To see one’s own shortcomings is the first step. Insight cannot come when there is denial or a lack of effort to keep growing.

Now, I look forward to making necessary changes. My approach to working on the final draft of the novel has changed. New ideas have emerged. I celebrate that creative doors open the more I let go of tendencies to contract, to defend, or to be overwhelmed.

While I wait for the rest of the line edited copy of the manuscript, I have ordered my life as much as I can: Bills paid. Social needs and commitments met and enjoyed. I bought extra copy paper and a new gel ink pen. I returned the publisher’s contract.

Once the line edited pages arrived, reality sets in: many long days, the house cluttered with books and stacks of paper on every table surface. Still, I am excited to see improvement. I am happy to note evolution in clarity and purpose. And now I have three days to finish reworking the final chapters, and this draft will be done if the forces of spirit and grace choose to help me do so.

Forthcoming Work The Process of Writing

tallStackBooksDuring my college graduate years, I discovered a love for teaching. Much to my surprise I felt myself more alive in front of a classroom. I already knew I wanted to write, because I would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to write a story or a poem in a lucid, dream-like state as words came pouring out.

So, when I realized I was not just the shy, indrawn person I thought I was as a result of having been assigned to give presentations to classrooms of fellow students, I had a new vision for my writing dream—teach during the school year and write in the summer. Now, I am living that vision. With my weekly teaching responsibilities much reduced for the summer, I am spending my days on the final draft of a novel scheduled for release next year.

When I received the line editor’s copy of the first 94 pages two weeks ago, it appeared to be a daunting task. Fortunately, I had already received her summary letter which gave me encouragement to move quickly through even a threat of paralysis.

Every day I feel consumed by old draft and research boxes, the line editor’s questions and suggested changes, which I know to be helpful and clarifying, but which take some pondering as well as further research. I have awakened during the night more than once with additional questions or, more rarely, with possible answers. The subject matter, also, is emotionally intense, and I am very grateful, at such times, for my background in yoga and my meditation skills. Today, a yoga teacher friend came for brunch and tea, and we did asanas (yoga postures) together. I had not planned to do that, but it was perfect. We both felt relaxed and refreshed afterwards, and I was ready for another work session.

My current situation, as writer and teacher, though it fulfills the vision I had for myself many years ago, as is often the case, also has some unforeseen consequences. Loving what I am doing when I write, I may lose track of time. I may forget to take a break, or to drink enough liquids. It is important for me to keep up my yoga practices, a good exercise program and to maintain a healthy social life.

To be passionate about one’s work feeds the soul. To stay balanced feeds sincerity, which reminds me of one of my favorite raja yoga sutra’s:

           Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to…in all earnestness

–THE YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJILI

Forthcoming Work The Process of Writing

I remember a mountain hike with my daughter. Before we reached that remarkable Santa Barbara County ocean view from over 3,000 feet, we saw the remains of cattle on a summer dry meadow. There was not much left but shrunken hides and separated bones. We stopped. We did not speak. The sight relieved us of words.

Many years later, I am still haunted by that scattered sight of death. I do not know why this vision has emerged now. I don’t remember having written about this particular experience before. There has been a silence around the subject of death that has imprinted itself over the years—a silence that appears to ask me to look more deeply.asianclouds

Once, a fellow middle school student questioned me, “Have you ever seen death?” I answered incorrectly, “No.” It took a long time for me to acknowledge out loud the truth of my early life. Even now, it often seems easier to address my early exposure to death through my writing.

My last public reading, before the Wife of the House book release, was at the behest of my friend, Perie Longo, who was Santa Barbara’s poet laureate at the time. At that reading, I shared a poem that addressed some painful recollections:

 

The Quality of Light

Exploding bombs saved my grandfather
from the Auschwitz train; the town hid him,
and we who had been marked to follow the fate
of rejected religion fell like blessings in the snow—
my first memory, cold at my back
and the sharp glint of a bayonet.

Inside one of those other camps
filled with ghosts of humanity
and alcoholic Russian guards
who came to hate their lives
as much as they hated us,

my second memory was light—
outside the screams, shots and beatings
and that stench of death and dying–
sun through a damaged roof
spread inside me like a healing balm.

The “Quality of Light,” speaks of a subject that is explored in my forthcoming poetry collection called Frozen Souls. Such poems depict an intense and difficult history in order to invoke transformation, which seems to me to be a natural part of the process of birth, death and dying.

Wife of the House, on the other hand, is a collection about the process of learning how to connect the details of one’s every day life to a sense of presence and mindfulness in order to experience an expansion of consciousness. “Truth is One; Paths are Many,” was one of my guru’s favorite mottos, which brought home to me the value of tolerance gained through the exposure to different life experiences, cultures, belief systems, etc., a tolerance that can ultimately help us to be more whole as human beings.

Gudrun

A Poem Forthcoming Work

The earliest poems in Wife of the House were written 30 years ago when I was a young wife, IMG_2327stay-at-home mother and stepmother. The poems helped me work through being, at times, overwhelmed and frustrated in the process of trying to balance personal and spiritual needs with the needs of my family. Even though a number of the poems have been individually published previously, when Raincloud Press asked to bring the book out, I hesitated and thought, why go back?

Editing the book created an emotional impact that was surprisingly strong. I am now a raja yoga, meditation and hatha yoga instructor, and my current lifestyle does not easily mingle with some of the raw struggles depicted in Wife of the House. For example, when faced with the fierceness of a poem such as “An Unwanted Visitor” (especially when the unwanted visitor, in this case, was anger), my current self was at first somewhat shocked, even embarrassed.

I have been reminded, once again, in preparing Wife of the House for publication, that my quest flowerfor love, peace, harmony, is a continuing journey. I remind myself not to be complacent. Wisdom practice asks me to be willing to face all aspects of my humanity, so that it seems foolish to be ashamed of who I am or have been, because every experience is potential fodder for growth.

 Gudrun

Forthcoming Work

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