SLEEPING ROUGH

Diane

 

by Diane E Bokor

Flash nonfiction is creative nonfiction that usually comes in under 750 words.  It is a form that works well for writing memoir, essays and remembered events. There are many challenges to this genre.  You can learn more about writing “flash” in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction edited by Brevity Magazine’s editor, Dinty Moore.  What follows is a piece of my flash nonfiction.

Woke up… got out of bed… ran a comb across my head

It was predawn dark at 4AM when I turned on the radio, set perpetually to NPR.  At that hour, it’s always BBC World News. A guy with a very British accent was going on and on about the various ways social scientists try to measure the homeless population of San Francisco.  Over there, across the pond, they call it “sleeping rough.”

By mid-morning, I received the daily call from my bereft brother.  Except, this week he hasn’t called me for several days in a row. I took this as a good sign, as a new and improved phase since the death of our mother.  Upon her death, he was a howling animal, mad with grief. Each time we talk now, he tears up at some point in the conversation. During this conversation, I found out that he hadn’t been sleeping.  He lives alone now, in our mom’s condo, surrounded by all of her things, their things. He never goes outside, except maybe to check the mail. He tries to sleep. He went to his bed, then to hers, then to the recliner on the lanai, then to the recliner in front of the TV, then to the air-bed in the guest room, where I had been sleeping.  His voice was rough, his mood was rough and it occurred to me that he had found his own form of “sleeping rough.”

By afternoon, my dog needed a walk, so I pulled my SUV into the city park.  Unseasonably cold for early autumn, I was prepared with a cozy coat, a furry hat and a pair of gloves.  As I pulled the key out of the ignition, heavy fatigue hit me. It had been, after all, a very early rise this morning.  That, on top of the brother-worry I carried just below the surface. I explained to my dog (even though, he got the gist of my behavior before I did) that a little nap was in order before our walk.  I flattened the driver’s seat, balled my coat into a pillow, pulled the furry hat down over my weary eyes, curled into a fetal position and faded away. Eventually, I arose from a dream to the sound of lagoon geese honking.  And I thought, am I “sleeping rough?” 

Hours later, after multiple errands, I found myself again walking this patient little dog who seemed thrilled to spend the stop-and-go day with Mom.  It was a weird place for a dog walk. Evergreen is the low-rent end of town and we were behind an abandoned box-store near the grocery of my next errand.  Generally, I love exploring nooks and crannies with this guy, so we took off toward a wooded lot we had never seen (or sniffed) before. There was a fence with an open gate and a beckoning path lined with a jumble of weeds.  In the back of my head, I could hear my mom’s fearful rants to be careful “out there.” It’s a voice I fight with often – adventure and exploration versus safety and comfort. Off we went… There was no one else around, just a woman (me) with her little dog walking into a wooded lot in a sketchy part of town.  I’ve always been a sucker for a curving path in the woods. That’s why my mom was always ranting.

Not too far in, I saw it.  Stopped in my tracks. I squinted hard looking for movement.  Hard to say. Was there a guy in there, under the low-hanging boughs of the ginormous fir tree?  I saw tarps and cardboard boxes. Trash and clothing were strewn about. Was that lump somebody “sleeping rough?”

“Come on, puppy, we’ve got to go!”  I turned on my heels and said a little prayer for that guy, for my brother and for all those in the San Francisco headcount.

At bedtime, my feather pillow was calling my name.  I crawled under a heated blanket and on top of fresh percale.  The mattress was the perfect firmness. The room temperature was controlled.  One of those fake candles on a timer cast a soft golden glow. This was the exact opposite of “sleeping rough” and yet I tossed and turned for hours.  Then got up to put it all into words.                              

(Word count = 720)

 

 

LEAP INTO NANOWRIMO

By Marsha Nash Sultz

I’ve always loved to write. Aimlessly, gloriously, imaginatively. But not, unfortunately, with a lot of form or purpose. I had filing cabinet drawers full of half-finished drafts of stories, essays and one precious novel. For years I was a blitzkrieg writer.  If I had an idea, I’d attack it with vigor but not a lot of style. I had the desire, but not the foundation of good practice.

And then I heard about a class at FVCC taught by Kathy Dunnehoff on writing a novel in a month. 

What? 

I signed up immediately. NanoWrimo – National Novel Writing Month – is an interesting concept for writers. The goal is to write fifty-thousand words in thirty days. For a month, no editing, no fixing, no second-guessing. 

Just write, write, write. 

When embarking on a journey of fifty-thousand words, careful planning is required. Kathy encouraged us to fill out a calendar containing our word count per day, our days off for Thanksgiving, medical appointments and mental health days. 

Above all, Kathy told us to remember what Hemingway famously said about first drafts. “All first drafts are shit.” 

I kept that in mind when my eyes roamed over the scenes I had written the day before. I had to physically restrain myself, at first, from going back and fixing mistakes. Thankfully, Kathy reinforced our ‘rules’ each week in class and I muddled through a draft, knowing I had eleven months stretching before me to edit to my heart’s content.

I have participated in NanoWrimo six times. Twice I finished drafts of novels that I had started the year before. One year I wrote a novella. One year I started a novel and did a do-over two weeks into the month, so I only wrote about thirty thousand words that year.

NanoWrimo is a great way to jumpstart a novel and I’m grateful for the structure that it gave me. Now, three drafts of novels are on the shelf and I can choose whichever one calls to me. With experience, I realize that writing a first draft is merely the beginning of novel-writing. As I learn more about the craft of writing, more about the framework of scenes, plot and characters, I have those drafts in reserve to take out and refine.

If you are a beginning writer or a writer who struggles with how to dive into a new novel, give NanoWrimo a try. It’s a little like mind vomit, but the ideas you’ll come up with, unconstrained by trying to be perfect, will surprise you and lead to good content that can be corralled into form and structure as you edit after the month is over.

Remember: write, write, write!

 

Barbara Tuchman

my kingdom

By Janice McCaffrey

A book mark has been sitting on my desk for over two years now because I like the poem printed on it. Recently I looked up the poet and found that Barbara Tuchman (1903-1984) was not a poet, but a journalist and historian. Wikipedia says that she was criticized because she didn’t have a university degree and wrote history in a way that ordinary people could understand it. Seems she was ahead of her time. Nowadays easy-to-understand histories make the New York Times bestseller list (e.g. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown or The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter.)

Surfing the web I found a site with Barbara Tuchman quotes (quotetab.com). Here’s my favorites:      Human behavior is timeless.—Above all, discard the irrelevant.—One must stop conducting research before one has finished. Otherwise, one will never- stop and never finish.—Words are seductive and dangerous material, to be used with caution.                  An essential element for good writing is a good ear. One must listen to the sound of one’s own prose.           I have always been in a condition in which I cannot not write.          No writing comes alive unless the writer sees across his desk a reader, and searches constantly for the word or phrase which will carry the image he wants the reader to see, and arouse the emotion he wants him to feel. Without conscientiousness of a live reader, what a man writes will die on the page.               To be a bestseller is not necessarily a measure of quality, but it is a measure of communication.         Nothing is more satisfying then to write a good sentence. It is no fun to write lumpishly, dully, in prose the reader must plod through like wet sand. But it is a pleasure to achieve, if one can, a clear running prose that is simple yet full of surprises. This does not just happen. It requires skill, hard work, a good ear, and continual practice.             Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library.                   My bookmark says:  Without books, history is silent, literature dumb,science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.       Without books,  the development of civilization would have been impossible.      Books are engines of change, windows on the world, “lighthouses” (as a poet said” “erected in the sea of time.”     Books are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. They are humanity in print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Do All My Own Stunts, But Never Intentionally*

Ann Minnett MWW photo

 

By Ann Minnett

 

The title appeared in my Facebook feed this morning, posted by an ‘old’ friend. I resonated. 

I’m recovering from knee surgery (healing nicely) and had just purchased heavy duty ice cleats for my hiking boots. Northwest Montana is famous for winter ice, but I intend to keep moving, regardless of the weather. Hikes in all seasons are not only therapeutic for the soul but counteract the physical strains of writing.

Yes, writing.

Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy, spoke at the 2019 Flathead River Writer’s Conference. She talked about the physical stress writers experience by the act of writing. She’s had Carpal Tunnel surgeries on both wrists, developed from nonstop hours of writing. My fellow writers complain of shoulder pain, circulation problems, eyestrain, lower back pain, and my favorite, numb butt. 

I get it. When I’m writing and find my creative zone, it’s hard to stop, stand up, flex, bend, or take a walk. Health breaks disrupt the creative process. 

Recovering from surgery, I walk with a cane and try not to overdo my physical activity. Yesterday, I walked a bit outside and then sat at my desk for a couple of hours, forgetting to move. Ouch! I over did sedentary

That’s why I ordered the hiking cleats this morning. And that’s why my friend’s Facebook message hit home. I don’t have to hike five miles and slip on the ice to hurt myself. Writing, one of the most pleasurable activities of my life, can sneak up and bite me if I’m not careful.

Ann Minnett

annminnett.com

Twitter.com/@ann_minnett

Instagram.com/@annminnett

Facebook.com/annminnettwriter

annminnettwriter@gmail.com

*Facebook.com/OldTimers Community

 

Writing Blind

claudette young

By Claudette Young

Writers come in all shapes and sizes. Each one’s background is different, experiences unique, and needs individualized. 

But the challenges each writer faces aren’t always obvious. For me, the challenge is doing what I do from behind eyes that are virtually blind to the outside world.  One eye contributes little and the other battles to remain a viable organ.

So, how do I produce anything in this sight and tech-driven world? I have lots of help, in several forms.

I use Dragon Naturally Speaking for dictation and command software. Coupled with MS Office, I can write, revise and edit. My dragon, Usul, allows me to take command of my computer. Usul can transcribe my spoken notes from a voice recorder into a Word document as easily as hearing it through my headset mike.

MS Word also has speech/reading capacity and a voice command capability available. Any good geek—on the Squad or not—can set up that function. A bit of practice gains mastery.

For screenwriting, I use Final Draft, which is easy to learn, reads back text for revision and editing, and has everything needed for the job.

If I’m forced to read actual text, I can set up my computer document for huge font sizes. My fallback setting is 22 pt font—Times New Roman, to be exact. And a good headset with microphone helps keep things under control most of the time. 

Good software helps. As with any disability/handicap/challenge, accepting the need to adapt is the most critical aspect of working with a vision impairment. Understanding what you need, verses what you want, is also key.

For those who are facing a similar challenge or who know someone who faces it, I give these pointers.

  • In order to get the resources–whether visual aids, training, or support—tackle the situation head-on.
  • Diagnosis from a qualified specialist gives you more pertinent information than you might think. You can’t adjust or adapt without that knowledge and support. Once the problem is defined, you can search for necessary resources.
  • Begin with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. The gal to connect in Kalispell is Melissa Leggett: 406-751-5940. She’s in charge of the Division for the Blind for the Kalispell area. She has more resources at her fingertips than you’d ever find on your own.
  • If you need specialized equipment, there are avenues to pursue. Melissa can steer you toward what you need and when/where to lean harder in that direction. Within a year or so, I’ll probably need a large auto reader for print materials. Such readers come in many forms and sizes from desktop to hand-held. I already use a camera reader to enlarge print, for instance. Oh, and plenty of strong handheld magnifiers or lighted headgear.
  • Books, magazines and periodicals are available in audio form through the public library (provided by Library of Congress), Amazon Prime and Audible, and individual publishers.
  • For those online magazines and other reading material, Dragon Naturally speaking can read them for you, if necessary. 
  • The trick is to know when your eyes are being strained too much and when to let go of the physical reading experience. 
  • Organizations, such as Lion’s Club International, are also great resources for exploration. Lions Club chapters dedicate themselves to assisting those in need of dog guides—Leader Dogs for the Blind, specialized equipment too costly for the average person to afford, and other necessities like eyeglasses.
  • Yet, the most helpful and necessary resource is an adequate support structure to help buoy up a person’s spirits or help for navigating the unfamiliar territory of adaptation and growth.

I hope I’ve given those who need it the information to help make informed decisions about dealing with dimming vision. Not all are writers, but everyone is touched by this malady. Globally, blindness is one of the fastest growing challenges today, both economically and medically. Few are left untouched by it.

If anyone needs or wants additional information or questions answered, please feel free to contact me at: ettedualc48@yahoo.com. I’ll be happy to answer what I can or send you to someone who can get the information to you.

Remember, no one is alone. As writers, we care about each other and are here to help whenever possible.

Claudette

http://www.claudettejyoung.com

Resources:

  • Dragon Naturally Speaking can be found on Amazon.com or Nuance.com—Nuance is the software provider of this product
  • Final Draft for screenwriters/playwrights can be had at both Amazon.com and FinalDraft.com
  • Tutorials for Word Speech are available in video form on YouTube or on Lynda.com tutorials
  • Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Kalispell–   

          121 Financial Drive Suite B,  Kalispell, MT 59901, (406) 751-5940                   http://dphhs.mt.gov/detd/vocrehab/mvrservices.aspx

  • Library of Congress Low Vision Reading Program—Imagine If Library – downtown Kalispell or any legitimate library in the county.