3/30/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I returned today to the women inmates’ book club at the Waukesha County Jail. This was my second time there and they were reading Learning To Tell (A Life)Time, the sequel to The Home For Wayward Clocks. As the women filed in, I saw some faces that I recognized and a few new ones. Especially noticeable to me was a woman who was still new to the jail the last time I saw her. At that first meeting, she looked exhausted and loose-ended. At one point, I heard her say, “I guess I should have brushed my hair today.” From where she sat in the front row, her despair and disorientation just came to me in waves. But today, she was bright. She was the first to start talking – not only had she read Clocks and Lifetime, but she’d read Oddities too. Partway through the meeting, she had to leave to talk to her parole officer and she came back with news of being released on Tuesday. Her happiness waved from her in the same way her despair did just two weeks before.

There was another change too. I’d been given permission – by the women and by the jail administration – to ask the women questions. I had so many, but they were eager to talk about the book and we did. Their insights were down deep and heartfelt.

When the discussion slowed down, my escort told them that I was aware I could ask them questions too and she opened it up to me. I found myself telling the women about my experience at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institute last summer. How I felt about those men. About the moment when I was surrounded by them and realized I wasn’t afraid; I didn’t feel like I was with beasts who’d performed violent crimes. I was just sharing my enthusiasm for clocks with men who knew how to make them. And they were happy I was there.

And then I told the women that I felt the same about them. Being there, talking to them, was no different than any book club I’ve ever been invited to. Not the ones in Waukesha or Brookfield, Shorewood or Sussex. The state of Oregon or in Minnesota. In libraries or private homes or coffee houses or restaurants. Or even, I predicted, when I skype into a book club in Israel in May. They’re doing Lifetime too.

I looked at these women and I said, “I see you. I don’t see what you’ve done. I see you.”

And suddenly, I had an entire group of crying women, including the escort. Tissues had to be passed. One woman, the only one in blue scrubs and not orange, said, “Thank you for giving us back our personhood.”

Well, holy cow.

When the women left, they were duly reminded to dispose of their tissues – they could not take anything except the books with them back to their cells. I watched them go. I wished I could leave them with something – even though I think I already did.

As I waited for my escort in a different room, I noticed the clock on the wall. It was encased in a heavy wire barrier. Even the clocks were in cages.

When we treat humans like humans, that’s who we get. But when we treat them like animals…

Oh, those women. They are often referred to as ladies or girls or females in that place, but I refuse. Those Women. On this gray and rainy day, they lit up my life. Under the fluorescent lights, the only light they receive, they were summer sunshine.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

3/29/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Early this morning, when I finally finished work, I watched an episode of the Netflix show, Grace & Frankie, before going to bed. In this particular episode, one of the gay ex-husbands confesses that he thinks he’s going to go to Hell when he dies – that he believes the Bible declares that homosexuality is evil and as such, he’s going down instead of up. A friend who happens to be a priest soothes him by telling him his version of Heaven. He said he believed that the deciding factor is how people think of you. He gave the example of Hitler: a man who had great power and success, but who was ultimately hated, and as such, he’s in Hell. Then he gave the example of Mother Theresa: a woman who was well-loved. Heaven.

I had the very odd moment of seeing my own emotion reflected on the actor’s face. Relief. What a wonderful way to look at the Heaven or Hell question.

And maybe it means that if there’s a Heaven and Hell, I’ll be going in the right direction too. Which would be, you know, up.

I don’t align myself with any organized religion. Nor do I roll my eyes up to the vast sky and sigh that I’m spiritual. I do call myself a Seeker. I don’t know what I think, but I am thinking, considering, ruminating, and I’m okay with that.

Later today, after I’d slept like a normal person and then met with a couple clients, taught a class, went to the chiropractor to get crunched and molded into someone three inches taller, I sang along with Hemi’s CD player as I drove into Starbucks. The song was Coldplay’s Viva La Vida. I stopped after I sang the lines, “For some reason I can’t explain, I know St. Peter won’t call my name.” It’s a line I’ve always sung with great gusto and sincerity. So there it was again. The Heaven/Hell question.

I thought again of the actor’s face on my television screen in the first hour of day when the light is night, but the clock says it’s morning.  I thought of my own reflection. Relief. I thought of just last week, when an unexpected gift from a class of wonderful students arrived in the mail and my husband said, “You’ve got to know you’re loved, dear.”  I sought out my own thoughts, even though I couldn’t come up with any solid conclusions.

But so many people I know are going to end up in Heaven. Which means that Heaven is right here. Right now.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

3/28/18

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

For Christmas last year, I asked for a DNA kit from Ancestry.com. I was curious. I’ve always been told that I was half German, a quarter French and a quarter Irish. But there are some questionable things in my family tree and so I decided I wanted to know.  When that particular present didn’t show up under my tree, I went ahead and ordered it on my own. I dutifully spit and drooled into the little test tube – do you have any idea how many times you have to spit to gather approximately a quarter teaspoon of saliva? And then I mailed it off and settled down to wait for my results, some six to eight weeks hence.

While waiting, I’ve begun paying attention to the commercials for the DNA discovery. The recipients are all thrilled with their results, and they’re all super tuned into their “cultures”. But I haven’t seen one yet where the person found out they were more than twenty-something percent…something. They’re all excited, talking about learning everything they can about their “culture”, about who they are, trying on costumes and learning languages. Even if they’re still three-quarters something else. They all act as if they weren’t who they were before this test.

Weren’t they?

I want to know what I’m made up of, how gene after gene came together throughout history and settled into me. But I don’t feel it really will affect how I see myself, who I am. I don’t even know that it should.

Recently, a new friend offered me the opportunity to have the I Ching read. I accepted. The I Ching is an ancient Chinese manual of divination, based on eight symbolic trigrams and sixty-four hexagrams, interpreted in terms of the principles of yin and yang. Some say it is the oldest book in history. I’ve never had this done before and I’ve always been interested, just as I like playing around with my astrological forecast and once had my numerology done. I read Tarot cards. And I go a lot by my intuition. So today, Scott and I met on the phone for an hour and he tossed those ancient coins. What came up was the Fellowship of Men hexagram.

Loosely translated, this means success upon crossing the great ocean, or the great water. It means I tend to do things for the greater good, I look beyond myself for how I can help others, I’m transparent and have no hidden agendas, I’m a leader and a role model. Hell, it means I’m just an all around nice person. I’ll buy that. I thought of my student just last week saying that what makes me different is that I celebrate my students’ successes just as heartily as I do my own. And it made me think of the “great oceans” that I’ve crossed. What I’ve survived. Building the studio. Persevering in writing. All in all, there have been a lot of oceans.

Just like there were oceans crossed by my ancestors who slid their genes down the web of time and tangled them all up in me.

But I am who I am, I think, because of my own beliefs, my own actions, my own thoughts, my own oceans. My “culture” is my lifetime. And I embrace it. Who I am today excites me just as much when I look in the mirror as those people on television looking at their reflections while wearing costumes from someone else’s country, someone else’s lifetime.

I received an email today, saying that there are delays in getting the results back from the DNA test because of high demand from the holidays. But that I should be patient, because I “will know who I am soon.”

I already do.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

(Thanks, Scott.)

3/27/17

So today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Six weeks ago tomorrow, I finished my new novel, “In Grace’s Time”. Last week, I celebrated its acceptance for publication, a scant five weeks after completion. Which was wonderful.

But there was something else going on too, that didn’t sit with me so well. The day I wrote “The End” on that page was the day I stopped writing. Well, other than these little Moments. I just stopped.

It wasn’t writer’s block, which I don’t believe in. In almost 21 years of teaching, I’ve learned that when a student says he or she has writer’s block, they’re actually editing a piece out of existence before it even draws breath. They start to write, mutter, “That’s stupid,” and hit delete. And again and again. At the end of the day, they say, “I didn’t get any writing done. I must have writer’s block.” No…you just didn’t give yourself a chance.

But this was different. I had plenty of ideas. I sat down to write. Sometimes, I put down a sentence or two. But I didn’t say, “That’s stupid,” and hit delete. I said, “I really don’t feel like doing this.” And I walked away. Sometimes, I didn’t write a sentence at all.

I’ve had times of not writing before. Usually, after finishing a big project like a novel, I give myself a week off. But when that new week comes around, I’m back at it. Sometimes, I’ve just been flat-out mad, usually at the publishing industry, and I quit. But after smoldering for a couple days, I’m back at it. But that wasn’t this.

This time, I really, really just had absolutely no desire.

Writers tend to define themselves by, well, writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. If you’re not, you’re not. I usually cut myself and my students more slack than that. Writing is a pretty intense thing. You tap into places in your brain that you didn’t even know existed. And if you’re a fiction writer, you tap into lives that aren’t your own, experiences that aren’t your own, feelings that aren’t your own. No, fiction is not a writer’s sneaky way of writing about him or herself. Quite the opposite. At a book festival, I led a panel on writers crossing from a different genre to fiction. A poet writing a first novel said, “All fiction is based on the writer’s real life.”

Nah. Not even close, baby.

The best thing about being a fiction writer, and also the most exhausting, is that you get to be everyone but yourself. You get to be in life after life after life. You get to learn things you didn’t know, understand things you didn’t understand, feel things that would never occur within your own lifetime. Oh, amazing.

And I was beginning to wonder there for a while if I was done. Was I tapped out? Wrung out? Was the energy gone, the imagination gone? The need, the desire, the passion? Gone.

Yeah, well.

Today, I wrote. Nine glorious pages of a new novel. A new novel which has to be called something different because the new novel is the one I just finished. And I wrote these nine pages despite:

  • Going to get a copy of the new novel made to mail to a blurber, and having the guy behind the counter at Office Depot have such a case of MondayMorningItis, it took almost an hour.
  • Taking my car to have its emissions tested, it passed, bringing it home, going online to pay the fee and discovering I brought the wrong car in. Get in the right car, rinse, repeat.
  • Interruption here, disruption there.
  • Sat down with an hour before I started meeting with clients.

And I wrote.

And yes, that helps. It ALWAYS helps. Despite. Anyway.

3/26/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I look forward to Sunday morning all week long. Sunday morning for me typically starts in the afternoon, because I don’t set the alarm and I often don’t wake up until noon.

I don’t rush to get ready. I don’t rush to get dressed, to fire down a breakfast, to get on the computer. Instead, I stagger down the stairs, turn on the fireplace, get a nice hot cup of coffee and two doughnuts. I grab certain sections of the newspaper and I fall into my recliner. Certain articles get read to Michael when I’m ready to talk, which isn’t usually until at least half of my cup of coffee is gone. The rest, I hug to myself.

The paper is read in a certain order. Comics first. Then the Tap section, which contains news of the arts and books. Then Fresh, which has recipes and The Home Of The Week. And finally the Real Estate section, so that I can see what houses and condos have sold in Waukesha and for how much. I have no idea why that interests me, but I’ve always read it.

It’s a routine of comfort and familiarity. And it’s the only day of the week that I don’t hit the ground running.

This morning, I woke at just before noon to the sound of rain falling. A lot of rain. Again. I lay there for a while and listened. Then I woke Michael. He has an important role on Sundays. He gets downstairs before I do and walks the dogs, picking up the Sunday paper from our stoop on his way back in. Because of this, my Sunday mornings are seamless and flawless…the paper waits for me on the counter. Still lying in bed, I listened to Michael talk to each cat, and each cat talked back. He talked to the dogs through the security gate and they talked back too. Michael is a morning talker. I am not, not until I have that coffee. As a result, he and the animals have entire conversations before I gather the energy to mutter a word. When he went downstairs, I got up and did what I needed to do before my own descent.

But he came back with dire news.

“The paper’s soaked!” he called upstairs. “It was thrown into a puddle.”

I was aghast. It made my voice croak into action pre-coffee. “Wasn’t it wrapped in plastic bags?”

“It was. Soaked through. Every section. I don’t think you’ll even be able to read it.”

Oh, no.

My day ruined, I consoled myself with the fact that everything else was intact: the coffee, the doughnuts, the fireplace, the recliner. I could read a book. I could.

Blech. I love books. But not on Sunday morning. Comics. Tap. Fresh. Real Estate. Dammit.

I went downstairs and got my coffee and my doughnuts and I turned on the fireplace. Then I turned to the counter to retrieve my book. The counter where normally on a Sunday, my paper waited. Something I waited for too, all week long.

My book was there. So was the soaked-through newspaper, a sodden mess of bleeding ink and pages that were impossible to turn. And…another one. Another newspaper! Perfectly dry. Perfectly crisp. All there.

Michael ran next door to Walgreens. He bought me a whole new newspaper, before I even got downstairs.

Hot coffee. Two doughnuts. Fireplace. Recliner. Comics. Tap. Fresh. Real Estate. A loving husband who knows me better than I know myself. Happy moment.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

3/25/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Today was all about my daughter. And music. And my daughter and music. Olivia was competing/performing in WSMA – the Wisconsin School Music Association – solo and ensemble competition. She played with the Waukesha South Symphony Orchestra, she did a duet with a cellist friend, and she soloed. A pretty intense day for a sixteen-year old musician. Especially one who has difficulty dealing with chaos and with noise.

Can you imagine being pulled toward something that also gives you the willies if it gets too loud, too discordant, too noises-from-everywhere-and-everything? And yet, anyone involved in the arts knows the pushme/pullyou of passion. You love to write, but the blank page makes you want to play solitaire. You love to paint, but that first splotch on the canvas that isn’t quite the way you imagined it makes you want to go do your laundry.  You sing, you dance, you act, and you love it, love it, love it, HATE IT, love it, love it, love it…

Now multiply that by a billion and you have the autistic artistic child.

Olivia has been drawn to music from day one. She loved musical toys, the radio, commercials with theme music, any children’s program with characters who sang. We’d been told she would not speak, yet from her first day, she vocalized, mimicking our intonations and lilts. One middle of the night, this silent-but-not-really child belted out across the baby monitor:

“Bee boy, bee boy, eechagonnaboo? Eechagonnaboo eeday come foh yew.”

The theme from Cops. Which Michael watched that day, with her playing on the floor. Listening.

Watching Olivia today, watching her all of her young life, I’ve been reminded of a priest from Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Cloquet, Minnesota, which I attended as a little girl. This priest bellowed at the congregation one Sunday morning, “Sing! I don’t care how you sound! The good Lord gave you voices so you can sing! Raise’em up!” And I did and still do, every chance I get. Singing is a huge joy in my life. And now, music is a joy in Olivia’s.

The violin is an extension of her heart. Her voice. It soars. She soars.

I think of all the moments we’ve had, the hard moments. Being told she’d be nonverbal. Fighting with her to get her to eat because she hated anything in her mouth. I cried over so many meals. Telling her preschool teacher that we fully intended Olivia to live a full life, go to college, be whoever it is she wants to be, and being embraced and told, “Well, we can always dream, can’t we.”

Oh, we’ve dreamed. This child is a dream. This isn’t a moment of happiness; it’s a lifetime. Hers and mine and her father’s.

A couple years ago, I combined National Poetry Month and Autism Awareness Month (both in April) and committed to writing a haiku a day.  My favorite:

I look at my girl.

I don’t see Autism. I

see a Miracle.

 Today, I watched that miracle stand in front of a judge, calmly introduce herself and her piece of music by Handel. She talked about what she learned. And then she played. She let it rip. Holy, holy, holy cow. Holy moment.

When she got home, she changed into a shirt. On the front, it says, “I Can And I Will.” And on the back, it proclaims, “Watch me.”

Oh, I am.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

3/24/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news. (Though the news today, with the defeat of Trumpcare, is pretty damn good.)

Today, I announced yet another student landing a book contract. Successes earned by AllWriters’ writers is a major source of joy for me, but this one really raised me up. From an earlier moment this week: Ani afa al ze.  I’m flying with it!

I’ve known this particular student for fifteen years. I started working with her before I even had a studio. Before any of my books were published. Way back then, Gwen was smacked down hard by an agent. An ignorant, pretentious, mean agent who had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. But it profoundly affected Gwen. Knocked her off her pins. It took me years to get this amazing writer writing again, and years to get her submitting again. And now her novel is accepted. By the same publisher who is publishing my seventh book. We got accepted on the same day.

Yet instead of seeing a rush of glory from Gwen, I saw fear and self-doubt. She was afraid if she sent back the contract, she’d find out it was sent to her by mistake. An office error. She was afraid if she announced it, she’d jinx it, that it really wasn’t true.

Any idea what it does to a teacher’s heart when her lovely student emails after an acceptance and says, “I’m scared”?

So I announced it first. And she followed my footsteps.

But in all honestly, this is how it goes with writers. Writers are the most confounding combination of ego and crippling self-doubt that I’ve ever experienced. Think about it. Not only do we have the audacity to say, “I’m going to write a poem/story/essay/memoir/for God’s sake, a BOOK!,” but we do so because we think people will want to read it. But I can also tell you that the absolute truth is that while we say we’re going to write that poem/story/essay/memoir/for God’s sake, a BOOK!, and while we write it, we’re thinking, Why am I doing this? Nobody will like this. This is absolute crap. I should quit. I’m wasting my time.

My role as a teacher, pretty much at an equal level with educating, is encouraging. Supporting. Saying yes, it’s that good, yes, you’re doing it right, yes, this is fabulous, no, you shouldn’t quit, no, please don’t burn the manuscript. Please don’t jump off that cliff.

And as a writer, I say the same damn things to myself, all the time. Because all of those things I wrote two paragraphs ago, those awful things that writers say to themselves, I mutter to myself too. Even after seven books, hundreds of stories and poems and essays.

You know what? This same student who is scared said to me this week during our session, “So I can’t figure out where your self-doubt comes from.” Well, there’s the pot calling the kettle black. But in this case, I’m not sure which of us is the pot and which is the kettle.

I had a happy moment, a giggle moment, earlier this week that I didn’t write about. I was at a book festival meeting and my high school creative writing teacher was in attendance. While someone else was trying to describe my role to a new person, my teacher cut in and said, “She does what she does because she has gonads.” (The giggle moment? My high school teacher said gonads!) Michael has often said I’ve got balls as well.

Now yes, I’m offended that a woman who is brave is said to have male parts. But beyond that, I take it as a compliment. Because I’m also that confounding mixture of ego and crippling self-doubt. But I also have balls (or a really strong vagina, as the case may be). And that’s what’s gotten me where I am, and that’s what makes me reach out to others and give them a healthy dose of balls/vagina too, whether or not they naturally have them.

Seeing this student get back on her feet? My happy moment. I am hoping that my next happy moment will be when she tells me it’s something she’s earned and deserved.

By the way. www.allwritersworkshop.com. My studio makes me happy.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

3/23/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I was out driving today when two sandhill cranes crossed in front of me. I took my foot off the gas to let the car coast as I watched the big birds fly across the highway and land in a field. I’m scared of birds, especially big ones, but when they’re in flight, they feel like ballet to me. They’re not scary in the air. They’re powerful and graceful and stunning. For that moment, coasting in the car, I flew with them. I was uplifted. The hemi engine pushing me forward disappeared and there was only air and wingbeat and soar.

Let one land next to me, and it would be a whole different story. But today, all I had to do was admire.

It made me think of a legend someone once told me, that poets are carried to heaven on the backs of sandhill cranes. I’ve never been able to verify that, which makes me wonder if it was a spur-of-the-moment made-up legend. But still, I like the thought behind it
It does make me wonder what types of birds would carry fiction writers to heaven. Or memoirists to heaven. Or screenwriters or essayists. Why can’t sandhill cranes carry all writers to heaven? Did they choose the poets? Did the poets choose them? Was the person who told me this a poet?

It’s amazing to me how we constantly divide ourselves into teams, no matter who we are or what we’re about. When I was in grad school, there was always a softball game during the summer residency. Poets Vs. Prose. Why? Why were we separated like that, isolated, made into opposing teams? It was a bit confusing for me, a writer who writes it all. Where was I supposed to go? What part of myself was I supposed to ignore?

So I never played.

Boys vs. girls, men vs. women. Academics vs. laypeople. White collar vs. blue collar. Black vs. white vs. Hispanic vs. culture after culture after culture. Upper class vs. middle class vs. lower class. Democrat vs. Republican, liberal vs. conservative.

When you think about it, our gym teachers had it right. We lined up and counted off for teams. One, two, one, two. Sometimes, you tried to count ahead and friends would arrange themselves so that they would be on the same teams, but gym teachers tended to catch that. So you ended up on a team at random. Well, except for those awful gym classes where captains were chosen and you had to wait for your name to be called. I hated that. But the number game? That was all right. You weren’t thrown together for any beliefs or qualities or lack of beliefs or lack of qualities. You just were. Next time around, you could be with a whole other group of people.

Remember the experiment every well-meaning teacher did at some point? Divvying up people by the color of their eyes and then making one eye color feel deficient? Like the one-two count-off, that just hasn’t seemed to carry over into our adulthoods.

I like being part of a group, when I don’t feel that the group is shutting anyone else out. One of my favorite type of human interest stories to read is where one type of animal raises another type, because that’s just the right thing to do. Those always make me happy.

I guess wanting to think of everyone as just one big team where members serve different roles at different times for the good of all is idealistic. So then I guess I’ll be idealistic and not play when groups want me to choose one over the other.

If the sandhill cranes carrying poets to heaven was a spur-of-the-moment made-up legend, then I’m going to change it. Sandhill cranes now carry everyone to heaven. Birds carry everyone to heaven. Anybody can carry anyone to heaven.

We can all go to heaven, if we so choose. I’ll choose, and I’ll ask a sandhill crane to carry me. My friend Okla who passed away this week is in heaven. Whoever did so carried him reverently. And I bet he was welcomed.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

3/22/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

This morning, I met via Skype again with my client, Joanna, a British journalist living in Israel. She taught me a phrase in Hebrew. “Ani afa al ze.” She broke it down for me this way:

Ani (I) afa (fly) al ze (on it)

It means, she said, I’m crazy about it, I adore it, I’m wild for it. And in Joanna’s own personal translation: I’m flying with it!

Such joy in the words. And I didn’t know, in that hour with Joanna, that ani afa al ze was my horoscope. I was going to fly with it. My moment of happiness was the entire day.

First, I officially signed the contract for the sale of my seventh book, my fourth novel. I’d made the very difficult decision, with six books under my belt, to find a different publisher with the seventh. It’s time for something new, but I was worried about how the search would go. It took me three years to sell my first book. But five weeks from the day I finished the new novel, a contract landed on my desk, offered by a publisher who was excited to have me.

Then, my husband, who lost his job four weeks ago, was offered a fabulous accounting position with a local theatre. He interviewed yesterday. He got the job today. Michael got his start writing radio drama. The idea of working in a theatre…oh, intoxicating.

This week started out in the worst possible way. The death of my young friend, only 38 years old. My daughter, experiencing the mean girl treatment at school. My daughter is going to be traveling soon, visiting Disney World with her high school orchestra. Before he lost his job, my husband and I considered going to Florida as well, staying close by, in case she needed us. With the loss of the job, we no longer felt we could do this. The onset of the mean girl attack left our daughter vulnerable and we were even more anxious and considered removing her from the trip, even though that would likely feel, to her, like she was being punished.

I felt like I was being pulled apart by practicality and the need to be my daughter’s safety net. That’s what I am. I didn’t want the net to be full of holes. It never has been before, and she needs to know it never ever will be.

Then today: the job. So now Olivia is going to Florida. And so am I. I will be where I need to be. Just in case.

A new book. A new job. The safety net packed and ready to go.

Ani afa al ze. I’m flying with it!

But there’s still one more moment. In the mail today, there was an envelope, addressed to me with handwriting I didn’t recognize. There wasn’t a return address. The postmark was smudged. When I opened it, I found a pre-paid credit card. Stuck to it was a post-it note that read:

“Kathie, You have helped so many realize their writing dreams. Please let some of us help a bit now.”

Michael turned to me and said, “You’ve got to know you’re loved, dear.”

And that’s pretty much when I lost it.

I started this daily ritual, this moment of happiness, because of the Asshat in the White House. But you know what? Despite that, despite him and his orange crew, there are still so many good people in this country and in the world. If the Asshat builds a wall, there will be those who will help people climb over it, around it, under it. If he takes away a woman’s right to her own body, there will be those who step in and restore respect and compassion. If he keeps insisting that this is going to be an only white, only Christian country, there will be many who raise their faces to the sun and shine who we really are, what we are really made of.

If there’s a woman who feels pretty damn close to the brink of despair, there will be many who surround her – her students, her family, her friends, and absolute strangers – to help.

It looks like I have a safety net too.

I have never felt so loved. I’m flying with it!

Ani afa al ze.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

3/21/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Well, today. Today is exactly five weeks after I finished writing the final draft of my seventh book. My fourth novel.

For five weeks, a copy of the book has sat beside me on my desk. On top of it is a little Christmas ornament of a Chatty Cathy doll. The ornament even has a string that you can pull and it has Cathy’s authentic voice and phrases. Chatty Cathy figures heavily in this novel. She sat beside me during the writing. Now she waited with me.

And today, a contract landed on my desk, accepting it for publication.

Five weeks.

If you’re a writer, you know that an acceptance within five weeks of finishing a book is unheard of.

So my guess is…the book’s pretty damn good.

The parallels that show up in my life stagger me sometimes. Last week, I had three different students, all writing books, complain, “This is so HARD! This is so much WORK!” And they all talked about “flow”, that ephemeral goal writers are supposed to strive for – hear a deep, dreamy, oval-sounding accent here: “Ooooooh, it just floooooooowed…like my breath onto the page…like my blood through my veins…ooooooh…”

Well, no. It doesn’t flow. Chances are if you read something that flows, it originally sounded like a blender eating bricks.

What makes a real writer a real writer? They WORK HARD until it FLOWS.

I’ve worked hard. I still do. Sometimes, I think we equate “good” with “easy.” It’s not. I will be egotistical enough here to say flat-out that I’m good. I’m better than good. And it has never come easy. I’m good because I work at it. I’m good because I choose to work hard at it and make whatever it is I’m writing as close to perfect as I can make it.

And that’s why there are six books and soon to be a seventh.

This moment of happiness? This one isn’t poignant. It’s not touching. It’s not funny. I tried to shape it that way, I really did, but it just won’t let me. You know why? You know what this is?

It’s a CROW. I am CROWING. And goddammit, I am going to crow until I’m hoarse. I’ve earned it.

Seven books. It took me three years to sell my first book. It took me five weeks to sell this one.

Ohmygod. SEVEN.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.