Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Interview At Chiseled in Rock

This man:
Gusto Dave Jackson

Who Wrote this:

(Which is a really, REALLY, good read, by the way- you should buy it here.)

...invited me over to his blog Chiseled in Rock to talk about my essay in: 



(Which, OK, you can buy here, just in time for Mother's Day!)

Thanks Dave and CIR friends for your kindness and support. 


Monday, March 31, 2014

Follow Your Weirdness

The kind folks over at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers invited me to write a post for their blog. It's up today, if you want to check it out here. I appreciate the opportunity and invitation even more than I usually would a similar invitation elsewhere. For a year, I was a participating member in RMFW. For a couple months, I helped manage their Twitter account, and then for six months, I worked with the amazing Pat Stoltey and helped edit their blog. It was a fantastic experience; I loved being a part of this supportive, active, and vital group.

In December, when it came time to pay for and renew my membership, I made the tough decision to not do so, which meant I regretfully had to relinquish my role as co-editor. But inherent to the title, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, their focus was...well...fiction. Go figure. I decided membership with a nonfiction association may benefit me a little more directly, since really, this is my writing passion.

In a sea of writers, sometimes I feel like a lone duck in my love of nonfiction, whether it be essays, articles, or hopefully (someday?) a full-length nonfiction book. Who knows, maybe someday I'll attempt writing fiction again-- you never know where the spirit will lead. But in the meantime I must, as Annie Dillard suggests, "Follow my own weirdness".

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring Is Coming!

Spring is coming! Spring is coming!

I know this-- not because of the several feet of snow still melting in my yard...or the still twenty degree temperatures in the morning...or the snow that may still insist on falling. I know this because...

1. My husband cleared the snow off our deck!  The other day, as he chipped at the last of the chunks of ice, he turned to me and said, "There. Your happy place is cleared."  He knows me. He knows how much basking in the sun on our south-facing deck fills me with contentment, like it did today while I bundled up in a jacket because the air is still cool, but later stripped it off as the sun warmed me up, and wrote, longhand, in a notebook. Oh the sun felt delicious and warmed my heart.

2. I'm jogging again. As the winter slogs on, the temperatures fall, and the roads are in a perpetual state of snow and ice, I move my workouts indoors to the elliptical or even the pool. But nothing takes the place of being outdoors. As soon as the morning temps hit at least 20 degrees, I want out. I have been able to jog the last two weeks (ouch, did I ever feel that time off- whew!) and I'm loving it.

3. The birds are back! You've heard of the crazy cat lady (I think I know a couple of them on Facebook, actually). Well I'm the crazy bird lady. I love to keep my feeders filled with thistle and seed and the hummingbird feeders filled with sugar water. Soon my goldfinches will be back filling the trees with flashes of yellow and the western tanager back with its parrot like colors. But the true sign that the season has changed will be when the hummingbirds return and fill the air with the trill of their hyperactive wings.

4. The garden beds are still covered in crunchy whites stuff, but here and there the muddy earth is poking through. I can hear the water sucking into the dirt, and I can smell the damp, loamy smell of soil. It's almost time to dig out my gardening gloves.




It will be a while before I can officially declare it spring in the mountains, no matter what the calendar declares. But just this morning, I walked out to my garage and had a conversation with my kayak hanging from its hooks on the ceiling. "It won't be long now," I reassured. "It's almost time. You just wait."


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

80s Anyone?

There is a video clip going around Facebook featuring Kevin Bacon, icon star of the 80s and hit movie, Footloose (the original and best version, of course). If you haven't seen it yet, take a look. If you're a child of the 80s (as I, ahem, am), it will make you laugh.




I graduated high school in 1982 and college in 1986. I was in my stride during this era. My daughter recently said to me, "I wish I had been a teen in the 80s. It just seems like such a fun era."  I had to laugh. I don't know. It was probably like any time period for any teen. It's easy to glamorize the past.

But as I thought about it, yeah, maybe it was a really super-cool decade. Here are a few of my favorite memories from the 80s:

1. In honor of Kevin, the Kevinator, Kevvsttterrrr, I'll start off with the movie, Footloose, my rebel movie during college.

2. One hit wonders like Nena (who?) 99 Luftballoons.

3. Vans. Yes, I owned a pair.


4. Hair. Big. Feathered. Over-permed. 




5. Shoulder pads. Big. (LOL@ the hair, and the purse and the shoulder pads.. and well everything)



6. Trivial Pursuit. Augh, I hated that game!

7. Rubicks Cube. Nope, never could do it.


9. Martin Short. Billy Crystal. Eddie Murphy, Julia Louise-Dreyfus.... (80s SNL anyone?)

10.  Stone washed jeans (note: the hair, again, and the hand-designed, slick-paint/puffy paint with bling sweatshirts). 



Oh the 80s. Memories anyone?

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Little Writing, Renewal and Publication

Welcome back to A Thought Grows. Here's what I've been up to.

I went to the beach (all together now, Oooo and Ahhhhh).












And came home to this:


Sigh. 

Two weeks after coming home and feeling refreshed, my beloved furry companion became suddenly ill, and I had to say good-bye to my hiking and jogging friend. 


 But, in the midst of sadness there are blessings. I received a box of:


in which I have a personal essay. It's scheduled to be released and for sale March 14th. 

And, the best news of all-- my son has been declared cancer-free and released from treatments!


It's hard to see, but he's getting his hair back!

Finally, over at my other blog, Julie Luek, I am inviting readers to join me in a 40-Day Lent or Spring Renewal Journey starting March 5th (Ash Wednesday for those who celebrate Lent). Stop by and get some great ideas on how to make this a time of spiritual refreshment and creative renewal. 


Julie



Friday, January 24, 2014

Needed: A One Month Retreat, Stat!


When I was young and involved in church youth groups, it was a big deal to go on retreats. They were special, and we looked forward to them. They were an anticipated long weekend, usually in a pretty, woodsy location, away from the parents, with our cool youth leaders, focusing on spiritual pursuits.

Probably because we were teenagers, they were also usually fueled with adolescent angst and emotional highs. We’d come away from the weekend charged with mountain top experiences only to come crashing down when reality hit. But the experiences weren’t wasted. They were a time to completely focus on our hearts and faith, to be taught, hang out with peers who shared our interests, and have a lot of fun in the process. I grew a little bit each time.

Retreats, whether they are for a weekend, overnight, or a week are good to experience from time-to-time. Marriam-Webster online defines retreat in several ways. A retreat can have a military connotation, a forced withdrawal from defeat or a danger. Sometimes, when your life feels embattled, this might be the very form of retreat you seek and need, a respite of safety when life’s artillery is taking direct aim.

However, the definition that is calling to me is: a period of withdrawal for meditation, prayer, study or instruction, a place of privacy or safety.

As some of you are aware, last year was one in which the bullets flew and tested my mettle. My family and I made it through, a little tired, but ready to move forward and, actually, grateful for experiences that ended up being jewels of buried treasure. As a reward for our perseverance, we are heading to the glorious sands of Florida next month to celebrate. I am staying an extra week with my dear college roommate, who has been a pillar of love and support in my life.

I have decided that, indeed, I am in deep need of a retreat. I need time to think about my writing direction, online pursuits, and a time to feed my heart and soul. My intent is to reduce what I do so I can replenish and move forward. As a result, I’m going to let this blog sit during February and ease off my online time. Since I’ll be gone almost two weeks anyway, this is an ideal time for a break. I'm looking forward to a month long retreat- who knows what will speak to my quieted heart!


Thanks for your patience and for your support.

Julie

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Truth: Setting You Free or Sharper Than A Two-Edged Sword?

Available at Amazon
I have been reading Pat Conroy’s book, The Death of Santini, the memoir of his tumultuous family life and his abusive father. Pat Conroy has been on a lifelong mission to exorcise the demons of his childhood since he first started writing almost four decades ago. His breakthrough novel, The Great Santini, was made into a feature movie (1979), starring Robert Duvall cast into the dubious role of his father (referred to as the Great Santini).  Although a work of fiction, the story was as real and vivid to Mr. Conroy as any autobiographical work.

As I read Mr. Conroy’s book, I sometimes feel like a witness to the very personal, exposed, and train-wrecked lives of his family. I almost have to look away from all the emotional gore. If you’re familiar with Conroy’s writing, you will know the absolute elegance with which he writes. He is a master at weaving stories and almost a poet with his words. His books are a treat to read, and his writing is raw and emotional.

But I'm not going to write a book review today. What all this really brings to mind for me is a question: Just how honest and naked do you get in your writing? On one hand, stripping down to our honesty skivvies is what keeps the writing compelling, authentic and resonating for a reader.

On the other hand, however, is the dilemma for memoirists, autobiographers and essayists: How naked do you allow your family, friends or lovers to be in order to tell your story? What is your ethical obligation to them? Is there one? To what degree do you strip them down in the name of disclosure and honesty?

Sometimes, after a particularly grueling chapter in The Death of Santini, I wonder how his sisters and brothers must feel about his work, or the lovers and ex-wives he’s named (no pseudonyms here). When The Great Santini was published in 1976, it about ripped his family apart. His father was exposed as a mean s.o.b, and although he fervently denied the truth of Pat’s story, the shadow never lifted. In this current book, Mr.Conroy is no less ruthless in his description of his youngest brother’s suicide, his beloved mother’s flaws, and the tenuous and nasty relationship he has had with one of his sisters. With equal honesty he cuts to the quick of his own flaws with merciless skill.

From a writer’s point of view, this kind of memoir can be very spiritually and emotionally healing—a letting of emotional poison that has festered in the heart. From a reader’s point of view, it makes for scintillating and titillating reading, or may even allow for their own self-examination through the author's story. From the family’s, ex-spouses’, friends’ and lover’s point of view though, it may be a nightmare of biased truth. No writer of personal information can tell a truth that is absolute; it is always brought through a human sieve of emotions, perceptions and interpretations.

How much truth is appropriate? Do you seek permission to write about family, or stick defiantly to the belief to never seek permission to tell your story (it is, after all, yours). What is the ethical responsibility or is there one?

Next time you read an essay or memoir, or even a work of fiction with a thinly veiled personal story, keep in mind these are all questions every author has to answer. 

How do you answer them?

Thanks to M.L. Swift and the PBC blog hop. 
Keep reading and writing,

Julie