Tuesday, December 11, 2012


 i sat alone in a seedy diner where i eat my breakfast a few times a week. its not glamorous but it feels real to me, a place where work crews stop to get a hot meal and one waitress in her sixties runs her butt off taking care of twenty tables. a place where she remembers how you like your coffee and brings it the minute you walk in. a place where people know your name and ask how you are if you've been sick. the kind of place where elderly people shuffle in and eat the same meals every day and i felt at home. it's the same reason i like to travel for weeks at a time on scruffy greyhound buses and just talk to people, to discover who they are and how they live. i could listen to their stories and people watch forever at times like this. not sure why these stories or these people touch my heart so, but they do and i am grateful for it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I was nominated by Jane Risdon to be THE NEXT BIG THING. Jane is a fellow writer who hails from England. We have been in several writing groups together and we encourage each other to do our best work. Writing can be lonely without knowing other writers who share similar struggles and joys in the writing life.

What kind of books do you like to read?

 I will read anything from dry textbooks to exciting suspense stories and everything in between. I have an odd love of bibliographies, and love scouring the backs of nonfiction books to find interesting reads. A couple of my favorites are always on my nightstand. How to be Idle and How to be Free by Tom Hodgekinson. These are my comfort food, when i have had a trying day I reread passages from these books as I fall asleep. Not exactly sure why these two books speak to me so much but they do, and have for years. They are nonfiction and meaty and full of ideas, quotes and excerpts from other books and history. If I had to pick the genre i most often read it would be mysteries, especially ones that are part of a series. It started with Agatha Christie and has never stopped.

Why do you like mysteries?

 I like mysteries because you uncover people's hidden reasons for doing things. In real life I tend to be naive and take things people say as absolute truth. and I think they are like a puzzle, and justice usually prevails, if only real life were like that.

When did you start writing?

I started in elementary school and have never stopped. The only problem was that my stories were always chosen to be read aloud by teachers and i was dreadfully shy and reserved. Part of me was thrilled that my teachers loved my stories, the other part of me was mortified that i was getting noticed when i tried my best to be invisible. i also read voraciously once i learned how and i have never slowed down.

What are you currently writing?

I generally have several projects of different length going at once.  All the Men are Dying, a book i am writing for National Novel Writers Month. In it a group of women who know each other from a church are persuaded to start a women's grief support group by the local priest. They reluctantly begin and the stories they tell have chilling similarities that they were until then unaware of. As they each begin to question each other they start suspecting foul play is involved and one of them is the culprit. The question is which one of them is fabricating new facts today to cover their tracks.

I am also revising a full length novel, Without a Net that i completed recently as well as several short stories and short competition pieces.

I also enjoy writing short pieces on people i meet that most people might think are not that compelling. i find inspiration in these people, and at times we never speak but i love to people watch. i notice things and wonder about the story behind these seemingly ordinary lives , and it propels me to document it so i will never forget those chance encounters.

Is it difficult for you to share your writing and to put it out there so publicly?
I am no longer so shy or reserved but it was still challenging to consider myself a writer, seemed rather presumptuous. After all, there is no license or certification test to prove you are a writer. Finally i accepted that those who consider their writing as central to their lives then they are certainly writers.
I would say i have progressed in small steps to sharing my work. my first writing class outside of my standard education was scary at first, reading my word aloud, having it critiqued, and commented on. Then i saw how much my writing improved as i took those risks and now i am rather fearless about sharing it.

Have you been published?

A short mystery story of mine called Pungent Death was recently included in an anthology called A Quiet Blue Wheel. It is currently available at Amazon.com

How important are other writers, classes, groups and so on for your development as a writer?
I would say more than anything else besides actually sitting there putting words on paper that immersing myself with books, writers at all stages, classes and writing groups has fostered my greatest growth.  the internet has been a gift to many lonely writers who need others who have been there. sharing frustrations and triumphs small and large builds strong bonds and support for those who are not fortunate to live in places with large populations of writers.

Again, I'd like to thank Jane Rison for nominating me. Jane has many irons in the fire at the moment 
Please check out Jane's recent publication http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Woman-Anthology-Anthologies-ebook/dp/B00817P8DI 
and her recent short story http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/short-story-saturday-story-001-a-walk-to-destiny-by-jane-risdon

More about Me
I studied for a master of divinity for five years at Bangor Theological Seminary. I have worked as a restaurant manager, office furniture consultant, and briefly as a hospital chaplain. I have given sermons, officiated at church services ,delivered eulogies and organized a writing retreat at a monastery among other things. I have a passion for England that started when i lived there briefly at seventeen years of age, and it has not abated. i love British television and nothing besides a good book comforts me more than a good English television series.

My nominations are:

Rasheeda Ali-Ramjattan an inspirational writer from the sunny island of Trinidad where there are gorgeous beaches and plenty of sunshine. Rasheeda started writing as a teenager and inspires many people with her peaceful and joyful wisdom.

Kaileigh Deacon who has built up an impressive amount of work at a young age. She has worked at a bookstore, writes for the Calais Advertiser, and is hard at work reviewing books, reading copiously and writing. Currently she is working on a novel for National Novel Writing Month and has reached 40, 000 words thus far.

Nadia Faydh is an English professor at the College of Arts in Baghdad, Iraq.  Nadia has studied Irish Poetry extensively and writes poetry. This is her tenth year teaching undergraduate students in the department of English language. She spent the last decade of her life discussing and arguing about novels, poems, plays and literary theories written in English with students who barely know how to read this foreign languageHer poetry is quite personal in context, but almost most of her themes are the things we have lost or missed. only by talking them out in poems she can have them again, or live again their memories.
Mark Richardson has studied archeology, boats, naval history and theology to name a few areas. He is  working on a memoir - travel piece about the Penobscot River.  He has also done some preliminary work on a biography of John Lloyd Stephens, the 19th century American travel writer and adventurer, but that would be a commitment for 5 years at least, so I'm still not sure. My main focus, however, is on a thriller (we used to call them action-adventure novels or suspense novels). I was thinking about it the other day: there have been plenty of American writers in this genre, but I've always tended to enjoy the Brits. I grew up on the works of Hammond Innes, Alistair MacLean and Douglas Reeman. Later, I moved on to Jack Higgins and Ken Follett. Not quite what my professors meant by BritLit, but in my case it's what I enjoyed.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Stories Matter Most

Some people warned me against bus travel. They thought it would be unsafe, dirty and full of undesirables. And yes, that word was used. I’m glad I did what I wanted instead. I think what I saw most instead was tenderness. A family from India guiding their mentally disabled teenage son, I could not always understand what they said because of their thick accents, but I could hear the kindness in their voices. So many other stories I remember. What I felt was so many people making the best of what life has dealt them, so many people just like me really.

Started my trip with a Harley limo to the bus station-such a balmy 61 degrees in mid- November that I almost just stayed on the bike.

Never ever bring a twenty to eat at bus stations. They take coins or one dollar bills mostly. Day one I was very hungry and thirsty. This morning the nice young man beside me saw me open my Altoids and a few minutes later he asked if he could have one, I was kind of embarrassed to admit I was so hungry I ate them all already, yes an entire container of breath mints. I did mention the vending machines did not take large bills, right?

It is a beautiful warm and sunny day in Cleveland. Never been this far from the east coast. I’ve met some nice folks and some characters already. It's going to be a wonderful day. I should be in Chicago this evening.If they say seven bus changes to get to your final destination count on twice that. We have changed buses unexpectedly quite a few times. The reasons ranged from a faulty light, driver’s seat issues and numerous other weird little things.

Buses have Wi-Fi these days and outlets to recharge your phone and computer. That is sweet, when it works. I’m still feeling quite mellow through it all. I find at a certain point day and night melt together. You eat whatever you can find when the bus makes a stop, and if that means sandwiches at three in the morning and a hot dog at nine in the morning it begins to feel normal. It stops mattering when you will arrive and if you are tired or hungry. You just let go and relax into it.

At our last bus rest stop this angry looking, tattooed black man with bulging biceps and tattered clothes went out to the parking lot for a smoke after everyone else had come back in from having theirs. After he lit up, he got up and started doing this intricate rain dance and after a minute this older lady who had been annoying everyone with bible tracts and born again talks for two hours straight went out and started dancing with him. He noticed her and just started dancing in patterns around her. Never forget it.

This pretty little Indian girl keeps smiling at me. Not even close to five feet tall she looks about sixteen and heavily pregnant. She never speaks, but grins every time our eyes meet. She is traveling alone. At one stop a fellow with crazy hair asks to sit beside her, even though there are plenty of other seats available. She nods and moves to the window and turns her back to him. Every time he leans forward she smiles at me behind his back as if to say she is okay. When she gets off in Omaha I notice she has no luggage but a boy about her age hugs and kisses her madly. They hold hands and happily walk away. I notice she has no winter coat and I worry. I hope life is good to them both.

Another bus tip, under all circumstances do not sit next to a man who pulls out a jug of lemonade, a gallon jug and begins drinking from it. Then out of his carry-on he pulls half a dozen jumbo heat and serve burritos. Pretty sure there are no clothes in his luggage and that he can eat them all, the burritos not his clothes. Time to change seats fast.

I arrived last night in Colorado after a fifty hour bus trip straight through, and somehow precisely on time. I met so many people, saw so many interesting things and heard a ton of stories. It is always the stories that interest me most about people, the stories they tell or don't tell.

So hungry I might kiss the man who brought me sandwich, and if he brought me a steak I might marry him. And I am not all that excited about marriage. Fortunately my son arrived to pick me up before anyone proposed.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

wide awake

i used to be wide awake with sadness, worry and grief. now i am wide awake with joy, and happiness and hope. I am so excited about my life, my world and my future.

 it is an amazing thing when you find yourself in the midst of pain and despair and you reach out and begin to really live out loud, the way life was meant to be lived. every sense is sharpened. your fears are put aside as you begin to embrace risks as a way to experience the world you live in and the world inside your mind.

 suddenly mundane things take on new meanings, even words sound different and your life grows richer than you ever thought possible. you try new things and they echo deep within you as you reach that place in your soul that you forgot existed and you suddenly become overwrought with the beauty all around you.

 tonight i need no sleep, my mind is filled with images of people i have met while traveling, their stories come like it was yesterday not months ago. you wonder and worry what has happened to those people who filled your life merely for days or hours or just a few moments at a bus stop, or in a diner.

 Are they happy? did she tell her mom that her boyfriend beat her? did his new job work out or did he go home full of shame for failing? did he and his estranged wife make it work this time? did that lady get the help she needed to cope? has that lonely girl found friends and a sense of belonging? did that cowboy find someone to keep him company way out in middle of nowhere? is that european girl telling her friends about her funny adventures?

it matters to me even though i will never know. i still think of those young deaf indian teenagers and hope someone helps them raise their baby, and sees the love shining in their eyes. and the woman who cared for her aging mother and neglected herself? was someone giving her love and support today? was she giving herself love too?

i think of all the people i have yet to meet, the stories that i have yet to hear and the places i will be when i hear them. it humbles me these people who share their stories with me a stranger, perhaps because it is easier to tell a stranger on the bus than the people who might throw them out, leave or abandon them.

 i am blessed to hear their struggles and joys, to laugh with them at the absurdities of life and to share their experiences in life. nothing matters to me more than this.

Monday, April 23, 2012

a strange gift

i've been realizing the past few months i am more at home on the road than in my own home. i have a lovely apartment, perfect for me but lately it has lost its joy. it feels like it is holding me back from being myself now. i have a small income and my home uses every penny. if travel didn't matter to me then i could be happy here. i could try to content myself with two small weeks of vacation every year and spend all year living for that time when i feel truly alive.

don't get me wrong, i have a wonderful life, one that would make many people envious. lots of time to dream and think, to write and to read. an amazing grown up family with children and grandchildren to love, a perfect location where i can walk into town. or drive anywhere i need to go in minutes. a charming apartment that is a steal at the price. lovely friends and neighbors and a vibrant community. there is nothing wrong, nothing i want to escape. i could get a real job, a career and earn lots of money and then hope to travel more. but then i would give up the time i need to think, to dream, to write and i would hate it.

i struggled with all this for awhile. not all my children are pleased with a mama who yearns to be on the road. some find it easier to understand than others, some would prefer my dreams to be to be a mama and a grandma who lives next door. but my children are grown now. their  opinions matter deeply to me, as does their happiness.

but when you know who you are and what your purpose is, then it becomes harder and harder to turn your back on it. it grabs you in your dreams and shakes the hell out of you. it says what are you doing? and you know, really know that you will regret it forever if you ignore your own small voice. the voice that says clearly and quietly, this is who you are and what you are meant to do. lots of well meaning, kind and thoughtful people have pointed out all the pitfalls, dangers and losses this choice entails.

it would be foolish of me not to listen, to ignore the realities of such a life. but it would be even more foolish of me to ignore my own needs and dreams. I need to see the world, not want, need. i feel a constant screaming craving to experience more of the world. to sit down with strangers and hear what makes them happy, or sad or confused. I have traveled enough to see the way it makes me slow down and just feel joy at being alive. i felt more alive on a grubby bus than i do in my own home. tired, hungry and far from any luxury i felt pure bliss. talking to young mothers on welfare, young men just released from prison, and grandparents struggling on minuscule social security payments i felt like i was where i was supposed to be, doing what i was meant to do.

it is a strange gift to hear heartbreaking stories, to witness tender moments from those whose lives would make you cry, and yet to feel hopeful. to see the strength of the human soul and to want to share it with others in your writing. this isn't the kind of writing you can do from a comfy chair, it is the kind of writing where you need to get down in the trenches with them, beside them to understand. their stories need to be told, and i feel like i am here to tell them.