A Small, Well-Lighted Place

Unlike the nihilistic waiter in Ernest Hemingway’s short story, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, I have never required my comfort zone (translate: my writing space) to be clean.

I don’t want it slovenly, of course, but definitely not dusted and polished. Very small settings, either out-of-doors, or with lots of light and windows, is where I get my best writing done.DSCN9311 (2)

Over the years, I have had my fair share of lovely, large offices, with beautiful old desks, loaded bookshelves, and commodious swivel chairs.  I would sit down to work and my mind would freeze.  There was too much space, air, and silence.  My psyche shriveled up and all I wanted to do was crawl under that big desk and suck my thumb.

This was a huge problem, until it dawned on me, that I wrote best in uncanny, little spaces either out-of-doors or with lots of windows.  If possible, I also preferred places where I could be immersed in my own eclectic collection of weird stuff. 

It didn’t make sense.  I was a bona-fide claustrophobic. But I was doing my best work in kitchen corners, sheds, gazebos, tents, teepees, playhouses, laundry rooms, sailboats, duck blinds and root cellars. What was going on?

It wasn’t until I did an exercise for a creativity class, that all became clear.  Part of the class was to write a description of my muse.  I tried and tried, but was not able to personify that pesky creature.  When I thought about the best, most productive and creative writing I had done, it was the place I kept describing, not the images.  Eureka! My muse wasn’t a person it was a place!blog 4

Recently I moved to the mountains of New Mexico.  There is sunlight and nature in abundance.  I have plenty of room for a big desk and lots of bookcases.  It is a clean, well-lighted place.  BUT you will find me writing away in a wee corner of my bedroom looking out at the trees from the small-paned window.  Papers are scattered, all my talismans and trinkets surround me and I can barely turn around, BUT IT’S MY SMALL, WELL-LIGHTED PLACE  AND I LOVE IT!

Hollering Woman Welcomes 2017!

Hollering Woman Press would like to wish all their friends and followers a wonderful upcoming year!  2017 promises to showcase some exciting changes at our webpage and press.

We are thrilled to continue to expand our original content and format with longer pieces and more exciting photography and start work on our first full length book, “The Fruit Peddler’s Daughter.”  Moving forward, we will be in hiatus for the month of January with our first 2017 edition scheduled to debut on February 15.  Join us then or come by and catch up on our 2016 blogs Crazy Girl Talks Back archives.  Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Till then-take a walk on the beach and look forward to an amazing 2017!

“A Woman in her Prime, Not Some Doting Old Man . . .The Jewel of Christmas”

When we were little, Our Santa Claus lived at our house.  Short, rotund and in control of a fire-engine red vehicle, Our Santa was jolly and generous with toys and gifts and constantly monitored our behavior throughout the year.  But that was where the resemblance to Kris Kringle ended.
Our Santa had dark, curly hair and wore Coty’s perfume and crisp bluejeans, starched blouses of plaid and gingham and drove a new Ford pickup powered by eight cylinders instead of eight tiny reindeer.  Our Santa was a woman in her prime, not some doting old man with a pack on his back.
Named for the jewel  that represented her favorite color, Our Santa was our Grandma Ruby. Our mother was her only child and she belonged exclusively to us.  She never called herself Santa, always trying to keep us in the dark, playing along with that North Pole legend.  BUT WE KNEW!!
We knew where those three foot dollies, matching pedal cars, Easy Bake ovens and genuine Roy Rogers’ cap guns with tooled leather holsters came from.  Every year the pile of loot surrounding our enormous Christmas tree grew in proportion to the newest addition to the family.  In fact, even our Christmas tree came from Our Santa’s very own Christmas tree lot.  But she was tricky.  We never actually saw her unload anything from her rolling red sleigh.  Other kids had to wait  until Christmas morning to open their plunder, but not us.  Our Santa started our Christmas Eve magic as soon as the sun went down.
Dressed in our holiday finery, we performed in the church Christmas pageant, worshipped at the manger and then loaded up in the old Desoto with our mother and toured the Christmas displays and lights in the fancy neighborhoods on Ocean Drive.  
While we were gone, Our Santa and her helper, a tall blue-eyed elf we called Daddy, busily set up a bounty for nine children that a single child can only imagine.  Some years the elf had to move the couch into the dining room to make room for the treasure trove.
When we returned home from light seeing and searching the heavens for a glimpse of the bearded guy and his reindeer, we entered a darkened and hushed house.  The tree gleamed, O Little Town of Bethlehem played softly on the hi-fi and all our Christmas dreams had come true.
Mom put us into our pajamas, the elf stirred the Christmas fudge and Our Santa basted the turkey and whistled “Santy Claus is Coming to Town.”

Diego and Me: Art and Revolution

In the living room of my childhood home in south Texas, my mother kept a painted tile table from Mexico and an ornamental stick carved with pre-Columbian figures. I would run my hands across the table and stick and feel the power of the faces cut into the wood and the smooth surfaces of the tiles. My grandmother had brought them back from a mysterious place she called “Old Mexico.” She traveled there frequently  and it became a desirable place and all things Mexican became desirable objects.

It was this “desirability” that caused me to notice the pictures in the magazine. It was in the mid-1950’s and I was eight or nine years old, when I first became aware of the great Mexican artist,  Diego Rivera. There in the magazine were the bold scenes of Rivera’s paintings and murals. Their powerful images made my fingers tingle as I recalled the carved faces and the painted tiles in my living room. The pictures caused a shift inside me.

Several years later, my Spanish teacher showed our class pictures of her trip to Mexico City. There they were again, Diego’s murals. I recognized them immediately. Broad faces, massive hands, and arms, legs and feet painted on all those buildings. Beautiful women with children on their backs, labored, rising up from the earth to reach toward heaven.

Stunned by the strength and beauty of Diego’s vision, I vowed to go and study at the faraway university.  Under the artist’s images, I would pour my soul into the vision of a world where men and women lived in simple peace and harmony. Then my teacher told us the artist had died and I wondered  where I would learn more about justice and equality for all.  I got my answer when I was least expecting it.

Raul was a classmate of mine and the brother of a friend. I had not paid much attention to him before the day we all presened projects for our seventh grade history class in the small parochial school we attended.  Raul had made a scale model of the Battle of the Alamo.  The scene was filled with  tiny Mexican soldiers, many carrying hand sewn Mexican flags of red and white and green. Little Texans to the core, we settled down to hear the familiar and stirring story of Crockett, Travis, and Bowie. But that day we learned something more.

We heard about the personal courage of the Texans, but Raul asked us to look at the event, ever so briefly, from the Mexican point of view. In his boy’s voice, he suggested that perhaps Santa Anna was not Satan, that the Mexican soldiers were also brave and believed they were fighting for their homeland, just as strongly as the Texans did.

At the end of his talk, he placed  a Texas flag and the Stars and Stripes alongside the Mexican banner over the rampart of the old mission wall. “We should all be brothers,” Raul said,”and live in peace, without war.”  No one spoke or applauded when he was finished.  We filed out for recess.

When we returned, we were all called into the lunchroom. Raul was standing at the table, his dark head hanging. Our principal spoke as he pulled back the cloth. The model of the Alamo was crushed, all the tiny Mexican flags on toothpicks were snapped into pieces. “Whoever did this must confess,” he said. No one spoke.  As far as I know, no one ever confessed, but Raul and his sister, Anita, left immediately and enrolled in public school.

Two years later, when I was in ninth grade, I ran into Raul at a school dance. He was still a serious boy with a lock  of hair that kept falling into his eyes. He asked me to dance. I don’t remember the song. We only danced once. The rest of the night we sat in the corner and talked. He told me his family was returning to Mexico.  I asked him why and he said his father, who was an artist, was having a hard time with certain things. I asked if it was about the Alamo model.

“Yes,” he said, “that and other things.” He told me his father believed that a world without war, a world of peace was what he wanted to paint and he was going back to work with some people who felt the same way.  Then he told me about art and revolution and Diego Rivera, a man his father had studied under when he was young.

“I know him,” I said. “Someday, I am going to the University of Mexico to learn more about him and his ideas.”

“Would you like to come to my sister’s birthday party?” he asked.

We had cake and Raul’s father played the guitar in the backyard. The house was filled with his father”s art. . .pure. . .strong. . .sad. It was a farewell party. The next week they slipped across the border into that mysterious land called Mexico.

I have been there many times, but I have never found Raul or a world of peace without war.

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Ghosts, Haints, -Things That Go Bump in the Night!

October is the month when our collective unconscious turns to the dark side.  Nights grow longer, leaves rustle and fall, temperatures drop and we draw closer to our metaphorical fires. Old stories stir the primeval soup of our imagination as we recall the Headless Horseman, The Tell-Tale Heart, Dracula, Frankenstein and all the hideous ghouls and undead from The Mummy and World War Z.  It is the month when figures from our deepest nightmares abound and the dead visit their families for a snack.

At my hearth, tales of the netherworld frequently turn to our familial experiences.  The ghost who makes coffee when no one is awake, the harridan on the elevator at the haunted hotel, the Civil War prisoner who walks endlessly back and forth calling our for his long lost love, the clanking of horses and artillery in a dark wood, witch balls falling from a black desert sky, and, my personal favorite, a Ouija board that predicts events that have already passed.

Seers, empaths, interpreters of dreams descended from ancient crones that see the future in sheep bones, we shiver and quake in the terrifying shadow of the autumnal equinox and the delicious possibility that we will see something–anything– in the gloom of an October night.  And that night comes . . .October 31, Halloween.  The night when the spirits are loosed.

You would think that with the “horrors”  we face in our day to day lives, we would not cling to the notion that clanking chains, astral figures, shape shifting werewolves, the living dead and blood sucking vampires are out to get us.  But they are!

They want our candy, our hot chocolate, our popcorn balls and our caramel apples.  They want to overwhelm our porches and run shrieking across our lawns, and for a moment transport us to a world where the real “monsters” stay under the bed or down in the basement.  A world where the sun will return and Christmas is only two months away.  HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts in a Yoga Class: A Memory of September 11, 2001

in memoriam    As the fifteenth anniversary of 911 approaches, I have been re-reading some of my journal entries from that unforgettable moment in history.  It seems my words failed me in the first minutes and then hours after the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  Too much information . . . too little information . . . I just kept scratching out random thoughts, emotions, a fireball of words as the mind-numbing images kept hurtling themselves across my television screen, my hand and brain out of sync.

 I had lived through the Kennedy and King assassinations, Landing on the Moon, the Shuttle crashes, the unrest of the Sixties, but this?  This defied anything I had ever seen or heard about, including the attack on Pearl Harbor. A great lump of fear and sadness filled my body.

       Now, fifteen years later, it is still hard to wrap my head around the events of that day.  But as time slowed and I began to see with the deeper eye of my soul, this poem came to me in a yoga class.  I offer it in remembrance of that terrible day and all those who lost their lives or the lives of their loved ones.

Thoughts in a Yoga Class-In Memory of September 11, 2001

As I control each breath–exhale–inhale

Each draught of vital gas,

Transparent clouds that fill my lungs,

I feel the breath slipping out of the nostril of the world

As it leaves your body in a great sigh.

If I could breath for you,

Lost brother, broken wife, bleeding friend,

As you wait in that infinite choke of dust and steel,

If I could breathe for you, I would.  In and out,

One breath for you–one for me.  But I cannot.

You wait in vain while I breathe in

All this superfluous air.

So much more than I need.

But I cannot share–only weep from heart and eye

And repeat with each breath

May the light in me recognize

The light in you.  And at this moment

We are one.

You will live on in me . . .

I will die in you.

Nameste

 

TELEMACHUS IN A SHEEP-SKINNED COAT: Mentor-Do I Need One? Can I be One?

blog 2 imageIt’s minus fifteen degrees Fahrenheit, dark, and snowing hard in the small Colorado mountain town. Hollering Woman leaves her kids and husband at home, scrapes ice off her ancient green Plymouth and braves the treacherous roads to take her place in the dank basement of an old post office turned community college. It’s a creative writing class and Hollering Woman dreams of becoming a writer. The class signals a chance to find out.

This night, the long-haired, bearded  instructor with the Brooklyn brogue challenges the class of former drop-outs, housewives, senior citizens, and bootstrappers:  The local newspaper is seeking a reporter.  Anyone who applies for the job and is hired will receive an automatic “A” in the class.

Hollering Woman has zero newspaper experience, but she’s a grade hound. The next day she abandons her bandanna, ditches her bell-bottoms for a pair of borrowed slacks, burrows into her sheepskin coat  and waits for the newspaper to open. She is about to meet a man who will change the course of her life.

The editor, an older man in his late forties, looks more like a balding leprechaun than a young woman’s “hero”.  Barely taller than she is, with pop-bottle glasses and ink-stained fingers, he offers her a cup of coffee and invites her to sit down and tell him about herself and her experience. That takes all of fifteen minutes. Imagine her shock when she is hired as a general reporter and photographer. Hollering Woman gets the “A”, gets the job, but more importantly, gets something she didn’t even know she desperately needed.  A mentor!

Recently, Hollering Woman was ruminating on the role of mentors in her life. The list was long and included the support of family and friends, but she was especially interested in the professional writers, teachers, editors, and colleagues that had been there to help and guide her on her quest to become a writer.

Of, course, the first name on that list was the editor of the little newspaper. He saw her raw potential and took a chance. He instructed her, brought her under his wing and shared his thirty years of writing and editing expertise. He gave her the confidence and skills to go forward to the next stop. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to. Because, like all the other mentors Hollering Woman has been fortunate enough to have in her life,  he recognized it as his responsibility and pleasure. He also taught her to “pay it forward.”

The concept of mentoring is an ancient one dating from the Greek epic, The Odyssey. The wise and knowledgeable Mentor guided the young hero Telemachus through his trials and triumphs. Today, a mentor is still defined as a “wise and trusted teacher, guide and friend.”  And, while today’s mentor may not always be “wise” and they might not always advise “heros”, they are encouraging, knowledgeable, often great models and share their expertise willingly. They can make all the difference in a writer’s journey at every stage of development.

No matter where you are on your personal writing Odyssey, you need a mentor and you need to BE A MENTOR.  As writers, we never know when the smallest expression of support or information will make a difference in a writer’s life.  Whether it’s in a critique group of fellow writers, the specific advice of an editor, teaching a conference workshop, or just welcoming a new writer into your circle of writing friends and contacts; share what you know and how you know it in a spirit of friendship.  And don’t forget how beneficial the idea of “six degrees of separation” works with writers.

Just this past year, Hollering Woman reconnected with an old friend and mentor. Through his contacts, she was able to get a contract for one of her books. She returned the favor when she read and offered comment on his latest manuscript in a different genre. Mentoring can be and usually is a win-win for all involved. Say thanks to your mentors and mentor someone you know that could use some help and encouragement.

Hollering Woman is passionate about mentoring.  Please share your personal stories about the mentoring experiences you have had in your life in the comments area below.  Also thanks to the recent fellow writers who commented about mentoring on the Poet and Editors group on LinkedIn.  With that said, Hollering Woman will be shouting out to all the mentors in her life in future blogs.

As for that newspaper managing editor that changed her life all those years ago:  HC sends a GIANT SHOUT OUT AND THANK YOU TO BILL ORR-OLD SCHOOL NEWSPAPER MAN EXTRAORDINAIRE AND GREAT FRIEND!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workin’ Hard for a Livin’-Then & Now

Go figure!  It is still making headlines.  Hollering Woman is talking about the infernal and eternal woes of women in the workplace.  Whether it was her  twenty-something grandmother thumbing her way around South Texas dressed like a boy in order to get work on the old San Antonio market during the depression, her thirty year old mother forced to deny her three youngest kids to keep her job at a missile defense plant in the fifties, or her own infuriating experience applying for her first newspaper job when she demanded equal pay for equal work in the seventies.

Imagine her surprise to recently learn that female journalists and women everywhere are still experiencing the same enraging, ridiculous, and degrading treatment women have been forced to submit to forever.

Hollering Woman got her first taste of this at a small weekly newspaper.  She and her male counterpart worked the same hours and did the same job.  He got forty percent more a week than she did.  When she questioned this practice, her boss sweetly informed her that Bubba was the head of his family” and she, married woman with two kids and a husband in college, was working for the “fun and satisfaction” of getting out of the house.

Enraging?  You bet!  But HW could only laugh out loud when she later went to work for the old “Ma Bell” system as an information operator.  Her work station was in a huge room filled with other women sitting in tiny cubicles with headsets on in front of giant phone books chained to the desks. Split shifts, long periods of inactivity and “no talking allowed” other than to give phone numbers to the anonymous voices that came in through the earpieces.  If HW needed to go to the restroom, she was required to raise one finger or two fingers.  Really!  NO. . .Hollering Woman is just kidding . . .or is she??

Silly?  Absolutely!  But not as degrading as HW sitting in an interview at a big city daily newspaper and  having her potential boss quiz her on her method of birth control and if she planned to have any kids in the near future.  Yeah, he was a guy. . .in case you are wondering.

Of course, every woman has her own rolodex of workplace horror, inequity, and sexual harassment and Hollering Woman could write a book on the disrespect  she has personally received as a stay-at-home- mom.  But keep the following tips in mind: Never quit on yourself-no matter how old, how tired, or how bad it gets.  Keep you sense of humor and keep doing what you love.  It is never too late or too early to follow your dreams!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talks Back . . .

The whisper that became Hollering Woman Press was first uttered on a road trip down I-10 to San Antonio.  As we sped across Woman Hollering Creek, I recalled all the old yarns and tall tales I had heard about the mysterious and shady gal the creek was named after.  Talk then turned to a book I was working on about La LLorona, the weeping woman and the pros and cons of self publication.  Voila!  Hollering Woman had found her voice.  We are excited about our new web page and all the upcoming projects, events, and buzz we will be sharing about publishing, writing, art, and life in South Texas and the Gulf Coast.  Let’s talk!