Segue…

I started keeping a blog on WordPress two years ago day before yesterday. WordPress let me know. The first blog — and the reason I started — was martinofgfenn.com followed that same day by savior1244.wordpress.com

Both of these are blogs to promote my novels, Martin of Gfenn and Savior. On that occasion I saw the Daily Prompt and I thought, “That’s dumb” but I did it anyway and it wasn’t dumb after all. I have written a few good stories based on those prompts and met some great people. It also helped me me grounded and calm during the chaotic days when I first came back to Colorado and didn’t have a house yet! 🙂

But for a while I’ve thought I might be nearing the end of that phase and wondered what would come along. One of my readers gave me the idea to write down the stories of dogs and hiking. That’s been in the back of my mind for a while and I finally decided to start a new blog dedicated to those stories and experiences.

I expect to be writing much more frequently on that blog than this one, at least for a while. I’d be very happy for all the readers who want to migrate with me. The blog is here and the title is My Mt. Everest.

 

What’s the Point of This, Anyway?

Clean slate? Well, the clean slate I’ve been pondering is ending this WordPress blog. Yes, I’ll admit. I’ve become disenchanted with WordPress’ daily prompts. My audience isn’t very large and on a good day I get eleven or twelve readers. I sincerely believe that doesn’t matter (and it doesn’t) but there’s no denying that if the readership had grown by leaps and bounds, I’d figure I was saying something people needed or wanted to hear. That would be good in itself and a learning experience for me. The best posts I write often go un-noticed. That’s fine and probably true for everyone, but it is also instruction to me that there are other things I might want to do with my time.

And then, I got this message this morning. A German researcher was able to reach me through my painting website (marthaannkennedy.com) after she had found what I’d written about my piano teacher, Hans Baer, on WordPress.

A Client Contact From Your Website with FineArtStudioOnline.com

Name: S F
Email: s.f…@uni-hamburg.de
Phone: **49-*******
Comments: Dear Martha Kennedy, I’m a musicologist working as researcher at the University of Hamburg, Germany. In my current research project I deal with the exile of Jewish musicians exiled in Shanghai 1938 to 1949. There were more than 400 musicians from Germany, Austria and Poland in Shanghai, and one of them was the pianist, piano teacher and composer Hans Bär or Baer (born 1893 in Berlin, died 1967 in the US), whom you obviously mention as your piano teacher in your blog on the internet (https://marthakennedy.wordpress.com/2015/03/26/second-place/). I wonder if you can tell me a little bit more about Hans Bär? When did he come to the US? Was he in company (wife, children etc.)? Where did he live resp. where did he teach you? Obviously he worked as piano teacher, but did he also give concerts or did he compose? How many students did he have? Did he teach children or rather advanced students? Do you know anybody else who knew him and who might know where his papers are (maybe his children or other relatives)? I am especially interested in the music he wrote in Shanghai – his “Piano Preludes” after oriental themes and the song “Shir” – but also in correspondence, newspaper clippings and other documents. Every little hint would be great for my work! I hope to hear from you soon. Yours sincerely S F… ________________________________________________ Dr. S F… Institut für Historische Musikwissenschaft Universität Hamburg
Captcha: 758211

So, there is a point, after all. It was a wonderful experience this morning responding to this email and I learned more about a man who was a powerful influence for good in my life.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/clean-slate/

2014 in review

This is interesting, but not really news to me. This morning I’m wondering WHAT happened to the Daily Prompt? Has WP just given up? If so…well, they should say.

A good prompt would be, “If you regularly write the Daily Prompt, tell us what you like about it, what you don’t like about it and what you would like to see more of in 2015. If you feel like it, you might want to include your thoughts about how the Daily Prompt has improved your skills as a writer.”

Meanwhile,

2014 annual report for “I’m a Writer, Yes I Am.”

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

A Year of Ups and Downs

Happy Anniversary!

Don’t Know…

Daily Prompt Winning Streak What’s the longest stretch you’ve ever pulled off of posting daily to your blog? What did you learn about blogging through that achievement, and what made you break the streak?

I’ve written 525 posts on this blog since I started on December 22, 2013. I also have a blog for both of my novels, Savior and Martin of Gfenn, and a blog for my move to Colorado. I’ve done two Blogging U courses which led to additional posts.

What have I learned about blogging? First, I don’t like the word “blog” as a verb. I know there are a lot of people on this planet who write blogs that are newsworthy and from which they make money — I know people have launched careers through their blog. I wish I’d been one of those people, in a way, but… When someone is described to me as a “blogger” my reaction is “So what?” That hasn’t changed.

Second, I’ve written an online journal (blog) since 2008. I wrote on Blogger and, for the most part, the blogs were private. This is my first “public” blog and it was not meant to matter. The blog on WordPress that was supposed to matter is martinofgfenn.com. My reason for getting onto WordPress in the first place was to promote my novel.

Third, my first encounter with WordPress showed me the Daily Prompt which, originally, I thought was meh. I didn’t know I would end up writing four or five really good stories.

Otherwise? I don’t know if I’ll continue the Daily Prompt when I’ve done this for a year (that is coming up!). I love having readers for my daily profundities, but my original goal — to sell novels — is still alive and well. Not only selling, but I have a work in progress that could use the hour/day that my daily post has been getting. I may just write the prompts I like. 🙂

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/winning-streak/

Memoir vs. Daily Prompt

A fellow blogger whom I like VERY much really liked a post I put up a few days ago about my friend, Wes Kennedy. She said I should post such things rather than responding to the often abysmal daily prompt. I’ll admit, I didn’t like that much. There have been — and are — so many people throughout my life telling me their opinion about what I should do that I don’t take it very well, especially regarding a completely elective activity like writing a WordPress blog. I responded — perhaps curtly, can’t say — that the daily prompt had occasionally put me in front of a good story that I did not know to tell until I was “prompted.” Sometimes I dislike the daily prompt, but I figure it’s a completely voluntary activity that I can choose to write or not, as I wish. Most of the time I do write it and sometimes I bitch about it. However, the good stories I wouldn’t have written make it worth my time to persist with it.

Many people write their memoirs. I guess when you get to be a certain age (I’m a certain age) it’s a natural impulse. I don’t want to, actually, and there’s a good reason.

Back in the day I call my writer apprenticeship period (it’s always a writer apprenticeship period) when I was learning to write dialogue (I know that now. I didn’t know that then), I wrote stories from my life. I actually thought they were stories. Once I wrote a story about a few hours I spent with my friend Madhu and his cigarettes. I showed it to him and he said, “This isn’t a story. You’ve just written down our conversation. Don’t you have an imagination?” I was taken back. I’d put effort into that story which was — yes — our conversation, but controlled and structured so it had a plot line. I extrapolated a story from a rather random series of marginally interesting events to create a character — three, actually, now that I think about it.

But it was not imaginative work. After that, I thought a lot about what I as a writer really wanted to do. I didn’t have an answer ready, but I knew that I did have an imagination and that somewhere, somehow, it would be engaged by something. It was engaged in 1997 (finally!) by the little leper church at Gfenn, Switzerland. That kind of writing was what I wanted to do.

Much of my own experience and life will go into anything I write. Sometimes here I write memoir. However, I don’t really want to focus on my own life in in my writing. Moments from my life, perhaps, but as a whole my life is incomprehensible to me in many ways and much of the past is also very painful. For myself, I want there to be a difference between art and therapy. If some of the knowledge and the pain of my family history and my own bad choices go into imaginative work, then great. It should. I would like to be a crucible rather than a confessional.

This is not to say I think memoir is bad or invalid. I think it’s very important. It’s just not where I — right now — want to go.

In case you’re curious, here’s the story my friend Madhu critiqued so mercilessly and helpfully so long ago. It’s part of a memoir/story I ended up writing about the 13 cigarettes I’ve smoked in my life.

Smokes, 1992

Madhu sits on the step outside my office, a lighted cigarette in his right hand, the next one waiting in his left. I laugh, making Madhu look up. “Where the fuck were you? I’ve been waiting almost two minutes!” he shrieks.
He looks like a prince from a Moghul painting, complete with black, wrap-around eyes, a plump physique and small hands.
“You up to two at once?” Hot, cooling streamers curl above his head.
“Let’s get some coffee,” he jams the lit smoke into the side of the concrete step where he sits.
In the outdoor cafe, Madhu continues in this way, puffing a smoke between gulps of hot coffee.  “I called you last night to go to the new Woody Allen movie. I had passes.”
“You didn’t leave a message.”
“Well, if you weren’t home, you couldn’t go. I called at like 5:30.”
“Always leave a message,” I tell him. “If I’m outside, I never hear the phone, but I can hear my voice on the message machine.”
“You were there?”
“Yeah, I was there.”
“How was your weekend?” He takes another long drag on his third cigarette and he’s lighting a new one from the living flames of the old. “Are you going to see that guy again?”
“Mike?”
“Yeah.”
“You’re a masochist.”
“He can’t hurt me.”
“I didn’t know that. I thought he was hurting you. Well, I guess you’re REALLY not interested any more.”
“Touche.”
“Well, you might as well have a cigarette. Sooner or later you’re going to smoke one with me. I feel stupid sitting here chain-smoking all by myself.”
He shakes a Benson/Hedges out of a gold pack. I put it between my lips. “I wish I had lipstick. I find it aesthetically pleasing to leave little red-rimmed butts in my coffee dregs.”
“I hate lipstick on women.”
“Only on women?”
“Yes, but I like it on cigarette butts.”
I fumble around in my purse, hoping to find a tube of lipstick.
“I’m having dinner with him on Friday.”
“Why? You tell me he makes you feel like shit. Why do you want to have dinner with someone who makes you feel like shit?”
“I could stand him up.”
“You won’t do that. You’re not just a gargantuan brain, you know. You have that squishy, sentimental side, that slimy spot of feeling. I got a nickname for you,” he says, inhaling.
“What?”
“Cerberus. You know who that is?”
“Yes. Thanks.”
“It’s the dog who guards the mouth of hell.”
“I know.”
“It means ‘brain’ because that’s all you are.”
“What are you?” I ask him, wondering what orifice of Hades he imagines himself entrusted with.
“A slug. I told you before.”
“No, come on. If I’m Cerberus, you have to be someone.”
“I thought about it. I’m Charon. I bring the dead to you. God you look funny when you smoke.”
“I know. I don’t know what to do. I’m getting ashes all over the place.”
“Wow. Look at HER!” Across the cafeteria is a petite blond wearing a white T-shirt, faded jeans, motorcycle boots, a black leather jacket, carrying a helmet. “Aesthetic appeal!” says Madhu.
Suddenly she’s standing beside our table, looking at Madhu’s cigarettes.
“I’ve been looking all over for a light.” She cocks one hip, and leans back at an interesting angle, one tit higher than the other, challenging and provocative.
“Here. I have a book of matches. You want it?” Madhu digs around in his book bag, all cynicism gone.
“Give it to me, and I’ll be your best friend.” Madhu is flustered. He lifts the book of matches up to her as an offering. She takes it and walks back to her table.
“I always carry matches in case my lighter breaks,” Madhu inhales. “Shit. I shouldn’t have given her those matches! If I hadn’t, she’d come back again for another light. Damn!”
“Smoking IS a habit and habits ARE dependable.” I grin.
“What’s he afraid of?”
Ah. He’s turned the conversation back to me. “Me, I guess. There’s nothing else there.”
“You should be compassionate, Martha. You can’t make butter with a toothpick.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Smoke!”
“I’m smoking as fast as I can.” Warm strange squiggles fly around inside my head, a half-nauseous buzz.
“Hold it in, dammit! I don’t want to see you sitting there like a chimney!”
“I am holding it in dammit!”
“Yeah. All you do is this.” He puffs. “It should be hurting you, right here.”
“It isn’t hurting me.”
“I forgot. Considering the men you spend your time with, how would you know it hurts?”
Fwippht. “What men? There are no men.”
“Blow a ring.”
“I can’t blow a ring.”
“Have another one.”
“No. One’s enough.”
“I have to stop. You know when I had bronchitis? The doctor found a spot on my lung.”
“That’s great. And here you want me to have another one? You’re telling me it should hurt?”
“You know you want it, you fucking hypocrite.” He shakes one loose from the pack.
“Hypocrite, OK, but with spotless lungs.”
“But you should worry about your soul, not your body.”
I wave the smokes away. He lights another one with his “real” lighter (Zippo!). He sucks the first “hit” deep inside, then closes his eyes. A motorcycle roars off in the distance.

OK Now the Amish ARE Following Me

1Today I checked my blog’s stats and noticed an unusual number of readers.  I wondered what was going on, so  I checked to see if there were links referring people to my blog and THERE WAS! And it’s — here!

So now the Amish ARE following me (and followers of the Amish are following me). I’m tickled! I wandered all around the site and found many very interesting things to read and some good recipes and discussions and now I’m following them. Thank you!

A New Sandbox: Daily Prompt

Daily Prompt: Beyond the Pale: When was the last time you did something completely new and out of your element? How was it? Will you do it again?

Actually, “blogging” (I honestly do not like that word) like this is the last time I did something completely new and out of my element. Writing isn’t new, I’ve always written, but intentionally writing my thoughts in public based on someone else’s writing prompt is new. It’s also strange (just generally!) to have such a public forum for writing; to see people who feel they “need” to write or “should” write or seek an external impetus to write. It’s interesting to see all the different motivations and modes of expression. That’s probably another blog entry…

How was it? How IS it…actually it’s somewhat scary, but so far so good. 

For one, I purposely have chosen to write about teaching and that’s a little dangerous. As we know, teachers have been fired for things they’ve written about their jobs and published online. I don’t plan to write about my places of work, though I have written about specific students (unnamed, of course).

Also, the online world can be a strange place. Long ago, when I participated in a Yahoo group set up to discuss the poetry of William Butler Yeats, I learned that people have strong opinions (even about something as patently irrelevant to life on this planet as “The Double Vision of Michael Robartes”). Within two weeks (and five posts!) I’d been THROWN OUT OF THE GROUP for the heinous crime of writing about Yeats AND someone else (Goethe? Rilke?) My ejection from the group precipitated a war and ultimately the breaking apart of the group. I am sure all the factors for its disintegration existed long before I joined. My contributions just served as the catalyst that finally brought about a revolution against the “purists.” It reminded me so much of junior high school that I was seriously skittish about trying anything like that again. “We don’t like her. She’s not LIKE us.” The same people are on this playground as have been on all the other playgrounds in my life. As a blog writer I follow has posted recently, there are bullies everywhere.

That was more than a decade ago and in the interval, of course, I’ve had more experiences with online interaction (such as being active on Facecrack for 3 years, shudder), but that first experience was very informative.

Will I do it again? That depends how it goes. I will never stop writing, that I do know. How well this platform works for me and how it pans out for me in learning what I feel I need to learn, well, that all remains to be seen! I am very optimistic.

…and THEN????

Daily Prompt: Progress: When you look back at your blog on January 2, 2015, what would you like to see?

I’ve only been blogging on WordPress for ten days so there is not much to look back on. I have been “blogging” for several years now but on Blogger. There, my public blogs are related to my painting and writing; blogs about “me” are private. That being said, looking “back” is kind of a non-starter. Looking forward?

For a lot of people writing requires discipline and set tasks and certain hours of the day set apart for the purpose of writing. None of this is true of me. I teach a lot — seven writing classes, usually, during a semester. If I waited until I had “time to set aside” I would not write anything. Writing, for me, doesn’t require discipline so much as it requires pure opportunity. As far as this blog is concerned, there’s tension already between it and creative work. I look at it as a chance to learn about a variety of audiences and to let someone else tell me what to write. I’m not sure yet if this will be more relevant to my own writing or the work of my students.

I read mostly bad writing. That’s an occupational hazard. Sometimes I actually think, feel and say aloud (sometimes even to students!) “Why are you torturing me with this horrible writing!” They think I’m joking (something to do with tone of voice, facial expression, my generally friendly nature and the fact that they know I like them). I have a distinct idea of what bad writing is. It includes cliches; it’s the use of the word “amount” instead of the word “number” where “number” should be used. It’s long, convoluted sentences because students are now in the habit of writing a certain number of words or pages of prose rather than being taught to edit. It’s wordiness. It’s the unredeemed use of the passive voice in order to avoid using the first person, “I.” It’s awful. It’s formula vs. reason. It’s the attempt to teach the skill without the benefit of visible masters (the work of great writers). It’s the result of the politicization of education. The question then is, am I a good writer?

My blog is a chance for me to experiment with writing. Progress will be — I guess — doing that well and meeting that challenge. Edward Albee said, “Art is nowhere near as dangerous as it should be.” Something like that. I agree with him. I hope to risk a little something.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/daily-prompt-progress/