Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Surviving the Betweeners

In these days between the big celebrations--in this ordinary filling between the crusty, crunchy focaccia-style deliciousness of Christmas and New Year's Eve partying--it is often easy to fall into a slump.  You'd think that we'd be happy for the break, but it's tough to return to the daily decision-making of work.  It's difficult to move so quickly from the happy rhythm of celebrations to the dull thumping of the last few days of responsibility of our current year.

Sometimes, during the betweeners, the internet helps in connecting us to lovely medicine, some simple something from the mind of a wordsmith like Jason Howard, author of A Few Honest Words.  In his blog, he lists a smattering of his most-loved music of 2012.

One of the recommendations of his that I particularly like is Old Believers--Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons.  What a treat on my first day back to work!

If the musical recommendations don't raise your spirits, try Jason's book, A Few Honest Words:  The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music, which is a lovely read.  Enjoy the well-crafted introduction and then read the interviews and stories of several of Kentucky's musical sons and daughters in any order that you wish, sort of like a CD of personal stories.  I read this book at home and at music festivals, enjoying it on the sofa with a cup of tea or under a tree with live music playing and ants wandering in and out and over the leaves around my shoes.  I can recommend it as an enjoyable experience in either setting, but there is something poetic in reading this book at a music festival, I must admit.

Reading at Albino Skunk Music Festival

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fun (book) Festival

A monster, music, creative people, writing workshops and a bunch o' books.  Recipe for confusion or recipe for success?  Success, of course!  Such is the stuff that the AJC Decatur Book Festival is made of.  No snails and puppy dog tails here, but you may rub shoulders with Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and even share a drink with PASTE magazine's books editor, Charles McNair.

Crowd building for poetry slam at Java Monkey
My husband Dewey and I have been enjoying the fruits of the Atlanta Journal Constitution's labor for three years in a row.  It's a given--every Labor Day weekend will be time well-spent in Decatur, Georgia, for three days of literary fun and exploration.

Between Bookzilla, the festival's monstrously large mascot, and Monday, the working man and woman's day off, are:
  • Friday's writing workshops, which are free and open to the public.  In the morning, there are sessions at SCAD's Atlanta facility, and in the afternoon, workshops and a keyonote at Decatur's Agnes Scott College.
  • Saturday is filled with talks, readings, book signings and other creative literary events, such as Atlanta's story-telling group, Carapace, offering 3 story-tellers around a theme like 20-eleven's "A Room of One's Own" by Virginia Wolf or singer-songwriter, Rodney Crowell's performance of songs from his collaboration CD of songs written with writer, Mary Karr.
  • Sunday is a slower day of surprises and more of what you experienced on Saturday, if you have room to absorb more.
  • Oh, and then there are the delicious and refreshing breaks drinking beer in any of the town square's inviting and cozy eating spots.
THIS, my friends, is the festival for all of the cool, fun-loving book nerds.  The organizers are so creative.  For example, in this election year you can even vote for Bookzilla, the festival's mascot, for president!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blow Your Mind!

I'm addicted to people, music, kindness, helping others and watching reruns of NCIS.  I love a good book, I am grateful for the quiet time in the outdoors--it never fails to ignite my ability to write--and I really dig dirt!  What I mean is, I really enjoy gardening.  C'mon, you didn't really fall for that, did you?

When people come together around a meal that I've prepared, when we raise our glasses in gratitude to the heavens, when we listen to a new song or discuss a book we've read or when we sit around a fire on a cold night, that's when I cannot imagine that life on any other realm could be as sweet or as satisfying.  The truth is, however, that--gasp--it can get better and there are new flavors to try.  You just have to know where to go and your life is automatically revved up!

One such place is TED--not the man, the annual idea-generating machine in Long Beach, California. TED and its offspring, all the little TEDx events around the world, are sparks of energy that just blow my mind.  If you've never listened to a talk, or attended a TEDx event, then you're missing the opportunity to blow your mind with Ideas Worth Spreading.

It's not too late, so if you're curious and close to Greenville, South Carolina, visit and see what it's all about. You can sample talks from the 2010, 2011 and 2012 events and keep an ear to the ground for the date for 2013.  Go ahead--risk it.  It will blow your mind!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Do friends matter?

Me (on the phone) Walter and Esther (far left at the door)  Drawing by yet another good friend.
Walter Hill, 64, of 505 Willowbrook Road, died Nov. 10, 2010 at Self Regional Medical Center after a courageous 6-year battle with Cancer.He spent his final hours of life with his devoted wife and daughter by his side. Walter was well known and loved by many. Walter was born on Sept. 22, 1946 to the late Cora Lee Hill and Sullivan "Sute" Hill of Greenwood. He is survived by a wife, Eddie Mae Hill of the home; a daughter, Andrea Hill-Freeman, son-in-law Eddie (Shawn) Freeman of Greenwood; a son, Walter L. Hill of Georgia; a brother, Sullivan Hill Jr. and wife Rochelle Hill of North Carolina; a brother, Stanley Hill of Greenwood; four grandchildren, Andrew Martin, Anthony Martin, Aaron Freeman of Greenwood and E-Myah Hendrix of Atlanta. He was a retiree of Piedmont Technical College.
He was a member of The Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Hodges, SC. He devoted his life to sharing all the wonderful things he learned from God's Word, the life-giving good news of God's Kingdom. At his request, no formal service will be held. Friends are invited to attend a memorial service on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010, 3 p.m. at The Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Hodges, SC, at the corner of Highway 246 and Conner Road.
A man dies.  If you haven't seen him in several years, do you mourn?  Does this friend matter?

Walter Hill was a happy man.  He smiled big and he laughed loud.  He embraced family, his faith, being kind, helping others, having fun and working to correct the mistakes he'd made in his life.

Walter was practical and he was a good friend.

Esther was a good friend of mine too. She passed away many years ago. She worked in a volunteer position at The Museum-Greenwood, where Walter and I worked.  Walter was the janitor and I was the director.  All three of us were friends.  Together, we laughed, coached each other through hardships and worked to advance The Museum in our community of Greenwood, South Carolina.
Three people from three different cultures merged in Greenwood and I was one of them.  I am richer now in my development as a human being, through the contact I had with Esther and Walter.

There were others during my time at The Museum:  Fred Schlein, the first director, who mentored me through my initial role as the executive assistant to being named his successor, upon his retirement.  What a kind and devoted friend, and as supportive as any good father.  Alan MacTaggart, Board member at The Museum and supporter of my creative ideas for growing membership and attendance; Wilson Hayes, honorary curator at The Museum.  He and his wife Pansy supported me in my museum work and helped me  during major transitions in my life, especially during times of few resources.  And there were more.  Just a sampling here, of people who became my friends through our connection at work.  They've all departed this life.

"Gone, but not forgotten", that's what we say, but is it true?  For me, it's true!  All of these people, and the others who are not mentioned here, were in my life and now in my heart and in some of my most cherished memories.  These friends mattered.  They matter still.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Taste a little...poetry to feed your soul.

Towards the end of last year, my husband and I got to enjoy our second year of the AJC (Atlanta Journal Constitution) Decatur Book Festival in one of Atlanta's loveliest neighborhoods, Decatur.

Performers, story-tellers, poets, writers and, yes, even a monster entertained us at this annual book-lovers' book buffet.  At this, the largest independent book festival in the U.S., we've struggled (at times) to decide which event or activity to attend over another.  While Jonathan Franzen spoke at the 2010 event and Decemberists lead singer, Colin Meloy spoke about his new book at the 2011 event, my favourite memories are of less anticipated experiences.  The highlight of our 2010 visit to the festival was sitting in a S.R.O. packed Eddie's Attic for the story-telling a la Moth.  Entertaining x 100! For our 2011 visit to the festival, we were treated to the antics of writers at a Write Club match.  What hilarity!  It's difficult to imagine that a literary event can also be as much fun as a barrel of monkeys, but in this setting, it "soitanly" can be!

Sometimes, the memorable presentation is not fun, but equally energizing.  Last year poet, Jericho Brown, gave a reading that had us completely engaged and poised to absorb every new word or line from the author's mouth.  Once again at Eddie's Attic, Brown gave a brilliant reading, which (for me) was icing on my poetic plate.  I had participated in his poetry-writing workshop at the beginning of the festival, one day earlier.  To hear him offer his words at the reading...sigh!  Painful and beautiful sentiments and experiences brought to life in one of Atlanta's coolest music-listening rooms, courtesy of Jericho Brown's lovely brown soul.

Looking forward to the 2012 festival and to the events that will make my Labor Day weekend in Atlanta better than award-winning barbecue hot and spicy in my mouth.  Mm-mmm-good!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

TEDxGreenville: Breakthrough

In Greenville, South Carolina, things are happening!  People are dreaming and creating, technology is spreading and people are on the move, shaping their ideas to life.  One example of this dreaming, creativity and technology coming together is TEDxGreenville, an independently organized event, designed to offer a local community a TED-like experience.

For the last two of these events, I've been fortunate to help shape the offering of presenters through my contributions and time on the Program Team, which researches, reviews and selects individual speakers and performers to present their Idea Worth Spreading to the Greenville TEDx audience.  It's always a draining but deeply satisfying experience.  Even better, however, is sitting in the audience and taking it all in.

This year, one of our presenter's was Glenis Redmond, a beautiful lady with an equally beautiful spirit.  Glenis is a nationally recognized and awarded poet.  She spoke about Poetry as Healer.

Glenis is a Southeast Regional Individual Poetry Slam Champion and twice has placed in the top ten at the National Individual Slam Championship.

Now if this talk doesn't inspire you to seek out poetry for your personal healing, then rewind and pay attention to Glenis at the end.  She says, "If you don't have poetry in your life, then get you some."  Excellent advice!