10/18/2014

Saturday Morning



How about this?


For the next six weeks I am taking a Veterans Writing Project writing class focusing on Memoir and Creative Narrative.

The Class is an extension of the work of the VWP Seminar I attended recently. It is a very varied group of nine which makes it all the more interesting. I can't say I don't mind being the oldest in the class - but am coming to terms with it. It is what it is.

We met last week for an introduction to the class and each other and to set the rules and schedules for the remaining classes. Personally I like this kind of structure. Oh, did I mention homework assignments. We have those too.

The first homework assignment is reading a 1970s New York Magazine article by author Tom Wolfe. In it he describes his view of the evolution of a new form of journalism -  creative narrative. Wolfe started out in NYC as a journalist in the 1950s. He entered that world filled with ambition and dreams and he was surrounded by many of the "names" of the day who would achieve their dreams of writing "the novel".  Through their work they developed a new style of writing for journalists - a style that changed the way reporters often write and that also impacted on the sacred forms of novel-writing.

I see it as the form we are accustomed to today - reporting as story. The presence of the reporter in the the articles as more that just the narrator voice.  

I have read and enjoyed the work of Tom Wolfe for years and I particularly remember the surprises in reading Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" - a novel written in the creative narrative style - published in 1966. In the 48 years since then the style has become a familiar norm.

Last night I was reading a 1995 work, Peterson's "The Hot Zone", which details an earlier Ebola epidemic and reads like a can't-put-it-down-spy-thriller. Non-fiction written as fiction - i.e. creative narrative. The person who recommended the book told me, "this will scare the shit out of you." That's right on target - but more than that - it demonstrates this week's homework for my class.

Creative narrative is so familiar to readers today that I was unaware it is the form I use to develop and tell my stories - especially the personal stories I think of as oral memoir.

So the class is not only leading me to write new pieces it is prompting me to review and revise oral stories and put those words on paper. To help that along I am trying a few new ways of approaching both my writing, my storytelling - - and my blog writing.

For today:




Saturday Morning
  
 10-18-2014

This morning I woke up warm and cozy as I cuddled up next to pillows covered in the colorful quilted shams Jim and I used when Jim was in the bed with me. The pillow nesting is my solution for combatting the loneliness of waking up in an empty bed. 

My iPhone alarm began blaring the notes of "by the sea" at 6 a.m. When I bought my new iPhone 5s recently I changed the alarm sound from the lively beats of a "marimba" to the first bars of a tune that sounds like a dated British movie. Hearing it reminds me of waking up to the Arvin clock-radio Jim and I had when were first married another life-time ago. News or music opened every day before the irritating buzzer took over shattering sleep and forcing us out of bed

This morning I snuggled deeper under the covers and didn't actually get up until 7:45. I know the time because before moving an inch I looked at Jim's watch that I wear on my left forearm. At first light every morning it reminds me he is not here. 

When I swung my legs over the side of my tall Texas farm bed I thought  " We have milk. I can have cereal for breakfast." I don' t usually get up thinking about what's in the refrigerator but we ran out of milk a few days ago and it was still on my mind. 

I prefer easy breakfasts out of a cereal box rather than cooking eggs or toasting an English muffin. My daughter Karen bought some milk last evening on her way home from a round of necessary errands. You understand, we had money to buy milk when it ran out -  we just did not have a reason or the urge to go out on rainy days to buy some. 

The weather changed yesterday afternoon and the sun came back.

Have you ever noticed it is easier to do without something by choice than it is to do without it when your pockets are empty and you have to.

10/09/2014





http://mmctv.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=2008

10/05/2014

Taking stock of the week.





It's Sunday - so playing catch-up - with last week and thinking about the week ahead.

I have had quite a week and now I am standing on the cusp of another one that also has challenges and joys.

Last Sunday I was attending the second day of a two-day Veteran's Writers Project Seminar in Arlington, VA and feeling filled up with new information and ideas. The rest of the week I did "life" and prepared for a a wonderful storytelling gig in Georgetown, DE where I told "Your Story is Your Legacy" to an annual gathering of Delaware Librarians. They were a terrific audience - warm, welcoming and great listeners. Some mentioned the possiblility of bringing me back to their libraries and I do hope that happens -

This week I have also had an advanced case of Apple-itis. I changed iPhones because after getting lost last week-end I decided I would be better off with an iPhone with a talkng Siri and GPS. WHAT WAS I THINKNG? There is quite a steep learning curve when you change your phone. My timing was off and I ended up cruising down HWY 50 Friday morning with no-phone and a silent GPS. So I drove on clutching the MapQuest print-out. My advice - if your are going to need help to get started with a new phone - consult your calendar and make sure all the stars are aligned before you give up your familiar phone.


Then my hard drive crashed on my MAC. Yikes.
They replaced the hard dive under warranty, thank goodness, but said that if I wanted them to transfer it to the new drive I would have to pay $100.  I decided to save the money and try to do it myself. It did not sound like rocket science. The genius told me the step by step way. I am jubilant! I unleashed the power of the MAC perfectly. One for my team. But, the Bluetooth in the car is still not working right.

My problem is that I so wish I could call Jim and tell him about the things that have happened and  bring him in on what's coming up this week. Haven't worked that out yet. Its gonna take more to work that out than connecting the Blue Tooth in my car.


My sister Kathy is arriving from Georgia on Tuesday for a week. There will be lots of talking, computer time, some TV and some special Field Trips in Washington. Kathy is also interested in the World War One period so its pretty sure that we will be visiting some sites. Kathy loves games so my daughter Karen picked up several new games to try out with her.

Tomorrow storyteller Jane Dorfman is the Guest on Stories in Focus and I am looking forward to our conversation and to hearing a new story from her.

Wednesday night I am receiving an award from the MC Business and Professional Women.
 

They have asked that I tall a story a part of the program. Makes me happy - so I am telling a version of "Your Story is Your Legacy" that will be tailored to them.

BPW is an organization with a long and distinguished history of supporting women in their work and in their education. The organization has a special significane to me as one of their national legends, Mariwyn Heath, from Dayton, Ohio was my mentor when I worked as ERA Campaign Director for the League of Women Voters of the US. She was smart, politically savvy, funny and a great cook.

She believed you had to have something to relieve the stress in all-consuming jobs like we had. On a trip to New York City to the Democratic National Convention Mariwyn taught me something really grand - how to needle-point.


Quickly I embraced needle-pointing. I liked the feel of the colorful wool and the punch as I pushed a needle through the form. It was  soothing, especially on long flights and during interminable meetings. After making several small pieces (eye-glass cases) I tackled a pillow top. I was quite proud to give Jim this pillow for his birthday I in 1981. He was surprised and pleased and kept it on a chair in his office until he died.

Now it is a "familiar" in the living room and I think of both Jim and Mariwyn - who showed me how to make it. Just writing this lets me pricks memories and I know it would be a good thing for me to take out several half-finished lingering needlepoint projects and complete them. Tie up those loops.

Oh, yes, next Wednesday I will be grateful to receive the award and I will be thinking of and thanking Mariwyn Heath.

As I send hugs to Jim.



9/29/2014

A Door Opens


 When I learned that Jim's veteran status was my eligibility, I signed up for a week-end writing seminar with the Veterans Writing Project. 

It was this past week-end and its the best thing I have done for improving and enriching my craft in a long time.  Ron Capps, founder of The Veterans Writing Project, an excellent teacher, has developed a curriculum that dissects examples of proven literary writing to teach the fundamentals that lead to more good writing. The excerpts he selected were inspiring and the instruction was dead-on. Read about Capps HERE.

This seminar is intended to encourage and help veterans to write about their military experience so the examples Capps used were written by authors who were veterans and whose writing was about their military experience.  For example: Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, English Poets of WWI Siegried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, Richard McKenna, Ernest Hemingway, Stendahl, and on and on and on. 

Rich prose, wide variety of styles, and unforgettable images. I have read most of the  works he used, and remembered many, but had ever experienced them as I did this week-end as Capps directed the group through the craft the authors used to create them.

Of-course it was writing by men - and no matter how much I admire and enjoy men's writing, that's always an itch for me. But there are many women who are writing these days about their military experience and many who come through VWP seminars across the country. I will be on the look-out to read their works hoping to find others who can bring todays women's experience to life as vividly and emotionally as Vera Brittain did in the WWI classic, "Testament of Youth."


I was introduced to the Veterans Writing Project last July by a dear friend who was in the program. She invited me to a public reading of the works of those attending and I was impressed and moved by
the depth and truth of their stories. It was raw, powerful work. Ever since I have followed information about the VWP,  heard more stories when I could and thought about it.



Then I read Ron Capps book, "Seriously Not All Right." I found it a fascinating read that I could not put down. In June my son, a Hopkins alum, dropped the Hopkins article on my dining room table, whetting my appetite to find out more. The Universe responded. I ran into Ron Capps when I appeared on the Better Said Than Done panel at George Mason University several weeks ago. He told me I was eligible to attend because of Jim's service. A door opened.

If you are wondering why this caught my attention -

My husband Jim Schoettler was an Air Force flight surgeon and psychiatrist on active duty during the Viet Nam war which was a time when military doctors both in Viet Nam and on the home front were dealing with an explosion of something that had been called many names, battle fatigue etc and today PTSD. But in the 1960s they were without defined treatment protocols so they struggled and experimented with ways to help these guys. A physician colleague came back after his year Viet Nam tour and could not rest until he went back, hoping to "help."


Two years ago a friend of mine who is very involved with Art and the Military Experience recognized my Arlington Story as connected to a wider military experience. So did
Roger Thompson (Stony Brook U.) in his review in Arts and Military Experience.

I doubt I would have recognized this connection to Jim, to Gretchen, to my past and ironically to my future without Thompson's article and insights.

Spouses have a different story - but it is surely part of military experience.

Over the week-end, talking about writing about the military experience,  I was reminded of a forgotten story that I had written with Agyle Hillis, another Air Force wife, when our husbands were stationed at the School of Aerospace Medicine, Brooks Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX. Budding writers, Argye and I interviewed the wives of the astronauts who were undergoing month long tests in the isolation chambers at the ASMS where they were gathering medical data for space flights. A New York agent took our article and there was a buyer, a national publication -- when PLOP -- they lobbed off Commander Shephard and our article about their wives hit the dust!  Even then I was interested in the woman's experience - because that's what I was living.

A good reminder to me to stick with what you know.
 
It was a great week-end. I hope to continue this connection. On the way home I almost got lost again but -



9/26/2014

September Blessings - a gratitude post



September has reminded me of how much I have to be grateful for:





For my family - and the times we have together -

A week-end at Virginia Beach and Williamsburg with Jimmy, Monica and Karen - talking and laughing and enjoying being by the sea and surrounded by history and memories of other trips here.



A trip to California in September to spend time with my daughter Robin and her family.

Robin and I worked on a project together, visited UC - Chico to see her son Dan, visited with her son Jamie before he took off for business in Europe and I caught up with her son Scott and her husband Brad around the house and over meals. All good time.

Robin and I made a day trip to Jim's hometown to visit with our Schoettler family. I went to Jim's home town for the first time in 1959 - with Jimmy and Karen and pregnant with Robin while Jim went to Cape Canaveral on assignment when he was in the Air Force. He arrived two weeks later - and made sure we made time for him to take me to Yosemite National Park - with is less than 2 hours from Madera. That's when I really fell in love with California.


In my professional life:
I am grateful for storytelling - as a listener and as a storyteller. I should add that I count my blessings all the time for having this job where I can write and tell the stories I want to. How lucky I am to have found the story of the Hello Girls that I am telling
these days especially as it gives me such a good feeling to be bringing their unknown story forward.

 I can't leave out the blessing of my job at the Mongtomgery Municipal Cable Station where I can tape stories and talk with others who work in stories and tape the conversations and their tellings.
 
In Williamsburg we went as a family group to hear Syd Lieberman tell his Gettysburg Story: Abraham and Isaac. We loved the story and admired his telling. Twelve years ago our family bought a get-away place outside Gettysburg so we have a "thing" about that history. Lovely to share this experience and we talked about it off and on all weekend. Its pretty sure we will check out the national cemetery next time we ride into town there.

I appreciate working with Better Said That Done - to tell stories and meet new people and to receive a video of the telling - now how lucky is that???? Thanks to Bart and Jessica Robinson .


Well not as lucky as 57 years being married to Jim Schoettler.

September is not fully over and there are a few more things coming before October 1.

Yesterday I received a letter from the Montgomery County Chapter of Business and Professional Women informing me that I had been selected as their Woman of Achievement for 2014 - WOW!
I am very honored and grateful for the award particularly as I have admired BPW for many years for their work for women's issues and toward improving the status of women in the work world.

Tomorrow I am attending the Veterans Writing Project Seminar - two days of intense writing instruction with veterans who are writing about their experience in the military. I have wanted to do this. Never expected it would be possible. But you see, I am the spouse of a Veteran - and that's my ticket in. Thank you, Jim.

One large over-sight. FRIENDS. There are wonderful and good friends in my life and I am deeply grateful for their presence and their caring - and I feel much warmth from the cyber community - people who encouraged me during the past two years after Jim's death - your virtual hugs and encouragement have been a buoy through the worst time in my life. Thank you.

And last but by now means least - my sisters. I have three from my family - and more that God has sent to my life many years ago and lately. I love you all.




9/23/2014

Writing in Your Books


Better Said Than Done storytelling event during the Fall For the Book Festival at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA   Took the opportunity to tell this story - which shows it can take years to reconnect with something you learned when you were in the 4th grade.  Yes, aberrations are strong memories.


9/18/2014

A two-in-one gift.



There are days when you really need a hug aren't there?
Today was one of those for me.

A little blue  - just in general and feeling a bit over-whelmed by all I have said I would do
and now the deadlines are riding in
like a sunami  - of get it done's.

When I heard the clanking of the mail slot in the front door and a slap as a bunch of stuff hit the floor I pushed out the air of a big sigh - "more bills probably," I thought.

Instead - a card with a surprise gift for me from my dear friend Kay.

Now this is a hug if I ever felt one.


The necklace is the hug - the message it carries as it rides around my neck is the encouragement any performer sometimes needs.

Why that sounds like a two-fer!

Indeed.