26 Oct

Small victories

Well, when you run your own WP install, you can’t depend on simple services like e-mail notifications just working. I’ve had to check my admin pages to review comments, leaving my rabid fan base dangling like lonesome apostrophes while I got my act together.

I finally looked up the problem and found I had to install a plugin to configure SMTP mail. I found one better (aptly named Configure SMTP by a guy named Scott Reilly) that handles SMTP or Gmail configurations. Gmail’s easier for me, so I set it up, tested a comment and before I could squint, the little e-mail notifier extension in Chrome turned red  and hiccuped with a new message.

Don’t hold back on those cards and letters, kids. Although, come Nov 1, I’m likely to disappear from this place till after Thanksgiving, and if I don’t, your job is to shame me. I don’t think that shaming a writer is a particular form of abuse, done in a civilized manner. You know, with a chin raise and a sigh and a tut tut while lighting one’s cigar and palming a properly decanted glass of port.

26 Oct

Today’s lyrics as metaphor for writing

Don’t Explain

(B. Holiday/A. Herzog, Jr., as told by Nina Simone)

Hush now, don’t explain
There ain’t nothin’ to gain
I’m glad that you’re back
don’t explain

Quiet baby, don’t explain
there is nothing to gain.
Skip back the lipstick
don’t explain.

You know that I love you
and what love endures
all my thoughts of you
for I’m so completely yours
Don’t want to hear folks chatter
’cause I know you cheat
Right n’ wrong don’t matter
when you’re with me my sweet…

Hush now don’t explain
don’t you know you’re my joy and you’re my pain.
My life is yours love
don’t explain


All my thoughts of you, for I’m so completely yours.
I don’t want to hear nobody chatter
’cause I know you cheat,
right n’ wrong don’t matter
when you’re with me my sweet.

Hush now, don’t explain
you’re my joy, you’re my pain
My life is yours love
don’t explain.

26 Oct


I’ve signed up for National Novel Writing Month, where I’m contracted with myself to write 50k+ words between Nov’s 1 and 30, copy editing not advised till December.

(Hey, it’s December, kids, and you know what that means–that’s right, December is National Copy Editing Month. Kiss a copy editor you know, but make sure your spouse isn’t watching! Better yet, get to editing your own work. Especially if you wrote a mountain high enough in November.)

12 Oct

Better than chapter 2

for Wordstock is a new project that wants to be written. I’m writing with pen and then will be typing and revising–this turns out to be a more focused and relaxing form, and more portable (there’s no startup time or technical issues for a paper notebook until it’s full). I filled quite a few pages at Wordstock, stopped when I ran out of steam instead of forcing it, then, following an observation given by author Karen Karbo on the topic of how working writers with families can get it done, came at it from a different angle and even a different set of emotions (amazingly freeing on the imagination). There have even been moments of pure giddiness.

I’ve filled quite a few pages in the notebook, with a lot of work to be done but no signs of stopping–and it feels right, the tone, the story, ironically, writing what I know (although there’s a lot left to be learned about what one knows to be able to write about it). And I think it’s unique without being weird, so there may be a market for it–leaving me free to not think about markets till I’m done. (I’ve noticed that the most recognized writers at Wordstock all said they did not think about markets or audiences when they set out to write, they just wrote the story they wanted to tell, and let their publishers fix a genre to it.)

Since I don’t have a writing group to work with, I’m lining up structure to compensate–I have an editor friend to whom I’ll mail my daily draft each day and, if she doesn’t receive it, she’ll call or email and ask for it. She won’t read it–it’s just to hold me accountable to daily deadlines unless we arrange something in advance. I’ll send out chapters for review to a select group of writer friends and to Debby, either in documents or as links to a new private blog on this site.

I won’t start chapters until I’ve written a few scenes that I think are really part of the story and possibly the ending (at least one or two variations of an ending sentence)–endings are important to me, I like writing them, and I like the idea of working toward a fixed point with this project.  That’ll be soon, now.

I think it’s safe to talk around it like this without taking energy from the project. I don’t want to curse the project by even releasing any keywords, although I will say it started with an e-mail thread with Vandana, Steve, and Pam, with Pam as the prime goader. (That probably wouldn’t look good on a t-shirt.)

Note: More on Wordstock later–just a few observations worth sharing.

11 Oct

The Big Burn

I spent Sat and Sun this weekend at Wordstock, where I heard Timothy Egan, the NYT writer who’s covered the Dust Bowl and recently authored The Big Burn about the famous giant forest fire of 1910 in the Bitteroots* in the early days of the Forest Service and establishment of public lands (with the larger than life Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot). Egan’s book is a great piece of narrative history—instead of reading it, he gave a very dynamic talk and lecture on the topic. I recommend him as a writer and a speaker. The Burn is also a small piece of my family history—my great grandfather worked for a mining company in western Montana and joined the fire fighters near the end. It made impressions on him for life that he used to inform my grandfather’s life (who was born in 1911, the next year), who passed that on to my mother and aunts, and then to his grandkids. In his youth, my grandfather romanticized Teddy Roosevelt, put in time as a firewatcher in Montana and Eastern Oregon (in those old wooden towers),** and then worked for a timber company in Baker County where they were just as concerned with fires as harvesting. This is the first book I’ve found that captures that piece of history (along with the formation of the Forest Service) and the spirit of those stories. It’s pure Americana and great reading. I grabbed a copy, got a signature from Egan, and when I shared that bit of family history, he said he’d been surprised at how many people he’d met on his book tour and in correspondence whose lives had been directly or indirectly touched by that fire.

* Not to be confused but partnered with Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire, about Montana’s Mann Gulch Fire of 1949, which is as much moving elegy as historical narrative. Living in cities, we forget or never learn how events like these influenced the current shape of this country.

** We scattered his ashes at the remains of one of those same towers, in Umatilla County on a long western toe of the Wallowas, looking over the valley across to the Blue Mountains. We also lugged in a gas generator and drill and  glued and screwed a plaque with his name into the tower’s old concrete foundation.  Last year (15 years later), the property owners found the plaque (we hadn’t exactly asked permission), ran his name down and contacted my aunt, delighted with their find and promising to leave it exactly as is, as long as we didn’t mind him sharing it with the occasional grazing cattle.

06 Oct

Spam spam spam

When you host your own blog, you’re responsible for building and testing lines of defense against email and comments spam. Hosted WordPress does a pretty good job of this–I’m still looking for solutions that work comprehensively. Trying a new plugin today, so if you leave a comment and see a captcha dialog, that’s why. Perhaps next time I view comments, I won’t see 100 spammers telling me how interesting I am, asking where I found that plugin, or recommending juicing and flossing over blogging to help me meet life’s daily challenges.